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Maximo Park’s Paul Smith and Field Music’s Peter Brewis have a new collaboration. ‘Frozen By Sight’ combines Brewis’ formidable musical chops with Smith’s rum lyrics, inspired by, or possibly lifted verbatim from, notes collected on his travels. Which amounts to some jazz-rock noodling overlaid with Smith’s momentously banal observations. There’s more than a whiff of Grauniad-endorsed chin-stroking implied here, with a side order of 6th-form pretension: imagine your least favourite uncle’s holiday slide show commentary with a soundtrack by Creme Brulée from The League of Gentlemen and you’re in the right ballpark.
‘Exiting Hyde Park Towers’ comes first. Ignore the ugly Americanism “exiting” and focus on the fact that the story largely comprises Smith hanging around in a London park observing a chap taking a phone call, meeting up with his girlfriend (who, it is noted, is wearing pink flip-flops), and wandering off into the distance. And there was I hoping for some incisive social commentary. ‘Barcelona (At Eye Level)’ is similarly dramaless – some people wander around the marina and lightning flashes a few times. Why did Gaudi bother?
Having said all that, as you might expect Brewis is as strong as ever, intertwining delicate yet assertive strings throughout his arrangements, showcasing the south-of-Tyne sounds we’ve come to know and love – big, thudding ’70s-style drums, fluid time signatures ebbing and flowing as required, and meaty, up-front production. Smith is known for his, as Yoko Ono would put it, “moon, spoon, june” lyrical style, so it’s quite pleasant to hear him take a more stream-of-consciousness approach here, which suits the meandering nature of the soundtrack and indeed the concept as a whole. And to be fair they do deliver on the concept – Smith has frozen a moment in time by visual observation, and baldly recorded it in a literary form halfway between prose and poetry, rather than a more conventional medium – that of photography, say.
Both tracks essentially desperately want to be ‘A Day in the Life’, and whilst Brewis does have a good stab at that multi-movemented style of orchestral pop, sadly Smith is no Paul McCartney when it comes to telling a story. He’s far too literal, lacking any sense of the fantastic, not letting his imagination intervene in his transcriptions of the day-to-day goings-on he observes. A decent dose of fancy, perhaps a tinge of psychedelia, or a few thousand conceptual holes, would have helped him climb out of a literal, lyrical one. But it will in all likelihood make a decent live happening, so for those of you lucky enough to live in London, Manchester or Gateshead (coincidentally the finest three cities in the UK), their live show is coming to you in December.
‘Frozen By Sight’ is due to be released on the 17th of November on Memphis Industries. The three-date English tour is set to take place in mid-December; all the details are here.
Sheffield quartet High Hazels will be heading out on tour next month in support of their upcoming debut album, due for release on the 27th of October via Heist or Hit Records. Our own editor Mary recently featured the video for their latest album track ‘Banging on My Door’. Tickets for the following shows are available now.
Sunday 2nd November 2014 – Glasgow Broadcast
Tuesday 4th November 2014 – Leeds Oporto Bar* added 23/10/2014 (supporting The Heartbreaks)
Thursday 6th November 2014 – Cardiff Gwdihw Cafe Bar
Saturday 8th November 2014 – Southampton Lennon’s
Tuesday 11th November 2014 – Leicester Cookie Jar
Wednesday 12th November 2014 – London Garage
Thursday 13th November 2014 – Nottingham JT Soar
Sunday 16th November 2014 – Harrogate Blues Bar
Thursday 20th November 2014 – Sheffield Leadmill
Wednesday 3rd December 2014 – London Lexington
Leading into the release of their debut album ‘Islands’, bearded folk trio Bear’s Den have announced a list of live shows in the UK and Ireland for early next year. The band’s European tour will begin and end in England, with a final show at London Shepherds Bush Empire on the 3rd of March. A full listing of live dates, including upcoming North American shows, can be found at the band’s Web site. Presale tickets for the following shows are already available; the general sale will begin on Friday the 10th of October at 10 AM.
‘Islands’ from Bear’s Den is due out on the 20th of October via Communion Records. An acoustic version of the next single from the album, ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’ can be found below the tour date listing.
Friday 6th February 2015 – Birmingham Temple
Sunday 8th February 2015 – Dublin Workman’s Club
Monday 9th February 2015 – Belfast Voodoo
Wednesday 11th February 2015 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Thursday 12th February 2015 – Newcastle Cluny
Friday 13th February 2015 – Manchester Gorilla
Sunday 15th February 2015 – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
Monday 16th February 2015 – Oxford Academy 2
Wednesday 18th February 2015 – Brighton Concorde 2
Tuesday 3rd March 2015 – London Shepherds Bush Empire
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 7th October 2014 at 6:00 pm
The new video from Twin Atlantic is for ‘Hold On’, which appears on their current album ‘Great Divide’, reviewed by John here. The story takes the song title quite literally, as you will see below.
The Scottish band’s next tour in the UK starts later this month.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 7th October 2014 at 2:00 pm
American bands We Are Scientists and Surfer Blood are currently in the midst of their current Spatter Analysis tour and last Friday night, they stopped into Washington, only the second date of 10 on their East Coast and Midwest journey. It was truly a Yank fest, as the opening band were Roanoke’s Eternal Summers, who I’d caught as support for Maximo Park back in May (review here). The Virginia-based band shares labels with Surfer Blood (their third album ‘The Drop Beneath’ was released on Brooklyn indie Kanine back in March), so there’s yet another connection linking the bands on this bill.
I hesitate to say that Eternal Summers have a completely laid back vibe, as drummer Daniel Cundiff was really beating the hell out of his skins for several of their songs. But like Surfer Blood’s music, there seems to be this underlying slacker feeling like you should be laying out on a beach somewhere listening to their songs but counterintuitively, both bands are technically proficient. At times, guitarist Nicole Yun’s voice seemed to be fighting with the loudness of her bandmates’ instruments, but that could be more to blame with the venue than the band themselves. From their current album, check out energetic numbers ‘Never Enough’ and ‘A Burial’.
It’s been some time since I’d last seen Surfer Blood live, having last laid ears on them when they coheadlined a show at the 9:30 Club with then indie behemoths The Drums. Times have changed for J.P. Pitts and co. – for one, Warner Brothers dropped them earlier this year, but they’re probably best back with Kanine – but their style that have made them firm favourites with their fans is still intact. I admit that theirs, along with Best Coast and other bands of their ilk, is really not my kind of music; as there is no immediacy, no urgency, it’s in direct odds with my personality.
Nevertheless, I can understand their mainstream (for indie) popularity, with the well-picked guitars and feel good ambience of ‘Floating Vibes’ and ‘Swim’ (aka the “swim to reach the end!” song) from 2010’s ‘Astro Coast’ showing they’ve aged well and can still bring the house down. Frontman J.P., who has no rock star air about him at all, still has a sweet voice and looks like a frat boy in a buttoned-up shirt and boat shoes, but I think those things are all part of the appeal. He announced they were about to play “my favourite Surfer Blood song, ever”, and then leaped into the crowd to sing ‘Drinking Problem’. Forget that we could have jumped rope with his mike lead. Several excited fans had their year made with the chance to sing with one of their idols.
I’ve been a fan of and been going to see We Are Scientists long before I even started blogging. As the band is based in New York, I’ve been lucky to see them live so many times, and by this time I’ve stopped counting. As I was walking to the venue, that admittedly annoying Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen song “it’s always a ‘Good Time’ was stuck in my head. Lately, I’ve had my suspicions that U Hall packs more people than should be allowed at their indie shows, but maybe it’s just because I’ve always been either down the front or somewhere near the front, where there is always a crush of bodies. Even though the critical mass seemed to part slightly after Surfer Blood finished, the WAS fans were quick to fill in the gaps.
‘Dumb Luck’, from their current ‘TV en Français’, started their set confidently, with its near ‘Maneater’ ’80s groove. It was the perfect opener, proving right out of the gate why they’re rated so highly as a live act. As did J.P. Pitts before him, Keith Murray jumped down into the crowd to serenade us with ‘Textbook’, from the band’s first album ‘With Love and Squalor’. I was gobsmacked, I assumed I was never going to hear that song live ever again. Same goes for the brilliantly bass-heavy ‘Chick Lit’, from their 2008 album ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’.
Of course, being the irrepressible jokers they are, Keith Murray and Chris Cain were only too happy to banter away between the songs, amusing and charming the heck out of the punters as they always do. Slow groove ‘Can’t Lose’ was prefaced by the guys asking who in the audience liked to grind, saying any song with a 0% grind factor was considered a failure, and this one from them was between 0% and 2%. (Cue audience laughter.) To introduce ‘Impatience’, Keith explained he had once been a candy striper in hospital (probably false) and stopped volunteering because aged people had the unfortunate habit of telling stories and then slowly expiring, mid-anecdote:
If there was anything to criticise about the gig, it was the nature of this tour and having two headliners. I am sure Surfer Blood’s set was shorter than it is usually runs, and I know We Are Scientists’ set was shorter too, as in April their show at the Black Cat was much longer. Still, it was a great Friday night out and definitely showed tickets to all three bands are worth your hard-earned money next time they’re in your town.
After the cut: We Are Scientists’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: We Are Scientists and Surfer Blood with Eternal Summers at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 3rd October 2014
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 7th October 2014 at 12:00 pm
From his very first single ‘Better Man Than He’ with a promo video filmed from inside an MRI machine, it was clear that Sivu would be an artist with a difference. Early on in his career, Page’s sound under his moniker Sivu was described by many as ‘eclectic’, and while using this adjective to describe his music is good, I don’t think the one word does his style justice. What makes ‘Something on High’, Sivu’s debut album for Atlantic Records, particularly of interest is that no two songs on this 11-track album sound alike, yet with successive tune, you’re drawn further into his world of fragility and poignancy.
Known to his mum as James Page, like many young people wanting a change of scenery, the singer/songwriter left Cambridgeshire for the bright lights of London. As might be expected for sensitive souls such as his, the transition took an emotional toll on him, causing him to reflect on the meaning of life and an individual’s place in this world. It’s one of the reasons not to be surprised that a major theme of the LP is the finding of and acceptance of the fragile, tender beauty of life in desperate, lonely situations. If that sounds pretty despondent, it is. But it is meant to be, reminding you of the painful cries of Daughter’s Elena Tonra on ‘Landfill’ and ‘Smother’, leaving you wondering why Communion didn’t snap up Page for their illustrious roster. (He also happens to be touring as the main support for another Communion artist, the Mercury Prize-nominated Nick Mulvey, starting on Friday.) Was he just too out there, too weird? But that’s a conversation for another time…
The album is peppered liberally with Sivu’s past successful singles and EP contents, which makes the whole affair a treasure trove for new fans to discover anew while providing a handy. Remarkably upbeat past single ‘Can’t Stop Now’ comes in at the fifth position on this album and provides a good dose of levity. ‘Better Man Than He’, with its oddly comforting repeated “lo lo los”, was written by Page about a friend’s troubles, but it has a wonderful everyman feeling, “we’ll find faith in the most magical of places / and find home in the smallest of rooms / we’ll find life in the most barren of faces / we’ll touch Christ in impending doom”.
It is probably now time to note that while I don’t think he planned on it specifically, religion is another natural theme on this album, as existentialism and mortality are explored in this past summer’s brilliant single ‘Miracle (Human Error)’ I reviewed back in June. The allegory of Noah’s Ark specifically is used as a plot device in previous EP title track ‘Bodies’, with the mesmerising rhythm and Page’s sweeping melodic vocal sonically conjuring up the image of looming, destructive floodwaters as a metaphor for wiping the slate clean and starting over in life.
And there are even more brilliant gems beyond these, all eliciting the purest of emotions. ‘Sleep’ is the self-deprecating, 2014 sister to the Smiths’ ‘Sing Me to Sleep’, with the tear-jerky lyrics “I’m a cruel, cold-hearted waste of space / now let me sleep so I can slip away” quite possibly going beyond in the waterworks stakes than Morrissey’s own. Album opener ‘Feel Something’ seems to speak to society’s tendency for indifference, or at least indifference on the surface with hiding all true feelings inside. (Sounds a bit like typical English stiff upper lip, eh?) When Page croons, “’cause I don’t really care if you break me / I’m reading signals in the dark that’s gonna find and take me down to our death”, you’d have to be a stone not to feel an ache deep within your heart. Loneliness and the desire to reach out and touch base with someone far away, either physically or emotionally, is examined wonderfully in ‘Communicate’, as the soft strings and other instrumentation beautifully frame Page’s falsetto.
Page has said the title of this album, ‘Something on High’, was inspired by the Vincent Van Gogh painting ‘Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate)'; the Dutch artist completed the work 2 months before committing suicide. He has said he chose the album title not for its religious overtones but to reflect the personal self-doubt and uncertainty he felt while he was writing the songs in unfamiliar surroundings. However, taking into account the final product that will be out in the shops next week, Page should be proud of his art and confident that the truest sentiments he has put into his music will find many new fans able to relate to and eagerly embrace those feelings.
‘Something on High’, the debut album from Sivu, is out next Monday, the 13th of October, on Atlantic Records. Page himself offers up a track by track analysis of the album below. He will be playing a headline show at London Oslo Hackney next Tuesday, the 14th of October; he also begins an opening slot as primary support for Nick Mulvey on his UK tour starting Friday in Falmouth.
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