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Header photo by Leigh Burnette
Chesapeake, Virginia six-piece band The Last Bison are set to release their 3rd studio album, ‘VA’ (as in the American postal abbreviation for the state of Virginia), on the 30th of September via Media House Music. The group released their first album, 2011’s ‘Quill’, independently before signing to Universal Republic Records for their 2013 release ‘Inheritance’. ‘VA’ finds The Last Bison harkening back to their earlier independence, self-producing the songs they recorded in an old A-frame cottage near southern Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp.
The sheer number of members in their band allows The Last Bison to create a uniquely lush, richly-textured sonic backdrop for its otherwise very basic folk-pop tunes. Their latest single, ‘Bad Country’ would seem to be a perfect fit for radio, with its uplifting optimism, soaring string arrangement and melodically memorable chorus, “I feel the wind blowing south again to the bad country / so it begins, we’re going down again to the bad country”. Frontman Ben Hardesty’s gritty singing voice has just the right balance of warmth and traction to make the song’s emotion feel authentic.
The true outstanding moment in ‘Bad Country’ is its anthemic and evocative bridge section, “scorched by the blazing sun / burnt to the falls we run / into the dark we dive / coming alive”. Maybe it’s my own recent move to the American Southwest, but to my ear, the backing vocals sound like eerie canyon echoes, bringing to mind imagery of treacherous mountains and rough desert terrain.
Earlier single ‘Every Time’ (which can also be found on the band’s Soundcloud page) is more traditionally folk-flavoured, but with powerful tribal percussion rhythms and strong backing vocals punctuating the verses. The insistent repeated lyrics in the chorus, “every time I look back / you were standing there / casually aware of me”, along with the dramatic and unrelenting percussion drive the song perpetually forward. The dynamic contrast and instrumental variation in the far-too-brief bridge section whets the appetite for more potential sonic brilliance on the full album.
For an even more tempting taste of what The Last Bison have to offer, check out their video trailer for ‘VA’, filmed at their rustic and secluded recording studio, just below.
When I first heard about this band, I couldn’t help but wonder why a Northern Irish band situated in Liverpool would call itself Southern. As it turns out, the moniker is the surname of two of the band’s members, brother and sister Thom and Lucy Southern. Accompanied on drums by Eoghan Clifford, the sibling pair saw the band’s edgy new single ‘Where I Want to Be’ released by Marathon Artists earlier this week. Following up on their previous single, ‘Where the Wild Are’, the new track has already received airplay on BBC Radio 1, where it was recently featured by Fearne Cotton.
Though originally from the same general geographic vicinity as the Wonder Villains, whose lineup also features a sibling pair, Southern’s bluesy guitar rock sound is probably best compared to another brother/sister act, Angus and Julia Stone. In fact, Southern covered the Australian duo’s ‘Big Jet Plane’ in Paris for the following video.
Southern’s first self-titled EP was released back in December 2013 and included their best known track to date ‘World Don’t Shine’. In January of this year, they were tapped to perform for a Sofar Sounds session in Liverpool, where this acoustic version of ‘World Don’t Shine’ was recorded.
‘Where I Want to Be’ is an ambitiously energetic track with a gritty guitar rhythm and sharp vocal harmonies highlighting the insistent lyrics “I’m where I want to be, in my life.” The song’s simple structure allows the bombastic chorus to build its raucous energy to the very end. In contrast, the single’s B-side ‘The Way You Breathe’ is a softly whispered ballad featuring Lucy Southern’s crooning lead vocals. Watch the live session video for ‘The Way You Breathe’ just below, and be sure to keep an eye on TGTF for more on this up and coming band.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 20th August 2014 at 12:00 pm
Come summertime every year, I will think of my trip in 2010 to Denmark, when I went to cover Roskilde Festival’s 40th anniversary. There is a certain pleasant vibe to Scandinavia – especially during their warmer months, when the days are sunny and long – that I don’t think can really be matched anywhere else in the world. I’m not entirely sure where London-based alt-folk / pop band Passport to Stockholm got their name, but when I listen to their music, I like to think their mission is to assist your mind to escape to a place like the Nordic region, where things are, or at least seem to be, from the viewpoint of this neurotic East Coast American, calmer and more beautiful.
I forget now where I had first heard about them. I do remember going to look for them on Facebook and we all know what fledgling bands’ Facebook pages look like, devoid of much information because they’re just starting out. I liked their page, figuring I’d keep an eye on their page and eventually get around to writing a feature on them when more information was available. That time is now.
I got an email recently from their new PR representation, and while it’s disappointing to me that they’re still unsigned, with proper promotion, I expect this talented foursome to be snapped up quickly by an A&R man in due course. Their debut single to the world, ‘Imperfections’, is unusual enough to set them apart from the rest of the folk / pop pack, but also has all the hallmarks of pop that could break them into the mainstream.
Barny Barnard (vocals) and Tom Piggott have known each other since they were teens, having written songs together since the tender age of 14. While this part of their history sounds pretty similar to many other bands that have now achieved success, this is where things veer off from the usual course. Completing the line-up are percussionist Henri Grimes and most interestingly, cellist Sophie English, who adds an unexpected, dramatic and (dare I say this?) more adult piece to the proceedings. While fiddle and violin aren’t uncommon instruments in artists we love here at TGTF (e.g., Van Susans, Keston Cobblers’ Club, Stornoway), cello is, usually held back for classical affairs only.
And indeed, the lower timbre of cello notes from English are a welcome accompaniment to Barnard’s compelling vocals. I don’t favour the gravely singer/songwriter types (Tom Waits and Bob Dylan come to mind), preferring those like Barnard’s: more melodic, with more richness, more depth. The video, which was released yesterday, is embedded at the end of this post and I’m assuming the message is that this is a band that cannot be reduced to petty fighting, which has otherwise tarnished the reputations of a few hotheads in this business.
The rhythm of ‘Imperfections’ begs to be stomped to as well, suggesting this would go down well in front of a crowd, whether it be in a club like Camden Barfly where they’ll be launching the single on the 16th of September or a much larger crowd at a summer festival. From the recording, it sounds like they’ve come quite some ways from “pumping fresh air into the lungs of the acoustic genre since forming in 2012”, in these post-Mumford and Sons days clogged with a dime a dozen Mumford clones, fresh air is exactly what this industry needs.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 30th July 2014 at 12:00 pm
Words by Jess Mason
Let’s play a game, shall we? Let’s play how many bands you can count whose name starts with the word ‘we’. We Are the In Crowd, We Are the Ocean, We Are Scientists, the list goes on. Now, you may not have heard of them yet, but I reckon there’s one more band that are about to get themselves on this memorable list for all good reasons.
We the Living are a five-piece alt rock band who threw themselves onto the new music scene with their debut gig in Sheffield’s Royal Standard a few Saturdays back. I know when you hear the word debut, you tend to expect a bunch of stubbly dudes wailing along to covers of Green Day and having about as much stage presence as a bunch of bananas. But this time, it was definitely not the case.
Straight out onto the stage, We the Living’s frontman Nick Phillips – looking like Russell from Disney’s Up grew up and stole Don Broco’s stylist – stares into the crowd and yells ‘We are We The Living, and our songs don’t have titles’. Boom, and straight into song number one.
What they lack in ability to name songs, they certainly make up in talent. These boys packed so much energy into the performance, they genuinely made ‘that pub between the 24-hour gym and the rental car place’ seem like a much, much bigger venue.
Now we all know that your first time isn’t perfect, but We the Living damn well know how to carry on playing in times of crisis. Not even stopping when guitarist Tom Gammon’s amp cut out, or when Tom’s D string snapped mid-riff (all in one song, poor guy), and they even managed to get through a song while kicking the bass drum back into place as it was shimmying off the stage and into the poor guy’s face in the front row.
This band is fun, they’re new and they’re definitely a band to watch if you’re into the likes of Mallory Knox, Lower Than Atlantis and that fast-paced smooth vocal area of alt rock.
Get these boys to Rock City. But before then, you can find out for yourself what the fuss is all about: catch We the Living at The Frog in Worksop, Nottinghamshire on the 13th of September.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 28th July 2014 at 12:00 pm
July may almost be over, but we’ve still got several more weeks of (hopefully) sun-filled days and carefree star-filled nights before autumn makes her appearance. Perhaps it is the good feeling I have within me that even though we’ve passed quite a few summer festivals already, there are plenty more wonderful events to come and tease all of our senses, so the timing of the appearance of this act couldn’t be beat. Not to mention I’m sure this smooth jam will be a welcome soundtrack to, er, plenty of late night liaisons…
The duo in question that I am introducing to you today is called Honne. Like many words in Chinese that frustrate me because I can’t quite translate into an English equivalent and do the original phrase justice, the word “honne” in Japanese very loosely means “your true feelings and desires”. Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher, who have been mates ever since they met on the first day of university, were inspired to come up with their new act’s name on a trip to ol’ Nippon.
The press sheet explains the term is meant as “describing the contrast between what one thinks, and what they project to others” and “a perfect fit for [their] songs which frequently address private passions, and their playing out in public”. I find this description interesting, because there seems to be no question whatsoever what this Somerset and Wiltshire via Bow act’s first song to the world is about. Or what it’s meant to encourage.
Their first foray into the public realm has been anything but tentative, with NME premiering their debut single ‘Warm on a Cold Night’ last week and the magazine praising its “lusty, late night, urbanite feel”. It begins as if in a dream, as if literally emceed by a late night American soul DJ, that is. Clutterbuck’s echoey, r&b infused vocals – with a blue-eyed soul to rival those of Dave Bayley’s in Glass Animals’ debut LP ‘Zaba’ – slink around every turn of this soulful yet electronic beat-driven masterpiece. The lyrics will bring to mind loads of other soul classics in which a man is touchingly showing his appreciation for his woman: “And I can’t help but wonder / how we ended up alright / and I love you like no other / ‘cause this has never felt so right”.
But the difference in how this single will be received is its embracing of more forward-thinking production ala Frank Ocean and 2013 Mercury Prize winner James Blake, while the vocal delivery and overall feel are kept firmly rooted in classics of yesteryear. With a memorable chorus that is likely to get your head bopping and toes tapping, Honne are definitely an act to watch in the coming months.
‘Warm on a Cold Night’, the first single from Honne, will be released on the 1st of September on Super Recordings.
Despite the knockback of the band’s debut album ‘The Day’s War’ being pushed to a release date of the 1st of September when it was scheduled to hit the ears of the public 3 months earlier, Lonely the Brave are still riding on a high.
They’ve already – in their relative infancy – torn Donnington Park a new one at Download 2013 and they’ve announced their intentions to repeat said ripping of a new one at this year’s heavy metal bash. Pile on top of that their worthy addition to the Radio 1 playlist and spots on Music Journalist of the Year Zane Lowe’s programme and in the space of about a year, Lonely the Brave have built quite a fan club of the back of their rabble rousing take on alternative rock/pop.
New single ‘Victory Line’ is as fine a slab of air grabbing melodic rock – set to boot with a huge riff and a perfect example of what in a short space of time the Cambridge four-piece have set their stall on. No frills, no bollocks, rock.
The band consist of David Jakes at the helm, Gavin Edgeley providing the engine room on the drums, Mark Trotter riffing away and Andrew Bushen setting the pace on the bass and as an outfit, they’re tighter than a pair of Parisian hipsters jeans. Probably because they’ve been together for around 5 years now, taking their time, gigging around and building a substantial underground following before surfacing, submarine style, into the public consciousness armed with hooks aplenty and capturing the public’s imagination and emotions with their heartfelt stirring tunes.
Now they’re in the public’s consciousness, the expectation is now for them to stay there. In their youth (as a band), they seem to know that sticking to the roots which have gotten them noticed and honing their stadium ‘grab that air’ rock sound is key to building a fan base which is already developing. A brand spanking new deal with Columbia Records is testament that talent has been spotted by the big boys and with big tunes like ‘Victory Line’ in their arsenal, it’s obvious ‘The Day’s War’ will be the start of something very exciting. Watch this space.
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