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With their recent signing to FatCat Records, Sheffield lo-fi indie pop quartet Best Friends are looking ahead to the release of their debut full-length album, ‘Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane.’, which is due out on the 4th of July. The newest single from the album, ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’ is set for official release on the 18th of May but is streaming now on the band’s Soundcloud.
The new single feels exponentially more frenetic and anxious than the album’s lively initial teaser ‘Shred Til You’re Dead’, which was featured here on TGTF as an MP3 of the Day back in January. The relentless forward momentum of ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’ spins on the verge of losing control, propelled by the constant push of the drums and the repeated wail of the main guitar riff, while the thin layer of echoing backing vocals add to the overall sense of disorientation. Lead singer Lewis Sharman’s abrasive vocal lines are often more growled or shouted than sung, unlike his more laid-back vocal delivery on ‘Shred Til You’re Dead’ and more similar to hard-edged previous single ‘Fake Spit’.
The three tracks do share a couple of notable qualities, particularly the piercingly hooky guitar lines and infectious punk energy that are likely to weave their way through the anticipated LP release later this year. Of the three tracks, however, I would say that ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’ is probably the least memorable and the least engaging, as it lacks the distinctive intro of ‘Fake Spit’ or the sunny musical mood of ‘Shred Til You’re Dead’. Its dynamic level leans heavily on the loud end of the spectrum and Sharman’s vocals are overly harsh. I found that sonic combination to be a bit tiring to my ears, despite the catchiness of the guitar riffs and the racing immediacy of the song’s tempo. I suspect that ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’ might work better in the context of the complete LP, depending on the intensity of the other songs and its placement in the tracklisting. Then again, maybe I’m overthinking it.
Best Friends embark tonight on a tour of the UK with fellow Sheffield duo Nai Harvest. You can read previous TGTF coverage of Best Friends right back here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 13th April 2015 at 12:00 pm
Good news, electronic fans! There’s a brand new album from pioneers Zero 7 expected to drop this autumn. Further good news? Today marks the release of Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker’s newest stop-gap until the new LP, an EP with the rather non-descript title of ‘E.P.3’. But there’s a method to the madness: the first two releases from the duo, before they ever caught the eye of a major label, were named ‘E.P.1 and ‘E.P.2’, so the name of the new EP is in deference to their humble beginnings.
And humble would be the operative word to describe this collection of five tracks from the famed electronic production duo. While the first two tracks feature names from their ‘Simple Science’ EP released last year (Danny Pratt and Only Girl), their third collaborator was dug up from much further back, a clear sign this is an entirely different animal to the summer 2014 release.
Swedish singer/songwriter Jose Gonzalez, member of Junip and a solo artist in his own right touring North America at the moment, doesn’t strike you as an appropriate musical partner to Zero 7, does he? But he appeared on several songs on the 2006 Zero 7 album ‘The Garden’. On this outing, Gonzalez adds smoky vocals to ‘Last Light’, evoking scenes of nature and security (“keep you safe and sound / ‘til you feel the same”) to the piano and synth-driven soundscape. The synths keep the mood bright, but the overall effect is one of thought and contemplation.
‘Last Light’ isn’t exactly the club banger I was expecting, but Binns and Hardaker explain the premise of this EP: “Late last year we finished a couple of stray songs we’d been working on and have been trying to find a suitable home for them since. As they didn’t really fit with much else we were doing at the time, they were put aside while we thought about what to do with them…. To us, they seemed to share something with the Mark Hollis cover we did a while ago so we’ve buddied them up and thrown in a little instrumental for good measure and come up with the imaginatively entitled it ‘E.P.3′. Hope you enjoy.”
Given the above, the chill nature of the collaborations with Danny Pratt (who guested on ‘Simple Science’) and Only Girl (vocalist on ‘Take Me Away’) on ‘E.P.3’ compared to those on the ‘Simple Science’ EP make much more sense. Pratt’s part on ‘400 Blows’ in staccato form, melodically and as overlaid with vibrating effects, matches the purposely jumpy synth and xylophone notes, which the backing piano reins everything in. To be sure, it’s catchy. The EP ends strangely with John Wizard’s remix of the track, in which the South African producer loses the plot and takes ‘400 Blows’ and turns it into an electronic caricature of the original.
‘The Colour of Spring’ is at perfect timing with the season, starting in with the chirps of birds, and like on ‘Take Me Away’, Only Girl’s vocals are again ethereal, but this time the understated instrumentation allows her voice to come forward, front and centre. It’s equal parts stunning and haunting. ‘Crush Tape’, the only instrumental on the EP, is filled with handclaps and effortless cool. I have to wonder if it was the starting point for ‘400 Blows’, as it seems to be the latter’s purer, more enigmatic cousin.
The biggest question is, what direction are Zero 7 going for this upcoming album? They went pop in the ‘Simple Science’ EP, but it is as if ‘E.P.3’ doesn’t want to acknowledge the 2014 effort. Interesting. In any event, Binns and Hardaker will keep us guessing until the leaves start changing colour.
Both the 12″ vinyl and the digital download versions of Zero 7’s latest release on Make Records, ‘E.P.3′, are out now. Past writings on TGTF about Zero 7, including a chat with Henry Binns last year, are this way.
Heralding from Bridlington in the North East of England, Seafret have been steadily receiving more and more attention since their debut track ‘Give Me Something’ last year. Meeting at an open mic night, frontman Jack Sedman was just beginning to discover his vocal talents, whilst Harry Draper (guitarist) was already regarded as an experienced local musician. The pair quickly hit it off, going on to form a partnership as Seafret, a duo that are now proving equal parts haunting and majestic.
In their hometown this nautical term depicts the soft mist that rolls off the North Sea in summer, but it’s a fitting label for the sense of mystery and longing that their music brings. Despite moving to London, the pair continue to be influenced by their hometown and its oceanic connections, with Harry pointing out, “when you live there you take it for granted. I never missed it before. You don’t realise what it does to you when you’re there”. It’s an influence that’s distinct throughout their early material, including new single ‘Atlantis’. Beyond the aquatic title they create a charged atmosphere, woven together with spiralling vocals and percussive gems, all as they prepare for a UK headline tour and the summer’s early metropolitan festivals.
They have 2 EPs under their belts now, but their wistful sound is growing in impact and sincerity with every release. Next upcoming single ‘Atlantis’ is defined by Sedman’s dramatic vocals, pitching from pacifying howls, to melancholy choruses. “I can’t save us, my Atlantis oh…” he cries, as his lyrics of a reluctant breakup are bolstered by a piano backing that induces yet more shivers.
They bring you back down as quickly as they started, as the lofty harmonies give way to their acoustic origins and a sense of nostalgia returns. It’s their most contemporary work to date, but they’ve kept a tight chemistry here between expansive, cinematic musicality, and equally bewitching lyrics. Mellow they may be, but packing such a powerful punch with their songwriting is going to send Seafret soaring as high as their enchanting choruses by the end of the summer.
‘Atlantis’, the new single from Seafret, is released on the 11th of May via Sweet Jane Recordings.
The Thursday night of SXSW 2015 turned out to be a mixed bag for me, as it was one of those evenings when things didn’t exactly go according to plan. In the end, all was well that ended well, and I came away feeling satisfied with the way the night played out.
After my jaunt over to the Driskill Hotel where I saw the enchanting singer/songwriter Josh Savage and caught up with him for a brief chat, I hurried back to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, which was by now beginning to feel like a second home. I turned up there for the Ben Sherman / UKTI showcase just in time to see Dry the River begin their set, though the venue was so crowded that I had a hard time finding a good vantage point to watch them from.
Unlike their curtailed set at the Transgressive Records showcase on the Tuesday night, Dry the River played in their full band arrangement here, and their songs were well-received by the crowd. The plaintive tunes and delicate harmonies I had heard from the band at Buffalo Billiards were transformed here into dynamic, hard-edged rock anthems, though I was pleased to hear that their folk sensibilities weren’t entirely obliterated by the increased size of their sound. When the band reached the end of its allotted time, there were a few vain cries for more from the front of the stage, an outcome that brought a smile to my face and was surely more satisfactory for Dry the River as well.
Next on the set list at the British Music Embassy was a band who are of at least peripheral interest to us here at TGTF, namely Black Rivers. Principal Black Rivers members Jez and Andy Williams were (are?) part of Manchester trio Doves, whose track ‘There Goes the Fear’ gave this Web site its name. Appearing here with a full four-piece set up, Black Rivers appeared to have some problems in their brief soundcheck, in the end playing only four songs once their set actually started. Even so, we heard enough of their heavily rhythmic, guitar-laden sound to permanently distinguish the Williams’ new project from their former band.
At the end of Black Rivers’ set, I beelined out of Latitude 30 and made a mad dash to the Mohawk, hoping to catch American folk-soul singer Matthew E. White. I arrived at the venue with time to spare, but unfortunately for me, so had a long queue of other hopeful punters, and I was left to listen to the faraway strains of White’s recent single ‘Rock & Roll is Cold’ from the sidewalk outside.
At this point, I had a few backup options to consider. The Dodos at Cheer Up Charlie’s? Frank Turner at the Red 7 Patio? Both were tempting, but I’d just seen them the day before, and I was in the mood for something new. I consulted the handy SXSW GO app on my smartphone to see what else was going on around downtown and almost immediately hit on a winner. Natalie Prass, another American singer/songwriter and a Spacebomb Records labelmate of Matthew E. White, was playing in the cozy downstairs venue at Maggie Mae’s. As luck would have it, I had time for a leisurely walk to Maggie Mae’s before Prass was scheduled to begin at midnight, and I happened to walk past Cheer Up Charlie’s while The Dodos were playing ‘Competition’, sounding as fresh as when I’d heard them on Wednesday’s Dine Alone Records showcase.
I arrived early at Maggie Mae’s and found the downstairs venue nearly empty, though it filled in quickly after I had positioned myself in front of the stage. Starting her set from a seated position at the keyboard, Prass slowly drew in her audience with a sultry mix of torch-song romanticism and blues-rock grit. She kept her short set lively throughout, alternately flirting with her admiring crowd and showing off her admirable guitar chops. But I was most impressed with the clear tone and finely-tuned inflections of her singing voice, which reminded me very much of alt-country singer Caitlin Rose. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Prass’ left-handed bass player, pictured below, who plays his instrument upside down in the style of Jimi Hendrix. After my impromptu stop at Maggie Mae’s, I’ll be certain to arrive early to another gig later this month at the Rialto Theatre in Tucson, where Prass is scheduled to open for Ryan Adams.
I said a quick hello to Prass as she packed up her gear from the stage, then I headed down 6th Street to Esther’s Follies, a familiar venue from last year where I’d caught Gabby Young and Cocos Lovers. This year I aimed to see an equally lively band that I’ve always liked on recording but had never seen live, Washington, DC trio Jukebox the Ghost. Their latest self-titled album is rife with the band’s signature upbeat melodious pop and simple lyrics that are by turns quirky and thought-provoking. Their set at Esther’s Follies was equally ebullient and idiosyncratic, featuring new songs ‘Sound of a Broken Heart and ‘The Great Unknown’ among older crowd favourites like ‘Oh, Emily’ from 2012 LP ‘Safe Travels’.
The enthusiastic crowd gathered at Esther’s Follies on the night were clearly fans of the band, engaging them with shouted requests and one-liners and laughing at a few inside jokes that I must admit I didn’t understand. But the punters around me didn’t seem to mind my unfamiliarity; in fact, they encouraged me to put down my camera and dance. I happily obliged and was soon grinning from ear-to-ear at Jukebox the Ghost’s zany stage antics and their infectiously peppy performance. Unfortunately they ended their set without playing my personal favourite of their tracks, ‘Adulthood’, because co-lead singer Ben Thornewill was losing his voice. But fear not, I won’t disappoint my readers the same way; you can stream the audio for ‘Adulthood’ just below.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 6th April 2015 at 12:00 pm
To my knowledge, despite the critical acclaim garnered by the East India Youth debut album ‘Total Strife Forever’ in the UK upon receiving a coveted Mercury Prize nomination last year, William Doyle’s music has largely gone unnoticed outside Britain. Brilliantly multi-faceted and electronically complex, yet entertaining and readily accessible, ‘Culture of Volume’, I assure you, is about to change all of that. Playing to a sold out London Heaven last November, Doyle made the conscious decision to go from man behind the table of electronics to man with the table of electronics who wants to be front and centre, and his current ambition of becoming a pop star, albeit armed with heavy electronic artillery as well as the microphone, is fully realised on this second effort.
For non-electronica pedants, ‘Total Strife Forever’ proved a difficult listen: comprised of mostly instrumental tracks and hinting towards the minimalism of out there Steve Reich or Philip Glass, you either got it, or you didn’t. The elegiac beauty of the lyrics in ‘Looking for Someone’ and ‘Heaven How Long’ did, however, foreshadow what Doyle’s been up to in album #2. ‘Culture of Volume’ stands as a well-paced series of songs providing a physical assault on the ears, as well as an assault on your heart. The pulsing instrumentals he’s written this time around will prove satisfying to his long-time fans and electronic lovers, but the pop sensibility is astonishing, his feelings through words and the catchy rhythms woven together into the songs he now confidently sings on.
After a beefy, vibrating instrumental journey to start the LP in ‘The Juddering’, we’re met with dark but wry wit in ‘End Result’, which seems to be Doyle telling us just how hard it was to make this album. The deadpan “The end result is not what was in mind / the end result is not what was in mind / the end result is always hard to find” and the harsh piano notes in the bridge, accompanied the apocalyptic “the end result is all there is…the end is coming soon”, give the track a shadowy feel. But the build to the beat-heavy, synthtastic ending is optimistic, leading you nicely into a song that is anything but shadowy, ‘Beaming White’. The euphoric discotheque tempo, along with Doyle’s ethereal vocals and the energetic buzz of synths, allow the song to shine bright like a diamond (sorry, Rihanna), the beacon of light at the end of the ‘End Result’ tunnel we just walked through.
The emotional heart of ‘Culture of Volume’ can be found in tracks 4 through 8, beginning with ‘Turn Away’, which is where Doyle brings synthpop into the second half of the 2010s in his own epic way. Pop songs about failed relationships are all over top 40, but they’re trite and devoid of impact. In stark contrast, one can’t help (or yes, turn away) but be drawn in by the East India Youth inner conflict of whether to walk away from a romantic history and run the risk of emotional tarnish that Doyle sings of, and so beautifully: “turn away / I never should be seen to be falling from grace / but here I am again today / with nothing on my tongue but all these reasons why I shouldn’t stay.” Already a favourite of NPR’s before East India Youth arrived in Austin last month and soon to hit a dance floor near you, ‘Hearts That Never’ is the other side of the coin to ‘Turn Away’. Its electronic effects more frenetic to match the increased BPM, the overall feel of the track is euphoric, yet it feels purposefully mesmerising, taking obsession of a lover to new heights (“and now your silhouette is firmly in my mind / eclipsing something real and not your fleeting sigh”).
From there, ‘Entirety’ continues this ride at similar BPM, hurtling towards the necessary and a sorely needed climax. The full emotions laid out for all to see in ‘Turn Away’ and ‘Hearts That Never’ have been building up to this moment where there is no room for anything else but an all-out explosion, into the kind of industrial techno Doyle himself favours on a night out. ‘Entirety’ is final, obliterating, until its last half minute, allowing a more gentle segue into the chilly but woozily comforting ‘Carousel’. Sonically a rebirth with Doyle’s placid vocals and equally calming instrumentation, it sounds much like what I expect to find playing when I arrive in Heaven (if there one) but interestingly, it’s lyrically a puzzle, as he uses the idea of a fairground ride we see as simple fun as children as a metaphor for life lived without human control.
Doyle smartly brings things back from the brink in the final third of the album. Probable future single ‘Don’t Look Backwards’ is soulful with syncopated beats but also forward-thinking and hopeful, as he closes an old book to a start a new one. The icy synths of ‘Manner of Words’ contrast nicely with its wonky waltz melody before halfway through the song, when Doyle favours going back to all instrumental, leading into final track ‘Montage Resolution’. Peppered with Oriental note progressions, the album ends on an expansive, dreamy note. Elegant, beautiful, emotional and unforgettable, ‘Culture of Volume’ pushes all the right buttons. Will Doyle, you’re ready for your close-up.
‘Culture of Volume’, the full-length follow-up to East India Youth’s 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut ‘Total Strife Forever’, is out today on XL Recordings. Past TGTF coverage on East India Youth, including his appearance at the Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales showcase Tuesday night at this year’s SXSW 2015 and my interview with Doyle in Austin, is this way.
Please note: as with all of festival previews, the information we post here on TGTF on Live at Leeds is current at the time of posting, but we encourage you to check in at the Live at Leeds 2015 official Web site closer to the start of the event to confirm venues and set times. Wristbands for the festivities in Leeds on Saturday the 2nd of May are still available at the bargain price of £27.50. More information on where you can purchase your tickets in person or online is available here.
Under top secret cover earlier this week, TGTF were given the Live at Leeds 2015 band schedule before its official release this morning. We’ve had a read through of the massive schedule, and in this post, our newest contributor Chris Donnelly offers in this Live at Leeds 2015 preview his best band bets for the festival.
Nottingham’s soulful songwriter Ady Suleiman has finally put out his first studio recordings in recent weeks, taken from his debut EP ‘This Is My EP’. His debut single ‘So Lost’ is a fusion of spoken word poeticisms and smooth R&B tempos, as the half English, half Tanzanian youngster delivers a sophisticated jazz swagger. A live appearance will showcase his impeccable harmonies and on stage charisma, as he looks ahead to a year where his song writing looks to finally gain the recognition it deserves.
Ady Suleiman performs at Holy Trinity Church at 3 PM.
Producing catchy folk-rock comes easier to Port Isla than most, with their recent EP ‘In The Long Run’ turning heads (and ears) across the UK. Vocalist Will Bloomfield and his bandmates have taken some Coldplay inspiration in writing electrifying songs with catchy choruses and expansive instrumentals. A tour with George Ezra has increased support for them, and their recent signing to Parlophone signals even greater things are to come since their debut ‘Sinking Ship’.
Port Isla perform at Leeds Met Stage 2 at 4 PM.
This indie rock four-piece have already supported You Me At Six, and hit the road with Nothing But Thieves earlier in the year. Their first year at Live At Leeds comes off the back of immense success with their breakthrough track ‘Fears’, which even AlunaGeorge reposted on their Soundcloud. It’s full of soaring, anthemic rock climaxes, whilst latest single ‘Another Stranger’ has an even sharper set of riffs at it’s core, both of which are set to make a frenzied set at The Key Club.
Twin Wild perform at The Key Club at 4 PM.
Not to be confused with any other Oscars at this year’s festival, these Londoners spurn ambient guitar-pop, with a wistful touch. Their debut EP ‘Blood’ is the perfect introduction to the four piece, as they introduce their prowess at mixing folky, Kodaline-style harmonies with brooding stadium rock, and well-crafted electronic production too.
Osca perform at Leeds College of Music at 4:30 PM.
This five-piece know how to put on a good show, having started their own ‘Missing Til Monday’ parties in the capital during their formation. Frontman Jack Balfour Scott and his bandmates have a riotous presence, backed with a set of killer folky, alt-rock inspired songs, such as ‘Brother’, ‘Dark Bits’ and ‘The Weekend’. Somewhere amongst their passionate live performance you’ll even discover them finding room for violin arrangements…..
The Mispers perform at Wardrobe at 5 PM.
Hailing from Reading, this band are keeping their cards close to their chests, keeping a mysterious presence despite an intense industry furore to manage them. On ‘Something In The Water’ it all fits into place; “If I close my eyes, and I fall asleep, will I think about you?” come the gravely lyrics from their frontman, with some gripping Alt-J and Maccabees influences in the indie guitars and tropical synths that drive through their eddying choruses.
The Amazons perform at The Faversham at 6:30 PM.
Three EPs into her journey as a songwriter, Lauren Aquilina continues to astound at just 19. Currently working on her debut album, each release so far has shown a marked maturity and progression in her work, from the chart ready heartbreaker ‘Fools’, to the dramatic cinematic sound of ‘Lovers or Liars’. She’s capable of some spine tingling piano balladry, and coupled with impressive vocals, her legion of young fans isn’t going to stop growing anytime soon, from the UK’s teens to Taylor Swift….
Lauren Aquilina performs at Leeds College of Music at 9:45 PM.
Having seen Lucy Rose and her work their magic in a church setting 2 years ago, I simply can’t recommend this set enough. It’s a chance to catch her fresh from her first UK headline tour in over a year, and with some new material from her follow up to her 2012 debut ‘Like I Used To’. Expect an evening of spine-tingling acoustic numbers, with the perfect blend warming folk-pop feist too.
Lucy Rose performs at Holy Trinity Church at 10:15 PM.
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