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(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Album Review: Ciaran Lavery – Live at The Mac

 
By on Wednesday, 21st December 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Northern Ireland native Ciaran Lavery has just released his soon to be iconic live album ‘Live at the Mac’. Recorded December of last year, the album dropped ahead of Lavery finishing a short UK tour, which saw him revisit The Mac 2 years in a row. We don’t usually cover live albums, but since Ciaran only lives up the road from myself, we at TGTF decided we’d make an exception.

Lavery sprung to success after both his debut EP ‘Kosher’ and debut album ‘Not Nearly Dark’ were released in 2014. Two tracks in particular, ‘Left For America’ off the EP and ‘Shame’ from the LP could pinpoint Lavery’s seemingly instant success after racking up an impressive 29 million listens on Spotify, as well as producing many cover versions across the globe. Since then, he hasn’t stopped, as he states himself on his Web site bio, “I have a ridiculous fear of what might happen if I stop moving. I have to keep going”.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhZRAkWxUF8[/youtube]

‘Live at the Mac’ is Lavery in his purest form. He not only reprises the classic tale of a man and his guitar. But he presents himself in an honest and transparent sonic picture, through the fragile tone of his voice against the-bare boned accompaniment of his own guitar and a string trio. Somewhat reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Live in Sin-é’, on this new album Lavery gathers together a collection of his most notable songs and presents them in the most captivating and moving setting.

The album begins with a short string intro that sways like the wind, as it implies the theme of his first track. Lavery subtly strengthens the string harmony with a light twinkle around the hinted chord progression, before bursting into ‘Awful Love’. A heavily emotional song is definitely the best way to open his set and thus begin the album. And with the added texture of Lavery’s light yet husky voice against the strong constant backbeat he creates with the heavy ghost note as he downstrokes the chords, there is an added element of urgency that gives the song momentum. Having such a stripped-back ensemble, the musical devices and harmonic expression has a lot more impact. You can tell this isn’t a problem for the group, especially within the second verse of ‘Awful Love’, which raises the level of intensity that bit further when the strings switch from the supporting role to a more forward approach with a strong staccato pulse.

Lavery moves from strength to strength, continuing the strong emotions with his highly acclaimed track ‘Left For America’. The thing about it in the live setting is that the strings seem to shed a new light on Lavery’s intentions with the song, their harmonic effects bringing new colour to the track. What seems like a song about change, with an undercurrent of travelling, now reveals the ups and downs within a family relationship. Without the drum groove from the studio version, it allows for the listener – the audience in this case – to completely immerse themselves in Lavery’s heartfelt and seemingly regretful lyrics. What helps to drive the message home, specifically in the chorus, is the juxtaposition of Lavery’s major key-based vocal melody against the delicate counter melody of the strings. Together they imply a sense of desperation similar to the bonds of a family when tested to extremes.

Among the 12 tracks on the album, 3 are covers, one of which is a Christmas song appropriate for this of year. The other two are Bruce Springsteen’s layman’s anthem ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ and Joy Division’s 1980 chart topper ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Lavery and his incredible string section beautifully represent both by portraying them in a far more desperate manner. It seems Lavery has dissected the lyrics of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, found the true message within and felt it worthy to portray it in such a way. The constant pedal drone in the higher register of the strings and the tremolo bowing technique at the end of the track act more like a sound design device than simply a musical addition to the track. The overall effect provokes a sense of unease and assists in driving the true message of the lyrics home.

Throughout the whole album, and considering the very small collection of musicians recorded on stage, the emotional highs and lows implemented are incredible. The gracious string work accompanying Lavery’s visceral vocal tone is stunning. And with the added texture of the clean acoustic guitar equipped with slack and bright-sounding strings, this ensemble is near perfect performing his amazing works.

8/10

Ciaran Lavery’s ‘Live at the Mac’ is out now on Believe Recordings. To read more about Lavery, including an interview at SXSW 2016 and coverage of his performances in Austin, go here. At the time of this writing, he is scheduled to be perform at SXSW 2017.

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2248: The Parrots

 
By on Friday, 16th December 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Spanish slacker rock trio The Parrots have just released the new video for ‘A Thousand Ways’, the current single from their debut LP ‘Los Niños Sin Miedo’, which our Adam reviewed. The album is out now on Heavenly Recordings. Filmed by director Pablo Amores, the video is at once heavily stylised and deliberately artless, much like the song itself. It is captioned on YouTube with the following expository quote:

There’s a key moment in your teenage years when the forbidden, the temptations and the unknown start to attract you, and you avoid responsibilities and complex questions. This is the moment when, along with your friends, childhood dies. This is the moment upon which A Thousand Ways is built.

The video for ‘A Thousand Ways’ premiered Wednesday on Brooklyn Vegan, along with the announcement that The Parrots will play at New York City’s Shea Stadium on the 10th of March. That show comes just before the Madrid rockers are scheduled to appear in Austin for SXSW 2017.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/GGgXJtsXJX0[/youtube]

As always, any information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and the 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 The Parrots is right back here.

 

(Holiday and SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2247: New Portals

 
By on Friday, 16th December 2016 at 10:00 am
 

Belfast husband-and-wife alt-pop duo New Portals (aka Mike and Ruth Aicken) announced last week on their Facebook page that they’ve been tapped as showcasing artists for SXSW 2017. Almost immediately, the pair followed their “Facebook official” announcement with a new and seasonally-appropriate single titled ‘Winter Skin’.

Though the drum machines, hard-edged synths and double-tracked vocals of track itself are unequivocally modern, the promo video for ‘Winter Skin’ is facetiously packaged on YouTube as a documentary video from 1979. In reality, the vintage footage of skiers fighting through harsh weather conditions was prepared by the Aickens’ young daughter Freiah-Beth, and was then overlaid with the song’s lyrics displayed in a contemporary stylised typeface.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/S-Lfrw7w0D4[/youtube]

Just after the video was dropped online, New Portals announced a remix of ‘Winter Skin’ by Northern Irish producer Aidan Sheppard, known professionally as FVRY. FVRY’s treatment is crisper and cleaner than the original, with a radiant sparkle in the keyboards. Its added instrumental emphasis on the song’s chorus, “and does this feel alright with you / it hurts a little each time you say it”, provides a much-needed musical hook to the more subdued (dare I say chill?) original arrangement.

Stay tuned to TGTF for more on New Portals as we begin our preview coverage of SXSW 2017. As always, any information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and the artist lineup is subject to change. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, please consult the festival’s official schedule here.

 

Holly Macve / April 2017 English Tour

 
By on Thursday, 8th December 2016 at 9:00 am
 

Up-and-coming folk singer/songwriter Holly Macve has announced a brief run of English tour dates for early next year, following her scheduled trip to America for SXSW 2017.* The newly announced live dates will support the release of Macve’s debut LP ‘Golden Eagle’, which is due out on the 3rd of March via Bella Union. Editor Mary has already featured the album’s first single ‘No One Has the Answers’ as our Video of the Moment #2203.

Tickets for the following shows are available now. TGTF’s previous reporting on Holly Macve, including live coverage from SXSW 2016, is collected right back here.

Tuesday 4th April 2017 – Bristol Wardrobe
Wednesday 5th April 2017 – Brighton Komedia
Thursday 6th April 2017 – London St. John on Bethnal Green
Friday 7th April 2017 – Manchester Sacred Trinity
Sunday 9th April 2017 – Newcastle Cluny 2

* As always, any information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and the artist lineup is subject to change. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, please consult the festival’s official schedule here.

 

Live Review: David Ramirez at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 18th November 2016

 
By on Monday, 28th November 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Austin-based singer/songwriter David Ramirez passed through Phoenix before the American Thanksgiving holiday, making his second appearance here in just over a year. If you’re a regular TGTF reader, you might remember my review of his previous show in the same venue, downtown Phoenix’s Valley Bar. On that occasion, Ramirez was accompanied by a full band and special guest Liza Anne, but by design, this gig was quite a different event.

Ramirez is playing completely solo on his current tour, without either a backing band or a support act. Dubbed the ‘Bootleg Tour 2016’, these shows also involve the element of live recordings, which are being distributed via download to all ticketholders within a few days of the show they attend. The souvenir recording is a unique and intriguing digital age concept, and it became even more appealing as we in the audience discovered, much to our delight, that Ramirez had a few yet-to-be-released songs up his sleeve.

Without an opening act to warm up the crowd, Ramirez began the night somewhat unceremoniously by simply walking on stage, saying a quick greeting and starting to play. He opened with a sequence of old favourite songs, starting with ‘I Think I Like You’ from his 2011 ‘Strangetown’ EP before turning to his more popular 2015 album release ‘Fables’. ‘How Do You Get ‘Em Back’ and ‘Communion’ were apparently more familiar to the punters gathered near the stage, and Ramirez’s set quickly gained momentum. Despite his own admission to feeling a bit under the weather, the grit and raw power of his singing voice held up admirably to the stripped back song arrangements presented here, especially in the bitterly poignant ‘Harder to Lie’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/_M1jNw5GCjs[/youtube]

Of the new songs in the set, ‘Too Far Away’ grabbed my attention straightaway, with the coincidentally relevant lyrics “Well, I’m coming to London, gonna bring you back to Texas / you’ll have your first Thanksgiving and you’ll meet the parents.” Like so many of Ramirez’s songs, this one has a bittersweet twist, which he immediately counteracted with the dry cynicism and dark blues edge of another new track, titled ‘Stone Age’.

David Ramirez internal

In the end, Ramirez played quite a lengthy set, 22 songs in total, including the unreleased tracks and a remarkably fitting cover of Neil Young’s ‘Vampire Blues’. He seemed to take advantage of the relative success of last year’s ‘Fables’, interspersing songs from that album with older releases that might not have been as well known. It must be said that Ramirez’s acoustic version of ‘The Bad Days’, from 2013 EP ‘The Rooster’ was exquisitely effective whether his audience knew it already or not, and he indulged a shouted request for ‘Fires’, which dates back to his 2009 album ‘American Soil’.

Though I missed the backing vocals I was accustomed to hearing in the full band arrangements of several familiar tracks, Ramirez’s voice and acoustic guitar were equally compelling on their own, especially in a small, intimate venue like the Valley Bar. And if his new songs see the light of day, so to speak, it will be interesting to listen back to the bootleg recording and compare the fully arranged studio versions to these stripped back preliminary performances. Ramirez’s Bootleg Tour 2016 continues through the end of December; you can find the remaining dates listed here.

David Ramirez is currently listed as a showcasing artist for SXSW 2017, which will take place in his hometown of Austin next March. As always, any information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and the artist lineup is subject to change. To keep abreast of David Ramirez’s upcoming plans, we recommend that you keep an eye on his official Facebook. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, you can consult the festival’s official schedule here.

After the cut: David Ramirez’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: David Ramirez at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 18th November 2016

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Interview: Mattie Vant of VANT

 
By on Monday, 7th November 2016 at 11:00 am
 

A band currently on everyone’s lips are London-based VANT. Why all the hype? I think we can all agree that there are some pretty terrible things going on in this world, and yet there are few brave enough to say something about it. Judging from their recent shout from the folks at SXSW for next year’s festival, it’s a position the folks in Austin want to hear.

Frontman and primary songwriter Mattie Vant hasn’t shied away from damning of the government and their policies he disagrees with, making him one of the strongest young protest voices of the UK music scene today. Not surprisingly, he and his band will be playing a gig on the Dr. Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING autumn tour this coming Saturday night at Newcastle Cluny, not far from where he grew up. Ahead of what I expect is their rocketing to international stardom following their first appearances in America in the new year,

Tell us about your earliest memories of hearing music. How did it become a part of your life?
Music first became apparent to me whilst riding in my Dad’s dilapidated Rover 800. The fact that it was the main focus of the journey became really apparent to me. It was probably the first time I was aware of it’s influence and how it effects your state of mind, that was the hook for me.

When you did you start playing an instrument? Were your parents supportive?
It was a gradual process for me, I was rejected as a 7-year old when the violin / guitar guy assessed my class and decided I wasn’t ‘musically gifted’. I joined a recorder choir when I was 9 but was severely bullied so gave up. At 10, I tried Spanish acoustic but hated it. I begged my parents for an electric guitar aged 13. Eventually they complied, and I’ve never looked back since.

Seaham is a long way from Brighton and London. Has your upbringing in County Durham has affected your writing and point of view and if it has, how do you think it plays out in your music?
It probably has, certainly because it drove me to the point of escapism. I love aspects of that part of the world but it has never felt like home and I hate the narrow-minded nature of some of the society up there. Moving south enhanced my liberal beliefs and proved that there are a lot more people aligned with my mentality than I initially thought. Realising that ‘home’ isn’t necessarily where you grew up was a massive awakening to me.

I understand that it was through your management of the Dalston venue Birthdays that you met your future bandmates. Venue management is not experience most musicians have. What do you think were the biggest lessons you learned while manager? What advice would you give bands coming up now, knowing what you know from your time there?
I definitely learnt what not to do. It’s really important to respect the bar staff because without there dedication to fuelling people’s alcoholism shows wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun! I guess it’s about seeing all the cogs in a machine and appreciating there importance and influence on the overall event.

I read in this Team Rock feature on VANT that you respect the songwriting of Ray Davies and Frank Black, who are from very different decades of music. What makes them each special to you?
Ray Davies laid the foundation of honesty within music, commenting on his own life as he moved up the social pyramid. The Kinks to me are massively underrated. In a similar vein, Frank Black managed to take the format of vocals, guitar, guitar, bass, drums and turn into something completely unique – he influenced and continues to influence generations of artists. The Pixies are basically the equivalent of a non-commercially successful Beatles.

In the same article, there’s emphasis on your DIY roots and the self-release of your first single. How important is this ethos to you?
When we initially started, we recorded and intended to release our debut independently. By a series of inexplicable events, we ended up signing to the prestigious Parlophone label, which gave us the opportunity to share our music on a much bigger platform. The fundamental principles [on] which we built ourselves upon haven’t changed. Now we just have more of an opportunity to express those beliefs to a larger audience.

Were you excited / worried about signing to a major label, their having control over your music, etc.? You must have been courted by many labels?
Parlophone got us immediately, they understood where we were coming from and what our ambition was. They have never tried to mould us, and this was vital. We have complete creative control, they are just helping us reach an audience that was unachievable on our own. As a label, Parlophone have always allowed their artists to grow and change freely and this was something that was massively influential in our decision to join their ranks rather than the multitude of other labels we met with.

In August, you released your ‘Karma Seeker’ EP. Which of the EP’s songs is most important to you, and why?
I think ‘Birth Certificate’ resonates with a lot of people. Watching the meaning of that song develop over the last few years has been really interesting. Sadly, it’s has and probably always will be relevant to something whether that is visa control, immigration, refugees, the EU Referendum or Donald Trump the message rings true. [You can read more about this EP by VANT in Steven’s review of it through this link.]

VANT will be performing at the Cluny on the 12th of November for the Dr. Martens #STANDFORSOMETHING tour. Is this going to be a messy one, being back in Newcastle?
The Cluny is a staple of the North East community. It’s a great independent venue with a wonderful ethos, I’ve always loved playing there over the years and it’s the perfect opportunity to come back once more and showcase our new material! Most of my friends have moved away from the North East, so I can’t imagine it being anymore chaotic then any of our other shows.

You’ve toured with some pretty big names, including Royal Blood. What did you take from your time supporting other bands?
When you play a support show, it’s similar to festivals, it’s all about winning the audience over, which is a rewarding challenge when it goes right. Watching bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen, Biffy Clyro and Royal Blood work an audience of that size was really interesting, I’ve definitely got a few manoeuvres in my back pocket now for when the time is right!

Congratulations on getting a shout to SXSW 2017! What does the invitation for VANT to showcase in Austin and play in America mean to you? Does the spectre of performing a song like ‘Jesus Was a Conman’ in front of Americans worry or energise you?
It’s incredible, it’s one of those massive band bucket list moments. I just want to stir as much shit as I possibly can in America, to me they are a genetically modified warning sign to the rest of the world. I’ll be curious to see how ‘I Don’t Believe In God’ and ‘Put Down Your Gun’ go down as well. We’ll probably have to play them in that order!

There’s a rumour going around that your debut album is done and will be released next year. Is this true? If yes, what can you fans expect from the new release?
It’s [scheduled to be] out on the 17th of February 2017. For me, it’s a marker in history of where we are as a species. If an alien happens to come down in a few hundred years when we are extinct and all that’s left is one of our vinyls sticking out of the ground, I believe it will be a pretty good summary of how everything went wrong.

Here’s your chance to have a final word with our readers. Go for it.
Wake the fuck up, get out of your digital atmospheres and talk about important stuff in the REAL world. It’s the only chance we have of survival, it all starts with discussion. Peace and love.

Many thanks to Mattie for answering my many questions. Without a doubt, VANT will be one of the hottest tickets in town come March in Austin, so pencil them in your schedules now, SXSW-ers. Thank you also to Jamie for sorting this interview out for us. The Dr. Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING tour stops in Newcastle this Saturday night at the famed Cluny; at the time of this writing, tickets are still available and can purchased here.

 
 
 

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.

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