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TGTF ‘Playlist’: Valentine’s Day 2018

 
By on Friday, 16th February 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo modified from the original by jessicahtam on Flickr

Across social media platforms this past Wednesday, musicians gifted Valentines to their listeners in the form of–what else?–new music. To continue these artists’ generous spirit of love and giving, we at TGTF would like to share a small sampling of the LOVE-ly new songs we’ve heard over the past week. We’d normally do this in the format of a Spotify playlist, but as some of the songs aren’t available on Spotify just yet, we’ve decided to share them more in the form of a mixtape, including videos and streams from YouTube and Soundcloud.

Among the highlights of our list is a brand new track from American singer/songwriter Ryan Adams. Its bright, jangly guitars and lyrical Beatles reference (“all you need is love”) are are markedly more optimistic than Adams’ usual lovelorn fare. For those listeners on American side of the pond, Adams has accompanied his new track with another Valentine surprise: he will play a one-off show at the famed Colorado concert venue Red Rocks on 14th June 2018 with support from Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit.

Canadian troubadour Dan Mangan takes aim at our sentimental side with a simple but evocative new piano ballad called ‘Fool for Waiting’. Mangan’s singing voice is light and clear yet full of feeling, as he delivers lofty emotional declarations like “Some say I’m a fool for waiting/ they don’t know this fool doesn’t mind.’

Australian folk pop singer Vance Joy is set to release his second LP, the romantically titled ‘Nation of Two’ on the 23rd of February via Atlantic/WEA. The album’s most recent single ‘Call If You Need Me’ is an honest and straightforward plucked guitar ballad that plays right to the strengths that made Joy famous around the release of ‘Riptide’.

James Bay, once referred to here as wearing “Hitchin’s most famous hat”, has recently reinvented himself with a new look as well as a novel electro-pop sound for his recent single ‘Wild Love’. Luckily for those of us who quite liked his debut LP ‘Chaos and the Calm’, Bay hasn’t entirely abandoned his old ways. His soulful singing is somewhat muted here, but his wailing guitar is still very much in evidence near the end of the track.

Speaking of electro music, Irish husband-and-wife duo New Portals have released a starkly atmospheric new track titled ‘Inch’, just in time for some deep post-Valentine’s Day introspection. They describe the track not as a love song, per se, but as being “about the difficult decision to be made in a relationship when it seems like the spark has gone.”

Indie rock singer Eleanor Friedberger has announced a new LP with the release of an upbeat synth pop track called ‘In Between Stars’. In keeping with the Valentine hangover effect, Friedberger’s album is titled ‘Rebound’, and is due out in May via Frenchkiss Records (bien sûr!).

Baltimore-based electro duo Beach House dropped their new track ‘Lemon Glow’ without fuss or fanfare as Valentine’s Day drew to a close in American time zones. Shared with he simple Twitter message “Wishing everyone out there love tonight”, ‘Lemon Glow’ immediately attracted the Internet’s attention with the undulating optical effects in its video as well as the reverberant oscillations in its soundscape.

Last but not least, American rock singer Butch Walker shared a cheeky cover version of 10cc’s‘s romantic 1970s’ track ‘I’m Not In Love’, recorded with French songwriting duo The Dove and the Wolf. The French pair’s version is an upgrade of sorts, with silky female vocals and Walker’s surprisingly delicate whisper sliding easily into the song’s smooth soft rock arrangement.

 

Video of the Moment #2034: James Bay

 
By on Saturday, 5th March 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

I can’t even escape James Bay when I turn on the local rock station here in DC. ::waves fist:: The latest single to be pulled from Bay’s platinum, #1 2015 album ‘The Chaos and the Calm’, ‘Best Fake Smile’, now has its own promo video. Don’t fancy the ’70s visual effects, but overall, the story in the promo is pretty cute, as James Bay and his band rock out with a bored child who just needs a little rock ‘n’ roll in his life. Watch it below. ‘Best Fake Smile’ will drop on the 18th of March.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZme7SwXXws[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1946: James Bay

 
By on Sunday, 1st November 2015 at 10:00 am
 

Big hat man James Bay is another one of those artists who never seems to slow down. Although the Hertfordshire singer/songwriter’s debut album ‘The Chaos and the Calm’ was released in March (review here), he is still releasing singles from it, including this fourth one for ‘If You Ever Want to Be in Love’. As the title sounds, it’s a soulful yet upbeat anthemic number from his debut album that his fans are already gaga for (though my guess is if you are sat there reading my words about this song, you already know of and love the song anyway). Have a watch of the performance video of the single below.

For all past coverage of James Bay on TGTF, including what I know to be one of the earliest posts about the man way back when few had heard of him in early 2014, head this way.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYmlVPp_4TI[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2015: Friday night’s Communion Music showcase at St. David’s Episcopal Church – 20th March 2015

 
By on Friday, 10th April 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

After the madcap hustle and bustle of the full Irish breakfast at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, I was ready for something a little more relaxing to finish my Friday night at SXSW 2015. And since it was still raining, I was happy to settle in for the night in the warmth of St. David’s Episcopal Church for the Communion Music showcase. I had attended the 2014 Communion showcase at St. David’s and was amazed by the talent on display there, including Bear’s Den and Hozier, so though I wasn’t familiar with all of the artists on the 2015 lineup, I eagerly anticipated another night of incredible music. Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed.

Tove Styrke at Communion St David's 20 March 2015

The night’s first artist was Swedish songwriter Tove Styrke, whose spunky, hook-heavy pop style came as a bit of a surprise in the context of the St. David’s chancel. She was energetic and engaging, and her songs would surely have had her audience dancing if we hadn’t been respectfully seated in pews. I recently heard her single ‘Borderline’ playing on the radio here in America, which leads me to assume that she had a positive SXSW experience in terms of gaining exposure, and I will happily count myself among her new fans.

Laura Marling at Communion St. David's 20 March 2015

In a bit of fortuitous timing, I had caught Laura Marling’s set at the BBC Barbecue on Thursday, and after that brief taste of songs from her new album ‘Short Movie’, I was interested to see her play again at St. David’s. Her set at the Communion showcase was a bit rough around the edges, with a notable lyric flub during (of course) ‘David’ that sent her into a fit of giggles, but I was mainly impressed with her storytelling on stage, both in her incredibly sharp new songs and her mild-mannered banter in between them. Balancing her powerful lyrics with music that was by turns delicately pensive and fiercely emotional, Marling proved once again that she is a force to be reckoned with on the singer/songwriter scene.

Foreign Fields at Communion St David's 20 March 2015

Next on the docket was a band I hadn’t heard of before, but who will definitely be on my radar from this point forward. Nashville duo Foreign Fields were perhaps an obvious choice for the Communion showcase, with sumptuously orchestrated melodies and lush vocal harmonies, but in this case the obvious choice was also a wise one. Foreign Fields’ music was both as complex and as pastoral as their name would imply, particularly current single ‘I Have Your Weapons’.

Leon Bridges at Communion St Davids 20 March 2015

I was also unfamiliar with the next artist, American soul singer Leon Bridges, but judging from the number of people who streamed into the sanctuary before and during his set, his reputation had preceded him to Austin. Accompanied by a full band including brass and a pair of female backup singers, Bridges treated us to a gospel-tinged sermon on the retro artistry of Motown, starting with a track called ‘Better Man’ before touching on popular single ‘Coming Home’. Bridges was suave on-stage, and his songs were laced with a smooth r&b style that swiftly warmed the room on this cold and rainy evening.

James Bay at Communion St David's 20 March 2015

If you’ve been reading TGTF regularly in the past few months, you’ll already be acquainted with Hitchin’s hatted prodigy James Bay. I had seen Bay on tour with Hozier here in America last autumn, and I remarked on the similar career trajectory the two songwriters have taken in my recent review of Bay’s album ‘Chaos and the Calm’. Bay took the opportunity here at the Communion showcase to whet our appetites for the new album, which was released the following Monday, and to further fan the flames sparked by his soaring hit single ‘Hold Back The River’.

Jack Garratt at Communion St David's 20 March 2015

As I’ve remarked previously in my SXSW 2015 coverage, the last artist on a showcase is often left to perform for a dwindling audience, especially at night shows where the final slot actually begins in the wee hours of the following morning. Such was the case for Jack Garratt, and once again it was a shame that so many people left without hearing him play. I had thought that his electronic style might be an oddity for the Communion show, but as he progressed through his set, it became very clear that Garratt is, at heart, a singer/songwriter who happens to base his music on electronic instrumentation rather than the typical acoustic foundation. He deftly played keyboard, guitar and percussion to accompany his own singing, and I left at the end of his set feeling both delightfully impressed by his skill and sad for the people who had missed out. You can find previous TGTF coverage of Jack Garratt, including his upcoming UK tour dates, right here.

Communion Music continues to highlight a fine array of up and coming artists, and their showcase at St. David’s once again proved to be a popular Friday night choice. In the past, the show has been open to the public, but this year the audience was restricted to official SXSW badges and wristbands. That decision was most likely prompted by increased attendance, and though many disappointed punters were turned away this year, it’s nice to see Communion artists receiving such well-deserved attention.

 

James Bay / September and October 2015 UK/Irish Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 31st March 2015 at 8:00 am
 

Hot on the heels of his recent album release, James Bay has announced an autumn tour of the UK and Ireland in addition to his previously scheduled April tour dates. Bay’s LP ‘Chaos and the Calm’ came out last week, just after his appearances at SXSW 2015 in Austin, Texas. If you missed it, you can read my review of ‘Chaos and the Calm’ right here.

Tickets for the following shows go on sale this Thursday, the 2nd of April, at 9 AM.

Wednesday 23rd September 2015 – Manchester Apollo
Thursday 24th September 2015 – Glasgow Academy
Sunday 27th September 2015 – Newcastle Academy
Monday 28th September 2015 – Leeds Academy
Wednesday 30th September 2015 – London Brixton Academy
Sunday 4th October 2015 – Cambridge Corn Exchange
Monday 5th October 2015 – Brighton Dome
Tuesday 6th October 2015 – Bournemouth Solent Hall
Thursday 8th October 2015 – Birmingham Academy
Friday 9th October 2015 – Swindon Oasis
Sunday 11th October 2015 – Belfast Ulster Hall
Wednesday 14th October 2015 – Dublin Olympia Theatre

 

Album Review: James Bay – Chaos and the Calm

 
By on Wednesday, 25th March 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Among the ever-growing milieu of soulful singer/songwriters, Hertfordshire’s James Bay seems poised to become the next big thing. In more ways than one, he is following in the very successful footsteps of an immediate predecessor, Irish singer-songwriter Hozier. Bay toured in America as Hozier’s support act last year (look back at our live review here), and just last week in Austin, Texas at SXSW 2015, he played the very same Communion Music showcase where Hozier made a name for himself in America at SXSW 2014. (Keep an eye on TGTF for upcoming coverage of last week’s Communion showcase, including Bay’s live performance.)

Hot on the heels of his SXSW 2015 appearances, Bay has just released his debut LP ‘Chaos and the Calm’, which continues with the blues rock, gospel-tinged song formula that first drew attention to his music. Comparison to Hozier’s debut album is probably inevitable, given the convergent career paths and superficial stylistic similarities between the two. While Bay’s sound is less boldly experimental than Hozier’s, on his LP Bay has done one notable thing that Hozier didn’t quite manage on his debut: specifically, Bay has found the sweet spot between variety and predictability. Where Hozier’s album was an intricate exploration of blues, gospel, folk and pop, Bay’s record is almost stunningly simple, drawing its power from his soulful vocal delivery and subtly evocative guitar lines. Bay’s lyrics on ‘Chaos and the Calm’ are likewise consistent, focusing on the heartache of love in transition, at the crossroads of breaking apart.

‘Craving’ is an immediately anthemic track with a driving rhythm and a passionately sung chorus that are particularly well-suited for opening live shows, which Bay has done on both of the occasions I’ve seen him. Hit single ‘Hold Back the River’, typically the final song on Bay’s live set list, begins with the stark yearning of a solo guitar, then gradually builds intensity by adding gospel harmonies behind Bay’s emotionally charged chorus and increasingly husky vocal timbre. The frenetic energy of harder-edged tracks ‘Best Fake Smile’ and ‘Collide’ provides propulsive momentum among moments of intense emotionality.

The album’s quieter moments are equally effective, including the achingly sensual slow-burner ‘Move Together’ and the gentle pleading of ‘Scars’. Bay closes the album with the more pensive ‘Incomplete’, which is true to its title in that it leaves behind a sense of longing for resolution. Rather than offering closure, however, Bay seems to be deliberately leaving himself open to further possibilities.

Bay’s songs might not be groundbreaking, but they are authentically and unapologetically emotional, and that is a large part of their appeal. Combined with Bay’s unique voice and the production assistance of Nashville’s Jacquire King, that quality has resulted in a strong album of engaging and instantly relatable tracks, which is becoming something of a rare find. In the midst of a singer-songwriter genre that is growing ever less focused and more loosely defined, ‘Chaos and the Calm’ is, despite its title, refreshingly sincere and straightforward.

8/10

James Bay’s debut album ‘Chaos and the Calm’ is out now on Virgin / EMI. Bay is set to embark on a run of live dates in the UK next month; find all the dates here.

 
 
 

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

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