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Album Review: The Temper Trap – Thick as Thieves

By on Thursday, 16th June 2016 at 12:00 pm

The Temper Trap Thick as Thieves album coverIt’s been quite some time since we’ve heard from Aussies The Temper Trap. It’s been so long that frankly, after the way their second album ‘The Temper Trap’ was pretty much panned across the board for lack of a vision, I wasn’t really sure if they had it in them to continue. The band were hit out at for being uninspired, including on ‘London’s Burning’, painfully revisiting the London Riots that were on their doorstep during the time they lived in the Capital. Four years since that release and another incredible 7 years after their well-received debut LP, they’ve attempted to return to their earlier ‘Conditions’. The question is, will anyone be listening?

The name ‘Thick as Thieves’ is a reference to the band’s soldiering on as a four-piece following the amicable depature of lead guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto and the strong, brotherly bond that has grown between them since. Joseph Greer, who came aboard as a touring member around the time of ‘Conditions’, has grown into the lead guitarist position since Sillitto’s departure but is also still on keyboards. Structurally, the biggest change on this album compared to past efforts was their willingness to work with other outside songwriters.

An idea previously shunned by the band, it gives the LP somewhat of a patchwork feel, with so many (and possible too many) cooks in the kitchen. Early single ‘Fall Together’ is the result of a collaboration with frequent Lana Del Rey cowriter Justin Parker. Its bouncy, buzzy synths are innocuous, but the overall it’s a mainstream, feel good anthem led by frontman Dougy Mandagi’s massive vocals, recalling the best populist moments from their debut. Both the title track and ‘Lost’ are cut from a similar cloth, with even its lyrical content similar: all three explore the importance of unbreakable relationships.


Speaking of, one will begin to notice a weird phenomenon after listening to the album all the way through more than once. There isn’t much variation to the topics being broached on ‘Thick as Thieves’. ‘Burn’, whose title might suggest the passion of a romance heating up, is less about anything salacious and more about taking a chance in a general sense. It begins on a nice, winsome note, building towards an upbeat tempo, perfect for ‘Sweet Disposition’-esque festival pogoing, if you were wondering. ‘Alive’ includes the trite lyrics of “it feels so good to be alive!”, which are not unlike those from ‘Burn’ (“you’ve got burn just to feel alive”). I realise that Carrie and I spend much more time looking at song lyrics than the average journo. However, anyone not a pedant like us would notice and be put off by what comes across as lazy songwriting.


‘Alive’ is followed by ‘Riverina’ and ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’. While neither is spectacular, the fact that they’re structurally different makes them of interest. The former has a very catchy melody and sees The Temper Trap on the anthem motorway once again. Hats off to Pascal Gabriel, famed for writing some of Dido and Kylie Minogue’s biggest hits, so it’s not a surprise this is one of the album’s standouts. Close your eyes, and the guitars of ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’ are lifted from ‘Science of Fear’, just slowed down. If you have spent any significant time with ‘Conditions’ like I have (I taught myself bass with it), you will get a sense of deja vu from time to time listening to ‘Thick as Thieves’. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your point of view: do you want something that’s comfortable, or something that’s beguiling in its newness?

Years ago, I had the pleasure of having a relaxed conversation with Mandagi outside the House of Blues in Boston in October 2010, hours before their headline show there. He asked me point-blank what I thought of their debut album, wanting my opinion of it. By that time, I’d seen them perform a few times but was still pretty much a rookie at covering live shows, let alone interacting with rock stars. I bit the bullet, somewhat painfully disclosing to him that I far preferred their live set to them on record, figuring he’d never read my review of it on TGTF. 

Instead of reacting badly, he appreciated my honesty, grinning and agreeing with me. He said that when the band were in the studio, he felt like they were holding themselves back, whereas live, they would leave everything behind onstage and give it their all. There’s certainly nothing objectionable here on ‘Thick at Thieves’, but like its 2012 predecessor, there is a weird lack of inventiveness and sheer excitement throughout, leaving the listener wanting so much more. However, having experienced them many times live, including their headline slot at the TGTF stage at Liverpool Sound City 2012, I will wait to cast further judgment until after I’ve seen them play this album live this autumn.


‘Thick as Thieves’, The Temper Trap’s third album, is out now on Infectious Records in the UK and Glassnote Records in America. For more coverage on TGTF on the Aussie band, follow this link.


Album Review: Spring King – Tell Me If You Like To

By on Thursday, 9th June 2016 at 12:00 pm

Spring King TMIYLT coverWe at TGTF first covered Manchester garage rock band Spring King back in 2015, when they appeared at that year’s SXSW Music Festival. At that point, Spring King (comprising lead singer, songwriter and drummer Tarek Musa along with Peter Darlington on lead guitar, Andy Morton on rhythm guitar and James Green on bass) were working feverishly to make their name known. In my review of their performance at the 2015 Transgressive Records showcase, I commented on the band’s “strong sense of propulsive momentum and energy”, which has now materialised in the form of a full-length album titled ‘Tell Me If You Like To’.

As far as energy and momentum are concerned, ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ delivers on Spring King’s early promise. The album is a massive wall of sound from beginning to end, rarely pausing to catch a breath, much less relax or rest on its own laurels. The album’s opening track is the insistent and rather clamorous early single ‘City’, which was drawn from the band’s 2015 EP ‘They’re Coming After You’ and which was chosen as the first song to be played on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 radio on Apple Music in June 2015.


Late album track ‘Demons’ is taken from Spring King’s 2014 EP of the same title, but the rest of the album is composed of new material, including recent singles ‘Rectifier’ and ‘Detroit’. Following ‘City’ in the tracklisting, ‘Detroit’ continues the album’s breakneck, full-tilt pace with fuzzy guitar melodies and unrelenting drums. Its rather morose verse lyrics contrast sharply with the undeniably catchy chorus line “I don’t wanna be nowhere else except for Detroit city”.

The album’s tone turns slightly darker with the deep bass growl and existential chorus of standout track ‘Who Are You?’. Musa’s vocals aren’t particularly remarkable, but his lyrics occasionally are, including the refrain “tonight I just wanna be somebody else, somebody new / tonight I just wanna be something that I can say is true”, and the echoing repeat of the song’s title line. An unexpected sax solo just before the final chorus feels somewhat out of place in the context of the song’s frenetic psych/punk/rock tone and is the first hint of overproduction on Musa’s part.

One of the album’s relatively slower moments is in the chugging tempo, echoing vocals and slightly softer verse dynamic of ‘It’s So Dark’. That song’s overarching darkness theme segues quite nicely into the hazy, drunken tempo of the surprisingly sensual  ‘Take Me Away’. These mid-album tracks, where Spring King step momentarily outside the confines of their garage rock comfort zone, are among the most interesting moments on the LP.

Title track ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ is decidedly brash and unreasonably bratty, adamantly declaring “tell me if you like to / I wanna fight you / punch you through the ceiling / I got the feeling now” in its opening lines. ‘The Summer’, Musa’s ode to Beach Boys icon Brian Wilson, was featured as BBC Radio 1’s Track of the Day back in May. But rather than lifting the album’s mood, the song somehow comes across as a bit murky, despite a bright keyboard melody peeking through the heavy rhythm section and a full chorus of backing vocals.


Final track ‘Heaven’ achieves a slightly more lofty tone, despite its muscular framework of bass and drums. Its oft-repeated chorus “heaven, heaven, heaven is where you know yourself / and you’ve opened your heart to someone else” could easily become a live singalong favourite; expect to hear it on Spring King’s October tour of the UK.

In the end, Spring King seem to have gotten caught between two of their own stylistic tendencies, manic post-punk and slacker garage rock. The relentless drive and energy of the punk side, which seems to be Spring King’s stronger suit, eventually becomes bogged down in the album’s hefty instrumental arrangements and overblown vocal distortions. But while the production on ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ is perhaps a bit heavy-handed, Tarek Musa and Spring King have nonetheless put together a solid collection of generally likable songs that will no doubt continue to garner attention.


Spring King’s debut album ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ is due out tomorrow, the 10th of June, via Island Records. TGTF’s previous coverage of Spring King is back here.


Album Review: Oscar – Cut and Paste

By on Tuesday, 7th June 2016 at 12:00 pm

Oscar Cut and Paste album coverCreativity runs in Oscar Scheller’s blood: both of his parents were musicians and encouraged his musical pursuits from a young age. Classically trained, Scheller was first taught piano, then to sing. It’s perhaps no surprise that he’s ended up writing and recording his own music considering his immersion in creativity from such a young age. Add to this, a range of influences including non other than Missy Eliot, and an interesting image of Scheller starts to form. ‘Cut and Paste’ is Oscar’s debut album, which was released in the middle of last month on Wichita Recordings. Prior to the album’s release, Oscar released three singles that appear on the album, ‘Breaking My Phone’, ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Good Things’.

‘Cut and Paste’ is a rich tapestry of bright melodies, catchy guitar hooks and vulnerable yet playful lyrics, with just a touch of melancholy in the softer moments. The subject matter of many of the songs is simplistic in nature, but speak of ordinary experiences that anyone can relate to. This is a collection of 10 songs dealing with all manner emotions and feelings, against the backdrop of a glistening guitar and subtle synth aura. Really, it’s a radiant, shimmering indie pop piece of work in its own right, and feels like it would be a fitting soundtrack to a kooky, playful film. It’s definitely going to be the soundtrack to my summer.

‘Sometimes’ opens the album, a bright, playful song that demands to be heard. The whirring guitar hooks and measured cacophony of sound that bursts out after the first few moments echoes Britpop giants Blur. The lyrics are simple and sweet, such as “I was always bad at sports / I won’t play your game”, but with knowing hints, like “always when you’re in my room / I know the things I wanna do”. Scheller’s baritone deeply resonates, yet is crisp and bright. Occasionally I’m reminded of Morrissey, and other times of Ricky Wilson on early Kaiser Chiefs‘ albums. It’s a standout hit and a great way to start off the album.


‘Feel It Too’ is one of my favourite songs on the album, and it’s also the shortest. The opening lyrics, “oh you know how slow time goes”, is drawled out in a Morrisey-esque fashion. But the chorus is optimistic and upbeat: “I hope that you still feel it too / like I do”. It’s hard to not be drawn in by the sweetness and sincerity of the lyrics, which resonate with pretty everyone who’s ever been a teenager and had a crush. Scheller continues to sing ,“I hope you do” and “I feel it too” as the song plays out, with string elements being heard in the background, further adding to the gently hopeful feelings to the song.

In ‘Breaking My Phone’, the layering of drums and guitars along with the distorted sounds, is reminiscent of ‘90s Britpop, but with lyrics that speak of a contemporary culture where relationships play out more often than not through our smartphones. Scheller sings, “’cos I keep on breaking my phone / my phone after I’ve spoken to you”, such an addictive lyrical hook that bursts out on the chorus, along with a crashing of guitars and synth tones following a calmer verse.


The rest of the album is also pretty solid, featuring a number of great tracks. ‘Daffodil Days’ is slower during the verses, with a musically upbeat, yet lyrically morose chorus, epitomised in the oft repeated: “I will break / whatever good thing comes my way”. ‘Good Things’ sounds like it’s been influenced by Scheller’s classical roots, with light string sounds appearing in the chorus. The lyrics “we’re all waiting for good things to happen / everyone knows it’s true” and “we all want to be loved by one another”, speak to the simplest things that we all want.

As a collection, each track is unique and just as engaging in its own way. The songs doesn’t exactly merge from one into the next in the way that an album sounds when it’s written as one entity. ‘Cut and Paste’ sounds, as the title suggests, like a selection of songs collected from the many years that Oscar has been writing and recording in his bedroom prior to the LP’s release. But that’s not necessarily a negative thing. This is an album that feels more like a carefully curated soundtrack pulled from different aspects of Scheller’s life and influences.


‘Cut and Paste’, Oscar’s debut album, is out now on Wichita Recordings. He has a number of upcoming dates around the UK and Europe, including a bunch of festival appearances such as LeeFest: The Neverland 2016 in Tunbridge Wells and Secret Garden Party 2016 in Huntingdon. For more on Oscar, including coverage of him at SXSW 2016 and editor Mary’s interview with him in Austin, go here.


Album Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Ride

By on Monday, 6th June 2016 at 12:00 pm

Words by Aine Cronin-McCartneyCatfish and the Bottlemen The Ride album cover

Nothing seems to be able to stop the rise and rise of the Catfish and the Bottlemen at the moment. After the release of their debut album ‘The Balcony’ in 2014, the group have had a spectacularly successful time since. Their ascent from obscurity into the illustrious position they now hold in the mainstream music sphere has been astonishing. Catfish and the Bottlemen’s second album ‘The Ride’ was released as a surprise on the 27th of May. It follows a 2015 filled by an abundance of festival slots and sold out shows across the UK. These taken together likely helped them secure British Breakthrough Act at the 2016 Brit Awards despite doubts from some critics.

While musically very similar to their first release, ‘The Ride’ epitomises everything that is good about British indie rock: certainly a revived and revitalised genre, and far from being dead. The self-confessed crowd pleasers, spoke ahead of the release of their second album with frontman and lead singer Van McCann explaining to NME, “I feel like everybody started thinking too outside the box, trying to be arty and different. We wanted to stay inside the box.” For many, this sort of proclamation would have them give up music altogether. As McCann says, simplicity is the key to the masses. Along with their meat and potatoes philosophy towards their music, the Bottlemen have amassed a very dedicated following. Their appeal with their no nonsense approach has perhaps been the secret to the Bottlemen’s success and the phenomenon of their influence.

Staying true to writing what he knows, a lot of McCann’s lyrics revolve around a lot of recurring motifs that were very present in ‘The Balcony’, including girls, relationships, touring and parties. Opening song ‘7’ expands a stripped-back guitar into a strong acoustic bridge. This gives way to what could almost be described as the quintessential Bottlemen chorus with its soaring refrain, showing the band have a steady understanding of the subtleties of arena-sized rock. The Bottlemen’s secret weapon that comes in the form of frontman Van McCann oozes such a natural confidence, and while his lyrics are not as profound as some, they are laden with vivid imagery that make a connection with their audience.


‘Oxygen’ is an up-tempo track that exudes with pulsating appeal, its soaring chorus quite reminiscent of songs by Oasis when they were in their prime. Having always been very vocal for their love and affinity for the Mancunian band, plus procuring Dave Sardy as their producer, meant that such comparisons were inevitable. But that does not necessarily make for a bad thing. There has been seemingly large void to fill for a while, with no UK band being able to leave an impression on the music scene that Oasis once occupied. Perhaps Catfish and the Bottlemen are the band to do so.

Songs ‘Heathrow’ and ‘Glasgow’ are the only songs that break up the continuance of anthemic rock throughout the album, providing a very welcome disruption. ‘Heathrow’ certainly feels like an attempt to imitate a self-confessional styled acoustic number. It manages to create an ominous atmosphere while emphasising McCann’s ability as a vocalist, making it one of the album’s standout songs. In comparison, ‘Glasgow’ fails to hit the mark with its desperately one-dimensional and simplistic guitar playing and unremarkable vocals.


The album is certainly delivered with a level of maturity and sophistication that was evidently absent in ‘The Balcony’. There’s a much more deliberate approach to evolving their stadium sized rock sound. The new material has shown the Bottlemen to be much more than initially perceived supplying the masses with stories and tales of everyman’s ride through life. And it’s all neatly packaged with their easy to swallow lyrics that you are sure to hear bellowed at every festival this summer. It is almost impossible to not find yourself being swept along by the undeniably catchy choruses and melodic guitar. This is especially true on songs such as ‘Soundcheck’ (video above), with its rising chorus and brazen self-confidence.

While there are no truly massive standout moments from the new album, ‘The Ride’ will certainly succeed in connecting with audiences and inciting stadium-sized singalongs. Maybe album three will give The Bottlemen the classic hit they are trying so desperately to find?


‘The Ride’, the sophomore album from Welsh band Catfish and the Bottlemen, is out now on Island Records. For more on the band on TGTF, go here.


Album Review: Barry Hyde – Malody

By on Friday, 3rd June 2016 at 4:00 pm

Header photo by Ian West

Barry Hyde Malody album cover, photo by Ian WestFor most of his adult life, Barry Hyde has been best known as the guitar-playing frontman for Sunderland post-punk group The Futureheads. To the outside world as the leader of the North East band, he was an irrepressible ball of energy, his charisma and crazy antics onstage legendary. When I saw the band live in 2010, he even went so far to send me a direct message on Twitter, promising they’d knock my socks off at the Black Cat.

To Hyde himself, the stage, ‘turned on’ version of himself served as a cover for the confusion and instability within. It would take years and a series of fateful incidents – including an ill-advised period of ‘dropping out’ with meditating yoga devotees that actually did more harm to his mental health than good, as well as the dissolution of his marriage – before he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

But mental illness is an insidious beast. At the worst of times, destruction seems an easier path than rebuilding. Somehow, from hell and back and with the continued support of family and friends, Barry Hyde has survived. He’s come through and out the other side intact but with a better appreciation for life and his own resilience, knowing what trials his psyche has been through. Released today, Hyde’s labour of love, the evidence of his survival, is contained in his debut solo album ‘Malody’, a term he coined to combine his two worlds of music (melody) and illness (malady).

Though this album originated as a vampire musical that was rejected by his Futurehead bandmates, you can still hear whiffs of its operatic early beginnings. The biggest surprise about ‘Malody’ to longtime Futureheads fans will be its focus on piano as the primary instrument instead of guitar. Hyde proves that the piano – along with some incredible backing by an orchestral six-piece – can be a powerful musical device, mirroring the emotional depth he explores against himself, within himself, of his journey back from the abyss and in his continued survival.

Hyde begins our journey with him with the generically titled ‘Theme’, as if we’re about to be treated to a film. Who is it that said, “my life is a movie”? Like how 19-year old Crohn’s disease sufferer Aimee Rouski proved this week that invisible illnesses should be shared and given attention, ‘Theme’ is a nice start to show sometimes things aren’t what they seem, as then the album goes into the frenetic piano playing of ‘Blixer’. Showing the agitated side of his illness, Hyde says of the song, “it burns my arm when I play it, but it has to because I was burning my soul when I was manic.” One of the most difficult things for people who don’t suffer mental illness to understand is that the manifestations are out of the sufferer’s control. That fact makes it all the worse, because the only action that makes sense for the person to take is the one that feels right to him and his body at that moment.

On the whirling dervish that is ‘Monster Again’, Barry Hyde tackles head on the inherent evil of manic depression, not knowing what mood he will be in throughout the day. Will he feel fine, or will he suddenly change and feel like a different person, out of control? Those with chronic illness are united with the knowledge that there are good days and there are bad days, and even with the best of intentions, taking medication properly and getting proper rest, there are great unknowns and trials to face ahead. Knowing what I know about Barry’s mental state, the challenging, in your face nature of 2010 Futureheads album ‘The Chaos’ now makes total sense. (It’s one of my favourite albums ever.) How funny that even without knowing it on a conscious level, I entirely related to its many moods because unbeknowst to me, I had something in common with their singer. Constructed by Hyde as a direct confrontation to the psychic leeches that sap a bipolar patient’s mental energy, ‘Sugar’ is a much more personal, elegant version of Katy Perry’s ‘Hot and Cold’:

I knew you
You would
Rub my face
In to the mud
But then you wrap me
In your silken gown
’cause when you took my heart
You also took my frown

Back-to-back tracks of ‘Lonely’ and ‘Loneliness’ highlight the ability of such an illness and its manifestations to isolate the patient from the rest of the world. Both have moments of seeming serenity, then punctuated by louder, jauntier expressions of the other side of the coin. A cover of Prince’s ‘Sometimes It Snows in April’, particularly poignant with the Purple One’s passing several weeks ago, continues the Futureheads’ impressive tradition of wonderfully reimagined versions of their originals. This one, along with ‘While We Were Sleeping’, drives home the fact that despite any crazy antics others may witness, those with mental illness are some of the most emotionally insightful people who will ever grace your life.

“You run away like you don’t belong / under the weather, under the sun”, Hyde sings in the album’s grand closer ‘Thunder Song’. In this emotionally raw debut album ‘Malody’, he has bared all, pulling back the curtain on those who have been misunderstood, confused, ill and made lonely. We still have a long way to go in erasing all stigma in mental illness. But in this astonishing display of honesty about his own struggles, Barry Hyde has proved in a powerful way and in the best way he knows how – through music – that there is a way back home again.


‘Malody’, the emotional solo debut album by Barry Hyde, is out today on Sirenspire Records. This editor hopes with all her heart that he will make it out to America someday soon to perform these songs live.


Album Review: Amber Arcades – Fading Lines

By on Thursday, 2nd June 2016 at 12:00 pm

Amber Arcades Fading Light album coverAnnelotte de Graaf, better known under her stage name Amber Arcades, has led a pretty interesting life so far. I touched upon some of this in my Bands to Watch feature on her following her appearance at SXSW 2016. De Graaf’s serious endeavours are contrasted with the gentle nature of Amber Arcades’ music: De Graaf previously worked as a legal aide, and she is currently working in human rights law with people who have fled from Syria. On the musical front, the Dutch singer/songwriter decided that she would record her first album in New York, spending her life savings on a flight to the city where she would create ‘Fading Lines’. Shane Butler and Keven Lareau of Quilt and Jackson Pollis of Real Estate provide guitar, bass and drums respectively for the album, with Meg Duffy providing additional slide guitar on the track ‘Apophenia’.

De Graaf says she was inspired by “time, continuity, coincidence and magic”, and the album certainly encompasses this abstract range of influences. ‘Fading Lines’ is a shimmering, dreamy and stylistic collection of music,10 songs in length, and produced by Ben Greenberg at Strange Weather studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It’s full of hypnotic synth beats, dreamy vocals and twanging guitars. The album opens with the enigmatic ‘Come With Me’, a bright, dream-folk number that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The folksy feel runs throughout the LP, with blues and country influences appearing in varying degrees throughout, along with otherworldly synth sounds and steady drum rhythms. This combination comes together to create a collection of music that is modest, ethereal and captivating.


‘Right Now’ is a standout on the album. With its dreamy folk aura and rattling guitars, it’s easy to see why it was shared ahead of the album’s release. It’s the type of song that doesn’t sound like it’s fixed or limited to a particular time or place. As De Graaf sings “right now” over and over in the chorus, you can imagine it being relatable to anyone. As with ‘Fading Lines’, the guitars are a predominant feature here, as they crisply ring throughout the track, matching well with the unearthly melody of De Graaf’s voice. ‘Apophenia’ begins gently and simply, before introducing a country resonance in the form of the mournful rhythm of the slide guitar that picks up towards the end of the track. De Graaf’s vocals are paired with stripped back, ethereal sounds: it’s a subdued interlude after the enigmatic ‘Right Now’. Title track ‘Fading Lines’ begins with a bright jingle of guitars, met with a gentle drumbeat and De Graaf’s enticing vocals. The lyrics “I look around / nothing’s what it seems” speak of the slightly surreal nature of the track, which plays out like a whimsical dream full of spiralling guitars.

‘Turning Light’, the penultimate song, is the other of the two singles that were released ahead of the LP. The subdued drumbeat and ghostly sounds that fade in and out throughout the track form an enchanting and mysterious picture, but with lyrics that hint at a more serious theme: “we saw the ending / before it had arrived”. The album finishes up with ‘White Fuzz’, a haunting, crisp track with De Graaf’s vocals standing out against the music. It’s a tender end to the album, beginning with the lyrics ‘if only we could stay the same’, speaking to anyone that’s hesitantly undergone a life change.

‘Fading Lines’ is one of those albums to listen to during your downtime in the evenings while unwinding after a stressful day. It’s an evocative and wistful collection of bright tunes and softer moments and an altogether impressive debut from De Graaf.


‘Fading Lines’ is scheduled for release on the 3rd of June on Heavenly Recordings.The rest of the year will see De Graaf at a variety of festivals across Europe from Green Man in the Brecon Beacons in Wales to Amsterdam Woods Festival. For more on Amber Arcades on TGTF, go here.


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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