For editor Mary's coverage of SXSW 2013, go here.
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FYI our fearless editor Mary is currently on holiday (sort of, she says, since she'll be working on blog-y things for most of it) in Britain and the site won't be as updated as frequently until she returns stateside after the 23rd of May. Don't worry though, we'll be busy this month going to festivals (Liverpool Sound City, the Great Escape) and loads of great content is on its way!
By Emmy Droege
on Monday, 13th December 2010 at 12:00 pm
Forget about the nightly news. If there’s one band out there who could give the low-down on global issue then it’s the Last Republic. That’s right, a five-piece band hailing from Swansea, Wales, aren’t only aware of their surroundings, but they know how to address the topics of the day in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion.
Government, war, drugs and society as a whole are just some of the matters of the heart cemented soundly into the band’s recently released album, ‘Parade’. Fortunately, the 10-track LP is easier to listen to than the 5:30 evening news, and although there are bouts of darkness sprinkled throughout, this album also a hidden optimistic on the world at large.
Explosive album opener ‘C.C.T.V.’ introduces first time listeners to a band that that meshes guitar rock with emotive lyrics, and riddled by indie-pop hooks that speak of individuals breaking the chains that bound them or their community. Vocally speaking, fans of Muse will no doubt associate the bellowing falsetto of Jonnie Owen to no other than singer Matt Bellamy.
Listeners will also find a smash of anger and confusion colliding together in a handful of tracks on the LP. ‘Let’s Make Bombs’, for example, is the sort of reactionary tune that will no doubt cause a stadium of angst-ridden students and fans in general go mental to the driving guitar riffs and sweeping chorus, while ‘C’mon Flood The Gates’, musically echoes of fellow Welsh band and legendary Manic Street Preachers, if only showing a tad more swagger in the poptastic department.
Meanwhile, haunting melodies layered with mean guitar licks storm the heart in halfway track ‘When Fools Rush In’, which starts off with an achingly similar to Radiohead then builds and climbs into a euphoric doses of pure guitar noise akin to Rage Against The Machine.
Ironically, one of the band’s stronger moments numbers is heard in one of its softer moments in album closer ‘Parade’. The soft tinkling of the ivories blends in well with the sincere and fragile vocals displayed by Owen, producing a spine-tingling, tear-inducing effect. Still, that’s just the first half of the song. Pretty soon we’re met with a stirring crescendo of noise from the rest of the band, which isn’t only uplifting but contagious.
Perhaps one of the more admirable aspects of this Welsh quintet is that while they’re quite obvious with their influences, such as the aforementioned bands like Muse and Radiohead, a heartfelt Snow Patrol and powerful U2, is that the band can uniquely shape their own tunes in a way which is both original and fresh sounding.
And the world is catching onto the band as well. Earlier this year, they opened for Bon Jovi at a sold out 02 Arena show. To top it off, they garnered the right to play on the V Festival’s Main stage with Britpop legends Oasis. And if that’ s not enough to grab your attention, then bear in mind that “Parade” was produced by Chris Sheldon who’s worked with the likes of U2, Radiohead and Doves. ‘Parade’ was released at the beginning of November, and the band is currently signed to Monnowtone Records. If this album is anything to go by, then the Last Republic has a very promising career indeed.
‘Parade’ by the Last Republic is available now.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 13th December 2010 at 11:00 am
Another year has gone, which means with the whole load of albums released in 2010, your faithful editor has gone through and chosen what she considers the best of the year. Agree? Disagree? As always on TGTF, comments are welcome.
1. Delphic – ‘Acolyte’ (Polydor/Chimeric) – It’s always dangerous to say an album released so early in the year is wonderful, because you leave no room for anything else that comes after it. But after minimal internal debate, it was obvious which album I would choose as #1. The timelessness of this album wasn’t immediately apparent until I started listening to it, from start to finish and voraciously, for the first 3 months of 2010. It’s one of those debut albums that I know I’m going to look back in 10, 20 years and wonder how it was even possible for three guys to write such a sonic masterpiece in a cottage in the Lake District. (And later realised with producer Ewan Pearson, of course.)
The first time I heard ‘Submission’, still my favourite song on the album with its clean electronic sounds, the ever so funky bass and drums and crashing guitar, I was near tears. (As I wrote on the official Roskilde blog in May 2010, “…I consider [this] to be one of the best songs ever recorded. It’s that good. Should I run into them at the festival, I want to give them all hugs and weep on their shoulders.”) I’ll be honest, I’m a little scared about where the band is going for their sophomore album, but I’m confident in the band’s talent that whatever the three of them agree on for the new release will be great.
2. Two Door Cinema Club – ‘Tourist History’ (Kitsune) – It was a real struggle to figure out which of my top two albums would have to be the runner-up. The only reason why I put Two Door Cinema Club’s in at #2 is that there are two songs on here that feel like filler that I could do without. (I will say however that these two as live versions are a different story, because having seen the band twice this year, I actually liked the live versions a whole lot better than the ones committed to disc.) These are songs that will never leave your brain, because they’re so damn catchy. You can read my review of the album here. Definitely looking forward to the next album, bring it on boys.
3. The Hundred in the Hands – ‘The Hundred in the Hands’ (Warp) – Sleigh Bells? Overhyped. LCD Soundsystem? Good but ‘This is Happening’ pales in comparison to this. Sorry. The Hundred in the Hands: now this is the sound you should be listening to. This is 2010 synthpop with guitars, the way ’80s New Wave bands did it and did it right. This couple from Brooklyn have taken the best from New Wave and added emotional fragility with Eleanore Everdell’s beautifully expressive voice. Brilliant. You can read my review of the album here. I kick myself every time I remember I missed seeing them at teeny tiny DC9, headlining Liberation Dance Party.
4. Broken Bells – ‘Broken Bells’ (Columbia) – James Mercer’s voice couldn’t be beat. He’s just cool. And Danger Mouse? Put two cool cats in the same room with their ‘toys’ (all those wonderful instruments they can play and electronic gizmos aplenty) and let them go to town. The instrumentation is chill, dude. This is lounge music for the masses with a touch of sci-fi thrown in there for good measure. Good stuff to relax to. I hope this is one of those ‘side projects’ that turns into something more permanent, because not only are their recordings great, they’re pretty good live as well.
5. Villagers – ‘Becoming a Jackal’ (Domino) – The UK market has been saturated with indie folk pop acts. Some of them will be one trick ponies, never to be heard from again. And then there’s Conor J. O’Brien. You can’t teach someone how to write a good song. You either have it or you don’t. And without a doubt, O’Brien has it. He sings with the experience of someone decades older yet he’s not even 30 yet. After leaving me near breathless live this summer, I’m expecting great things from this ‘kid’ from Malahide.
Under the cut: albums that almost made the top 5…as well as some albums that disappointed.
Continue reading Top Albums of 2010: Editor’s Picks
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 10th December 2010 at 2:00 pm
London band Deadwax released their self-titled, 4-track debut EP on Monday, and it’s a strong effort for a new band that I hope will be around for a long time to come. The first song on the EP, called ‘Indigo’, is one hell of a sultry number. Richard Power’s vocals remind me somewhat of those of David Burn (Detroit Social Club) but with the swagger and sexiness of Jim Morrison. To this day, I honestly do not get why Kings of Leon leave some people all hot and bothered. You see, ‘Indigo’ is exactly the sort of song that rings my bell. Guitars by Power, Richard Lodge (guitar) and James Richards (bass) – gee, there are a lot of ‘Richard’s in this band, aren’t there? – can’t be beat.
The drumming, courtesy of Tom Edwards, figures as prominently on the next track, ‘Shoot You Down’, along with a monster guitar riff that should encourage dancing as well as kids to take up the instrument. On this song, Power channels the expansive style of singing sometimes favoured by Liam Gallagher (‘Supersonic’?) with good results. Similar vocals colour the last song of the EP, ‘Throne’. Not sure they were going for this, but I hear Britpop and Oasis in these tracks. Great songwriting, excellent guitars and good vocals make for a good combination. Can they keep this up? If the answer is yes, success is surely around the corner.
You are hopefully already be familiar with the third track ‘The Rider’, as we featured it as an MP3 of the Day last month. With its slightly grating repetitive, echoing chorus, I think it’s the weakest track on this 4-track offering, but that’s like saying Ringo Starr was the least talented member of the Beatles. Intrigued? Get this EP.
MP3: Deadwax – The Rider
The ‘Deadwax’ EP is available now from iTunes.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 30th November 2010 at 12:00 pm
If you can believe it, nearly 3 years have passed since the release of Duffy‘s debut album, ‘Rockferry’, which has sold over 4 million copies worldwide. It succeeded because ex-Suede Bernard Butler and English producer Steve Booker lent their considerable songwriting talents to the effort. But has her second album released this week, ‘Endlessly’, fallen victim to the sophomore slump? I’ll be honest, I was pretty underwhelmed by the lead single from the album, ‘Well, Well, Well’ (reviewed last month on TGTF), which sounded too much like Dawn Penn’s ‘No, No, No’ for my liking. This time around, Duffy had a songwriting partnership with the elder Albert Hammond (not to be confused with his son Junior of the Strokes).
A good place to start is ‘Too Hurt to Dance’, sounding more Lesley Gore, Dusty Springfield, and my dad’s favourite singer, Skeeter Davis. Now this is more like it: more like what made me a fan of Duffy’s in the first place. The basic instrumentation could have been taken from a ’50s ballad. In this case, less is definitely more. ‘Don’t Forsake Me’, another with sparer instrumentation, will remind you of the beauty of ‘Warwick Avenue’: “I’m sick of drying everybody else’s tears, when there’s no one to dry mine”. Tearjearker. The title track and ‘Breath Away’ are cut from a similar cloth. If you like your Duffy singing languidly and sad, get this album, you’ll love it.
Then you have songs like ‘My Boy’ (with unnecessary crowd applause in the background) and ‘Keeping My Baby’ (with more orchestration), going with more contemporary rhythm patterns. It’s all right but not terribly inspired. ‘Lovestruck’ comes out of left field – it sounds r&b at the start, like it was made specifically for playing on Radio1. Not my thing at all. ‘Girl’ has strange whistle-cuckoo sounds. Uhh…what? The album ends with ‘Hard for the Heart’, with the awkward line in the chorus, “life is a play, and we all play a part / but it often gets hard for the heart”. The sentiment sounds false, stretched.
She’s 26 but Duffy still sounds like a little girl. This is good and bad. When we look at this album many years from now, it’ll be easy to remember it because of her innocent voice and the sad songs. I remember when ‘Rockferry’ came out: I got the album because I was sold on it purely for ‘Mercy’, which was upbeat and made you want to dance. The problem with this album is, while it’s got some good songs, good but sad songs that cash in on the vintage sound that made Duffy a household name 3 years ago, this is not one you will want to play endlessly.
‘Endlessly’ was released yesterday (29 November) on A&M/Polydor.
The album may start out “Well, hello there! My name is…not important,” but on the heels of the incredibly catchy single ‘F**k You,’ not to mention his work in Goodie Mob and Gnarls Barkley, chances are by now you’ve heard of Cee Lo Green. And fans of his latest single wont be disappointed: with a few exceptions, ‘The Lady Killer’ is packed full of catchy, soulful pop gems.
It starts out well, with mid-tempo track ‘Bright Lights, Bigger City’ and its beat that at times is reminiscent of ‘Thriller.’ It’s a song about going out on a Saturday night, and if there was any justice in the world, it’s the kind of track I’d love to hear in the clubs of Washington, DC. Singing about “cocktails and conversation, music and making love,” his powerful and distinctive voice is showcased to its full potential. But as great as it is, neither it, nor, to be honest, any of the other tracks can really match the sheer brilliance of lead single ‘F**k You.’ My review copy of ‘The Lady Killer’ included the censored version of the track, which opts for the much less fun lyrics “forget you!” and “ain’t that some shhhhh…”. Much of the brilliance of ‘F**ck You’ lies in its bluntness, so I believe it does lose a little in translation, but not enough to keep it from being insanely catchy and the most memorable track on the album.
Though nothing can match ‘F**ck You,’ there are a few tracks vying for second place. ‘Love Gun’ featuring Lauren Bennett is literally explosive, using the sounds of gunshots in its percussion. Their voices work very well together, with Lauren taking the first verse and Cee Lo taking the second — it’s a shame he didn’t use her on any of the other tracks. There is a very retro feel to the guitar riff and horns, but the beat is very modern, which makes for a great combination. With lyrics like “Who knew that one to the head and one to the heart could make you feel alright” and “Are you ready for the showdown? Tonight it’s gonna go down,’ it uses a gun fight imagery to describe a relationship.
‘Cry Baby’ is very poppy and fun, and because of this is very accessible. So is ‘It’s Okay,’ which despite its cheesy lyrics like “It’s okay to say that you love me, / ’cause I think of you, I still think of you” is a hell of a lot of fun. It has a similar piano line to ‘F**k You’ at times, and Cee Lo’s falsetto when singing “PLEASE baby, PLEASE lover” is awesome. His collaboration with Phillip Bailey, ‘Fool for You,’ juxtaposes harsh rhythms in the verses and a smooth chorus of “I’m a fool, such a fool for you” to great effect. It has a sort of strutting rhythm to it, which makes it one of the most original sounding songs on the album. But ‘Satisfied’ is the song that really gives ‘F**k You’ a run for its money. On an album full of retro songs, it out-retros them all with the use of motown-style backup singers adding ‘Oohs’ and ‘Babys’ behind Cee Lo’s vocals.
Unfortunately, a few of the songs fall short of Cee Lo’s true potential. This isn’t to say they’re horrible — compared to a lot of the auto-tuned drivel out there these days, they’re actually quite good — but songs like ‘Old Fashioned,’ ‘I Wan’t You’ and ‘Wildflower’ are lacking that certain something they need to be truly great. They’ve got the album’s characteristic retro sound down, but there is nothing about them that would make them classic. In places, the orchestration is too heavy and overwhelming, and lyrics like “I’ll even quit my job. / Loving you, I’ll make it my job” just don’t cut it when you know Cee Lo is capable of quips like “I guess he’s an xbox, and I’m more Atari.” And ‘Bodies’ relies too heavily on gimmicks like whispers and, um, intimate sounds, and not enough on Cee Lo’s incredible voice. But after the ups and downs, Green closes out ‘The Lady Killer’ with a spectacular cover of Band of Horses‘s ‘No One’s Gonna Love You.’ While some of his songs fall flat, it has real soul and personality to it, and showcases his voice spectacularly well. ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’ is a reminder of what Cee Lo is capable of at his best — it’s just a shame not all of the songs are as good.
Watch the video for ‘Bright Lights, Bigger City’ below.
Lead single ‘F**k You’ was TGTF’s Video of the Moment back on 10th September.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 23rd November 2010 at 2:00 pm
A couple months ago, Groove Armada made the announcement that they would never tour again. While this prospect is pretty upsetting, especially to someone like me who has never seen them live, as they only ever seemed to play in the major music markets (New York and Los Angeles), it made me wonder what Andy Cato and Tom Findlay would be doing in their free time. ‘White Light’, released last month, may be one answer to this question – spending more time in the studio, plugging away at new and exciting material. I’d like to believe this means many Groove Armada releases in the future. Oh, to be a fly on the wall…
While it seems ridiculously redundant for a electronic dance outfit to put out an album of remixes (more beats! more synths!), in Groove Armada’s case, they can completely forgiven with respect to what ‘White Light’ is and represents. ‘Black Light’, its predecessor, was released in early 2010 and featured some amazing collaborations, like ‘Shameless’ featuring the legendary Bryan Ferry, ‘History’ featuring Will Young and ‘Paper Romance’ featuring SaintSaviour and Fenech-Soler. ‘White Light’, touted as an album of remixes and reinterpretations, is not so much a repeat of ‘Black Light’ jumped up on E or acid but instead a nice counterpoint, a disc two if you will.
The new album includes a brand new track, ’1980′. I guess Cato and Findlay, like Ash in their ‘A-Z’ series, think 1980 was a pretty good year to be immortalised in song. Nice song to get your body grooving. Interestingly, there are two versions of ‘History’ on here, one called just plain ‘History’, and then you’ve got the ‘Love remix’. The latter is smoother, likely to make you slink around the house listening to it on your high quality speakers (unless of course, you’re at your favourite dance place and you’ve slipped a copy of it to your friend, the DJ).
What I really like with what they’ve done with ‘White Light’ is that they haven’t gone the usual route for remix albums: tacking on needlessly long and repetitive instrumental intros or outros that are fine when you are buzzed but you quickly get bored of when you’re in daylight. More likely, they had been knocking about with alternatives to the ‘Black Light’ versions and said, what the heck, we like these a lot too, let’s release them!
Case in point: they’ve managed to take the radio-friendly ‘Paper Romance’, my favourite off ‘Black Light’, and make it even better. As the pre-chorus builds with “I feel your heat / I never wanna let you go”, then the track shoots straight into the stratosphere, with the anthemic words, “yeah, you can write me a love letter / but there’s nothing to say / don’t wanna take a chance on your paper romance anyway”. You can just imagine club-goers, hands in the air, going mental over this track and its mad beats as multi-coloured lights flash in gaiety. I don’t think you need ‘Black Light’ to appreciate ‘White Light’, but I’d argue this is the better one to start with if you don’t have its ‘earlier incarnation’. For a taste, watch/listen to the taster video below.
‘White Light’ is available now from now from Cooking Vinyl.