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Album Review: Benji Lewis – Together Apart EP

 
By on Monday, 10th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Benji Lewis Together Apart EP album coverMelbourne, Australia’s Benji Lewis now calls Los Angeles home. No matter where the electronic artist hangs his hat, I think it’s safe to say that his newest EP ‘Together Apart’ feels like it was created in the big city whilst contemplating lost love and looking forlornly out over the nighttime skyline. Even at its short length of less than 15 minutes in total, this record exhibits a special kind of emotional grace, through its delicate, minimalist electronic instrumentation and Lewis’ disarming vocals. The EP was produced by Brisbane’s Golden Vessel, who I caught live at BIGSOUND 2017 this time last year.

As the title of the record suggests, this is a collection of songs that examine the highs and lows of relationships. Beguiling beats drive the poppiest track here, ‘Us Again’, on which Lewis wistfully recalls a lost love and his journey back to return to that place of bliss. The EP’s standout is the downtempo ‘Came Back’ that continues the story. ‘I came back to you, I’m here, won’t go”, sings Lewis in a peerless falsetto. The instrumentation is sparse with programmed beats and a simple synth melody, and the feel of Lewis’ vocals is reminiscent of fellow Aussie Darren Hayes’ own in his Savage Garden days, but without the ‘90s schmaltz.

Moving into ‘Deep Blue’, Lewis goes into more soulful territory, almost Glass Animals-esque with falsetto and twinkly synths but without the fanciful storylines. His words feel less like lyrics and more like a sensual poem set to music: “Touch is right / Skin to skin / We all want, felt within / Tides are high / Further sure / Deep blue, with you”. Incredibly, it’s only been 10 minutes or so, and we’re already at the end of the EP with ‘Push’. The lyrics suggest conflict between our lovers but should you choose to focus on the sweeping vocals and dreamy melody, you sense there’s more than a glimmer of positivity for these two. Yes, life isn’t always perfect, but optimism in our difficult world is more than welcome.

Describing the record, Lewis says, “…here are some different stories of love, strength, moving on and also appreciating who is around. Also sneaky moments of hope for new love and what it can be like.” ‘Together Apart’ as a whole is a chill, blissed-out set of songs, leaving you wanting more and hoping that a debut album from the Aussie is just around the bend.

9/10

‘Together Apart’, Aussie Benji Lewis’ new EP, is out now. You can stream the entire release below. To read my review of his official SXSW 2018 performance at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, which described to Run the Trap as “a stand out favourite” and “Everything about that night, loved it.”, go here.

 

Album Review: Teleman – Family of Aliens

 
By on Thursday, 6th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Teleman Family of Aliens album cover“Push the spikes in deep / the pain is going to set you free!” Thomas Sanders declares on Teleman single ‘Cactus’, released back in May. It’s a pronouncement that also stands as a neat summation of the Teleman story so far. It’s an ongoing saga where the connected topics of love and lust, along with loneliness, escapism and depression, are given conveyed in vivid, unusual wordplay against a bouncy, synth- and drumbeat-led backdrop. Now at album #3, Teleman’s wonky, oddly catchy tunes should no longer be a surprise but an expectation to be fulfilled at first listen.

Produced by Boxed In’s Oli Bayston, their Moshi Moshi labelmate, ‘Family of Aliens’ follows in the heady footsteps of 2014’s ‘Breakfast’ and 2016’s ‘Brilliant Sanity’. It manages to add another wigged-out, yet enjoyable chapter to Teleman’s musical history. Early taster single ‘Submarine Life’ went old school, utilising ‘80s style vocoder, making everyone think that the third Teleman album was going to sound robotic, at least initially. Turns out they were just teasing us. Phew.

The new LP is front-loaded with two other early previews, placed well for maximum pop dancing possibilities. ‘Cactus’ delves into the world of the pretty people, those that put themselves on a pedestal of no fixed meaning or influence. In reality, they’re in their own little bubble and can’t relate to anyone else, which is their true tragedy. Sanders asks rhetorically, “What’s the point of looking good if no-one ever gets near you?” It’s a bit of a warning to young people, that what material and physical occupations consume them in youth turn out to be devoid of substance by the time you’re older. The band spends a good minute and a half on an instrumental jam to close out the song, providing more than ample opportunity for us watching them at the Great Escape 2018 to cut shapes at the Paginini Ballroom.

Buoyed by a sweet and springy rhythm and ‘80s feel good synth chords, ‘Song for a Seagull’ pulls things back from the shadowy dance floor. Sanders sings of a different kind of but equally tragic character: like in the Beatles’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, the girl across the room you’ve fallen for but in this case, she’s mentally miles away and there’s no way to get through to her. A seagull flying high above the sea might not be the greatest parallel to a human woman on earth. It certainly captures the idea of escaping to a better, beautiful place where you’re unable to be touched or hurt, though (“it’s not hard to see how someone you love is going to mess you up”). For the fans, there are nods to ‘Brilliant Sanity’ in here, from “a little bell that rings” from ‘English Architecture’ (signaling something magical has happened, like falling in love) and a guitar note progression in the outro bearing resemblance to that which closes out ‘Fall in Time’. Contrast ‘…Seagull’ to the chaotic machinations of ‘Twisted Heart’, exploring “the feeling twisted in a world so straight”, of feeling like a square peg in a round-hole world.

Not fitting in is a recurrent theme in on this album: whether it’s given a frenetic treatment on title track ‘Family of Aliens’ or a gentler one on ‘Always Dreaming’, the topic is handled with empathy by Sanders. On ‘Fun Destruction’ and ‘Sea of Wine’, reliance on alcohol is given much consideration, described by Sanders in the preview material I was given as “our English way of using alcohol to deal with problems, lose inhibitions, meet lovers”. With alcoholism comes losing touch and at its worst, self-loathing and the realisation that something’s going terribly wrong. A synth wail joins the chaos on the former, while on the latter, ‘Sea of Wine’ floats away in a piano- and beat-driven reverie befitting our fast-paced lives.

A potentially overlooked song for its comparative simplicity instrumentally is ‘Between the Rain’. The jaunty piano backing is less important than Sanders’ storytelling: partnering with someone who isn’t fazed by anything leads to your own anxiety coming roaring to the forefront like a sore thumb. Initial exasperation (“I can tell myself it’s a plastic heart / impossible to break it / melt it down!”) eventually leads to appreciation for the peace and maybe even acceptance? Whether it’s this song or another or several others in the collection, it isn’t hard to find yourself in here. Joyously quotable and easily accessible, ‘Family of Aliens’ might just be Teleman’s most mainstream popular album yet.

8/10

‘Family of Aliens’, the third album from London-based Teleman, is out tomorrow, Friday, the 7th of September on Moshi Moshi Records. The band are on tour in the UK in September and October; tickets are on sale now except for the sold-out at Bristol Thekla on the 27th of September and Leeds Brudenell Social Club on the 4th of October. Want to flip through our past coverage on Teleman here on TGTF? Come through.

 

Album Review: Seafret – Monsters EP

 
By on Wednesday, 5th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

A 2-year hiatus for the Bridlington duo Seafret will come to an end with the release of a new four-track EP this Friday. ‘Monsters’ shows a rawer side to Jack Sedman and Harry Draper that was hinted at on their 2016 debut album ‘Tell Me It’s Real’ but was not fully disclosed then.

The EP opens with the title track, which instantly sets a moody and mysterious vibe, created through the use of minor chromatic guitar descents, leaving you unsure of what is to come. This moodiness becomes even more dramatic with the addition of low stabs on the piano that reverberate under the vocals and guitar. It’s a successful theatrical opening to the record, creating suspense in subtle and clever ways and avoiding becoming gimmicky.

The pace picks up with second track ‘Can’t Look Away’ which starts acoustically and gently, but then goes on to explode into an electric chorus, heavy with accented drumbeats and sustained guitar twangs. The song is powerful and a great contrast to the previous track, but something feels missing. By the end of the tune, the verses and choruses are over-repeated and even with the stripped-back bridge that offers some respite, there is not enough variation or climatic tension to really elevate the song. It’s a slight let down when compared to an EP that has so much emotion and raw edge to it. One has to ask, have Seafret dug deep enough in themselves for this track?

Fortunately, ‘Bad Blood’, the third track of Seafret’s EP, makes up for what ‘Can’t Look Away’ lacks in depth. It’s here that we really hear Sedman’s talent for expressive vocals. Again, the duo has favoured subtlety to express emotion, with Sedman not overdoing it on the performance but rather letting the small breaks in his voice and slight dynamic fluctuations do the talking. It’s these small elements that shine on the track and make what is an electric, rock track more intimate and raw.

These subtle elements are also successful in connecting ‘Bad Blood’ to final track ‘Heartless’. Although the two tracks are polar opposites in instrumentation, the clear emotion in ‘Bad Blood’ allows for a smooth flow to the fourth track, undoubtedly the most profound on the EP. ‘Heartless’ itself is acoustic heaven: simple yet seductive in its intimacy. It’s a perfect way to end the EP, showing Seafret at their most vulnerable and leaving the listener wanting more of this raw edge that we heard so brilliantly in three out of four tracks of this EP.

8.5/10

‘Monsters’ will be released this Friday, the 7th of September, on Kobalt. You can catch Seafret on their next English tour later this month, listed here on their official Web site. Our archive of articles on Seafret here on TGTF can be accessed this way.

 

Single Review: Anteros – Call Your Mother

 
By on Monday, 3rd September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Female-fronted bands seem like an endangered species, so when you are lucky enough to come across one you really have to cross your fingers that their music is successful and worth listening to. Thankfully, four-piece band Anteros show they have the goods in recently released new single ‘Call Your Mother’. The band’s newest tune is a pop hit with a rock edge of loud, punchy guitars and a standout chorus, making the song super catchy, something that has been missing from earlier releases such as ‘Cherry Drop’ or ‘On the Moon’.

The tranquillity of the opening seconds of ‘Call Your Mother’ is unusual for a song with so much energy. However, this works to accent the snappy introduction of the bass and drums, creating an unexpected moment to the track. This unexpectedness is echoed in the short verses throughout the song. Instead of repeating themselves, the chorus kicks in straight after, taking us by surprise. Sudden transitions like could easily lead the song to become fragmented and disrupted, but they are a welcome change that keeps the song fast-paced and exciting, causing the 3 minutes and 15 seconds to go exceptionally quickly.

Accompaniment-wise, ‘Call Your Mother’ is pretty full on: there being several layers of guitars, all with different riffs and chord patterns, creating a full, loud, powerful texture. This contrasts in Laura Hayden’s softer vocals, which are also unexpected when placed with accompaniment that could so easily overpower them. Despite this, the two work well together. Although Hayden almost blends into the background, the treatment feels deliberate, as if she was an instrument herself. This blending of the hardness of the rock instrumentation and the softness of the pop vocals bring something unique to the pop scene. ‘Call your Mother’ is a single bursting with energy and little surprises that make this a song you could listen to over and over.

8/10

‘Call Your Mother’ is out now on Distiller Records. You can see Anteros live at HOYfest in Cardiff 29–30 September or on their UK tour beginning the 10th of October. For more information, visit their official Web site. To read our past coverage on Anteros, go here.

 

Album Review: Bang Bang Romeo – Shame on You EP

 
By on Wednesday, 29th August 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Bang Bang Romeo Shame on You EP album coverLast week, the world of soul lost one of its most prominent sisters, Aretha Franklin. The same week in August also welcomed in the debut release from a band fronted by a woman who may step in and nab the moniker of ‘Queen of Soul’ one day. Doncaster may be a long way from Detroit, but Bang Bang Romeo are also not your average rock band.

The strong songs on their ‘Shame on You’ EP demonstrate the powerful vocals of Anastasia Walker and booming instrumentation by Ross Cameron and Richard Gartland, albeit presented with a Los Angeles sheen. The record starts (sorry in advance for the pun) with a bang with the title track. ‘Shame on You’ benefits from Walker’s forceful delivery and the track’s emphatic percussive beats. Are lust and desire good or bad? How about wanting things we can’t have? From the mental confusion of ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’ (I think) when it comes to love and lust, we move swiftly on to the driving ‘Cemetery’.

As if to prove their chops, Bang Bang Romeo slow things down immediately after with ‘Adore Me’. Walker’s soaring vocals make this tune a winner; dripping with its stated “bittersweet” emotions, she repeatedly asks, “do you adore me?” This is their stadium moment: the song builds towards a commanding crescendo, Walker holding court comfortably with her voice at its figurative peak. On ‘Bag of Bones’, Walker confronts self-esteem and body images: “I’ve got a wicked soul / still my heart can bleed / I’m so much more / I’ve got a bag of bones”. It’s an anthem not just for young girls but for all of us, a stern, arse-kicking reminder that we’re more than the skin we find ourselves in.

The collection ends on a blistering note, with another stadium-sized track ‘Chemical’. Previously released as their debut single last year, it bears the line “it’s much more when it comes, like a hurricane gunning for war”. The song caps off an exemplary set of songs; like a series of fireworks, the ‘Shame on You’ EP writes high in the sky of Bang Bang Romeo’s ascending potential.

9/10

The ‘Shame on You’ EP from Bang Bang Romeo is out now from Eleven Seven Label Group. The video below is a year old, but it proves that even before American A&R bods got a hold of them, they had loads of talent.

 

Album Review: Slaves – Acts of Fear and Love

 
By on Monday, 13th August 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Slaves Acts of Fear and Love album coverKent punks Slaves started 2018 with releasing the first record from their own record label Girl Fight, Lady Bird’s ‘Social Potions’, in February. A music editor’s first thought upon hearing a band has started their label is to wonder whether the band plan to reduce their own creative output to nurture other artists. Put away that worry for the time being with ‘Acts of Fear and Love’, Slaves’ third studio LP, which follows 2016’s ‘Take Control’. Following their brief flirtation with hip-hop and collaboration with Beastie Boys’ Mike D on track ‘Consume or Be Consumed’, the pair decided to return to work with Jolyon Thomas, producer of their breakthrough debut album ‘Are You Satisfied?’

The record begins with the “OI!” and dissonant guitar notes of acerbic ‘The Lives They Wish They Had’. Lyrically, it’s a blistering commentary on the pretty people who don’t care about anything except posing for photos on their phones and posting them on social media, but it’s not particularly fast. As an opener, this works well to ease the listener in for what’s up ahead. The most abrasive of all is ‘Bugs’, with brutalist guitar riffs and pounding drums accompanying lead singer Isaac Holman’s growls. “Another letdown generation! / Full of inaccurate information! / Another letdown generation!”: there seems no other intention but to rile up the fans to shout along with him. On the other side of the spectrum, pop-punk previously released single ‘Cut and Run’ is the most accessible track here, with its fast tempo and relatively reserved lead vocals from Holman. Jarring squeals of microphone feedback in the last third of the track seem to be the one rebellious moment, you know, in case you’ve somehow missed that this is a Slaves single.

There are some signs that that Holman and his compadre Laurie Vincent may want to be known for more than just loud instruments and shouting: take, for example, ‘Daddy’, which features only melodic notes from an electric guitar for instrumentation. “There were things he wishes he did / back when he was a kid” laments Holman, who is occasionally accompanied by the sweet voice of a female backing vocalist. Makes one wonder if Holman, now with a toddler of his own, has begun questioning his own mortality and is heading for the mid-life crisis he sings about. Guitars grind and drums pound on the title track, but only in between Holman’s wry observations on life, or perhaps more correctly, regret: “it’s funny how you forget things / so important at the time / it’s funny how you forget things”.

‘Chokehold’, the other single to precede the album’s release, is a sneering retelling of being dumped, surprising in that Holman admits that in the presence of his mates “I pretended that I didn’t care / but on the inside I was burning, my eyes trembling”. It seems the lads have grown up, previously lashing out at ‘Angelica’ on the last go-around, now having been in a more committed relationship where real feelings were felt and hearts were broken. The guitar lines on ‘Magnolia’, an ode to that creamy off-white paint colour that Holman insists lives on at least one wall in 65% of UK homes, bear similarity to those on ‘Chokehold’. Er, maybe ‘ode’ is the wrong word to use. On the track, Holman mocks conformity and living up to societal ideals but in a different way to ‘The Lives They Wish They Had’.

‘Photo Opportunity’ is the most interesting track on ‘Acts of Fear and Love’, as it seems to be a snapshot of what’s going on in Holman and Vincent’s heads these days. In between the loud bursts of sound, the dueling thoughts of not wanting to be stopped by a fan for a photograph and feeling directionless despite having ‘made it’ reminds us that for all their fame, they’re just normal blokes who have their moments of insecurity and lack of direction. While the overall sound of this third album from Slaves is indeed louder and more primal than on ‘Lose Control’, the surprising moments of nonaggression suggest there might be a day when Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent want more than to shout at us and make our ears bleed. It’s a conclusion I’m pleasantly surprised they’ve arrived to faster than I expected.

8.5/10

Slaves’ third studio album ‘Acts of Fear and Love’ will be out this Friday, the 17th of August, on Virgin EMI / AMF Records. They’ll be touring the UK in November. To catch up on our past coverage of Slaves on TGTF, come through.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours 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 no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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