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TGTF ‘Playlist’: Valentine’s Day 2018

 
By on Friday, 16th February 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo modified from the original by jessicahtam on Flickr

Across social media platforms this past Wednesday, musicians gifted Valentines to their listeners in the form of–what else?–new music. To continue these artists’ generous spirit of love and giving, we at TGTF would like to share a small sampling of the LOVE-ly new songs we’ve heard over the past week. We’d normally do this in the format of a Spotify playlist, but as some of the songs aren’t available on Spotify just yet, we’ve decided to share them more in the form of a mixtape, including videos and streams from YouTube and Soundcloud.

Among the highlights of our list is a brand new track from American singer/songwriter Ryan Adams. Its bright, jangly guitars and lyrical Beatles reference (“all you need is love”) are are markedly more optimistic than Adams’ usual lovelorn fare. For those listeners on American side of the pond, Adams has accompanied his new track with another Valentine surprise: he will play a one-off show at the famed Colorado concert venue Red Rocks on 14th June 2018 with support from Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit.

Canadian troubadour Dan Mangan takes aim at our sentimental side with a simple but evocative new piano ballad called ‘Fool for Waiting’. Mangan’s singing voice is light and clear yet full of feeling, as he delivers lofty emotional declarations like “Some say I’m a fool for waiting/ they don’t know this fool doesn’t mind.’

Australian folk pop singer Vance Joy is set to release his second LP, the romantically titled ‘Nation of Two’ on the 23rd of February via Atlantic/WEA. The album’s most recent single ‘Call If You Need Me’ is an honest and straightforward plucked guitar ballad that plays right to the strengths that made Joy famous around the release of ‘Riptide’.

James Bay, once referred to here as wearing “Hitchin’s most famous hat”, has recently reinvented himself with a new look as well as a novel electro-pop sound for his recent single ‘Wild Love’. Luckily for those of us who quite liked his debut LP ‘Chaos and the Calm’, Bay hasn’t entirely abandoned his old ways. His soulful singing is somewhat muted here, but his wailing guitar is still very much in evidence near the end of the track.

Speaking of electro music, Irish husband-and-wife duo New Portals have released a starkly atmospheric new track titled ‘Inch’, just in time for some deep post-Valentine’s Day introspection. They describe the track not as a love song, per se, but as being “about the difficult decision to be made in a relationship when it seems like the spark has gone.”

Indie rock singer Eleanor Friedberger has announced a new LP with the release of an upbeat synth pop track called ‘In Between Stars’. In keeping with the Valentine hangover effect, Friedberger’s album is titled ‘Rebound’, and is due out in May via Frenchkiss Records (bien sûr!).

Baltimore-based electro duo Beach House dropped their new track ‘Lemon Glow’ without fuss or fanfare as Valentine’s Day drew to a close in American time zones. Shared with he simple Twitter message “Wishing everyone out there love tonight”, ‘Lemon Glow’ immediately attracted the Internet’s attention with the undulating optical effects in its video as well as the reverberant oscillations in its soundscape.

Last but not least, American rock singer Butch Walker shared a cheeky cover version of 10cc’s‘s romantic 1970s’ track ‘I’m Not In Love’, recorded with French songwriting duo The Dove and the Wolf. The French pair’s version is an upgrade of sorts, with silky female vocals and Walker’s surprisingly delicate whisper sliding easily into the song’s smooth soft rock arrangement.

 

Live Review: Butch Walker with The Wind and the Wave at Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles – 17th September 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 21st September 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Less than a month ago, I reviewed American producer and songwriter Butch Walker‘s outstanding new album ‘Stay Gold’, and my lasting impression of the record was that these yearning, high energy anthems would better suited to live performance than the relative constraints of a studio recording. Based on that impression, I trekked westward last weekend to Los Angeles, to catch Walker live at the relatively unknown Teragram Ballroom. Though this was the penultimate show on Walker’s current tour, his enthusiasm and energy were in full force, and the audience in his adopted hometown were equally excited to see him grace this stage.

Wind and Wave internal

Walker’s support act on the night, The Wind and the Wave, are a country-rock duo from Austin, Texas, comprising guitarist Dwight Baker and singer/songwriter Patty Lynn. They released their first album ‘From the Wreckage’ back in 2014, and their second LP ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ (produced, perhaps not coincidentally, by Butch Walker) is due out on the 28th of October. Naturally, their opening set was somewhat abbreviated and focused on the new songs, touching only briefly on a pair of older tracks, ‘My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head’ and ‘This House is a Hotel’. But their energy and charisma on stage seemed to grow exponentially as they went along, and they made their own strong impression with both the title track from ‘Happiness is Not a Place’ and more recent single ‘Grand Canyon’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/–zhov5kpbQ[/youtube]

The music on the PA system between sets, laced with throwback television theme tunes from the 1980s including ‘Magnum, P.I.’ and ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, seemed designed to set a retrospective mood for the headline show. Indeed, Butch Walker’s new album ‘Stay Gold’ has a decided undercurrent of nostalgia in the aggressive pulse of its songs, and he constructed his entire set list on the night around a theme of reminiscence and reflection.

Butch 2

Walker and his band took the stage and opened their set by tearing through the first four tracks from ‘Stay Gold’ at breakneck pace, starting with the title track and proceeding in order through ‘East Coast Girl’, ‘Wilder in the Heart’ and ‘Ludlow Expectations’. For my money, this opening sequence was the most effective part of the show, partly because these were the songs I was personally most familiar with, but also because Walker and his colleagues proved my own initial hypothesis correct, and in a most emphatic fashion.

The Wind and the Wave’s Patty Lynn made the first cameo appearance of the evening when she returned to the stage to duet with Walker on ‘Descending’, the next track in the ‘Stay Gold’ sequence. Walker took a seat at the piano for this song, giving Lynn center stage, and though their voices blended nicely together, it was the raw emotion in Walker’s delivery that came across as singularly captivating.

Descending internal

From that point forward, Walker dived deeper into his catalogue of older favourites, much to the delight of his diehard fans. The smouldering vocal quality of ‘Descending’ carried over into an intensely sensual performance of standout track ‘Bed on Fire’, from previous album ‘Afraid of Ghosts’. Striking a lighter note, Walker then thrilled the “California girls” in the crowd with his spur-of-the-moment geographical adjustments to the lyrics of ‘Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find’, from 2011 album ‘The Spade’.

Butch 1

Walker introduced his next cameo guest simply as “Jake Sinclair of the Black Widows”. The Black Widows, for those not already in the know, were Walker’s band from a few years back, with whom he released two albums, ‘I Liked it Better When You Had No Heart’ (2010) and ‘The Spade’. Sinclair did play in the band and garnered production credits on both albums, but they might not be his greatest claim to fame—he’s worked more recently with Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, and Fall Out Boy. On this night, though, he and Walker fit comfortably back into their old groove, performing the humorously self-deprecating (and surprisingly pop-oriented) ‘Synthesizers’. Sinclair seemed mildly surprised and greatly amused when Walker segued briefly into ‘Come On, Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, asking aloud, “Are you really still doing this schtick?” But Walker’s high spirits were undeterred by his protégé’s momentary insolence, and his audience, familiar with the routine and roaring with laughter, were more than happy to play along.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/uz0EAMDsyVc[/youtube]

Walker and his talented entourage of backing musicians touched on two other covers late in their set, a vocally harmonised version of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ and a fleeting allusion to The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’. But the real showstopper of the night was a final cameo by Walker’s young son James. James is apparently a regular fixture at his dad’s gigs, and though he appeared to be a bit sleepy, he showed no signs of stage fright as he regaled us with a song and a joke of his own. (Q: Which pencil won the art contest? A: It was a draw!)

James internal

Walker and his band didn’t break for a formal encore at the end of the show, playing straight through ‘The 3 Kids in Brooklyn’ and ‘Hot Girls in Good Moods’ before leaving the stage. But Walker did indulge himself in a final solo appearance, holding forth on the virtue of times and places past, especially the fading tradition of browsing through brick-and-mortar music stores. He made the rather unusual choice of leaving us on a pensive note with ’Stay Gold’ track ‘Record Store’, but then again, by that point, he’d already established a memorable and lasting impression.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/orgjnGCB4Dk[/youtube]

The Wind and the Wave set list:
Wind Wave setlist

Butch Walker set list:
Butch Walker setlist

 

Album Review: Butch Walker – Stay Gold

 
By on Friday, 26th August 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Noah Abrams

Butch Walker Stay Gold coverSummer road trip music seems to be in high demand recently, and 2016 has been a good year so far for producing it. For example, I recently reviewed the excellent new album from Bear’s Den, which is a perfect soundtrack for restless late night drives in the hallucinogenic glare of headlights on long, empty stretches of highway. But if a daytime drive in the carefree sunshine of late summer is more your speed, you’ll won’t do better than American producer and songwriter Butch Walker‘s new album ‘Stay Gold’.

The album’s upbeat title track is a perfect lead-in, with bright alt-country instrumentation and a rousing chorus that references S.E. Hinton’s classic novel ‘The Outsiders’. I’m not sure if this is “required reading” in the UK, but most Americans of a certain age will be warmly familiar with either the book or the movie adaptation from the 1980s. Like the story it refers to, the song ‘Stay Gold’ is immediately engaging from the first guitar riff, and Walker’s blue-collar, working-class lyrics are relatable without devolving into the gimmickry that often plagues mainstream country. (I can’t say the same for its promo video, which is featured below.)

[youtube]https://youtu.be/FjxYFome4wo[/youtube]

Musically, the album touches on a wide variety of styles with the kind of easy proficiency that can only come from Walker’s years of experience. ‘East Coast Girl’ is an interesting combination of influences, invoking Lou Reed in the spoken prosody of the verses and pure classic Springsteen in the chorus; its repeated plea “baby, baby, baby, where are you?” fairly begs for a live singalong. The heart-racing pulse and devil-may-care chorus of New York-centered track ‘Ludlow Expectations’ are even more palpably anthemic, as Walker sings lustily of “burning down the subway / running down the alleyway / high out of our minds on love.”

[youtube]https://youtu.be/JZfpUvHqJf4[/youtube]

By contrast, gentle duet ‘Descending’, co-written and sung with country artist Ashley Monroe, softens Walker’s rough-around-the-edges vocals with Monroe’s sweet and clear tone, providing just enough stridency to give the harmonies a sense of emotional traction. The album takes a mildly misogynist misstep in ‘Mexican Coke’, comparing an objectified love interest not to the narcotic but to the soft drink, which is sweetened with sugar rather than corn syrup in markets south of the American border. But that rather oafish moment is balanced by the clever traditional string arrangement of ‘Irish Exit’, a nimble pub rock song about escaping from the superficiality of the party scene, and the visceral emotionality of ‘Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night’.

Walker himself says of the album, “It’s been fun to listen to [‘Stay Gold’] in the car. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t play my records after I do ‘em. And it’s a blast to drive down the [Pacific Coast Highway] and listen.” After spending some quality time with ‘Stay Gold’ on my own car stereo, I might be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m seriously contemplating a road trip to hear these songs live on Walker’s current North American tour. A full listing of Walker’s upcoming live dates, along with enthusiastic recaps of his recently played shows, can be found on his official Facebook.

8.5/10

Butch Walker’s eighth studio album ‘Stay Gold’ is due out today, the 26th of August, on Lojinx. TGTF also reviewed his previous album ’Afraid of Ghosts’ right back here.

 

Album Review: Butch Walker – Afraid of Ghosts

 
By on Monday, 9th February 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Butch Walker Afraid of Ghosts coverAmerican singer/songwriter Butch Walker has a long and renowned list of music achievements behind him, including Grammy and CMA nominations, production credits for artists like Fall Out Boy, Keith Urban and Taylor Swift, and six previous studio albums of his own. But the impression left by his seventh LP release ‘Afraid of Ghosts’ is perhaps more reflective of his personal experiences than his professional ones. The album features several songs written in tribute to Walker’s late father, who passed away in 2013, and even the songs outside that theme have the jaded air of a man with a past.

Produced by Ryan Adams at his PaxAm Studios in Los Angeles, the alt-country flavor of ‘Afraid of Ghosts’ has a distinct rock ‘n’ roll edge. Outstanding track ‘Father’s Day’ features a stunning guitar solo by the legendary Bob Mould, who asked to play it after hearing the lyrics and relating them to the loss of his own father. Actor Johnny Depp’s surprising guitar prowess is displayed on ‘21+’, and the album’s first single ‘Chrissie Hynde’ is an internal reflection on the past, mentally soundtracked by the Pretenders’ b-side ‘My City Was Gone’.

‘How Are Things, Love’ is another look back in time, this one a bitter rumination on a past love. The slow, staggering tempo is suggestive of a smoky bar just before closing time, but its jarring lurch makes a solid emotional impact. The visceral effect of the instrumental arrangement underscores the cynical, mocking lyrics, “How are things, love? / Did you get rid of the ring, love? / Do you ever think of me, love? / I do all of the above, love / I hope you’re well”. By contrast, ‘Bed on Fire’ is dark, sultry, and aggressively sensual, with a wailing guitar solo accenting Walker’s husky vocals. Its terse chorus, “gonna take you down, on my knees, make that sound, make you see, …” is both vaguely threatening and undeniably erotic, though the contrast of emotions isn’t quite matched in the song’s accompanying video.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/Zk_df_upvd0[/youtube]

Current single ‘Autumn Leaves’ is a masterful and emotionally evocative bit of songwriting that displays Walker’s deft and experienced touch. Its chugging tempo and bright piano melody turn out to be a façade, and the opening lines “well I was never good at picking what to wear / for somebody else / this dress will go good with her hair” make a delayed but forceful impact as the lyrical story reveals itself to be about losing a loved one to cancer.

Walker revisits the loss of his father one last time on final track ‘The Dark’. His unadorned singing echoes over the warm tone and gently rocking rhythm of the acoustic guitar, and the understated lyrics “ain’t running from nothing / nothing on my mind / into the black / with my father at my side” somehow speak volumes in only a very few words.

Clearly written from the perspective of having reached a certain age, ‘Afraid of Ghosts’ will burn slowly in the hearts of listeners who can relate to the experiences it describes. The authentic and unadulterated sentiment found on the album could easily have become maudlin or oversimplified in the hands of lesser musicians, but Walker has used his professional expertise to full advantage here, carefully honing the subtleties of his country rock sound to represent a full and honest range of emotions.

8/10

‘Afraid of Ghosts’ is available now on Lojinx Records.

 
 
 

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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