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Constellations Festival Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 23rd November 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Just when you thought the festival season was over, that it was safe to hang up any notion of seeing in one sitting a full working day’s worth of bands until next year, along comes Constellations to sweep away the November blues. (The 12th of November, to be exact.) In the style popularised by ATP’s Butlins jaunts, this is a single-venue indoors one-dayer, using the fantastic facilities at Leeds University as a base for a five-room shindig. At this stage in the year one might be wary of repetition; and whilst there are some acts here that are familiar faces from the summer festival circuit, the promoters have certainly managed to keep Constellations’ lineup fresh and intriguing.

Which is exactly how one could describe Liverpool’s Outfit. A widescreen, spacey, synth-led five-piece, having only formed in January this year, their sound is maturing nicely: surely their anonymity is destined to be short-lived. Recent release ‘Two Islands’ and its impatient vocal intertwining with keening guitar neatly sums up their sound: angstwave if you will. More please.

Féted boy-girl duo Big Deal bring their somnambulant ditties to the alcohol-free Riley Smith room; their octave harmony style being very much the sound of 2011. Hardly likely to make the listener keel over with excitement, or break an ankle pogoing, nevertheless there is a subtle beauty on offer. It’s just that, as we will discover later, boy-girl duos are capable of so much more these days.

Exitmusic are gothy and elegant, lyrical metaphors of steaming marshland echoing their dusky sound. Lead singer Aleksa Palladino, taking time out from being directed by Martin Scorsese, ebbs and moans like she’s emitting some delicate musical secret. Their arch pretension does suffer slightly from the 10 minutes of awkward soundchecking, and indeed by taking place on a mid afternoon in Leeds. In the middle of a rusty, abandoned Russian airfield, or somewhere woody, twilight and damp, this would be perfect.

Dutch Uncles look perfectly at home on this generously-proportioned stage, their mathy style beefed up to generate a rather wonderful combination of conventional rock and jagged, dissonant, jazz-tinged ephemera. A rather unexpected highlight is singer Duncan Wallis’ unconventional dancing style – his weird, wired leg movements bring an unexpected lightness to what could conceivably be a rather cerebral performance.

Onto one of the highlights of the day: Summer Camp. Elizabeth Sankey makes the most of her opportunity to play diva with her mini-dress and shocking red lipstick; there’s an subtle yet disturbing element of menace about her performance – don’t get too close, chaps! Her musical partner, Jeremy Walmsley, in loud Hawaiian shirt and giant myopic specs, decorates the backing tracks with synth and electric guitar, whilst a live drummer adds impact to the rhythm section. They rip through recent release ‘Welcome To Condale’ (review here), gem after gem of ’80s-tinged pop falling out of the speakers, the warm and confident interplay between Sankey and Walmsley a joy to behold. A loop of classic brat-pack films plays behind; Molly Ringwald would surely approve.

Givers, ironically, are given a short half-hour set, and boy, do they make the most of it. A superb combination of traditional Americana, neo-bombast in the style of Arcade Fire, and a sprinkling of African-influenced funkiness, this is a jolly and likeable set from a similarly-blessed band. One gets the impression that they could play for twice as long and keep the listener enthralled. It’s no surprise that a band from Louisiana should have absorbed the broad church of influences which characterises New Orleans, but to package it within short, catchy, warm-hearted pop songs like ‘Up Up Up’ is a superb achievement. Long may they continue to give.

Stephen Malkmus has been around the block a few times, and seems to be mellowing in his old age. Gone are the angular obscurantism of previous project Pavement, in comes a more relaxed approach, characterised by tongue-in-cheek heavy-rotation single Senator. This is still quintessential American garage rock, but the sharp edges have been shaved off; live, the songs are allowed to meander and develop by themselves, rather than being obsessively honed. There’s palpable disappointment when, seemingly too early, Malkmus announces the last song – what soon becomes apparent is that this song is a long, meandering jam, which lasts well over ten minutes. There’s the niggling doubt that Malkmus is slightly treading water with this project that the long, jammy ending to the set does nothing to dispel.

Vessels specialise in that slow, meandering wall-of-droning-guitars sound that has stood Mogwai in such good stead over the years. Doubtless there are plenty of differences between what and why each band does, but the suspicion is that it would take many hours of listening to elicit them. When the sets are this short, and we’re all standing up indoors rather than lounging on a sunny patch of grass, something a little more immediate is called for. Luckily, Yuck are up next, with their noisy indie pop; somewhat heavier than on record, they still maintain their melodic sparkle, and are starting to look like proper contenders.

Wild Beasts, however, live in an entirely different league of expectation. With the stage full of expensive, delectable guitars and a brace of gourmet keyboards, the performance oozes class from the very start. The duality of the vocal styles of Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming astonishes even more than on record; Thorpe’s edgy, vibratoed falsetto a uniquely expressive instrument, unsettlingly incongruous coming out of a bearded man’s throat, Fleming’s velvet baritone adding depth and complimenting the flamboyance of the arrangements. The band have a great depth to their catalogue, and whilst material from Smother dominates, older tracks from Two Dancers sound just as vital. This is a thrilling band, utterly original, and reassuringly complex in all they do. The dials are set to just the correct amount of archness, weight, cerebrality, funk, and indeed camp, an expertly-judged blend of virtue akin to a fine Scotch whisky. It is reassurance to all those that fear the X-Factorisation of music has taken hold, that the denominator is inescapably locked at common: to see a capacity audience in a large room transfixed by such intelligently-written and expertly-executed pop music is a wondrous thing.

And to finally wrap things up, the Big Pink, whose music is about as subtle as their name. Essentially an early-90s tribute act, there’s a bit a shoegaze, a bit of acid house and a bit of baggy in their sound. Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell have all the right credentials, and with single Dominos on Radio 1’s A-list, the future looks bright, except for one thing: their live show tonight is dull. Furze thrashes a Stratocaster and practices his thousand-yard stare, the rest of the music is sample and synth based, too layered to make out any individual contributions or melodies. I spend most of the gig watching the enthralling female drummer, who appears not to be the regular Akiko Matsura, but is great all the same. Something of a disappointment right at the end then, but there’s been so much good stuff through the day that a slightly damp squib of an ending can be wholeheartedly forgiven. A great opportunity to stock up on new bands right at the end of the season… and plenty of inspiration for stocking fillers!

 

MP3 of the Day #420: Dutch Uncles

 
By on Monday, 17th October 2011 at 10:00 am
 

I’m generally not wild about any covers, especially those of ’80s bands that I revere. Tears for Fears is one of them. Dutch Uncles took the unenviable task of reinterpreting their hit song ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ and I have to say, they did a great job. The guitars do justice to the originals, and singer Duncan Wallis’s voice sounds perfectly suited to the tune. I hope Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith are listening…

You can listen to and get the Dutch Uncles version from their Facebook page by liking their band’s page here.

 

Video of the Moment #586: Dutch Uncles

 
By on Monday, 26th September 2011 at 6:00 pm
 

It’s Monday. Yet Dutch Uncles don’t strike me as ‘9 to 5’ kind of blokes. But in their new video for ‘The Ink’, drummer Andy Proudfoot waits impatiently for his bandmates to get ready for the day.

But restrain yourselves, ladies. For the majority of this video, frontman Duncan Wallis is bare-chested. And there’s a surprisingly ending to this vignette, which I won’t let on to before you’ve had a chance to watch it yourself. (I’m going to have to pore over these lyrics again…)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmEfMF12QzE[/youtube]

Dutch Uncles will be on tour in the UK and Ireland in November and December; read all about it here.

 

Mercury Prize 2011: TGTF Writer’s Choice

 
By on Monday, 5th September 2011 at 11:00 am
 

Tomorrow night, Tuesday the 6th of September in London, the winner of the 2011 Mercury Prize will be crowned. I’ve asked each of our writers to choose which album they think should win this year’s honour, as well as which album they think was criminally absent from the 2011 shortlist. And without further adieu…

Mary Chang, Editor (hometown/current location: Washington, DC, USA)
Who should win: Everything Everything‘Man Alive’ (Geffen). To be honest, I was pretty underwowed by the nominees announced for this year. As much as I love Elbow, I don’t think ‘build a rocket, boys!’ was all that great. If Adele wins with ’21’, it’ll be a dark day in Mercury Prize history: in the past, the honour has usually been given to an ‘outsider’ artist that could use the promotion, and with how ever many million records Adele has already sold, it’s not like she needs more to line her pockets. In contrast, Everything Everything’s debut album released last summer was a breath of fresh air to the British music market: a cross between pop, rock and hip hop that they proved with their inimitable talent could be converted into an orchestral force to be reckoned with.

Who should have been nominated: Dutch Uncles‘Cadenza’ (Memphis Industries). If I’m going to go with an album that I believe is in the same league with ‘Man Alive’, then it’s got to be this debut from the Marple band. It just doesn’t sound anything like anyone else, except maybe Field Music. Duncan Wallis’s voice is so distinct and somehow it works perfectly against the math rock/pop dissonant instrumentation. Keep an eye on these guys.

John Fernandez (hometown: Guernsey, UK)
Who should win: Katy B – ‘On A Mission’ (Rinse/Columbia). It was a close tie between Londoner Katy B and Mancunians Elbow. But on sheer merit alone I believe Katy B has to win this award, she has produced one of the most inventive dubstep collaboration records in recent history. While avoiding the pigeonhole of mainstream dub-pop (Chase and Status) and stayed true to her roots. ‘On A Mission’ is full of charm, hooks and has a fantastic rhythm to it, no other album on the list in my opinion can match it, and while it may fall into the ‘too mainstream’ trap, I believe this could be the surprise winner.

Who should have been nominated: Hurts – ‘Happiness’ (RCA/Sony). Hurts do one thing, and that is divide opinion. Are they just a well dressed boyband or are they interesting synthpop? One this is certain though: ‘Happiness’ is a well produced monster of a record, so it astounds me that it isn’t on the Mercury Prize short list. The lyrics are as polished as their shoes on stage and you can’t fault them on inventiveness: they tour and record with an opera singer (OK, so Muse produced a symphony, so what?)

Braden Fletcher (Northern Monkey, Southern Student, UK)
Who should win: Ghostpoet – ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ (Brownswood). To say that Ghostpoet is a dark horse in the Mercury prize isn’t so much an understatement as it was when the nominations were announced. As if waiting for his name to come up on the list, the MC has been relentlessly promoting and touring his debut effort in the last 2 months. He has good reason to as ‘Peanut Butter Blues…’ is one of the most competent albums of its genre to appear in Britain since the rise of the Streets. Ghostpoet barely adheres to the same rulebook as Skinner but the similarities are there. Both tell it how they see it without reserve and both are some of the most relevant artists around today. Give a listen through the Midlands man’s record and you’ll understand why Mike Skinner is counted upon his high profile fanbase. ‘Survive It’ is a grand piece of abstract rap that makes Tinie Tempah look like a school boy whilst ‘Us Against Whatever’ encapsulates James Blake-esque beats with a stunning set of lyrics. Ghostpoet for me, is the obvious choice for people who don’t like to choose and a solid enough record to actually be noticed.

Who should have been nominated: Maybeshewill – ‘I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone’ (Function). Post-rock is such a hugely under valued genre of late. With the only real recognition going towards Texas group Explosions in the Sky, the talent of Maybeshewill is going hugely unnoticed. The Leicester band’s first two efforts feature some of the most relevant monologues in recent history amidst a well constructed soundscape and this, their third record maintains the high bar the group set themselves. Managing to be all of powerful, loud, moving and well refined at almost all times, ‘I Was Here For a Moment…’ is exactly the kind of mastery that should have warranted a Mercury Prize, if for no more than the entire genre being continuously overlooked.

Luke Morton, (hometown: Lincoln, UK; current location: London, UK)
Who should win: Everything Everything‘Man Alive’ (Geffen). One of my favourite albums of 2010 and they can deliver the goods live as well. The electro-indie synthwork and the soaring vocals are what give Everything Everything the edge over so many other bands in their field who simply fade into the ether. ‘Man Alive’ is jam-packed with danceable tunes, whether it’s the infectious ‘Photoshop Handsome’ or the majestic singalong of ‘MY KZ UR BF’, ‘Man Alive’ has so much to offer – surprisingly versatile yet accessible for a debut album.

Who should have been nominated: The King Blues‘Punk & Poetry’ (Transmission). Probably my favourite British album of 2011 so far, the King Blues’ third LP is their finest work to date and should have received some recognition from Mercury. Their politically-charged, emotive, passionate LP ‘Punk & Poetry’ brings many elements to the table – primarily through Itch’s lyrics. ‘The Future’s Not What It Used to Be’ and ‘Set the World on Fire’ are fantastic examples of the frustration the band (and a lot of the general public) feel about the country. Whereas album closer ‘Everything Happens For A Reason’ showcases the band’s sombre/sensitive side as Itch regales the listener with the story of meeting his partner and having his first child. There’s so much to take away from this album and it’s a real shame that despite the punk movement still going strong in the UK, no attention has been paid to it again in the awards dedicated to British music.

Martin Sharman (current location: Gateshead, UK)
Who should win: Anna Calvi – ‘Anna Calvi’ (Domino). Variously fêted and slated, Calvi’s debut may initially be overlooked as faux-Harvey, and with PJ on the list again this year seems an unlikely choice to win. However, good though ‘Let England Shake’ is, at this stage in her career Harvey needs the Mercury less than they need her, having the freedom to explore her talents with ever more directional work. Calvi is surely the heiress-in-waiting, her debut treading the fine line between artifice and splendour delicately well, and giving Harvey a run for her money in the drama stakes. Even without the Mercury’s fondness for debut albums, Calvi is surely the one to beat.

Who should have been nominated: Edwyn Collins – ‘Losing Sleep’ (Heavenly Records). Collins’ backstory of recovery from a debilitating brain haemorrhage that left him unable to play his collection of beloved vintage guitars isn’t enough to win him a Mercury nomination. But this superb collection of guitar-pop gems certainly should have been. This is as touching, joyous and assertive as anything on the list this year, Collins’ compelling, slightly slurred vocal a candid reflection on his condition and subsequent readjustment. And this wouldn’t have simply been Collins’ award: the list of collaborators reads like a roll-call of the great and the good in British guitar music. A true pop survivor and deserving of a nod this year.

 

Dutch Uncles / November and December 2011 UK/Irish Tour

 
By on Friday, 26th August 2011 at 10:30 am
 

Marple’s Dutch Uncles have announced a headlining tour of the UK and Ireland for November and December. Tickets are on sale now, or should be soon. The band will play a special ‘Christmas’ show at home at Manchester’s Deaf Institute on the 2nd of December (and I will be there, if anyone fancies a hello). Support for that special Now Wave show will come from London band Fiction.

Monday 14th November 2011 – Lincoln Tokyo
Tuesday 15th November 2011 – Sheffield Harley
Friday 18th November 2011 – Dublin Academy 2
Saturday 19th November 2011 – Belfast Auntie Annie’s
Tuesday 22nd November 2011 – Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Wednesday 23rd November 2011 – Birmingham Hare and Hounds 2
Thursday 24th November 2011 – Glasgow Nice and Sleazy
Friday 25th November 2011 – Cambridge Junction (supporting Wild Beasts)
Saturday 26th November 2011 – Brighton Concorde II (supporting Wild Beasts; sold out)
Sunday 27th November 2011 – Bristol Cooler
Tuesday 29th November 2011 – Southampton Joiners
Wednesday 30th November 2011 – London Koko (Lucky 13 – Thirteen Years of Memphis Industries, with the Go! Team, Colourmusic and Field Music)
Friday 2nd December 2011 – Manchester Deaf Institute

 

Wild Beasts / November 2011 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 25th August 2011 at 9:30 am
 

Wild Beasts will be touring the UK in November. It’s no wonder some of the dates have already sold out; the band’s album released this year, ‘Smother’, was considered by many as criminally omitted from this year’s Mercury Prize nominations.

Support will come from the fabulous Dutch Uncles.

Thursday 10 November 2011 – Birmingham HMV Library
Friday 11 November 2011 – Oxford O2 Academy
Saturday 12 November 2011 – Leeds Constellations
Monday 14 November 2011 – Edinburgh Liquid Rooms
Tuesday 15 November 2011 – Aberdeen Lemon Tree
Wednesday 16 November 2011 – Manchester Cathedral (sold out)
Thursday 17 November 2011 – Manchester Cathedral
Saturday 19 November 2011 – Bristol Anson Rooms
Sunday 20 November 2011 – Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Monday 21 November 2011 – Southampton University
Wednesday 23 November 2011 – London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (sold out)
Thursday 24 November 2011 – London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Friday 25 November 2011 – Cambridge Junction
Saturday 26 November 2011 – Brighton Concorde II (sold out)

 
 
 

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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