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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 19th May 2016 at 9:00 am
In this day and age, there are an overwhelming number of music festivals big and small vying for your attention and your hard-earned cash. While we’ve been to the biggies such as SXSW and The Great Escape, there’s something to be said about the smaller events in the less likely places that offer incredible value. Seven years ago, I covered my first UK music festival and now in 2016, I’m chuffed to bits that we’ll be sending another of the TGTF writers out to cover Dot to Dot Festival 2016. If you find yourself not having any plans for the upcoming second May bank holiday weekend, Dot to Dot could, in a pinch, serve as a welcome musical salve to keep your weekend lively.
In case you’ve not heard of Dot to Dot, it’s like behemoth Reading and Leeds in that the bands move on to the next city of the festival, so that nearly all acts set to appear in the franchise will appear in all locations. However, for those who lack the endurance for a longer festival or indeed, for those lacking the desire to commit to more days of an event, Dot to Dot is a 1-day festival, put on at various venues in Manchester (Friday the 27th of May), Bristol (Saturday the 28th of May) and Nottingham (Sunday the 29th of May).
Heading the top of the bill are English indie darlings Mystery Jets, who released their fifth album ‘Curve of the Earth’ at the start of the year. You can read my review of their latest long player here; Rebecca caught some of the band’s set at Live at Leeds late last month too. Providing a welcome contrast, American trio Augustines (pictured at top) will also be appearing at Dot to Dot, ahead of their new album ‘This is Your Life’ out in June on Caroline International in the UK and PIAS America in America. If Steven’s impression of recent single ‘When Things Fall Apart’ is any indication, the synthesisers will be out in full force during their set.
Another big name scheduled to appear at the festival are The Temper Trap, who will be releasing their long-awaited third album ‘Thick as Thieves’ on the same day as Augustines’ LP drops, the 10th of June. They’ll be appearing at a super secret Amazon Music show this Saturday at the Great Escape 2016 in Brighton, but why wonder if you’re going to see them or not and just buy a ticket to Dot to Dot and ensure you will? Check out their teaser track ‘Fall Together’ above. Other inclusions on the lineup of note to us include Irish band Little Green Cars, whose second album ‘Ephemera’ was released in early March, and SXSW 2016 BBC Introducing stage alums The Sherlocks and ESTRONS, as well as Manchester’s SXSW 2015 BBC Introducing breakout band Spring King, whose debut album for Island Records will also drop on the 10th of June. (Seriously, what is up with that date?!?) Check out a stripped back Radio 1 Piano Sessions version of their track ‘The Summer’ they did live for Huw Stephens below.
There are, of course, a blindingly amazing list of other acts scheduled to appear at Dot to Dot in 2 weekends’ time, and we invite to check out the official Web site for the most current information on the event. Tickets are available for all three cities at the incredibly low price of £27.50 (including booking fee) directly from Alt-Tickets.
This year, 2016, marks the 10th anniversary of the highly acclaimed city-based festival Live at Leeds. I wasn’t sure what to expect ahead of the day – I’ve attended a number of different festivals in the past, but never Live at Leeds, and never with the intention of writing about it afterwards. After overcoming my own apprehension and a couple of inevitable setbacks on the day, I’d call the endeavour a success, and despite my very sore feet, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
First on my list was Atlantic Shore at The Faversham, the music venue that dates back to 1947 and boasts of having Arctic Monkeys and The Gossip amongst others perform there. I arrived a couple of songs into Atlantic Shore’s set while the crowd was still relatively small. The unsigned band’s music is a mixture of pop, indie and rock, and they have recently been featured on BBC Introducing Merseyside. The band seemed to face a few feedback issues during the set, but they went with it and played a heartfelt set, which included ‘The Comedown’ and ‘Easier’ from the band’s latest extended single release.
Following editor Mary’s preview list ahead of the festival, I did my best to cover as many of those recommendations as possible. This meant that my next stop was to see The Jackobins at Leeds Beckett Stage 2. I arrived about halfway through the set and was immediately blown away by the sheer stage presence of the band. They were evidently having the best time and in control of the room. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a frontman – in the form of Dominic Bassnett, in this case – of an up-and-coming band look more like he was born to be on stage, and with such a powerful voice too. Lead guitarist Veso Mihaylov looked like he would have been happy to continue playing for the rest of the day, and the whole audience was nodding and bopping along.
After The Jackobins I dashed over to the Brudenell Social Club to watch The Velveteens. Their live sound is brasher and denser sounding than the recorded versions of their songs, but it suited the setting well. Included in the set was ’60s surf-sounding single ‘Mister Blackjack’, which is the perfect sound for a crowd to dance along to. The crowd did seem to stick to the back of the room, and had to be encouraged to move closer, which was more a reflection on the layout of the room than the band themselves. The band were comfortable having a chat and playful back and forth with one another on stage, perfectly natural in their environment.
In the neighbouring room, on the Brudenell Social Club’s main stage, Demob Happy only played for approximately 7 minutes, due to getting caught in traffic. But for those two songs Demob Happy performed with a ferocious energy that got the crowd sufficiently hyped up to thoroughly enjoy the set and lament that it couldn’t have gone on for longer. As I left the venue, amongst the group that had just watched the performance, I overheard numerous people saying they wished the band could have played for longer, and a couple of guys even started singing the lyrics to ‘Succubus’. I couldn’t help but agree with them. From the moment the band arrived, as they threw their guitars onto the stage and began hurriedly unravelling cables, the focus was on them, and the minute they started playing the crowd was evidently glad to have stuck around.
Next on my list was Dublin-based Otherkin, which meant a return to Stage 2 at Leeds Beckett. A couple of songs into the set, the enigmatic lead singer Luke Reilly had removed his shirt and was moving about the stage with the confidence of Iggy Pop as he took the occasional swig from a can of Heineken. The band’s edgy pop-rock sound translated well live, with the band playing their popular singles ‘I Was Born’ and ‘Ay Ay’. Looking ahead to a return to the city in late summer, Reilly’s final words to the crowd were, “we’ll see you at Leeds Festival”.
With a few moments to spare before the next band on my list, I managed to pop into the Academy and catch a few of Mystery Jets’ tracks. The room was packed to the rafters, with people jostling about to get a closer view, and dancing and singing along. I managed to hear a couple of songs from their latest album ‘Curve of the Earth’ (’Midnight’s Mirror’ and ‘Blood Red Balloon’) before leaving just after their crowd-pleasing early career megahit ‘Half In Love With Elizabeth’. There was evidently a big buzz around the band’s performance, but I was glad to get out of the crowd and return to the outdoors once more.
Keep an eye on TGTF for part 2 of Rebecca’s Live at Leeds 2016 coverage, which is scheduled to post tomorrow.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 8th March 2016 at 6:30 pm
Following the release of their fifth studio album ‘Curve of the Earth’ in January, Mystery Jets have unveiled a new video for ‘Bubblegum’, their next single that will be out at the start of April. For the promo for ‘Bubblegum’, they’ve chosen to use something entirely unconventional: the view from drones along the Red Sands region off the UK coast. The description from the press release is as follows:
Just seven miles off the British coast is a place called Red Sands, where there are giant alien towers rising from the ocean on rusted legs. Built in the Thames Estuary to defend the United Kingdom from air raids during the WWII, the forts have been decommissioned for more than 50 years. Delicate and at risk, they are usually off-limits to the public, but the Mystery Jets got special access with the help of a group of passionate volunteers at Project Red Sands, to fly a drone around the strange structures and shoot a spectacular music video. Please learn more and support the ambitious project trying to secure their future at: http://www.project-redsand.com/
Watch the unique video below. ‘Bubblegum’ is out on the 1st of April on Caroline International. For more on TGTF’s coverage on Mystery Jets, go here.
Now that we’re into 2016, it’s time to get excited for the year’s festival season. We’d already seen a few of the lineup revealed for Live at Leeds (read this previous preview post), but now we’ve been not as much teased but inundated with over 65 new acts.
Joining the already stellar lineup of Circa Waves, We Are Scientists and Jess Glynne, we have a nice variety of genres being represented, from the small and unsigned to those acts who are well established in the festival circuit.
First of the major players is Ghostpoet (picture at top), who you may remember had his 2015 album ‘Shedding Skin’ nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. His is pretty much the name on the tip of the tongue of anyone involved in the industry at the moment. On playing the festival, Ghostpoet says, “It’s nice to be returning to Live at Leeds after playing it for the first time a few years back. Should be fun!”
Another name everyone should be familiar with is Mystery Jets, who over the past 13 years have been unrelenting in their output. Flirting with a mixture of genres has ensured they always have a fresh sound that’s apt for the time. They’ll no doubt be playing tunes from their latest album effort, ‘Curve of the Earth’, which was released last month.
There’s also Stockport’s Blossoms, who return after a triumphant show at Leeds Uni Stylus last year, as well as coming fourth in BBC’s Sound of 2016 list. They are certainly going to be a crowd pleaser and not to be missed.
Milk Teeth are another band that have been gathering a lot of attention of the past few months. Their style is reminiscent of early 90’s pop-punk with a twinge of grunge, a sound that is slowly making its way back into the mainstream consciousness. Their debut record ‘Vile Child’ is out now on Hopeless Records and will no doubt leave a massive impression on those who manage to catch their show.
Live at Leeds is fast becoming a staple in the festival season and is going from strength to strength. The way this lineup is shaping up, along with announcements for other festivals slowly creeping out into the daylight, 2016 could turn out to be one of the strongest festival seasons yet.
The entire plethora of announced acts can be found on the Live at Leeds Web site. Tickets are still available at http://lunatickets.co.uk/live-at-leeds-2016.html.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 13th January 2016 at 12:00 pm
As I alluded to in my review of early album teaser ‘Telomere’ late last year, Mystery Jets’ journey to this exact place in time hasn’t been via a straight line. ‘Radlands’, their fourth studio album released in 2012, totally threw me for a loop: it seemed the band’s best attempt to sound as un-British and as much American as they could. After the nearly nonstop corkerfest ‘Serotonin’ in 2010, it was a jarringly hard listen. While Mystery Jets’ return with 2016’s ‘Curve of the Earth’ isn’t a return to form to their ‘Twenty-One’ days – I’m not suggesting that’s what I am looking for, as they’ve gotten older and matured, so it makes sense they’ve moved on from their Noughties-era sound – the lack of definitive pop hits is, to me, a problem.
However, if this NME news item is to be believed and indeed, prog legends Pink Floyd and King Crimson served as primary influences for ‘Curve of the Earth’, then in the grand scheme of things, this all makes sense. Basically, this album makes you feel like you’ve gotten stuck in a ‘70s time warp, and there’s a definite sense that it’s all been done before. (For example, ‘The End Up‘ feels like a strange Mystery Jets song déjà vu, until it closes the album with an unnecessarily extended, dream proggy outro.) Some people love this sort of thing – remember how Pete Best was remembered: “mean, moody and magnificent” – and I think it has a good shot of selling well. I just don’t see it appealing to everyone.
‘Bombay Blue’ falls somewhere between easy listening of the ‘70s (‘Radlands’ itself was described as the Jets doing the Eagles) and ‘80s. It’s nothing objectionable; in fact, I give them props for not falling into the lo-fi, psychedelic trap of Tame Impala and DIIV that seems to be informing nearly every new band these days. But it’s mostly a continuous, one-colour palette of grey that rarely goes out of its comfort zone. Midpoint tune ‘1985’ scores points for bringing up the energy, ever so slightly halfway through, otherwise following a similar path. As you’re listening to this collection of nine songs, you’re left wondering what might have been if the band were given a jolt of caffeine or Red Bull. Or maybe put under a sun lamp? The disused button factor in East London where the group purportedly recorded this album appears to not have done them any favours.
‘Taken by the Tide’ is the most surprising track in this collection: it has a sweeping kind of grandeur, but the second half is completely overtaken by a grungy bass guitar. A weird kind of cacophonous loudness is also in conflict with Blaine Harrison’s lead vocals, which have been noted through the years as being more emotional and thoughtful than raucous. Yet, finally, it’s great to get some real energy! (That elegiac organ on the end? Oh…) They’ve noted that ‘Curve of the Earth’ is their most personal work to date, so are these warring factions representative of their own internal struggles? The number that follows it, ‘Saturnine’, seems to have been written for the current astrological cycle we’re dealing with at this very moment, Saturn in Sagittarius. It’s supposed to be a time of philosophical, inward-turning thought, and William Rees’ lyrics reflect this in a lover’s unavailability: “your world is turning, I can feel it turning away/ I turn towards you, but you seem so far away.”
The closest the band get to pop on the album is, appropriately, on a song called ‘Bubblegum’. It’s a mildly upbeat number whose synthesiser lines remind me oddly of a cross between Springsteen and Dire Straits’ ‘Walk Of Life’, except less overtly happy and more on an inspirational bent, though with less than poetic verse (“on the sidewalks of my street” repeated, “we will disappear to two different sides / then I hope that the world in which you find / yourself in is better than the one you leave behind”). Another attempt at pop is in ‘Midnight’s Mirror’, in which the oozy woozy quality of dream pop is explored. Unfortunately, beyond the song’s most prominent quality, its crunchy percussion, there isn’t much else to hold your attention.
Probably the song on this album that might have benefitted most from a rework is ‘Blood Red Balloon’. Its repetitive synth lines are anything but mesmerising, sounding more appropriate for a video game, and with the dreamy vocals overlaid on top, the efforts seem confused. The jaunty guitar in the bridge should have been taken advantage more fully, as should have the lead guitar in the second half of the song. Opportunities missed. Hopefully with an appropriate backline, the songs of ‘Curve of the Earth’ will translate better and will be proffered with more oomph in a live environment. With an appearance at the Great Escape 2016 already announced ahead of summer festival season, there will be plenty of chance to see if this turns out to be true.
Mystery Jets’ fifth studio album ‘Curve of the Earth’ will be released this Friday, the 15th of January, on Caroline International. The band have already announced live appearances in the UK and Ireland in January and February and a high-profile slot at The Great Escape 2016 in Brighton in May, with many more similar types of announcements to come, I’m sure.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 10th December 2015 at 12:00 pm
The career of the Mystery Jets hasn’t exactly followed a linear path. One could argue that their journey has been affected immeasurably by line-up changes, including the notable departures of founding member and Blaine Harrison’s dad Henry from live performance in 2007 and bass player Kai Fish in 2012 to embark on a solo career. However, having been together now as a band unit for over 2 decades is clear proof of their resilience in the ever-changing music industry.
This week, after being quiet except for a one-off show here and there since the release of ‘Radlands’ after Fish’s departure, Mystery Jets announced that their fifth album ‘Curve of the Earth’ is now scheduled for release in mid-January. With that announcement, they’ve also revealed the promo video to the first taster from the LP. I’ve always had a soft spot for the band, personally relating to Blaine Harrison’s health struggles and their third album ‘Serotonin’ – named after a neurotransmitter, exactly the sort of thing that brings a smile to a biologist’s face – soundtracking a summer romance. New song ‘Telomere’ (pronounced TEEL-oh-meer) is another nod to science, referring to the protective ends of a chromosome. Basically, at least how it was explained to me by a genetics professor when I was in university, as you age and depending on your intake of certain antioxidants, the telomeres on your chromosomes get shorter and shorter, until you die.
Rather than take the literal morbid interpretation of the song title, consider Harrison’s thoughts to NME about the new track: “Telomeres are the things that keep your DNA together. I think, in essence, what [the song is] about is that there’s something in your blood that will never die, that’s bigger than human life. It’s some way coded into your DNA strands.” Similarly in a track-by-track analysis of the upcoming album for The Quietus, Harrison waxed philosophical with the following words about the song and its accompanying video: “They are thought to hold the secret to ageing and ultimately immortality. I loved the idea that there is this co-dependency between life and death that we will never fully understand. This is probably the first time Henry and I have used such an expressionistic approach to writing lyrics. It felt like a chance to let our listeners join the dots, and the same openness applied when we asked film makers to present an idea for the video.”
And the video is indeed an odd one. I’m going to take a stab and guess that after viewing what appear to be red blood cells under a microscope, everything else – really, *everyone* else – you see in the video are supposed to be representative of the building blocks of life. Their mud-smudged figures with indistinct faces dance around and carry on their important business, but they’re not particularly special individually. Harrison himself is changing form, his face swelling at one point in the video, then later getting covered in mud as he silently screams. Throughout the song, there’s a slightly annoying, yet earworm-y repeated guitar line that sounds like the rock equivalent of an ECG machine, which detects and monitors heartbeat and life.
While the song continues the existential theme that was explored on ‘Radlands’, missing is the heavy-handed Americana influence and out of place pedal steel guitar that pervaded the previous album. Perhaps this is not an odd turn of events, considering they’re still going after all these years, but the overall message in the sweeping chorus that life will continue on despite physical death is an uplifting one that carries ‘Telomere’ into anthemic territory. An excellent start.
‘Curve of the Earth’, Mystery Jets’ fifth studio album and their first for Caroline International following their departure from Rough Trade Records, will be released on the 15th of January 2016. Have a watch of the new album’s trailer below. For everything Mystery Jets on TGTF, head here.