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Album Review: Matt Maltese – Bad Contestant

 
By on Tuesday, 26th June 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Matt Maltese Bad Contestant album coverIn an era where Noughties landfill indie has been usurped by this decade’s overproduced shiny pop, it’s difficult to make a name for yourself if you don’t sound anything like that. The pages of TGTF are littered with artists we love who are anything but conventional. One of the things I most enjoy about South London-based singer/songwriter Matt Maltese is his choice of words. You’re unlikely to find someone else like him on the top 40. If you’re a Morrissey, Leonard Cohen or Divine Comedy fan and you’re used to hearing brutally honest, self-deprecating and often satirical lyrics sung by a crooner, this debut album will be right up your alley. Like those established artists, Maltese is marmite.

‘Bad Contestant’, Maltese’s debut, is a pop album, but one that will make you laugh and ache about that four-letter word called love in equal measures. It begins with the toe-tapping ‘Greatest Comedian’, which compares the woman he loves to “the highest quality hardwood door” and “Jesus” who he’s heard “was a very handsome girl”. The problem? He misses her because she’s so very far away. And so it begins: Love can be an addiction and it doesn’t lead to the best choices, does it? In previously released single ‘Nightclub Love’, he chronicles his blinded-by-love stumblings around the apple of his eye in his most hated of places, a loud and sleazy nightclub. On the jaunty ‘Guilty’, he admits he’s being used by a woman who is already spoken for. Somehow, he always winds up back with her, even at the expense of his own heart, leading to his eventual fate of loneliness.

If it’s all for love, Maltese will gripe about it, but he’ll suck it up in the name of want and desire, even if it’s only temporary. He covers heartbreak equally as well. On ‘Less and Less’, Maltese comfortably scoots into the role of the sad songwriter at the piano, showing himself to be the best 21st century peer to Burt Bacharach. He croons, “you should take yourself / see the daylight and the change that spins / though I ain’t sure I’ll ever feel nothing / I’ll feel settled in a simple sense”. It’s the quiet acceptance that their relationship is over, but he’ll never be the same having loved her.

On the self-deprecating side of things, he is also quick to point out his lowly status on oddly catchy title track ‘Bad Contestant’ – “I’m a dead end, a budget hotel / I’m pretty good at feeling sorry for myself / I’m a deck chair / Your cheap underwear / A bad Christian who never goes to prayer” – before wrapping things up with the immortal line “I ain’t much but baby I could impress you / They say the underdogs are always the best ones”. Like Stornoway’s ‘Love Song of the Beta Male’, Maltese is not the stereotypical macho man who wants to throw his weight around and show off. He might be hard on himself as he was on the aforementioned ‘Nightclub Love’, but he also accepts that he’s better off being the quiet man in the corner.

As if to prove he’s more than a lovesick hack who does everything wrong in his relationships, Maltese’s album ends with two doom and gloom numbers. Early single ‘As the World Caves In’ shows Maltese at his most Morrissey-esque, savouring the last days on earth with the woman he loves and with sweeping grandeur: “oh girl it’s you that I lie with / as the atom bomb locks in”. It’s a heavy-handed way to end the LP with ‘Mortals’, its weightiness about leaving Earth behind seeming out of place with the rest of the LP.

This is not to say that the rest of ‘Bad Contestant’ is light. It’s an album that can make you swoon and nod with agreement, that is if love is your poison and you can relate to the feeling of being swept up by it. If you can’t, this album will be a tough go. Should you open your mind to Matt Maltese’s world – a world with twinkly piano and his droll observations on love and life – don’t be scared, and embrace something different.

8.5/10

Matt Maltese’s debut album ‘Bad Contestant’ is out now on Atlantic Records.

 

Video of the Moment #2857: The Kooks

 
By on Monday, 25th June 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Good news, Kooks fans. The band formed in Brighton have announced their fifth studio album ‘Let’s Go Sunshine’, due for release at the tail-end of August, their newest since 2014’s ‘Listen’. The first track to be unveiled from the upcoming long player is ‘All the Time’. Its accompanying video, set in Canvey Island, takes the simple idea of escape and turns it into a mini-film celebrating friendship and solidarity among young people. Watch the video for single ‘All the Time’ below. Hold tight for ‘Let’s Go Sunshine’, which will be available from the 31st of August on Lonely Cat/AWAL Recordings. For all of TGTF’s coverage on The Kooks, use this link.

 

Live Review: Ciaran Lavery with Dustin Furlow at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 21st June 2018

 
By on Monday, 25th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

It isn’t too often that I attend a seated show. As some of you know, Carrie is the singer/songwriter wonk on staff, not me. I’m used to standing in front of loud amps for whichever pop, rock or electronic gig I’ve chosen for the night. I felt pretty much out of my element, but perhaps this is me turning over a new leaf. Are laidback coffee shop gigs in my future? Have I ::cough:: gone soft? I’ll chew on that thought another time.

I arrived just as American Dustin Furlow began his set. He’s from Virginia Beach, pretty much on the opposite side of the state, but of course not as far as the Northern Irish headliner had to travel. Furlow is an award-winning singer/songwriter, billed as one of the most accomplished in Southeastern Virginia. Something that is nigh impossible to reproduce as other club shows is that gentle, priceless intimacy between artist and fan in a place like this. There’d be a sense of awkwardness in those clubs from both parties if a story like Furlow’s about his drunk on bourbon, shirtless father floating in water, the inspiration for ‘Cherokee Lake’, was told from the stage. And yet, when the story is told at Jammin’ Java, it is a touching tale.

Dustin Furlow Jammin Java 2018

I admit to writing off most singer/songwriters if the melodies and lyrics they offer are weak. What became clear through the two instrumentals in the set alone is that Furlow is a virtuoso on acoustic guitar, something rare and not applauded in popular music these days. Watching his fingers dance across the fretboard was pretty incredible, and this is coming from someone who gave up on guitar because remembering the chords was too hard. When he sang, a surprisingly soulful voice came out on songs like ‘Evergreen’ from his 2017 EP ‘Solo’ or a jaunty cover of the Lindsey Buckingham-centric Fleetwood Mac foot-stomper ‘Big Love’ to close out his set.

TGTF have had wonderful opportunities to cover Northern Ireland’s Ciaran Lavery the last few years, mostly around his appearances during SXSW 2016 and 2017. I wonder why the alt-folk troubadour from the village of Aghagallon isn’t a household name yet like Frank Turner. For me, there are two things that make Lavery stand out head and shoulders above everyone else: his emotional, honest lyrics delivered in a gorgeous Irish brogue. Pretension doesn’t exist in his songwriting, as each tune shows Lavery’s heart on his sleeve.

Ciaran Lavery Jammin Java 2018

Early on, he impressed with the rawness of social anxiety chronicled in ‘Shame’ on his 2013 debut LP ‘Not Nearly Dark’. This past spring, he released ‘Sweet Decay’, his third studio album; at this show, he described how writing with others and having to worry about their opinions as an uncomfortable situation. You couldn’t hear this at all in the a cappella version of the title track he delivered stood in front of us, all in white as a model of vulnerability with aplomb. Lavery’s piano cover of The National’s ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ was an unexpected triumph, finally making the song palatable to me. ‘Wicked Teeth’, a song about going to the dentist (allegedly!), comes across sweetly, revisiting the theme of vulnerability and combining it with love and desire.

Between songs, he seemed entirely relaxed, as if he was giving us a performance in his front room for his best mates. When he asked if anyone in the crowd wasn’t from DC, an audience member yelled, “Dublin!” Lavery chided him with, “you know, I recently played there and with my whole band, you didn’t have to come this far!” Laughter. His story about his trip on Aer Lingus to the States and his difficulty in using their thin, tiny provided blanket was relatable to those of us who have attempted this during a transatlantic flight. Good-natured snufflings abounded. This is a down-to-earth guy with an honest heart and eager to talk to strangers in bars. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the North American towns he has left on his tour of our continent through the start of July, spend an evening being spellbound by him and his music. He plays tonight at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.

Ciaran Lavery Jammin Java 2018 2

 

Album Review: Lily Allen – No Shame

 
By on Monday, 25th June 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Lily CresswellLily Allen No Shame album cover

After a 4-year wait, Lily Allen released her fourth studio album ‘No Shame’. The album feels very much like an extension of her third album ‘Sheezus’, keeping the upbeat vibe, and manufactured beats that lie under the majority of tracks on both ‘Sheezus’ and ‘No Shame’. However, Allen has clearly matured since her 2014 album, which is clear from the unrelenting emotional theme undoubtedly driven by her very fresh divorce from Sam Cooper.

The album appears to have been split into three sections, opening with songs that present a club vibe, leading onto a few incredibly intimate ballads, then ending with some straight-up catchy pop tunes. These three sections leave the album feeling rather discordant, but if you’re willing to dig through this stylistic confusion, there are some absolute gems. The first six tracks on ‘No Shame’ are the weakest of the whole 14. I can’t help but feel that Allen has tried too hard to appeal to Friday night clubbers by using over-processed, worn-out beats that feel out of place with the emotional content of the song.

The lyrics of the first track ‘Come On Then’ are hard-hitting as Allen sings about the tribulations of fame, an issue that is particularly relevant in 2018, especially from a female artist. The subtle touches upon anxiety, depression and the hardships faced by a female in the spotlight are poignant and frankly, a refreshing change of the usual topics featured in the charts of love and heartbreak. Isolate the lyrics, and the track is doing the topic a great deal of justice. For example, the lyrics “my head can’t always hold itself so high / what if inside I’m, dying / every night I’m crying” directly deal Allen’s suppression of feelings whilst in the public eye. However, together with the overdone beats and synths, the serious issue is lost in a cloud of ‘try-hard’ club music.

Just as all hope was about to be lost, Allen saves the album with three shining diamonds: ‘Family Man’, ‘Apples’ and ‘Three’. These three songs slow the pace of the album right down and provide a well-needed resting point. The relaxed tempo, introduction of acoustic instrumentation and beautifully melodic vocal lines give listeners an intimate connection with Allen. ‘Family Man’ allows for a different narrative of the divorce, presenting a vulnerability reflected in the melancholic piano accompaniment, whilst ‘Three’ brings us back to the issue of fame, this time from the perspective of Allen’s 3-year old. This second section of the album is a real highlight of ‘No Shame’ and exhibits the raw talent of Lily Allen.

The final five tracks return us to a brighter mood, exemplifying influences from ‘Sheezus’ and Allen’s earlier releases. Although there are still remnants of processed beats heard earlier in the album, there is much more of a radio pop vibe. In the best possible way, it is easy to imagine ‘Pushing Up Daisies’ or ‘Cake’ becoming a tragedy of radio overplay, going on to be the most remembered tracks of the album. With these, Allen has really succeeded in living up to her old school hits such as ‘22’.

The video for ‘Lost My Mind’ really captures the aesthetic of the album: quirky, yet emotionally expressive. It opens with the Allen sat in a bathroom, wrapped in a towel, sporting a wet hairdo. The normality of this scene creates the sense that the audience are intruding on Allen’s day-to-day life, reflected in the lyrics’ intimacy. We are then taken to a bedroom where the audience are made to feel like a fly on the wall as we watch her argue with her partner. It then reaches an emotionally climactic end, her hopelessness summed up as Allen is drenched in rain. The video is simple, yet powerful and adds an emotional dimension to ‘Lost My Mind’ not conveyed on record.

Bypass the first six songs, and ‘No Shame’ is an album with much promise. Despite the discouraging start and the somewhat conflicting styles, the album shines a light on a vulnerability that connects us to Allen. The general production by Fryars and Mark Ronson is exceptional, particularly in the punchy pop tunes, elevating the album even in its weaker sections. Overall, this is an album worth getting if only for the beautifully intense emotion of ‘Three’.

8/10

Lily Allen’s fourth album ‘No Shame’ is available now on Parlophone and Regal Records. Catch Allen on her world tour taking place from June to December, with four dates in the UK from the 11th to the 17th of December. For more live date information, visit Lily Allen’s official Web site.

 

Video(s) of the Moment #2856: Low

 
By on Friday, 22nd June 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Minnesota’s finest Low have a new album in store for their fans this autumn. ‘Double Negative’ will be out on the 14th of September on Sub Pop and is the newest album from the indie Midwesterners since 2015’s ‘Ones and Sixes’. To build up anticipation and hype for the upcoming long player, the group has revealed the black and white promos for three songs from it: ‘Quorum’, ‘Dancing and Blood’ and ‘Fly’. You can watch them all below. Stay tuned for the release of ‘Double Negative’ in 2 months on Sub Pop Records. For past coverage on Low, follow this link.

 

Video of the Moment #2855: Pumarosa

 
By on Thursday, 21st June 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

One of the big British draws at SXSW 2015 was Pumarosa, described by our Carrie as a “London five-piece powerhouse“. Since their appearances in Austin 2 years ago, things have been on the up and up for the group. Ahead of a big opportunity, as one of the starring acts at the Robert Smith-curated Meltdown this coming Sunday, the 24th of June, they’ve released a new video. ‘Lion’s Den’ is a track on their debut album ‘The Witch’, which came out last year. It now has its own accompanying monochrome video, which you can watch below. Hopefully no bees were harmed in the making of this! For all of our past writings on Pumarosa, go 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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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