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Considering they are a collective of people, numbering a maximum of 12, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros certainly know how to bring out the delicacy in folk music. You would think the larger the number of members, the thicker and more lost the sound would get but they’ve managed to acquire the skill that gives us music which is just as emotive and insightful as, say, early Mumford and Sons, or even First Aid Kit.
On this next single ‘No Love Like Yours’, which is from the upcoming third album ‘PersonA’, the group manage to bring all of their skills to the forefront. What is missing though is the wonderfully harmonised chorus section that wears its heart on sleeve and when that usually is partnered with the sheer size of the band, it swells to create an unstoppable force. That’s not to say the harmonies aren’t here; they certainly are, but it’s a far cry from their breakout hit ‘Home’, so much that it almost feels reserved. Leading man Alex Ebert still manages to use his voice in its most raw and pure form, evoking emotion and as if he’s singing his purest thoughts. When singing, his voice occasionally breaks: it’s barely audible, but when you do hear this, it just adds to the message he’s communicating.
The instrumental driving force behind the track is a tactful combination of intricately plucked guitars and percussion that sits relatively low within the entire mix. Of course, there’s so much more going on, like a slight addition of piano that twinkles lightly above everything, along with the bass supporting the lower end of the track. It all comes together to form a rather pleasing listen that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.
The track doesn’t particularly gather in strength. In the conventional sense, ‘No Love Like Yours’ certainly has a beginning, middle and an end, but it’s all quite flat which doesn’t lend itself to what we’ve normally come to expect from the band. As previously mentioned, it’s certainly a pleasant listen. But let’s hope what the rest of the album has to offer has a bit more to it.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ new single ‘No Love Like Yours’ is out now. Their third album ‘PersonA’ will be released the 15th of April via Community Music Group. To read more on Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros on TGTF, go here.
Header photo by Holly Andres
Radiation City, founded back in 2009, have with roots in Portland, Oregon. So far, they have released two full-length albums, and their third, ‘Synesthetica’, is scheduled for release on the 12th of February on Polyvinyl Records. It’s a bit of a departure from their previous stuff. Past album ‘Animals in the Median’, which was released in 2013, is much more indie pop than the latest singles, although the synth element is still there. ‘Milky White’ is the second release from the upcoming album, and is another teaser of what is expected when ‘Synesthetica’ is released next month (the first was ‘Juicy’, which was released in back November). Jeremy Sherrer, of Modest Mouse and Gossip collaboration fame, produced the new LP, so you should have some idea about how exciting this track is.
‘Milky White’ is a pleasure to hear: it glitters and shines, like a track cut from a diamond made of synthpop. I honestly can’t stop listening to it! It’s funk, with an addictive bass melody popping throughout the track. The melody is layered over with various samples, organ parts, spirited guitar riffs and bleeping synth sounds, coming together to create something really unique. The choral vocals in the background enhance the soul feel of the track, further adding to the complexity of and the range of influences that ‘Milky White’ channels.
Initially gentle, the track builds into an incredibly addictive tune that’ll have you bopping along to by the end of it. There’s so much going on, but it’s done in such a way that the song doesn’t feel clumsy of overstuffed with unnecessary moments. It’s dreamy and otherworldly, conveying a gentle intensity. That’s the thing: it’s a whole lot of elements that don’t sound like they should work on paper, but they do. Picture a psychedelic James Brown or George Clinton bopping along to the rhythm of the track like I did. Following some personal issues that came about after the release of ‘Animals in the Median’, it seems like they’re back on track and more polished than before.
The new single is like a sign of positive growth in many ways: it’s bolder and gutsier than the older stuff, but it’s also terrifically elegant and controlled. If you do one thing today, make sure you give ‘Milky White’ a listen.
‘Synesthetica’ will be out in mid-February. Radiation City have tonnes of dates coming up in America and a few dotted around the UK, so if you’re a fan of the single, make sure to check them out live if you can.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 22nd January 2016 at 12:00 pm
While I am certainly not saying that he wasn’t adequately celebrated while he was alive, one of the biggest lessons I think we should take away from David Bowie’s passing is that we should truly acknowledge the gifts of the greatest musical talents we idolise, whose music we hold dear in our hearts, and while they’re still living. We’re all mortal, and one day too soon, it will be too late.
And one such person I wish that would get far more attention than already does is my subject for today. Scottish singer/songwriter Steve Mason used to be most famous primarily as a founding member of The Beta Band, then pioneering a genre that was then not even termed folktronica. Since The Beta Band’s disbanding in 2004, Mason has had a moderately successful solo career, having unleashed his debut album ‘Boys Outside’ in 2010, followed by ‘Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time’ in 2013. Having my interest piqued by the effortless folky soul of ‘All Come Down’, I’ve been keeping tabs closely, ever keen to hear more from him.
Earlier this month to start off 2016 on a positive note, he announced his third solo outing, ‘Meet the Humans’, will see a late February release. Coinciding with the new album news, he also unveiled new single ‘Planet Sizes’, and it seems too perfect to be writing about such a song the week that a possible ninth planet in our solar system has been discovered by Caltech astronomers.
In my mind, Mason’s politically-charged double album ‘Monkey Minds…’ would be a tough act to follow, especially in the wake of Britain’s current political climate, not to mention the entire world’s. Since that last album, Mason has had a change of heart, at least with respect to his songwriting process, and this new, simplified approach is crystal clear upon listening to the new single. In a different yet oddly similar guise to that of ‘All Come Down’, the genius of ‘Planet Sizes’ is its driving melody, paired handily with Mason’s sweepingly positive vocals in the chorus.
He’s always been a deft hand lyrically, and he doesn’t disappoint here. The verse “know my 6 times table / I learned where the planets lie / I know my planet sizes / the universe makes me cry” suggests that he has an intellectual understanding of how the world works through the practical (maths and science). However, he wants to go against the grain, beyond what he’s been told is possible, beyond the planet sizes that are accepted as fact, concluding, “the universe is mine” to have. What an inspiring concept.
Even the single’s animated promo video is another take on (relative) simplicity. Coloured, indistinguishable blobs that turn out to be humans toil apathetically on earth while planets and constellations play and dance above society’s heads. Well, until society finally gets the hint and joins them. How many of this world’s ills would be solved if we all stopped long enough to be kind to one another and dream of the positive energies that lie beyond our usual realm of comprehension? (In his own way, isn’t that what Bowie did for most of his career too?)
‘Meet the Humans’, the third album from Steve Mason, will be released on the 26th of February on Domino Records. Mason will be playing Saturday night at Motion at the 6 Music Festival 2016 in Bristol next month. For past articles on him on TGTF, go here.
Nearly 3 years on from the release of their 2013 debut album ‘Absolute Zero’, Dublin indie rock quintet Little Green Cars are starting off 2016 with new single ‘The Song They Play Every Night’. The track will serve as the opener for Little Green Cars’ forthcoming new album ‘Ephemera’, which is due for release on Glassnote Records on the 11th of March, just before the band is slated to appear in Austin at SXSW 2016. The new album was shaped by the life-changing events surrounding the band and its individual members during the touring cycle for ‘Absolute Zero’. Over that 2-year time period, bandmates Stevie Appleby, Faye O’Rourke, Donagh Seaver O’Leary, Adam O’Reagan and Dylan Lynch experienced dramatic changes with the passing of family members and the ends of romances, as well as more subtle shifts in their relationships with family and friends caused by the perpetual motion of a demanding tour schedule.
The one constant in their lives, it would seem, was their songwriting. Writing and developing new songs even as they toured the old ones, Little Green Cars attempted to capture the emotion and spirit of the moments they inhabited, despite knowing that the moments themselves were fleeting. In the press release for the new single, co-songwriter/lead vocalist Appleby says, “It’s a transitional album. Lyrically, it’s all about change – the end of some eras, new beginnings, learning from the past and looking to the future. Ephemera means things that are important to you, but only for a short time.”
In that vein, ’The Song They Play Every Night’ is about the moment of recognition that a love affair has run its course. Through-composed in three distinct verses, the song begins with a melancholic guitar intro that is ever-so-faintly reminiscent of classical Spanish flamenco style in its minor key tone and lightly dancing rhythm. The lyrics in the first verse emphasise a sentiment of vague and growing dread, trailing off with the line “don’t make me say it out loud anymore…”
That idea is extended in the second verse, which finishes the thought with a bleak realisation, “if you don’t love me now, you didn’t love me before”. The instrumental bridge between verses two and three is brief but full of longing, as the tempo and dynamic level increase to a more fervent pitch. The third verse alludes to the panicked feeling of looking for a constant in the chaos, as Appleby plaintively sings of “looking for the landmarks that you keep burning down” over ethereally haunting backing vocals supplied by O’Rourke.
‘The Song They Play Every Night’ is poetically evocative and musically refined, creating a vignette that is both poignant and purposefully elusive. As a teaser for the new album, it serves its purpose well, its echoing melodies and eloquent lyrical hooks hinting at the potential for what promises to be a collection worthy of playing night after night.
‘Ephemera’, Little Green Cars’ second album, will be out in March on Glassnote Records. The band will play a one-off live show at London Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen on the 9th of February. Following their trip to Austin for SXSW, they will tour in North America through the spring. A full listing of Little Green Cars’ live dates can be found on their official Web site. TGTF’s archive of coverage on Little Green Cars is right back here.
With a brooding, dark and enveloping sound building into a triumphant and melodic chorus, it’s hard to not let ‘Flora’, the new track from South London trio Beaty Heart, into the deepest chasms of your mind. Manipulating electronic sounds around pulsating beats, together with a sample of Swedish band Midi, Maxi & Efti’s hit ‘Bad Bad Boys’, the trio comprised of Charlie Rotberg (drums, samplers), Joshua Mitchell (vocals, guitars, samplers) and James Moruzzi (drums, samplers, vocals) showcase their talents as architects of melody and constructors of foreboding pop hooks. Fusing bare and beat-heavy electronica with weird compositions featuring entwining percussion and instrumentals, the Beaty Heart sound is as if Chet Faker and alt-J had collaborated to bring together a melding of both their musical qualities. Beaty Heart are bringing forth this musical marriage, something we didn’t know we needed but certainly do now.
After an introduction that in itself is mysterious, amidst sharp shoots of high-pitched synthesiser creating a menacing audible environment, the vocals of ‘Flora’ come in. “You’re the only one I know, Flora” is sung with a soft cadence, the entire atmosphere of the song changes to one of desire. The Flora in question refers to Brazilian jazz singer Flora Purim, with the band admitting they set out to recreate her “rich, steamy tones” in their own style, and that you can clearly hear. Evoking an elegance around the sounds crafted, the lyrics are yearning, almost a call out to Purim herself.
Once the track fully begins, with the barrage of percussion and interlocked instrument samples, the pulse of the song increases, driving it forward towards the loudest crescendo before the outro. The ‘Bad Bad Boys’ sample of “oh yeah, uh huh” keeps the song from truly lifting off in terms of the vibe, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Keeping it grounded retains the initial darkness, but the sample adds a casualness that stops the track becoming too heavy. Briefly entering into a break, the track bursts back to life with the final chorus, before slowly petering out only to finish with a final “yeah…”
This is a strong single for the trio: it’s simple despite its complexities. If they really wanted to grab our attention and to make a statement, this is certainly how to do it.
‘Flora’ is released the 26th of February via Caroline International/NUA Entertainment. They are playing a headline show on the 13th of April at London Electrowerkz; tickets are on sale now.
London via Leamington Spa duo Coves have had quite a celebrated ride, what with releasing their debut record ‘Soft Friday’ in 2014 to great acclaim, then following it up with this year’s ‘Spectrum’ EP. Being the first look at the upcoming new material on their second album, it was a strong continuation and now they’ve returned with new cut ‘Stormy’. They certainly have a way with being able to craft songs that are reminiscent of ‘60s psychedelic rock, with a tinge of more modern shoegaze, but in their most recent effort of ‘Stormy’, you can’t help but make the connection to more modern, contemporary takes on the aforementioned styles.
Due to sheer size, the opening riff grabs your attention instantly and firmly roots itself in your memory. Unfortunately, it is also very reminiscent of the Oasis track ‘The Hindu Times’, from the building introduction to the rousing guitar-centric atmosphere it call to memory. Of course, this is not how it was intended presumably; nonetheless, you’ll be hard pressed to forget this quickly.
Lyrically, this is where singer/songwriter Beck Wood flourishes, with the chorus “See nothing but thunder in my stormy eyes”, the imagery conjures that of forced aggression, a scenario where your back’s against the wall. But the way she sings, it is almost if it’s a tedious moment, one that is all too often a part of your life. “Stop spreading the lies”, the final words sung before the last chorus, cementing the notion that Beck has been burned before and doesn’t plan on it happening again.
As a whole, the track forms a contagious medley of instrumentation and lyricism, especially with guitarist John Ridgard’s musical mastery. But it’s on a such a level that you find yourself waning in attention and almost entering a trance-like state. This may not necessarily be a good thing, but the fact that you’re in it ‘til the end proves that both the band and song have done their job.
When people discuss bands, they often talk about the elusive ‘X Factor’, something far beyond practicing in a room for hours a day, some ‘it’ thing that you just can’t practice. In the case of Coves, they have this: it’s just a matter of time before everyone else comes to realise it.
‘Stormy’ by Coves is out now via 1965 Records. Coves’ second album is due for release in March 2016.