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Peter Walker – Young Gravity

 
By on Wednesday, 26th April 2006 at 6:53 pm
 

Back to release his sophomore record, singer-songwriter Peter Walker has come back with a mixed bag of songs that whilst good individually, collectively isn’t anything to rave about.

Starting off with a very Strokes –esque sounding “What Do I Know?” the guitar drives the track along, and appears to be one of the strongest tracks of the album, with its thumping drums providing a fast and friendly way to move the track along. However, I can’t help but feel that the track would be more at home in the middle of “Room on Fire” – whilst a good song, nothing spectacularly different to anything else out there.

“39 Stars” introduces a nice laid back sound of summer, with Walker sounding distinctly similar to Olly from Turin Brakes, vulnerable and raw, a sound that appears to be repeated throughout the album. Slightly repetitive, the music provides the interest in this track, with the electric guitar providing some creativity throughout. “Flagship” has perhaps the catchiest chorus of “see it as a lesson learned, baby there must be some way to stay afloat”, and wouldn’t be out of place in a film with a lead character watching rain dribbling slowly down the windows.

The epic “Young Gravity” is the standout track of the album, reaching crescendo slowly, and then falling slowly back down before doing it all over again. Feeling distinctly melancholic, the prolonged music gives the song more a feeling of an album closer than a track 4, but never mind.

“Sleepin’ around” is the rawest sounding track of the album, with the refrain of “sleepin’ around, smoking all day, that’s what I heard him say”, and appears to simply be an ode to what Walker doesn’t want to end up being, and despises. Raw and with feeling, it ends up being a bit of an oddball track in comparison with the rest of the tracks on the album.

The rest of the album, to be honest, passes by without many interesting events it appears: “New Orleans” sounds quite chilled and not very vibrant as you might expect from a song entitled after the lively city. “On TV” does the required slow album closer, with a naked sounding acoustic guitar and lots of echo, and is quite a nice end to the album, though perhaps would have been better placed as the penultimate track before “Young Gravity”.

So, in summary “Young Gravity” is a strong album, all good tunes that are perfect for a summery day out in the car with windows down, however it’s not really anything that original or complex – just another singer/songwriter plying his trade.

 

Placebo – Meds

 
By on Thursday, 23rd March 2006 at 2:19 am
 

After a year of silence from the Placebo camp, yesterday I managed to get hold of an advance copy of Placebo’s new album, Meds, that’s coming out in March. I’ve been most interested to hear this new work, which many said was a return to their earlier heavier sound of their debut, and indeed it is, however much more sophisticated and suffocating. Their fame has also enabled two duets, the opener “Meds” is a duet with VV of the Kills, and track 10 is a duet with Michael Stipe of REM, a long-time supporter of Placebo having produced Velvet Goldmine, which saw Placebo as one of the many bands participating. When I heard that the album was going to be produced by the same guy who produced “Running up that Hill”, Dimitri Tikovoi, I wasn’t that keen as I didn’t particularly like the sound of it, however this album has changed my opinion of him.

Opener “Meds” has a guitar reminiscent of “Every You, Every Me” at the start, and is strangely addictive, with frantic guitar, and the rather addictive refrain from VV of “Baby, did you forget to take your meds?” Her voice is perfectly suited to the duet, and sounds perfect: it’s the ideal album opener, with the nice statement of what is to come on the album.

“Space Monkey” is a complete divergence from everything they’ve ever done before, and is clearly a follow on from “Sleeping with ghosts”, with its experimental intro, dark distorted sounding voice and lyrics.

The epic “Follow the cops home” is a ballad in typical Placebo style, however not as suffocating as some earlier efforts such as “Peeping Tom” or “Burger Queen”, and the sophisticated night-time musical landscape created by Stefan Olsdal’s bass and Steve Hewitt’s drumming gives the song extra depth. Urging listeners to “follow the cops back home, let’s rob their houses” the song is strangely addictive, and is already one of my favourites, much in the vain of “Narcoleptic” from Black Market Music.

“Post Blue” is a return to traditional Placebo, with the refrain “it’s in the water baby, it’s in your frequency, it’s in the water baby, it’s between you and me” sounding rather similar to “English Summer Rain” from their previous album, “Sleeping with Ghosts”, and whilst isn’t my favourite track, is still pretty good and will probably be a single, with Brian Molko’s voice providing the distinctive sound to the track.

The first single for the UK, “Because I want You” sounds distinctively early Placebo, reminding me of “Come Home” from their self titled debut. Rather repetitive, but still good, I can see this becoming a live favourite.

“Pierrot the Clown” is another slow song, in the vain of “Peeping Tom”, telling the story (I think) of a drug dealer in the city, and is a great candidate for a dark, brooding video, though I doubt it’ll ever be a single.

The duet with the legend that is Michael Stipe, “Broken Promise” is one of the more different songs of the album, going for an extreme quiet-loud-quiet approach, with the initial verse sung by Stipe, who has a naturally very soft voice, which when combined with Molko’s sharp, camp tune gets lost in amongst the guitars and drums, which is a shame for Stipe, as his lyrics are some of the best on the album. The end of the song though will give you the shivers, with Molko’s voice commenting “A broken promise, You were not honest, I bide my time, I wait my turn”.

“One of a Kind” and “In the cold light of the morning” are both very much end of album closers, with Morning sounding very atmospheric, imagine the night city lights laid out below you, and quiet tunes play as you walk around deserted streets. Molko sounds distinctly like his idol David Bowie in it, a bit deeper singing than normal.

Final track of the album and European first single “Song to say goodbye” is a rockier number after the slower tracks before it, and a good album closer. Whilst I’m not sure that it’s the best single for Europe, it is still very good,

Overall, a good album, continuing on from previous works, however in places a bit of a Placebo-by-numbers, with a few electronic tracks, a few heavier tracks, and a few different to any other tracks that we’ve heard from them before. There aren’t really any sing-along or chart topper tracks like “Bitter End”, “Every You, Every Me”, “Black Eyed” or “Nancy Boy”, and sounds are more complex, but still an awesome effort.

 

Josh Rouse – Subtitulo

 
By on Thursday, 2nd March 2006 at 5:18 pm
 

Josh Rouse is back again with his seventh album, building on his previous efforts and coming up with an absolute gem. “Subtitulo” has a variety of summery sounds, reflecting upon his travels through California, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Georgia, and Arizona.

Gently reflecting Jack Johnson, Turin Brakes and Elliot Smith, Rouse is one singer-songwriter that actually has the staying power some of the current crop don’t have (yes, I’m looking at you James Blunt), and has already proven himself with a joint album with Kurt Wagner (of Lambchop fame).

Opener “Quiet Town” is easy on the ears, melodic and gentle, with the gentle guitar sounding almost like rain against a window, enjoying the quiet nature of the town. Equally, it can be just as likely be the soundtrack to a gentle evening on the beach. Coupled with the whistling, it’s a great album opener, and typically story-telling like.

Summertime does the “one man with a guitar” thing perfectly – foot tappingly good, whilst retaining the rawness and feeling, and leads perfectly onto “It looks like love” which introduces some drums and a piano / keyboard to the guitar, and has a soaring chorus, which, whilst not quite a sing-along, is still a great tune, similar in style to much of Jack Johnson’s stuff. Fourth track is a gentle instrumental, vibrant in sounds and very filmatic, “La Costa Blanca” sounds like a spaghetti-western soundtrack.

“Jersey Clowns” sounds very similar to some of Turin Brakes’ earlier stuff from “The Optimist LP” with the gentle guitars and night-driving feel, with its intricate guitar finger-work. It’s a gentle autumn-tinted ballad with some brilliant lines “I’d tell him the truth, but I don’t want to bring him down”. Rouse’s voice sounds distinctly similar to Olly Knights’ gentle voice, soothing yet slightly girly (in a masculine way). It’s shortly followed by “Givin’ it up” which is one of the liveliest tracks on the album, and will have everyone tapping along with it, being prime single material, with the strings section complementing the drums and guitars perfectly.

Penultimate track, “The Man who…” has a rather repetitive refrain of “he’s the man who doesn’t know how” but is a brilliant duet. I’m not sure who the female is on the track, but her voice complements Rouse’s perfectly: gentle, yet clear.

Overall a very good album – interesting and colourful, however nothing particularly to set it apart from the crowd – there’s no “Sitting, waiting, wishing” here, just a pleasant collection of tracks that allow you to sit back and relax.

 

Trespassers William – having

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd February 2006 at 3:46 pm
 

One of the hottest new albums that I’ve heard this year came as a recommendation from a SoMinty moderator, and always willing to give new artists a go, I turned out the lights, laid back and let the relaxing sounds of “trespassers william” sweep over me. Epic musical soundscapes mixed with the beautiful voice of Anna-Lynne Williams make for one of the most relaxing, after lights-out experiences since Sigur Ros’ ( ) for me. Williams’ voice has elements that remind me of Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley, however, with added feeling of world weariness and vulnerability, which is just how I like my music!

“having” is their fourth release, however I haven’t been able to hear any of their previous work to compare them – if their previous work is anything like as good as this then I doubt I’d have time to listen to anything else.

Normally at this point I’d go into detail about a few key tracks: the best and the worst of the album. However, for this album it’s near enough impossible: the whole album seems to be one flowing piece of work, ideal for those film closings with cameras swooping over undulating terrain. There doesn’t seem to be one track that is a weak link: each of them are different, suitable for different moods and emotions. For me, the highlight comes with the opening track, “Safe Sound”, with the gentle sound of Williams’ voice fitting nicely in with the gentle drums and keyboards.

Track five, “I don’t mind” features a much edgier tone than some of the other tracks, with Williams’ voice taking a background echoey role over heavier guitars and drums, which fits in nicely with the tone of the track, and gives a moment of pure release and relaxation when the music goes over its crescendo towards the end of the track, descending into a gentle solo guitar.

“And we lean in” is perfect film music: it’d be right at home over a montage of two people falling in love over the summer, and then slowly moving into winter. Later in the album, “No One” is a good break up soundtrack, with Williams berating “You can be as sad as you want, no-one will punish me more than myself”. We even have wind sweeping across the speakers towards the end to emphasise the alone-ness and vulnerability of the song.

How I’ve managed to let trespassers william escape through my musical net is beyond me – this is a masterpiece, and given the right exposure they could do a Sigur Ros on us and become the next big “underground” success. I personally can’t wait to see if they can transform their brilliance on CD onto the live stage – I’m hoping that they come to the UK soon!

 

Richard Ashcroft – Keys to the World

 
By on Monday, 6th February 2006 at 1:23 pm
 

It seems recently that everybody here in the UK has been harking on about Richard Ashcroft’s return for a while now since his near-legendary Live8 performance with Coldplay last July. The 35 year old has just released his third solo album, “Keys to the World” which seems to have bought him back from the desert of British music. Famed for his 1997 “Urban Hymns” with his band “The Verve”, Ashcroft has always failed to match its classic status and epic tunes, and whilst some claim this new album is a return to form for the man from Wigan, it still has a while to go before he writes a new “Bittersweet Symphony” or “Drugs don’t work”.

Album opener “Why Not Nothing” is a stomper that gives you the feeling that he’s returning to form, with the catchy refrain “why not, why not, why not nothing?” and gives us the idea that he’s back from the abyss and back on form. It appears to be an anti-religion rant of sorts, commenting on “Machiavellian tricks” and “God squads” with a surprising vigour and urgency. However, it never seems to go anywhere, just sort of fading out, about a minute after it should have, and much the same can be said about the second track of the album, “Music Is Power”, which is very much a standard album track.

First single of the album, “Break the night with colour” is perfect stadium filler, with a catchy chorus, yet is still very much a B-list Richard Ashcroft song in comparison to “Lucky Man”, “Drugs Don’t Work”, “Bittersweet Symphony”, “Sonnet”, “History” et al. However, I have a distinct feeling that he’ll never be able to match these epic masterpieces, and this is only confirmed as the album plods on through “Words Just Get in the Way”, “Cry til the Morning” and “Sweet Brother Malcolm”. In between these filler tracks, there are a few notable songs, which will probably be singles, or the more stand-out tracks of this album.

Perhaps the standout track of the album comes in the middle of the album at track five, with the song with the same name as the album, “Keys to the World”, with the orchestrated, multi-layered sounds seeping through spectacularly. This will most likely be one of the next singles from the album, and is the only one that comes close to the stadium rock status of “Break the Night with Colour”.

“Why do Lovers” is a funny track. No, not funny ha-ha, just funny-strange. It seems to be a ballad of sorts, with epic strings and melodic pianos, however it just doesn’t sound right, with bitter undertones of a guy who’s just be dumped. The wailing/moaning at the end seems altogether unnecessary too, but that’s just a personal preference.

Album closer “World keeps turning” seems to chronicle a self-proclaimed return to the top with such lyrics as “It’s been a long time since I’ve been around here,” and “All my blocks every night I try to figure out what’s wrong or right.” Whilst this is a relatively strong song in the album, it’s perhaps lost at the end of the album, with a distinctive end-of-film-credits-rolling feel to it, and some people would have probably given up around “Why Do Lovers” missing out on this, the third best song of the album.

Overall, a stronger showing from Ashcroft than his previous two albums, however still not as good as “Urban Hymns”. However, increasingly I think he won’t be able to match the spectacular epic-ness of that work, so this could be the best we hear from him.

 

New Pornographers – Twin Cinema

 
By on Thursday, 12th January 2006 at 1:00 am
 

A key feature on many of the “best of 2005” lists that have been doing the rounds recently was The New Pornographers new album, released last August. Their third outing improves significantly on their previous two efforts, 2002’s Mass Romantic and 2003’s Electric Version, providing a nice dollop of Canadian power-pop to add extra power to Canada’s exploding music scene.

Album opener “Twin Cinema” sets the theme for the rest of the album, being a good power-pop, with a memorable hook of “they’ve shown this on both screens”, and whilst not the best track of the album, is a quality song that is a great overview of the album: better put together than their 2003 effort, and musically a significant step on from their 2002 effort.

“Sing Me Spanish Techno” is quite possibly one of the most pop-tastic songs that A.C. Newman has crafted over the last three albums, and could propel the band into bigger and better things if they had more airplay. Combined with “Use It”, these are songs that are more pop-focussed than the Arcade Fire’s Funeral ever could be (exception is Rebellion (Lies)), and have a memorable catch, whilst being better musically and more original than the latest Kelly Clarkson / Girls Aloud offering. The lyrical insight of “Use it” is particularly interesting – “Two sips from the cup of human kindness and I’m shitfaced”, which whilst not radio-friendly, is more interesting than another “I love you” ballad, and combined with the frantic drumming that must have taken eight arms, is quite an amazing track.

“The Bleeding Heart Show” is one of music’s best kept secrets, a monster epic crammed into 4 and a half minutes of condensed drama and choir-sing alongs: the perfect show closers: a slow starter that builds momentum to the point you can imagine the theatres start crumbling under the strain of people jumping so much. The crescendo is reached at 2:40, when the Isicathamiya choir kick in, and coupled with Neko Case’s beautiful voice that is both unique and strong.

Pen-ultimate track, “Streets of Fire” is perfect for a late night camp-fire sing-along, with Neko’s voice complementing A.C. Newman’s fragile voice. It’s a beautiful track, almost a cast sing-along in a good family film.

The closer, “Stacked Crooked” is everything an album closer should be – a mellower track to the rest, but sends the listener off with a nice overview of the sound of the album, memorable and foot-tappingly good.

This album is, for me, one of the best albums of the last year, every track a winner, without a rubbish one or a bit of “filler”. All I can say is that I look forward to their next effort – this album hasn’t got anywhere near the recognition it should have done in my opinion, and if their next effort is better yet, it’ll be criminal. Go and buy it.

 
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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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