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Album Review: Lily Allen – No Shame

 
By on Monday, 25th June 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Lily CresswellLily Allen No Shame album cover

After a 4-year wait, Lily Allen released her fourth studio album ‘No Shame’. The album feels very much like an extension of her third album ‘Sheezus’, keeping the upbeat vibe, and manufactured beats that lie under the majority of tracks on both ‘Sheezus’ and ‘No Shame’. However, Allen has clearly matured since her 2014 album, which is clear from the unrelenting emotional theme undoubtedly driven by her very fresh divorce from Sam Cooper.

The album appears to have been split into three sections, opening with songs that present a club vibe, leading onto a few incredibly intimate ballads, then ending with some straight-up catchy pop tunes. These three sections leave the album feeling rather discordant, but if you’re willing to dig through this stylistic confusion, there are some absolute gems. The first six tracks on ‘No Shame’ are the weakest of the whole 14. I can’t help but feel that Allen has tried too hard to appeal to Friday night clubbers by using over-processed, worn-out beats that feel out of place with the emotional content of the song.

The lyrics of the first track ‘Come On Then’ are hard-hitting as Allen sings about the tribulations of fame, an issue that is particularly relevant in 2018, especially from a female artist. The subtle touches upon anxiety, depression and the hardships faced by a female in the spotlight are poignant and frankly, a refreshing change of the usual topics featured in the charts of love and heartbreak. Isolate the lyrics, and the track is doing the topic a great deal of justice. For example, the lyrics “my head can’t always hold itself so high / what if inside I’m, dying / every night I’m crying” directly deal Allen’s suppression of feelings whilst in the public eye. However, together with the overdone beats and synths, the serious issue is lost in a cloud of ‘try-hard’ club music.

Just as all hope was about to be lost, Allen saves the album with three shining diamonds: ‘Family Man’, ‘Apples’ and ‘Three’. These three songs slow the pace of the album right down and provide a well-needed resting point. The relaxed tempo, introduction of acoustic instrumentation and beautifully melodic vocal lines give listeners an intimate connection with Allen. ‘Family Man’ allows for a different narrative of the divorce, presenting a vulnerability reflected in the melancholic piano accompaniment, whilst ‘Three’ brings us back to the issue of fame, this time from the perspective of Allen’s 3-year old. This second section of the album is a real highlight of ‘No Shame’ and exhibits the raw talent of Lily Allen.

The final five tracks return us to a brighter mood, exemplifying influences from ‘Sheezus’ and Allen’s earlier releases. Although there are still remnants of processed beats heard earlier in the album, there is much more of a radio pop vibe. In the best possible way, it is easy to imagine ‘Pushing Up Daisies’ or ‘Cake’ becoming a tragedy of radio overplay, going on to be the most remembered tracks of the album. With these, Allen has really succeeded in living up to her old school hits such as ‘22’.

The video for ‘Lost My Mind’ really captures the aesthetic of the album: quirky, yet emotionally expressive. It opens with the Allen sat in a bathroom, wrapped in a towel, sporting a wet hairdo. The normality of this scene creates the sense that the audience are intruding on Allen’s day-to-day life, reflected in the lyrics’ intimacy. We are then taken to a bedroom where the audience are made to feel like a fly on the wall as we watch her argue with her partner. It then reaches an emotionally climactic end, her hopelessness summed up as Allen is drenched in rain. The video is simple, yet powerful and adds an emotional dimension to ‘Lost My Mind’ not conveyed on record.

Bypass the first six songs, and ‘No Shame’ is an album with much promise. Despite the discouraging start and the somewhat conflicting styles, the album shines a light on a vulnerability that connects us to Allen. The general production by Fryars and Mark Ronson is exceptional, particularly in the punchy pop tunes, elevating the album even in its weaker sections. Overall, this is an album worth getting if only for the beautifully intense emotion of ‘Three’.

8/10

Lily Allen’s fourth album ‘No Shame’ is available now on Parlophone and Regal Records. Catch Allen on her world tour taking place from June to December, with four dates in the UK from the 11th to the 17th of December. For more live date information, visit Lily Allen’s official Web site.

 

Video(s) of the Moment #2856: Low

 
By on Friday, 22nd June 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Minnesota’s finest Low have a new album in store for their fans this autumn. ‘Double Negative’ will be out on the 14th of September on Sub Pop and is the newest album from the indie Midwesterners since 2015’s ‘Ones and Sixes’. To build up anticipation and hype for the upcoming long player, the group has revealed the black and white promos for three songs from it: ‘Quorum’, ‘Dancing and Blood’ and ‘Fly’. You can watch them all below. Stay tuned for the release of ‘Double Negative’ in 2 months on Sub Pop Records. For past coverage on Low, follow this link.

 

Video of the Moment #2855: Pumarosa

 
By on Thursday, 21st June 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

One of the big British draws at SXSW 2015 was Pumarosa, described by our Carrie as a “London five-piece powerhouse“. Since their appearances in Austin 2 years ago, things have been on the up and up for the group. Ahead of a big opportunity, as one of the starring acts at the Robert Smith-curated Meltdown this coming Sunday, the 24th of June, they’ve released a new video. ‘Lion’s Den’ is a track on their debut album ‘The Witch’, which came out last year. It now has its own accompanying monochrome video, which you can watch below. Hopefully no bees were harmed in the making of this! For all of our past writings on Pumarosa, go here.

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Sam Lewis

 
By on Thursday, 21st June 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Nashville singer/songwriter Sam Lewis seemed very much in his element at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion, which took place just outside Austin during SXSW 2018. The weather was sunny, the atmosphere was mellow, and the music was abundant. I heard Lewis perform at the early-by-SXSW-standards hour of 11 AM, and later in the afternoon I had a chance to chat with him about his new LP, ‘Loversity’, which was released on the 4th of May.

Sam Lewis internal(photo by Sarah Bennett)

Despite the afternoon sunshine, a strong breeze was blowing as we found seats on a quaint wooden swing set, and Lewis broke the conversational ice by asking about the windscreen on my voice recorder. “Tell me what’s on your recorder right now, because this thing looks kind of like, remember Don King, the boxing promoter? It looks like his hair.” (He wasn’t wrong; if you’re not American or have no idea who Don King is, check out photos of Don King through here.)

I asked Lewis about the Song Swap he’d played that morning with Courtney Marie Andrews, Caleb Caudle, and Kevin Kinney, and he responded with a wry smile. “With 100 percent honesty, I think all four of us were were asked to come play, and then we found out a couple of weeks ago that it was at 11 AM and it was a Song Swap, so we all kind of got a chuckle out of that.”

Lewis played three songs on that set, and I was surprised that none of them were from his new record. His explanation was disarmingly candid: “I didn’t feel like playing any of those.” But he continued, talking about the songs he chose to play instead. “I played ‘Virginia Avenue’, [which is] a song about where I’m from, and ‘In My Dreams’, which is off of my first record, and I also played a song called ‘Little Time’ which is a John Prine-inspired song I wrote with Taylor Bates in Nashville.”

Lewis released his self-titled debut album in 2012 and followed it up with ‘Waiting on You’ in 2015. His new third album, ‘Loversity’, centers around its eponymous title track, which sprang from a moment of spontaneous inspiration. “I was touring a couple of years ago, just outside of Richmond, Virginia, and I passed by this really cool, colorful building.” The sign on the building was partially obscured, and in his road weary state of mind, Lewis couldn’t quite make out what it said. “I saw this building, and all I saw was ‘-ersity’. I knew that there was missing letters or something, [but] I just blurted out ‘Loversity’. A friend of mine was with me at the time, and he looked it up real quick, and he was like, ‘That’s not a word.’ And I said, ‘Well, I really dig that, I don’t know what that means, but I’m going to find out what that means. So, I wound up writing a song called ‘Loversity’.”

‘Loversity’, the album, is an eclectic group of songs, both in terms of musical style and lyrical subject matter.”I don’t know where it’s going to wind up living as far as genre,” Lewis admitted. “Like with many things, there’s an identity crisis [in music], everything’s been cross-pollinated. It’s getting called ‘cosmic country’, it’s getting called ‘country funk’. I’ve heard all sorts of different things. It’s got a little bit of everything, because I’m not a big fan of limitations, but exercising all of your abilities.”

“I’m really proud of [this] project,” Lewis said about ‘Loversity’, which he produced, working with Brandon Bell at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville. “I’m a big fan of this project because of the people involved.” Lewis recorded the album with his former band, who now tour full time with Chris Stapleton and could only join Lewis in the studio. Despite having given a solo acoustic performance earlier in the day, Lewis said, “That’s where I’m going with everything, full band. Like, I experimented with horns on this album. There’s two songs that have horns, and I can see how you can get a little crazy with that, because it’s really fun.”

The individual songs on ‘Loversity’ are more philosophical than actually political, though some of them do touch on political ideas. “They’re getting thrown into a political realm, which I’m fine with, but they’re not political songs,” Lewis said. The common thread among them is a thematic motif of unity and sharing, and Lewis confesses that “they’re personal songs. I needed to hear those songs, too.”

I had a confession to make at that point as well, that I had only listened to the album once before meeting Lewis that day. He was undeterred, encouraging me not only to “try it again,” but to “try it at different times, try it it inebriated, try it non-caffeinated, try it in a car . . .” In the time between the interview and this publication, I’ve taken his advice, and I’ll pass it along to you. ‘Loversity’ is a perfect listen if you’re searching for an uplifting message in trying times, if you need a soundtrack for a long drive, or if you simply want a soulful groove on a hot summer night. Try it.

‘Loversity’ is available now via Sam Lewis’ official Web site. Our thanks to Sarah for coordinating this interview.

 

Video of the Moment #2854: Beach House

 
By on Wednesday, 20th June 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Last month, Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House released their seventh album. Appropriately titled simply ‘7’, the new LP marked a new era for the pair, who eschewed working with long-time producer Chris Coady, instead collaborating with Sonic Boom in a less stifling producer-artist relationship. Their latest promo video, for ‘Black Car’, is also obviously named, starring the titular dark vehicle driving through the snow but without a driver. Given how boiling it has been in TGTF Towers this summer, a cooler looking video is much appreciated. Watch the video below. ‘7’ is out now on Sub Pop. For all of TGTF’s past coverage on Beach House, go here.

 

Video of the Moment #2853: Pale Waves

 
By on Tuesday, 19th June 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Last Friday night, I conducted a small, highly unscientific poll to see what the people of Washington thought of Pale Waves. People seem to either love them or loathe them. I was reminded of several conversations I had while in blighty last month regarding acts who have populist appeal, like Catfish and the Bottlemen: for the kind of music they do, they do it well for an enjoyable night out, but their music won’t change your world. I reckon the same applies to Pale Waves: to me, their sound is just too alike to early stuff from their buddies The 1975 (yes, I know why), their music doesn’t do a thing for me. However, as noted in at SXSW 2018, I’m outnumbered. That’s all right. If this kind of pop delivered in a goth wrapper like ‘Kiss’ below appeals to you, go for it. It’s out now on Dirty Hit Records. For all of our past coverage on the Manchester band, go here.

 
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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. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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