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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 16th February 2017 at 4:00 pm
It’s good to be Stockport, Greater Manchester group Blossoms. The band have been nominated for the British Breakthrough Act at this year’s BRITs, and there’s still time to get your vote in for them (or whichever of the nominees you prefer) through here (UK residents only) before next week’s awards show. As a part of a special week at the Radio 1’s Live Lounge, as the radio station is celebrating the BRITs, they invited Blossoms in yesterday as award nominees in to play a song of their own, plus as is standard for all their Live Lounge performances, a cover.
Choosing to do a cover of 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’ mashed up with Wham!’s ‘Careless Whisper’ has been controversial for their fans (if you question this, just read the comments section here from their Facebook), but what is not at all controversial is their performance of ‘Honey Sweet’, featured on their self-titled album released last summer. Watch both performances below; you can listen to the Radio 1 programme for the next 28 days via Radio 1’s Web site. ‘Blossoms’ is out now on Virgin EMI, and my review of the LP is through here. I’ve written a fair bit on the North West band here on TGTF, and you can catch up on all our past coverage on them if you head this way.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 15th February 2017 at 4:00 pm
Prior to the release of their third album ‘ZILLA’, their first as a duo, English brother act Fenech-Soler headed out stateside for a pair of shows, one in New York and one in Los Angeles, sadly none near yours truly. Before heading back to blighty, Ben and Ross Duffy plus a cousin (?) spent an extra day in LA to record a pretty nifty live session for the Morning Becomes Eclectic breakfast programme on KCRW. I can’t recall a favourite British band stopping in for such a long session and interview with the radio station. During the session, they perform ‘Kaleidoscope’, ‘Night Time TV’, ‘On Top’, ‘Conversation’, a cover of Janet Jackson’s ‘Control’, ‘Somebody’ from their second album ‘Rituals’ and ‘Stop and Stare’ from their 2010 self-titled album. Enjoy it below
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 13th February 2017 at 4:00 pm
Oxford’s wonky pop maestros Glass Animals have become quite the phenomenon in the States. So much that they spend more time over here then they do at home. Before Christmas of last year, they participated in a special local radio station 94.7’s holiday soiree, where the below video was filmed. ‘Pork Soda’ appears on the band’s sophomore effort on Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone label, Caroline International (UK) and Harvest Records (US), ‘How to Be a Human Being’, which was released last summer. (You can read my review of the long player through here.) Using an actual pineapple for percussion instead of the instrument equivalent provides a surreal moment, but I think the inanity of this got lost on the crowd, who were totally eating up the performance. Watch it below. For more of our coverage of Glass Animals, pretty much before anyone else starting back at SXSW 2014, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 10th February 2017 at 4:00 pm
Scottish girl rock duo Honeyblood released their newest album ‘Babes Never Die’ last November on FatCat Records. The LP includes the robust track ‘Sea Hearts’. which we featured in this previous Video of the Moment feature. The girls have now released a special behind-the-scenes video for the title track. It gives us a sneak peek into what goes on when they’re on tour. It’s a nice balance between what happens in the interim time between gigs and the press released described “raw intensity of their live show”. Watch it below. For more of TGTF’s coverage of Honeyblood, go here.
Show #2015, in which yours truly makes intentional physical contact with a complete stranger
. . . but that happens later in the story. What happened first was a trip north from Tucson to Scottsdale, accompanied by my brother. Entirely certain that Casey would love Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls as much as I do, I had bought tickets for the two of us months ago. The host venue for the evening was Livewire, where I recently saw Kaleo with The Wind and the Wave and Bishop Briggs. I mentioned my opinion of the venue in that earlier review, but I’ll add here that its mild level of pretention was perhaps at odds with an artist like Turner, whose shows have never pretended to anything more or anything less than folk-punk-rock at its finest. The main criteria for the venue choice might have been capacity. Turner and his colleagues had played a slightly smaller Phoenix venue, the Press Room, on their last visit, and they apparently made a good impression. On this night they sold out Livewire, to their own credit and much to the benefit of their special guests, Will Varley and The Arkells.
The amber glow of Livewire’s initial stage lighting was a perfect match for the warm, organic timbre of singer/songwriter Will Varley’s acoustic guitar and singing voice. The effect was marred slightly by the fact that Varley took the stage with the zipper of his trousers clearly open, sending a small ripple of giggles through the crowd gathered near the stage. Though Varley acknowledged the zipper midway through his set, he never bothered explaining it, instead effectively focusing his audience’s attention squarely on his music. Varley’s songs fluctuated between facetious absurdity (‘Talking Cat Blues’) and sincere sentimentality (‘From Halcyon’), and while he never took himself too seriously, it quickly became clear to the rest of us that his was not a talent to be overlooked. His latest album ‘Kingsdown Sundown’ is available now from Xtra Mile Recordings.
Canadian rock band The Arkells took the stage next, with a brash swagger and confidence more suited to a proper headline act. Lead singer Mike DeAngelis commanded his audience’s attention from beginning to end, punctuating the band’s energetic anthems with a combination of spontaneous banter, well-rehearsed yarn-spinning, and musical improvisation.
The Arkells started with three strong, high energy tracks from their 2016 album ‘Morning Report’ before dipping back into previous LPs ‘High Noon’ and ‘Jackson Square’. Keyboard player Anthony Carone’s impromptu mini-set of crowd-sourced Elton John covers, including ‘Rocket Man’, ‘Tiny Dancer’, and ‘Bennie and the Jets’ was among the most memorable moments of the evening, but it didn’t overshadow the end of The Arkells’ set, which they ended with latest single ‘My Heart’s Always Yours’ and the older favourite ‘Leather Jacket’.
Frank Turner opened the headline set of his Show #2015 with a politically-tinged song written specifically for the current tour cycle, titled ‘The Sand in the Gears’. Starting with the lyric “Can’t I just spend the next four years at a punk show?” and ending with the line “let’s be the sand in the gears for the next four years”, the new track is best described as a call to action. Building on the crowd’s ever-growing energy, Turner and The Sleeping Souls swept through a vigorous set of crowd-favourite tunes from across his prolific back catalogue. Songs from Turner’s most recent album ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ included ‘The Next Storm’ and an impressive full band version of ‘Glorious You’. After American radio hit ‘The Way I Tend to Be’, Turner paused for breath, taking a solo-acoustic moment for a fan request with ‘Least of All, Young Caroline’ and ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’.
Between songs, Turner spent a lot of time proselytising about music as an area of common ground among fans in the current societal swirl of divisive social and political issues. It was a notable, if mildly condescending, departure from the typical artist-vs-politician banter, but it also turned out to be carefully scripted, leading his audience to a specific and pointed conclusion.
At the end of the set proper, during crowd-favourite track ‘Photosynthesis’, Turner split the general admission audience down the middle and prepared us to enact a “wall of death”. I was unfamiliar with the term, and my brother explained, to my horror, that a wall of death is a mosh pit ritual typically reserved for metal shows, in which the two sides of a divided crowd rush at each other during the heaviest part of a song and collide with extreme force. At the last suspenseful second, Turner recanted his wall-of-death wish, instructing his crowd to instead institute something possibly more scary: a “wall of hugs”. (The video below is from Turner’s San Francisco show a couple of nights later, posted by YouTube user Brian Greenaway.)
Which brings me back to the opening lines of this review. Frank Turner was asking each of us to hug another punter. Not a friend or companion; no, we were to hug someone we didn’t know. My ever-stoic brother flatly refused. But I was so swept away in relief at
not having to participate in a wall of death the spirit of the moment that I turned and exchanged a warm embrace with the person standing on the other side of me. I’m not 100% sure if the person was male or female (or neither or both), but I’m 100% sure it didn’t matter. Gender, race, age, political persuasion—none of it made any difference. We were both fans, experiencing a moment of FTHC rapture, and we shared a glorious moment of fellowship. Hmm . . . maybe this is what Turner was getting at all along.
TGTF’s previous coverage of Will Varley is back here and our archived coverage on Frank Turner is right through here. For a full list of Frank Turner’s upcoming live shows, including his Lost Evenings at the London Roundhouse this May, consult his official Web site by clicking here.
After the cut: Will Varley, The Arkells, and Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls’ set lists.
Continue reading Live Review: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls with Will Varley and The Arkells at Livewire, Scottsdale, AZ – 27th January 2017
Last Wednesday evening saw performances from nominees of the RTÉ Choice Music Prize in the candle-lit venue the Workman’s Club in Dublin city centre. Hosted by Irish musician and radio presenter/producer Cormac Battle, the evening started with two nominees for the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Irish Song of the Year, followed by two of the acts shortlisted for Irish Album of the Year.
Ten acts have been shortlisted for the Irish Song of the Year, including James Vincent McMorrow and ex-One Direction-er Niall Horan. On Wednesday we saw performances from Heroes in Hiding and Raglans, both based in Dublin and the only two acts nominated for this award who have self-released their singles. Up first were folk-rock quartet Heroes in Hiding, who revealed during a brief pre-performance interview with Battle that they had never won or been nominated for an award.
However, within 30 seconds or so of the band playing their nominated track ‘Hospital’, it became pretty clear why they are now getting this kind of recognition conferred by the Choice Music Prize. ‘Hospital’ is a catchy track, featuring seemingly medical-inspired percussive sounds and upbeat guitars and drums. It’s little less folky than some of the band’s other stuff but is definitely a track you can dance or bob your head along to. The chorus, featuring vocalist Joe Carroll crowing “next thing I knew / I was in the hospital”, recalls a real near death experience of Carroll’s in which he remembers very little of the incident, but after which he woke up in a hospital bed.
The band followed this up with ‘Beer’, for which Carroll donned an acoustic guitar. Bassist Liam McCabe took the lead vocals on this track, which started out much more mellow and laid back than ‘Hospital’ before building to an early Mumford and Sons-esque climax (sans banjo) that literally made the room shake.
Next up was Raglans, who thanked their manager and revealed that it was their second time playing The Workman’s Club. Lead singer Stephen Kelly’s stage presence was everything you could want from a ballsy lead singer. He has a swagger and laid back confidence, joking “if you feel like voting for us: thank you. If you don’t… f**k you”. They started with ‘House Where I Was Born’, which isn’t the track that is up for nomination but is a solid track nonetheless; it features on their ‘Again & Again EP’. With edgy guitars and intense drums aplenty, this is as authentic rock ‘n’ roll as you’ve ever heard. Kelly’s Irish accent doesn’t come across when he singing and at times, the band actually reminded me of early Arctic Monkeys, in the rough and ready, yet great sound of their music. Nominated track ‘Who Knows’ came next: high in energy, it engaged the crowd most out of all the acts we saw that evening. Commanding the stage with growing indie guitar hooks and a hammering drumbeat, the band looked to be in their element and enjoying their moment in the spotlight being nominated for the Choice Music Prize.
Following a break, it was time for a pair of the Irish Album of the Year nominees to take to the stage. Bantum is an electronic act originally from Cork who appeared onstage armed only with a guitar and a laptop. He jokingly commented that he would get himself a new guitar if he won the prize money. Pretty different in style to previous two acts, Bantum is synth heavy, and track ‘Take It’ features ghostly vocals from Loah, whose voice is reminiscent of the xx’s Romy Madley-Croft. [Loah appeared at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 last October and is scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017. – Ed.] It’s the kind of chilled out dance track that would be fitting at a festival as the sun is beginning to set and people are in between the highs of the morning and getting their second wind just in time for the evening acts. didn’t catch the name of the second track, but it carried an equally atmospheric and laid-back essence. Whilst I really enjoyed Bantum, The Workman’s Club didn’t seem like the best setting for the performance, and his sound didn’t quite seem to engage the crowd as well as other acts. Maybe this was because the event was on a mid-week evening? However, Bantum definitely has an easy-going ambient sound that would work better in a club at the weekend, or a summer festival.
The final act of the evening was indie duo We Cut Corners. Both members are teachers and they stood together onstage with their acoustic guitars. Both John Duignan and Conall Ó Breacháin have high, clear and bright singing voices, one complimenting the other. They started with ‘Reluctant Recluse’, a smoky, soft acoustic track, featuring some nimble wordplay (“I was a reckless child / now I’m a childless wreck”), and a wholly passionate performance. This track appears on ‘The Cadences of Others’, the album for which the band is nominated. Even while simply performed with just a pair of melancholic acoustic guitars, the delivery of ‘Reluctant Recluse’ on this night conveyed a whole melting pot of emotions, making the track a standout.
The second and final song from We Cut Corners was ‘Of Whatever’. Despite the quiet nature of the track, the pair were able to keep the rapt attention of the crowd, the crystalline vocals and emotive lyrics mesmerising. Lyrics like “but young love is reckless / leaves you gasping and breathless” and “a wave of whatever / is sweeping the nation” cemented this for me as being a genuinely beautiful track, making me think of the act as an Irish male First Aid Kit.
All in all, it was a fantastic night and I was glad to have seen all four acts perform, each bringing something different to the table. Votes can now be cast by the public for both the RTÉ Choice Music Prize Irish Song of the Year and of the Irish Album of the Year. The winners will be announced at a live event on Thursday, the 9th of March, at Dublin Vicar Street.
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