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Single Review: David Bowie – Blackstar

 
By on Monday, 14th December 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

So it’s that time of the year again when musicians start to surprise release what they’ve been working on. These albums are generally more enjoyable and (I use this term in the loosest sense) honest than other comeback albums that have been drip-fed to us via screenshots, studio bants and snippets for months. Take Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled album. It was far more engaging and enjoyable than ‘4’, or ‘Sasha Fierce’. Part of this was down to the out-of-the-blue nature of it release. David Bowie has announced he is releasing his 25th album next year called ‘Blackstar’.

So far, all we have to go on is the title track. Even by Bowie’s standards, this is a little out there. ‘Blackstar’ is Bowie going back to art rock and avant-jazz avenues, as he tells an ad hoc story for just under 10 minutes. There are flourishes of jazz, rock, pop, drum and bass and Gregorian chants. The video is equally out there, featuring astronauts, priests, women with tails and bizarre rituals involving jewel-encrusted heads.

The main problem with ‘Blackstar’ is that it sounds like two half-finished ideas stapled together under the guise of the avant-garde. While this is all speculation, as I have no idea about Bowie’s inner workings, the single does feel like a slightly rushed job, or he had the idea for the video and wanted the music to reflect back on the video somehow. Overall as a song, it doesn’t feel cohesive, and the transition from the first part to the second is a bit jarring and could have been smoother.

While ‘Blackstar’ sounds more exciting and vibrant than 2013’s ‘Where Are We Now?’, it still comes across as stagnant, somewhere between a desperate mix of Philip Glass, Lou Reed’s changeling ‘Lulu’ album and recent work by Scott Walker. In the past, Bowie was known a game changer, but because he’s not pushing himself now, it appears that he’s just copying someone else’s style and ideas rather than try and push the envelope himself. Sadly, it’s coming off second-rate, as what he’s copying is something so good and original in the first place. If this was any other artist, we’d happily accept this, but as it’s Bowie, the man who sold the world, we expect a bit more. We expect fully formed ideas and concepts rather than improvised, makeshift studio shenanigans. Go away, David, and come back when you know what you’re trying to say.

3/10

‘Blackstar’, the new single by David Bowie, is out now. His new album of the same name will be released on the 8th of January 2016 on RCA.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kszLwBaC4Sw[/youtube]

 

In the Post #152: Lissie returns with new single ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ ahead of third album ‘My Wild West’ in 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 2nd December 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Lissie Don't You Give Up on Me single coverElisabeth Corrin Maurus, or Lissie as she’s known professionally, is back with new single ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ and a third album, ‘My Wild West’, scheduled for release next year on Cooking Vinyl. While Lissie is a definitely a talented musician and songwriter, she’s not had the best run of luck. When she released her debut ‘Catching a Tiger’ in 2010, the music world wasn’t quite ready for her brand of melancholy-laced Americana. Nor, sadly, were they ready for someone to infuse their music with as many Fleetwood Mac-isms as she did, that would take three sisters from California to re-start the Mac revival.

But enough of the past. What does ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ sound like? Is the title a cunning ploy in which Lissie asks us to keep the faith and buy her new album after the 3 years since her sophomore album ‘Back to Forever’, or is it a heartfelt plea to an ex-lover? ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ is chock-full of catchy melodies and insightful lyrics (“you are the moon, I feel your weight / you tug at the ocean, you help it change”). But the star of the show, as with most Lissie songs, is her voice, jumping from ethereal to ragged as effortlessly as if it was simply a chord change. As the song progresses, the emotion ramps up and by the end, you feel Lissie is singing either about you, or for you. This is a notable change in her music. In the past, she seemed happy to tell her stories of love, rejection and redemption, but now she managed, through touring and recording two albums, to deliver an emotional connection.

For all its positives, the single sounds like a track from a future Emmylou Harris album, where she’s taking compositions from ‘cool’ bands and songwriters to try get a new audience. From the hypnotic opening guitar riff, driving drums and pulsing bass, ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ sounds like it was written by King of Leon. Ultimately because of this comparison, ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ feels a bit flat, as we know Lissie is capable of so much more. Let’s hope ‘My Wild West’ contains songs akin to the driving ‘Little Lovin’’, which set her apart from her peers in 2010, instead of ‘I Bet on You’, which for all its charm was just a standard album track.

6/10

The new Lissie single ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’ will be released the same day as her third album, ‘My Wild West’, on the 12th of February 2016. The LP can be preordered now from her official Web site.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPumYwckY18[/youtube]

 

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.

Lorca

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.

 
 
 

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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