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Single Review: The Twilight Sad – ‘I/m Not Here [missing face]’

 
By on Thursday, 26th July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

It has been a difficult few months for indie music fans following the shocking, untimely death of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison in May. As I’ve learned through Scottish friends in the industry and who knows who – which seems to be just about everyone to everyone else and back again – the musician community in Glasgow is remarkably close-knit. It is, then, unsurprising that his death would colour his friends The Twilight Sad’s latest release. Upon hearing ‘I/m Not Here [missing face]’, it’s impossible to separate the inherent unease of the song from the sadness on the loss of Hutchison. A dissonant whine of guitars introduces the song before an insistent rhythm begins that plays throughout the whole song, accompanied by the drone of guitars. All together, the instrumentation set off a feeling of fretfulness even before James Graham utters a single word in his trademark Scots brogue.

As the song goes on, it’s unclear to the listener if he’s singing to another person, to himself and his own anxieties, or a combination of both. What is amply evident is the amount of self-loathing going round in Graham’s head. There’s so much that he vocalises it first as someone else being the problem (“I don’t wanna be around you anymore / I can’t stand to be around you anymore”) before turning the anxiety on himself and self-diagnosing himself as the problem (“you don’t wanna be around me anymore / I don’t wanna be around me anymore / you can’t stand to be around me anymore”). Graham has described the song being “about my ongoing battle with not liking myself, trying to be a good person but constantly feeling like I’m failing myself and everyone I care about.” To the questions “Will you stop if your tears come back?” and “Will you stop when your tears run dry?”, Graham responds, “I’ll drink everything inside”, internalising and hiding the pain that otherwise would be on show through the act of crying. Whose pain will he drink up? His own, or someone else’s? Like film noir, it’s all terribly intriguing.

I have a favourite line in the Margaret Atwood novel Cat’s Eye that reads, “Whoever cares the most will lose.” The greatest tragedy of caring is while you can be in touch with what you feel and what you desire and why, you end up turning it around on yourself and making the assumption that bad things have happened because of what you’ve done. The repeated “why do you do this to yourself?” as the song climaxes at its conclusion seems to support this. For a song so rooted in mental illness and the burying of that pain, it’s weird for it to be so oddly catchy. But it is. And it’s the kind of song that feels like it would be best heard live in Scotland. If you have been in Glasgow when it’s pouring down rain, you understand this.

8.5/10

‘I/m Not Here [missing face]’, the first new material from The Twilight Sad since 2014’s ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave’ is out now on Mogwai’s label Rock Action Records. There’s talk of a new album from the group, which I imagine must be dropping some time this autumn, as they are already selling tickets to tours in North America (mid-October to early November) and the Continent (mid-November) and have two dates in the UK lined up following those tours, on the 27th of November at London Bush Hall and the 29th of November at Edinburgh Liquid Rooms. Seems strange that a Glaswegian show has been omitted, so I’d keep an eye out for one on their live schedule on their official Web site. Past Twilight Sad goodness is through here.

 

Video of the Moment #2875: Miles Kane

 
By on Wednesday, 25th July 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Miles Kane has announced details of his next album. ‘Coup De Grace’, his first since 2013’s ‘Don’t Forget Who We Are’, will out in mid-August. And here’s a taster from the upcoming LP, the single ‘Cry on My Guitar’. For the accompanying promo video, directed by Brook Linder, WWE wrestler Finn Bálor guest stars and in an odd twist of fate, gets into a hand-to-hand fight with Miles. Masochist much? Watch all the action unfold below. ‘Coup De Grace’ will drop on the 10th of August on Virgin EMI. For more of our coverage of Miles Kane on TGTF, follow this link.

 

Video of the Moment #2874: Pale Waves

 
By on Monday, 23rd July 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Manchester band and friends of The 1975 Pale Waves have a new video out. It follows last month’s unveiling of the promo of ‘Kiss’, which was black and white, very much the band’s colour aesthetic. For ‘Noises’, there’s finally some colour: frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie and her trademark jet black locks are in stark contrast to the bright eye shadow, bright outfits and even a blonde wig is dons in some scenes. I still can’t shake off the feeling that I’ve heard this song (and really all their songs) before… In any event, however you feel about them, and I figure you must have come to this post if you do like them (!), watch the video for ‘Noises’ below. The group’s debut album is expected later this year. To read all of our past coverage on Pale Waves on TGTF, including my coverage of them at SXSW 2018 at the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation-funded showcase Tuesday night, go here.

 

Album Review: Florence + the Machine – High As Hope

 
By on Monday, 23rd July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Florence and the Machine High as Hope album coverOur favourite Earth mother Florence Welch is back, this time leading her band on a 10-track journey of organic creativity. Florence + The Machine have stripped it way back in their new album ‘High As Hope’, leaving much of their pop preferences behind and instead colouring their LP with folk influences. It’s easy to see why many are mistaken in thinking ‘Florence + The Machine’ is simply Welch’s pseudonym when their newest release feels like Welch’s singular creation, the role of the band feeling a little unclear. The background accompaniment takes a backseat to Welch’s theatrics: compared to her previous albums, this one is simple and acoustically driven, giving full attention to the vocals. All ten tracks put a spotlight on Welch’s vocal abilities, expressed in earthy, raw and rich tones that only Welch can do.

One of the most successful aspects of the album is that each song is like a different page of a diary, particularly tracks ‘Grace’ and ‘Patricia’, which feel more like letters than songs. ‘Grace’ starts as a beautiful piano ballad, with Welch sounding timid and sincere until the song blooms into a powerful chorus bringing with it heaps of emotion. The direct address to ‘Grace’ really creates a sense that the listener has intruded on a personal moment as Welch divulges her deepest thoughts and fears in lyrics such as “I guess I could go back to university / try and make my mother proud”. Although ‘Patricia’ is more upbeat, there is still a heartfelt address to a character that seems to have had a significant impact on Welch. There is a pure honesty and sincerity that bursts out of ‘Grace’ and ‘Patricia’, offering an authenticity that stands out against the rest of the album.

There is an undeniable intimacy to ‘High As Hope’, not just through the ‘diary’ narratives but also through the use of a capella sections in ‘No Choir’ and ‘Sky Full of Song’. Few artists are brave enough to showcase their vocals abilities through a capella, but it works brilliantly for Florence and the Machine. The unaccompanied vocals open these songs, instantly setting an intimate tone as no accompaniment can distract from Welch’s lyrics. This is most effective in portraying a melancholic emotion in The start of ‘No Choir’ is effective at conveying melancholy as Welch sings, “And it’s hard to write about being happy, ’cause all that I get / I find that happiness is an extremely uneventful subject”. Listeners cannot escape from the sadness Welch is expressing; instead, we are forced to deal with these emotions and engage with the song. It is a powerful tactic and one that is heightened by the subtle accompaniment rising and falling in perfect tandem with Welch, never once overpowering the vocals, yet still supporting the emotion.

Heavenly connotations across several tracks keeps ‘High As Hope’ unique, which are again supported beautifully by the instrumentation. Fourth track ‘Big God’ addresses this theme in its title, while opening track ‘June’ connotes heaven through references to angels: “you’re so high, you had to be an angel”. The instrumentation and production shadow the theme by creating huge, angelic sounds through layered strings and gorgeously dramatic, reverberating vocals. Despite such powerful sounds, the production isn’t overdone and hasn’t distorted the natural sounds of the instruments.

One of the first singles released from the LP ‘Hunger’, has been accompanied by an artistically abstract video. The single is catchy and radio friendly, yet it still carries the profound message of human nature’s hunger for love, perfectly captured by the visual accompaniment. The video portrays this through the use of statues as symbolism for human isolation. Symbolism continues in abundance, with images of forests evoking the organic nature of song and the rest of the album. The music video is atypical, more like a piece of art than it is a music video.

Florence + The Machine have taken a turn down a different road for ‘High As Hope’, showcasing another side to Welch’s songwriting. The album feels like a slice of Welch’s soul, giving us a much more honest and genuine perspective of Welch than in any previous albums. Authentic and personal elements make the LP so alluring, each song having a purpose, an emotion and a message. Radio stations may fool you into thinking that ‘Hunger’ is the only power track here, but that couldn’t be more wrong. The entire album is a masterpiece.

9/10

‘High As Hope’, the fourth studio album from Florence + the Machine, is out now on Virgin EMI and Republic Records. Catch Welch and her band on their world tour starting in the UK from the 15th of November. For more information on live dates visit Florence + The Machine’s official Web site. Read through all of our past coverage on the artist through this link.

 

Video of the Moment #2873: Bully

 
By on Thursday, 19th July 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Nashville’s Bully had an adorable idea of a music video. For ‘Guess There’, they chosen a garden-variety actor. Literally. That is, a snail. Really! It (he?) plods along as snails do, as the grungey guitars squeal and a tear-jerky story unfolds. ‘Guess There’ appears on the group’s second album ‘Losing’ released last year and available now from Sub Pop. Watch their newest, mesmerising, mollusk-themed video below. To read our past coverage here on TGTF on Bully, including Carrie’s catching of them at SXSW 2018, follow this link.

 

Album Review: Dentist – Night Swimming

 
By on Thursday, 19th July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Dentist Night Swimming album coverAs the saying goes, timing is everything. Human beings tend to brood and get nostalgic around the winter holidays and as the year closes. In contrast, summer is when it feels most appropriate to brush the cobwebs out of one’s mind, let one’s hair down and kick the shoes off and all cares away. That’s the kind of thinking I’m assuming led to New Jersey band Dentist’s thinking to release their debut album ‘Night Swimming’ in the middle of July. Feeling at times like having an ice cream at the beach but never proving too cloying, it’s an upbeat LP that at times flirts with bubblegum pop territory.

In some ways similar to Katie Ellen’s ‘Cowgirl Blues’ that was released this time last year, ‘Night Swimming’ conveys the thoughts of an independent woman with an agile mind, bolstered by surf-y, lo-fi guitar chords that lend a scrappy, ‘skinned knees’ kind of quality to the proceedings. Most of the songs on this album are short – around the 3-minute mark or a good deal shorter – which means if you’re not a fan of frontwoman Emily Bornemann’s twee vocal pitch, it never stays around long enough to bother much during a collection of songs that, taken together, barely pass the 30-minute mark. The animated and simply fun rock guitars and drums throughout also provide a worthy distraction.

Things get off to an exuberant start with ‘Upset Words’, on which she asks cheekily, “do I make you proud?” On fun lead single ‘Corked’, Bornemann’s sweet and girly vocals are an asset here, providing an interesting juxtaposition to the introductory strummed guitar notes, scuzzy with feedback and audible clicks left in and not polished off the record. “Something’s wrong again ‘cos we’re still friends”, she wistfully scoffs in the first chorus before the muscular part of the song gets going. LP standout ‘Figure-Four’ should be our credo for the rest of 2018, with its suggestions to let it go and don’t sweat the small stuff. Bornemann sings, “it’s okay / every day / we’ll be fine / I’m sure, I’m sure” and its entreaties to “accept your fate”, it’s Dentist’s way of saying trust in the process of the Great Big Thing called Life. We need more of this thinking. Too many bad things are happening around us and to us that sometimes we all forget that we’re here to live.

On the simply titled ‘Oh’, she quips, “wish that I could turn my brain off / then that would mean that I am dead”. The instrumentation going with it is so peppy, you have to ask yourself if the lyrics are meant to be rhetorical to the listener or if they’re meant to be droll or even possibly cutting observations that hide her own anxiety about life and relationships, something the Crookes did so well. ‘All is Well (In Hell)’ sees Bornemann on a brief but lovely, slower, acoustic interlude; it’s a bit soppy and entails her begging her lover not to leave her because “that is worth than anything”. Dentist get down and dirtier for a brief moment on the minor key ‘Tight Spot’, with squealing, surf-y guitars and harder hit drums to go along with the existential lyrical musings.

In the rapid fire drumbeat-driving closer ‘The Latter’, Bornemann implores, “I have opened up to you / you have done the same / tell me now what I can do / to make this great escape”. With an album like ‘Night Swimming’, you are invited to give someone else control of the steering wheel. This is the kind of music to listen to on those long drives out to the coast by day and into the steamy summer evenings when there’s nothing to do. Or at least you’re pretending there isn’t. This is one Dentist that won’t make your teeth ache.

7.5/10

‘Night Swimming’, the debut album from New Jersey’s Dentist, is out tomorrow, the 20th of June, on Cleopatra Records. Read my review of them at SXSW 2018 through here; they were one of my unexpected finds in Austin this year.

 
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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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