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Barely 2 weeks after arriving in a new town, having relocated from the Gulf Coast of Florida to the Desert Southwest, I found myself becoming further acquainted with the western end of Interstate Highway 10, driving the 2 hours from Tucson to downtown Phoenix to see The Antlers at the Crescent Ballroom. It seemed fitting that my first trip to a new venue also involved two bands who were both relatively new to me. I discovered The Antlers at the recommendation of our own editor Mary, who asked me to review their recent album ‘Familiars’. (As usual, her sense of what might be my cup of tea was correct. Read the review here, if you haven’t already.) Support act Thus Owls, was completely unfamiliar, except for a quick glance at their Facebook page before I set out for the evening.
Montreal-based Thus Owls is a Canadian-Swedish hybrid based around husband and wife pair Erika and Simon Angell, who are, respectively, Swedish and Canadian. The band’s name is admittedly a bit of an enigma, and Erika Angell took several occasions to remind her audience of it, assuring us that it made sense in their minds when they chose it. Their sound is an appealing blend of fragile Scandinavian etherealism and weightier guitar rock, focused around Mrs. Angell’s delicately beautiful singing voice and flavored with dashes of interesting instrumentation, including one percussion instrument that I was unable to identify.
Thus Owls’ set consisted almost exclusively of songs from their newest album ‘Turning Rocks’, beginning with the title track. The only exception was the exquisite art song ‘I Weed My Garden’, from 2012 album ‘Harbours’, where Mrs. Angell took the opportunity to display her singing voice its fullest effect. She mentioned near the end of the set that the songs on ‘Turning Rocks’ were inspired by stories her grandmother had told her, specifically closing tracks ‘As Long As We Try A Little’ and ‘Smoke Like Birds’. (If you’re interested, ‘Turning Rocks’ was released worldwide in April on Secret City Records and is available on Spotify.)
The audience at the Crescent Ballroom had gradually filled in during Thus Owls’ eight songs, and where I had enjoyed a comfortable amount of personal space at the beginning of the show, I was packed in tight by the time The Antlers took the stage. The hipster college crowd was clearly more familiar with the headline act than I was, judging from the snippets of conversation I overheard, including one person’s self-proclaimed confession that she was “a sucker for a concept album”. She had well and truly come to the right place.
The Antlers opened their set with the opening 3 tracks from the current album ‘Familiars’. The expansive ‘Palace’ was quite literally breathtaking, and from there the band swept without pretense into ‘Doppelgänger’ and my personal favorite groove, ‘Hotel’. I was a little surprised to hear ‘Hotel’ so early in the set, but it turned out that ‘Familiars’ would be more than adequately represented later on.
The set touched on The Antlers’ back catalogue in the middle of the show, including ‘Drift Dive’ from the 2012 EP ‘Undersea’ and 3 songs from their breakthrough album ‘Hospice’: ‘Kettering’, ‘Sylvia’ and a particularly moving performance of ‘Epilogue’. The band played straight through most of the set list without banter, except for the occasional “thank you” from frontman Peter Silberman. They were very deliberate about the proceedings, apparently intending their set to be a continuous sort of Gesamtkunstwerk à la German Romantic composer Richard Wagner.
Unfortunately, the youthful audience were antsy to hear their favorite hit tunes, and a bit of heckling interrupted the flow. A beautiful flute interlude by touring member Kelly Pratt was marred by a punter’s mocking, and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci was enthusiastically complimented on his “amazing” hair. Silberman eventually gave in and acknowledged the distractions, sensing, I assume, that this was the only way to make them stop.
The set proper was symmetrically bookended by the 3 closing tracks from ‘Familiars’, played through without interruption and building to a massive climax at the end. It wasn’t really until this point that I noticed the intensity of Michael Lerner’s drumming, and I was struck again by the sensitivity of his performance in songs that could easily be overwhelmed by too much percussion. All four musicians created a spot-on delivery of the arrangements that worked so beautifully on the album, particularly the extensive brass, which was shared between Pratt and Cicci on either side of the stage.
After the aforementioned heckling, I wasn’t 100% sure that the band would play an encore, but as it turned out, the songs that the crowd had been yelling out for were reserved for last. ‘I Don’t Want Love’ and ‘Putting the Dog to Sleep’, both from 2011 LP ‘Burst Apart’, were the best received songs of the night, even inspiring a bit of singing along from the more dedicated fans at the front of the stage. I didn’t know the lyrics myself, but I found myself succumbing to Silberman’s darkly emotive singing and making a mental note to listen back to the older songs that had brought The Antlers here in the first place.
After the cut: the Antlers’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: The Antlers with Thus Owls at Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ – 17th July 2014
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 21st July 2014 at 12:00 pm
Even though they’re still a relatively new band, I’ve written quite a bit on London five-piece Longfellow already. Having sufficiently impressed me on the strength of early single ‘Siamese Lover’, then in person live in Austin and in conversation at SXSW 2014, I think this group have what it takes to make it.
It seems quite strange in my mind that their current release ‘Prelude’ is being hawked around as a mini-album, as if a full album designation isn’t warranted. While it has only eight tracks and some of these have already seen the light of day (singles ‘Siamese Lover’ and ‘Hug-Kiss-Make Up’), these eight tracks are very good, and although it’s only available digitally as of now, a physical release through their label Fierce Panda will follow the first week of August, just 2 weeks from now.
If you’ve been following Longfellow up to now, their music up to this point has aspired to be majestic indie rock and stadium-filling, which has drawn the band comparisons to their label’s earliest success story, Coldplay. So it is with some surprise that in ‘May the Light’ sees the group calling out to Jesus and breaking out the tambourine to go towards folk. (There is also hints of this in later number ‘Wolf Cry’.) However, that doesn’t last (sorry if that’s your thing, but it’s not my bag). Mini-album opener ‘Polaroid’ is more representative, featuring Ali Hetherington’s winning piano and James Thomas’ guitar lines at the start. Frontman Owen Lloyd’s haunting voice provides an effective counterpoint when virtually alone but melding nicely with the instrumentation in the chorus.
Newer track and album standout ‘Lullaby’ continues this trend. Lloyd’s lyrics as sung in the chorus “stitch me, heal me, help me escape my mortality / bathe me, dress me” weigh heavier than normal for pop music, but you can do nothing but simply appreciate words like these: they indicate the reliance we have for another when we’re in a relationship, and the universality of how our very existence is intertwined with another’s. The bridge of this song shows just how effective their songwriting can be, with just Hetherington’s notes on the ivories and Lloyd’s voice.
The imagery of being washed of sin, or at least the effort to be repentant, is repeated in album closer ‘The Convent’, which begins poignantly, with piano and strings. The song invokes further emotion in the chorus: “And I don’t want to be your heartbeat, I tell you all the time; maybe I’ll sleep tonight / And I don’t want to feel your breathing, pretend you’re not alive; maybe I’ll sleep tonight”. There’s certainly conflict in here, between what is right and wrong, between what feels right and what feels wrong. I have my suspicions on what this song is about, but what’s most important is that we are hearing truly heartwrenching thoughts through the voice of this sweeping song.
‘Lullaby’ and ‘The Convent’ seem to be polar opposites in mood to previous single ‘Siamese Lover’, which just begs for pogoing during the chorus. The words “standing on the edge of the world” seems to indicate there is looming danger and anxiety, but the harmonised emphasis of “don’t lose faith” leaves the listener with optimism. ‘Hug – Kiss – Make Up’, their latest single I reviewed before my last trip to England, rings with similar brightness and now that Longfellow have inked an American label deal with Brooklyn indie Ooh La La Records, with the song’s spectacular bombast, it would be my choice for their debut single here stateside.
Older song ‘Gabrielle’ (promo video at the end of this post) has a memorable melody and rhythm, but even more impressively, it manages to have lyrics that seem on the surface entirely callous with regards to the end of love: “I’m tired of life, I’m always losing / And I don’t want to see her, I just want to see her cry”. In fact are proof that the man that’s singing this to us and telling his story is hurting deeply inside. That’s what I want people take away from this (mini)album: too few musicians these days show us their hearts and make it in this business. Music that stirs true feelings within is not only important but vital to all of us. Buy ‘Prelude’ and prove to the industry just how essential music like this truly is.
‘Prelude’, the first mini-album from London band Longfellow, is out now digitally, with a physical release to follow on the 4th of August on Fierce Panda Records.
By Mary Chang
on Sunday, 20th July 2014 at 10:00 am
It’s kind of a given that Simian Mobile Disco videos will be computer-generated images on a loop and therefore kind of clinical, yeah? So it should come as no surprise that the promo for ‘Tangents’ follows this rule. This song has been released ahead of the band’s forthcoming ‘Whorl’, out on the 9th of September on Anti Records.
Interestingly, we’ve heard that the electronic duo – James Ford and Jas Shaw – put limitations on themselves during the recording of the new LP, only allowing themselves only one rack of modular synth gear and one sequencer each to use. And no computers. At all. Hmm. Only time will tell what this will mean to SMD’s sound on the new release.
By Mary Chang
on Saturday, 19th July 2014 at 10:00 am
Of previous ‘What’s In It For’ fame, Long Beach’s Avi Buffalo have a new music video for ‘So What’, with fantasy sequences on the beach, an office, a house, a desert and a forest. (Sure beats those performance videos, eh?) The song will appear on the band’s next album ‘The Best Cuckold’. Watch it below.
Catch previous coverage of Avi Buffalo on TGTF through this link. They’ll be on tour in October in the UK and Ireland, following the release of ‘The Best Cuckold’ on the 8th of September.
The video for Honeyblood’s latest single ‘Super Rat’ is a deliberately blunt illustration of disastrous messes made from pretty things, including singer Stina Tweeddale and drummer Shona McVicar themselves. The single’s message about scorned romance is made abundantly clear with exploding roses, desserts, and a (presumably) human heart accompanying the spiteful chorus, “I will hate you forever / I will hate you forever / Scumbag sleaze / slimeball grease / You really do disgust me”.
Honeyblood’s self-titled album is out now on Fat Cat Records. They’ve just announced a tour of the UK in September; all the details are this way.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 18th July 2014 at 4:00 pm
I wasn’t sure where to put this on TGTF, as we usually don’t advertise one-off shows, but this was too funny not to share. Bombay Bicycle Club, who earlier this month made the possibly career-chafing comment that they might never play stadium shows again, seem to be doing some damage control.
They’ve gone to the trouble of producing this video to advertising their show at London’s Earl Court on the 13th of December looking back from 25 years into the future, enlisting the help of friends including their lighting tech Squib Swain (in 2039 as a rock historian) and Elbow‘s Guy Garvey, starring as their fan club president. It’s very Rutles-esque. Prepare yourself for belly-aching laughs and watch the video below. Note: avoid if you don’t want to see bass player Ed Nash’s bare behind.
And don’t be confused: tickets to their Earl’s Court show are on sale and are available now.
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