By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 18th November 2015 at 6:00 pm
It’s Wednesday, the most hohum day of the week. You’re still wistful about the last weekend and you aren’t any closer to the next. We feel your pain. This will give you the kick in the rear you need.
Where could you have more fun than acting like a kid again in an indoor playground? In this new promo for ‘Missing Persons’, Asylums‘ most recent single released last month? More poppy (no pun intended) and accessible than previous single the Enemy and Ash. (I’ve jumped around onstage with the Enemy before, so I’m confident they are ready.) Watch the free-for-all video for ‘Missing Persons’ below.
I’ve never imagined hell as being a warm and sunny place, but in the hands of Kip Berman and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it becomes pleasantly balmy and inviting, if only for a very brief time. The band’s concise new EP ‘Hell’ takes its title from its only original tune, which Berman says is “about how insufferable performances of sensitivity are when there’s a good song playing and someone you want to dance with.” The song ‘Hell’ is pure ephemeral pop, with a peppy beat and a jaunty guitar riff under Berman’s nonchalant vocals. His breezy, disaffected delivery of the chorus line “now we’re going to hell, oh well’ effectively sums up his stated meaning without too much further elaboration.
‘Ballad of the Band’ is equally sunny and upbeat, bathing itself in the ’80s-style irony of setting wryly self-conscious lyrics to cleanly melodic and engagingly jaunty music. The Pains’ cover isn’t vastly different to the original by Birmingham alt-pop band Felt, the main change being a subtle shift in the instrumentation, minimizing the carnival style keyboards and instead putting emphasis on the guitar melody.
The final track on the EP is another cover, again not particularly experimental, but this one more overtly bitter and mildly punk rock in its styling. Vocals for ‘Laid’ (originally by Manchester rock band James) are here provided by Jen Goma, lead singer for A Sunny Day in Glasgow, who also sang some of the most memorable moments on the Pains’ last full length album ‘Days of Abandon’. Her delivery here is grittier and more forceful than what I’ve heard from her in the past, omitting the James version’s falsetto vocal melisma on the repeated word “pretty” and opting instead for a low growl that seems somehow appropriate for a cover that takes quite literally the song’s lyric about “messing around with gender roles.” Before you dive into the new version, you can have a listen to the original just below.
The ‘Hell’ EP was released in conjunction with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s November live dates, which included a show in London earlier this month before the band headed around the globe to Asia. They’ve just wrapped up a pair of shows in Japan and will play the Clockenflap Festival in Hong Kong and the Neon Lights Festival in Singapore at the end of the month. The digital-only ‘Hell’ EP is available now via the band’s one-off label Painbow.
If the brevity of the new EP leaves you wanting more from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, you can check out our archive of coverage on the band right back here.
Synth pop trio Saint Etienne have announced a Christmas tour for this December, along with news of two special releases to accompany the upcoming live dates. Fan club release ‘A Glimpse of Stocking’ has been made available for the first time on vinyl in a 2,000-copy limited edition, and previously unreleased track ‘We Survived’, recorded in 1984, is available in an even more limited 300-copy edition. In addition to selling the discs in their Web shop, Saint Etienne will sell 25 copies of ‘We Survived’ – first come, first served – at each show on their Christmas docket.
Each show on the December tour will feature a different support act, as noted below, as well as special guest DJs on each night. Tickets for the following shows are available now.
You can find TGTF’s past coverage of Saint Etienne right back this way.
Tuesday 8th December 2015 – Gateshead Sage (with Warm Digits)
Wednesday 9th December 2015 – Manchester Albert Hall (with Whyte Horses)
Thursday 10th December 2015 – Wakefield Unity Hall (with Galaxians)
Friday 11th December 2015 – Croydon Fairfield Halls (with Pre New and Kero Kero Bonito)
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 17th November 2015 at 6:00 pm
As I’ve been grooving to the new Leftfield album ‘Alternative Light Source’ that was released back in June, which includes the single ‘Bilocation’ starring Channy Leaneagh, I couldn’t help wonder when experimental electronic group Polica would be back in action.
Wonder no more. A new Polica album is on its way in early March (hrm, is that a prominent SXSW 2016 appearance I smell?), and they’ve released the first teaser from the album, ‘Lime Habit’. What I really like about this is how minimal the background instrumentation is in its blips and beeps, allowing Leaneagh’s vocals to shine. Definitely the better 2015 lime-themed track than Glass Animals‘ ‘Gold Lime’ (sorry, guys). Watch the simple yet effective promo video for ‘Lime Habit’ below.
Polica’s third album ‘United Crushers’ will be released on the 4th of March 2016 on Memphis Industries (UK) / Mom+Pop (US) / Pod + Inertia.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 16th November 2015 at 6:00 pm
Call me completely crazy, but American dream pop purveyors A Sunny Day in Glasgow – especially singers Jen Goma and Anne Fredrickson – don’t seem to be the type to enjoy hanging around a pro wrestling club in New Jersey. Yet that is exactly where their latest promo video for ‘Hey, You’re Mine’ was filmed, and by Goma herself, who is a self-professed wrestling fan “who traveled to southern New Jersey to film the wrestlers of OTW Wrestling in an act of ‘amateur anthropology'”. Goma explains further:
I see wrestling as a kind of presentational theater that is a tradition but also a modern day vehicle for telling good stories. I wanted to make use of the metafictional techniques inherent in wrestling to tell a story about wrestling but also a broader story about people. For me, the key to a compelling story is the characters and wrestling characters are all about the people who play them.
This is actually quite funny, as my roommate in graduate school was a huge fan of WWE, and I had decided after watching some of the tv shows with him that it was like soap opera for men. (He concurred.) However you feel about grown men grabbing each other like this in a ring, the band now have a new double EP ‘Planning Weed Like It’s Acid’ / ‘Life is Loss: Pop Songs 2015’, out now via the band and Mis Ojos Discos. Watch the video for ‘Hey, You’re Mine’, appearing on the new release, below.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 16th November 2015 at 12:00 pm
Those who have known me for years are aware that I can be an insufferable sentimental git. I hold on to every last memory, good and bad. Last week, I had already formulated in my mind generally how this piece on Clock Opera was going to go. And then Friday night in Paris, the unspeakable happened.
Some people – the kind of people like my own mother who had quaked at the mere thought of me boarding a plane after 9/11, and every single time I’ve done it – are going to be too scared to go out in public, to go to a live show for quite some time. Maybe it will be for months, years, I don’t know. But the more I have read in the last 48 hours of the incredible humanity of those who survived the terrible goings-on in the Bataclan, the outpouring of love from the our whole music community to honour those we have lost, I don’t feel so ashamed of being that insufferable sentimental git at this very moment.
We – all of us – have suffered a great loss, beautiful lives have been cut short, and for what? It is impossible to comprehend through our grief, to make sense of what is truly senseless. But no matter where we are in our lives, whenever we are a party to sorrow, to trauma, we can go deep into our minds and our hearts, where the good memories live and will live on forever. We must do this now, in remembrance of those we’ve lost, many of whom who thought they were going out on a normal Friday night to enjoy live music at a gig, something that many of us do all the time and don’t think about too much, because we take it for granted that we will be safe.
Our lives have changed, yes. But we will keep going, keep living, and living our lives every day for those we have lost who cannot.
I have a fond memory of meeting Clock Opera in Liverpool 3 years ago, shortly after their debut album ‘Ways to Forget’ had been released on Island / Moshi Moshi. They were one of three bands playing the TGTF showcase we put on at the Arts Academy in May 2012, sandwiched in between Brighton’s Dear Prudence and Sydney, Australia’s The Temper Trap, the latter of whom were still running on the success of ‘Sweet Disposition’ and their debut album. It was a great night: the venue was rammed, the bands sounded incredible onstage and we had gobs of punters entering our lucky draw for a Clock Opera CD and a Temper Trap t-shirt.
I met the guys and welcomed them when they arrived at the venue, hours before the showcase was to start, laden down with all their gear. They were effusive in their praise of our Web site. I had a quite funny but brief conversation with frontman Guy Connelly about his epic beard, which I remember as if it was yesterday. I asked him if he would allow me to touch the famed beard; he laughed and said, “you don’t know how many people reach out and touch it *without* asking!” So I was looked upon as a friend from then on.
Clock Opera emerged in 2009, at an interesting time for British music. If you look at the BBC Sound of 2010 longlist, which appeared less than a year after I joined up here as USA Editor at TGTF, you’ll recognise a lot of names on there, when synth-led music and indie were kings as the new decade dawned. But you’ll also note most every artist or group on the list still standing has had to reinvent themselves or change significantly in the 5 years since those names were revealed.
The band went silent after the end of 2012, and I imagined they’d be back before I knew it, and with some smashing new single for us to sink our teeth into. Then a year went by…and while a year in band terms sometimes means musicians are taking a well-deserved rest or maybe simply just getting on with Real Life, relationships and families, I’d assumed after Connelly’s usually otherwise prolific remix well went dry and quiet, that would be the last we’d heard of them. Imagine how grateful I felt when early in November, new Clock Opera track ‘Changeling’ was released to the wild. Although they lost keyboardist Dan Armstrong last year, it sounds like time has been good to them, as it sounds like they haven’t lost their identity but instead have refined it, in a time in the music business when it’s uber important to distinguish your band and your sound from everyone else’s.
Unbeknownst to me, they were working on a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 to make enough money to record their second album. Luckily for us, the campaign’s target was reached in July, so this highly anticipated second outing is purported to be out next year. If ‘Changeling’ is indicative of Clock Opera 2.0, the exciting percussive nature of their music exemplified by their live tour de force ‘A Piece of String’ has been retained by the heavy, buzzy synth rhythm and the clanging bells. However, it appears they’ve ‘grown up’ in a way, choosing to go in a darker direction, the song described on the press release as “a mysterious, haunting hymn of loss and disbelief”. Not exactly the sweet-sounding, wistful yearnings heard on older single ‘Belongings’, is it?
As it appears that Delphic have disbanded and Bloc Party‘s return last month with ‘The Love Within’ is nothing but a whimper, there is a huge gap in the British market for an indie, rhythm-led synth group, and Clock Opera’s return couldn’t have been timed better. Roll on 2016!
Download ‘Changeling’ for your very own by signing up for the band’s mailing list here. Clock Opera will play their first show since their public return next Thursday, the 26th of November (seriously, why is everything happening on my birthday in the South of England?) at London Old Blue Last. For those of you penny pinchers, the show is free, so if you’re anywhere near the Capital, stop what you’re doing that evening and go. Then they’re straight off to Europe to fill the support slot of North East band Maximo Park on the Continent. For all our past coverage on Clock Opera on TGTF (essentially the previous chapter of the band of days gone by), go here.