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By Adam McCourt
on Thursday, 22nd September 2016 at 12:00 pm
Having just passed their 12th year anniversary as a band, with two previously released studio albums including their critically acclaimed self-titled second album from 2014, these girls need no introduction. However, with their third album out in less than 24 hours, I suppose it won’t hurt to shout out… Fully female L.A. based dream pop four-piece Warpaint are set to release their eagerly awaited third studio album ‘Heads Up’, due out tomorrow on Rough Trade Records. In announcing the album, the girls released an accompanying single, ironically titled ‘New Song’ back in August (read my review here).
After an interview in NME surfaced in March 2015 stating that Warpaint didn’t want to do another album, fans thought this day would never come, especially as the statement was backed up by the band taking somewhat of a hiatus to work on their own solo projects throughout the whole of 2015. During which time, bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg released a solo album titled ‘Right On’, reviewed by Carrie back here. After regrouping in early 2016, not just with each other but also with former producer Jacob Bercovici (who produced their 2009 debut EP ‘Exquisite Corpse’), the band wasted no time. By May of this year, the record was done and what an album it truly is.
‘Heads Up’ explores a mature side of Warpaint, and in ways previous efforts lacked. Rather than providing a sonic overload within each song, the quartet managed to simplify their approach to song writing, which gives a lot more time and space to absorb the sweet vibes their providing . This approach is apparent when listening to the album opener ‘White Out’. If you listened to the bass, guitar and drums in isolation, each hint at totally separate directions to the next, with very subtle connections to each other within note choices and rhythmic patterns. But when taken as a unit, they work perfectly together.
The guitar is the constant in this case, taking somewhat of a backseat role following its introduction. As the bass and drums dance around it with rather busy yet poppy patterns, Kokal’s vocals sprinkle the track with an equally upbeat topline produced by her imperfectly sensual vocal tone. The bass specifically gives the impression that it’s locking with the vocal rhythm more so than the drum pattern, which, although is quite rare in pop, it pays off and helps strengthen the top line. The drums within ‘White Out’ have a higher level of complexity, ironic given that for a lot of beginning writing sessions for the album Stella Mozgawa wrote her parts on sample pads and drum machines, due to an injury that left her unable to physically play. With this in mind we must applaud her, every pattern is played for a reason. The ghost notes aren’t for flair, they add that extra burst of movement to the track, whilst the off beat, dynamic contrasts on the hi-hats keep the listener hooked from start to finish.
‘By Your Side’ showcases what we know and love about Warpaint’s blended voices, an unconventional style of harmony in today’s pop music. The girls sing about what sounds like being in a relationship with a cheater, but with a darker, slightly sinister twist. The lack of repetition within the music and a topline that’s shared between two or more members causes the focus of the song to wander, a purposely unclear melody used to great effect. The track oozes a creepy, ‘you fuck with us, we’ll fuck with you’ side Warpaint unseen until now.
Further down the album, tracks such as ‘So Good’ and title track ‘Heads Up’ could easily be considered modern day alt-pop gems. The diatonic harmony within provides an easy to grasp understanding of the music that, combined with the fun, poppy grooves, gives both of these numbers commercial appeal. The focus towards electronic elements and the vocals sway these tracks, and the record for that matter, away from being so heavily guitar orientated, the way ‘The Fool’ and ‘Warpaint’ were. Lindberg put it best, by describing the new material as “an evolution of our band. It sounds like a mature version of Warpaint”. The ‘get in, get to the point and get to the next track’ approach of ‘Heads Up’ as an album is a great mark of their newfound professionalism.
Underestimating how far these four will go to provoke various emotions within a record would be a mistake. ‘Dre’, aside from being somewhat of an ode to influential American hip-hop producer Dr. Dre, is one that physically and sonically takes you by surprise eight songs into the album. Following the deeply emotive ‘Don’t Let Go’, ‘Dre’ has a huge, industrial sounding drum part that paves the way for an eerily beautiful, long-held chord progression that never seems to rest. With the pads acting as the foundations for the harmony, it leaves the window completely open for all remaining elements to create a sonic picture of what it would be like if Dr. Dre collaborated with Warpaint.
Easily Warpaint’s most diverse effort to date, ‘Heads Up’ shows these ladies are equally at home with abstract, avant garde sounds (‘By Your Side’) and poppish new wave (‘So Good’). The new rule of no overthinking works fully in their favour, which in turn gives us a clearer view into the true soul of Warpaint.
Heads up! ‘Heads Up’ is due out tomorrow, the 23rd of September, on Rough Trade Records. If you’re as excited about it as I am, you’ll already have it on pre-order. Warpaint are currently on tour in the U.S., which will be followed by with a short string of dates in UK and Europe. Find out whether they’re coming to you and get your tickets through this link. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Warpaint, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 20th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
Kent’s self-described ‘dirty pop’ band Get Inuit have had a busy 2016, including performing for international audiences at SXSW in March including at longtime champion Huw Stephens and PRS for Music’s evening showcase, touring with their now mates Spring King and bringing their sunny music and attitude to loads of summer festivals. They’ve now unveiled a new single, and it’s a doozy. It’s one in what is becoming a long line of catchy tunes with their own stamp of craziness. Sadly to fans of Japanese cuisine like yours truly, ‘Teriyaki’ isn’t a song about the food of ol’ Nippon at all. What is certain is that this song’s recording and production was backed financially by the PRS for Music Foundation’s Momentum Music Fund, support only anointed to a select group of British acts.
The first clue of the single cover art is the upside down vanilla ice cream cone melting, forlornly on the ledge of an electric blue wall. Beginning with a fuzzed out noise that sounds like what happens in the studio when autotune is applied to a guitar line, you know you’re heading into something completely different. Lead singer Jamie Glass sings, “maybe I’ve got 99 problems, but we’re all going to hell!” in his trademark winsome yelp. Is he being serious? As Glass wails in the chorus, “I can’t remember who I was before”, he betrays his uncertainty of who he has become and what lies in the future. Appearing in an engaging singalong of a song, if you aren’t paying attention, you might have missed it.
It struck me as I was listening to this single that Get Inuit just might be pioneering an anti-punk movement. While their lyrics have always swung into the weird and nonsensical, skirting the line at slacker lo-fi, their instrumentation has always sounded full and amazing, if not polished. Brash in sound but not at all foolhardy in execution, ‘Teriyaki’ is one delicious proposition in pop on its head.
The digital version of Get Inuit’s newest single ‘Teriyaki’ is out now. A physical 7” will follow on the 30th of September on Tunbridge Wells-based DIY record label Unlabel. For more of TGTF’s coverage of the Kent band, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 19th September 2016 at 11:00 am
English electropop group Fenech-Soler have returned, though they’re down to two members. Bassist Daniel Soler and drummer Andrew Lindsay’s split from the band was amicably, leaving brothers Ben and Ross Duffy to continue without them. Last Friday, they released their surprise four-track ‘Kaleidoscope’ EP, a testament to the Northamptonshire brothers’ devotion to the dance floor bangers. It’s the act’s follow-up to 2013 album ‘Rituals’, released back then on Warner Records.
Fenech-Soler currently only have two UK dates announced so far – an appearance at Manchester’s Neighbourhood Festival on the 8th of October, followed by a headline show on the 27th of October at London Hackney Oslo. We hope that many more live dates are to follow on both sides of the pond.
VANT are currently one of the new class of bands drawing attention, particularly due to frontman Mattie Vant’s political voice he puts forward in his songwriting. Their previous singles, such as ‘The Answer’, which concerns the questionable UK/US relationship, have already shown his solid songwriting process that leads to tracks filed with raging choruses and affecting lyrics It’s with their debut EP ‘Karma Seeker’ that all of these key points join in perfect execution.
The EP opens with title track ‘Karma Seeker’. It’s about the idea of searching out the future and seeking the reward rather than living day to day, a notion that probably could serve the majority of the current generation well. Beginning with a simply strummed acoustic guitar that’s joined by the rest of the instrumentation and into a rather Blur-like swagger, as the verse runs through, it’s the chorus where the cause meets effect. Furiously pounded drums align with Vant’s roaring call of “karma seeker don’t sway, karma seeker pure bliss, if you search you’ll destroy what you miss”. A full-bodied track that doesn’t quite hit as hard as the previous singles ‘The Answer’ or ‘Fly-by Alien’, this tune still packs the power to set the scene for the rest of the EP.
‘Welcome To The Wonderful World of Berners Lee’ tackles conspiracy theories and how easy they are to be consumed by their mystery and as excitement from regularf life. From the idea of lizard people being in control (“maybe she’s a lizard, maybe she’s a lizard, who knows?”), to the major events of the 1960s as government conspiracies (“the man on the moon shot JFK”), each point is repeated incessantly, with the ending of “my futile mind has just been blown”. The use of repetition represents the seemingly never-ending stream of different theories and how even as one point is debunked, it will come back in a stronger form., As a fairly straightforward track that does little to build upon the traction gained from ‘Karma Seeker’, musically, it doesn’t hold as much weight as its predecessor.
American culture is a big influence on Mattie Vant’s songwriting, with ‘Jesus Was a Conman’ referring to the country’s infamous 2nd amendment that gives its people the right to bear arms. Pushing further forward from ‘Welcome…’, ‘Jesus…’ has a much stronger stance that supports his powerful position against the law. The chorus sums up the idea within the song completely – “let’s get naked, fire 47s, get naked, fire 47s, get naked, fire 47s, fire 47s on heroin”, with a rousing and soaring musical accompaniment. You could quite easily refer to each verse within the track and the points made toward changing the second amendment (that’s why it’s called an amendment). In previous interviews, Vant has made it clear that he wishes to use the band as a vehicle to speak about important issues to the generation he’s a part of. With tracks such as ‘Jesus…’, he’s doing a mighty fine job.
Finale ‘Birth Certificate’ tackles immigration, in particular the loss of Vant’s girlfriend, who was deported back to Australia. You can hear the passion in his voice as he sings his deeply personal lyrics. Most affecting is the second verse, “patriotism is a fucking lie, I’ll be branded British until the day I die, I got this label through invasion, so maybe one day we’ll be called Korean”, though none of this holds its true weight without the chorus “it only takes a second to burn your birth certificate, if the world’s ours, then why she gotta go home”. Another vicious track that does its damnedest to support the words that so easily carry his point across, it’s a perfectly apt closer, especially considering the recent Brexit events in his home country.
‘Karma Seeker EP’ is a must listen (and buy) for everybody. It features a political voice not heard for many years and finally gives the current generation a positive influence. When VANT finally release their debut LP, they have the chance to influence a generation who could, in turn, influence the future. There’s a reason VANT are such a widely watched band: they have the songs, they have the power. It’s just a matter of time until it all comes together into a movement.
VANT’s debut EP ‘Karma Seeker’ is out now on Parlophone Records. To read previous coverage of VANT on TGTF, including about their appearance at Reading 2016 last month, click here.
Canterbury psych-rock band Syd Arthur will play a list of live shows in England and Ireland later this autumn, around the release of their new LP ‘Apricity’. The album is due out on the 21st of October via Communion in the UK and Harvest Records in North America. You can take a listen to its third promo single ‘No Peace’ just below the tour date listing.
Syd Arthur are currently on tour in North America supporting Jake Bugg through the end of September. They will return to England to play a handful of shows with Austin, Texas rock band White Denim ahead of the headline dates listed below. A full listing of Syd Arthur’s upcoming live dates, including their album launch in Canterbury on the 18th of November, can be found on their official Facebook. Tickets for the following list of shows are available now.
Stay tuned to TGTF in the coming days for more insight on ‘Apricity’ in our interview with Syd Arthur frontman Liam Magill. In the meantime, you can read through our past coverage of the band right back here.
Saturday 15th October 2016 – London Hackney Wonderland
Wednesday 26th October 2016 – Dublin Workman’s Club
Friday 28th October 2016 – Winchester Railway Inn
Saturday 29th October 2016 – Oxford Cellar
Sunday 30th October 2016 – Sheffield Harley
Monday 31st October 2016 – Newcastle Cluny
Tuesday 1st November 2016 – Birmingham Rainbow
Wednesday 2nd November 2016 – Guildford Boileroom
Thursday 3rd November 2016 – Brighton Patterns
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 13th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
What lesson did we learn from the tale of the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. While on paper this doesn’t seem like a winning strategy in the music business, we may have a prime example of success in exactly this way, via an album released just last week. Australian electronic trio SAFIA were one of my top picks from the Aussie BBQ at SXSW 2015. Despite not having released a debut LP, they’ve been fixtures of the Aussie live circuit for the last 7 years, gaining fans and admirers on the booking side of things over time.
The wait for their first big release is over, and if the strength of this 12-track collection is anything to go by, they’re about to become a household name way beyond Oz. The band comprises Ben Woolner (lead vocals), Henry Sayers (guitars and synth) and Michael Bell (drums). All gifted producers on their own, it’s no wonder that they self-produced this album, and there’s no indication that this arguably biased approach has hindered their creative process in any way. In fact, one might argue the greatest take home message of ‘Internal’ is the sheer talent on display on this record, making one wonder why we haven’t heard of this band outside of Australia before. Atmospheric instrumental ‘Zion’ begins the album as if traversing the wild west of electronic music. A mysterious land that seems barren, even dangerous, soon reveals itself, giving way to beguiling beats, then to futuristic, more chill sounds.
The r&b swagger, with its vise-like grip on pop, is evident on ‘Internal’, working in the trio’s favour rather than against it. The bouncy rhythm of ‘My Love is Gone’ makes it a leading candidate in the dance floor filler stakes. A similar celebratory feel is an integral part of ‘Together, Locked Safely’, as Woolner puts his vocals through its melodic paces. Woolner’s soulful, melancholic “I don’t want to be lonely” vocals on ‘Fake It Til the Sunrise’ lead into a tropical beat, then the breakdown where an irrepressible beat underpins the buzzing synths. The heart pumping ‘Close to You’ is another revelation, though the use of autotune seems unnecessary, while ‘Over You’ slinks along appealingly. Hmm, sensing a theme here?
However, it’s the more out-there, surprise tracks that interest me far more than those I already know can (and will) show up on top 40 in due course. ‘Embracing Me’ switches back and forth between pensive, slower moments allowing Woolner’s voice to shine and more frenetic, beat- and synth-driven ones. The lyrics are relatively simple and repetitive; Woolner is making the case to a woman who has told him to leave her alone “you don’t know, all the things that could set you free / like embracing me”. It might be awkward phrasing, yes, but I find it a refreshingly innocent way to court a girl. And seriously, what intelligent woman would say no to a song like this? On the other side of the spectrum, ‘Make Them Wheels Roll’ is a murky hip-hop-esque number, Woolner’s falsetto reminiscent of Dougy Mandagi’s in early Temper Trap material. A slightly gentler approach is taken, surprisingly led along with guitar, in the angsty, dark ‘Go to Waste’.
The album ends with ‘External’, a pep talk to Woolner himself that “there’s no convoluted metaphors for this hollowed space” where he no longer loves who he once did. Some heavy stuff. In its breakdown, the vocals and synths uplift, bringing ‘Internal’ to a positive conclusion and satisfyingly, as if burdens have been shed. There must be a back story to the naming of the album and this song, which will be perfect when we get around to interviewing them. Mixing r&b and electronic into one easily accessible package, it’s a no-brainer that SAFIA are about to be welcomed with open arms by pop fans around the world through ‘Internal’. If I were a betting woman, I’d put all my money on them.
‘Internal’, the amazing debut album from Canberra, Australia’s SAFIA, is out now on Virgin EMI (the UK) and Island Records (North America). For past coverage on SAFIA on TGTF, including my review of their appearance at the Aussie BBQ during SXSW 2015 in Austin last year, go here.
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