Editor Mary is in Toronto for CMW 2016 this week.
Ongoing coverage of the event will be on our Twitter and on the site this way.
SXSW 2016 | 2015
| 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012
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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.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 21st December 2012 at 11:00 am
Another year, and another top 5 gigs by bands that should not be missed live. How odd that three of them came one after another, but that’s the cool thing about Washington DC. Except for December through the beginning of February (the dead of winter) and June through August (festival season), there is always a reasonably good selection of bands coming through here. But that hasn’t always been the case.
I am often asked on my travels why I became a music blogger, and the simple answer has always been this: when I started covering shows in March 2009, I was getting increasingly upset about how many bands (American or international) would skip Washington entirely, either in favour of going to Philadelphia instead or would only consider New York, or maybe Boston, as the only cities worthy on the East Coast for a tour stop. I have had the opportunity to meet so many bands in the last 3+ years that Washington DC has now become considered on the list of cities bands sincerely wish to play in – or on the list that bands say they will definitely pass through on their next headline tours of North America. To know that I have been involved in making this paradigm shift a reality means so much. It means that I have done something for the city I’ve called home all these years and more importantly, have exposed thousands of music fans from varying walks of life who either work, go to school, or pass through our fine city to incredible music.
All five bands whose gigs landed them in my top 5 gigs of 2012 are worth every red cent you can put forward to go see them, either in their own gig or at a festival in 2013. Here’s the list…
5. Ash‘s 20th anniversary tour at DC9 (Thursday 15th November 2012) – what a surreal experience, finally seeing Ash live, in one of the smallest places to see bands in Washington. Even more surreal was after, when I actually got to talk to all of them and Tim Wheeler said I was a more appropriate panelist for Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable than he was. (This made me smile.) The set itself was brilliantly hard rocky, much more so than I ever would have imagined.
4. TGTF’s stage at Liverpool Sound City 2012, starring the Temper Trap, Clock Opera and Dear Prudence – Liverpool Academy of Arts (Friday 18th May 2012) – maybe this is cheating, choosing our own stage at Liverpool. But this night couldn’t have been any better, starring our friends since I took over as Editor of this Web site, the Temper Trap, our new friends from SXSW, Clock Opera, and a band from Brighton destined to bigger things, Dear Prudence. All we can say is THANK YOU to all the bands for making it such a memorable night and THANK YOU Sound City for letting us host this amazing stage.
3. Husky at Red Palace (Friday 17th November 2012) – it’s a sad day in Washington, as Red Palace, similar in intimate size to DC9, will be closing its doors at the end of 2012. But before then, I managed to catch the Melbourne band we befriended at this year’s Great Escape. Just check out this video from the show of the band performing an a capella version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Lover Lover Lover’ and you’ll understand why they’re so good live.
2. the Joy Formidable at St. Stephen’s Church (Saturday 10th November 2012) – the Welsh band have consistently placed in my top 5 gigs of the last 2 years; last year they were at #4 and in 2010, they were at #2. What made the difference and put them higher up this year? Seriously, how often do you see such a power house band in a space as small as a church’s rec room? (Well, it was a little bigger than that…but still.) Absolutely fabulous. And their new album ‘Wolf’s Law’ will be huge next year; just check out this live version of first single ‘Cholla’.
1. Two Door Cinema Club at 9:30 Club (Tuesday 2nd October 2012) – I was having serious reservations about Two Door’s live show, or rather some of their less than nice fans, after seeing them in Baltimore in June and getting shoved – hard – out of our positions down the front. I almost swore I’d never see them again. But I’m glad I changed my mind.
What was the first date on the autumn 2012 North American tour to sell out? Washington DC, of course. There is still some confusion on whether or not Barack Obama is a fan, but one thing is clear: of all the bands that I’ve known and loved, I did right by Two Door Cinema Club – and helped them become the superstars that they’ve dreamt of being since they started as kids in grammar school. I used to be able to see them after shows and hang out with them, but even as those days are over, they’ve never forgotten me. They are true gents.
St. Etienne at U Street Music Hall (Thursday 25th October 2012) – there’s something to be said for Sarah Cracknall, who may be over 40 but still rocks it out every night as if she was in her 20s.
Divine Fits at 9:30 Club (Thursday 18th October 2012) – it always feels incredibly validating when you see a ‘new’ band who hasn’t been touring much…and they turn out to be absolutely fantastic.
Keane with Mystery Jets at Strathmore Hall (Thursday 14th June 2012) – it’s effin’ Keane, for god’s sakes. And with Mystery Jets, who never tour in America! Win-win, really.
Paula and Karol at 93 Feet East in London (Tuesday 15th May 2012) – what do you do between music festivals? Go to a gig, of course. And at this one, I felt welcomed by the entire Polish population of London. What atmosphere.
First Aid Kit at Black Cat (Friday 30th March 2012) – this show was so spirited, the elder Soderberg lost her top right before the encore. Hardcore.
After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2012 so you can have some idea how difficult my job was to choose favourites for the top 5 list. The runner-up gigs are also marked.
Continue reading Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th December 2012 at 11:00 am
Wowsers, has this year flown by or what? I can scarcely believe we’re ready to celebrate Christmas in a week’s time, but you know what that means, boys and girls. It’s time for the editor’s top picks of 2012. Unlike most lists that have already published either in print or online, there will be no mentions of Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar or DIIV. Sorry. No, and this year, I tried to get away from dance as I could, which seems really odd considering where I found myself 2 years ago; this is probably good commentary on the music scene at large, where beats – either urban or poppy – have invaded nearly every facet of radio and except for the odd album or two, I found these to be completely devoid of heart. Or character. (But there were 3 in my top 10 that were arguably dance albums, so maybe there’s still hope…) Without further delay, here are my picks for 2012.
1. The Crookes – ‘Hold Fast’ (Fierce Panda) – In the shadow of love – in its electric (2010’s #1, Delphic’s ‘Acolyte’) and nostalgic, life affirming (2011’s #1, Noah and the Whale’s ‘Last Night on Earth’) forms – my #1 this year goes as far back to basics with the good ol’ pop-tinged rock ‘n’ roll of Sheffield’s Crookes. I’ve always thought that the smartest songwriters are those that can write catchy tunes while also offering up thought-provoking, intelligent lyric; guitarist Daniel Hopewell fits this description to a T.
This album would feel equally at home in the 1960s as it does in 2012. There is no studio trickery or fancy production here, just heartfelt (and heartbroken in ‘Maybe in the Dark’) feelings being sung to memorable melodies that can help to remind you of simpler times. Or simply remind you of the important people who have coloured your life. Do yourself a favour and get this album. If you’re not sold yet, read my review of ‘Hold Fast’ here.
2. Keston Cobblers’ Club – ‘One, for Words’ (Beatnik Geek) – It has been shown to us time and time again that family members who sing together make some incredible music. (For one, the Beach Boys.) In Julia and Matthew Lowe, we have familial alchemy at work again, this time on some incredible folk pop. When one album can make you laugh, make you cry, make you wistful for a former lover, make you remember through happy tears your life experiences, that is truly special indeed, and that’s what I’ve gotten out of ‘One, for Words’. I expect to be playing this album again and again until my final days. You can read my review of their debut album here.
3. Grimes – ‘Visions’ (4AD) – Claire Boucher is now one of the hottest commodities in the music business these days, and surely the biggest game changer from Canada since Arcade Fire. Every time I tried to catch the baby-voiced master of synths and sequencers in 2012, I never actually managed to get in. Thankfully though, I have this album to keep me company whenever things have gone boring in my life. Variety is the key word of this album, with ambient, industrial, pop and minimalist genres all touched on for one eclectic group of songs. Every time you pick up this album, you’ll hear something exciting you missed the last time around, and I don’t think it’s possible for ‘Visions’ to get old. Read my review here.
4. Casiokids – ‘Aabenbaringen over aaskammen’ (Moshi Moshi) – There’s no way I could have forgotten the craziness of Casiokids’ third album. Even in the middle of winter, thoughts of a pineapple-shaped maraca, the sheer wonkiness of ‘Det Haster!’ and ‘Dresinen’, and disco and jungle beats working in harmony on the same album easily warmed my heart. This is controlled chaos, in a way that only Nordics manage to do it. And even if you go into this album thinking, “no way is this album going to lift my mood”, trust me, it will. You’ll even leave it with a knowing yet silly grin on your face.Read more here.
5. Husky – ‘Forever So’ (Sub Pop) – The Husky debut album was an example of when you keep hearing the name of a band so many times, you’re wondering what the fuss is all about. Well, wonder no more. If you’re the first-ever signing to a indie label as storied as Sub Pop, then you better bring the goods, and Husky Gawenda and co. do just that in a Fleet Foxes meets the sadness of Nick Drake vehicle. If you’ve ever been slayed by gorgeous harmonies, this album’s for you. Read my review of it here.
After the cut: some albums that just missed the top 5 cut, and others that disappointed.
Continue reading Top Albums of 2012: Editor’s Picks