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Over the Christmas holidays, I had the pleasure of writing a Bands to Watch feature on Blanco White, the solo project of London singer/songwriter Josh Edwards. Highlighted in that article was debut single ‘November Rain’, which appears on Blanco White’s new EP titled ‘The Wind Rose’, along with three other Latin American-influenced songs that put a decisively contemporary spin on a traditional folk style.
Edwards initiated the Blanco White project in 2014, after studying classical guitar in Spain and learning to play the Andean charango in Bolivia. His vision for the project involved “bringing together elements of Andalusian and Latin American music alongside influences closer to home.” The end result is a set of songs with decidedly English lyrics and themes, set over the classical soundscapes of South America.
The Latin American influence here isn’t the uptempo salsa dance style often heard in mainstream pop music, but rather the contemplative minor-key sound of traditional Spanish and South American art song. Edwards’ orchestration includes the expected prominent virtuoso guitar figures but employs vividly modern, minimalist arrangements in the other instruments, creating dramatic energy to match his evocative lyrical style.
Opening track ‘The Lily’, recently featured by Adam Walton on BBC Radio Wales, begins with some of the EP’s most breathtaking imagery in the lyrical lines, “I left a sign with a candle in the streetlight that shone below / where through the night the people dance in linen and smoke / I still remember her song in my head . . .” Melding romance with impressions of fire and sea, Edwards’ rough-hewn singing voice is emotionally raw and instantly captivating as he sings of his elusive Lily, “vanished, some other place by the sea. . . banished by herself, not by me.”
The aforementioned ‘November Rain’ sets another oblique tale of emotional loss against the grey backdrop of a train platform on a cold autumn day. Its unanswered question “so is this why I couldn’t stay?” is never explained in the lyrical monologue, but its anguish is clearly expressed by each insistent repetition. The yearning woodwind solo following the repeated line “there’s nothing left I owe” leads into the song’s dynamic climax, where Edwards unleashes the strength of his voice ahead of the reflective final refrain.
Slightly gentler and more introspective, ’Chalk’ delves further into the feminine mystique with the vivid description of a palm reading enchantress who predicts her subject’s trip to Spain. The accordion and bowed strings in the song’s instrumental arrangement give a hint of the heady atmosphere of a street fair and Edwards’ lyrics are once again as beguilingly quixotic as the imagined siren of his serenade.
Final and eponymous track ‘The Wind Rose’ is even more strongly Latin-flavoured, with gently rolling harp and guitar figures under lyrics that switch between elegant English and sensual Spanish. Edwards is accompanied in the singing of the Spanish sections by Malena Zavala of Argentine indie rock band and Yucatan Records labelmate Oh So Quiet. Zavala’s light, clear vocals float delicately above Edwards’ coarser tone and echo hauntingly over the song’s closing lyric, “as the wind moves the water, in the chalice of a rose.”
Three of the songs from ‘The Wind Rose’ EP are streaming now on Yucatan Records’ official Web site, ahead of the EP’s impending release. If you’re as enchanted by Josh Edwards’ stunning voice and nimble guitar playing as I was, you can also watch a live video of Blanco White performing ‘Rust’, at the bottom of the page.
Blanco White will play a one-off show at London’s Sebright Arms on the 31st of March supporting Eliza Shaddad. His EP ‘The Wind Rose’ is out today on Yucatan Records.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 4th February 2016 at 6:00 pm
American soul singer Leon Bridges was one of the rising stars of 2015, thanks to the strength of his debut album ‘Coming Home’. This week, he’s released a new music video for ‘River’. Bridges’ smoky voice is evocative of the late, great Sam Cooke, and this mini-film is a great vehicle for his musical talent as heard through this emotional track. Watch it below.
To check out more on Leon Bridges on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 4th February 2016 at 4:00 pm
So the new video from Minnesotan band Low doesn’t follow our more conventional live gig videos, but I’m going to bend the rules today for them. This video was filmed in Glasgow, and this is what the directors Jim Burns and Beth Chalmers had to say about it:
Inspired by the hypnotic reflections of the River Clyde on the archways beneath Glasgow’s city bridges, this film draws parallels between the power of a single beam of sunlight and the deeply affecting personal experience one feels during Low’s live performance. Despite being part of a crowd, Low’s music invokes within you a profound and unique individual perspective.
This promo has shots of the band performing the song with artsy lighting shots overlaid on top of them. While this has the effect of giving the video a ghostly pallour, when the shots of the band come back into focus, there’s an instant connection. Watch the video below.
Considering they are a collective of people, numbering a maximum of 12, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros certainly know how to bring out the delicacy in folk music. You would think the larger the number of members, the thicker and more lost the sound would get but they’ve managed to acquire the skill that gives us music which is just as emotive and insightful as, say, early Mumford and Sons, or even First Aid Kit.
On this next single ‘No Love Like Yours’, which is from the upcoming third album ‘PersonA’, the group manage to bring all of their skills to the forefront. What is missing though is the wonderfully harmonised chorus section that wears its heart on sleeve and when that usually is partnered with the sheer size of the band, it swells to create an unstoppable force. That’s not to say the harmonies aren’t here; they certainly are, but it’s a far cry from their breakout hit ‘Home’, so much that it almost feels reserved. Leading man Alex Ebert still manages to use his voice in its most raw and pure form, evoking emotion and as if he’s singing his purest thoughts. When singing, his voice occasionally breaks: it’s barely audible, but when you do hear this, it just adds to the message he’s communicating.
The instrumental driving force behind the track is a tactful combination of intricately plucked guitars and percussion that sits relatively low within the entire mix. Of course, there’s so much more going on, like a slight addition of piano that twinkles lightly above everything, along with the bass supporting the lower end of the track. It all comes together to form a rather pleasing listen that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.
The track doesn’t particularly gather in strength. In the conventional sense, ‘No Love Like Yours’ certainly has a beginning, middle and an end, but it’s all quite flat which doesn’t lend itself to what we’ve normally come to expect from the band. As previously mentioned, it’s certainly a pleasant listen. But let’s hope what the rest of the album has to offer has a bit more to it.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ new single ‘No Love Like Yours’ is out now. Their third album ‘PersonA’ will be released the 15th of April via Community Music Group. To read more on Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros on TGTF, go here.
Header photo: Red Hot Chili Peppers by Ellen Von Unwerth
Along with Glastonbury and Download Festival, there is another festival, or pair of festivals rather, that are a staple of the UK festival scene. Reading and Leeds take place in the August bank holiday weekend, which this year falls on the 26th-28th of August.
Reading Festival is actually one of the UK’s oldest popular music festivals, having been around in its current format since the 1970s. It’s become one of the prime festivals in the indie/rock scene due to its ability to gather some of the biggest names in the industry, as well as the occasional controversial headliner.
This year proves to be no different. The first of the headliners announced were Red Hot Chili Peppers, who need no introduction. They’ve been around for over 30 years, had multiple successful albums and have transcended from hard to funk to rock and everything in between. As a festival exclusive, this is the only place you can see them on the festival circuit this year. Along with the Chili Peppers’ exclusive appearance, Reading / Leeds also have the poster boys of peace and rock Eagles of Death Metal, who after the horrendous events in Paris last year have powered on and united the music world more than ever. Along with ‘Eagles…’, Imagine Dragons and Two Door Cinema Club are also exclusive to Reading / Leeds.
Recently announced to join the bill with Red Hot Chili Peppers, we have a joint headline act with Foals and Disclosure, meaning one act will be the main headline at one site, and at the other site the roles will be reversed. This is particularly exciting because Foals, who have worked from house parties to festival headliner, are infamous for live shows that turn to a frenzy, with leading man Yannis Phillippakis ending up hanging from some form of metalwork or walking above the crowd. This spectacle will be paired alongside electronic brother duo Disclosure, who have had a string of hits that have created a boost of momentum in the dance/electronic movement and brought it back into the minds of the mainstream. It’s worth noting that this pairing is not under festival exclusivity, which means we may be seeing these names elsewhere.
Other notable acts for this gigantic festival are the Brit indie group The 1975, who by August will be on their second album, with their fanbase growing faster and faster. We also have The Courteeners, the Mancunian band keeping the spirit of Britpop and the attitude of Oasis alive, while also keeping it fresh. In fact, calling it Britpop would to be selling their sound short: it’s developmental and massive. They have rousing choruses and songs that can get anyone moving, it’s always a great pleasure seeing The Courteeners on a lineup, and they never disappoint.
With these latest additions, this lineup is certainly looking strong. The newly announced acts have given the festival a much more varied approach, with multiple genres being represented, including hip-hop with Fetty Wap. Now we await the final headline announcement – the safe bet is on Biffy Clyro – and we hope Reading / Leeds keep up the quality and quantity they need to stay ahead of the game in this festival monopoly.
For more information and tickets visit http://www.readingfestival.com or http://www.leedsfestival.com.
Now that we’re into 2016, it’s time to get excited for the year’s festival season. We’d already seen a few of the lineup revealed for Live at Leeds (read this previous preview post), but now we’ve been not as much teased but inundated with over 65 new acts.
Joining the already stellar lineup of Circa Waves, We Are Scientists and Jess Glynne, we have a nice variety of genres being represented, from the small and unsigned to those acts who are well established in the festival circuit.
First of the major players is Ghostpoet (picture at top), who you may remember had his 2015 album ‘Shedding Skin’ nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. His is pretty much the name on the tip of the tongue of anyone involved in the industry at the moment. On playing the festival, Ghostpoet says, “It’s nice to be returning to Live at Leeds after playing it for the first time a few years back. Should be fun!”
Another name everyone should be familiar with is Mystery Jets, who over the past 13 years have been unrelenting in their output. Flirting with a mixture of genres has ensured they always have a fresh sound that’s apt for the time. They’ll no doubt be playing tunes from their latest album effort, ‘Curve of the Earth’, which was released last month.
There’s also Stockport’s Blossoms, who return after a triumphant show at Leeds Uni Stylus last year, as well as coming fourth in BBC’s Sound of 2016 list. They are certainly going to be a crowd pleaser and not to be missed.
Milk Teeth are another band that have been gathering a lot of attention of the past few months. Their style is reminiscent of early 90’s pop-punk with a twinge of grunge, a sound that is slowly making its way back into the mainstream consciousness. Their debut record ‘Vile Child’ is out now on Hopeless Records and will no doubt leave a massive impression on those who manage to catch their show.
Live at Leeds is fast becoming a staple in the festival season and is going from strength to strength. The way this lineup is shaping up, along with announcements for other festivals slowly creeping out into the daylight, 2016 could turn out to be one of the strongest festival seasons yet.
The entire plethora of announced acts can be found on the Live at Leeds Web site. Tickets are still available at http://lunatickets.co.uk/live-at-leeds-2016.html.
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