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(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Single Review: STAL – The Crime

 
By on Wednesday, 24th January 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Part of the excitement of an emerging music festival, whether it’s in Brisbane or Brighton, is that you never know what great talent might be behind those club doors, and sometimes the club next door down the street. Three years ago, I caught Frenchmen STAL at The Arch on the first night of The Great Escape 2015. At the time, surrounded by their screaming fans, I wondered, how did we miss them completely? To be fair, electronic has a hard time getting traction in most of America, so unless the electronic music a Continental band is making is fairly poppy, or you’re someone with a massive established following like M83, the music isn’t going to make it out of Europe.

Now based in Los Angeles, STAL are an electronic-driven act stars Pierre-Marie Maulini (guitar, synths, and vocals) and Renaud Rodier (drums), augmented live with Jeff Di Rienzo (guitar and synths). Since I saw them at the Great Escape, they’ve dropped two albums, 2015’s ‘Young Hearts’ and 2016’s ‘Cinephila’. Two singles last year, ‘Get Out’ and ‘Fresh Blood’, showed their potential for poppier and rockier edges, respectively. Their latest single unveiled last week, ‘The Crime’, sees the group flirt with r&b. On the band’s Facebook, they wrote, “We hope you guys will like it as much we do cause this sound is a brand new journey for us and we’re lovin’ it !” One commenter said in French that they’re sound a bit Justin Timberlake, and that’s a decently accurate description.

Maulini’s falsetto sounds like it’s been put through autotune. Oddly, when accompanied by a squealing guitar, it doesn’t feel that out of place. A seductive melody oozes along with crunches of electronic percussion, and with Maulini’s lyrics speaking of jealousy, restlessness and the pain of being dumped. These are all common pop song themes, and there’s no shame in that. While I, as a music editor, expect bands to evolve over time, STAL have made a great leap of faith from their popular in Europe, dreamy, uplifting electro sound from 2015 to one that mirrors what’s heating up the record charts here in America and in the UK. Is it a wise gamble? Will it pay off for them? Is it time to start shouting “Viva la France” from the rooftops? With the r&b field so crowded as it is, I’m cautiously sceptical. Still, I’m eager to see what STAL decide to pull out of the bag at SXSW 2018 in March.

7/10

STAL’s newest single ‘The Crime’ is out now; you can stream it below. The Los Angeles via Paris band are scheduled to showcast at SXSW 2018. As with all of the SXSW 2018 showcasing artists we feature here at TGTF, their appearance in Austin is subject to change. We recommend that you consult the official SXSW Music Festival schedule for the latest information and updates.

 

Single Review: The Orielles – Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)

 
By on Friday, 19th January 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

In a few short weeks, Halifax friends The Orielles will be releasing their debut album ‘Silver Dollar Moment’. The name came from an incident yours truly actually witnessed. In May 2016, the band travelled to Toronto to play Canadian Music Week, during which time they were up an astonishing 36 hours straight and played two late night shows. The second, at the Silver Dollar Room on the famed Spadina Avenue, a north-south thoroughfare that cuts through the Canadian cultural hub, was at 2 AM. Despite having gone without sleep for so long, the late night appearance proved to be a career-defining moment, noted by the band as one of their best shows to date.

Since we discovered them at the city version of Liverpool Sound City in 2013 and under a different name, the three longtime mates have grown up, and so has their music. ‘Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)’ is the latest in their evolution, recorded as part of their debut album sessions at Eve Studio in Stockport. Singles we heard from them in 2017 like ‘I Only Bought It for the Bottle’ and ‘Let Your Dogtooth Grow’ had the psych, surfy feel that runs like a continuous thread through the band’s catalogue so far.

The Orielles 2018

This new single is also fun, but in a different way. Unexpectedly, as if out of the blue, ‘Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)’ sees the Orielles at their funkiest yet. Seventies’ style guitar, with plenty of wub wub wubs and reverb, is joined by disco beats, chimes and bongos. There’s a lot going on here, and more than the band’s usual guitar, bass and drums setup. Esme Hand-Halford’s vocals, as dreamy as ever, are layered on top to tie a psych feel back to their songs that have come before this one. While it’s not like their past songs wouldn’t have gotten toes tapping in a club, this is their first tune so far with an overtly danceable vibe. ‘Blue Suitcase’, then, has the potential to cross over and get played in dance clubs, something their alt-rock predecessors didn’t have going for them.

As for the inspiration for the song, it came out of an incident that seems quintessentially English. Unlike in the States, rail travel is not merely a romantic notion in blighty but often a necessity to get around the country. Spying an abandoned suitcase on a train platform, the trio questioned among themselves what was in there. Schrodinger’s cat? Perhaps a giant fruit to take adventures with? I guess we’ll never know. But let’s tip our hats off to the owner of this wayward piece of luggage. If he hadn’t left it, this song might not have been written at all. Let’s not think about that. Let’s look to the future and for The Orielles’ ‘Silver Dollar Moment’.

7.5/10

Single ‘Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)’ is taken from The Orielles’ debut album ‘Silver Dollar Moment’, expected to drop the 16th of February on Heavenly Recordings. They’ll be heading out on a UK tour in the middle of next month. For much more here on TGTF on The Orielles, go here.

 

(Charity!) Single Review: Frightened Rabbit – No Real Life

 
By on Wednesday, 10th January 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Over their five studio albums to date, Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit and their emotionally-charged music, described by Ryan Leas of Stereogum as “the kind of music that demands a fair amount of emotional investment from the listener,” have wowed fans all over the world. In his impassioned vocals, Scott Hutchison lays out raw, painful emotions for all to hear. It isn’t surprising, and sadly so, to learn that someone who can pour that much feeling and sorrow himself suffers from mental illness, something that has spilled out of Hutchison on social media. He admitted in this illuminating interview with Luke Ottenhof of On the A Side last spring, “Sometimes I wish I had a better mode of communication for when I’m feeling depressed, anxious, any of those things, but it tends to just work itself out into a song. That’s the way it’s always been for me.”

Knowing his personal history, it is wonderfully inspiring that Hutchison is willing to speak publicly about his struggles and has gotten involved with raising awareness and money for mental health causes. In 2011, along with James Graham of The Twilight Sad, Emma Pollock of The Delgados and other local musicians, Hutchison was part of The Fruit Tree Foundation, a Scottish music project that released the album ‘First Edition’, written and recorded during an intensive collaborative workshop in Perthshire. Fifty percent of the album’s proceeds go towards Scottish charity The Mental Health Foundation.

This past holiday season, Frightened Rabbit revealed a new single, also to raise money for a mental illness charity. ‘No Real Life’ premiered on Christmas Day, its words chronicling the thoughts that can go on inside the confused mind of a patient with dementia, often caused by the chronic, progressive neurodegenerative Alzheimer’s disease. Hutchison’s vocals of “I see light in the crack of the doorway / that extra-terrestrial glow / so cocoon my body, transport me / I don’t care to live in this world anymore” document the quiet desperation of a sufferer for the pain and confusion to end.

The gentle instrumental folk rock feel throughout the song marries well with the sombre subject matter. When Hutchison’s voice is joined by those of his bandmates in an ethereal harmony, a sense of peace and calm is achieved. ‘No Real Life’ is a moving, respectful acknowledgement to those in the grip of dementia, a disease we must keep fighting to cure.

8/10

Frightened Rabbit have encouraged their fans to donate to Alzheimer Scotland, who offer services to assist people with dementia, their carers and their families. Like cancer, dementia is an illness that has touched virtually everyone and their loved ones. Particularly around the holidays, it can be a difficult time when someone you love is suffering from a condition for which there is yet no cure. We encourage all to consider this worthy charity and to donate what you can to ensuring in the band’s words, “With your help, their aim is to make sure that nobody in this country faces dementia alone.” To read more of TGTF’s past coverage on Frightened Rabbit, go here.

 

(Charity / Holiday!) Single Review: Tristen – Crying on Christmas Day

 
By on Thursday, 21st December 2017 at 10:00 am
 

Nashville singer/songwriter Tristen has followed the July release of her third studio album ‘Sneaker Waves’ with a new Christmas single, to benefit charity organisation Doctors Without Borders. In sharp contrast to the contrived warmth and commercialised cheer of many Christmas singles, ‘Crying on Christmas Day’ is a rather disconsolate affair, delicately introspective and forlornly disillusioned by the disconnect between human actions and our professed desire for peace on earth.

The wistfully repeating verse/chorus refrains of ‘Crying on Christmas Day’ are framed by a pair of austere and distant poetic couplets. Tristen’s vocal delivery is softspoken and sweetly sad as she delivers her ethereal opening lines “from the dawn the angels cried a sacred song / passing on the sounds of love through ancient tears”. From there, the narrative tumbles forth over a gently insistent acoustic guitar figure, even as its central lyrical question, “does it feel all right crying on Christmas day?”, is obscured in a mysteriously evasive harmonic progression. The singer makes no attempt to provide musical resolution to her sobering existential observation, but she does provide her listeners with a practical way to resolve their own holiday angst.

Visit Tristen’s Bandcamp page to download ‘Crying on Christmas Day’, either for yourself or as a gift to someone else. All proceeds from sales of the single will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. Her latest LP ‘Sneaker Waves’ is out now on American indie label Modern Outsider. We at TGTF have covered Tristen in live performance, supporting Irish band Bell X1.

 

Single Review: Laura Marling – Don’t Pass Me By

 
By on Tuesday, 12th December 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

It’s perhaps a bit unusual to write a single review for a song that we’ve already mentioned in a review of the full album. However, Laura Marling’s early 2017 LP ‘Semper Femina’ is well worth a second look. The album has been mentioned on several Best of 2017 lists (including this one from Noisey and this one from NME) and was recently nominated for a Grammy award in the category of Best Folk Album. On the strength of those accolades, Marling has released a new deluxe version of ‘Semper Femina’ and a new single from the album, ‘Don’t Pass Me By’, which is accompanied by an elegant and artistic lyric video.

The song itself is graceful and refined, its arrangement evolving slowly and hypnotically over the course of four wistful verses and a plaintive refrain. Marling’s vocal delivery is both sultry and soothing as she sings of an evolving relationship and the residual emotion that lingers between two people in the process of growing apart. The protagonist of her narrative seems to be of two minds, confessing, “I can’t get you off my mind”, before asking in the next breath, “can you love me if I put up a fight?”

This kind of duality is characteristic of ‘Semper Femina’, as Marling fluidly and unapologetically juxtaposes opposing emotions, gender pronouns, and musical styles. ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ is among the most elusive of the songs on the album, its poetry both consciously evocative and willfully vague. But despite the layers of thematic conflict, Marling’s musical treatment is calm and composed, its dynamic hushed and its tempo serene throughout. The visual representation in the lyric video streaming below conveys a similar sense of peace and tranquility, as its graphics continuously modulate and transform in much the same fashion as Marling herself over the past several years.

9/10

‘Don’t Pass Me By’ appears on the new deluxe version of ‘Semper Femina’, which is available now via More Alarming Records/Kobalt. TGTF’s complete previous coverage of Laura Marling is collected here.

 

Single Review: Little Sparrow feat. Robin Dewhurst – Tender

 
By on Friday, 8th December 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Header photo by Shay Rowan

Manchester songstress Katie Ware, better known professionally as Little Sparrow, has been busy since we at TGTF first reviewed her debut LP ‘Wishing Tree’ back in 2015. On the strength of that album, Little Sparrow has won accolades including Laurel Canyon Music‘s Favourite New Artist of the Year in December 2016 and an appearance on BBC Breakfast TV’s “Brek-fest” earlier that year. She also appeared with BBC 6 Music personality Chris Hawkins as co-presenter on ‘The Sound Check’, a 2016 television pilot programme showcasing new music. Ware has spent much of 2017 working on the writing and recording of a second full-length album, which is slated for release in 2018.

Eager to release new music before the end of this year, Little Sparrow has just shared news of a lovely new single called ‘Tender’. The track features musical contributions from a host of Ware’s regular collaborators: Robin Dewhurst on piano [yes, dad of Josh Dewhurst of Stockport’s Blossoms – Ed.], Sarah Dale on cello and backing vocals, and Jonny Lexus at the production helm. ‘Tender’ will serve as the lead single for Little Sparrow’s interim project, an EP called ‘Just 3’ that is set to come out early next year.

Lyrically, ‘Tender’ is a sincere and singularly appropriate offering for the upcoming holiday season. Ware relates that the song was written about a member of her own family, and that it was intended to inspire its listeners to “remember people close to you and how much they mean to you.” As always, Little Sparrow’s sonic trademark is her exquisite vocal delivery, and she uses it to full effect here. Exceptionally beautiful in the high part of her register, Ware’s voice is warm, graceful and emotionally evocative throughout the song. Prepare for a gentle yet insistent tug on your heartstrings before you watch the promo video for ‘Tender’, playing just below.

7.5/10

Little Sparrow’s new single featuring Robin Dewhurst, ‘Tender’, is out today. You can find TGTF’s previous coverage of Little Sparrow collected right back here.

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours 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 no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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