For editor Mary's coverage of SXSW 2013, go here.
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FYI our fearless editor Mary is currently on holiday (sort of, she says, since she'll be working on blog-y things for most of it) in Britain and the site won't be as updated as frequently until she returns stateside after the 23rd of May. Don't worry though, we'll be busy this month going to festivals (Liverpool Sound City, the Great Escape) and loads of great content is on its way!
2012 had it all, didn’t it? London 2012, the Diamond Jubilee, James fucking Bond returning in a blaze of balls-out guts and glory and some great music to boot (we’re ignoring Muse’s Olympic song ‘Survival’, don’t worry).
Had it all though? Every classic British summer needs something, and 2012 was drastically missing it: that cornucopia of eccentricity and old-school values, Glastonbury. Where were Mssrs. Eavis squared, where was the Pyramid Stage, where was Worthy Farm? Healing, nursing its wounds. In preparation for a shindig 26-30 June 2013 that’ll remind the British populace of the importance of the institution that is the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.
To make it a year to remember, though, one thing is certain. That the bands they are going to have must have that clout that makes punters stand erect and to attention. Enter Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, a year after the Rolling Stones‘ 50th anniversary. They’ve never played the legendary Pyramid Stage and it seems that finally the Eavises have gotten their way and secured easily one of the biggest draws that the music industry has to offer.
Joining them atop the almighty Pyramid are a band who have already set tongues a wagging once with their Glastonbury exploits. We are of course talking about the Arctic Monkeys (pictured at top), who are now four albums strong and flaunting their new-found maturity. The most surprising and probably most controversial bill-topper is the biggest marmite act around at the moment: The USA-smashing Mumford and Sons, riding high on the crest of the wave of success of last year’s ‘Babel’, and wading through the swathes of critical approval.
But with Glastonbury, you know it isn’t all about the headliners, with over 1,000 artists appearing across a multitude of stages over the weekend. Arctic Monkeys not floating ya boat? Check out The Smashing Pumpkins instead. Pyramid Stage too mainstream for you? Portishead will be bringing their trip hop stylings to the farm in a set surely not to be missed at any cost.
Further down the bill you’ve got math rockers Foals, Enter Shikari, Mr. Controversial Tyler, The Creator and crooner Maverick Sabre.
That take your fancy? Well, if it does, resale is closing up, so get that hammer out and give your piggy bank a good smashing, as this festival is *not* one to be missed.
Is there any point to the BRITs? Granted, it gives a certain demographic of London teenager the opportunity to sting Daddy for the eye-watering £70 ticket price, no doubt getting stuffed with half-term pizza and fructose syrup before spending three hours squealing loudly at microscopic effigies of their latest tabloid-endorsed musical crushes. But beyond that, does any vestige of musical credibility remain within the unhallowed, chart-obsessed recesses of the BRIT Award psyche?
A swift perusal of the nominations, released yesterday, would indicate: maybe, actually. The usual mega-selling suspects are there: Emeli Sandé, Mumford and Sons, Robbie Williams, Olly Murs. But look a little deeper and could there just be enough respect for the breakthrough, even the underground, so that beyond the face paint and lasers, there’s a bedrock of credibility?
Step forward Richard Hawley, the most unlikely of the entire nomination list, proving that the BRITs aren’t immune to a decent bit of ‘70s-throwback guitar action and heart-on-the-sleeve balladry from a bequiffed Yorkshireman. Plan B also deserves a shout for his unflinching portrayal of council estate life in ‘Ill Manors’, which still deserves to make more of an impact than it has.
Jessie Ware gathers two nods, a fine result for her this early in her career, single-handedly making 2011’s Critic’s Choice Award for her namesake Jessie J look ever more ridiculous. The more listeners turned on to her coolly urban soul, the better. Paloma Faith is also up for two gongs – British Female Solo is fair enough, but British Album of the Year for ‘Fall to Grace’, for a collection significantly worse than her début, is deeply suspect. British Group unoriginally throws up two previous Mercury Prize winners: unlikely media darlings alt-J, and minimalist electro-songsters the xx; Muse are nominated for the ninth (and tenth) time, with Mumford and One Direction predictably making up the numbers. A rum collection, if ever there was one, and despite the disparate yet singular talents of each, hardly a state-of-the-nation statement.
The British Single category is too depressing to analyse deeply. Suffice to say a more turgid collection of middle-of-the-road dross it’s difficult to conceive. Any list containing the execrable ‘Mama Do the Hump’ by Rizzle Kicks deserves to be encased in concrete and dropped into a very deep hole. Thankfully each of the British Breakthrough nominees have something to commend them, though surely Jake Bugg is the most extraordinary of the lot; his compellingly grizzled, world-weary, yet uplifting take on vintage blues in his debut album means he should have no problem in lifting the spotted statue next month.
Ironically, there’s far less to complain about the International (read: American) nominees. Perhaps it’s because we expect the USA to do bigness well, it’s difficult to complain about someone like Bruce Springsteen being nominated, although one wonders just how much pride of place a BRIT award would take on the dashboard of his pickup truck.
As always, it’s good to see producers, the guys behind the desk who really make the music, getting their opportunity to shine, although it seems somewhat unfair that Damon Albarn should be sharing their limelight – hasn’t he had enough of it by now? If the Albarn effect can be resisted, Paul Epworth should walk away with this one, although personally I prefer listening to his sister’s output to his. And what of Amy Winehouse and The Rolling Stones, both nominated, neither deservedly? Stop it, BRITs! Pick people who are more alive!
The 2013 BRITs take place on Wednesday the 20th of February at London’s O2 Arena. TGTF will be reporting, either from the event itself, or from somewhere else in London more interesting. Watch this space.
Who should win the British Brits, I reckon?
Male Solo: Richard Hawley
Female Solo: Jessie Ware
Breakthrough: Jake Bugg
Group: One Direction
Single: Alex Clare – ‘Too Close’
Album: Plan B – ‘Ill Manors’
Producer: Paul Epworth
Full list of nominees after the jump.
Continue reading The 2013 BRIT Awards – The Nominees
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 5th November 2012 at 6:00 pm
Mumford and Sons‘ current single ‘Lover of the Light’ has a pretty cool video: it’s a mini film starring and directed by actor Idris Elba. I’ll let the band take it from here:
We are, quite obviously, huge fans of Idris Elba’s acting work, as pretty much anyone can agree he’s the most badass British actor since Richard Briars. So we trusted him as the director for our latest video.
“We’ve been fortunate to work with some great directors in the past, but we’ve always been uncomfortable with the process of making music videos. We’ve never really enjoyed being in them, unless they involve live performance.”
“Talking to Idris and Dan [Cadan, acclaimed script writer] about making a video that we’re not in made it a lot more fun to think about. They went off and wrote the treatment after our ale-infused conversation in a pub in London, and what they directed, we are proud to present as: ‘Lover of the Light.’”
Mumford will also release a live DVD, ‘The Road To Red Rocks’, on the 26th of November through Gentlemen of the Road/Island Records.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 26th September 2012 at 4:00 pm
Mumford and Sons appeared this past weekend on American late night tv programme Saturday Night Live, and from all accounts, it went down a treat. Watch this video of them performing ‘I Will Wait’ below.
Catch the quartet on the road in November and December, as they bring their new album ‘Babel’ to clubs and arenas across the UK and Ireland.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 25th September 2012 at 9:00 am
Mumford and Sons will be bringing their frenetic live show to UK clubs in November and arenas in the UK and Ireland in December. All November theatre shows are priced at £23.50. All December arena shows are priced at £29.50, except London at £32.50/£29.50. Tickets go on sale this Friday (28 September) at 9 AM on Mumford’s official Web site.
My review of their latest album ‘Babel’, now out on Gentlemen of the Road / Island, can be read here.
Wednesday 21st November 2012 – Torquay Princess Theatre
Thursday 22nd November 2012 – Portsmouth Guildhall
Friday 23rd November 2012 – Ipswich Regent Theatre
Sunday 25th November 2012 – Dundee Caird Hall
Monday 26th November 2012 – Carlisle Sands Centre
Tuesday 27th November 2012 – Llandudno Venue Cymru
Tuesday 4th December 2012 – Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
Wednesday 5th December 2012 – Glasgow SECC
Friday 7th December 2012 – Birmingham LG Arena
Monday 10th December 2012 – Manchester Arena
Tuesday 11th December 2012 – London O2
Thursday 13th December 2012 – Cardiff CIA
Saturday 15th December 2012 – Belfast Odyssey Arena
Sunday 16th December 2012 – Dublin O2
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 21st September 2012 at 12:00 pm
In an interview with Steve Lamacq on BBC 6music Wednesday night, Mumford and Sons were entirely humble about their worldwide popularity. Keyboardist Ben Lovett even asked out loud, “why us?” They still seem surprised by their success, admitting that many others have tried to do the same thing as them, yet they were the ones that rose to the top.
As we have all seen with the explosion of the folk rock genre immediately following the acclaim of the band’s debut album ‘Sigh No More’ in October 2009, many bands have challenged Mumford and Sons’ solid grip on the Kings of Folk sceptre, including bands we’ve featured here on TGTF Dry the River, Dog is Dead, Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men and Australia’s Husky. Only time will tell if any of these bands will surpass the popularity of the original, but what is of equal importance is if Mumford’s latest release is up to snuff.
We would be remiss not to discuss the album’s title. Talking to Rolling Stone, bassist Ted Dwane says of the heavy name, “I think it’s a great story, the story of Babel. I think anyone can direct it as an analogy for a lot of different situations…I think everyone can [relate to the story of Babel], yes. It’s such a human thing. As humans, we’re such a discontented species. We’re always trying to further ourselves, and you get all the way to the moon and then it’s just discontent. You want to go to Mars. You know, there’s so many stories in that story. There’s definitely, like, analogies for our strange behavior as a species that I consider interesting.” As I’m not a religious person at all, I had to go looking for what this Biblical story of the Tower of Babel was all about.
From what I gathered in my brief research, the story is designed to be an example of a deity’s decision to throw a group of people a curve ball, mostly to force them to stop their attempt to build a structure that would allow them to reach heaven, so they would have to regroup and reassess to face the new challenges put before them. As for the “strange behavior” Dwane mentions in the Rolling Stone interview, one such strange behaviour would be the overzealous fans of Mumford and Sons, those that have made the band into gods. It’s something that us writers here at TGTF have discussed at times, and judging from Lovett’s rhetorical question on Lammo’s programme Wednesday night, the band themselves are wondering, all the while amused, about this as well. ‘Below My Feet’, the second to last track of ‘Babel’, distills this humility in song, but in a more serious fashion. Lyrics “Let me learn where I have been / keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn” can be the words of the departed or someone who is still here on earth, seeking to take what good that’s been given to him and make good with it. While you never would have expected Mumford and Sons to succumb to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, I think this song is a great pledge by the band to remain grounded. Below is video taken from Glasto of the band performing this very song.
My first observation upon listening to the whole album all the way through for the first time: there’s an awful lot of kneeling going on in here. And as might be expected from Dwane’s chat with Rolling Stone, many of the songs on ‘Babel’ are tinged with religious overtones. The title track attacks the story head on, with Marcus Mumford declaring, “you’ll build your walls, and I will play my bloody part / to tear, to tear… / but I’m gonna tear…tear them down!” as Winston Marshall’s banjo bangs gaily along. The words “I’m not a fraud / I’ve set out to serve the lord” feel a bit heavy-handed in ‘Whispers in the Dark’. ‘Broken Crown’ stands up with defiance, as if Jesus had a singing voice and bore down on Satan, rejecting the temptation of Christ. Not sure how God feels about the words “crawl on my belly til the sun goes down / I’ll never wear your broken crown / I’ll take the ropes and fuck it all the way / in this twilight, how dare you speak of grace” though….
‘I Will Wait’, the first single released from the album, was a safe choice: it’s got the feel good chord progressions melody and slap happy vibe of all of Mumford and Sons’ most popular songs from ‘Sigh No More’ (‘Roll Away Your Stone’, ‘Little Lion Man’). That said, it can become easily tiresome with its repetitiveness and lack of originality. While sounding nice, ‘Not with Haste’ just doesn’t push the right buttons for me, feeling like filler. ‘Hopeless Wanderers’ and ‘Lover of the Light’, the latter of which the band performed for the Austin City Limits tv programme, see the band trying too hard to write another ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ building to a hoedown number.
The songs that succeed better on ‘Babel’ are those that show the band wearing their hearts on their sleeve, ‘Lovers’ Eyes’ and ‘Reminder’. This would have served as a delicious one song after another in the middle of the album but unfortunately on ‘Lovers’ Eyes’, there is an unnecessary boom of sound when the chorus comes in, as if the band realised all of a sudden, “oh shoot, there isn’t loud enough”. ‘Ghosts That We Knew’ is like a ‘Winter Winds’ pt. 2, except this time the message isn’t filled with sorrow or regretful, but a positive one of moving forward from the darkest days: “but I will hold on as long as you like / just promise me that we’ll be all right”.
I can – and do – appreciate Mumford and Sons tackling some difficult subjects on ‘Babel’, and for sure, this is a nice-sounding set of songs that will get played over and over, night after night on the band’s future sold out tours. But with a band that’s gone on to sell millions of records, we expect more. It’s too heavy-handed if you’re in the mood for a ‘fun’ album, but chances are if you’ve picked up a Mumford album in the past, what you’re looking for are good harmonies and a banjo. You just won’t find anything amazing on here.
‘Babel’, Mumford and Sons’ second album, will be out on Monday (the 24th of September) on Gentlemen of the Road / Island Records.