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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 10th October 2014 at 4:00 pm
French Web site La Blogotheque does atmospheric on location filming very, very well. Take for example their most recently revealed video featuring Sivu, who will be releasing his debut album ‘Something on High’ on Monday on Atlantic Records. The album’s stunning, I can assure you; I reviewed it earlier this week.
This live video takes us to Cap Blanc Nez, a cape in Northern France with stunning cliffs ala the White Cliffs of Dover, and Sivu’s accompanied by a brass band. While Sivu will be playing London Oslo Hackney next Tuesday, the 14th of October, as well as continuing as the primary support for Nick Mulvey on his UK tour which lands tonight in Falmouth, you’re unlikely to see a performance of ‘Better Man Than He’ like this at those shows. Watch the video with a gorgeous French sunset in the background below.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 9th October 2014 at 4:00 pm
Carrie and I were just talking last week about us catching CYMBALS perform live at SXSW 2014 at Cheer Up Charlie’s, where I almost missed them by accident. The English band were over here in the States over the summer for a short string of live dates. Naturally, when they were in Seattle, they recorded a live set for radio station KEXP, as you do. In the video below are ‘Erosion’ ‘You Are’, ‘Winter ’98’, ‘The Natural World’ and ‘Like an Animal’, now committed to film for posterity. Enjoy.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 7th October 2014 at 2:00 pm
American bands We Are Scientists and Surfer Blood are currently in the midst of their current Spatter Analysis tour and last Friday night, they stopped into Washington, only the second date of 10 on their East Coast and Midwest journey. It was truly a Yank fest, as the opening band were Roanoke’s Eternal Summers, who I’d caught as support for Maximo Park back in May (review here). The Virginia-based band shares labels with Surfer Blood (their third album ‘The Drop Beneath’ was released on Brooklyn indie Kanine back in March), so there’s yet another connection linking the bands on this bill.
I hesitate to say that Eternal Summers have a completely laid back vibe, as drummer Daniel Cundiff was really beating the hell out of his skins for several of their songs. But like Surfer Blood’s music, there seems to be this underlying slacker feeling like you should be laying out on a beach somewhere listening to their songs but counterintuitively, both bands are technically proficient. At times, guitarist Nicole Yun’s voice seemed to be fighting with the loudness of her bandmates’ instruments, but that could be more to blame with the venue than the band themselves. From their current album, check out energetic numbers ‘Never Enough’ and ‘A Burial’.
It’s been some time since I’d last seen Surfer Blood live, having last laid ears on them when they coheadlined a show at the 9:30 Club with then indie behemoths The Drums. Times have changed for J.P. Pitts and co. – for one, Warner Brothers dropped them earlier this year, but they’re probably best back with Kanine – but their style that have made them firm favourites with their fans is still intact. I admit that theirs, along with Best Coast and other bands of their ilk, is really not my kind of music; as there is no immediacy, no urgency, it’s in direct odds with my personality.
Nevertheless, I can understand their mainstream (for indie) popularity, with the well-picked guitars and feel good ambience of ‘Floating Vibes’ and ‘Swim’ (aka the “swim to reach the end!” song) from 2010’s ‘Astro Coast’ showing they’ve aged well and can still bring the house down. Frontman J.P., who has no rock star air about him at all, still has a sweet voice and looks like a frat boy in a buttoned-up shirt and boat shoes, but I think those things are all part of the appeal. He announced they were about to play “my favourite Surfer Blood song, ever”, and then leaped into the crowd to sing ‘Drinking Problem’. Forget that we could have jumped rope with his mike lead. Several excited fans had their year made with the chance to sing with one of their idols.
I’ve been a fan of and been going to see We Are Scientists long before I even started blogging. As the band is based in New York, I’ve been lucky to see them live so many times, and by this time I’ve stopped counting. As I was walking to the venue, that admittedly annoying Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen song “it’s always a ‘Good Time’ was stuck in my head. Lately, I’ve had my suspicions that U Hall packs more people than should be allowed at their indie shows, but maybe it’s just because I’ve always been either down the front or somewhere near the front, where there is always a crush of bodies. Even though the critical mass seemed to part slightly after Surfer Blood finished, the WAS fans were quick to fill in the gaps.
‘Dumb Luck’, from their current ‘TV en Français’, started their set confidently, with its near ‘Maneater’ ’80s groove. It was the perfect opener, proving right out of the gate why they’re rated so highly as a live act. As did J.P. Pitts before him, Keith Murray jumped down into the crowd to serenade us with ‘Textbook’, from the band’s first album ‘With Love and Squalor’. I was gobsmacked, I assumed I was never going to hear that song live ever again. Same goes for the brilliantly bass-heavy ‘Chick Lit’, from their 2008 album ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’.
Of course, being the irrepressible jokers they are, Keith Murray and Chris Cain were only too happy to banter away between the songs, amusing and charming the heck out of the punters as they always do. Slow groove ‘Can’t Lose’ was prefaced by the guys asking who in the audience liked to grind, saying any song with a 0% grind factor was considered a failure, and this one from them was between 0% and 2%. (Cue audience laughter.) To introduce ‘Impatience’, Keith explained he had once been a candy striper in hospital (probably false) and stopped volunteering because aged people had the unfortunate habit of telling stories and then slowly expiring, mid-anecdote:
If there was anything to criticise about the gig, it was the nature of this tour and having two headliners. I am sure Surfer Blood’s set was shorter than it is usually runs, and I know We Are Scientists’ set was shorter too, as in April their show at the Black Cat was much longer. Still, it was a great Friday night out and definitely showed tickets to all three bands are worth your hard-earned money next time they’re in your town.
After the cut: We Are Scientists’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: We Are Scientists and Surfer Blood with Eternal Summers at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 3rd October 2014
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 6th October 2014 at 2:00 pm
In less than a month of its release, ‘The Balcony’, Catfish and the Bottlemen‘s debut for Communion / Island Records, has done very well, cracking the top ten of the UK albums chart, and their November and December 2014 UK tour has long since sold out, with their newly announced March and April 2015 tour, which just went on sale last week, soon to follow suit. Yet over here in America, they are nowhere near a household name. It is no mean feat for any band to get punters to their show if their first album isn’t even available in their country yet, and it’s that reasoning that makes the turnout for the Welsh band’s first true headline show in Washington all the more remarkable. Even frontman Van McCann seemed overwhelmed by the clearly passionate fans down the front at their DC9 show last Thursday night:
But before describing Catfish’s set further, I’ll touch on the support band’s performance briefly. Because of the presence of a strong horn section (tenor sax and trombone, to be exact), local band Phantomweight (knock it off with the bad ghost jokes) probably gets their (un)fair share of comparisons to the last American band with a horn section to have made it mainstream, Boston ska band The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. While the horn section is prominent, the band seem to have their toes dipped into the pop, funk and jazz pools, which makes them a more interesting proposition than the usual DC acts that precede more famous out of town groups. Their singer Ben also seems like a pretty funny guy, making fun of the headliner (hey, when take your opportunities when you can, right?):
Earlier in the day, Catfish and the Bottlemen played an intimate set sponsored by Washington rock DC101, following in the footsteps of other British acts Biffy Clyro and Royal Blood. If the recent trajectory of those bands is a good predictor, then Catfish are well on their way to joining them atop festival bills next year. I spoke to McCann about this after the show, and he seemed far too humble to accept that stardom in the near future would be a given. But given what I witnessed at DC9, I don’t see how there could be any other possible outcome. Fans were raucous and eager to show how big of fans they were of the band, with some girls in squealing mode and near tears once the show was over.
A lot of the audience already knew all the words to their songs, which made McCann quick to quip that they must have all gotten their copies of ‘The Balcony’ by unsavoury means; he said the album would not be released in America until 2015. The boy and girl in front of me were as quick to respond that they had ordered their copies online before their U.S. tour began, and they’re been at the preceding New York and Philadelphia shows and would be following them up to Boston the next night. I think most of you are aware of just how massive America is, so having fans this devoted, willing to drive up and down the coast with little care about their jobs, and so early in the game is an incredibly good indicator of the mass hysteria I expect to surround this band swiftly. McCann also noted that earlier in the week in New York, they ran into Ewan McGregor, who probably is at this point in their career their most famous fan; a sticker of McGregor’s face is now proudly affixed to their bass drum.
As indicated in his review of their debut album, Martin points out that ‘The Balcony’ is punctuated with songs with “the power to do is put a big, fat grin on one’s face for half an hour or so, particularly if they’re played loud”. ‘Cocoon’, the band’s most recent single, is the sound of youth, of devil-may-care innocent minds, while ‘Kathleen’ apparently has already captured the imagination of youths. ‘Homesick’ slowed down the proceedings slightly and provided the most tenderest moment of the night, but overall, it’s evident that the Catfish and the Bottlemen sound is one that is loud, brash and most importantly, fun. This train to success has just begun a-rolling. Don’t blink. You’ll want to catch it and be on it before it’s too late.
After the cut: Catfish and the Bottlemen’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen with Phantomweight at DC9, Washington DC – 2nd October 2014
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 1st October 2014 at 4:00 pm
Blackpool trio Darlia are known for their loud, brash style and heavy riffs, so today’s video comes across maybe not as a total shock but a definite surprise. Here is a live performance by their frontman Nathan Day, playing an acoustic version of the band’s upcoming single ‘Stars Are Aligned’ all alone.
The single will be released on the 27th of October on B-Unique Records.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 29th September 2014 at 2:00 pm
Despite not being a native New Yorker and living over 200 miles southwest of the place, I have been slowly but surely chipping away at my list of venues to see in the Big Apple. In the second half of last week, I finally got to witness London-based Teleman live, twice, during their first visit to our country and my first experience of the Mercury Lounge on East Houston Street. This review focusses on their first show in the Lower East Side, but later on this piece, I’ll briefly mention the differences between the two shows.
When I first arrived, slightly winded having just taken the train up from Washington and worried I was going to miss the start of their set, I was relieved to see they were still setting up. I’m not sure if this will continue, but the each member of the band – comprising ex-Pete and the Pirates members Tommy Sanders (vocals / guitar), his brother Jonny (keyboard / synths) and Pete Cattermoul (bass guitar) along with drummer Hiro Amamiya – is wearing a different shirt, each incorporating the three colours of yellow, red and blue that figure as dots on the abstract album art for their Moshi Moshi Records debut ‘Breakfast’ (reviewed by me here). Considering that since fashion-wise color blocks are still in, maybe they’re just ahead of this industry’s curve?
I think it’s always a precarious thing to go watch a band perform one of your favourite albums of the year. I do, however, always remember something Ed Macfarlane said a long time ago in a Friendly Fires interview, which was generally of the sentiment that your live show should bring something different to the table, because if someone wanted to hear the album reproduced faithfully live, they might as well listen to the album. I don’t know if you could blame the tentativeness in the first half of Teleman’s set on nerves, but the punchiness of first two songs ‘In Your Fur’ and ‘Mainline’ you hear on the album seemed not to translate live. As I was stood there down the front at Mercury Lounge, I noticed how crisp and clear the guitar notes sounded in the place, which seemed odd to me but amazing at the same time, if I compared it to the varying degrees of muddle I’m accustomed to.
Actually, muddling might have been a benefit to the set, as the conclusion of ‘In Your Fur’ was an extended psych rock out jam session. Similarly, insistently rocky ‘Steam Train Girl’ was also lengthened, much to the delight of the girls in front of me who were having a whale of a time, kicking their heels up to the music. The Teleman sound is definitely of the toe-tapping variety but not exactly designed for ravers. ‘Skeleton Dance’, arguably the most dancey of all the tracks on the debut album, with the brothers Sanders synths and guitar coming together harmoniously.
‘Breakfast’ most truly beautiful moments came across wonderfully live, as the trifecta of the bright yet regretful ‘Monday Morning’, the heart-pounding drums of past single ’23 Floors Up’ and almost nursery rhyme simplicity of the melody in ‘Lady Low’ in quick succession becomes the sonic equivalent of being simultaneously socked in the stomach and the heart. Sadly, due to the early show curfew, the set was cut short, with ‘Redhead Saturday’ not getting an airing until the next night at Glasslands in Williamsburg.
Still, quite possibly the crowning moment for those people so adamant that Teleman must be Kraftwerk obsessives (for the record, it’s not true, according to an interview Tommy did with Under the Radar magazine here in the States), hidden album track ‘Not in Control’ is directed by its beats, leading punters at both New York shows to bop to the rhythm and some cases, leaving them in a psych-ey, trance-like state that you wouldn’t see at a ‘pop’ show. I think the more the band tour this album, the better their set will be. Oh, and sorry to anyone who wants to request a Pete and the Pirates song, such as the couple who shouted for ‘Cold Black Kitty’. They don’t remember the chords.
After the cut: Teleman’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Teleman at Mercury Lounge, New York City – 25th September 2014
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