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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 27th January 2015 at 4:00 pm
You remember Tom Williams: he helmed indie folk favourites Tom Williams and the Boat, who just released their third LP ‘Easy Fantastic’ on Moshi Moshi Records to critical fanfare last year. As a bit of a breather for himself, as well as what I can imagine is him stretching his artistic wings, Williams will be releasing a mini-album later this year, featuring acoustic tunes he wrote during down time in the workings-on of the last Boat album. The 7-track mini-album will be released on Williams’ own Wire Boat Recordings label and can be pre-ordered along with a host of exclusive offers via his PledgeMusic campaign’s Web site.
The first song to be unveiled from the new project is called ‘New Guitar’, an engaging tune that tells how the fateful purchase of a new musical instrument can play a role in the start of a new life. He’s also chosen to share with us a live video of him performing this new song, filmed where he found said guitar, at Replay Acoustics in Sevenoaks, Kent. Watch below as Williams looks completely in his element, surrounded by a bevy of Replay’s lovely acoustics.
Tonight, Alvvays return to Newcastle after a triumphant first gig in the city in 2014 supporting Real Estate, where they impressed as much, if not more, as the headliners. But can they handle the pressure of drawing a crowd under their own steam? That most of the tour sold well in advance, the evidence suggests yes. This is how they did it.
First up are Moon King, a Toronto spacey-pop four-piece, based around the complimentary boy-girl vocals of Maddy Wilde and Daniel Benjamin, who, due to Benjamin’s boyish voice, both sing in the same register. He acknowledges that as a reasonably obscure Canadian outfit, the crowd are unlikely to know any of their tunes, which is largely true, but the songs themselves have enough drive and melody to warm up the crowd. Their approach is casual, ramshackle at times – everyone knows the guitar is going out of tune, but they don’t care to tweak it, presumably thinking that it adds to the ‘ambient’ nature of the sound.
Which, to be fair, it does. Benjamin is clad in baggy black pants and t-shirt, teamed with black work boots that are literally falling apart at the seams. Even though at times he seems directionless, moping about the stage, at others he throws some genuine frontman shapes with the mic stand. An intriguing combination of attributes. Moon King trade in slackerism then, with the obligatory climax of hectic guitar and synth sweeps, and it all works nicely as an introduction to the headliners.
Where Moon King are relaxed, Alvvays are (up)tight. Their foundation is Phil MacIsaac’s Ringo Starr-esque drumming: tik-tik-tiki-tik goes his hi-hat, as precise as a metronome, and, on first hearing, as imaginative as a stone. But as one listens deeper, there comes a realisation that, even though Alvvays’ sound is made up of modest contributions – for instance, lead singer Molly Rankin’s guitar is just a thin, fuzzed noise throughout – all the pieces fit into a neat whole that is rather impressive indeed. The only part that isn’t modest is Rankin’s voice; her slight frame and blonde bob are the visual focal point, and her voice similarly dominates the sound.
The crowd liven up considerably when ‘Archie, Marry Me’ unveils its modestly strummed intro chords. And rightly so, for it’s a clever observational ditty, accurately describing the confused interregnum between college and commitment. Blessed with a killer chorus, which alvvays helps. They play the whole album, plus the hazy, surrealist ‘Archie’ B-side ‘Underneath Us’, and a freshly-minted number that continues in the same vein (‘Your Type’). Mention should go to Alec O’Hanley’s guitar work: he treads a clever line between playing in deference to the song, and really breaking out the distortion and feedback that every lead guitarist secretly yearns to show off. By the time the set climaxes with the melancholia of ‘Party Police’, both band and audience are warmed up sufficiently to treat its yearning vocal line with the rapture it deserves.
The surname of each member of Alvvays is, at least superficially, Celtic – Rankin, MacLellan, O’Hanley, Murphy, MacIsaac – which makes more sense of O’Hanley’s comment that on this night on their tour they’re closer to home than they’ve been for a while, which puts their ostensibly Canadian sound into some sort of context. Is there, instinctively buried inside their DNA, the code to generate some Scots arch-pop? They certainly share more familial attributes with Camera Obscura than Bryan Adams. And in their combining their Celtic-pop influences with heavily-reverbed, shoegazy guitar and lo-fi synth washes, they’ve come up with something rather lovely indeed.
Alvvays will be appearing at SXSW 2015, and you can read Carrie’s preview of their showcasing in Austin here. Their current tour in the UK finishes up in Bristol this Saturday; details of this tour are this way.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 22nd January 2015 at 11:00 am
It’s been a great running tradition that the BBC has hosted a night at massive band showcasing festival South by Southwest, and in just under 55 days, the Beeb will be making waves with yet another esteemed appearance in Austin! Taking place on the evening of Wednesday, the 18th of March, at the home of the British Music Embassy for the week, Latitude 30 on San Jacinto Boulevard, the event will no doubt give unprecedented attention to the acts chosen to perform on the night, and we here at TGTF are really pleased we’ll be in Austin for the festivities.
Last night on his evening drivetime programme on 6music, Steve Lamacq welcomed his fellow BBC presenter Huw Stephens to announce the line-up for the BBC Introducing night at SXSW 2015, partnering this year with PRS for Music Foundation, who gives their never wavering support to up and coming UK artists and their developing careers. Who will Lammo and Huw be bringing with them to the big dance in Austin in March? Here’s a rundown, in alphabetical order:
Blossoms – Stockport has the distinction of being the birthplace of Delphic and Dutch Uncles (both via Marple). But in 2015, all eyes will be back on the Greater Manchester town and five-piece Blossoms, putting on the psychedelic mantle that became cool again after the success of Temples last year. Will they surpass the Kettering group’s success in Austin in 2014? We’ll have to wait and see. One thing’s for sure, their name should not lead you to assume they’re fragile Northern flowers: check out the swaggery cool of ‘Blow’.
Gengahr – there always seems to be contention on who will be the next great British guitar band. On the current list of hopefuls, London’s Gengahr certainly have their supporters. They aren’t the hit-you-over-the-head loud kind of obvious guitar band, preferring more thoughtful vocals and well thought out melodies that might bleed over to pop territory. Except they’re quite masterful on guitar: have a listen to ‘Powder’.
Jack Garratt – in case you were concerned that the epic British beard would not be covered at this year’s SXSW, have a look at Jack Garratt think again. But that’s beside the point. What’s far more important are Garratt’s piano playing and deep, soulful voice. One wonders if the Austin event could be his jumping off platform to superstardom as it was last year to Ireland’s Hozier.
Little Simz – it’s probably not a wise thing to ignore Islington’s Simbi Ajikawo. The rapper, who goes by the moniker Little Simz, had her debut EP ‘E.D.G.E’ exclusively premiered on Billboard last summer and has already been noticed by Jay-Z and his crew for her experimental style of rap. And just in case the music thing doesn’t work out, she has acting to fall back on as a vocation: you may remember Ajikawo as the character Meleka in a few episodes of E4’s Youngers.
SOAK – we’re not entirely sure why Derry teenager Bridie Monds-Watson goes by the stage name of SOAK. Her highly acclaimed EP in 2013 was titled ‘Sea Creatures’, so maybe she feels some kind of affinity to the sea and water? What we do know for sure: she’s got an achingly sweet voice, she recently signed to Rough Trade and her debut album for them is expected later this year. Stay tuned for more news on her in the coming months.
Spring King – with a new promo video just uploaded to their YouTube channel 2 days before Huw Stephens’ big announcement, something tells you Manchester garage rockers Spring King are just raring to go to Austin. The aforementioned promo, for the song ‘Not Me, Not Now’, was filmed when the band were in New York City last October for the other biggie American emerging music festival CMJ. Will the prior experience playing for American audiences help them in Austin? We shall see.
To read the official announcement from BBC Introducing, go here.
We here at TGTF will be bringing you even more preview coverage of SXSW 2015 in the coming weeks leading up to the big week in Austin in March. To catch up on any of our past reporting or if you want to keep an eye on our coverage as it continues, head this way.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 20th January 2015 at 4:00 pm
Anticipation is building for Kodaline‘s sophomore album ‘Coming Up for Air’, which will drop in the first half of February 2015. The first taster revealed from the album was single ‘Honest’, which premiered in early December; you can read my single review, as well as watch the live action lyric and official videos for it.
Now they’ve unveiled a second track, which is quite a beauty. This live version of ‘Ready’, played acoustically, was recorded and filmed at Ocean Way Recording in Los Angeles, where the boys found themselves committing the new record to tape. Some fans complained that ‘Honest’ sounded too pop; one thing that has safely made it through to the other side on this new LP is Kodaline’s timeless harmonies, which are on full show in this live video. Watch it below.
Kodaline’s second album, the follow-up to 2013’s ‘In a Perfect World’, will be released on the 9th of February on RCA Victor. We’ve written quite a bit about the band, you can check out pretty extensive archive of writings on them here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 16th January 2015 at 4:00 pm
For the soundtrack to the Reese Witherspoon film drama Wild released last autumn First Aid Kit recorded a breathtaking cover of R.E.M.’s ‘Walk Unafraid’. While we knew that they sisters Soderberg filmed a promo video for their version of the song, we didn’t know that during the down time of the making of the video, someone had the good idea to film this live acoustic performance of the sisters singing the song while R.E.M.’s own Peter Buck played backing guitar. You can watch both the live performance and the forest atmospheric promo video for the song below.
TGTF’s past coverage on First Aid Kit is here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 9th January 2015 at 4:00 pm
Having already made plenty of waves back home in the UK, Welsh band Catfish and the Bottlemen marked a major milestone last night. They made their American late night tv debut appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in New York City, playing their hit single ‘Kathleen’ from 2014 album fan favourite ‘The Balcony’. Watch the performance below.
Read all of TGTF’s past coverage on the band, including Martin’s interview with frontman Van McCann at Kendal Calling 2014, here.
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