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Album Review: Years & Years – Palo Santo

 
By on Monday, 6th August 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Years & Years Palo Santo album coverWe all hoped the cheesy ‘NSYNC, Backstreet Boys-ey boy bands were a thing of the past, right? The band genre made a comeback a few years back in the form of JLS and One Direction, but again we left these behind, and music had progressed since then, had it not? Years & Years appear keen to rekindle this dying flame in their newest album ‘Palo Santo’. Although their 2015 debut album ‘Communion’ seems miles away now, there is an unmistakable Nineties’ / Noughties’ boy band vibe running through the 14 tracks of ‘Palo Santo’. The use of layered vocals, Nineties’ style synthesisers and manufactured drum beats reminscent of those dance-pop tunes from yesteryear we all know and secretly love.

The final track of ‘Palo Santo’, ‘Up In Flames’, takes this comparison the furthest as it really feels as though it has been plucked out of 2000. The song opens with a familiar sounding drum machine beat, embellished with what sounds like shakers and perhaps most surprisingly, a bell. After the first verse, in comes a clunky synth riff and backing vocals, that couldn’t get more Backstreet Boys if it tried. Oh, but it does. At the end of the chorus, ‘Up In Flames’ there is a bright synth stab that, although subtle, is undeniably a direct take from ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ and that song’s defining feature of the 1997 song, and now here it is in a Years & Years track. Although the nostalgia is pretty enticing, the foundations of the song are well past their best by date.

Not only do many of the tracks of ‘Palo Santo’ recall songs that have come before, they are also hard to define within the album itself. Very few of the tracks have any elements that really stand out and demand your attention. Despite the fact that there are songs that are upbeat and dancey – for example ‘All For You’ or ‘Rendezvous’ – the album feels beige. Take the songs ‘Hypnotised’ and ‘Here’, two tracks that should sound completely different on paper. ‘Hypnotised’ is a capella but ‘Here’ is not, and yet they still manage to blur together. Yes, they are in different keys, use different instrumentation and are at dramatically different lengths to each other, but the essence is the same. These are two tracks that should sound a world apart but without any hooks or memorable lyrics, they become the two slow songs on the album.

The two tunes that actually stand out from the beige are the catchiest songs from the album, ‘Sanctify’ and ‘If You’re Over Me’. ‘Sanctify’ is a throwback to 2015 album ‘Communion’, having the same energy and memorability as tracks like ‘Shine’ and ‘King’. The song begins with a simple drum machine accompaniment to Olly Alexander’s distinct vocals which then explode into a powerful and catchy chorus. ‘If You’re Over Me’ goes down the more generic upbeat pop route, the percussive claps giving it a Jason Mraz-esque ’Have It All’ / ‘Unlonely’ quality. Its lyrics are sassy yet relatable, and although they’re not particularly imaginative, it doesn’t really matter in this setting as they succeed in being easy to remember and sing along to. However, imagination is not in short supply when it comes to the music videos accompanying these two tracks. Both videos have been produced in a sci-fi style with a narrative that runs from one to another, and although unusual they are fun and perhaps the most interesting offshoots of the entire album.

As only the second studio album from the band Years & Years, ‘Palo Santo’ is a disappointment. The tracks lack freshness; instead, they reminisce on music from irrelevant times. Although ‘Sanctify’ and ‘If You’re Over Me’ have become big hits, it’s just a shame for the rest of the album to be so weak.

5/10

‘Palo Santo’ is out now on Polydor Records. Years & Years began their world tour this month and will be stopping in the UK from the 11th of August. For more information on their live dates, visit the band’s official Web site.

 

Video of the Moment #2878: Doe

 
By on Tuesday, 31st July 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

London indie rockers Doe have announced details of their sophomore album. ‘Grow Into It’ will be out on the 28th of September on Topshelf Records. The first single to be taken from the upcoming LP is called ‘Heated’. Already a live hit, the loud and hard-hitting tune is an indicator of things to come in 2 months when we can finally get our mitts on the new album. Accompanying the single is a mango-coloured promo video in which the band are playing in and amongst plants and get into some mischief with mulch and paint. Watch the shenanigans below. For more of our past coverage here on TGTF on Doe, go here.

 

Album Review: Jealous of the Birds – The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me in My Sleep EP

 
By on Tuesday, 31st July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Daniel Alexander Harris

JOTB Moths EP coverNorthern Irish alt-rocker Jealous of the Birds (aka Naomi Hamilton) has recently released a new EP with an elusive but thought-provoking title, ‘The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me in My Sleep.’ While the title might seem a little unwieldy, especially for a 5-track EP, the songs contained on the new recording are a bit less intimidating, in and of themselves.

Of the five songs presented here, only EP opener ‘Plastic Skeletons’ is brand new, as you might have seen back in May when editor Mary featured it as our Video of the Moment #2843. It’s a strong opening to the EP, immediately upbeat and groovy, with shuffling percussion and an elastic guitar riff under Hamilton’s distorted vocals. She sings the verses in a slow, sensual drawl, lilting suggestively over the lines “hope you have it in you to undress again” and “I’ve become addicted to the smell of your cologne”. While the song’s chorus isn’t exactly catchy, its crunchy guitars give the song an extra edge as Hamilton poses the question, “do you wanna wrap me up in suede / smudge off my black eyeliner?”

The other four songs on ‘The Moths of What I Want’ appeared on Jealous of the Birds’ debut full-length album ‘Parma Violets’, which was released in back in 2016 just after Hamilton’s first appearance at SXSW. The middle sequence of three songs, ‘Miss Misanthrope’, ‘Trouble in Bohemia’, and ‘Tonight I Feel Like Kafka’, is lifted directly from LP, with some notable production edits from the album versions.

The gentle folk arrangement of ‘Miss Misanthrope’ stands in marked contrast to ‘Plastic Skeletons’ with gentle woodwind adornment and intricate vocal layering underscoring its introspective musings. Subtle yet pleasantly surprising in places, the poetry and the musical effects both leave a warm sense of empathy in their wake. The trippy folk-rock of ‘Trouble in Bohemia’ is muted and a bit grungier in its reworking for the EP, but still retains its upbeat rhythm and lo-fi production quality. ‘Tonight I Feel Like Kafka’, which we at TGTF heard in live performance at SXSW 2017, is similarly dialed back in its production, with its serpentine synth melody and Hamilton’s vocal line blended more smoothly into an overall instrumental arrangement that better suits the song’s self-consciously literary quality.

EP closer ‘Russian Doll’ already had a grungy, garage rock feel in its ‘Parma Violets’ recording, which fitted the defensive mood of its lyrics. Talking about the song’s underlying meaning, Hamilton says, “It’s about when you’re in a relationship and you’re having someone else projecting certain things on you . . . and you don’t have any control over that. It’s matching up the person you want to become and what someone else sees you as.” The new EP recording, re-mixed by Ben Baptie (Young Fathers, Daughter, Lianne LaHavas, London Grammar), dials back the crunch of the guitars, emphasising instead the percussive rhythm and disjointed quality of vocal lines, giving the song a sharper edge and stronger overall profile.

Though we here at TGTF have covered Jealous of the Birds quite extensively over the past few years, we missed the opportunity to review ‘Parma Violets’ on its initial release. ‘The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me in My Sleep’ serves as a good reminder of what attracted us to Jealous of the Birds in the first place, but also gives a glimpse into where Hamilton might take her music in the future. Her alt-folk and acoustic talents having been fully displayed, she’s now taking a bolder, more rock-oriented tack, without losing the unapologetically poetic lyrical qualities that make her songs unique. If you liked ‘Parma Violets’, this new EP is simply a fresh take on some of those songs, with the added bonus of ‘Plastic Skeletons’ to whet your appetite for more new music from Jealous of the Birds. If you didn’t catch ‘Parma Violets’ the first time around, ‘The Moths of What I Want…’ is your second chance to get acquainted.

8.5/10

‘The Moths of What I Want Will Eat My in My Sleep’ is out now via Hand in Hive (UK) and Canvasback (U.S.). You can find TGTF’s collected coverage of Jealous of the Birds through here.

 

Video of the Moment #2877: Castlecomer

 
By on Monday, 30th July 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Aussies Castlecomer, who wowed me at SXSW 2017, have some exciting news for us. The Sydney five-piece’s self-titled debut album will be released in a few short weeks. The first taste of what’s to come is propulsive lead single ‘All of the Noise’, which now has its own music video. Watch it below. Stay tuned: Castlecomer will drop on Concord Records on the 5th of September. For more on Castlecomer on TGTF, check out this link.

 

Deer Shed Festival 2018: Friday Roundup

 
By on Monday, 30th July 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

No sooner had we arrived on site at Deer Shed 9, son one, having attended a Deer Shed every one of his 7 years, declared he had his first wobbly tooth. And so we add another ‘first’ to the many that Deer Shed has provided over the years. Every parent will share the excitement tinged with a pang of sadness that this momentous moment brings. It represents the end of the first stage of childhood. With the arrival of the new denticulus, they will never again look the same. Yet no parent would wish their offspring to remain permanently young. To fulfill their potential, they must grow up. One’s only wish is that they retain what makes them truly themselves as they do so.

As it turned out, exactly the same sentiments could be held about Deer Shed’s growth in 2018. Instead of a new tooth, they have a new field: what luck that a second natural amphitheatre exists to the north of the site, and many an experienced Deer Shedder was to be found wandering around confusedly in the vicinity of where the main stage, big top and helter-skelter used to be, it slowly dawning that that silver edifice in the distance near the car park was, in fact, the newly-relocated main stage.

Sadly, that meant a number of dearly-held Deer Shed locales simply ceased to be. The Obelisk tent and its associated gate is no more, perhaps due to its rather exuberant dampness in the rain last year. Those of us who tend to camp on that side of the festival had a lot further to walk to get to the main stage. And there was no point in strolling alongside the lake, because there was no access to the festival that way, either. There was a lot more fencing directing people hither and yon, whereas previously the arena was just one big circle and you could pretty much go where you pleased. The reward for such palaver was a 25% increase in space for the same number of people.

So. We mourn the loss of Deer Shed’s baby teeth…. Done. Let’s see what their new gnashers are made of.

Hyde Park Brass are first up, and also almost the last. They’re intertwined around this year’s festival like ivy around a tree. Here they were in the tiny pallet stage, and slightly more subdued than they would be on latter days. Pop brass is becoming more of a thing these days, and HPB remind me a fair bit of the incredible Riot Jazz Brass Band of Kendal Calling fame. Every good brass ensemble needs a festival residency, and these guys are no exception.

If you close your eyes – and forget they’re from Leeds – Mush are Lou Reed fronting Pavement. Their 10-minute epic ‘Alternative Facts’ has a slacker undertow with punky icing, and when lead singer Dan’s not speaking in tongues, he’s all wry humour and casual delivery. Single ‘Comment Section Creeps’, of which a limited edition 7” is sadly sold out, is a cutting social commentary on the dehumanising liberty of posting on the internet anonymously. Probably.

Mush Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (landscape)-1597

whenyoung are a trio from Dublin whose uptempo 3-minute pop nuggets hint at the time just before Britpop became a dirty word, yet shot through with a slew of Edge-isms in the guitar work. ‘Heaven on Earth’ has a boxy, chorused tone evoking U2’s earliest, New-Wave influenced work, and ‘Pretty Pure’ has the classic tropes of dotted delay and infinitely sustaining guitar notes. There’s an innocence in Aoife Power’s sweet vocals, not to mention a generous helping of fellow countrywomen Sinead O’Connor and Dolores O’Riordan, so it’s only half a surprise when they launch into a note-perfect rendition of The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’. Touching, appropriate, bittersweet.

whenyoung at Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (landscape)-1700

It doesn’t take long to realise that if this weekend’s bands are anything like the quality of HMLTD, we’re in for a veritable treat indeed. Clad in all manner of leather, fishnet, tartan and makeup, their stage presence is off the scale, and the music not far behind. 2017 single ‘To The Door’ is like The Stooges covering one of Ennio Morricone’s more outré spaghetti western themes, but with a dubstep coda. Eh? ‘Satan, Luella, & I’ evokes a she-devil, a proposition, and gore but is lyrically optimistic and life-affirming. What?! For all their aesthetic outrageousness, which cribs heavily from theatrical Eighties’ glam like Adam Ant, there’s an underlying understanding of songwriting which gives the entire package credibility. Properly breathtaking.

HMLTD Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (portrait)-1877

Drenge have matured nicely since I last saw them at Live at Leeds in 2014. Then just a brotherly two-piece, now they have both a bassist and a chap on ‘things’. They pull off a headline set with skill and good grace, and even have a laugh at wearing comedy air tanks consistent with Deer Shed’s ‘Making Waves’ theme. Material like ‘Bloodsports’ has lost none of its power through familiarity, and new single “Before the War Begins” reveals a simple, honest clarity of purpose reminiscent of the Manics at their best. Completely devoid of histrionics, clad plainly in comparison with the extravagance of an HMLTD, they nevertheless still pack a devastating punch.

Drenge Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (landscape)-2076

And that’s it for Friday. There were DJs until half 2 next to the excellent bar, TGTF needed all possible energy to prepare for Saturday. More tomorrow.

 

Video of the Moment #2876: Fall Out Boy

 
By on Thursday, 26th July 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

American group Fall Out Boy must have a thing for llamas. In January, they released their latest LP ‘M A N I A’. This was followed by the funnily titled ‘Llamania’ EP, starring three tracks that didn’t make the cut for the album: ‘Past Life’, ‘Wrong Side of Paradise’ and ‘Footprints in the Snow’. The llama theme continues in their latest promo video for ‘Bishops Knife Trick’, where frontman Patrick Stump directs a group of them performing. It’s oddly mesmerising. You don’t want to look away. ‘M A N I A’, the band’s seventh studio album, is out now on Island Records. For all of our Fall Out Boy coverage, go here.

 
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About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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