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Just ahead of the upcoming festival season, Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep have released their second studio album ‘Not Real’, which comprises a shimmering set of hazy dream-pop tracks perfect for easing into the bright sunshine of summer. Noticeably more streamlined than their 2012 debut LP ‘Into the Diamond Sun’, the new album sets the band’s ethereal three-part vocal harmonies over austere tribal-sounding percussion rhythms and glistening synth and guitar arrangements to create an overall sound that is both bright and breezily cool.
‘Not Real’ is a quick listen overall, without any rough edges or extraneous material to interrupt the concise impact of the individual songs. Opening track ‘Sequence’ starts with sparkling electro-synth keyboards over an immediately catchy bass groove and a lively melody decorated by the trio’s signature vocal harmonies. ‘Apparition’ takes a slightly heavier tone, the harmonies becoming more darkly haunting over its ominous bass line.
The album’s current single ‘Not Real’ has been featured in two previous TGTF Video of the Moment pieces, one for the song’s official video and one for a live performance at Liverpool’s Vessel studio. Aside from being the title track, ‘Not Real’ clearly wasn’t chosen by accident as the first release from the album. It catches attention instantly with the dramatic simplicity of its opening vocal line, “Don’t let the daytime fool you that you’re not real”. The stridently singsong quality of that lyric combines with a stark dance beat and bending guitar lines that are glossed over by the angular synth melodies and soft backing vocals.
Heavily beat-driven tracks ‘This Time’ and ‘Greed’ both feature visceral percussion rhythms and deep bass riffs under hazy, psychedelic vocal effects. ‘Greed’ in particular has a more muscular sound, realized in its initial lyric “The sun is tough / the ground is dry / your blood is thick / your skin is worn’. The brief but effective instrumental section at the end of the song stands out in contrast to the more straightforward arrangements of the other tracks on the album.
The most austere track on the album, ‘Evolve & Expand’, is a slow, stark acoustic ballad whose haunting harmony and angular guitar line somehow feel very much in place with the rest of the songs, despite the dramatically stripped-back instrumentation. It creates an interesting contrast, but one that perhaps could have been evolved and expanded upon a bit more.
The pace of the album slows a bit toward the end, with the simple, repeated lyrics and the singsong quality of the vocal delivery, particularly in the trite chorus of the rather unimaginatively titled track ‘Love’: “L-O-V-E / spell it out so I can see your love”. However, final track ‘She’ closes the record on a stronger note, with a slow burning introduction that gracefully evolves into a sensual rhythm and a gradually layered instrumental texture. The hazy three-part vocals lend themselves remarkably well to the allusion to the feminine mystique in the lyrics “she has gone, I feel it in the air”.
While the simplicity of the lyrics on ‘Not Real’ might at first seem to be a detriment, the vocal lines make perfect sense as part of the overarching instrumental texture, especially with the trio’s effective blend of lightly layered vocal harmonies. Focusing on their delicately psychedelic instrumentation, Stealing Sheep have created here not a sharply-defined sound, but more of a surreal, otherworldly aura.
Stealing Sheep’s sophomore album ‘Not Real’ is out now on Heavenly Recordings. The trio are currently touring in the UK and will appear at Liverpool Sound City 2015 at the end of May. They have also announced a September/October UK tour. Previous TGTF coverage of Stealing Sheep can be found here.
When I listen to Young Guns, I expect pompous, bloated choruses that set the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. Ridiculous inflated drops which chug with the kind of thud of a jet engine on a Boeing 747, perhaps with some strings littered in the background for extra gravitas. Their upcoming single ‘Daylight’ disappointingly delivered on only one of these expectations, this being that there were a few strings thrown onto it for good measure.
Young Guns, when they arrived on the scene, were hailed as a traditional alternative rock outlet. The kind you’d find every 3 months on a cycle on the front page of Kerrang!, looking moody and telling their interviewer, “this album almost tore me apart”.
‘Daylight’ is the work of a band trying to evolve and become something new, but sadly stumbling at the first hurdle. The opening sounds like a mix of Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’, and the rest has a painstaking late ‘90s boyband feel to it. Now, okay, pop punk and alt rock has always walked a fine line between what’s alternative and cool and what’s mainstream and boyband-y, Blink 182 being the obvious example. On ‘Daylight’, Young Guns tiptoe on the line and are sadly blown off by a gust of wind, which says it’s just a little too far into the realms of synth to sound rocky at all.
The chorus sees Gustav Wood going a little too ‘Twilight’ for me and while he may be appealing to an audience which loves whiny frontmen, it just doesn’t suit Wood and co. The riffs aren’t beefy, the drops are nonexistent and although their first two records weren’t exactly raw, this single has too much production sheen on it for me.
‘Daylight’ is taken from the new Young Guns album ‘Ones And Zeros’, to be released the 8th of June on Virgin EMI. Past posts on the band on TGTF are here.
Header photo by Amy Ryan Brew and Hannah Bitowski
Liverpool synth-pop trio Stealing Sheep, who just released a new album ‘Not Real’ this month, are about to embark on a short list of live dates in May ahead of their scheduled appearance at Liverpool Sound City 2015. They have also announced a set of autumn dates to follow the summer festival season. A full listing of Stealing Sheep’s live shows can be found here. Tickets for the following UK dates are on sale now.
Saturday 2nd May 2015 – Belfast Black Box
Sunday 3rd May 2015 – Bristol Louisiana
Monday 4th May 2015 – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
Thursday 7th May 2015 – London XOYO
Friday 25th September 2015 – Guildford Boileroom
Monday 28th September 2015 – Glasgow Broadcast
Wednesday 30th September 2015 – Birmingham Rainbow
Thursday 1st October 2015 – Cambridge Portland Arms
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 29th April 2015 at 6:00 pm
The Dodos released their sixth album ‘Individ’ in January (review here) and a few days ago, they released the intriguing video for ‘Goodbyes and Endings’ off their latest LP. This video has been advertised as the last in a series of interconnected videos, going back to ‘Companions’ from fourth album ‘No Color’ and ‘Confidence’ from fifth album ‘Carrier’. Watch the newest video in this trilogy below.
Past Dodos coverage on TGTF, including Carrie’s interview with Meric Long and Logan Kroeber at SXSW 2015, is this way.
When you started your first job, did your parents tell you if you just did the simple things right and well, then you’d probably do alright? Or maybe it was when you started playing football? You were probably told if you can learn to do the basics properly and repeat it, you’d end up doing pretty well for yourself.
I’m pretty sure, despite the Ben Drew-esque back stories I’m intrinsically drawn to when I think of Slaves – you really can’t help it when you see the Nike trainers and surprisingly shiny jackets – that Slaves must have received some pretty good parental advice before embarking on a musical career.
I can almost hear it now as lil’ Laurie Vincent walked out of the door, ready to face the big wide world. “keep it simple, lad!”, his West Ham-supporting Dad will have shouted, before adding “stick to repetition!” as Vincent went round the corner.
Three singles into the band’s fledgling career, and the advice is serving the twosome rather well. ‘Cheer Up London’ is another devilish slab of cheekiness from the lads who are likely to redefine the meaning of ‘cheeky chappies’. The delightfully simple, almost mundane suggestion to “put another 0 on your paycheque / are you done digging your grave yet?” will strike accord with any creative type watching the city slickers on London boost their pension pot. I mean they put it perfectly: “how could it be so bad when you’re already dead?”
In 2 and half minutes and probably using below 50 words altogether, Slaves take a cuttingly cynical eye on the socio-economic norms of the UK in a way not done since Gallows’ ‘Grey Britain’. It’s enough to strike an accord with any young creative type silently judging the banking middle classes who Slaves say “are dead already”.
Now, they’re not going to make any friends in ‘the city’ – I don’t think it was their aim to, in fairness – but sticking to the formula that has seen them noticed over the last few months seems a good move, with ‘Cheer Up London’ is another fantastic example of Slaves are becoming known for. Incisive, relatable and catchy punk.
‘Cheer Up London’ is available instantly by preordering Slaves’ debut album ‘Are You Satisfied?’, released on the same day as the 7″ single on Virgin EMI. For other coverage of Slaves on TGTF, head this way.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 29th April 2015 at 10:00 am
As announced yesterday, Editors will back out on the road and touring Europe this autumn, including a run of dates in the UK and Ireland in October. It’s an exciting time for the band, as they will be releasing their fifth album – and their first that they’ve produced themselves – later this year. We don’t much else about the new release, except that it was recorded far and away from civilisation in the remote Western highlands of Scotland, and famed producer Alan Moulder was on mixing (not producing) duties.
‘No Harm’ has been released as the first taster track from the upcoming LP, and you can have a listen to it below. If you like it, you can download the track from Editors’ official Web site if you sign up for their mailing list.
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