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Earlier this summer, I reviewed Laura Marling’s new album, ‘Once I Was An Eagle’, which was, effectively, two separate albums folded into one release. KT Tunstall’s latest release, ‘Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon’, is a similar kind of collection: two sets of songs, each inspired by a significant event in Tunstall’s life. (In earlier interviews, Tunstall has stated these events to be the loss of her father and separation from her husband, Luke Bullen, who plays drums—notably—on only the first half of the album.) Just as Marling sought haven in America around the release of her album, Tunstall retreated to Arizona to record hers, finding inspiration in the desert for both the music and the album artwork.
Tunstall’s album is less experimental in nature than Marling’s, but it is pleasantly surprising in its own way. ‘Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon’ has a distinctly country kind of sound, which is unexpected, but in perfect keeping with the pensive, melancholic mood of the lyrics. Tunstall doesn’t lose her typical bluesy rock sound entirely, but rather flavors it with liberal inflections of traditional, old-fashioned country. The style suits the tone of her lyrics as well as the timbre of her voice, which sounds stunningly beautiful throughout the album. She deftly avoids the contrived effects that so many female singers rely on these days, instead keeping her singing light and flexible, without quite delving into the vocal gymnastics of her earlier work (‘Suddenly I See’, ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’). The overall effect is soft and soothing, even when she explores the lower register of her voice, where many singers can become harsh and grating.
Instrumentally, many of the songs depend on acoustic guitar and pedal steel for their country twang, but the other sonic effects are more eclectic. Bowed string arrangements fill out what might otherwise be a sparse acoustic sound on ‘Old Man Song’ and ‘Crescent Moon’, while ‘Honeydew’ features wind and brass instruments employed to a remarkably delicate effect. First single ‘Feel It All’ has a sultry blues feel, with a slinky guitar riff and fluidly singable chorus. The album ends with the psychedelic guitars of ‘No Better Shoulder’.
Upcoming single ‘Invisible Empire’ doesn’t strike as an immediately strong opening track, but echoes of the chorus played back in my mind as I listened to the rest of the album. Its lyrical musings on the mutable nature of reality foreshadow the remainder of the record in a very subtle way. After it was all said and done (or played and sung), my mind kept wandering back to this track as the focal point of the album. The video for ‘Invisible Empire’ can be viewed below.
The regular version of ‘Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon’ contains 12 tracks plus the bonus ‘Feel It All—Band Jam’. The deluxe version includes three additional bonus tracks and a haunting cover of Don Henley’s ‘The Boys of Summer’, which by itself is worth the additional cost.
‘Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon’ is out now on Virgin Records. Tunstall’s next single, ‘Invisible Empire’, will be released on Monday (19 August).
When Frank Turner and a load of his fans get tattoos in a music video, it’s fucking cool. It’s rock ‘n’ roll and just goes to show the devotion of his fans. They may as well be like the Frankettes, or Turnerphiles, I dunno. Something to make One Directioners puke up their porridge at least.
When Jared Leto asks fans to get tattoos for a Thirty Seconds to Mars video, he gets unified calls that he is in fact, a bellend. Perhaps that shows the contempt that Mr. Leto provokes in some sections of music fans, or perhaps it just shows the authenticity of the support for Frank. He didn’t have to put a call out to get this done, people just did. For Frank.
That’s pretty much the central theme for Frank’s new video for ‘Losing Days’, from his new album ‘Tape Deck Heart’ (review by Cheryl here). Following on with the theme of the album so far, it’s as expected a pretty gut wrenching tune, more reminiscent of his earliest work, than his most recent releases. ‘Tape Deck Heart’ is not one for the faint hearted, who joined in on the good ship Turner for tuneful ditties about travelling, like ‘The Road’. No, ‘Losing Days’ is deeper subject matter, but again an example of Turner at his heartstring-yanking best.
Blubbers steer clear.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 25th July 2013 at 12:00 pm
The last 2 months have been quite exciting for Sunderland’s Frankie and the Heartstrings. Though it sounds almost like a fairy tale for the skint bands I have come to know in all my time as a music writer, in early June the band opened their own record shop Pop Recs Ltd in their hometown. While I was still in England in mid-May, singer Frankie Francis said to NME about the venture, “It’s really brilliant. I love records, and to be able to become part of that community of people who sell records in the UK is exciting and in some way a bit of an honour. The British record shop has a huge legacy and one that we can contribute to in a small way…The level of backing from Sunderland council thus far has been incredibly inspiring. We as a group are proud of who we are and where we are from, and moments like these only affirm that sense of community and belief that the area as a creative hub are supported by the people around us”.
I remember at the time thinking, I love this band. But how the hell are they going to pull this off? Have they bitten off more than they can chew? Is this all going to end in tears? However, there were early signs that they would stay true to their DIY nature. Drummer Dave Harper asked around our group of friends on where he could get parts to make a counter, which I believe became literally the counter where people pay for their records. Guitarist Michael McKnight Tweeted photos at us of their own coffee blend (seriously, what?) and a taxidermied squirrel that sits proudly on a mantle somewhere in the shop. Yes, I am still talking about guys in a rock band here. Need proof? Probably what will be the shop’s most enduring legacy will be the band’s self-curated series of entirely free, in-store performances showcasing local talent and bands from further afield.
All this business (literally) about a real-life, functioning record shop might make you think they’ve hung up their songwriting to be in music retail instead. Not so fast though. The band’s second album ‘The Days Run Away’ was released in May, and at the end of the August they’ll be releasing their next single, ‘That Girl, That Scene’, which appears on the album. If you were a fan of their herky-jerky, frenetic style offered up in ‘Tender’ and the Domino pizza advert-commandeered track ‘Hunger’, both tracks from their debut album, you’re in luck. ‘That Girl, That Scene’ is a brilliant yet short guitar pop number that manages to pack a lot of punch in less than 2 and half minutes.
From the start, the guitars and drums are driving so hard, you can sort of imagine the strength of it all together packing enough energy to set a jumbo jet aloft. The guitar solo sounds like something out of the surf-y ’60s: simple, yet note perfect. And lyrically, I find it hilarious, beginning with, “I’m not the kind of guy that likes to take it slow / I’m not the kind of guy you’d like your mum to know / ‘cos I’ve been down too, down too many roads”. Our protagonist is being honest: I’m not the boy next door, I’m not the kind of boy you want to take home to mum. I’ve seen too much. I’ve been around the block. But I also find the words refreshingly honest. The song is about how every person has two sides when they’re in love. At first, you’re the angel: you’ll do anything for the apple of your eye when you’ve found the person you fancy. You’ll drop everything to make the relationship work. But let’s face it: there’s another part of you that will, at times, revert to the way you were before you met that person: in this case, the impression is that as lads, you’ll eventually go back to your late night going out and boozing ways. Richard Hawley‘s ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ (video here) comes to mind.
In that way, nights out to the indie disco could prove quite treacherous to the single fella: seeing “that girl” in “that scene” in the clubs you’re used to going to late at night could lead to a messy relationship. At the end, Francis admits “that girl, that scene / she’ll be the death of me”. Love is a battlefield, eh? Francis delivers the words in such a winsome way, kicking up the end of the lines with his trademark squeal. You can’t help but get excited over this. Or is it just me? Have a listen to the single below and let us know what you think.
‘That Girl, That Scene’, the forthcoming single from Frankie and the Heartstrings, will be released on the 26th of August via digital download. It will be backed by ‘Summer’, a brand new composition.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 12th July 2013 at 12:00 pm
There were always two things about We Are Scientists‘ Chris Cain and Keith Murray we could always count on: 1) they would make us laugh with their jokes and 2) their brand indie rock – with incredible hooks and hard-hitting lyrics – would burrow itself like tapeworms into our collective minds. We’ve just received word that they have just signed to 100% Records, who also look after OMD, and I don’t think it’s a commentary on the label itself, but the lack of punchiness of forthcoming single ‘Something About You’, written and recorded earlier this year in the band’s home environs of New York, may be cause for alarm.
#1 of 2 on that previous list is covered by what lead singer Murray had to say about the release: “I guess ‘charity single’ is the wrong word for this, since none of the money generated will go to a good cause. But in the sense that we did this because we knew some of the fans desperately, desperately needed it — in that sense, yeah, it’s a charity single.” Ha! However, what about #2? While I’m not expecting the band most famous for the reckless ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ and the great madness of ‘The Great Escape’ to always stay in that one place, the lacklustre chorus of this new song (a repeated “something about you-ou”) is disappointing. Murray’s voice also sounds more honeyed, more stars in the eyes and less overtly fun, if that makes sense. The melody, which is pleasant enough, sounds like it could have come from any other indie band, and us WAS fans have come to expect Cain and Murray to bring us immediate, catchy songs with witty, rapid-fire lyrics.
Lyrically, this delivery style actually makes sense in the context, and I appreciate the interesting word choices in this love song that isn’t really a love song. the first verse talks about “what’s the problem” about a “sinking ship” (doomed relationship I’m assuming). Then in the second, Murray quips about lust: “you’ll get your hands on everything you want / so what’s the rush, you know it’s coming / it might odd to put your finger on / once we’ve touched, it’s all or nothing”. (Hmm. Is the “odd”ness possible sexual confusion?) The third verse’s “you’d say I’d get it if I wait it out / eventually, there’s always something” sounds like sexual frustration. Wait, what? Is she being a tease now? And then the song ends. No resolution.
And maybe that’s the point?
‘Something About You’, the next release and stand-alone single from We Are Scientists, will be released on 16 July on 7″ and digital formats; the release comes with another A-side, ‘Let Me Win’.
Header photo by Cheryl Demas
Tired Pony, the supergroup fronted by Snow Patrol‘s Gary Lightbody, has just released the first single from their forthcoming album, ‘The Ghost of the Mountain’. Titled ‘All Things All at Once,’ the single continues the band’s experiment with a folky, Americana-type sound, as well as Lightbody’s lyrical exploration of a set of fictional characters, both of which began on the Tired Pony’s first album, “The Place We Ran From.”
‘All Things All at Once’ received its first radio play Monday morning on BBC 6music. In an interview with breakfast show presenter Shaun Keaveny, Lightbody described writing and recording the song after the rest of the album had been completed: “It’s kind of one of those things about Tired Pony, that kind of spontaneity, in that it’s a song that not only made the record but became the single.”
The song does feel raw and rough around the edges, as one might expect from a track recorded so quickly. The unpolished sound lends an authenticity to the song’s emotion, even as the jangly guitars and light rhythms belie its undercurrent of melancholy. Lightbody described the new album as “kind of a very sad story, but the music is so uplifting. Hidden in the cheeriness is a quite a few sad songs”. Count ‘All Things All at Once’ as one of those dichotomous tunes.
Band members Garret “Jacknife” Lee, Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Troy Stewart, Richard Colburn and Iain Archer draw from their own signature styles to create a full multi-instrumental sound on this track, but it’s their backing vocals that really make the single special. If Lightbody’s contemplative lyrics don’t stick in your head, the “whoa-oh-oh” in the chorus definitely will.
Tired Pony’s album ‘The Ghost of the Mountain’ will be released on the 19th of August on Fiction Records. Stream the single below.
Guernsey is well known for being the only British territory to be invaded by the Nazis, its sweet fruity bread, spawning Matt Le Tissier (Le God), and of course it’s known for gorgeous creamy milk. [I once made John laugh when I told him early on when he started writing for TGTF that the only thing I knew about Guernsey was the Guernsey cow – Ed.] What it’s not known for is gleefully lovelorn romantic indie pop, and hooks that have both the line and the sinker. Luckily over the last 5 years, Guernsey’s music scene has been slowly chiselled away from the glut of heavy metal bands, the kind that often filled the bills at local venues and festivals, and now it’s moving towards a more mainstream, commercial sound.
Now the word commercial with most music aficionados comes with a misconception of negativity, of selling out. I look at it this way: commercial sound is more accessible to the widespread public, and therefore available for more enjoyment. What’s wrong with that? So I introduce The Last of the Light Brigade, with their new, commercially accessible single ‘Walking Blind’. Ignore the typically Guernsey video featuring a well-known local politician as gimmicks aside, the song is some delightfully twee indie pop.
The lyrics like how lead singer Tyler Edmonds’ “head has been in the sky / asking himself why” smack with every love lost cliché. But to his credit, the song does show off how his vocal range has evolved and in comparison with their last single ‘The Door’; this time is very different, focusing on the bands vocal harmony on the chorus. In fact, the entire focus of the track really is the positive harmonies that the three-piece produce. It’s a kind of whimsical take on a song about a topic that is altogether less whimsical, interspersed with a whirling, yet easy going guitar solo interlude followed by the chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old school emo whiner.
Whininess aside, it’s difficult not to listen to this track and be positive, despite the subject matter, and it signals maybe not a renaissance for Guernsey’s less heavy bands, but at least a marker being placed alongside similar local bands Of Empires and Twelve Ton Trouble. More of the same please…