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Top Albums of 2015: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Monday, 21st December 2015 at 11:00 am
 

It’s definitely been a roller coaster of a year, full of highs and lows of surprises and emotional moments. So when it came time for me to sit down and consider which would be my top albums of 2015, the qualities I was looking for were a little different as they have been in the last 5 years I’ve offered my end of year choices. (To have a read of my best of lists in 2010-2014 while I’ve presided as Editor at TGTF, go here.)

While the following five albums all met my usual primary of criterion of, “will I listen to this album again and again in years to come?”, it was important to me this year, more than any other time in the past, to choose albums that I felt truly emotionally connected to that I feel that you, the readers, will feel too.

Fictonian Desire Lines cover1. Fictonian‘Desire Lines’ (Distiller Records)
Fictonian coverage on TGTF

When we approach the start of summer or winter, I get a nervous but inescapably excited feeling in the pit of my stomach, probably much like the feeling the members of the Academy Award nominee committee have as they head towards Christmas. To me, it should be a no-brainer that any album released during or right before summer should be written with the intention that one would listen to it blaring from an open-top convertible, just as the best released near the holidays should be the one you’re listening to with your loved ones while trimming the tree.

Glen Powers’ debut as Fictonian, ‘Desire Lines’ released in mid-November, definitely fits the bill for the latter. What makes ‘Desire Lines’ a stroke of brilliance is as its demonstration of Powers’ talent. It has moments of true beauty: you will want to hold close to your heart the smoky emotional haze of ‘I Remember’, gently tempered by the sweeping gorgeousness of more upbeat ‘Make It Be Ours’. This album was crafted lovingly in rural Herefordshire, and it shows.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBdkA6RjCcY[/youtube]

On the other side of the spectrum are the wonky melody of ‘Mrs. Jones’ and the playful rolling beats of ‘Little Black Book’, showing off the whimsical side of Fictonian songwriting. He’s the kind of artist you expect to be knocking back a couple of Oscars for best song or best score from a film chosen by that same committee I mentioned earlier. Suffice to say, I’m truly excited to hear more from him.

East India Youth Culture of Volume cover2. East India Youth‘Culture of Volume’ (XL Recordings)
East India Youth coverage on TGTF

Where do you go from a Mercury Prize nomination? Luckily for William Doyle, aka East India Youth, this wasn’t an issue: his sophomore album ‘Culture of Volume’ and the follow-up to last year’s hugely feted ‘Total Strife Forever’ was already written by the time Young Fathers were announced as the surprise winners of the industry gong in November 2014.

While we’ll never know for sure if the gravity of potentially winning the Mercury Prize looming over him would have made a difference in the finished product, ‘Culture of Volume’ will stand as an interesting milestone in East India Youth’s career because it’s so different – and refreshingly so – from his admittedly somewhat inaccessible Mercury-nominated debut.

Taking advantage of what I feel is one of his unsung strengths (no pun intended), the pop sensibility in Doyle’s voice shines like a beacon of light in the darkness of ‘Carousel’, and it’s impossible not feel the pain of leaving a lover in the words of ‘Turn Away’. He also indulged in his love for industrial techno in instrumental ‘Entirety’ after the pulse-pounding ‘Hearts That Never’, while also channeling the Pet Shop Boys in ‘Beaming White’. I’m alternately intrigued and terrified of what the third East India Youth album will sound like. The rumours indicate we’ll hear nothing until 2017, so we’ve got some time to wait.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcMnFLnYJuo[/youtube]

Public Service Broadcasting Race for Space cover3. Public Service Broadcasting‘The Race for Space’ (Test Card Recordings); Public Service Broadcasting coverage on TGTF

Novelty is still one of the unique characteristics distinguishing indie from mainstream music. Public Service Broadcasting first came to prominence to 6 Music listeners through the single ‘Spitfire’, a driving toe-tapper highlighting the British invention of a single-seat fighter plane developed for use in World War II, using archived footage from public information films from a bygone era. The song went on to appear on the duo’s ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’, released on the act’s own Test Card Recordings. They became, in my mind, the poster boys for music for the thinking man.

In February, their second outing ‘The Race for Space’ cemented in the public consciousness Public Service Broadcasting’s ability to write a cohesive and impressive set of songs highlighting humankind’s innovation while looking towards the heavens. Russian (‘Sputnik’, ‘Gagarin’, ‘Valentina’) and American accomplishments (‘Go!’, ‘Tomorrow’) during the Cold War were equally lauded, and this is important to note, given the political climate we find ourselves in now. How incredible that music written with the help of propanganda clips, clips originally created to provoke nationalist sentiment, could be repurposed to applaud the human spirit? Fantastic.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY-kAnvOY80[/youtube]

Cut Ribbons We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn cover4. Cut Ribbons‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’ (Kissability)
Cut Ribbons coverage on TGTF

It’s a funny thing that in the year New Order decided to return with a new album (I know, I know, without Peter Hook), a far younger band from Wales came out with their own debut in the genre of synthpop that Bernard Sumner and co. were one of the vanguards of in the ‘80s. And totally obliterated any other competition they might have had in the same genre, adding anthemic and dream pop elements to further bolster their sound.

The booming bombast of slower tempoed, well restrained ‘Clouds’ provides a welcome contrast to the cardiovascular workout and title track ‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’. Overall, including ‘Walking on Wires’ below, this is an optimistic set of songs, that I appreciate as a jolt of sunniness during the darker times.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N17o0n0z84U[/youtube]

Broken Hands Turbulence cover5. Broken Hands‘Turbulence’ (SO Recordings)
Broken Hands coverage on TGTF

It might seem strange to go from the lightness of a synthpop album into the deep, dark recesses of a hard rock album, but stay with me here. Being a Led Zeppelin fan from way back, my hard rock litmus test is difficult to pass, because, Led Zep set the bar pretty high. As a result, it’s difficult for me to cosy up to just any hard rock band. They have to prove themselves to me, and Broken Hands has done just that with ‘Turbulence’.

A searing live rendition of ‘Meteor’ at SXSW 2014 melted my face, and its recorded version does not disappoint (have a watch and listen below), and neither does single ‘Who Sent You’. But this band is no one-trick pony, proven by the grandeur of surprising ballad ‘Impact’. Excellent stuff.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SPlqsnghsY[/youtube]

 

Live Review: East India Youth with The Harpoons at Coventry Tin – 3rd October 2015

 
By on Tuesday, 13th October 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

If you didn’t know where you were going – and unlike me, you didn’t actually see a staff member open one of the blue and white-painted vault doors facing the canal and go in – you might walk by the Tin Music and Arts centre in Coventry and completely miss it. This literal hole in the wall turned out to be a venue that oddly made me feel at home, a sentiment that was echoed by the night’s headliner, who said it reminded him a lot of DC9. It’s a non-profit entity, so in addition to being an independent live venue, the fine folks there are also doing good works for the good people of Coventry. Definitely the kind of place I like to put my money into. (Feel the same way? You can donate to them directly here.)

The Harpoons Coventry live

The opener for the evening were The Harpoons, whose name sounds like a band from a city with a seafaring past and an aggro look, playing hard rock. So imagine my shock when the four-piece from Melbourne, Australia took to the stage with one guitar and no drum kit (two of their band members are on synths). Even more surprising was when their female lead singer opened her mouth, releasing a soulful croon. Whether her voice is meant to be paired with programmed drum beats, I haven’t quite decided yet (the latter, I guess, was why they were chosen as support that night in Coventry), but they’re a different kind of band than I’m used to from Melbourne (The Temper Trap, Husky, The Delta Riggs). She made light about the fatal bus accident earlier in town and how she has managed to mispronounce the town’s name, and I realise both quips may have been down to nerves but nevertheless, it was awkward.

Having read that there would be precious few chances left this year to see East India Youth (aka Bournemouth-born William Doyle) perform his current album for XL Recordings, ‘Culture of Volume’, before he goes into hibernation to write album #3, I’d made it a special trip to Coventry for this Saturday night show. Off the back of seeing him showcase on the opening night of SXSW 2015 at the Huw Stephens’-curated Music Wales showcase at the British Music Embassy, then an afternoon show Saturday for Brooklyn Vegan, I had some idea of what to expect: kinetic, frenetic, sweaty, emotional. I did wonder, however, how it would be possible to segue between tracks on ‘Culture of Volume’ and his 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut ‘Total Strife Forever’: to me, they seem two completely different animals, written in what I understand to be two very different headspaces.

It speaks well of Doyle’s talent that except for those brief moments cueing up his Macbook, synth or any one of his sequencers, his set was amazingly cohesive from the moment he spoke, practically whispering into his microphone, “hello Coventry. Let’s start.” Despite that opening whisper, the live versions of ‘Turn Away’, ‘Hearts That Never’ and ‘Beaming White’ from ‘Culture of Volume’ saw Doyle whip about onstage like a maniac, whether he was frantically playing notes on his synth, pressing buttons or turning dials, or had taken to the free area behind his setup to go mental with his bass. (Headbangers unite!) Pausing once to express his annoyance with and to admonish some loud talkers in the audience, it’s clear he’s an artist for whom being in control of how his music sounds from the stage is really important.

East India Youth Coventry live 4

As Doyle said when I chatted with him in Austin in March and in many other interviews since, he is committed to making sure the live experience for his fans is an animated one, not confined to synth button-pushing. I can appreciate an artist who becomes completely swept up in his music like this, letting go of inhibitions to become one with his art. ‘Heaven How Long’ from his first LP, although it begins serenely enough, turns into a crazy experience with pounding beats that led many of us in the room to sway our bodies to the euphoric, life-affirming rhythm. (Actually, I’m on the fence on whether the song is meant to be life-affirming or not. But that’s a matter for my other site Music in Notes, not here at TGTF.) As the most manic track on ‘Culture of Volume’, ‘Entirety’ is a monster on record; live, Doyle’s treatment of the song is even more bonkers, and delightedly so to any electronic music fan who revels in watching his favourite artist completely go for it, throwing all caution to the wind, limbs flying.

East India Youth Coventry live 2

While as a solo artist Doyle has made his name on his experimental, sometimes challenging, primarily instrumental soundscapes, it cannot be overemphasised how good his voice is when he chooses to use it. On ‘Culture of Volume’, he made the decision to go more pop, spending more time and vanity in front of the microphone. From this Hot Press interview, it sounds like his third album may see him take a step back from it, which I think is a travesty. On ‘Looking for Someone’ live, there’s a forlorn starkness to the opening spare drum beats and the words “just for me and no-one else / I need something for myself”, yet Doyle’s voice is comforting, Everyman, when he sings that he’s been misinterpreted as being emotionless: “you think I feel nothing, you think I feel nothing / you don’t know how wrong you are”. Being a fan of the genre for years (and also always in the minority, being a woman), it’s been my perspective that electronic itself is nearly always misunderstood by those on the outside, that it cannot possibly convey emotions anywhere near as well as others.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Those of us who know, who feel it all, we can sense those emotions from the music. And deeply. Closing his set in Coventry with the slowest, most cinematic and breathtaking track from the current album, Doyle came out from behind his electronic setup, choosing to instead stand in front of us to deliver ‘Carousel’. Holding on to that one last beautiful sung note, he left everyone in the place mesmerised. Fantastic.

East India Youth Coventry live 3

It will be some time before we get another album from Will Doyle. But in the meantime, we can take consolation and hold fast to the elation, the poignancy in his first two albums. And hope he will hurry back soon. As of this writing, East India Youth has three live UK appearances this year at a festival in Brum and two gigs in Scotland (Edinburgh and Aberdeen); for more details, go here. Past TGTF coverage of East India Youth is this way.

After the cut: East India Youth’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: East India Youth with The Harpoons at Coventry Tin – 3rd October 2015

 

East India Youth / September and October 2015 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 16th September 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Including a London Fred Perry Sub-Sonic Live date next week purported to be his “last show in London this year, probably for quite a long time”, East India Youth (aka solo electronic multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter William Doyle) has a series of live dates in September and October 2015 that will likely finish up his tour campaign for second album ‘Culture of Volume’, which was released on XL Recordings back in April. (Read my review of the LP this way.) He’ll also make an appearance Saturday at Birmingham’s All Years Leaving Festival, taking place at the Hare and Hounds on the 24th of October.

Tickets to the below shows are available now. For past coverage of East India Youth on TGTF, including my reports of his showcasing at SXSW 2015, right this way.

Thursday 24th September 2015 – London Garage (Fred Perry Sub-Sonic Live show)
Friday 2nd October 2015 – Leeds Headrow House (free Beacons Metro show)
Saturday 3rd October 2015 – Coventry Tin at the Coal Vaults
Saturday 24th October 2015 – Birmingham Hare and Hounds (All Years Leaving Festival)
Wednesday 28th October 2015 – Edinburgh Summerhall
Thursday 29th October 2015 – Aberdeen Lemon Tree

 

Live Gig Video: East India Youth performs four tracks live for Seattle radio station KEXP

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd June 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

In April and May of this year, London-based electronic musician / jack of all trades East India Youth, better known to his mum as Will Doyle, toured North America in support of his brand new second album ‘Culture of Volume’, the first on his new label, Beggars imprint XL Recordings. (Read my review of the brill LP here.) One of his stops was in Seattle, home to the storied and always supportive to indie artists radio station KEXP, who invited Doyle in for a live session and a brief interview with the ever present KEXP studio stars for a backdrop.

In this live video, ‘Culture of Volume’ tracks ‘Turn Away’, ‘Beaming White’ and ‘Hearts That Never’, along with tearjerker ‘Looking for Someone’ from the East India Youth 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated album ‘Total Strife Forever’ are offered up in stellar performances by Doyle. Tonight at Brighton Haunt is his third to last gig on his current UK tour; he plays London Village Underground in Shoreditch Thursday and Ramsgate Music Hall on Friday.

To read more about East India Youth on TGTF, including an interview I did with the man himself at SXSW 2015, head this way.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNEnaH-UazU[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1797: East India Youth

 
By on Thursday, 30th April 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

Off his brilliant sophomore album ‘Culture of Volume’ out now on XL Recordings (I reviewed it here), Will Doyle aka East India Youth has a new promo out this week for album cut ‘Beaming White’, which he’s described as “a Pet Shop Boys-style pop banger”. I imagined based on the style of the song, the music video would have to be set in a club to have the right atmosphere, but Doyle instead chose a car of all things as the focal point for the promo and indeed, the beginning of the video looks like it would work as a luxury automaker’s telly advert.

Well, until the car gets a bit crowded. If you listen to the lyrics, there is the contrast of the dark and the light (“you showed me the dark, and the rest was beaming white”), and the video parallels this contrast in the peace of a solitary driver with the sensory overload of bodies and limbs in such a confined space. Watch it below.

East India Youth is currently in America, with his North American tour to support ‘Culture of Volume’ beginning tonight, the 30th of April, at the Casbah in San Diego. The tour runs until the 15th of May in Philadelphia, after which time Doyle returns to the UK for a run of dates in May and June, supported by Hannah Peel.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unAWRRdB538[/youtube]

 

East India Youth / May and June 2015 UK Tour

 
By on Friday, 10th April 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Following a North American tour in April and May and an appearance at Hay on Wye’s How the Light Gets In festival on the 24th of May, East India Youth has scheduled a UK tour to take place from the end of May into early June. William Doyle will be touring in support of his newest album ‘Culture of Volume’, which was just released on Monday on XL Recordings. (Read my review of it here.) Opening for Doyle on this tour will be Hannah Peel, who guested on the new East India Youth album. Tickets are available now.

For past TGTF coverage on East India Youth including my interview with Will at SXSW 2015, go here.

Wednesday 27th May 2015 – Manchester Deaf Institute
Thursday 28th May 2015 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Saturday 30th May 2015 – Sheffield Plug
Sunday 31st May 2015 – Norwich Arts Centre
Tuesday 2nd June 2015 – Bristol Exchange
Wednesday 3rd June 2015 – Brighton Haunt
Thursday 4th June 2015 – London Village Underground
Friday 5th June 2015 – Ramsgate Music Hall

 
 
 

About Us

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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