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(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Album Review: Delicate Steve – This is Steve

 
By on Monday, 30th January 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Delicate Steve album coverNew Jersey multi-instrumentalist and composer Steve Marion uses the stage name Delicate Steve both for himself and for the band he leads. But to simplify the issue, he’s taken the production helm and played all of the instrumental parts for his new LP ‘This is Steve’. And to be clear, all of the parts are instrumental. Though Marion refers to his tracks as “songs”, they have no lyrics and are thus technically “pieces” of music. But none of the typical words for short instrumental works seems to fit Delicate Steve’s essentially lyrical, undeniably singable melodic style as precisely as the word “song”.

The tracks on ‘This is Steve’ are concise and tightly-structured, in the vein of a standard three-minute pop song, but with sharply defined guitar riffs rather than vocal melodies serving as the foundation for instrumental counterpoint and textural layering. And despite the complex interplay of rhythms and the variety of instrumental timbres, the easy flexibility of Marion’s guitar technique and the fluidity of his melodies stand out above everything, assuring that the songs (and they do ultimately feel like songs, despite the lack of singing) never feel square or contrived.

The opening tracks on the album are undeniably catchy and upbeat. ‘Animals’ leads with an engaging hook, which Marion clearly establishes before sliding into a sassy display of virtuosity. ‘Winners’ is mellow and gently rocking, but with a steady undercurrent of buoyant energy that is visually illustrated in its boardwalk themed video (just below). The adrenaline-fueled, overdriven ‘Cartoon Rock’ ( video at the bottom of the page) displays Delicate Steve’s guitar rock chops, but its gritty, dirtier sound is contrasted with a layer of synth sounds and off-kilter rhythms in the coda.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/zeZdhN16zYs[/youtube]

Around the halfway point, ‘This is Steve’ takes a moodier and definitely more introspective turn. ‘Tomorrow’ is the album’s first hint of darkness, with a suggestive piano intro and a sultry, seductive guitar riff. The darker, shadowy tone prevails through the anxious rhythm of ‘Help’, the more experimental and off-kilter ‘Swimming’, and lightly soaring piano arrangement of ‘Driving’. Following an impressive display of counterpoint in the bridge of ‘Together’, the warm gospel piano chords and a subtly sensual guitar melody in title track ‘This is Steve’ end the album on an endearingly confessional note.

With its 10 tracks clocking in at just over 28 minutes, ‘This is Steve’ doesn’t give you time to overanalyse. It moves quickly from one vignette to the next, without concern for overt connection or cohesion. Its concise, defined song structures leave plenty of room for improvisation to materialise in live performance, and though it starts in one place and ends somewhere entirely different, the flow of the songs feels entirely genuine, natural and spontaneous.

9/10

Delicate Steve’s third studio album ‘This is Steve’ is available now on Anti- Records. The album is streaming in full on Delicate Steve’s official Web site. Delicate Steve is scheduled as a showcasing artist for SXSW 2017 this March in Austin, TX. For news and updates on SXSW 2017 showcasing artists, please consult the festival’s official schedule here.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/2kZtjbWaZKk[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Album Review: Menace Beach – Lemon Memory

 
By on Thursday, 26th January 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Menace Beach Lemon Memory album cover‘Lemon Memory’ is the second album from Leeds-grown indie surf rockers Menace Beach and is the follow up to their 2015 debut ‘Ratworld’. Although the album was recorded in Sheffield, the songs were actually written in Ibiza, which you wouldn’t be able to guess considering the edgy rock flavour to the album. The band is fronted by Ryan Needham, formerly of Komakino, and Liza Violet, also of Department M. Truly a product of Yorkshire, the current line-up also includes Nestor Matthews (Sky Larkin), Matt Spalding (You Animals) and Nick Chantler (Seize the Chair). It’s an album that feels like a bit of an experiment. The tempo and guitars are dialled up more on some tracks than others. There’s also an occasional use of subtle industrial-esque synth distortion on some tracks, while others have a heavier, punchier attitude.

Standout ‘Maybe We’ll Drown’ is the second song on the album and sees Violet take the vocals front and centre. It’s easy to see why this was released as a single, and the thrumming guitar and Violet’s voice is reminiscent of Emily Haines of Metric. Featuring ghostly synth sounds contrasting with Violet’s soft vocals that are joined by Needham’s distorted voice in the chorus, the track has a spooky quality that draws you in. Like ‘Maybe We’ll Drown’, ‘Watch Me Boil’ features both Needham and Violet singing together. There’s something very special when the two voices join in song as the pair croon “kick me on the fire / you’ll only make me higher” repeatedly over a sluggish guitar and drum rhythm.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8wHP56Dyzo[/youtube]

There’s also something pretty catchy about ‘Suck It Out’, with Needham singing the title of the track over and over in the chorus. It’s a hazy track, with indistinct guitars and a steady drumbeat marching away in the background. Sounding like he’s far away on the track, Needham’s voice almost blurs together with the whirring guitars at times, whereas at others, the hissing guitar hook plays like an emergency siren.

The album plays out to the gentle and haunting ‘Hexbreaker II’, with Violet softly crooning on the track over a steady drum and guitar giving just a touch of feedback. It’s an eerie track that ties up the loose ends of the album, and provides a nod to the supposed curse that has been placed on the house of Violet and Needham. Spooky and pared back, the song feels like a gentle and subdued conclusion to an album that is at times a fuzzy, distorted experiment, and at others a homage to classic indie rock ‘n’ roll.

Having said that, I do feel like there’s something left to be desired on the album – not all of the tracks feel cohesive and some definitely stand out more than others. I would have liked to hear more of Violet and Needham singing together, as the tracks on which the two voices appear together feel the most rounded and memorable. But all in all it’s definitely not dull, and is worth a listen if indie surf rock is your bag.

6/10

Menace Beach’s second album ‘Lemon Memory’ is out now on Memphis Industries. They will begin a tour of the UK on the 31st of this month, which continues through February. The band are also scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017 in Austin in March. For more of TGTF’s coverage on the band, follow this link.

 

(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]

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Single Review: Diet Cig – Tummy Ache

 
By on Friday, 20th January 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

New Paltz, New York alt-rock duo Diet Cig are set to make a second consecutive appearance at SXSW this year, where they will usher in their debut LP ‘Swear I’m Good at This’. The album’s twee-titled lead single ‘Tummy Ache’ was unveiled last week, and as soon as I heard it, I recognised it from SXSW 2016, where Diet Cig had included it on their setlist at the DIY Presents showcase at Hype Hotel.

Lead vocalist/guitarist Alex Luciano and her bandmate, drummer Noah Bowman gave a strong, energetic performance that night in Austin, and the recorded version of ‘Tummy Ache’ is true to their vivid live interpretation. Luciano’s whiny, overly-saccharine vocal delivery is almost enough to set my teeth on edge as she sings of “trying to find my voice / surrounded by all boys.” But she does present a very deliberate and ironic dichotomy in the musical context of the song’s bright, bold power chords and confidently emphatic rhythms. She comes across as shy and almost apologetic, despite the brash musical setting, in the lines “I don’t need a man to hold my hand / that’s just something you’ll never understand”. The song’s catchy final statement “my stomach hurts / ‘cos its hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt” is reinforced by increasingly intense background vocal layering as Luciano acknowledges both the outward conflict of a female rock star and her own inner turmoil.

Luciano certainly isn’t the first female frontwoman to tackle feminist subject matter in her songwriting, but based on the enthusiastically positive reception Diet Cig received last year, hers will be one of the most prominent feminist voices among showcasing artists at SXSW 2017. Keep an eye on TGTF for further coverage of Diet Cig as part of our focus on feminism at this year’s festival.

8/10

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

Diet Cig’s debut album ‘Swear I’m Good at This’ is due for release on the 7th of April via Frenchkiss Records. They are currently scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017 this March, but as always, the showcasing artist lineup is subject to change. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, please consult the festival’s official schedule here. TGTF’s previous coverage of Diet Cig is collected right back here.

 

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

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Live Gig Video: VANT share stylised ‘Do You Know Me?’ video from December 2016 London Scala show

 
By on Tuesday, 17th January 2017 at 4:00 pm
 

London via Newcastle protest band VANT are just chomping at the bit for their opportunity to wow punters at SXSW 2017 in March. Don’t believe me? Read my interview with their frontman Mattie Vant from November through here. For those of you (and myself) who have not have the wonderful opportunity to see the group perform live, either at a regular headline show, or at their homecoming show back at Newcastle Cluny in early November for last autumn’s edition of Dr. Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING tour, they’ve got something special for us.

In December, they performed at London Scala in the north of the city. It’s a pretty cool venue to start out with, so any live video shared from the place would look very cool anyway. However, they didn’t stop there. Through stylised editing of the actual performance as if a moving scrapbook, as well as coverage of their fans queueing outside and enjoying the show once inside, this video comes across as high-energy documentation of the band’s blistering live performance experience. Watch it below. Stay tuned of our coverage of VANT when we’re out in Austin. To read through our growing back catalogue of coverage on VANT, follow this link.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yo4Iw0qITA[/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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