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Last Sunday, Ed Sheeran captivated thousands of onlookers as he commanded the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Not bad for someone who was busking on the streets less than 5 years ago.
While he was on stage, it was officially revealed on BBC Radio 1 that the 23-year-old’s latest album ‘x’ (pronounced ‘multiply’) had topped the Official UK Albums Chart. The album sold more than 182,000 copies in the space of 7 days, making it the fastest selling album of 2014 so far. The follow-up to his debut album ‘+’ shows a darker side to Ed Sheeran, who told Buzzfeed that he wrote about “s**t that happens” and that it “sums up the last 3 years of [his] life pretty accurately”.
Judging by the album, the last 3 years can’t have been overly great for Sheeran, as the record predominantly focuses on romance and heartbreaks, and how the West Yorkshire-born singer-songwriter put his career first and made mistakes along the way. The former is particularly evident in ‘Nina’, a possible contender for Sheeran’s next single, as the powerful chorus contains the line, “And I’ve been livin’ on the road Nina, but then again you should know Nina”. Opening track ‘One’ is another strong track that also embraces this theme, as does one of the stand out songs on the album, ‘Don’t’.
Having supported Taylor Swift on her tour of America, it’s clear that her knack for shaming exes in her music rubbed off on Sheeran, as ‘Don’t’ is based on his experience with a celebrity girlfriend who cheated on him with a close friend. As well as sending the gossip magazines into overdrive, ‘Don’t’ is a dark and powerful track that sticks two fingers up to Sheeran’s ex, making it one of the highlights of ‘x’. ‘Sing’, which gave Sheeran his first #1 single earlier this year, shows a slight move away from the one man and his acoustic guitar we have come accustomed to. Heavily influenced by the pop and r&b styling of Justin Timberlake, the track was produced by and features the vocals of Pharrell Williams (who seems to be doing no wrong at the moment), so it’s no surprise that this is one of the strongest songs on the album.
Nevertheless, Sheeran hasn’t strayed completely from his roots. The gentle tones of ‘Tenerife Sea’, ‘Photograph’ and ‘Thinking Out Loud’ feature a similar sound to the likes of ‘The A Team’, ‘U.N.I.’ and ‘Give Me Love’ from his debut album, providing a welcome change to the dark undertones of ‘x’. Something that Sheeran achieves well is tackling subjects that many mainstream artists would shy away from: for example, ‘Bloodstream’ is about the time he took MDMA and fell in love with a bean bag. However, he makes them applicable to his young fan base by populating his tracks with references to his favourite pastimes, such as playing with LEGO. It’s a clever technique that makes Ed Sheeran stand out from the other singer-songwriters that are currently dominating the charts.
Overall, ‘x’ is a brilliant album that is sure to have a lasting effect, just like his previous record did. While he hasn’t taken many risks, Ed Sheeran has delivered yet another masterpiece, which is guaranteed to be one of this year’s best musical offerings.
‘x’, the second studio album from Ed Sheeran, is out now on Warner Music.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 3rd July 2014 at 9:00 am
The superb Sivu has announced a short tour of the UK for mid-October. Tickets are on sale now.
His next single ‘Miracle (Human Error)’ will be released on the 28th of July on Atlantic. For all things Sivu on TGTF, go here.
Tuesday 14th October 2014 – London Oslo
Wednesday 15th October 2014 – Brighton Hope
Thursday 16th October 2014 – Manchester Soup Kitchen
Friday 17th October 2014 – Glasgow Glad Cafe
Folk pop quartet Keston Cobblers Club are set to release a new EP called ‘A Pocket Guide to Escaping’ on the 1st of September. In support of that release, they have announced a list of UK tour dates; tickets for the following shows are on sale now.
Read all our previous Keston Cobblers Club coverage here.
Wednesday 23rd September 2014 – Manchester Soup Kitchen
Thursday 24th September 2014 – Edinburgh Electric Circus
Monday 29th September 2014 – Nottingham Bodega
Tuesday 30th September 2014 – Birmingham Rainbow
Wednesday 1st October 2014 – Cambridge Portland Arms
Saturday 4th October 2014 – Norwich Arts Centre
Wednesday 8th October 2014 – Bristol Exchange
Thursday 9th October 2014 – London Dingwalls
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 2nd July 2014 at 6:00 pm
The new Digitalism single features LA synthpoppers Youngblood Hawke, so it makes sense that ‘Wolves’ sounds more pop than dance. Is this a good or bad thing? Watch and listen to the video below and make up your own mind.
The ‘Wolves’ remix EP is out now. Previous coverage of Digitalism on TGTF is here.
Austin, Texas synthpop band SPEAK have just released their second full-length album ‘Pedals’, which they began working on almost the moment their first album, 2011’s ‘I Believe in Everything’, was complete. Lead singer and keyboardist Troupe Gammage describes the band as “extremely goal-oriented”, a trait that led them to consciously refine their style and self-produce their sophomore effort. ‘Pedals’ is, indeed, a very deliberate album. The general feeling is one of intentionally developed sophistication, but it’s all a bit overwrought. The intense intellectualism and musical experimentation often weighs down songs that are presumably intended to be delicately ethereal or buoyantly anthemic.
Recent single ‘Gates’ is a reasonably optimistic, uptempo opener. Gammage’s singing voice shows its colors right away here, with a low range that descends into vocal fry and teeters precariously on the edge of going flat before being redeemed by a silky smooth falsetto. The wailing guitars and keyboard riff establish a cool pop vibe that carries through ‘Mystery Lights’ and ‘Nightlight’.
A brief instrumental clip called ‘Weiss’ serves as a preliminary intro to the unexpected acoustic ballad ‘This Much I Know’. This combination of the album’s two shortest tracks is a fleeting but hypnotic moment of echoing guitars, lush backing harmonies, and a gently rocking 6/8 meter leading into the more expansive ‘Peaks’.
‘Peaks’ was dropped as a pre-album single in April 2013, then released alongside 3 remixes as part of an eponymous EP. SPEAK have given this song a lot of attention, and while their devotion to it is admirable, I think it may also have been somewhat detrimental. It feels like the band are too far inside their own heads on this one, focusing on minute details and losing sight of the larger effect, which ends up being a bit tedious. (Sample the other arrangements of this track on the ‘Peaks’ EP here.)
The mid-album sequence of ‘Oh Lord’, ‘Modern Art’ and ‘Be Reasonable, Diane’ is the strongest grouping on the album. ‘Oh Lord’ has a distinct rhythmic groove, accented by additional percussion and fluidly emotive vocals. ‘Modern Art’ is the sonic equivalent of graphic visual art, its angular melodic lines and crisp rhythms sharply contrasting the fuzzy texture of the vocals and guitars. The moody and sullen ‘Be Reasonable, Diane’ has, ironically, the only chorus catchy enough to stick with me after my initial listen to the full record.
The remainder of the album is uneven, with the jungle soundscape of ‘Congo’ and the r&b groove of ‘The Meantime’ trying to break up the monotony of ’11 12 13’ and ‘Trials’. A bit of judicious trimming at this point might have streamlined the focus at the end of the tracklisting and on the album as a whole.
On first listen, the tracks on ‘Pedals’ completely ran together in my mind, their subtleties lost in a wash of electro-synth sound. I found it difficult to pick out anything particularly clever or inventive. It wasn’t until my 3rd full listen that I found myself humming along to choruses, nodding my head to beats and anticipating riffs and rhythms. Unfortunately, while the album has its moments of clarity, subsequent listening hasn’t fully anchored it in my mind. However, for listeners who enjoy expansive, genre-blurring post-rock, SPEAK’s experimental new sound might be worth the extra time it takes to delve into the complexity of ‘Pedals’.
‘Pedals’ is out now on Playing In Traffic Records.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 2nd July 2014 at 9:00 am
Fresh off the back of their triumphant Sunday night headline slot on the Pyramid Stage of Glastonbury 2014, Kasabian have announced a UK and Irish tour for this coming winter. This campaign also includes 5 nights at London Brixton Academy. Tickets go on sale this Friday (the 4th of July) at 9:30 AM.
Their next single ‘Bumblebee’ is out on the 4th of August. For all of TGTF’s coverage including a live performance of ‘Eez-Zeh’ from Glasto, walk this way.
Wednesday 19th November 2014 – Glasgow SSE Hydro
Friday 21st November 2014 - Leeds First Direct Arena
Saturday 22nd November 2014 – Birmingham LG Arena
Sunday 23rd November 2014 – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Tuesday 25th November 2014 – Bournemouth International Centre
Wednesday 26th November 2014 – Brighton Centre
Friday 28th November 2014 – Nottingham Capital FM Arena
Monday 1st December 2014 – London Brixton Academy
Tuesday 2nd December 2014 – London Brixton Academy
Thursday 4th December 2014 – London Brixton Academy
Friday 5th December 2014 – London Brixton Academy
Saturday 6th December 2014 – London Brixton Academy
Monday 8th December 2014 – Dublin O2
Tuesday 9th December 2014 – Belfast Odyssey Arena
Thursday 11th December 2014 – Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
Friday 12th December 2014 – Manchester Phones 4U Arena
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