We'll be on hiatus the week of 4 October to give our editor Mary a holiday.
We'll resume normal service here on TGTF on 13 October.
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After the 2013 departure of guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, Editors doubled down with a new lineup and created the heavily rock-oriented album ‘The Weight of Your Love’ in an attempt to prove the resilience of their sound. Two years later, new band members Justin Lockey and Elliott Williams have settled firmly into their positions alongside founders Tom Smith, Russell Leetch and Ed Lay, and their presence seems to have inspired a broader collaborative effort for the band’s fifth LP and first self-produced album ‘In Dream’.
In addition to the more expansive sound afforded by a five-piece set up, Editors have brought in a pair of notable contributors from outside. Iranian photographer Rahi Rezvani was tasked with designing the visual schematics for the album, including all accompanying photography and video representations. His work centers around the dichotomy of light vs. dark and has been prominent throughout the album’s promotional process, as featured in the videos for already released singles ‘No Harm’, ‘Marching Orders’ and ‘Life is a Fear’.
Rezvani’s crisply graphic black and white visuals are a perfect illustration of the clean, sharply contrasting electronic sounds that dominate ‘In Dream’. Further emphasising that dramatic contrast, Editors have recruited Slowdive singer Rachel Goswell to contribute guest vocals on three tracks. ‘Ocean of Night’ builds to a dramatically layered climax with Goswell’s delicate whisper soaring above the dynamic swell of keyboards and percussion. Her warm, ethereal vocal tone floats effortlessly beside the trademark shadowy baritone of frontman Tom Smith to soften the harsh rhythm of vocal duet ‘The Law’ as she croons its hypnotic chorus “don’t let it get heavy / you are the law / why won’t you come get me? / you are the law”. Smith’s own falsetto is remarkably effective in the atmospheric ballad ‘At All Cost’, where Goswell’s ghostly vocals blend seamlessly into a graceful and deftly executed instrumental arrangement.
Aside from the previously unveiled singles, which are naturally the strongest tracks on ‘In Dream’, the serpentine track ‘Forgiveness’ is the album’s main standout, with its darkly beguiling melodic lines and Smith’s sneering vocal delivery in its title line, “forgiveness makes fools of all of us”. ‘Salvation’ is similarly dark and brooding, its string arrangement underscoring both the portentous anticipation of its verses and the striking declaration of the chorus.
‘All the Kings’ indulges Smith’s darkest lyrical tendencies, but its sharp, concise vocal phrases cut through the angular synth string arrangement and its chorus can best be described as anthemic as he chants “loneliness forever / holding back a river / all the kings are coming / marching to the sound from your ribcage”. Smith’s strained falsetto nearly obscures his some of his best lyrics in the heavy dance beat of ‘Our Love’, but its repeated plea “don’t stop believing” fairly begs for the ecstasy of a live audience. Closing track ‘Marching Orders’ is also sure to be a live favourite, with pounding keyboards and an echoing chorus that plays almost like an extended encore at the end of the album.
Smith’s menacing vocals and his stark, often bleak lyrics work surprisingly well overall in the predominantly synthesised instrumental context of ‘In Dream’, much more so in fact than they did on Editors’ previous album ‘The Weight of Your Love’. The instrumental arrangements here are expansive without losing focus, allowing their foundational rhythms a bit more room to move, their melodies a bit more freedom to breathe. In their aim to create an album that was “both pop and experimental”, Editors have found a nice balance between dark and light by displaying the extremes of the spectrum.
Editors’ fifth album ‘In Dream’ is due for release on Friday the 2nd of October on PIAS. The band will follow the album release with a run of live dates in the UK and Ireland starting on the 9th of October. Our full archive of Editors coverage can be found here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 2nd October 2015 at 12:00 pm
“If this is love, why does it hurt so bad?”
When Hurts’ debut album ‘Happiness’ was released in 2010, it debuted at #4 on the UK albums chart. But in this post-Mac DeMarco lo-fi, slacker rock / post-Tame Impala psychedelic time in indie, are the music-buying public keen for a new album from Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson? Or maybe the better question to ask is if the same fans who bought their first two albums will like this new one?
They’ve certainly ticked off all the right boxes when it comes to personnel: in addition to working with long-time collaborator Swedish producer Jonas Quant, the Manchester duo enlisted heavy hitters Stuart Price (Madonna, The Killers) and Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, We Are Scientists, Vampire Weekend) to lend their assistance in shaping ‘Surrender’. The result is a highly textured effort, having enough variety in pace and instrumentation to keep listeners on their toes and interest up. The album begins on an uplifting enough note: the title track soars with gospel singers vocalising against epic sounding synths and beats that have become Hurts’ trademark.
While the broody darkness Hutchcraft and Anderson so carefully cultivated for ‘Happiness’ (and again tapped into on 2013’s ‘Exile’ for songs like ‘The Road’) is evident if you’re paying close attention Hutchcraft’s vocals, the feeling of the first half of the album rhythmically is an upbeat one that may mask what’s lying underneath to the casual listener. On one hand, in a satisfying way, none of the songs early on in the tracklist of ‘Surrender’ ever register too low on the heartbeat monitor, making it wholly reasonable competition to the just-released second album from Disclosure, ‘Caracal’. On the other hand, an important question to ask is what exactly have they risked in these by going further into even more mainstream pop territory?
Aye, there are minor key synth progressions on ‘Nothing Will Be Bigger Than Us’ and Hutchcraft does an admirable job in making his voice soar during the breakdown, but the relentless beats sound so massive, there is no questioning their importance over anything else on this track. Another early reveal, ‘Lights’, sounds like the love child of Daft Punk slowed down and disco funk; the ‘Kaleidoscope’ “that keeps me spinning” appears to have been cut from the same cloth. ‘Perfect Timing’ takes the ’80s cliches of a saxophone solo and programmed drum beats but is clearly designed for the dance floor as well. If you’re a fan of the desperate love anthems as played out on their earlier single hits ‘Wonderful Life’ or ‘Sunday’, I can sense your concern amid these dance floor bangers.
The aptly named ‘Slow’ is a languid, sultry jam, oozing from beat to beat, with moments of Hutchcraft’s voice rising up in almost a shout – “I just want to love you, I just want to hold you close / what you’re doing here is murder, when you whip your body close“ – while pulling back to a softer timbre on the verses. It seems like the second half of ‘Surrender’ is a compromise, especially if you spring for the deluxe edition with three bonus tracks that include ‘Weight of the World’, with its industrial grinding sound like the most previous Hurts-esque effort of the new material. At the end of the album, ‘Wings’ is swiftly followed by ‘Wish’, both exhibiting the grandeur of the Hurts we first came to know 5 years ago. ‘Wings’, the non-dance standout of the album, spins a tale of fallen angels and the safety of a lover – “there’s a hole in my parachute as big as my heart / and the gravity is pulling me down / will you catch me when I fall? / wrap your wings around my body” – and it’s beautiful imagery.
If you do spring for the deluxe edition, your album will end with ‘Policewoman’, which from the outset seems like a strange title to close out an album on. It starts with organ notes, making is sound almost hymnal, and as the song progresses, it seems to be describing a woman with responsibility for keeping the mean streets clear of crime and hoodlums (“when I hear those sirens coming / my iron maiden’s running / to serve and protect my loving”). But it’s got to be more than that, to be about a higher power, something bigger, much as I think is the purpose of ‘Surrender’ as it ends with ominous clanking and what sounds like the words “from the pain” repeated. While they’ve evolved towards a dancier direction on the first half of this album, the second half reminds us that this is just one chapter of the ongoing story of Hurts. From their newest album, you just get the sense that there is so much more that they are destined for.
‘Surrender’, the third album from Manchester dark electropop duo Hurts, is out next Friday, the 9th of October, on Sony and will be available in regular and deluxe versions. The band have three live dates in the UK scheduled in February. For past coverage of Hurts on TGTF, including my review of the excellent first taster from the new album, ‘Some Kind of Heaven’, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 1st October 2015 at 1:00 pm
Words by Nick Roseblade
Whenever you hear that a classic band is reforming without certain members, you immediately fear the worst. When the Manic Street Preachers decided to carry on without the missing Richey Edwards, it worked at first, but as the albums got progressively worse, you questioned their reasoning. Why not just rebrand yourself ‘MSP’? We all know what it stands for, you can still play the old songs, but then a line has been drawn in the sand, we know you aren’t the same band.
After the death of Ian Curtis, the remaining members of Joy Division went away, then came back as a new group, christened New Order. During their best years, New Order redefined the pop landscape and released a slew of classic singles until they called it a day in 2007. Now they have returned with a new album, ‘Music Complete’, but like the Manic Street Preachers before them, they’re missing a key member. Luckily original bassist Peter Hook hasn’t done a Richey Edwards, but sadly after falling out with frontman Bernard Sumner, he’s no longer with the group.
Lead single ‘Restless’ kicks the album off: classic New Order synths and keyboards fill your speakers, and it appears to be business as usual. That is until Sumner starts singing, “I want a nice car, a girlfriend / who’s as pretty as a star / I want respect / as much, as much as I can get”. It’s hardly ‘Temptation’ or ‘True Faith’, is it? But you put it down to first song jitters and with an open mind you continue to the next track ‘Singularity’. Sadly, it’s more of the same. Uninspiring music and sixth form lyrics, “and all I wanna do / is make the right impression / the instrument of truth / a soldier with no weapon”.
The album continues in this vein. With each new track, you hope it’ll get better, but deep down you know it never will. The next three tracks – ‘Plastic’, ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘People on the High Line’ – feature Elly ‘La Roux’ Jackson. ‘Plastic’ sounds like a reworking of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, but where you’d expect Jackson to come in, Sumner does and she is relegated to mundane backing vocals. ‘Tutti Frutti’ sounds like a Yello album track in the 1990s, complete with faux-computerised vocals. ‘People on the High Line’ proves to be the most fun track of the first half of the album: ‘90s Italian keyboards mix with a jaunty beat that sounds like music would have been played on a high-street fashion show in a local shopping centre in the decade.
‘Stray Dog’ features Iggy Pop on vocal duties; this is an atmospheric slow burning narrative piece. It’s reminiscent of the 1999 track ‘Pop’ recorded with Death in Vegas, but this New Order tune never quite reaches the levels of darkness or brooding that ‘Aisha’ does. The next selection of songs follow on from the pattern that ‘Restless’ started and blur into banality. ‘Superheated’ closes the album with an uplifting number, but like ‘Music Complete’, it feels empty and half-hearted.
There are three main problems with ‘Music Complete’. Firstly, it isn’t 1998 anymore. Due to Sumner’s song writing style, it all sounds very dated, musically speaking, and it’s hard to work out if these are in fact new songs or just old demos that Hook didn’t like and now he’s not around, Sumner has complete control to do what he wants with them. Retro-sounding synths and drum beats? They pepper the album. I like nostalgia as much as the next person, but I also like bands to progress, especially after such a long break. Secondly, the lyrics aren’t that great. While it can be said that Sumner and Hook were never classic lyricists, on ‘Music Complete’ it seems like the words have been treated as an afterthought.
And thirdly, Peter Hook’s driving and diversive bass-playing is missing. While Tom Chapman does a pretty good impression of Hooky, you know immediately it’s not the real thing. In the past, Hook’s bass would stalk you through the album, before he delivered that killer blow by note, but now the spirit of his bass playing is only there in spirit. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this album, and old and new fans appear to like it. It sounds like their ‘90s dance stuff. If that floats your boat, get involved. Personally, I’d rather sail away.
New Order should rebrand themselves ‘NO’, that way we’d all know where we stand.
‘Music Complete’, the first new album from Manchester electronic legends New Order in 10 years, is out now on Mute Ltd. They’ll be on tour in the UK in November.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 1st October 2015 at 12:00 pm
I can’t say I’ve ever seen a band quite like Canterbury, Kent band Broken Hands live. On a Wednesday afternoon at SXSW 2014, I went upstairs to the Rooftop on Sixth to see the then-Radio 1 BBC Introducing-anointed group play and was surprised to see large swathes of silver foil, similar in kind and volume to the stuff you find on satellites and spaceships (I should know, my dad worked for NASA), billowing in a wind I’d yet to have experienced in Austin. The overall effect was one I haven’t forgotten.
Space rock has been a genre since ’70s Pink Floyd, but you’ve never seen Dave Gilmour playing in front of a stage setup like this. I had to wonder if this was just gimmickry for the sake of the live show, especially playing in front of their first American audiences, and perhaps for a single or two. However, just looking at the title of the group’s debut album for SO Recordings, ‘Turbulence’, shows without a doubt that not only space but travel and the motion of flight have influenced their songwriting. For good measure, there are mechanical whirrs and sci-fi sound effects peppered throughout this rock record to add to the out of this world ambience.
My guess is if you’re reading this and you know anything about Broken Hands, it’s probably their uncompromising wall of sound that drew you to them, a sound akin to early Muse, long before they lost the plot. Actually, while we’re on the subject of Matt Bellamy’s band, I can draw comparisons to the Teignmouth tenor to the strong pipes of lead vocalist Dale Norton, whose presence is really important to stand up against the heavy instrumentation. LP and live highlight ‘Meteor’ is a hard-rocking, hard-driving number with killer guitar riffs. Risking your life by hanging off a piece of metal hurtling through space has never sounded so good.
‘747’ has whiffs of Muse as well, the number ominously and slowly burning towards its booming conclusion starting at 3 and a half minutes in. Title track ‘Turbulence’ has incredible build-ups, Norton asking aloud in an emphatic shout, “can you feel me?” Yes, actually, we can. And you feel good. Another album highlight, ‘Four’, is a tight little number not even clocking in at 2 and a half minutes, Thomas David Ford’s bass riff dirty like the darkest hell and deeply satisfying to a hard rock fan. Only slightly slower, ‘Should I’ and its droning guitars lull you into a false sense of calm until the bass – and Ford – shows everyone who’s boss. Like Ben Thatcher’s playing in Royal Blood? I don’t just think, I know you will think this is some good stuff. (It also helps that the album was produced by Tom Dalgety, who was also at the helm of Royal Blood’s blistering debut LP of last year.) Single ‘Who Sent You’, unveiled recently ahead of its release on the 2nd of October, 1 week prior to the album, is mesmerising lyrically while laying into you musically.
Rather than fill the album with one punishing track after another (which I suppose wouldn’t have been bad, it just may have come out sounding too samey), Broken Hands have done well to mix things up, if only to show off their versatility and their potential future musical direction. Title-wise, you’d think ‘Impact’ would be the logical musical brother to ‘Meteor’, but you couldn’t be more wrong. In its magnificence, ‘Impact’ surprises, particularly Norton’s sweeping voice in the role of balladeer. Less effective is ‘Collide’, a mellow prog tune that stays pretty much in one place.
All taken together, ‘Turbulence’ is an assertive debut album from a rock band worth keeping your eye on. Watch this space.
The debut album from Canterbury’s Broken Hands, ‘Turbulence’, will be released on Friday the 9th of October on SO Recordings. The band will be on tour in late October into early November. All past coverage of Broken Hands on TGTF can be found this way.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 29th September 2015 at 12:00 pm
After signing to the Verve imprint of Universal Records last year, former boyfriend/girlfriend yet still longtime Aussie musical collaborators Falls released their ‘Into the Fire’ EP in February 2014. Over a year and a half and a move to Los Angeles later, the duo – Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown – are gearing up to release their debut album this very Friday. Produced and recorded by the legendary Mike Mogis at his Presto! Recording Studio in Nebraska, the album takes its name from the Midwestern town where much of its toughest work was done. Quite a long way from the Hotel Hollywood bar where the pair first cut their teeth playing live in Sydney, where they also played a series of back-to-back sold out shows to devoted fans just 2 weeks ago.
Kirwin says of their music, “Our songs are at times deeply personal. They’re raw, they’re real and they’re very honest.” There’s no questioning the duo’s sincerity, as their songwriting on ‘Omaha’ matches the brilliance of their past output seen on such tracks as the beautiful yet catchy ‘Home’. For sure, ‘Omaha’ as a whole sounds rich thanks to the production and string arrangements by Tony Buchen. But as you might expect, working with a superstar producer with a stellar track record like that of Mogis has polished some of Falls’ edges.
Whether this professional polish helps or hinders their success outside Australia remains to be seen. To those who have never heard of Falls before, this album might just be the perfect entry point into their world, which now has an anthemic quality instrumentally that goes well beyond the folk sensibility on which they made their name with in Oz. An example of this is album opener ‘Let in the Light’, floaty in its sweeping, echoey instrumentation, yet feeling too lightweight in the lyrics department (“tell me how you spend your days/ how do you spend your nights / how you do tell yourself it’ll be all right?”).
Showing Falls at their poppiest, it’s not hard at all to imagine both ‘Beating Hearts’ and ‘Falling’ being played on daytime Radio 2, the former with an infectious drum beat throughout, the latter showcasing the pair’s faultless harmonies. With its “na na nahs” and strummed chords, ‘Better Way to Go’ is another enjoyable number that should inspire quite a few singalongs at their future gigs.
Running on the opposite side of the spectrum are the LP tracks on ‘Omaha’ that speak more directly to the Aussie duo’s musical roots. With charmingly disarming piano chords, ‘Summer’ is a simple ode to homesickness, while ‘Nothing Ever Comes My Way’ is tinged forlornly with regret and loneliness, themes that are returned to on the album’s conclusion and Rudston-Brown’s star moment, ‘Don’t Ask’. ‘When We Were Young’ – said by Kirwin to have been inspired by being in New York City in the middle of winter in early 2014 and imagining the personal stories of the many people they would see on their intercity travels – is conveyed well as a memorable hoedown. An additional tribute to their adopted homeland, ‘Independence Day’ weaves a beauteous story about a lost love and the holiday on which it was written on.
While Falls’ classic and simple guitar folk sound may have been embellished on instrumentally through outside influence in some places on ‘Omaha’, it’s Kirwin and Rudston-Brown’s confident storytelling that proves far more important – and satisfying – on their debut album.
‘Omaha’, the long-awaited debut album from celebrated Aussie folk singer/songwriter duo Falls, is out this Friday, the 2nd of February on Verve / Universal. For past coverage on TGTF of the duo, go here.
Lauren Mayberry, the lead singer for Scottish electropop trio CHVRCHES, has been outspoken throughout her career against the objectification of female musicians. She has recently come into the media spotlight again with the virulent response to the video for CHVRCHES’ recent single ‘Leave a Trace’, from their second album ‘Every Open Eye’.
The swirl of media attention surrounding ‘Leave a Trace’ casts a new light across all of the glam-pop songs on ‘Every Open Eye’. Without the context of the recent Internet attacks on Mayberry, the songs’ lyrics are ostensibly focused on a romantic breakup, the female protagonist cutting her losses and determinedly moving forward with her life. But in terms of the ongoing discussion about misogyny directed toward female musicians, Mayberry now seems to be singing about overcoming her detractors, sending a bold message that she won’t be silenced.
The gloriously infectious chorus of opening track ‘Never Ending Circles’ draws the listener’s attention immediately with Mayberry’s sharp, sweet vocals and an irresistibly catchy dance beat. Its sparkling musical arrangement is an ironic contrast to the sense of futility and frustration in the lyrics, “here’s to never ending circles / and building them on top of me / here’s to just another no man / if you want another, say you need another”.
Mayberry continues that brazenly ironic tone of voice on the aforementioned ‘Leave a Trace’, as she sings, “I have somehow got / away with everything / anything you ever did was strictly by design”. She carries the idea through to the song’s chorus where her male antagonist is warned “take care to bury all that you can / take care to leave a trace of a man”.
‘Keep You on My Side’ and ‘Make Them Gold’ are both vigorously rhythm-oriented, though their lyrical themes are more inwardly focused. The strident dance beat in the former track reinforces the repeated verse “I don’t sleep well laying low / never letting up, never letting go” as Mayberry reaffirms her own inner strength, while a glimmering keyboard line and deeply resounding bass riff underscore the hope and resilience in the chorus of the latter.
Mayberry best expresses the turmoil of her situation in the anxious suspense of standout track ‘Clearest Blue’. Nervously pounding drums propel her rapid-fire diction in the chorus “just another time I’m caught inside / every open eye / holding on tightly to the sides / never quite learning why”.
The album’s flow is interrupted a bit at its midpoint, ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’, where one of Mayberry’s male bandmates takes over the lead vocal helm. Taken individually, the track works well enough, harkening back to a darker and more angular ’80s synth rock style. But it falls flat in the context of the bright synthpop of the rest of the LP and its chorus, while engaging, comes across as more defeated than optimistic.
The overall musical tone of the album changes after this point, becoming slightly bitter and even a bit belligerent in moody tracks ‘Empty Threat’ and ‘Playing Dead’, where Mayberry stares her antagonist down with the lines “you can tell me to move and I won’t go / you can tell me to try and I won’t go”. ‘Down Side of Me’ is a darkly brooding cauldron of thickly bubbling synths and swirling layers of backing vocals centered around the haunting chant, “you’re not the same”. By contrast, Mayberry’s voice is especially sweet and ethereal on the airy postlude ‘Afterglow’, whose lyrics are pregnant with meaning when considered beside the recent Internet trolling drama, particularly the echoing final line “I’ve given up all I can”.
The first half of ‘Every Open Eye’ is a strong and self-assured statement of intent, and while the second half falters slightly, the album leaves an overall impression of confidence and forward momentum. Its glitzy pop-centred production sweetens the bitter aftertaste in Mayberry’s lyrics, but her message is clear and undiluted, delivered with the kind of bold bravado and cool confidence that only comes from hard experience.
‘Every Open Eye’ saw its release last Friday, the 25th of September, on Virgin EMI / Goodbye Records in the UK and on Glassnote Records in America. CHVRCHES will support the album’s release with a run of live dates in the UK this November.
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