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Album Review: The Maccabees – Marks to Prove It

 
By on Friday, 31st July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

The Maccabees Marks to Prove It album coverFollowing their 3-year long absence from the music scene, the first song the Maccabees offered up to the public was their new fourth album’s title track single in mid-May, ahead of summer music festival season. ‘Marks to Prove It’, with a memorable guitar hook and a rhythm destined to incite field pogoing, is exactly how I remembered ‘Pelican’ from their last album. This frenetic, high energy number, accompanied by a promo video showing the frantic pace of living and working in London, is very different to ‘Something Like Happiness’; the new LP’s second single, which will be released on the same day as the LP. It’s laden down with horns and has moments reminiscent of ’70s style Spector-ising. This matches right up to how the group’s frontman Orlando Weeks described the new release to Gigwise as it has “a ‘really nice mix’ of all the members’ different styles” and he feels more confident than ever to sing on this new material.

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After having listened to the album all the way through a few times, I’m finding little that stirs the senses as well as its title track. The feeling I’m getting is similar to what I felt for Maximo Park‘s album last year, ‘Too Much Information’: there are bright spots for sure, but most of the tunes lack immediacy or catchiness and don’t grab you. It seems false advertising to have released as your first taster a song that isn’t at all representative of the album as a whole. Feedback and effects are a hallmark of this album, even on a more introspective turn like ‘Silence’. An almost jazzy piano presentation frames the regretful lyrics of a man who chooses to stop communication altogether, thinking it’s easier if he shuts out those he loves: “I understand that it never ends / she’s waiting round every corner, round every bend / when you’re scared or lost, don’t let it all build up / break the silence.” On ‘River Song’, the pace is still one that lurches rather than speeds along, the guitars wailing before turning strident, drowning out both Weeks and any backing vocals. Maybe that was the point, that the instrumentation and voices were to become one? For sure, it’s less melodic than the psychedelic leanings of ‘Ayla’ from their last album, the 2012 Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Give to the Wild’.

When the tempo speeds up as on ‘Spit It Out’, the closest the London band get to the pop magic of ‘Marks to Prove It’, they choose interesting note progressions on both the guitars and vocals that cause the song to sound chaotic. That is, until you pass the halfway point and things start to make sense. I see what you did there, Maccabees. You have to give them credit for doing something unexpected and different. This continues as they approach both the loud and the soft on the same song, which can be jarring if you’re not expecting it. Second track ‘Kamakura’ has gentle verses that are punctuated by Weeks’ yelling, “giving a bloody nose to the best friend he knows / the only time he’s cried since he was 7 years old / your best friends forgive you, your best friends forgive you / you get old” before the outro practically whispers the song out. On the other extreme, ‘Dawn Chorus’ is a dreamy number in which the horn guy (or gal) comes back in as if to wake you up from a trance.

You’ll enjoy the gentle slow-burning quality of standout ‘Slow Sun’, its masterful guitar throughout, a lonesome horn player in the distance calling you home, its piano notes adding a shimmering complement to Weeks’ voice, as he shows his admiration for a woman who has stuck it out through thick and thin: “no-one else knows it / the lengths that she goes to / to keep it together / that’s real enough.” While the rolling beats and soothing high-hats of ‘Ribbon Road’ and the dreamy ‘Pioneering Systems’ are pleasant enough, does pleasant and inoffensive cut it these days?

7/10

‘Marks to Prove It’, the Maccabees’ fourth album, is out today on Fiction Records in the UK and Communion Records in North America.

 

Can Zayn Malik replicate the success of these former boyband members?

 
By on Friday, 31st July 2015 at 11:00 am
 

In March 2015, the pop world came to a standstill when Zayn Malik announced that he was leaving One Direction to live the life of “a normal 22-year-old”. Since leaving the boyband, the 22-year old has spent time in the studio with Naughty Boy, though the collaboration appeared to fall through after Zayn called the producer “a fat joke” in a Twitter feud in July.

On Wednesday, July 29th, 2015, Zayn took to Twitter again to announce he’s signed a solo record deal with RCA Records, whose other acts include the likes of Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake and Mark Ronson. He tweeted the following. Not quite the life of “a normal 22-year-old”, is it Zayn?


Nevertheless, Zayn Malik isn’t the first former boyband member to pursue a solo career, not by a long shot. Can he go on to replicate the success of these megastars?

Justin Timberlake

Having risen to fame as part of *NSYNC, Justin Timberlake made an instant impact on the charts with ‘Like I Love You’, ‘Cry Me A River’ and ‘Rock Your Body’ from his debut album, ‘Justified’. Three years later, Timberlake returned with ‘SexyBack’, giving the singer his first solo #1.

After a lengthy break from music (to pursue a number of acting roles and business ventures), he made his return in 2013 with ‘The 20/20 Experience’, which featured hits such as ‘Suit & Tie (ft. Jay-Z)’ and ‘Mirrors’.

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Robbie Williams

In July 1995, a matter of months before Take That were set to embark on a worldwide tour, Robbie Williams was given an ultimatum by his bandmates: adhere to the band’s responsibilities or leave. He chose the latter, and the rest (as we all know) is history.

Since then, Robbie Williams has gone on to top the Official UK Single Chart seven times, with hits such as ‘Candy’, ‘Somethin’ Stupid (ft. Nicole Kidman)’ and ‘Rock DJ’.

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Ronan Keating

Following a successful run in Boyzone, Ronan Keating bid farewell to the boyband to pursue his own solo career, which has had all the thrills of a rollercoaster ride. The Irish pop singer’s cover of ‘When You Say Nothing At All’ gave him a debut #1, with ‘Life Is A Rollercoaster’ equalling his success a year later.

Keating went on to release a string of hits, including ‘Lovin’ Each Day’, ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ and ‘I Love It When We Do’.

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Nick Jonas

After The Jonas Brothers rose to fame on the Disney Channel, it was only a matter of time before one of them achieved solo success. Joe Jonas looked to be the odds-on favourite when his collaboration with Demi Lovato, ‘This Is Me’, landed in the Official UK Top 40, although his attempts didn’t quite work out.

Nevertheless, Joe’s younger brother Nick kept the Jonas flag flying with ‘Jealous’, which was kept off the number one spot by Jess Glynne – ‘Hold My Hand’ in April 2015.

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Lionel Richie

Way back in 1968, Lionel Richie joined American soul group The Commodores as a singer and saxophonist. His knack for writing a ballad earned Lionel Richie songwriting commissions from other artists, which paved the way for his own solo career.

The singer went on to release phenomenal hits such as ‘Hello’, ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ and ‘All Night Long’, earning himself a spot on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in June 2015.

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Other former boyband members that have embarked on a solo career include George Michael (Wham!) Nathan Sykes (The Wanted), Ashton Merrygold (JLS), Simon Webbe (Blue), Boy George (Culture Club) Brian McFadden (Westlife), Ricky Martin (Menudo), Morrisey (The Smiths), Phil Collins (Genesis), Gary Barlow (Take That), Michael Jackson (The Jackson 5) and many, many more.

 

Single Review: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – Look It Here

 
By on Thursday, 30th July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

American folk rocker Nathaniel Rateliff is back with a new band and a new eponymously titled album ‘Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’. Though the album isn’t scheduled for release until August, Rateliff and the band have already garnered rave reviews for the new material at their recent live shows, including appearances at Latitude and the Newport Folk Festival.

The album’s first single ‘Look It Here’ has an immediately uptempo sound, in stark contrast to Rateliff’s introspective ‘Closer’ EP from last winter and the predominantly dark undertones of his previous solo LP ‘Falling Faster Than You Can Run’. The track opens in a surprisingly jubilant fashion, with a full complement of horns and pounding drums behind Rateliff’s soulful vocal line “look it here baby, I’m coming home, on my knees, begging please”. Earnest and straightforward, the song builds to a passionate plea in the bridge that takes full advantage of the raw emotionality in Rateliff’s rough-hewn vocal delivery.

Both ‘Look It Here’ and the earlier teaser for album track ‘Howling at Nothing’ indicate a move toward a warm r&b soul flavour that suits Rateliff’s singing voice perfectly. The rich tapestry of sound contributed by the Night Sweats is a toe-tapping, hip-swaying change of pace that will leave both longtime Rateliff fans and new listeners begging for more.

9/10

‘Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ the album is due for release on the 28th of August via Nashville record label Stax and Caroline International. The new single ‘Look It Here’ will be released on the 21st of August, but if instant gratification is what you need, you can stream it now below.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats will be on tour in the UK in September and October of this year; you can find all the details here. For a look back at previous TGTF coverage of Nathaniel Rateliff, head right this way.

 

Single Review: Matthew E. White – Vision

 
By on Monday, 27th July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Last week, American soul pop singer Matthew E. White unveiled a new video for the song ‘Vision’ from his recent album ‘Fresh Blood’, released back in March on Domino Records. Along with the new video, White also announced the release of a new, stripped back version of ‘Fresh Blood’, which he has christened with the singularly appropriate title of ‘Fresh Blood: No Skin’. On the new release, White has removed the largely decorative strings, brass and backing choir from the song arrangements, leaving the basic structure and inner mechanics (i.e., the vocals, guitars, piano and rhythm section) exposed to the ear of the beholder.

I missed the opportunity to write about ‘Fresh Blood’ at the time of its release, but I’m excited to have another chance now, as it definitely ranks among my favourite LPs of 2015 so far. One of the outstanding tracks on the originally released version of ‘Fresh Blood’ is ‘Vision’, a smooth, jazzy number with vibrant brass and string interludes and an upbeat chorus punctuating White’s velvety vocal timbre in the verses. The new video for the song, directed by Clara Aranovich and starring Edi Gathegi and Caitlin Stasey, takes a somewhat ironic look at two people who truly share a vision, despite their individual lack thereof.

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The ‘No Skin’ version of ‘Vision’ starts almost identically to the original, with a piano melody under White’s soft, rich vocal lines, “come sit next to me, the air is fine / don’t it feel good, honey, don’t it feel good tonight?” As the rhythm section makes its understated entrance, the subtle nuances in the percussion are brought to light by the streamlined instrumental arrangement. The guitar riffs sound sharper, more poignant, and White’s voice is more seductive than ever in this innately rhythm-centered setting.

In the album’s newly unembellished context, the ‘Vision’ chorus lyric “please don’t misread my vision, I’ve seen things I can’t explain” takes on a somewhat more symbolic meaning. Possibly the most important aspect of these straightforward ‘No Skin’ arrangements will be their essential emphasis on White’s lyrics, which in many places reflect his philosophical concerns with the culture and society around him. According to the biography on White’s official Web site, “one lesson of [his 2012 surprise-hit album] ‘Big Inner’ and the tours that followed was that he wanted to be able to believe in his songs every night, to know that the words he sang were more than vehicles for memorable melodies.” While the deliberately conscious songs on ‘Fresh Blood’ already reflect that idea, the stripped back ‘No Skin’ versions will take it to an even deeper level, if the teaser of ‘Vision’ is any indication of the album as a whole.

9.5/10

Matthew E. White’s albums ‘Fresh Blood’ and ‘Fresh Blood: No Skin’ are available now on Domino Records. If the teasers of ‘Vision’ shared above aren’t enough to whet your appetite, you can also listen to the ‘No Skin’ version of ‘Rock and Roll is Cold’ on White’s official Web site. TGTF’s previous coverage of Matthew E. White is right back this way.

 

Single Review: Atlas Genius – Stockholm

 
By on Thursday, 23rd July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Australian artists are knocking it out of the park lately. Should we all be stocking up on marmite, Foster’s beer and kangaroo meat? The latest song to drop on our doorstep at TGTF Towers is an early teaser from Atlas Genius’ second album ‘Inanimate Objects’, which will be released at the end of August. By title, ‘Stockholm’ sounds a bit stodgy, but it’s with great relief that it’s anything but. And if this one track is anything like the LP that’s to come, it will surely see Atlas Genius solidify their fan base and gain new admirers.

When I saw the brother-led band from Adelaide (now bros Keith and Michael Jeffery) open for Wolf Gang in DC in 2012, overwhelmed is the negative word to describe their setup on stage, which included what I considered overkill for what sounded like a rock/pop type band and whose songs were considered mainstream enough to appear on adverts for HGTV, an American home improvement and lifestyle cable station. I mean, okay, they had a synth player as is usual these days (yawn) and didn’t impress me much live, so how great can this band be on record?

However, when you hear ‘Stockholm’ in full, this kind of muscular kit – especially when it comes to the guitars – makes more sense. In fact, when you near the loud, punishing end, you might swear you were in fact listening to Royal Blood. Or maybe they got the idea for the title from Muse’s ‘Stockholm Syndrome’? Whew… Either way, I never saw that coming. What’s even more interesting is that it starts so innocently. With a conventional rhythm at the beginning, there are no signs of where this track ends up.

Lead singer and guitarist Keith Jeffery puts his voice through a workout, his voice swinging for the fences and the greatest heights, reminding me a bit of nasally Simon LeBon of Duran Duran back in their ‘80s heyday, but far rougher. The hard, driving rhythm from the bass and Michael Jeffery’s drums keeps the energy of the track up as it pulsates along, and together with brother Keith’s vocals, the overall effect is anthemic, especially as the song hurtles towards the finish line.

Not at all what I expected, and in a good way.

8/10

‘Stockholm’, the latest single revealed by Adelaide duo Atlas Genius, is available now for digital download. ‘Inaminate Objects’ will drop on the 24th of August. For past TGTF coverage of Atlas Genius, head this way.

 

Album Review: Multiplier – Multiplier EP

 
By on Monday, 20th July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Multiplier are a band from Manchester who take influences from high places: two are early days Radiohead and ‘80s post-punkers The Chameleons. But from listening to the first track ‘Choice’ and throughout their self-titled debut EP, what rings clearest are the echoes of a rock behemoth from their own hometown, Doves. BBC Introducing in Manchester’s support, then, doesn’t seem so surprising. The unique drumming sequence from the beginning is then joined by equally mesmerising shoegazey guitars, and Andy Gardner’s dreamy lead vocals aren’t that far off from those of Jimi Goodwin’s, or even Guy Garvey’s whose timbre is closer. “How the tables have turned”, repeats Gardner as the music swells, and you can’t help but be drawn into and get lost in the world they’ve created.

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Comparatively, ‘Heart of Gold’ is a massive contrast, with a happy, poppy, peppy beat. It also is a footstomper in some places, which is another surprise coming off the moody, swirly ‘Choice’. Things go back to a far dreamier place in the nearly 7-minute opus ‘Acres’, where the guitar flickers from note to note like starlight. In dramatic juxtaposition, Gardner’s lyrics of “there’s nothing left here / I’ve been digging a grave / for passions expired” spark something deeply emotional.

Having already shown great promise in their songwriting and musicianship chops and supported bands as varied as I Like Trains, The Woodentops and fellow BBC Introducing buzz band Blossoms, I’m eager to hear what Multiplier get up to next. And you should be too.

7.5/10

Multiplier’s debut EP is out now on the band’s own Bandcamp, where it can be purchased at name your own price. You can listen to all three songs below.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music 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 idiots.

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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