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“If you look at me from a different angle, do you see something that you just can’t handle?” calls The Cribs frontman Gary Jarman early on during the band’s sixth studio LP ‘For All My Sisters’. There’s something apt, if a little ironic about that: The Cribs come from a turbulent time, one where they’re outspoken about their peers, and regularly shifting their sound (not to mention producers) from album to album. On this sixth outing they’re not asking for a ‘reset’, to be considered again by anyone who’s passed by their 13-year stint without realising. Instead they’re simply looking for another chance to grab your attention; it’s a reboot, if you will.
2012’s compilation ‘Payola’ has helped draw a line under their early works, and on the Ric Ocasek (of the Cars’ fame)-produced follow up, they live up to this heritage as indie disco darlings. Mid-tempo, powerhouse rock greets you on opener ‘Friendly Free’, with scrawny riffs bleeding out around the howled vocals. The Cribs have rarely been so accessible, and the catchy pop jaunt of ‘Different Angle’ does a lot to help that perception. There’s teasing riffs and a jerky freneticism, all captured with the sense of abandon and Yorkshire swagger that made ‘Men’s Needs’ stand out 8 years ago.
It’s neither the first nor last of their classic sounding, punk-rock collection; ‘Burning for No One’ risks staying with you all day for another yelping chorus of “rose-tinted romance”, even if the comparison with a burning candle is not quite as raw or vivid as the antics they might have covered in the past. The heavier sound of ‘An Ivory Hand’ is a punkier addition meanwhile, woven with poisoning guitars and bolshy drums, all of which remain enthralling during the nostalgic atmosphere they channel.
Much has been made of ‘Simple Story’, Ryan Jarman’s ballad on the album, so I’ll say little more about the lyrics and let you decide for yourself if he’s considering life as man’s best friend or an entirely different animal. “Let me off the leash and watch me running the grass…” is hardly a lyric that’s going to help his case, but after 3 minutes, his introspective pitying and subtle synths give way to a highlight of the album in ‘City Storms’. It’s forthright and refreshing, a slice of dizzying, hook-laden guitars that carry a Peace-like quality. ‘Summer of Chances’ has equally appealing bursts of skittish rock, as they rattle off gutsy lyrics throughout, not least with the snarky remarks of ‘Diamond Girls’:- “sometimes I wonder if I got you wrong, you don’t have to agree, you’re not as straight as you wanted to be…..how did you get so free?”.
For an album that marks the first of two from the band in 2015, The Cribs have returned with a convincing sound. This is the brothers at their most ingenious, returning to feel-good guitar music, with ‘Pink Snow’ adding a decisive final blow as the album’s closer. At 7 minutes long, it veers from a grungy sombreness at first, to a climax of euphoric, earthquake inducing riffs and howls. Regardless, it points to The Cribs rekindling their unique tenacity that no other band has. With this album of flat out, rough cut riffs from the Yorkshire stalwarts, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that their sensibility for writing bold punk rock is nowhere near close to drying up. In fact, it just got a whole lot stronger.
‘For All My Sisters’, the sixth album from Yorkshire band The Cribs, is out now through Sony Red / Sonic Blew. Listen to the audio of ‘Different Angle’ below.
Brothers Harry and Alfie Hudson Taylor picked up their craft from a young age, busking on the streets of their hometown of Dublin. With that experience in mind, along with the success they’ve since had across the UK and Europe, the pair’s debut album ‘Singing for Strangers’ has managed to capture their endearing presence and disarmingly beautiful folk-pop.
Amidst their young years, their warming collection of handclaps and triumphant harmonies exude a charming maturity, first highlighted by ‘Just a Thought’. A racing piano melody and rousing choruses keep their opener light and bouncy, leaving it all too easy to draw comparisons with fellow Irish gents, Kodaline. The same goes for the blissful hooks and anthemic choruses of ‘Chasing Rubies’ and ‘World Without You’. However, the duo can, and do play the aces up their sleeves.
On ‘Butterflies’ they produce a resplendent folk ballad, a gorgeous arrangement of genteel acoustic guitar chords and yearning lyrics. It gives you the first notion of how versatile their sound can be: it’s timeless if you wish to coin the cliché, but there’s a sense of honesty and growing confidence through the record. “Wish I could have told her I’m freaking out” and “when I broke into her heart, I threw away the key” cry the vocals on ‘Night Before the Morning After’; by the time you reach ‘Weapons’ however, they’re shouting out to shed any secrets and “put down your weapons”.
From this confidence comes the blistering Americana inspired ‘Battles’. They’ve found a different pool of influences, channelling fiery folk this time, as their love story transpires and burns vehemently. “We are tied to the truth….the tie that binds me to you” they spout with fierce delivery, as they do battle with your emotions in the album’s closing stages.
Their call to arms is followed by another burst of personal defiance, as the tempo-shifting, blues inflected ‘Don’t Tell Me’ carries similar gusto. It feels a little repetitive and relentless, but nonetheless they manage to create some impact; it’s not as punchy as the track’s predecessor, but it’s got all the right intentions, even if it doesn’t have the same vigour and lunging refrains. ‘For the Last Time’ and ‘Off the Hook’ go on to highlight their stripped-back heritage; it’s something of a sobering and delicate come down after the radio friendly first half of the album.
In all, Hudson Taylor’s debut is a brief moment to sit back, mull over their many EPs and think “well, aren’t these chaps going to be about for a long time”. The production of their songs has become more elaborate and grandiose, but, the songs remain straightforward and heartfelt. Though it is not a re-education of folk music, nonetheless it’s an incredibly enjoyable explanation of where modern folk has got too; and in a number of places, where it’s heading too.
‘Singing for Strangers’, the debut from Irish brothers Hudson Taylor, is out now via Polydor Records.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 22nd April 2015 at 12:00 pm
One of the most important milestones for a young band is the release of the debut album. Although they’ve been poking round under the radar for some time now, London-based indie pop/rock band Life in Film finally see this goal come to fruition next month with the release of ‘Here It Comes’. At the helm of production duties was Stephen Street, famous for his association with the Smiths and Morrissey’s subsequent first solo album ‘Viva Hate’, as well as his long production history with Blur that includes ‘The Magic Whip’, out next week.
Life in Film’s style is one based on the rugged, lovely simplicity of the guitar band, and without fancy tricks or crutches, something that has rung true for years with the supporters of The Crookes and The Postelles. With the basic rock band-building blocks of guitars, bass and drums, an amazing song framed by a memorable melody can be written and performed. That is, if talent is present in spades, which is the case with this band.
Several tunes familiar to long-time fans such as myself appear on ‘Here It Comes’. ‘The Idiot’, with frontman Samuel Fry’s lamenting of a relationship gone bad (“love is wasted on you / and you don’t have a clue”), is a corker but counterintuitively, its peppy melody and happy guitar notes belying the tone of regret. Its unleashing on an unsuspecting, uninitiated public should be interesting. ‘Needles and Pins’, the title track of their 2012 debut EP, is another winner, driven by a jaunty, jangly guitar hook that swims and swirls around in your head and refuses to leave. Album opener ‘Alleyway’ is a much newer song, yet smartly doesn’t stray too far from this formula, except to increase the vigour with more prominent drumming from Micky Osment.
Another newer song and ‘Here It Comes’ standout ‘Get Closer’ starts sweetly enough with xylophone and oohs. But the track has a melody that never stays very long in one place, so as you’re trying to keep up with the band and shout along with them, “get closer! Get closer! Get closer!”, it feels like you’re in the middle of a cardiovascular workout. An enjoyable one at that, in which the boy next door apologises to the girl he loves, “I’m sorry that it’s not quite how you thought this would be / it’s always the fucking same, always the same / come round, I’d really like to see you / we could watch the television, you could cook a pizza”; not exactly Shakespeare, I know, but endearing nonetheless. And this the song that got them called the British Vampire Weekend? Can someone please explain this? I’m lost.
While there are high energy, fun moments on the record, there are also slower ballads to provide some welcome emotional shade. With its complex guitar pickings by lefty Edward Ibbotson against a gorgeous string section, ‘Anna, Please Don’t Go’ is a rare beauty as Fry plaintively sighs, “Anna, please don’t go, your heart’s in the right place / don’t be fooled by pain, it comes but it goes away”. The strings make another welcome appearance on the tambourine-tinged ‘Forest Fire’. Another slower tempo highlight is ‘Carla’, which I first became aware of after watching a Watch Listen Tell session the band did in Stoke Newington Cemetery in 2009 (yes, 2009, you read that right). The album version showcases the band members’ harmonies and the lovely guitars, with the overall sound as rich as its lyrical content.
I find it somewhat ironic that while title track ‘Here It Comes’ has a definite good time Charlie feel and has the makings of a summer festival anthem, its YOLO / carpe diem sentiment and yelps for “fun fun fun!” feels forced with this group. As much as I enjoy bands getting away from the topics of love and ending relationships, a band like Life in Film who are so good at writing such songs and making them memorable should refrain from fixing it if it ain’t broke.
Life in Film’s debut album ‘Here It Comes’ will be released on the 4th of May on ECC Records. They are currently on tour in North America supporting Liverpool’s the Wombats. For previous TGTF coverage on Life on Film, head here.
In recent years, Nottingham has produced some of the music industry’s best new talent, from London Grammar and Dog is Dead to Saint Raymond and Jake Bugg. Amber Run, a five-piece indie pop group who met at the University of Nottingham, is the latest band to emerge from the city, and their debut album ‘5AM’ is something to behold.
The record, which was produced by Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Two Door Cinema Club, Foals), is an excellent showcase of Amber Run’s ability to produce anthems. Album opener ‘I Found’ is a pulsating track, which combines dark, powerful lyrics with bellowing, stripped-back harmonies, whilst ‘Spark’ blends the indie folk vibes of Mumford and Sons with a Coldplay-esque piano and vocal arrangement, as the underlying guitar and drum beat explodes into action during the thunderous chorus.
Each track on the album is laden with hooks; the whirling guitar intro of ‘Hurricane’ leads into a clap-along anthem, which is begging to be chanted at a major music festival. Not to mention the euphoric sounds of ‘Noah’ and ‘Pilot’ and the funky tones of ‘Good Morning’, which bears undertones to The 1975’s ‘Chocolate’. ‘Shiver’ and title track ‘5AM’ provide a slower pace to the proceedings, brilliantly flaunting the natural rawness of Joe Keough’s vocals. The record also includes fan favourite ‘See You Soon’, an ode to the band’s hometown of Nottingham, and ‘Just My Soul Responding’, the brilliant first single to be taken from the album. There’s a real cohesion, as each of the tracks almost seamlessly flows from one to the next, with the use of two short interludes (‘M.F.’ and ‘C.F.’) nicely holding the album together.
Overall, ‘5AM’ is a brilliant exhibition of Amber Run’s soaring ambition, as the record is brimming with tracks that could echo around arenas. Considering the band’s relatively short time on the music scene, they already have a very mature sound, which is only going to develop as the group go on to bigger and better things. With the right exposure, this is not just a possibility, more an inevitability.
Looking ahead to their next record, it’ll be interesting to see whether Amber Run opt to follow in the footsteps of Coldplay and produce a dance pop album or continue to output indie pop. Whichever route they take, their follow-up will certainly be highly anticipated, that’s for certain.
Amber Run’s debut album ‘5AM’ is out now on RCA Victor. The group have just embarked on a new UK/Irish tour.
When we at TGTF caught up with folk-punk collective Skinny Lister last month at SXSW 2015, they were enthusiastically awaiting the release of their new album ‘Down on Deptford Broadway’ on Xtra Mile Recordings. Aside from being excited to play the new songs for new audiences, the band members were excited to be part of the emerging alt-folk ‘scene’ being curated by the record label. With the new LP release, Skinny Lister have established a firm position in the milieu beside their famous labelmate Frank Turner.
‘Down on Deptford Broadway’ opens with the immediately catchy couplet rhymes of sea shanty ‘Raise a Wreck’. Informed by both rock and traditional folk influences, the raucous pub-style sing-along has a climactic key change around two-thirds of the way through that sets a high-energy mood for the album. ‘Trouble on Oxford Street’ continues the uptempo tone with a melodic “ba da ba ba ba da da” refrain and clever lyrical lines that seem particularly appropriate heading into the upcoming summer festival season: “please excuse the bruise, it’s drink got me into this, I didn’t know where I was”.
Co-lead vocalist and self-described ‘show-off’ Lorna Thomas chimes in with her multi-instrumentalist brother Max on ‘George’s Glass’, written as an ode to the Thomas siblings’ father, an amateur songwriter known informally as ‘Party George’. The folk aspect of this song is realized in its lively dance tempo, specifically a polka if I’m not mistaken, and its rousing chorus “follow your fearless heart / walk on down your own path / tomorrow in focus at last / the world through the bottom of George’s glass”.
Lorna Thomas displays a more poetic vocal style in ‘What Can I Say’, an introspective country-tinged track about longing for a lost love. As you can hear in its accompanying video just below, the song’s naturalistic lyrics allude to the lonely passage of time by chronicling the change of seasons from “a summer spent without you is a summer put to waste” to “leaves they went brown, down they all did fall”. Thomas’ lilting vocals feature again later in the album on the lovely pure folk ballad ‘Bonny Away’ and gently rocking album closer ‘The Dreich’.
Previously featured track ‘Cathy’ lifts the tempo between ‘What Can I Say’ and the teetering waltz ‘Six Whiskies’. Another dance-tune-turned-pub-chorus, ‘Six Whiskies’ namechecks a handful of London landmarks visited on a drunken sojourn, including the Deptford Broadway lyric that gives the album its name. The uproarious anthem ‘This Is War’ might sound equally at home on the ‘Les Miserables’ soundtrack as in the pub, especially with its broad choral harmonies and accordion-laced instrumentation. ‘Ten Thousand Voices’ has a similarly populist theme along with a driving rhythm and an irresistible chorus that begs for audience participation in live performance.
Indeed, live performance is where Skinny Lister truly excel, and while the recorded versions on ‘Down on Deptford Broadway’ are enjoyable, they can’t quite match the unbridled energy and enthusiasm of the band on stage and in person. If you happen to be on the UK side of the pond, you can have the best of both worlds this week, as Skinny Lister embark on a UK tour in support of the album release.
Skinny Lister’s second album ‘Down on Deptford Broadway’ is out today on Xtra Mile Recordings. Our previous coverage of Skinny Lister, including an interview and live reviews from SXSW 2015, is right this way.
Jacob Dillan Summers is something of an unlikely songwriter. Having evolved through a sheltered fundamentalist Christian childhood into a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps and from there into an ill-fated love affair that led him to Alaska and back, Summers eventually found himself in Los Angeles, where he took on the unlikely moniker Avid Dancer and wrote an equally unlikely debut album, titled ‘1st Bath’.
On first listen, ‘1st Bath’ has all the trappings of a record written in Southern California: mellow guitar tones and light, laid-back vocals recorded in a gauzy haze of distortion and distance. More generally atmospheric than evocative of a specific emotion, the album has the pleasant warmth of a sun-soaked day along with the mildly disorienting effect of the sun shining into your eyes. I had my first full listen to ‘1st Bath’ during a trail run in the Tucson desert, and it occurred to me in that setting that the album is aurally equivalent to the bright shimmer of midday sunlight, its sharp clarity initially obscured by the glare.
Opening track ‘All the Other Girls’ sets the tone for the album with an echoing background vocal melody over a groovy foundational bass and Summers’ detached double-tracked vocals opposing the intense emotional longing of the main guitar riff. This track also sees the first of several surprising instrumental choices, in this case the sax solo that extends to the end of the song. Early single ‘All Your Words Are Gone’ has a ’60s acoustic folk vibe, and Summers’ singing is mildly reminiscent of Paul Simon over the lines “find your joy / find your joy today / don’t have to look so hard / don’t have to look so far”. The vibraphone melody in the ending adds a very delicate and genuine quality to an already outstanding example of songwriting.
In the middle of the tracklisting, Summers dials up both the tempo and the emotional intensity of the album. The distorted guitars and skittering percussion of ‘Not Far to Go’ relay a more anxious feeling, while ‘All the Things You Keep’ tosses aside the previously relaxed pace for a prominent bass groove and restlessly pounding drums. By the time the buzzing synths of ‘Medication’ kick in, the vibe of the album has definitely sharpened to a harder edge. ‘I Want to See You Dance’ completely abandons the shimmering effect of the earlier tracks and takes on more of an ’80s synth pop style with a vibe that feels almost more punk than folk.
From this point of denouement, Summers backtracks through gentle folk ballads (‘Whatever’s on Your Mind’) and California dream pop (‘Nobody Else’) before touching on the vaguely country twang of ‘Why Did I Leave You Behind’ and closing with the edgier electric guitars and discordant harmonies of ‘Up Against a Wall’. The wide stylistic variety is balanced by the album’s consistent melodicism, in both the vocal and instrumental lines, and its overarching lo-fi production quality.
Avid Dancer emerged from the ashes of Jacob Summers’ previous life, and his songcraft clearly continued to evolve over the course of writing ‘1st Bath’. The album is a carefully constructed and well thought out collection of songs which manages to experiment with a variety of styles while maintaining a sense of flow and cohesion very rare in a debut. Its summery sonic combination of glimmering sunlight and breezy detachment will no doubt make a perfect accompaniment for vacations at the beach or cruises along the coastline with the top down.
Avid Dancer’s debut album ‘1st Bath’ is available now via Grand Jury Records. Our past coverage of Avid Dancer, including his appearance at SXSW 2015 and my interview with him in Austin, can be found here.
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