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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 22nd September 2016 at 6:00 pm
It’s been an age since we’ve heard a peep out of Tall Ships. The Brighton hard-rocking band – now a quartet – haven’t released any new material since early 2015, so we’re pleased to hear they’ve returned. As its title suggests, ‘Meditations on Loss’ is meant to have an introspective bent. However, as previous Tall Ships releases, the new song has a loud, full freneticism that comes across as anthemic.
The accompanying video according to the band, is meant to “represent the futility of existence…The sprint from birth to death and the constant questioning of what we’re running from, for or to. The video was directed by, and features, close friends and family.” Indeed, this promo was directed by Tall Ships frontman Ric Phethean’s brother Ben. Ric’s cousin Tama also makes a guest appearance in the video. Watch the heart-pounding video for ‘Meditations on Loss’ below. The band will be also be returning to the road, supporting Cambridge group Lonely the Brave on tour in the UK in October and also make an appearance at Manchester’s Neighbourhood Festival on the 8th of October. For more on the Brighton band on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 22nd September 2016 at 4:00 pm
Melbourne electronic soul group SAFIA released their debut album ‘Internal’ merely a fortnight ago. Read my review of their long player through this link. Back in June, 3 months prior to the release of ‘Internal’, the band took a trip to blighty, stopping in London for a Sofar Sounds show there. The below video is of the Aussie trio performing their single ‘Counting Sheep’ (about what else, insomnia!) in a stripped back fashion. While the song doesn’t appear on ‘Internal’ – it was released as a single in its own right in early 2015 – this should be solid proof to any naysayers just how beautiful and perfect frontman Ben Woolner’s lead vocals are when isolated. Watch the arresting performance below. For read more of TGTF’s coverage on SAFIA over the last year and a half, follow this link.
By Adam McCourt
on Thursday, 22nd September 2016 at 12:00 pm
Having just passed their 12th year anniversary as a band, with two previously released studio albums including their critically acclaimed self-titled second album from 2014, these girls need no introduction. However, with their third album out in less than 24 hours, I suppose it won’t hurt to shout out… Fully female L.A. based dream pop four-piece Warpaint are set to release their eagerly awaited third studio album ‘Heads Up’, due out tomorrow on Rough Trade Records. In announcing the album, the girls released an accompanying single, ironically titled ‘New Song’ back in August (read my review here).
After an interview in NME surfaced in March 2015 stating that Warpaint didn’t want to do another album, fans thought this day would never come, especially as the statement was backed up by the band taking somewhat of a hiatus to work on their own solo projects throughout the whole of 2015. During which time, bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg released a solo album titled ‘Right On’, reviewed by Carrie back here. After regrouping in early 2016, not just with each other but also with former producer Jacob Bercovici (who produced their 2009 debut EP ‘Exquisite Corpse’), the band wasted no time. By May of this year, the record was done and what an album it truly is.
‘Heads Up’ explores a mature side of Warpaint, and in ways previous efforts lacked. Rather than providing a sonic overload within each song, the quartet managed to simplify their approach to song writing, which gives a lot more time and space to absorb the sweet vibes their providing . This approach is apparent when listening to the album opener ‘White Out’. If you listened to the bass, guitar and drums in isolation, each hint at totally separate directions to the next, with very subtle connections to each other within note choices and rhythmic patterns. But when taken as a unit, they work perfectly together.
The guitar is the constant in this case, taking somewhat of a backseat role following its introduction. As the bass and drums dance around it with rather busy yet poppy patterns, Kokal’s vocals sprinkle the track with an equally upbeat topline produced by her imperfectly sensual vocal tone. The bass specifically gives the impression that it’s locking with the vocal rhythm more so than the drum pattern, which, although is quite rare in pop, it pays off and helps strengthen the top line. The drums within ‘White Out’ have a higher level of complexity, ironic given that for a lot of beginning writing sessions for the album Stella Mozgawa wrote her parts on sample pads and drum machines, due to an injury that left her unable to physically play. With this in mind we must applaud her, every pattern is played for a reason. The ghost notes aren’t for flair, they add that extra burst of movement to the track, whilst the off beat, dynamic contrasts on the hi-hats keep the listener hooked from start to finish.
‘By Your Side’ showcases what we know and love about Warpaint’s blended voices, an unconventional style of harmony in today’s pop music. The girls sing about what sounds like being in a relationship with a cheater, but with a darker, slightly sinister twist. The lack of repetition within the music and a topline that’s shared between two or more members causes the focus of the song to wander, a purposely unclear melody used to great effect. The track oozes a creepy, ‘you fuck with us, we’ll fuck with you’ side Warpaint unseen until now.
Further down the album, tracks such as ‘So Good’ and title track ‘Heads Up’ could easily be considered modern day alt-pop gems. The diatonic harmony within provides an easy to grasp understanding of the music that, combined with the fun, poppy grooves, gives both of these numbers commercial appeal. The focus towards electronic elements and the vocals sway these tracks, and the record for that matter, away from being so heavily guitar orientated, the way ‘The Fool’ and ‘Warpaint’ were. Lindberg put it best, by describing the new material as “an evolution of our band. It sounds like a mature version of Warpaint”. The ‘get in, get to the point and get to the next track’ approach of ‘Heads Up’ as an album is a great mark of their newfound professionalism.
Underestimating how far these four will go to provoke various emotions within a record would be a mistake. ‘Dre’, aside from being somewhat of an ode to influential American hip-hop producer Dr. Dre, is one that physically and sonically takes you by surprise eight songs into the album. Following the deeply emotive ‘Don’t Let Go’, ‘Dre’ has a huge, industrial sounding drum part that paves the way for an eerily beautiful, long-held chord progression that never seems to rest. With the pads acting as the foundations for the harmony, it leaves the window completely open for all remaining elements to create a sonic picture of what it would be like if Dr. Dre collaborated with Warpaint.
Easily Warpaint’s most diverse effort to date, ‘Heads Up’ shows these ladies are equally at home with abstract, avant garde sounds (‘By Your Side’) and poppish new wave (‘So Good’). The new rule of no overthinking works fully in their favour, which in turn gives us a clearer view into the true soul of Warpaint.
Heads up! ‘Heads Up’ is due out tomorrow, the 23rd of September, on Rough Trade Records. If you’re as excited about it as I am, you’ll already have it on pre-order. Warpaint are currently on tour in the U.S., which will be followed by with a short string of dates in UK and Europe. Find out whether they’re coming to you and get your tickets through this link. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Warpaint, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 21st September 2016 at 6:00 pm
Popular Irish rock trio Bell X1 have finally settled on a release date for their long anticipated next album. ‘Arms’, their seventh album and the follow-up to 2013’s ‘Chop Chop’, will be out on the 14th of October. To celebrate the upcoming release, the band have released the promo video for ‘Out of Love’, created by visual artists Louise Gaffney and Cian McKenna.
Gaffney’s abstract ideas have combined successful in this video via McKenna’s visual artist background and motion-graphic designing. The quirky design of the video reflects well the offbeat nature and almost tropical feel of the Dubliners’ song. Watch it below. In addition to a previously announced dates in London in November and in Australia in December, they’ve also announced four dates in Ireland proper; to view all their upcoming live dates, visit their official Web site.For more on Bell X1 on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 21st September 2016 at 4:00 pm
Sheffield group The Crookes have been spending quite a bit of time on our side of the pond this year to promote their fourth album. ‘Lucky Ones’, released at the end of January on their own label Anywhere Records in the UK and Modern Outsider in North America. You can read Carrie’s thoughts on the long player through this link.
During their time in our country playing their own shows and supporting San Franciscan band Geographer, they took advantage of the relative exotic locales they visited, including SXSW 2016 and a redwood forest, videotaping their tour shenanigans. Guitarist and lyricist Daniel Hopewell played editor on the footage, resulting in this mashup of clips set to album track ‘The Lucky Ones’. Watch it below. For more of TGTF’s back catalogue of coverage on The Crookes, go here.
Less than a month ago, I reviewed American producer and songwriter Butch Walker‘s outstanding new album ‘Stay Gold’, and my lasting impression of the record was that these yearning, high energy anthems would better suited to live performance than the relative constraints of a studio recording. Based on that impression, I trekked westward last weekend to Los Angeles, to catch Walker live at the relatively unknown Teragram Ballroom. Though this was the penultimate show on Walker’s current tour, his enthusiasm and energy were in full force, and the audience in his adopted hometown were equally excited to see him grace this stage.
Walker’s support act on the night, The Wind and the Wave, are a country-rock duo from Austin, Texas, comprising guitarist Dwight Baker and singer/songwriter Patty Lynn. They released their first album ‘From the Wreckage’ back in 2014, and their second LP ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ (produced, perhaps not coincidentally, by Butch Walker) is due out on the 28th of October. Naturally, their opening set was somewhat abbreviated and focused on the new songs, touching only briefly on a pair of older tracks, ‘My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head’ and ‘This House is a Hotel’. But their energy and charisma on stage seemed to grow exponentially as they went along, and they made their own strong impression with both the title track from ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ and more recent single ‘Grand Canyon’.
The music on the PA system between sets, laced with throwback television theme tunes from the 1980s including ‘Magnum, P.I.’ and ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, seemed designed to set a retrospective mood for the headline show. Indeed, Butch Walker’s new album ‘Stay Gold’ has a decided undercurrent of nostalgia in the aggressive pulse of its songs, and he constructed his entire set list on the night around a theme of reminiscence and reflection.
Walker and his band took the stage and opened their set by tearing through the first four tracks from ‘Stay Gold’ at breakneck pace, starting with the title track and proceeding in order through ‘East Coast Girl’, ‘Wilder in the Heart’ and ‘Ludlow Expectations’. For my money, this opening sequence was the most effective part of the show, partly because these were the songs I was personally most familiar with, but also because Walker and his colleagues proved my own initial hypothesis correct, and in a most emphatic fashion.
The Wind and the Wave’s Patty Lynn made the first cameo appearance of the evening when she returned to the stage to duet with Walker on ‘Descending’, the next track in the ‘Stay Gold’ sequence. Walker took a seat at the piano for this song, giving Lynn center stage, and though their voices blended nicely together, it was the raw emotion in Walker’s delivery that came across as singularly captivating.
From that point forward, Walker dived deeper into his catalogue of older favourites, much to the delight of his diehard fans. The smouldering vocal quality of ‘Descending’ carried over into an intensely sensual performance of standout track ‘Bed on Fire’, from previous album ‘Afraid of Ghosts’. Striking a lighter note, Walker then thrilled the “California girls” in the crowd with his spur-of-the-moment geographical adjustments to the lyrics of ‘Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find’, from 2011 album ‘The Spade’.
Walker introduced his next cameo guest simply as “Jake Sinclair of the Black Widows”. The Black Widows, for those not already in the know, were Walker’s band from a few years back, with whom he released two albums, ‘I Liked it Better When You Had No Heart’ (2010) and ‘The Spade’. Sinclair did play in the band and garnered production credits on both albums, but they might not be his greatest claim to fame—he’s worked more recently with Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, and Fall Out Boy. On this night, though, he and Walker fit comfortably back into their old groove, performing the humorously self-deprecating (and surprisingly pop-oriented) ‘Synthesizers’. Sinclair seemed mildly surprised and greatly amused when Walker segued briefly into ‘Come On, Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, asking aloud, “Are you really still doing this schtick?” But Walker’s high spirits were undeterred by his protégé’s momentary insolence, and his audience, familiar with the routine and roaring with laughter, were more than happy to play along.
Walker and his talented entourage of backing musicians touched on two other covers late in their set, a vocally harmonised version of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ and a fleeting allusion to The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’. But the real showstopper of the night was a final cameo by Walker’s young son James. James is apparently a regular fixture at his dad’s gigs, and though he appeared to be a bit sleepy, he showed no signs of stage fright as he regaled us with a song and a joke of his own. (Q: Which pencil won the art contest? A: It was a draw!)
Walker and his band didn’t break for a formal encore at the end of the show, playing straight through ‘The 3 Kids in Brooklyn’ and ‘Hot Girls in Good Moods’ before leaving the stage. But Walker did indulge himself in a final solo appearance, holding forth on the virtue of times and places past, especially the fading tradition of browsing through brick-and-mortar music stores. He made the rather unusual choice of leaving us on a pensive note with ’Stay Gold’ track ‘Record Store’, but then again, by that point, he’d already established a memorable and lasting impression.
The Wind and the Wave set list:
Butch Walker set list:
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