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After several years of making music together, Leeds quartet The Dunwells are making a concerted effort to develop and refine their sound. Their new EP ‘Show Me Emotion’ indicates a definite change of pace from the blues-inflected folk rock of their 2012 album ‘Blind Sighted Faith’. Written mostly during the hectic touring cycle for that album, the new EP finds the band moving away from their acoustic guitar foundation and leaning more on their trademark vocal harmonies, along with keyboards and percussion, to expand their sonic repertoire.
The band, comprised of brothers Joseph and David Dunwell along with cousins Robert Clayton and Jonny Lamb, sought out producer Steve Harris for production assistance on the EP after hearing his work on Kodaline’s ‘High Hopes’. The influence of that track is clearly evident in the four songs on the ‘Show Me Emotion’ EP, which are similarly overflowing with the kind of candid, straightforward emotionality that the Irish band have become known for.
Frontman Joe Dunwell’s emotive vocals on the opening lyric to title track ‘Show Me Emotion’ provide an immediately effective hook as he pleads, “Give me one more chance / I need to make it right.” While the song’s lyrics aren’t particularly inventive, the band make up for that with gritty, heartfelt expression, not only in the vocal lines, but also in the punctuation of the rhythm guitar and drums. The anthemic chorus builds to a layered coda section that seems tailor made for stadium-style sing-alongs.
The middle two tracks on the EP, ‘Communicate’ and ‘Sleepless Nights’, are likewise fraught with emotion. Outstanding track ‘Communicate’ is an urgent plea that finds Joe Dunwell reaching to the limits of his expressive vocal range, while ‘Sleepless Nights’ features the band’s ethereal vocal harmonies to create a hauntingly disconnected insomniac effect.
The EP closes on an optimistic note with the upbeat track ‘The Best Is Yet to Come.’ Like ‘Show Me Emotion’, its message might be slightly trite, but the Dunwells are utterly convincing in their delivery. Explaining the context of the song, Joe Dunwell says, “The Best Is Yet To Come’ was written when we got home from the U.S. tour. We were eager to start playing and recording new material and we knew we had loads more to give. The song is about having patience and keeping your head up, you never know what’s around the corner.”
The title ‘Show Me Emotion’ essentially sums up the Dunwells’ revitalized approach to making music, as Joe Dunwell notes in the EP’s press release. Their fresh and energetic new sound is indeed an exciting prospect for what is still to come.
The ‘Show Me Emotion’ EP is out today. The Dunwells begin their UK headline tour this Friday; you can find all the details here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 5th September 2014 at 6:00 pm
alt-J go back to nature – and back to the forest and caveman times too – in the promo for ‘Every Other Freckle’, featured on their upcoming second album ‘This is All Yours’, out the 22nd of September. There is also multiple appearances of a sad looking kitty, a bare bum and terrifying close-ups of teeth and a striking snake in here too. Watch the madness below.
Those unfamiliar with the name Just Jack simply need to dig out his 2006 hit ‘Starz in Their Eyes’ for the glimmer of recognition to alight upon their auricles. Never one prone to bouts of prolificity, nevertheless his three albums in 7 years comprehensively describe the glowing centre of a Venn diagram where the dance, urban, pop and chill-out genres intersect. 2002’s ‘The Outer Marker’ is an evocative collection of comedown classics peppered with intelligent flow (“I loosen up your consciousness like a syrup of figs”), downtempo beats and great swathes of portentous synths. A little-known classic.
Jack moved away from post-club lethargy and headed towards the charts with 2007’s ‘Overtones’, the aforementioned ‘Starz’ popping up all over the place on TV trailers and soundtracks, a somewhat ironic state of affairs since the topic of the song is a knowing commentary on the dangers of the reality television machine. It netted him a silver disc, reaching #2 in the charts in the UK and Ireland, and it would become his best performing single.
2009’s ‘All Night Cinema’ continued the pin-sharp observational lyrics and his genre-skipping musical magpie habit. ‘The Day I Died’ is a curious choice for a single, a bittersweet description of a perfect day of the average man on the street – until he gets run over, that is. Elsewhere, ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Goth in the Disco’ both describe the seamier side of nightclub culture, packed full of surreal imagery and with more than the sniff of chemically-enhanced personal experience. And that was it, a trifecta of albums demonstrating the singular genius of Just Jack, after which there were no more…
Thankfully for those partial to all things Just Jacksian, this week sees the release of a fresh four-track EP. The optimistically-titled ‘Winning’ sees him back to what he arguably does best: bedroom dance-tinged electronica, overlaid with his distinctive just-the-right-side-of-can’t-be-arsed vocal. These four songs are absolutely as good as anything he’s ever released. The title track is the obligatory observational pop song, sharp as ever. ‘Droids’ is the dancefloor classic, with disco intent in the massive bassline and an increasingly complex arrangement, Jack comes across as a barrow-boy Daft Punk. ‘Inside’ hints at dubstep orchestration, and sees him back at his downtempo best, with talk of endorphins and bed and breakfasts perfectly summarising the blend of ethereal and mundane that characterises the best of Just Jack’s work.
And is he really musically taking on the 21st century cult of religious extremism on ‘Minefield’? To a disco beat? It’s about time someone did. Extra merit points, Mr Allsop.
‘Winning’, the latest EP from Just Jack, is available for purchase in digital download format now at Jack’s Bandcamp.
Header photo by Kathrin Baumbach
In anxious anticipation of their upcoming album release, Irish five-piece band The Young Folk have just published the video for their latest single, the quaintly beautiful ‘Way Down South’. Filmed in Sweden, the video’s picturesque scenery visually realizes the song’s contemplative mood with a simple rustic splendor that is at once intimate and somehow detached, perfectly highlighting the heartbreaking uncertainty in the lyrics.
This radio edit of ‘Way Down South’ differs quite significantly from the album version that will appear on ‘The Little Battle’, which is due out next Monday, the 8th of September, via ARC Music/Pixie Pace Records. (You can read my prematurely excited review of the album, which was originally slated for release in May, right here.) Where the full version of the song featured a graceful string arrangement behind the reserved elegance of the vocal melody, the new version takes a slightly more relaxed tempo, using a rougher vocal take to emphasise its charming folk quality. This version also substitutes lush brass instrumentation for the soaring string arrangement of the original recording, which is lighter and cleaner but also emotionally more distant than this adaptation.
The new arrangement of ‘Way Down South’ reflects a change in The Young Folk’s lineup, specifically the addition of Alex Borwick on brass, but it also displays the band’s versatility and dedication to their authentic folk sound. This new recording may not be as technically precise as the album version, but it captures the candid sincerity of the band’s live sound, which I fell in love with earlier this year at SXSW 2014. (We featured the album version of ‘Way Down South’ track in our SXSW 2014 preview of bands from Ireland and Northern Ireland.)
The Young Folk will play an extensive tour of Ireland in the coming weeks and are scheduled to appear at the Whiskey Sessions in Manchester on the 22nd of November. A full listing of live dates can be found on the band’s Facebook page.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 4th September 2014 at 4:00 pm
Jessie Ware will be releasing her new album ‘Tough Love’ on the 6th of October on Island Records. One of the tracks appearing on the new LP will be this collaboration with Dev ‘Blood Orange‘ Hynes, a little disco-infused number called ‘Want Your Feeling’. Here for you today we’ve a live performance of Ware and her band performing the song at London’s Barbican, where it’s clear this song (and probably other tunes on ‘Tough Love’) is a great vehicle for her sultry voice. Watch it below.
This week, American sister band The Pierces released their 5th studio LP ‘Creation’, a shimmering desert mirage of ethereal vocal harmonies and transcendental lyrics that reflects the pair’s recent relocation to Southern California. We here at TGTF have already featured the eponymous track ‘Creation’ and its accompanying video, which characterize the outstanding features of the album as a whole.
The title track to ‘Creation’ is a strong hook for the rest of the LP, showcasing Allison and Catherine Pierce’s seamless vocal blend in the context of pounding tribal rhythms, resonant backing vocals, and iridescent percussion. Its luminous keyboard line glistens behind the perpetual motion of the chorus, “you’re the creation / you’re the reason / you’re the rising sun and the colors in my mind / you’re the changing of the seasons / you’re the growing old and the passing of the time.”
The album’s first single and second track ‘Kings’ has a more pop-oriented rhythm and edgy, cool vocals that immediately made me wonder if this is what the Bangles might have sounded like with synths instead of guitars. The dramatic chorus, “if we want to / we could do what kings do / I can feel the earth move when you speak”, has an especially ’80s feel to it, particularly in the contrast between the vocal melody and the sultry lower-voice harmony.
The anxious heartbeat rhythm and contrasting back-and-forth vocals of ‘Believe in Me’ and the cagey moving harmonies in ‘Come Alive’ are promising hints of variety that unfortunately don’t quite play out on the later part of the album. From this point forward, ‘Creation’ begins to lose momentum, becoming wrapped up in the increasingly contrived lyrics and the monotony of the same rhythms and minor key vocal arrangements being recycled on every track.
The 13 tracks on the album could probably have been culled down to 9 or 10 in order to maintain the thematic focus and mitigate the cloying effect of the rich vocals. Upbeat foot-stomping track ‘Honest Man’ is buried between two vaguely-titled and rather more bland tracks, ‘I Can Feel’ and ‘Must Be Something’. Toward the end of the album, folk ballad ‘Confidence in Love’ feels almost more clinical than emotional, while ‘The One I Want’ is an exquisitely slow-burning exploration of the “masculine mystique”. Final track ‘Flesh and Bone’ is a delicate ending that highlights the dynamic beauty of the sisters’ voices as the album’s main strength.
The Pierces have clearly attempted to expand their musical horizons on ‘Creation’, even going so far as to procure a shaman and ingest ayahuasca to inspire their experimentation with new sonic effects. And while ‘Creation’ is somewhat of a departure from their past, the contrast isn’t as dramatic as it might have been. The sisters’ deep spiritual journey doesn’t extend musically beyond the visceral rhythms and echoing vocals into, for example, more fluid song structures or harmonic variety. In the end, ‘Creation’ is a bit stifled by its own lofty lyrics and airtight vocal harmonies. But the almost tangible energy at the beginning of the album and the graceful precision of the lighter tracks near the end are worth the wandering journey through the middle.
‘Creation’ is out now on Polydor Records. The Pierces will begin a tour of the UK in support of the album later this month; you can find the details here.
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