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Header photo by Ian West
For most of his adult life, Barry Hyde has been best known as the guitar-playing frontman for Sunderland post-punk group The Futureheads. To the outside world as the leader of the North East band, he was an irrepressible ball of energy, his charisma and crazy antics onstage legendary. When I saw the band live in 2010, he even went so far to send me a direct message on Twitter, promising they’d knock my socks off at the Black Cat.
To Hyde himself, the stage, ‘turned on’ version of himself served as a cover for the confusion and instability within. It would take years and a series of fateful incidents – including an ill-advised period of ‘dropping out’ with meditating yoga devotees that actually did more harm to his mental health than good, as well as the dissolution of his marriage – before he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
But mental illness is an insidious beast. At the worst of times, destruction seems an easier path than rebuilding. Somehow, from hell and back and with the continued support of family and friends, Barry Hyde has survived. He’s come through and out the other side intact but with a better appreciation for life and his own resilience, knowing what trials his psyche has been through. Released today, Hyde’s labour of love, the evidence of his survival, is contained in his debut solo album ‘Malody’, a term he coined to combine his two worlds of music (melody) and illness (malady).
Though this album originated as a vampire musical that was rejected by his Futurehead bandmates, you can still hear whiffs of its operatic early beginnings. The biggest surprise about ‘Malody’ to longtime Futureheads fans will be its focus on piano as the primary instrument instead of guitar. Hyde proves that the piano – along with some incredible backing by an orchestral six-piece – can be a powerful musical device, mirroring the emotional depth he explores against himself, within himself, of his journey back from the abyss and in his continued survival.
Hyde begins our journey with him with the generically titled ‘Theme’, as if we’re about to be treated to a film. Who is it that said, “my life is a movie”? Like how 19-year old Crohn’s disease sufferer Aimee Rouski proved this week that invisible illnesses should be shared and given attention, ‘Theme’ is a nice start to show sometimes things aren’t what they seem, as then the album goes into the frenetic piano playing of ‘Blixer’. Showing the agitated side of his illness, Hyde says of the song, “it burns my arm when I play it, but it has to because I was burning my soul when I was manic.” One of the most difficult things for people who don’t suffer mental illness to understand is that the manifestations are out of the sufferer’s control. That fact makes it all the worse, because the only action that makes sense for the person to take is the one that feels right to him and his body at that moment.
On the whirling dervish that is ‘Monster Again’, Barry Hyde tackles head on the inherent evil of manic depression, not knowing what mood he will be in throughout the day. Will he feel fine, or will he suddenly change and feel like a different person, out of control? Those with chronic illness are united with the knowledge that there are good days and there are bad days, and even with the best of intentions, taking medication properly and getting proper rest, there are great unknowns and trials to face ahead. Knowing what I know about Barry’s mental state, the challenging, in your face nature of 2010 Futureheads album ‘The Chaos’ now makes total sense. (It’s one of my favourite albums ever.) How funny that even without knowing it on a conscious level, I entirely related to its many moods because unbeknowst to me, I had something in common with their singer. Constructed by Hyde as a direct confrontation to the psychic leeches that sap a bipolar patient’s mental energy, ‘Sugar’ is a much more personal, elegant version of Katy Perry’s ‘Hot and Cold’:
I knew you
Rub my face
In to the mud
But then you wrap me
In your silken gown
’cause when you took my heart
You also took my frown
Back-to-back tracks of ‘Lonely’ and ‘Loneliness’ highlight the ability of such an illness and its manifestations to isolate the patient from the rest of the world. Both have moments of seeming serenity, then punctuated by louder, jauntier expressions of the other side of the coin. A cover of Prince’s ‘Sometimes It Snows in April’, particularly poignant with the Purple One’s passing several weeks ago, continues the Futureheads’ impressive tradition of wonderfully reimagined versions of their originals. This one, along with ‘While We Were Sleeping’, drives home the fact that despite any crazy antics others may witness, those with mental illness are some of the most emotionally insightful people who will ever grace your life.
“You run away like you don’t belong / under the weather, under the sun”, Hyde sings in the album’s grand closer ‘Thunder Song’. In this emotionally raw debut album ‘Malody’, he has bared all, pulling back the curtain on those who have been misunderstood, confused, ill and made lonely. We still have a long way to go in erasing all stigma in mental illness. But in this astonishing display of honesty about his own struggles, Barry Hyde has proved in a powerful way and in the best way he knows how – through music – that there is a way back home again.
‘Malody’, the emotional solo debut album by Barry Hyde, is out today on Sirenspire Records. This editor hopes with all her heart that he will make it out to America someday soon to perform these songs live.
If the term sleazy could ever have a soundtrack that wouldn’t make the average listener cringe upon every listen, then this would be it. ‘Get My Bang’ is the first taste of new material from Kendal band Wild Beasts, and it’s a perfectly constructed take on the culture bred into us to sell ourselves to our desires, both emotionally and physically. It’s filled to the brim with swagger and ludicrously perfect phrasing (for example, “let the players play, it’s the boys’ birthday, if they’re hungry then just let them eat cake”). Absolutely filthy rich in the kind of innocence that almost eludes the song’s clear intended subject.
The instrumentation takes the normal Wild Beasts sound to a whole new level. The most notable here is having a repetitive but alarmingly addictive drum beat that retains the same rhythmic sensation as the dastardly act itself. Around this, there’s a bass line that serves just one purpose, and that is to be an antithesis to the melody created by everything else within the mix. It lies dead centre, mildly overbearing, but at no point is it unwelcome. Intricacy is a valuable asset to this track, with synthesiser and guitar riffs cutting through to add a indelible touch and a sharper dimension.
Vocals are another key player, with Hayden Thorpe performing an absurdly perfect falsetto that marries perfectly with the higher end of the track. It’s the synthesisers that give the song its body, creating an undertone to his vocals, pushing them above everything else ever so slightly. It’s a touch that shows the ability of Wild Beasts and their clear mind in composing damn good pop songs.
The entire sound totals the equivalent of Queens of the Stone Age having an affair with Modest Mouse. In every way, it’s deliciously sexy, dark and most of all, it’s fun. You’ll find yourself listening to it on repeat not even realising you’re moving your body in time with those assertive drums. If the rest of the upcoming album ‘Boy King’ is anything like this then Wild Beasts are going to find themselves in the spotlight extremely fast.
‘Get My Bang’ is out now. Wild Beasts’ forthcoming album ‘Boy King’ is out the 5th of August on Domino Records. For more of Wild Beasts on TGTF, head here.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 2nd June 2016 at 6:00 pm
Punky art-rock collective Arrows of Love are gearing up to release their second album, the follow-up to their debut ‘Everything’s F*cked’ on 1-2-3-4 Records. ‘PRODUCT’ has the distinction of having been funded by the prestigious PRS Foundation Momentum Music Fund, and now they’re ready to unveil the first taster from the sophomore effort.
‘Toad’ is out now on Tape Records and on limited edition vinyl and tape formats on Strong Island Recordings. The single is loud and uncompromising, and the accompanying promo video is as chaotic as their sound is. Watch and listen to ‘Toad’ below. For more on Arrows of Love around their appearance at SXSW 2015, go here.
Back in April, Irish indie rock quartet Enemies stopped in for a visit to Chicago’s Audiotree studios, just after their appearance in Austin for SXSW 2016. The band were in fine form on the day, and their energetic Audiotree Live session displayed a masterful combination of technical precision, spirited musicality and charismatic banter between songs. Though they rather surprisingly skipped over their recent single ‘Play Fire’, the band members were asked to elaborate on the making of the song’s rather acrobatic accompanying video. (If you haven’t seen it already, you can watch it here.)
The full video of Enemies’ Audiotree performance, which you can watch just below, was released for public viewing in mid-May. It includes the intricate instrumental interplay of three extended tracks from their 2013 album ‘Embark, Embrace’, ‘Indian Summer’, ‘Coral Castle’, and ‘Love Unlimited’, as well as older track ‘We’ve Been Talking’. To view photos from the live session, or to buy your own download of the audio, visit Audiotree directly by clicking here.
TGTF’s previous coverage of Enemies is right back here. We’ve also covered drummer Micheál Quinn’s other project, avant/experimental collective Meltybrains?, right here.
Annelotte de Graaf, better known under her stage name Amber Arcades, has led a pretty interesting life so far. I touched upon some of this in my Bands to Watch feature on her following her appearance at SXSW 2016. De Graaf’s serious endeavours are contrasted with the gentle nature of Amber Arcades’ music: De Graaf previously worked as a legal aide, and she is currently working in human rights law with people who have fled from Syria. On the musical front, the Dutch singer/songwriter decided that she would record her first album in New York, spending her life savings on a flight to the city where she would create ‘Fading Lines’. Shane Butler and Keven Lareau of Quilt and Jackson Pollis of Real Estate provide guitar, bass and drums respectively for the album, with Meg Duffy providing additional slide guitar on the track ‘Apophenia’.
De Graaf says she was inspired by “time, continuity, coincidence and magic”, and the album certainly encompasses this abstract range of influences. ‘Fading Lines’ is a shimmering, dreamy and stylistic collection of music,10 songs in length, and produced by Ben Greenberg at Strange Weather studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It’s full of hypnotic synth beats, dreamy vocals and twanging guitars. The album opens with the enigmatic ‘Come With Me’, a bright, dream-folk number that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The folksy feel runs throughout the LP, with blues and country influences appearing in varying degrees throughout, along with otherworldly synth sounds and steady drum rhythms. This combination comes together to create a collection of music that is modest, ethereal and captivating.
‘Right Now’ is a standout on the album. With its dreamy folk aura and rattling guitars, it’s easy to see why it was shared ahead of the album’s release. It’s the type of song that doesn’t sound like it’s fixed or limited to a particular time or place. As De Graaf sings “right now” over and over in the chorus, you can imagine it being relatable to anyone. As with ‘Fading Lines’, the guitars are a predominant feature here, as they crisply ring throughout the track, matching well with the unearthly melody of De Graaf’s voice. ‘Apophenia’ begins gently and simply, before introducing a country resonance in the form of the mournful rhythm of the slide guitar that picks up towards the end of the track. De Graaf’s vocals are paired with stripped back, ethereal sounds: it’s a subdued interlude after the enigmatic ‘Right Now’. Title track ‘Fading Lines’ begins with a bright jingle of guitars, met with a gentle drumbeat and De Graaf’s enticing vocals. The lyrics “I look around / nothing’s what it seems” speak of the slightly surreal nature of the track, which plays out like a whimsical dream full of spiralling guitars.
‘Turning Light’, the penultimate song, is the other of the two singles that were released ahead of the LP. The subdued drumbeat and ghostly sounds that fade in and out throughout the track form an enchanting and mysterious picture, but with lyrics that hint at a more serious theme: “we saw the ending / before it had arrived”. The album finishes up with ‘White Fuzz’, a haunting, crisp track with De Graaf’s vocals standing out against the music. It’s a tender end to the album, beginning with the lyrics ‘if only we could stay the same’, speaking to anyone that’s hesitantly undergone a life change.
‘Fading Lines’ is one of those albums to listen to during your downtime in the evenings while unwinding after a stressful day. It’s an evocative and wistful collection of bright tunes and softer moments and an altogether impressive debut from De Graaf.
‘Fading Lines’ is scheduled for release on the 3rd of June on Heavenly Recordings.The rest of the year will see De Graaf at a variety of festivals across Europe from Green Man in the Brecon Beacons in Wales to Amsterdam Woods Festival. For more on Amber Arcades on TGTF, go here.
Catfish and the Bottlemen have just announced a new list of tour dates in the UK following last Friday’s release of their sophomore album ‘The Ride’. The band are currently on tour in North America but will return to the UK for a long list of summer festival appearances, including T in the Park and Tramlines in July and Belsonic in August.
Van McCann and company will play live dates in London and Glasgow on their November tour, as well as stopping for a two-night run in Manchester on the 9th and 10th of the month. Tickets for the following shows will go on general sale tomorrow, Friday the 3rd of June, at 10 AM. TGTF’s previous coverage of Catfish and the Bottlemen can be found here.
Saturday 5th November 2016 – Derby Arena
Sunday 6th November 2016 – Bournemouth BIC
Wednesday 9th November 2016 – Manchester Victoria Warehouse
Thursday 10th November 2016 – Manchester Victoria Warehouse
Sunday 13th November 2016 – Glasgow SECC Arena Hall 3
Tuesday 15th November 2016 – London Wembley Arena
Thursday 17th November 2016 – Coventry Ricoh Arena