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Single Review: The Big Moon – Formidable

 
By on Tuesday, 6th December 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Indie rockers The Big Moon have had a pretty busy 2016. Aside from hitting a bunch of festivals including The Great Escape and releasing a bunch of singles, they also found time to record their debut album, ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’. Ahead of its release on the 7th of April 2017, the female foursome have shared single ‘Formidable’. The song received air time on Radio 1 as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World: a statement that I’m not really going to try and disagree with. ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ was recorded in London, and in addition to ‘Formidable’, it will feature a re-recorded version of previously revealed track ‘Sucker’, as well as singles Cupid’ and ‘Silent Movie Susie’ released earlier this year.

I’ve been a fan of The Big Moon for some time now, ever since I got to write a little about them ahead of their appearance at SXSW 2016, and their latest release doesn’t change that. ‘Formidable’ burns softly, with the simple yet heartfelt chorus “I am not invisible / I’m on your side / I’ll be formidable” packing a punch like a confident mantra. Other lyrics,like “did she make you swallow all your pride?/ Does the love still shiver down your spine?” are a testament to the seriously good songwriting.

In fitting with the band’s indie grunge sound, ‘Formidable’ is slow in tempo and layered with cagey drums, distorted guitars and lead singer Juliette Jackson’s full-on vocals. It starts out pretty mellow, before picking up the pace just a little as the chorus kicks in, and again when Jackson yells out ,“you let me see your battle scars!” It’s altogether a great track and well worth a listen if you’re a fan of edgy indie rock.

9/10

The Big Moon have been announced as one of the first acts to appear at next year’s Live at Leeds 2017. They have a few dates between now and next April in America and the UK, if you want to check them out live. Their debut album ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ will be released on StarTime International / Columbia Records. To read my introduction to the band in the context of SXSW 2016, go here.

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

 

Album Review: Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win

 
By on Monday, 5th December 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Julia Jacklin Don't Let the Kids Win album coverAussie singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin, according to her Web site, found inspiration at an early age in the shape of Britney Spears, something I’m sure plenty of fellow ‘90s-born folk can relate to. This interest led to Jacklin taking singing lessons in her hometown of Blue Mountains – if you Google the place, it appears to be set in a landscape just as brilliant as the name suggests – before her interests moved on to Avril Lavigne and the edgier Evanescence. She went on to form a band with an old friend and initially as the singer, but then went on to write and play guitar too.

It’s always incredible to hear of people that work seemingly normal day jobs, and manage to create stirring and out of the ordinary music and art in their spare time. ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ is the debut album from Jacklin, which she wrote whilst she was working in a factory. Recorded at Sitting Room Studios in New Zealand, the ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ is a foray into the folksy and fanciful and is jam-packed with evocative and imaginative lyrics. It doesn’t actually sit comfortably into any one genre: it’s more of a melting pot of charming country rhythms, folksy storytelling and moments of bluesy indie rock.

Single ‘Pool Party’ opens with “I was shorter than my dad’s dining table / you were taller than my bedroom doorframe”. It’s just one of the tracks on the album that uses words to create quirky and playful imagery, yet is laced with a bittersweet kind of nostalgia. The rhythm of the track is slow and soulful, with old-sounding rumbles of bass and sharp drumbeats, tied together with a guitar that rolls along like it’s being played in a small town full of chequered shirt-wearing locals.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-qvTPxUlxg[/youtube]

‘Coming of Age’ is one of the heavier tracks on the album, although describing any of the LP as heavy is probably taking things a bit too far. It’s upbeat musically, with a country guitar jangling throughout. The chorus, which repeats “didn’t see it myself / my coming of age”, further adds to the wistful nature of the album. On her Web site, Jacklin tackles this topic: “When I was growing up I was so ambitious: I’m going to be this amazing social worker, save the world, a great musician, fit, an amazing writer. Then you get to mid-20s and you realise you have to focus on one thing”.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fua9nrkUYew[/youtube]

A standout track is ‘Leadlight’, where Jacklin really shows off her melodic voice, gentle at times, then soulful and uplifting at others. It’s a stripped-back track, with just a steady drum and guitar at times, then swelling to include a choral accompaniment towards the end. Much like this is ‘Hay Plain’, which also builds up throughout the track after a soft start, but finishes just as gentle as it begins. The song has me missing a life that I haven’t even lived, as Jacklin transports you into the story she’s telling.

Similarly low-key is title track ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’, which features just Jacklin’s voice and a guitar as she sings nostalgically about valuing time with family and friends. It’s a sweet and sentimental track.

The whole album is easy listening but will also get you thinking about the carefree days of your youth if you feel like you’re already past them. Or hopefully make you appreciate them even more if you’re still living them. It can be comforting at times to realise that other people have the same doubts about getting older or, as Jacklin puts it, “yeah, we’re getting older, but it’s not so special. It’s not unique”.

8.5/10

‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’, Julia Jacklin’s debut album, is out now on Transgressive Records. Jacklin has a bunch of upcoming dates in her native Australia and New Zealand, until February where she’ll hit Europe, including dates in Germany and the UK. All dates can be found listed on her Web site, and her UK ones are listed in this previous post. For more coverage of Jacklin here on TGTF, go here.

 

Album Review: Elle Exxe – Love Fuelled Hate

 
By on Wednesday, 9th November 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Elle Exxe Love Fuelled Hate coverI’d not heard of Elle Exxe before taking up the assignment for this review, and chances are you might not have either. However, this is about to change. She’s just won the award for Best Female Solo Act at the Unsigned Music Awards and is steadily building a name for herself in the underground world of pop, if there’s such a thing as not-yet-popular pop.

There’s nothing shy or quiet about the Scottish-born singer. On her Facebook page, Elle’s music is described as “dirty pop”, and that’s a pretty good summary. At times, I can hear Katy Perry in Elle’s voice, and the pair also share a love for bright colours and quirky outfits. But there’s something much brasher and more experimental about Elle Exxe: there’s grit and toughness to her. For a debut album, ‘Love Fuelled Hate’ explores a range of musical styles, throwing electropop and indie rock sounds together along with spoken-word verses and vocals that verge on screaming.

Elle Exxe put the album together with the help of Joe Kearns (Ellie Goulding, Little Mix) who mixed the album, and mastered by John Davis (Lana Del Rey, Bat For Lashes). It was released last month, following the release of a bunch of singles since 2015. ‘Love Fuelled Hate’ is split into two halves: ‘Your Love…’ and ‘…My Hate’, with 7 tracks for each. Each half begins with a short track featuring a deep-voiced man mumbling in what sounds like Spanish, before Elle’s voice bursts onto the scene.

There’s also a bit of a musical difference in the two halves. The former is confident and loud at times, with gritty, soaring choruses, exemplified on ‘Lately’. This feel is subtler on other tracks with guitar and bass-led, mellower moments, like on ‘Sick’ and ‘White Lies’. The second half becomes futuristic and more eclectic in its droning synth and glitzy electro sounds. The lyrics also become darker, reflecting the hate aspect of the album. There’s lots of emotion packed into the tracks, From “Hate on my girl / and I’ll be hating on you”, on ‘Hating on You’, to Elle crying out “Jealousy won’t bring me down” on ‘Shoot’.

Some tracks stand out much more than others. ‘Home With You’ is one of those songs that feel like a pop hit the first time you hear it. It’s a glitzy, electropop track with the murmur of a guitar and drums, and puts Elle’s strong vocals on display. Then there’s ‘Lost in L.A.’, which is evocative of Charlie XCX, particularly in the chorus, with modified grinding guitar sounds whirring on the track, and the play-it-loud catchy chorus contrasted to the monotone drawl of the verses. Lyrics like “Ripped tights / shut up / I’m off my face” sum up the party-esque vibe of the track.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7dNitnJzYM[/youtube]

The album rounds up with ‘I Understand’, perhaps the softest song on the album, despite the grinding beat that starts up about 40 seconds in. The track and the album ends with Elle’s voice fading out as the melody quietens, and is a peaceful end to an artfully unpolished cacophony of a debut album. It’s a great way to end the album that feels like a story of falling out of love, falling apart and feeling hurt and angry, then coming to peace with what has happened.

You might think that you wouldn’t like Elle Exxe. But the more you listen, the more you will find yourself enjoying the tracks and appreciating Elle’s confident and explosive debut.

7.5/10

‘Love Fuelled Hate’, the debut album from Scottish-born singer/songwriter Elle Exxe, is out now on LX Records. For more on the artist on TGTF, go here.

 

Album Review: KT Tunstall – KIN

 
By on Friday, 14th October 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

KT Tunstall KIN album coverIt’s crazy to think that it’s been over 10 years since KT Tunstall released her debut album ‘Eye to the Telescope’, which I remember playing pretty much non-stop for months on end. Shortly after its release, Tunstall was nominated for a number of BRIT Awards, bagging Best British Female in 2006, before being nominated for a Grammy in 2007. Since then, the Scottish singer/songwriter has released a further four albums, the latest of which is ‘KIN’, which Tunstall shared earlier this month.

Musically, Tunstall has explored a variety of genres since she first appeared on the scene, such as on 2013’s folk / acoustic ‘Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon’. But her latest work embraces vibrant pop sounds and feel-good hits. The album comes after Tunstall took a break from writing and recording albums to work on composing music for the film industry. Tunstall moved out to Los Angeles to work on music for movies such as Winter’s Tale and Disney’s Million Dollar Arm, before embarking on a small tour of the U.S. in 2015. She worked with Tony Hoffer (The Kooks, The Fratellis) on ‘KIN’ in a L.A. studio.

It’s inevitable that, after such swift success so young, all of Tunstall’s later musical feats would be compared to her debut album. ‘KIN’, whilst being more polished compared to the raw gritty pop of ‘Eye to the Telescope’, is still a solid fifth album for the Scot. Many tracks are much simpler lyrically than her past work, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that Tunstall has gone for something different with ‘KIN’. Every artist should have the space to explore and challenge musically, and it feels that Tunstall has certainly been influenced by her move to the States. She’s compared writing ‘KIN’ to the process of writing her debut: “carefree, unselfconscious, writing music because I enjoyed it”, and being in L.A. particularly helped her to “recalibrate [her] relationship with being a musician”. There’s an ambience to ‘KIN’ that feels decidedly ‘L.A.’ I haven’t visited the City of Angels myself, but the upbeat, acoustic pop that bedecks each track on ‘KIN’ makes me feel like I could be hanging out on Venice Beach with my surfboard. There’s something about the chilled acoustic notes mixing with Tunstall’s throaty tones and buoyant drumbeats that fit with my impression of the L.A. aesthetic.

The whole album is highly accessible. ‘It Took Me So Long To Get Here, But Here I Am’ not only boasts one of the longest song title I can think of, but is one of those life-affirming and motivating songs that make you reflect on where you’re at and acknowledge that there’s always hope. Lyrics like “but it made way for something different / I could feel it in the air” and “everything I tried and all the things I dreamed of” will appeal to anyone who’s had an aspiration and felt like giving up, but somehow had the will to keep going.

Then there’s ‘Two Way’, a duet with James Bay, who also cowrote the song. The track has softly grating electric and gently strummed acoustic guitars, paired with Tunstall and Bay’s complementary vocals. It’s got a very chilled out vibe and is a nice contrast to the quicker-paced songs on the album. ‘Evil Eye’ is one of those upbeat tracks, with lyrics proclaiming self-belief: “you want me to be more like you / but you’re never gonna get your way”. Tunstall sings about self-worth on ‘Evil Eye’, refusing to let the judgment of others get her down.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LULB8jXdaoc[/youtube]

Another favourite is ‘Run on Home’, a buoyant track that in 4 minutes and thirty seconds tells the story of finding self-worth and feels like a love letter to the self. The lyrics “the only thing I’ve noticed / is that I’ve been feeling happier lately” seem to sum up the sentiment of ‘KIN’, which plays like the manifesto of a woman who has cast off some baggage and finally feels alive.

‘KIN’, whilst not breaking any new ground, certainly conveys the Tunstall’s new carefree attitude. You might find yourself skipping over a couple of tracks, but for fans of Tunstall’s previous work or of easy-going pop, it’s worth a listen.

7.5/10

KT Tunstall’s fifth album ‘KIN’ is out now on Virgin EMI. She’s currently touring in the States until early October, before heading back to the UK in late October/ early November. For a run-down of all her live shows, visit her official Web site. http://kttunstall.com/live To read past coverage of the Scottish singer/songwriter on TGTF, use this link.

 

Bands to Watch #392: The Hunna

 
By on Monday, 26th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

The Hunna are an indie pop/rock foursome out of Hertfordshire who have been causing quite a splash since they released their debut single ‘Bonfire’ back in October 2015. In just over a year, they have built up an impressive fan base, toured the UK pretty extensively and also hit up a number of festivals this year, including The Great Escape in Brighton and Dot to Dot. To top things off, they released their debut album ‘100’ last month. All in all, it’s been a busy time for the group.

After a couple of years of writing music together as friends, the band had the bare bones of some tracks ready to record. In 2015 they worked with Tim Larcombe (Lana Del Rey) to put together the aforementioned single and its B-side ‘She’s Casual’. Both songs appear on ‘100’ and each have amassed plays in the millions on Spotify, along with the equally popular ‘We Could Be’ and You & Me’. The band’s name is slang for 100, so it’s apt that their first album echoes this sentiment. The emoji for ‘100’ has already been used to full effect on The Hunna’s social media: you can see it all over their Facebook.

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

With this band, it’s important to not judge a book by its cover. You will have trouble equating their music with the images of the band available on the internet. Their look, with long hair and tattoos aplenty, made me expect a sound that was grungy and gritty. This was a big disconnect to the light, airy sound with pop leanings that I heard when hearing ‘100’ for the first time. The Hunna are a definite listen for fans of their label mates, the catchy-sounding indie/pop band Coasts, whom they supported on tour in October last year.

Single ‘Bonfire’ is the opening track, leading with the lyrics “if you love me then why won’t you use me / if you hate me then why do you care”, introducing the subject matter of love and relationships explored in the rest of the album. ‘Never Enough’ opens with an enticing bass rhythm, before lead singer Ryan Potter repeats “I keep falling in love / it’s never enough” for much of the track. There’s a wide range of influences that can be felt on the album. ‘Rock My Way’ opens with a Strokes-esque vibe. ‘Be Young’ feels early Kings of Leon-esque at times in its jangling guitar notes. You can’t deny The Hunna’s passion for making and playing music they care about. If their number of followers is anything to go by, they are undeniably popular, so it’s interesting to see where they go next.

‘100’, the debut album from The Hunna, is out now on High Time Records in the UK and 300 Entertainment in the U.S. The band has a few dates in the calendar for late September/ early October, and you can catch them in a few cities across the UK.

 

Single Review: Fickle Friends – Cry Baby

 
By on Tuesday, 16th August 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

There’s been a parting in the road between mainstream Busted-style pop and more thoughtful, alternative pop-based music in recent years. There’s nothing wrong with the mainstream (I, for one, will never not be able to sing along to ‘What I Go to School For’), but it’s just great to see that there are those bands for whom pop means more than repeating the same three of four chords over and over. Pop always used to be about doing something different and exciting. I’ll always remember how I felt and where I was the first time I heard Michael Jackson, or how my world turned upside down (in a good way) when I first became aware of the two game-changing individuals that we said our goodbyes to earlier this year, Bowie and Prince. Whether I’m listening to Beyoncé, Christine and the Queens or, dare I say it, Justin Bieber, I can’t remember pop being better.

Today’s subject is Fickle Friends, the indie pop quartet that hail from Brighton who have recently shared their latest single ‘Cry Baby’. Although they are now signed to a major, Polydor Records, they haven’t had the easiest road to get here, including having a manager quit on them and dealing with financial struggles. But on ‘Cry Baby’, it looks like the band have finally found stable ground. They’ve teamed up with Mike Crossey (The 1975, Two Door Cinema Club), and will also be working with him to put together their debut album in Los Angeles.

Like Fickle Friends’ previous singles ‘Swim’ and ‘Say No More’, ‘Cry Baby’ taps into the well of ‘80s influence, with synth bursts, funky bass hooks and an addictive chorus. It’s not however, simply a rip-off of ‘80s tropes. ‘Cry Baby’ takes all that is good about old-school electropop and blends it with contemporary sounds; at times you can hear The 1975-esque drum and guitar elements on the track.

‘Cry Baby’ positively pulsates with feel-good vibes about meeting someone for only a brief period of time and the overwhelming emotions that can accompany it, capturing the plot of every good ‘80s film ever. The track shimmers and dances, the opening hammer of synth bursts and the steady bass hook sets an addictive precedent that the rest of the track manages to uphold throughout. If this single is anything to go by, I’m expecting their debut album to be liberally packed with addictive synthpop and feel-good ‘80s grooves. It doesn’t yet have a release date, so keep your eyes peeled.

8/10

‘Cry Baby’ is out now. If you want to see the band live in action, the band will be at Reading and Leeds 2016 at the end of this month and Bestival 2016 next month. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Fickle Friends, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlNiXh2WCnI[/youtube]

 
 
 

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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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