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Top Albums of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Tuesday, 18th December 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Wowsers, has this year flown by or what? I can scarcely believe we’re ready to celebrate Christmas in a week’s time, but you know what that means, boys and girls. It’s time for the editor’s top picks of 2012. Unlike most lists that have already published either in print or online, there will be no mentions of Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar or DIIV. Sorry. No, and this year, I tried to get away from dance as I could, which seems really odd considering where I found myself 2 years ago; this is probably good commentary on the music scene at large, where beats – either urban or poppy – have invaded nearly every facet of radio and except for the odd album or two, I found these to be completely devoid of heart. Or character. (But there were 3 in my top 10 that were arguably dance albums, so maybe there’s still hope…) Without further delay, here are my picks for 2012.

The-Crookes-Hold-Fast-cover1. The Crookes – ‘Hold Fast’ (Fierce Panda) – In the shadow of love – in its electric (2010’s #1, Delphic’s ‘Acolyte’) and nostalgic, life affirming (2011’s #1, Noah and the Whale’s ‘Last Night on Earth’) forms – my #1 this year goes as far back to basics with the good ol’ pop-tinged rock ‘n’ roll of Sheffield’s Crookes. I’ve always thought that the smartest songwriters are those that can write catchy tunes while also offering up thought-provoking, intelligent lyric; guitarist Daniel Hopewell fits this description to a T.

This album would feel equally at home in the 1960s as it does in 2012. There is no studio trickery or fancy production here, just heartfelt (and heartbroken in ‘Maybe in the Dark’) feelings being sung to memorable melodies that can help to remind you of simpler times. Or simply remind you of the important people who have coloured your life. Do yourself a favour and get this album. If you’re not sold yet, read my review of ‘Hold Fast’ here.

Keston-Cobblers-Club-cover2. Keston Cobblers’ Club – ‘One, for Words’ (Beatnik Geek) – It has been shown to us time and time again that family members who sing together make some incredible music. (For one, the Beach Boys.) In Julia and Matthew Lowe, we have familial alchemy at work again, this time on some incredible folk pop. When one album can make you laugh, make you cry, make you wistful for a former lover, make you remember through happy tears your life experiences, that is truly special indeed, and that’s what I’ve gotten out of ‘One, for Words’. I expect to be playing this album again and again until my final days. You can read my review of their debut album here.

Grimes-Visions-cover3. Grimes – ‘Visions’ (4AD) – Claire Boucher is now one of the hottest commodities in the music business these days, and surely the biggest game changer from Canada since Arcade Fire. Every time I tried to catch the baby-voiced master of synths and sequencers in 2012, I never actually managed to get in. Thankfully though, I have this album to keep me company whenever things have gone boring in my life. Variety is the key word of this album, with ambient, industrial, pop and minimalist genres all touched on for one eclectic group of songs. Every time you pick up this album, you’ll hear something exciting you missed the last time around, and I don’t think it’s possible for ‘Visions’ to get old. Read my review here.

Casiokids-Aabenbaringen-over-aaskammen-cover4. Casiokids – ‘Aabenbaringen over aaskammen’ (Moshi Moshi) – There’s no way I could have forgotten the craziness of Casiokids’ third album. Even in the middle of winter, thoughts of a pineapple-shaped maraca, the sheer wonkiness of ‘Det Haster!’ and ‘Dresinen’, and disco and jungle beats working in harmony on the same album easily warmed my heart. This is controlled chaos, in a way that only Nordics manage to do it. And even if you go into this album thinking, “no way is this album going to lift my mood”, trust me, it will. You’ll even leave it with a knowing yet silly grin on your face.Read more here.

Husky cover5. Husky – ‘Forever So’ (Sub Pop) – The Husky debut album was an example of when you keep hearing the name of a band so many times, you’re wondering what the fuss is all about. Well, wonder no more. If you’re the first-ever signing to a indie label as storied as Sub Pop, then you better bring the goods, and Husky Gawenda and co. do just that in a Fleet Foxes meets the sadness of Nick Drake vehicle. If you’ve ever been slayed by gorgeous harmonies, this album’s for you. Read my review of it here.

After the cut: some albums that just missed the top 5 cut, and others that disappointed.

Continue reading Top Albums of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 

Live Review: Ladyhawke with Computer Magic at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 10th September 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 12th September 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a great turnout for the Ladyhawke show in DC on Monday night. While the first album did pretty well here on the strength of the sheer danciness of its tracks, the rock ‘n’ roll direction Pip Brown decided to go in for second album ‘Anxiety’ didn’t lend itself automatically to stateside popularity, at least in my mind anyway. RNR shows always start late, so I was not surprised that we weren’t let into the performance space until a good 2 hours after the doors were supposed to be open. (Okay…) But it should be said that the transition between the four different acts – yes, four – was pretty quick. One man DJ / producer Lightwaves started off the evening with a short but beat heavy set, incorporating Florence and the Machine and an alternative, dancier version of Yeah Yeah Yeah‘s ‘Heads Will Roll’ in his mix.

It also appeared that both he and the next act, also local, had their own cheering sections. A one man singer / producer / dancer, Bernard Farley goes by the stage name of Outputmessage. Both Lightwaves and his appearances seemed odd to me – I mean, hasn’t the Ladyhawke sound been going away from dance? But this set, which involved Farley queueing up songs on his laptop, fiddling with buttons on a standalone sequencer and busting moves like Jacko in between singing his version of electro soul was pretty good. And I’ve just learned he’s 1/3 of local electronic act Volta Bureau. Sweet.

When it comes to art imitating life (as in my life), nothing would be weirder than Computer Magic, the project of Danielle “Danz” Johnson, a young 20-something blogger turned musician now living in the capital of everything so hipster these days, Brooklyn. On stage, Johnson looks like a doll that I used to have when I was small: blonde, with big hair and a cute dress. The music sounds very ’80s, and Johnson provides a disaffected vocal that at times makes her sound like a kindly android. But hey, the same could be said about Phil Oakey in some of Human League’s greatest hits, right? Though she relied heavily on her Macbook, the drumming firepower was provided live (thankfully) by Chris Egan, who’s basically a machine, pounding out the beats. Listen to ‘Moving Forward’ below.

I didn’t like ‘Anxiety’ very much. However, I wanted to give Pip Brown the benefit of the doubt, considering how much I adored her 2008 debut album. As if to cater to fans like myself, the Ladyhawke set was exactly half (eight songs each) ‘Ladyhawke’, half ‘Anxiety’. Brown appeared in a Ryan Adams t-shirt, patterned shirt and jeans, swelling with pride at all the hooting and hollering as she strapped on her guitar. She then commented drolly, “I didn’t know anyone knew me in Washington”. Evidently, they do. She and her touring band hammered out song after song, seemingly effortlessly moving from the electropop sound that first made her famous years ago to the newer, rockier songs that Brown has said is her way of tackling her Asperger’s syndrome head on.

While I still feel there are some lyrics that sound weird and emotionless coming out of Brown’s mouth (like the whole “I can’t pretend to hate you / ’cause I will always love you” of ‘Sunday Drive’, for one), it’s clear from her body language that she is much less guarded in front of audiences and feels more comfortable in her skin, which is a great thing. Ultimately though, it was the old favourites that garnered the best response. ‘Paris is Burning’ was demanded by various audience members multiple times, so much that Brown had to shout, “it’s coming. Wait!” The band’s parting blow of the evening was monster hit ‘My Delirium’, which briefly turned all of the crowd into a full-on dancing one. (See the video at the end of this post.)

One gripe: As someone who hasn’t seen Ladyhawke since September 2009, I felt kind of disappointed when the overzealous shouting of other punters spoiled the surprise for me. All I can assume is that they either had already seen her at the first show on this tour at New York’s Bowery Ballroom 2 nights earlier or had read the reviews from that show, as one man’s voice was booming for “White Rabbit!” and a pair of clearly pissed women in leather jackets loudly and impertinently asked between songs, “can you do a cover? What cover would you do if you could do any you wanted?” Even before she played it, I put two and two together and figured she’d be covering the Jefferson Airplane song. Would have been nice to have found out from the artist herself, but I guess with Le Internet, beggars can’t be choosers.

After the cut: Ladyhawke’s set list.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qFvPp1KUug[/youtube]

Continue reading Live Review: Ladyhawke with Computer Magic at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 10th September 2012

 

Video of the Moment #915: Ladyhawke

 
By on Tuesday, 7th August 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

The unforgiving desert is the setting for Ladyhawke‘s new video for ‘Blue Eyes’, her new single out on the 17th of September. Scenes of arid desolation are interspersed with psychedelic images of cats and those of Pip Brown shredding on her guitar. Are you intrigued now? Good. Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1Pucpi8cvo[/youtube]

 

MP3 of the Day #559: Ladyhawke

 
By on Wednesday, 13th June 2012 at 10:00 am
 

There’s a flurry of new things being released around Ladyhawke‘s new album ‘Anxiety’. This includes a new ‘acoustic’ version of single ‘Sunday Drive’, though it sounds like she’s using an electric organ in this (?) Listen to and download the free track below.

Last week Pip Brown ‘Anxiety’, the follow-up to 2008’s ‘Ladyhawke’. Read Mary’s thoughts on the second outing here.

 

Album Review: Ladyhawke – Anxiety

 
By on Wednesday, 6th June 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

I’ve been having a difficult time with second albums. This, unfortunately, includes the new one from Ladyhawke, called ‘Anxiety’. Couldn’t have a more appropriate title, as I came of age in the blogging world with her self-titled debut album, buying it from a Fopp’s in Nottingham, on the relaxing day before I had a baptism by fire covering her, Patrick Wolf and Dot to Dot headliners Friendly Fires at Rock City. What I loved about ‘Ladyhawke’ was the dance floor-ready tracks, heavy with synths but not in a heavy-handed way. This was an album to be sung along to, to be danced along to, to enjoy again and again and drunk up like the summer of 2009 from whence it became popular.

So the news from NME that the new album ‘Anxiety’ was in a more rock-oriented fashion, in what seems to be an early move in an overall backlash towards the dance synth sound of the last 3 years, I was crestfallen. However, because of my love for her debut album, I was determined to give Pip Brown’s latest a chance. The title comes from Brown’s own diagnosis and coping with Asperger’s syndrome, which she has described as making it impossible for her to deal with real life unless she takes her anti-anxiety medication; this is explained specifically in the lyrics of the title track.

The first indication things would not be the same came in the form of Zane Lowe debuting first single ‘Black, White and Blue’ (review here). The guitars are more prominent and with gratuitious reverb, and yes, there are no dance synths, but that’s to be expected. The gamer in her probably likes the computer bleeps and blips, but I’m no fan. Along with several others, including like ‘Girl Like Me’, it’s the drums are nearly made obsolete, with tambourines and other percussive flourishes taking over the beat role. Lyrically, she has gone the simple route, which will probably make this album more popular in a widespread, as it will be easy to sing along to festivals. She implores, “please don’t go / I need your love”, in the chorus of ‘Sunday Drive’ (Watch it here; listen to it in the widget below.) Trite. Cringe-inducing. It’s stompy in the Nancy Sinatra fashion but instead a stalkerish one. “I can’t pretend to hate you / ‘cos I will always love you / And when you try to leave me / I run insane”: wait, what? I think I can safely say that all women reading this have been through some bad relationship patches, but the last thing I want to do is hear a winched up, faux-power pop song telling me – or maybe enabling me is the better sentiment? – and that’s it okay to be all moony over a guy who is trying to leave me? That’s for the film at 8, not what I really want again and again in an album. Also, what is going on with these random effects? Lyrically, the content isn’t forward-thinking; putting in spaceship sounds doesn’t automatically put the song into forward-thinking mode either.

Returning to album opener ‘Girl Like Me’, you want to root for the protagonist who is playing a game with a man who “between the devil and the deep sea / I saw you dancing / with a girl like me”, but the song is just too simplistic, you can’t expect it to be memorable. At first, I was thinking this album was her way to getting a lover out of her system. ‘Cellophane’ is a slower, oozier ‘80s-style number with an overused guitar key change, wondering if “if all those years we spent running away / we never knew / that it was meant to be”; I guess that one is for the nostalgic types.

But on second thought, this album sounds like a collection of Brown’s inner demons: “what will people think of me?” in ‘Vaccine’, being the other woman in ‘Girl Like Me’, “take me for a ride / show me how to hide / the voice in my head” in ‘Anxiety’, “I see them coming for me in the middle of the night” in ‘The Quick and the Dead’, “save your advice for another girl” in ‘Gone Gone Gone’. This wouldn’t be the first album to showcase someone’s internal battles and it won’t be the last, but is it done well? It makes sense that she couldn’t use the same kind of musical backing as her first record to soundtrack such heavy stuff. But do we want to hear it like this? Or at all?

I had a look at the lyrics to ‘Magic’, one of my favourites from ‘Ladyhawke’, and while they’re not going to win a Pulitzer, I liked them and think I gave her more free rein because of the dance beats. When you’re dancing, nothing really matters except if you can sing along to the chorus and the beats are good. The beats here are okay but nothing special, because mostly they’re not the focal point. Actually, that’s the main problem here. There doesn’t seem to be a thread tying any of these together. Songs sound circus influenced (see ‘Vanity’, with a melody and twinkly xylophone notes more appropriate for a fairground ride), like a downright sleazy stompathon (‘The Quick and the Dead’) or ‘, and

Perhaps the songs that sounds the most like ‘Ladyhawke’ are album closer ‘Gone Gone Gone’ and ‘Blue Eyes’. The former sounds like a far too late acknowledgement that hey, I’ve got problems, but I would have realised this eventually and broken things off, but instead you’re the one who chose to leave. (Passive-aggressive much?) ‘Blue Eyes’ would have been great, if only it didn’t have a “nah nah nah” chorus. Ugh. Then again, ask the My Chemical Romance fans, they’ve got no problem with that at all. Maybe I’m just being picky with lyrics? Readers, you tell me.

I’m likening this album to being in a haze, either on uppers or downers. It’s hard to focus on anything because without the rhythms to give you heart palpitations, ‘Anxiety’ plods along with no particular direction. I feel for Brown, I really do; it’s not easy being a public figure having been diagnosed with a mental illness, and I give her much credit for offering up her personal problems as fodder for pop songs. Problem is, I think she’s made an album that neither her ‘Ladyhawke’ fans will gravitate towards or will gain her new fans because come now, everyone knows how big ‘My Delirium’ was. I’m not sure how to class this album. Sadly, I was disappointed. Better luck next time, Pip. I will be waiting. Not sure if many others will be, though.

5/10

‘Anxiety’, the sophomore album from Ladyhawke, is out this week on Island.

 

MP3 of the Day #549: Ladyhawke

 
By on Friday, 25th May 2012 at 10:00 am
 

Ladyhawke‘s ‘Sunday Drive’ – from her upcoming sophomore album ‘Anxiety’ out on the 4th of June – has been remixed by Gigamesh, and the result is a shimmery dance number. Listen to and download it below.

 
 
 

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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