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Single Review: Public Service Broadcasting – White Star Liner

 
By on Tuesday, 23rd October 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Oh, yeah! Our favourite bespectacled history boffins Public Service Broadcasting are back with a new release this week. The ‘White Star Liner’ EP premieres this Friday and this time, as its name suggests, the eclectic rockers in tweed have turned their focus on the shipping company founded in Liverpool responsible for building history’s most famous doomed vessel, the Titanic. The EP is a sonic chronicle of its construction and feteing to the demise of the ship and its many passengers.

As in past efforts, the band’s songwriting to retell a story is a respectful treatment of a tale that has been dramatised and along the way lost important details beyond that fateful day in 1912 that deserve to be told. On the title track single in particular, we’re reminded of the grandeur of the ship that was built and what an accomplishment this massive boat was for the times. We take it for granted here in the 21st century what humans were capable of now, but as on 2015 album ‘The Race for Space’, we are gently nudged towards the wonderment and magnitude of the achievement.

In typical Public Service Broadcasting style, the video for ‘White Star Liner’ includes historical footage, in this case playing on a screen behind the band. The location of the filmed performance is particularly poignant: the band appear here at BBC’s Biggest Weekend in Belfast, the Irish port where the Titanic was built. One of the text slides in the video reads, “Happiness is the keynote of travel and its sweetest expression is a smile.” It’s immediately preceded by an image of a grinning woman with a veil, presumably waving to her loved ones back on shore.

The optimistic guitar lines of ‘White Star Liner’ further remind us that the launching of the Titanic was a time of celebration and a look forward towards a new age in maritime travel. Many of those onboard the ship were taking the transatlantic trip to a new land and a new life. While it will be impossible to separate the ship from its eventual disastrous end, I can appreciate the band’s effort to bring a sense of optimism about this story back into the public consciousness and indeed, during a period of human history during which we could all use the feeling of unity. That’s worth supporting 100%.

8/10

New EP ‘White Star Liner’ from Public Service Broadcasting is out this Friday, the 26th of October, on PIAS. For all of our past coverage on the band here on TGTF, come through.

 

Album Review: IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance

 
By on Monday, 22nd October 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

We had a busy summer and missed reviewing IDLES‘ second album. Happily, we have new writer Gareth O’Malley stepping in and rectifying the situation. His words follow.

IDLES Joy as an Act of Resistance album cover>Bristol-based punks IDLES could have been forgiven for taking some time off after they finished touring ‘Brutalism’, their incendiary debut album, but the quintet had other ideas. Chief among them was heading right back into the studio and putting together its successor. That ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ came together as quickly as it did shouldn’t be surprising, given how the band have become known for throwing themselves into a tough tour schedule in recent years. They’ve made up for lost time – no more 3-year gaps between releases like what happened with their 2012 debut EP ‘Welcome’ and its 2015 follow-up ‘Meat’ – and have no plans to slow down any time soon.

That sense of urgency is also a key part of their sound: up-tempo, riff-heavy material matched in its intensity by firebrand frontman Joe Talbot’s emotional lyrical bent, delivered in a full-throated roar. There’s little room to breathe across this LP’s 12 tracks. Though the record is by turns both personal and political, it’s pretty full-on throughout. Even its softest song, ‘June’, is a heartbreaking eulogy for Talbot’s stillborn child, an unflinching look at an episode of personal devastation and grief. Among the many topics it tackles are mental health, xenophobia, violence, classism and above all, self-acceptance. “If someone talked to you the way you do to you / I’d put their teeth through / Love yourself!” Talbot yells encouragingly on ‘Television’, a song that shouts down unrealistic beauty standards and the effect they can have on self-esteem.

That track pairs well with the ferocious ‘Samaritans’, whose own message of self-love is delivered as a call for men to cast aside the mask of masculinity worn by previous generations (“This is why you never see your father cry”) and express their emotions instead of bottling everything up. Driven by a powerhouse performance from drummer Jon Beavis, it’s a rallying cry for a society – and the music industry – blighted by a rise in male suicides. Fighting to end the stigma around mental health issues, the band also contribute their take on American preacher and soul singer Solomon Burke’s ‘Cry to Me’ as the record’s penultimate track. The justice they do to it, you’d think it’s an IDLES original unless told otherwise. It allows the listener some downtime before the band bring the album to a clattering halt with the anarchic ‘Rottweiler’, a growler of a track that predates even ‘Brutalism’ but makes an ideal closing track.

They certainly know how to bookend their albums; in terms of sheer energy, ‘Rottweiler’ is matched, perhaps even bettered by the two-part cinematic opener and obvious live favourite ‘Colossus’, which builds steadily over 3 minutes before coming to a halt. This is the calm before Beavis counts the band back in, the song erupting into a chaotic shout-along with some of the album’s most quotable lyrics. All together now: “I’m like Stone Cold Steve Austin / I put homophobes in coffins / I’m like Fred Astaire / I dance like I don’t ca-yerrrrre” (emphasis theirs, not ours). Combined with the cathartic heaviness of ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’, these two tracks generate enough energy to power a mid-sized town.

Elsewhere, the band extol the virtues of immigrant workers and c-o-m-m-u-n-i-t-y on ‘Danny Nedelko’,named for the frontman of Bristolian buds Heavy Lungs, whom have since returned the favour), blast Brexiteers on ‘Great’ and take themselves down a peg while simultaneously lampooning those who might take issue with their left-leaning politics on the self-effacing ‘I’m Scum’. Even ‘Love Song’ takes the age-old view of romance and turns it on its head with a dose of white-knuckle noise rock. Across the 42 minutes of ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’, a lot of ground is covered, and you might need time to take it all in afterward. But you’ll be glad you did because it is, hands down, the most vital rock record of the year. You might have missed out on ‘Brutalism’, but don’t miss out on this one.

9/10

Bristol punks IDLES’ sophomore album ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ is out now on Partisan Records. For more of our articles here on TGTF on IDLES, follow this link.

 

Single Review: White Lies – Time to Give

 
By on Tuesday, 9th October 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

I’m a few weeks late in reviewing the latest new material from West London’s gloom and doom guys White Lies. In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing, given that the single is over 7 and a half minutes long and acts like a play with three parts. Really. The release of this single coincided with the announcement of their next album, their fifth, unimaginatively titled ‘Five’, out in early 2019. The press release for ‘Time to Give’ includes the following quote from the band: “This is a milestone record for White Lies. It marks our decade as a band, which has pushed us to expand our sound and reach new territory artistically – it marks the start of a new and exciting chapter for us.” Colour me intrigued. With such a long track as their first statement made on the upcoming record, maybe it’s a sign they’re heading into prog territory? But let’s get down to the review first, shall we?

Listeners will focus on an insistent, almost ghostly, repetitive synth note progression early on in ‘Time to Give’. The lyrics in the chorus are heartfelt, from a man trying to convince his partner who wants to leave to change her mind and stay: “If you’ve got the mind to leave / Then pick a topic to talk about / God knows I’ve time to give / You’ve got the backbone to stick around”. After an icy instrumental break, these are some of Harry McVeigh’s most vulnerable, honest vocals to date: “I know the theme / Luck has never been into me / I’m a catch to pain / And you dress the scars to proof”.

A much longer instrumental break follows, the volume and complexity of the instrumentation both increasing towards a crescendo. If the song ended when reaching this peak, it would have totally made sense, given the height of emotion conveyed through McVeigh’s vocals. Instead of closing out the song, McVeigh’s voice comes back into the mix, a man shouting against a wall of sound and stabs of synths, an insurmountable goal as stopping a lover from leaving him for good. The song ends with a continuation of the cacophony, McVeigh’s cynicism a resignation to the fact that no matter the ‘Time to Give’ and all that you offer, sometimes it’s just not enough. Emotionally, Charles Cave has written a grand opus, but does this mean we’ll be receiving a whole album of tracks like this in the new year? Could be a bit much, am I right?

7.5/10

‘Time to Give’, the newest single from White Lies, is out now on PIAS. ‘Five’ will be released on the 1st of February 2019. The group will be embarking on a UK tour to support the LP on the 31st of January in Brighton. To catch up on all of TGTF’s past coverage on White Lies, use this link.

 

In the Post #163: Ben Howard follows his ‘Noonday Dream’ with three new tracks, including a surprise collaboration with alt-pop duo Sylvan Esso

 
By on Tuesday, 25th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Summer may be drawing to a close, but reminiscences of warm and sunny days are still fresh in our collective memory. With this in mind, singer/songwriter Ben Howard has just released a handful of new singles hot on the heels of his summer LP ‘Noonday Dream’, which was released back in June. As often happens, the recording sessions for the album were overly prolific, but in a fortunate sort of way. Howard himself says, “The recording sessions for ‘Noonday Dream’ were so varied and over quite a period of time. There were little gems that we didn’t know what to do with, but it felt right to put these three together, both separate and a part of the album, so to speak.”

One of those so-called gems is a surprise collaboration between Howard and American electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso. Called ‘Hot Heavy Summer’, the track does indeed feel tangentially related to the ephemeral vignettes on ‘Noonday Dream’. The addition of Amelia Meath’s backing vocals keeps the soundscape brighter and more buoyant than the title might imply, while the rounded hollow of the percussion beat lends a very definite substance to Howard’s otherwise evanescent arrangement. Apropos to the song’s title, ‘Hot Heavy Summer’ was featured as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World last Thursday, 13th September. Speaking on BBC Radio 1, Howard related that Meath’s lilting voice came immediately to mind for this song: “Amelia is just incredible, fortune prevailed, and we managed to get in the studio. I had it in the back of my mind as soon as we initially recorded ‘Hot Heavy Summer’ that the track just felt right for her.” If you’re interested in the full radio clip, you can listen back to it for a limited time on the BBC Radio 1 iPlayer.

‘Hot Heavy Summer’ is accompanied by two other tracks leftover from the ‘Noonday Dream’ sessions, a dark narrative called ‘Another Friday Night’ and the electronically experimental ‘Sister’. While these tracks don’t quite fit into the artistically cinematic nature of ‘Noonday Dream’, Howard is right in saying that they’re too good to go unheard. You can take a listen to all three tracks via Spotify, just below.

8.5/10

Ben Howard has a run of live dates in the UK planned for this winter, including two nights at the Manchester Apollo in December and three nights at London’s Brixton Academy after the start of the new year. Tickets for the following shows are available now.

Friday 7th December – Glasgow Hydro Arena
Saturday 8th December – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Monday 10th December – Manchester Apollo
Tuesday 11th December – Manchester Apollo
Wednesday 16th January 2019 – London Brixton Academy
Thursday 17th January 2019 – London Brixton Academy
Friday 18th January 2019 – London Brixton Academy

You can read TGTF’s past coverage of Ben Howard right back here, and our coverage of Sylvan Esso is collected through here.

 

In the Post #162: American singer/songwriter Gill Landry begins work on his follow-up to ‘Love Rides a Dark Horse’ with a unique PledgeMusic campaign

 
By on Monday, 24th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

If you’re a regular TGTF visitor, you might have read last year about alt-country singer/songwriter Gill Landry and his brilliant fourth studio album ‘Love Rides a Dark Horse’.  Almost a year on from its release, that album is still in regular rotation in my own music library, but not one to rest on his laurels, Landry has already begun work on his next recording project. According to a post on his Instagram, this as-yet-unnamed fifth album will be comprised of songs written over the summer in France, in a period of just 4 weeks’ time. With the film noir vibe of ‘Love Rides a Dark Horse’ still firmly in mind, a set of new Gill Landry songs steeped in French je ne sais quoi seems a very promising proposition indeed.

With the songwriting swiftly completed, Landry now sets to work on the recording of the album. To this end, he has started a PledgeMusic campaign, which he says he hopes will allow him “to afford the time to take on this task with the care and attention I feel it deserves.” Pledged funds will be used to independently finance the studio time, guest musicians, and mixing expenses for the album, and Landry has an interesting selection of merchandise on offer in return for fan pledges. Aside from his artful and evocative songwriting, Landry is also a skilled photographer and visual artist, and his PledgeMusic store includes handmade block-printed tarot cards, prints of his own original photography, and a handful of other unique items.

You can explore the complete merchandise listing and make a donation to the project on Landry’s PledgeMusic page by clicking this link. But before you do, take a listen to Landry’s personal message from about the new project in the video just below. ICYMI, our two-part interview with Gill Landry from last autumn can be found by clicking here and here. Our complete previous coverage of Landry is collected back this way.

 

Album Review: The Last Bison – SÜDA

 
By on Wednesday, 19th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Matthew Simmons

LB_Suda-album-artAmerican folk rock band The Last Bison have undertaken some significant changes since we last heard from them back in 2015. Perhaps most obviously, the band’s lineup has slimmed down from five members to three, with the departures of founding members Dan Hardesty and Annah Housworth following the band’s third album ‘VA’ (pronounced as “Virginia”, the state the band hails from). Now comprised of Ben Hardesty (vocals, guitar, percussion), Amos Housworth (cello, bass), and Andrew Benfante (keys, organ, guitar), The Last Bison have been forced to rethink their musical palette, but rather than streamlining, the resulting transformation feels more like a complete and deliberate redefinition of the band’s signature sound.

From the opening track of new album ‘SÜDA’, it’s clear that The Last Bison is no longer the organic alt-folk collective we once knew. ‘By My Side’ is a slow prelude to the album proper, but its cool synthetic haze, whispered vocals, and distorted guitars are already a major change from the band’s previously warm, folk-flavoured acoustic rock. Synths, bass, and percussion continue to dominate the musical arrangements throughout the album, beginning with ‘Cold Night’, where frontman Hardesty sings, perhaps ironically and perhaps not, of a past warmth (“comfort like a mother’s hold / the words she spoke set all our hearts aglow”) contrasting with a colder, harsher present reality.

Early single ‘Gold’ is immediately rhythmic, with novel percussion and a prominent bass riff among its distinctive characteristics. Its opening lines, “I used to run with the Navajo / now I cut trees with the Inca, though / I traded my horses in for gold / I won’t be forgetting you”, refer to frontman Hardesty’s childhood days in South America, when his parents served as missionaries to Bolivia. The album’s press release describes that time as central to this record: “The songs of ‘SÜDA’ reflect on that period of gained knowledge and experience, with themes of longing, times remembered, times to come, and the desire for spiritual fulfillment.”

However, from this point forward, the thematic references become more obscure and the lyrics more heavily dependent on well-worn metaphors. ‘Blood’ is dark and dramatic, with cello and piano ornamentation adding a touch of light behind the shadowy synth backdrop. In fact, these instrumental moments are more memorable than the song’s awkward refrain: “there you were like a thief in the night / unexpectedly arriving to steal / with my heart on the line / blood was pumping to a wound that had healed / I was yours for a time / for a moment there, you taught me to feel”. The album’s title track, an bright yet introspective ballad, comes midway through the track sequence, but doesn’t do much to clarify the album’s musical intent with its mild ’80s rock sound and its head-scratcher of a refrain: “splitting apart my head / sewing it up with Dixieland”.

In the second half of the tracklisting, a variety of rhythmic devices saves ‘SÜDA’ from capitulating to the increasing banality of its lyrics. ‘Anywhere You Go’ has an almost jazzy, r&b kind of feel to its smooth synth melodies and elastic bassline, while ‘The Glow’ and ‘Echo of Eden’ rely on prominent percussion and tribal rhythms to make their emotional mark. One of the strongest tracks on the album, ‘The Glow’ is slow and seductive, its serpentine motion punctuated by a strongly rhythmic backing chorus. ‘Echo of Eden’ is slightly less effective in its overarching social statement, with lyrics ultimately too vague to be very meaningful.

Though the rhythmic and instrumental variety on ‘SÜDA’ is interesting, the album overall feels a bit indecisive in its lyrics and its stylistic leanings. The Last Bison’s recent lineup changes have had a tangible impact on the band’s musical choices, some of which were undoubtedly made out of necessity. The synth heavy musical arrangements here are experimental and occasionally inspired, but not enough so to cover for the lyrical weaknesses, especially late in the tracklisting. However, ‘SÜDA’ is nonetheless a brave and earnest attempt to forge a new musical style from an admittedly more limited toolbox of sounds. Venturing away from their former folk rock comfort zone, Ben Hardesty and his colleagues may seem a bit aimless at the moment, but ‘SÜDA’ provides them with several promising departure points for a possible next attempt.

6/10

The Last Bison’s fourth studio album ‘SÜDA’ is due for release on this Friday, the 21st of September, on AntiFragile Records. You can read through TGTF’s past coverage of The Last Bison by clicking here.

 
 
 

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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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