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Single Review: Django Django – Tic Tac Toe

 
By on Monday, 30th October 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Art rock geeks Django Django first burst on the scene in 2012 with their self-titled album. Chock full of psychedelic, toe-tapping earworms like singles ‘Default’ and ‘Love’s Dart’, the London via Edinburgh group captured the minds and imaginations of music fans everywhere with their percussive, witty tunes. Included in that group was this editor, who was so enamoured about their sound that I thought they deserved a Bands to Watch and I risked life and limb to see them play packed, sweaty showcases at SXSW, The Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City of that year. LP ‘Born Under Saturn’, which followed 3 years later, wasn’t at rapturously received as its predecessor, some pundits noticing its lack of immediacy and its rough edges worn down.

Any concerns about whether Django Django had lost the plot appear to be unfounded. Earlier this month, they returned with a new track to build up excitement towards album number three, ‘Marble Skies’, due out at the start of January. ‘Tic Tac Toe’ begins with a white noise in the background that sounds like a plane taking off, or perhaps a balloon that’s being inflated by helium. How’s that for anticipation? Singer Vincent Neff’s first vocals out of the gate heavily echo, as pounding drumming usher in a melodic guitar line.

The overall effect of their hippy-dippy vibrations envelopes you, recalling the frenetic nature of exemplary earlier single ‘Hail Bop’ from their debut album. The main differences? For sure, ‘Tic Tac Toe’ is more in your face, refusing to be denied entry into the little grey cells in your head. The one thing that’s sorely lacking from the song is an opportunity for a grand sing-along: the lyrics, weighed down with reverb, have a feel good quality but are hard to follow in the milieu.

For its accompanying promo directed by John Maclean, brother of drummer David, the group decided to take an off-the-wall approach that matches their continuing ethos with their music. Take something incredibly important to the British – the milk in their tea – and send their leader off to source some. Trust me, it’s not as pedantic as it sounds. During his mission, he gets caught off guard. Just like fans like us have been by a little group named Django Django.

7.5/10

Single ‘Tic Tac Toe’ from Django Django is out now. The Scottish art rockers’ third album ‘Marble Skies’ will be out on the 26th of January 2018. All of our past coverage on the group is through here.

 

Single Review: Adam French – Weightless

 
By on Thursday, 26th October 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

For farmers, the term ‘beast of burden’ came about to describe their working animals. Horses, donkeys and other creatures on the land were tasked to help with the most strenuous of jobs that were too difficult for man alone, carrying wares and ploughing the fields. What has become eminently clearer as mental health takes a more centre stage role in our lives is that as human beings, we ourselves can be burdened not just by physical weight in this life. The emotional toll of the romantic relationships we have with other people can be as equally burdensome, and carrying such a weight can come at a cost, one that is worthy of discussion and hopefully, resolution. In a quite evocative way, Cheshire-born singer/songwriter Adam French’s new single ‘Weightless’ demonstrates just this.

Structurally, French’s approach to the song is simple: initially, echoing, minor key electric guitar notes gently strummed, haunting in their sparseness, are the only accompaniment to his forlorn voice. A string arrangement comes in for brief moments throughout the song, low enough in the mix to continue the sombre atmosphere but without overwhelming everything else. Like previous single ‘Euthanasia’, the song speaks of an unbalanced relationship. “You say you’re gonna make it all right / how you gonna make it all right?”, he asks rhetorically. The pace is faster on these lines, as if he’s rushing through the words because he himself does not believe them.

In a slower tempo and with a beautiful lilt, French insists in the chorus, “only you can make me weightless”. This is just before he lets out an owl-like call that rings out in the echoes, emphasising the feeling of loneliness. The tempo speeds back up on the lines where loneliness turns into feeling lost and not himself at all: “I lose myself for a little while / remove myself for a little while / to prove myself for a little while”. The quickly, then slowly sung words provide an interesting contrast, the slower moments showing the full beauty of French’s voice. It’s when French pauses and lets his voice slink around the melody that you realise he has the potential of being Britain’s next great crooner.

A lovely ballad to tug on the ol’ heartstrings, ‘Weightless’ is a great first taste of his next EP, which will drop on the 8th of November. Watch this space.

8.5/10

‘Weightless’, the new single from singer/songwriter Adam French, is out now on Virgin EMI. The official video to the single is below. To watch an additional live performance of the song at London St. Stephen’s Church last year go here. To read more of TGTF’s coverage on him, follow this link.

 

Single Review: Lo Moon – Thorns

 
By on Thursday, 19th October 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Marcus Haney

Up-and-coming Los Angeles alt-rock trio Lo Moon are set to begin their UK tour supporting London Grammar this week. To mark the occasion, they have unveiled another stunning new single titled ‘Thorns’. ‘Thorns’ follows hot on the heels of Lo Moon’s recent promo video for ‘This is It’, which we featured as a Video of the Moment #2449 last week.

Despite its rather prickly title, ‘Thorns’ displays a softer, more subdued facet of Lo Moon’s typically edgy and angular sound. It’s noticeably less reliant on sharp dynamic contrast than ‘This is It’, aiming instead to capture a mood of calm introspection and stillness. Its lyrics are strikingly minimal, comprising only two brief verses and a simple, softly whispered refrain: “no one can love you, no one can love you the same / I’ll always want you, I’ll always want you this way / we’ll learn to outgrow the thorns on the rose”. Yet Lo Moon’s expansive musical arrangement of ‘Thorns’ is no less emotionally dramatic, evolving slowly and deliberately over the song’s 5-minute length. Ambient and gentle at the start, with subtle keyboard and percussion effects, the track picks up some rhythmic momentum and intensity with added layers behind the repeated chorus, and the jazz-tinged brass arrangement in the instrumental interlude is delightfully smooth and sweet.

The band themselves describe ‘Thorns’ as having “had a life of its own from day one.” They have written more extensively about the recording process for ‘Thorns’ in the Our Road section of their official Web site, which you can read by clicking here. We’ve had no word yet on Lo Moon’s impending debut LP release, but ‘Thorns’ is out now on Columbia Records, along with ‘This Is It’ and early single ‘Loveless’. You can find TGTF’s past coverage of Lo Moon, including a live review from SXSW 2017, collected back here.

 

Single Review: BANNERS – Firefly

 
By on Wednesday, 11th October 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Liverpudlian singer/songwriter Mike Nelson records under the name BANNERS. He was one of my favourite pop discoveries during the SXSW 2016 preview season, putting on a fantastic appearance Wednesday afternoon at the British Music Embassy that was one to remember. (Full disclosure: We are both Liverpool supporters, but this mere fact will not affect my ability to judge his music objectively.) From his humble beginnings in Liverpool, BANNERS is now based in Toronto, a place from which it should make it easier for him as an artist to gain a foothold here in North America.

Following the release of his self-titled EP and a series of blinding singles including the SiriusXM Alt Nation-friendly ‘Someone to You’, he’s recently unveiled the acoustic version of his latest single, self-described as “less aggressive”. It’s interesting that he mentions the word ‘aggressive’, as I wouldn’t describe the original, full-bodied version of ‘Firefly’ as aggressive only in the context of being a track that might cause one to aggressively stamp your feet. And who doesn’t enjoy that? ‘Firefly’ seems also perfectly timed to the end of summer and the entry point into autumn. As days grow shorter, fireflies, a marker of carefree childhoods and having fun in the great outdoors, disappear almost as swiftly as another season rushes in.

In ‘Firefly’, Nelson fancies himself as one of these summer night-glowing creatures of the sky. Here’s the rub: he can’t glow without the presence of his best friend, his lover, his confidante. In times of pining and yearning, he sings wistfully of their “worlds apart, it went dark / you were always on my mind” until they can be together again. The guitars and drums are never heavy-handed here, as if tapping into Nelson’s private, introspective thoughts. The only point of possible annoyance in this song is a repeated guitar note (?) in the chorus that sounds like a bird call being put through a synth effect. If that was absent, ‘Firefly’ would be pretty much perfect.

Like all good tales where lovers are separated by distance, when they are reunited, the sparks fly and that inner light that otherwise has been dampened by loneliness can shine again. Bolstered by honest lyrics sung in Nelson’s rich voice, it’s a sweet, innocent charmer sure to stay in BANNERS’ set list for years to come.

8/10

Single ‘Firefly’ by BANNERS is out now on Island Records. To read my past coverage on BANNERS here on TGTF, follow this link. While a support slot with Echosmith has been pushed off until 2018, shows in Los Angeles and New York with Sydneysider Dean Lewis are planned in November.

 

Single Review: San Fermin – Asleep on the Train

 
By on Tuesday, 19th September 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Brooklyn art-pop collective San Fermin released their third studio album ‘Belong’ back in April, just after their appearance in Austin for SXSW 2017. A mere 6 months later, the group are in the middle of a North American tour supporting the album, and they’ve marked the occasion by releasing a new stand-alone single called ‘Asleep on the Train’. Bandleader and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone describes the song as “a b-side that I’ve always liked, but [that] didn’t fit on the record”. He elaborates, “The lyrics [to ‘Asleep on the Train’] are inspired by late nights on the subway, all flickering fluorescent lights and post-party depression.”

In terms of the sonic realisation of that experience, San Fermin have hit the figurative nail squarely on the head, starting with the harsh industrial opening sounds of the track, then easing into a smoother, almost hypnotically jazz-tinged and quintessentially New York kind of sound. Soothing strings and muted brass underscore precisely tuned vocal harmonies between singers Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye, but Ludwig-Leone’s murky verse lyrics are punctuated by brief interludes of sharp instrumental tones and disjointed vocal effects. The song’s chorus melody “lost and blue, you fell asleep on the train again / and you woke up by the bay / oh, I know it’s hard to get around sometimes / I apologize” is lyrically evocative, but musically even moreso, set to a slightly uneven rhythm that is strangely and singularly reminiscent of a bleary-eyed ride in a mostly empty subway car at the tail end of the train’s service.

9.5/10

ICYMI, we caught San Fermin live at SXSW 2017; you can read about that vivid, broad daylight performance right here. San Fermin’s new single ‘Asleep on the Train’ and their full LP ‘Belong’ are both out now on Downtown / Interscope Records. Details on the band’s upcoming live performances can be found on their official Facebook. TGTF’s full past coverage of San Fermin is collected back here.

 

Single Review: David Ramirez – Time

 
By on Friday, 18th August 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Stefanie Vinsel

American folk rocker David Ramirez has just released a stunning new single, the third from his forthcoming LP ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’. The new song, called ‘Time’, is set to feature as the opening track on the album and follows previous singles ‘Watching from a Distance’ and ‘Twins’. (You can watch the promo video for the politically-charged ‘Twins’, which juxtaposes lyrics about contemporary America with black-and-white film footage from around WWII, right here).

‘Time’ starts off, straightforwardly enough, as a piano ballad with stark, country-tinged realism in the opening lines, “who wants to grab a drink tonight? / I know it’s only Tuesday and you gotta work tomorrow”. But the prevailing synth ostinato quickly indicates a change of palette from Ramirez’s typical alt-country instrumental arrangements, with the expected wailing guitars taking a momentary back seat. This very clever instrumentation allows the sparkle of the keyboard sounds to illustrate Ramirez’s dizzying bridge section lyrics: “round and round, I’m getting busy / one more round please, let’s keep this fuzzy / I hear a tick-tock, can you tell me is he trying to mock / it’s all been a bit blurry for some time now.”

Despite the apparent shift in musical direction, Ramirez hasn’t lost sight of what worked well on his previous album ‘Fables’, specifically, the combination of his sharply poignant lyrics and the raw emotion his vocal delivery. This song’s simple, echoing chorus “I got nothing but time” works beautifully in Ramirez’ drawling baritone, conveying a deeper sense of hidden desperation with every repeat. Like so many of Ramirez’ previous songs, ‘Time’ is an emotionally-challenging listen, but it’s absolutely worth the lingering heartache it evokes.

9/10

David Ramirez’ fourth studio album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ is due for release on the 8th of September via Thirty Tigers / Sweetworld. You can read TGTF’s past live coverage of David Ramirez, including a review from SXSW 2017 back in March, by clicking here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TC0TTi-GVeI[/youtube]

 
 
 

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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