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The moniker of elusive London quartet Arthur Beatrice was “formed from the notion of opposites coming together to complete perfect wholes,” according to the press release for their new album, ‘Working Out’, due for release next Monday. The bisexual band name seems singularly appropriate given the band’s juxtaposition of male and female lead vocals, alternated seamlessly between the velvety singing voices of Ella Girardot and Orlando Leopard. The instrumental sound is a cross between smooth jazz and electro dance with moments of uptempo rhythmic pacing provided by brothers Elliott and Hamish Barnes on drums and bass, respectively. Hamish Barnes’ pulsing bass is a major element of Arthur Beatrice’s sound, maintaining a constant groove throughout ‘Working Out’.
First single ‘Midland’, released back in mid-January, emphasizes the theme of opposition that runs through the album. It opens with the silky-soft murmur of Girardot’s low register, singing, “all I want is to be warm and home, and where I’m known”. She maintains her smooth vocal tone as the lyrics turn slightly more cynical in the second verse, “purge me now, cleanse my skull from all the things I’ve been told”. The faster dance pace of the music in the refrain is ironically set to the words, “I’ll never move, I’ll never move, I’ll always be so still”, and Girardot shows off some lovely high notes in the repeated section as the keyboards and guitars are layered over the bass groove. The sensual and increasingly physical video for ‘Midland’ is as dichotomous as the song itself.
‘Carter Uncut’ is the extended edition of the aptly named ‘Carter (Cut)’ from the ‘Carter’ EP, released in July 2013. The long version begins with a slow, almost clumsily discordant keyboard intro which transitions into a smoothly melodic ostinato as the pulsing, almost tribal percussion kicks in. Girardot’s voice oozes over the opening line, “I see the way we coincide and it’s nothing more than chance”. The lyrics become a little bit nonsensical, but they seem to hint at the end of a toxic relationship. Even as the music shifts to a quicker, more rhythmic dance beat and a deeper bass pulse, Girardot sings, “I’ll never roll away the weight of you, seems too much / I’ll never hate the way I wanted to, not enough”.
‘Grand Union’ was also released ahead of the album as a single in September 2013. Here, Orlando Leopard’s smooth voice starts off soft and sensual but becomes almost villainous over the lyrics of the chorus, “Dead lungs, you’re becoming someone else’s tongue, coughing up blood, skin coming off.” The ominous instrumental bridge contains some interesting, almost disorienting sound effects that remain grounded by the foundational bass line. For another interesting juxtaposition, listen to both the original version and the Open Assembly edit from the band’s Soundcloud page.
Self-produced by the band, ‘Working Out’ is surprisingly confident and purposeful despite its occasionally abstruse lyrics and overall lack of sonic variety. The fundamental bass lines bring a sense of structure to songs that are otherwise a bit amorphous, often lacking strong hooks or catchy refrains. The effect is viscerally and sonically appealing, but few moments on the album stands out as striking or particularly memorable. A vague sense of monotony, especially in the second half of the album, is exacerbated by song titles that don’t seem to connect to the lyrics in any discernable way. However, the strong dance beats and dramatically layered instrumental effects are likely to strike a chord with live audiences at the band’s upcoming performances. Arthur Beatrice will tour America in March, prior to their appearance at SXSW 2014. They are also scheduled to play The Great Escape in Brighton in May.
‘Working Out’, the debut album from Arthur Beatrice, is due for release on the 24th of February on OAR/Polydor Records.
Nigh on 100,000 beer-swilling under aged lads and louts in a field – coupled with loud music and flashing lights – sounds like a less than ideal scenario looking at it from that perspective. Flipside: some of the best bands in the world at the moment, playing their hearts out at the festival they all seem to have gone to as a kid.
Every band wants to pull a set that people will look back to and say one of two things: “Fuck, I was there”, or “fuck, I wish I was there”. Reading and Leeds Festivals (this year on the 22nd to the 24h of August) have produced some of the most memorable festival sets of the last decade – Them Crooked Vultures in 2009, Foo Fighters in 2012 and Biffy Clyro’s triumphant headline debut last year, just to name but a few. This festival delivers memories that last a lifetime – whether it’s hailing and raining sideways, or the kind of glorious sunshine which has you reaching for gallons of After Sun – Reading and Leeds are a staple of the British festival calendar.
This year is no different. Whilst Blink-182’s headline set in 2010 was hardly the kind of note perfect spectacle which you expect of acts like Arcade Fire, their set was an emotive, nostalgia-driven, fart joke-driven manifestation. The kind of blast through the hits you want at festivals like Reading and Leeds and with a new album on the horizon this year, we’re sure to be treated a Rock Show Like No Other.
Joining them at the top of the bill are Arctic Monkeys, fresh from a domination of the popular music charts in 2013 with their fifth album ‘AM’. Their Glastonbury set last year was a triumph from the 21st century’s finest likely lads: the set was dripping with hit after hit, hook after hook and the swagger of Turner just shows the frontman he has become. Another behemoth of a headliner.
Lower down on the bill there’s a veritable plethora of new and emerging talent, coupled with some more established stars. Picks of the bunch have to be new boys on the block, Royal Blood, who will also be appearing at SXSW 2014. Their material aired of late has hints of the bass groove you’d expect from a Queens of the Stone Age album, whilst some of the drum beats feel like pre-’Origin of Symmetry’ Muse.
Whilst The Lock Up Stage is no more, Of Mice & Men will bring some metal to the proceedings. For the masses, there’s Radio 1 darlings and TGTF favourites The 1975 and 2013 Mercury Prize-nominated stars Disclosure. Throw into the mix Metronomy and take into account we still have another headliner to announce, alongside umpteen more acts lower down the bill, I know where I’ll be spending my August Bank Holiday. Simple.
Visit the official Reading and Leeds festival Web site here for more information on tickets and such.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 17th February 2014 at 6:00 pm
Glaswegian band Holy Esque have a new video out for their single ‘Silences’, out now Beyond the Frequency. The promo is lo-fi indeed. Watch it below.
They’ll be showcasing at this year’s SXSW, and for more, read Cheryl’s Bands to Watch feature on them here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 17th February 2014 at 2:00 pm
If Kodaline had any question on how they’d be received on their second visit to the Nation’s Capital, with Washington having been the first date on their winter 2014 North American tour to have sold out, they needn’t have worried. As the tickets were snapped up quickly for Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia, in October, so were the ones for Saturday night’s show at U Street Music Hall. It’s been a brutally cold winter here, and even though I arrived early with the intention to queue, it became apparent dressed in my cold weather finery as my fingers and lips began to freeze that arriving just 30 minutes before the posted door time might not have been a great idea. To the young ladies who arrived more than 2 hours before doors and without coats while the mercury around -8 degrees C, my hats off to you, that’s some serious Kodaline devotion. Or possible insanity.
The support act for the night was LP, aka Laura Pergolizzi, a hyped up singer/songwriter currently based on Los Angeles. The curly-haired woman must have her own followers, but somehow I missed all the hype. Maybe this is because she’s been too busy cowriting hits for Rihanna, Avril Lavigne and Christina Aguilera. With a recording contract of her own with Warner Brothers as of 2011, perhaps her own luck fame will change soon. As I did research before going to see her, I had read that her music had smacked of a cross between Bob Dylan and Marc Bolan. Because I hadn’t seen any photos, I didn’t realise until I got to the show that LP was, in fact, a woman. Now the high-pitched vocals make more sense!
It was clear from the cheering during her set that she already has a lot of admirers, and probably more so as she dedicated song ‘New Town’ to all her new lovely friends in Washington. But her vocal delivery isn’t for everyone: her voice is warbly and she often employs falsetto. Also, if you’re not a fan of the ukulele (and really, who is, unless you’re a fan of Tiny Tim and Don ‘Tiny Bubbles’ Ho?), you’d probably be stood there scratching your head. A cover of Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’ left me and my friend inwardly groaning. Still, if the folky stylings of classic Greenwich village mixed in with rock is your style (see fan favourite ‘Into the Wild’), I’m guessing this would be your thing.
The main event at U Street that night was, of course, Kodaline. They endeared themselves to the crowd by giving credit to their Irish heritage with a toe-tapping instrumental cover of the Pogues’ ‘Dirty Old Town’ mid-set, but what was more startling was how many times in the show singer Steve Garrigan could stop singing altogether and his words would come floating back to him, 400 times louder (400 being the capacity of the hall). The most stunning moment of this nonsinging happened during the start of ‘One Day’, when he turned his mike towards the crowd and didn’t start singing until the first verse was over.
One of Kodaline’s greatest strengths is their ability to write both upbeat and slower, more emotional numbers. ‘After the Fall’ was a good one to begin with, with its sweeping instrumentation, and you might think going into sombre ‘Pray’ (“I drink alone to stop myself from weeping” – eep) directly after would be a misstep. Not with this guys, who deftly handle buoyancy and melancholy equally well. The innocence of the plinky plonky xylophone in ‘Brand New Day’ was well received, as was the psychedelia of ‘Lose Your Mind’ from the band’s self-titled EP, with one girl near breathlessly commenting after, “that’s my favourite song, ever!” The encore, featuring the unreleased but breathtakingly beautiful ‘The Answer’ followed by what appears to be the perpetual Kodaline show closer ‘All I Want’, was peerless. When we first starting writing about Kodaline, the thing that struck me was that they had the artistic vision and certainly the talent to become the Irish Coldplay and be massively successful, meaning that it was only time before they would play stadiums like Chris Martin and co. What crossed my mind last night, nearly a year on since I saw them for the first time at SXSW 2013 and now being surrounded by adoring fans, was that if and when Coldplay ever do decide to return to music, they can expect someone else, these guys, sat on what used to their throne. The gauntlet has been thrown.
After the cut: Kodaline’s set list for the night.
Continue reading Live Review: Kodaline with LP at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 15th February 2014
The blues rock sphere of influence is but a single bubble on the Venn diagram that is The Family Rain’s full-length debut offering, ‘Under the Volcano’. However, a certain phrase springs to mind with bands that spread their influences so broadly: ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. The Bath-born blues brothers were described in a previous life as an “irony free Darkness with bare torsos and blonde highlights”, which fits neatly with their porous approach to soaking up contemporary musical influences. The key question when digesting this album, “does it blend like a fine wine, or jar like ethanol mixed with grape juice?”
‘Carnival’ is a frantically upbeat introduction, with an intricate interpretation of blues scales set within a powerful but regular rhythm from guitarist Ollie Walter. It’s a sound that sits somewhere between a Kings of Leon retrospective and a memory of The Strokes of Christmases past. Originally released as the band’s debut single back in November 2012, ‘Trust Me… I’m A Genius’ (video below) has a distinct whiff of Jack White‘s most recent release ‘Blunderbuss’, which grows to an overpowering funk as the band introduce enough bluegrass to induce some kind of psychotropic episode. It’s a somewhat soulful mix of staccato singing and multi-layered vocal melodies, with a swirling guitar solo that circles the plug hole and plops to an abrupt ending.
Somewhere, A Flock of Seagulls’ lawyers’ ears have pricked up on hearing ‘Feel Better (FRANK)’. In tone, it is the genetically deficient twin of ‘I Ran’, the most memorable track of the New Wave band’s self-titled 1982 debut. The track holds its own in the grand scheme, but also shows anomalous moments of questionable production. It’s a theme that perhaps blunts some of the sharper edges on later tracks too. ‘Don’t Waste Your Time’ is a whimsical ride back to early Noughties trip-hop that folds into ‘Reason to Die’; a typically mid-album attempt with the stripped back, garage-y, bass/vocal onus and ironic swagger of Arctic Monkeys more recent offerings. Right on cue, ‘Binocular’ reaches the high water mark of the album so far. It’s a ragtime shuffle with a cheeky bluegrass wiggle thrown in – a jaunty skip between classic blues scale and droning root note (for both guitar and throat) that wouldn’t look out of place on an seizure-inducing camera ad of a thousand colours.
The largely forgettable ‘On My Back’ aside, the musical landscape evolves yet again on ‘Pushing It’. The verses have airs of The White Stripes in their bare, pugnacious strut and sense of impending collapse, but the chorus (although catchy) attempts too much and creates a juxtaposition which does neither aspect any favours. ‘Together’ takes more from the American indie scene, and achieves a sense of continuity that isn’t always evident throughout the rest of the album. The lackadaisical intro uses a ‘lonely musical trill plus tinny radio voice’ technique seen on The Killers’ ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, and generally follows the same upwards trajectory – albeit never to the same height and with a distinctly British aftertaste.
Tambourines and a guitar line heavily drenched in feedback give closing track ‘All the Best’ a sound that would be recognisable at regional live nights across the UK, but with a sense of bravado that lifts them high above Morrissey’s winding back alleys. William Walter’s voice possesses a neat vibrato that compliments the loose threads that hold this entire number together. It’s an honest and personal conclusion to an album that anchors itself to many poles. Ultimately, ‘Under the Volcano’ walks the tightrope of musical fusion with a wobble and occasional stumble, but never a fall.
‘Under the Volcano’ is out now on Vertigo Records / Virgin EMI.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 14th February 2014 at 6:00 pm
Following on from the first video from their forthcoming album ‘Soapbox’ in which their frontman George Waite had some, err, questionable attire, single ‘Play Dumb’ (reviewed here), The Crookes have a new promo out just in time for Valentine’s Day. ‘Holy Innocents’, track 5 on the Sheffield band’s yet to be released album, is a far more stoic affair, yet with just the right tinges of melancholy; the black and white film from their time recording the album in the remote mountains of Northern Italy are suitably bleak. I have further thoughts on the song, but you’ll have to wait until my review of ‘Soapbox’ posts in the coming weeks to read them.
Third Crookes album ‘Soapbox’ will be released on the 14th of April on Fierce Panda. After appearing at their third SXSW next month, the group are on tour in the UK in April and May, with a European leg scheduled between the end of the April UK stretch and a homecoming show at Sheffield Leadmill on the 31st of May.
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