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SXSW 2017: Wednesday afternoon at the Convention Center and Lustre Pearl’s Feed the Beat day party – 15th March 2017

 
By on Friday, 7th April 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

The Wednesday afternoon at SXSW 2017 was rather a mixed bag of events. If you’ve been following our coverage, you might be sensing a theme in that regard. But variety is the spice of life, as they say, and one can never go too far wrong with all the great acts at SXSW.

My day started with an early interview at downtown Austin’s W Hotel with Los Angeles indie folk rockers Magic Giant. This year marked their third consecutive SXSW, and Wednesday was their last day in town, so I was fortunate to catch them for the interview. After our chat, I was more intrigued than ever by the sound of their forthcoming debut album ‘In the Wind’ and excited to see them play live later in the evening at the Clive Bar. (Coverage of that show, and the rest of my Wednesday night, will post soon.)

"Aldous

Following my appointment with Magic Giant, Mary and I headed to the Convention Center to see singer/songwriter Aldous Harding on the International Day Stage. Harding seemed a bit more comfortable with the Convention Center atmosphere than A.S. Fanning had the day before, and her all-white attire created a rather dramatic effect on the large stage, even so early in the day. Even more striking were the repeated lyrics of her recent single, ‘Horizon’. The track is set to feature on her forthcoming LP release ‘Party’, due out on the 19th of May via 4AD / Flying Nun, but you can preview it just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/m4dVkoOMjLo[/youtube]

From the Convention Center, Mary and I both headed down to Rainey Street, but we parted ways shortly thereafter. I decamped to the Lustre Pearl for the Feed the Beat day party while she went next door to Bar 96 (you can read Mary’s recap of Wednesday afternoon back here) The bill at Lustre Pearl for the afternoon included several bands on my “must see” list, and the sunny weather made for a very pleasant couple of hours’ worth of music listening.

Maybird internal

The first act on the bill, New York four-piece psych-rock band Maybird, was completely unfamiliar to me, but they set the tone nicely for a casual outdoor party atmosphere. Their latest track ‘Keep in Line’ was recorded in Nashville with The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney at the production helm, which is as good an indication as any that Maybird is a band on the rise.

The Big Moon internal

English band The Big Moon (pictured in the header photo at the top of the page) were next on the afternoon docket, and they took the stage with a decided air of confidence, despite the sun shining directly into their faces while on stage. The devil-may-care grunge rock of songs like ‘Sucker’ was perfect for the beer-and-tacos atmosphere at the Lustre Pearl, and lead singer Juliette Jackson’s heart-shaped sunnies made a strong impression on the daytime crowd. Don’t miss The Big Moon’s debut LP ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’, due out on the 7th of April.

Mondo Cozmo internal

Los Angeles alt-rocker Mondo Cozmo (known offstage as Joshua Ostrander) had already made a big stir ahead of SXSW with recent single ‘Shine’, and his set at Feed the Beat didn’t disappoint those of us who already had high expectations. ‘Shine’ was naturally the best known of his tracks, but for my money, songs like ‘Higher’ and ‘Chemical Dream’ were equally effective. Mondo Cozmo will be on tour with Bastille through mid-May, ahead of a slew of summer festival dates here in America.

San Fermin internal

I’d been excited to see Brooklyn-based rock collective San Fermin since I reviewed their recent single ‘Open’ back in January. In live performance, the vocal interplay between co-lead singers Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye was even more dramatic, and the vibrant full band brought life to tracks both old (‘Emily’) and new (‘Better Company’, ‘Bride’). San Fermin’s new album ‘Belong’ is out on the 7th of April via Downtown Records.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/eERWM_7_-XI[/youtube]

After San Fermin’s rousing set, I stopped off at the Chi’lantro food truck for some beef bulgogi tacos (hey, a girl’s gotta eat!) on my way back to the Convention Center. I ended the afternoon listening in on a featured conference session with Mick Fleetwood and David Fricke; you can read my previous summary of that conversation right back here.  Stay tuned to TGTF for my review of Wednesday evening’s music events as our coverage of SXSW 2017 continues.

 

Album Review: Aldous Harding – Aldous Harding

 
By on Tuesday, 15th September 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

aldous_cd_web1Singer/songwriter Aldous Harding initially released her self-titled first album over a year ago in her home country of New Zealand on the Lyttleton Records label. The album was released in the UK by Spunk Records back in November and is now garnering worldwide attention, seeing its French debut last Friday along with the release of a new video for its opening track ‘Stop Your Tears’.

Harding’s lyrics in ‘Stop Your Tears’ have the air of Romantic-era prose about them, and more than a few such literary references are scattered throughout the album. The literary character that immediately came to mind as I listened to ‘Stop Your Tears’ was Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham, from his novel ‘Great Expectations’. The song’s opening lines, “I will never marry my love / I will die waiting for the bells”, express overwhelming loneliness but also the potent bitterness and resentment that would become Miss Havisham’s downfall in the novel. Harding’s character here sings “the blade is ready for the slaughter / the Virgin Mary hangs on the door” as she faces a different but equally bleak set of outcomes in the song’s rather horrific closing scene.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/B3Wds4gDGRc[/youtube]

The album’s lead single ‘Hunter’ is more uptempo, its guitar and violin melodies accompanied by anxiously shuffling percussion as Harding draws a particularly vicious metaphor of love and betrayal. The Miss Havisham parallel continues further with the ghostly wail of ‘Two Bitten Hearts’, whose instrumentation tentatively expands beyond Harding’s standard acoustic fare.

‘Titus Groan’ is the album’s main excursion into expanded instrumental arrangement, with electric guitar and keyboards along accompanying the piercing violins and Harding’s dramatically whispered vocals. Continuing the ‘Great Expectations’ character comparison, Harding introduces her own Pip counterpart in the lines “behind this house there is a boy / I hear him cry at night”. ‘Beast’ extends the analogy in reference to Miss Havisham’s vengeful and carefully crafted experiment with Pip and Estella, in which Pip is ultimately heartbroken by Estella’s romantic rejection. Harding’s biting vocal delivery expresses bitter regret in questioning “who gave the bone to the beast / who led it back from grace and gave it fire for its feast?”

The poignant woodwind melody of ‘No Peace at All’ conveys a quiet suffering, and there is a heavy sense of resignation in the oft-repeated lyric “and here I find no peace at all”. ‘Merriweather’ is slightly brighter in tone, but the male backing harmony vocal is like a persistent dark cloud blocking the sun, as Harding sings of loyalty to the ashes of a lost lover, buried “under the dust”.

The album closes with ‘Titus Alone’, an acoustic reprise of the earlier ‘Titus Groan’. This softer, simpler instrumentation puts more focus on Harding’s vivid lyrics, “follow me down for wine and tales of bravery / follow us down for meat and songs of victory”, making the track feel almost like a troubadour song from the Middle Ages. You can stream the audio for ‘Titus Alone’ just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/NyB3L-F6i6M?list=PL9ndKqVXOpEgO7ZIOqLOKG97JJEsqr78t[/youtube]

Indeed, labelling Aldous Harding’s music as ‘alt-folk’ is a bit of a misnomer. Most of her songs, with their acoustic instrumentation and narrative thematic style, would fit perfectly into the definition of traditional folk, albeit a darker and more dramatic folk style than the bright banjos and plucked guitar melodies we typically encounter. Nevertheless, fans of Laura Marling’s alt-folk will find much to like in Aldous Harding. Though Harding’s musical arrangements lack Marling’s sharp edge and compositional subtlety, her outstanding lyrics push past the typical female songwriter’s boundaries of delicacy, employing the Romantic literary juxtaposition of disarmingly realistic poetic imagery and a deep, pervasive sense of emotional enigma.

7/10

Aldous Harding’s debut album ‘Aldous Harding’ is available now on Spunk Records.

 
 
 

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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.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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