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Album Review: Benji Lewis – Together Apart EP

 
By on Monday, 10th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Benji Lewis Together Apart EP album coverMelbourne, Australia’s Benji Lewis now calls Los Angeles home. No matter where the electronic artist hangs his hat, I think it’s safe to say that his newest EP ‘Together Apart’ feels like it was created in the big city whilst contemplating lost love and looking forlornly out over the nighttime skyline. Even at its short length of less than 15 minutes in total, this record exhibits a special kind of emotional grace, through its delicate, minimalist electronic instrumentation and Lewis’ disarming vocals. The EP was produced by Brisbane’s Golden Vessel, who I caught live at BIGSOUND 2017 this time last year.

As the title of the record suggests, this is a collection of songs that examine the highs and lows of relationships. Beguiling beats drive the poppiest track here, ‘Us Again’, on which Lewis wistfully recalls a lost love and his journey back to return to that place of bliss. The EP’s standout is the downtempo ‘Came Back’ that continues the story. ‘I came back to you, I’m here, won’t go”, sings Lewis in a peerless falsetto. The instrumentation is sparse with programmed beats and a simple synth melody, and the feel of Lewis’ vocals is reminiscent of fellow Aussie Darren Hayes’ own in his Savage Garden days, but without the ‘90s schmaltz.

Moving into ‘Deep Blue’, Lewis goes into more soulful territory, almost Glass Animals-esque with falsetto and twinkly synths but without the fanciful storylines. His words feel less like lyrics and more like a sensual poem set to music: “Touch is right / Skin to skin / We all want, felt within / Tides are high / Further sure / Deep blue, with you”. Incredibly, it’s only been 10 minutes or so, and we’re already at the end of the EP with ‘Push’. The lyrics suggest conflict between our lovers but should you choose to focus on the sweeping vocals and dreamy melody, you sense there’s more than a glimmer of positivity for these two. Yes, life isn’t always perfect, but optimism in our difficult world is more than welcome.

Describing the record, Lewis says, “…here are some different stories of love, strength, moving on and also appreciating who is around. Also sneaky moments of hope for new love and what it can be like.” ‘Together Apart’ as a whole is a chill, blissed-out set of songs, leaving you wanting more and hoping that a debut album from the Aussie is just around the bend.

9/10

‘Together Apart’, Aussie Benji Lewis’ new EP, is out now. You can stream the entire release below. To read my review of his official SXSW 2018 performance at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, which described to Run the Trap as “a stand out favourite” and “Everything about that night, loved it.”, go here.

 

Album Review: Seafret – Monsters EP

 
By on Wednesday, 5th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

A 2-year hiatus for the Bridlington duo Seafret will come to an end with the release of a new four-track EP this Friday. ‘Monsters’ shows a rawer side to Jack Sedman and Harry Draper that was hinted at on their 2016 debut album ‘Tell Me It’s Real’ but was not fully disclosed then.

The EP opens with the title track, which instantly sets a moody and mysterious vibe, created through the use of minor chromatic guitar descents, leaving you unsure of what is to come. This moodiness becomes even more dramatic with the addition of low stabs on the piano that reverberate under the vocals and guitar. It’s a successful theatrical opening to the record, creating suspense in subtle and clever ways and avoiding becoming gimmicky.

The pace picks up with second track ‘Can’t Look Away’ which starts acoustically and gently, but then goes on to explode into an electric chorus, heavy with accented drumbeats and sustained guitar twangs. The song is powerful and a great contrast to the previous track, but something feels missing. By the end of the tune, the verses and choruses are over-repeated and even with the stripped-back bridge that offers some respite, there is not enough variation or climatic tension to really elevate the song. It’s a slight let down when compared to an EP that has so much emotion and raw edge to it. One has to ask, have Seafret dug deep enough in themselves for this track?

Fortunately, ‘Bad Blood’, the third track of Seafret’s EP, makes up for what ‘Can’t Look Away’ lacks in depth. It’s here that we really hear Sedman’s talent for expressive vocals. Again, the duo has favoured subtlety to express emotion, with Sedman not overdoing it on the performance but rather letting the small breaks in his voice and slight dynamic fluctuations do the talking. It’s these small elements that shine on the track and make what is an electric, rock track more intimate and raw.

These subtle elements are also successful in connecting ‘Bad Blood’ to final track ‘Heartless’. Although the two tracks are polar opposites in instrumentation, the clear emotion in ‘Bad Blood’ allows for a smooth flow to the fourth track, undoubtedly the most profound on the EP. ‘Heartless’ itself is acoustic heaven: simple yet seductive in its intimacy. It’s a perfect way to end the EP, showing Seafret at their most vulnerable and leaving the listener wanting more of this raw edge that we heard so brilliantly in three out of four tracks of this EP.

8.5/10

‘Monsters’ will be released this Friday, the 7th of September, on Kobalt. You can catch Seafret on their next English tour later this month, listed here on their official Web site. Our archive of articles on Seafret here on TGTF can be accessed this way.

 

Album Review: Bang Bang Romeo – Shame on You EP

 
By on Wednesday, 29th August 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Bang Bang Romeo Shame on You EP album coverLast week, the world of soul lost one of its most prominent sisters, Aretha Franklin. The same week in August also welcomed in the debut release from a band fronted by a woman who may step in and nab the moniker of ‘Queen of Soul’ one day. Doncaster may be a long way from Detroit, but Bang Bang Romeo are also not your average rock band.

The strong songs on their ‘Shame on You’ EP demonstrate the powerful vocals of Anastasia Walker and booming instrumentation by Ross Cameron and Richard Gartland, albeit presented with a Los Angeles sheen. The record starts (sorry in advance for the pun) with a bang with the title track. ‘Shame on You’ benefits from Walker’s forceful delivery and the track’s emphatic percussive beats. Are lust and desire good or bad? How about wanting things we can’t have? From the mental confusion of ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’ (I think) when it comes to love and lust, we move swiftly on to the driving ‘Cemetery’.

As if to prove their chops, Bang Bang Romeo slow things down immediately after with ‘Adore Me’. Walker’s soaring vocals make this tune a winner; dripping with its stated “bittersweet” emotions, she repeatedly asks, “do you adore me?” This is their stadium moment: the song builds towards a commanding crescendo, Walker holding court comfortably with her voice at its figurative peak. On ‘Bag of Bones’, Walker confronts self-esteem and body images: “I’ve got a wicked soul / still my heart can bleed / I’m so much more / I’ve got a bag of bones”. It’s an anthem not just for young girls but for all of us, a stern, arse-kicking reminder that we’re more than the skin we find ourselves in.

The collection ends on a blistering note, with another stadium-sized track ‘Chemical’. Previously released as their debut single last year, it bears the line “it’s much more when it comes, like a hurricane gunning for war”. The song caps off an exemplary set of songs; like a series of fireworks, the ‘Shame on You’ EP writes high in the sky of Bang Bang Romeo’s ascending potential.

9/10

The ‘Shame on You’ EP from Bang Bang Romeo is out now from Eleven Seven Label Group. The video below is a year old, but it proves that even before American A&R bods got a hold of them, they had loads of talent.

 

Album Review: Little Sparrow – Just 3 EP

 
By on Tuesday, 7th August 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Manchester singer/songwriter Katie Ware, perhaps better known by the name Little Sparrow, has recently released a new and distinctively charming EP to whet her audience’s appetite for a forthcoming full album. The EP release, simply titled ‘Just 3’, is brief but emotionally evocative, showcasing the beautiful singing voice that gave Little Sparrow her name, as well as the classically-influenced instrumental arrangements borne of her continued collaboration with producer Jonny Lexus, pianist/composer Robin Dewhurst and cellist Sarah Dale.

Ware is currently in the process of writing and recording a new album, which she hopes to release in 2019. But an opportunity presented to her back in 2016 set her path on a slight detour, which has turned out to be more of a happy accident than a deterrent to her progress. The ‘Just 3’ EP began to take shape when organisers at the 2016 Kendal Calling festival suggested that Ware, who was performing at the festival, might team up with Dewhurst and Dale to work on a classic rock cover. That collaboration grew from working on the cover to writing and arranging two additional Little Sparrow songs as well, and judging from the result, the three musicians have found a successful synchronicity.

In the EP’s opening track, Little Sparrow presents the fruit of the original collaboration, a drastic reinterpretation of Madness’ 1980 hit ‘Baggy Trousers’. In the hands of Ware and company, ‘Baggy Trousers’ is transformed from a zany punk anthem to a musical theatre-style vignette of melancholy introspection. Ware’s vocals find the sweet spot between sultry pop expressivity and beautiful classical technique, while Dewhurst’s delicate piano and Dale’s yearning cello provide an evocative backdrop to Little Sparrow’s remarkable reimagining of this song.

The middle track on the ‘Just 3’ EP is one we’ve heard before at TGTF, early single ‘Tender’, which was released on its own back in December of last year. As we mentioned in our review of the single, ‘Tender’ is a heartfelt and very personal song for Ware, and her video treatment, which includes fan-submitted photographs of loved ones alongside Ware’s own shared images, is equally emotional. The sentimental quality of the song makes it a nice pairing with the Little Sparrow version of ‘Baggy Trousers’, continuing both its nostalgic mood and its graceful musicality.

As if on cue, ‘Just 3’ closes with an unapologetic tearjerker, the aptly positioned ‘Dry Your Eyes’. In the EP’s press release, Ware relates that she wrote this song several years ago, when she was in the midst of suffering from a bout of depression. However, she emphasises that “the song is intended to be positive and to encourage the listener to ‘dry your eyes’ and to know that ‘you are not alone’.” Her uplifting message is inspiring both to the heart and to the minds of her hopeful listeners, who upon hearing these three tracks will no doubt be more eager than ever to hear Little Sparrow’s next collection of elegant and carefully-crafted songs.

8/10

Little Sparrow’s self-released ‘Just 3’ EP is available now. You can find TGTF’s past coverage of Little Sparrow, including a review of her debut LP ‘Wishing Tree’, through this link.

 

Album Review: Jealous of the Birds – The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me in My Sleep EP

 
By on Tuesday, 31st July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Daniel Alexander Harris

JOTB Moths EP coverNorthern Irish alt-rocker Jealous of the Birds (aka Naomi Hamilton) has recently released a new EP with an elusive but thought-provoking title, ‘The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me in My Sleep.’ While the title might seem a little unwieldy, especially for a 5-track EP, the songs contained on the new recording are a bit less intimidating, in and of themselves.

Of the five songs presented here, only EP opener ‘Plastic Skeletons’ is brand new, as you might have seen back in May when editor Mary featured it as our Video of the Moment #2843. It’s a strong opening to the EP, immediately upbeat and groovy, with shuffling percussion and an elastic guitar riff under Hamilton’s distorted vocals. She sings the verses in a slow, sensual drawl, lilting suggestively over the lines “hope you have it in you to undress again” and “I’ve become addicted to the smell of your cologne”. While the song’s chorus isn’t exactly catchy, its crunchy guitars give the song an extra edge as Hamilton poses the question, “do you wanna wrap me up in suede / smudge off my black eyeliner?”

The other four songs on ‘The Moths of What I Want’ appeared on Jealous of the Birds’ debut full-length album ‘Parma Violets’, which was released in back in 2016 just after Hamilton’s first appearance at SXSW. The middle sequence of three songs, ‘Miss Misanthrope’, ‘Trouble in Bohemia’, and ‘Tonight I Feel Like Kafka’, is lifted directly from LP, with some notable production edits from the album versions.

The gentle folk arrangement of ‘Miss Misanthrope’ stands in marked contrast to ‘Plastic Skeletons’ with gentle woodwind adornment and intricate vocal layering underscoring its introspective musings. Subtle yet pleasantly surprising in places, the poetry and the musical effects both leave a warm sense of empathy in their wake. The trippy folk-rock of ‘Trouble in Bohemia’ is muted and a bit grungier in its reworking for the EP, but still retains its upbeat rhythm and lo-fi production quality. ‘Tonight I Feel Like Kafka’, which we at TGTF heard in live performance at SXSW 2017, is similarly dialed back in its production, with its serpentine synth melody and Hamilton’s vocal line blended more smoothly into an overall instrumental arrangement that better suits the song’s self-consciously literary quality.

EP closer ‘Russian Doll’ already had a grungy, garage rock feel in its ‘Parma Violets’ recording, which fitted the defensive mood of its lyrics. Talking about the song’s underlying meaning, Hamilton says, “It’s about when you’re in a relationship and you’re having someone else projecting certain things on you . . . and you don’t have any control over that. It’s matching up the person you want to become and what someone else sees you as.” The new EP recording, re-mixed by Ben Baptie (Young Fathers, Daughter, Lianne LaHavas, London Grammar), dials back the crunch of the guitars, emphasising instead the percussive rhythm and disjointed quality of vocal lines, giving the song a sharper edge and stronger overall profile.

Though we here at TGTF have covered Jealous of the Birds quite extensively over the past few years, we missed the opportunity to review ‘Parma Violets’ on its initial release. ‘The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me in My Sleep’ serves as a good reminder of what attracted us to Jealous of the Birds in the first place, but also gives a glimpse into where Hamilton might take her music in the future. Her alt-folk and acoustic talents having been fully displayed, she’s now taking a bolder, more rock-oriented tack, without losing the unapologetically poetic lyrical qualities that make her songs unique. If you liked ‘Parma Violets’, this new EP is simply a fresh take on some of those songs, with the added bonus of ‘Plastic Skeletons’ to whet your appetite for more new music from Jealous of the Birds. If you didn’t catch ‘Parma Violets’ the first time around, ‘The Moths of What I Want…’ is your second chance to get acquainted.

8.5/10

‘The Moths of What I Want Will Eat My in My Sleep’ is out now via Hand in Hive (UK) and Canvasback (U.S.). You can find TGTF’s collected coverage of Jealous of the Birds through here.

 

Album Review: Joshua Burnside – All Round the Light Said EP

 
By on Monday, 2nd July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Joshua Burnside All Round the Light Said album coverThese days, you have two pretty clear options on the kind of music you can listen to: true escapist fare of little intellectual consequence to take your mind away from what’s going outside your door, or songs with a conscience and enough meat on the bones to make you contemplate where you or the world has gone wrong. One is neither better than the other, but as time passes, I know which kind can console me now. Northern Irish alt-folk singer/songwriter Joshua Burnside’s latest release, the ‘All Round the Light Said’ EP, falls in the second category, and its title alone leads to some heavy questions. What is the light? Is it benevolent? Are we meant to be going towards it? While Burnside’s EP may not hold all the answers, it follows nicely from his Northern Ireland Music Prize-winning debut album ‘Ephrata’ from last year and its political and emotional content framed by South American rhythms.

The EP begins with previously unveiled single ‘A Man of High Renown’, a lumbering waltz of air organ and accordion oozing Irishness. A gay and catchy melody belies the song’s dark lyrical content as the song feels like one of those films where you’re bounced between terrible events of the past and present day. At the song’s core is a struggle between the powerful and the weak. You’re left wondering if wrongs have been righted; perhaps that was the intention, to leave it as a cliffhanger? The accompanying video sees Burnside on accordion, being accompanied by dancers because, well, everyone knows the Irish are famous for their music and their dancing, right? The split screen accomplishes the same thing as the lyrics, juxtaposing locations of old and new Belfast.

‘Rearranged’ can be viewed another exercise in looking back, while also looking forward to see how far one has come or what’s up ahead. Or not. Burnside’s own technophobic tendencies have translated into a meandering guitar melody and a warbly vocal delivery. These feel like are good parallels to the noodley thoughts in your head of anxiety. ‘Northern Winds’ is a song in two acts, the first a more conventional folk song. About halfway through, a gentle drumbeat is accompanied by trumpet and banjo. The tempo speeds up and so does the overall volume as Burnside’s voice turns more insistent, referencing Oscar Wilde’s short story The Happy Prince, itself a study of compassion and sacrifice. Long a staple of Burnside’s live show and recorded in analogue, it’s interesting it immediately precedes ‘Paul’, a much more experimental number with unusual percussion, disorted organ notes and synth effects. While an obvious strength of Burnside’s is his Americana-style songwriting, the way ‘All Round the Light’ concludes suggests a future more experimental direction that would be even more intriguing.

8/10

The newest release from Joshua Burnside, the Editor Mary reviews Northern Irish alt-folk singer/songwriter Joshua Burnside’s latest release, the ‘All Round the Light Said’ EP out now on Quiet Arch. EP, is out now on Quiet Arch Records. His next live appearances include UK headline shows at Glasgow Nice N Sleazy on the 10th of July and London Paper Dress Vintage on the 24th, in addition to loads of Irish appearances through the summer. A full list of his live appearances are available on his official Web site. Read through our past coverage on Burnside through this link.

 
 
 

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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