Festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, can be read through here.

SXSW 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012

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Video of the Moment #2447: The Dunwells

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd October 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

It’s been a spell since we’ve heard from The Dunwells from Leeds. And they’ve returned with a new direction, dare I say it, sounding more American than ever. The vocals are decidedly tinged with gospel on ‘Colour My Mind’, to be released on the 13th of October and the title track of an EP scheduled for release on the 1st of December. The heartfelt song and video are dedicated to their late “fifth member of the band”, Sean Murphy, who passed away this summer from an aggressive form of cancer. This terrible blow dealt to the group will have no doubt coloured (no pun intended) their upcoming record. Out of tragedy comes great beauty, and we look forward to hearing more from The Dunwells. To read through all our past coverage of the Leeds group, follow this link.

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: The Dunwells – Light Up the Sky

 
By on Friday, 26th February 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

The-Dunwells-Light-Up-The-SkyTo say that The Dunwells’ sophomore studio album ‘Light Up the Sky’ has been “a long time coming” might be a bit of an understatement. That particular lyric turns up repeatedly in the songs on the album, and the songs themselves have indeed taken their time coming together. Many of these tracks are pulled from the Dunwells’ recent back catalogue, having been released as singles or EP tracks in the interim since the band’s 2012 debut ‘Blind Sighted Faith’.

The Dunwells worked with a string of different producers on ‘Light Up the Sky’, including Kodaline helmsman Steve Harris, Dan McDougall (Aurora) and Manny Marroquin (Haim, Sia and Taylor Swift). Of those, it’s Harris’ influence that rings through most glaringly in the slick pop overlay of many of the songs. ‘Communicate’, which appeared on The Dunwells’ ‘Show Me Emotion’ EP back in 2014, overcomes a thickly layered vocal production to showcase the wide expressive range of frontman Joe Dunwell’s singing voice and Rob Clayton’s solid bass groove. The extended anticipation of ‘Strange Feeling’ starts with an acoustic intro before sweeping into the breathless lyrics “it’s a strange feeling, but it’s sensational.” Gentle keyboard-centered ballad ‘Animal’ feels like it could as easily have been written for Kodaline as the Dunwells, while later track ‘Ghosts’ features a beautifully executed, though conspicuously Steve Garrigan-esque, vocal manoeuvre in the final repeat of the chorus.

The less pop and more rock-oriented moments are the ones that ultimately work best on ‘Light Up the Sky’. Opening track ‘Lucky Ones’, which we featured as a Video of the Moment last spring around its eponymous EP release, is more the kind of propulsively anthemic track I might have expected from the Leeds quartet. Similarly, the driving rhythm and gospel backing vocals of ‘Hey Now’ make a strong and lasting impression, especially in the infectiously singable chorus “I’m not ready to go home yet, but leave me a light, leave me a light on.”

Standout track ‘Hurts’, released as a single just last month, is probably the most lyrically developed and fully conceptualised song on the album, from its opening line “here you are on your knees, trying to offload your grief” to the sympathetic lines of its chorus “when you fade right there in front of me, it hurts sometimes . . . when you fall apart it’s killing me, it hurts sometimes”. The lyrics to subsequent title track ‘Light Up the Sky’ are romantic and deliriously nonsensical, but they make an equally forceful impact, due in no small part to Dunwell’s aching vocal delivery.

The Dunwells have, in the past, gotten away with some cliché lyrics, because they were always delivered with guileless musical arrangements and undeniable emotional sincerity. On ‘Light Up the Sky’, the production sometimes feels heavy-handed, as if trying to conceal the occasional moments where the lyrics are a bit trite or the emotional content is one-dimensional. Such is the case with older live favourite track ‘She Whispers’, whose arrangement here contains some odd instrumental choices that don’t seem to relate to the song itself. For my money, the stripped back version featured in this Live Gig Video was more effective in creating the sense of intimacy implied in the lyrics.

The touch of Steve Harris’ production is felt again in penultimate track ‘The Best is Yet To Come’, which soars seamlessly if rather unexpectedly into the sweet, subdued gospel of ‘Will You Wait for Me’. Though the latter is a song about loss and mourning, the Dunwells have here refined their propensity for building a chorus, turning it into a gently soulful, genuinely uplifting reaffirmation of life.

In the end, I found ‘Light Up the Sky’ to be mildly underwhelming, not because it’s a bad album, but because it leaves the impression of having transformed the Dunwells, who are a fine alt-rock band in their own right, into a pale imitation of a mainstream pop band. And though I like Kodaline enough, I much prefer the Dunwells, especially when they sound like, well, the Dunwells.

7/10

The Dunwells’ second album ‘Light Up the Sky’ is out today, the 26th of February, on Decca Records (UK) / Modal Music Limited (US) / Concord. The Dunwells are scheduled to appear next month at SXSW 2016 and will embark on a tour of the UK in April.

 

The Dunwells / April 2016 UK Tour

 
By on Friday, 26th February 2016 at 8:00 am
 

Leeds alt-rockers the Dunwells will play a run of live dates in the UK this spring, following the release of their new album ‘Light Up the Sky’ and their trip to America for SXSW 2016.  The album is out today on Decca/Concord (Carrie’s review posts today at noon), but we at TGTF have already featured several tracks from it in our collected coverage of the Dunwells.

Support for the ‘Light Up the Sky’ tour will be played by American indie rock band Bronze Radio Return. Tickets for the following shows are available now.

Friday 1st April 2016 – Bristol Louisiana
Saturday 2nd April 2016 – Stoke Sugarmill
Sunday 3rd April 2016 – Norwich Waterfront
Tuesday 5th April 2016 – London Lexington
Wednesday 6th April 2016 – Newcastle Think Tank
Thursday 7th April 2016 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Friday 8th April 2016 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Saturday 9th April 2016 – Sheffield Picture House
Monday 11th April 2016 – Manchester Sound Control

 

In the Post #150: The Dunwells drop teaser ‘Hey Now’ from their upcoming album due in 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 23rd September 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

For any Crowded House fan, or really for anyone who lived through the late ’80s, the title of the Dunwells’ new track ‘Hey Now’ is sure to conjure up echoes of the Neil Finn-led band’s breakout hit ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’. But once you’re past the opening line, the Dunwells’ track strikes a very different tone from the Antipodean band’s 1986 release.

The main similarity between the two songs is in their lyrics, which are in both cases non-specific but heavily laced with possible hidden meaning, allowing the emotional tone of the musical arrangement to lead the listener’s imagination. Building on their previous ‘Lucky Ones’ EP, the Dunwells have clearly continued to focus on the details of their instrumental arrangements with ‘Hey Now’, leaning less on traditional guitar riffs and more on their collective vocal abilities.

The first sonic impression of ‘Hey Now’ is percussive, its forceful drum beat underscoring frontman Joe Dunwell’s emotive lead vocal as he intones the title lyric ‘hey now, it’s been a long time coming / but I’ve been ready for a while”. The guitar melody is surprisingly understated, as thick layers of gospel-style backing vocals highlight the song’s anthemic lyrics, particularly the repeated plea “leave a light, leave a light on”. The dizzying swirl of backing vocals and the persistent keyboard ostinato take center stage in the final repeat of the chorus, as the arrangement builds in intensity, then draws back in anticipation of its closing strains.

7/10

‘Hey Now’ is the first teaser from the Dunwells’ upcoming new LP, which is currently slated for release sometime in 2016. If you’re keen in hearing more from the Dunwells in the meantime, you can check out our archive of past coverage on the band, which includes the title video from the band’s previous EP ‘Lucky Ones’ and a stream of the title track from their standout 2014 EP ‘Show Me Emotion’. The group recently announced a headline tour of the UK for this November. You can find a listing of those live dates here.

 

The Dunwells / November 2015 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 10th September 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Header photo by Lloyd Pursall

Leeds folk rock quartet the Dunwells will headline a run of UK dates this coming November, following the 16th of October release of their new single ‘Hey Now’ on Decca/Concord.  ‘Hey Now’ will feature on the band’s upcoming LP, due out early in 2016.  The Dunwells’ ‘Lucky Ones’ EP was released back in May and has reached over 1 million streams on Spotify.

Tickets for the following dates are available now, except for the already sold out hometown date in Leeds.  Extensive previous coverage of the Dunwells on TGTF can be read in its entirety right back here.

Sunday 1st November 2015 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Monday 2nd November 2015 – Leeds Belgrave Music Hall (sold out)
Tuesday 3rd November 2015 – Manchester Gullivers
Saturday 7th November 2015 – Doncaster Diamond Lounge
Monday 9th November 2015 – London Sebright Arms
Tuesday 10th November 2015 – York Fibbers

 

Great Escape 2015: Day 2 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 21st May 2015 at 11:00 am
 

While Friday at the Great Escape 2015 wasn’t a blazing scorcher by any means, we were able to put the brollies away and the hardier types were already tucking into their pints and all before the noon hour. As described in the second half of my Thursday roundup, one of the things that stuck in my craw all festival was the fact that there seemed to be queues everywhere. Coming off a less well attended than usual SXSW 2015 where I could get in most everywhere I needed to with my badge, the queue situation in Brighton was getting old and fast. After being turned away at the Komedia Studio Bar for the Dutch Impact showcase where I had hoped to see electronic duo Tears and Marble, I had to be content to go back to the Prince Albert and the Music from Ireland showcase.

In my failed attempt to get in for the Dutch show, I had sadly already missed one of my faves from SXSW 2015, Orla Gartland, and instead joined the throngs waiting for the Riptide Movement, noted by my holiday host in Dublin the week before as his favourite live act in Ireland at the moment. You couldn’t get a better vote of faith, could you? As also alluded to in my review of Tropics‘ late night appearance in the same venue Thursday, the Prince Albert is not for the faint-hearted when rammed. Still, I figured it was early enough in the afternoon and people wouldn’t be (that) pissed. That said, being Irish, they’re probably used to playing to raucous, inebriated crowds.

The Riptide Movement at Great Escape 2015

Frontman Mal Tuohy does an excellent job of rallying his troops for what ends up becoming a stomping singalong on songs like ‘You and I’. Do you remember what Mumford and Sons sounded like when they first brought out ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ in their early shows live and everyone was behind them? There is that same ‘I feel good, I feel alive’ element in the Riptide Movement that is very appealing and easily so to everyone, where everyone feels included, and you can also tell they’re having loads of fun like early Vaccines too, which is immediately felt by their audience. It seems to pretty much be a no-brainer that they’ll be the next big rock band out of Ireland on the basis of the strength of their energetic and unapologetically so live show.

Boxed In at Great Escape 2015

Back outside, it was time to head over to the PRS Foundation’s showcase at the Dome Studio Bar, where Boxed In were playing third on an amazing afternoon bill starring SXSW 2015 alums Jay Prince, Spring King and PINS. I guess people were itching to see earlier shows on Friday because again, I was faced with a queue and the sinking feeling I would never get in to see any of the show, trying to hold my fist back from waving because I could hear the distant patters of ‘Mystery’ and felt annoyed I was not inside. I finally made it in halfway through their set, the place packed and I felt very lucky to have seen them perform at the much smaller Nation of Shopkeepers at Live at Leeds 2 weeks previous. I was confused though, as Boxed In mastermind Oli Bayston said this afternoon show would be an acoustic performance, and this most definitely was not one.

boxed In at Great Escape 2015

No matter though. The crowd whooped it up, dancing to and clearly enjoying the unique blend of keys, pop and dance Bayston had concocted for his self-titled debut album released last year on Moshi Moshi, the grooveathon known as ‘Foot of the Hill’ providing a set highlight. Due to a miscommunication, a previously arranged interview with mastermind Oli Bayston fell through; I hope to pick that back up sometime while they’re on tour, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer for it. Amusedly, while I was waiting around for this interview that didn’t happen, I nearly got stepped on by one of the girls from PINS who was trying to set up onstage; she apologised profusely and I told her not to worry about it at all.

The Dunwells at Great Escape 2015

Walking back onto New Road, a band was setting up under the Metro Free Gigs Airstream awning for what would be the Bullet Stage. They hadn’t started playing but I recognised that quiff…wait a minute. That’s the Dunwells from Leeds, isn’t it? Indeed it was. I had no idea I’d run into the band just walking around Brighton like this but I hung around as a large group of people amassed to watch this open air concert. A homeless man and his dog camped out in front of the group, keen on hearing this band play, the man enthusiastically clapping for them. For a show taking place in the middle of the madness, I think it went well, with EP title tracks ‘Show Me Emotion’ and ‘Lucky Ones’ sounding grand and much more fuller and richer live than on record.

A bit later on, it was time to do some Alternative Escape gigging. First up on my agenda was Get Inuit, who were performing as part of Alcopop Records’ showcase at the Pav Tav. Like an idiot, I was looking for an actual venue with a marquee reading “Pav Tav” and it wasn’t until I put two and two together that all I was looking for was the actual Pavilion Tavern. (Yes, it was my first time trying to find the place. ::insert canned laughter here::) I’ve been quite interested to hear the Kent four-piece play their self-described “dirty-pop” to a Brighton crowd. Bless frontman Jamie Glass, he’s got this nerdy yet very adorable way of addressing the crowd in between songs, coming up with connections no-one else would ever think of, such as trying to come up with an alternative nickname for the people of Brighton without insulting them. Anyone else would get bottled but with his self-deprecation, he gets away with it.

Get Inuit at Great Escape 2015

In another pleasant surprise of the afternoon, I was pleased to witness that Get Inuit are actually a harder-rocking band that the previous self description might lead you to believe. I suppose the pop label is more a nod to the catchy melodies of their songs, but phwoar, when they play, it’s loud, guitars and hair are flying, and everyone’s having a good time. ‘Cutie Pie, I’m Bloated’ is a prime example of this, where you can help yelling along with them, “I wanna be your stick in the mud!” while not really understanding exactly (or caring) what that means. Footstomper ‘Mean Heart’, which we gave away as a free MP3 of the Day last month, didn’t disappoint either, with James Simpson’s guitar bangings much appreciated. Huw Stephens is already a fan, so why aren’t you one yet?

Bar Rogue is on the seafront-facing side of the Royal Albion Hotel, and it’s where Earworm Events put on a 3-day onslaught of bands while the Great Escape 2015 rumbled on in other locales in Brighton. I arrived while London’s Longfellow were still soundchecking, so I guessed there were technical issues, later coming to a head when Ali Hetherington’s keyboard stopped working for a moment.

Save for the nonexistent lighting that made my photography near impossible, the setup was fantastic: just as frontman Owen Lloyd quipped, the intimacy felt like you were playing in someone’s living room. Compared to their Live at Leeds 2015 set, I had arrived early and was present for the whole thing, able to fully enjoy the grandeur of early single gem ‘Siamese Lover’ alongside newer EP tracks ‘Where I Belong’ and ‘Chokehold’.

Part 2 of my Friday coverage of the Great Escape 2015 follows this afternoon.

 
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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.

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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