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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 22nd November 2016 at 12:00 pm
the xx first burst on the scene nearly a decade ago as dream pop misfits. Touring as support for their Beggars Group peers Friendly Fires, it was hard to see that superstardom loomed on the horizon for this unconventional band with complementary male and female lead vocals. Yet the music from their 2009 self-titled and Mercury Prize-winning debut album released on Young Turks proved irresistible to tv sync producers and the media alike, their songs appearing on promos for NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the BBC’s coverage of the 2010 general election. Soon, they were selling out venues with no trouble at all, and their was on everyone’s lips.
Their sophomore album, 2012’s ‘Coexist’, garnered top marks from nearly every music review outlet across the board. Then there was a strange and unexplained silence. I’d argue that their mention in spring 2014 that they were working on album #3 was simply dangling a carrot and doing no-one any favours; to me, you’ve got new music or you don’t, don’t play with the emotions of your devoted fans. In summer 2015, their beats master Jamie Smith who is professionally known as Jamie xx released his debut album ‘In Colour’. In a surprise move, exemplary single ‘Loud Places’ and ‘SeeSaw’ from the album featured the vocals of his xx bandmate Romy Madley-Croft, who with other xx member Oliver Sim were seen posing in a photo on Instagram with Smith. Were the xx on their way back to us?
So, xx fans, you’ll be pleased to know that their third album ‘I See You’ will be released on the 13th of January 2017 on Young Turks. The week of the election, I really wasn’t in the right mindset to listen and to appropriately deliberate on the their new song to preview their new LP. A week and a half after its unveiling, I’m ready now, and I can’t help but be discoursed by what I hear. In a weird instance of art imitating life, it seems that in music that assimilation, instead of celebrating differences and pushing boundaries, is the chosen route to success.
‘On Hold’ is not about a phone conversation but a relationship that was put on the back burner, with the principals sadly finding out that love can’t thrive in a vacuum. Neglect, as some of us have learned firsthand, often strikes a bond of love stone cold dead. The best part of the song are Madley-Croft and Sim’s trademark gently competing vocals, but the painful rhymes built into this song (“when or where did we go cold / I thought I had you on hold”) are cringeworthy. The beats of Jamie xx, while fun, dance floor worthy and I guess a nice segue on from ‘In Colour’, fill up what always was welcome negative space on past xx efforts. I view this as a major misstep. The most important graphic artists of modern times weren’t afraid of negative space. They were viewed as revolutionaries because they didn’t follow everyone else. And sometimes – and especially in these volatile times – the world needs artists confident enough to go against the grain. I don’t hear anything in here that makes me go “wow!” or “that’s amazing!”
The band were the musical guests on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live; NME noted how awkward the group looked onstage at 30 Rock in their goth cowboy attire. Not exactly . Maybe their misfit personalities that we fell in love in the beginning will become more prominent on the rest of ‘I See You’? Here’s to hoping…
Stay tuned for the xx’s third album ‘I See You’, which is due for release on the 13th of January 2017. An audio stream version of ‘On Hold’, the lyrics noted in the comments in ‘screaming’ capital letters, is available below. For much more of TGTF’s coverage of the xx, use this link.
Brooklyn singer/songwriter Adrianne Lenker and her partner in musical crime Buck Meek, better known collectively as Big Thief, have announced a list of UK tour dates for early next year. Their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Masterpiece’ was released back in May of this year on Saddle Creek Records. Below the tour date listing, you can watch Big Thief perform three songs from the record, ‘Masterpiece’, ‘Paul’ and ‘Lorraine’, as part of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series.
Tickets for the following shows are available now. TGTF’s previous coverage of Big Thief, including a live review from SXSW 2016, is collected through here.
Friday 3rd February 2017 – Bristol Louisiana
Saturday 4th February 2017 – Sheffield Leadmill
Sunday 5th February 2017 – Edinburgh Mash House
Tuesday 7th February 2017 – Manchester Soup Kitchen
Wednesday 8th February 2017 – Nottingham Spanky van Dyke’s
Thursday 9th February 2017 – London Lexington
Friday 10th February 2017 – Brighton Hope & Ruin
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 21st November 2016 at 6:00 pm
Californian born singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop has managed to reinvent herself several times now. Since the release of her debut album in 2007, ‘Kismet’, her uprooting to Manchester to become one of Elbow and Guy Garvey‘s contemporaries opened doors and made opportunities available to her otherwise inaccessible to other artists. This spring, she returned to her American roots so to speak with a series of duets with Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam on the Sub Pop LP ‘Love Letters for Fire’, following the release with a tour. Sub Pop has paid their confidence in Hoop with the agreement to release her next studio album, ‘Memories Are Now’, scheduled for release in February 2017.
To preview the upcoming release, Hoop has revealed the promo video for ‘The Lost Sky’. She seems to have a preoccupation with hospitals, as evidenced with the previous song ‘Hospital’ from 2012’s ‘The House That Jack Built’. This preoccupation continues with a home nurse fighting a mentally ill patient in this promo, before Hoop herself seems to resign herself to sorrow with a sob. Sounds like ‘Memories Are Now’ is going to be an emotional roller coaster. Watch the video for ‘The Lost Sky’ below, and stay tuned for her new album out on the 10th of February on Sub Pop. For more on Jesca Hoop on TGTF, check out our past coverage on her here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 21st November 2016 at 12:00 pm
Passport to Stockholm comes into this autumn as a trio. Still led by Chris “Barny” Barnard and bolstered by the beats plus synths of Henri Grimes, they’ve added a guitarist simply known as “Telmo”, assured to be “really great” according to their Instagram, to complete their new lineup. Back in the spring, they released ‘Better Days’, which represented a more run-of-the-mill pop direction than their previous tunes, which had been enhanced by the unusual-for-pop addition of cello. Following the departure of Mariona De Lamo, it appears that on ‘Shooting Stars’, they’ve continued this further evolution towards the mainstream.
The question now is whether they’ve merely dipped a toe into that pool or dived headfirst. As ubiquitous as synthesisers are in pop music these days, I wouldn’t have been so surprised had it been any other band. However, knowing what they sounded like before, having reviewed their excellent ‘All at Once’ EP in September 2015, the first listen to Passport to Stockholm’s latest felt quite jarring, as if Coldplay or Kodaline had horned in on the band’s recording session and proceeded to give them the Midas touch.
Make no mistake, Barnard’s voice has never been better, and the tune has an enjoyable bopping nature that makes it a clear candidate for feel good pop melody of the year. Listeners racking up a combined incredible million plays on the band’s Spotify account, nearly half of those listens courtesy of the listening of ‘Better Days’, make the point that the people have spoken and they like this new direction. That said, we now live in a world where Bastille have sold millions upon millions of records doing practically the same kind of music. If it’s Passport to Stockholm’s intention to join that particular fray and shoot for mainstream stardom, it’s going to take a lot of work to reach the top and stay there.
‘Shooting Stars’ is out now. For more on TGTF on Passport to Stockholm, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 21st November 2016 at 9:00 am
Oxfordshire singer/songwriter Lewis Watson has announced his new album ‘midnight’ will be released on the 3rd of March 2017 on Cooking Vinyl. To celebrate the forthcoming release, he has unveiled ‘little light’ in the form of a 360-degree video, which you can watch at the bottom of this post. He’s also announced a long list of live dates in the UK for the rest of this year and in March and April 2017 to follow the LP’s release in the new year. Tickets are on sale now; the below dates, plus European dates to follow in mid-April, can be viewed on BandsinTown here. For more on TGTF on self-taught musician Lewis Watson, go here.
Saturday 26th November 2016 – Bedford Esquires
Sunday 27th November 2016 – Sheffield Plug
Monday 28th November 2016 – Norwich Arts Centre
Tuesday 29th November 2016 – Leicester Cookie
Wednesday 30th November 2016 – Cardiff Globe
Thursday 1st December 2016 – Leeds Wardrobe
Friday 2nd December 2016 – Edinburgh Electric Circus
Tuesday 21st March 2017 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Wednesday 22nd March 2017 – Brighton Haunt
Thursday 23rd March 2017 – London Tabernacle
Friday 24th March 2017 – Bristol Thekla
Sunday 26th March 2017 – Manchester Sound Control
Monday 27th March 2017 – Glasgow Garage
Tuesday 28th March 2017 – Newcastle Think Tank
Wednesday 29th March 2017 – Birmingham Institute
Thursday 30th March 2017 – Oxford SJE
Sunday 2nd April 2017 – Cambridge Portland Arms
Monday 3rd April 2017 – Nottingham Bodega
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 18th November 2016 at 6:00 pm
Australian electronic trio SAFIA released their debut album in September; I reviewed it back then. ‘Internal’, out now on Virgin EMI (the UK) and Island Records (North America), is the culmination of the group’s hopes and dreams after becoming one of their homeland’s hottest tickets in town in the past 7 years. ‘My Love is Gone’ is one of the bouncier, popper moments of ‘Internal’, and it now has its own music video. Filmed in Morocco and taking the title of the song literally, the saga that enfolds shows the possible painful price of leaving loved ones behind. I’m sure they had this video planned out before the American election, but it seems especially poignant in that political context. Watch it below. For more on SAFIA on TGTF, go here.
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