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Single Review: PILLARS – You Got This

 
By on Monday, 24th August 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

You only have to listen to a sample of London-based newcomer PILLARS to realise that she is the kind of artist that can give you goose bumps on top of your goose bumps. Fresh off the back of her second single’s whirlwind success and an appearance at The Great Escape Festival 2015 in May, the elusive songwriter has unveiled ‘You Got This’: a sophisticated, intriguing number with a poignant message.

There’s a real coherence to PILLARS’ music, with her latest track perfectly slotting into her growing collection of ambient electronica (which already boasts her debut single ‘Attacker’ and the follow-up ‘Woman Without Her Love’), while also revealing more about the singer’s restricted musical and personal identity. The track, which uses samples of her own voice to build up distinctive, hypnotic arrangements, has a sound that is both pleasantly familiar, yet is delicately injected with just enough darkness to leave the hairs on the back of your neck trembling for more.

Produced by Deafkid and recorded and mixed by Brett Shaw (Florence and the Machine, Say Lou Lou) at Peckham’s 123 studios, ‘You Got This’ features well-crafted, cryptic lyrics, which are sung over a bed of murky basslines and hard-hitting synths. There’s an elegant, haunting tone to PILLARS’ voice that you can’t help but appreciate and admire.

With three solid singles under her belt already and a featured vocalist credit on ‘Temptress’ from hotly-tipped UK producer Daktyl, PILLARS has well and truly got the ball rolling in terms of her music career. In order to keep that momentum going, the songwriter will need to continue to output music of this calibre (whether it be another new single or possibly even an album). With preparations well underway for a debut London show this summer, this certainly won’t be the last we’ve seen of PILLARS, something this reviewer is extremely thankful for.

8/10

PILLARS’ single ‘You Got This’ is out now on East City Records.

 

Single Review: EL VY – Return to the Moon

 
By on Thursday, 20th August 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

The National frontman Matt Berninger has joined forces with Portland-based producer and musician Brent Knopf (Menomena, Ramona Falls) on a new side project called EL VY (the second syllable rhymes with “eye”). The pair will release their debut LP ‘Return to the Moon’ on the 30th of October on 4AD, but the fresh and unexpected sound of its title track is already making waves around the Internet.

‘Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)’ is surprisingly light-hearted and relaxed, with an air of easy confidence compared to Berninger’s heavier and more self-conscious work with The National. Knopf provides a nimble instrumental context whose tempo and texture deftly fluctuate between the slower, stripped back verses and the quick dance rhythm of the chorus. Shuffling percussion and concise, catchy guitar riffs draw attention to Berninger’s poised, even vocals. Despite the subtitle, there is no obvious dynamic crescendo to be heard, and Berninger wisely keeps his melodic delivery minimal, allowing the abstract prose of his lyrics to speak for itself.

The track’s lengthy subtitle doesn’t give much of a clue to the song’s overall meaning. Certainly the lines “I’m so excited the senator’s a fighter / don’t tell me nothing’s changed” have a political overtone to them, but the preceding lyric “went to bed and woke up inside another man’s head / nobody noticed”, might leave you with a lingering mental question mark. Regarding the eponymous Didi Bloome, Berninger’s remarks in the press release for the single shed some light on the subject: “This record is more autobiographical than anything else I’ve written, but the details aren’t true. It’s written in the voices of a few invented characters, composites of different people–myself, my wife, and other people I was thinking about.”

8/10

The lyric video for ‘Return to the Moon’, directed by Michael Brown and Tom Berninger, is a lo-fi, black and white glimpse into EL VY’s studio process. You can dance to the track’s infectious disco beat along with Matt Berninger by watching it just below. Berninger and Knopf will take EL VY on tour in North America in November, starting with two dates in Knopf’s home base of Portland before heading to Europe in December. The details of their scheduled dates in England and Ireland are this way.

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Single Review: Editors – Life is a Fear

 
By on Tuesday, 18th August 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

The newest single from Editors’ forthcoming album ‘In Dream’, titled ‘Life is a Fear’, debuted last week on Zane Lowe’s new Beats 1 radio programme. In keeping with the rest of the album, Editors’ intent with this track was to create music that is “both pop and experimental”, according to frontman and vocalist Tom Smith.

While the synth-disco sound of ‘Life is a Fear’ is a bit out of character in the context of Editors’ previous work, I’m not sure I would necessarily categorise it as “experimental”. Its dance beat is clean and energetic, with none of the heft or grit of Editors’ previous album ‘The Weight of Your Love’. Overall, the track is slick and angular, crisp percussion snapping to attention and bass growling softly under the piercing keyboard melody and Smith’s signature baritone vocals. Surprisingly, Smith’s singing voice works very well in this context, its ever-so-slight stridency cutting through the thick haze of electronic sound.

The lyrics to ‘Life is a Fear’ have a nebulous stream-of-consciousness quality that fits very nicely with the album’s theme, though perhaps not as directly as the lyrics to previous single ‘Marching Orders’.  The overarching “dream” reference is present in the lead-in to the song’s chorus, “you, calling out a name / you, swimming unleashed through a dream”, before Smith extends his Freudian metaphor with the line “life is a fear of falling”.

The accompanying video to ‘Life is a Fear’ continues the band’s collaboration with photographer and director Rahi Rezvani. Rezvani’s austere black and white graphic style is uniquely well-suited to Smith’s lyrical preoccupation with the darker side of human nature, perhaps because of his own personal experience with it. Rezvani, whose photography caused him to be exiled from his home in Iran in 1999, describes himself as “a black and white person, un-scared of dividing the world in good and bad”. He makes that distinction very clearly in the video for ‘Life is a Fear’ with knife-like rays of white light slicing through the black visual background just as the song’s keyboard melody slices through its dark foundational bass.

7.5/10

Editors’ forthcoming album ‘In Dream’ is due for release on the 2nd of October on PIAS. All our previous coverage of Editors, including details of their October UK and Irish tour, can be found by clicking here.

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Single Review: James Vincent McMorrow – How to Waste a Moment

 
By on Friday, 14th August 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Dublin singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow has recently unveiled two new tracks in the aftermath of his recent album ‘Post Tropical’, which came out early in 2014. ‘Post Tropical’ was a departure from McMorrow’s early acoustic folk style, delving into synthesised sounds and deconstruction of form to create a more ambient, reflective sort of mood. His two newly shared songs represent the threshold of another change, drawing a line between the ‘Post Tropical’ period and the next phase of McMorrow’s songwriting journey.

The first of the new songs is a stripped back version of a track from ‘Post Tropical’ called ‘Gold’. The original version was more rhythmic and energetic, with a dramatic brass interlude building intensity behind McMorrow’s strained falsetto vocals. The new solo version is slow and comparatively anti-climactic, evolving gradually rather than deliberately developing toward a final conclusion.

McMorrow’s lyrics are abstract and full of vague imagery, which works better with the contrast of the more intentional original arrangement. The solo version is aimless and uncertain but still somehow apropros as McMorrow slurs into its final statement, “time isn’t the only power now”. The song is currently available as an .aif file for free by clicking the download (down arrow) button on the upper right hand corner of the SoundCloud widget below.

McMorrow’s new single release ‘How To Waste A Moment’ has more momentum and is more immediately tangible, beginning straight away with a hypnotic rhythmic figure and a purposeful vocal delivery. McMorrow’s breathy falsetto still obscures his words somewhat, but he has helpfully posted the lyrics on his Soundcloud, along with the track itself and a description of how the song came about. The key statement, in my mind, comes at the end of his description: “I recorded it with tempo because life to me is tempo, it’s rarely slow. This song is the connect from where I was, to where I’m going to be very soon.”

Fans of the hazy, deliberately indistinct musical style of Bon Iver will find much to like in these two tracks, as they most likely did on hearing ‘Post Tropical’. I myself am more interested in McMorrow’s new tempo-driven direction, and I look forward to hearing where this might lead him in the near future.

7/10

James Vincent McMorrow’s new single ‘How to Waste a Moment’ is out now on Believe Recordings. Previous TGTF coverage of James Vincent McMorrow is right back this way.

 

Single Review: Emmi – Sleep on It

 
By on Thursday, 13th August 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Having spent the past few years writing songs for the likes of Little Nikki, Leona Lewis and Bridgit Mendler, Aussie/Brit Emmi stepped out of the shadows and stormed onto the music scene as a singer/songwriter with her debut single ‘My Kinda Swag’. The track made headway amongst industry tastemakers, having featured on The Guardian’s “Pop Playlist” and also catching the attention of Greg James, who gave it a spin on BBC Radio 1. Following on from her tremendous debut and a busy summer of recording, Emmi’s latest single ‘Sleep on It’ is destined for similar success.

Produced by DaWood (who has previously worked with Blue and Roll Deep), ‘Sleep on It’ is a confident pop track, showcasing Emmi’s ability to create an eclectic pop sound with glimmering vocals, feel-good choruses and catchy melodies.

Singing over a gripping arrangement of horns, piano and percussion, Emmi’s thought-provoking lyrics tell the story of a late night quarrel between a couple, who will discuss matters further the next day, once they’ve had time to think about it: “I don’t want, wanna fight no more, wanna fight no more / can I get some sleep tonight, tonight, you don’t know if you love me no more.” The thought and meaning behind the lyrics is strongly emphasised through Emmi’s broad vocal range, which combines the (wuthering) heights of Kate Bush, the powerful, sharp tones of Sia, and the maturity of Amy Winehouse.

It’s hard to believe that ‘Sleep on It’ is only the second single from Emmi. She has managed to craft a sound that brings out the best of her lyrical and vocal abilities, something many artists struggle to achieve so early on in their careers. With two solid releases under her belt already, there’s certainly a promising future for this young star. Remember the name, as you’ll be hearing it a lot over the coming months, possibly even years.

9/10

Emmi’s ‘Sleep on It’ single is out now.

 

Single Review: Neon Wolf – A Place to Call Home

 
By on Monday, 10th August 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Neon Wolf - A Place to Call Home single coverSpritely, guitar heavy indie pop hailing from Ireland. Nope, I’m not talking about TGTF friends Two Door Cinema Club. This time it’s Neon Wolf, the five-piece from Kilkenny who have confidently touched upon their fellow Irishmen’s knack for an infectious guitar melody. Let’s be clear, then, that they are by no means rivals for the same crowd. Oh no, whilst there may be similarities, it’s their latest single ‘A Place to Call Home’ that has a jubilant, crowd-pleasing indie pop crunch that touches on a completely different set of influences. Take the euphoric, Prides-esque sensibilities in their euphoric drums, or a catchiness borrowed from Fickle Friends. It’s all there as vocalist Rob Grace flaunts, “it’s so hard to reach out again…”

It comes as little surprise then that production credit goes to Joe Cross, who is well versed in this breed of deft pop hooks and bouncing choruses, having worked with the likes of Chloe Howl, Kid Astray, and even Hurts. This might be Neon Wolf’s tale of having to let go and leave things behind, but they sure as heck give things a positive spin with Cross behind them. What to make then of the 3 gratifying minutes that your ears are about to be blessed with, then? Expect colourful synth outbursts and biting electric guitars through the verses, capped off by building harmonies of “higher love”. When the chorus fires up, they fizz with incandescent, tropical pop/rock attitude, sharpening their riffs as the bouncy energy continues.

The band’s pop-heavy assault is set to continue with a new EP coming soon, whilst their London debut also beckons at the 1,500 capacity theatre-turned venue Koko. It’s not exactly your average first gig in London, but a setting where their penchant for dazzling, stratospheric summer-pop will light up every corner of the room.

8/10

The ‘A Place to Call Home’ single by Irish band Neon Wolf is out now on Killing Moon Records.

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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.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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