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Album Review: Foy Vance – Feel for Me EP

 
By on Tuesday, 30th September 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Irish singer/songwriter Foy Vance’s latest EP release, ‘Feel for Me’, was timed to coincide with his appearance at the iTunes Festival on Monday the 29th of September, where he played support for his friend and musical collaborator Ed Sheeran. Vance contributed backing vocals and songwriting assistance to Sheeran’s recent album ‘X’, and Sheeran appeared on Vance’s 2013 album ‘Joy of Nothing’, from which the track ‘Feel for Me’ is taken. Sheeran says of Vance, “Every time I see Foy play, I get annoyed more people don’t know about him…inspiration just comes being in a room and guitar-jamming with him, songs just come out”.

Unfortunately, despite Sheeran’s ardent support, Vance’s new EP seems somewhat uninspired. It begins with radio edits of album tracks ‘Feel for Me’ and ‘Guiding Light’, neither of which is radically different from the previous recordings. The eponymous opening track on the EP has a fuller, warmer acoustic sound that feels much more natural for Vance than the slightly sterile production of its album counterpart. While I enjoyed the subtle changes to ‘Feel for Me’, I was a bit perplexed by ‘Guiding Light’. Often presented as Vance’s curtain call in live performance, the song is offered here without the cameo vocal appearance provided by Sheeran both on tour and on the full ‘Joy of Nothing’ LP. I can’t quite shake the odd feeling that the solo version presented on the EP would have worked better on the full album, and vice versa. The novelty of Sheeran’s duet felt a bit like a publicity stunt on ‘Joy of Nothing’ but would have fit perfectly onto this EP collection of edits and B-sides.

The EP also includes a live acoustic version of the album’s title track, ‘Joy of Nothing’, recorded live in session with BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris. This is a very subdued rendering of what was an uplifting track on the album, but the stripped back dynamic does get more at the heart of what the song is about, simplicity and appreciation of the little things in life. Vance’s singing is soft and raspy, even more rough around the edges than usual, and his improvisatory vocal at the end of the song is one of the EP’s redeeming moments.

The EP’s final track ‘Dark Horse’ is an unreleased B-side from ‘Joy of Nothing’, given away last summer as a free download via NoiseTrade leading into the album release. The deceptively simple, purely sentimental chorus “hold me close and hold me strong / hold me pure and hold me long / hold me dark and hold me light / hold me wrong, hold me right” seems tailor-made for the emotionality of live sing-alongs, but the production here is austere, highlighting instead the soulful sincerity of Vance’s vocal delivery.

The ‘Feel For Me’ EP is a bit of an awkward supplement to the full ‘Joy of Nothing’ LP. Enthusiastic Foy Vance fans will be nonplussed, if not bored to tears, by the first two tracks, while new listeners might find their interest piqued by the radio single ‘Feel for Me’. The final two tracks are less exciting for new ears but might compel longtime fans to keep listening. Vance may be hedging his bets, but we can hope that it’s in careful preparation for the release of something new in the near future.

6.5/10

The ‘Feel For Me’ EP from Foy Vance is out now on Glassnote Records.

 

Interview: Chris Cain of We Are Scientists

 
By on Tuesday, 30th September 2014 at 11:00 am
 

We Are Scientists will be starting a coheadline American tour with fellow Yanks Surfer Blood tomorrow in Boston. Ahead of the 10-date outing entitled The Spatter Analysis tour, I wanted to get some questions answered by bassist Chris Cain, who just happens to be one of the earliest supporters of my amateur bass playing. (I’ve stuck with it after 4 years, I’ll have you know.) We chat about their current album and its pesky ‘special’ character, their videos and how they know the Surfer Blood boys. Read on…

Hello Chris. Where are you today? Did we interrupt you doing something?
In New York City! I’m actually sitting in bed, sick. Not terribly happy about it, but the timing could’ve been a lot worse. The tour doesn’t start till middle of next week, so there’s plenty of time to mend. I’m supposed to record some backing vocals Tuesday for an acoustic EP we’re working on, I’m pretty confident I’ll make that deadline.

Your latest album, released in March, is entitled ‘TV en Français’. Let’s talk about the name first. How did you decide on the title? Was it because you wanted to use a nonstandard character of the alphabet with a squiggly thing?
Ah, yes, the highly undervalued cedilla. That squiggly line does add a touch of class to the album, you must admit. Funnily, it ended up being a real pest. The words “TV EN FRANCAIS” that appear on the front of the album don’t have a cedilla, because that’s an actual photo of a motel wall, and we didn’t want to alter it. But on the spine we wrote the title in a similar font, with the cedilla on the ‘c’. And get this: as a result of an error in the artwork, that spine-cedilla ended up splatted like a swatted mosquito on the motel wall on the cover of the album on the entire initial UK run of CDs (10,000 of them, I think). Very mischievous, that little squiggle! Of course, the happy ending is that a copy of the album from that “faulty” print run is now considered rare, and worth around $800 on the open market.

How much French do you and Keith (Murray, lead vocals and guitar) actually know? Has the album proved especially popular in the Gallic region of the Continent?
Well, we’ve only played in France once since releasing “TVeF”: it was a show in Paris, and it went very well indeed. We’ve got three more French shows coming up end of October, though, and I think those will be the true test of the album’s success. Historically, we love France a lot more than France loves us; maybe the scales will tip a little closer to even this year.

‘TV en Français’ is We Are Scientists’ fourth album, following on from ‘With Love and Squalor’, ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’ and ‘Barbara’. What do you think sets this new effort apart from all its predecessors?
Well, we continue to evolve as songwriters and musicians (improve, I hope), so the material we generate continues to change. That’s the boring answer. The exciting part was working with Chris Coady as producer for the first time. Dude is a one-man “delicious sounds” generator. He’s also an extremely interesting and pleasant conversationalist. The full package, in other words.

I read that you parted ways with your management after the release of ‘Barbara’. That sounds pretty heavy. Was that time apprehensive, nerve-wracking, freeing, etc.? You guys have been around quite some time now, so I would think that having been around the proverbial block, you know how you work and who will be good for you.
We’re getting better and better at understanding our own needs and picking out people who can fulfill them, but we’re still pretty dumb about it. Work in progress.

The last promo video you released was for ‘Make It Easy’. Looks like you’re in favour of unconventional relationships?
Absolutely. It’s time to retire the shopworn model of “Right Man + Right Woman = Eternal Love”. Not only does it miss a huge spectrum of possibilities, but the one possibility it does describe, it describes unrealistically. This essay by Alain de Botton on what a practical marriage would look like isn’t exactly what we’re talking about here, but it’s awesome, so let’s segue into it.

What ground is there left in the universe for WAS to cover if you’ve already filmed a promo in outer space?
We still need to shoot a video that takes place inside the cab of a car that has just smashed through the guard rails of a bridge. It’s in slow motion, and the entire song plays while the car’s plummeting. When we shoot THAT video, we’re done.

In May, you made your third appearance at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, performing on The Late Show with David Letterman. Give us the lowdown, be honest: what was Dave really like? Who’s funnier, you or him?
Dave is funnier than us, I would say, after carefully weighing the evidence.

This week you’ll be starting a new tour coheadlining with Surfer Blood on the East Coast. Are you guys friends? How did this joining of forces come about?
We met the SB fellas when they were touring their first album and we were touring our second. Bumped into them on the festival circuit a lot. And as of a couple of years ago, we have the same booking agent in the U.S., one Mr. Mike Mori. It was Mike who had the lightbulb moment, I believe, when he realised that WAS and SB were both looking at doing a run in the fall. A big part of it was probably Mike realising that he could put together two tours while only really doing the work of organizing one. But we were big fans of the idea as soon as he presented it, even if it does make his life easier than we’d ideally like.

What great things are you expecting to happen on this tour with them? What are you dreading?
I’m dreading the complaints of injustice that will come from the giant swaths of North America that the tour isn’t visiting (they’ve been rolling in steadily since announcement). We admit it: the tour is simply too short. Only 10 cities will get to experience it. It is, indeed, not fair.

I’m most looking forward to becoming local heroes in those 10 cities.

Any last words / quips for your fans?
For the shows, please wear shoes with good support and plenty of cushioning. Elbow and knee pads are recommended but not required. A helmet would look dumb.

We wholeheartedly thank Chris from crawling out from under the covers to answer these questions for us, and thanks to Stephanie too for her assistance.

 

Album Review: Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland

 
By on Monday, 29th September 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

American alt-rock band Counting Crows have re-emerged onto the music scene with their seventh studio album, ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’, released on the 15th of September. This album is the band’s first release of original material since 2008’s ‘Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings’, but lead singer Adam Duritz mentioned in my interview with him the day after the album release that the new songs were predominantly inspired and informed by the band’s 2012 cover project, ‘Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation)’. Duritz credits those cover versions for the revitalized energy and focus on musicianship that he and his band display to full advantage on ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’. (You can read more of Duritz’s thoughts in the full interview here.)

Rather than being a simple rehash of the introspective mood rock that made Counting Crows a staple of the ’90s, ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’ is a streamlined exhibition of the band’s talents. There isn’t a wasted moment on the entire album, as each track makes its own unique and interesting statement. The variety of moods and styles among the 9 tracks is refreshing, even when Duritz’s familiar stream-of-consciousness lyrical pattern turns toward the morose.

The album’s opening track ‘Palisades Park’ is a strong declaration of the band’s musical intent. The extended brass introduction tells us straight away that something new is happening here, and the rest of the song doesn’t disappoint. Laced with Duritz’s imaginative characters and geographical references as well as several broadly unrestrained instrumental sections, it conjures a sense of adventure both in its lyrics and its music.

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A handful of catchy, high-energy tracks punctuate ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’, including the curiously named ‘Earthquake Driver’ and current American radio single ‘Scarecrow’. ‘Earthquake Driver’ explores the “skipping and diving” thoughts of a man trying to find motivation and purpose to his life. Its opening lyric “I was born again a little north of Disneyland / somewhere under Wonderland and Hollywood” is so engaging that it even found its way into the album’s title. ‘Scarecrow’ is similarly spirited, with an infectious “do-do-do” chorus breaking up the surreal, purposefully absurd quality of the verses. Nearly 5 minutes in length, it may be more prolonged than the average radio single, but the instrumental bridge and guitar solo are undoubtedly worth the extra time.

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‘Dislocation’ is a frenetic, guitar-driven address of Duritz’s struggle with depersonalization disorder, but also with the often bizarre nature of life in the public eye. Its chorus is deceptively upbeat despite the unnerving lyrics, “I am written in the radio / I dream on my TV / I’m fading out in stereo / I don’t remember me”. ‘Elvis Went to Hollywood’ is another briskly rhythmic track with a metaphysical lyrical theme, trying to pinpoint the moment in time where pop culture went astray. In spite of that somewhat discouraging sentiment, the vigourous instrumental riffs following each chorus will renew your faith in guitar rock.

‘Cover Up the Sun’ takes a decidedly country rock turn, its upbeat rhythm and acoustic twang again belying its dark lyrics, while ‘John Appleseed’s Lament’ delves deeply into the blues. The slower paced ‘God of Ocean Tides’ provides a welcome moment of calm introspection in the middle of the album, and the album’s final song, piano ballad ‘Possibility Days’, is an elegant, ethereal contrast to the frenetic energy of the tracks immediately preceding it.

Despite the typically pessimistic feeling of the lyrics, the music on ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’ is remarkably robust and inspired. Fans of Duritz’s signature introspective songwriting style won’t be disappointed by what he’s offered here, while new listeners will be drawn in by the singable choruses, upbeat rhythms and full-bodied guitar lines.

8.5/10

‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’ is available now on Virgin EMI Records. Counting Crows will tour the UK this November; you can find a listing of tour dates right here.

 

Quickfire Questions #77: Chris Cain of We Are Scientists

 
By on Monday, 29th September 2014 at 11:00 am
 

I honestly never thought it would happen but Chris Cain, bass player for American duo We Are Scientists, has answered our Quickfire Questions. I just figured he’d always be too busy to answer them. But he has! And you can read his answers below.

Stay tuned, as we’re running a q&a with the man tomorrow morning. What a great closer to the month that will be. (I know, hold yourself back. You can’t wait, can you?)

What song is your earliest musical memory?
Def Leppard’s ‘Love Bites’.

What was your favourite song as a child?
My dad was really into Foreigner. I remember loving ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is’ long before I was a member of the target demographic.

What song makes you laugh?
‘Manhole Inspector’, from the “Tex Hooper” sketch on Norm MacDonald’s magnificent sketch comedy album ‘Ridiculous’.

What song makes you cry?
‘Beautiful Child’, Fleetwood Mac.

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.)
‘Self Esteem’, The Offspring. It was that kinda first love.

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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.)
I’ve never been one of these dudes (or dudettes) who, when mad, jump around red-faced in their bedrooms listening to heavy metal. I am, though, the type who likes a good wallow. When I’m feeling low, I like to get even lower. ‘The Blue Moods of Spain’ by Spain, or ‘Devotion & Doubt’ by Richard Buckner, always do the trick.

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Ann Don’t Cry’, Pavement.

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Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
All time, James Salter. Recently, Ben Lerner.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Advertising, probably. Maybe a forest ranger, if I’d had any kind of balls.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
This becomes a question of which album you think will be least diminished by awful repetition. Maybe Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations, the 1955 recording.

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Thanks to Chris for answering these and thank you to Stephanie for sorting this for us.

 

In the Post #134: Fiction unveil ‘Lonely Planet’ from upcoming ‘In Real Life’ EP

 
By on Thursday, 25th September 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

It’s been some time since we’ve heard from London band Fiction. To be more exact, it was a year and a half ago when they released their debut album ‘The Big Other’ at the start of March 2013 on Moshi Moshi Records. The LP proved to be one of my favourite LPs of last year, so I was really pleased to see they’d returned with new material. I then attributed the brilliance of the songs on ‘The Big Other’ in large part to the lightness the band imparted to them; nothing ever felt heavy-handed or overdone.

So it’s with much pleasure that I can report that they’ve achieved lightness again with new song ‘Lonely Planet’, but in a different, yet still intriguing way. The song is the first taster off their upcoming ‘In Real Life’ EP. ‘80s New Wave style percussion is still present, but it’s more understated. More obvious is the definite funkier feel to this track, especially in the chorus as Mike Barrett’s haunting voice slinks in and around the words, “somewhere there’s a lonely planet, where the sun goes down / but I’m somewhere else, I’m somewhere else / aliens grab hold of my hands / but my head’s up here / I’m somewhere else, I’m somewhere else”. If we’re meant to take the chorus literally, I sense an interesting duality: there is much you can explore in your own imagination and dreams, but if you stay lost in those thoughts, your existence away from everyone else can be a self-made lonely existence.

Memorable spiky guitar effects at the start grab your attention, but they aren’t the only instrumental points of interest in ‘Lonely Planet’. Nearer to the end of the song, horns and violins turn the tune angelic, keeping with the dreamy theme. Is it weird that I’m imagining humanoids and aliens on a faraway star, waving their arms in the air in unison to this song? Certainly, Fiction have written a beautiful song, but it’s also whimsical. And it’s got soul.

Thank you, Fiction. More, please.

9/10

Listen to the new Fiction track ‘Lonely Planet’ below. We don’t know yet when the ‘In Real Life’ EP from Fiction will be out, but we’ll keep you posted.

 

WIN / Tix to Original Penguin Plugged In session October 2014 in London starring Peace and Tigercub

 
By on Tuesday, 23rd September 2014 at 11:00 am
 

October is just on our doorstep, isn’t it? And with another month comes another fab show courtesy of fashion house Original Penguin, who are putting on another one of their Plugged In sessions at the famed London venue the Hospital Club on the 2nd of October. As we did for the show in June starring Nick Mulvey and THUMPERS and the one in July with Twin Atlantic and We Are Scientists, October’s promises to be a doozy. And yet again, we’ve got a pair of tickets to give away to a lucky TGTF reader! Who’s playing, you ask?

Peace rocked everyone’s world in 2013 with their debut album ‘In Love’. They’ve been working on their follow-up to their best-selling debut, so this will be an incredible chance to see the four-piece not in a massive festival setting but in much more intimate digs.

And if Peace weren’t enough for you, Tigercub from Brighton will also be playing on the night. Described by many as what Nirvana and Sonic Youth might have sounded if they were slightly more pop, they are sure to remind you of the ’90s (if you were alive back then anyway) and will be sure to get toes tapping.

Now, usually the only way into these special shows is if you sign up here at Original Penguin to put your name in for the company’s lucky draw. But as I mentioned before, we’ve got a pair of tickets to give away and we want to give them to a deserving TGTF reader. Keen on winning? Of course you are. Here’s all the details to enter…

In the form below, please fill out your full name and your email address. Then to make sure you really want to see this show (and also to confirm you’re not a robot!), you’ll need to correctly answer this question: What’s the name of Peace’s next single, out on the 28th of September? Get your entries in by noon British time on Thursday the 25th of September. We’ll choose a winner from all the correct entries received and contact him/her by email. Good luck! Please note: this contest is open to UK residents only who can get themselves to London for the show, and the winner and guest must be 18+ or you will be turned away at the door (and we wouldn’t want anyone to be disappointed). All duplicate entries will be discarded.

This contest is now closed and the winner has been contacted by email.

 
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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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