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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 18th August 2016 at 6:00 pm
It’s exciting times for Aussie electronic indie trio SAFIA. I discovered the band in preparation for SXSW 2015, catching them in Austin playing Sounds Australia’s annual Aussie BBQ. Early next month, they’ll finally be releasing their debut album ‘Internal’ on Virgin EMI (UK) and Island Records (America), and I can’t wait. ‘Over You’ is a brilliant sneak peek into the upcoming LP, chronicling the difficulty of getting over a significant other when they’re still a significant player in your mind. You can run, you can hide…but getting over that person who you used to hold so dear isn’t going to be that easy. Grab ‘Internal’ when it hits all good high street and digital shops on the 9th of September.
Header photo by Steve Gullick
Pop songwriter Ed Harcourt‘s new album ‘Furnaces’ packs exactly the kind of heat and intense pressure that its title might suggest. Its songs are profoundly critical of Western society and of human nature as a whole, but also profoundly personal and self-reflective. On his official Web site. Harcourt paraphrases a famous quote from John Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation 17, “No man is an island unto himself” as a central theme of the new album before giving further insight into his creative process. “This record is from the heart of a father, brother and human. The rage that I have for these intense times has kept me burning, kept me writing; I suppose one is compelled by how the outside world reflects one’s own shortcomings; these are the mirrors that we hold up to ourselves, in the search for some kind of truth.”
For help with the sonic realisation of his weighty subject matter, Harcourt has turned to veteran producer Flood, whose production credits include work with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey and Foals. Considering the tone of those previous collaborations, the overwhelmingly dark and brooding air Flood lends to Harcourt’s ‘Furnaces’ should come as no great surprise. The stark electronic intro to moody ballad ‘The World is on Fire’ pivots on the lines “I think I’m spinning out of my heart / it’s such a fitting way to die”, expanding from that point into anxious percussion and dramatic harmonies. Harcourt’s lyrics quickly take an apocalyptic turn in the song’s haunting chorus: “and as the world is on fire / I hear songs with no words / while in the grand scheme of things / it’s just the dark in the universe”.
Title track ‘Furnaces’ cuts right to the quick of corporate greed and excess, opening with the caustic observation, “no matter how much coal you shovel in the mouth of your child / these furnaces still want more”. The song’s dramatic refrain “this is junkyard love on a scrap heap of lust / keep the furnace burning lest we turn into rust” is sharply effective in the album version featured in the video above, but equally scathing in the acoustic performance just below.
The album’s overriding gloom and doom is broken up with a dose of cynical humour in ‘Occupational Hazard’, where the bass groove and deep vocals come across more like Dr. Seuss’ Grinch who stole Christmas than Harcourt probably intended. He comes back to taking himself seriously in ‘Nothing But a Bad Trip’, which schizophrenically shifts from deep, foreboding rhythms to warmer, piano-laced sounds and back again to heavy, distorted guitars and guttural vocals. Its lyrical reference to John Donne, “I knew without doubt that every man can sometimes be an island”, seethes with prior arrogance and present regret, especially in the context of the chorus lines “nothing like a bad trip to bring you down / the only bird in a fishbowl town”.
Harcourt himself describes ‘Dionysus’ as a musing on the dual nature of man and the “teetering see-saw of [his] morals”. The song’s stately piano intro quickly becomes a militant march, then veers off into a visceral morass of guitars before softening again under the hopeless plea “I know you want to help me, but I’m beyond salvation / tearing through your beauty, too lost for damnation”.
‘Last of Your Kind’ is a bit lighter and brighter than the other tracks on the album, but even here Harcourt takes a rather dire view of what might normally be seen as a positive situation. The lyrical chorus melody “there’s nothing more to do . . . there’s nothing more to say . . . there’s no one else like you / you’re the last of your kind” provides a welcome glimmer of hope among the ruins depicted in the surrounding songs. The bridge lyric “if we’re standing on the edge of existence / I don’t want this moment to end” is one of the most poignant moments on the album.
‘Furnaces’ is the kind of intellectually deep and emotionally ponderous album that won’t likely find its way onto anyone’s Sunday morning playlist, but its sharp perspective and insight are undeniable. Harcourt and Flood have joined forces to create an epic soundscape illustrating the impotent furore and frustration that so many people, including apparently Harcourt himself, seem to feel in our current trying times.
Ed Harcourt’s seventh studio album ‘Furnaces’ is due for release this Friday, the 19th of August, via Polydor Records / Caroline International. Harcourt will perform a special solo show to celebrate the album release at London’s Rough Trade East next Monday, the 22nd of August, and another one-off show at London’s Village Underground on the 21st of September.
Never ones to rest on their laurels, Stockport psych pop quintet Blossoms have announced a second set of UK tour dates in support of their recently released, self-titled debut LP ‘Blossoms’. This new list of live dates follows Blossoms’ already announced autumn dates, which are scheduled for late September and early October. Our own editor Mary recently reviewed the chart-topping album right back here.
The new tour dates will include back-to-back nights at Manchester’s Albert Hall on the 2nd and 3rd of December. Tickets for the following shows are available now. TGTF’s full coverage of Blossoms can be found through here.
Wednesday 30th November 2016 – Leicester Academy
Thursday 1st December 2016 – Hull University Union
Friday 2nd December 2016 – Manchester Albert Hall
Saturday 3rd December 2016 – Manchester Albert Hall
Monday 5th December 2016 – Edinburgh Potterow
Tuesday 6th December 2016 – Aberdeen Garage
Wednesday 7th December 2016 – Middlesbrough Empire
Sunday 11th December 2016 – Oxford Academy
Tuesday 13th December 2016 – London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Wednesday 14th December 2016 – Bournemouth Old Fire Station
Kent punk rock duo Slaves have announced details of their forthcoming new album ‘Take Control’, along with a list of live dates to follow its release. ‘Take Control’ is due out on the 30th of September on Virgin EMI, and its surprise first single ‘Spit It Out’ is streaming just below the tour date listing.
Tickets for the following live dates will be available tomorrow, Friday the 19th of August, at 9 AM. TGTF’s previous coverage of Slaves is gathered here.
Thursday 10th November 2016 – Bexhill De La Warr Pavillion
Friday 11th November 2016 – Truro Hall for Cornwall
Sunday 13th November 2016 – Cardiff University Great Hall
Monday 14th November 2016 – Cambridge Corn Exchange
Tuesday 15th November 2016 – Leeds Academy
Thursday 17th November 2016 – Newcastle Academy
Friday 18th November 2016 – Glasgow Barrowland
Saturday 19th November 2016 – Birmingham Academy
Monday 21st November 2016 – Bristol Academy
Tuesday 22nd November 2016 – Leicester Academy
Wednesday 23rd November 2016 – Nottingham Rock City
Friday 25th November 2016 – Sheffield Academy
Saturday 26th November 2016 – Manchester Albert Hall
Tuesday 29th November 2016 – London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Wednesday 30th November 2016 – London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 17th August 2016 at 6:00 pm
Soulful Californian singer/songwriter BANKS is gearing up to release her second album, the successor to 2014’s ‘Goddess’, at the end of September. So what do we know so far about ‘The Altar’? Tim Anderson (Lykke Li, Best Coast) and Al Shux (Lana Del Rey, Tinie Tempah) were on production duties, both of whom collaborated with the young artist on tracks appearing on her debut album. The first single unveiled from the new album has a title with a not so family-friendly title, so I won’t repeat it here.
This second one, ‘Gemini Feed’, is far more palatable and yet it seems that BANKS has purposefully made a controversial video. While it’s certainly tame by rap video standards, I wasn’t expecting these scenes of quasi-serious bondage. I’m sure there’s some artistic reason behind these visuals, but I haven’t quite sussed this out yet. Watch the video for ‘Gemini Feed’ below. ‘The Altar’ drops on the 30th of September on Virgin EMI (UK) and Harvest Records (America). For more on BANKS on TGTF, go here.
It’s telling, I think, that the cover of Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan’s third album ‘At Swim’ is the first to display a photo of the artist herself. The album art for her 2008 debut ‘Sea Sew’ exhibited a homespun collection of hand-sewn buttons, while her 2011 sophomore album ‘Passenger’ featured handmade artwork representing the twinkling lights of the cities in which it was written. The music on those albums was as quaint and quirky as the visual art suggested, experimentally folky and charming in its way, but at times a bit tentative, even apologetic for its own presence.
‘At Swim’ is is immediately more confident and self-assured than its two predecessors, its songs simpler in structure and lyrically more concise. The chorus to first single ‘Prayer for the Dying’ consists of four simple words, “your heart . . . my heart”, but the clear tone and mild dissonance of its backing harmonies linger longingly in the mind. Similarly, it’s Hannigan’s vocal delivery rather than the words themselves that makes the refrain of gently rocking piano ballad ‘Ora’ so heartbreakingly memorable, as she pleads “I’m going home . . . won’t you come with me?”
This lyrical streamlining has naturally allowed more focus and stylistic expansion on the musical side of things. Produced by Aaron Dessner of The National, ’At Swim’ takes on a distinctly darker, more dramatic tone than either of Lisa Hannigan’s first two albums. From the sparse acoustic flavour of album opener ‘Fall’ and the beautifully unadorned vocal harmonies of ‘Anahorish’, to the classical piano accompaniment of ‘We, the Drowned’ and the full, sweeping orchestral arrangement of the aforementioned ‘Prayer for the Dying’, Dessner’s touch is definitively felt but never overpowering to the exquisite fragility of Hannigan’s songwriting.
Hannigan’s signature breathy vocals are as soft and delicate as ever on ‘At Swim’, but her execution is notably sharper and cleaner. There are gorgeous melismatic moments in nearly every song, and Hannigan completes the vocal gymnastics with impressive grace and fluidity. She often takes her vocal melodies in surprising directions, but rather than aimless wandering, these diversions feel more like scenic detours through carefully constructed harmonic landscapes. The melodies themselves and the vocal harmonies behind them are so entrancing that I found myself singing along on first listen, despite the fact that I didn’t yet know the words.
‘At Swim’ is a mature and thoughfully developed album that feels like the ultimate alignment of Lisa Hannigan’s creative talent and emotional expressivity. Written during a period of personal tumult, its themes center around sadness and self-doubt. But without question, this is an album Hannigan has always been capable of making. It was only a matter of time before she herself realised it. Now it seems that her shining moment has well and truly come.
Lisa Hannigan’s third album ‘At Swim’ is due out on this Friday, the 19th of August, on PIAS (UK) and ATO Records (North America). Hannigan will follow the release with a run of UK live shows this October. In the interim, you can find TGTF’s full previous coverage of Lisa Hannigan right back here.
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