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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.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Album Review: Dan Mangan + Blacksmith – Club Meds

 
By on Friday, 6th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Dan Mangan + Blacksmith 'Club Meds' coverVancouver singer/songwriter Dan Mangan made his entrance onto the music scene in 2009 with the single ‘Robots’ before going on to win further recognition and two JUNO Awards for his 2012 album ‘Oh Fortune’. His current project, a fourth LP titled ‘Club Meds’, was released last month under the moniker of Dan Mangan + Blacksmith. According to Mangan’s Facebook page, Blacksmith comprises several of Mangan’s longtime collaborators, including “Gordon Grdina, Kenton Loewen, John Walsh (and often JP Carter, Tyson Naylor and Jesse Zubot)”. While Mangan has joined forces with the members of Blacksmith before, this project has a distinctly different sound from previous efforts.

If you’re looking for the rockabilly folk of ‘Robots’ (featured on 2010 LP ‘Nice, Nice, Very Nice’) or the uptempo anthemic pulse of ‘Post-War Blues’ from ‘Oh Fortune’, you might initially be a bit disappointed in the stark austerity of ‘Club Meds’. The album’s overall mood is bleak and brooding, the ponderous weight of its lyrical themes accented by heavy, pulsating rhythms and a sheer overlay of synths and backing vocals. On my first listen to ‘Club Meds’, I was immediately intrigued by opening track ‘Offred’, which is titled after the narrator in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I’ll admit that I haven’t touched ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ since I read it in my high school English class, but I do remember Offred’s tale as one of both oppression and hope. In the novel, Offred has been removed from her previous life by a military coup of the American government and forced to serve as a concubine under a new theocratic regime. Mangan’s lyrics directly reference the novel and its fictional resistance movement, whose success in rescuing Offred is unclear at the end of the story: “I still feel the cadence of a former life / I put faith in MAYDAY but it don’t feel right”. Literary references abound in indie rock music lately, but I am curious about why Mangan was drawn to this particular novel and its protagonist. The answer might possibly be found later on the album, in his lyrics to the acoustic guitar-flavoured ‘Mouthpiece’: “I want to breathe in all the ashes of the books they tried to burn / I want to feel the pages in my skin and understand the words.”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/ZmKdRTWa05w[/youtube]

Like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, Mangan’s ‘Club Meds’ is a narrative of perceived oppression and uncertain outcomes. Its dark, often rebellious lyrics and the mumbled drone of Mangan’s vocal delivery are accompanied by ominous guitar riffs, propulsive drumbeats and haunting vocal echoes. The studio version of standout single ‘Vessel’, one of the more uptempo tracks on the album, features a pounding, repeated keyboard figure and layered vocal lines in the chorus, “it takes a village to raise a fool / stop, wait, unhand me”. [youtube]http://youtu.be/3dAWPsrraBk[/youtube] Title track ‘Club Meds’ is a vertiginous wash of synthesizers and layered vocals, very loosely grounded by divergently wandering bass and guitar riffs. Amidst the hazy instrumentation, Mangan’s ironic lyrics eventually descend into a circular repeating phrase: “the daze is the war and the war is the game and the game is a fix and the fix is the daze…”. His weary, jaded tone lifts somewhat in final track ‘New Skies’, which attempts to end the album on a more optimistic note while still reflecting its moments of bitter despair. The brass solo in the instrumental section is at once mournful and uplifting against the quiet melancholy of Mangan’s vocal delivery in the verses.

Dan Mangan’s collaboration with Blacksmith has certainly led him in a more experimental direction, expanding his sonic palette beyond the typical folk rock, singer/songwriter bill of fare. While these recordings are somewhat mired in the depths of their somber subject matter, Mangan’s songwriting remains sharply cerebral and emotionally authentic. As with any expansive musical arrangement, translating the songs on ‘Club Meds’ to live performance might prove tricky, but it could also introduce a sense of motion and energy that is lacking on the album.

7/10

‘Club Meds’ is available now via City Slang Records. Dan Mangan + Blacksmith are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2015 in March, following a lengthy North American tour. A full listing of Dan Mangan + Blacksmith live dates dates can be found on Mangan’s official Web site. Previous TGTF coverage of Dan Mangan can be found here, including a new listing of UK tour dates for April 2015.

 

Dan Mangan + Blacksmith / April 2015 UK Tour

 
By on Monday, 2nd February 2015 at 8:00 am
 

Canadian singer/songwriter Dan Mangan and his band Blacksmith will hop the pond to play a short list of live dates in the UK this spring. The live shows are in support of Mangan’s fourth studio album ‘Club Meds’, officially released on the 12th of January under the moniker Dan Mangan + Blacksmith. Below the tour date listing, you can view a live video of album single ‘Vessel’, recorded at radio station KUTX in Austin, Texas last November. Dan Mangan + Blacksmith will return to Austin in March for a scheduled appearance at SXSW 2015. Tickets for the following UK shows are available now.

Friday 24th April 2015 – Manchester Deaf Institute
Saturday 25th April 2015 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Monday 27th April 2015 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Tuesday 28th April 2015 – Bristol Thekla
Wednesday 29th April 2015 – Brighton Komedia
Thursday 30th April 2015 – London Islington Assembly Hall

[youtube]http://youtu.be/mo9Qs41ACMU[/youtube]

 

Live at Leeds 2012: Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 24th May 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

With the festival season beckoning, the seasonal weather up north has brightened up as some of the brightest upcoming stars look to start their summer crawl on Saturday the 5th of May at Live at Leeds, the same weekend as Camden Crawl and ahead of other upcoming major city festivals. With this 1-day line-up arguably looking stronger than the London weekend this year, it’s difficult to see why you wouldn’t drop up for the day, especially with so many bustling venues in the Leeds city centre within a short walking distance.

Beginning TGTF’s day in the city are Manchester dance band Swiss Lips. Whilst the venue may be difficult to navigate, that may be because it’s rammed in the early afternoon. With indie hit ‘U Got the Power’ having given them some heat, the crowd stay for their infectious breed of ‘sexy pop’ and the band are sure to make some friends with their upcoming debut record.

After this, it’s the atmospheric, but not hugely entertaining iLikeTrains at the O2 Academy. Later, Niki and the Dove also suffer the same fate with a great sound that’s not really matched up front in entertainment. Luckily, there’s so much to see at Live at Leeds that you can never be bored for long. Opening up the Met Uni are Bastille. Their recent mixtape has proved popular with the hundreds that have quickly assembled, and away from their own electropop, the tender vocals of Bastille are the highlight, especially in the cover of City High’s ‘What Would You Do’.

Back at the O2 Academy, Spector flounce about the stage with overly polished indie rock. There’s potential here but the act never really materialises to greater things in the songs, being much more annoying than hoped in the process. This leads to TGTF seeing the end of a powerful Dan Mangan set in Holy Trinity Church followed by a packed show from Lucy Rose. The young singer/songwriter’s music fits perfectly in these surroundings and even the more energetic songs such as ‘Red Face’ sound fitting to her increasingly confident set. With a band behind her, Rose has depth to match her stunning voice and the crowd agree, shh-ing anyone that talks, even in between songs. There’s a muted singalong early on to ‘Middle of the Bed’ and throughout the set there’s a real quality to Lucy Rose’s set that shines in this church. As soon as it starts though, it seems to be over and it’s quickly down to the Cockpit for part one of tonight’s two headliners.

With Ladyhawke making her return to the UK with album two, Lianne La Havas stepping up to the headline mark left by Marina and the Diamonds, there’s a lot of talent on display across the headliners of the festival. TGTF’s route is one of a blend of safety and guaranteed fun in the form of the Subways, followed by Scroobius Pip. First up, the Subways rock out a venue half the size of their most recent tour, making the room sweatier than a sauna and more energetic up-front than most football teams. Blending tracks from all three of their diverse records, noughties classics ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ and “Oh Yeah” fit in with the likes of ‘Shake Shake’ and new single ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ as ‘It’s A Party’ turns lead singer Billy Lunn’s trademark stage dive into a venue-long crowdsurf to the back, up onto the sound-desk and then a dive from 10 feet back down and towards the stage (did you follow that, we nearly didn’t). The man’s got balls, and the Subways still rock.

Closing the night with a set starting long past 11, Scroobius Pip executes a well thought out and powerful set of his solo material to the underground venue. Even without B Dolan by his side on tour, Pip’s tracks have venom and everyone present joins in with every lyric from last year’s record. There’s crowd surfing, huge men bashing each other about and one man with an MCA-stolen VW badge on his necklace up front leading the events. It’s a fitting way to end the night, and TGTF can’t help but feel that the right decisions were made. It’s going to be a bright summer for so many of the artists on the bill at Live at Leeds, there’s no doubt about that, but definitely watch out for the likes of Lucy Rose and Swiss Lips, and by no means underestimate those who’ve been around the block.

 

End of the Road 2011: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 19th September 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

The sunshine liked Friday at End of the Road so much it showed up for the Saturday too. Geordie songstress Beth Jeans Houghton doesn’t really need the sun, having instead an impressively large band, but at least it helps remind everyone that they’re not back in rainy Newcastle. Superb recent release ‘Dodecahedrons’ makes a welcome appearance with its glockenspiel and airy, Kate Bush-inspired vocal present and correct. Epic Danes Treefight for Sunlight take their ’70s soft rock influences to the logical conclusion: rather than being simply influenced by Kate Bush, they go one better and perform a cover of ‘Wuthering Heights’, with an astonishing note-perfect falsetto vocal from their male singer. Like a magic trick in slow motion, it seems so simple when performed before your very eyes, but the senses still reel from the magnificence of it all. The song of the weekend, no question.

One of the attractions of End of the Road is the compact site – no more than a few dozen steps from the main stage and you’re in a surprisingly full Big Top tent, sampling the Anglostralian delights of merry poppers Allo Darlin’. Her voice an exact cross between Beth Orton and Louise Wener, banjo-wielding frontwoman Elizabeth Morris’s naive, wide-eyed charms hold the audience in enthusiastic rapture. The songs need to be careful to avoid Kate Nash banality, but mostly fulfill the brief of jolly, domestic tales of a girl’s love and adventure. If the reception here is anything to go by, we’ll be hearing a lot more from Allo Darlin’.

A sandwich and a sit down sees Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan and his string and horn backing band take the main stage. A modernist folkster in the Damien Rice vein, familiarity might lead to a greater appreciation of the material. Some impressive scratchy string action from the cellist, though. A premiere gig is a rare treat; Sam Genders admits to being more than a bit nervous on the occasion of Diagrams’ first live performance. He needn’t have worried. It’s difficult to imagine a more endearing, joyful and musically rewarding 45 minutes. Diagrams’ eclectic, back-of-the-cupboard sound is truly uplifting, and Genders’ understated command of his band and the audience shows a maturity and experience that he would undoubtedly modestly deny. From funky little riffs, a mixture of electric and acoustic drums, parping horns, and the noisy breakdown in ‘Hill’ which had the audience whooping in approval, there’s never a dull moment – what we all secretly wanted Tunng to be all along. By the time the famously cheapskate but wondrously effective audience-inflated balloon shower kicks off at the end of the set, it’s mission accomplished for Genders. And he got to drink his years-old emergency vodka.

There’s something to be said for the experienced frontman of a well-regarded band using downtime to put together his own desert-island backing group and slowly letting the world know he exists in his own right. Gruff Rhys has been quietly doing this for years, and on today’s evidence he’s got it down to a fine art. A masterclass of mature guitar pop, there’s classic after classic here, including the brilliantly catchy and uplifting ‘Ni Yw Y Byd’, its six key changes and unbelievably catchy melody getting everyone singing along. Ah yes, there’s loads of Welsh language stuff, but when they’re such powerful earworms as these, suddenly we’re all fluent in the dialects of the valleys.

ATP-endorsed Wooden Shjips come with a nailed-on buzz from the sub-zero areas of the blogosphere, and with frontman Ripley Johnson’s impressively-coiffed facial hair demanding so much attention, how can the music compete? Kicking off EOTR’s shoegaze strand, the Shjips manage to make that dullest of genres listenable, and at moments actually exciting. Yes, there’s just one chord for minutes on end a lot of the time, as the songs meander towards some sort of meaningful conclusion, but the arrangements do have lovely touches of ambience, noise, and backwards guitar that hold the interest and, I admit, sound really cool in a head-nodding, stoner kind of way, man. But we’re only into early evening, and too much off this will have everyone drifting off into a trance. For aficionados only.

At the other end of the populist scale, a band heading straight for the mainstream are Wild Beasts (pictured at top), whose cerebral, off-kilter, arty rock seems to be making an impression on everyone except the Mercury Prize judges. The acres of dimming, firelit sky framing the stage serves only to enhance the emotional impact of this masterful performance. Accessible yet intelligent, with multiple vocalists delivering catchy yet complex melodies, a season of festival performances have honed these Cumbrians’ set to a sharp, effective distillate of virtues. The Coldplay you’re allowed to like.

It would seem churlish to ask for any further excellence tonight, but next up are Leeds’s Spectrals, looking for all the world on day release from sixth-form college, almost stealing the “band of the day” prize from their more experienced peers. Quite how Louis Jones has had the time to ingest ’50s hula bop, ’60s Spectoresque epic pop, ’70s prog-psych, and 90s baggy, let alone learn how to meld it together in a set which would be impressive coming from someone twice his age, is quite beyond me. Some of the sounds here are simply glorious, exemplified by ‘I Ran with Love But I Couldn’t Keep Up’, with its langourous tone and regretful lyrics – truly a modern classic.

So it’s with light hearts and a spring in the step that we head to headliners Okkervil River. But only moments into their bong-eared desecration of ‘Sloop John B’, it’s apparent that something’s not quite right. Whether it’s the material not really being strong enough, or Will Sheff’s try-hard handclaps and incongruous shape throwing, something doesn’t quite ring true. Clearly aiming for a slice of Arcade Fire’s demographic, someone should whisper in their ear, bombast doth not a good song make. And goodness knows, one Arcade Fire is enough for any lifetime. A slight disappointment, but quickly forgotten with the discovery of the forest disco, logically enough housed in a wooden shjip, suspended within the boughs. Playing a selection of vintage rock, soul, and funk, for those who have the energy, and can avoid a poke in the eye from wayward tree branches, there’s no better way to spend the small hours of a September Saturday.

 
 
 

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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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