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Single Review: Longfellow – Choose

 
By on Friday, 11th September 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Tom Leishman

Venerated London indie label Fierce Panda Records is releasing its momentous 300th single today, and I’m pleased to announce that it comes from none other than one of my favourite bands on their roster, Longfellow. Following on from the excellent ‘Remedy’ EP that dropped back in April, ‘Choose’ is another pop gem that continues the South London band’s trend towards the anthemic.

The words that begin ‘Choose’ – “choose: be my saviour, be my downfall / choose: be my shelter, be my rain” – should tell you a lot about the foundation of this song. Any sort of love, especially when it becomes obsessive for either or both people involved in the relationship, runs the risk of going to either of two extremes. Either the other person is the most amazing person for you and makes *you* a better person too, or that person draws you in, quite possibly under false pretences that he/she loves you in the same way (“empty promises, vacant souls”). Interestingly, the song’s protagonist admits to his own foibles and shares the blame for the relationship going south: “I’m selfish, it’s true, I’ve often neglected you / Don’t seek intervention or force retribution”.

But when, then is it so hard to let go, if “you tell me that I’m useless and you used me to prop you up”? Because as you are loving that person, you can’t quite extricate yourself from him/her because you care so deeply for and want this person so much for your own. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all done this: when you’re in love with someone, you put your lover on a pedestal where he/she can do no wrong and you’re blind to all their faults. At some point, though, especially with all the turmoil going on inside your head, something’s gotta give.

These words of contrast reprise as the chorus throughout, but it becomes apparent pretty quickly that the situation frontman Owen Lloyd is singing about is a quite toxic one. Around Lloyd’s voice, the piano chords that have become Longfellow’s trademark come down, and chimes clang to indicate a crisis point has been reached. Both of these musical parts make the track heavy, but it’s a heft that makes perfect sense for such heartwrenching emotion that Longfellow are so good at in conveying, both lyrically and instrumentally. ‘Better Love’, the single’s b-side, is more in the folk pop vein, its lighter percussion and admirably twinkly keys not packing anywhere near the poignant punch of ‘Choose’. For some reason, ‘Better Love’ reminds me of early Fierce Panda signees Keane’s ‘Higher Than the Sun’, but it lacks a satisfying buildup or soaring vocals.

The big question I have is who here is being given the choice to choose. Even though it sounds like Lloyd’s putting the test to the other person to finally decide whether to soldier on or pack it in, the question can be directed inward too. Psychologically, all we are doing when we try and hold to someone who is clearly toxic and bad for our emotional well-being is enabling that person to continue to treat us badly. In some ways, ‘Choose’ is the negative counterpoint to their previous single ‘Hug-Kiss-Make Up’: perhaps ‘Choose’ shows a maturity, a taking off of the rose-coloured glasses?

8/10

‘Choose’ from Longfellow, the 300th single to be released by Fierce Panda Records, is available today in both digital and CD formats. Watch the video for the single, filmed in Berlin, below. For past coverage of Longfellow on TGTF, including their arresting appearance at the Wardrobe during Live at Leeds 2015 back in the spring, go here.

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Single Review: Daisy Victoria – Pain of Dancers

 
By on Wednesday, 26th August 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Having emerged as a solo artist in 2014 with the release of two critically acclaimed EPs (‘Heart Full of Beef’ and ‘Nobody Dies’), Daisy Victoria quickly gained attention from the likes of BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne and BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens. Her developing success also earned the young star support dates with Canadian-American folk rocker Martha Wainwright on her UK tour in October 2014. Almost a year later, Daisy Victoria is back with her brand new single ‘Pain of Dancers’.

Recorded at 4AD’s London studio and mixed by Damian Taylor (best known for working with Bjork, Arcade Fire and Robyn) at Golden Ratio in Montreal, ‘Pain of Dancers’ is four minutes of pure, raw emotion. This captivating track showcases Daisy Victoria’s operatic vocals over noir-esque synths, a sparkling guitar line and driving drums.

‘Pain of Dancers’, which was written by Daisy and her brother/songwriting partner Sam Lawrence, combines elements of mainstream pop with a beautifully charming, irresistible sound. The result is a track that contains the enchanting charm Daisy Victoria’s existing fanbase have come to know and love, while also appealing to a wider audience.

Ultimately, ‘Pain of Dancers’ is a fine example of Daisy Victoria’s talents and the output she is capable of. With a sound many existing artists could only dream of after two EPs, you can’t help but wonder what other tricks this intriguing, gifted young artist has up her sleeves. If she’s not already on your radar, make sure Daisy Victoria is, as there are big things to come from this small star.

9/10

Daisy Victoria’s single ‘Pain of Dancers’ will be released on the 25th of September. If you can’t wait until then, you can catch Daisy Victoria at her headline show at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington in London on Monday, the 21st of September.

 

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.

 
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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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