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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 8th January 2015 at 1:00 pm
Last night on Steve Lamacq’s drivetime show on BBC 6music, longtime friends of TGTF Stornoway greeted the new year and their fans with a brand new song, the first single off their third album. Gathering enough money for recording the new album and hiring an outside producer (and for the first time on a Stornoway album) was easy: fans helped them meet their PledgeMusic campaign‘s target in just 4 days, and at the time of this writing, pledges are nearing four and half times the original goal. On production duties on the new album is Gil Norton, who produced such rock masterpieces as Pixies‘ ‘Doolittle’ and several of their other LPs, and Foo Fighters‘ first album as a band, ‘The Colour and the Shape’.
When I heard Norton’s name come up, my stomach started tying up in knots. Stornoway aren’t a straight rock band, so how on earth is this going to work? Is this really a good idea? When they released 2013’s ‘You Don’t Know Anything’, a mini-album of outtakes from second album ‘Tales from Terra Firma’, I’d already begun to wonder if they were stepping away from the simpler virtues of 4AD debut ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’ in favour of a more impactful, louder sound. Thankfully, my fears – so far – have been unfounded upon the release of ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’ to the wild. First impression: whatever happened to that band Fleet Foxes? Have they gone for good? Because if they have, Stornoway’s come to take their place.
A short bit of complex guitar played quickly begins the song, and as I looked at the single art – a bird diving headfirst through a manhole-shaped window and into the urban landscape – it made me think of the way sun dapples the surface of a river as the water ripples downstream. No time to contemplate life any further though, as you are met straight away with an massive harmony of the band members’ voices. Huge. Smartly, Norton chose to keep frontman Brian Briggs’ tenor voice front and centre, the primary focal point with just a slight yet perfect echo effect. The voices of Briggs’ bandmates and the myriad of instruments in the background bolster, not muddy, the strength of the main vocals, with prominent drum beats and crashing cymbals adding drama while also not taking away from the vocal line. The end result is gorgeous, sounding richer than anything they’d have been able to do in the past on their own.
The song itself is a homage to the famous Robert Frost poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, which just so happens to be one of my favourite poems. Ever. The voice of the poem tells of a choice he made at an earlier moment in his life where he had the option of two paths to take. In the song, the Oxford band have moved the story high up on a mountaintop where one can look down at where you might have gone, had you taken a different path. Briggs also continues the story of the poem with “sometimes when you get to the summit / you will see another hill to climb”, representing worthy ambition. The song may be short (barely 3 minutes to be radio friendly) but gets its point across well: although you can look behind you at the choices you might have made but did not, there are better, higher places for you to go from here.
The bird artwork is a not so subtle nod to singer Briggs’ academic and scientific training (he has a degree with ornithology), but its use here is intriguing in contrast to the cover artwork for ‘Tales from Terra Firma’, a cartoon image of a child in a bed as if in a boat at sea. As the title of the album has yet to be revealed, I suspect this image of wildlife beauty facing unfamiliar territory, and with determination of seeing things through, will play a role in the story the album will tell. It might also be an appropriate metaphor for the changes the band themselves saw themselves going through in making album #3 in a totally new way?
You can pre-order Stornoway’s third album now on their PledgeMusic page; the band explain their PledgeMusic project in the video below. Stornoway have previously announced a UK tour for April and May; all the details are this way. For our past coverage on TGTF on the band, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 18th December 2014 at 11:00 am
After a relatively lengthy quiet period since the 2013 release of her fourth album ‘Once I Was An Eagle’, here’s some good news for you folkies. Laura Marling has revealed plans to release her fifth album in the new year. Take a step back for a moment to consider that Marling isn’t even 25 yet, and she’s about to release a fifth collection of tunes. Kind of puts life and achievements in said life in perspective, doesn’t it?
‘Short Movie’, which will drop in March on Virgin Records, will be her second under the influence of her now no longer newly adopted hometown of Los Angeles. In terms of the aforementioned perspective, the title track, the first taster from the album, seems to be Marling’s personal advice in dealing with life head on. The song begins with “I’m paying for my mistakes”, followed by the spoken “that’s okay”. Hmm, okay… It’s unclear at this point if she’s indifferent or come to peace with her life choices. Later on the song, before the song gets louder and more frenetic at the 1/3 point, the words “I think I could get away with / half the things that I say, but no / I can’t give you up, oh no / I’m not gonna stop” indicates a sticking by to these choices, specifically in the act of loving someone despite everyone else in her life not understanding why.
However, what really is jarring in ‘Short Movie’ is the line “it’s a short fucking movie, mate”, which comes along relatively early and is a refrain used throughout the song. Not knowing Marling personally, I don’t know if she swears like a sailor in daily life, or if packing up from and leaving London for the sunnier climes – and plastic people – of SoCal has changed her. (Her conversion to American is complete: “movie”, not “film”?) But seeing that the 2013 Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Once I Was An Eagle’ doesn’t bear an explicit content sticker, the inclusion of this refrain seems like a more obvious, concerted effort by Marling to be more blunt in her language, even if the serene melody that initially accompanies it doesn’t match the sentiment. It’s uncomfortable but appears purposeful.
As the song increases tempo and loudness at the midpoint and beyond, the instrumentation complements the lyrical content with a meaning that life is too short to not be true to yourself, and you should live your life the way you want, with no regrets. With ‘Short Movie’ marking Marling’s first self-production credit, one wonders if this will be the moment where she truly bares all about her past and lost love, as the first taster looks to be a bold statement of who she is as an artist in this moment in time, as ‘Sophia’ was 3 years ago.
The ‘Short Movie’ album, Laura Marling’s fifth, will be out on the 23rd of March 2015 on Virgin Records. TGTF’s extensive archive on Marling can be found here.
American singer/songwriter Esmé Patterson recently debuted the video for her new single ‘The Glow’, which will feature on her upcoming album ‘Woman to Woman’. The album was conceived as a response to the portrayals of female characters in popular songs such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ and Elvis Costello’s ‘Alison’. Patterson herself explains the origin and concept of the album this way: “I was learning to play a Townes Van Zandt song called “Loretta”, and I started thinking about how many songs were just a woman’s name, and how these women are frozen in time, and frozen as archetypes, frozen in black and white. And I thought they deserved to be coloured in.” Back in June, Patterson was invited to discuss her idea at Denver, Colorado’s TEDxMileHigh conference, where she played three songs from the album in addition to providing her commentary.
The lead track from ‘Woman to Woman’ is called ‘The Glow’, in reference to the classic Beach Boys song ‘Caroline, No’. It explains how life might have caused the fictional Caroline to “lose that happy glow”, as mentioned in Brian Wilson and Tony Asher’s original lyrics. Patterson’s counter-lyrics are somewhat brooding, but her musical treatment is optimistic, with a harmonic modulation near the end indicating that Caroline might just have the strength to move forward from her heartbreak.
The songs on ‘Woman To Woman’ were inspired by a wide stylistic range of popular artists, from early 20th century blues man Leadbelly to the aforementioned King of Pop. The track listing for the album is as follows (corresponding popular songs listed in parentheses):
1. Valentine (Elvis Costello – ‘Alison’)
2. Never Chase A Man (Dolly Parton – ‘Jolene’)
3. Oh Let’s Dance (The Kinks – ‘Lola’)
4. Tumbleweed (Townes Van Zandt – ‘Loretta’)
5. What Do You Call A Woman (Michael Jackson – ‘Billie Jean’)
6. The Glow (The Beach Boys – ‘Caroline, No’)
7. Louder Than the Sound (The Band – ‘Evangeline’)
8. Bluebird (The Beatles – ‘Eleanor Rigby’)
9. A Dream (Leadbelly – ‘Goodnight Irene’)
10. Wildflower (Bob Dylan – ‘To Ramona’)
Recently signed to Xtra Mile Records (the home of Frank Turner and To Kill a King), Patterson is due to release the ‘Woman to Woman’ LP worldwide on the 2nd of February 2015.
Rating for ‘The Glow’: 8/10
Nathaniel Rateliff is known for his brutally honest, rough-around-the-edges style of songwriting. His themes are often dark, and his music is suitably heavy in tone and color, even when the tempo is a little more upbeat. However, his new recording of live favourite song ‘Closer’ feels lighter and less cumbersome than what I’ve heard from him in the past. It’s the title track from his upcoming EP of the same name, which is billed as “Rateliff at his most stripped back and personal”. And if it’s any indication of what the rest of the EP holds, it is a bit of a change in direction from his last album, ‘Falling Faster Than You Can Run’, which I reviewed here back in January.
Rateliff couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate time to release his winter-themed new single, which with its exposed vocals and minimal instrumentation draws to mind trees stripped bare of their leaves by cold November winds. In fact, the first minute or so of the song is entirely a cappella, with the acoustic guitar melody finally echoing through as if from a distance, even creating a slight discord at times with the vocal line. Rateliff’s lyrics are likewise seasonal and bittersweet, for example, the lines “wishing it was summer / weathering this slow pace / come on, stop crying / wipe the ice from your face / I don’t mind the freeze as long as you’re here to hold me / this blanket of frost has got to melt I know” in the first verse. Despite the thematic chill, Rateliff’s vocal delivery conveys a sense of hopeful warmth. His voice is both richly textured and slightly rough, wrapping around the listener’s ear like a warm scarf as he sings the repeated chorus, “we’re closer now, we’re closer now than we’ve ever been”.
‘Closer’ is the title track from Nathaniel Rateliff’s new EP, due out on the 26th of January 2015 on Mod y Vi Records. Rateliff will tour the UK and Ireland in January 2015; you can find all the details here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 5th November 2014 at 12:00 pm
If you think this year’s Cassette Store Day on the 27th of September was a novelty not to be repeated in the future, that digital has killed off the format, think again. Halifax’s The Orielles have decided to release their own cassette single (or as they adorably prefer to call it, ‘cassingle’), just last week. Even more unique is the fact that the run has been limited to a mere 100 copies, so if our readers’ collective prescience naming the band #3 on our 10 for 2014 bands to watch countdown and indeed, that of our contributors including yours truly, are correct, this single in its physical form could make you a pretty packet sometime in the future.
Not like you needed any more reason to buy it besides this review, but the artwork on the cassette is pretty cool too: it seems like a simple drawing, but then you squint to look closer and what? It’s a hand (I’m assuming it’s a pun on the front half of two of their members’ surname) holding a bouquet of tulips, but the hand has legs underneath, so the figure is skateboarding at the same time. You can’t make this stuff up, kids… And how old are these kids again? When I was their age, I wasn’t thinking about playing in a band, let alone coming up with artwork that’s both whimsical and thought-provoking. (Don’t laugh, but seeing that I have no drawing skills, I was sat staring at the art for a good while, trying to figure out how they came up with the idea.)
‘Yawn’, this latest offering from the trio – Esme Dee Hand-Halford on vocals and bass, her sister Sid on drums and their close schoolmate Henry Wade on guitar – feels more closely aligned to their 2013 independently released EP ‘Sunny Daze and Sleepless Nights’ than the more recent, harder-edged ‘Hindering Waves’. (Perhaps this is why they’re offering up a demo of ‘Deduce’ from the former EP as its B-side, then?) While single ‘Entity’ (review here, video here) was more dramatic lyrically, there is a gentleness to the new single, as Esme Dee Hand-Halford sweetly sings in the chorus, “I feel like I’ve been asleep / and I’ve dreamed a thousand dreams / feels like I’m not waking up / and I find it hard to breathe”. The effect is not unlike the feeling you get when you’ve woken up from the best dream ever. You don’t want to get out of bed. And you don’t want to talk about it after, because it would tarnish its memory.
As if the notes are in a daydream themselves and are not directly connected with the words, Wade’s guitar playing is equally as playful. Yet somehow it all works together, the guitar complementing the swirly, fantasy nature of the song. Sid Hand-Halford’s drumming with high-hat accents too provides ample flourishes to keep this track from going too dreamy. I mean, after all, this is a band who pride themselves on being surf pop / rock purveyors, not to be confused with all too often snoozy dream pop. No, this is a song that will stay in your head for a long time and by that, I am giving it the highest of compliments.
You can buy the ‘Yawn’ single, backed by a demo of earlier track ‘Deduce’, from the Orielles from York’s Swirly Records here and yes, if for some reason you don’t own a cassette player, a digital version is available.
When I first heard that the band that makes me weep in this awesomeness were planning a concept record, I was fearful. Were they going to go full Muse on ‘The Resistance’ and forget what made them the accessible, fucking amazing group they are now? I felt a bit queasy in that place in your tummy that goes all squirty when your boss calls you into the office with THAT look on their face… The undoubtable feeling that this could go completely arse over face…
As the build-up towards Foo Fighters’ return gathered traction, I became more and more nervous. Numerous octogenarian musicians were wheeled out for amazing cover songs. Dave and co. haven’t lost IT, but I was still feeling that sense of foreboding about the record. They hadn’t lost IT, but they may have lost their minds, retreated up their own arses and made one of those concept records which bands who have done so well tend to do when they get to this stage, Muse’s ‘The 2nd Law’ as the prime example (I’m really giving Muse a hammering lately and I love Muse. Sorry, Muse).
20:50 last Thursday night, Zane Lowe had been tickling and teasing with clips from an interview with Grohl, Shiflett, Mendel, Smear and Hawkins, and on came and the opening chords of ‘Something From Nothing’, the first track on upcoming release ‘Sonic Highways’ came on. At that point, I sighed a neurosis releasing breath of relief – the man Grohl was back, and he had in fact NOT disappeared up his own arse.
We’ve got Wayne’s World-esque guitar solos and it goes full DIY with a honky-tonk funkadelic groove. And finally, we’re furnished with the Grohl yell, “FUCK IT ALL I CAME FROM NOTHING! I’M SOMETHING FROM NOTHING / YOU ARE MY FUSE!”
It’s classic Foo all over. Whilst it isn’t a departure from the DIY sound which made ‘Wasting Light’ such a success, the song has the fundamentals of any Foo songs and is underpinned by a huge, fist-pumping chorus.
Now, the theory of an album made from stories gathered on an enormous musical road trip across the USA is an intriguing one. The sounds of the States have trickled through modern music and changed it at its very core, whether its the punk scene of Seattle or jazz and blues in New Orleans. Whether putting them together in eight songs will actually make a decent album is the question we’re still waiting for the answer for… But already the signs are looking good.
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