Editor Mary is in Toronto for CMW 2016 this week.
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(CMW 2016 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #112: Callum Norton of Broken Hands

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd May 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016 is here! I am now in Toronto, soaking up the sights but avoiding the CN Tower (I’m mostly afraid of heights) and waiting for some of my UK brethren to get here so we can share a plate of poutine. We’re wrapping up our CMW 2016 preview posts and before we get stuck in on the event proper, I’ve got another set of answers to our TGTF Quickfire Questions for you. This time, our kind interviewee is Callum Norton, drummer for Canterbury rockers Broken Hands, who released their debut last autumn. Last week, ahead of their appearances this week in Canada, I posted this live video from their recent BBC Introducing session at Maida Vale for Steve Lamacq at BBC 6 Music. Callum’s brother Dale answered the SXSW 2014 version of the Quickfire Questions 2 years ago, so it’s nice to keep in all the family for this set that are of course CMW 2016 flavoured.

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Energetic space rock.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word ‘Canada’?
RUSH!!!

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Toronto? Have you been before?
Never been before, CN Tower…a revolving restaurant in the sky! And obviously playing to people we’ve never met!!

Of the bands who have already been announced (https://cmw.net/music/artists/), do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
Eagles of Death Metal, for sure.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase for your time at CMW that we might find weird or unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
SGGE Manual. [I’ve asked around and am still not sure what this is. I’m going to guess it’s something percussion related? – Ed.]

After CMW, what’s up next for you? Writing and recording? TGE / summer festivals / etc.? Do tell!
We’ve got a couple of festivals coming up in the UK, Isle of Wight and Lodestar Festival. Then lots of writing and some European support dates with Deaf Havana.

We’re now moving on over to our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
‘The Okey Cokey’.

What was your favourite song as a child?
‘Happy Birthday’ (‘cos I knew what it meant!)

What song makes you laugh?
Tommy Cooper – ‘Don’t Jump Off the Roof Dad’.

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What song makes you cry?
Simon and Garfunkel – ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Lou Reed – ‘Vicious’.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Anything by Ellie Goulding.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Elton John and George Michael – ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’.

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Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Jim James.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Carpet laying.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
‘ABBA Gold’.

Cheers Callum, we appreciate you answering these! Thanks too to Matt for chasing these up for us.

 

(CMW 2016 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #111: Aled Rees of Cut Ribbons

 
By on Monday, 2nd May 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

We are now at the actual week of Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016. I know, exciting! And we’re rounding things off in our preview of the festivities with the last few CMW 2016-flavoured Quickfire Questions answered by actual artists scheduled to showcase at the festival. Cut Ribbons released one of my favourite albums of 2015, ‘We Want to Watch Something We Love Burn’, last summer. We are lucky today to have Aled Rees, guitarist and singer/songwriter of the Welsh band, answering our TGTF questions for us. Which beloved author who favoured a drink (or three) in his time does Aled name as his favourite writer? You’ll have to read on to find out…

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Pop with teeth.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word ‘Canada’?
Arcade Fire.

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Toronto? Have you been before?
It’s our first time, we are really excited. We’re looking forward to checking out the sites, going up the CN Tower, all the touristy things really. We are going to have to take a trip outside the city to Niagara Falls too.

Of the bands who have already been announced (https://cmw.net/music/artists/), do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
We’ll catch the bigger names like Eagles of Death Metal and Tegan and Sara for sure. There’s a cool new British band called The Orielles playing, we’ll probably go catch those guys, and we’ll definitely go catch our homeboys and girl HMS Morris! Other than that, just really excited to wander around Toronto discovering new bands and eating lots of poutine!

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase for your time at CMW that we might find weird or unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
Lluan. We are saving the price of a plane ticket by packing our singer in our hand lugguage.

You are receiving funding from Arts Council Wales to make the trip over to the pond to showcase at CMW. Tell us about how you got involved with Arts Council Wales and what their funding means to your trip / your career.
They have been incredibly supportive over the last couple of years. It’s organisations like the Arts Council that makes things like this possible.

After CMW, what’s up next for you? Writing and recording? TGE / summer festivals / etc.? Do tell!
Lots of writing. We are hoping to get the new album finished and get a few of the tracks recorded before the summer festivals begin. There is a lot more acoustic guitar on this new one but that doesn’t mean that they are stripped back and bare, quite the opposite actually.

We’re switching over to our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
It’s probably just aimlessly strumming the open strings of my dad’s old Shaftesbury guitar when I was about 3. I must have driven my parents mad. I still have that guitar too.

What was your favourite song as a child?
I can’t really remember but it was probably something folky like Simon and Garfunkel, Tom Paxton or Ralph Mctell.

What song makes you laugh?
‘Word Up’ by Cameo. Whenever I hear that song the thought of that red codpiece always makes me laugh. It reminds me of a back to front baboon.

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What song makes you cry?
Sigur Rós – ‘Ára Bátur’ at Abbey Road. When this kids start singing I have to use the old, ‘I have something in my eye’ excuse. Anything by Elliott Smith. His songs are beyond beautiful.

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What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Taylor Swift used to make me feel angry every time I listened to her but through listening to Ryan Adams covering ‘1989’, not so much now.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
There are just so many. I say out loud almost on a daily basis that I wish I had written some song or other. ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen was the most recent to date. That line, “It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift,” is just genius.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
It’s Hemingway. Not so keen on the decimation of the Serengeti or the bull fighting bit but I can fully support his “Write drunk; edit sober” maxim.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I’ve always wanted to have a crack at writing a children’s book, so hopefully I would be doing that, but who knows? I could just as easily have become the ringmaster of a cat circus.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
If God said anything at all to me I would have to rethink a lot of things. Also, if I was going to heaven, you would have thought they would already have it.

Thanks Aled for your kind answering of our questions. See you all in Toronto!

 

Album Review: Tourist – U

 
By on Monday, 2nd May 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Tourist U album coverThe Tourist debut album has been a long time coming. Electronic singer/songwriter and producer William Phillips hasn’t exactly been sitting on his hands in the last few years, however. He’s been biding his time with a series of EPs – ‘Tourist’ in 2012, ‘Tonight’ in 2013 and ‘Patterns’ in 2014 – and collaborated with several of current British pop royalty such as Lianne La Havas and Years and Years. In 2015, he won a Grammy for Song of the Year for his co-writing prowess for Sam Smith’s monster hit ‘Stay with Me’, a piece of trivia that probably hasn’t been advertised enough. On the other hand, dwelling on that fact could detract from Phillips’ own preferred mode of creativity, as a smart, inventive, engaging electronic artist.

On the last day of SXSW 2014, I caught Tourist at an afternoon showcase at the now-gone Holy Mountain. It didn’t matter that it was 1 in the afternoon. Phillips was in his element, creating a wall of sound in front of us, hunched over a Macbook and a tabletop full of equipment, and that’s the image I have of him while listening to ‘U’, envisioning him in the recording studio, laying down these tracks. The allure of electronic music for many is in its ambiguity, the need for the listener to really tune into the many elements of a track to achieve full-on appreciation for the art and the mood the creator intended. (In stark contrast, most top 40 pop is obvious, with its inclusion of a chorus, a hook, and verses that usually follow the same rhythmic pattern, all fitting neatly into a 3-minute bite of music.) Throughout the album, Phillips as Tourist shows his deft hand at developing soundscapes full of texture, of contrasts through light and dark, from contemplation to euphoria.

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A great example of this is ‘Wait’. The track chugs along slowly with an insistent backbeat, with wub wubs and percussive flourishes towards a higher, smooth plateau of enjoyable consciousness for the listener. Another great moment on ‘U’ is previously released single ‘Run’, which was promoted with a NSFW video. Phillips describes it as “…a song about falling in love”, saying that he loved the Ozzie Pullin-directed video “because it’s so pure. It sums up the driving essence of what it means to be human.” After hearing his explanation of it, you hear the music and it all makes sense: at the core of the song is its pulsing heartbeat, a reminder of being alive and as an extension, the energised feeling you get when your heart is doing backflips over someone you’re attracted to.

Skittish in nature and with video game-esque blips and bloops, ‘Foolish’ is one of the more inspired moments on ‘U’. ‘Waves’ is similarly interesting: the song begins as if a casual dance stroll before it progresses to brighter, rave-worthy beats. The album ends on a wonderfully tropical note with ‘For Sarah’: gentle chords usher the track, which swells towards an expansive, shinier, lighter conclusion. Oddly, the one misstep on the record appears to be ‘Too Late’. Although the bpm is up for much of the track, the mood is largely one note, feeling like the sonic equivalent of your head being beat into a wall.

When I heard the Tourist album was going to be called ‘U’, I inwardly groaned, thinking that it was designed to appeal to a favourite text shorthand of millennials. But the more I’ve thought about it, ‘U’ represents a coolness that you yourself can embrace, by diving into this music, acknowledging it for the art it is. While it’s true that electronic music may not be for everyone, the songs contained on this album have a level of sophistication granted by Phillips’ way to putting together plenty of unique instrumental components and embellishments, and are therefore worthy of your time.

8/10

‘U’, the debut album from Tourist, is out this Friday, the 6th of May, on Monday Records. To read TGTF’s past coverage on Phillips’ work as Tourist, go here.

 

Preview: Roskilde Festival 2016

 
By on Monday, 2nd May 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Across 8 days in late June into early July, some of the biggest names in contemporary music, along with some incredible up-and-comers, will descend on the Danish island of Zealand to take part in the open-air Roskilde Festival. From the 25th of June to the 2nd of July, Roskilde will be featuring an incredible 183 acts across nine stages at the largest music festival in Northern Europe.

Wednesday will see the likes of Wiz Khalifa and At the Drive-In on the Arena stage, as well as Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes on Avalon and Red Hot Chili Peppers as headliners on the Orange stage. Also on the Orange stage, earlier in the day, will be The Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music, a group of musicians torn apart by the war in Syria but reassembled in January of this year and who will be performing alongside Damon Albarn and guests. The orchestra, who have previously worked with Albarn on Gorillaz’ ‘Plastic Beach’ album, will be a sight to see. From what I’ve seen on YouTube, they look pretty incredible and I can only imagine how they sound live.

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The always crowd-pleasing Hinds from Madrid, who released their debut LP ‘Leave Me Alone’ earlier this year, will be representing the Spanish indie rock scene. Pat Thomas and Kwashibu Area Band of Ghana are sure to be a dance-fuelled joyful experience, bringing Afro-funk and a carnival-esque feel to the Avalon stage: a must catch for anyone wanting to experience a spectacular African inspired sound.

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On Thursday there’s another wide variety of acts to see, with most musical tastes catered to. Tenacious D, CHVRCHES, PJ Harvey, Santigold and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are a selection of the eclectic mix of acts that will be playing throughout the day. Dev Hynes as Blood Orange, who you will recall going by the name Lightspeed Champion in the past, is also among the line-up and will be one to catch for any soul/funk lovers, while London female post-punk outfit Savages are a good shout for anyone hoping to catch something a little heavier. You can also catch hitmaker Elle King, a dusky-voiced soul-rock singer who released her debut album in 2015 and whose banjo-laced music is given a country sounding edge, on Thursday.

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Moving on to Friday, there’s again plenty for everyone. Biffy Clyro will be playing on the Arena stage, which should be a good show considering the trio have just announced their new album ‘Ellipsis’, their newest since 2013. Foals will also be playing, along with Skepta, M83 and Neil Young and Promise of the Real. Aussies Tame Impala are not to be missed, as their infectious psychedelic pop rock will have even the stiffest of dancers bopping along. Also on Friday, James Blake will be playing, as well as the incredible Hurray for the Riff Raff, whose bluesy indie folk will be perfect for those that don’t fancy catching Biffy Clyro.

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Saturday brings music behemoths New Order to the stage, along with LCD Soundsystem, Miike Snow and The Last Shadow Puppets (pictured at top in their younger days, but who have just released a new album.) I also came across Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra while researching the festival and am hooked on their funky, jazz-trimmed abstract style; I am now jealous of everyone that will get to see them in action. Brazilian-born singer/songwriter Dillon is not to be missed, his throaty voice and gentle, electronic melodies accompanied by piano evocative and moving. The Entrepreneurs are also worth catching: their lofty, eerie sound is described as “noise and romance” on the band’s Facebook, and this sums them up pretty well.

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The festival also offers, along with the incredible array of music detailed above, the opportunity to participate in or simply witness the mad splendour that is the annual Naked Run. Yes, that’s right, men and women competing in a race in all their naked glory for a ticket for next year’s festival. There are still tickets available for this year if you fancy getting involved in the action, and the festival website details travel and accommodation information.

 

Album Review: Adam French – Face to Face EP

 
By on Friday, 29th April 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Adam French EP coverThe Communion New Faces Tour is in full swing this week, and one of the hottest artists on the lineup is Congleton singer/songwriter Adam French. Ahead of the Communion tour, French was signed to Virgin EMI and was featured by BBC Introducing from Stoke during a stop in New York City on his recent trip to America. French was travelling in America to promote his new EP ‘Face to Face’, which has already received radio play in the UK by Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1.

French’s distinctive husky singing voice makes a forceful first impact on the EP’s title track, with the eponymous lyric in the song’s opening line “I’m face to face, telling everybody what I want to say”. A deep groove and propulsive rhythm create a strong hook under the repeated chorus “I give you that feeling / for you to embrace / so when you look at us / there’s a smile on your face”.

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‘Face to Face’ is followed by the stark guitar intro of the EP’s first single ‘Euthanasia’, which underscores the once-again evocative opening lines “I guess I never was and never will be / built to last or yours to keep”. An insistent, rolling keyboard line propels the tempo under the song’s brooding chorus, and the restrained drum beat builds a very palpable tension through the bridge and into the unresolved final repeat.

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‘The Optimist’ features some of Adam French’s most evocative, if not particularly optimistic, lyric verses, such as “I’m a flare in the sun / I’m the damage that’s been done / I’m a ghost in the night / I’m the dark that’s shading out the light”. A light underscoring of strings in the instrumental arrangement adds depth and grows to prominence as the song ends, but it feels somehow unresolved, never quite reaching the potential of its emotional intensity. Halting tribal rhythms underscore the predatory final track ‘Hunter’, as French’s lyrics become more overtly aggressive. The thick rasp of his voice is particularly effective in the savage lyric “you’re preying on the hunter / he’s coming for you”, which leads into the fast shuffle of the chilling chorus, “I get the feeling that I could tear you apart / blood will be beating away from your heart / so I sink my teeth right in”.

The ‘Face to Face’ EP, as a whole, is immediate and assertive, packing a quick and concise one-two punch with its dramatic rhythms and French’s gripping vocals. The dynamic and emotional development of the songs is somewhat truncated, leaving me with the feeling that French’s songwriting and/or production could use a bit of fine-tuning, but his passion and intensity will undoubtedly make a sharp impression in live performance, attracting attention from potential new fans as well as already interested listeners.

7/10

Adam French’s new EP ‘Face to Face’ is available now on Virgin EMI Records. TGTF’s previous coverage of French, including our Bands to Watch feature from last summer, is collected right back here.

 

(CMW 2016 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #110: Jack Kaye of The Magic Gang

 
By on Thursday, 28th April 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

Not long to go now to Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016, taking place in Toronto next week! We’re in the midst of our latest TGTF Quickfire Questions campaign, flavoured with what else but questions about artists coming on over to Canada for the event. Today, we’ve got Jack of The Magic Gang, an indie pop band originally from The New Forest who now call Brighton home, answering our list of queries. If you’re coming out to Toronto for CMW, you can catch The Magic Gang Wednesday the 4th of May at the 300 Club at 10 PM; Thursday the 5th of May at Handlebar at 1 AM; and and Friday the 6th of May again at the 300 Club at 11 PM. And now, I’m leaving you in the highly capable hands of Jack…

Describe your music in 3 words (We know, tricky…)
Very special pop.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word ‘Canada’?
Vast.

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Toronto? Have you been before?
First time for all of us! Collectively, we’re pretty excited about eating pancakes and going to thrift stores as well as rocking out of course.

Of the bands who have already been announced (https://cmw.net/music/artists/), do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
Even though he’s from the UK, we really want to see Skepta. As far as bands we’ve never seen, we’re excited to hopefully catch The Black Lips.

You are receiving funding from PRS for Music Foundation to make the trip over to the pond to showcase at CMW. Tell us about how you got involved with PRS Foundation and what their funding means to your trip / your career.
We have a few friends who have had some amazing opportunities like being able to go and play SXSW because of PRS funding. So it’s clear that they are a foundation who know and care about new music. For us it means we have the opportunity to open a door to a whole new audience who we wouldn’t be able to play in front of otherwise. It’s pretty exciting.

After CMW, what’s up next for you? Writing and recording? TGE / summer festivals / etc.? Do tell!
We’ll be finishing a new EP for the summer as well as playing some UK festivals. The Great Escape will be incredible, as it’s (Brighton) our hometown. Also super excited for Reading & Leeds.

Now, on to our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
Probably hearing my dad rinse T. Rex hits in our house. ‘Children of the Revolution’ still gets stuck my head occasionally.

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What was your favourite song as a child?
I went through the inevitable pop punk phase and ‘Perfect Day’ by the Offspring was a big one for me.

What song makes you laugh?
‘Vicar in a Tutu’ by the Smiths.

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What song makes you cry?
We had ‘Right Down the Line’ by Gerry Rafferty on in the van last night. That nearly did the trick.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Canada’s very own Travis Bretzer released a song called ‘Billy and I’ a few summers ago around the time I met my wife. I used to listen to it on repeat and I still love it.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
So many! The obvious one has to be ‘God Only Knows’ because its perfect. There’s so much in there, and it’s only around 3 minutes long.

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Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Hands down, a guy named George Saunders. He’s an author from Syracuse in America. He writes short stories and every single one is incredibly funny and moving.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I’m not sure if I’d be successfully doing it, but I’d love to write and produce short films or documentaries.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
Oasis – ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’

Many thanks to Jack for answering these, and thanks also to Mike for sorting this out for us.

 
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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 the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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