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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 28th November 2014 at 4:00 pm
Last Saturday, off-kilter Cardiff-based indie pop band Los Campesinos! stopped in at the Flapper in Birmingham as part of the second to last date on the current Dr. Martens #STANDFORSOMETHING tour. Here they are performing ‘Avocado, Baby’, off their 2013 album ‘No Blues’. Thankfully, the Haim sisters were nowhere near the place, allowing frontman Gareth to concentrate on the performance at hand. Watch below.
The last date on the #STANDFORSOMETHING tour – starring Sydney group Tonight Alive – takes place tomorrow, the 29th of November, at Newcastle Cluny 2. To read further coverage of the band on TGTF, head this way.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 27th November 2014 at 4:00 pm
Longfellow have been a favourite of mine ever since I got wind of them from the fine folks of Fierce Panda. We were so very pleased to hear that the band from London had been given a shout, their second, for SXSW 2015, so you can bet we’ll be catching them live and catching up with the fabulous fivesome in Austin in the new year. Yeehaw! (Sorry, couldn’t resist…)
Er, sorry, back to the matter at hand. The premise of Ont’ Sofa is similar to Sofar Sounds – have a band play acoustically in an intimate setting – except not in front of an audience in someone’s home. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to see Longfellow live, these videos of ‘Gabrielle’ (from the band’s wonderful mini-album ‘Prelude’, released this summer) and new song ‘Where I Belong’ give you a flavour of what beauty to expect. Watch the videos below.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 24th November 2014 at 2:00 pm
“Hypnotic. Arabian funeral. Depression in the desert. Sepia rainbows.
“This is the psychedelic nightmare spun by The Wytches, who are spreading their subversive message across the UK in the dark guide of SOS surf riffs, desert riffs, melancholic shuffles and a kaleidoscopic stage performance that will put you under.”
This was the description on the DC9 Web site of Thursday evening’s headliner the Wytches. Quite accurate, I reckon: there is a dark and dangerous undercurrent of subversion to the music of the Brighton-based trio, which initially sounded strange to me, given that they live by the beautiful southern coastline of England. However, I learned on the night that two of their band members are originally from Peterborough; I’ll have to ask our John what the deal is with that place and if it informs the pervading doom and gloom of their sound. But that is neither here nor there: what is far more important to note is that despite my initial impression of the tracks of theirs I heard online and thinking, “is that all?”, the live performance of the Wytches is an interesting, beguiling mixture of swirly guitar and powerful bass and drum beats, delivered with animalistic, raw vocals, and money spent on a ticket to see this band will be worth every last penny.
Further, anyone who has listened to their music before knows of the muscle and raucousness of the group’s sound, but what you will find when experiencing them live is the nuances of brilliant songwriting that might not be immediately apparent to the untrained ear. That is, there is method to this madness. They can write and play a good song, as well as give good show. Isn’t it a truly sad development of popular music that these three things are all too often mutually exclusive these days?
I found myself easily and entirely willingly drawn into the Eastern-tinged melodies of the band, most always delivered alongside a punishing rhythm section. There were moments where I could not help but smile to myself, thinking about my younger years when I thought Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ was a pretty cool tune. I’m happy to say that the kind of vibe managed by Led Zeppelin on ‘Physical Graffiti’ has not only been inspirational to a younger generation of musicians, the vibe is been continued. And stretched, modified and improved on.
Past singles ‘Wire Frame Mattress’ and ‘Burn Out the Bruise’ are noteworthy for the anguished screams of guitarist/frontman Kristian Bell and its entirely headbanging-inducing thunder well appreciated by the crowd assembled in Washington. The seductive rhythm of ‘Robe for Juda’, probably better known to most readers of TGTF for its extremely low-budget video, doesn’t fail to bring rapture to tonight’s audience, is a standout at this show too, along with debut single ‘Digsaw’. All the while, you can only be mesmerised by what is enfolding in front of your very eyes: three young men, clearly skilled with their weapon of choice, giving their all and ostensibly, if you pay close attention to the lyrics, giving life what for when it comes to the suffering of relationship-based angst.
‘Weights and Ties’ provides a superb counterpoint, showing the band’s more surf pop, softer side. See, they can play their instruments without pummeling them to death. ‘Wide at Midnight’, characterised by a slower tempo than most of the Wytches’ debut album ‘Annabel Dream Reader’, is another indicator that there is far more here than just loud guitars, loud drumming and wailing. Both tell me that there is still plenty of mileage in the ethos this trio are peddling. More, please.
You might be in luck to catch the band live next week after they return from the States; all the details of their last dates in 2014 are this way.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 19th November 2014 at 4:00 pm
James Bay, without a doubt, is one of the most in-demand musicians in the UK at the moment. The singer/songwriter from Hitchin has been riding high on his current sold out UK/Irish tour this month, as well the sales of his upcoming one in April 2015.
Next Monday, the always hatted Bay will be releasing his next single ‘Hold Back the River’. The folks at Transmitter nabbed this powerful live performance of him and his band playing the single. Watch it below.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th November 2014 at 4:00 pm
Bell X1‘s Paul Noonan, who has been recording with his musician friends under the solo project title Printer Clips, has released a brand new duet with his with Amy Van Den Broek. This time though, it’s for a very worthy cause and comes directly as a result from their own experience. The couple’s daughter Aislinn was hospitalised at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Ireland’s largest paediatric hospital, when she was only a few days old. Noonan says these words about the experience:
“When our little girl Aislinn was 9 days old we took her to Crumlin hospital as she had been in pain and in distress for long enough, and we didn’t know what else to do. Turns out she had a bad intestinal infection, and there she stayed for 3 weeks, in the aptly named Nazareth ward.
One of the tests at the time showed that she has a hole in her heart – I remember staring at the screen, watching the tiny hole open and close with her heartbeat, winking at me…
We were really taken aback by the love and tender care she received in Crumlin, and would like to do something for them in return.
So, I’ve written a song called ‘Hole in Her Heart’, and recorded it with Aislinn’s mama Amy.
We’d like to put it out there to raise some money and possibly more importantly awareness of the fact that Crumlin still needs our help in taking care of our kids when they get sick”.
All the proceeds of the single will go directly to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin. It can be purchased from iTunes or as a special Christmas card here. Noonan and Van Den Broek performed a moving rendition of the song last Friday on RTE’s The Late Late Show, and you can watch it below.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th November 2014 at 2:00 pm
Here’s something that doesn’t happen everyday. Well, for this music editor anyway. Somehow, on Saturday night I went to hole in the wall DC9 to see two bands that were both…wait for it…American. And the opening band Cold Fronts aren’t even from that far away at all. I learned after the show that the Philadelphia foursome were playing an outdoor generator show at SXSW 2012, unaware that Warner Brothers / Sire Records bigwig Seymour Stein was on the sidelines, taking notes. They’re now signed with Warner. So you budding musicians out there, dreams do come true.
But you’re probably wondering what they sound like, aren’t you? Admittedly, I didn’t do a huge amount of research for this show, deciding that since it was a Saturday night, I was going to relax, open my ears and take it all in. This worked especially well with Cold Fronts, as their performance was every bit about the music as it was about having fun. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the members of a band jumping around with their guitars without abandon and really, only two bands came to mind: the Cribs and PAWS, both featuring insane guitar players happily throwing themselves around the stage. I wasn’t far off the mark at all: singer/guitarist Craig admitted to me that he’s a massive fan of the Cribs, as well as PAWS’ track ‘Sore Tummy’. (Hey hey, Jarman Brothers, I hope you are listening? Because I just found out they have the same booking agent as you. Google them and sort out an opening slot for them on your next tour.)
The meteorological term ‘cold front’ usually indicates changes in barometric pressure and temperature and possible precipitation. Not usually a harbinger of good things. However, don’t let Cold Fronts’ name put you off; I was told the name comes from the fact that many of their songs were written during the winter months as an attempt to battle seasonal affective disorder. Their newest single ‘Hit Me’ (stream below) is a great example of a song to knock you out of the wintry weather doldrums: the chorus uses a clever metaphor between gambling and relationships, and the entire thing is just so darn catchy and the lyrics are easily sung along to (but they’re really witty lyrics too) that I’m almost positive it’s going to be a radio hit in due course. You heard it here first… Another one of their songs whose name I did not catch was punctuated by what appeared to be each of the four band members racing each other to see who could play the loudest and faster. This is some band with muscle! An album should be on its way in 2015.
Chicago’s Empires spent the last 6 years like all other bands: working hard. This year though the band released their third studio album ‘Orphan’ on Island Records’ Chop Shop imprint. Hopefully this LP will prove to be the breakthrough they’ve been looking for. John reviewed their EP ‘How Good Does It Feel’ this summer and he had described their bass lines reminding him of the Vaccines. However, upon actually seeing them play live, they recalled for me not the Vaccines but a couple of massive bands from recent memory. Their musical style is of the bombastic rock variety: think U2, when they were actually good, ‘Joshua Tree’-era and before they started to suck, and the Killers before Brandon Flowers’ ego inflated beyond reasonable proportions.
There’s even hints of Springsteen and ‘The ’59 Sound’-era Gaslight Anthem in the driving ‘Keep It Steady’, one of the set’s standouts from their 2012 album ‘Garage Hymns’. Heavy-hitting percussion? Check. Epic guitars? Check. I thought it didn’t exist anymore, but it’s clear Empires are the sound of 21st century American rock ‘n’ roll, and it couldn’t sound better. You also can’t escape being mesmerised by frontman Sean Van Vleet; he goes sans instrument during a show, except for occasional tambourine banging, something that his light-haired, stubbly doppelganger Ricky Wilson also indulges in. The band tell me they actually supported Kaiser Chiefs before in their hometown of Chicago but at the time, Wilson was wearing a hat and therefore no physical comparisons could be drawn. Van Vleet’s baritone is similar to that of Matt Berninger’s and also to some extent Tom Smith, but Empires are nowhere near as gloomy as Editors. Which I think is a good thing for American audiences.
What’s even more startling is while they might not be household names yet, this band already appear to have an army of fans: wearing flannel over their Empires’ emblazoned t-shirts, these girls were quick to solidify their places down the front even before they took the stage. These were also the same audience members who sang back the lyrics of ‘Spit the Dark’, from the band’s self-released debut album from 2008, ‘Howl’, word for word back to Van Vleet while he pointed the mike in their direction, with the refrain “I will guide you in the night” repeated back and forth between singer and crowd. For this to happen at a place like DC9, that’s dedication. Dedication I fully expect to see repeated on a much larger scale sometime in the near future.
After the cut: Empires’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Empires with Cold Fronts at DC9, Washington DC – 15th November 2014