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Album Review: Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos

By on Thursday, 27th October 2016 at 12:00 pm

Kate Tempest Let Them Eat Chaos album coverRapper, poet and playwright Kate Tempest is a force of nature to be reckoned with. In 2013, Tempest won the Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry, the youngest-ever recipient of the award for her performance piece ‘Brand New Ancients’. She was branded by poet Ian McMillan as someone “who would be leading our national cultural conversations for years to come”. Her sensational first album, 2014’s ‘Everybody Down’, was also nominated for a Mercury Prize. Her latest offering ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ does exactly that by providing a raw and honest social commentary on modern life.

Similar in nature to her first album, ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ is also a concept album. She takes us on a compelling journey through the lives of seven fictional characters who are each awake at 4:18 in the morning, and we are introduced to the issues defining their lives. Throughout the album, it is very easy to become involved with each of the characters who, while living separate lives and unknown to each other, are intrinsically linked. Each of the tenants tales are drawn together to create a bigger picture of how issues such migration, drugs and alienation affect us all. Despite being separated by walls, floors and buildings they are all connected by a shared fate. Tempest’s fictional narratives are accompanied by electronic music while lyrically, she seamlessly mixes together rap and performance poetry.

Despite it being a few years since her last musical offering, Tempest was certainly busy in between times. The release of her book ‘The Bricks That Built the Houses’ and her poetry collection ‘Hold Your Own’ meant that although Tempest was not actively creating music, her attentions were not taken away from social conscience. There are several recurring themes throughout the album, especially the prominence of drugs. On tracks such as ‘Ketamine for Breakfast’, we hear the story of Gemma contemplating her younger years that were blighted by drug use. Her lyrics here are emphatic and perhaps contain moments of truth. Rapping “My future is bright, but my past is tryna ruin me” is a devastatingly poignant sentiment of modern life and class divide,. and there is a restlessness and urgency to the chosen rhythm.

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In times of such uncertainty, especially for young people in the UK post-Brexit, Tempest’s brutal honesty can be refreshing. Exposing modern truths of gentrification in London, ‘Perfect Coffee’ tells the tale of tenant Zoe as she packs her life into boxes. The reality, where the poorest of communities are being forced out of their homes and council flats are being exploited into million pound rentals, is harrowing: “The squats we used to party in are the flats we can’t afford”. It is a despairing portrayal of what London has become to represent: corrupt with greed, content in alienating the most vulnerable of people.

‘Europe is Lost’ is particularly poignant, with Tempest moving seamlessly through the song with fury. Each topic she touches on is more relevant than the last, speaking about politicians, oil spills and poverty. Barely stopping to take a breath, there is an anger to her delivery with cutting lyrics: “We have learnt nothing from history, the people are dead in their lifetimes dazed by the shine of the streets. Look the traffic is still moving, the system too slick to stop working, business is good. There’s bands every night in the pubs and there is two for one drinks in the clubs and we scrubbed up well “. It is a stark reminder how we, while all aware, choose to ignore what is going on around us in favour of easy and empty living.

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The final song on the album ‘Tunnel Vision’ is a reflective musing by Tempest. The protagonists on each of the songs who were once strangers all become tied together in a shared epiphany of their surroundings. The notion of this album being commercially successful is a hard sell, considering it is an amalgamation of hip-hop and poetry. But the content Tempest is so passionately rapping about is so relevant and relatable. Her writing is extremely provocative and powerful and can stir quite a lot of emotion when listening to it. The album as a whole, then, is truly excellent as both a musical entity and critique of modern society.


‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, Kate Tempest’s second album is out now through Fiction Records. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Tempest, go here.


Album Review: Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow

By on Wednesday, 26th October 2016 at 12:00 pm

Two Door Cinema Club Gameshow album coverBeing childhood friends who share musical interests often provides a massive nudge towards the formation of a band. However, a longtime friendship may not necessarily be enough to hold a band together. Two years ago, Two Door Cinema Club cancelled their headline set at Latitude 2014. While the official reason for their pulling out of the festival in Suffolk was frontman Alex Trimble’s hospitalisation in Seattle, unbeknownst to us, discord had been ramping up within the band, reaching a breaking point.

According to this interview they did with DIY last month, the pursuit of the next big success in their career since leaving their small-town Northern Irish towns caused friction within. The former schoolfriends found themselves at odds with each other, unsure of whether they were going to continue as a unit. Having rediscovered themselves as individuals and after giving themselves time off from the band and from each other, they came out of their hiatus still wanting to make music as Two Door Cinema Club. Unfortunately, ‘Gameshow’ seems like a step back, as merely a peek back through the music that has made them who they are, rather than being an obvious, positive next step in their evolution.

In a chat with Steve Lamacq live on BBC 6 Music the week of the LP’s release, Alex Trimble explained their respect for Michael Jackson. The admiration for him comes through loud and clear on the vocal styling chosen by Trimble for most of this record. Not a friend of the falsetto? Step away from this review, turn around and run. If you’re okay with a man singing in a higher register than is natural, then keep reading. The apex of falsetto on this album, if you will, is ‘Je Viens De La’, “I wake gently with you” in French. With its wealth of synths and big beats, it’s an unabashed tribute to disco, another potential land mine in popular music. Another disco number, ‘Fever’, begins in a minimalist, promising way like Def Leppard’s ‘Love Bites’, except there’s that falsetto again. As a keen singer, it’s hard to listen to this album, wanting to throw some Halls Soothers in Trimble’s direction.

With the falsetto and the overt nods to disco, their new sound seems so far away from their debut ‘Tourist History’ that relied more heavily on guitars than beats and production. For long-time fans, it’s jarring and takes getting used to. There are, however, some moments of brilliance. ‘Lavender’, whose title I’m assuming is a nod to another high-pitched wonder, Prince, begins with a note progression reminiscent of ‘Walk This Way’. The song shows the trio embracing funk and r&b, with an arresting, foot-stomping rhythm to provide the track with much needed structure.

‘Invincible’ invokes the introspective, emotional guitar lines popularised in the ‘80s, with an appropriately cheesy, boyband-y vocal to match: “every day I see him beside you / is he treating you all right? / the things I would do if I were in his shoes / no more taking for granted / everything I get from you”. It’s weirdly engaging, but you have to take a step back for a moment and remind yourself that this is a Two Door Cinema Club album, not one of Justin Timberlake’s. Confusion is expected here.

I had real reservations the first time I gave this record a spin. It seems ironic how much they are embracing synths on this album (and arguably, overproduction thanks to working with Jacknife Lee in Los Angeles), considering the first time I saw Two Door perform was on their first tour of North America as support for Phoenix. The band have made it clear that this album finally gave them the opportunity to do what they wanted, without self-censoring themselves as they might have before. I initially seriously wondered who this album was for, but after the kind of global success they had before the age of 25, it’s about time they made an album they wanted to make, even if they risk alienating their most devoted fans.


‘Gameshow’, Two Door Cinema Club’s third studio album, is out now on Parlophone Records. You can have a listen to the title track below. They’re on tour in the UK in January and February next year; all the dates are listed back here. For more on Two Door on TGTF, including my review of this album’s first single taster ‘Are We Ready? (Wreck)’, follow this link.

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Album Review: White Lies – Friends

By on Thursday, 20th October 2016 at 12:00 pm

White Lies Friends album coverThe year I joined TGTF as its USA Editor, White Lies were on the longlist of the BBC Sound of 2009. So I feel a special kind of kinship towards the West London band. I like White Lies. I really do. I’ve seen them three times, and they’re a great live band. There’s no denying they’re a fantastic singles band: rattle off ‘To Lose My Life’, ‘Farewell to the Fairground’, ‘Bigger Than Us’, ‘There Goes Our Love Again’, all well received by fans and part of their ever enlarging oeuvre. But this is where their problems stem from. Whether purposeful or merely coincidence, they’re a band that has offered up three albums – 2009’s ‘To Lose My Life…’, 2011’s ‘Ritual’ and 2013’s ‘Big TV’ – with the highest of highs, only to leave you feeling let down with the rest of the album sounding hohum.

Unfortunately, this is the fate of their latest, ‘Friends’, released earlier this month on Fiction Records. The previously released single ‘Take It Out on Me’ begins the album at a heady height that the album never reaches again in its other nine tracks. What’s more, they’ve chosen to go in a disco direction on several songs on the LP, to varying degrees of success. Since their earlier beginnings toying with the grim fatalistic on ‘Death’ and ‘Unfinished Business’, they’ve been pegged as miserabilists, so the introduction of overly bright synths and beats seems like a massive disconnect.

As an album that primary songwriter and bassist Charles Cave has described as chronicling the spectre of getting older, of being pulled away from the mates you once felt so close to. Despite having an upbeat backbeat thanks to drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown, album track 2 ‘Morning in LA’, comes across clunky. The subject matter of ringing up a friend in Shanghai and finding it sad that it’s already morning in California may be of utmost importance to them. But as an American-based editor who corresponds daily with UK and Australian contacts out of necessity, it’s hard to be sympathetic.

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‘Swing’ and ‘Come On’ are so lyrically uninspiring, as you’re listening to the album from front to back, your attention will dip way low once you’ve past ‘Summer Didn’t Change a Thing’, where Cave hides unrequited love behind a grandly anthemic façade. This song is so classic White Lies, you wonder why they can’t seem to repeat or improve on their basic winning formulas for a whole album. Do they get fidgety?

There are some great moments on ‘Friends’ that I would be remiss in not mentioning. ‘Don’t Want It Feel It All’ details the struggle of loving an unstable depressive, or possibly from the perspective of that depressive and the confusion within while trying to hold on to a relationship. It’s a brave move lyrically after the weirdness of ‘80s throwback track ‘Hold Back Your Love’ in which frontman Harry McVeigh oddly begs the object of his affection to deny love to him because he “wanna see what I feel without / every feeling is streaming out”. The excessively gay keys that accompany McVeigh’s yearning vocal are a strange juxtaposition initially, but somehow it works. The buzzing synths and big beats frame ‘Is My Love Enough?’, a rhetorical question posed by a partner to a lover, insisting that leaving is the kindest way forward, a disco version of Keane’s ‘Can’t Stop Now’.

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‘Friends’ isn’t a bad album per se, but it does give one pause when considering it against the rest of White Lies’ catalogue. Charles Cave deserves props for confronting the march of time and what it does to relationships, but a disco beat may not have been the best choice to complement his often weighty topics.


‘Friends’, the fourth album from White Lies, is out now on Fiction Records. The band are in the middle of a European tour, before they return to the UK for a domestic tour beginning on the 22nd of November at London Shepherds Bush Empire. To see all of White Lies’ scheduled dates for the rest of 2016, go here. To read more of our extensive coverage here on TGTF on the West London trio, follow this link.


Album Review: Bell X1 – Arms

By on Tuesday, 18th October 2016 at 12:00 pm

Bell X1 Arms coverFirst impressions can be deceptive. When Irish alt-rock trio Bell X1 released the first single from their new album ‘Arms’, a gentle, optimistic ballad called ‘The Upswing’, way back in March of this year, the song’s warm lyrical tone and organic sonic timbre seemed to refer even farther backward to the band’s 2013 album ‘Chop Chop’. Indeed, around the release of ‘Chop Chop’, Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan had toyed with the idea of creating a pair of mini-albums, so it seemed fair to assume that ‘Arms’ might be a delayed realisation of that concept.

However, the second single from ‘Arms’, a quirky and upbeat number called ‘Out of Love’, immediately turned that idea on its metaphorical head. Laden with strident synths and jarring percussion, the song is musically more experimental and thematically much more cynical, with lyrics like “there’s no D minor telling us how to feel” only adding to the contextual confusion. And as an introduction to the album proper, opening track ‘Fail Again, Fail Better’ makes a deliberately disarming (pun intended) initial statement, with choppy lyrics and fragmented melodies spliced together seemingly without pattern or purpose. But like the very first glimpse of the album, these second and third impressions of ‘Arms’ are gradually revealed to be a bit misleading as well.

The true character of ‘Arms’ is elusive, fluctuating constantly over the course of its tracklisting. Even the individual songs feel indecisive at times, as in ‘Bring Me a Fire King’. The song’s catchy chorus and groovy guitar riff are thrown off kilter by a piercing synth line and an oddly placed sax solo, and Noonan delivers his sarcastic political commentary (“let’s ask what the markets would do / ‘cos markets have feelings too”) in a mild vocal tone that belies the depth of his meaning.

On the flip side of the thematic coin, multi-instrumentalist David Geraghty contributes something of a more personal nature in ‘I Go Where You Go’. His quiet reflection on life away from home is brightened by a shuffling rhythm and a piano melody that shines through the arrangement like the “glint of fool’s gold” in his own opening lines. Nestled between verses, the song’s bridge section cuts to the heart of Geraghty’s internal conflict: “the engines roar / the ground slips away / our children stir in their beds / we leave it all in our wake”.

On every previous Bell X1 album, there has been one song in particular that is so exquisitely poignant that it moves me to tears. ‘Arms’ is no exception to that precedent, ticking off the box with ‘Take Your Sweet Time’. Inspired by a video of a profoundly deaf woman hearing speech for the first time, Noonan has composed an incredibly sensitive musical interpretation, with distortions in the sonic arrangement representing the synthetic quality of electric hearing via cochlear implants, while a lyrical and melodic reference to classic Glen Campbell track ‘Wichita Lineman’ suggests the breathless emotional anticipation of eventually being able to hear music. Have a handkerchief handy when you listen to this one.

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Late album tracks ‘Sons & Daughters’ and ‘Fake Memory’ return to a central thematic concern about Western culture and society, observed from a slight distance and framed within the familiarity of personal details. Noonan offers a kind of pre-emptive apology in ‘Sons & Daughters’, which situates his oddly astute pop-culture references (“there were too many distractions and too much good TV . . . there were too many cute pictures and too much in my feed”) in a call-and-response vocal pattern over a bright piano melody and tribal percussion. Recent single ‘Fake Memory’ reflects on our disingenuous tendency to use social media to portray ourselves in a positive light, asking pointedly “where’s me asleep on the table or her not kissing me back?” and warning that “if memory serves you badly, it’s right here on my phone”.

The title ‘Arms’ initially evoked the idea of emotional distance in my mind, especially after hearing the first several songs released discretely and out of context. But several considered listens to the album in its entirety brought me back around to Noonan’s observation from its press release: “As the world feels like it’s becoming a harsher place (maybe there’s just more damn noise?), we seek out the comfort of the familiar and familial . . . arms.” The album’s dual nature is about more than just the band experimenting with their own musical style. There are moments of noise and moments of comfort here, moments of awkward confusion and moments of crystalline clarity, but above all else, an always astonishing sense of musical and emotional authenticity.


Bell X1’s seventh studio album ‘Arms’ is available now via BellyUp Records. The Irish trio have a series of Irish and Northern Irish dates at the end of October into early November. They are also scheduled to play two shows at London’s Islington Assembly Hall on the 11th and 12th of November before heading down under for a tour of Australia in December. A full listing of Bell X1’s upcoming live shows can be found on their official Facebook.


Album Review: Hockey Dad – Boronia

By on Monday, 17th October 2016 at 12:00 pm

Hockey Dad Boronia album coverAustralian pop-punk duo Hockey Dad has created the perfect soundtrack for the endless summer you’ve always dreamed about with their debut album. It follows their first EP ‘Dreamin’, which received tremendous success in 2014. With a strong following in their homeland, ‘Boronia’ should prepare them for equal successes in the UK.

The album title ‘Boronia’ takes its name from the street that singer Zach Stephenson and drummer Billy Fleming spent infinite days just a few houses apart. Friends for over 15 years, the duo have taken many of the life experiences that drew them together and put them all on the one album. With an Australian invasion going on at the moment with acts such as Tame Impala, Sia and Iggy Azaelia making waves in the UK, it seems to be the right time for Hockey Dad’s moment in the spotlight.

The album begins with the track ‘Can’t Have Them ‘and instantly impresses with its distorted guitars and grabs your attention from the get-go. A build-up of teenage hormones, the song is effortless in reminding us of the longing and angst of first love, while retaining its irreverent vibe and attitude. As we go through the album, there are many recurring themes that seem to epitomise the teenage experience such staying out late, partying and falling in love.

Hockey Dad are a band that exudes youthful enthusiasm, especially on tracks such as ‘Jump the Gun’ with its pop punk vibe. Catchy lyrics such as “I don’t want to go home, I’m having too much fun” reiterate the carefree nature of the duo. With its dynamic drums and lively guitars, the song blends together to create the perfect summer sound. Even the music video pays homage to the duo’s favourite pastime with the pair seen catching some waves and hanging by the beach.

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Although throughout the album there isn’t many moments of lyrical triumph, “Two Forever” hears Stephenson deliver a heartfelt message with dreamy and poignant vocals. There’s no mistaking the duo’s relationship as the ultimate bromance, and Stephenson’s honest admission of this affection to Fleming is warm and sincere. Dismissing all other women for his friend with the words “I don’t need love, I don’t need no woman, I don’t need that shit, because I got you, man“ is a lovely ode and one of the album highlights. Other tracks on the album revel in the feeling of summer love and are just as irresistible and infectious as your first summer fling. The seductive bassline of ‘Hunny Bunny’ will have this song in your head long after it has finished playing.

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While generally a good album throughout, there is a distinct lack of experimentation with the duo sticking rigidly to what they know. With little progression since their EP ‘Dreamin’’ there is a monotonous feel to the album. Lacking originality, there is a possibility that the album may just be thrown to the side with many other bands coming through with a similar sound. However, Hockey Dad have never pretended to be anything other than what they are. With their enticing dose of summer nostalgia could very well see the band exceed expectations.


Australian duo Hockey Dad’s album ‘Boronia’ is out now on Kanine Records.


Album Review: KT Tunstall – KIN

By on Friday, 14th October 2016 at 12:00 pm

KT Tunstall KIN album coverIt’s crazy to think that it’s been over 10 years since KT Tunstall released her debut album ‘Eye to the Telescope’, which I remember playing pretty much non-stop for months on end. Shortly after its release, Tunstall was nominated for a number of BRIT Awards, bagging Best British Female in 2006, before being nominated for a Grammy in 2007. Since then, the Scottish singer/songwriter has released a further four albums, the latest of which is ‘KIN’, which Tunstall shared earlier this month.

Musically, Tunstall has explored a variety of genres since she first appeared on the scene, such as on 2013’s folk / acoustic ‘Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon’. But her latest work embraces vibrant pop sounds and feel-good hits. The album comes after Tunstall took a break from writing and recording albums to work on composing music for the film industry. Tunstall moved out to Los Angeles to work on music for movies such as Winter’s Tale and Disney’s Million Dollar Arm, before embarking on a small tour of the U.S. in 2015. She worked with Tony Hoffer (The Kooks, The Fratellis) on ‘KIN’ in a L.A. studio.

It’s inevitable that, after such swift success so young, all of Tunstall’s later musical feats would be compared to her debut album. ‘KIN’, whilst being more polished compared to the raw gritty pop of ‘Eye to the Telescope’, is still a solid fifth album for the Scot. Many tracks are much simpler lyrically than her past work, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that Tunstall has gone for something different with ‘KIN’. Every artist should have the space to explore and challenge musically, and it feels that Tunstall has certainly been influenced by her move to the States. She’s compared writing ‘KIN’ to the process of writing her debut: “carefree, unselfconscious, writing music because I enjoyed it”, and being in L.A. particularly helped her to “recalibrate [her] relationship with being a musician”. There’s an ambience to ‘KIN’ that feels decidedly ‘L.A.’ I haven’t visited the City of Angels myself, but the upbeat, acoustic pop that bedecks each track on ‘KIN’ makes me feel like I could be hanging out on Venice Beach with my surfboard. There’s something about the chilled acoustic notes mixing with Tunstall’s throaty tones and buoyant drumbeats that fit with my impression of the L.A. aesthetic.

The whole album is highly accessible. ‘It Took Me So Long To Get Here, But Here I Am’ not only boasts one of the longest song title I can think of, but is one of those life-affirming and motivating songs that make you reflect on where you’re at and acknowledge that there’s always hope. Lyrics like “but it made way for something different / I could feel it in the air” and “everything I tried and all the things I dreamed of” will appeal to anyone who’s had an aspiration and felt like giving up, but somehow had the will to keep going.

Then there’s ‘Two Way’, a duet with James Bay, who also cowrote the song. The track has softly grating electric and gently strummed acoustic guitars, paired with Tunstall and Bay’s complementary vocals. It’s got a very chilled out vibe and is a nice contrast to the quicker-paced songs on the album. ‘Evil Eye’ is one of those upbeat tracks, with lyrics proclaiming self-belief: “you want me to be more like you / but you’re never gonna get your way”. Tunstall sings about self-worth on ‘Evil Eye’, refusing to let the judgment of others get her down.

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Another favourite is ‘Run on Home’, a buoyant track that in 4 minutes and thirty seconds tells the story of finding self-worth and feels like a love letter to the self. The lyrics “the only thing I’ve noticed / is that I’ve been feeling happier lately” seem to sum up the sentiment of ‘KIN’, which plays like the manifesto of a woman who has cast off some baggage and finally feels alive.

‘KIN’, whilst not breaking any new ground, certainly conveys the Tunstall’s new carefree attitude. You might find yourself skipping over a couple of tracks, but for fans of Tunstall’s previous work or of easy-going pop, it’s worth a listen.


KT Tunstall’s fifth album ‘KIN’ is out now on Virgin EMI. She’s currently touring in the States until early October, before heading back to the UK in late October/ early November. For a run-down of all her live shows, visit her official Web site. To read past coverage of the Scottish singer/songwriter on TGTF, use this link.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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