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Album Review: Brolin – The Delta

By on Saturday, 21st November 2015 at 2:30 pm

Brolin The Delta album coverThere are very few mysteries still left within the music industry. It’s a place where most things are to be given and digested by the audience very easily, which of course leads to sales, which in turn leads to money. They love money. More recently however there has been an artist causing quite the stir in the dance music scene, and his name is Brolin.

An unknown face to an unforgettable beat and emotive lyrics, you very well may have not heard of Brolin, since he is a man of very few words or performances. His career path, since 2012, never really took into account the need for hype or publicity. Rather, he chose to construct things up in his own time, pacing himself between releases. Even garnering plays from Radio 1, this still didn’t push his aspirations past his own personal goals. He crafts delicately pieced together tracks that feature sweeping percussion and strings, entwining perfectly to create a soundscape perfectly suited to late city nights.

Opening his debut album ‘The Delta’ with one of the singles he teased us with last year, ‘Nightswimming’ is a beautiful breakbeat surrounded by airy synths a la M83, companioned with his soft, carefully cadenced voice. This is everything you’d expect from this dance music Zorro and is the perfect introduction.

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With second track and single ‘Swim Deep’ (emotional video above), things get a little more on the lighter side of things, especially for Brolin. Utilising a pre-chorus that builds to an almost traditional break before dropping with a chorus that travels lightly and dances around with an err of caution. Moving swiftly into his third and most recent release, ‘Kingston’, we get a look into the mind of Brolin better than ever. It’s almost a warning label for what we should expect from him, with a constant verse repetition of “if the eyes are the windows to the soul, you might see I like control”, you get an idea for the kind of mysterious figure we’re dealing with. Someone who knows what they want, how they want to do it and doesn’t care about orthodoxy.

Brolin certainly has a penchant for writing tracks that somehow appear reserved but at the same time have such grandeur about them, almost like a shy socialite. Repetition is a major feature in most of his tracks, which for dance music is fine, but this album to be able to cross over into the mainstream it might hinder his process. Of course, if we’ve learnt anything so far, it’s that he doesn’t care.

Four of the tracks on this album are named after large cities (‘NYC’, ‘Barcelona’, ‘Koln’ (Cologne) and ‘Reykjavik’), which as I previously mentioned is completely apt considering that is all the imagery this album conjures. That is, of late nights in large cities, soundtracked by a marriage of emotion and musical brilliance. Each song builds its own landscape, high-rises of crescendos and falsettos, bustling streets of beats and string sections.

2016 could very well be the year Brolin becomes a name everyone is familiar with, now with a debut release under his belt and the previous accolades, the only thing holding him back will be his ideology, which is fresh in an industry full of the easy and predictable. Maybe being his own downfall will be his biggest asset? Let’s wait and see.


Brolin’s debut album ‘The Delta’ is out now on Megastomo.


Album Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Hell EP

By on Wednesday, 18th November 2015 at 12:00 pm

Pains Hell EPI’ve never imagined hell as being a warm and sunny place, but in the hands of Kip Berman and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it becomes pleasantly balmy and inviting, if only for a very brief time. The band’s concise new EP ‘Hell’ takes its title from its only original tune, which Berman says is “about how insufferable performances of sensitivity are when there’s a good song playing and someone you want to dance with.” The song ‘Hell’ is pure ephemeral pop, with a peppy beat and a jaunty guitar riff under Berman’s nonchalant vocals. His breezy, disaffected delivery of the chorus line “now we’re going to hell, oh well’ effectively sums up his stated meaning without too much further elaboration.

‘Ballad of the Band’ is equally sunny and upbeat, bathing itself in the ’80s-style irony of setting wryly self-conscious lyrics to cleanly melodic and engagingly jaunty music. The Pains’ cover isn’t vastly different to the original by Birmingham alt-pop band Felt, the main change being a subtle shift in the instrumentation, minimizing the carnival style keyboards and instead putting emphasis on the guitar melody.

The final track on the EP is another cover, again not particularly experimental, but this one more overtly bitter and mildly punk rock in its styling. Vocals for ‘Laid’ (originally by Manchester rock band James) are here provided by Jen Goma, lead singer for A Sunny Day in Glasgow, who also sang some of the most memorable moments on the Pains’ last full length album ‘Days of Abandon’.  Her delivery here is grittier and more forceful than what I’ve heard from her in the past, omitting the James version’s falsetto vocal melisma on the repeated word “pretty” and opting instead for a low growl that seems somehow appropriate for a cover that takes quite literally the song’s lyric about “messing around with gender roles.” Before you dive into the new version, you can have a listen to the original just below.

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The ‘Hell’ EP was released in conjunction with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s November live dates, which included a show in London earlier this month before the band headed around the globe to Asia. They’ve just wrapped up a pair of shows in Japan and will play the Clockenflap Festival in Hong Kong and the Neon Lights Festival in Singapore at the end of the month. The digital-only ‘Hell’ EP is available now via the band’s one-off label Painbow.

If the brevity of the new EP leaves you wanting more from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, you can check out our archive of coverage on the band right back here.


In the Post #151: Clock Opera return with new track ‘Changeling’ from forthcoming new album in 2016

By on Monday, 16th November 2015 at 12:00 pm

Those who have known me for years are aware that I can be an insufferable sentimental git. I hold on to every last memory, good and bad. Last week, I had already formulated in my mind generally how this piece on Clock Opera was going to go. And then Friday night in Paris, the unspeakable happened.

Some people – the kind of people like my own mother who had quaked at the mere thought of me boarding a plane after 9/11, and every single time I’ve done it – are going to be too scared to go out in public, to go to a live show for quite some time. Maybe it will be for months, years, I don’t know. But the more I have read in the last 48 hours of the incredible humanity of those who survived the terrible goings-on in the Bataclan, the outpouring of love from the our whole music community to honour those we have lost, I don’t feel so ashamed of being that insufferable sentimental git at this very moment.

We – all of us – have suffered a great loss, beautiful lives have been cut short, and for what? It is impossible to comprehend through our grief, to make sense of what is truly senseless. But no matter where we are in our lives, whenever we are a party to sorrow, to trauma, we can go deep into our minds and our hearts, where the good memories live and will live on forever. We must do this now, in remembrance of those we’ve lost, many of whom who thought they were going out on a normal Friday night to enjoy live music at a gig, something that many of us do all the time and don’t think about too much, because we take it for granted that we will be safe.

Our lives have changed, yes. But we will keep going, keep living, and living our lives every day for those we have lost who cannot.


I have a fond memory of meeting Clock Opera in Liverpool 3 years ago, shortly after their debut album ‘Ways to Forget’ had been released on Island / Moshi Moshi. They were one of three bands playing the TGTF showcase we put on at the Arts Academy in May 2012, sandwiched in between Brighton’s Dear Prudence and Sydney, Australia’s The Temper Trap, the latter of whom were still running on the success of ‘Sweet Disposition’ and their debut album. It was a great night: the venue was rammed, the bands sounded incredible onstage and we had gobs of punters entering our lucky draw for a Clock Opera CD and a Temper Trap t-shirt.

I met the guys and welcomed them when they arrived at the venue, hours before the showcase was to start, laden down with all their gear. They were effusive in their praise of our Web site. I had a quite funny but brief conversation with frontman Guy Connelly about his epic beard, which I remember as if it was yesterday. I asked him if he would allow me to touch the famed beard; he laughed and said, “you don’t know how many people reach out and touch it *without* asking!” So I was looked upon as a friend from then on.

Clock Opera emerged in 2009, at an interesting time for British music. If you look at the BBC Sound of 2010 longlist, which appeared less than a year after I joined up here as USA Editor at TGTF, you’ll recognise a lot of names on there, when synth-led music and indie were kings as the new decade dawned. But you’ll also note most every artist or group on the list still standing has had to reinvent themselves or change significantly in the 5 years since those names were revealed.

The band went silent after the end of 2012, and I imagined they’d be back before I knew it, and with some smashing new single for us to sink our teeth into. Then a year went by…and while a year in band terms sometimes means musicians are taking a well-deserved rest or maybe simply just getting on with Real Life, relationships and families, I’d assumed after Connelly’s usually otherwise prolific remix well went dry and quiet, that would be the last we’d heard of them. Imagine how grateful I felt when early in November, new Clock Opera track ‘Changeling’ was released to the wild. Although they lost keyboardist Dan Armstrong last year, it sounds like time has been good to them, as it sounds like they haven’t lost their identity but instead have refined it, in a time in the music business when it’s uber important to distinguish your band and your sound from everyone else’s.

Unbeknownst to me, they were working on a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 to make enough money to record their second album. Luckily for us, the campaign’s target was reached in July, so this highly anticipated second outing is purported to be out next year. If ‘Changeling’ is indicative of Clock Opera 2.0, the exciting percussive nature of their music exemplified by their live tour de force ‘A Piece of String’ has been retained by the heavy, buzzy synth rhythm and the clanging bells. However, it appears they’ve ‘grown up’ in a way, choosing to go in a darker direction, the song described on the press release as “a mysterious, haunting hymn of loss and disbelief”. Not exactly the sweet-sounding, wistful yearnings heard on older single ‘Belongings’, is it?

As it appears that Delphic have disbanded and Bloc Party‘s return last month with ‘The Love Within’ is nothing but a whimper, there is a huge gap in the British market for an indie, rhythm-led synth group, and Clock Opera’s return couldn’t have been timed better. Roll on 2016!


Download ‘Changeling’ for your very own by signing up for the band’s mailing list here. Clock Opera will play their first show since their public return next Thursday, the 26th of November (seriously, why is everything happening on my birthday in the South of England?) at London Old Blue Last. For those of you penny pinchers, the show is free, so if you’re anywhere near the Capital, stop what you’re doing that evening and go. Then they’re straight off to Europe to fill the support slot of North East band Maximo Park on the Continent. For all our past coverage on Clock Opera on TGTF (essentially the previous chapter of the band of days gone by), go here.

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Bands Around Town #1: West London

By on Thursday, 12th November 2015 at 11:00 am

Editor’s note: we’re trying a new experiment with a premiere of a different kind of Bands to Watch feature, specific to a region. Our Nick lives in West London and was itching to write about the bands he finds inspiring just on his doorstep. Do you feel the same way about the bands in your area? If yes, get in touch with us on Twitter at @tgtf and we can chat about highlighting your local favourites in a future edition!

West London has always had a rich musical scene. Back in the 1960s, it was where Alexis Korner established his rhythm and blues network in Ealing that would see bands like the Rolling Stones and The Who meet up and get their first breaks. Then came Jim Marshall, who decided to build amplifiers for this burgeoning scene, and Led Zeppelin used to rehearse in a school hall in Hanwell.

But that was the past. I hear you ask, what is the scene like now? Here are the six most exciting and intoxicating bands that the West London boroughs have to offer.

Ella and the Blisters

Filled with the Romany spirit, this bunch of gypsy punks turn every venue they play into a celebration of life and music, and they’ve been entertaining audiences up and down the country since 2013. After a blistering set at this year’s Green Belt Festival and Secret Garden Party, there is a rumour of a second album next year. This septet mixes traditional folk, gypsy jazz, rockabilly, country, New Orleans soul and punk ideology to create something that sounds fresh and vibrant, but also feels familiar due to having one foot in the past.

Two Hands

This trio’s brand of heavy rhythmic rock gives you faith in the genre’s future. Instead of trying to pander to the get rich quick band of pop stars and flavour of the month genres, Two Hands have delivered one exceptional EP this year and there is a rumour of another. Their live sets are enthused with songs that put an etch in your sketch. Mixing Queens of the Stone Age, Interpol, Arctic Monkeys, but with the vocal intensity of Texas is the Reason, Glassjaw and Rival Schools, their sound is big riffs, catchy shouty choruses and ultimately a good time.

Jon Mapp

West London isn’t just known for its rock, jazz is in the fabric of the boroughs. The Rolling Stones met and formed at the Ealing Jazz Club. One local musician carrying the jazz spirit is Jon Mapp. While technically he is not 100% jazz, he does use certain techniques and devices that lend themselves to jazz readily. Mapp plays certain patterns of bass notes, which he then records and loops. Then he plays new bass parts over this, along with percussive beats and rhythms. Easy, eh? But the real cleverness is the intricacies and interplay of the old and new bass runs. It’s melodic, hypnotic and strangely beautiful.


Originally from Richmond, Lorca now spends his time between his West London hub, Brighton and DJing breath taking sets around the world. His style is refreshing and inventive. This was showcased on the ‘Forgive Me Love’ / ‘Naoko’ single last year. Now he has started to infuse his output with tribal vocals and rhythms, however it still remains true to Lorca’s bass heavy ethos. Due to countless DJ sets around the world, Lorca’s tracks have a dance floor sensibility that matches his creative vision.

Odd Rival

What’s not to like about Odd Rival? They’re young, play loud and fast and write brilliant songs. Live, they’re incendiary and blow away any other band on the line-up due to their frenetic playing and a hunger to make it. Their brand of math-punk sets them aside from their peers, as not only can they play – and how can they play – but they have an uncanny understanding of melody that means their songs don’t get lost in weighty ideas and unnecessary solos. Stand out track ‘Slave’ sounds like Longcut meets Foals, but with the riffs of Swervedriver at their heaviest.

Du Bellows (pictured at top)

The jewel in West London’s musical crown is Du Bellows. Musically. They sound like a mix of Fleetwood Mac and John McLaughlin at their acoustic, folky peaks. There are elements of the blues in there too, but it’s their vibe that conjures up images of musical past more as much as the present. I could add even more lazy journalism to this and say they remind me of a more stripped down Big Brother & the Holding Company with a certain female vocalist. I won’t, but you get the gist. But it’s the clarity and range of singer Jade Williams’ vocals that are the real hook. She can go from husky whispers to maelstroms of volume and passion in seconds. Also it helps that she’s backed by one of the tightest rhythm sections this side of Nashville, and in TJ Shipton Williams, this band have a guitarist who can not only match her note for note, but predict where she’ll go next.


Live Review: David Ramirez with Liza Anne at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 4th November 2015

By on Wednesday, 11th November 2015 at 2:00 pm

Last Wednesday night, I trekked once again to downtown Phoenix for a gig at the intimate and all-but-hidden Valley Bar, which is quite literally nestled in a back alley between a couple of sandwich shops. The rainy weather didn’t stop a steady crowd from trickling into the venue, and before the gig started, I heard several punters chatting about the headliner, Texas alt-country songwriter David Ramirez, having obviously heard him or seen him live before. I, myself, was less familiar, having been turned on to Ramirez’s music after seeing a Tweeted recommendation of his latest single from none other than Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody. I spent the two-hour drive to Phoenix from Tucson listening to Ramirez’s latest album ‘Fables’ via Apple Music, and it was just the thing to whet my appetite for the evening’s headliner at the Valley Bar.

Liza Anne

Lest I get too far ahead of myself, let’s start not with Ramirez, but with his guest on the night, Atlanta native singer/songwriter Liza Anne. Her tunes are the kind of starkly melancholic neo-folk I might have predicted, but with the added twist of prominent vocal harmonies provided by backing vocalists Sam Pinkerton and Molly Parden. Liza Anne’s opening set, which included haunting echoes of melody from her recent LP ‘Two’, had a cool, aloof edge despite its emotional lyrics that would prove to be in sharp contrast to Ramirez’s viscerally organic Americana style.

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Because I was fairly unfamiliar with Ramirez, I decided to stick to the standard policy of shooting photos only during the first three songs of the set, leaving myself free to enjoy the latter part of the show uninterrupted. And though I missed a few classic photo opportunities later on when Ramirez’s band was in full swing, I’m convinced that I made the right decision. Ramirez’s intensity on stage was hypnotic, and his band played with the kind of paradoxically effortless energy that can only happen when you’re playing with your “best friend(s) in the world”, as Ramirez would preface his introduction of each band member.

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To my surprise (and mild dismay), Ramirez started his lengthy headline set with two of the songs I knew best from ‘Fables’, namely ‘New Way of Living’ and ‘Harder to Lie’, the latter of which has been firmly planted in my head ever since the night of the show. He scattered songs from ‘Fables’ throughout the set, interspersing them with several older tracks that caught my attention, especially ‘The Bad Days’ from 2013 EP ‘The Rooster’. Not knowing the songs well enough to sing along, I was nonetheless delighted to be in the front row, alternately tapping my toes and swaying my hips to the band’s infectious rhythmic momentum. Ramirez’s alt-country style has perhaps a bit more country twang than I usually like, but the rough honesty of his singing voice and the integrity of his stylistic devotion to foundational country rock were quite simply captivating.

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The crowd were quiet at the beginning of the set, but slowly warmed up as Ramirez and his band went to work under the hot stage lights. Interaction was stilted at first, but the punters gradually got brave enough to respond to Ramirez’s banter. At one point, a cheeky request was made for a song called ‘Wandering Man’, and while Ramirez didn’t commit to it in the moment, he did play the song at the very end of his set, and it was clearly a longtime live favourite, featuring not only a rousing verse-chorus-verse, but also an extended bridge section where each of the instrumentalists on stage had a chance to show off his chops. Ramirez himself actually took this opportunity to exit the stage and head to the bar for a shot, with which he toasted the crowd before tossing it back and finishing the song with a blinding flourish.

Breathless from the frenzy of the final tune, I headed out to the lobby where the merch table was located. There I picked up a proper physical copy of ‘Fables’ and had the opportunity for quick hellos and handshakes with the band members before I headed out in the rain to drive back east to Tucson, while they headed west for the next stops on their current U.S. tour. Before I drove away, I took a moment to Tweet my own ringing recommendation to a friend in California, who would see Ramirez play a solo show on the following Sunday night.

The previous Gary Lightbody endorsement had been graciously received and reciprocated by Ramirez on Twitter, where he surely found a small legion of Snow Patrol fans (including myself!) among his new listeners, though Ramirez’s musical style is clearly more on the Americana-leaning Tired Pony end of the Lightbody spectrum. Ramirez might gain even more traction from Lightbody’s recommendation after the start of the new year, when he is scheduled to play a single live date on the 28th of January at Hoxton Square in London. A full listing of Ramirez’s upcoming live dates, including more U.S. shows with Liza Anne, can be found on his official Web site.

David Ramirez set list


Album Review: Fictonian – Desire Lines

By on Wednesday, 11th November 2015 at 12:00 pm

Fictonian Desire Lines album coverWe are now deep into autumn, pretty soon enough to enter into the cold days of winter. It’ll all too easy to fall into the trap of lethargy, to hibernate, to hide away from everyone else because we can’t be bothered to get out of bed. While it may seem that Fictonian, known to his mum as Glen Roberts, did exactly this when he escaped the urban sprawl of London in favour of rural Herefordshire and solitude, the creative juices that flowed when he was left to his own devices in the countryside have culminated in a truly beautiful collection of songs, in the form of his debut album ‘Desire Lines’, which will be released this Friday.

In an era where the imagination and genius of solo composer, one-man bands are flourishing and indeed, being applauded – if one needs convincing, have a look at the Mercury Prize recognizing C Duncan‘s ‘Architect’ and Ghostpoet‘s ‘Shedding Skin’ in the nominations for the 2015 gong and East India Youth‘s ‘Total Strife Forever’ in the year previous – Roberts’ talent should be closely examined and enjoyed through ‘Desire Lines’ as a potential contender for next year.

On ‘The Hat’, which features little other than the slow, gentle buzzing of an accordion (synths?) and piano, Roberts’ voice is husky and rough, recalling Bryan Adams in his early career, while also remaining wistful. With the warmth of its chords, ‘Make It Be Ours’ has a shuffling, sweeping chorus fitting for the most beautiful of torch songs: “see that star? / it isn’t too far / if it’s in your heart / let’s make it be ours.”

But the true standout of ‘Desire Lines’ is ‘I Remember’: majestic in its simplicity, the piano chords building up to Roberts’ words – “I believed in love / but it never comes / I wait” – sung with all the melancholy of love lost. Chris Martin wishes he could write something as emotional as this. This, however, is not to say Fictonian is a project stuck on slow, overly sad dirges. On the other side of the tempo spectrum, the jaunty melody and oom-pah rhythm of ‘Moira Junction’ mirrors “my heart is like a pendulum / swinging to and fro / don’t know which way to go” in the song’s story, giving you the feeling of a heart so badly broken, its owner can’t make a move in his confusion.

Then there are the little things that all added up make this an unusual, loveable album. With its unidentifiable plinks and plonks that Stornoway, Patrick Wolf and the recently returned Clock Opera would be proud to call their own, opening track ‘Anticipation’ is satisfyingly whimsical and a great beginning to the record. A similar whimsy appears again on ‘Mrs. Jones’, with an intro and outro having a delightful, wonky carnival-like quality.

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Previously revealed single ‘Little Blue Book’, playful with tambourine jingles and whistled notes, is probably the most poppy and accessible track on the album. Its gentle, lumbering, yet uplifting melody is easy on the ears, while the lyrics tell of accepting that life goes on, but the most important part to making the most of yours is to go after your dreams, so you won’t have to live with regret when you’re old. Words of wisdom.

The folky, disheveled troubadour sensibility and deadpan lyrics of life observed on ‘Full Circle Influence’, plus the background metallic clanking and Eastern melody leading the track out might sound like a strange way to end this album. But it clearly shows that Roberts has a great many ideas and could go in just as many directions on his future releases. Listening to this one song, I am reminded of later Stephen Duffy / Lilac Time, a criminally underrated songwriter and artist. When I mention Duffy’s name, I generally get glazed eyes looking back at me, because no-one’s ever heard of him or his genius. This musn’t happen with Fictonian. I won’t let it.

Have you ever listened to an album and got the distinct feeling that you’ve heard it all before? That you once held it beloved and have listened to it on repeat again and again? ‘Desire Lines’ is that stunning kind of record. And you will want to play it again and again.


The debut album from Fictonian, ‘Desire Lines’, is out this Friday, the 13th of November, on Distiller Music.

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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.

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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