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Album Review: The Elementalists – Crazed Maniac

 
By on Tuesday, 19th August 2008 at 5:33 pm
 

The Elementalists‘ fusion as a group is really apparent in their album ‘Crazed Maniac’, the beautiful blend of hip hop grime, rock, with a sweet synthesis of electronic extras and a set of decks thrown in for good measure does beautiful things to one’s senses. From the outset the listener’s attention is captured, starting with the tongue in cheek ‘Talk to the hand’ all the way through to the dark gothic sounds of ‘Reel 68’ the group are able to maintain not only their hunger for the right fusion of each member’s efforts but do the same for their audience.

One literally sits on the edge of their seat with ears pricked, eagerly anticipating the next guitar solo from the more than capable Stu Brew. And when their not being tickled by his fingering of his instrument, Brew’s sweet delectable strumming compliment the lyrical delivery of the lead vocalist Elmo to form a musical marriage to be proud of. The mêlée of musical moment makers sets this album up as well as the group for hopefully a wonderful future.

The soft rock style of their second song ‘Bad Times’, shows another dimension to Elmo’s vocal capabilities, highlighting to their audience that he is more than your run of the mill UK mc trying to ‘make a difference’ with his lyrical ability. He caresses the track with raspy chords and choruses until he is ready to hand the baton over to KRL on the decks, who handles them well for a brief minute before inviting the whole group to join in the jam session. In an instant you are thrust into a jazz infused bar, and your foot starts a tapping and soon after you notice your head is nodding hard to the beat that speeds and slows until it reaches its final crescendo.

I love the line in ‘Crazed Maniac’ – “wearing corduroy even though a new style of jeans is in”. possibly sums up the approach of the group as a whole, they are far from conventional, streets away from the nearest, grime, meets soft rock, greets jazz, says hi to blues and please don’t forget the introduction of synthesised sounds concoction out there. The list of sounds included on this album is a testament that there really are no conventional boxes to squish this group into, the minute you get comfortable with an approach, take the soft infusion of jazz and blues on ‘Pills’ and before you know it your senses are being rocketed out of their comfort zone and catapulted into the dark grime and gothic sounds of ‘Reel 68’.

Within this song, you are left not quite knowing what to do with your listening faculties, do you allow the guitar bass and swishing drum beats soothe your person or are you chilled to the bone by the manic laughter that manages to crawl all over your senses. Just as you are about to decide an infusion of blues style guitar strumming is introduced to the track and your body is jolted up by the concerto of dramatic yet directed drumming, accompanied by some serious deck manipulation. There is no opportunity to rest on your laurels with this track, your senses are forever being manipulated, your preconceptions challenged and by the end of the listening experience, all you can do is sit back, exhale and then start again.

Very few albums can be listened all the way through, let alone be put on repeat just to catch what you missed the first time around. Their hunger resonates throughout each track, the question in anticipation of their next album is; whether they plan to iron out these kinks that are somewhat reminiscent of the classic crackle you hear on an old school LP. Rather than hold on to their hunger and harness its energy will they favour for a smoother sound?

 

Bands to Watch #22: Kitty, Daisy and Lewis

 
By on Tuesday, 29th July 2008 at 6:23 pm
 

With their quiffs, red lipstick and vintage shirts, you’d be forgiven for thinking this rockabilly trio had just stepped out of the 1950’s. Meet Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, the North London siblings who count Ray Charles and Little Richard as the muse for their latest boogie woogie offerings.

They have already supported Razorlight and Mika and are set to release their second album. The twist to this Von Trapp hillbilly affair? These kids are just 15, 17 and 20.

“Since we were little we’ve always been playing music together at home as a family,” Kitty says.

“Our dad used to sing to us at bed time, songs like ‘Honolulu Rock a Roll a’ and Louis Prima’s ‘Buona Sera.'”

“It’s just the music we love because it makes you feel good. It has a good energy and a live raw sound.

“Most of all it makes you want to dance because it rocks!”

They have built a huge word-of-mouth audience through a string of gigs and festival appearances. And that’s not all. The brother and two sisters play guitar, piano, banjo, harmonica, double bass, ukulele, trombone and accordion between them.

“We are definitely a musical family,” Kitty says.

“We had a double bass which my dad used to sit me on top of while he played, and we had the odd harmonica lying around that we could fiddle with.”

“Dad showed us a couple of chords on the guitar and we just picked it up from there. ”

They came together almost by accident at a country and rockabilly jam seven years ago. When asked onstage, they played an impromptu version of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ with Lewis on the banjo, Kitty on drums and Daisy on accordion.

Their passion for vintage music led to their compilation ‘A to Z – Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – The Roots Of Rock n Roll’ being named one of the Guardian’s 2007 ‘Albums Of The Year – 5/5’.

Now they are set to release their second album- a mixture of the covers their Dad used to sing to them, along with new material like ‘Buggin’ Blues.’ The album leads with the new single ‘Going up the Country’ – a summertime jam with harmonica solos and handclaps galore.

Ooo Wee, make way for the coolest kids in town.

‘Kitty, Daisy & Lewis’, the album, is out now on Sunday Best Recordings.

 

Bands to Watch #21: ultCult

 
By on Wednesday, 9th July 2008 at 5:39 pm
 

ultCultRecently I’ve had a bit of a thing for lo-fi pop. You know, basic, raw pop tunes that sound like somebody’s scrabbled them together in about ½ an hour, but still have the power to draw vivid pictures. Fresh from supporting Los Campesinos! And Tokyo Police Club, ultCult are the latest band to catch my attention, sounding remarkably fresh and like they’re in a complete world of their own.

Radio 1’s Huw Stevens loves them, and whilst normally I’m not a huge fan of his picks, he’s on the money with ultCult. The tunes on their myspace all sound like they should be the soundtrack to a dreamy Skins episode, like the homemade demos of Patrick Wolf or Lykke Li.

Lead singer Lucille’s vocals sound remarkably fragile, like a singer who has yet to be corrupted by the remarkably vicious UK music industry. She reminds me a bit of a younger version of Lesley Feist (of 1,2,3,4, fame), particularly on Odious Emporium, which is below for free download.

Just back from Iceland where they recorded their debut single, the Yorkshire four piece look set to have a busy year ahead, based upon the already glowing response they’ve had. If you want to catch them live, they play London’s Macbeth on Friday 8th August, and Doncaster’s Vintage Rockbar on Sunday 14th September.

Free MP3: ultCult – Odious Emporium (demo)

 

Band of Horses / July UK Dates

 
By on Friday, 15th February 2008 at 12:07 pm
 

Band of HorsesBand of Horses, who are over here in Europe next week for a quick 6 date tour, have announced a string of three dates in early July.

The Seattle dreamers will bring their soundscapes around the UK yet again, with each tour seeing them playing bigger and bigger shows.

Tickets are £14 for London, and £12.50 for the other two dates, and are sale now.

Tuesday 8th July – London Shepherds Bush Empire
Thursday 10th July – Liverpool Academy
Friday 11th July – Sheffield Leadmill

 

Bands to watch #18: Alphabeat

 
By on Friday, 25th January 2008 at 3:26 pm
 

AlphabeatIt seems that Scandanavians currently have one of the best music scenes around at the moment, managing to have some of the most diverse, and interesting, acts around at the moment. Denmark’s Alphabeat are set to take over the airwaves in 2008 with their unique brand of camp, over-the-top pop which makes the Scissor Sisters look tame.

Perfectly danceable, lyrically strong, and quintessentially Danish in sound, they have some of the best tunes since the Scissor Sisters with a much more European feel, and a hint of flashbacks from the 90’s too. Their self-titled debut came out last summer in Denmark, and is out this May in the UK, but is one of the most varied collections of music I’ve heard in a while – a really great album.

Fans include the Sun, the NME, and a fair few blogs and online news sites, and they have the same management as Mika – and we all know how big Mika has become, love it or hate it.

They’re currently on tour with Palladium around the UK, and I’ll be going to see them on Monday night in Oxford – expect a full review on Tuesday.

 

My Top 10 Albums of 2007

 
By on Tuesday, 1st January 2008 at 7:29 pm
 

This is the time of year it seems just about every credible publication is doing a “best of 2007” albums, so I thought I’d join them and do a quick top 10 of my favourite albums this past year. I’ve chosen the top 10 from the 74 albums I’ve “acquired” (either downloaded / bought the CD of / been given the CD of). Disagree? Just say in the comments below.

  • Memorable-ness – Does it have you humming it for days after? Can you remember snippets of lyrics?
  • “Car factor” – Can you put it on play and leave it going without skipping any tracks / few tracks?
  • Irritability – Can you have tracks on repeat without wanting to throw the CD out of the window?
  • Musical quality – Is it likely to be a classic / seen as a highlight of the artist’s career?
  • Enjoy-ability – Is it fun? Get you going?
  • Innovation – How innovative is it?

10. Jack Peñate – Matinee
Jack Penate - MatineeHe may just be one man with a funny swirl over his name, but his album turned out to be one of the most consistent of the year. Many of the tracks are single-worthy, fun, danceable and just the sort of thing that goes down a storm at many end-of term parties.

Tales of bitterness, nights out, missed opportunities, and images of guys in smart suits akin to West Side Story make this album the first in my 2007 top ten.

Buy the CD on Amazon

9. Mika – Life in Cartoon Motion
Mika - Life In Cartoon MotionWho couldn’t have heard Mika’s first single, Grace Kelly, which bothered the top 10 for a few months at the start of the year. Fun, simple pop tunes that live are just quality party tunes.

Many people claimed Mika was trying to capture Freddie Mercury, and yes, he does sound a tiny bit like him, but is completely different: the tunes are quite possibly more girly than anything Freddie did, and his shows are far more like an acid trip than Queen could ever pull off.

His come down tunes, “Relax, Take it Easy,” “Any Other World” and “Happy Ending” are quality tunes in their own right, comedowns for the end of the party. All in all a quality mixture of pop, rock, and pure fun.

My Live Review | Buy the CD on Amazon

8.The Wombats – A Guide To Love, Loss and Desperation
Wombats - A Guide To Love, Loss and DesperationI only really got into this a couple of weeks ago after the release of “Let’s Dance To Joy Division”, but it was on repeat all the way home from the US, with their amusing tales of urban English life. Songs like “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” celebrate English irony brilliantly, tunes that just have everyone dancing for the hills.

They’re knowledgeable, and the whole album is very tongue-in-cheek, which is just what modern indie-pop should be.

Buy the CD on Amazon

7. I’m From Barcelona – Let me Introduce My Friends
I'm From Barcelona - Let Me Introduce My FriendsI’ll admit it, I didn’t think I’d like this album. 29 people on a record sounds like a recipe for destruction if you ask me, but somehow they pull it off without sounding as chaotic as the Polyphonic Spree do at times.

Songs like “We’re From Barcelona” are fun, simple tunes which has all the vibe of a secondary-school band gone pro. EP song “Britney” unfortunately doesn’t make an appearance on this album, but if it did, the album would be even higher up my list.

Buy the CD on Amazon

6. Band of Horses – Cease To Begin
Band of Horses - Cease To BeginOpening song, “Is there a Ghost” is enough for Band of Horses to deserve their 6th place position on this list. A quality, haunting tune that just captures the whole vibe of the album – musically capable, listener – accessible.

The entire collection sounds far more polished and consistent than their debut, “Everything, All the Time”, which whilst had moments of brilliance, failed to capture the consistency of this collection.

Buy the CD on Amazon

5. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Radiohead - In RainbowsA suprise release, Radiohead seemed to garner more headlines for their “Music Industry ruining” way of release and letting people choose the price they wanted to pay for the download of the tracks as an MP3 file.

However, the album wa, in my opinion, one of their strongest yet. A distinctly electronic feel, they combined their solo efforts into a collection that was strong, consistent, and interesting. I wouldn’t be suprised if it turns out to be one of their strongest of their career.

My Review of In Rainbows | Buy the CD on Amazon

4. Stars – In our Bedroom After the War
Stars - In Our Bedroom After The WarI bought this one on a whim – I didn’t know much about Stars, but quickly grew to love them. Songs like the haunting “Barricade”, the danceable “The Night Starts Here” and the yearning “Bitches in Tokyo” make for a collection that builds on their previous albums (which I’ve since acquired), and makes a strong and consistent collection that I’ll be listening to for months to come no doubt.

Buy the CD on Amazon

3. Tegan and Sara – The Con
Tegan and Sara - The Con

They may be two lesbian identical twin sisters, but don’t let you think they’re a novelty act – far from it. They’re a quality duo, who make amazing short stories for the 00’s generation.

Produced by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla, The Con is their most accomplished yet, full of drama like their previous records, but a bit more believable, and a bit more stable now that they’re settled down with partners. They seem happier, if that’s possible, which is always good.

Buy the CD on Amazon

2. The National – Boxer
The National - BoxerThe National’s fourth album, Boxer is a very consistent record, though unfortunately not quite as good as their break-through “Alligator”.

They seem to be more at home with themselves, not quite as angry as standout songs on Alligator “Mr. November” or “Lit Up”. Instead, all of the songs are accomplished, but not as much emotion, which is a shame

The National @ The Astoria Live Review | The National – Boxer – My Review | Buy the CD on Amazon

1. Bloc Party – A Weekend in The City
Bloc Party - A Weekend In The CityI’ll admit it here. I wasn’t a big fan of their debut, Silent Alarm. I thought it was crap. However, once I listened to A Weekend in the City I “got” Bloc Party, and fell in love with both albums at once.

Songs such as “I Still Remember” and “Sunday” are the standouts for me, both quality songs that deserve the huge audience Bloc Party have garnered. I’ve possibly listened to this album more times than any other album, and will continue to do so for 2008 no doubt.
My Album Review | Buy the CD on Amazon

Continue reading My Top 10 Albums of 2007

 
 
 

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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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