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Single Review: Modest Mouse – Coyotes

By on Thursday, 29th January 2015 at 1:00 pm

It’s been some time since we’ve heard from Northwest American indie band Modest Mouse. The last time they released and toured a studio album – 2007’s concept album ‘We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank’ – ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr was one of their full members (Marr has since gone on to his own successful solo career). 2015 will see the release of ‘Strangers to Ourselves’, Modest Mouse’s sixth studio album, which will be released in early March on Epic Records. Prior to Christmas 2014, the band revealed the LP’s first single, the all over the place ‘Lampshades on Fire’ (stream here). Just this last week, they revealed second single ‘Coyotes’, a much more understated and thoughful affair that gives clues that ‘Strangers to Ourselves’ will have its introspective, melancholic moments.

The accompanying promo video for ‘Coyotes’ allows the listener to join what appears to be an urbanised coyote as he takes a light rail journey in an empty train car through Portland, Oregon. (Apparently the whole thing as reported by the Portland Mercury is a re-creation of actual events that happened on the town’s MAX Light Rail in 2002, starring what I assume is a very well-trained, Hollywood-type, coyote-looking dog.) The timing of the journey, in the wee hours of the morning, further lends a lonesome air that matches the song. After boarding, the coyote chooses to sit, then relax on a seat on the train, looking about as comfortable as any one of us might be spending a lazy Sunday afternoon on the sofa in front of the telly.

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As you’re watching this video, you can’t help but make the connection between the surprising content in a wild animal’s face and body language to our own overwhelming complacency about our changing environment, that it’s someone else’s problem to deal with. In the suburb of Washington, DC, where I born and raised, many deer and a whole host of other wildlife regularly feed on our gardens and build homes and nests in our trees and under our lawns, much to the chagrin of homeowners. From the animals’ perspective, they have had to make do while their own natural habitat and way of life have been encroached on. Who is wrong, who is right? The song is simple, beginning with an easy guitar melody, before it heads into a sweeping chorus with staccatoed notes and backing vocals. This is more of a thinking song.

Frontman Isaac Brock’s haunting lyrics – “Coyotes tiptoe in the snow after dark / at home with the ghosts in the national parks / mankind’s behavin’ like some serial killers / giant ol’ monsters afraid of the sharks” – point squarely to this moral conflict that developers and urban dwellers are challenged with. Going further, he shows how ridiculous we are in being all too often unwilling to find real solutions for our problems: “And we say: ‘We’re in love with all of it’ / and we say: ‘We’re in love with everything’ / and we say: ‘What can we say?'” Is there a one size fits all answer to the mess we find ourselves in, to habitats being destroyed, to global warming, to the destruction of our earth? No, but Modest Mouse deserve mad props for taking to their soapbox to shame us for our own complacency.


The new Modest Mouse single ‘Coyotes’ is out now. ‘Strangers to Ourselves’ will be released on Epic Records on the 2nd of March.


Album Review: The Charlatans – Modern Nature

By on Wednesday, 28th January 2015 at 1:00 pm

Words by Harry Gold

Bridging the gap between Baggy and Britpop in the early ‘90s, the Charlatans were one of many bands that rode the wave of success of the Manchester music scene that developed after the emergence of the Hacienda as a ‘superclub’ in the late ‘80s. Despite offering their own take on the psychedelic swagger of Madchester sound, the easiest way to describe the group’s 1990 debut LP ‘Some Friendly’ would be “The Stone Roses with an organ player”, offering an arguably more accessible and poppy sound. Re-emerging in 2015, The Charlatans seem to have completely remolded themselves, with vocalist Tim Burgess’ Gallagher-esque drawl having seemingly dissipated into something more versatile and wide reaching. The music also appears more expansive, sounding surprisingly cosmopolitan for a group hailing from Northwich.

Stripped down to its bare bones, ‘Modern Nature’ can be described as a record by a West Coast psychedelic rock band with electronic and acid house undertones. This, interestingly, would be also have been a fitting way to describe the band at the height of their success in the ‘90s, making ‘Modern Nature’ a massive sonic departure, but also a remoulding of old influences. While ‘Some Friendly’ was a testament to staying indoors and taking drugs at shady nightclubs, the album as a whole feels like the rediscovery of a world outside of raving and clubbing, a welcome contrast to draw with convoluted modern pop music.

Opening track ‘Talking in Tones’ marks a departure from the electronic groove-led energy of the band’s earlier material, the group appearing to be looking around and appreciating the world around them more rather than focussing exclusively on themselves and their immediate surroundings. The main musical influences are immediately noticeable, with the shadow of the Doors being omnipresent throughout the record, especially on album track ‘Let the Good Times Be Never Ending’. Paired with a drum sound reminiscent of New Order’s ‘The Perfect Kiss’, the group’s Stephen Morris being one of the guest drummers playing on the LP, the band seamlessly merge together sounds originally created decades apart.

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Recent single ‘So Oh’ hints at more contemporary psychedelic wanderings, with the thought of Tame Impala immediately springing to the fore. There are moments when such sunniness seems almost unconvincing coming from a group that have probably only experienced a heat wave once in their lives, living in an otherwise gloomy part of Britain. Beneath the vibrant exterior, the creation of ‘Modern Nature’ feels as though it has occurred alongside the daunting realization that the group has outgrown their old youthful energy and need to “grow up”. The album, as a result, feels like a result of these blind meanderings, a transitory moment for the band as songwriters and musicians, but also as people.

‘Modern Nature’ doesn’t, however, feel like a step into the future, rather a celebration of the past. After the passing of drummer Jon Brookes in 2013, The Charlatans seem to have garnered a new appreciation for life, allowing them to see not only the world around them, but also themselves, in a completely different light. Featuring members of the Verve, Dexy’s and Factory Floor, the record is a celebration of all that has come before, with musicians born generations apart pulling together, marking ‘Modern Nature’ as a key point in the groups career, encapsulating their past into one record so they can move forward into the future.


‘Modern Nature’, the Charlatans’ 12th studio album to date, is out now on BMG / Chrysalis. The band have lined up a UK tour in March, with many of the dates already sold out.


(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Album Review: The Dodos – Individ

By on Tuesday, 27th January 2015 at 12:00 pm

Header photo by Chloe Aftel

The Dodos Individ cover artSan Francisco alt-rock duo The Dodos, comprised of lead singer and guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber, met and began making music together in 2005. Naturally, given their instrumental preferences, their sound is heavily rhythmic, combining the complex syncopations of Long’s guitar parts and the propulsive motion of Kroeber’s percussion. Having turned from a primarily acoustic sound to electric guitar on 2011’s ‘No Color’ and following the idea through 2013’s ‘Carrier’, The Dodos have carried the development of their style a step further on their latest album, ‘Individ’.

According to Long, “the best time to make a record is right after you’ve finished one”. The Dodos began recording ‘Individ’ immediately after finishing ‘Carrier’ with producers Jay and Ian Pellici, using the analog equipment at San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone Studios. ‘Carrier’ was indeed an immediate and energetic album, purposefully written with the addition of punk guitarist Christopher Reimer as a touring member of the band in mind. Reimer’s untimely death just before the album was recorded certainly had an impact on the final sound, and his influence on Long’s songwriting, which Long himself describes as “patience to let a song develop and a judgment-free enthusiasm for sound”, can be heard not only on ‘Carrier’ but carrying through to ‘Individ’ as well.

Long and Kroeber looked even farther into their now-deep back catalogue during the process of writing and recording ‘Individ’. “In a lot of ways making this record brought us back to making ‘Visiter’ (The Dodos’ brilliant 2008 LP), relying heavily on the movement that occurs between just two instruments, guitar and drums. From the first take of the first song we tracked, things sounded huge and that set the tone for the entire thing.”

‘Individ’ is bookended by two epically lengthy tracks, ‘Precipitation’ and ‘Pattern/Shadow’, both of which exemplify Long’s stated premise. ‘Precipitation’ introduces the album with the sonic anticipation of an impending storm before evolving into heavy percussion and thundering guitar riffs. Closing track ‘Pattern/Shadow’ makes the album’s final and most lasting impact, its distinct musical sections unified by echoes of the opening lyric “your shadow remains / I cannot resist / the mirrored escape / of your pattern”.

First single ‘Competition’ is possibly the most immediately accessible track on the album, and yet the relentless percussion and interlaced guitar parts are another example of The Dodos’ grandiose intent. Long’s echoing double-tracked vocals are intensely melodic, though his rhythmically repetitive lyrics become almost indistinguishable in the wash of guitar and percussion. Other album highlights include the gentle lull and harmonic intricacy of ‘Darkness’, the mutable time signature of ‘Goodbyes and Endings’ and the potent percussion and gritty guitar riff of ‘Retriever’.

Nothing if not complex, the music on ‘Individ’ is almost too much to take in all at once, leaving a only a shadowy impression after the first listen and subsequent ones alike. By contrast with ‘Visiter’ and ‘Carrier’, ‘Individ’ seems more cerebral then emotional, and it’s missing a strongly convincing hook to maintain the listener’s attention. But what it lacks in immediacy, it makes up for in its broad atmosphere, and perhaps the energy of live performance will allow for a more visceral effect. The Dodos will play a series of live dates in North America this winter leading into their appearance at SXSW 2015 in March.


‘Individ’, the sixth album from the Dodos, is out today on Polyvinyl Records.


Album Review: Rae Morris – Unguarded

By on Monday, 26th January 2015 at 1:00 pm

Since Rae Morris signed a recording contract on her 18th birthday, she has been teasing her loyal, yet ever-growing fanbase with her music, or so it seems, with each of her six EPs offering a tiny glimpse of what to expect from her debut album. It’s almost as if Atlantic Records knew they had something special, yet didn’t want to unleash it to the world until she had matured. Now aged 21, Rae Morris has released ‘Unguarded’, and it’s clear to see why she has been hotly tipped as one of the female artists to watch in 2015.

With production of the album coming from Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Charli XCX), Jim Eliot (Kylie Minogue, Ellie Goulding) and Fryars (Lily Allen), ‘Unguarded’ tackles the subject of life-changing, character-building relationships and the highs and the lows that come as a result. Take ‘Skin’ for example. The album opener details the guilt of continuing a toxic love affair; a powerful introduction told through a rare integrity that emanates from the lofty chorus and sophisticated melody. Likewise, ‘Closer’, taken from the EP of the same name, focuses on Rae’s distance from her family and how that has made her more appreciative of her own identity as a result.

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Female singer/songwriters are ten a penny in the music industry at the moment. However, Rae Morris stands out in this market thanks to an elegance in her vocals and a genuine honesty in her lyrics, which complements the pop flair with an almost perfection. This is particularly evident on ‘Love Again’, a graceful track about getting back on the horse, and the up-beat electro-pop single ‘Under the Shadows’. The record also features a number of Rae Morris’ previous singles, including the incredibly moving piano-led ballad ‘Don’t Go’, the highly entrancing ‘Cold’ (ft. Fryars) and the tantalising ‘Do You Even Know?’, a track she wrote in her shed in Blackpool.

‘Unguarded’ is a coming-of-age album for Rae Morris, as she makes the leap up from a teenager writing songs in her bedroom to a contemporary pop star on the verge of unprecedented success. Was it worth the wait? Without a doubt.


The debut album from Rae Morris, ‘Unguarded’, is released today on Atlantic Records. She begins a UK tour on Sunday in Liverpool; all the details are this way.


Album Review: Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

By on Thursday, 22nd January 2015 at 1:00 pm

B and S album cover artWhenever I’m listening to a new album for review, I generally try to steer clear of reading other reviewers’ opinions, at least until my own review is officially in the books. I’ve had particular difficulty this week avoiding the barrage of media attention for Belle and Sebastian’s new LP ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’. Music critics and diehard fans alike have been eagerly awaiting this release since it was announced late last year, especially now that their attention has turned from end-of-year charts to the business of making predictions for 2015.

‘Girls in Peacetime Want To Dance’ is not only new music for the new year, it marks a slightly new musical direction for Belle and Sebastian as well. As implied by its title, this set of songs unabashedly experiments with dance pop, which comes as a bit of a surprise from the Scottish indie sextet, who have previously been known for their sunny and cerebral brand of twee. In fact, I was astonished to find myself delightedly dancing along to the album’s first single ‘The Party Line’ when I heard it played on Steve Lamacq’s BBC 6music programme last week.

Aside from being a gleefully giddy bit of pop pleasure, the track is a strong statement of the band’s intent for this, their ninth studio album. Its trippy, heavily synthesized disco beat, deep pulsing bass and catchy vocal hook, “jump to the beat of a party line / there is nobody here but your body, dear”, put the radio-friendly dance vibe squarely at the forefront of the overall sound. (Watch the video for ‘The Party Line’ in our previous Video of the Moment feature.)

This is not to suggest, however, that frontman and main songwriter Stuart Murdoch has gone soft on his normally erudite lyrical style. Album opener ‘Nobody’s Empire’ is a deeply introspective look at Murdoch’s own introversion, examining the disconnect between himself and the world around him. But the song’s probing lyrics, “we are out of practice, we’re out of sight / on the edge of nobody’s empire / and if we live by books and we live by hope / does that make us targets for gunfire?” are disguised by a sprightly instrumental arrangement and uplifting gospel choir backing vocals that convey more something more akin to optimism than self-doubt.

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‘Enter Sylvia Plath’ is a glittery disco ball of a track with slick synths and programmed percussion backing the lyrically astute vocal trade-off between Murdoch and Sarah Martin. Likewise, ‘Perfect Couples’ features a sensually serpentine guitar riff and an irresistible, almost tribal sounding dance beat behind a tersely cynical lyrical examination of the superficiality of modern relationships: “sexual tension at the fridge / he makes for the organic figs / from on her lips dangling a cig”.

Possibly the most intriguing track on ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’ is a different kind of dance tune entirely. ‘The Everlasting Muse’ shifts back and forth from a seductive Spanish dance rhythm to a heavy, more Eastern European march tempo. In contrast to the glossy, polished production of the disco numbers, this track has a more traditional dance feel, right down to the handclap rhythms and the hints of modal harmony.

Belle and Sebastian step away from the overarching dance theme in the album’s more characteristic indie pop moments, including the dreamy haze of recent single ‘The Cat With the Cream’ and the blissfully pastoral acoustic arrangement of ‘Ever Had a Little Faith?’. Final track ‘Today (This Army’s for Peace)’ closes the album in a similarly contemplative vein, with distantly echoing vocals and a meditative piano solo over a constant and soothing rhythm, delicately executed by drummer Richard Coburn.

‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’ is solid evidence that even as they approach the 20-year mark of their career as a band, Belle and Sebastian are willing to stretch the limits of their established musical style. At this point, anything they release would be likely to create a buzz of anticipation in the music media, but here they live up to the hype with an album of songs that are by turns pleasantly unexpected and comfortably familiar.


‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’, Belle and Sebastian‘s ninth studio album, is out now on Matador Records. Belle and Sebastian are scheduled to perform at a slew of festivals this year, including a high-profile slot at Coachella (Saturday 11 April) and Liverpool Sound City 2015, where they will be headlining Sunday night (24 May) with a full orchestra at the event’s new Bramley Moore Dock location (more information here).


Single Review: The Young Sinclairs – Dead End Street / Mona Lisa

By on Wednesday, 21st January 2015 at 1:00 pm

Words by Harry Gold

he garage rock moniker usually carries connotations of abrasive and energetic guitars, steeped in fuzz to an immeasurable degree. However, in the case of Virginia’s The Young Sinclairs, the genre is given a new meaning entirely, with their interpretation of it seems to be largely different from other bands classified as such, offering a cleaner, more vintage sound, leaning less towards punk rock and intertwining themselves with the garage rock’s predecessor of rock ‘n’ roll. Describing themselves as “far more than just a fleeting retro act” on their Facebook, it’s clear that the band are filled with the confidence and conviction, and indeed, justifiably so. Taken from their recently released, self-produced LP ‘This is the Young Sinclairs’, the opposing sides of the band’s latest single both offer a welcome complement to each other, drawing out different musical ideas from the group’s evidently sizeable list of influences.

Single ‘Dead End Street’ ambles into view with jangly guitars that would not have been out of place had they appeared alongside The Velvet Underground’s softer, more conventional songwriting moments. The brilliantly haphazard piano sound manages to seem simultaneously both childlike and endearingly antique, characterizing the track with a late ‘60s psychedelic atmosphere, cohesively coupled with a jangly C86 indie twist.

With vocalist Samuel J. Lunsford sounding like a stoned Paul McCartney fumbling his way through a Byrds classic, the flip-side of the double A-sided single ‘Mona Lisa’ is equally as impressive. More Beatles comparisons arise in the artful harmonies of the backing vocals throughout the track, the overall effect being that the whole song feels like a genuine unheard relic that has not been newly recorded, merely recently unearthed. The band’s refusal to submit to the conventional way of recording, making the decision to record and produce all their music independently, flitting between various indie labels, distances their work from modern influence and corruption.


The double A-sided single ‘Dead End Street / Mona Lisa’ from American band The Young Sinclairs is out now on Ample Play Records. You can listen to both songs below.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music 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 idiots.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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