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Album Review: First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

 
By on Tuesday, 17th June 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Swedish duo First Aid Kit open their third album with lyrics that include “I won’t take the easy road”, and I wondered if they really were brave enough to do just that. After a captivating debut album and a typical sophomore effort, this third outing had the band backed by a major label (Columbia) for the first time. Were they going to be brave enough to take the positives a major can offer them without falling prey to the encumbrances such a deal can demand? After a thoughtful listen or two, I think it is safe to say that Johanna and Klara Söderberg have a good grasp of what works for them, they took what they needed from the industry machine and managed to stay true to their original sound.

‘Stay Gold’ is an album full of beautiful sorrow and exhortations to stay true to oneself. The title track itself wistfully wonders at the hard work of life and the inevitable pitfalls that only make one wish for an easier path to love. With repeated allusions to having to move on, undoubtedly referencing their nomadic lifestyle as touring musicians, an overall theme of loss and transiency is woven into the album. This LP is darker than the albums that preceded it but still retains the brightness that comes with the gorgeous harmonies of the sisters. Staying very true to their ‘70s flavoured folk style, the songs ring with light and clarity despite the more meaningful lyrics that lurk within the tunes.

The band also benefitted greatly from the add-ons a label can offer; their sound is a little richer, a little fuller than before. Indeed, full orchestration swells under a few songs such as ‘My Silver Lining’ and a perfectly understated flute captures the exact essence of ‘The Bell’. ‘Waitress Song’ soars through the middle of the album and even invokes a bit of Cyndi Lauper’s sentiment of having fun. The lyrics are a sad tale of trying to get over a bad break-up, but the story is told in a way that everyone can recognize. The Söderberg sisters still have a very clear preference for American country and folk; that style is now their style replete with pedal steel on ‘Master Pretender’ and the nearly two-step sound found on ‘Heaven Knows’. Fortunately, they carry it off well. The mournful piano ballad ‘A Long Time Ago’ closes out the experience with a soft letting go and leaves us quiet and contemplative.

Still exceedingly young (seriously, Klara is only 21 and has three full length releases and a major label deal under her belt!), the sisters have not only a lot of life left in their careers, but also a lot of life yet to live. If they can write songs with such depth and maturity at this point, it will be interesting to see what they develop as they experience life more fully.

First Aid Kit’s third album ‘Stay Gold’ is out now on Columbia Records. The sisters are scheduled to tour the UK in September. For more information on First Aid Kit, visit their official Web site.

 

Album Review: Owen Pallett – In Conflict

 
By on Friday, 6th June 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

This review of ‘In Conflict’ was harder than most for me to write. I felt so out of my element. Indeed, with Owen Pallett’s impressive credits like an Oscar nomination for the score to the Spike Jonze film ‘Her’ and arranging for Arcade Fire, I knew that his album would be full of elements and technical virtuosity that would be beyond my simple tastes.

Sure enough, with each ensuing listen I went deeper, heard more and became more lost. I was sure I was experiencing a pretty great musician; I just couldn’t break it all down. But one would expect nothing less than brilliance from the fourth studio full length album from the violinist/arranger. And what did I eventually discover? Music that is both technically beautiful and artistically challenging while remaining accessible to listeners like me without classical training. Pallett presents a series of songs that are varied, layered, complex and interesting on many levels.

Despite Pallett’s clear pedigree, he still possesses the soul of a down to earth musician, ready to mix it up, experiment and occasionally hold onto standard pop sensibilities. A line in ‘The Secret Seven’ even perfectly encapsulates the everyman musician’s humble bread and butter of busking: “I’m out on the street, an open case and a mandolin and with every coin I am born again”. ‘In Conflict’ the LP gives us an intriguing mix of electronics, piano and, of course, strings. The album is bright, complex and varied. This is a musician who knows his craft and can stretch the boundaries of experimentation without sounding gimmicky or contrived. Being a violin player, Pallett has utilized strings instead of many of the more traditional rhythm instrumentation. It lends a unique flavor to the record and goes way beyond a pop album having orchestration added to it, ensuring that the strings are a much more organic part of it.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSYUeUYa6Wk[/youtube]

Additionally, contributions from Brian Eno add a panache that cannot help but be felt. For me, the standout track on the album was ‘The Sky Behind the Flag’. It starts out a bit choppy with just a touch of the recitative nature of good ’60s musical theatre, but the complexity of this truly wondrous piece develops as it continues on. I admit that I resorted to headphones to absorb all the facets of what was offered. The subtly of the layers and the depth of the soundscape were marvelous and was something one could truly get lost in, a sentiment echoed in the repeated line, “oh I gotta lose control, why can’t I lose control?” The simple reference of himself as the sky that floats behind a flag is both expansively descriptive and reprises the idea of getting lost behind what is easily seen.

The only flaw in an otherwise brilliant album is my own personal preference. The quality and timbre of Pallett’s voice is not my favorite, so while being fascinated and enthralled by the music, the album itself was slightly diminished for me because of that. A stronger voice may have propelled the whole thing to heights beyond comprehension.

8.5/10

‘In Conflict’, Canadian Owen Pallett’s fouth album is out now on Domino Records and Secret City Records. Pallett will be touring the UK and Ireland starting mid-July; for more details, go here or visit his official Web site.

 

In the Post #125: ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ from Wolf Alice’s forthcoming EP ‘Creature Songs’

 
By on Friday, 16th May 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

The new track ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ from Wolf Alice rings with energy. This four piece outfit hailing from London has captured the attention of many, garnering Radio 1 airplay with their crushing guitars yet surprisingly delicate vocals from lead singer Ellie Rowsell.

Starting with a deceptive acoustic line, ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ changes 10 seconds in with a crashing assault on the ear. The simple acoustic line is carried through the noise and cleverly lifts the entire song with its melody keeping a lightness to it, despite the dark lyrics and heavy overlay of noisy guitars on top. They pack an exciting bit of unknown into that explosive 2 and a half minutes. The soft start of this tune that then opens into a nice hard edge on the interior coupled with the non sequitur, oft indecipherable lyrics harken back to my particular favourite, old style Biffy Clyro. If this is the direction the band choses to follow, they will continue to have a great champion in me.

The new Wolf Alice EP ‘Creature Songs’ will be with us on the 26th of May from Dirty Hit Records. Wolf Alice is on tour throughout the UK now, check out their tour dates here. Below is a video released earlier this month of the band performing the song live in session.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqPysg2m95A[/youtube]

 

Live Review: The Dig at The Paperhaus, Washington DC – 1st May 2014

 
By on Thursday, 8th May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

I went from the first taste of summer nights here in Washington, DC, the remnants of a glorious May Day in the mid-20Cs with just a sliver of a crescent moon hanging in the sky, to the first old school sweaty, crammed, pot-smoke filled house show I had been to in years with just a step over a threshold. I had been given a mere 24 hours notice that New York City band the Dig were playing at DC’s The Paperhaus.

Running one of the city’s most active independent house venues and named after their very own local band Paperhaus, this venue is found in the upper reaches of residential DC and was crammed with a young, hip crowd carrying their Bud Light Lime-a-Ritas in a can with them, flowing in and out of the brownstone and out into the back alley. There were several bands on that night and each clearly had their own following as the crowd composition was completely different with each changeover. I got there late and was in the back, sat on the kitchen sink as it were, waiting for the Dig.

The Dig at The Paperhaus, 1st May 2014

The band opened with ‘Cold Afternoon’, the lead track from their most recent EP ‘You & I’. This song is a bit of a departure from their very dreamy, ambient fare. With strong vocals from David Baldwin, it was an excellent start to a live set. Baldwin on guitar and Emile Mosseri on bass shared vocals throughout the set, but if I could ask for one thing from the Dig, it would be that they embrace the notion of a frontman. It doesn’t hurt the flow of their live set at all, but I think it would help their recorded music.

Often they treat the vocal line as an additional instrument, muted and floating. But from their live show, it’s easy to see how the vocals could take a commanding role. Easily their best song, ‘I Already Forgot Everything You Said’ hit us mid-set with its metronome-like drums and pingy keys eliciting excited “this is my favorite!” shouts from punters on both sides of me. I must say the new songs, such as ‘You and I Lost Control’ and ‘How Can You Trust a Feeling’ translate superbly into a live setting. There was some real grit, something to get your teeth into from those new songs, there is quite a bit to like. As we came to the end, ‘Black Water’ continued the fervor with a pounding beat and a well punched up crowd, leaving us with slow burner ‘Angeline’ to take us back out into the summer night.

The Dig at The Paperhaus, 1st May 2014

I often think of the Dig as background music. Live, they do an excellent job of commanding center stage. I am looking forward to the opportunity to see them play again. Their tour calendar is not yet filled out, but I am hoping for some more dates soon.

The Dig at The Paperhaus, 1st May 2014

After the cut: the Dig’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: The Dig at The Paperhaus, Washington DC – 1st May 2014

 

MP3 of the #827: Fink

 
By on Wednesday, 7th May 2014 at 10:00 am
 

Slow-burning, sensual rockers Fink are back again with their fifth studio album this summer to follow up the perfection that was ‘Perfect Darkness’. As a teaser, they are letting us have a tidbit, the album’s title track ‘Hard Believer’, early to whet our appetite. Can you feel the long languid summer nights in its groove? I can. And I can’t wait for the rest for the album.

Listen here and grab a free download below so you can immerse yourself in the sweet sounds before the album gets to us in July.

 

In the Post #124: James Bay reveals ‘Running’ from upcoming ‘Let It Go’ EP

 
By on Thursday, 1st May 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

A new song from singer/songwriter James Bay has hit our desk and it’s another one to make the girls weak in the knees. I have really been taken with the soulful, mysterious, bluesy offerings of guys like Hozier and Foy Vance, and Mr. James Bay fits this mold quite nicely. ‘Running’ has both the musical chops to make your breast swell and the lyrics to bring a tear to your eye. Lines like “wherever we go” repeat and build like a call to action until you know you will likewise go running to follow this guy anywhere too.

Making a name for himself on the festival circuit, with 2014’s Liverpool Sound City and the Great Escape coming up next, he’s looking to melt hearts across the country. His influence from old school American folk masters the likes of Bob Dylan and James Taylor can be clearly felt. Starting with deep breathy vocals, the escalating intensity with the emotion of the song mimics the fight to be with the one he loves. A perfect blend of keyboard and acoustic guitar prevents it from being labelled as primarily either and the vocal stands out as the primary instrument.

If you are at either Liverpool Sound City or the Great Escape over the next 2 weekends, I highly recommend you checking out this chap.

8/10

James Bay’s new EP ‘Let It Go’ is out on 13 May on Republic Records. Listen to ‘Running’ below.

 
 
 

About Us

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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