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Album Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon

By on Monday, 2nd June 2014 at 12:00 pm

Days Of Abandon album coverIf you’re looking for an album of songs to soundtrack your summer, look no further than ‘Days of Abandon’, the latest release from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I first listened to the album while in the car on a lengthy drive, and I was immediately inspired to put the top down and cruise along the beach, despite the facts that (a) I was actually in kind of a hurry and (b) I don’t own a convertible. I settled for rolling the windows down and letting the breeze blow through my hair as I grooved along with Pains’ shimmering pop melodies.

I’m normally attentive to lyrics first and foremost, but in the case of ‘Days of Abandon’, many of the vocal lines are blurred into the atmospheric sonic effects, frontman Kip Berman’s hushed vocals blending with the sheer, cool guitars and shimmering keyboards. The instrumental soundscapes are almost like too-bright sunlight partially obscuring an otherwise beautiful view. On its surface, this music is sunny and carefree, but closer examination of the lyrics (helpfully provided on the band’s Web site), reveals a juxtaposition of forlorn abandonment with the lighthearted and relaxed instrumental effects.

Where the lyrics do shine through, they are thoughtful and impressionistic, purposefully vague but vividly evocative. The first lines of opening track ‘Art Smock’, “I want to know what happened to you / I liked you better in your art smock / Mocking art rock without intention / Without design / You said you’d never be fine with being fine / Or mine”, are a perfect example, articulated over acoustic guitar and ringing chimes.

‘Simple and Sure’ is an upbeat track that lives up to its name with a catchy chorus and light pop vocals over a steady rhythm and driving guitar riffs; I could easily hear this as a backing track to a shiny summer advertising campaign. Its spinning chorus, “It might seem simple but I’m sure / I just want to be yours / It won’t be easy but I know / I simply want to be yours”, leaves the most enduring impression of any track on the album. (Editor Mary featured it as a Video of The Moment here back in March.)

‘Kelly’ is equally bouncy and carefree, with softly lilting vocals from keyboardist Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow) and bright keyboard melodies over tripping percussion. Goma is also featured later in the album on ‘Life After Life’, and while her light, clear voice is a nice diversion from Berman’s breathy tone, the pair achieve a subtle blend that doesn’t distract from the overall mood of the record.

‘Beautiful You’ and ‘Coral and Gold’ are sweepingly atmospheric tracks that somehow fade into the background, despite their almost symphonic grandiosity. The former track is over 6 minutes in length, which feels a bit drawn out for a song whose structure consists mainly of rhyming couplets such as “A martyr in your garters / Harder than I’ll ever be”. The latter has an startlingly bombastic chorus that all but drowns the delicacy of its lovelorn lyrics.

The second half of the album is a bit more focused, starting with the crisp drums, vibrant guitar melody and anthemic chorus of ‘Eurydice’, which is upbeat despite its melancholic lyrics. ‘Masokissed’ is a bittersweet play on words: “Sweet masokissed in the morning mist / Why would you ever leave this place / When all I need is your chip-toothed smile to know / life’s more than okay?”, accompanied by a another lively guitar line.

‘Until the Sun Explodes’ is exactly the short but energetic fireball suggested in its title, the chorus a barrage of guitars and drums underpinned by heavy bass. (Check out the animated video below.) Closing track ‘The Asp at My Chest’ is an impressionistic and atmospheric track featuring a slow, entrancing tempo and the group’s signature hypnotic vocal blend, which, along with the hissing percussion, create quite a serpentine effect.

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‘Days of Abandon’ could be the perfect incidental music for the carefree days of summer. The purely pleasant pop style is easy on the ears and doesn’t require a great deal of commitment on the part of the listener. Nonetheless, devoted fans of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart will find reward in a little extra attention to the songs’ lyrical details.


‘Days of Abandon’, the third album from Brooklyn’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, is out today on Fierce Panda. The group have also announced a short list of UK tour dates to follow the album release.


Album Review: The Heartbreaks – We May Yet Stand a Chance

By on Friday, 30th May 2014 at 12:00 pm

Morecambe band The Heartbreaks are an unusual proposition in today’s music climate. After reading this disheartening article in the Observer last weekend whose contents I knew to be true but I didn’t enjoy reading it spelled out in black and white, I’m positive they’re the kind of band that doesn’t fit into anyone’s boxes and won’t get a fair shake at Radio 1. Ever. But one gets the distinct feeling the Heartbreaks were never in it to gain approval from those kinds of suits.

That’s something very Northern of them: wanting to write and put out the kind of music they want, the way they wanted to, and sod everyone else. ‘We May Yet Stand a Chance’ is proof of this. I mean, for one, just look at the title. It’s a sneer, albeit a veiled one, to the people who say bands like them will never make it. It’s witty, in the vein of what their former tourmate and idol Morrissey might write. Yet it’s tinged with optimism, that there is underlying hope, that success is achievable, that there’s a method to the madness. But is this album truly enough to make their voices heard?

‘We May Yet Stand a Chance’ is the second album from the lads, and it’s being released 2 years on from ‘Funtimes’, which featured several pop gems including my personal favourite ‘I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You’ and the song that was voted by the readers of The Fly as the best song of 2012 and made the BBC’s Steve Lamacq sit up and take notice of the group, ‘Delay, Delay’. Lammo’s support of the group continues with this album, having famously decreed in February that after listening to the new album and determining how great it was, he would quit his post at 6music if the suits didn’t find it in their hearts to play the band’s music. That’s about as good as a golden endorsement as you’re ever going to get from the indie band champion of the world. So far, the band have released three singles, two of which found great support among TGTF ranks: Martin reviewed ‘¡No Pasarán!’ in October and extolled its nod to Ennio Morricone and sonic epicness, and when I was in holiday in Sheffield earlier this month, I applauded the incredible pop melody and thoughtful lyrics of drummer Joe Kondras in ‘Absolved’.

However, as a complete album, the song order of the album doesn’t work well, nor do I think it’s particularly cohesive as a group of songs put together. I understand every band’s interest in putting all their energy into the singles they plan to release, since those are the ones that have the chance to get picked up by radio. In the Heartbreaks’ case, I think the album suffers from a lack of momentum, especially after getting a running start with singles ‘Absolved’ and ‘Hey, Hey Lover’, the latter of which begins gracefully but becomes a monster of a commanding love song. Much of the rest of the album’s instrumentation centres on the deft guitar work of Ryan Wallace, but the songs are of the slow burn, reflective, introspective variety and might disappoint those expecting an album full of ‘Absolved’ and ‘Hey, Hey Lover’ clones.

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As a concept on paper, LP opener ‘Paint the Town Beige’ should work: it’s an exercise in calling out the sanitisation and gentrification of our cities so they’re more palatable for the richer echelons of society. However, it gives the false impression that the rest of the album is…well…equally slimy and downtrodden. It’s a lot to take in, if that’s your initial whiff of this album. (Later on, the album is bookended by ‘Dying Sun’, which brings their political views back up to the surface, but whether or not this will serve to their benefit or detriment remains to be seen.) ‘Robert Jordan’ is presumably about the doomed character in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, whose own ideals were changed by the brutality of the Spanish civil war.

“What would it take / for your world to shake / and to disturb your soul / and make you believe in something other than that what you have?” sings frontman Matthew Whitehouse. As stirring as words are – you’re going to find in the albums released this year – the bigger problem is not the song itself but rather who are going to take to this song, or not. ‘Fair Stood the Wind’, which the Heartbreaks previewed at their support slot at Fierce Panda’s 19th birthday party slamdown last year headlined by their mates the Crookes (scroll down the review and you’ll see live video of the song), is a gorgeously tender ballad with sad guitar appropriate for the words, which I found in this one particularly painful. The repeated lyrics speaking of “the obsession of the moment” for Kondras: unrequited love.

Then there are the moments that make you scratch your head. The tempo picks up slightly with ‘Bittersweet’, with underlying funkiness I never would have expected from the Heartbreaks. An unexpected plus. Later, the softness and sadness of ‘Fair Stood the Wind’ is strangely followed up by the mess that is ‘Man Overboard’, a lackadaisical hoedown. It’s a clear misstep, unless they were purposely trying to take the edge off the previous song?

You have to wonder how this all came about, if in the same exact album they can write something like ‘Rome’, a sweeping beauty with handclap flourishes and uplifting guitar you want to hug close to your chest, it’s so stunning. Maybe the problem with ‘We May Yet Stand a Chance’ is its lack of focus. The Heartbreaks should be commended for wanting to bring up social issues in pop and taking the chance to do so, but I have less faith that the casual music fan will be willing to sit still through this 39-minute album.


The Heartbreaks’ sophomore album ‘We May Yet Stand a Chance’ will be out next Monday, the 2nd of June, on Nusic Sounds. Catch the band gigging tonight at London Oslo. Below is the band’s trailer for the album with a clip of ‘Paint the Town Beige’.

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Album Review: The Young Folk – The Little Battle

By on Thursday, 29th May 2014 at 12:00 pm

Update 4 June 2014: The UK release date for ‘The Little Battle’ has been pushed back to the 8th of September. The album’s first single ‘Way Home’ is available now on iTunes.

The Little Battle album coverThe Young Folk are one of the most memorable bands I heard in Austin this year at SXSW 2014. Their unassuming style came as a breath of fresh air amidst the barrage of ‘folk-pop’ acts gracing the SXSW stages, and though they claim a variety of influences on their songwriting (listen to my interview with them here), their sound is frank and straightforward folk as it could possibly be. And, as delighted as I was by their vocal harmonies and high degree of technical prowess at the Full Irish Breakfast, it wasn’t until I listened to their debut album ‘The Little Battle’ that I fully realized the depth and subtlety in their songs.

I had my first real listen to ‘The Little Battle’ on my 12-hour drive home from Austin after a long week of festival coverage. Maybe it was due to the sheer exhaustion of several long days and short nights in a row, or maybe it was the inevitable post-gig depression (magnified ten-fold after a week at SXSW), but the understated lyrics and tender musical flourishes touched a chord in me that has continued to echo in the intervening weeks.

Opening track ‘My Friends’ took my mind immediately back to the new acquaintances I had made in Austin over the week of the festival, as well as the friends I was heading home to, who no doubt thought I was insane to take on SXSW in the first place. Frontman Anthony Furey’s distinctive halting lilt feels somehow familiar, even on this first track, and the vocal harmonies fall easily into place, allowing focus on the lyrics: “My friends, if they only understood what I’ve been at / My friends, they should know by now”.

The album’s first single ‘Way Home’ made for perfect road trip music. Percussionist Karl Hand’s driving drum beat supplies spirited motion under the lively guitar and violin melodies. The very first vocal line “Taking all of my time, and you gotta do right / Taking some of my lines and you made them into your own” brought an immediate smile to my face, and of course I found myself harmonising along with the irresistible chorus. (Watch the video and take a listen to the song here, if you haven’t already.)

The first little catch in my throat came during ‘I’ve Been Here Before’. The stripped back instrumentation of this song once again keeps the vocal lines clearly in focus. Furey’s Irish accent is quite conspicuous (note the rhyming pronunciation of “leather” and “better”) and the cadence of his vocal delivery a bit uneven, but the prevailing quality in his voice is its utter sincerity in conveying the emotion behind the reticent lyrics.

‘Way Down South’ is another emotionally pregnant narrative, its lyrics laced with touches of heartbreaking authenticity such as “I got dressed up in this suit which was novelty / And I’ll stay waiting”. The vocal harmonies in the coda are spot on, especially in the nostalgically repeated line “You’re gonna hurt yourself, come down from there, love”. (We featured the video for ‘Way Down South’ in the Irish installment of TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014 back in March.)

While all the songs on the album have a hint of melancholy about them, the heartrending track ‘Letters’ is the most effective in that regard; I had to pull over the car and compose myself as I drove through rain and tears in Houston. Paul Butler’s poignant lyrics and wistfully sweet singing voice is especially effective on the lines, “So I take on this road I love / Will you still be here when I get home?”, and the instrumental arrangement is flawless, particularly the use of xylophone over the piano melody to illustrate the childlike innocence suggested in the verses.

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The album takes an upturn with the short and sweet ‘Sad Day’ which, despite its title, is ironically one of its most energetic and upbeat tracks. ‘Remember When’ is darker, almost ominous in its haunting keyboard riff, and the vocal countermelodies at the end are exquisite. Closing track ‘Drunken Head / The Little Battle’ is bitterly raw, hitting its emotional target squarely with the lines, “Maybe things will get better and sweeter with age / But maybe not, in our case”.

‘The Little Battle’ is an album of intricacies, performed with appealing energy and confident style. The Young Folk haven’t gone out of their way to make their music more mainstream, depending instead on their keen musicianship and candid lyricism to carve a niche for their delicately crafted songs.


‘The Little Battle’, the Young Folk’s debut album, is now available in Ireland on Pixie Pace Records. It is due for release in the UK on the 8th of September.


Album Review: Teleman – Breakfast

By on Wednesday, 28th May 2014 at 12:00 pm

Transport, in its various modes as the means to travel, is not something I’d associate with popular music. I suppose you could argue Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’ was written to remind the listener of the joys of driving on a motorway, and various sea shanties of yore recall simpler times, when all you worried about was pirates commandeering your seaworthy vessel full of rum. But I can’t say I’ve heard a whole album that uses transport as a metaphor for death, in the multiple senses of the word, nor do I think I’m likely to hear another one in my lifetime that uses transport as a theme as elegantly as in Teleman‘s debut album ‘Breakfast’. I know it’s early to be naming best albums of the year, but I’m pretty sure this one from Moshi Moshi Records is going to be my favourite of 2014.

Three of the four members of the London via Reading band – singer/guitarist Tommy Sanders, his brother Jonny, now on keyboards, and bassist Peter Cattermoul – used to be in a wonderful band called Pete and the Pirates. A change in direction prompted the previous band to fold, and after shedding a couple bandmates and gaining a drummer in Hiro Amamiya, a new band called Teleman rose from the ashes. They’re not to be confused with the German baroque composer Telemann; when they first appeared on the scene, even BBC iPlayer got the two confused, much to my amusement.

But even in their earliest revealed tinklings, one thing remained constant between the two bands: frontman Tommy Sanders’ voice, which remains one of my favourites in music today. Depending on the mood of the song, Sanders can sound as innocent as a choir boy, as sad as a child whose dog has just died or as petulant as a man who’s just learned his woman has cheated on him. Or a combination of all three. Pete and the Pirates fans will be pleased that Sanders’ voice is in usual excellent form. Sanders has said Bernard Butler was a good choice for producer, as he stepped in where he needed to and provided focus and let the band do their thing when songs were already good enough shape at demo stage, and the results speak for themselves.

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‘Cristina’ was the first Teleman song to be released as a single, with the buzz of a synthesiser apparent from the start and throughout. The song details a clandestine love affair and falling in love with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, as well as the physicality of actually needing to travel cross town to make this happen. While Sanders’ voice is angelic and the melody is pure pop, “I never meant to be the bad kid / the feeling came in uninvited” has him accepting the shame in what he’s doing, as do the lines “you remember you’re downtown / you really should be on your way now”, yet “some things take your right back / you forget you’ve got to go soon”, as if he can’t let go of a faded memory. Do you have fond recollections of Pete and the Pirates’ ‘Half Moon Street’, in which the protagonist has similar self-doubt and wistfulness about a past relationship? The same feelings are apparent in ‘Cristina’.

‘In Your Fur’, ‘Steam Train Girl’ and ‘Mainline’ all invoke thoughts of the railway, while the protagonist is trying to get over past flawed relationships, or rather flaws in his previous partners that he can now clearly see after the fact. The first two are faster in tempo pop songs and incredibly catchy but are biting lyrically. Humorously, Dutch airline KLM gets a mention in ‘Travel Song’. But it’s the one-two punch of current single ’23 Floors Up’ immediately followed by ‘Monday Morning’ that will truly get you in the heart and the stomach. While ’23 Floors Up’ involves a lift, or at least the idea of being taken up in one to a place miles up in the sky, these two songs are about non-mechanical movement: flying. The genius behind ’23 Floors Up’ is its use of a lilting melody: even with a borderline sinister drum beat throughout, it actually makes you feel like you’re floating when you’re listening to it. Tommy Sanders sings in the first chorus, “I’m leaving you behind, I don’t need anyone now / I’m leaving you behind, I can’t feel anything / oh, let me float on high / don’t need anyone now / I’m leaving you behind”.

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There is something so sad about this song, in which he describes the loneliness of a itinerant – businessman or rock star, perhaps? – on the 23rd floor of a non-descript hotel. I can’t decide if the voice is giving into thoughts of suicide (hence the idea of floating upwards, towards heaven) and he’s feeling numb (“so slowly spinning round / I can’t feel anything now / oh love is pouring down”) or he’s trying to evade the world by being in this room in the sky where nothing can touch him and the thoughts of the woman he loves are keeping him alive (“carry it on, the wood pigeon’s song / sits on the wire and tells me nothing’s wrong / hey, sing to me your song”). Either way, it’s a tune sweeping in its fragile beauty that deserves your undivided attention.

In contrast, album standout ‘Monday Morning’ is a sweet if heartbreaking story about a man who insists he knows the woman who broke up with him is still in love with him, even though she has found another (drifting through the night / whatever you’re thinking of me / you’re probably right / if you are so smart / surely you can see / whoever you’re waking up with now / you still want me”). It’s a fatalistic yet far more elegant version of the Script‘s ‘Long Gone and Moved On’, as he says to her, “I fell asleep with the radio on / I started dreaming / you were in every song”; she’s still haunting his thoughts even when he’s not awake. It’s no mistake that the song begins with a synth note beeping on repeat: it’s supposed to represent singularity, as are the inanimate blips that connect the verses that recall OMD‘s more sensitive moments.

The more I think about it, ‘Monday Morning’, along with the album’s title ‘Breakfast’, must have been chosen for their relative locations in time to indicate new beginnings, of the start of a week and the start of one’s day, respectively. Rather than signal a complete change of heart, the songs on this debut album from Teleman exhibit varying stages of a work in progress, the admirable attempt to move on from a toxic relationship. The moment when when you go back to feeling good about yourself and when you get there is not important. Knowing that the day will come is reward enough. ‘Breakfast’ is a gorgeous collection of songs fuelled by such emotions, appealing to those seeking evocative lyrics of love lost and those in the mood for memorable melodies alike.


‘Breakfast’, the debut album from Teleman, is out Monday (the 2nd of June) on Moshi Moshi Records.


Album Review: Mongol Horde – Mongol Horde

By on Tuesday, 27th May 2014 at 12:00 pm

Straight out of Ulan Bator a crazy mother fucker named Genghis
Riding on his tiny horse
Torching the roof of your homesteads…

An understandably frantic start to Mongol Horde’s debut album, which starts at breakneck pace and refuses to relent for 36-ish minutes of head-banging and hardcore punk fun.

Now there once was a time when you’d start a piece about a Frank Turner-related entity by underlining his hardcore credentials from Million Dead. But in the last 5 years, he has through relentless touring and a handful of superb solo albums become a behemoth of folk-punk in his own right, with his merry band of men The Sleeping Souls in tow. It seems his folk career is going to see him far surpass his cult hardcore roots – I mean, did Million Dead ever headline Wembley Arena?

But if folk is what you yearn for, then turn back now, before you go deaf. The closest Matthew Nasir, Turner and Ben Dawson get to folk is the opening 5 seconds of ‘Stillborn Unicorn’, before we’re treated to the rather depressing tale of the stillborn offspring of a rhino and a pony “Mother was a pony / Father was a rhino / Neighbours didn’t like it / She’s a Unicorn”. As you’d probably tell from the title of that track and the subject matter covered, the album refuses to take itself particularly seriously.

Instead what you’re in for is a little over a half-hour of some of the best hardcore punk music you’re likely to hear this year, from three musicians who obviously are extremely passionate about what they are producing. A lot of the coverage will focus on Turner, and rightly so in some regards, as his inimitable whit and flair is in abundance throughout the album and is undoubtedly he delivers some of the stand out moments. However on guitar, Matthew Nasir truly comes into his own here, and it’s to no surprise since at every Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls appearance, he’s looked like he is primed and ready to get his hardcore stance out. The instrumental parts from Ben Dawson on drums (formerly of Million Dead, also) and Nasir on guitar are reminiscent of early Mcklusky and cult hardcore mainstays Future of the Left.

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Tthe subject matter covered does border on the ridiculous at times, with a particular eye on ‘Tapeworm Uprising’ – a track about a plucky tapeworm’s journey out of Natalie Portman’s arsehole, which culminates in said tapeworm using Portman as a puppet to take over Hollywood. Sounds weird, right? Probably because it is a bit weird, but still it remains enormously enjoyable listening from start to finish. My personal favourite (probably because of numerous post-midnight run-ins with such cretins) is ‘Casual Threats From The Weekend Hardman’. I mean, how many times have you had a twat wearing a vest push by you with his vodka and diet coke, his nipples slightly showing and his Armani boxers far too fucking high brush by you in a club? To be met by the word “IF YOU SPILL MY DRINK AS YOU WALK ON BY I’M GONNA CUT YOU!” It’s the refreshing social commentary Turner beings to the mix that turns a very good hardcore album, into a superb record.

‘Winky Face: The Mark Of Moron’ is a minute-long aural assault that is expertly summed up at the songs conclusion, as Frank dictates: “Basicall,y if you can’t make your meaning plain with all the richness of the English language / And you have to resort to cartoon faces made with punctuation marks / You’re a dick. Again, another dry slab of social commentary delivered perfectly through the effective, yet still abrasive medium of hardcore music.

This record has obviously been borne from the passions and drive of the three members, as it unreservedly comes from the heart, if that’s the correct cliché to use? ‘Make Way’ is a blistering opener and ‘Hey Judas’ has the same unrelenting pace the album is built upon. It’s a terrific listen, bags of fun and a must buy for any hardcore aficionado – whether you were a fan of Million Dead or not.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself. So the only thing I can probably say now is, “make way for the Mongol Horde coming back to fuck you up!”


Mongol Horde’s self-titled debut album is out now on Xtra Mile Recordings.


Album Stream: Wolf Alice – Creature Songs EP

By on Wednesday, 21st May 2014 at 11:00 am

Ahead of its release on Monday, being the nice people they are, Wolf Alice are previewing their entire ‘Creature Songs’ EP on Soundcloud for your aural enjoyment now. Listen to the EP in its entirety below. Like it? Pre-order the release or grab it on Monday when it’s out on Dirty Hit Records.

The EP features the single ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’, which Cheryl reviewed last week here on TGTF. The song is currently making the rounds and the positive response from it is what you’d expect from one of the most hyped about bands at SXSW 2014. You can read my review of their appearance at Huw Stephens’ night on the Tuesday evening in Austin here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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