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Update: Liverpool Sound City 2015

 
By on Friday, 30th January 2015 at 9:00 am
 

They’ve been asking if they want to come back all these years, and this week it was confirmed that The Vaccines would indeed be coming back to Liverpool Sound City after a 2-year absence. They’ll be joining Belle and Sebastian and The Flaming Lips at the top of an already incredibly tantalising bill of talent.

The four-piece who shot to prominence of the back of their first album ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ have barged their way back onto the scene in proper Vaccines fashion. That is, in the form of another 2-and-a-half minute banger, with guitars so fast you’ll miss them if you blink and a chorus as catchy as a cold at this time of year. The guitars are frantic, as they were on all of The Vaccines’ releases we’ve heard up to now, and the four-piece have undeniably stuck to the same formula that has worked so well for them over the last four years.

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‘Handsome’ may not have as killer a chorus as ‘Do You Wanna’, but it’s a fantastic pop song with wide appeal, there is no doubt. The new single is released on the 8th of March officially, but is already doing the rounds on social media and the radio, and all around it looks like everybody is pretty happy with what The Vaccines have produced. Will the album be on the same form? Well, from this evidence what can we expect from The Vaccines, more of the same…

As for who’s joining them on the bill at the rejuvenated Liverpool Sound City, which has been moved to pastures anew at the docks, there are some fantastic up and coming talents ready to catch the eye on Merseyside. Female four-piece Dum Dum Girls will bring a bit of shoegaze to the Sound City festival. Math rockers Dutch Uncles have also joined the bill and will be looking to move away from being a festival buzz band and to a group which can really excite people on a festival bill – is this festival the right platform? We shall see.

If overblown hipster chic is what you enjoy , eccentric duo The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger are certainly a feast for the eyes. Whether their off-colour take on psychedelic rock will captivate or confuse, they’re likely to be an interesting draw alongside Roni Size /Reprazent, The Thurston Moore Band, Gaz Coombes, F*cked Up, Evian Christ and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

But with a BBC Sound of 2015 nomination and countless plays of their new single on Radio 1, the act I’m undeniably the most excited about catching a glimpse of at Liverpool Sound City (barring the headliners anyway) are Slaves. Their no nonsense approach on indie rock and incredible tunes like ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie’ are certain to draw a capacity crowd to their slot at the festival, and as it did with me at 2000 Trees 2014, they’re almost certain to leave you asking, “Debbie… Where is your car?”

 

Single Review: Modest Mouse – Coyotes

 
By on Thursday, 29th January 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

It’s been some time since we’ve heard from Northwest American indie band Modest Mouse. The last time they released and toured a studio album – 2007’s concept album ‘We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank’ – ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr was one of their full members (Marr has since gone on to his own successful solo career). 2015 will see the release of ‘Strangers to Ourselves’, Modest Mouse’s sixth studio album, which will be released in early March on Epic Records. Prior to Christmas 2014, the band revealed the LP’s first single, the all over the place ‘Lampshades on Fire’ (stream here). Just this last week, they revealed second single ‘Coyotes’, a much more understated and thoughful affair that gives clues that ‘Strangers to Ourselves’ will have its introspective, melancholic moments.

The accompanying promo video for ‘Coyotes’ allows the listener to join what appears to be an urbanised coyote as he takes a light rail journey in an empty train car through Portland, Oregon. (Apparently the whole thing as reported by the Portland Mercury is a re-creation of actual events that happened on the town’s MAX Light Rail in 2002, starring what I assume is a very well-trained, Hollywood-type, coyote-looking dog.) The timing of the journey, in the wee hours of the morning, further lends a lonesome air that matches the song. After boarding, the coyote chooses to sit, then relax on a seat on the train, looking about as comfortable as any one of us might be spending a lazy Sunday afternoon on the sofa in front of the telly.

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As you’re watching this video, you can’t help but make the connection between the surprising content in a wild animal’s face and body language to our own overwhelming complacency about our changing environment, that it’s someone else’s problem to deal with. In the suburb of Washington, DC, where I born and raised, many deer and a whole host of other wildlife regularly feed on our gardens and build homes and nests in our trees and under our lawns, much to the chagrin of homeowners. From the animals’ perspective, they have had to make do while their own natural habitat and way of life have been encroached on. Who is wrong, who is right? The song is simple, beginning with an easy guitar melody, before it heads into a sweeping chorus with staccatoed notes and backing vocals. This is more of a thinking song.

Frontman Isaac Brock’s haunting lyrics – “Coyotes tiptoe in the snow after dark / at home with the ghosts in the national parks / mankind’s behavin’ like some serial killers / giant ol’ monsters afraid of the sharks” – point squarely to this moral conflict that developers and urban dwellers are challenged with. Going further, he shows how ridiculous we are in being all too often unwilling to find real solutions for our problems: “And we say: ‘We’re in love with all of it’ / and we say: ‘We’re in love with everything’ / and we say: ‘What can we say?'” Is there a one size fits all answer to the mess we find ourselves in, to habitats being destroyed, to global warming, to the destruction of our earth? No, but Modest Mouse deserve mad props for taking to their soapbox to shame us for our own complacency.

7/10

The new Modest Mouse single ‘Coyotes’ is out now. ‘Strangers to Ourselves’ will be released on Epic Records on the 2nd of March.

 

Album Review: The Charlatans – Modern Nature

 
By on Wednesday, 28th January 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Words by Harry Gold

Bridging the gap between Baggy and Britpop in the early ‘90s, the Charlatans were one of many bands that rode the wave of success of the Manchester music scene that developed after the emergence of the Hacienda as a ‘superclub’ in the late ‘80s. Despite offering their own take on the psychedelic swagger of Madchester sound, the easiest way to describe the group’s 1990 debut LP ‘Some Friendly’ would be “The Stone Roses with an organ player”, offering an arguably more accessible and poppy sound. Re-emerging in 2015, The Charlatans seem to have completely remolded themselves, with vocalist Tim Burgess’ Gallagher-esque drawl having seemingly dissipated into something more versatile and wide reaching. The music also appears more expansive, sounding surprisingly cosmopolitan for a group hailing from Northwich.

Stripped down to its bare bones, ‘Modern Nature’ can be described as a record by a West Coast psychedelic rock band with electronic and acid house undertones. This, interestingly, would be also have been a fitting way to describe the band at the height of their success in the ‘90s, making ‘Modern Nature’ a massive sonic departure, but also a remoulding of old influences. While ‘Some Friendly’ was a testament to staying indoors and taking drugs at shady nightclubs, the album as a whole feels like the rediscovery of a world outside of raving and clubbing, a welcome contrast to draw with convoluted modern pop music.

Opening track ‘Talking in Tones’ marks a departure from the electronic groove-led energy of the band’s earlier material, the group appearing to be looking around and appreciating the world around them more rather than focussing exclusively on themselves and their immediate surroundings. The main musical influences are immediately noticeable, with the shadow of the Doors being omnipresent throughout the record, especially on album track ‘Let the Good Times Be Never Ending’. Paired with a drum sound reminiscent of New Order’s ‘The Perfect Kiss’, the group’s Stephen Morris being one of the guest drummers playing on the LP, the band seamlessly merge together sounds originally created decades apart.

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Recent single ‘So Oh’ hints at more contemporary psychedelic wanderings, with the thought of Tame Impala immediately springing to the fore. There are moments when such sunniness seems almost unconvincing coming from a group that have probably only experienced a heat wave once in their lives, living in an otherwise gloomy part of Britain. Beneath the vibrant exterior, the creation of ‘Modern Nature’ feels as though it has occurred alongside the daunting realization that the group has outgrown their old youthful energy and need to “grow up”. The album, as a result, feels like a result of these blind meanderings, a transitory moment for the band as songwriters and musicians, but also as people.

‘Modern Nature’ doesn’t, however, feel like a step into the future, rather a celebration of the past. After the passing of drummer Jon Brookes in 2013, The Charlatans seem to have garnered a new appreciation for life, allowing them to see not only the world around them, but also themselves, in a completely different light. Featuring members of the Verve, Dexy’s and Factory Floor, the record is a celebration of all that has come before, with musicians born generations apart pulling together, marking ‘Modern Nature’ as a key point in the groups career, encapsulating their past into one record so they can move forward into the future.

8/10

‘Modern Nature’, the Charlatans’ 12th studio album to date, is out now on BMG / Chrysalis. The band have lined up a UK tour in March, with many of the dates already sold out.

 

Preview: 6 Music Festival 2015

 
By on Wednesday, 28th January 2015 at 9:00 am
 

The 6 Music Festival is back! And it’s coming to my town. For two evenings in February, the coolest place for a music lover to be is Gateshead: the Sage Gateshead on the iconic Newcastle/Gateshead quayside, to be precise. Newcastle gets to kick off the event on the Friday night, hosting an opening party at the O2 Academy, the lineup for which is impressive indeed: Interpol, Mogwai, Sleater-Kinney’s first UK performance for 10 years, and the winner of 6 Music’s album of the year, The War on Drugs. Tickets for this will set you back a mere £25, and considering the bill is essentially four headline-worthy performances, that’s impeccable value. The venue capacity is 2,000, and there’s only 1,800 tickets on offer, so all those lucky enough to procure a ticket will get a decent view.

The whole shebang then moves (just) south of the river to the hip and happening borough of Gateshead, which, as everyone in the know has known for a while now, is a far superior place to live and party than its more famous little brother Newcastle. It’s all happening at the iconic Sage, into which the powers that be are managing to cram four performance spaces into its voluptuous, snail-like curves. I’ll give an alphabetised list at the end of this article, but this writer’s picks of the Saturday night are: Kate Tempest and Eliza Carthy, who will bring two stylistically dissimilar but familiarly connected strands of English folk music together in a unique, and uniquely powerful performance; Gruff Rhys, whose latest project American Interior, documenting Welsh explorer John Evans’ epic journey across the eponymous landscape, will surely feature highly; and The Cribs, whose stamina and endurance are second to none, and are still turning out music worthy of a catalogue which extends back more than a decade.

Readers’ attention must be alerted to the capacity of the Sage, compared with the number of tickets sold, so they are prepared what they might get for their money. The Sage is essentially a shell within which two separate auditoria exist: the stunning all-seated Hall One (capacity 1,640), and the much smaller, less formal, standing Hall Two (capacity 400). There’s also a small room called the Northern Rock Foundation Hall, capacity 250. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that this is a total capacity of 2290, but ticket sales are set at 3,400 – the capacity of the entire building, not just the auditoria. Apparently the concourse will absorb the overspill, which means over 1,000 people milling about outside trying to get to see the show of their choice, although there will be 6 Music DJs on the concourse as well. Just to reiterate, if every ticket holder wishes to see the big headline performance in the main room, less than half will be able to do so. I am prepared to stand corrected on my numbers, but if I’m right I can see trouble, and overcrowding, ahead. The Sage are notoriously uptight about rules – this isn’t your usual free-and-easy gig venue – so expect short shrift from the stewards if the room is at capacity. Also expect white-collar drinks prices, and with a no readmittance policy, it could turn out to be an expensive evening, with no guarantee of seeing the show of one’s choice, albeit with all the falafel wraps one can eat. Caveat emptor.

As long as post-festival drinks didn’t go on too late at the superb Central Bar across the road from the Sage, Sunday dawns with yet another superb lineup of acts, with a flavour not unlike a Glastonbury Sunday: more left-field choices, perhaps established acts that need a bit of a boost. In that vein, picks from Sunday include the vintage post-punk outfit Wire and the vintage post-soul diva Neneh Cherry. Gaz Coombes will bring the newest of his superb solo work, and Public Service Broadcasting will reveal the direction they’ve chosen for album number two.

In summary, this is an impeccable list of acts for what promises to be an exciting weekend on Tyneside. I haven’t even touched on the 6 Music By Day strand, which is to run in Newcastle’s creative hub, the Ouseburn valley, and include interviews by 6 Music presenters with the musicians who are playing later, performances from bands local to the North East, and a record fair. Our cup runneth over! Given the fact that it’s all only 10 minutes on the bus from my front door, I personally couldn’t be happier. Anyone for an after party?

Bands performing at The 02 Academy Newcastle on Friday 20 February from 5 PM:
– Interpol
– Mogwai, celebrating their 20th anniversary this year
– Sleater-Kinney, their first UK performance in almost 10 years
– The War On Drugs, BRIT 2015 nominees whose 2014 album ‘Lost in the Dream’ was 6 Music’s Album of the Year in 2014

Artists and bands performing at The Sage Gateshead across four stages on Saturday 21 February from 6 PM:
– Hot Chip, performing exclusive brand new material for the first time
– Royal Blood, Mercury Prize 2014 and BRIT 2015 nominees
– The Fall
– Jungle, Mercury Prize 2014 nominees
– Maximo Park, local North East heroes
– Kate Tempest, Mercury Prize 2014 nominee
– Gruff Rhys
– Simian Mobile Disco
– Django Django, performing exclusive new material
– Father John Misty
– Ghostpoet, performing brand new material
– The Cribs, performing brand new material
– Villagers, performing exclusive brand new material for the first time
– Ibibio Sound Machine
– Kate Tempest and Eliza Carthy: performing together in an exclusive 6 Music collaboration
– A Northern Soul Night (from 5-10.30 PM), hosted by 6 Music’s Funk and Soul show presenter Craig Charles, with Richard Searling and Stuart Maconie plus further DJs to be announced soon.

Artists and bands performing at The Sage Gateshead across four stages on Sunday 22 February from 6 PM:
– The Charlatans: performing exclusive brand new material
– Jamie T
– Neneh Cherry
– Jon Hopkins
– British Sea Power
– Gaz Coombes
– Young Fathers, Mercury 2014 winners
– Wire
– The Maccabees, performing exclusive new material
– Glass Animals
– Lonelady, performing brand new material
– King Creosote
– Public Service Broadcasting, performing brand new material
– Unknown Mortal Orchestra, performing brand new material
– Additional DJ sets (from 5-10.30 PM), hosted by 6 Music presenter Nemone, with Richy Ahmed, Daniel Avery, 6 Mix residents Rob da Bank and DJ Yoda, and others to be announced soon.

Tickets for each night of the festival will go on sale at 10 AM across 3 consecutive days: tickets for Friday go on sale on Friday 30 January, priced £25 plus fees; tickets for Saturday 21 February go on sale on Saturday 31 January, priced £35 plus fees; and tickets for Sunday 22 February go on sale on Sunday 1 February, priced £35 plus fees. For more information on the event in Newcastle, visit the BBC 6music Web site. Information on the festival by day will be announced on BBC 6music on Tuesday 3 February.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Album Review: The Dodos – Individ

 
By on Tuesday, 27th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Chloe Aftel

The Dodos Individ cover artSan Francisco alt-rock duo The Dodos, comprised of lead singer and guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber, met and began making music together in 2005. Naturally, given their instrumental preferences, their sound is heavily rhythmic, combining the complex syncopations of Long’s guitar parts and the propulsive motion of Kroeber’s percussion. Having turned from a primarily acoustic sound to electric guitar on 2011’s ‘No Color’ and following the idea through 2013’s ‘Carrier’, The Dodos have carried the development of their style a step further on their latest album, ‘Individ’.

According to Long, “the best time to make a record is right after you’ve finished one”. The Dodos began recording ‘Individ’ immediately after finishing ‘Carrier’ with producers Jay and Ian Pellici, using the analog equipment at San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone Studios. ‘Carrier’ was indeed an immediate and energetic album, purposefully written with the addition of punk guitarist Christopher Reimer as a touring member of the band in mind. Reimer’s untimely death just before the album was recorded certainly had an impact on the final sound, and his influence on Long’s songwriting, which Long himself describes as “patience to let a song develop and a judgment-free enthusiasm for sound”, can be heard not only on ‘Carrier’ but carrying through to ‘Individ’ as well.

Long and Kroeber looked even farther into their now-deep back catalogue during the process of writing and recording ‘Individ’. “In a lot of ways making this record brought us back to making ‘Visiter’ (The Dodos’ brilliant 2008 LP), relying heavily on the movement that occurs between just two instruments, guitar and drums. From the first take of the first song we tracked, things sounded huge and that set the tone for the entire thing.”

‘Individ’ is bookended by two epically lengthy tracks, ‘Precipitation’ and ‘Pattern/Shadow’, both of which exemplify Long’s stated premise. ‘Precipitation’ introduces the album with the sonic anticipation of an impending storm before evolving into heavy percussion and thundering guitar riffs. Closing track ‘Pattern/Shadow’ makes the album’s final and most lasting impact, its distinct musical sections unified by echoes of the opening lyric “your shadow remains / I cannot resist / the mirrored escape / of your pattern”.

First single ‘Competition’ is possibly the most immediately accessible track on the album, and yet the relentless percussion and interlaced guitar parts are another example of The Dodos’ grandiose intent. Long’s echoing double-tracked vocals are intensely melodic, though his rhythmically repetitive lyrics become almost indistinguishable in the wash of guitar and percussion. Other album highlights include the gentle lull and harmonic intricacy of ‘Darkness’, the mutable time signature of ‘Goodbyes and Endings’ and the potent percussion and gritty guitar riff of ‘Retriever’.

Nothing if not complex, the music on ‘Individ’ is almost too much to take in all at once, leaving a only a shadowy impression after the first listen and subsequent ones alike. By contrast with ‘Visiter’ and ‘Carrier’, ‘Individ’ seems more cerebral then emotional, and it’s missing a strongly convincing hook to maintain the listener’s attention. But what it lacks in immediacy, it makes up for in its broad atmosphere, and perhaps the energy of live performance will allow for a more visceral effect. The Dodos will play a series of live dates in North America this winter leading into their appearance at SXSW 2015 in March.

7/10

‘Individ’, the sixth album from the Dodos, is out today on Polyvinyl Records.

 

Album Review: Rae Morris – Unguarded

 
By on Monday, 26th January 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Since Rae Morris signed a recording contract on her 18th birthday, she has been teasing her loyal, yet ever-growing fanbase with her music, or so it seems, with each of her six EPs offering a tiny glimpse of what to expect from her debut album. It’s almost as if Atlantic Records knew they had something special, yet didn’t want to unleash it to the world until she had matured. Now aged 21, Rae Morris has released ‘Unguarded’, and it’s clear to see why she has been hotly tipped as one of the female artists to watch in 2015.

With production of the album coming from Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Charli XCX), Jim Eliot (Kylie Minogue, Ellie Goulding) and Fryars (Lily Allen), ‘Unguarded’ tackles the subject of life-changing, character-building relationships and the highs and the lows that come as a result. Take ‘Skin’ for example. The album opener details the guilt of continuing a toxic love affair; a powerful introduction told through a rare integrity that emanates from the lofty chorus and sophisticated melody. Likewise, ‘Closer’, taken from the EP of the same name, focuses on Rae’s distance from her family and how that has made her more appreciative of her own identity as a result.

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Female singer/songwriters are ten a penny in the music industry at the moment. However, Rae Morris stands out in this market thanks to an elegance in her vocals and a genuine honesty in her lyrics, which complements the pop flair with an almost perfection. This is particularly evident on ‘Love Again’, a graceful track about getting back on the horse, and the up-beat electro-pop single ‘Under the Shadows’. The record also features a number of Rae Morris’ previous singles, including the incredibly moving piano-led ballad ‘Don’t Go’, the highly entrancing ‘Cold’ (ft. Fryars) and the tantalising ‘Do You Even Know?’, a track she wrote in her shed in Blackpool.

‘Unguarded’ is a coming-of-age album for Rae Morris, as she makes the leap up from a teenager writing songs in her bedroom to a contemporary pop star on the verge of unprecedented success. Was it worth the wait? Without a doubt.

9/10

The debut album from Rae Morris, ‘Unguarded’, is released today on Atlantic Records. She begins a UK tour on Sunday in Liverpool; all the details are this way.

 
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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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