SXSW 2016 | 2015
| 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012
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New Paltz, New York alt-rock duo Diet Cig are set to make a second consecutive appearance at SXSW this year, where they will usher in their debut LP ‘Swear I’m Good at This’. The album’s twee-titled lead single ‘Tummy Ache’ was unveiled last week, and as soon as I heard it, I recognised it from SXSW 2016, where Diet Cig had included it on their setlist at the DIY Presents showcase at Hype Hotel.
Lead vocalist/guitarist Alex Luciano and her bandmate, drummer Noah Bowman gave a strong, energetic performance that night in Austin, and the recorded version of ‘Tummy Ache’ is true to their vivid live interpretation. Luciano’s whiny, overly-saccharine vocal delivery is almost enough to set my teeth on edge as she sings of “trying to find my voice / surrounded by all boys.” But she does present a very deliberate and ironic dichotomy in the musical context of the song’s bright, bold power chords and confidently emphatic rhythms. She comes across as shy and almost apologetic, despite the brash musical setting, in the lines “I don’t need a man to hold my hand / that’s just something you’ll never understand”. The song’s catchy final statement “my stomach hurts / ‘cos its hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt” is reinforced by increasingly intense background vocal layering as Luciano acknowledges both the outward conflict of a female rock star and her own inner turmoil.
Luciano certainly isn’t the first female frontwoman to tackle feminist subject matter in her songwriting, but based on the enthusiastically positive reception Diet Cig received last year, hers will be one of the most prominent feminist voices among showcasing artists at SXSW 2017. Keep an eye on TGTF for further coverage of Diet Cig as part of our focus on feminism at this year’s festival.
Diet Cig’s debut album ‘Swear I’m Good at This’ is due for release on the 7th of April via Frenchkiss Records. They are currently scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017 this March, but as always, the showcasing artist lineup is subject to change. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, please consult the festival’s official schedule here. TGTF’s previous coverage of Diet Cig is collected right back here.
Merseyside guitar rockers The Coral made their indelible first impression on the UK music scene in 2002 with a self-titled debut album that garnered the then-six-piece band a Mercury Prize nomination. Following that promising lead, the band recorded six more LPs over the course of the noughties before taking a five-year hiatus starting in 2010. During their off-time, band members focused on individual solo projects, and a previously recorded album, ‘The Curse of Love’, was released in late 2014.
In November 2015, The Coral announced a comeback, heralding the release of a new album, ‘Distance Inbetween’, which was released in March 2016. ‘Distance Inbetween’ was met with critical praise from reviewers at NME and The Independent, among others, and the band evidently felt the need to strike again while the iron was hot. They followed ‘Distance Inbetween’ with an EP release at the tail end of 2016, in the form of ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’.
The LP is a reimagining of ‘Distance Inbetween’, at least in parts. Of the tracks on the new EP, only ‘Holy Revelation’ and ‘Connector’ are taken from the full album. ‘Holy Revelation (Andy Votel’s ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ De-Mix)’ more than doubles the original track’s duration at over 8 minutes’ running time. It takes a fairly standard guitar rock track, which was quite catchy in its original form, and makes it into a psychedelic sonic exploration of the foundational rhythms and melodies. Surprisingly, it never feels self-indulgent. Instead, the band seem to be making themselves comfortable here, as if The Coral are stretching their legs and kicking off their shoes, allowing themselves some space to grow, and in the process adding depth and texture to their sound.
‘Connector’, the shadowy album opener from ‘Distance Inbetween’, is recreated here in a woozy and hallucinogenic synth dressing. The bass and the beat are both more aggressive in this Voyagers’ remix, and frontman James Skelly’s vocals are moved farther back in the mix to accommodate the dark dance-pop vibe. The EP features one brand new track, the verbosely subtitled ‘After the Rain (Post WW3 Return of the Super Turv Mix)’, which received airplay from Steve Lamacq at BBC 6 Music ahead of the EP release. Edgy and sinuous with a deep bass groove, its harshly synthetic instrumental bridge contrasts jarringly with frontman Skelly’s smooth, dark vocal melody.
‘Unforgiven’, previously released as the b-side track to The Coral’s ‘Chasing the Tail of a Dream’ single from January of last year, is more acoustic sounding and less kaleidoscopic in color, but nonetheless psychedelic in its way. Its vocal and instrumental harmonies are weirdly wandering, but also warm and hazy around the edges, which allows the EP to close on a distinctly lighter and mellower note than where it began.
‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ is probably best thought of as an accompaniment to ‘Distance Inbetween’. Stylistically, it’s a bit all over the shop on its own, but in comparison to the tracks on the full LP, these songs make a little more sense. Taken in conjunction with the definitive precision and back-to-basics mentality of ‘Distance Inbetween’, ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ displays The Coral’s outside-the-box approach to music-making and their willingness to evolve their sound, even as their career stretches past the 20-year mark.
The Coral’s full-length album ‘Distance Inbetween’ and their latest EP ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ are both out now on Ignition Records. For more on the Merseyside band on TGTF, follow this link.
With what could be their best record yet, You Me At Six have returned all guns blazing. ‘Night People’ is everything a fifth album should be: a throwback to earlier times whilst making sure the growth is evident. The first glimpse came in the form of the lead single and title track, which opens the album. With its pounding and pulsating drumbeat, it feels quite different from the classic You Me at Six sound. This peek into the new age of You Me at Six symbolises not only their growth but their insatiable prowling of the top spot in British rock.
The band had such confidence in the new record, they’ve admitted they’re not even releasing the strongest songs. This set of songs are a treat for those who check out the album, and a treat they are indeed. All across the board, this record stands in a league of its own when compared to the rest of the past You Me at Six discography. After the aforementioned first and title track, things get kicked up another notch with ‘Plus One’, a fast and furious number that takes no prisoners. This then leads us nicely into ‘Heavy Soul’, a perfectly melodic track that makes use of the band’s ability to write catchy and powerful choruses.
Somewhat of a break in the onslaught of melody and tempo, ‘Take on the World’ is a vastly different beast. It builds gently over restrained finger-picking on guitar, while frontman Josh Franceschi gives a completely wholehearted performance, even down to the tensing of voice during the chorus. As the track falls away after its epic crescendo, another slow start greets us in the form of ‘Brand New’. As the album’s highlight, it has absolutely everything: a rampaging melodic chorus, heartfelt lyrics and a perfect performance all round from the band. If you don’t like this track, then what hope is there?
The rest of the album has a lot to live up to after this. While ‘Night People’ knocks it out of the park other songs don’t replicate the ‘Brand New’ magic, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself going back and repeating it, maybe a hundred times or so. ‘Swear’ kicks back in a rollicking drum attack, a nod back to their previous album ‘Cavalier Youth’ and proving their sound is still. ‘Make Your Move’ brings some more of that viciousness we first saw in ‘Plus One’, and takes it up yet another notch, just as ‘Can’t Hold Back’ does. What we’re seeing here is certainly You Me at Six finding the ground upon which they can finally build the mainstream recognition they deserve.
‘Spell It Out’ repeats the restrained introduction used on prior tracks, but does so in a darker manner. It’s almost the antithesis to ‘Take On The World’ in its execution: still slow and building, but instead of leading to a melodic and positive crescendo, it takes us to an aggressive world that the band aren’t afraid to enter. Finale ‘Give’ does what all good finales should do. Not only does it complete the album, but it also leaves you with a sense that you’ve been emotionally tested. Through Franceschi’s cries of “I’ve been wasting all this time / trying to keep you off mind / you off my mind”, and the euphoric musical accompaniment, ‘Give’ is quite literally You Me at Six giving it their all.
The most interesting aspect of this entire record is the thought of where they’ll go from here. They’ve created what is their best album thus far, filled with exploration and deviation from the standard You Me at Six formula. The future’s going to be tough, but with ideas like these in their arsenal, they’ll surely own it.
‘Night People’, the sixth studio album from You Me at Six, is out now on Infectious Music / BMG. You can look back at TGTF’s previous coverage of You Me at Six through here.
The eighth EP release from dance producer prodigy James Draper, better known simply as Draper, does exactly what you’d assume the eighth EP would do. It’s made up of tracks that are massive, filled with beats and none too explorative. Across the six tracks, only one of which doesn’t feature a guest artist, there’s a lot to make you want to move and shake. Which, ultimately, is all you can ask for from an EP by an electronic producer.
It wastes no time in getting down to brass tacks by instantly striking with loud, prominent beats that use techno flourishes at their finest with ‘Want You More’. One of the unspoken jewels in dance music production’s crown is the use of unnoticed or unfamiliar artists. In cases like this, you can normally guarantee the voice you hear singing the hook comes from an up-and-comer, and in this case, it’s Sam Sure. The London-based singer has a voice that is a cross between emotive and focused, giving the song a much-needed human touch. Next up is BB Diamond on ‘Jealous’, a track about, you guessed it, being jealous. Her voice definitely shows the vicious side of jealousy, Diamond’s vocal range tensing at times and often taking on a raw edge. The music itself is once again fairly standard for this genre – with no real progression – but it’s melodic and isn’t terrible, so there’s that.
However, ‘I.O.U’ saves the day, with a performance on vocals from another London-based singer, Kyko. There’s two different songs within this track that appear and disappear throughout. The first is a triumphant and euphoric-sounding electronic funk melody that really does draw your attention, especially when complimented by the delicacy of the second. Next up, ‘Reaction’ brings yet more flavour. Its restrained instrumentation allows the vocals to take centre space, at least up until the chorus, which is actually pretty damn good. This is pop at its finest: a melody that sweeps you away, though the vocal performance could do more to match this setup. Guest vocalist Milck‘s strength lies in the more sedentary verse; the chorus calls for a more emotive performance to match the powerful melody Draper creates, and the vocal lets the track down in that regard. Additionally, the vocal effect before the break into the final chorus is wholly unnecessary but is saved by the extremely Eighties’ sounding guitar solo that breaks out in the song’s finale.
‘Heartbeat Close’ is a pure and straight dance track. There’s no doubt what its purpose is: to get you dancing, while drunk in the club with your friends. No points for creativity, but kudos on managing to stick to the template. Finale ‘Who Are You’ features Sykes and is the strongest guest performance on the record. With a sound reminiscent of CHVRCHES, just a little less power, it has a draw that none of the other tracks do. It’s encapsulating and breathes a life of fresh air into the six tracks, which is a shame considering this song appears at the end of the EP. Vocals once again aren’t sufficiently powered to match the euphoria found within the music, though the execution is certainly better that seen on ‘Reaction’. And another Eighties’ guitar solo, you can’t go wrong with an Eighties’, reverb-laden guitar solo.
As a whole, the EP is nothing to write home about, though as a whole, ‘Luminous’ certainly proves Draper’s strength as a producer. The songs are to get you dancing, soundtrack the lighter side of your life and to not hang around longer than needed, Which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s also not necessarily a good thing.
Draper’s ‘Luminous’ EP is available now from M:UK. You can stream the entire release below. He’s announced a show in London at Koko’s Friday BURST dance night on the 3rd of March. Stay tuned for more coverage on Draper in the coming weeks and months.
As far as band formation stories go, NYC’s Hiccup has to be right near the top of the list for the title of Most Unique. The band’s co-lead vocalists, Hallie Bulleit and Alex Clute, first worked together in The LLC, which is the house band for The Chris Gethard Show, a late-night TV program on the Fusion Network. The band’s job on the variety show is to create quick, energetic snippets of music to accompany the fast-paced action, and Bulleit and Clute connected over their shared love of ephemeral-but-catchy pop hooks. According to Clute, they wanted to “translate [those pop hooks] into something similar but with more of a lasting impression”. They recruited drummer Piyal Basu, and Hiccup was officially formed.
Hiccup are set to release their debut LP ‘Imaginary Enemies’ on the 24th of March via Father/Daughter Records, just after their scheduled appearance at SXSW 2017. The album’s lead single is titled ‘Teasin’’, and it demonstrates straightaway the frenetic musical energy that Bulleit and Clute must have developed as bandmates in The LLC. Despite its coy title, ‘Teasin’’ is a lo-fi sonic assault, driven by an agitated rhythm and a battering ram of guitar distortion. Unfortunately, the production and/or instrumentation don’t do the dual-layered vocal line any favours, and I wasn’t able to make out many of the rapid-fire lyrics. The press release for ‘Teasin’’ calls Hiccup a “breakneck-paced, harmony-laden indie band”, but any attempt at vocal harmony between Bulleit and Clute has been drowned in a morass of guitars cranked up to 10 on the fuzz meter.
All that being said, if ‘Teasin’’ is any indication, Hiccup’s concise pop-punk approach is sure to be an instant hit at SXSW, where an aggressive and striking first impression can make all the difference to a breaking band’s success. Their infectious, high-energy sound is perfectly-tailored for a festival atmosphere; I can see it working equally well on sunny daytime stages and dark late night club showcases. Look for Hiccup to be one of the most buzzed about American bands in Austin this spring.
As always, any information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and the artist lineup is subject to change. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, please consult the festival’s official schedule here. Keep an eye on TGTF for further preview coverage of the festival ahead of our yearly pilgrimage to Austin in March.
Brooklyn-based chamber-pop collective San Fermin didn’t give themselves a lot of room for growth when they began their career with eight members back in 2012. Personal and professional space comes at a premium in a rock band so large and so diverse, and lineup changes are almost inevitable. San Fermin have seen their share of those, especially among their roster of female vocalists. However, the band’s latest single ‘Open’ shows both a slight change in musical direction and a renewed emphasis on the female voices in the group.
‘Open’ presents itself as atmospheric and ethereal, almost intangible, in contrast with the heavy clamour of earlier tracks like ‘Sonsick’. Here, a tapestry of soaring strings and high, lilting vocal melodies is gradually woven with threads of bass, percussion and guitar, creating a steady dynamic ascent. But lead singer Charlene Kaye, backed by a descant vocal from bandmate Rebekah Durham, sets a thematic tone of emotional descent into illicit longing with the song’s suggestive opening lines, “Finally, are you ready for me? Is she gone?”
The jarring sonic dissonance in the instrumental bridges between verses is perhaps a less-than-sublte reflection of the lyrical protagonist’s inner turmoil, but the overwhelming impression of the song is one of exquisite sensuality. Kaye’s delivery of the chorus line “give me your mouth, give me your skin” is both possessed and possessive; haunting in its desperation, but also alluringly seductive.
San Fermin’s longtime bandleader Ellis Ludwig-Leone describes the track as follows: “‘Open’ was the keystone of this new record – the song I kept coming back to that shaped the direction of everything else. It’s a call from that little nagging voice telling you that you might be a bad person, or at least want bad things.” If nothing else, the song will leave you wanting to hear more of San Fermin’s sharper, smoother new sound.
San Fermin’s new single ‘Open’ is taken from their forthcoming album ‘Belong’, which is due out later this year on Downtown Records / Interscope. The band is currently scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017; keep an eye on TGTF for our coverage from Austin later this year. Our extensive previous coverage of San Fermin, dating back to their self-titled 2013 debut LP, is right back here.
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