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With their recent signing to FatCat Records, Sheffield lo-fi indie pop quartet Best Friends are looking ahead to the release of their debut full-length album, ‘Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane.’, which is due out on the 4th of July. The newest single from the album, ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’ is set for official release on the 18th of May but is streaming now on the band’s Soundcloud.
The new single feels exponentially more frenetic and anxious than the album’s lively initial teaser ‘Shred Til You’re Dead’, which was featured here on TGTF as an MP3 of the Day back in January. The relentless forward momentum of ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’ spins on the verge of losing control, propelled by the constant push of the drums and the repeated wail of the main guitar riff, while the thin layer of echoing backing vocals add to the overall sense of disorientation. Lead singer Lewis Sharman’s abrasive vocal lines are often more growled or shouted than sung, unlike his more laid-back vocal delivery on ‘Shred Til You’re Dead’ and more similar to hard-edged previous single ‘Fake Spit’.
The three tracks do share a couple of notable qualities, particularly the piercingly hooky guitar lines and infectious punk energy that are likely to weave their way through the anticipated LP release later this year. Of the three tracks, however, I would say that ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’ is probably the least memorable and the least engaging, as it lacks the distinctive intro of ‘Fake Spit’ or the sunny musical mood of ‘Shred Til You’re Dead’. Its dynamic level leans heavily on the loud end of the spectrum and Sharman’s vocals are overly harsh. I found that sonic combination to be a bit tiring to my ears, despite the catchiness of the guitar riffs and the racing immediacy of the song’s tempo. I suspect that ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’ might work better in the context of the complete LP, depending on the intensity of the other songs and its placement in the tracklisting. Then again, maybe I’m overthinking it.
Best Friends embark tonight on a tour of the UK with fellow Sheffield duo Nai Harvest. You can read previous TGTF coverage of Best Friends right back here.
It’s hard to tell whether Jamie xx likes being extremely busy, or in fact, extremely quiet. His 2015 is looking pretty busy now, mind, having this week announced his debut solo album ‘In Colour’, due out through Beggars imprint Young Turks in June. It’s a chance for Smith to finally showcase his producer credentials on a full-length, and who better to feature on a new track to go with the album announcement…..Romy Madley-Croft. The very same one Smith collaborates with when he’s working the day job with the xx. Are we sure there’s not been some horrible mix-up at the label with these two albums….?
On the surface of Madley-Croft’s defenceless vocals, this could indeed be the latest rework of the xx. Read too much into those breathy vocals and you might even come to the conclusion that the pair are parting ways: “Didn’t I take you / to higher places you can’t reach without me?” she softly patters before the chorus. Smith more than makes his mark in those choruses; having softly built up the atmosphere with tropical guitars and Risset drums, he drops a two-step burst of electropop, punctuated by crisp keys and subtle handclap blows. It’s lush, subtle and sparse all at the same time, a far cry from his highly regarded remix of Florence and the Machine’s ‘You Got the Love’, but still reaching similar euphoric peaks.
This latest arrangement flows with an ease and grace that feels like it’s been harder to bring to the fore in Smith’s previous works. Working on his own material from scratch like this, has once again freed even more electronic ingenuity in his hands. A full album of these refreshing delights isn’t due until June, but gives him the perfect opportunity to astound with his solo work before the cloak and dagger return of his more introvert other projects.
‘In Colour’, the debut album from Jamie xx, is released through Young Turks on the 1st of June.
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.
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