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Single Review: Jake Bugg – What Doesn’t Kill You

 
By on Thursday, 3rd October 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Jake Bugg’s first album, ‘Jake Bugg’ (reviewed by me here) was hailed as a fresh take on folk-rock; its combination of tenacity and musical sensitivity took listeners by surprise, especially from someone so young. With ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, Bugg upends his punk-folk image with a foray into heavy guitar rock, using brash electric guitar effects and a bolder, harsher singing tone to make a direct statement of musical intent.

In the introduction to the stark black and white video accompanying the song, Bugg talks about trying to avoid gritty subjects in writing his second album, but in the end, he says he was unable to escape those tough influences and experiences. Thematically, the song deals with what Bugg calls “smaller subjects”, witnessing the mugging of a friend and being left by a lover. Musically, ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ is as about as straightforward as they come, electric guitar banging out power chords over pounding drums as Bugg snarls through his fast-paced verses. But the lyrics in the chorus provide an interesting twist. The opening line, “What doesn’t kill you…” never completes the idea with the expected “…makes you stronger.” Instead it crashes right into the next thought, “sometimes you feel you’re up against the world”, then, “this life, it seems, can bring you to your knees”, and, “you try, you bleed, then finally you breathe”. The song ends abruptly on this final lyric, as Bugg’s intention becomes fruition.

The video for ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ features Bugg and his sullen punk demeanor in stereotypical rock fashion: black leather jacket, nothing in the shot with him but his guitar and amplifier. While the forceful, hard-edged electric sound comes as a welcome surprise, Bugg’s singing voice isn’t quite as well suited to heavy rock as it is to his previous alt-folk tunes. His nasal tone, which blended with the warmth of his acoustic sound, comes across as a bit whiny as he competes with the volume of the guitar and drums. But Bugg’s music has never been about purely pretty singing, and his tone here goes right along with the less-than-subtle shift in his style. I might personally prefer his folkier debut album, but this change in direction will keep interest piqued among erstwhile fans in the UK and American fans who are still discovering Jake Bugg.

7.5/10

Jake Bugg’s second album ‘Shangri-La’ will be released on 18 November on Jake Bugg Records / Virgin. First single ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ is available now; the accompanying video can be viewed below. Bugg heads out on an UK tour in mid-October but sorry folks, it’s entirely sold out now, including three huge London Brixton Academy shows.

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Single Review: The Static Jacks – Wallflowers

 
By on Monday, 23rd September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

One of my fave bands ever from New Jersey, The Static Jacks, are gearing up for the release of their second album, ‘In Blue’, which drops on the 30th of September stateside on Old Friends Records. In mid-summer, the band revealed ‘I’ll Come Back’, which we featured as a previous Video of the Moment here. ‘I’ll Come Back’ is a real earworm if there every was one. If I’m entirely honest, that song was so great, I didn’t think there was any way they could top it. I was wrong.

Just a couple days ago when I was on holiday, they revealed another song off ‘In Blue’, called ‘Wallflowers’. A while ago, the band asked their fans on Facebook for a bunch of ’80s specific games and toys for a project they were working on. In the promo video embedded below, you can see why they needed them. It’s an adorable homage to the ’80s cult film Weird Science, but with a twist. I don’t want to tell you more, b/c it’ll ruin it for you.

The more I’ve listened to the song, the more it reminds me of earlier We Are Scientists, and these days, based on ‘Something About You’ and ‘Return the Favor’, I’d say they sound more like We Are Scientists than We Are Scientists sound like We Are Scientists. (Try saying that three times fast.) It also simultaneously sounds like the kind of mega guitar rock with huge riffs that I would listen to in the ’90s by Everclear and Weezer. (God, just saying that out loud makes me feel old…) The guitar riffs and melody of this song will not, I repeat, WILL NOT leave you. Resistance is futile.

And speaking of bands changing sound, the Static Jacks have definitely evolved since their 2011 debut. ‘If You’re Young’ was very much an in your face affair, with singer Ian Devaney’s punky, shouty vocal style perfect for ‘Defend Rosie’ and ‘Into the Sun’ (my personal favourite from the album) and his trademark thumpy, boot stomping on ‘My Parents Lied’ when played live. ‘Wallflowers’ is still sounds huge rock-wise, but it seems like the Static Jacks have refined their aesthetic, and the result is a more mainstream, radio-friendly sound that even us indie snobs will love. I’ll go into more detail in the album review for ‘In Blue’ that I’m planning to do in the coming days, but for now, all you need to know is that ‘Wallflowers’ is a song you definitely want in your music collection now, because it’s going to make the rounds very soon.

9/10

The Static Jacks’ second album ‘In Blue’ will be released next Monday the 30th of September in America on Old Friends Records.

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Single Review: Young Rebel Set – The Lash of the Whip

 
By on Monday, 9th September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

A slimmed down Young Rebel Set, reduced a smidge from their previously unwieldy seven to a more manageable five members, rejoins us with their sophomore effort ‘Crocodile’ later this month. For now, we have the first single, ‘The Lash of the Whip’, a rollicking single from the North Eastern lads.

Opening with a bit of a punk feel, the infectious and melodic keyboard slides into a tune both compelling and horrifying. With the sense of someone fighting the urge to repeat a violent or abusive past that can’t quite avoid being replicated, “and every time I beat you down / I know that you’ll come back somehow / that helplessness you cannot live without”, the song roars through its radio-friendly 3 minutes. Rough vocals that retain their distinct Northerness add to the visceral tone. Quick tempoed and driving, even the acoustic version (watch it at the end of this post) retains its sense of urgency.

Traveling between jaunty drum beats, sweet harmony and sombre, disturbing wordsmithing, ‘The Lash of the Whip’ haunts you well after the last note pulls away. Before the album drops on 30 September, catch them at a few dates listed here.

8/10

Young Rebel Set’s forthcoming single ‘The Lash of the Whip’ will be out on the 30th of September on Ignition Records. The second album from the Stockton-on-Tees band ‘Crocodile’ will be released on the same day. Grab a free track from the LP, ‘Another Time, Another Place’, from this previous mp3 of the day post in exchange for your email address.

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Single Review: Johnny Flynn – The Lady is Risen

 
By on Thursday, 5th September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

After embarking on a deliberately extemporaneous songwriting journey, singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn is set to release his third album ‘Country Mile’ at the end of this month. Flynn has described his approach to this album as “demoing with intent”, allowing the endeavour itself to be the goal, rather than trying to create a predetermined result.

The album’s first single, ‘The Lady is Risen’, is a perfect microcosm of that idea. Its lyrics explore the imbalance between idyllic notions of love and the reality of romantic relationships. Flynn’s stream-of consciousness poetry is set to music in such a way that each rhyming couplet blends seamlessly into the next, without regard to dramatic denouement. The song lacks a true chorus, depending on the repeated title line to round off each verse.

Flynn’s unadorned, declamatory singing style keeps the focus on his evocative poetic imagery, while the echoing guitar and the gentle, soulful backing vocals provide a sense of warmth and intimacy to match the lyrics, especially the lines “Is it snowing in London and warm in your bed? / Have I nothing to give you? I’m cold in your head / But you’re burning in mine…” The lyric video released as an accompaniment to ‘The Lady Is Risen’ (which can be viewed below) is a fine compliment to Flynn’s steadfastly non-linear songwriting.

7.5/10

Johnny Flynn’s new album ‘Country Mile’ will be released on the 30th of September through Transgressive Records. Preorder the album, and you’ll get ‘The Lady is Risen’ immediately as a free download.

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Single Review: High Hazels – Hearts Are Breaking

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

In July, I introduced you all to a new-ish band from Sheffield called High Hazels. Since that Bands to Watch feature, things have been on the up and up for the band: one massive thing that’s happened is their signing to indie label Heist or Hit Records, who also have Skint and Demoralised and Bad Veins on their roster. And just last week, the band announced on their Facebook that a test pressing of their debut single with Heist or Hit had been run successfully and being the nice boys that they are, they’d be giving it away to a lucky fan. Ain’t that sweet?

The name of the single, which has already been making the rounds on the interwebs, is called ‘Hearts Are Breaking’. I feel even more compelled to write about this single after seeing the poster for their single launch at the Sheffield Harley on the 4th of October when the venue unveiled it last month. It’s a strange combination of the English (take-a-way?) and American (flags, hot dog and hamburger stand) that I actually feel pained that I won’t be able to attend the party. Shouldn’t stop you, though.

I say strange, because I don’t hear anything particularly American about the single, which you can stream at the end of this post. Is it because I am American? Not sure. Need to get American blogger types together on this side of the pond to have a think on that. What I do know about ‘Hearts Are Breaking’ is that the overall sound achieved by High Hazels here is not unlike feeling like you’re inside one of those old-timey listening booths they used to have in record shops in the ’60s and the band is in there performing the song just for you. You’d think it would be claustrophobic, but it’s not. At all.

The guitars made echoey wrap around you like a warm blanket, which works well as the single release proper doesn’t happen until we’re deep into autumn days and nights. Singer James Leesley’s voice is bright even with the reverb effects, managing to soar with the words, “hearts are breaking / it’s never been as cold as tonight / a change of season / to hide inside / there’s a strange feeling right behind my eyes”. He’s not talking about contact lenses, folks. No, he’s elegantly describing the heartbreaking art of…crying. The image of being able to hide yourself as the seasons change, while time moves on and you can’t, proves emotionally evocative as well. The chorus “but even in the skies of a different hue, I won’t forget you / keep me in your heart a while, it’s true, I won’t forget you” continues on the same theme from earlier song ‘French Rue’. I think I just about fainted from the ache in my heart. The relationship is over and she’s far away from here now. But he’s still so much in love.

This is true beauty.

8.5/10

‘Hearts Are Breaking’, the debut single from High Hazels, will be released on the 7th of October on Heist or Hit Records. Three days prior on the 4th of October, the band will be holding a single launch party at Sheffield Harley; tickets are on sale now.

 

Single Review: Placebo – Too Many Friends

 
By on Thursday, 22nd August 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

“My computer thinks I’m gay / I threw that piece of junk away / on the Champs-Élysées.”

This is as odd as it sounds, but what have you come to expect from Placebo songs and videos? That brand of gender ambiguous rock that Placebo have made their trademark continues in the video to ‘Too Many Friends’, their first single from the upcoming album ‘Loud Like Love’. It begins like some kind of futuristic thriller, on the kind of Minority Report / Fifth Element crossover, but in place of a Tom Cruise or a Bruce Willis we are drawn in by the alluring tone of narrator Brett Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho. Mr. Ellis draws us into a 3-second clip of a vicious assault that centres on gummy bears, a phone app and some inconspicuous groping.

It’s all in classic Placebo form. Trippy as balls, yet spellbindingly catchy. Perhaps not in the conventional sense that songs like ‘Nancy Boy’, ‘Infrared’ and ‘Pure Morning’ were, but catchy nonetheless.

The video goes on to both visually and psychoanalysing the various characters we’ve been introduced to by the nefarious Mr. Ellis. The song builds up from Brian Molko’s sultry alt-rock tones into a booming, blasting track glaring with alt-rock pomp, driven by the drums and bass of Stefan Olsdal and Steve Forrest and supplemented by the gaggle of strings that the boys seem to have come upon.

In honesty, as weird as this all sounds, it’s characteristic of Placebo.

What they come out with next is anyone’s guess, but I’d be damned if they don’t whack out the leathers and the S&M gear for video number 2 from ‘Loud Like Love’.

Watch this space…

6/10

Placebo’s seventh album ‘Loud Like Love’ is out on the 16th of September on Electric Lady Ltd.

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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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