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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 23rd June 2015 at 12:00 pm
From the last video off their second album ‘Exile’ released in 2013, it’s been quite some time since we’ve heard from Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson, aka London synthpop duo Hurts. So imagine me on a hot Sunday night when I’m minding my own business, scanning my Twitter feed, and my jaw drops to the floor when I’ve seen Hutchcraft drop the news that Hurts’ third album ‘Surrender’ is on its way in October. Oh, and by the way, in case you missed it a couple weeks ago, here’s the promo video to the first single ‘Some Kind of Heaven’, give it a go, eh?
As I hadn’t heard the single before watching the video, there’s no escaping commenting on the unusual and disturbing storyline of the video. The action focusses on a strange gathering in someone’s house, and while everyone seems to be drinking the same punch and is weirdly happy and placid, there’s definitely something off here, something straight out of Jonestown. Also included are scenes of Hutchcraft running down a dirt road, away from a speeding car – the automobile equivalent to the suspenseful crop-duster chase scenes Cary Grant endures in North by Northwest – and across a darkened forest with nothing to light the way except vehicle headlights trained on him, poised on his every move, as if he’s just escaped prison or a concentration camp. Unsettling. What’s even weirder is that for most of the house scenes, he’s inside the house being urged on by a creepy older man who appears to be the charismatic leader of this group, but the promo begins and ends with him looking on at the activities of the people in the house as if he’s detached from the proceedings.
Musically, the song is a step away from the anthemic overtones of ‘Somebody to Die For’ off of ‘Exile’. This is dark but still pure pop, written with the intention of being featured on Radio 1. To Hutchcraft’s credit, when you tease some of the lyrics away from the incredibly catchy melody, do do dos and the tribal rhythm of the bridge, they stand alone as pretty poetic: “I don’t need hell to make me scared of love / I don’t need a symphony to sing my song / there’s a choir of angels deep inside my lungs.” Heaven and hell are familiar themes to Hurts, having already broached the subject in earlier tearjerker ‘Sunday’, but the tragic end felt less forced and more beautiful in ‘Sunday’. Maybe ‘Some Kind of Heaven’ and its style are just symptomatic of the way pop music is going these days?
Still, damn, this is catchy. Welcome back, Hurts. You have been missed. Bring on the ‘Surrender’…
‘Surrender’, the third album from Hurts, will be released on the 9th of October on Sony. If you pre-order the album, you’ll get the single ‘Some Kind of Heaven’ as a download instantly. For past coverage on Hurts on TGTF over their last two albums, head this way.
Foals have been slowly teasing out news of their new album over the last fortnight, with chatter rife on Facebook and Twitter after a serious of shady photos were uploaded to the social platforms. It’s been 2 and a half years since ‘Holy Fire’, and on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show on Tuesday, they premiered the brutish title track to their forthcoming album, ‘What Went Down’.
The band formally return on the 28th of August, when Warner Music release the band’s fourth studio album featuring 10 new songs, all recorded in a 19th-century French mill. On listening to ‘What Went Down’, there’s the distinct influence of the album’s producer James Ford, who has previously worked with Arctic Monkeys and HAIM. Their opening is bracing and ferocious, with punching guitar riffs and a striking similarity to Kasabian.
“I buried my heart in a hole in the ground..” begins frontman Yannis Philippakis anxiously. That anxiety doesn’t last long though, as soft howls creep in alongside fiendish drums and a general atmosphere that just screams ‘danger!’ In seconds it’s as if he’s gone from introverted and tepid, to riled and ready to size you up for a back-street brawl.
Sure enough, the growing danger erupts as Philippakis shrieks, “when I see a man, I see a liar!” and his bandmates aggressively shred through the chorus with vigour. According to the accompanying press release, Philippakis himself has said, “I wanted to tap into my inner madman…feel like I was channelling some sort of fevered creature”, and that’s exactly what he’s pulled off here.
As one fan commented online earlier this week, Foals have the perfect ability on each new record to sound as they did on their debut, but also unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. It’s a pinpoint summary of ‘What Went Down’, where the English rockers’ are abrupt and scuzzier but still dabble with flagrant, ambient guitars and a galloping electronic organ that slices through the chaos. This is a 5-minute onslaught where they’re more upfront and unabashed than they’ve ever been before. The message that Foals’ are back is crystal clear; what they must now prove is that they’re more intense and visceral than any of their earlier manifestations. This is the perfect brawling starting point…
Foals’ fourth album ‘What Went Down’ will be released on Warner Records on the 28th of August. For all past coverage of Foals on TGTF, head this way.
José González hit widespread public consciousness with his 2003 UK platinum début ‘Veneer’; his sparse combination of nylon-string fingerpicking and somnolent voice proved one of the highlights of the year and was heard on innumerable TV, film and advert soundtracks. 2007’s ‘In Our Nature’ passed with far less fanfare, despite being arguably the more interesting record, introducing more percussive textures and channelling Nick Drake, Ben Harper, and, in a hair-shirt version of ‘Teardrop’, Massive Attack. Never one prone to prolificity, a tardy 8 years later González returned in February with ‘Vestiges & Claws’, from which ‘Open Book’ is the third single to be drawn.
The version we feature here is a B-side to the album version (remind me how B-sides work in the digital age?), enhanced by a modest orchestral arrangement by New York’s pop-classical musicians-for-hire yMusic. The album version is the usual bare González guitar and vocal affair, but here we have strings and a lovely bit of clarinet and flute interplay, resulting in a much richer listen. The only mystery is why one would bother with the original version at all. Surely if there’s anything González needs to do after three bites of the cherry is to break the mould of his sound a bit, and experiment with new ways of presenting his admittedly strong songs. This version of ‘Open Book’ is a modest step in the right direction.
Also here we’re spared the bizarre original video, which sees González umbilically attached to a man-sized worm that he carries around in a giant wooden case. He cares for the ungrateful annelid, tolerating its futile thrashing, even when it spills his drink of iced Swedish cider and keeps him awake at night. He does allow it to provide the song’s whistled solo, so it’s not entirely without virtue. Whilst the visuals are indeed metaphorically congruous with the album’s reference to ‘Vestiges…’ and the song’s gentle plaints of love and loss, the creature is alternately repulsive and laughable, so it’s not an easy watch. Far better to settle back with the simple pencil drawing of the enhanced yMusic version, perhaps with a refreshing beverage. As long as there’s not a giant worm around to spill it.
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.
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