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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 11th February 2015 at 6:00 pm
Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks – now a five-piece – have released a new promo video this week for ‘Peaks and Troughs’. The tune appears on ‘Unravelling’, their third album for Fat Cat Records released last October. The song has an unsettling vibe to it, which starts off only mildly creepy, and just gets progressively weirder and weirder as the video goes on. Is that a benign comet or a more sinister asteroid in the distance? Watch the video below.
Past TGTF coverage on WWPJ is this way.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 11th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
While some artists are perfectly content staying in the same exact place musically, album after album, there are some artists who are not so easily satisfied. From when they began, Little Comets’ releases have gotten progressively more personal and also profoundly political. As we all know, sometimes the most honest music doesn’t find popular success because it says things that others are afraid to say. And goodness, who would *ever* risk alienating the record-buying public? ‘Hope is Just a State of Mind’, released next Monday, sees the band being their most outspoken yet.
Since the second LP, both Rob and his brother Mickey have become new fathers, and this album begins with a reminder of how the two of them have entered a new phase in their lives. LP opener ‘My Boy William’, named for Rob’s young son, has a bouncy rhythm matching well with lyrics embodying pure love and a hope for a bright future from father to child: “there’s more to this than meets the eye my love / don’t drown your dreams stay true but / try as I might / there’s much to learn and much to sow my love / but try as you might”.
Self-described sea shanty-styled ‘B & B’ is the poppiest one of the bunch, which might come as a great shock, considering the song was written in response to Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapp’s Tweet about a reducing a tax on bingo and beer. This social media misstep has been viewed by many as patronising towards the working class. In one in a string of many blog posts he has written to explain the origin of Little Comets’ songs, Rob clarifies that ‘B & B’ came out not just from the distaste of this one Tweet from a clueless MP, but also from thinking further about how Thatcherism destroyed the North East. Clearly, Little Comets are not going to be Cameron’s favourites anytime soon, but one has to give these Geordies props to put their political opinion out there. Quite possibly the best part of this song is the a cappella opening, showcasing the trio’s tight harmonies that aren’t called upon as often as I would like.
‘Effetism’ is a searing examination of disgraced American Olympic cyclist Lance Armstrong, a beacon of hope for the ill and impaired until his deceit was discovered. The lighter than air guitar line seems to reflect Armstrong’s own laissez faire attitude towards his crime, as do the words, “everyone was gushing but you never did blush / bawdy implication was it part of the rush?” Another difficult topic previously tackled on ‘Violence Out Tonight’, violence against women, is again approached on ‘Wherewithal’. The smooth r&b feel this track and bird-like guitar trills belie the failings of the police to adequately respond to domestic violence, as expressed so well through its words, “I can’t trust you anyway / I can’t trust you anyway / On the tip of your cap is a badge / semper vigilo: you never ever did that though”.
The nostalgic and seemingly simplistic ‘Formula’ recalls the band’s earliest days, bashing out attempts at making pop music in a cold garage. Essentially, the environment in which they make music hasn’t changed, but the surprising addition of their original drummer Mark Harle on the song makes for an unexpected, if temporary reunion. ‘Don’t Fool Yourself’ sees the band embracing cool funk; it’s another catchy number and a welcome addition to the Comets’ arsenal.
Some of the choicest cuts from their most recently released brilliant trilogy of EPs – ‘The Gentle EP’, ‘Salt’ and ‘The Sanguine EP’ – have also been included here, which will be a great discovery for those unfamiliar with the North East band’s work. (For those already fans, listening to the tracklisting from start to finish will be punctuated with familiar gems. Which is never a bad thing.) Thinking about both the melodic whimsy and anti-establishment industrial clanks of ‘Little Italy’ (video here) and the emotionally wrought portrait of child abuse in ‘Salt’ allows one to fully appreciate the two ends of the spectrum of Little Comets’ talent.
And then we come, sadly, to the end. ‘The Blur, the Line and the Thickest of Onions’ was described last year by Rob as his protest against songs that mean absolutely nothing, pointing to them as symptomatic of a society that have become too comfortable with the status quo. “I’m an onion, peel my layers back” is a good way I think this band views us, the fans: multi-dimensional human beings capable of feeling profound things and absorbing profound thoughts. Lyrically and instrumentally, Little Comets show us time and time again that they’re willing not only to push the proverbial envelope, they also have confidence in their listeners to be thinkers, to embrace something different.
Mean something to someone. And this is what Little Comets do.
‘Hope is Just a State of Mind’, the third album from Little Comets, is out next Monday, the 16th of February, on their own label The Smallest Label. For more on the writing of and the meaning of their songs from their own Rob Coles, visit the blog section on their official Web site. They start a new UK tour in 2 weeks, beginning on the 23rd of February in Nottingham; all the details on the tour is this way.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 11th February 2015 at 10:00 am
“Landscape electronica” is what Barcelona producer and DJ beGun does best. To get you through the midweek, why not get some free music? beGun is giving away his brilliant track ‘Dublin’, full of lightness and pulsating with engaging effects; you can listen to the track below. You can get ‘Dublin’ from this page in his Facebook by liking his page.
You can read my Bands to Watch feature on beGun ahead of his appearance at SXSW 2015.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 10th February 2015 at 6:00 pm
It’s not every day I get sent a video with a subject line including the words “beautifully awkward” (as described by FADER magazine). So I queued up CYMBALS‘ latest promo for ‘Talk to Me’ with some trepidation. Frontman Jack Cleverly explains the thought process behind the single:
“There’s something a little aggressive and direct in the phrase ‘Talk To Me’, it’s a demand made of the other, of the lover. There’s a parallel with the spirit of the chorus to our song ‘Natural World’ (“I don’t know enough about you to be kind to you”). The direction of the video meant that I had to stare directly on and kind of chant these words at the camera. It felt like the right way to portray these kinds of words, the right attitude in which to sing them.
“There are many images or phrases that came to me as part of a feeling related to this continuing theme (love and communication), that I cannot necessarily piece together easily. This theme of the failure of language and difficulty of communicating love or understanding in this way is in a lot of our songs.”
Channelling the spirit of ’80s New Wave brilliantly, it’s a corker of a track. Watch the lilac-shaded promo that accompanies it below. The single is now out on 7″ vinyl and digital download on Tough Love Records; past coverage on CYMBALS on TGTF is this way.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 10th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
At just 20 years of age, Paris-based sisters and twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz will definitely be on the younger end of the spectrum of artists performing at this year’s SXSW. But soon the world will be reminded that age is just a number. The Diaz sisters, the daughters of celebrated Bueno Vista Social Club percussionist Miguel “Anga” Diaz, chose their act’s name ‘Ibeyi’ from the word ‘twins’ from the Yoruba language native to their late father.
These two young women are about to rock the world stage with their intriguing blend of electronic, soul, pop and hip hop mixed in with more traditional sounds and chants from Yoruban culture, along with mesmerising, harmonising vocals that can only come from siblings. The album was produced by XL label boss Richard Russell, who impressed the sisters so much from their initial business meeting that “We went back home saying, OK, this is THE man. We have to make him want to work with us… When we stepped in his studio, we instantly felt at home. XL know how to work with young artists and let them grow.”
Smartly, ‘Ibeyi’ includes the title track and ‘River’ from their ‘Oya’ EP released last summer on XL; both are extremely strong. Naomi’s masterful percussion of ‘River’ is undeniably compelling, as the song (and indeed, the whole album) is a fitting tribute to the memory of their late father, whose death led Naomi to begin playing her father’s beloved cajon. This standout on the album is dedicated to Oshun, the African goddess of love, rivers and fertility, and the irresistible melody line makes the ‘River’ come alive, the sisters’ completely nailing it on the vocals. Their soulful delivery of this narrative of the religious ideal of salvation through the cleansing of one’s soul is arresting: take notice. The title of ‘Oya’ is also taken from folklore; the song addresses the deity of change and destruction, the long held notes of its vocals demonstrating the true beauty of the Diaz sisters’ voice. The solemn feel to the track, heightening the drama, is an interesting contrast to autotuned voices around mid-point in the song and the scattered of crashing noises throughout (is that the sound of vases being broken?).
This album, in addition to being a labour of love of two sisters who became closer through music, also has obvious familial connections. ‘Yanira’ is named for their older sister, whose virtues they wanted to highlight, turning her into a goddess. Through the magic of technology and samples, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi had the opportunity to work with both their late father and their close friend Kid Atlaas, who died unexpectedly last year, on the swirly ‘Think of You’. I can’t think of any higher praise to the departed and beloved than the words “let’s remember with rhythm our loved ones that are gone / all the joy when we’re singing that no spell can destroy”. Their mother Maya, who had encouraged the teenage Lisa-Kaindé to write songs while bored at home when her 2-minute older twin went out without her, is also presumably referenced in ‘Mama Says’. The lyrics describe a child’s witnessing of her mother’s pain upon losing the man she loved, framed by a jazzy piano arrangement. These apparently autobiographical moments make the whole effort all the more touching.
As you move further along in the tracklisting, you find the second half is even more jazzy and definitely more poppy, treading more familiar ground in popular song. The syncopated rhythm of ‘Stranger Lover’, with Lisa-Kaindé telling a lover who will soon leave their doomed relationship “if you’re swallowed by the past / stranger, lover / this day will be our last / stranger, lover / come heal in my arms”, is hypnotic. The more conventional lyrics of ‘Faithful’ – “only you can satisfy me / you know how to save me / be faithful, show me your loyalty” – burn bright with desire, reined in from combusting into a conflagration by a gentle piano melody: the result is pure genius and another clear standout for its simplicity. Earlier in the LP, the more dancey ‘Ghosts’ shows a more desperate side of love, but the chanting at the end alters the overall feeling.
Topically, I find ‘Singles’ the most surprising of all on this album. Tackling loneliness and the wish *not* to be single anymore that all us women have at some time in our lives is a reminder that even though they are queens musically, Ibeyi are two mortal young women just like you and me. Despite some singing in Yoruban and French, ultimately the songwriting on ‘Ibeyi’ is driven by the beauty of love – for family, for friends and of the romantic kind – and it’s done so masterfully here, the album is proof that love has no limits.
The eponymous debut by Ibeyi will be out on the 16th of February on XL Recordings. Catch the sisters this month on tour in the UK shortly after the release, if you’re able grab tickets for it. They’ll be off to Austin for their debut appearance at SXSW in March. To hear a mixtape the sisters made of songs that have influenced them, head over to Complex.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 10th February 2015 at 11:00 am
For the next couple of weeks leading up to SXSW 2015 just as we did last year, we’ll be running a special version of the TGTF Quickfire Questions, served up SXSW style with an extra couple of questions to get inside bands’ and artists’ heads so they’ll tell us what they really think of the event. In the second installment, Lorna Thomas of folk-punk rockers Skinny Lister tells us about the band’s most unusual item they’ll be bringing over to Texas, and she also tells us about her father’s musical influence on her musical history.
Have a watch and listen to the most recent live performance released by Skinny Lister, filmed at Club Quattro in the Shibuya section of Tokyo, in this Live Gig Video posted last week.
What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
Meeting cool people, chancing upon cool bands and all in a warm climate! Oh, and we also stay at Berkman House, which is near the Mexican supermarket El Rancho and does amazingly cheap delicious tacos and cactus juice! Skinny go Mexican. Yum.
Of the bands who have already been announced, do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
This may sound incredibly self-centred, but by the time we’ve done playing as MUCH as we can plan there’s little room to schedule stuff in. We’ll schedule as many showcases in as we can to make sure we’re in front of as many people as possible. If that means playing on the street corner, then so be it! That said…us Skinnies like a night out and we’ll certainly keep our ear to the ground for good stuff going on.
Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
Our trusty flagon; we take it everywhere. We fill it up with rum and away we go. Where the flagon is the party is (though not in cabs!). Last year I got kicked out of one, which was bad news.
If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Well that’s very kind of you! As you might guess from the last answer, I have a particular penchant for rum but the lads will drink pretty much anything. Michael (bass player) likes a Jameson’s. He’s been known to crowd surf mid-set over to the bar to get a shot if he’s feeling thirsty. And when we’re looking far too boring, be sure to give us a black sambuca. That always does the trick.
What advice would you give other bands who have never played at SXSW before?
Have fun and keep busy. And maybe when you feel it might all be a lot of hot air – just remember – the people you make an impression on won’t forget you and they could be the person to accelerate you to the next level. It happened for us.
Now on to our usual list of Quickfire Questions:
What song is your earliest musical memory?
Watching a jubilant party George (Daddy) singing his songs on a Sunday afternoon in a pub and everyone singing along. In fact, we play some of his songs and if he’s ever in the audience, we’ll always get him on stage to sing and dance with us.
What was your favourite song as a child?
Salt-N-Pepa – ‘Shoop’. I still know all the words off by heart and always pull it out of the bag at karaoke sessions.
What song makes you laugh?
My dad’s song about our old dog named ‘Wag’.
What song makes you cry?
Edith Piaf – ‘Non, Je ne regrette rien’ – amazing voice, amazing woman and song amazing voice.
song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Tracey Chapman – ‘Fast Car’. I had to turn it off because it was all a bit too dewy-eyed and romantic and put Sex Pistols on.
What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Any song by the Stone Roses (though I can only get away with writing this because the lads aren’t with me).
Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Queen – ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. [Sorry guys, I couldn’t help it, I had to post *that* scene from Shaun of the Dead… – Ed.]
Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Charles Dickens, OF COURSE!
If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Well, I always wanted to be a night nurse!
If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
Now That’s What I Call Music 34!
Thanks Lorna for answering our questions!
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