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Merseyside guitar rockers The Coral made their indelible first impression on the UK music scene in 2002 with a self-titled debut album that garnered the then-six-piece band a Mercury Prize nomination. Following that promising lead, the band recorded six more LPs over the course of the noughties before taking a five-year hiatus starting in 2010. During their off-time, band members focused on individual solo projects, and a previously recorded album, ‘The Curse of Love’, was released in late 2014.
In November 2015, The Coral announced a comeback, heralding the release of a new album, ‘Distance Inbetween’, which was released in March 2016. ‘Distance Inbetween’ was met with critical praise from reviewers at NME and The Independent, among others, and the band evidently felt the need to strike again while the iron was hot. They followed ‘Distance Inbetween’ with an EP release at the tail end of 2016, in the form of ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’.
The LP is a reimagining of ‘Distance Inbetween’, at least in parts. Of the tracks on the new EP, only ‘Holy Revelation’ and ‘Connector’ are taken from the full album. ‘Holy Revelation (Andy Votel’s ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ De-Mix)’ more than doubles the original track’s duration at over 8 minutes’ running time. It takes a fairly standard guitar rock track, which was quite catchy in its original form, and makes it into a psychedelic sonic exploration of the foundational rhythms and melodies. Surprisingly, it never feels self-indulgent. Instead, the band seem to be making themselves comfortable here, as if The Coral are stretching their legs and kicking off their shoes, allowing themselves some space to grow, and in the process adding depth and texture to their sound.
‘Connector’, the shadowy album opener from ‘Distance Inbetween’, is recreated here in a woozy and hallucinogenic synth dressing. The bass and the beat are both more aggressive in this Voyagers’ remix, and frontman James Skelly’s vocals are moved farther back in the mix to accommodate the dark dance-pop vibe. The EP features one brand new track, the verbosely subtitled ‘After the Rain (Post WW3 Return of the Super Turv Mix)’, which received airplay from Steve Lamacq at BBC 6 Music ahead of the EP release. Edgy and sinuous with a deep bass groove, its harshly synthetic instrumental bridge contrasts jarringly with frontman Skelly’s smooth, dark vocal melody.
‘Unforgiven’, previously released as the b-side track to The Coral’s ‘Chasing the Tail of a Dream’ single from January of last year, is more acoustic sounding and less kaleidoscopic in color, but nonetheless psychedelic in its way. Its vocal and instrumental harmonies are weirdly wandering, but also warm and hazy around the edges, which allows the EP to close on a distinctly lighter and mellower note than where it began.
‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ is probably best thought of as an accompaniment to ‘Distance Inbetween’. Stylistically, it’s a bit all over the shop on its own, but in comparison to the tracks on the full LP, these songs make a little more sense. Taken in conjunction with the definitive precision and back-to-basics mentality of ‘Distance Inbetween’, ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ displays The Coral’s outside-the-box approach to music-making and their willingness to evolve their sound, even as their career stretches past the 20-year mark.
The Coral’s full-length album ‘Distance Inbetween’ and their latest EP ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ are both out now on Ignition Records. For more on the Merseyside band on TGTF, follow this link.
With what could be their best record yet, You Me At Six have returned all guns blazing. ‘Night People’ is everything a fifth album should be: a throwback to earlier times whilst making sure the growth is evident. The first glimpse came in the form of the lead single and title track, which opens the album. With its pounding and pulsating drumbeat, it feels quite different from the classic You Me at Six sound. This peek into the new age of You Me at Six symbolises not only their growth but their insatiable prowling of the top spot in British rock.
The band had such confidence in the new record, they’ve admitted they’re not even releasing the strongest songs. This set of songs are a treat for those who check out the album, and a treat they are indeed. All across the board, this record stands in a league of its own when compared to the rest of the past You Me at Six discography. After the aforementioned first and title track, things get kicked up another notch with ‘Plus One’, a fast and furious number that takes no prisoners. This then leads us nicely into ‘Heavy Soul’, a perfectly melodic track that makes use of the band’s ability to write catchy and powerful choruses.
Somewhat of a break in the onslaught of melody and tempo, ‘Take on the World’ is a vastly different beast. It builds gently over restrained finger-picking on guitar, while frontman Josh Franceschi gives a completely wholehearted performance, even down to the tensing of voice during the chorus. As the track falls away after its epic crescendo, another slow start greets us in the form of ‘Brand New’. As the album’s highlight, it has absolutely everything: a rampaging melodic chorus, heartfelt lyrics and a perfect performance all round from the band. If you don’t like this track, then what hope is there?
The rest of the album has a lot to live up to after this. While ‘Night People’ knocks it out of the park other songs don’t replicate the ‘Brand New’ magic, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself going back and repeating it, maybe a hundred times or so. ‘Swear’ kicks back in a rollicking drum attack, a nod back to their previous album ‘Cavalier Youth’ and proving their sound is still. ‘Make Your Move’ brings some more of that viciousness we first saw in ‘Plus One’, and takes it up yet another notch, just as ‘Can’t Hold Back’ does. What we’re seeing here is certainly You Me at Six finding the ground upon which they can finally build the mainstream recognition they deserve.
‘Spell It Out’ repeats the restrained introduction used on prior tracks, but does so in a darker manner. It’s almost the antithesis to ‘Take On The World’ in its execution: still slow and building, but instead of leading to a melodic and positive crescendo, it takes us to an aggressive world that the band aren’t afraid to enter. Finale ‘Give’ does what all good finales should do. Not only does it complete the album, but it also leaves you with a sense that you’ve been emotionally tested. Through Franceschi’s cries of “I’ve been wasting all this time / trying to keep you off mind / you off my mind”, and the euphoric musical accompaniment, ‘Give’ is quite literally You Me at Six giving it their all.
The most interesting aspect of this entire record is the thought of where they’ll go from here. They’ve created what is their best album thus far, filled with exploration and deviation from the standard You Me at Six formula. The future’s going to be tough, but with ideas like these in their arsenal, they’ll surely own it.
‘Night People’, the sixth studio album from You Me at Six, is out now on Infectious Music / BMG. You can look back at TGTF’s previous coverage of You Me at Six through here.
The eighth EP release from dance producer prodigy James Draper, better known simply as Draper, does exactly what you’d assume the eighth EP would do. It’s made up of tracks that are massive, filled with beats and none too explorative. Across the six tracks, only one of which doesn’t feature a guest artist, there’s a lot to make you want to move and shake. Which, ultimately, is all you can ask for from an EP by an electronic producer.
It wastes no time in getting down to brass tacks by instantly striking with loud, prominent beats that use techno flourishes at their finest with ‘Want You More’. One of the unspoken jewels in dance music production’s crown is the use of unnoticed or unfamiliar artists. In cases like this, you can normally guarantee the voice you hear singing the hook comes from an up-and-comer, and in this case, it’s Sam Sure. The London-based singer has a voice that is a cross between emotive and focused, giving the song a much-needed human touch. Next up is BB Diamond on ‘Jealous’, a track about, you guessed it, being jealous. Her voice definitely shows the vicious side of jealousy, Diamond’s vocal range tensing at times and often taking on a raw edge. The music itself is once again fairly standard for this genre – with no real progression – but it’s melodic and isn’t terrible, so there’s that.
However, ‘I.O.U’ saves the day, with a performance on vocals from another London-based singer, Kyko. There’s two different songs within this track that appear and disappear throughout. The first is a triumphant and euphoric-sounding electronic funk melody that really does draw your attention, especially when complimented by the delicacy of the second. Next up, ‘Reaction’ brings yet more flavour. Its restrained instrumentation allows the vocals to take centre space, at least up until the chorus, which is actually pretty damn good. This is pop at its finest: a melody that sweeps you away, though the vocal performance could do more to match this setup. Guest vocalist Milck‘s strength lies in the more sedentary verse; the chorus calls for a more emotive performance to match the powerful melody Draper creates, and the vocal lets the track down in that regard. Additionally, the vocal effect before the break into the final chorus is wholly unnecessary but is saved by the extremely Eighties’ sounding guitar solo that breaks out in the song’s finale.
‘Heartbeat Close’ is a pure and straight dance track. There’s no doubt what its purpose is: to get you dancing, while drunk in the club with your friends. No points for creativity, but kudos on managing to stick to the template. Finale ‘Who Are You’ features Sykes and is the strongest guest performance on the record. With a sound reminiscent of CHVRCHES, just a little less power, it has a draw that none of the other tracks do. It’s encapsulating and breathes a life of fresh air into the six tracks, which is a shame considering this song appears at the end of the EP. Vocals once again aren’t sufficiently powered to match the euphoria found within the music, though the execution is certainly better that seen on ‘Reaction’. And another Eighties’ guitar solo, you can’t go wrong with an Eighties’, reverb-laden guitar solo.
As a whole, the EP is nothing to write home about, though as a whole, ‘Luminous’ certainly proves Draper’s strength as a producer. The songs are to get you dancing, soundtrack the lighter side of your life and to not hang around longer than needed, Which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s also not necessarily a good thing.
Draper’s ‘Luminous’ EP is available now from M:UK. You can stream the entire release below. He’s announced a show in London at Koko’s Friday BURST dance night on the 3rd of March. Stay tuned for more coverage on Draper in the coming weeks and months.
I confess that until recently, I’d never heard of The Blue Aeroplanes. However, after reading up on the Bristolian band’s history and influence, as well as the work of its various members, it’s pretty clear they’re connected in some way to a wide range of artists that I’ve been listening to for a long time. From ex-members working with the likes of Placebo and Massive Attack, to reportedly being the best band that Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield has seen live, it feels like The Blue Aeroplanes have, whilst remaining relatively underground, permeated the layers of music history.
The Blue Aeroplanes haven’t released an album in 6 years, since ‘Anti-Gravity’ in 2011. Bearing in mind their first studio album came out in 1984, it’s quite an impressive feat in itself that they’re putting out new material after all this time. That’s even before you consider the band’s incredible history. The Blue Aeroplanes have released almost 12 studio albums across 4 decades and have had a dizzying history of band members over the years. The band’s current lineup also consists of long-serving drummer John Langley, Gerard Starkie, Sharp (bass), Bec Jevons (guitar/vocals) and Mike Youe (guitar).
Their latest, ‘Welcome, Stranger!’, was just released last Friday through Art Star and a PledgeMusic campaign. The album has an old school feel to it, particularly in the edgy drawl of guitars and lead singer Gerard Langley’s distinctive smoky vocals evocative of ‘90s shoegaze. This is a rather wonderful and eclectic mix of subdued indie upbeat rock with Sprechgesang. I can’t tell if I think it’s brilliant or just a bit mad, although I guess there’s not reason why it can’t be both.
Tracks such as ‘Here is the Heart of All Wild Things’, Poetland’, ‘Retro Moon’ and ‘Nothing Will Ever Happen in the Future’ feature Gerard Langley speak-singing over the track, pulling it off with a biting poetic flair. In the latter, he speaks over a gently twanging guitar during the verses, before singing “we want to be wanted / we need to be needed / we love to be loved” during the chorus. I’d argue this is more a pithy comment on celebrity culture than a personal confession. On ‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’, which opens up to a steadily beating drum before a shoegaze-esque guitar breaks in, Langley and co. repeatedly sing out the title of the track. It even features Langley imitating a crow in a strained squawk. This one is a must listen.
A bit like ‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’, ‘Elvis Festival’ is brilliantly strange: “You sing badly / but no one cares / you are Elvis”. Other lyrics from it made me laugh out loud at first (“his wife sewed on the sequins / but he made the cape himself”), but then I couldn’t stop playing it for the simple guitar riff and drum beat and brilliantly utilised cowbell that had me dancing along, wishing I was at a festival. ‘Skin’ is a little more upbeat, a diversion from other tracks on the album. Not only does it feature vocals from Bec Jevons (also of IDestroy), but it’s also a straight-to-the-point, fast-paced track. It’s an interesting contrast to the other obscure tracks on the album. Jevons sings, “this is my skin and I welcome you in”, with skin being the central focus of connecting to someone else, not only in tactile terms, but the idea of letting someone into your skin and seeing the world the way that you might see it.
Overall, it’s an interesting and exciting listen and deserves to be properly heard to appreciate the songs’ witty wordplay. Its timeless quality makes the LP sound like it could have been produced any time over the past couple of decades. Despite the fact that I found it an enjoyable listen, it’s unlikely to remove the band from their underground cult status and into the mainstream. Having said that, from what I’ve read of the band so far, it doesn’t seem like that’s likely to be their goal. ‘Welcome, Stranger!’ feels more like the work of a band that is making music for the joy of it rather than for fame or notoriety. And it’s sure to be an album that will please the existing fans that have been waiting patiently for new material.
The Blue Aeroplanes’ latest album ‘Welcome, Stranger!’, out now on Art Star, definitely deserves a listen, if you’re not already a fan. The band are in the midst of a UK tour this month; check out the UK dates listed on their official Web site. The bits we have here on TGTF on the band are back here in our archive.
Header photo by Julie Gardner
Last summer, Canadian singer/songwriter Neil Young released his eye-popping 37th album ‘Earth’, which he described as “a collection of 13 songs from throughout my life, songs I have written about living here on our planet together.” Though the songs themselves weren’t new, the recordings were. Captured while Young was on tour with The Promise of the Real, the live audio was mixed with overdubbed sounds to make a point about the artificial nature of our lives and the damage we’re causing to our planet.
Though he hails from Canada, Young has often used his artistic activism to weigh in on American political and social events. In a Rolling Stone interview around the release of ‘Earth’, he remarked “I vote with my mouth. That’s my way.” Young could easily have rested on his laurels following ‘Earth’, but instead he turned his attention to unfolding drama in the United States, speaking out once again with an album of original music titled ‘Peace Trail’.
Recorded at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-la Studios and co-produced by Young and John Hanlon, ‘Peace Trail’ is a mix of predictable acoustic folk rock and experimental synthetic sounds designed to provoke a specific and unsettling effect. Title track and album opener ‘Peace Trail’ is musically what you might expect from Young, with fuzzy guitars and folk-style tribal percussion, but its central lyric “I think I’ll hit the peace trail / take a trip back home to my old town / ‘cos everyone back there says / something new is growing” hints that change is afoot.
The opening lines of ‘Indian Givers’ are the centerpiece of the album, clearly speaking out against the construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline: “There’s a battle raging on the sacred land / our brothers and sisters had to take a stand / against us now for what we all been doing / on the sacred land there’s a battle brewing”. The rhyme might be a bit awkward but the sentiment is solidly stated, over a musical backdrop that combines Young’s blues rock with stark rhythms and austere harmonies more reminiscent of Native American traditional music. Young continues his humanist sermon with ‘Show Me’, a starkly simple arrangement of two-line verses and a repeated one-line chorus that challenges listeners with an ultimate vision: “when heaven on earth is improved by the hand of man / and people everywhere get together and join their hands / show me.”
From that point, the album takes a bit of a left turn. The discordant and rhythmically disjunct ‘Texas Rangers’ comes as a bit of a shock after the predictable folk rock of the previous songs. As jarring as the musical effect is, the lyrics are almost moreso: “Look, can you see things / when they show you / what they want you to know / watch what you don’t see / on the TV / when they hide the truth”. In similarly disturbing fashion, ’Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders’ explores the dark specters of racial and religious distrust among white Americans: “I think I know who to blame / it’s all those people with funny names / moving in to our neighborhood / how can I tell if they’re bad or good?”
‘John Oaks’ goes back to familiar musical territory with a lengthy and detailed acoustic folk narrative about migrant workers and racial tensions. ‘My Pledge’ has a similar poetic structure, but a distinctly modern and synthetic arrangement of the vocal melodies. One particular stanza, “I’m lost in this new generation / left me behind it seems / listening to the shadow of Jimi Hendrix / ‘Purple Haze’, sounding like TV” seems markedly appropriate in that context. Young closes the album on a somewhat lighter note with ‘My New Robot’, though sinister undertones peek through the acoustic arrangement in a wide and weird array of computerised voices, and the song’s ending can only be described as alarmingly abrupt.
Neil Young is a legendary and prolific songwriter with a wide and established audience. On ‘Peace Trail’ he has once again used his craft as a vehicle for preaching his broad humanitarian social platform. The messages contained in its songs are deliberate and blunt, not particularly elegant, but in their style, very particular to Young as an artist. The real significance of the ‘Peace Trail’ comes in the fact that Young felt the need to make these statements publicly, and that, at this point in his career, he continues to find bold, inventive ways to keep awareness of political and social injustice at the forefront of our collective consciousness.
‘Peace Trail’, Neil Young’s second album of 2016 and 38th album overall, is out now on Reprise Records.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 10th January 2017 at 12:00 pm
Header photo by Phil Knott
Ahead of his scheduled appearance at SXSW 2017, electronic musician and producer SOHN ushers in the new year with his newest album. Though the London-born Christopher Taylor has spent most of his creative time since 2012 living in Vienna, he temporarily relocated to a house in sleepy Northern California to work on this second outing, ‘Rennen’. Interestingly, the topics he explores on this effort aren’t entirely escapist; instead, he faces his personal life and international politics head on. And in an unusual move, Taylor decided to take a less is more approach on this SOHN album, limiting himself to three elements going into each track.
Meaning the action of running in German, the title seems to sum up well his escape to America following the whirlwind of critical attention paid to him and the exhausting touring he undertook to promote his celebrated 2014 debut LP ‘Tremors’. “I was running nonstop that whole time,” he says. “It was this incredible blur of seeing the whole world all in one go. I was going from experience to experience to experience always saying yes, and that’s just an incredible thing to put yourself through as a human.”
Given the popularity of ‘Tremors’, which contained the robust singles ‘Bloodflows’ and ‘Artifice’, any follow-up would be difficult. But the time away seems to have done SOHN’s new music a world of good. The influence of his co-writing and production work for other, more pop-centric artists, from Rihanna to Disclosure, have seeped into ‘Rennen’. This provides surprisingly wonderful moments on the album that might otherwise not happened. Changes in Taylor’s personal life since his debut – including falling in love, getting married and learning he will become a father – also affected the content of the new album, providing a unique window into the artist’s psyche during this snapshot in time.
‘Rennen’ begins with the bluesy ‘Hard Liquor’, a darkly appealing track with a clear r&b bent, quickly followed by two already revealed songs. The repeated lyrics in ‘Conrad’ – “I can feel it coming, we can never go back” – could sum up well our collective sorrows of 2016, but Taylor meant to point specifically to Europe’s uncertain future and shaky political climate, no doubt to include the passage of Brexit. The use of empty bottles and kitchen utensils for percussion adds to the scrappy desperate feel despite the song’s undeniable pop sensibility. ‘Signal’ debuted with a music video directed by and starring Hollywood starlet Milla Jovavich. The single itself sees Taylor return to what we formerly knew as the SOHN sound: less pop and more experimental, with intriguing synth note and vocal compression and a bare yet oddly soulful drumbeat. ‘Proof’ is another great example of this.
The rest of SOHN’s ‘Rennen’ will delight electro heads but will also fascinate open-minded pop fans with plenty of interesting bits in a post-Bowie/Prince world. The synth chords on ‘Dead Wrong’ are borderline ominous, but accompanied by Taylor’s r&b vocal and rhythm, you can imagine it’d be something Michael Jackson might have come up with if he was still alive today. On ‘Primary’, Taylor revisits politics, specifically the start of the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign: “nobody seems able to really change / I can’t believe we’re not better / I thought we were past this”. The bright, percussion-led ‘Falling’ mirrors the intoxicating adrenalin rush of love with its upbeat tempo. Is it too much to wish for him to finally record in daylight and be totally happy on album #3? Ha. On the starkly bare title track ‘Rennen’, Taylor’s double-tracked vocals and at times falsetto are beautiful. Maybe we should leave him to follow his muse.
An electronic producer has, pretty much, infinite options at his fingertips when he sets his mind on making music. In challenging himself to do more with less, Taylor proves without a doubt through his vocal and songwriting abilities on ‘Rennen’ that he shines in a relatively minimalist environment. An incredible achievement.
‘Rennen’, the second album from SOHN, will be out this Friday, the 13th of January 2017, on 4AD. Prior to his scheduled appearance at SXSW 2017, he will embark on a European tour in early February, culminating in a show at London Electric Brixton on the 1st of March. For more coverage of SOHN on TGTF, go here.
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