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Single Review: Editors – A Ton of Love

 
By on Thursday, 16th May 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Last week, Birmingham-based rockers Editors released their new single, ‘A Ton of Love’, just over a year after announcing guitarist Chris Urbanowicz’s split from the band.  Judging from the sound of this first single, Urbanowicz’s departure has cemented Editors’ digression from fundamentally guitar-based indie rock.  New band members Justin Lockey and Elliott Williams have not only filled the gap left by Urbanowicz, but have allowed Editors to expand the dimensions of their sound.  While the obvious U2 similarity can’t be ignored—this track hinges on an anthemic chorus of “Desire”—it’s a flattering comparison for Editors, and one that is certain to inspire some discussion among fans and casual listeners alike. 
 
The entire song consists of a series of tersely poignant phrases only vaguely linked together by the irresistibly singable chorus, ‘Taken by force / Twisted fate / Well, what weighs more / down on your plate? / A Ton of Love  / A Ton of Hate…’.  While not exactly unique, the lyrics are full of emotional angst, especially in combination with Tom Smith’s sultry vocal delivery.  His singing is bolstered by an intense bass groove and a stinging guitar line.  If the song lacks in lyrical interest, it makes up for that in music that lifts the heart and moves the hips.  It could prove to be an immense favorite on Editors’ summer festival run (dates here– http://www.editorsofficial.com/tour/ )
 
8/10
 
Editors’ new album, ‘The Weight of Your Love’, will be released on 1 July via Play It Again Sam.  ‘A Ton of Love’ is available now via iTunes.
 
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Single / Film Review: The Crookes – Dance in Colour

 
By on Wednesday, 24th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Editor’s note: this is long. I had planned to just review the song. But I couldn’t leave behind the film that goes with it. Just saying! If you really can’t be bothered, scroll down to the bottom and read the last paragraph before the rating…

Update: the band have posted the lyrics under the video on YouTube, so I’ve replaced mine with Daniel Hopewell’s. This affects the review slightly and I’ve added an addendum to address this.

Another week, and another Crookes single. This time, the band branched out beyond just a promo video and actually made a short film soundtracked by the actual song, ‘Dance in Colour’, the other A-side to ‘Bear’s Blood’ that premiered last week. (You can read my review and words on that here.) I had to take a slightly different approach to reviewing this one, now that I had two mediums to examine. I’ll say it up front now that I’m not a cinema buff; I’ve never found the medium of film as exciting as music. At first I thought, okay, this could go in an entirely pretentious direction with the subtitles and not make sense in the context of the song.

However fear not; the vignette’s script was also written by Daniel Hopewell, and I promise you, everything does come together, even if it feels weird initially when you’re queueing it up and you don’t see the band at all in this. (I believe this marks the first of their promos that they don’t actually star or clown around in.) After several listens, and then turning down the sound to read the words, there’s actually a striking sync between the song and the dialogue between the two actors.

You can read the dialogue while you watch the video, so I’m not going to transcribe that for you. After posting the original review, the band helpfully posted the lyrics under the description of the YouTube video, so below is Daniel’s (If you’re curious how I heard it, scroll down to the cut, as I’ve moved my impression of it there.)


You might smoke in black and white but you should always dance in colour.
Some dream of quiet love; I favour chaos.
I want a love like no other so let’s dance in colour.
I want life to sprawl, to twist with the rise and fall of cold hands shaking, of my own heart breaking.
‘Cos there’s no worse feeling than feeling nothing at all.
I’m empty and aching and so tired of just waiting.

He walks in whispers, draws a stranger’s gaze.
Why you always sleeping? It’s the middle of the day.
And they’re nothing, no they’re nothing like us.
Why you always running from the people that you love?

I want it to burn. I want it to effervesce until the district’s glowing.
I want it to hurt, to feel it in every breath.
I don’t care where I’m going…just that I’m going.

Now I can’t hide my smiling eyes.
Why can’t you be kind and just pretend that you miss me?
I’m weak and restless, young men are.
It was always staying still that made me dizzy.

He walks in whispers, draws a stranger’s gaze.
Why you always sleeping? It’s the middle of the day.
And they’re nothing, no they’re nothing like us.
Why you always running from the people that you love?

The start of this song is just…well, sad. The way George Waite sings it, along with the echoey effects on his voice and the one guitar playing, sounds ghostly. I almost don’t want to say it but actually sounded morbid to me. “I’m empty and aching / and so tired of just waiting.” is probably one of the most evocatively melancholy lines ever written in pop. This is followed by a chorus that is really confusing me, because I can’t tell if it’s from the point of view of someone other than the main character, who I’m making male for the sake of simplicity. In the chorus, one-half of a couple is somewhere like a bar or a club and looking at strangers, catching a stranger’s eye while the other half is at home, sleeping in the middle of the day and not with his/her better half. “Why are you always running from the people that you love?”: not all is happy in this relationship, it’s on the rocks.

And this all happens in the lyrics before the tempo picks up. The film also feels cold too; the woman, who could probably play Adele in a future biopic of the ‘Chasing Pavements’ star, is disparaging towards her dining companion, complaining that all he has is matches and not a real lighter (she says “how quaint” and we can’t see her eyes, though I suspect she would be rolling them), then later accusing “that sounds familiar…like it’s been said before”, as if he’s a terrible conversationalist. The man, an English version of Luke Wilson in a suit, is trying to hold his own, trying to bring up one topic after another, but keeps getting shot down because…well, the woman just isn’t that interested.

It’s really interesting that just like in ‘Bear’s Blood’, there’s subtext beyond the topic of ‘Dance in Colour’, which admittedly sounds like it could be the title to a song by any one of my favourite electronic dance bands. It sounded like such a un-Crookes title to me when I’d first heard the name. “Black and white” is used to show things that are total opposites: good vs. bad, truth vs. lies. In the context of the song, I also read it like the simpleton’s version of how a relationship works, and I’ll give you an example from my uni days. When my friends and I were in school, my friend Jenn insisted on trying Match.com to find the love of her life. (Me? I just couldn’t be bothered. At age 21 I’d decided biology was my life, I was going to spend the rest of it in a laboratory or behind a lectern preaching to undergraduates, alone, and that was it.) The most memorable of the men she dated were an economist who drove a Buick (who I decided was entirely too boring) and an anthropologist who rode a motorbike and had curly hair. One night she was saying she really liked this economist guy because he had a stable job, and she could see starting a life with him. I argued with her, saying that job stability of the person you date was a terrible measure of who you were compatible with. (I mean, what if one day he lost his job? There goes your dating theory…)

It was also obvious that she wasn’t wild about this man either, and I knew she’d said what she’d said because as Chinese girls, we’d been brought up to be ‘good’, do well in school, become doctors or engineers and find someone, preferably Chinese (ugh), with a respectable job. Because that’s just what you ‘do’. I remember exactly what I said to her: “don’t you want to *feel* something strong? And real? I could never be with someone I didn’t feel entirely attracted to. And I have to feel that inside.” She thought I was crazy, that I wanted a fantasy that never could happen. She thought a relationship was different: she thought it was all about getting all your ducks lined up in a row, with certain things happening, and most of all, the process was supposed to be simple and you had to put faith in that it would happen simply if you let it. Intriguingly, this is also the opinion of the woman in the film, who says to the man across from her, “…the best we can hope for is to love and be loved in return, it’s the same old story”. Pretty depressing if love is that clinical, eh?

But here’s the rub: the man insists with a smile, “you make it sound so simple…Some dream of quiet love, I favour chaos”. Which brings me back to the point of my story, and what feels like the point of ‘Dance in Colour': for some people, relationships are black and white. You find someone, you feel good around each other, you get married, etc. Because that’s what society expects you to do. The voice of this song thinks this is rubbish; he wants to feel passionate about someone, burning from the inside out, even saying “I want to burn, I want it to effervesce”, feel something for a woman so deeply that everything around him is on fire. He wants the way he feels about her to make him catch his breath, to physically “hurt” him. (I found this line particularly apt for me; the few times in my life it’s happened, when I’ve fallen in love, I can feel my mouth doing the fish out of water thing, like I’m gasping for air. As a biologist by training, I chalk this up to a flight or fight response. But when I tell my girlfriends what’s happened, they look at me like I’m absolutely crazy because it doesn’t happen like that for them. Well, I guess I’m in the minority…) In the moment, he’s “glowing” from the romantic ardor he has for this woman. He’s feeling something! But he knows at some point he must leave: “I don’t care where I’m going…just that I’m going.”

I don’t want to forget the bridge: “Now I can’t hide my smiling eyes / why can’t you be quiet and just pretend that you miss me? / I’m weak and restless, young men are / it was always staying still that made me dizzy.” What does this mean? The woman in the film says she had to leave where she was from to travel around the world because “you know it was always staying still that made me dizzy”. Hmmm. The lovers in the song have been separated; with his “smiling eyes” that he “can’t hide”, he’s still thinking about when it was still good between them and when they were still together and wishes his lover felt the same way about that precious time they had together. But he’s also trying to apologise, saying he couldn’t stay in one place, that’s he’s a rolling stone. There’s a restlessness in the earlier line “I don’t care where I’m going…just that I’m going” that echoes the same sentiment in ‘Sal Paradise’ in ‘Hold Fast': “You were for running away dear / strange ideals made it so very unclear how your heart feels.”

Of course, then there is the title. You know the phrase “it takes two to tango”? If Shakespeare was right and “all the world’s a stage”, then the way forward according to our protagonist is to “want a lover like no other” and to “dance in colour” with that person. And don’t force yourself to stay within the bounds of black and white. Don’t do what you’re told. Feel something. The song also says that relationships don’t always last forever. And that’s okay. We move on and grow, but remember the best parts of being with that person you loved.

Okay, so if I have entirely bored you out of your mind by the above, here is what you need to know: instrumentally, the song can’t be beat. The main guitar riff is entirely memorable and became implanted into my brain after the second listen. (In the part of my brain where Jimmy Page’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ solo resides.) And compared to, say, their first single ‘Backstreet Lovers’ that basically held the same tempo and feeling throughout, the way the first half is so different from the second is actually a pretty cool song structure to give more weight to the second half. What are the Crookes going to do next? Will they start their own production company and make films? I just hope they don’t stop making music.

Addendum: okay, so after reading the full lyrics just now, my impression that it’s about being restless has grown stronger. I sincerely love the lines, “I’m weak and restless, young men are /
it was always staying still that made me dizzy.” It’s an admission from the protagonist that he can’t help it, it’s in his nature to want to move on. If only all men were as honest. Something else interesting: scroll up two paragraphs and read the fourth to last sentence I wrote last night. “Feel something.” That I feel is the take home message.

8/10

The Crookes’ ‘Dance in Colour’, the other A-side to previously revealed single ‘Bear’s Blood’, will be released on 7″ and digital download on the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. The band will be headlining the Fierce Panda 19th birthday party at London Scala on Tuesday the 21st of May; tickets are on sale now and are £8 advance not including handling fees.

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What I heard initially when transcribing:
You might smoke in black and white
but you should always dance in colour,
dance in colour.
Some dream of quiet love,
I favour chaos.
I want a love like no other,
so let’s dance in colour.

I want life to [I have absolutely no idea what this line is!]
of cold hands shaking,
of my own heart breaking.
‘cos there’s no words
to make me feel nothing at all.
I’m empty aching,
and so tired of just waiting.

Looks and whispers draw a stranger’s gaze
Why are you always sleeping?
It’s the middle of the day.
And they’re nothing, no, they’re nothing like us.
Why are you always running from the people that you love?

I want to burn, I want it to effervesce
’til the district’s glowing, the district’s glowing
I want it to hurt, to feel it in every breath
I don’t care where I’m going, just that I’m glowing

Now I can’t hide my smiling eyes,
why can’t you be quiet and just pretend that you miss me?
I’m weak and restless, young, and all it was always staying still,
it made me dizzy.

Looks and whispers draw a stranger’s gaze
Why are you always sleeping?
It’s the middle of the day.
And they’re nothing, no, they’re nothing like us.
Why are you always running from the people that you love?

Why are you always running, love?

 

Single Review: The Crookes – Bear’s Blood

 
By on Tuesday, 16th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Crookes logo smThe Crookes are already hard at work on album #3, which looks like will be following in the footsteps of 2011’s ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ and 2012’s ‘Hold Fast’, so I’m expecting this third album to appear in quick succession. Just getting its first airplay last night on Steve Lamacq’s drivetime show on 6music, ‘Bear’s Blood’ is the first single from their yet to be named third album. The double A-sided single comes out the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. [Update: the other A-side is ‘Dance in Colour’.]

According to Lammo, this song, along with several other new ones, were recorded this year between their support slot with Richard Hawley in February and whence we caught up with them in Austin for SXSW 2013 in March. From all the interviews I’ve done and bands I’ve asked, writing on the road is a very difficult task, so hearing that the Crookes already have several songs in the can for album #3 is good news for fans indeed. ‘Bear’s Blood’, as the first taste of this new material to be unleashed on the public in short order, then demands further examination. Last year, band lyricist Daniel Hopewell indulged my interest in the words to single ‘Maybe in the Dark’ so I would have all of the words in front of me before I began my research. Expecting to have to grovel at his feet again, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to get all (or nearly all) of the lyrics from the new video released last night. And away we go:


Drip feed hope to a blind, homeless man
Stars explode like aerosol cans
and scar the face of Jalla Jalla*

You felt lust at the edge of your lips
Spread like ichor** to your fingertips
I fell in love with love and squalor^

Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
It feels like I am missing out here?
Baby wants to set me on fire

Old shoes are hung as words are strung from telegraph wires
Bear’s Blood’s down(ed?) in Metelkova^^
You know I’m lost
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
It feels like I am missing out here?

Oh, you know I’m lost
You know I’m lost…

You know I’m lost
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
You know I’m lost…
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
You know I’m lost…
I crucify the night, a quiet life’s so wasteful

It feels like I am missing out here?
Oh, you know I’m lost
You know I’m lost
You know I’m lost
You know I’m lost

Miscellaneous notes:
* Jalla Jalla: A club in Ljubljana, Slovenia. But I don’t think its purpose is this exclusively. I hope I don’t embarrass Mr. Hopewell next month when I ask him what the deal is with this place…
**ichor: “an ethereal fluid taking the place of blood in the veins of the ancient Greek gods” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary
^ “with love and squalor” – possible reference to J.D. Salinger’s short story For Esme – with Love and Squalor, also the name of We Are Scientists’ debut album released in 2005
^^ “Bear’s Blood down(ed?) in Metelkova” – Metelkova is an alternative, cultural hotbed, and city guides note you can get a shot (or three) of a famous local tipple

Initially, I had it deadset in my mind that ‘Bear’s Blood’ just had to be a reference to the bear pit in Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens that I had mythologised in my head was the setting was ‘Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians’ from 2010’s ‘Dreams of Another Day’ (“Mrs. Porter’s crying, ‘keep that kid away from my bear!’”). But having “METEL KOVA” (or the place of Metalkova) spelled out in black marker on a white shirt helped me out quite a bit.

How I’m reading this on the surface is that it’s chronicling life in this wild and crazy part of a Slovenian town. And if this is the case, the video surely reflects this joy but also mental spirit, with the lyrics of the song being written on band members’ faces, necks, arms and clothes. Being around them recently during the mayhem that is known as SXSW, I watched how the four of them simply love life and how anything related to them ends up truly madcap and fun. It’s not a front. That’s how the Crookes are in real life. They have the incredible ability to bring sunshine into life when there isn’t any.

But I did say that was on the surface. I don’t know how common it is in Britain, let alone far-flung Slovenia, but “Old shoes are hung as words are strung from telegraph wires” often have a criminal connotation when seen in blighted areas in America, quite possibly indicating you’re passing through a less than desirable area; see the intro to the video for Morrissey’s ‘Glamorous Glue’. As happy as this song sounds, it’s about to go dark.

And going further, I can feel someone’s truly tortured. “Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful / you know I’m lost…” seems to suggest that it takes great pains to make things look easy from the outside when your insides are in turmoil. Then there’s the “Bear’s Blood’s down(ed?) in Metelkova”, the drinking of some legendary brew native only to that area. (I’m wondering if the stuff is called ‘Bear’s Blood’ because it makes you think you’re as strong as a bear; scroll to about 1.01 into the video, you’ll see Hopewell with his arms raised as if he’s Rocky Balboa.) I haven’t decided yet if it’s the alcohol causing the person to get ‘lost’ or they were already lost to begin with and is now drowning his/her sorrows in drink. Either way, there’s internal conflict. And I feel this pain.

When I finally transcribed the lyrics myself, the two lines “To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful / It feels like I am missing out here?” and “I crucify the night, a quiet life’s so wasteful” [the band helpfully set me right on how this line actually reads after I posted this review – Ed.] had me agog at the computer screen, tears ready to roll down my cheeks. How could someone who barely knows me write about my life so well? Obviously it wasn’t written about my life. But I’m sure loads of people can relate too. “What if crucifixion’s on the dole?” is a famous line in ‘Sal Paradise’, but I have to say I’m impressed with the way crucifixion imagery is used again in ‘Bear’s Blood’. I can of course never be sure what he meant, but I know what it means for me. As for “To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful / It feels like I am missing out here?”, I have my own guess as to what this means to the band themselves, but I’m going to keep it under my hat for now…

I have to admit, I didn’t have an immediate love for this tune upon first listen. The washy guitars seemed to be entirely at odds with everything the Crookes have released up to this point, and the whole affair reminded me too much of what Richard Hawley did on ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ album last year, turning to a psychedelic sound. I kept muttering “oh no, oh no” to myself as it played all the way through. But it was the video – and reading over the lyrics – that sold me on the song. Clocking in as only a few more seconds longer than ‘Maybe in the Dark’, it’s still an amazing pop song by any measure, though lyrically it packs an incredible punch and is a major step up from that previous single. While it will take some getting used to this new sound of theirs, after considering ‘Bear’s Blood’, I’m still in it for the long haul.

9/10

‘Bear’s Blood’, the new single from the Crookes, will be released on 7″ and digital download on the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. The band will be headlining the Fierce Panda 19th birthday party at London Scala on Tuesday the 21st of May; tickets are on sale now. Support will be provided by their local mates the Heartbreaks and Hey Sholay. I’ll be somewhere in the crowd, if you fancy saying hello. Not sure if I’ll be sporting black marker on my face and arms though…

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Single Review: Wild Swim – Another Night

 
By on Thursday, 11th April 2013 at 2:16 pm
 

Wild Swim’s latest single ‘Another Night’ begins with a fittingly aquatic sort of sound: muted, echoing synths driven by a solid, muted bass riff. Richard Samson’s poignant, if somewhat cloying, lead vocal grips the heart from the song’s opening line and never lets go. Though the lyrics are quite repetitive, Samson delivers them with emotional conviction far beyond his youthful age. The song is neatly divided into two distinct sections, and Samson’s bandmates support him ably in the subtle shift between them, through a strong dynamic build to the wailing guitar solo at the end.

The accompanying video, by Dan W. Jacobs and Michael Battcock, has a shimmery, translucent feel throughout. Of special note is the moment at 1:55, when the video’s animated protagonist walks through a doorway, and the second section of the song begins. I am usually not very interested in music videos, but I was intrigued by this one, as it is rare to see a video that connects to the song’s musical structure in such a concrete way.

When I watched the video on YouTube, I was pleased to notice that Wild Swim have several other songs and videos available for viewing. Now that they have swum across my radar, I will certainly be doing more watching and listening.

7.5/10

‘Another Night’, the new single from Oxford’s Wild Swim, will be released on the 6th of May on Believe Recordings.

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Single Review: Avril Lavigne – Here’s to Never Growing Up

 
By on Wednesday, 10th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by guest reviewer David Wriglesworth

I’ll be the first to admit that I used to rock around my bedroom, singing into a hairbrush and strumming an air guitar to Avril Lavigne. In fact, on the odd occasion, I still do.

It’s hard to believe Canadian Lavigne was just 17 years old when she first rocked the music scene with ‘Sk8er Boi’ and ‘I’m With You’. Her debut album ‘Let Go’ has sold over 17 million copies worldwide and the follow-up ‘Under My Skin’, released in 2004, contained three singles which all charted in the top 40 of the UK Official Singles Chart. Three years later, the Canadian singer-songwriter stormed the charts with ‘Girlfriend’, taken from her third album, ‘The Best Damn Thing’, giving Lavigne her first UK number one. However, her success seemed to be fading when her 2011 album ‘Goodbye Lullaby’ peaked just inside the top ten. Fast forward to 2013 and Lavigne is back and, despite over a decade of being on the music scene, is showing no sign of maturing, or so the title of her latest single says.

Lavigne’s new single ‘Here’s to Never Growing Up’ is an acoustic anthem, which contains similarities to her 2002 hit ‘Complicated’. Co-written with fiancé and Nickelback lead vocalist Chad Kroeger, the track’s chorus makes reference to “singing Radiohead at the top of our lungs” and having the “boom box blaring as we’re falling in love” – your typical teenage behaviour (apparently). Lavigne’s comeback single is exactly what she needed to break back into the music scene, especially with Ke$ha’s temporary absence from the charts.

8/10

‘Here’s To Never Growing Up’ is now available to download from iTunes and is the first single to be taken from Avril Lavigne’s upcoming album, expected to release later this year. Watch and listen to the lyric video below.

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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.

 
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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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