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Warning: this video contains big riffs, sordid sexy bass chugs and a screech or two.
Oh, and something about a horrid afterbirth-y creature with a hairpiece on, which starts breathing. But ignore that.
The video to Pulled Apart By Horses’ ‘Lizard Baby’ has dominated a lot of the chatter in the build-up the single’s eventual release in September. What the fuss is about is particularly beyond me. But perhaps seeing as I have done a stint at Zoo Magazine and worked with the ex-Production Editor of Bizarre, it takes a little more than usual to see me regurgitating last night’s roast dinner. The new single is a turnaround from their last album’s opening single, the aural bombardment that is ‘V.E.N.O.M.’
‘Lizard Baby’ seems like a far more measured approach from a band with a far grungier look than they’ve ever had, in their short career. After a thudding bass roll that continues throughout, the song introduces Tom Hudson, and then the band delves into more composed territory than we’ve ever seen before from Pulled Apart by Horses. A band known for the frenetic pace and incredibly pacey riffs have moved into Pixies-esque territory.
It’s far more melodic than the short, sharp bursts of frantic alternative rock we’ve come to expect from the band, with a Nirvana ‘Heart Shaped Box’-tinged vibe. Undeniably, it’s a headbanger throughout – the riffs are colossal and it builds to an enormous crescendo, with some classic Horses’ screeching. Whether it’s a warning shot as to what we can expect on the 1st of September, when their third album ‘Blood’ is also released, I’m less sure. But I sense perhaps these young ruffians from Leeds have decided to steer away from singing songs about how they ‘Punched a Lion in the Throat’ towards a more Foo Fighters’ Radio 1-friendly rock. It doesn’t seem like the boys have lost any of their edge; the wildly bizarre video is testament to that.
Let’s just hope these horses haven’t been tamed by the prospect of the Radio 1 A-listing and Fearne Cotton’s warm bosom.
‘Lizard Baby’, Pulled Apart by Horses’ next single, is out on the 1st of September, the same day their third album ‘Blood’ will be released.
There has been quite a lot of buzz around Luke Sital-Singh‘s debut album ‘The Fire Inside’, going back all the way to his first EP release, ‘Fail For You’ in 2012. Sital-Singh has been tipped for success by the likes of The Guardian, The Telegraph and BBC Radio. The album was featured recently on the 7th of August episode of Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable on BBC 6music, and though Lamacq’s participants gave it a rather lukewarm reception, Sital-Singh’s anthemic choruses and refined folk ballads would seem to be a very comfortable fit for mainstream radio.
Cobbled together with tracks from Sital-Singh’s earlier EP releases (the aforementioned ‘Fail For You’ and 2013’s ‘Old Flint’ and ‘Tornados’) and newly written songs guided by the production assistance of Iain Archer (Jake Bugg, Tired Pony, Snow Patrol), ‘The Fire Inside’ alternates between moments of soaring optimism and quiet introspection. Musically, the songs are unapologetically melodic, built around the simple poetic rhythms and structures of Sital-Singh’s emotionally charged lyrics.
The main factor distinguishing Sital-Singh from many of his colleagues in the alt-folk genre is his exquisite singing voice. Though he has garnered comparisons to such singer-songwriters as Jeff Buckley and Bon Iver, the intense emotional quality of his vocals reminds me most strongly of Northern Irish songsmith Foy Vance. Sital-Singh’s delivery perfectly matches the range of sentiments in his songs, from the raw power of the chorus in album opener ‘Nothing Stays The Same” to the fragile falsetto of ‘Fail For You’.
The first three tracks on ‘The Fire Inside’, ‘Nothing Stays the Same’ and recent single ‘Greatest Lovers’ are instantly gratifying in that regard, with infectiously expansive refrains buoyed by a chorus of backing vocals. While the intimacy of the songs would play perfectly to a small room, the chorus of ‘Nothing Stays the Same’ seems equally appropriate for a stadium-sized sing-along: “Cry your eyes out, fill your lungs up / We all hurt, we all lie, and nothing stays the same”.
Sital-Singh balances out his gloriously unrestrained choruses with a few interesting stylistic twists. The over-eager ‘21st Century Heartbeat’ misses the mark slightly with its contrived lyrics, “I woke up hollow as an apple core / I’ve got so much purpose, I don’t know what for,” but it marks a welcome change of pace from the extravagant emotion of the songs preceding it. The dramatic piano-based ‘Lillywhite’ features stately brass and Sital-Singh’s beautifully executed falsetto, while the guileless optimism of ‘Nearly Morning’ plays out as a straightforward acoustic guitar ballad.
On standout track ‘I Have Been a Fire’, Sital-Singh turns a simple couplet structure into a remarkable display of textural and dynamic sensitivity, giving each section a different tonal color to match the unapologetically romantic lyrics and adding emotional texture with the distorted electric guitar solo in the bridge. The Bon Iver comparison becomes apparent in the double tracked vocals and amorphous structure of ‘Fail For You’, which serves as a quiet moment preceding the ambitious anthem ‘We Don’t Belong’. The album closes, appropriately enough, with the pure beauty of Sital-Singh’s voice in the ethereal ‘Benediction’.
‘The Fire Inside’ is an engaging display of artistry from a musician who has clearly taken the time to hone his skills. The songs are lovingly crafted and the recording is beautifully executed in every aspect. The album may not be earth-shattering in terms of its musical style or thematic material, but its emotional authenticity and the quality of Luke Sital-Singh’s musicianship are undeniable.
‘The Fire Inside’, Luke Sital-Singh‘s debut album, is out today, the 18th of August, on Parlophone Records. He’ll be touring the UK in September.
Who needs coffee when you’ve got the energetic, indie rock tones of Mazes to wake you up on a morning? Not me, that’s for sure. The British lo-fi trio are back with their third studio album ‘Wooden Aquarium’ in September.
One of the tracks on the album is ‘Salford’, a ’90s-indebted ode to the Greater Manchester city, near to where the band formed. As they managed with lead single ‘Astigmatism’, from the album, ‘Salford’ features quick bursts of fierce riffs with ferocious vocals to match. The male vocals of Jack Cooper and the female vocals of Heather Strange spill over each other, as they trade statements such as “I have hidden layers” and “I wear my hair long”. It may sound bizarre, but it fits into the style and feel of the track quite comfortably.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee), but Mazes’ ‘Salford’ is a track full of energy and interesting ideas. While it’s a little on the short side, clocking it at just over 2 minutes, it acts as a brilliant teaser for their upcoming album.
‘Salford’ is taken from Mazes’ third studio album ‘Wooden Aquarium’, which will be released on the 8th of September on Fat Cat Records.
Bedfordshire singer/songwriter Terry Emm’s third album ‘Starlight’ is an unabashedly sentimental collection of love songs, ranging in mood from reflective and wistful to sweetly uplifting. Following the admittedly dark mood of his previous album, 2012’s ‘Petals Fallen Off The Sun’, Emm says in the press release for ‘Starlight’ that he “was trying to get out of quite a dark place…and was needing a new approach creatively”. To that effect, he found himself collaborating with two musicians who had inspired him in the past, producer Michael Clarke (formerly of the band Clarkesville) and violinist Calina De La Mare (Sophia, Tindersticks).
While the dominant flavor of ‘Starlight’ is acoustic folk with minimal song structures and simple, straightforward lyrics, Emm has allowed Clarke and De La Mare to tincture the sound with their touches of their own style. De La Mare’s sensitive string arrangements are featured throughout the album, especially on opening track ‘Wilderness’ and standout track ‘Loved and Never Lost’ (video below). Clarke’s pop/rock sensibilities can be heard in the upbeat ‘Forever and After’ and the groovier ‘Resound’. Emm further tinkers with different musical choices in the bluesy guitar riff to ‘Is There an End to Your Love’.
Aside from those songs, however, there is surprisingly little variety on ‘Starlight’. The simplicity of the melodic lines is saved from monotony by the elegantly played acoustic guitar, but the unadorned vocal and musical phrases become a bit repetitive over the course of the album. The song structures are very basic and the pop style repeated choruses feel a bit lacking in dynamics and intensity.
Emm’s lyrics, while sweet and sincere, are similarly plain. The title track opens and closes with a poignant lyric, “It’s too late when I find you gone…”; otherwise his words are not particularly poetic or compelling. Unfortunately the square, undeveloped melodic lines amplify a couple of moments where the prosaic text doesn’t quite fit into the rhythm. Emm’s vocal delivery is likewise earnest but slightly awkward, with a slightly nasal tone that leans more toward declamatory speech than expressive singing. Some variety in either poetic choices or vocal timbre would have made a big difference, I suspect, in the overall mood of the album.
The final two tracks on ‘Starlight’ are among the prettiest of the 10 songs. The string melody behind the vocals in ‘Jetstreams’ illustrates the dreamy quality of the lyrics possibly better than the words themselves do. The delicately arranged, quietly sung ballad ‘Sunset’ is a perfect choice to draw the album to a close. Terry Emm’s poetry and vocal style may lack somewhat in elegance, but their straightforward expression is nonetheless heartfelt. Despite its shortcomings, ‘Starlight’ left me with a warm, mellow feeling that only the coldest of hearts could resist.
‘Starlight’ is available now on London boutique label Azez Records.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 12th August 2014 at 12:00 pm
At the end of 2013, Liam Fray revealed there was uncertainty about the Courteeners’ future, or at least doubt on when the Manchester indie rock/pop band would be appearing next at a venue near you. Speaking to Gigwise after a hometown arena show last December, Fray suggested it could be a year or more before they made another live appearance, stressing a “need to go away and decide which ones work best, what we like and reassess really for the next ‘phase’”. Clearly, these qualms didn’t last all that long; songwriting and recording for the group’s fourth album ‘Concrete Love’, to be released next Monday, must have surely commenced soon after.
The first taste of the new album appeared back in June. ‘Summer’ is an unabashed attempt at a summer smash, replete with a bouncy rhythm and feel good guitar strumming that puts you in an island state of mind. When the chorus comes in, there’s an echo effect placed on both the guitars and Fray’s voice that makes ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ and ‘You Overdid It Doll’ days of yore seem like a distance memory. For sure, the song has charm at this time of year, but are we really going to be listening to it when the leaves have fallen and winter has taken hold? Doubtful. Still, one could argue that if they’re going for single sales, it was a well-timed effort.
Funnily enough, it was Fray himself who said in that aforementioned Gigwise interview, “I definitely think that labels and producers whatever are putting all their eggs in one basket for two or three tracks. Whereas, I think it has to be about everything really, you have to try and make every song as big”. Maybe this is where they got ‘Concrete Love’ wrong? Each of these 11 tunes on the LP has elements that could be deemed ‘big’, but few have staying power. The collection also suffers from a lack of cohesiveness, as well as an ill-conceived song order.
In stark contrast to the sunniness of ‘Summer’, the album begins with ‘White Horses’ (seriously, what is up with rock stars and their preoccupation with equines?), which is dark, loud and bombastic, as if the Courteeners are trying to shed their pop image. It’s an emphatic beginning but some momentum and mood is lost as it’s directly followed by their current single ‘How Good It Was’. This sees the band embracing the pop/rock sound they’re most popular for, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s not as catchy as ‘Are You in Love with a Notion?’ from last year’s album ‘Anna’, it’s memorable, but if you’re sat listening to this album start to finish, it can feel like an uncomfortable segue.
Nearly halfway through the LP is ‘Black and Blue’: with its frenetic rhythm and Fray’s sometimes menacing cadences, it would have felt more appropriate on an EP with the similar ‘White Horses’ and can be regarded as a natural progression from 2012 single ‘Lose Control’. ‘Saboteur’ is this release’s ‘You Overdid It Doll’ moment, with funk, synths and squeals of guitar. Then there is ‘Next Time You Call’ – with a riff that appears to have been stolen from Elbow’s ‘Grounds for Divorce’ – has Northern swagger, something that there is sadly too little of on this album.
Most of the album’s pace slows to a near halt due to the balladry, in the form of ‘Small Bones’, ‘Has He Told You He Loves You Yet’, and ‘International’, and later on to close out the album with ‘Dreamers’ and ‘Beautiful Head’. These songs aren’t bad, but there isn’t much there to hold your attention for long. Fray’s vocals introducing ‘Small Bones’ are admirable in their sincerity, but the horn section that comes in soon after him seems heavy-handed and breaks the reverie. ‘International’ and ‘Beautiful Head’ have percussive bluster and piano so Coldplay-esque, it’s almost painful. As a result, the album feels schizophrenic: at their shows, are you supposed to jump up and down with abandon, or are you supposed to stand there static or perhaps gently swaying in place with your LED wristband? We’ll have to see how the new material fares at Reading and Leeds.
The Courteeners’ fourth album ‘Concrete Love’ will be out next Monday, the 18th of August, on Polydor Records. Visit the band’s Web site for more information on how to order signed copies of CDs; deluxe CDs including the ‘Live at Castlefield Bowl DVD, filmed in July 2013 in Manchester; and the album on limited edition white vinyl.
‘Sea When Absent’ is the third full-length release from A Sunny Day in Glasgow, but it is in many ways an album of firsts for the loosely Philadelphia-based band. After a series of lineup changes surrounding previous album ‘Ashes Grammar’, this LP marks the first time A Sunny Day in Glasgow have recorded as a full band; their prior recordings had mainly been the work of primary songwriter/instrumentalist Ben Daniels and engineer/multi-instrumentalist Josh Meakim. On ‘Sea When Absent’, vocalists Jen Goma and Anne Fredrickson have stepped in to write lyrics, melodies and string arrangements, while the band’s rhythm section, bassist Ryan Newmyer and drummer Adam Herndon, interlace the component parts of songs being composed from several different corners of the world.
While Daniels contributed from his Sydney, Australia home and Newmyer telecommuted from Brooklyn, Meakim recorded and engineered the album in Philadelphia alongside producer Jeff Zeigler (The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile). Working with a producer was another first for the band, but probably a necessary one, as the band attempted to move from its self-described “ambient maximalism” into a more approachable rock-oriented sound. The most notable change is in the recording of the vocals, which have been shifted to the forefront, allowing Goma and Fredrickson’s melodies to provide much-needed hooks into the thick and sprawling instrumental textures.
The lightly singable chorus to ‘In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry In The Tradition of Passing)’ allows a bit of a respite from an otherwise unrelentingly bright barrage of sound. (Take a listen and read the lyrics in the video below.) The amorphous tracks in the middle of the album create a blurry psychedelic ambience with flashes of brilliant color, such as the slight pentatonic feel in the instrumental interludes of ‘Crushin’’ and the diffusive impressionism of ‘Never Nothing (It’s Alright [It’s Ok])’. Final track ‘Golden Waves’ is a mishmash of sounds and styles, leaving the album in a state of mutable vacillation.
The songs on ‘Sea When Absent’ are never restricted by melodic form or lyrical direction; instead, the vocal lines and guitar riffs are woven into the constant motion of a deliberate musical evolution. As a result, the tracks are mesmerising, but a bit unwieldy for a casual listen. (The song titles are equally awkward. Of the 11 tracks on the album, 7 have parenthetical subtitles; one of those was too long for the album information data in iTunes, one is in Japanese, and another contains a sub-subtitle in square brackets.) Even with the band’s stated intent to refine their focus, ‘Sea When Absent’ is still a concentrated stream-of-consciousness, if such a thing exists.
‘Sea When Absent’ is available now on Lefse Records. Alongside the album, A Sunny Day in Glasgow have also released a new EP called ‘No Death’, available exclusively in independent UK record shops. The EP features two new tracks and three remixes. You can sample the Ice Choir remix of ‘Bye Bye, Big Ocean (The End)’ below.
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