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Single Review: Night Engine – All I Got

 
By on Thursday, 24th April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Night Engine were one of 2013’s one to watch, with a spectacular show at Liverpool Sound City, and for those that were there, an equally successful one the following week at The Great Escape. They released a three singles on limited coloured vinyl, each of which duly went on to sell on the secondary market for some stratospheric prices. Foundations duly laid, Night Engine have similarly ambitious plans for 2014, with an album release slated for the autumn, preceded by the single ‘All I Got’.

It almost goes without saying by now that Night Engine channel Fashion-era Bowie – a comparison primarily due to the remarkable vocal talents of Phil McDonnell: all camp authoritarianism and demonstrative vibrato. The band deliver slick, dark funk, with a hint of Strokes haughty garage rock, topped with the electronica of early Depeche Mode. On ‘All I Got’ McDonnell is apparently bemoaning the high expectations of a, shall we say, ‘acquaintance’. There’s talk of one night in leather, caged animals and flared nostrils. Oo-er missus. The band maintain a sleazy groove through the crooned middle eight; come the chorus they let it all hang out in a thunder of fizzy guitar and overdriven bass.

Night Engine truly deserve the plaudits they’ve gathered since their inception a couple of years ago. Theirs is arch yet danceable, disco-retro cool, with the whole Bowie factor adding to the novelty. If this single is anything to go by, the album should be one of 2014’s finest moments.

8/10

‘All I Got’, Night Engine’s next single, is out on the 2nd of June. ‘Wound Up Tight’, their debut album, is slated for a release in the autumn.

 

Interview: Eric Pulido of Midlake

 
By on Thursday, 24th April 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Just over a week ago, Editor Mary and I had the opportunity to catch Neil Finn at his sold out show at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC (reviewed here). One of the highlights of that gig was the opening act, a band from Denton, Texas called Midlake. Normally a band of six, Midlake were represented on this tour by only three of their members – lead vocalist/guitarist Eric Pulido, multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler and guitarist Joey McClellan – for an acoustic interpretation of their atmospheric folk rock sound. While their full electronic complement might have seemed a more suitable pairing for Finn’s recent experiments in psychedelic rock, Midlake’s stripped back adaptation worked remarkably well, even allowing some intermingling between the two acts during the show.

Midlake’s fourth album ‘Antiphon’ was released late in 2013, after the band underwent some significant line-up changes with the departure of their former lead singer Tim Smith. Current frontman Pulido seemed confident in his newly adopted role when I chatted with him after their Lincoln Theater gig, talking readily about the new album, the band’s upcoming tour plans and the experience of performing on stage with Neil Finn.

Midlake’s fourth studio album ‘Antiphon’ is out now on Bella Union Records. Midlake will perform a handful of shows in the UK this summer, including both festivals and headline slots; dates are listed on the band’s Web site. Stream the album’s title track below.

 

Album Review: Darlia – Candyman EP

 
By on Monday, 21st April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Darlia aren’t known for reinventing the wheel. In fact, they’re known for doing things by halves; half ball-busting rock riffs and husky vowels over arpeggiated melodies. And, so it is that the three boys from Blackpool return with a collection of tracks that can be defined by their relative diversity within this occasionally prescriptive spectrum. The timing of their latest EP ‘Candyman’, released last week on B-Unique Records, means that any prospective degree of success could serve as a potent fuel to the band’s festival prospects, having already signed up for the likes of Rock Am Ring, Great Escape and 2000 Trees.

‘Candyman’ (stream it below) starts bombastically; a mess of durgy power chords and high tension squeals that creates a rush of anticipation akin to the anticipation after uttering the famous title phrase 3 times in the mirror. In tried and true Darlia style, there is a significant tonal shift between the beef of the riff, and the jangling quorn of the verse.

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Think A on the likes of ‘Nothing’; it is a complex tapestry, but one that has been stitched together with some accomplishment. The chorus is a catchy cacophony of rousing choral tropes backed by more meathead chords. But it is let down somewhat by a second vocal layer thrust so high in to the mix that it detracts from the main impetus. The solo sticks flaccidly to the top end of the neck, leaning back into a classic rock groove that fits with the overall flow but will not melt your face off. The track calls time with another round of chorus, pushing the limit of vocal reverb so much that it sounds as though it is being played from the back of a truck speeding past at 100 mph.

The second number, ‘Animal Kingdom’, is an altogether sunnier affair, still tinged with a kind of ‘Black Hole Sun’ quirkiness derived from an almost aquatic secondary guitar tone. Both tracks possess a singalong quality, but in such disparate ways. ‘Animal Kingdom’ attempts to inspire emotion in it’s irreverence, but ends up being almost irritatingly non-committal. This is highlighted by the spaghetti western solo, which seems to come from nowhere but is at the same time one of the most endearing and clear elements of unique character.

A rolling bass line comes to the fore on final track ‘Blood Money’. It is a track for the rhythm section purists, with verses supported by neat flourishes by Jack Bentham on the skins, creating an original beat with a cute little skip to it. Sadly, the rest of the number veers towards a kind of self-indulgent, fractious anarchy in the mould of The Vines, that cites it as the weakest of the three.

Overall, this EP is a bit like climbing into a steaming hot shower, only for your deaf nan to go and switch on the cold tap at the kitchen sink; it leaves you wet, exposed and just a little confused. The title track bears all the hallmarks of previous releases that have hiked the band up by the belt buckle to where they now dwell. But, ‘Animal Kingdom’ and ‘Blood Money’ feel like an experiment designed to find the answer to a question that didn’t need asking. Darlia don’t do dull. If they stick to massive riffs, melodic verses and a hint of wild-eyed warbling, then they’ll do just fine.

5/10 (7 for ‘Candyman’)

Darlia’s latest EP ‘Candyman’ is out now on B-Unique Records. As described by our Martin back in February here, the band will be making high-profile appearances at Liverpool Sound City, Live at Leeds and the Great Escape in May 2014.

 

In the Post #122: Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan presents new project Printer Clips

 
By on Tuesday, 15th April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Rich Gilligan

Side projects and collaborations seem to be all the rage among established musicians these days, and Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan has recently jumped into the mix with a venture called Printer Clips. The project consists of a series of duets written by Noonan and performed with female singers including previous duet partner Lisa Hannigan, Martha Wainwright, and Julia Stone, then recorded in spontaneous and unstructured settings.

The first release from the project, ‘Apparatchik’, features the somewhat predictable combination of Noonan and Hannigan, whose voices blend together in harmony as beautifully here as on their version of ‘Some Surprise,’ from the 2006 project The Cake Sale. ‘Apparatchik’ is a very pretty, melodic little tune, which I found myself humming back after only one brief listen, but as usual with Noonan’s songwriting, there’s more to it than what’s on the surface. Lyrically, it has moments of downright ugliness, especially in the lines, “These are the punches that we roll with / This is the shit / But it’s so much easier to stomach it / When I’m downwind of you.” The juxtaposition of that obnoxiously unpleasant line with its elegantly lilting melodic phrasing is jarring, I suspect deliberately so.

The song’s title, ‘Apparatchik’, is an old Russian term for a professional member of the Communist party, now often used in a disparaging way to describe members of any large political organization as parts of a self-perpetuating machine. I almost wonder if Noonan might have been referring to his own role in Bell X1 there, but overall the song seems like a larger rumination on life, especially in its final repeated line, which I believe is quoted from a stencil by street artist Banksy, “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”.

‘Apparatchik’ is the first release from Printer Clips’ upcoming EP ‘The Left Sleeve’, which is due for digital-only release on the 25th of April. A second digital EP, ‘The Right Sleeve’, is scheduled for release on Bone China Records on the 16th of May, followed by a physical and digital release of the full self-titled LP on the 23rd of May. This curious schedule reminds me of the idea Noonan discussed for Bell X1 album ‘Chop Chop’ in my interview with him last year, and it’s interesting to see that design come to fruition, albeit in a slightly different context.

In the end, as always, the interpretation lies with the listener; you can form your own opinion after taking a listen to ‘Apparatchik’ below. Printer Clips will perform a live premiere on the 24th of May at The National Concert Hall, Dublin.

 

Album Stream: VEDAS – Exhume EP

 
By on Tuesday, 15th April 2014 at 11:00 am
 

It’s not everyday I write about a DC band. So I’m very pleased to bring you the full album stream of the debut EP from VEDAS; the five-track ‘Exhume’ is out today here in America. Alex Lee and Andrew Monborne started VEDAS last summer when they wanted a creative outlet to “put the individual subconscious thought and emotion into sound”.

Sounds pretentious, doesn’t it? It’s not at all, though, as you will listen below. People often say anything electronic is devoid of emotion, but you will see and hear through ‘Exhume’ – and on standout track ‘Mis Rajh’ – that voices and electronic notes can be extremely expressive.

 

Album Review: Various artists – Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014

 
By on Monday, 14th April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Fierce Panda Records may be famously noted by pedants of the British music business as being the label that launched the careers of Coldplay and Keane, but if that was all to the label, it wouldn’t be still standing. It’s hard for me to fathom that here we are in the year 2014, and Fierce Panda has been in business for 2 decades. The London indie label has championed the little guy and released so much great music in the last 20 years, it would take me far too long to go through their storied history than there is space on our humble Web site. Instead, I’m going to focus on a new 18-track compilation the label is offering up for free with any record purchase from their online shop.

The LP’s title ‘Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014’ is innocuous enough, not at all telling of its contents when, in fact, it is a careful selection of, oddly, the saddest songs from their back catalogue of the last 10 years. I say oddly, because celebrating and (surviving) 20 years in anything these days is cause for celebration, surely? However, despite being advertised by the label themselves as “some of the weepiest tunes it has had the tragic pleasure to put out over the past ten years”, you should be more impressed by the quality of the music not to slit your wrists. Hopefully, anyway. Maybe the whole ‘sad song’ is meant to be cheeky, now that I think about it.

‘Endangered’ does not rely solely on sob story, folky singer/songwriter types and in so doing, shows the breadth of Fierce Panda’s roster. But let’s first examine the more obvious sad songs. Danish girl/boy duo The Raveonettes‘ ‘Last Dance’ is innocent and twee, and Canadians Woodpigeon‘s ‘The Saddest Music in the World’ that opens the album is similar, but with added Simon and Garfunkel influence. Los Angeles quintet Milo Greene‘s harmonies shine on the Biblical leaning ‘Son My Son’, while the voice and songwriting of Tom Hickox, already being compared to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave’s, haunts with desolation on ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’, with sombre piano and then added strings and horns.

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The more bombastic numbers in this collection include the now-on-hiatus Walkmen and their optimistic (or delusional?) ‘In the New Year’, the slow burning Acres of Lions‘ ‘Collections’, Hatcham Social‘s rich guitars in ‘Sidewalk’ and Dingus Khan‘s whistle-filled ‘Made a List’; the latter’s inclusion in particular surprised me, but it just goes to show that even if you’re looking rough and tumble on the outside, you can still feel sadness inside. The sonic beauty of Ultrasound‘s ‘Sovereign’ is marred, presumably on purpose, by the repetition of the lyric “we are unclean” and the business of sex and sin, all wailed by singer Andrew “Tiny” Wood. The same can be said for tracks that include synths or twinkly keys: ‘They All Laughed’ by the Spinto Band sounds cheerful in a music box sort of way but it veils, not very well, the disgust he has for a former love, while the psychedelic feelings that Hey Sholay‘s ‘The Bears The Clocks The Bees’ engenders are appropriate for a song about confusion in a relationship.

It should also noted that sadness can also come out of mind games, craving someone else or the deepest regret. The industrial Nine Inch Nail-sey sound of Department M‘s ‘J-Hop’ (stream above) comes with the element of desire with its sensual lyrics, “we ply / by the logic of the reasoned minds / and one last time I’ll come to your body / what do you need?” The genius behind Art Brut‘s ‘Rusted Guns of Milan’ is Eddie Argos’ admittance, in his usual funny way, that he’s messed up in a relationship and he wants a second chance. Meanwhile, a similar request for a second chance is captured in a brilliant snapshot in ‘Last Decade’ by Goldheart Assembly (video below), showing a man’s final moments, first desperate to reconcile with a lover but then resigning to his fate: “but you know I’d go back, but there is no way…” I Like Trains‘ ‘A Rook House for Bobby’ I’m guessing is named for chess champion and famed recluse Bobby Fischer, using his hermit existence as a metaphor for how love can cause depression. The self-deprecation and admittance of weakness in the little girl voice of Melanie Pain in ‘How Bad Can It Be’ is, no pun intended, painful: “everyone knows I won’t change / everyone knows love is not my game / everyone know who I am / everyone but you.”

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Additional Panda melancholy comes courtesy of Sheffield in the form of two exemplary tracks. A man’s exasperation over his lover’s worry about losing him is made all too real in Tom Hogg’s expressive vocals with his bandmates’ gorgeously crooning backing in ‘Would You Be Blue’ by the Hosts (stream below) from this year’s debut album from them, ‘Softly, Softly’. Meanwhile, the loneliness of the protagonist of The Crookes ‘Howl’ from ‘Soapbox’ released today is haunted by the memory of another’s love, as George Waite’s voice is alternately dreamy and contemplative in the romance of song-induced candlelight: “and there’s no time, only light / no clocks, but shadows that hide the point when day becomes night / it’s hard to tell with these skies… I heard the howl, I love you but you keep me down.”

I think those two songs tell the ‘sad song story’ of Fierce Panda’s last 10 years the best, and why? Sad songs, like love songs, are often misunderstood. Emotions like sadness, loneliness and indeed, even love are like jewels. Whether they mean to or not, the people who gloss over emotion don’t seem to understand that they aren’t one-dimensional but instead multi-faceted, with dull and lifeless versus bright and sharp faces and something new to discover upon each listen. As a collection of the ‘sad song’ genre, ‘Endangered’ is a great introduction to the many wonderful artists on the Fierce Panda roster, and I can’t imagine you won’t find at least one song that will make you feel something deep in your heart.

7.5/10

You can get ‘Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014′ now for free if you order any album from the Fierce Panda online shop here. For more information on the bands signed to Fierce Panda, those included in this collection and those not, visit the label’s official Web site. For a limited time, you can get another eight-track song sampler (not all sad songs!); more details in this previous MP3(s) of the Day post.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music 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 idiots.

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

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