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Album Review: Little Matador – Liar Liar EP

 
By on Wednesday, 20th November 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Little Matador, the side project of Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connolly, have recently announced their 4-track EP called ‘Liar Liar’. Physical copies of the EP are only available at the band’s live shows, but an online stream is available here in advance of the band’s full-length release, which is due out in early 2014.

Though billed as a Snow Patrol spin-off, the musical influence of Snow Patrol is minimal in Little Matador’s sound. This EP is aggressively direct, relying on heavily distorted guitar riffs and forceful vocals rather than poetic lyrics or graceful melodies. Connolly’s singing voice is surprisingly strong, especially for those of us who have only heard him do backing vocals for Snow Patrol, but it is largely drowned in the enormity of the guitars and drums.

Fortunately, his hard-hitting lyrics don’t require exquisite precision to make their impact. Raucous tracks ‘Boom Boom’ and ‘Liar Liar’ (available for free download at the band’s Web site) capture the essence of the band’s overall sound, while outstanding track ‘Gimme All You’ve Got’ features a glimpse of lyrical sensitivity and an incisive keyboard rhythm.

Watch a short film the band made ahead of their tour this month with their own headline dates and some supporting Queens of the Stone Age below.

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Single Review: Big Deal – Swapping Spit

 
By on Tuesday, 19th November 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

I don’t care for, nor have I really ever cared for boy/girl singing duos, or bands with male and female voices harmonising. This is an unfortunate position to be in as a music editor I suppose, since there seem to be so many of them right now! My guess, though, is that my lack of interest in them probably has to do with two things: my own vocal training as an alto, and the fact that I generally can’t stand women with those higher pitched, baby, Minnie Mouse-y voices. So I wondered why the latest single from Alice Costello and Kacey Underwood, aka Big Deal, affected me the way it did. Maybe it has subliminal messages hidden in it? If you listen to BBC 6music on a regular basis, you will understand when I say this song has been drilled into your consciousness over the last couple of weeks.

Along with ‘Teradactol’ released in December 2012 and March 2013’s ‘In Your Car’, ‘Swapping Spit’ is more evidence for anyone (especially for those who haven’t picked up their sophomore album ‘June Gloom’ yet) that the duo have decided to turn towards a harder edge than the one they began with on their 2011 debut ‘Lights Out’. Part of this is mechanical: the pair now have a bassist and drummer playing with them on recordings and live, so sonically, the entity of Big Deal can be and will be louder and more of an actual force of be reckoned with. In ‘Swapping Spit’, there are lovely muscular bass lines throughout as the melody chugs along and appropriately bright drum high hat hits during the chorus. So yay for that.

Upon further contemplation of this single, it dawned on me who the song reminded me of, with its washy guitars and gentle yet emotional lyrics: New York’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The song begins by painting a scene of desolation in a parking lot (yes, Underwood is American, if you were wondering), a situation in which we find the lovers meeting and “we stay out after dark / we’re nowhere to be found / there’s no-one else around / there’s no one else to tell us we’re no good”. It’s not imagined; at least one of them (probably the voice that’s singing) is expressing the shame of what is about to transpire in a place where they’re so far removed from everyone and everything else.

I can’t find the lyrics to the song online, and the enunciation along with the lack of vocal clarity in the video isn’t great, so I had to guess at some of the other words. But the later phrases that were most interesting to me were “you feel it slip away, my heart is now my own, there’s no better way to go, there’s no better way to go”, followed by, “I thought I saw you shake following me home / I wanted you to know / I wanted you to spin the wheel again, swinging for the fence / what do I do, what do I do?” This seems to indicate to me that the plot is about mates who are ‘friends with benefits’, but one of them has fallen in love with the other person, and he/she is waiting for the other to make a grand pronouncement that the love is reciprocal. She wants to “give up giving in” to the act, repeating “I will, I will” as part of an emphatic declaration that will take her heart out of this mess. But it’s the worst kind of love. Unrequited love, with the first person being upset and trying to accept “all lovers swapping spit, I’ll get used to it” that nothing is going to happen beyond the physical sex that’s happening at this very moment. Heartbreaking, and in its sparseness of conveying so much emotion, it’s arguably the best track of ‘June Gloom’. Good job.

8.5/10

Both the single ‘Swapping Spit’ and the band’s second LP ‘June Gloom’ are now available from Big Deal’s label Mute Records.

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Album Review: Jake Bugg – Shangri La

 
By on Monday, 18th November 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Jake Bugg Shangri La coverIt’s a bit hard to believe Jake Bugg’s second studio album ‘Shangri La’ is released today, in November 2013, even as his self-titled, 2013 Mercury Prize-nominated first album continues to make the rounds. While it might be unusual for the influences of the two records overlap, the songs seem to have developed and progressed in a very natural way, making the transition from ‘Jake Bugg’ to ‘Shangri La’ feel almost seamless.

In short, ‘Shangri La’ is not as different from ‘Jake Bugg’ as I initially expected it to be. The first two singles, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ (reviewed here) and ‘Slumville Sunrise’ (watch the video here), seemed to mark a striking change in direction toward a heavier, edgier sound, but much of the album is more in the vein of Bugg’s earlier acoustic folk rock. The main musical difference between the two albums is in the song arrangements, which have branched out into added layers of electric guitar, keyboards, and percussion. Bugg’s songwriting hasn’t drastically changed, even with the influence of famed Californian producer Rick Rubin. His lyrics are still unrelentingly real, and his song structures still plainly straightforward. Opening track ‘There’s a Beast and We All Feed It’ is a quick and dirty introduction to his typical pugnacious style, which he revisits on ‘Messed Up Kids’ and ‘Kingpin’. However, Bugg does have a few tricks up the sleeve of his leather jacket, and these are parceled out slowly over the course of the album.

The major surprises on ‘Shangri La’ come in the form of two love songs, ‘Me and You’ and ‘A Song About Love’. The larger instrumental arrangements are most effective on these tracks, and Bugg’s singing voice sounds better than it ever has, especially in such raw emotional passages as the chorus of ‘Me and You’. ‘A Song About Love’ is surely the record’s pièce de resistance, displaying a deftly written tenderness in its lyrics and a remarkably effective vocal technique, particularly from a singer not known for his emotionally effusive personality.

The general tempo on the second half of ‘Shangri La’ slows down a bit, with the sultry bass line and keyboard riffs of ‘Kitchen Table’ and the austere narrative of ‘Pine Trees’. Heavier tunes ‘All Your Reasons’ and ‘Simple Pleasures’ have a languid, minor key blues feel. True to his roots, Bugg ends the album with a pure folk ballad, ‘Storm Passes Away’, which nods to his expanded repertoire of sound by including a fuller arrangement of instruments than we previously might have heard.

The expanded sonic palette on ‘Shangri La’ adds an intensified degree of emotional depth to Bugg’s already precocious songwriting ability. Bearing in mind that he is still only 19 years old, I am inclined to forgive his determined ‘rebel without a cause’ theme if it means a chance to hear brilliant moments like ‘A Song About Love’. ‘Shangri La’ doesn’t venture as far from the pathway as it might have, but it does show the confidence and scope of an artist who has hit his stride.

8/10

Jake Bugg will be touring through the end of the year and has announced a lengthy list of live dates for 2014 as well. His upcoming UK dates in early 2014 can be found here, and a full list of live shows can be found on his official Web site.

‘Shangri La’ is available starting today from Jake Bugg Records / Virgin Records.

 

Single Review: The Courteeners – Are You in Love with a Notion?

 
By on Tuesday, 5th November 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Funny how this single from The Courteeners comes along just shortly after Keane announced they had decided to go on hiatus. ‘Are You in Love with a Notion?’, the opening track of the Manchester band’s third album ‘Anna’ released in February, will be released as a single in its own right in December on Polydor. Surely, the Courteeners’ fan faithful have already committed this song to memory, having bought the album and seen the band on tour or at festivals this year. But even if you don’t have Liam Fray’s poster on your bedroom wall, it’s a tune worth your attention, and I’ll tell you why.

I mentioned Keane in the previous paragraph because the anthemic piano banging that takes place in ‘Are You in Love with a Notion?’ has been compared by others to Doves but I find it more like Tim Rice-Oxley in its key scratching, in terms of more recent memory. The subject matter isn’t new: a man is clearly bemoaning that a woman’s choice – or maybe desire is the better word? – to settle for a man who might not be the right one for her. It’s not spelled out, but the suggestion the protagonist is a far better choice is hiding in here. Another theme is that of running away and escaping to a better life; perhaps that’s where NME was going when they were comparing this song to Doves and therefore our namesake ‘There Goes the Fear’? One could argue the “notion” in the song could be marriage, or love itself; for the purpose of this discussion, it doesn’t matter. The girl wants to “quit Debenhams” and leave her shop girl existence to “elope and get married in the sun”, and she’s already gleefully informed her girlfriends “that all your [her] dreams were made”. Do I know girls like this? Yes. More importantly, do you know girls like this?

Along with its feel good chorus perfect for a singalong, this would have been enough for a radio hit. However, Fray has some interesting word choices, elevating this song from usual Radio 1 fodder. “You linger on a feeling / that you can’t quite put your finger on / reminiscent of a summer in the Isle of Wight” – our protagonist insists the feeling is fleeting and isn’t sufficient to tie down the girl, even if she thinks “it’s too late / to back out at this stage”. Later on, Fray quips, “but then your home screen flashed some more / he was never one for serenade”: ‘the one’ in question uses texting to romance his lady love. Not exactly Shakespeare, is it? But it drives home the point of the song: don’t settle.

8/10

The next single from the Courteeners, ‘Are You in Love with a Notion?’, will be released on the 9th of December on Polydor. They will be on tour in the UK in December.

 

Single Review: Marmozets – Move, Shake, Hide

 
By on Friday, 1st November 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

What sums up the youthful exuberance and blossoming success of the British hardcore/metal scene in 2013? Is it Bring Me the Horizon’s ‘Sempiternal’? Quite possibly. Is it the fact that Arcane Roots have just supported Muse on a stadium tour? Maybe. Or is it the fact that Bingley five-piece Marmozets have been signed to Roadrunner Records and with their new single ‘Move, Shake, Hide’ looks set to catapult them firmly in to the eyes of the great British public? Most definitely.

The rise of Marmozets over the past 2 and a half years has been a slow burner for the most, supplemented by some fearsome tour schedules. Over the last 10 months, though, Marmozets have encapsulated everything that is good about British metal at the moment: a fearlessness to experiment, an arrogance or confidence that can only be borne of youthful enthusiasm and raw talent. Probably the kind of mix Greg Dyke is looking for in the next generation of British footballers… In music though, we don’t get commissions and boards. But we are treated to, in much the same way as football, incredible breakthroughs that get us excited and have us off our seats.

While ‘Born Young and Free’ was probably that first goal which makes you take notice of them, ‘Move, Shake, Hide’ is that one of those feats of near brilliance which lets you know that there is something special. Becca Macintyre’s immense vocals are supplemented by a double guitar assault, with breakdowns that range from the heavy to the funky. I can pay testament to this track in a live arena is utter carnage; orchestrated by Miss Macintyre who is increasingly showing her credentials as the heir to the throne left vacant by Amy Lee – that of the faux-goth superstar.

Chuck in to the mixer that the hooks are despicably catchy, and it’s obvious that Marmozets are no longer new kids on the block. They’re ready to but their 18-year old noses in to the big leagues – at least now school is out.

9/10

‘Move, Shake, Hide’ will be Marmozets’ first single to be released on their new label Roadrunner Records on the 18th of November.

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Album Review: Polica – Shulamith

 
By on Tuesday, 29th October 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Eyes watering, you emerge from the eerie dry ice. All you can do is solemnly bop your head, your face morose after the journey you’ve been on, through the female psyche; the intense neurosis, the sundry delusions of grandeur and dejection all mixed up with feminist ideals and dreams.

Polica - Shulasmith coverThese feelings can often be associated with when you leave a rave, eyes stinging at the dreadful mist of dry-ice fumes, cigarette smoke and the faint whiff of cheap back-alley beak. They can also now be associated with the sentiment after listening to Poliça’s second record, ‘Shulamith’: an alt-pop, synth drenched journey, through the intense feminist mind of lead singer and Poliça’s song-writing lynchpin Channy Leanagh.

Leanagh nailed her sufferer of suffrage colours to the mast quite firmly with their debut album ‘Give You The Ghost’ and within 20 seconds of ‘Chain My Name’, the opener of ‘Shulamith’, we’ve got a melancholic cry of feminist rage, as Leanagh mutters, “Are we just made to fight/All our lives?”, in a fairly relatable attack on the dogma of love and relationships. Relatable as hell, does anybody understand relationships? Channy Leanagh sure as hell doesn’t and she isn’t out there pretending to be some kind of expert. She’s giving a fairly bleak example of her situation and her experiences of being a 21st century woman who don’t need no man (insert funny meme here).

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But seriously, throughout this record we are treated to a trippy as balls journey, i.e., invasion of Channy Leanagh’s head. It’s murky water at times, treading through a swirling misty pool of darkened imagery, so opaque that you’re worried you may get caught up in some kind of mire. We’re treated to an almost third person journey, with Justin Vernon interspersing the imagery on ‘Tiff’. As previously cited though, the feminist undercurrents are even more apparent in this record, in comparison to the debut. Understandably so, seeing as the title directly infers a relation to Canadian-born feminist, Shulamith Firestone, author The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution.

Back to the music and as far from the ideologies that this record is penned around, we are treated to some mind-fuckerous beats. ‘Matty’ feels like an LSD-infused horse-and carriage ride with the haunches of the beast tapping like a metronome as you take in the views, the despair of a relationship doomed to fail. The beat is reminiscent of a ‘Plastic Beach’-era Gorillaz, while the melody and lyrics are far more morose and disturbing – we’re invited inside Leanagh’s head freely to indulge in the despair.

You’re probably realising that unless you thrive of the gloomy, this record won’t be for you. Understandably with such deep subject matter explored in detail by Poliça, the music though ranges from unquestionably brilliant alternative pop, with beats so infectious they should come with inoculations in the digipak – to synth smothered vocals delivered hauntingly brilliantly by a Lucy Rose/Laura Marling crossover. Channy Leanagh is the quintessential female frontman of this genre, Controlling the band’s movement and rhythm effortlessly with her immense story-telling and understanding of the pace of songs.

‘Shulamith’ is hardly to awaken you from a deep slumber, but it’s far from something to send you to sleep as well. No, it’s more of a meditatory collection of experiences and experimental rhythms, where time signatures and moulded and skewed to fit the author’s pleasures.

A beautiful collection of torment from Poliça, and most certainly not their last.

8.5/10

‘Shulamith’, the sophomore effort from Poliça, is out now on Memphis Industries. The band tour the UK in February; all the details are here.

 
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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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