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(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: The Crookes – Lucky Ones

 
By on Monday, 25th January 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Crookes Lucky Ones coverIf you’ve been following our previous coverage on them, you’ll already know that we here at TGTF have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Sheffield indie pop quartet the Crookes’ fourth LP ‘Lucky Ones’. As it turns out, the feeling of anxious anticipation is itself a pervasive undercurrent running through the songs, providing an energetic momentum that sweeps through the entirety of the album’s concise 33 minutes.

Though short in duration, ‘Lucky Ones’ is an album of broad musical gestures and sonic experimentation. The Crookes have taken a consciously artistic turn by bookending its eight proper songs with opening prelude ‘Brand New Start’ and corresponding reprise ‘B.N.S. Pt. II’. ‘Brand New Start’ does indeed come as an invigorating breath of fresh air after the brooding introspection of the Crookes previous album ‘Soapbox’, its crisp drum beat and silvery synth arrangement combining with lead vocalist George Waite’s distant, dreamy vocals to set a markedly different tone.

‘Brand New Start’ segues into the album’s relentlessly uptempo current single, ‘The World is Waiting’ (streaming below). The restless promise “I swear I’m gonna get my shit together” in the song’s opening line of might not ring entirely true, but it serves as a shot in the arm, spurring the album into motion. Its breathless frenzy spills over into ‘I Wanna Waste My Time on You’ (reviewed on its own merits here), where the pulsating bass riff and soaring synths illustrate the euphoria of “spinning round the skyline / when everything was new” in a dizzying way that reminded me of Neil Finn’s last solo album.

The ubiquitous influence of American writer Jack Kerouac on Crookes lyricist Daniel Hopewell is tangibly present throughout ‘Lucky Ones’, most notably in the song title ‘Roman Candle’, but also in the album’s underlying themes of wanderlust and escape from the monotony of everyday life. It’s easy to imagine the bright, hazy sheen of the album’s instrumentation as having been inspired by a long trek across the wide open landscape of the American Southwest. (Interestingly enough, I first listened to ‘Lucky Ones’ myself while jogging through a stretch of that same spectacular desert.)

Like any good road trip, the Crookes’ journey takes a few minor detours. The kicky rhythm of ‘If Only For Tonight’ could easily have turned into a Broadway show tune, perfect for a chorus line of dancers, but the prominently layered guitars keep it from veering too far off course. Similarly, the synth keyboard in the intro to ‘Six Week Holiday’ sounds like it might have been commissioned by a game designer at Nintendo until the song is redeemed by its jazz-tinged chorus. The blue notes happen in both the bass line and the vocal melody, where Waite deftly negotiates his lower register in order to pull off the smooth groove.

As always with the Crookes, Waite’s dulcet vocals are the perfect vehicle for Hopewell’s lyrics, finding the delicate balance between Hopewell’s cool ennui and barely-shrouded fragility. There is something vaguely French about the understated sentimentality in Hopewell’s writing, which he has recaptured here after straying from it somewhat in the abrasiveness of ‘Soapbox’. But in the end, as Hopewell himself said in this interview back in October, ‘Lucky Ones’ is essentially a very British record, and its expansive penultimate track ‘No One Like You’ improvises on the adage “there’s no place like home”. Vibrant brass and a glittering harp meld with reverberant guitars in a dynamic and dramatic climax before the album circles back around to ‘B.N.S Pt. II’.

‘Lucky Ones’ is thematically and sonically the Crookes’ most adventurous recording to date. Its bold experimentalism and brazen free spirit were clearly born from the success they achieved with ‘Hold Fast’ and ‘Soapbox’.  But perhaps more importantly, ‘Lucky Ones’ will without a doubt serve as a powerful catalyst for the next part of their journey.

9/10

The Crookes’ fourth LP ‘Lucky Ones’ will be released this Friday, the 29th of January on Anywhere Records and Modern Outsider. The band are set to play a run of UK live dates supporting the album in February before heading to America for SXSW 2016. TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of the Crookes can be found here.

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #1996: Little Green Cars

 
By on Sunday, 24th January 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

A few days ago, our Carrie wrote this pretty nifty review of Little Green Cars‘ latest single ‘The Song They Play Every Night’. The single now has its own promo video.

In it, a full moon like the one that’s out tonight looks down upon lead singer Stevie Appleby in his bedroom, and then later on the entire indie quintet from Dublin for an oddly dark, eerie visual feeling. ‘Ephemera’, the band’s second LP and follow-up to 2013’s ‘Absolute Zero’, will be released on the 9th of March on Glassnote Records It’s purported to be “a transitional album” by Appleby, and this single seems to suggest maturing-type growing pains. Watch the video below. The band is scheduled to showcase the week after the new album’s release in Austin for a second time at SXSW 2016. Past coverage of Little Green Cars on TGTF is this way.

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

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Single Review: Little Green Cars – The Song They Play Every Night

 
By on Thursday, 21st January 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Nearly 3 years on from the release of their 2013 debut album ‘Absolute Zero’, Dublin indie rock quintet Little Green Cars are starting off 2016 with new single ‘The Song They Play Every Night’. The track will serve as the opener for Little Green Cars’ forthcoming new album ‘Ephemera’, which is due for release on Glassnote Records on the 11th of March, just before the band is slated to appear in Austin at SXSW 2016. The new album was shaped by the life-changing events surrounding the band and its individual members during the touring cycle for ‘Absolute Zero’. Over that 2-year time period, bandmates Stevie Appleby, Faye O’Rourke, Donagh Seaver O’Leary, Adam O’Reagan and Dylan Lynch experienced dramatic changes with the passing of family members and the ends of romances, as well as more subtle shifts in their relationships with family and friends caused by the perpetual motion of a demanding tour schedule.

The one constant in their lives, it would seem, was their songwriting. Writing and developing new songs even as they toured the old ones, Little Green Cars attempted to capture the emotion and spirit of the moments they inhabited, despite knowing that the moments themselves were fleeting. In the press release for the new single, co-songwriter/lead vocalist Appleby says, “It’s a transitional album. Lyrically, it’s all about change – the end of some eras, new beginnings, learning from the past and looking to the future. Ephemera means things that are important to you, but only for a short time.”

In that vein, ’The Song They Play Every Night’ is about the moment of recognition that a love affair has run its course. Through-composed in three distinct verses, the song begins with a melancholic guitar intro that is ever-so-faintly reminiscent of classical Spanish flamenco style in its minor key tone and lightly dancing rhythm. The lyrics in the first verse emphasise a sentiment of vague and growing dread, trailing off with the line “don’t make me say it out loud anymore…”

That idea is extended in the second verse, which finishes the thought with a bleak realisation, “if you don’t love me now, you didn’t love me before”. The instrumental bridge between verses two and three is brief but full of longing, as the tempo and dynamic level increase to a more fervent pitch. The third verse alludes to the panicked feeling of looking for a constant in the chaos, as Appleby plaintively sings of “looking for the landmarks that you keep burning down” over ethereally haunting backing vocals supplied by O’Rourke.

‘The Song They Play Every Night’ is poetically evocative and musically refined, creating a vignette that is both poignant and purposefully elusive. As a teaser for the new album, it serves its purpose well, its echoing melodies and eloquent lyrical hooks hinting at the potential for what promises to be a collection worthy of playing night after night.

8.5/10

‘Ephemera’, Little Green Cars’ second album, will be out in March on Glassnote Records. The band will play a one-off live show at London Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen on the 9th of February.  Following their trip to Austin for SXSW, they will tour in North America through the spring.  A full listing of Little Green Cars’ live dates can be found on their official Web site.  TGTF’s archive of coverage on Little Green Cars is right back here.

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #369 and #370: The Spook School and WOMPS

 
By on Wednesday, 20th January 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

Scottish bands The Spook School and WOMPS have two traits in common aside from their origins in Scotland: both released new music in October 2015, and both are scheduled to appear at SXSW this coming March.

Edinburgh twee-pop outfit the Spook School are taking it easy to start off the new year, as transgender band member Nye Todd (guitar/vocals) recovers from his recent “top” surgery, which he has discussed on the band’s Facebook.  The Spook School, comprising the aforementioned Nye Todd, along with Adam Todd (guitar/vocals), Anna Cory (bass/vocals) and Niall McCamley (drums), collectively write and perform sunny, upbeat indie pop songs whose lyrics forthrightly tackle the deep issues of gender identity, sexuality and romantic relationships.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/GZ56pAfCStI[/youtube]

Their aptly-titled second album ‘Try to be Hopeful’ was released last autumn on Fortuna POP! and featured the high energy single ‘I Want to Kiss You’. The song is described in the album’s press release as “[capturing] the excitement and anticipation of meeting someone, thinking they’re the most interesting person ever and not wanting to wait to see them again.”

WOMPS internal

WOMPS

Glaswegian punk-grunge hybrid duo WOMPS is an evolution of the now-defunct experimental music project Algernon Doll, involving Ewan Grant on guitars and vocals and Owen Wicksted on drums. Their first double-sided single was produced by none other than Steve Albini, who worked with grunge rock legends Nirvana and more recently with American indie rock band Cloud Nothings. The WOMPS single release included the tracks ‘Live a Little Less’ and ‘Dreams on Demand’, which is featured in the video below. WOMPS are expected to release their first full-length LP in the early part of this year on London indie record label Damnably.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/nO9CKzGaelI[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #368: Banners

 
By on Monday, 18th January 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

Solo artist Mike Nelson, hailing from Liverpool, is better known these days by his alias Banners. Previous to his work on Banners, Nelson honed his talent in his younger years, singing across Europe in variety of concert halls and cathedrals with the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and Liverpool Kop choirs. Upon hearing his eerie and ethereal vocal range on his latest single ‘Start a Riot’, you can see how this unusual training paid off. It was through collaboration between Nelson and Canadian producer Stephen Kozmeniuk, who has previously worked with the likes of Madonna and Nicki Minaj, that Banners was born. It’s safe to say that Banners is a big departure from both.

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

‘Start A Riot’ already has a 2.7 million listens on Spotify, while ‘Shine a Light’, which was also released in 2015, has an even more massive 3.6 million listens. This is impressive, considering that all of Banners’ releases have only been within the last 12 months. While there isn’t a lot out there for those keen on hearing more from Banners, what is available is quality stuff. Nelson’s smooth vocals are often reminiscent of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver: while Vernon’s voice is a tad more gravely, both artists capture the howling, haunting vocal range that evokes mountains, forests and misty seascapes.

The wavering guitar on ‘Start a Riot’ is reminiscent of Snow Patrol’s ‘Open Your Eyes’ or ‘You’re All I Have’, while Banners’ ‘Shine a Light’ reminds me of Imagine Dragons, specifically the hammering drumbeat and the warbling oohs in the background of the track. The dreamlike rhythm of ‘Start a Riot’, combined with the soulful oohs that are scattered throughout the track, both really make this song stand out as a bold and beautiful number. ‘Start a Riot’ begins gently, with just Nelson’s vocals and a soft piano, before building into a genuinely interesting and enthralling pop track of cascading sound and striking vocal melodies.

Along with the news that as Banners, he’s already signed to Island Records in America, the gravity and authority of the singles gives the distinct impression that Banners is set to make a big dent in the music industry over the next 12 months. Mixing catchy lyrics with a pop sound, Banners embodies a particular mainstream pop aesthetic that contemporary listeners are drawn to. Judging by the recent meteoric success of Ed Sheeran and Bastille, Banners appears ready to follow in the footsteps of giants.

Banners is scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin in March.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaLblVmnNL4[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Live Gig Video: Honne perform acoustic version of ‘Gone Are the Days’ in Radio 1 piano session

 
By on Friday, 15th January 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

BBC Radio 1’s ongoing Piano Sessions series on Huw Stephens’ late night radio programme has seen some pretty amazing artists come through for an appearance, including 2015 Mercury Prize-nominated Northern Irish singer/songwriter SOAK and Glaswegian electropop trio Prides last year. Last night, soul pop duo Honne were invited in for their own session, and it included this performance of ‘Gone Are the Days’, done stripped back with vocals and piano. Watch it below.

Honne will be making their maiden voyage this year to Austin and are scheduled to showcase at SXSW 2016 in March, where I am sure their brand of soul will no doubt go down extremely well with the Americans.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuvboebO-C0[/youtube]

 
 
 

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 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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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