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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 10th January 2017 at 12:00 pm
Header photo by Phil Knott
Ahead of his scheduled appearance at SXSW 2017, electronic musician and producer SOHN ushers in the new year with his newest album. Though the London-born Christopher Taylor has spent most of his creative time since 2012 living in Vienna, he temporarily relocated to a house in sleepy Northern California to work on this second outing, ‘Rennen’. Interestingly, the topics he explores on this effort aren’t entirely escapist; instead, he faces his personal life and international politics head on. And in an unusual move, Taylor decided to take a less is more approach on this SOHN album, limiting himself to three elements going into each track.
Meaning the action of running in German, the title seems to sum up well his escape to America following the whirlwind of critical attention paid to him and the exhausting touring he undertook to promote his celebrated 2014 debut LP ‘Tremors’. “I was running nonstop that whole time,” he says. “It was this incredible blur of seeing the whole world all in one go. I was going from experience to experience to experience always saying yes, and that’s just an incredible thing to put yourself through as a human.”
Given the popularity of ‘Tremors’, which contained the robust singles ‘Bloodflows’ and ‘Artifice’, any follow-up would be difficult. But the time away seems to have done SOHN’s new music a world of good. The influence of his co-writing and production work for other, more pop-centric artists, from Rihanna to Disclosure, have seeped into ‘Rennen’. This provides surprisingly wonderful moments on the album that might otherwise not happened. Changes in Taylor’s personal life since his debut – including falling in love, getting married and learning he will become a father – also affected the content of the new album, providing a unique window into the artist’s psyche during this snapshot in time.
‘Rennen’ begins with the bluesy ‘Hard Liquor’, a darkly appealing track with a clear r&b bent, quickly followed by two already revealed songs. The repeated lyrics in ‘Conrad’ – “I can feel it coming, we can never go back” – could sum up well our collective sorrows of 2016, but Taylor meant to point specifically to Europe’s uncertain future and shaky political climate, no doubt to include the passage of Brexit. The use of empty bottles and kitchen utensils for percussion adds to the scrappy desperate feel despite the song’s undeniable pop sensibility. ‘Signal’ debuted with a music video directed by and starring Hollywood starlet Milla Jovavich. The single itself sees Taylor return to what we formerly knew as the SOHN sound: less pop and more experimental, with intriguing synth note and vocal compression and a bare yet oddly soulful drumbeat. ‘Proof’ is another great example of this.
The rest of SOHN’s ‘Rennen’ will delight electro heads but will also fascinate open-minded pop fans with plenty of interesting bits in a post-Bowie/Prince world. The synth chords on ‘Dead Wrong’ are borderline ominous, but accompanied by Taylor’s r&b vocal and rhythm, you can imagine it’d be something Michael Jackson might have come up with if he was still alive today. On ‘Primary’, Taylor revisits politics, specifically the start of the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign: “nobody seems able to really change / I can’t believe we’re not better / I thought we were past this”. The bright, percussion-led ‘Falling’ mirrors the intoxicating adrenalin rush of love with its upbeat tempo. Is it too much to wish for him to finally record in daylight and be totally happy on album #3? Ha. On the starkly bare title track ‘Rennen’, Taylor’s double-tracked vocals and at times falsetto are beautiful. Maybe we should leave him to follow his muse.
An electronic producer has, pretty much, infinite options at his fingertips when he sets his mind on making music. In challenging himself to do more with less, Taylor proves without a doubt through his vocal and songwriting abilities on ‘Rennen’ that he shines in a relatively minimalist environment. An incredible achievement.
‘Rennen’, the second album from SOHN, will be out this Friday, the 13th of January 2017, on 4AD. Prior to his scheduled appearance at SXSW 2017, he will embark on a European tour in early February, culminating in a show at London Electric Brixton on the 1st of March. For more coverage of SOHN on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 10th January 2017 at 11:00 am
To say we’ve known about MiC LOWRY, most likely for a period of time much longer than you, is probably an understatement. Our then North East correspondent and head photographer Martin Sharman discovered their soulful harmonies when they performed at the delegates party at the Epstein Theatre the first night of Liverpool Sound City 2013. Fast forward a good 3, nearly 4 years, and the band are ready to go out on another tour of the UK next month.
The kind folks at Gigs and Tours have offered up a pair of tickets to the Birmingham date of said UK tour of the vocal harmony group. It’ll be at the Institute on the 19th of February, and all you have to do to put yourself in the running is to fill out the form located at the bottom of this post. It couldn’t be easier: all we need are your name, your email address (to contact you if you win) and your argument on why we should give you these tickets. From all the entries, we’ll choose a lucky winner. Be quick, as we’re closing the contest Friday at 5 PM UK time. Got it? Good. And good luck! To read more on MiC LOWRY on TGTF, go here.
Thursday 16th February 2017 – Glasgow ABC2
Saturday 18th February 2017 – Liverpool Academy
Sunday 19th February 2017 – Birmingham Institute
Monday 20th February 2017 – London Koko
This contest is now closed. The winner will be contacted soon by email.
Alt-pop up-and-comers Sundara Karma will embark on a UK headline tour this February, to follow their support slot on Two Door Cinema Club‘s current UK tour. The headline dates also follow the release of Sundara Karma’s debut LP ‘Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect’, which we recently reviewed right back here. You can have a listen to album track ‘Flame’ just below the tour date listing.
Ahead of their headline tour, Sundara Karma will play a handful of in-store shows interspersed among their Two Door Cinema Club support engagements. Check the band’s official Facebook for a full list of their upcoming shows; tickets for the following dates are available now. They’re also scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017, so we’ll be looking out for them in Austin in March.
Saturday 11th February 2017 – Birmingham Rainbow Warehouse
Sunday 12th February 2017 – Liverpool Academy
Monday 13th February 2017 – Sheffield Leadmill
Wednesday 15th February 2017 – Newcastle Northumbria Student Union
Thursday 16th February 2017 – Manchester Albert Hall
Friday 17th February 2017 – Glasgow Garage
Saturday 18th February 2017 – Leeds University
Sunday 19th February 2017 – Reading University 3sixty Bar
Monday 20th February 2017 – Leicester Academy 2
Wednesday 22nd February 2017 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Thursday 23rd February 2017 – Cardiff University Student Union
Friday 24th February 2017 – London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 9th January 2017 at 6:00 pm
The late David Bowie keeps on giving us gifts from the grave. Or, rather, his conscientious mind before he left us has. This past Saturday, on what would have been his 70th birthday, the world was given another released from the deceased pioneer. The ‘No Plan’ EP features three songs that represent the last recordings by the man who played Ziggy Stardust: the title track ‘No Plan’, ‘Killing a Little Time’ and ‘When I Met You’.
‘Lazarus’, of course previously available as a track on and a single from the 2016 ‘Blackstar’, is fittingly included here, as the aforementioned trio of songs were all previously available publicly as part of the cast recording of Bowie’s musical of the same name. However, these versions have Bowie’s own voice rather than the actors appearing in the Broadway work.
Following such a terribly tumultuous year we had in 2016 that was punctuated from the start with his death, it seems like we’ve come full circle with another present bestowed upon us by Ziggy to start 2017. Watch the music video for title track ‘No Past’ below. To refresh your memory and to read through our past coverage of David Bowie on TGTF, use this link.
Header photo by Tom Oxley
Though they’ve been skirting the music scene for a few years now, Reading alt-pop quartet Sundara Karma are beginning 2017 with a grand formal entrance. The release of their debut LP ‘Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect’ follows a whirlwind 2016, which included a main stage slot at Reading and Leeds, a co-headline slot on the first ever BBC Music Presents US tour, and radio accolades on both sides of the pond from BBC Radio 1, Beats 1 and Sirius XM Alt Nation.
The album’s title is striking in its self-awareness, especially when you realise that the members of Sundara Karma (frontman Oscar Pollock, guitarist Ally Baty, bassist Dom Cordell and drummer Haydn Evans), all at or near the ripe age of 20 years, are still in the very midst of what most of us would call youth. Thematically, the songs on the LP revolve around the egocentric angst of coming of age. Musically, the slick instrumentation, propulsive rhythms and catchy choruses channel that very real in-the-moment angst into a set of instantly anthemic radio hits, delivered in Pollock’s endearingly petulant baritone. (It should be noted that, as a frontman, Pollock bears an immediate stylistic and vocal resemblance to The 1975 lead singer Matt Healy, and Pollock’s androgynous stage name “Lulu” suggests that the impression isn’t entirely accidental.)
Most of the songs on ‘Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect’ were released on previous EPs, including a pair from 2015 titled ‘EP I’ and ‘EP II’. But a few of the tracks are new, and final track ‘Loveblood’, was reworked specifically for U.S. release. Though they were clearly written over a period of several years, the tracks mesh with remarkable cohesion in the context of the album’s overarching thematic concept. Opening track ‘A Young Understanding’ sets the mood straightaway with sharp, edgy guitars and a potent lyrical refrain, “reach for a side, reach for an understanding”.
‘Olympia’ explores the well-worn idea of the feminine mystique from a rather aloof third person distance, as Lulu describes his elusive muse: “modern Venus, tender and frail . . . she’s the best in all of Paris at aching and breaking hearts”. Later in the album sequence, ‘Vivienne’ is the flip side of the coin, a passionate romance requited: “wild eyes, skinny jeans / disengaged at just 19 / you and I stuck in the in-between”. Existential youth anthem ‘She Said’ might be considered the very core of the album’s character. Lyrically, its conflict plays out in the final verse, as Lulu sings of a boy “acting like he doesn’t care / but he’s really the most self-aware . . . ain’t it funny how we’re never certain ‘bout the way we are / another youth wasted, an eternity tainted”.
The folky guitar intro and bouncy handclaps of ‘Happy Family’ disguise an expansive, Springsteen-esque narrative about reaching a dead end in life and making hard choices: “been searching for a long time in this town / looking for a gold mine so we can get out / to finer days, we’ll waste away…” Simpler instrumentation and a folk rock rhythm are also the foundation for ‘Lose the Feeling’, where ethereally distant synths are added to set the sonic tone for a “lucid dream” experience.
The album becomes notably heavier toward the end, with the dark and ominous ’Be Nobody’ (“all the kids are ravers / ‘cos the church is now the club”) and the angular, shadowy ‘Deep Relief’, which contains the eponymous lyric “good things they come and go / and if they don’t we’re wired to forget / we bear a heavy load / ‘cos youth is only ever fun in retrospect”. Final track ‘Loveblood’ (U.S. Version) is a brooding, vampiric melodrama that takes a notable lyrical misstep in refering to the “taste of the thunder from her thighs”, but ends with a more thematically appropriate line “one last kiss, away she goes / obsessed with loveblood and no one knows”.
Fans of recent upstart bands like The 1975 and Catfish and the Bottlemen might find themselves similarly obsessed with Sundara Karma after a listen to ‘Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect’. It reads a bit like a John Hughes film from the 1980s and borrows sonic gestures from the dark synth pop of the same era, but its musical approach feels fresh and novel from a distance of 30 years, which, once again, is longer than anyone in the band has been alive. Despite their relative youth, the album’s one-two punch of youthful emotion and sonic intensity is sure to propel Sundara Karma forward as one of the biggest new acts of 2017.
Sundara Karma’s debut album ‘Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect’ is out now on Chess Club / RCA Victor. It’s also available for streaming in America via Bee & El / Sony RAL.
Header photo by Mayumi Hirata
Brighton art-rock group British Sea Power have just announced the upcoming release of their sixth studio album ‘Let the Dancers Inherit Their Party’. Breaking from their five-album relationship with Rough Trade Records, the band will release the new album on their own Golden Chariot label, via Caroline International, on the 31st of March. Those of you in the UK can listen to album single ‘Bad Bohemian’ just below the tour date listing; unfortunately, the stream hasn’t been made available in America.
Just after the album release, British Sea Power will play a list of live dates in the UK, running through mid-April. Tickets for the following shows are available now. Catch up on TGTF’s previous coverage of British Sea Power is right back here.
Thursday 6th April 2017 – Bristol Trinity
Friday 7th April 2017 – Leeds Church
Saturday 8th April 2017 – Newcastle Riverside
Sunday 9th April 2017 – Edinburgh Liquid Rooms
Tuesday 11th April 2017 – Manchester Ritz
Wednesday 12th April 2017 – London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Thursday 13th April 2017 – Birmingham Academy 2
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