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Album Review: Johnny Flynn – Sillion

 
By on Friday, 24th March 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

English songwriter and jack-of-all-trades Johnny Flynn didn’t make it to Austin as originally scheduled for SXSW 2017, but his new album ‘Sillion’ is out today, the 24th of March. While I was disappointed not to see Flynn play at SXSW, I did take a listen (or two, or maybe three) to ‘Sillion’ during my drive to and from Austin, and I must say that the album itself does not disappoint. It makes excellent driving music, especially on long uninterrupted stretches of road, where you can listen without distraction and appreciate the subtle nuances of Flynn’s songwriting.

The word ‘sillion’, as used by Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem ‘The Windhover’ refers to “the thick, voluminous, and shiny soil turned over by a plow.” In the context of Hopkins’ poem, sillion represents the beauty that comes from simple, everyday work, and the same might be said for Flynn’s use of the word as the title of his album. The songs on ‘Sillion’ are simple in structure and straightforward in their language. But musically, they have a sort of luminosity to them, a bright glow that emanates from the varied instrumental and vocal arrangements used to dress and decorate the lyrics.

Opening track ‘Raising the Dead’ sounds a bit like a pub singalong, with its lurching march tempo and simple refrain, but its ringing guitar and bright backing vocals stand in contrast to the rather sombre subject matter in Flynn’s lyrics. This is the kind of song you could easily imagine as the soundtrack to a film scene depicting the wake of a beloved character, which perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Flynn’s forays into theatre and television.

Flynn is as adept at creating and developing characters in his songwriting as he is on the stage, and there are several examples of that quality on ‘Sillion’. ’Heart Sunk Hank’ is perhaps one of the more personal of these, where his main character is despondent about being separated from his female love. As it turns out the separation Flynn had in mind while writing the song was both physical and metaphorical. “There’s a version of [folk song ‘Ten Thousand Miles’] by Nic Jones that I really love”, says Flynn. “His version is really pure and beautiful and trembling with authenticity. But I played it to my wife and she hated it. And it made me laugh: how can it be that this person that I love hates this song?” He juxtaposes that intellectual disconnect with the more physical one involved in being a touring musician. “I’ve been away from home a lot,” he continues. “I’m always off, and I carry that sense of my love across the seas, romanticising it, and she’s like, ‘Shut up, come home.’”

‘Heart Sunk Hank’ is an interesting track sonically as well. Flynn recorded it partially inside a 1940s-era sound recording booth, which accounts for the weirdly discordant guitar melody and the distant sounding vocals. The sound booth recording is gradually blended with a cleaner, modern studio recording, cleverly creating a sense of temporal disconnect to illustrate the physical and intellectual detachment in the lyrics.

Flynn makes a character of his late piano in a track called, aptly enough, ‘The Night My Piano Upped and Died’. The song is sensual and string-driven, and Flynn creates both a sonic setting and a lyrical one for his dramatic tale of woe: “somewhere in the distant nether / I can hear her off the tether / off the hook of ones and twos / now she really sings the blues”. Later in the tracklisting, Flynn takes on a more detailed character study in the ominous story of ‘The Landlord’, beginning with the portentous lines “I met the landlord / I kept my soul / and in the morning / he was ashen and cold”.

It would be easy for many songwriters to get bogged down in the complicated harmonies and rhythms found on ‘Sillion’, but Flynn deftly avoids this tendency, maintaining a sense of energy and momentum throughout the album. Recent single ‘Wandering Aengus’ is more bluesy than the fare on the rest of the album, but its combination of woodwinds, brass, and bowed strings keeps it sonically connected. ‘Barleycorn’ is a harmonically adventurous version of a traditional English folk tune, with biting backing vocals and harsh ambient sounds in the arrangement, as well as a cool guitar riff in the instrumental bridge.

The album’s final track ‘Hard Road’ was particularly striking to me as I drove through the West Texas desert between Austin and Tucson. There’s a hint of sparkling light behind Flynn’s dark musical arrangement, just before he sings the lines “the distant call / of far off stars / are haunting all / what might have been”, and the added layers of instrumentation under the final repeated chorus seem to signify the perpetuity of the road ahead. It’s a fitting and ultimately optimistic end to an album focusing on the stark beauty and basic humanity of everyday life.

8.5/10

Johnny Flynn’s fourth studio album ‘Sillion’ is out today, the 24th of March, on Transgressive Records. Also today, Flynn and his band the Sussex Wit begin their UK tour in support of the album. You can find all the details for that tour by clicking here, and you can read our full archive of past coverage on Johnny Flynn if you follow this link.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: London jazz, world music and singer/songwriter artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Thursday, 23rd February 2017 at 11:00 am
 

As you might have guessed, London wins the prize for sending to SXSW 2017 the largest number of artists of all cities in the UK. In this post, we introduce you to acts from London that don’t exactly fit in the ‘usual’ genres SXSW is famous for. Today, we’ve got for you artists who are experts in the field of jazz (yes, really), world music, plus singer/songwriters, because we couldn’t fit them into the London portion of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017 anywhere else. Except where noted, the summaries below were written by Steven Loftin. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Flamingods – psychedelic world music
When Flamingods describe themselves as “exotic psychedelia”, they are definitely not wrong. Founded in 2009 by frontman Kamal Rasool in Bahrain, the band now reside in the UK, but have brought all that exotic Middle Eastern goodness with them. A unique take on western pop mixed with their grand and explosive live performances has gained them a reputation noticed by the likes of Dazed, i-D magazine and The Guardian and secured them slots at Glastonbury, Latitude, Fusion Festival in Germany and Milhoes de Festa in Portugal. With a total of six albums under their belt including their most recent in 2016 ‘Majesty’, they’ll have plenty of material to draw from when they appear in Austin. (Adam McCourt)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31f04cdKtY8[/youtube]

GoGo Penguin – jazz
Having signed to the legendary jazz label Blue Note records this year, GoGo Penguin are well on their way to success already. On their third album, the Mancunians’ mixture of jazz, acoustic and electronica is a fresh sound that ensures they don’t get lost within the indie mire. Their 2014 album ‘V2.0’ was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize, just in case you needed more of a nudge (and a reminder). (Steven Loftin)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfD3ht6HVA4[/youtube]

Jacob Collier – world (? he defies description)
We can guarantee you’ve heard nothing quite like Jacob Collier, pictured at top. The youngster fuses more genres than the iTunes drop-down selector and is only 22. After gaining his momentum the way most new artists do, via YouTube, his ascension has been one for the ages. You should definitely check him out if only to see what composition he’s bringing to Texas. (Steven Loftin)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v3zyPEy-Po[/youtube]

Jade Bird – folk / singer/songwriter
You can’t swing a cat around London without hitting a young, aspiring female singer/songwriter. Jade Bird, however, has already gotten plenty of attention, so you should take the time to get to know this new talent. She accompanied Tom Odell on his European tour this month, and she’s following this up in London with a BBC Introducing show at the Lexington on the 6th of April and already announced appearances at Live at Leeds and Bushstock. Of course, those of us who are lucky enough to get out to Austin get a first crack on this side of the Atlantic. Yes, be jealous. (Mary Chang)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0YA3snXeo8[/youtube]

Johnny Flynn – folk / singer/songwriter
Johnny Flynn (usually with his band The Sussex Wit in tow) is no stranger to America, having already come over a few times for tours including one with friend and sometimes collaborator Laura Marling back in 2015. He’ll be releasing his newest album ‘Sillion’ on Transgressive Records in late March after SXSW 2017, so this visit is really the perfect opportunity for Flynn to give his newest tunes a live airing. (Mary Chang)

For past coverage of Johnny Flynn on TGTF, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5wYXnkLbD0[/youtube]

L.A. Salami – blues / singer/songwriter
Since 2014, Lookman Adekunle Salami, aka L.A. Salami, has been garnering a fair amount of interest, and for good reason. Perfectly succinct acoustic and ethereal songs that feature nothing but his bare soul, Salami even has a savage side as shown in ‘I Wear This Because Life is War’. Deserving of much more attention, let’s hope SXSW brings Salami more spotlight action. (Steven Loftin)

Laucan – folk / singer/songwriter
Twenty-seven old Laurence Galpin used to be in a band. But by taking a chance in singing alone with his falsetto in his bedroom, he’s going by the name Laucan now. Rob da Bank must have approved of this move: Galpin is signed to his Sunday Best label, who have just released his single ‘Up Tomorrow’, the title track of an EP that will be unveiled in March. Atmospheric music with Galpin’s falsetto flitting across it is clealy no longer of the “folk music of increasing obscurity” he himself had feared: it’s ready for the masses next month in Austin. (Mary Chang)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY1k-Tk5IFk[/youtube]

Maleek Berry – Afropop and r&b
Maleek Berry (born Maleek Shoyebi) grew up in South London, listening to the biggest names in r&b and pop music. At the age of 14, Berry was introduced to music, mainly through his church, but it was only after gaining his degree in Computer Science, whilst learning piano by ear that he realised his calling was in music. Since then, he has contributed hugely to the Nigerian music scene, working with artists such as Wizkid, Naeto C and Wande Coal, with whom he established with a connection with whilst on a family holiday. (Adam McCourt)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=047xGplGP4o[/youtube]

Manu Delago Handmade – experimental / electronic
With pleasing and melodic experimentation, Manu Delago entrances with instrumentation that is far from your run of the mill guitar / bass / drums setup. Having discovered the ‘Hang’, an instrument that looks like two beat-up woks attached to each other, Delago formed one of his numerous projects, Manu Delago Handmade with the help of Isa Kurz and Chris Norz. Prolific and enlightening, Delago (with his crew) is a beauty amongst the beast. (Steven Loftin)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKiUzLTJJ80[/youtube]

Martin Creed – folk / singer/songwriter
One not to miss, Martin Creed has been creating and experimenting almost his whole life. Not content with being a prominent figure in the art world, he’s also a dab hand at music, even finding massive fans in Franz Ferdinand. You never know what he could bring to the table. (Steven Loftin)

Moelogo – Afropop and r&b
Since his debut single ‘Pangolo’ and his 2013 debut EP ‘Moe is My Name, Music is My Logo’, Moelogo has been making strides within the r&b and Afrobeat scene. Whilst collaborating with artists such as DRB LasGidi and Fuse ODG, Moelogo has gathered lots of interest from BBC 1xtra, Beat FM and Capital Xtra for his latest single ‘Do You Love Me?’ Coming off the back of his 2015 NEA award for Diaspora Artist of the Year, Moelogo was nominated for the 2016 MOBO Award for Best African Act, up against the likes of Wizkid, Davido, Yemi Alade, Patoranking. Not a bad track record at all. (Adam McCourt)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wq1LbcCT8s[/youtube]

Moses Boyd Exodus – jazz
As smooth as silk, Moses Boyd creates dark atmospheric tracks that are lined with a plethora of inspirations from jazz, blues, funk and soul. The drummer is a force not to be reckoned with, carving his way through jam after jam, only taking centre stage when he needs to. Boyd perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a musician. (Steven Loftin)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbF3StGHMUk[/youtube]

Native Dancer – jazz / electronic
Jazz is making waves in a big way once again with Native Dancer. Not quite your atypical jazz band that you’d find in a smoky club. Instead, they’re covered in soul and experimentation, with modern flourishes that are interesting and fresh. They released ‘EP Vol. II’, which in case you hadn’t of guessed was the second installment after ‘EP Vol. I’. (Steven Loftin)


facebook.com/nativedancerofficial

Robyn Hitchcock – folk / singer/songwriter
Managing to be described as the closest thing the UK has to Bob Dylan, Robin Hitchcock is one of the country’s most beloved singer/songwriters, as well as being a poet and author. Self-describing his songs as “paintings you can listen too”: no-one can sum it up better than that. You’d be silly to miss out on his blending of psychedelic sounds with folk. He’s even got a new album coming out in April, how handy is that? (Steven Loftin)

Sarathy Korwar – Indian jazz
Jazz with an Indian twist, something that you never knew you needed until now. Sarathy Korwar is not only good at what he does, but he’s been honoured by numerous Indian and Western bodies of music for his work. Truly genre-breaking stuff, Korwar is a unique mind and to see what he does next will be something special. (Steven Loftin)

Silvastone – Afropop
Originally starting out as a producer and songwriter, Silvastone has gone out as his own force, releasing his debut EP ‘Transitions’ in late 2014. With the follow up due in early 2017, the African-drenched dance music that 2014 brought us will in no doubt come back with a stronger and even more beat-filled songs. (Steven Loftin)

United Vibrations – jazz
More modern jazz comes in the form of United Vibrations, with a name as smooth as their sound. It’s jazz that remains intact, no falling apart at the seams as jazz is want to do, instead they’re fully constructed and fleshed out tracks that wouldn’t be out of place on the deeper side of a Foals album, just less math rock. (Steven Loftin)

Yussef Kamaal – jazz
London-based jazz fusion duo Yussef Kamaal – Yussef Dayes and Kamaal Williams – is essentially the brainchild of Kamaal Williams’ solo material that Yussef Dayes contributed to for a live set at Boiler Room. The duo bring the idea of jazz to a whole new means of consumption by taking the idea of jazz standards and improvisation to extremes. From their first set on at Boiler Room, the duo began performing live, where little more than a chord progression would be planned before taking the stage. The duo released their debut LP ‘Black Focus’ last November. (Adam McCourt)

@yussefkamaal

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2285: Johnny Flynn

 
By on Tuesday, 7th February 2017 at 10:00 am
 

English singer/songwriter and actor Johnny Flynn has just unveiled the first in a series of new videos to accompany the songs on his forthcoming LP ‘Sillion’. Flynn has joined forces with director Simon Ryninks and photographer Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz for a large-scale visual representation of ‘Sillion’, which is described in its press release as “an album about the sacredness of man’s endeavor to connect with the earth, while separated from it.”

You might recall from our earlier review of lead album single ‘Raising the Dead’ that the song was inspired by the abstract, cyclical relationship between Flynn’s deceased father and the birth of his young daughter. The new video for ‘Raising the Dead’ takes a symbolic approach, centering its visual representation around the tangible material possessions of a recently-passed family member, in particular a clamshell lamp that refuses to work properly until it is returned to its proper home.

Johnny Flynn’s fourth studio album ‘Sillion’ is due for release on the 24th of March via Transgressive Records. Prior to the LP release, Flynn is scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017 in mid-March. TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of Johnny Flynn is gathered here.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/o5wYXnkLbD0[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Single Review: Johnny Flynn – Raising the Dead

 
By on Tuesday, 24th January 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn has emerged from a recent flurry of acting, composing and family commitments with news of a new studio album, his fourth, titled ‘Sillion’. The album follows Flynn’s work on the television series ‘Lovesick’ (whose title was changed from the cringeworthy but hilarious ‘Scrotal Recall’) and his introduction to fatherhood with the birth of a new daughter. If you’re interested in seeing Flynn on the small screen, I can recommend ‘Lovesick’ as actually a rather charming programme, now available on Netflix. But it’s the fatherhood angle which brings us to Flynn’s newly released lead single, ‘Raising the Dead’.

‘Raising the Dead’ is an examination of the cyclical nature of life, as Flynn relates the death of his father to the birth of his child. “My Dad died when I was 18, and that was quite a galvanising experience”, Flynn says, “and there’s often an element of that in anything I’m writing; every big loss that you suffer in life, I think everything comes through the conduit of that. I had a really strong sense of my daughter having elements of my Dad when she came along, and it made me kind of laugh – that cyclical sense, of thinking of my daughter as my Dad.”

The new track is immediately richer and more mature in sound than Flynn’s previous release, ‘Country Mile’, with a lush backing chorus and a vivid complement of instrumental sounds behind his introspective lyrics. Flynn’s own singing voice sounds warmer and more mellow, very relaxed and at-ease here compared to what I remember from songs like ‘The Lady is Risen’, but the slight change in vocal timbre is a perfect match for this song’s thematic juxtaposition of joy and sorrow.

Flynn’s songwriting has always been top-notch, both in terms of lyrics and composition, and ‘Raising the Dead’ rises to the standard we’ve come to expect. It displays an emotional and musical depth that reminds us of Flynn’s natural talent and provides an enticing first impression of his forthcoming LP.

8.5/10

Johnny Flynn’s fourth studio album ‘Sillion’ is due for release on the 24th of March via Transgressive Records. Ahead of the album release, Flynn is currently scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017. For news and updates on SXSW 2017 showcasing artists, please consult the festival’s official schedule here. TGTF’s previous coverage of Johnny Flynn is collected through here.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/jY3ONjau0u0[/youtube]

 

Johnny Flynn / March 2017 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 19th January 2017 at 9:00 am
 

Multi-talented and multi-tasking singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn will embark on a tour of the UK this March, accompanied by his longtime band The Sussex Wit. The UK tour will begin on the same day, Friday the 24th of March, that Flynn’s fourth studio album ‘Sillion’ is scheduled for release on Transgressive Records. ICYMI, you can read our review of the album’s lead single ‘Raising the Dead’ through this link.

Just prior to the March UK tour, Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit are scheduled to showcase at SXSW 2017 in Austin, TX. Stay tuned to TGTF for our coverage of that event; in the meantime, you can peruse our past coverage of Johnny Flynn right back here. Tickets for the following live shows are available now.

Friday 24th March 2017 – Brighton St George’s Church
Saturday 25th March 2017 – Leeds Church
Sunday 26th March 2017 – Manchester Gorilla
Monday 27th March 2017 – Edinburgh Caves
Tuesday 28th March 2017 – Birmingham Academy 2
Wednesday 29th March 2017 – Bristol Trinity
Friday 31st March 2017 – London St John’s Hackney

 

Live Review: Laura Marling with Marika Hackman and Johnny Flynn at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 31st July 2015

 
By on Monday, 3rd August 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Laura Marling made big waves back in the spring when she released her fifth album ‘Short Movie’, which was recorded out in Los Angeles when the otherwise normally London-based singer/songwriter made a temporary escape to America. Despite her young age – she’s only 25, though with a back catalogue like hers to be proud of, she seems so much older – her music has already undergone significant change from her earliest appearances as a backing vocalist on Noah and the Whale‘s debut album ‘Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down’ and her first solo album released in 2008, ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’. With ‘Short Movie’, her music seems even more honest than before, and she’s also chosen a harder edge that she’d only begun to explore in the 2013 Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Once I Was an Eagle’. Keeping in mind this evolution in style, it became apparent after talking with fans in the queue outside the 9:30 that the “new” Laura Marling had mixed reviews. Having not seen perform since 2011, I was keen on seeing how her live performance had changed in 4 years.

Marika Hackman live at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 2

Along for the ride with Marling on this North American campaign are her musical friends Marika Hackman and Johnny Flynn, the former describing in a chat with me before the show that their friendship has made this journey out to our continent fun and stress-free. Hackman was up first Friday night and although she’s not well known in America – yet – the general consensus with those I spoke to after her set was overwhelming positive. Wearing what she described as her pajamas because she hadn’t packed well for the oppressiveness of American summer (the high for DC on Friday was 92 F, or 33 C), she apologised for wearing a t-shirt and mens’ boxer shorts, while also telling all the young girls in the audience she should take her lead and make the fashion trend stick. Her stage banter was funny and disarming, a theme that was repeated in both Flynn and Marling’s own sets.

Marika Hackman at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 1

However, when it came down to the actual performance, Hackman’s fragile, emotional voice and adept acoustic guitar playing went down a treat. She released her debut album ‘We Slept at Last’ on Dirty Hit Records back in February, and the beauty of songs being sung and played with such sensitivity, which included early LP single ‘Drown’ and my personal favourite ‘Ophelia’ reverberated through the club. Her cover of American Joanna Newsom’s ’81’, which features on her ‘Sugar Blind’ EP released in 2013, was equally gorgeous. For ‘Animal Fear’, Marling’s bass player and drummer came onstage to accompany Hackman, the resulting sound and rhythm getting punters’ head bopping. It’s not too hard to imagine this talented singer/songwriter gracing this stage as a headliner sometime soon. For more on Marika Hackman on TGTF, go here.

Singer/songwriter and now also actor Johnny Flynn was next, and judging from the screaming and squealing from the girls and women in the crowd, security placed a barrier at the front to deter his devoted fans from scrambling onstage. While Flynn’s deep voice live surprised me, there wasn’t a whole lot about his set that grabbed at me. Also, his voice got drowned out by those around me who were singing along loudly (more power to you, I guess, but it was really distracting). A duet with Laura Marling on ‘The Water’ was recreated live, much to the delight of the punters. Having several albums to his name, he smartly took a trip through his back catalogue, including standouts ‘Brown Trout Blues’ from 2008 and the title track of 2010’s ‘Been Listening’. He ended his set on a high note, enlisting the help of Marling’s backing band and both the voices and hand percussion talents of Marling and Hackman on ‘Tickle Me Pink’. Needless to say, his foaming at the mouth fans would have preferred for him to have played longer. For more on Johnny Flynn on TGTF, go here.

Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn duetting at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 1

Then it was time for the main event. I still have trouble getting over her short-cropped haircut (I asked myself when I saw her at SXSW 2015, “where are her long blonde locks?”) and while I realise it’s been a long time since I saw her play in 2010 in the very intimate Iota, it’s still jarring to me that she’s all grown up. Marling was always mature for her age, and on ‘Short Movie’, it sounds like she’s sharpened her resolve to be her own person and to write and sing about what she wants, and with the emotions on full display. I find it hard to listen to Marling’s more recent work, and this proved also true when I was faced with her live Friday night.

Laura Marling at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 1

This is not criticism of her talent, of which we all know Laura has loads of; it’s more a commentary of the rough-edged, straightforward and therefore often strident way her music comes across these days. There’s no more contrast you could have than Marling performing the relationship-weary ‘I Was an Eagle’ from her 2013 album alongside the sweetness and naivete of ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’. The evolution of Marling’s music includes bluesy bents evident in ‘Walk Alone’ and discarded ‘Short Movie’ track ‘Daisy’, the latter of which has the fantastic line “a woman alone is not a woman undone”. Like Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell before her, Marling is forging her own way in this world, and there needs to be more artists like her who aren’t afraid of being honest.

Laura Marling at 9:30 Club, Washington 2015 2

After the cut: Laura Marling’s set list. To read more on Marling on TGTF, go here.
Continue reading Live Review: Laura Marling with Marika Hackman and Johnny Flynn at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 31st July 2015

 
 
 

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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 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.

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