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Band of Skulls have been playing and creating music since 2008. They are about to release their fourth studio album next Friday. Their latest single, ‘So Good’ has been premiered ahead of its release and is the second to be shared from LP ‘By Default’. It follows first single ‘Killer’, which was released earlier this year. The album was produced by Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters) and will be released through BMG.
The threesome – Emma Richardson (bass and vocals), Russell Marsden (guitar and vocals) and Matthew Hayward (drums) – have had a steady rise to fame over the past 8 years or so. At the beginning of their career, they were featured on iTunes’ free Single of the Week, then performing on Later with Jools Holland and Late Night with Seth Meyers in 2014. They’ve also had their songs featured on a myriad of television shows including Castle, Gossip Girl and True Blood over the past few years, solidifying their exposure mainstream. They have supported Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Dead Weather, and have toured pretty extensively: in a nutshell, they’ve been busy.
Their latest release ‘So Good’ sees Richardson’s vocals front and centre and is a bold rock ‘n’ roll number, soaked in catchy bass rhythms and sharp, clean guitars. The track has vigour to it, like it would comfortably suit both an intimate venue like your local seedy bar, as well on the main stage at a festival. The chorus, Richardson repeating the title of the song over and over, is pretty addictive and picks up the rhythm of the track before softening back into each verse. The song fits into the indie rock mould, yet is sophisticated and stylish. This single feels less edgy than some of their earlier work, almost leaning into a more pop vibe. ‘So Good’ sets an interesting precedence for the upcoming album: the most exciting bands and artists are usually those that don’t stubbornly stick to the same blueprint album after album.
Band of Skulls will release their fourth album ‘By Default’ on the 27th of May on BMG, which includes current single ‘So Good’. The band will be touring extensively across Europe this year, including numerous festivals from The Great Escape and Glastonbury, to Benicassim and Out Of The Woods Festival in Austria. For England, they’ve already announced an extensive tour for October and November; all the dates are listed in this previous tour post. past coverage of Band of Skulls on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 18th May 2016 at 11:00 am
Growing up is hard to do. And it’s painful as hell if you’re going through emotional abandonment and excessive parental pressure. (So can random track or album drops with no warning to music editors, for that matter.) Oxford’s Glass Animals became more massive in Australia and America than the UK on the strength of their 2014 debut album ‘Zaba’, released on Paul Epworth’s Wolftone label. It was one of those curious phenomenons that I had predicted but when it actually happened, I still had trouble believing it.
With their nods to hip hop and urban music and frontman Dave Bayley’s self-professed love of Kanye West, I figured it would be a given they’d be embraced in my home country. Monday, after a long wait, they released new material in the form of single ‘Life Itself’, purported to be on the second Glass Animals long player. If Bayley’s comments “I still feel very odd listening to these strangely personal songs” are to be believed, the band’s trajectory, the highs and lows of being in a band, and the eventual confidence that rises from it appear to be chronicled on this first taster.
The first thing sonically you’ll notice is that overall, the music definitely takes a louder, centre stage role. While on 2014’s ‘Zaba’, singles like ‘Black Mambo’ and ‘Gooey’ were about setting a chill vibe, there is no mistaking on ‘Life Itself’ that it is forcing you to focus all your attention on it and nowhere else. The single begins almost like the start of a film, with harp chords, an Oriental melody on koto and instrumental clicks, but that doesn’t last too long. From there, there’s rhythmically a nice undercurrent of bouncy beats similar to that heard on ‘Zaba’ and engaging shakes of a jingle stick, but they sadly kind of get lost in the otherwise forward nature of the track, which includes borderline cacophonous synth lines.
Bayley explained the song to American indie music magazine Under the Radar this way: “It’s a guy who was born a bit strange, and struggles to become part of society. Because of that he spends more time alone in his own head, getting stranger, and it becomes an awful cycle of doom.” Looking closer at the lyrics, the first verse chronicles this character Bayley plays, a bloke whose father had a certain, probably macho life planned out for him that directly flies into the face of his son’s “gentle human” nature. In verse two, the bloke’s mum is introduced (using “mom” in American parlance), who notes her son’s inability to get and hold down a job and criticises his physical appearance.
The protagonist grows up and not into the image expected by his father. His own mother considers him a bum and his “grandmama” says he looks wasted. But in his own head, the son thinks he’s grown up just fine and he looks “fantastic”. Who’s wrong, and who’s right? Where’s the line between keeping up with the Joneses and being yourself? While there’s never been great finesse with word choice in Glass Animals songs, there is a strange and intriguing poignancy to the lyrics of ‘Life Itself’ hiding behind its over-the-top instrumentation. It’s like a massive pair of neon-coloured Dior sunglasses are sat in front of the eyes whose heart you want to discover.
Glass Animals’ second album is named ‘How to Be a Human Being’, but we don’t have a release date yet and it’s expected sometime in late summer on Caroline International / Wolftone. Based on the reveal of ‘Life Itself’ this week, we’re assuming we’ll be getting all the nitty-gritty details in due course. They have one UK show – at London ICA on the 15th of June – planned for this year and no others; they’re also scheduled to perform on the 20th of June at Berlin Kantine Am Berghain. For TGTF’s archive on Glass Animals, including our coverage of them at SXSW 2014 and Liverpool Sound City 2014 when it seemed barely anyone in the world knew who they were, go here.
Glasgow indie rockers Baby Strange are setting out tonight (yes, tonight!) on a run of co-headline dates with fellow Glaswegian band White. The tour comprises eight shows, including a special gig hosted by Club NME and BBC Introducing on the 27th of May at London’s KOKO. Following their run of English dates, Baby Strange are also scheduled to play at the Electric Fields Festival in Scotland on the 26th-28th of August.
Along with the list of tour dates, Baby Strange have released a new video for their current single ‘Pure Evil’. The video consists of footage filmed in a Portsmouth nightclub back in 1992, found and pieced together by the band themselves. “There’s so many characters, some of the people remind us of people we know,” says frontman Johnny Madden. “We wish we were there, it looks care free. No one messing about on their phone, just a bunch of people having a good time.” If the idea of a good time with no phones seems hard to believe, watch the video just below the tour date listing for proof.
Wednesday 18th May 2016 – Newcastle Cluny
Thursday 19th May 2016 – Manchester Sound Control
Sunday 22nd May 2016 – Birmingham Sunflower Lounge
Tuesday 24th May 2016 – Nottingham Bodega
Wednesday 25th May 2016 – Bristol Thekla
Thursday 26th May 2016 – Oxford Bullingdon
Friday 27th May 2016 – London KOKO (Club NME/BBC Introducing show)
Saturday 28th May 2016 – Sheffield Plug
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 17th May 2016 at 6:00 pm
Has your life been all the more sad in the absence of Joe Mount and the crew of Metronomy? Well, folks, you’re in luck. Metronomy have announced a new album ‘Summer 08’, to be released on the 1st of July. And they’ve also shared the lead track, ‘Old Skool’, full of vinyl scratchings and of course, plenty of synths. True to its name, the accompanying promo video to the single is serious throwback, full of big hair, bright colours and polyester suits. Watch it below. I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more before the album release.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 17th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
Most of the band performances at Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016 wouldn’t take place until after the sun went down. However, conference delegates and anyone else curious were welcome to partake in a series of free late afternoon shows at an outdoor stage outside Drake One Fifty, a chi-chi restaurant and a bar a mere block away from the hub of convention activity at the Sheraton Centre Toronto hotel. On Wednesday, I made it just in time to for all three acts and while it was chilly, it was sunny, and with CAN$5 Bud Light and sangria, a good time was had by all.
First up on this afternoon was Melbourne-based producer, singer and songwriter Elle Graham, who performs under the name Woodes. The tall blond 23-year old with amazing braids cut a dramatic figure in front of her small table of synths and controllers. I really enjoyed Graham’s vocals, expressive yet also fragile in their beauty. Paired with her syncopated beats such as on her track ‘Daggers and Knives’, she gave a winning performance.
For a different change of pace, Woodes was followed by entertainment from a chillier locale on the opposite side of the globe from Oz. Axel Flovent is from a Northern fishing town in Iceland and during his short set at Drake One Fifty, he cracked jokes about the sun not shining (much) back home. Judging from the titles of his songs like ‘Snow’, he clearly has a fixation on the inclement weather of his homeland. Check out a live performance of the song below to fully appreciate the warm, gorgeous tones of Flovent’s voice. I imagine his singer/songwriter style will do very well in the UK and America.
Welsh singer/songwriter Violet Skies closed out Drake One Fifty’s afternoon programming. We here at TGTF are no stranger to her music, as we covered her at the Monday night Trackd and at the Friday afternoon Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcases. Her silvery-lilac hair was stark against her usual black garb, which was less flowy and outrageous and more street than in Austin. Her setup at Drake One Fifty was stripped back from her usual live performances. What hadn’t changed was her soulful vocal delivery and her cutting lyrics from her personal life, including a cutting commentary about a past horrible boss in ‘Liar’.
After a quick dinner and an unsuccessful queueing up for a ridiculous ice cream at Sweet Jesus (I mean, seriously, look at these monsters), it was time to finally see a band from England. As many of you who have met me in person know, England has always felt more like home to me than America ever has. I feel most connected to the North, and when I saw a band from the North East that Martin had covered for us at Deer Shed a few years ago, I knew I had to go and represent. Smoove and Turrell, purveyors of “Northern coal music” with plenty of soul thrown in for good measure, were to perform live at Adelaide Hall.
Delaying their set by half an hour allowed more punters to filter in to the city centre venue, much to the delight of John Turrell, who admirably led the Tyneside band through a series of groovy numbers that got punters’ arses shaking. I mean, how could you not get into it as their band’s keyboardist was playing his Nord with his feet? However, there was plenty of music west of the city centre for me to partake in during the rest of the evening.
Header photo by Brian Benjamin Dwyer
The latest in a remarkable recent crop of Irish artists, Cork band of brothers MKAI made their live debut less than 2 years ago at Electric Picnic 2014. Comprising siblings Cian, Conor, Eoghan and Colm MacSweeny, the band released their debut EP ‘Waiting’ later that autumn with a sold out EP launch show at Cork’s Crane Lane Theatre. The EP was produced and mixed by Rob Kirwan (Hozier, Bell X1, U2) and received national airplay in Ireland at the end of 2014. The band re-released one of its tracks, ‘Loop’, as a single last spring. Now, just over a year later, the band are set to put out another new single, a striking track called ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’.
‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is a mid-tempo, synth-laced rock tune, dramatic and cinematic in tone, soundtracked by vibrant guitar riffs and insistent drum beats. Though its musical gestures are direct and concise, its lyrics are a bit obtuse, starting with the suggestion of a storyline in the opening verse, “you are a mystery to me / your eyes saw the darkness in me / I’ve been tainted by another jaded lover”. The second verse gives a bit more insight into the song’s plot, “how I painted you in the colours of my mistake / took my breath as you washed them away”, and the rousing chorus rings with hard-won redemption.
The song’s accompanying video, directed by Brian Benjamin Dwyer of Madra Mór Productions, depicts a man running from a mysterious masked villain, the frenzy of the pursuit following the song’s anxiously intensifying pace. Though the video’s protagonist eventually evades capture, the twist ending might leave you questioning your interpretation of the rather purposefully vague lyrics. Have a listen below and draw your own conclusion.
MKAI’s new single ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ will be available from the 27th of May. MKAI made quite an impression on our own editor Mary at Canadian Music Week 2016 earlier this month; stay tuned to TGTF for her full coverage of the band’s appearance in Toronto.
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