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By Adam McCourt
on Wednesday, 21st December 2016 at 12:00 pm
Northern Ireland native Ciaran Lavery has just released his soon to be iconic live album ‘Live at the Mac’. Recorded December of last year, the album dropped ahead of Lavery finishing a short UK tour, which saw him revisit The Mac 2 years in a row. We don’t usually cover live albums, but since Ciaran only lives up the road from myself, we at TGTF decided we’d make an exception.
Lavery sprung to success after both his debut EP ‘Kosher’ and debut album ‘Not Nearly Dark’ were released in 2014. Two tracks in particular, ‘Left For America’ off the EP and ‘Shame’ from the LP could pinpoint Lavery’s seemingly instant success after racking up an impressive 29 million listens on Spotify, as well as producing many cover versions across the globe. Since then, he hasn’t stopped, as he states himself on his Web site bio, “I have a ridiculous fear of what might happen if I stop moving. I have to keep going”.
‘Live at the Mac’ is Lavery in his purest form. He not only reprises the classic tale of a man and his guitar. But he presents himself in an honest and transparent sonic picture, through the fragile tone of his voice against the-bare boned accompaniment of his own guitar and a string trio. Somewhat reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Live in Sin-é’, on this new album Lavery gathers together a collection of his most notable songs and presents them in the most captivating and moving setting.
The album begins with a short string intro that sways like the wind, as it implies the theme of his first track. Lavery subtly strengthens the string harmony with a light twinkle around the hinted chord progression, before bursting into ‘Awful Love’. A heavily emotional song is definitely the best way to open his set and thus begin the album. And with the added texture of Lavery’s light yet husky voice against the strong constant backbeat he creates with the heavy ghost note as he downstrokes the chords, there is an added element of urgency that gives the song momentum. Having such a stripped-back ensemble, the musical devices and harmonic expression has a lot more impact. You can tell this isn’t a problem for the group, especially within the second verse of ‘Awful Love’, which raises the level of intensity that bit further when the strings switch from the supporting role to a more forward approach with a strong staccato pulse.
Lavery moves from strength to strength, continuing the strong emotions with his highly acclaimed track ‘Left For America’. The thing about it in the live setting is that the strings seem to shed a new light on Lavery’s intentions with the song, their harmonic effects bringing new colour to the track. What seems like a song about change, with an undercurrent of travelling, now reveals the ups and downs within a family relationship. Without the drum groove from the studio version, it allows for the listener – the audience in this case – to completely immerse themselves in Lavery’s heartfelt and seemingly regretful lyrics. What helps to drive the message home, specifically in the chorus, is the juxtaposition of Lavery’s major key-based vocal melody against the delicate counter melody of the strings. Together they imply a sense of desperation similar to the bonds of a family when tested to extremes.
Among the 12 tracks on the album, 3 are covers, one of which is a Christmas song appropriate for this of year. The other two are Bruce Springsteen’s layman’s anthem ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ and Joy Division’s 1980 chart topper ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Lavery and his incredible string section beautifully represent both by portraying them in a far more desperate manner. It seems Lavery has dissected the lyrics of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, found the true message within and felt it worthy to portray it in such a way. The constant pedal drone in the higher register of the strings and the tremolo bowing technique at the end of the track act more like a sound design device than simply a musical addition to the track. The overall effect provokes a sense of unease and assists in driving the true message of the lyrics home.
Throughout the whole album, and considering the very small collection of musicians recorded on stage, the emotional highs and lows implemented are incredible. The gracious string work accompanying Lavery’s visceral vocal tone is stunning. And with the added texture of the clean acoustic guitar equipped with slack and bright-sounding strings, this ensemble is near perfect performing his amazing works.
Ciaran Lavery’s ‘Live at the Mac’ is out now on Believe Recordings. To read more about Lavery, including an interview at SXSW 2016 and coverage of his performances in Austin, go here. At the time of this writing, he is scheduled to be perform at SXSW 2017.
Newcastle quartet and TGTF favourites Boy Jumps Ship have donned their holiday jumpers for a zany new Christmas video. Their cover of ‘All Alone on Christmas’, originally sung by Darlene Love for the film soundtrack ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’, is fairly true to the familiar version written by Steve Van Zandt and backed by the famous E Street Band, but predictably, it leans more toward laid-back guitar rock than rapturous gospel vocals. It’s hard to say whether the Boy Jumps Ship lads might have had more fun recording the track or re-enacting the scenes from ‘Home Alone 2’ in their promo video. Either way, this will be sure to put you in the mood for hot cocoa and classic Christmas movies.
You can read more about Boy Jumps Ship on TGTF right through here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 20th December 2016 at 6:00 pm
For the song ‘Hang Me Out to Dry’ off the latest Metronomy album, Joseph Mount teamed up with Swedish electropop queen Robyn. This gives us some idea of what would happen if Mount gave up Metronomy to simply collaborate with other artists. As it is one of the more prominent tracks from the new LP, it makes sense he’d eventually release the video for the song.
Somewhat not surprisingly for a release that Mount himself said he would never tour to support – a statement subsequently negated by the announcement of a May 2017 UK tour – he (nor Robyn for that matter) appears in this new promo video. Directed by Paris/Montreal filmmaking collective Dent de Cuir, the video allows us to follow the recollections of a women through the scenes she sees reflected back to her off the surface of her ’70s era muscle car and the scenes she sees while sat driving it. Here’s what the collective had to say about their new artistic work:
A great man of cinema once said: ‘All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.’ We just swapped the gun for a car.This concept offered a great metaphor: love is just a car ride. But let’s cut the crap here, we did all of this for one reason: to put a check mark over ‘burning a 70s Dodge Aspen’ on our bucket list. We were surprised to see how simple it was to play with the practical image distortions on a car, and we also learnt that firefighters are the most efficient pyromaniacs in the world.
The great man they refer to is French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. Regardless of how you feel about Gallic artistic expression, we all have ghosts in our past that we wish to exorcise, don’t we? While its conclusion seems a bit of a waste, the message of the video echoes the title of Welsh synthpop band Cut Ribbons‘ debut album: ‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’. To read much more on Metronomy on TGTF (we have a pretty hefty archive on them), use this link.
When it comes to Libertine and all round British poet/musician/artist Peter Doherty, you’ll often find divided opinion. There are those who are enamoured by his reckless yet gentlemanly demeanour, whilst the other side of the spectrum simply cannot stand him for both those reasons. Wherever you sit on this line, you can’t deny Doherty has written some of the most memorable songs of the last 10+ years with The Libertines. After the infamous splitting of said band, he then formed Babyshambles, a band that had almost as many ups and down as his prior, but without the immediate success. Now here we are with the second Doherty solo album, the follow-up to 2009’s ‘Grace/Wastelands’.
Doherty’s infatuation with Britannia always lends itself to his musical output. He does a sterling job of crafting songs filled with tales of the down and out, the shit on society’s shoe, but he also manages to romanticise it like no-one else. First track ‘Kolly Kibber’ is referencing a character from Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock – immediately we’re thrown into a picture of both woe and British romanticism. A much more folky sound – acoustic guitars, quiet drums, piano and bass – turns the song into a classic folk tale rather than a rock ditty, which he favours throughout the entire album. The choice of a folk direction allows the focus to fall upon his words, of which he certainly cannot be disputed at being a master of. On the occasion where electric instruments do make an appearance, they’re used with the same minimalist acoustic, with their only purpose to give a harsher edge to accommodate the darkness found in songs such as ‘Down for the Outing’.
There’s certainly a sense that this solo album feels to have more of a focused, sober Doherty at the helm. ‘Birdcage’ is seemingly self-referencing, putting Doherty in a birdcage where the world is able to simple look and judge him, which is inevitably detrimental to his personal relationships. “Only love can bring the secrets of simplicity”: in so few words, Doherty manages to encapsulate a feeling that is impossible to recreate in anyway other than actually falling in love. This carefree and focused turn your mind takes in this state of bliss, where a serenity envelops you. Perhaps, in an almost satirical way, he next focuses upon the choices the youth of America have to make. “Come on boys, you gotta choose your weapon, J-45 or AK-47”. You can hear in his voice that he’s both fully invested in the message of peace and also in just having a good time.
Reaching a poignant moment, ‘Flags Of The Old Regime’ was previously heard back in 2011 after Doherty’s friend Amy Winehouse’s death. Reserved and fragile, the lyrics cut particularly deep when you consider the circus that enveloped and encouraged Winehouse and other celebrities who have gone down a road to ruin: “The fame they stone you with, you soldiered it, and made your fortune, but you broke inside”. Your emotions grow listening to this song, knowing that Doherty himself could’ve succumbed to the tragedy that befell Winehouse. His voice breaks through the gentle cadence he uses, with the final words supporting his recent sobriety, “let’s have it right, we all know the score, we’ve been up for nights, stood behind the door, sparkle on the floor, I don’t wanna die anytime”.
A heart on sleeve gentleness hits with early single ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)’. He uses mostly repetitive lyrics, though when he breaks out of this cycle, Doherty describes love in his unique way, with a raw and unbridled hurt. Perhaps most surprising is the third verse when American Civil war song ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ is introduced. ‘The Whole World is Our Playground’ is more of Doherty’s romantic yearn and hurt, but it’s on finale ‘She is Far’ where these topics take things to a whole new level. Quiet and reserved, he paints pictures of lovers and memories of London, memories that are fading away.
Doherty at a reserved level such as this is a blessing. It shows exactly why he is a gem to British music. Doherty proves on ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ he can play both erratic rockstar and forlorn folk singer with such ease that those who have sought to condemn him would do well to reconsider upon hearing this new album.
‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ is out now on BMG. To read more of TGTF’s coverage on Peter Doherty, follow this link
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 20th December 2016 at 9:00 am
Bridlington duo Jack Sedman and multi-instrumentalist Harry Draper, better known under their act’s name Seafret, have announced a handful of tour dates in England for next year. The pair, who have made their name off their unique blend of acoustic and electronic sounds, released their debut album ‘Tell Me It’s Real’ at the start of 2016. (You can read our Steven’s review of this exemplary long player through this link. It’s available now from Sweet Jane / Columbia Records.) Tickets to this short English tour next March are on sale now. To read more of our coverage on Seafret, who starred in a past Communion New Faces autumn tour, head here.
Monday 6th March 2017 – Brighton Komedia Studio Bar
Tuesday 7th March 2017 – Oxford Bullingdon
Wednesday 8th March 2017 – Nottingham Bodega
Thursday 9th March 2017 – Manchester Sound Control
Friday 10th March 2017 – Leeds Wardrobe
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 19th December 2016 at 6:00 pm
Nottingham four-piece Amber Run have announced details of their sophomore album. ‘For A Moment, I Was Lost’, a new 12-track collection from the Midlands group, will be released on the 10th of February 2017 on Easy Life Records. To be included on the new long player will be previously unveiled singles ‘Haze’ and ‘Stranger’.
Tonight, we have for you another exciting cut from the upcoming effort. ‘No Answers’ goes through phases, beginning gently before turning anthemic and then ultimately loud and rip-roaringly unapologetic. Watch the live performance video of the song below. For much more on Amber Run as covered here on TGTF, go here.