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Filled with spacious and heart-wrenching instrumentation accompanied with yearning vocals, the second album from Brighton-based Fear of Men is as rich as their debut, while showing an evolution that proceeds nicely into the next step of their career. Shimmering effects that are layered over every aspect of the tracks gives a Cocteau Twins-esque atmosphere, this is a record that truly reaches into your heart and attacks every string possible.
As the opening track ‘Vesta’ builds into an ethereal purgatory, it leads into second track ‘Undine’ with no real resolve, giving the effects of an unsuspected emotional trauma. It’s in this follow-up track that Fear of Men break into their stride and prove that they can be as firm and furious as they can be forlorn. ‘Island’ sees a fully-formed sound that breathes tranquility, while retaining purpose and direction. A rolling drum beat that lies beneath the electronically-driven instrumentation that scintillates, calling to mind an image of the sun rippling through a calm ocean surrounding the enclosed metaphorical island. The chorus builds to a perfect resolve that equally leaves you satisfied as well as melancholic.
Continuing along this trend, ‘A Memory’ doesn’t quite have the draw of the preceding track, but it certainly plays its part in the bigger picture. It’s a similar story for ‘Until You’, which proves a lot more assaulting, with its layered drums that are constantly rolling while the synthesisers build to an overbearing level before dropping out and chaotically interchanging their dominance. We lull slightly at the halfway point with ‘Ruins’, but the move makes sense once ‘Trauma’ kicks in. It’s another purpose driven track, firm with its eyes staring straight ahead. The chorus builds as expected, before dropping into a dark and brooding bridge that takes the life away from the song but still keeps you hooked in.
Throughout, the drums are the pickers of the pace. Obviously, this is the overall idea of the rhythm section in any piece of music. But within Fear of Men’s sound, the drums go from being the underlier to instantaneously being the leader, furiously ripping through the rest of the instrumentation. Jess Weiss’ vocals sit on the top of the arrangements like a beacon, guiding the emotional range of the tracks with either the previously shown yearning or the subtle aggression as shown in ‘Trauma’.
Yet it’s truly the electronic elements of this record that show the strength of the band, with thick and emotive synthesisers that are coupled with effect laden guitars, it’s all prime retro emulation and something that Fear of Men do extremely well. ‘Fall Forever’ certainly is an apt title for this collection of songs, each track representing a different strength of the human psyche, while opening up enough for you to gather your own interpretation and personal attachment. A wonderful take on ‘80s sad, electronic music with a modern angle, Fear of Men should have no problem taking things to the next level after this solid return.
‘Fall Forever’, Fear of Men’s sophomore album, is out now via Kanine Records. To read more about Fear of Men on TGTF, head here.
Bear’s Den singer and lyricist Andrew Davie has never been one to shy away from tackling heavy themes in his songwriting. The songs on the band’s debut album ‘Islands’ dealt with subject matter ranging from platonic love and illusions of afterlife to strained parent-child relationships and bitter romantic break-ups. In ‘Auld Wives’, the first single from Bear’s Den’s upcoming second LP, Davie picks up exactly where he left off, with a song about the heartbreaking process of slowly losing a loved one to dementia.
The song’s title comes from a Scottish landmark near the home of Davie’s grandparents, the rock formation known as Auld Wives’ Lifts. “No one knows how they got there,” explains Davie, “and there are faces carved into the rocks. There’s all sorts of folk tales around them.” The song ‘Auld Wives’ is about Davie’s grandfather, who lived near the Lifts. “He developed Alzheimer’s in his old age. Knowing someone, and them not knowing you any more, is a difficult thing to go through. Auld Wives became this way of talking about it, of venting about that feeling.”
In the absence of former bandmate Joey Haynes, who left Bear’s Den on friendly terms, Davie and multi-instrumentalist Kev Jones appear to have drastically streamlined the expansive alt-folk character of the original trio. While their foundational melodic structures and vocal harmonies still serve to realise Davie’s evocative lyrical imagery, ‘Auld Wives’ has a distinctly edgy, more synthetic overall sound and a noticeably darker tone quality in the orchestration that what we’ve heard from Bear’s Den in the past. The equally powerful video for ‘Auld Wives’, which you can view just below, masterfully captures Davie’s poignant lyrics and the palpable dramatic tension of the musical arrangement.
‘Auld Wives’ is the first single from Bear’s Den’s forthcoming second album ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’, due out on the 22nd of July via Communion / Caroline International. Bear’s Den will play a run of live dates in the UK this November; you can find the details here. TGTF’s complete previous coverage of Bear’s Den is this way.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 21st June 2016 at 12:00 pm
Yes, you might still have still have the mac, brolly or even a jumper on standby if you’re in Britain or Ireland. However, out here in America, it’s definitely summer, and we’ve all got their sunglasses on. Happy solstice, everyone! And at the end of this week, we can celebrate with the release of Drowners’ second album ‘On Desire’. (In contrast, their self-titled 2014 debut on Frenchkiss Records was released in the chilly dead of winter.) The feel good waves of indie rock of its predecessor are also evident on the new record, Make no mistake: don’t expect any earth-shattering political overtures here. Instead, settle in for this series of songs about love, in its all its heartbreaking, pain-inducing, false hope giving forms.
‘On Desire’ begins with a swift boot kick to the rear, as a loud crash of guitars ushers in ‘Troublemaker’. In a lovely Smiths-ian way, what follows is a jaunty, fun guitar line accompanying a short, but clearly sinister tale of embroilment, of being drawn into the web of a femme fatale. In another in your face, up tempo number, Hitt bemoans in ‘Someone Else is Getting In’ his mistake giving his woman the space she asks for, only to have another suitor swoop in and get into her bed during their break.
In ‘Conversations with Myself’, the feeling of being left behind comes across like being struck by the freight train of heavy beats in the bridge. Except for the oddly reined-in chorus, the synth notes and cacophonous guitar notes dig into your skull, as if you’re being skewered. Hitt’s initially sotto voce vocals in ‘Trust the Tension’ give way to full-fledged nastiness. The goth-y, Echo and the Bunnymen guitars seem sympathetic as he admits turning into a bad version of himself while being yanked around by a partner who won’t commit. There’s a variation on the same theme in the very catchy single ‘Pick Up the Pace’, an upbeat synth-led number that proved peerless live at SXSW 2016.
Unlike Morrissey, who prefers to sit on the sidelines like a wallflower and generally feels rebuffed if ignored, Hitt has suffered by being directly cheated on and screwed with. We’ve all been messed with when it comes to the opposite sex, and there’s satisfaction in finding someone to empathise with. The sad thing is, you’re left wondering if it was better him than you. Standout track ‘Another Go’ chronicles another pessimistic conversation inside Hitt’s head, utilising Moz’s oft-used formula of coming to a foregone conclusion about unsuccessful love without actually being proactive. Insecurity is painful to listen to, but it’s on this track where Drowners gets closest to the Morrissey/Marr partnership, with its winsome guitars and pop feel. In ‘Human Remains’, both Hitt and a mysterious other man referenced suffer from the throes of unrequited love. The song benefits from Hitt’s oozy, boozy, schmaltzy delivery: “desire doesn’t fade / it only gets replaced.” Oddly, the croonery ballad ‘Dreams Don’t Count’ is a strange misstep. I guess this one’s for the Alex Turner fans?
In case you somehow missed it, the South Wales-born Hitt is also a model. Having been on and off one of the most eligible bachelors of New York City, he’s been linked romantically to the likes of Alexa Chung and Dakota Johnson. This makes one wonder if his words in Drowners songs are a means of artistic catharsis. Hey, if writing about ex-lovers works for Taylor Swift, why not, right? Regardless of how far your heart gets into the emotional underpinnings of this album, the timing of this release makes it perfect for playing whilst your ‘Long Hair’ (yes, pun intended) is flying in the breeze out of an open-top convertible. Or whatever vehicle you can manage to stick your head out of without getting wet and cold.
‘On Desire’, the sophomore album from New York City’s Drowners, is out this Friday, the 24th of June on Frenchkiss Records. For more coverage of Drowners on TGTF, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 20th June 2016 at 12:00 pm
Words by Adam McCourt
Since the birth of BRONCHO in 2010, the group have made incredible strides with every album in developing a sound so unique and avant-garde, leading to their strongest release yet in the form of new LP ‘Double Vanity’. The band initially started as a solo film project of front man Ryan Lindsey, when he was asked to write music to an early ’80s inspired punk film. He ended up inundated with ideas, and with help from bandmates Ben King, Nathan Price and Penny Pitchlynn turned it into something more. This eventually led to BRONCHO’s debut LP ‘Can’t Get Past the Lips’ in 2011. Made up of 10 short songs extremely reminiscent of the late ’70s/early ’80s UK punk scene, complete with spoken word and shouting vocals, fast and simple chord progressions, and song titles like ‘I Don’t Want To Be Social’, ‘Record Store’ and ‘Losers’.
Moving into their second album ‘Just Enough Hip To Be Woman’, BRONCHO began experimenting with hooks and melodies, which sat perfectly over their pre-established fast-paced, fuzzy guitar-driven punk rock. The album saw great success: single ‘Class Historian’ spent over a month on the playlist at BBC 6 Music, following many accolades from the likes of NME, who labelled the album “fresh and invigorating” and Consequence of Sound, who said it was “unequivocally strong”.
Which brings us to their third and most recent album, ‘Double Vanity’. The Oklahoman quartet have experimented further with melody and have even added harmonies to give more emotion. They’ve also simultaneously pushed the boundaries of punk, garage, emo and ambient music. Vocals soaked in reverb and guitars creating a haze of atmospheric garage rock, the music sluggishly moves along with what seems like no conviction, and little technical ability .The songs still hang around very average 1-4-5 and 2-5-1 chord progressions and the drums are so simple, it seems pointless having a drummer at all. Yet, the deeper into the album you get, the more you begin to notice the moments of beauty employed by Lindsey and co. in writing the album. The added textures that decorate the sound, the harmonies used in strengthening each melody, the song structures and intelligent use of ideas is what makes the music so beguiling.
Opening track ‘All Time’ wastes no time introducing the hypnotic feel of the album, as both guitars and bass fall into the first chord in unison. They continue to move as a unit throughout the whole song, sluggishly sliding from chord to chord rather than hitting them exactly on the beat. Accompanied by a ‘Little Drummer Boy’-like drum beat, it begins the album with a very slow burn. In their previous albums, such a start would have seemed out of place. However, given the experimental nature of ‘Double Vanity’, it makes sense that the album begins the way it does. Lindsey’s vocals progress in a way that takes the listener on a journey with an unknown destination, until of course we hit the chorus. Indicated by the shift to a minor tonality with an emotional melody that, mixed with Lindsey’s unique projection, relays a sense of pleading with an almost apologetic undertone.
BRONCHO’s genius approach to songwriting is showcased throughout the whole album, as they take ideas introduced previously, specifically their second album, developing them further. Taken together, ‘Speed Demon’ and ‘Fantasy Boys’ is the result of dissecting previous single ‘Class Historian’ and employing the ideas within to two separate songs. The rhythm-orientated vocal hook in ‘Speed Demon’ applies to the lyric “sp-pa-pa-peed pa-pa-peed demon” while ‘Fantasy Boy’ carries the elastic, Beatles-like melody, covered in harmony, over a guitar riff reminiscent of the film Drive, with a more ’80s underground feel. Considering its similarities with previous single ‘Class Historian’, it comes as no surprise that BRONCHO also put ‘Fantasy Boys’ out as a single off the new album.
‘Señora Borealis’ is the definite standout off the album. It bursts in, cutting the album in half with a Kasabian-like quavering, chugging guitar riff and a basic syncopated drum groove, instantly bringing a whole new level of energy. The song marches on in this manner throughout, with very little development in harmony or feel. But texturally is where the song gathers momentum. With each return of the title in the lyrics, “Señora Borealis” brings a slight variation in breathy rhythms soaked in delay underlying in the mix, each time as satisfying as the last.
The album is a definite grower. I appreciated it upon first listen, but grew to love it more and more with each subsequent listen. It’s easy to get lost in the wall of sound created by the mass of fuzz, reverb vocals and simplistic drum patterns. However, when each element is taken in isolation, you truly realise how beautiful they are, and how well they work together. Speaking about the album, Lindsey says, ‘Double Vanity’ has more energy than previous albums. It is more of an emotional energy”, which I think sums up the album perfectly. Although the songs may seem to portray an obnoxious musical language on the surface, in the centre, it is a raw and delicate piece of art. The band took many risks in creating the album, demolishing the elements of previous albums that received them critical acclaim and obscuring them to an almost self-sabotaging degree. However, it’s safe to say that the risk undoubtedly paid off.
‘Double Vanity’, the third album from BRONCHO, is out now on Dine Alone Records. BRONCHO are set to go out on a European tour this autumn, starting at Amsterdam’s Indiestad Festival on the 21st of September, then followed by a recently announced UK tour (tour dates listed here). For more coverage on BRONCHO on TGTF, follow this link.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 17th June 2016 at 1:00 pm
Words by Aine Cronin-McCartney
Acclaimed Americana troubadour Daniel Pearson’s latest musical offering ‘4th July’ is a compelling 3 minutes of chugging guitars and enthusiastic harmonica playing. The song, which will be released this coming Friday, instantly captivates, with Pearson’s own signature styling of country and pop, amalgamated together to create the perfect mesmeric melody.
Having previously released his music independently, Pearson is certainly a rare, but true indie artist, something which has proved valuable to his appeal. This charm has helped him to amass a legion of dedicated fans through word of mouth and has meant success both in real life and on social media. Over the course of three albums, Pearson has honed his own sound alternating between acoustic narratives, to poignant country rock and simple garage blues. Arriving at the sound we can hear on ‘4th July’ with visceral vocals and intuitive melodies, Pearson has made sure to set himself apart from the well churned out pop machine of artists we are so used to hearing.
Pearson’s lyrics on this song are efficiently simple but yet effective. Together with his seductive vocal tone, he’s crafted the consummate country ballad. Citing Elliot Smith, Guthrie and Springsteen as significant influences, it comes as no surprise that many of Pearson’s songs contain lyrical tales entwined throughout his tracks. This one tells us of deceit, dishonesty and love gone awry.
The harmonies present are incredibly reminiscent of Johnny and June on some of their famous songs such as ‘Jackson’. The inclusion of a female vocal helps create a feeling of friction and tension between two fighting lovers. The emotional effortlessness of the lyrics ‘I told a lie on the 4th of July, I said you were the only one’, while unassuming, will still strike a chord with anyone who has been lied to or betrayed in a relationship When combined with the song’s intricate instrumentation and appealing arrangement, with its up-tempo and lively atmosphere, helps make ‘4th July’ an infectiously delicious and addictive country pop number.
‘4th July’, the new single by Daniel Pearson, is out today, the 17th of June, on Saint in the City. For more on Pearson on TGTF, go here.
I was sadly (but necessarily) disappointed to miss Nottingham wunderkind Jake Bugg in Austin earlier this year at SXSW 2016, where he played the BBC Music showcase at Stubb’s BBQ. But my lingering regret over that fateful evening has been fully assuaged by listening to Bugg’s brilliant new LP ‘On My One’.
Bugg has been lauded over the past several years for his songwriting and musicianship, which are both incredibly advanced given his young age. But what many critics miss, in my opinion, is the power and efficacy of Bugg’s singing voice. The nasal drawl that listeners associate with Bugg after his hits ‘Lightning Bolt’ and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve commented on his vocals in reviews of both his previous albums ‘Jake Bugg’ and ‘Shangri-La’, particularly the delicate beauty of ‘A Song About Love’ from the latter LP. But Bugg has raised his game considerably in this latest collection of songs.
The new album opens with a forceful one-two punch in the form of title track ‘On My One’, followed in quick succession by early single ‘Gimme the Love’. Displaying his aforementioned vocal prowess, Bugg knocks our emotions off balance straight away with a heartwrenching delivery of the lyrics “where’s God, where’s God? / he’s even left me on my one”. Then, before we can come up for air, he pummels us with the fast rhythmic pace and high energy guitar riffs of ’Gimme the Love’.
I wondered at first about the wisdom of putting such a powerhouse combination right at the start of the album’s tracklisting, but as it turns out, Bugg has plenty more where that came from. The soaring chorus of ‘Love, Hope and Misery’ might not be one of Bugg’s strongest lyrical moments, but it’s certainly among the album’s strongest melodic lines, and once again his vocals are surprisingly graceful. He does some of his level best singing and storytelling in the shadowy track ‘The Love We’re Hoping For’, where his voice reminds me very much of another singer whose voice I adore, Stornoway‘s Brian Briggs.
‘Put Out the Fire’ is the type of foot-stomping folk rock we’ve come to expect from Jake Bugg, and he shows off his acoustic guitar chops to their best advantage between its rapid fire verses. ‘Never Wanna Dance’, by contrast, is a smooth, groovy affair where Bugg again offers up a velvety vocal tone alongside a lush brass solo in the bridge. The pugilistic ‘Bitter Salt’ ratchets up the emotional tension with an anxious drum beat and strident electric guitars punctuating its darkly menacing verses and driving chorus. Bugg then segues into the muted hip-hop rhythm of ‘Ain’t No Rhyme’ and revisits his own early Americana style in the wailing slide guitar of ‘Living Up Country’.
Bugg’s vocals are once again painfully and beautifully tender in the melancholic ballad ‘All That’, and the album closes quite fittingly with the nitty-gritty blues guitar track ‘Hold On You’. For all its surface variety, ‘On My One’ remains cohesive because of its underlying focus on that blues style. “Blues is my favourite genre,” says Bugg. “Whether it’s soul or hip hop, it all stems from the blues.”
According to the album’s press release, the title ‘On My One’ comes from a colloquialism in Bugg’s native Nottingham: rather than saying “on my own”, they say “on my one”. What is perhaps most impressive about the record is that Bugg wrote, performed and produced most of the 11 tracks himself, remarking that “in a lot of ways [the title] sums up this record because it mainly has been me on my own”. Easily the best album I’ve heard so far this year, ‘On My One’ raises the bar significantly for the remainder of 2016.
Jake Bugg’s third LP ‘On My One’ is out today, the 17th of June, on Virgin EMI. Bugg will play a full summer schedule of festival dates, as well as a UK tour in October. You can find a complete list of his upcoming live shows here. TGTF’s previous coverage of Jake Bugg is back here.