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Dublin singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow has recently unveiled two new tracks in the aftermath of his recent album ‘Post Tropical’, which came out early in 2014. ‘Post Tropical’ was a departure from McMorrow’s early acoustic folk style, delving into synthesised sounds and deconstruction of form to create a more ambient, reflective sort of mood. His two newly shared songs represent the threshold of another change, drawing a line between the ‘Post Tropical’ period and the next phase of McMorrow’s songwriting journey.
The first of the new songs is a stripped back version of a track from ‘Post Tropical’ called ‘Gold’. The original version was more rhythmic and energetic, with a dramatic brass interlude building intensity behind McMorrow’s strained falsetto vocals. The new solo version is slow and comparatively anti-climactic, evolving gradually rather than deliberately developing toward a final conclusion.
McMorrow’s lyrics are abstract and full of vague imagery, which works better with the contrast of the more intentional original arrangement. The solo version is aimless and uncertain but still somehow apropros as McMorrow slurs into its final statement, “time isn’t the only power now”. The song is currently available as an .aif file for free by clicking the download (down arrow) button on the upper right hand corner of the SoundCloud widget below.
McMorrow’s new single release ‘How To Waste A Moment’ has more momentum and is more immediately tangible, beginning straight away with a hypnotic rhythmic figure and a purposeful vocal delivery. McMorrow’s breathy falsetto still obscures his words somewhat, but he has helpfully posted the lyrics on his Soundcloud, along with the track itself and a description of how the song came about. The key statement, in my mind, comes at the end of his description: “I recorded it with tempo because life to me is tempo, it’s rarely slow. This song is the connect from where I was, to where I’m going to be very soon.”
Fans of the hazy, deliberately indistinct musical style of Bon Iver will find much to like in these two tracks, as they most likely did on hearing ‘Post Tropical’. I myself am more interested in McMorrow’s new tempo-driven direction, and I look forward to hearing where this might lead him in the near future.
James Vincent McMorrow’s new single ‘How to Waste a Moment’ is out now on Believe Recordings. Previous TGTF coverage of James Vincent McMorrow is right back this way.
Having spent the past few years writing songs for the likes of Little Nikki, Leona Lewis and Bridgit Mendler, Aussie/Brit Emmi stepped out of the shadows and stormed onto the music scene as a singer/songwriter with her debut single ‘My Kinda Swag’. The track made headway amongst industry tastemakers, having featured on The Guardian’s “Pop Playlist” and also catching the attention of Greg James, who gave it a spin on BBC Radio 1. Following on from her tremendous debut and a busy summer of recording, Emmi’s latest single ‘Sleep on It’ is destined for similar success.
Produced by DaWood (who has previously worked with Blue and Roll Deep), ‘Sleep on It’ is a confident pop track, showcasing Emmi’s ability to create an eclectic pop sound with glimmering vocals, feel-good choruses and catchy melodies.
Singing over a gripping arrangement of horns, piano and percussion, Emmi’s thought-provoking lyrics tell the story of a late night quarrel between a couple, who will discuss matters further the next day, once they’ve had time to think about it: “I don’t want, wanna fight no more, wanna fight no more / can I get some sleep tonight, tonight, you don’t know if you love me no more.” The thought and meaning behind the lyrics is strongly emphasised through Emmi’s broad vocal range, which combines the (wuthering) heights of Kate Bush, the powerful, sharp tones of Sia, and the maturity of Amy Winehouse.
It’s hard to believe that ‘Sleep on It’ is only the second single from Emmi. She has managed to craft a sound that brings out the best of her lyrical and vocal abilities, something many artists struggle to achieve so early on in their careers. With two solid releases under her belt already, there’s certainly a promising future for this young star. Remember the name, as you’ll be hearing it a lot over the coming months, possibly even years.
Emmi’s ‘Sleep on It’ single is out now.
Last month, Manchester favourites Elbow pleased their fans with the release of a new EP called ‘Lost Worker Bee’. The release came as somewhat of a surprise, as the band members have been busy of late with a handful of festival appearances (including Kendal Calling 2015) as well as their own “various solo projects and collaborative endeavours”, which include frontman Guy Garvey’s record label venture Snug Platters and his new BBC 6 Music series ‘Music Box with Guy Garvey’. Of the ‘Lost Worker Bee’ EP, Garvey says “we just felt we really wanted to get something away to tide fans over until the next album. We’ve always loved the EP as a format and we’ve enjoyed making this one so much I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another before long.”
The four brand new songs on the EP are all set in Elbow’s hometown of Manchester. Garvey elaborates, “Manchester’s symbol has been the worker bee for hundreds of years and the lead track is about finding love far away from home.” Our own editor Mary featured the video for the eponymous and altogether charming ‘Lost Worker Bee’ just after the EP’s release.
The rhythmic complexity of ‘And It Snowed’ is a trademark of Elbow’s compositional style, expressed here in an asymmetrical meter that highlights the crystalline keyboard melody. The lyrics are a bit abstract, but the lines “you’ve done your leaving / livid in your splendour and alone / I kiss the stillness” seem to harken back to the lost romance theme of Elbow’s 2014 album ‘The Takeoff and Landing of Everything’, which dealt with Garvey’s split from his longtime partner.
In the captivating ‘Roll Call’, Garvey recycles a lyric, “streets alive with one man shows”, from ‘My Sad Captains’, a popular tune from ‘The Takeoff and Landing of Everything’. He prefaces it with a bit of a wink and nod, warning that “I’m not digging deep tonight”, but in truth, his lyrics are as rife with evocative imagery as ever, and the vocal harmonies supplied by his bandmates in this chorus are just as rich and pleasantly unexpected.
Similarly, the EP’s final track ‘Usually Bright’ feels like an extension of Elbow’s previous album, with simple poetic lines alluding to separation as “the saddest journey ever made”. The spare musical accompaniment, which perhaps coincidentally sounds a bit like an old-fashioned music box, allows Garvey’s poignantly simple lyrics to make their full nostalgic impact, marking a clear delineation between the past and the potential of the future.
Elbow’s ‘Lost Worker Bee’ EP is out now on Polydor. Elbow are scheduled to play the On Blackheath Festival in London on the 12th of September. Our full catalogue of previous Elbow coverage is right back this way.
Spritely, guitar heavy indie pop hailing from Ireland. Nope, I’m not talking about TGTF friends Two Door Cinema Club. This time it’s Neon Wolf, the five-piece from Kilkenny who have confidently touched upon their fellow Irishmen’s knack for an infectious guitar melody. Let’s be clear, then, that they are by no means rivals for the same crowd. Oh no, whilst there may be similarities, it’s their latest single ‘A Place to Call Home’ that has a jubilant, crowd-pleasing indie pop crunch that touches on a completely different set of influences. Take the euphoric, Prides-esque sensibilities in their euphoric drums, or a catchiness borrowed from Fickle Friends. It’s all there as vocalist Rob Grace flaunts, “it’s so hard to reach out again…”
It comes as little surprise then that production credit goes to Joe Cross, who is well versed in this breed of deft pop hooks and bouncing choruses, having worked with the likes of Chloe Howl, Kid Astray, and even Hurts. This might be Neon Wolf’s tale of having to let go and leave things behind, but they sure as heck give things a positive spin with Cross behind them. What to make then of the 3 gratifying minutes that your ears are about to be blessed with, then? Expect colourful synth outbursts and biting electric guitars through the verses, capped off by building harmonies of “higher love”. When the chorus fires up, they fizz with incandescent, tropical pop/rock attitude, sharpening their riffs as the bouncy energy continues.
The band’s pop-heavy assault is set to continue with a new EP coming soon, whilst their London debut also beckons at the 1,500 capacity theatre-turned venue Koko. It’s not exactly your average first gig in London, but a setting where their penchant for dazzling, stratospheric summer-pop will light up every corner of the room.
The ‘A Place to Call Home’ single by Irish band Neon Wolf is out now on Killing Moon Records.
Frank Turner is most emphatically back, with a new outlook on life and a fresh new set of songs to go along with it. ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ is Turner’s sixth studio LP, following on from 2013’s ‘Tape Deck Heart’. On the previous album, the pendulum had clearly reached its full amplitude of heartbreak and desperation; with ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’, it has swung back with equal force in the opposite direction. While Turner’s songwriting is still intensely and unabashedly personal, the themes on this album look farther outward, exploring new territory both in terms of subject matter and musical character.
Generally speaking, ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ retains the frenzied energy of Turner’s recent self-titled ‘Mongol Horde’ side project. But the album does have its introspective moments, the most notable of which quite appropriately bookend its tracklisting. ‘The Angel Islington’ harkens back to the more folk-leaning narrative style of Turner’s earlier recordings, opening with an austere guitar accompaniment for the lyric “by the waters of the Thames / I resolve to start again”. The closing ballad ‘Song for Josh’ is a heartfelt tribute to Turner’s friend Josh Burdette, a well-known and well-loved security guard at Washington, DC’s 9:30 Club who committed suicide nearly 2 years ago.
The three songs Turner previewed in live performances earlier this year at SXSW 2015 appear on the album in their fully arranged glory, and not a single one disappoints. ‘Get Better’, which we featured back in March, is a loud and proud declaration of the album’s intent, evidenced in the chorus lyric “I’m trying to get better ‘cos I haven’t been my best”. Its tone is defiant and pugilistic, a perfect segue in the album sequence to Turner’s recent single ‘The Next Storm’, whose wrestling-themed video we featured in June, and whose encouraging directive “rejoice, rebuild, the storm has passed” has become firmly planted in my head.
‘Silent Key’, Turner’s remembrance of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, was a tough pill to swallow when he sang it at FLOODfest in Austin during SXSW 2015, and it’s even more poignantly effective on the record. Uptempo and energetic despite its tragic thematic inspiration, it keeps with the album’s general focus by centering around the vocal line “I’m still alive”. Musically, it’s one of the outstanding tracks on the album, with an eerie guitar riff behind Turner’s haunting verses and a skillfully executed vocal contribution from Denver singer/songwriter and Xtra Mile labelmate Esmé Patterson. Turner’s songwriting is at its level best here, particularly in the stunning second verse. Rarely do I have such a strong visceral reaction to a song, but this one hit me like a one-two shot to the solar plexus. As much as I love the idea of the song and Turner’s powerful alternative perspective on the events, I have to admit that I may never listen to ‘Silent Key’ again now that my review is officially in the books.
On the flipside of the coin, ‘Love Forty Down’ brought a grin to my face almost instantly. I missed out on hearing this one in Austin, but Turner had chatted with me about it in our interview during SXSW, and I was fairly dancing with anticipation. The song’s tennis-themed analogy about coming back from the edge of defeat, against seemingly impossible odds, is the best I’ve heard in a very long time. As a tennis aficionado who has literally been in that position many times, I can figuratively see Turner’s fighting spirit rising to the occasion, on this track and throughout the album.
The anthemic ‘Josephine’ is already on its way to becoming a live favourite among hardcore Turner fans. Its lyrics eruditely mention Napoleon and Beethoven but more interestingly, they touch on the idea of the feminine mystique, pleading with the mythical title character for salvation. As I listened, I couldn’t help wondering how the aforementioned Esmé Patterson might respond to it, given her recent interpretations of similar female characters in song. You can listen to an acoustic version of ‘Josephine’, courtesy of Punks in Vegas, just below.
Even when they make reference to Turner’s brooding recent past, these ‘Positive Songs’ shine with optimism. ‘Glorious You’ is uplifting and effusive, sharing Turner’s newfound self-assurance with a (presumably) female protagonist, while bright guitar and keyboard melodies intertwine around the euphoric lyric “God damn, it’s great to be alive” in ‘Demons’.
‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ comes as a radiant awakening after a lengthy emotional hibernation. It overflows with affirmation and enthusiasm at every turn, but its devil-may-care attitude keeps it from becoming trite. Turner’s lyrics characteristically alternate between blunt honesty and poetic lyricism, and he has employed a few fresh musical gestures to ratchet up the emotional ante. In short, this is Frank Turner at his finest, energetic and ebullient, raucous and rowdy, confident and clever.
Frank Turner’s sixth album ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ is due for release this Friday, the 7th of August, via Xtra Mile Recordings and Polydor Records. Turner and his band The Sleeping Souls will tour the album through the UK in November. TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of Frank Turner can be found in its entirety right back here.
When you think of “The X Factor”, you think of pop acts such as the likes of One Direction, Olly Murs and Little Mix, yet Simon Cowell’s talent show has also provided a platform for artists who considered the programme to be a blip on the way to something more “respectable”. One former contestant who fits the bill is Aiden Grimshaw, who has returned with his new single, ‘Virtually Married’.
After his debut album ‘Misty Eye’ peaked at #19 in the Official UK Albums Chart in 2012, Aiden Grimshaw spent his time travelling, writing and experimenting away from the limelight. During this break, Grimshaw worked with a host of producers and songwriters, including Dan Dare (whose previous credits include Wiley and Professor Green), Paul Harris (Kylie Minogue, David Guetta) and Spanish electronic duo MEMEB, who he worked with on this track.
The result of their collaboration is Virtually Married, which tells the story of Grimshaw’s former lover, who he imagined he would marry and spend the rest of his life with. However, the relationship broke down, leaving Grimshaw distraught and empty inside. According to the 23-year-old, “’Virtually Married’ places emphasis on how quickly everything can change and once there is change, you struggle to remember how it was before.”
Despite the premise, ‘Virtually Married’ is a mid-tempo track with a throbbing electronic bassline, accompanied by low, nu-garage synths and snares. Singing over the top, Grimshaw’s vulnerability is evident during the lyrics, as he helplessly sings during the bridge, “Making all these promises, thought that you would wear my ring, be the one to share it with, you’re the one and now you’re done.”
Having well and truly shrugged off his X Factor cobwebs, Aiden Grimshaw seems to have found his feet with Virtually Married. While the single lacks the intensity to catapult the singer into the spotlight, it’s certainly a solid attempt and a step in the right direction.
‘Virtually Married’ is the first single to be taken from Aiden Grimshaw’s second studio album, which is expected to release later this year / early next year.