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Single Review / Essay: William Doyle – Millersdale

 
By on Monday, 9th July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Back in 2015, William Doyle released his second album under the nom de plume East India Youth. The emotional, electronic bliss of ‘Culture of Volume’, which dropped on XL Recordings a short time after his showcasing at SXSW 2015, was one of my top 5 albums of the year. North American, European and UK tours to support the album followed, but then Doyle announced in March 2016 that he was ditching the East India Youth project altogether. He disappeared for a time, re-emerging later that year to release ‘the dream derealised’, a collection of nine mostly instrumental, self-described “abstract and lo-fi pieces”, with all of the album’s profits going to mental health charity Mind.

In an article with The Line of Best Fit, Doyle explained, “I’m releasing them now as a cathartic measure, and as a message for others who may be going through difficult times themselves…What I told myself at the time, what I can tell you now: You are not in danger. You are not going insane. You are not alone.” The detachment from reality that results from derealisation, also known as depersonalization disorder, often occurs with or is triggered by other mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Read more about it here at Psychology Today. As brave as this public acknowledgment and support of mental health was, it wasn’t a one-off. Doyle has spoken at a number of events since with his first-hand knowledge of the hard slog artists go through while living out their dream vocation and the mental health problems that come as a consequence of participating in an all too often unforgiving industry. He is also working with the NHS to develop a “a mental healthcare ‘package’ that can be bought by labels and written into record deals.” Things may be moving slowly towards healthier musicians’ lives, sure, but there is reason to be optimistic, if cautiously.

Following the death of his father, he was uprooted to a Southern residential development called South Millers Dale in Hampshire. The overly ordered, cookie-cutter style of the neighbourhood was in direct opposition from the traumatic incident that led him to the new environment. As he wrote a few days ago on his Facebook page, “It was a stark change of scenery, and a strange environment for a 13 year old to process loss and experience grief. Something about the modern suburb’s artificiality, with its planned and plotted nature and its winding, serpentine roads, seemed to jar when overlaid with something so human as grief.” Doyle has since relocated several times but had the opportunity to revisit the house 2 years ago, helping him to evoke “the untethered spirit of creativity” that led him to first begin making music in his suburban bedroom as a teenager and dream of a musical career.

New single and 5-minute opus ‘Millersdale’ is the next chapter of Doyle’s mental health journey. The euphoric feel of past tracks on the 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Total Strife Forever’ and ‘Culture of Volume’ is here, along with the unfettered release of free jazz in the intro and at the bridge. His vocals recall the jaw-dropping beauty of those on ‘Carousel’ but this time, they’ve got more oomph, evidence of hope and confidence. The accompanying promo video for the single starring Doyle is a perfect foil to the song. Directed by Sapphire Goss, contrasts are smartly utilised to address the light and the dark, familiarity and disorientation, the seeming humdrum of suburbia and fireworks.

In the new promo photos to go along with the release of ‘Millersdale’, Doyle is no longer dressed in a suit like in the East India Youth days. Instead, he’s in tailored khaki from head to toe, looking like he’s about to go on safari. The suburban David Attenborough, perhaps? Maybe, maybe not. The most important things to William Doyle these days is having control over his art and not chasing anyone else’s schedule or measures of success. And like for all my friends in this pressure cooker of a business, above all, I hope he’s happy.

7.5/10

William Doyle’s new single ‘Millersdale’ is out now. Stream and/or buy the song and read the lyrics at his Bandcamp. To read our past articles on his previous project East India Youth, go 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.

 

Album Review: Matt Maltese – Bad Contestant

 
By on Tuesday, 26th June 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Matt Maltese Bad Contestant album coverIn an era where Noughties landfill indie has been usurped by this decade’s overproduced shiny pop, it’s difficult to make a name for yourself if you don’t sound anything like that. The pages of TGTF are littered with artists we love who are anything but conventional. One of the things I most enjoy about South London-based singer/songwriter Matt Maltese is his choice of words. You’re unlikely to find someone else like him on the top 40. If you’re a Morrissey, Leonard Cohen or Divine Comedy fan and you’re used to hearing brutally honest, self-deprecating and often satirical lyrics sung by a crooner, this debut album will be right up your alley. Like those established artists, Maltese is marmite.

‘Bad Contestant’, Maltese’s debut, is a pop album, but one that will make you laugh and ache about that four-letter word called love in equal measures. It begins with the toe-tapping ‘Greatest Comedian’, which compares the woman he loves to “the highest quality hardwood door” and “Jesus” who he’s heard “was a very handsome girl”. The problem? He misses her because she’s so very far away. And so it begins: Love can be an addiction and it doesn’t lead to the best choices, does it? In previously released single ‘Nightclub Love’, he chronicles his blinded-by-love stumblings around the apple of his eye in his most hated of places, a loud and sleazy nightclub. On the jaunty ‘Guilty’, he admits he’s being used by a woman who is already spoken for. Somehow, he always winds up back with her, even at the expense of his own heart, leading to his eventual fate of loneliness.

If it’s all for love, Maltese will gripe about it, but he’ll suck it up in the name of want and desire, even if it’s only temporary. He covers heartbreak equally as well. On ‘Less and Less’, Maltese comfortably scoots into the role of the sad songwriter at the piano, showing himself to be the best 21st century peer to Burt Bacharach. He croons, “you should take yourself / see the daylight and the change that spins / though I ain’t sure I’ll ever feel nothing / I’ll feel settled in a simple sense”. It’s the quiet acceptance that their relationship is over, but he’ll never be the same having loved her.

On the self-deprecating side of things, he is also quick to point out his lowly status on oddly catchy title track ‘Bad Contestant’ – “I’m a dead end, a budget hotel / I’m pretty good at feeling sorry for myself / I’m a deck chair / Your cheap underwear / A bad Christian who never goes to prayer” – before wrapping things up with the immortal line “I ain’t much but baby I could impress you / They say the underdogs are always the best ones”. Like Stornoway’s ‘Love Song of the Beta Male’, Maltese is not the stereotypical macho man who wants to throw his weight around and show off. He might be hard on himself as he was on the aforementioned ‘Nightclub Love’, but he also accepts that he’s better off being the quiet man in the corner.

As if to prove he’s more than a lovesick hack who does everything wrong in his relationships, Maltese’s album ends with two doom and gloom numbers. Early single ‘As the World Caves In’ shows Maltese at his most Morrissey-esque, savouring the last days on earth with the woman he loves and with sweeping grandeur: “oh girl it’s you that I lie with / as the atom bomb locks in”. It’s a heavy-handed way to end the LP with ‘Mortals’, its weightiness about leaving Earth behind seeming out of place with the rest of the LP.

This is not to say that the rest of ‘Bad Contestant’ is light. It’s an album that can make you swoon and nod with agreement, that is if love is your poison and you can relate to the feeling of being swept up by it. If you can’t, this album will be a tough go. Should you open your mind to Matt Maltese’s world – a world with twinkly piano and his droll observations on love and life – don’t be scared, and embrace something different.

8.5/10

Matt Maltese’s debut album ‘Bad Contestant’ is out now on Atlantic Records.

 

Album Review: Lily Allen – No Shame

 
By on Monday, 25th June 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Lily CresswellLily Allen No Shame album cover

After a 4-year wait, Lily Allen released her fourth studio album ‘No Shame’. The album feels very much like an extension of her third album ‘Sheezus’, keeping the upbeat vibe, and manufactured beats that lie under the majority of tracks on both ‘Sheezus’ and ‘No Shame’. However, Allen has clearly matured since her 2014 album, which is clear from the unrelenting emotional theme undoubtedly driven by her very fresh divorce from Sam Cooper.

The album appears to have been split into three sections, opening with songs that present a club vibe, leading onto a few incredibly intimate ballads, then ending with some straight-up catchy pop tunes. These three sections leave the album feeling rather discordant, but if you’re willing to dig through this stylistic confusion, there are some absolute gems. The first six tracks on ‘No Shame’ are the weakest of the whole 14. I can’t help but feel that Allen has tried too hard to appeal to Friday night clubbers by using over-processed, worn-out beats that feel out of place with the emotional content of the song.

The lyrics of the first track ‘Come On Then’ are hard-hitting as Allen sings about the tribulations of fame, an issue that is particularly relevant in 2018, especially from a female artist. The subtle touches upon anxiety, depression and the hardships faced by a female in the spotlight are poignant and frankly, a refreshing change of the usual topics featured in the charts of love and heartbreak. Isolate the lyrics, and the track is doing the topic a great deal of justice. For example, the lyrics “my head can’t always hold itself so high / what if inside I’m, dying / every night I’m crying” directly deal Allen’s suppression of feelings whilst in the public eye. However, together with the overdone beats and synths, the serious issue is lost in a cloud of ‘try-hard’ club music.

Just as all hope was about to be lost, Allen saves the album with three shining diamonds: ‘Family Man’, ‘Apples’ and ‘Three’. These three songs slow the pace of the album right down and provide a well-needed resting point. The relaxed tempo, introduction of acoustic instrumentation and beautifully melodic vocal lines give listeners an intimate connection with Allen. ‘Family Man’ allows for a different narrative of the divorce, presenting a vulnerability reflected in the melancholic piano accompaniment, whilst ‘Three’ brings us back to the issue of fame, this time from the perspective of Allen’s 3-year old. This second section of the album is a real highlight of ‘No Shame’ and exhibits the raw talent of Lily Allen.

The final five tracks return us to a brighter mood, exemplifying influences from ‘Sheezus’ and Allen’s earlier releases. Although there are still remnants of processed beats heard earlier in the album, there is much more of a radio pop vibe. In the best possible way, it is easy to imagine ‘Pushing Up Daisies’ or ‘Cake’ becoming a tragedy of radio overplay, going on to be the most remembered tracks of the album. With these, Allen has really succeeded in living up to her old school hits such as ‘22’.

The video for ‘Lost My Mind’ really captures the aesthetic of the album: quirky, yet emotionally expressive. It opens with the Allen sat in a bathroom, wrapped in a towel, sporting a wet hairdo. The normality of this scene creates the sense that the audience are intruding on Allen’s day-to-day life, reflected in the lyrics’ intimacy. We are then taken to a bedroom where the audience are made to feel like a fly on the wall as we watch her argue with her partner. It then reaches an emotionally climactic end, her hopelessness summed up as Allen is drenched in rain. The video is simple, yet powerful and adds an emotional dimension to ‘Lost My Mind’ not conveyed on record.

Bypass the first six songs, and ‘No Shame’ is an album with much promise. Despite the discouraging start and the somewhat conflicting styles, the album shines a light on a vulnerability that connects us to Allen. The general production by Fryars and Mark Ronson is exceptional, particularly in the punchy pop tunes, elevating the album even in its weaker sections. Overall, this is an album worth getting if only for the beautifully intense emotion of ‘Three’.

8/10

Lily Allen’s fourth album ‘No Shame’ is available now on Parlophone and Regal Records. Catch Allen on her world tour taking place from June to December, with four dates in the UK from the 11th to the 17th of December. For more live date information, visit Lily Allen’s official Web site.

 

Single Review: The 1975 – Give Yourself a Try

 
By on Monday, 18th June 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Lily Cresswell

After a long wait for patient fans, spurred on only by the occasional cryptic Tweets and Instagram posts, The 1975’s single ‘Give Yourself a Try’ is finally here. The single is the first teaser for their third album ‘A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships’, which is due to be released in October. But was it worth the wait?

At first, the tune has the promise to be the song of the summer. The upbeat distorted guitar, driven by a straightforward beat, is bright and simple, so it’s easy to imagine dancing to this at a festival in the height of summer. The vocals enter and suddenly, a different tone is set. Matt Healy has changed up his usual vocal tone with a harsher edge; and combined with the American twang he has adopted, he’s created a Noughties’ pop-punk vibe. This differs from the softer, over reverbed vocals heard on tracks like ‘Paris’. Little vocal development occurs across the track, with Healy sounding unenthused for the entire 3 minutes and 17 seconds. The instrumental accompaniment is also lacklustre and basic, and it must be relatively boring for the rest of the band play. However, on a more positive note, you can’t help but be drawn in by the catchy guitar hook, which stands out due to the lack of any other interesting accompaniment.

Lyrically, ‘Give Yourself a Try’ seems to throw itself at every issue you could find on a millennial’s twitter feed. From depression to drug addiction and the lack of ‘context in a modern debate’, Healy slips through them all, line after line. This is reiterated in the video where we see Healy lying on a therapist’s chaise longue, speaking vaguely on personal identity issues. On one hand, it is progressive to be tackling such issues in a pop song. But on the other, this seems rather forced. Are the 1975 really bothered about these issues, or are they simply trying desperately to appeal to the millennial audience?

Overall, The 1975 are clearly aiming for a new sound and in this area, they are successful, as ‘Give Yourself a Try’ is undeniably different from previous releases. Despite this, the new single is disappointing, and although driven by its hook that gives the track the promise of excitement, the vocals and surrounding accompaniment falls flat, leaving the track miles away from matching the brightness of Healy’s new hair.

6/10

‘Give Yourself a Try’ is out now on Polydor and Dirty Hit Records. The single is taken from The 1975’s third album, ‘A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships’, which is set to be released in October 2018.

 

Single Review: Matt Maltese – Nightclub Love

 
By on Wednesday, 2nd May 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Political, global uncertainty, unrest and suspicion: it’s everywhere. So is it any wonder there’s so much doom and gloom-type songwriting out there right now? Let’s have a listen to an artist specialising in doom and gloom but his method is much more cunning. I’m speaking of Matt Maltese, the South London songwriter whose wry sense of humour previously extended to his penning a tune romantically linking Theresa May with Donald Trump. As mentioned in my Live at Leeds 2017 preview of best bets where I tipped him, he sounds like a wonderful chip off the ol’ block of Stephen Patrick Morrissey.

Two Fridays ago, Maltese released new single ‘Nightclub Love’ taken from his upcoming debut album ‘Bad Contestant’. For those of you who need a break from the political overload, this one is, thankfully, about being in love. But not at all like most envision it. A twinkly piano melody plays under Maltese’s deadpan voice admitting, “I don’t care for nightclubs / but I’ll make an exception for you, dear”. The music is too loud, there’s too many people in the room and “while the creeps circle around you”, he’s hanging in there – dancing for 6 hours (!) – because he has one singular goal and he will not be dissuaded. He watches as the apple of his eye almost overdoses at the bar, and as he’s about to call 999, the person sobers up and they share a joke about how cranberry vodka is good for your bladder. Really. Later, he turns on the self-deprecating humour, wondering aloud if he gets kissed on his little shaved head tonight whether the kisser will regret it tomorrow. Yes. Let’s all say aww.

If anyone else was singing these words, you’d groan. But there is something oddly disarming about Maltese’s voice, the matter-of-fact manner he shares a snapshot of an evening where all he can see and hear is wonderment because he’s in the company of the person he fancies. The steady, gentle rhythm throughout the song feels comforting, as if Maltese himself is his best when he’s around thid person. Most of the time, we’re hearing singers gasping for air or shouting about being in love. In sharp contrast, ‘Nightclub Love’ oozes along for an enjoyable 4 minutes and is a perfect slice of escapism.

8.5/10

‘Nightclub Love’, the current single from Matt Maltese, is out now on Atlantic Records. Stay tuned for Maltese’s debut album ‘Bad Contestant’, which is scheduled to drop on the 8th of June.

 
 
 

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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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