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Album Review: Various artists – Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014

 
By on Monday, 14th April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Fierce Panda Records may be famously noted by pedants of the British music business as being the label that launched the careers of Coldplay and Keane, but if that was all to the label, it wouldn’t be still standing. It’s hard for me to fathom that here we are in the year 2014, and Fierce Panda has been in business for 2 decades. The London indie label has championed the little guy and released so much great music in the last 20 years, it would take me far too long to go through their storied history than there is space on our humble Web site. Instead, I’m going to focus on a new 18-track compilation the label is offering up for free with any record purchase from their online shop.

The LP’s title ‘Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014’ is innocuous enough, not at all telling of its contents when, in fact, it is a careful selection of, oddly, the saddest songs from their back catalogue of the last 10 years. I say oddly, because celebrating and (surviving) 20 years in anything these days is cause for celebration, surely? However, despite being advertised by the label themselves as “some of the weepiest tunes it has had the tragic pleasure to put out over the past ten years”, you should be more impressed by the quality of the music not to slit your wrists. Hopefully, anyway. Maybe the whole ‘sad song’ is meant to be cheeky, now that I think about it.

‘Endangered’ does not rely solely on sob story, folky singer/songwriter types and in so doing, shows the breadth of Fierce Panda’s roster. But let’s first examine the more obvious sad songs. Danish girl/boy duo The Raveonettes‘ ‘Last Dance’ is innocent and twee, and Canadians Woodpigeon‘s ‘The Saddest Music in the World’ that opens the album is similar, but with added Simon and Garfunkel influence. Los Angeles quintet Milo Greene‘s harmonies shine on the Biblical leaning ‘Son My Son’, while the voice and songwriting of Tom Hickox, already being compared to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave’s, haunts with desolation on ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’, with sombre piano and then added strings and horns.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLGd50B16Ck[/youtube]

The more bombastic numbers in this collection include the now-on-hiatus Walkmen and their optimistic (or delusional?) ‘In the New Year’, the slow burning Acres of Lions‘ ‘Collections’, Hatcham Social‘s rich guitars in ‘Sidewalk’ and Dingus Khan‘s whistle-filled ‘Made a List’; the latter’s inclusion in particular surprised me, but it just goes to show that even if you’re looking rough and tumble on the outside, you can still feel sadness inside. The sonic beauty of Ultrasound‘s ‘Sovereign’ is marred, presumably on purpose, by the repetition of the lyric “we are unclean” and the business of sex and sin, all wailed by singer Andrew “Tiny” Wood. The same can be said for tracks that include synths or twinkly keys: ‘They All Laughed’ by the Spinto Band sounds cheerful in a music box sort of way but it veils, not very well, the disgust he has for a former love, while the psychedelic feelings that Hey Sholay‘s ‘The Bears The Clocks The Bees’ engenders are appropriate for a song about confusion in a relationship.

It should also noted that sadness can also come out of mind games, craving someone else or the deepest regret. The industrial Nine Inch Nail-sey sound of Department M‘s ‘J-Hop’ (stream above) comes with the element of desire with its sensual lyrics, “we ply / by the logic of the reasoned minds / and one last time I’ll come to your body / what do you need?” The genius behind Art Brut‘s ‘Rusted Guns of Milan’ is Eddie Argos’ admittance, in his usual funny way, that he’s messed up in a relationship and he wants a second chance. Meanwhile, a similar request for a second chance is captured in a brilliant snapshot in ‘Last Decade’ by Goldheart Assembly (video below), showing a man’s final moments, first desperate to reconcile with a lover but then resigning to his fate: “but you know I’d go back, but there is no way…” I Like Trains‘ ‘A Rook House for Bobby’ I’m guessing is named for chess champion and famed recluse Bobby Fischer, using his hermit existence as a metaphor for how love can cause depression. The self-deprecation and admittance of weakness in the little girl voice of Melanie Pain in ‘How Bad Can It Be’ is, no pun intended, painful: “everyone knows I won’t change / everyone knows love is not my game / everyone know who I am / everyone but you.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE667lCVBDA[/youtube]

Additional Panda melancholy comes courtesy of Sheffield in the form of two exemplary tracks. A man’s exasperation over his lover’s worry about losing him is made all too real in Tom Hogg’s expressive vocals with his bandmates’ gorgeously crooning backing in ‘Would You Be Blue’ by the Hosts (stream below) from this year’s debut album from them, ‘Softly, Softly’. Meanwhile, the loneliness of the protagonist of The Crookes ‘Howl’ from ‘Soapbox’ released today is haunted by the memory of another’s love, as George Waite’s voice is alternately dreamy and contemplative in the romance of song-induced candlelight: “and there’s no time, only light / no clocks, but shadows that hide the point when day becomes night / it’s hard to tell with these skies… I heard the howl, I love you but you keep me down.”

I think those two songs tell the ‘sad song story’ of Fierce Panda’s last 10 years the best, and why? Sad songs, like love songs, are often misunderstood. Emotions like sadness, loneliness and indeed, even love are like jewels. Whether they mean to or not, the people who gloss over emotion don’t seem to understand that they aren’t one-dimensional but instead multi-faceted, with dull and lifeless versus bright and sharp faces and something new to discover upon each listen. As a collection of the ‘sad song’ genre, ‘Endangered’ is a great introduction to the many wonderful artists on the Fierce Panda roster, and I can’t imagine you won’t find at least one song that will make you feel something deep in your heart.

7.5/10

You can get ‘Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014’ now for free if you order any album from the Fierce Panda online shop here. For more information on the bands signed to Fierce Panda, those included in this collection and those not, visit the label’s official Web site. For a limited time, you can get another eight-track song sampler (not all sad songs!); more details in this previous MP3(s) of the Day post.

 

MP3(s) of the Day #818: Fierce Panda ‘Survival’ eight-track sampler

 
By on Wednesday, 2nd April 2014 at 10:00 am
 

Fierce Panda Records have put out some great music over its storied 20 years in business. We should know; we’ve reviewed albums by and become enamoured with many of their artists. In case you needed further convincing (but you really shouldn’t), the influential London indie label is giving away a pack of eight mp3s for free through Amazon UK. What’s included in the bundle?

1. ‘Robin Song’ – Woodpigeon
2. ‘Cutty Love’ – Milo Greene
3. ‘Under the Waterway’ – Goldheart Assembly (pictured at top)
4. ‘Where the Wind Blows’ – The Hosts (read my review of their 2014 album ‘Softly, Softly’ here)
5. ‘Sofie’ – The Crookes (read my review of their 2014 album ‘Soapbox’ here)
6. ‘Breaking Into Cars’ – The Raveonettes
7. ‘Good Enough’ – Mélanie Pain
8. ‘The Angel of the North’ – Tom Hickox

Get your pack of free eight mp3s from Amazon here.

 

Live Gig Video: Milo Greene play ‘Son, My Son’ for In the Open

 
By on Friday, 12th July 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

Californian band Milo Greene recently did this session for In the Open, performing ‘Son, My Son’ from their 2012 self-titled debut album. It looks like they’re doing this in a forest or on a farm (?), real troopers they are. Watch it below.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CaBXDcCCMQ[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #951: Milo Greene

 
By on Sunday, 2nd September 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

The wide open spaces and deserted motorways of America are the setting for Milo Greene new video for ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’. Watch it below.

Milo Greene recently played a sold out show here in DC, with Reading/Leeds 2012 BBC Introducing stage band Family of the Year supporting; read Cheryl’s live review of it here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh35Yt7OHok[/youtube]

 

Live Review: Milo Greene with Family of the Year at DC9, Washington DC – 24th July 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 7th August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

In 2011, I covered this gig by the Civil Wars and was delighted by the support band. Fast forward nearly a year and that support band, Milo Greene, is now selling out venues as they travel through their own headlining tour. They made a triumphant return to Washington, DC playing to a sold out crowd at the intimate DC9 nightclub.

Starting out our night was the California-based band Family of the Year. Although they seem to fall into the current crop of folk bands, Family of the Year rocks much harder than your standard folk band. Yet, with an acoustic guitar out front, it’s got a bit of that folkish feel. I’m just happy to say that this band plays a great set from gentle, sweet tunes like ‘Heroes’ to the rocking ‘Diversity’. Playing mostly songs from their just release album ‘Loma Vista’, Joseph Keefe (guitar and vocals), Sebastian Keefe (drums), Christina Schroeter (keys), James Buckey (guitar) and Alex Walker (bass) got the crowd dancing with their bouncy, carefree songs. But it was ‘St. Croix’ that made me grin as they channeled, just for a moment, TGTF darlings Two Door Cinema Club with their “oh, oh, oh“ bit. Seriously, go listen. You will have the opportunity to see this band quite soon as they are playing Reading and Leeds on the BBC Introducing Stage. With a couple of other UK and European dates as well, I again predict good things for this band that I first saw playing support.

With the stage so tiny, I worried about how Milo Greene were going to carry out their trademark instrument shuffling. They slid into their set with ‘Cutty Love’ with one set-up and before the next song was underway, their first transition was complete: guitar to keys, keys to bass, bass to banjo. With nary a flub throughout the night, this band has clearly become very well polished during their short stint in the national public eye. Indeed, band members Robbie Arnett, Marlana Sheetz, Andrew Heringer, and Graham Fink share nearly all the instruments and vocal duties. “Four of us were lead singers in our previous projects, so we really have no focal point, no lead melody writer or lyricist. Everything is Milo,” Arnett claims. Only Curtis Marrero remains stationary at his drums.

I was thrilled to see the instrumental ‘Wooden Antlers’ was still on the set list – not many bands have the courage to have instrumentals on their albums, let alone in their live shows. Even though the album came out only a week before the gig, the crowd teemed with singalongs. The unforgettable melodies and catchy lyrics were sung back to the band, complete with harmonies from the couple next to me. Both meditative and swelling, Milo Greene’s live set sweeps you into a feel-good place that you want to go on and on.

It also seems that I was quite correct in originally tipping the song ‘1957’ as their breakthrough tune. Not only is it their first single, it’s the song they have chosen to end their set with. With supreme confidence in it, Arnett turned the mic out towards us for the ending chant “I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go, I.” With grins all around, the band watched as their creation was belted out back at them.

As the set wound down, Fink revealed that they were going to have to leave quite quickly at the end of the gig because they needed to get to New York City to set up for their ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ performance. (You can watch this performance below.) This is indeed a huge coup for a small band in America. While they do not currently have dates scheduled for the UK at this time, I won’t be surprised in the least to see them head over in the spring.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp-FRU6YwrM[/youtube]

After the cut: the set lists.
Continue reading Live Review: Milo Greene with Family of the Year at DC9, Washington DC – 24th July 2012

 

Video of the Moment #869: Milo Greene

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd July 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

Milo Greene‘s self-titled debut album will be out on the 17th of July on Chop Suey Records here in the States, and they’re definitely a band to watch. Below is the official video for their song ‘1957’. Enjoy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8Mc8YRigmw[/youtube]

 
 
 

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

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