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Charity Single Review: Gary Lightbody and the Assembly – This is All I Ask of You

 
By on Monday, 8th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Photo at top by Bradley Quinn

Gary Lightbody isn’t much of a public speaker. Anyone who has seen the Snow Patrol frontman perform will attest that he is a bit awkward without his guitar at the ready and his bandmates behind him. While his awkward banter has endeared him to his many adoring fans, he wouldn’t seem to be the most obvious choice for a lecture hall setting. So, when Lightbody was asked to speak at TEDx Stormont, held at the Parliament Buildings in Belfast on 28 March, he did what came more naturally to him: he wrote and performed a song.

The theme of the TEDx Stormont event was ‘Imagine’, and its stated goal was to “look forward and imagine the kind of future we could have together as a society…in Northern Ireland and beyond”. To that effect, Lightbody assembled a showcase of Northern Ireland’s best up-and-coming musicians, hereafter to be known as Gary Lightbody and the Assembly, for a preliminary rehearsal and a live performance at Stormont.

The gathered musicians, including Lightbody, David C. Clements, Soak, Shauna Tohill (Silhouette, Rams Pocket Radio) and Eimear Coyle and Ryan McGroarty (both of the Wonder Villains), wrote and rehearsed a new song, ‘This is All That I Ask of You’, in the pre-recorded jam session, which was presented by video as part of Lightbody’s talk. The video highlights the songwriting process, particularly the creation of instrumental parts and vocal harmonies to match Lightbody’s melody and lyrics.

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Though obviously contrived for the purpose of the Stormont lecture, the song itself is nicely crafted and nicely performed. Its musical structure is very simple, allowing the spotlight to shine on the lyrics via the considerable vocal talents of all 6 singers. David C. Clements, with his bluesy gospel style, adds emotional depth in the song’s third verse, where it could easily have lost momentum in the voice of a lesser singer. The end of the song pairs the voices in different combinations, highlighting the collaborative nature of the project.

‘This Is All I Ask of You’ is available now on Snow Patrol’s Web site, with all proceeds benefiting the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust.

 

In the Post #98: Stornoway return with new single ‘Knock Me on the Head’

 
By on Friday, 18th January 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

Having chosen the name Stornoway, after the Scottish seaport town as explained by singer Brian Briggs in this 2011 interview with us, this band seems to have been destined to write music with some kind of nautical theme. Their new album’s title, ‘Tales From Terra Firma’, implies the ocean by mention of its opposite (indeed, the album’s cover art features frothy waves).

But its first single, ‘Knock Me on the Head’, has a very definite maritime sound. A majestic instrumental introduction, with a pentatonic tinge suggestive of Oriental seas, blends seamlessly into the mellow guitar pop that Stornoway have become known for. While the intro has very little musical or thematic relation to the body of the song, it does provide a hook for the listener’s ear, drawing attention to Brian Briggs’ lilting voice and cerebral lyrics.

The song’s chorus is certainly catchy enough to hold its own; I found myself singing along with it after only one casual listen. The lyrical melodies and sweet vocal harmonies, along with Stornoway’s unique instrumental arrangements, will be pleasantly familiar to fans eagerly awaiting the band’s sophomore effort. But if the exotic orchestral sound of the intro is to be taken as an indication, Stornoway have bravely ventured into some new musical ground, and possibly new musical seas as well.

8.5/10

‘Tales From Terra Firma’, the follow-up to Stornoway’s 2010 ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’, will be out on the 11th of March on 4AD. Catch the band on their UK tour, starting in early March.

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Single Review: Suede – Barriers

 
By on Friday, 18th January 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

In many ways, the very fact of having something new to write about Suede is the most remarkable aspect of this review. Despite being the genesis of Britpop made form, and releasing some of the most notable singles of the 1990s (and one genuinely classic album), Suede have described a classic ‘long tail’ career pathway; the almost unnoticed style of their exit as they fizzled out in the cold light of a new millenium in stark contrast to the fanfare that greeted the famous Melody Maker cover from which they gazed as unsigned ingenues.

There has been light on the horizon for those hoping for new Suede material since their reformation concerts in 2010. And now ‘Barriers’ has arrived: the calling-card for a full album entitled ‘Bloodsports’, out in March. But it would be an ardent fan indeed who claimed that their output was consistent, especially towards the twilight years of what must now be called their first career, which means ‘Barriers’ carries a high level of expectation on its shoulders; there’s little point in releasing new material if it simply treads old water.

There’s little cause for concern: ‘Barriers’ ticks all the boxes any longstanding Suede fan could reasonably hope for. After a thudding drum intro, Brett Anderson’s voice soars with a distinctively familiar mixture of delicacy and haughtiness. References to “aniseed kisses and lipstick” traces instantly recall familiar Suede songs of yore (it’s impossible for Anderson to write a lyric without at least one reference to lipstick, cigarettes, gasoline, or some seedy sexual act). Richard Oakes’ guitar does one of its finest impressions of Bernard Butler’s razor-sharp trademark ES-355 tone, itself now more than two decades old. Longtime producer Ed Buller is in the studio chair; it’s a fair assumption that he, above anyone else, is responsible for the instantly recognisable Suede sound to be found here. There’s a singalong call-and-response to play us out, just dying to reverberate around packed concert halls up and down the country.

And that’s it, 3 and a half minutes that tell the world the Suede are back, and sounding just as relevant as ever. There’s no point in hoping for a new ‘Dog Man Star’ – that high-point of Suede’s career will surely never be surpassed – but there’s a good chance that Suede Mark II can do themselves justice with the new material, and perhaps bring a swathe of new fans into the fold who were unlucky enough to be too young to experience them first time around. For the rest of us, it’s time to dust off the black T-shirt and artfully distressed leather jacket, and party like it’s 1994 again.

8/10

Suede’s new single ‘Barriers’ is available now – for free – via this former MP3 of the Day post.

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Single Review: The Cribs – Leather Jacket Love Song

 
By on Wednesday, 16th January 2013 at 3:00 pm
 

Words by Edward Chapman

Some might say six-string icon Johnny Marr‘s involvement in anything gives it the automatic seal of cool approval but this is actually fair comment when it comes to the Cribs‘ ‘Leather Jacket Love Song’. A Clash/Libertines sawing guitar riff opening (which has ex-Smith Johnny’s fingerprints all over it) makes you keen to hear more of this ‘lost track’ and as always, chopped fringe vocalist Ryan Jarman is spot on with his spat-out vocals, just as he is here with plenty of memorable “oohs” and”’ahhhs” and hints at doo-wop that don’t sound old hat.

It’s a good old proper tune and chucks a lot at the ear, but a lot hits home nicely. Recorded in early 2010, it’s the last song the Jarman brothers made with Mr. Marr on guitar and it hasn’t seen daylight until now, though it has been played live once or twice. It’s a taster from the Cribs’ forthcoming singles collection ‘Payola’, which marks the band’s 10th anniversary.

With a song this good and such an instant earworm, it does beg the question why was this unreleased until now and just what other gems are there in the Cribs’ crypt? The jarring discordant ending may hold the (off) key to answering this, as it’s a bit abrupt and spoils things. – What was wrong with a fade-out, guys? But before we get too picky and before the finale, the song is pleasantly littered with youthful regrets. The intriguing song title is a clever nod to Ryan’s penchant for wearing such attire and yes, the Cribs remain among the best at doing that ‘indie rock thing’.

8/10

‘Leather Jacket Love Song’, the new release from Wakefield trio the Cribs, will be released on the 25th of February on Wichita Recordings, as part of new singles compilation ‘Payola’. A deluxe version with an additional 18 tracks of B-sides and rarities will also be available.

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Single Review: David Bowie – Where Are We Now?

 
By on Tuesday, 15th January 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

After a 10-year hiatus, the very release of new David Bowie material is an event in itself, spreading tendrils of anticipation across disparate media, almost regardless of the qualities of the song which heralds such keenly-felt anticipation. But what of ‘Where Are We Now’, in and of itself? What does it tell us about Bowie in 2013, and more to the point, is it any good?

It’s too tempting not to poke some gentle, if sacreligious, fun. The world-weary vocal performance, the deadpan video, and the confused song title bring to mind a favourite uncle or grandfather, suddenly waking in a temporary confusion from the back seat, perhaps when the car stops at Watford Gap services to take on Ginsters pasties and sticky sweets. This is not Bowie at his most assertive – the tempo is glacial, the instrumentation bland, the voice cracked and mournful. Indeed, one could go as far as to use the word dull. But the song does have its subtle beauty. It’s not clear what key it’s in – the chorus starts on the root note and ends on the root note, it’s just that those two notes happen to be different; chord changes are obscure yet work beautifully, and even though the voice is morose, it still carries all the distinctive hallmarks of that which has enchanted popular music for decades. Welcome back, David.

Lyrically, the theme is death and Berlin. Until the last minute, when things pick up, and it’s almost about love. And Berlin. The video shamelessly misspells some of the German capital’s name-checked landmarks and inexplicably casts Bowie as a double-headed soft toy, but hey, it’s all in the name of art. The most fascinating detail is the weary blow of the lips at 3:26 – the universal sign for “I’ve had enough now”. And perhaps he has – after years ensconced in New York domestic bliss, now it’s time for the carefully-choreographed comeback (together with an exhibition at the V&A and accompanying stratospherically-priced limited-edition catalogue, for goodness’ sake!).

But what if he just can’t be bothered? Why not just leave the legacy and be done with it? Time will tell, but I have my doubts whether Bowie’s heart is really in it. Compare his mood here with the activity of his contemporaries – Neil Young is still trashing guitars in squalls of feedback at age 67, and his old playmate Lou Reed is trading riffs with Metallica aged 70. The hope is high that the full album will treat a wider gamut of Bowie’s talents: at least he might do a little dance.

This is a deeply schizophrenic track. Superficially dull, but with exciting details. Plenty of talk of death, but with an uplifting finish. Daft-as-a-brush video that hints at Bowie’s fascinating and still relevant Berlin-period backstory. I don’t want to listen to it anymore, but still can’t wait for the new material. So, then: a dismal, error-laden piece of work from a recalcitrant, overrated pensioner, or a blinding opening salvo for the next chapter in the career of one of the most important practitioners of popular music of the last five decades? In fact, in keeping with the theme: it’s both. And it really makes me want to visit Berlin again.

Somewhere between a 6 and a 9/10

David Bowie’s long-awaited new single ‘Where Are We Now?’ is out now on Columbia.

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Single Review: Hurts – Miracle

 
By on Wednesday, 9th January 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Edward Chapman

‘Miracle’ doesn’t mess about. The lead single off Hurts‘ eagerly-awaited second album, out in March, kicks right off with an instrumental chorus Coldplay would be proud of. But the LED wristband moment doesn’t last long before singer Theo Hutchcraft rolls in with a rich Englishy vocal so lovingly sad that takes matters in a different direction as we find him searching for a, yes, miracle amid the throes of a dying relationship.

He seems to do sorrow in his sleep, which is both a blessing and a curse, although he is clearly capable of searing anguish; think Bono singing ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’. Hurts say they took a while to find the sound they were apparently long searching for, and ‘Miracle’ is strewn with downbeat-optimistic lovelorn lyrics given gravitas by the heartfelt baritone delivery. Yes, we’ve heard similar words many times before, but if they ain’t broke… And it’s a pleasant surprise to hear echoing guitar later in the mix: it’s interesting and puts this single in a higher class. Why can’t an ostensibly synthpop duo use a guitar if it works?

If you like that late ‘70s into the mid ‘80s Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys electro sound, coupled with a distinct now-ness, this track will further whet appetites for those hungry for the new album, even if it doesn’t quite satisfy lyrically, not scaling any particularly interesting heights. It’s certainly catchy though and like everything on their first album (2010’s ‘Happiness’) very deftly produced with Jonas Quant again at the helm. Move quickly if you fancy seeing them live, dates for many gigs in the upcoming European tour – including London in February and Manchester in April – have sold out already; previously announced UK dates are listed here.

7/10

‘Miracle’, the new single from Manchester duo Hurts, will be released on the 10th of March on Major Label. Their second album ‘Exile’, the long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s ‘Happiness’, will follow on the 11th of March.

 
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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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