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Single Review: Drowners – Pick Up the Pace

 
By on Friday, 20th May 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Krystal Garcia of Distorted Heartbeat

“Honey, you’ve got to pick up the pace” is precisely what NYC’s Drowners aspire to do with the release of the second single from their forthcoming album ‘On Desire’. Where the album’s first single ‘Cruel Ways’ was a bit of a departure from the more indie pop sound of their 2014 self-titled debut, ‘Pick Up the Pace’ bridges the gap between the band’s previous Smiths-like material and the darker, more mature direction of the new album.

Produced by Claudius Mittendorfer, whose body of work includes the Jangly Guitar Master himself Johnny Marr, ‘Pick Up the Pace’ isn’t completely without dark, brooding undertones. Smiths comparisons aside, Drowners wear many other influences on their sleeves with pride: Suede’s charisma, Jarvis Cocker-like vocals and late ‘90s Cure guitar. Lyrically, Welsh frontman Matthew Hitt weaves a tale of the dangers of complacency. “The ball is dropped, so the chain reacts”, he says, in attempt to reclaim his own emotional well-being. Hitt’s smooth, confident vocals are paired with Jack Ridley’s equally confident, whimsical guitar work. Together, they are grounded by a crisp rhythm section consisting of Erik Lee Snyder on bass and Daniel Jacobs on guitar. Floating above it all is a light layer of synths that while initially may be off-putting, eventually they tie together the dark and light aspects of the song.

While not quite on the same level of their musical predecessors, ‘Pick Up the Pace’ shows that Drowners have graduated to the next level of their career: capable of writing dark melodic pop just as well if not better than their token jangly pop.

7.5/10

Single ‘Pick Up the Pace’ from New Yorkers Drowners is available now. ‘On Desire’, the second album from New York City’s Drowners, will be released on Frenchkiss Records on the 24th of June. More coverage of Drowners on TGTF can be found here, including editor Mary’s coverage of them at SXSW 2016.

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Single Review: Benjamin Clementine – I Won’t Complain

 
By on Thursday, 19th May 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Mickey Clement

London singer/songwriter Benjamin Clementine won the 2015 Mercury Prize for Album of the Year on the strength of his genre-challenging debut LP ‘At Least for Now’. Clementine’s songwriting on the album combines a very classical aesthetic with pop vocals and art rock structures in a composite style that truly thinks outside the box of any commonly defined musical classification. Earlier this spring, Clementine released a new deluxe version of ‘At Least for Now’ with three added tracks and an extended version of one more from the original release.

Taken from the new deluxe version of the album, Clementine’s upcoming single ‘I Won’t Complain’ has already received attention on American shores from The Fader and The Late Late Show with James Corden. But Clementine himself didn’t have a lot of exposure to pop culture in either music or television as he was growing up. Raised in a strict religious household in North London before fleeing to Paris at age 20, Clementine’s earliest artistic influences included French pianist and composer Erik Satie and American avant-garde musicians Antony and the Johnsons.

Clementine’s mix of background influences are intriguing to say the least, and I found myself curious as to what the synthesis of those ingredients might sound like. In the case of ‘I Won’t Complain’, it reads at first like a classical art song, arranged simply for piano and voice. The piano accompaniment is shimmeringly impressionistic and without a quickly discernable structure. But Clementine’s vocals are unmistakably vernacular, stating his poignant lyrics in a stark hybrid of speech and singing that broadens to a climax of raw emotional expression over the refrain “but I won’t complain / no, I won’t complain / though my good days are far gone / they’ll surely come back one morn / so I won’t complain”.

‘I Won’t Complain’ is a unique and powerful blend of fragility and strength from a songwriter who has experienced his fair share of both in the course of his 27 years. His increasingly rare combination of musical elegance and lyrical eloquence finds exquisite visual expression in the abstract black and white promo video below.

9/10

The deluxe version of Benjamin Clementine’s ‘At Least For Now’ is currently available, and new single ‘I Won’t Complain’ will impact on the 27th of May on Virgin EMI in the UK and Capitol Records in America.

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Single Review: Band of Skulls – So Good

 
By on Wednesday, 18th May 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Band of Skulls have been playing and creating music since 2008. They are about to release their fourth studio album next Friday. Their latest single, ‘So Good’ has been premiered ahead of its release and is the second to be shared from LP ‘By Default’. It follows first single ‘Killer’, which was released earlier this year. The album was produced by Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters) and will be released through BMG.

The threesome – Emma Richardson (bass and vocals), Russell Marsden (guitar and vocals) and Matthew Hayward (drums) – have had a steady rise to fame over the past 8 years or so. At the beginning of their career, they were featured on iTunes’ free Single of the Week, then performing on Later with Jools Holland and Late Night with Seth Meyers in 2014. They’ve also had their songs featured on a myriad of television shows including Castle, Gossip Girl and True Blood over the past few years, solidifying their exposure mainstream. They have supported Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Dead Weather, and have toured pretty extensively: in a nutshell, they’ve been busy.

Their latest release ‘So Good’ sees Richardson’s vocals front and centre and is a bold rock ‘n’ roll number, soaked in catchy bass rhythms and sharp, clean guitars. The track has vigour to it, like it would comfortably suit both an intimate venue like your local seedy bar, as well on the main stage at a festival. The chorus, Richardson repeating the title of the song over and over, is pretty addictive and picks up the rhythm of the track before softening back into each verse. The song fits into the indie rock mould, yet is sophisticated and stylish. This single feels less edgy than some of their earlier work, almost leaning into a more pop vibe. ‘So Good’ sets an interesting precedence for the upcoming album: the most exciting bands and artists are usually those that don’t stubbornly stick to the same blueprint album after album.

8.5/10

Band of Skulls will release their fourth album ‘By Default’ on the 27th of May on BMG, which includes current single ‘So Good’. The band will be touring extensively across Europe this year, including numerous festivals from The Great Escape and Glastonbury, to Benicassim and Out Of The Woods Festival in Austria. For England, they’ve already announced an extensive tour for October and November; all the dates are listed in this previous tour post. past coverage of Band of Skulls on TGTF, go here.

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Single Review: Glass Animals – Life Itself

 
By on Wednesday, 18th May 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Growing up is hard to do. And it’s painful as hell if you’re going through emotional abandonment and excessive parental pressure. (So can random track or album drops with no warning to music editors, for that matter.) Oxford’s Glass Animals became more massive in Australia and America than the UK on the strength of their 2014 debut album ‘Zaba’, released on Paul Epworth’s Wolftone label. It was one of those curious phenomenons that I had predicted but when it actually happened, I still had trouble believing it.

With their nods to hip hop and urban music and frontman Dave Bayley’s self-professed love of Kanye West, I figured it would be a given they’d be embraced in my home country. Monday, after a long wait, they released new material in the form of single ‘Life Itself’, purported to be on the second Glass Animals long player. If Bayley’s comments “I still feel very odd listening to these strangely personal songs” are to be believed, the band’s trajectory, the highs and lows of being in a band, and the eventual confidence that rises from it appear to be chronicled on this first taster.

The first thing sonically you’ll notice is that overall, the music definitely takes a louder, centre stage role. While on 2014’s ‘Zaba’, singles like ‘Black Mambo’ and ‘Gooey’ were about setting a chill vibe, there is no mistaking on ‘Life Itself’ that it is forcing you to focus all your attention on it and nowhere else. The single begins almost like the start of a film, with harp chords, an Oriental melody on koto and instrumental clicks, but that doesn’t last too long. From there, there’s rhythmically a nice undercurrent of bouncy beats similar to that heard on ‘Zaba’ and engaging shakes of a jingle stick, but they sadly kind of get lost in the otherwise forward nature of the track, which includes borderline cacophonous synth lines.

Bayley explained the song to American indie music magazine Under the Radar this way: “It’s a guy who was born a bit strange, and struggles to become part of society. Because of that he spends more time alone in his own head, getting stranger, and it becomes an awful cycle of doom.” Looking closer at the lyrics, the first verse chronicles this character Bayley plays, a bloke whose father had a certain, probably macho life planned out for him that directly flies into the face of his son’s “gentle human” nature. In verse two, the bloke’s mum is introduced (using “mom” in American parlance), who notes her son’s inability to get and hold down a job and criticises his physical appearance.

The protagonist grows up and not into the image expected by his father. His own mother considers him a bum and his “grandmama” says he looks wasted. But in his own head, the son thinks he’s grown up just fine and he looks “fantastic”. Who’s wrong, and who’s right? Where’s the line between keeping up with the Joneses and being yourself? While there’s never been great finesse with word choice in Glass Animals songs, there is a strange and intriguing poignancy to the lyrics of ‘Life Itself’ hiding behind its over-the-top instrumentation. It’s like a massive pair of neon-coloured Dior sunglasses are sat in front of the eyes whose heart you want to discover.

6.5/10

Glass Animals’ second album is named ‘How to Be a Human Being’, but we don’t have a release date yet and it’s expected sometime in late summer on Caroline International / Wolftone. Based on the reveal of ‘Life Itself’ this week, we’re assuming we’ll be getting all the nitty-gritty details in due course. They have one UK show – at London ICA on the 15th of June – planned for this year and no others; they’re also scheduled to perform on the 20th of June at Berlin Kantine Am Berghain. For TGTF’s archive on Glass Animals, including our coverage of them at SXSW 2014 and Liverpool Sound City 2014 when it seemed barely anyone in the world knew who they were, go here.

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Single Review: MKAI – Nothing Lasts Forever

 
By on Tuesday, 17th May 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Brian Benjamin Dwyer

The latest in a remarkable recent crop of Irish artists, Cork band of brothers MKAI made their live debut less than 2 years ago at Electric Picnic 2014. Comprising siblings Cian, Conor, Eoghan and Colm MacSweeny, the band released their debut EP ‘Waiting’ later that autumn with a sold out EP launch show at Cork’s Crane Lane Theatre. The EP was produced and mixed by Rob Kirwan (Hozier, Bell X1, U2) and received national airplay in Ireland at the end of 2014. The band re-released one of its tracks, ‘Loop’, as a single last spring. Now, just over a year later, the band are set to put out another new single, a striking track called ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’.

‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is a mid-tempo, synth-laced rock tune, dramatic and cinematic in tone, soundtracked by vibrant guitar riffs and insistent drum beats. Though its musical gestures are direct and concise, its lyrics are a bit obtuse, starting with the suggestion of a storyline in the opening verse, “you are a mystery to me / your eyes saw the darkness in me / I’ve been tainted by another jaded lover”. The second verse gives a bit more insight into the song’s plot, “how I painted you in the colours of my mistake / took my breath as you washed them away”, and the rousing chorus rings with hard-won redemption.

The song’s accompanying video, directed by Brian Benjamin Dwyer of Madra Mór Productions, depicts a man running from a mysterious masked villain, the frenzy of the pursuit following the song’s anxiously intensifying pace. Though the video’s protagonist eventually evades capture, the twist ending might leave you questioning your interpretation of the rather purposefully vague lyrics. Have a listen below and draw your own conclusion.

7.5/10

MKAI’s new single ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ will be available from the 27th of May. MKAI made quite an impression on our own editor Mary at Canadian Music Week 2016 earlier this month; stay tuned to TGTF for her full coverage of the band’s appearance in Toronto.

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Single Review: Band of Horses – In a Drawer

 
By on Monday, 16th May 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Band of Horses have finally returned. After the release of ‘Mirage Rock’ 4 years ago, the dreamy and melancholic quintet are now on single number two from upcoming album number five ‘Why Are You OK’. ‘In a Drawer’ firstly features J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.) on vocals during the chorus, which beautifully suits both Band of Horses and the track itself. Similarly, the verses of the track sound as if they could’ve been cut from a track on Father John Misty’s 2015 release ‘I Love You Honeybear’, particularly in the lyrical content where they epitomise hipster culture, “Do you love me, which one is it? We should be living in a warehouse district”, which is backed by a solid electronic drum beat.

Of course the song doesn’t retain this status very long. As soon as the chorus hits, where Mascis kicks in, it becomes a catchy and melodic representation of trying to find out where love truly belongs and where you can often find yourself looking for things to keep it alive. The rousing nature of the chorus is aided by drums that gather in strength, only for everything to collapse into an ethereal sound, welcoming back the electronic drum beat from the first verse, and things calm down once again. The band’s use of harmonies and vocals to broaden the overall sound, especially with added reverberant effects, is testament to their ability as both musicians and as purveyors of heart touching melodies.

‘In a Drawer’ resumes this method of operation for the next verse and chorus. Once the bridge hits, there’s an even larger reduction where angelic sounding vocals entwine around each other briefly before giving way to the same catchy chorus that just won’t budge from your head. All in all, it’s a solid return by Band of Horses, with an interesting experimental foray into electronic music, something that isn’t as overwhelming as other current releases but adds a tasteful dynamic to a sound that is already unique in itself. All we can do now is duly await the arrival of the full length release to see what other evolutionary approaches Band of Horses are going to take.

7/10

Band of Horses’ fifth LP ‘Why Are You OK’ is due for release on the 10th of June via Virgin EMI in the UK and Interscope/American Recordings in America TGTF’s previous coverage of Band of Horses is right back here.

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About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours 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 no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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