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British electronic group Clean Bandit achieved phenomenal chart success in 2014 with ‘Rather Be’. The track, which features vocals from English singer/songwriter Jess Glynne, spent four weeks at #1 in the Official UK Singles Charts: it sold 163,000 copies in its opening week back in January, making it the second fastest-selling single of the year (behind Band Aid 30‘s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’). On the back of Rather Be, Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne have teamed up once again for their latest single ‘Real Love’.
The four-piece band’s unique selling point is their ability to fuse a range of genres together in their music, including classical, funk, dance and pop. Combined with the soulful vocals of Glynne, ‘Real Love’ offers a distinctive blend of styles that stands out amongst the wave of dance music that is currently dominating the charts.
The track, which is the first to be taken from the new edition of their debut album ‘New Eyes’, opens with the rich sounds of a bass, cello and piano, as Glynne’s terrific vocals trickle over the top. As the momentum and energy builds, ‘Real Love’ bursts into a dance chorus that brilliantly demonstrates Clean Bandit’s signature style. While the lyrics tether on the edge of being too repetitive, as Glynne repeatedly belts out “this is real, real, real, real love” throughout the chorus, ‘Real Love’ is a solid track highly reminiscent of ‘Rather Be’.
However, this likeness to their first collaboration is the main downfall of the song. The song doesn’t bring anything new to the table, as Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne have played it safe by attempting to ride on the success of ‘Rather Be’. Had they taken a few more risks, this could have been a smash hit. Instead, we’re left with a slightly underwhelming track that will struggle to make a significant impact on the charts.
‘Real Love’ is taken from Clean Bandit’s debut album ‘New Eyes’, out now on Atlantic Records. The band recently announced that they are embarking on a UK/Irish tour in March 2015.
If you’re a devotee of the harder end of the blues-rock spectrum, you owe it to yourself – contrary to the album’s title – to check out the new release from Bath rockers Kill It Kid. The defining feature of ‘You Owe Nothing’, in true Tap style, is the band’s willingness to turn everything up to 11. From the very first opening onslaught of ‘Black It Out’ – chopped-up guitars compete with an enormous fuzz bass to create a noise that could be the sound of two space robots hitting each other – the listener is left in no doubt that these guys mean to punch a hole in one’s eardrums… and have a party whilst doing it.
On ‘Sick Case of Loving You’, Kill It Kid reveal their party piece. Pianist Stephanie Ward steps forward to share lead vocal with Chris Turpin, and as their voices intertwine, one realises just how rare the female voice is in a rock context, and just how refreshing it is to hear it. In what can be an overly testosterone-soaked genre, Ward proves how capably a female voice can enhance the listening experience, both from an auditory and emotional perspective. She gets centre stage on ‘Blood Stop and Run’ and it’s a highlight of the whole album, in no small part due to her performance.
After a three-track hard rock introduction, along comes the obligatory power-ballad in the shape of ‘Caroline’. Competent though it is, the band displaying quite spectacular commitment in wringing every ounce of emotive power from their performances, it’s perhaps where Kill It Kid admit they’re not afraid to be derivative when required. Gone is the interstellar guitar choppery, replaced by something that sounds like a Bon Jovi B-side. From 1992. And from that point on it’s difficult to escape the subtle but persistent whiff of cliché.
The second half of the album is comprised of mildly suspect romance-based double entendres seemingly inspired by Monty Python’s “Say No More” sketch. ‘I’ll Be the First’, ‘Don’t It Feel Good’, ‘Tried Used Loved Abused’ – they’re all laden with sexual overtones, with Stephanie Ward even making some bedroom-style noises at times. No complaints, and given the gender balance it can’t truly be called ‘cock rock’, but the overtones are certainly there – this is a record with sex on its mind.
Despite occupying the same genre segment, it’s a tall order to meet the standards of hard rock that were set in the ’80s and ’90s by legendary bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses, and despite a strong effort, Kill It Kid can’t quite reach those heights. Bath simply can’t provide the depth of sleaze as L.A., and that shows in the songwriting. What we’ve got here is a tamer, if perhaps more refined, sound. Still, it’s the first thing in years that gets close, and for that they deserve kudos – and a round of Jack.
Kill It Kid’s new album ‘You Owe Nothing’ is out today on Sire / Warner Brothers Records.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 13th November 2014 at 12:00 pm
Valerie Teicher, better known under her atmospheric stage name Tei Shi, recently signed to Mermaid Avenue, an imprint of American label Mom + Pop Music. And we couldn’t be happier for the inventive Brooklyn via Colombia via Vancouver artist. Her second single for her new label home differs quite a bit from the first, the #1 Hype Machine-placing number ‘Bassically’, which features an insistent ’80s beat and handclap and whooshing flourishes. ‘See Me’ is a much more restrained affair and reveals a more straightforward and yet far more wistful style than seen on her ‘Saudade’ EP, released in 2013.
According to a chat she had with the folks at Dazed Digital, she had one singular goal in writing this song: “I want the song to sound like fishies swimming up a stream made of chocolate mousse.” While that doesn’t sound very palatable, the results are stunningly beautiful. The track was coproduced by Teicher, long-time friend, collaborator and producer Gianluca Buccellati and Dave Bayley, with whom she teamed up with to write and record the Glass Animals’ ‘Gooey’ EP track ‘Holiest’. She wowed the DC crowd in July with her talent when she supported Bayley’s band at U Street Music Hall in July.
Teicher’s vocals on this new single are airy and allowed to breathe, which was a smart choice to highlight her gorgeous voice. It’s as if the double-backed vocal line is floating and flying high in the sky like a bird, weaving a beautiful pattern among and in between the other parts of this song. These background elements – varying from mechanical creaks and clanking, mouth clicks, synths and light percussion – are never heavy-handed, complementing the vocal treatment well. The last minute of the song goes entirely instrumental, as animal noises, synths and beats are filtered and fogged to create an appropriately chill outro.
Then there are the lyrics themselves, which linger and recall memories like the cologne of an ex. Is it a breathy admittance to self-consciousness to a lover? Is a Dear Jane letter saying goodbye to a toxic relationship? Or maybe a combination of both? Whichever it is, it’s evident the protagonist can look to her lover and see his shortcomings: “you never look at your surroundings / you only think how they might change / but I’ll be like the trees / and I’ll grow while no one’s watching / and I unravel your mistakes”. More importantly, she wants to be seen for who she truly is. In that respect, the song does a perfect job of presenting Tei Shi’s stellar, near heavenly voice, and I hope this will be the single that brings her the fame she deserves.
‘See Me’, Tei Shi’s latest single, is out now on Double Denim Records.
Oxford-born singer/songwriter Lewis Watson has gathered over 100,000 likes on Facebook and his music has been streamed over 5 million times on Spotify. Not bad for a 22-year-old who has never had a guitar lesson. Lewis took some time out from his current American tour to answer our Quickfire Questions. (Also, if you’re keen, you can also read the accompanying interview Lewis did with us last week here.)
What song is your earliest musical memory?
Probably ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson. We loved that song as kids.
What was your favourite song as a child?
It’d have to be ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson (again). We’d listen to it hundreds of times a day if we could.
What song makes you laugh?
There’s a song by a fella called DJ Syntax called ‘Middle Class Problems’ which always gets a smile on my face. Great beat and chords too.
What song makes you cry?
I rarely cry at music. I rarely cry at anything to be honest… but there was a song that Passenger performed when I saw him a few years ago called ‘Travelling Alone’ and it was beautiful. Definitely put a lump in my throat!
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…?
Probably the second Bombay Bicycle Club record ‘Flaws’, it had just come out and I listened to it non-stop during that summer. Puts me there every time.
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.)
I always listen to the first Slipknot album when I’m angry. I’ve always been a fan and the anger in that record makes me realise that it’s really not that bad (I also air drum the anger away). When I’m upset, I’ll listen to ‘Re: Stacks’ by Bon Iver. It gets me every time.
Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
It’d have to be ‘Re: Stacks’ by Bon Iver (again, sorry…). That is a perfect song in my eyes and I’d hang up my boots if I’d written it.
Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie). His lyrics are always so vivid and gorgeous. Pair that with his beautifully lazy melodies and I’m incredibly jealous!
If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I can honestly say that I have no idea… I’ve never been an ambitious person until this happened and I couldn’t think about doing anything else… at least right now!
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.)
Probably ‘Parachutes’ by Coldplay. Probably not the coolest choice, but it’s such a beautiful album with songs that match any mood.
Many thanks to Lewis for answering the questions and thank you to Julia for sorting this out for us.
Lewis Watson. If you don’t recognise the name, you will do soon enough. Despite never having a guitar lesson, the 22-year-old singer/songwriter from Oxford has gathered over 73,000 Twitter followers and 80,000 subscribers on YouTube. He took some time out from his North America tour to chat to TGTF.
Like many modern artists, Lewis Watson began his music career on video-sharing Web site YouTube. After receiving a guitar for his 16th birthday, Lewis uploaded videos of him playing and he quickly gathered a following, much to his surprise: “YouTube was very new at the time and I used it as a tool to teach myself guitar. I was just uploading videos so that I could look back a week later and see what I’d improved on. I never thought that anybody else would watch the videos.”
His success on YouTube led to the release of five EPs within 2 years on the Warner Music label, including ‘It’s Got Four Sad Songs on It BTW’, ‘The Wild’ and ‘Some Songs with Some Friends’. These were closely followed by the launch of his debut album ‘The Morning’ in July 2014. “There was a lot more pressure around the album, mostly self-inflicted,” Lewis explained. “I think that’s the main difference. Everything else was released as it was completed.” He added, “the album was what everything led up to and that brought a lot of pressure. I wanted it to be perfect.”
Lewis described the reaction to his album as “overwhelming”. He continued: “To have people listen to the album at all is amazing. I’ve seen tattoos of my lyrics, received letters saying that the album has inspired songs, artwork and even novels. I’m a very lucky guy.”
On the back of the album, Lewis embarked on a nationwide tour in September 2014, including an “insane” sold-out headline gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, which he described as one of the highlights of his career. He said, “playing 3 sold out nights at the Sydney Opera House on the Birdy tour is another highlight. I’d be a fool not to put supporting Coldplay in a tiny pub last Christmas on that list too.”
Lewis, whose inspiration comes from anybody that he has ever met and anything that he has ever experienced, offered some advice to budding musicians: “It’s really cliché, but just keep at it. The music industry is relentless and it really a very hard ‘job’, but the rewards are so high because of this. I have the best job in the world and it’s all because of the hard work that I’ve put in for 5 years. I’m a firm believer that all good music will rise to the top eventually. Keep it up and you’ll get there.”
Looking to the future, Lewis hopes to be able to play music for as long as possible. “I love what I do and I feel so fortunate to be able to do it. To be able to do this forever is my goal.” He added: “I almost have the second record written and I can’t wait to record that after this tour of North America!”
Lewis Watson is currently in the midst of an eight-date long tour of North America, which began in Los Angeles on Sunday, the 9th of November. The tour concludes in Toronto on Thursday the 20th of November.
A huge thank you to Lewis Watson for answering these questions for us, and thanks to Julia for her assistance as well.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 10th November 2014 at 12:00 pm
If the story of London band Wolf Gang was ever made into a film, it would be one that came out at Christmastime for the whole family. Because as the group stands now, it is a family. And the family that plays together stays together, am I right?
We first wrote about Wolf Gang on TGTF 5 years ago when it was solely a project of Max McElligott, a former student at the London School of Economics who dropped out to do music instead of bean counting. And music he did, did well, and of a stunning, orchestral variety. It took some time for McElligott to find the right members for his live band but as fate would have it, he found the perfect brothers to continue his musical journey with: Gavin Slater on guitar, James Wood on bass and Lasse Petersen on drums, as well as more recent addition Beau Holland to assist on keyboards and guitar on the road. When it came time to record a follow-up to his 2011 debut solo album, McElligott says, “we immediately had this chemistry, so it was a really easy decision to move on from ‘Suego Faults’ to recording this next album together with the four of us, so as a result it sounds really different because of it”.
What was most unexpected about ‘Suego Faults’ was its maturity despite McElligott being in his early 20s. ‘Alveron’, then, can be described as a great next step evolutionarily for the band, showing further maturity, as well as an understanding of how the industry is evolving as well. The evidence begins from the first notes of opening ‘Now I Can Feel It’, whose bluesy, r&b vibe shows an appreciation of what’s popular in America today. Make no mistake though: it’s still clearly Wolf Gang, with a classic pop sensibility that McElligott does so well, but with an edge.
You can feel this edge through most of this album, so much as you’re spinning this record, it feels like you’re Meg Ryan on her bicycle at the end of City of Angels. There is a bit of danger in it all, you accept this, but oh man, you close your eyes and it feels good, you’re loving life. This is the curious juxtaposition of McElligott’s powerful, dramatic lyrics with the uplifting instrumentation of Wolf Gang, now working together as a four-piece full band. The band consciously recorded this album to capture as much of the energy from their live shows as possible, and you can hear this vitality throughout the album.
Previous releases ‘Black River’, ‘Lay Your Love Down’ and ‘Back to Life’ are love songs but not in the traditional sense, and the band should be commended for not falling into the trap of going for the obvious. The message of ‘Back to Life’ in particular is noteworthy: you may have lost all hope from a previous heartbreak, but you will survive from it stronger. You will soon realise that person no longer in your life gave you some keys to life so you can love better the next time, and McElligott’s voice soars to reflect the positivity of the piece.
Numbers ‘Into the Fire’ and ‘Underneath the Night’ are both upbeat in tempo and the lyrics run appropriately buoyant, the former insisting, “your life is what you make it, with reasons to believe”. ‘Last Bayou’ also falls into a similar mould; the song appeared as a standout on the ‘Black River’ EP released in April, with its melodic guitar line and the youthful declaration “these young dreams are all we breathe”. The LP closes out with title track ‘Alveron’, another inspiring tune for you to wave those legendary flags at Glasto to. Oh wait, we’re in winter now, aren’t we…keep forgetting that.
The slower songs on the album feel like when you throw water onto a campfire: you can still see the glowing embers, but the vitality is lacking. Like the disappointment felt seeing a film after reading the book it was based on, the album version of ‘Ghost in My Life’ fails to deliver on record in light of me having the benefit of seeing it performed live with nothing but acoustic guitar accompanying McElligott’s voice, which was absolutely beautiful. The ghostly feeling of the instrumentation is possibly done too well, with the strings disorientating and the trumpet just a tad too loud and gay with McElligott’s otherwise desperate words, “and I want you to know, that I need you to stay / would you try to let go, if I stood in the way? / and I need you to see now, there’s nowhere to hide / if tonight you should leave as the ghost in my life”. A less is more approach probably would have served the otherwise poignant song better. ‘Frozen Lands’ attempts for orchestral epicness, but its breathy echoing dampens the effect they were trying to achieve.
Still, if the band was shooting to make an album with an overall mood of optimism, I’d say they’ve hit the nail on the head with ‘Alveron’. Smart songwriting, catchy and tight instrumentation and wow, a positive message! What more could you ask for?
‘Alveron’, the second album from London indie pop band Wolf Gang, is out now on Cherrytree / Interscope Records. Watch a behind the scenes making of the album video below, narrated by the band, below.
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