SXSW 2016 | 2015
| 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012
Don't forget to like There Goes the Fear on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!
Header photo by Mia Kirby
Though her band Warpaint is still very much active, bassist and vocalist Jenny Lee Lindberg has just released a solo album called ‘right on!’ under the unassuming moniker jennylee. Warpaint released new music earlier this year and have indicated that they will release a full album in 2016, so there is no fear of them disbanding, but Lindberg and guitarist Theresa Wayman have both recently undertaken solo projects, and Lindberg has clearly made the most of her free time with ‘right on!’
The first thing you might notice about ‘right on!’ is the stylisation of the titles, which are written in all lowercase letters. This might seem overly precious on first glance, but it hints at the subtlety of the songs themselves, which are clean and crisp but presented without excessive fanfare. The music on the album, as you might expect, centres around the momentum of Lindberg’s cleverly composed bass lines. “My love has always been movement,” she explains, “and it dawned on me one day, how cool would it be if I could make music to move to?”
Lindberg has taken her time creating this record, allowing it ample space to achieve the movement she desired. She began writing the songs during the making of Warpaint’s self-titled second album, and after the touring cycle for that album was complete, she set her sights on bringing the new songs to life. Working alone allowed her the freedom to create in a “stream-of-consciousness mode”, and the songs as such feel very organic, with strong suggestions of ’90s style alt-rock, which Lindberg acknowledges, saying “I wanted [the record] to sound raw and elemental. [It] reminds me of my youth.”
Moving in a different direction from her work with the all-female Warpaint, Lindberg invited a group of male colleagues to assist with ‘right on!’, including co-producer Norm Block, who also plays drums in her touring band. “I wanted [some] masculine energy on this album,” she admits, and it is perhaps that masculine energy that gives the album a sharper focus and more immediate impact than Warpaint’s muted style. The production of ‘right on!’ is clear and precise, keeping the vocals and the rhythmic foundation at the forefront of the overall sound.
Opening track ‘blind’ is a bit of a slow starter, as Lindberg intones the vocals in a trance-like chant over a starkly angular guitar melody. But ‘boom boom’ quickly picks up the pace with a driving bass riff and an anxious drum rhythm under the intensely restrained vocal delivery, and lead single ‘never’ is concise and direct, led to its dynamic climax by an arrestingly hypnotic guitar line.
The stylistic guitar melody carries over into outstanding track ‘long lonely winter’, where Lindberg combines a cool ambience appropriate to the title with a dirtier, more sensual rhythmic undertone. ‘bully’ and ‘riot’ are darker and more deliberately aggressive, with lyrics like “I’m gonna get her / I’m gonna tear her inside out” in the former and the growled repeat of “it’s a riot” in the latter. These two songs seem a bit contrived, as if Lindberg felt the need to prove her toughness and tenacity in this first solo outing, and ‘riot’ in particular breaks the overall mood and flow of the album. But the ambience is regained in ‘he fresh’, with Lindberg’s smooth vocal delivery and a clean yet soulful rhythmic underpinning.
Lindberg allows her vocals to take center stage in a remarkably effective fashion on album closer ‘real life’, alternating between a soft whisper and a throaty snarl over the austere guitar line. Layered vocal tracks create an echoing effect as she trails off in the final repeated line “I see I’m not so limber…”
Despite that closing statement, ‘right on!’ is a testament to Lindberg’s musical flexibility and rhythmic prowess. Here she has taken her established bass-playing strength and expanded upon it to put together an album that is remarkably refined and polished, yet still emotionally potent.
Jennylee’s solo album ‘right on!’ is available now via Rough Trade Records. TGTF’s previous coverage of Lindberg’s band Warpaint can be found by clicking here.
So it’s that time of the year again when musicians start to surprise release what they’ve been working on. These albums are generally more enjoyable and (I use this term in the loosest sense) honest than other comeback albums that have been drip-fed to us via screenshots, studio bants and snippets for months. Take Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled album. It was far more engaging and enjoyable than ‘4’, or ‘Sasha Fierce’. Part of this was down to the out-of-the-blue nature of it release. David Bowie has announced he is releasing his 25th album next year called ‘Blackstar’.
So far, all we have to go on is the title track. Even by Bowie’s standards, this is a little out there. ‘Blackstar’ is Bowie going back to art rock and avant-jazz avenues, as he tells an ad hoc story for just under 10 minutes. There are flourishes of jazz, rock, pop, drum and bass and Gregorian chants. The video is equally out there, featuring astronauts, priests, women with tails and bizarre rituals involving jewel-encrusted heads.
The main problem with ‘Blackstar’ is that it sounds like two half-finished ideas stapled together under the guise of the avant-garde. While this is all speculation, as I have no idea about Bowie’s inner workings, the single does feel like a slightly rushed job, or he had the idea for the video and wanted the music to reflect back on the video somehow. Overall as a song, it doesn’t feel cohesive, and the transition from the first part to the second is a bit jarring and could have been smoother.
While ‘Blackstar’ sounds more exciting and vibrant than 2013’s ‘Where Are We Now?’, it still comes across as stagnant, somewhere between a desperate mix of Philip Glass, Lou Reed’s changeling ‘Lulu’ album and recent work by Scott Walker. In the past, Bowie was known a game changer, but because he’s not pushing himself now, it appears that he’s just copying someone else’s style and ideas rather than try and push the envelope himself. Sadly, it’s coming off second-rate, as what he’s copying is something so good and original in the first place. If this was any other artist, we’d happily accept this, but as it’s Bowie, the man who sold the world, we expect a bit more. We expect fully formed ideas and concepts rather than improvised, makeshift studio shenanigans. Go away, David, and come back when you know what you’re trying to say.
‘Blackstar’, the new single by David Bowie, is out now. His new album of the same name will be released on the 8th of January 2016 on RCA.
By this point, if you don’t know what to expect from Coldplay, then you’re just never going to get it. Coldplay are the kind of band who, successful on a gigantic scale they may be, have managed to survive on a mixture of melancholy and melody in its, for a better word, tamest form. Sure, big hitters such as ‘Yellow’ or ‘Fix You’ tug at even the toughest of heart strings but at the end of the day, there’s no offence. Why should there be? It’s Coldplay. The closest we got to any kind of development formed around the era of ‘Viva La Vida…’ and ‘Mylo Xyloto’, where things headed north on the epic scale and introduced electronic components to the current formula.
Now, an album or so after the aforementioned priors, we have ‘A Head Full of Dreams’, the potential finale if we were to begin to take the media speculation around Chris Martin’s comparison between this and the last Harry Potter book seriously. ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ certainly could be seen as a swan song of sorts, almost a celebration, a celebration of everything Coldplay brought to us when they first formed in 1996 and what they still continue to bestow upon the world.
There are certainly even more developments: the first that comes to mind is ‘Hymn for the Weekend’, its content not similar to that of any previous Coldplay song that jumps out. “I’m feeling drunk and high, so high, so high”, it very well may be about love in its deepest layers, but the prominent synonyms certainly are that of the weekend partiers, and, when coupled with enough Beyonce to not take over the song but to be worthy of a feature credit, it’s a surefire hit, yes. But one thing it isn’t is Coldplay.
There are other moments that follow this pattern: for example, ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’, a track that could quite easily be a summer dance anthem, were we not in the midst of winter. It begins with a tumbling guitar introduction that automatically gets firmly lodged in your head, which along with backing vocals by Merry ‘Gimme Shelter’ Clayton and a thumping dance beat, makes it infectious, happy and also definitely not Coldplay.
The winning formula of the early days makes an appearance with ‘Everglow’, a piano-led slow cut that focuses upon what they do best: raw, unbridled emotion. Backed by a slow, pattering drum beat and swirling guitars, it’s Coldplay at their best, and you can’t help but fall a little bit more in love with them, no matter how much you try not to.
It would be unjust to not mention ‘Kaleidoscope’, which is a track that strangely enough doesn’t feature Chris Martin, or any of Coldplay in fact. It does, however, feature poet Coleman Barks reading a Rumi poem and none other than President Obama. As little as his inclusion is, it’s a powerful message in a powerfully charged song. Some may see it as a publicity stunt, but it’s tasteful and minimal.
If this were to be, as previously mentioned, the final Coldplay album, then it’s perfect. Last track ‘Up&Up’ is epic, has a backing chorus featuring both previously mentioned Beyonce and Merry Clayton, as well as help from Noel Gallagher on guitar. The album has everything, including further experimentation, which may not be entirely be a strength, but why would you want to wave the world off with the exact same components? That’s what the greatest hits are for, right?
‘A Head Full of Dreams’ is out now via Parlophone and streaming on Tidal. It’s purported to be coming to other streaming services soon. For past coverage of Coldplay on TGTF, go here.
When you consider Grimes as an artist, pop isn’t the first genre that springs to mind. Certainly there are elements, but truly the only way to categorise Grimes is to put her in a genre of her own. “Grimes”, perhaps?
Although this fourth LP effort does see her edging toward a more characteristically pop sound, what we have here is what would happen if you took all of today’s pop hits and put them through a metaphorical “Grimes” machine. She utilises perfectly choreographed chord changes, massive beats and the sweetest of lyricism, then takes this perfect blend of pop beauty and adds her own touch, be it screeching falsettos, production that makes you truly question where the sound is attacking you from (in the form of stereo panning), and layers of vocals that entwine to create almost a bombardment of sound.
Opening track ‘laughing without being normal’ (sic) is a string-laden introduction that gives a false sense of security and an a skewed perception of what’s to come. It climaxes in a beautiful falsetto performance, surrounded by piano and plucked harps until it all falls apart into a chaos of rumbling bass and white noise before giving us the real first song. Lead single ‘Flesh Without Blood’ is without a doubt the track that you’ll always find yourself returning to. It’s easily Grimes’ most crossover track, along with ‘California’, an ode to being used and abused by said fair state (“when you get bored of me/I’ll be back on the shelf” and “I didn’t think you’d end up treating me so bad” are heartbreaking confessions of the dreamland that’s oft promised to young artists). ‘Belly of the Beat’ is very Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES in its vocal style, it could almost be a cut from them, just if they used real instruments instead of layers of synthesisers.
‘SCREAM’ has the stylings of a dark anime soundtrack, with its fast paced guitar picking and tribal drums which and maddening screeched rapping from Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes. It’s a strange track to place in between two of the record’s hardest hitters, but who are we to question the mind of Grimes? The album feels as if it could be shorter, as you find yourself mindlessly listening after seven or eight tracks. It does slap you back into the sonic room but there definitely could be opportunity for improvement in terms of the choosing of the cuts.
’Realiti’ is a large dance number that can feel tedious, but still has the power to make you want to move with its classic thumping beat and vocal hook. It’s not a necessity, perhaps would have been a better fit as a b-side to a single? ‘World Princess part II’ is another that easily could been removed from the tracklisting and you wouldn’t feel a gap in the proceedings. ‘Venus Fly’ is a spitting, bratty, thunderous track that attacks you with drum machines made to rattle your brain and get your blood pumping.
‘Life in the Vivid Dream’ is one of the more restrained cuts on the record, along with ‘Easily’ which is airy and as close of an homage as you’ll get to previous album ‘Visions’. Grimes clearly hasn’t forgotten what she first set the world on fire with, but the idea of not putting the clear songwriting talent she has to use in crafting pop songs that can help her crossover to the major leagues is ridiculous and something she has seemingly considered for her fourth outing. ‘Kill V Maim’ could easily be the lovechild of early solo Gwen Stefani and Charli XCX. Grimes knows what sounds good and what doesn’t and more importantly how to not sound like a clone, she truly is her own entity in the music world and it’s refreshing.
‘Art Angels’, the newest album from Grimes, is out now on 4AD. For more Grimes coverage on TGTF, head this way.
Elisabeth Corrin Maurus, or Lissie as she’s known professionally, is back with new single ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ and a third album, ‘My Wild West’, scheduled for release next year on Cooking Vinyl. While Lissie is a definitely a talented musician and songwriter, she’s not had the best run of luck. When she released her debut ‘Catching a Tiger’ in 2010, the music world wasn’t quite ready for her brand of melancholy-laced Americana. Nor, sadly, were they ready for someone to infuse their music with as many Fleetwood Mac-isms as she did, that would take three sisters from California to re-start the Mac revival.
But enough of the past. What does ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ sound like? Is the title a cunning ploy in which Lissie asks us to keep the faith and buy her new album after the 3 years since her sophomore album ‘Back to Forever’, or is it a heartfelt plea to an ex-lover? ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ is chock-full of catchy melodies and insightful lyrics (“you are the moon, I feel your weight / you tug at the ocean, you help it change”). But the star of the show, as with most Lissie songs, is her voice, jumping from ethereal to ragged as effortlessly as if it was simply a chord change. As the song progresses, the emotion ramps up and by the end, you feel Lissie is singing either about you, or for you. This is a notable change in her music. In the past, she seemed happy to tell her stories of love, rejection and redemption, but now she managed, through touring and recording two albums, to deliver an emotional connection.
For all its positives, the single sounds like a track from a future Emmylou Harris album, where she’s taking compositions from ‘cool’ bands and songwriters to try get a new audience. From the hypnotic opening guitar riff, driving drums and pulsing bass, ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ sounds like it was written by King of Leon. Ultimately because of this comparison, ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ feels a bit flat, as we know Lissie is capable of so much more. Let’s hope ‘My Wild West’ contains songs akin to the driving ‘Little Lovin’’, which set her apart from her peers in 2010, instead of ‘I Bet on You’, which for all its charm was just a standard album track.
The new Lissie single ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ will be released the same day as her third album, ‘My Wild West’, on the 12th of February 2016. The LP can be preordered now from her official Web site.
Being a folk sensation leaves little room for manoeuvre. Take Mumford and Sons for instance: heavyweights in their field, but evidence that having the same sound consecutively wears thin very quickly, you have to shape up and get with the times.
Of Monsters and Men have done this nicely with their recent sophomore record ‘Beneath the Skin’ and more importantly, with upcoming single ‘Human’. The bones from the band before are still there, but there’s a definite evolution to be heard. The sound is grander, with more of a conscious effort to include electric guitars and large, thunderous drums. “Breathe in, breathe out and let the human in” softly signals the birth of the chorus, which is where Of Monsters and Men do what they do best. Surrounded by backing chants and chiming bells, everything it contains strikes the right chords. It’s warming, charming and full of life.
It switches back and forth between the powerful chorus and the more timid verses, referencing our ability as humans to sometimes let the monster inside take over our better selves and forget who we are. “Eat me like a cannibal, chase the neon throne” may sound like nonsense, but that’s the beauty of it. We, as a species, don’t make sense and are far too often seen to sacrifice our own well being and sanity for what we believe to be the greater good, thus creating our own monsters.
The final crescendo, with its echoing and reverberating guitar sound, wouldn’t go amiss amongst stadium rock giants such as U2 or Coldplay. Both the crescendo and song are certainly not reinventing the wheel, but it’s good to hear the progression and experimentation developing. Of Monsters and Men have a special gift in their songwriting craft, going from strength to strength; come the time for their third output, we could potentially be on the verge of an absolute takeover and they’ll be selling out full arena tours and a household name in no time.
‘Human’, the upcoming single from Of Monsters and Men, will be released the 25th of December on Island Records in the UK and Republic Records in America. The song features on the band’s new album ‘Beneath the Skin’, out now. Past coverage of Of Monsters and Men on TGTF is this way.