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(Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City 2012 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #243: Django Django

 
By on Wednesday, 9th May 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

You’re probably wondering why it’s taken us so long to cover Django Django officially. I already had an inkling they were going to be a big deal after their self-titled debut album came out at the end of January, following on the strength of the very poppy and very infectious ‘Default’. However, it wasn’t until I caught them at the Vic Galloway-curated SMIA night at Easy Tiger Patio on the Wednesday of this year’s SXSW that I felt had a better informed opinion of the band. Now that I have that, I feel comfortable talking about them with some level of authority. That and I figured it wasn’t worth fighting with everyone else over the last 3 months, every other outlet that was anointing them just solely based on ‘Default’ that they were the best thing since sliced bread. So here goes…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDjpOrlfh0Y[/youtube]

The basics: they met at art college in Edinburgh but didn’t actually get together until later, and in London; they’re not named after Django Reinhardt but ‘Son of Django’, a rave record that caught the attention of singer Vincent Neff, who turned his back on a probably lucrative and successful architecture career; Neff is from Northern Ireland (Templegrove, Derry to be exact), a tidbit gleaned out of an interview he did with RTE 2fm’s Jenny Huston at SXSW; ginger drummer David Maclean acts as their producer. Got all that?

I’d now like to dispel the ‘psychedelic’ label. While there’s a definite detached air of cool pervading their music, I think ‘psychedelic’ is a too simple genre for Django Django. The psychedelic age back in the ’60s is probably best remembered for stoned hippies, smelling of hash and going round with their flower power, and the music of the times, which seemed to be made by slightly better looking, better dressed musicians who were also under the influence. What seems to be forgotten is that even with the drug haze that hung in the air, there were some really lovely harmonies that came out of the period, typified best by bands like the Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, and later on the Eagles. The harmonies on ‘Django Django’ make this album transcend any other pop album; there’s a richness just on the vocals alone that have few real competitors in the music market today.

But it’s not just the harmonies that shine on this fine debut. The music, which is rhythmic and wholly engaging at times, mesmerising and beguiling at others, sometimes fights with the vocals for centre stage on this album. In other cases, I’d say this is not a good situation of the two halves of a song being at odds with each other. But instead, Django Django plays the lyrics off the music and vice versa, creating a mini-world with each song. Take for example, ‘Storm’ (video below), their latest single that was on this past Monday. Yes, it’s psychedelic looking with its bright colours and unfocused images, but forget that for a moment.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny67ABAGKh4[/youtube]

Listen to the beginning rhythms right from the start. Hypnotising. There’s a verse that goes “you are made / of complex sums / I’m counting all my fingers now I’m down to my thumbs” – it’s witty in the droll funny way Morrissey did it with the Smiths, but Django Django have the benefit of an even more earworm-y melody. ‘Waveforms’ follows a similar rhythmic path, though the vocals lift off from the ground to reach the heavens, with admittedly a trippy lyric of “and you wanna know why / all the rivers run dry / when I see you again / I see the look in your eyes…”, before heading back into percussion land, bouncing in such a way you’d have to be dead not to bop your head around and chair dance. Incredible, memorable pop. Good stuff.

What I hope you take from this piece that Django Django is far, far more than just ‘Default’. You’d be doing yourself a grave disservice if you didn’t check our their debut album, which is guaranteed to be an album everyone will be talking about in years in come, as well as appearing on top albums of 2012 lists. They’re not just psychedelic. They’re timeless.

Catch Django Django at the Great Escape on Thursday 10 May at the Pavilion Theatre at 23.45 and Friday 11 May at 22.15 at Blind Tiger as part of the Fly Magazine showcase. They will also appear at the Red Bull Studios Live at the Garage at Liverpool Sound City on Thursday 17 May at 23.30.

 

Bands to Watch #242: The So-So Sailors

 
By on Thursday, 3rd May 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

For some reason, I have a soft-spot for Omaha, NE. Home of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and the college baseball’s World Series, Omaha is pretty much dead center of the United States and is not the easiest place to get to – or leave, I imagine.

But what is seeping out at the moment is the wind-whipped Midwestern sounds of the So So Sailors. Focusing on bright, piano-driven pop melodies, they evoke a laid back, happy mood that can easily accompany your afternoon gin and tonic. Headed up by Chris Machmuller on vocals and piano, and rounded out by Dan McCarthy (Wurlitzer), Alex McManus (guitar), Brendan Greene-Walsh (bass) and Dan Kemp (drums), the So-So Sailor Sailors are still shopping for a label in America, but No Dancing Records snapped them up for an Ireland/UK release on 10 June. Their six-song EP ‘Young Hearts’ features the free track ‘Des Moines’, which you can listen to and download for your very own from, the widget below.

 

(Great Escape 2012 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #241: Money

 
By on Wednesday, 2nd May 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

There’s been an explosion of bands with deliberately un-Googleable names – The Internet, College, and now we have Money. Although after getting to know the band’s music and modus operandi a bit better, I wouldn’t be surprised if being difficult to find on the internet suited them just fine. They have selected their few recent gigs carefully: a well-reviewed set at Salford’s Sacred Trinity church, and more importantly, a star-studded appearance at David Lynch’s exclusive Paris club Silencio appear to have cemented Money’s reputation as the act that hip trendy people want to be seen to like. But what of the substance – whither the music itself?

They specialise in atmospheric, emotive songs of almost indeterminate length, full of portent and innuendo. ‘SOLONG(GODISDEAD)’ (video below), their latest 7” single released on French imprint Almost Musique, weaves gossamer vocals with a droning two-chord rhythm section performance that sounds like it was recorded at the very far end of an enormous cathedral, all the time Jamie Lee emoting like an Alpine cowherd’s morning yawn. Initially completely impenetrable, and even after several listens more of a mood piece than a song, it could be immense, or it could be really dull and not go anywhere at all, depending on one’s mood at the time.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWSRrGGDLBk[/youtube]

That Money are making waves after several name changes and not much more than a year together, indicates that they are doing something right. Whether it’s the vagueness of their promotional material, or some primal human urge to protect such a fragile sound that might collapse at any moment like an under-done soufflé, they are attracting the right attention right now. Whether they can maintain the halos after a gruelling tour of tiny provincial venues, as mere mortal bands are required to do in order to become well-known, remains to be seen.

Despite having been compared to a mellow Manic Street Preachers (surely not their latter incarnation as pious tune-free middle-aged pop-socialists), what Money are most reminiscent of is a young Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Their meandering songs, impenetrable yet vulnerable vocals, and fondness for psychedelic visuals are all shared, as is the vague sense of genuine unease and slight danger. Money add a darker edge, presumably born of one too many rainy Mancunian afternoons, and seem so cavalier with their entire ethos that they might change direction tomorrow. But for now, the dark, experimental sound remains, and for those who want to buy the hippest of hip 7-inchers, spend some money on Money.

Money are scheduled to perform at 20.30 (8:30 PM) on Friday 11th May at Horatios (NME Radar showcase) as part of this year’s Great Escape programming.

 

(Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City 2012 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #240: The Big Sleep

 
By on Thursday, 26th April 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Not to be confused with the chain of hotels, the 1946 Howard Hawks film staring Humphrey Bogart, nor any other act of the same name past or present (yeah, there’s plenty of confusion to be had), the Big Sleep are one of New York’s latest exports and they’re of the dark indie rock variety. Their third album launched in America at the end of January and will be out in Europe at the end of the month, but with a huge UK and European tour coming up to promote it, it seems that the Big Sleep are finally going to be making some waves on the venues and festivals of Britain.

It’s atmospheric, it’s powerful, it’s grungy without being grunge.  They’re more Metric than Sonic Youth, more 2:54 than the xx, but they could fit alongside any of the aforementioned, as long as you’re into dark guitar lines. Their sound to date has been a bit on the rough side, but with years under the belt, it seems the act have steadily tuned into exactly the sound they want to create. The promise that came with the last two LPs has a few months to materialize and with ‘Nature Experiments’, it may well do.

The band are hitting up the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City this year, as well as a host of other UK dates below and there’s no doubt they’ll be bringing a tension-destroying atmosphere with them. In case this still hasn’t sold you, the video for new single ‘Ace’ is also below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yza-e4rjMpQ[/youtube]

Wednesday 2nd May 2012 – Brighton Hope (Great Escape Festival)
Monday 14th May 2012 – Manchester Castle
Tuesday 15th May 2012 – Glasgow Nice ‘n Sleazys
Wednesday 16th May 2012 – London Camden Barfly
Thursday 17th May 2012 – Liverpool Arts Academy (Liverpool Sound City)

 

Bands to Watch #239: China Aster

 
By on Tuesday, 17th April 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Anybody who says that there’s no musical talent in Guernsey needs to wash their ears out. Move to Sweden where all you get is death metal. Maybe slap themselves a little in the face. Then maybe they will consider listening again to the fantastic young talent that is China Aster. They are Josh Moore (guitar and vocals), Oliver Mason (bass) and George Le Page (drums), 3 boys still at school, but you wouldn’t know it though such is the maturity of their onstage personality coupled with their fantastic songs.

Their new EP has been recorded in London and beautifully produced culminating in their first single, the strangely fascinating ‘Combination Style.’ It sounds a bit like Sigur Ros mixed in a kind of strange bizarre dream pop fashion. What it ends up as though is a truly interesting mash up of sound with some haunting vocals thrown over the top of the effortless cool of Moore’s guitars.

The list of what this band has going for them is almost too long for this piece. Josh’s vocals are some of the best you will hear in 2012 all over Spotify, let alone for free on SoundCloud. George and Oliver’s combination in the engine room of the band doesn’t distract attention from the main attraction, yet still manages to remain powerful and useful. At just 18, there’s no telling what’s to come for these boys. All I can say is, get to following them. You want to be able to say, “I was there first!”

 

(SXSW flavoured!) Bands to Watch #238: Ben Howard

 
By on Thursday, 5th April 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Ben Howard has done what I like to call a Frank Turner. He’s worked the circuit for a good few years, then without any forewarning gone and become the coolest singer/songwriter since…well…Frank Turner.

It seems folk/indie is really hitting the mainstream, it started with those lovable faux hicks Mumford and Sons, carried on with new bands like Dry the River (Luke’s Bands to Watch on them here) and is coming to a head with arguably the most talented of the bunch, Mr. Howard himself. Now Ben Howard may only be releasing his debut album ‘Every Kingdom,’ but that isn’t to say he hasn’t paid his dues. Two years of solid touring and building up the kind of devoted fan base that has girls queuing overnight to be at the front for his gigs. (Read Braden’s review of Howard’s show at Shepherds Bush Empire here.)

The anthem of this new group is the horrendously catchy ‘Keep Your Head Up’, an anthem about overcoming adversity through strength of mind. “Keep your head up/Keep your heart strong”: now can anyone complain when a tune with that big a hook that seems to sail through the airwaves and with that kind of uplifting message?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADP65wbBUpc[/youtube]

Ben Howard’s appeal though isn’t just because he’s a dreamy songsmith from Devon. It comes from the fact that the music he makes is actually some extremely good, uplifting music. ‘The Wolves,’ ‘Old Pine’ and ‘These Waters’ are all are examples of Howard’s extraordinary talents as a writer of words. With his influences cited as singer/songwriting legends in the mould of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Howard looks set for a bright career and is doing himself a lot of favours by jumping headfirst straight into the wonderful world of the festival circuit. He is already booked for student favourite Beach Break Live and Scottish blowout T in the Park, meaning others are sure to follow. With positive reviews pouring in from all over the globe, it looks certain that he will follow in Mumford and Sons’ footsteps and do what any British act wishes for: an break in America.

2012 is going to be a massive year in all respects for the 23-year old. But with his horde of dedicated fans, even more Radio1 airplay than those troublesome, talentless Rizzle Kicks boys and a kit full of beautifully crafted songs, it looks like he won’t need to keep his head up, as the rest of us will be doing it for him.

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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