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Single Review: Biffy Clyro – Black Chandelier

 
By on Monday, 17th December 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Long awaited by the faithful, Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro have released the first single off their upcoming double album ‘Opposites’, due out next month. ‘Black Chandelier’ starts with a syncopated a capella “drip, drip, drip” from the boys that then slides into a non-threatening melody that shows little novelty. With slightly trite lyrics, my first listen had me a bit worried: “it feels like we’re ready to crack these days you and I / when it’s just the two of us, only the two of us, I could die”. And then even worse, “you left my heart like an abandoned car”; it just didn’t sound like the band I had come to know and love. But the Biff-ness soars back with the tiniest alteration the second time around, “when it’s just the two of us and a cute little cup of cyanide”. Mmmm, cyanide…

It’s not always the words that draw you to a Biffy Clyro song. No, it’s the uniqueness of the timing, the melding of lyrical with a hard edge, the overall bizarreness of some of it. And that’s there, coming through on even this most radio-friendly of tracks. About three-quarters of the way through, we get a tasty bit of what we’ve come to expect with a couple of bars of crunching guitar and odd gasps from lead singer Simon Neil. It’s just enough edge to ensure that no one mistakenly plays this at a school disco. This is the kind of peculiarity that binds fans to the band.

The accompanying video, however, is absolutely brilliant and goes a long way to making the song less pedestrian in my eyes. Filmed in London last month by renowned directors Andy Delaney and Monty Whitebloom from Big TV, the mood is both menacing and poetic. Melding the fiery performance style that Neil and the Johnston twins are known for with a big cinematic feel from eye-popping graphics, the video itself is a masterpiece. I do want to say that when I first watched it, I really expected the “black” to burst all over the band covering them in it, not explode into mist. Perhaps there are outtakes where they tried that?

I was lucky enough to get to the extraordinarily intimate Warner U.S. preview gig earlier this month in New York City, so I have heard a good selection of the new tunes. I can honestly say that despite what Zane Lowe pronounced when he premiered the song, this is not the best Biffy has to offer this time around. But make no mistake, this is their single, like ‘Many of Horror’ before it. It has a place in the Biffy pantheon and will likely be a smash. Everything else I’ve heard so far is BETTER. So do not, DO NOT, miss them live, I say; see dates for their spring UK/Irish tour here.

8/10

‘Black Chandelier’ will be released on the 14th of January 2013 along with two non-album tracks, ‘The Rain’ and ‘Thundermonster’. ‘Opposites’, their new double album, will drop on the 28th of January.

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Single Review: Foals – My Number

 
By on Friday, 14th December 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Champions of the post-Libertines indie scene, Oxford act Foals haven’t been sitting on their uber-cool laurels. Having toyed with people with the frankly huge sounding Inhaler, they’ve now put out new track ‘My Number’ from their forthcoming third record ‘Holy Fire’, out in February.

With jingling math guitars overlapping scattered brushes with powerful guitar that made ‘Antidotes’ the most accessible album of its kind in a long time, and descending into the full light crashing sound that saw ‘Total Life Forever’ soar into their fans’ most cherished records, it’s not difficult to see Yannis and company in full command of the masses in the future once more. Finishing off a tour of tiny venues across the country may have whet the appetites of those lucky enough to be inside the sweaty rooms, but its created a sense of yearning for many more.

Sadly, ‘My Number’ features all the promise of Foals gone by, whilst not bringing it anywhere near to the reserved explosions of ‘Inhaler’. If they’d put this on ‘Total Life Forever’, it would have simply have been another album track and as such you have to question what ‘Holy Fire’ holds in store.

“You don’t have my number; we don’t need each other now. We don’t need the city, the creed of the culture now”, sings Yannis. It’s hardly the coded glory of ‘This Orient’ or ‘Spanish Sahara’ but even I’ll admit that it seems unfair to judge them against their lyrical best when ‘Cassius’ exists.

For now then, ‘My Number’ sits simply on the varied Foals shelf as a track they’ll no doubt be bringing forward with them; but don’t expect it to light up your festival season come the sunny months.

7/10

Foals’ new album ‘Holy Fire’ will be released on the 11th of February 2013. Watch them perform ‘My Number’ on Jools Holland last month below; the track premiered on British radio last night on Zane Lowe’s Radio1 programme.

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Single Review: Foals – Inhaler

 
By on Friday, 9th November 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Foals are back, Foals are back! Indie hipster alert: FOALS ARE BACK!

If you’ve had your head in the ground for the past few days you’ll have missed two key events. The first is that Barack Obama is still president of the United States of America. The second is that math rockers Foals have released their new single ‘Inhaler’.

Yannis Philippakis’ band of denim-clad, bobble hat-wearing, titans of indie pop are well and truly back. Their sound has been refined and yes, they’ve grown up significantly it seems. The bass riffs are unashamedly filthy, just as Philippakis roars about how he needs a little space. Jimmy Smith’s guitar tickles in the metronome-like fashion that you expect after the whimsical charms of ‘Balloons’ and ‘Cassius’.

The song just screams about the new inner maturity Foals seem to have found. Debut ‘Antidotes’ has gone from a stand-out part of Foals career to the foreword to a greater tale. ‘Total Life Forever’ was a sign of their growth as a band, with ‘Spanish Sahara’ singled out as one of the most beautiful tracks of the past few years. While ‘Miami’ reiterated that while they are trying to be a bit more grown-up, they can still write a belter of a tune with a unnervingly, unforgettable chorus. (And a bloody weird video.)

With ‘Inhaler’, these boys have come full circle to become a quintessential cornerstone of British alternative music.

9.5/10

‘Inhaler’, Foals’ new single, is available now. ‘Holy Fire’, their third album, will be out on the 11th of February 2013 on Transgressive Records. The promo video for the song, with some questionable but definitely mature content, is below.

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Single Review: Fenech-Soler – All I Know

 
By on Thursday, 25th October 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

It has been quite a bit of time since the release of Fenech-Soler‘s debut album. The 2010 eponymously titled release spawned several high profile singles – the huge ‘Stop and Stare’, ‘Lies’, ‘Demons’ – and then there was a relative quiet. Unlike other bands who we could reasonably out as lazy gits, Fenech-Soler has at least one very valid excuse: in March 2011, lead singer Ben Duffy was diagnosed with testicular cancer and a UK tour was postponed for after when Duffy underwent a round of successful chemotherapy. Somehow he managed to come back “fighting fit” with little downtime; Fenech-Soler went on to play a dizzying number of summer music festivals and continued to work behind the scenes to make their live shows better and better. (To read more of my interview last year with Ben, including a discussion on how his cancer affected their working schedule and perspective, go here.)

It’s not like they totally went away. As what seems to be the way bands’ Web sites are going, they are avid Instagram updaters, with the images popping up on their their Tumblr. This is how we learned about the building of their new studio (from the ground up, literally) and got a sneaky peek at some of their equipment like we were flies on their wall. Last week, they took to YouTube to deliver some bits of song – just enough to get the masses excited for their return, but not enough to imagine the full picture…

…which brings us to Fenech-Soler’s new single out now, ‘All I Know’. As we usually do, I’ve embedded the video for the song at the end of this post. However, in this particular case, I feel like you should press play on the video, but then turn off your computer screen or look away from your mobile, because I don’t think the video makes a whole lot of sense when you consider the lyrical joys of the tune. It’s pretty and cool-looking, and while I’m glad it’s not a pair of actors pretending to be into each other and then hating each other at the end, I don’t think it stands up to the quality of the track.

Waves crash to herald the start of the track, before Duffy outlines a perfect relationship he had that “it started out good / like a fairy tale” that went bad because he strayed. Wait a minute. A man is admitting he’s the one saying “all I know is I did you wrong”? This is huge to women’s ears. Men never apologise, do they? Or least they don’t, even if we think what they did was wrong. The chorus continues, “all I know is that you’d be strong / without me / without me”: he’s laying it out there that he respects her for her own personal strength. He knew he could stand there out on her own, if she had to – and evidently, she had to because he “drifted away” from an above board, “no-one got hurt / because truth came first” union. He’s further admitting that he’s the bad apple here (“I’ve only got / myself to blame”), ruining what was so good (“I broke your heart / right from the start”). It’s almost like a male response to Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Stronger’.

This song is an apology, done with a lot of class: there is no “I want you back!” kind of whinging or a blame game. No, he’s saying sorry, admitting defeat with his head held up high. And let us not forget that this is a Fenech-Soler song, and like any good Fenech-Soler song we’ve seen yet, it’s factory ready for the dance floor, with huge synth sounds and a very catchy melody going along with Duffy’s vocals. You can imagine the bodies bouncing and arms in the air at festivals next year for this very song. Better yet, there is no dubstep here. (Take that, you bunch of posers, Muse.) And dare I say it, this is the kind of vibe I wanted to hear from the new Delphic single. And we all know what happened there… Dance fans, pop fans: this is your new jam.

This single is epic. That’s all *you* need to know. Full stop.

9.5/10

‘All I Know’, the new single from Fenech-Soler, is available now digitally on Warner Brothers.

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Single Review: Santiago Street Machine – Sinking Stone

 
By on Friday, 28th September 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

It has not been a great couple of months for drum and bass fans. Pendulum split, calling it quits in June. Then there was an egregious lack of a single album even touching on dance in the 2012 Mercury Prize nominations. What’s a dance fan to do? Manchester’s Santiago Street Machine new single, entitled ‘Sinking Stone’, may be part of the answer. This single follows ‘Face Your Fear’, which was released in May. (You can download a remix of that song in this previous MP3 of the Day post.)

Santiago’s vocalist Andy Chandler has the huskiness to match Rob Swire’s, but sounds a bit more familiar (and therefore more comfortable) than an Aussie accent. ‘Sinking Stone’ is nowhere near in your face, assaulting you in ‘Noisemaker’ fashion. Instead, the song starts out slowly, building speed and power. About 45 seconds in, everything comes together and in organised chaos fashion, the song takes flight. “Are you looking for a better life these days?” Chandler asks in the chorus, which made me think it was a response to our name sake, Doves’ ‘There Goes the Fear’, which is all about taking chances. Dance music has never been the bastion of amazing lyrics like the singer/songwriter genre has always been, so to have a song with such a compelling sound and thinking man’s lyrics is a definite plus.

Pendulum fans, take note: you don’t have to be sad anymore. Embrace Santiago Street Machine, and you can have a new band to cheer on at gigs. The thing that gets me about people complaining about dance music is that it’s too slick, “overproduced” and over synthesised. I know some others don’t feel the same, but when I hear a track like ‘Sinking Stone’, I can feel the music course through my veins, and it’s the beats that make me feel alive. I used to say that if dance music didn’t have the power to move a person, then that person must be a stone. But now I’ve sort of backed off that premise, because I think it does take a special ear to appreciate dance music and most people, if they aren’t bothered, won’t even have a listen. But to miss out on something like ‘Sinking Stone’ would be a terrible loss.

8/10

‘Sinking Stone’, the new single from Santiago Street Machine, is out Sunday (the 30th of September) on the band’s own Hijacker Records. Watch the official video below.

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Single Review: The Joy Formidable – Cholla

 
By on Thursday, 13th September 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Though they have been busy touring and playing festivals, the Joy Formidable have managed to find time to write and record their next album, entitled ‘Wolf’s Law’. It’s due out in the beginning of 2013, just like other releases from other TGTF favourites, but the first taste of the new album will be released on the 15th of October on Atlantic. Called ‘Cholla’, it debuted on Zane Lowe’s Radio1 show last week and it’s a right corker. The video was just released yesterday, and before the song truly begins, the band’s performance is prefaced by the following text:

The past is but a beginning of a beginning, and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn.

I dutifully Googled and was a bit disappointed that it’s taken verbatim from H.G. Wells’ The Discovery of the Future. Then I dug deeper. I had incorrectly guessed it was from another one of Wells’ fanciful books like The Time Machine but soon learned it was taken from the text of a speech he gave in 1902 at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. You can read the article here, in which he describes two types of minds, one of which lives in the present with no mind for the future and another that is looking towards the future and its possibilities. Another great excerpt from this article is:

Things have been, says the legal mind, and so we are here. The creative mind says we are here because things have yet to be.

This is all well and good until you consider that ‘Cholla’ is actually named for a semi-wild horse born in Nevada with the unusual ability of being able to paint. (Thank goodness. I had turned to the Urban Dictionary and thought I might accidentally start an international incident by even mentioned what the entry in there says ‘cholla’ means.) So how do you draw a connection between the two? This is my best guess? A horse that picks up the skill of painting on its own is an example of something that we would have never predicted would happen, yet it did. Why, or maybe better put, how did this happen, considering all the chaos of this world, this universe?

The music reflects this chaos: at the start, the bass line is unforgiving. As Joy Formidable tracks go, this one does its best at laying into you as their previous hits ‘Austere’ and ‘Cradle’, with monster guitars and heavy drum beats. There is a strange wah-wah-wah that I’m guessing is some electronic sound that’s been slowed down and inserted in here. Very interesting, since when we think of the Joy Formidable, we think of the basics – guitar, bass and drums – so if they’re playing with synths on ‘Wolf’s Law’, all the more power to them. The lyrics “where are we going, what are we doing? … how do we move on? nothing is ruined” supports the looking forward thoughts of H.G. Wells. If Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt want us to philosophise on our future, they might lose people in their esoteric studies, but it’s the sound – unrelenting power – that’s the most obvious impression. And as first impressions go, this one is excellent.

8.5/10

‘Cholla’, the new single from the Joy Formidable, will be released on the 14th of October on Atlantic Records. ‘Wolf’s Law’, their album follow-up to 2011′s ‘The Big Roar’, will follow in January 2013.

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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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