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TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014: Pop and pop hybrid UK artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Monday, 3rd March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2014 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite band is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the band’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Starting off the week in our continuing preview coverage SXSW 2014, in this fifth installment of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014 are what we call the pop and pop hybrid artists. Pop has become increasingly difficult to put in a box, with many artists incorporating urban, soul, r&b, dance, rock, folk and country into their own brand of pop. So in today’s post, we bring your attention to the bands whose music has a decided pop sensibility in their sound.

In case you missed any of our TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014 so far, including the two-part guide to UK rock acts and the two-part guide to UK electronic acts and DJs appearing at this year’s SXSW, get it all here.

Arthur Beatrice
Carrie writes: “The moniker of elusive London quartet Arthur Beatrice was “formed from the notion of opposites coming together to complete perfect wholes,” according to the press release for their new album, ‘Working Out’, due for release next Monday. The bisexual band name seems singularly appropriate given the band’s juxtaposition of male and female lead vocals, alternated seamlessly between the velvety singing voices of Ella Girardot and Orlando Leopard. The instrumental sound is a cross between smooth jazz and electro dance with moments of uptempo rhythmic pacing provided by brothers Elliott and Hamish Barnes on drums and bass, respectively. Hamish Barnes’ pulsing bass is a major element of Arthur Beatrice’s sound, maintaining a constant groove throughout ‘Working Out’.

Read Carrie’s full review of the band’s debut album ‘Working Out’, released just last month, here.

Cairn String Quartet
Carrie writes: “The Cairn String Quartet specialises in creating instrumental arrangements of rock and pop songs, spanning across subgenres to cover songs by Aerosmith, Beyoncé, Daft Punk and Mumford and Sons, to name just a few. Their most recent EP release, titled ‘#Quartetquickies’ includes a version of ‘The Mother We Share’ by CHVRCHES, and their last full-length album, ‘One’, features arrangements of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’ and ‘Everybody’s On The Run’ by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

Read the rest of Carrie’s Bands to Watch on the group here.

Charli XCX
Most of Charlotte Aitchison’s music is what pop on Radio 1 sounds like these days, but it’s the more interesting tracks of hers like ‘Allergic to Love’ that don’t fit into any other box that deserve more attention. A little punk, a little swagger, and less of that purely manufactured pop, please.

Daley
In the post-Justin Timberlake ‘Sexy Back’ world, it’s not a huge surprise to see an artist like blue eyed soul and r&b singer Daley doing well on the back of a couple of EPs, even without a debut album to his name. The young Mancunian has already collaborated with rapper and BBC Sound of and MTV Brand New for 2011 alum Wretch 32, been picked up for play by BBC presenters like MistaJam and Jo Whiley and sports a strong look: ha massive beehive-like hairdo that probably needs its own postal code and faux Buddy Holly spectacles (I say faux, because they’re almost comically 3-D square glasses). What’s not to love…well, if you’re a devoted, young Radio 1 listener?

Dems
Cheryl writes: “Evocative of the trance-like melodies of The xx, London-based three-piece Dems tantalize us with their new single ‘Canvas World’. Dan Moss, David Gardener and Duncan Mann typically lay Moss’ vocals over complex pieces of artistry, but the latest single adds a guest lead vocal from guest singer Claudie. Strong and clear, she adds a depth to the melancholy Dems sound anchoring it.”

Cheryl’s Bands to Watch feature on Dems is here. You can also read the band’s answers to our Quickfire Questions – including some SXSW flavoured ones too! – here.

Glass Animals
Martin writes: “Glass Animals are experts at downtempo, atmospheric, bass-heavy songs – think Portishead having coffee with Morcheeba – while the coffee’s a tangy roast by James Blake.

Read the rest of Martin’s Bands to Watch feature on Glass Animals here.

Glitches
Sweeping soulful vocals on top of an underlying pop sensibility. It’s unusual to see a trio of guys who have the DIY aesthetic but who aren’t in the indie rock genre (Hot Club de Paris, Little Comets, the Crookes), but this will make them stand out from the pack.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VP8Y_Z-wysA

Gulp
Gulp is a kinda sorta supergroup starring Guto Pryce (Super Furry Animals) and Lindsey Leven, with Gid Goundrey providing guitar and Gwion Llewelyn (Race Horses) on drums. Their sound? Dream pop vocals on top of whimsical, layered instrumentation. Interesting.

Holy Esque (confirmed on SXSW schedule 23 Feb)
Cheryl writes: “Pat Hynes’ heavy vibrato wrangles above the rapid fire drumming and ringing guitars giving it an otherworldly feel. It tints the tone of all they produce, driving the lyrics to a strange and mysterious place, irrespective of the actual sentiment in the song. This continual quavering is the natural way he sings and not an affectation to add interest, so it permeates every song. That’s fine, but it still sounds quite unusual.”

Cheryl wrote a Bands to Watch on them, and you can read the feature here.

Chloe Howl
In her synth poppier moments such as on ‘No Strings’, Howl seems to be assuming the mantle of La Roux‘s Elly Jackson. Says it all, really. She even has really awesome hair too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om7zg-M0rZM

Jetta
Liverpool singer Jetta croons soulfully to a minimalist backdrop the xx would be proud to call their own. Band-wise, we’ll have to see if this turns out to be more Florence and the Machine or No Doubt.

Jungle
Martin writes: “Jungle are purveyors of sun-drenched downtempo electro-soul, a facsimile of which can often be heard playing on the radio of, say, a 1965 Chevy Malibu SS whilst cruising the vice-ridden streets of a simulated Los Angeles.”

Martin’s Bands to Watch on Jungle is here.

London Grammar
We refrained from doing a bands to watch feature on London Grammar because…well, everyone else had already covered them, and judging from their early popularity on the back of their debut album ‘If You Wait’ released in September 2013, it seems like their history has already been written. They sound eerily like the xx, though Hannah Reid’s angelic voice makes their tunes feel like they should be on The Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

The Magic Numbers
Two pairs of brothers and sisters who have somehow soldiered on for over a decade making near twee pop and have sold millions of records. Come now, you’ve heard ‘Forever Lost’, haven’t you?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8P40WfRELU

Only Real
Martin writes: At first listen of something like ‘Punks And Potions’, the lead-off track of 2013’s ‘Days In The City’ EP now out on LuvLuvLuv Records, the almost out-of-tune electric guitars overlaid with a heavy dose of lo-fi chorusing are the kind of thing any number of bedroom crooners (and surely this *was* recorded in a bedroom) would put out. The arrangement is in no particular hurry, or of any particular convention for that matter, the second verse lazily arriving at the two-minute mark. But Only Real’s talent is to hide within these inauspicious strictures some impressively ambitious and thoughtful work.… Overall, the combination of a naïf approach to arrangement and production, combined with a decent ear for a melody and lyrics, make Only Real a great prospect. One wonders what he’ll be capable of when he finally emerges from that bedroom…”

Read the rest of Martin’s Bands to Watch on Only Real here.

Prides
Sounding like the love child of early ‘Oracular Spectacular’-era MGMT and bombastic ‘80s power pop, this Glasgow trio will make you yearn for the days when every band didn’t have to have a synthesiser player, just the ones who did pop right.

You can read frontman Stuart Brock’s answers to our Quickfire Questions (the SXSW flavoured ones too!) over here.

Woman’s Hour
In the post-xx world, a woman singing over dreamy, sometimes minimal instrumentation isn’t actually that groundbreaking. Or is it? Fiona Burgess’ vocals sound distant, and maybe that’s the point of this London via Kendal band: don’t think, just get lost in the music.

Keep it here, as we roll on with more of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014 tomorrow!

 

Kendal Calling 2013: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 6th September 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

Is it just me or was Kendal Calling 2013‘s Saturday on the main stage “Lad’s day”? The Twang, The D.O.T., even Ash seemed to bring the inner Manc out in everybody. At least Dutch Uncles were there to bring a bit of thinking man’s rock to the party. Is it just me or do Dutch Uncles get better with every viewing? Duncan Wallis (shown below) is a frontman perfectly at ease with himself, proudly showing off his pristine, angular moves, particularly on ‘Flexxin’’, where the famous moves from the video are reproduced even more lucidly onstage. The band display a limber structure within which they explore their compositions, with a confidence only a group who have toured together for countless months can display. And they seem to have avoided becoming bored with each other or their songs, as have the audience.

Dutch Uncles Kendal Calling 2013

The D.O.T. came widely anticipated. A joint venture between Mike Skinner, ex of The Streets, and Rob Harvey, ex of Leeds rockers The Music, promises to bring some urban smarts to indie music, to replace guitars with electronics, but still within a knowing framework that appeals to both indie kids and hip-hop heads. In reality, it all falls a bit flat. Certainly there’s nothing here to compete with the intensity of the previous night’s Public Enemy onslaught, but conversely it would be more exciting with a bit of live instrumentation. Harvey strums a guitar every now and again, but they fail to excite the crowd at all; Skinner’s deadpan sneering doesn’t help, an attitude which apparently carries through to his DJ set later in the evening. There are occasional glimpses of the urban tenderness of The Streets, but glimpses is all they are. There’s potential here, but they need to have a bit of a rethink on how to engage anyone other than diehard fans of both The Music and The Streets at the same time. How many of those can there be?

The most surprising thing about The Twang is that they’re actually still going, given a steady decline in album sales over the past decade, let alone how they’ve managed to bag a decent main stage slot at a big festival. Well, the answer’s in the laddism. They appear to have two singers, plenty of guitars and energy, and some singalong bits – who am I to argue that what they actually need is class and talent?

Tim Wheeler (pictured at top) from Ash is lacking in neither class or talent – it takes class to maintain a brand for 20 years, whilst keeping people interested and even devoted to its music; it takes talent to continue to wield a Gibson Flying V with the sort of aplomb which would make a 12-year-old boy say, “that’s cool”. Both of which are achieved within a few bars of Ash’s set commencing. Moreover, they command the rain: it pours down at the first note of their set, and would continue for 12 hours. Clearly God is a fan. Nobody has really taken Ash’s place: as survivors of the tail end of Britpop, their offer is clearly still relevant today, and not just by way of nostalgia. Their songs are evocative of teenage yearning, of big guitars, and simple, overriding emotions still capable of commanding a big festival stage. Carry on, sir.

Sweet Baboo Kendal Calling 2013

Sweet Baboo’s delicate, witty, poignant Welsh ditties bring us back to the Calling Out tent. Such assertively sweet music from such an unassuming chap is quite the contrast. By the time the set climaxes, the horn section is parping as if Steve Cropper were in the crowd, taking notes. Which, in a spiritual way, he was. To be followed swiftly by Sons and Lovers (shown below), who tread that fine line between cliche and true excellence. In the cold light of day, their Mumford-esque sound is their downfall: inevitable thumping floor toms, incessant quiet-loud-quiet-loud arrangements, and hopelessly romantic themes do them no favours, but on this day in history, Sons and Lovers provide set worthy of headliners. Such are the complex vagaries of live music.

Sons and Lovers Kendal Calling 2013

London Grammar remain to be assessed another day – their autumn tour should set the record straight as to whether they are simply xx wannabes, or whether they have something truly original to offer. Now… it hardly needs stating that there’s more to music festivals than stroking one’s chin at bands. So Saturday night was as good a time as any to relinquish any thought of sobriety, any notion of “reviewing”, and simply have a bit of a party. A date had been made for 10 pm to watch a delightful bunch of ladies called the Hooping Harlots perform a spectacular LED hula-hoop display, with the added bonus that they let any old punter (e.g., me) practice their dubious hula skills with some of their less precious hoops. Even though I can keep it up indefinitely (that’s what she said!) I can’t do anything more exciting than that; the talented Harlots, however, can do the lot – spinning around the wrist, neck, and unbelievably, the shoulder, and swapping between them all with a fluid ease that defies description. Add to that the LED light show within the hoops, and it’s a spectacle guaranteed to scramble already delicate festival minds.

The whole thing took place at the well-named Tipple Taxi, a London cab converted into a bijou drinking den, one of many micro-venues scattered around the site, making an evening stumble around the place into a voyage of one exciting discovery after another – from the Chai Wallah’s tent rising from the horizontal for a bit of a boogie finale, to the lucky dip of sounds that is Riot Jazz. The climax of any good Saturday night at Kendal has to be the Glow Dance Tent, however.

Which is where it should, and does, become a little hazy. There are photographs – oh, what photographs. The essence of the sublime confusion of a properly executed night in the company of dance music is expressed therein. Please take a look. Musically, Krafty Kutz expressed their unsurpassed UK hip hop beats and flow, assisted by A Skillz. Needless to say there was dubstep bass all over the house, the constant battle between vocal lines, sub bass, and 8-bit melodies proving too much to bear for some. Check out the Dirtyphonics remix of Pounding for more information, and to experience the enormous bass which sets the level for a Krafty Kutz experience. The level reaches even higher with the introduction of the mentalist blend of wound-up beats, vocals, and samples that comprises ‘Happiness’. Spotify it out.

Suffice to say by the time Maribou State took over at 2 AM, the tent was in great need of a bit of glitchy, soulful techno to rest weary limbs. But even then, the subtle electronica coalesced into an irresistible hole of bouncing heads and knowing looks as the next hour passed in a haze of exhaustion. We were to stagger, spent and silent, to a wreck of flooded, ransacked tents… but that’s a story for another day.

 
 
 

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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.

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