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Album Review: David Ramirez – We’re Not Going Anywhere

By on Friday, 22nd September 2017 at 12:00 pm

David Ramirez WNGA album coverWhen I first listened to Austin, Texas-based singer/songwriter David Ramirez, I found myself inexplicably torn. The song was ‘Harder to Lie’, from his 2015 album ‘Fables’, and I recoiled from its unflinching lyrical honesty and Ramirez’ brutally emotional delivery, even as I was drawn to the poignant vocal harmonies and wailing slide guitar. Upon collecting myself, my immediate thought was, “I’m not sure if I want to hear that again, or if I never, ever want to hear that again.”

My curiosity overcame my hesitation and I did some further listening to David Ramirez. His back catalogue comprises three full length LPs and a handful of EPs, all self-released and self-produced, and all with a perversely haphazard feel to them. Ramirez’ new fourth album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, sounds sharply focused in comparison. The songwriting is tighter and more concise, and the instrumentation is both more expansive and more deliberate, perhaps owing to production by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive). But Ramirez hasn’t strayed from his country-blues style, nor has he abandoned the raw emotionality that has become his trademark.

Perhaps the best example of Ramirez’ unique sentimentality on the new album is early single ‘Time’. Its lyrical and musical effects play off of each other brilliantly, conveying a paradoxically clear sense of the dazed apathy caused by time passing without measure or purpose. By contrast, ‘Watching from a Distance’ is the album’s most straightforward single, with a strong vocal chorus and verse lyrics that are simple in tone but pregnant with existential angst: “just ‘cos we can’t speak / doesn’t mean you’re not on my mind / like a ghost / like the moon / like a God / like the truth”.

Several of the songs on ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ make reference to the current American political and social atmosphere. Opening track ‘Twins’ alludes to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, its title referring to New York City’s fallen Twin Towers. Lyrically, the song is almost an astonishingly simple reflection on how the country has changed in the intervening 16 years, with paired couplet questions “where were you when we lost the twins? / where were you when fear settled in?” framing the wistful echo of the chorus “there she goes . . . goodbye America, America, America . . .”

Later on the album, ‘Stone Age’ invokes ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, and Ramirez’ voice seethes with anger in the lines “I’m having trouble seeing colors in the dawn’s early light / no more red, no more blue, all I’m seeing is white”. Amazingly, the recorded version of this track captures the full impact of Ramirez’ live performance of the song in Phoenix last November, when the shock of the 2016 American presidential election was still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Ramirez’ country roots are most evident in ‘Good Heart’, where he adopts the character of a jaded barfly hardened against love, and ‘People Call Who They Wanna Talk To’, which emphasises his Texas drawl and the twang of the steel guitar. ‘Telephone Lovers’, in turn, explores the challenge of maintaining intimacy in a long-distance romance. The desperate refrain “you’re too far away” also harkened back to last November, when the song took that lyric as its working title.

The album closes with a pair of touching and more personal tracks. ‘Eliza Jane’ was inspired by Ramirez’ own great-grandmother, whose story was passed down to him by his mother, and whose narrative weaves inextricably into his own. Closing track ‘I’m Not Going Anywhere’ reflects the pair of women pictured in the album artwork, a mother-and-daughter pair of breast cancer survivors celebrating life on their own terms. Ramirez’ singing voice is at its level best here, both in terms of expressivity and technique, in his delivery of the lines “when you shake hands with grace and pass through the pearly gates / well then, find you the nearest neon sign / then, mama, you’ll see I was right / I’m not going anywhere”.

David Ramirez’s earlier music is somewhat unapproachable, his stubborn defiance proving to be both a fiery inspiration and a bit of an obstacle. But he seems to have softened slightly with ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, despite its recalcitrant title. He describes the songs as being about “fear, and how instead of benefitting us, it sends us spiraling out of control.” My strongest impression is that the new album sees Ramirez overcoming his own artistic fear, and finding clarity in the process.


David Ramirez’ fourth studio album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ is available now via Sweetworld / Thirty Tigers. TGTF’s full previous coverage of David Ramirez is right back here.


Album Review: Sløtface – Try Not to Freak Out

By on Monday, 18th September 2017 at 12:00 pm

Slotface album coverAfter releasing a pretty damn good arsenal of EPs and singles, it seemed as if Sløtface could do no wrong. That thought continues onwards with their first full length. The debut from Norway’s finest new punk band has a sound that you need to wrap your ears around as soon as possible because with hooks this catchy, and lyrics this quotable, there’s no reason they can’t take over the world. A brand new arsenal of tracks ready to earworm their way into your head and heart, ‘Try Not to Freak Out’ is pop punk in its newest form.

The best part about Sløtface is that they’re not afraid of ruffling a few feathers. They kick straight in with ‘Magazine’ and a rapturous chorus of “Patti Smith never put up with this shit”. Being compared to similarly aged models on magazine covers doesn’t sit right with lead singer Haley Shea, and quite rightly so. The euphoric and downright catchy refrain makes sure her message remains engrained. Follow-up ‘Galaxies’ stays away from societal righting and instead plays to its strength, the impossibly hooky chorus, proving that you don’t always need to be attacking to be punk. The same happens with ‘Pitted’, which celebrates partying with your friends over all else. It’s rather apt that Sløtface sing about partying with your friends when all you want to do once you hear the track is grab a couple of drinks and have a good time.

‘Sunbleached’ once again refers to social gathering, but with a more reminiscent mode, a staple of pop punk. The chorus nod to Ryan Adams with “Come pick me up, ‘Heartbreaker’ on repeat” just about had this writer in complete fangirl mode. Sløtface have a gift for bringing popular culture to a relatable level where you find yourself more involved than the melodies already have you.

If you’re a fan of pop punk, right now you’re having a great time. Having less targeted motives, the tracks are more celebratory of life, and just having fun such as continued on ‘Pools’. Continuing this trend ‘Night Guilt’ has a ferocious funk to it that’s heightened by the repetitive riff throughout and lyrics about owing money to people. Not on a loan shark level; they’re kids, after all. If you’re a fan of Sløtface’s previous output, you might be wondering where the statements against sexism et al. are, which is a fair question, but sometimes music can just be about a good time.

One of the harder cuts off the album, ‘Nancy Drew’, holds an immediate urgency, quite fitting considering it appears to concern taking down the male-dominated songwriter world with the aptitude of Nancy Drew (the protagonist of a detective boardgame, for those of you out of the loop just as I was). Filled with the spit that you know and love of Sløtface. (Note: As Editor Mary previously noted, Nancy Drew is the famed protagonist of an eponymous youth detective book series. -CC)

The final three tracks are a change in pace from the rest of the album. ‘Slumber’ holds an innocence just like sleeping in those cold Norwegian nights with your friends, soundtracked by the longest cut on the record. The song culminates in a beautiful crescendo that laments friendship and life, and you can’t help but fall a little but more in love with Sløtface. ‘It’s Coming to a Point’ may be studio talk for 19 seconds, but its inclusion refers to far more. Almost literally just the title spoken by frontwoman Shea, it feels daggered toward the world rather than studio play, though I may be reading far more into this than necessary. Either way, it brings Sløtface to a human end before the finale, the rebellion-filled ‘Backyard’. Another celebratory tune filled with references to exploring places you shouldn’t, it perfectly sums up ‘Try Not to Freak Out’.

The message here is simple, but straightforward: take the time to listen to your favourite songs with your friends because you don’t know when this shitty world could take it from you. If you want the more targeted Sløtface, head back to their earlier releases. This time around it’s about celebrating, because life is all too short, and celebrating never sounded so good.


‘Try Not To Freak Out’ the debut album from Sløtface is out now on Propeller Recordings. You can read previous coverage of Sløtface on There Goes The Fear here.

Contributor Carrie Clancy edited this review.


Album Review: The National – Sleep Well Beast

By on Friday, 1st September 2017 at 1:00 pm

Sleep Well Beast coverAmerican indie rock band The National are set to release their seventh studio album next week, following on the critical success of their 2013 LP ‘Trouble Will Find Me’. According to band member and producer Aaron Dessner, the new album has been in the works for most of the intervening four years. “We didn’t feel like rushing it,” Dessner says of the new album, titled ‘Sleep Well Beast’, which is in some ways the band’s most expansive record to date and in some ways their most poignantly intimate.

Though the band are geographically spread out over five different cities these days, they made a deliberate effort to come together periodically for the writing and recording of ‘Sleep Well Beast’. “When we all lived in Brooklyn we rarely did these kinds of week-long sessions” says bassist Scott Devendorf. “This time we got together for long stretches, just to mess around and experiment without deadlines or distractions.” The result is an eclectic sonic mix of synths and drum machines, prominent guitar solos and piano melodies, and composer/guitarist Bryce Dessner’s always graceful orchestral ornamentation.

Lyrically, vocalist and songwriter Matt Berninger describes the songs on ‘Sleep Well Beast’ as “trying to come clean about things you’d rather not” in the context of long-term relationships. He tries to make light of his heavy thematic material, saying “Some of it’s about marriage, some of it’s about my relationship with Aaron and the band, some of it’s about train tracks and dancing.” But it’s the romantic narrative, with lyrics co-written by Berninger’s wife Carin Besser, that ultimately dominates the album. From a listener’s perspective, it reads like a very public form of couples therapy, where neither party shies away from intense self-scrutiny or brutal cross-examination.

‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ opens the album slowly and tentatively, with Berninger’s rough vocals slurring over an introspective piano melody in the questioning lines “you said we’re not so tied together / what did you mean?” The musical arrangement is lingering and almost aimless, much like the couple in question, for whom Berninger sings “goodbyes always take us half an hour / can’t we just go home?”

By contrast, recent single ‘Day I Die’ is much more immediately striking and could easily be the album’s biggest radio hit. Berninger’s wry vocal delivery alludes to feelings of emotional distance before delivering the veiled threat, “young mothers love me / even ghosts of girlfriends call from Cleveland / they will meet me any time and anywhere”. The scansion of his lyrics creates a deliberately disconnected stream-of-consciousness effect that is amplified by the unrelenting drum rhythm and jarring guitar riffs punctuating the verses.

Berninger’s vocals are at their strongest in lead single ‘The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness’, whose lyrical undertones vacillate between personal and political in a stark reflection of current American society. He shifts from dark, ominous tones in the verse lines “maybe I listen more than you think / and I can tell that somebody sold you” to the higher, anguished pitch of the refrain “I can’t explain it any other, any other way”. Likewise, the musical arrangement here is clear and easily accessible, with a ringing keyboard melody and catchy guitar riffs anchoring the overall sound.

Those moments of clarity balance the murkiness of the album’s middle section. ‘Born to Beg’ wallows in a fog of co-dependence, as its classical piano underlay fights through a morass of synth sounds and computerised drum beats that function to keep the swell of emotion at arms length. ‘Turtleneck’ is harsh and jarring, almost maniacally sinister as Berninger intones “there’s something about her eyes / I think her roots are rotten / this must be the reason she wears her hair up in knots”.

Hollow drum machine and synth sounds underscore a pervasive feeling of emptiness in ‘Empire Line’, where Berninger’s wintery imagery creates a stark emotional analogy: “you’ve been sleeping for miles / so what did you see? / here the sky’s been falling, white flowers / and there’s ice in all the trees”. Bryce Dessner’s exquisite woodwind and brass embellishments on ‘Guilty Party’ are among the most purely beautiful moments on the album, accompanying the heartwrenching lyrics “another year gets away / another summer of love / I don’t know why I care / we miss it every summer”.

Piano ballad ‘Carin at the Liquor Store’ is stark and deliberately simple, its straightforward arrangement clearing the way for some deep soul-searching: “it’s gonna be different after tonight / you’re gonna see me in a different light / it’s a a foregone conclusion”. The softer, mellower sounds of ‘Dark Side of the Gym’ find Berninger crooning soothingly “I’m gonna keep you in love with me for a while”, ahead of the resolve and re-commitment in final eponymous track ‘Sleep Well Beast’.

‘Sleep Well Beast’, the album, squarely and unflinchingly focuses on the dark feelings and deep individual vulnerabilities that inevitably come into play over the course of a long-term relationship. Some of the tracks are sonically overwhelming, which was probably the intent given their lyrical content, and some of them stretch almost agonizingly thin. But the album overall is conceptually cohesive, combining complex, richly-textured musical ideas with an equally complex and multi-faceted expanse of emotions. The delicate brutality of ‘Sleep Well Beast’ is expertly conveyed by the high calibre of its songwriting and musical arrangements, which are nothing less than exactly what we’ve come to expect from The National, as their brilliant career progresses through its second decade.


The National’s seventh studio album ‘Sleep Well Beast’ will be released on the 8th of September on Beggars imprint 4AD. The band will play an already sold-out tour of Ireland and the UK in September; you can find all their upcoming live dates on their official Web site. TGTF’s complete previous coverage of The National is back through here.


Album Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Echo of Pleasure

By on Friday, 1st September 2017 at 12:00 pm

Pains TEOP coverThe upcoming fourth studio album from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, titled ‘The Echo of Pleasure’, finds frontman and songwriter Kip Berman coming to terms with reality. It’s been a bit of a process for Berman, going back to Pains’ excellent previous LP. “On ‘Days of Abandon’‘, I was on my own. There was no one in the room making decisions with me. It felt strange experiencing that isolation while trying to make sense of it through writing,” Berman admits in the press release for the new LP. “With this [new] record, I’ve made peace with the fact I am Pains. It’s always been my band, but I haven’t been super comfortable saying that, partly because I’ve enjoyed working with so many talented friends, and also because the songs I wrote seemed to mean more than anything my actual life could live up to.”

Berman hasn’t entirely given up on collaborating with his network of friends. ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ finds him working again with producer Andy Savours, vocalist Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow), and multi-instrumentalist Kelly Pratt on brass. But “actual life”, which for Berman now includes a wife and child, is the clear thematic focus on ‘The Echo of Pleasure’. He’s moved beyond the coming-of-age growing pains of his younger days, concentrating instead on the more subtle realities of mature and lasting love.

Opening track and recent single ‘My Only’ immediately “makes the matter plain”, as Berman puts it in the verse lyrics. The song’s synth melody and the echoing backing vocals are light and instantly catchy, but there’s a sense of anxiety in the bass line, underlying the rather uneasy resolution in the chorus lines “now that I’ve said it / don’t you forget / you’re my only”.

The musical and dramatic tension are heightened on early single ‘Anymore’, as Berman sings, “I couldn’t take anymore / I wanted to die with you”, and ‘The Garret’, where he intones “when I leave you / I can’t leave you / part of me remains”. ‘When I Dance With You’ takes a markedly lighter tone with a trippy dance beat and bright synth sounds under the lines “when I dance with you / I feel okay / ‘cos I know just what to do”.

Sharp and synthy title track ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ cuts to the heart of the matter, lyrically exploring the unbreakable bond between two lovers. Its edgy guitar lines and propulsive rhythm provide a feeling of musical and emotional depth under the simple, repeating chorus. ‘Falling Apart So Slow’ is lyrically wistful and nostalgic but musically cool and detached, with Kelly Pratt’s yearning brass in the bridge section making a clever, though subtle, emotional connection between music and words. Jen Goma’s bright, clear vocals are featured on the upbeat and infectiously singable ‘So True’, whose pop-flavoured musical setting once again belies the depth of meaning in Berman’s poetry.

Penultimate track ‘The Cure for Death’ brings a sense of resolute determination to the end of the album, emphasising a propulsive and persistent drumbeat under the repeated plea “don’t die away”. Album closer ‘Stay’ closes the proceedings with a gently orchestrated, softly-harmonised ballad pledging eternal togetherness.

As always with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ is melodic, deftly textured, and supremely listenable. The overall sound is certainly a little edgier than what we’ve heard from Kip Berman and company in the past. But its underlying anxiety ultimately finds a sweet sense of resolution, both musically and emotionally, as Berman makes peace with who he is as a songwriter and where he now finds himself in life.


‘The Echo of Pleasure’ is out today on Painbow Records. You can find TGTF’s previous coverage of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart right back here.


Album Review: TENDER – Modern Addiction

By on Thursday, 31st August 2017 at 12:00 pm

TENDER Modern Addiction album coverI’m sure it is to some folks’ grievous disappointment, but I don’t think it’s such a surprise to see the field for the race to the Next Great British Guitar Band crown shrinking. We’re living in a period of continually evolving music technology and like it or not, this technology is here to stay. It affords to artists new ways of expressing themselves and the ability to try out so many more new sounds and styles than ever before. James Cullen and Dan Cobb were classmates and both had begun their interest in music playing guitar, having participated in different bands before working together in TENDER. The name of their debut album for Partisan Records out this week, ‘Modern Addiction’, drives home the idea that the modern world we find ourselves in makes it all the more difficult to keep relationships alive, whether that be physically or psychologically.

In the glut of today’s commercial pop, TENDER’s approach to telling their stories is refreshingly minimalist. Like the original form of the xx before them, Cullen and Cobb’s brand of synthpop isn’t intended to hit you over the head with grand gestures, overblown production or pretension. The term ‘slow burner’ would be particularly apt here. The rhythms and effects they’ve chosen to use throughout ‘Modern Addiction’ add varying shades of colour, helping to illustrate Cullen’s own mental deterioration as he experienced the destruction of a long-term relationship first-hand. Themes of dependency, surrender and resoluteness are all examined here. Frankly, if it weren’t for the hypnotically seductive rhythms and the interesting choice of instruments, this would be a hard listen. The lyrics are akin to those of Elena Tonra’s of Daughter: cutting commentary on a life ripped apart and emotions run high when a heart breaks.

The LP’s preview singles were chosen well, as they’re winners. The repetitive xylophone notes introduce the oddly up tempo ‘Nadir’. “Tried to go the distance but we’re only wasting time / who are we kidding? / this is our divide”, sings Cullen, pointing out the breaking point of the relationship has been reached, and there’s no turning back now. In the more solemn bridge, he continues with “with all I’ve done and all I say / I’ve been loving you in a different way”. Heartbreaking. ‘Machine’ is about going through the motions in life and not having as much free will as us humans like to think we have. With its irresistible beat and Cullen’s sufficiently delicate vocals, the stark reality of the song’s meaning dissolves into its catchiness. A similar theme is revisited later on the slow jam ‘Sickness’, full of battling synths and seeming to point to depression brought on by what’s happening in the world today.

On ‘Erode’ (NSFW video below), Cullen compares himself to an island, its sand and constitution being worn away by his lover’s ocean-like pummeling. The song’s sensual, slow ooze matches Cullen’s own toxic dependency on her, offering up the words, “if you want me like that, that’s who I’ll be / if you’ll love me right back, I could be anything”. Conversely, on ‘Blame’, he’s firm in his insistence that she won’t break him and he won’t come crawling back, as the lead synth line buzzes along with similar confidence.

As you might have guessed, the ‘80s driving number ‘Powder’ is a blistering denunciation of a drug-taking fake friend who only comes around when she needs company. Like the fallout from a broken relationship examined elsewhere on ‘Modern Addiction’, its central theme is satisfying relatable on the grounds that more than ever in this age of social media and smartphones, we’re surrounded by fair weather, superficial acquaintances who don’t really care about us. That’s more problematic on a psychological level than most people will admit. ‘Trouble’ closes the album with a plaintive guitar line, a bluesy feel that reminds us that all taken together, this is a pop record that just happens to be synthesiser-forward.

For a debut, TENDER have done admirable work on ‘Modern Addiction’. Instead of falling back on guitars or booming percussion to add texture, they’ve used synths well to create suitably moody backdrops for James Cullen’s lyrics. While a bit slow in places, it’s the kind of ‘grower’ record that synthpop fans will gravitate to.


‘Modern Addiction’, the debut album from London synthpop duo Tender, is out tomorrow, the 1st of September, on Partisan Records. For more of our coverage here on TGTF on Tender, follow this link.


Album Review: OMD – The Punishment of Luxury

By on Wednesday, 30th August 2017 at 12:00 pm

OMD The Punishment of Luxury album coverThe 1980 incarnation of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark would never have imagined the awesome number of electronic acts actively working and putting out music in 2017. Going on from that thought, it isn’t surprising that OMD found themselves returning to their roots for inspiration for 2013’s ‘English Electric’. Everything comes around full circle, as the saying goes.

The title ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ comes from an 1891 painting by Italian artist Giovanni Segantini, incidentally now owned by the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Bassist and most frequent frontman Andy McCluskey has explained, “Most people in the western world are materially better off than their predecessors ever were, and yet we are unhappier. Now we have many possessions that we don’t need because we’ve been persuaded to buy. This is the punishment of luxury.” Seems apt that they’ve undertaken an even further stripping down to their electronic basics for this newest record, eh?

And OMD have taken to this challenge like a duck to water. The LP manages to sound fresh and wonderfully experimental at the same time, which is no mean feat. Inventive single ‘Isotype’, unveiled in May, has a relentlessly catchy rhythm while McCluskey questions society’s overreliance on technology and how it’s affecting how we communicate. Recall that this is a band not shy to get philosophical. On ‘Robot Man’, it’s hard to tell whose side he’s on, as he’s joined by mechanical beats, buzzes and flourishes: “in the head, you’re the perfect machine / there’s a hole where your heart should have been”. Speaking of robots, OMD sound like they’re accompanied by their metal buddies on ‘As We Open, So We Close’. Repetitive clicks and swishes hit you in the face while a nursery rhyme-like melody plays on.

They dump conventional vocals entirely by feeding the words of ‘Art Eats Art’ through a synth. The result is a memorably frenetic tune. Who needs flying cars when we’ve got a new OMD record? Keyboardist Paul Humphreys takes on vocal duties on the ballad-leaning ‘What Have We Done’. An admirable computerized symphonic sound envelops the track, with synths replacing what might have been strings with any other band. Don’t forget these are the guys who pioneered New Wave synthpop straight out of the gate with their debut single. They’re not afraid to do something different.

On the more conventional side of things, ‘One More Time’ is as mainstream as this LP gets. As deathly precise synth beats bounce, McCluskey wistfully recalls, “I’ve never heard a woman call out my name / with the love and the power and passion that you gave / hold me in your arms and say you’re mine / you can break my heart one more time”. It’s like a nice continuation of ‘If You Leave’ some 30 years later. An even more compelling story is told through ‘Ghost Star’, an over 6-minute opus that begins with arresting organ chords and bird calls. McCluskey’s softly sung words like “the broken boy is healed again / I fall into you wholly” fall away softly and before a meticulously exquisite electronic melody and beat sequence follows. The lyrics alone could stand as a beautiful poem, but spun with OMD’s instrumentation, the overall effect is spellbinding.

It bears repeating that good stuff always remains good stuff. In an age where OMD are surrounded by youngsters clutching synths, inspired by their ‘80s output, they could have simply rested on their laurels and repeated the same old schtick. Instead, they’ve come out 4 decades from their start with an interesting set of songs, running the gamut from high-tech experimental to poppy torch song, and sure to inspire a new generation.


OMD’s ‘The Punishment of Luxury’, their thirteenth album, will be out this Friday, the 1st of September, on White Noise and 100% Records. To catch up on our coverage here on TGTF, which includes live reviews of them stateside and in England, 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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