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(Easter / SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2342: Mt. Wolf

 
By on Monday, 17th April 2017 at 10:00 am
 

As you probably have guessed, we receive far too many promo videos than I could ever hope to humanly post on TGTF. So when one of them pops up and thematically fits with a holiday theme, I find it not only serendipity but as if someone’s telling me I should post it. Such is the case with the latest and powerful promo video from Mt. Wolf for ‘Heavenbound’. While the story seems pretty cut and dry to me, the video’s director says of its message: “I think everyone will have their own interpretation of the video. For me, it was about the idea of death acting as a force to unite people. For some death offers the chance to reflect and ask for forgiveness; for others, it provides an opportunity to find peace and the ability to forgive.” I do wonder if it makes more of a difference ‘who’ you are vs. how your parents raised you to treat people unlike yourself; watch the video below to decide for youself.

Following a successful string of appearances in Austin last month for SXSW 2017 (check out the times I saw them through here), the London group will be releasing their debut album ‘Aetherlight’ on the 26th of May on CRC Music. The making of the album was supported by PRS for Music Foundation’s Momentum fund. To read back on all of our coverage here on TGTF on Mt. Wolf, use this link.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeAydQUzC3M[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2340: Diet Cig

 
By on Thursday, 13th April 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Following a repeat appearance at this year’s SXSW 2017, Diet Cig from New Paltz, New York, just released their debut album last week. The duo’s ‘Swear I’m Good at This’ is now available from Frenchkiss Records. In celebration of the release of their debut to the wild, they’ve unveiled another promo video from the album, ‘Maid of the Mist’. (For those unaware is the name of a special boat tour of Niagara Falls; I know this because my brother went on it and brought me back a plastic tumbler with rocks on the bottom, supposedly taken from the falls.) The animated video fits the poppy nature of the song well, which is a nickname for a girl who cries when her boyfriend tries to kiss her and he doesn’t know why. Yeah, with a high-pitched girl’s voice singing this, this is pop. ‘Swear I’m Good at This’ is available now. To read more about Diet Cig here on TGTF, follow this link.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5or7cLuz_PE[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2017: Friday morning at the BMI / AT&T Fiber Acoustic Brunch – 17th March 2017

 
By on Thursday, 13th April 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

Mary and I started our Friday morning at the BMI / AT&T Fiber Acoustic Brunch on the spacious lawn of the Four Seasons Hotel. The weather was overcast and a bit windy, but still nice enough to enjoy a lovely outdoor breakfast, and turnout was high for the showcase. I suppose, technically speaking, the brunch show wasn’t fully acoustic, as it required an electronic keyboard. But the morning’s bill did feature six up-and-coming singer/songwriters who could easily adapt to that style of stripped-back performance when the moment required it.

Vera Blue

Once the guests had gotten a chance to take advantage of the sprawling brunch buffet, the stage was set for the first artist on the bill, Australia’s Vera Blue. Vera Blue is the new project of Sydney folk artist Celia Pavey, who started her career as typical girl-with-guitar folk singer. Pavey has now expanded her sound to include a heavier mix of instrumentation, including bass grooves and electronica. Her Acoustic Brunch set was necessarily scaled back, but her sultry vocals and folk-tinged melodies were more than enough to captivate the audience’s attention. Check out the fully realised version of ‘Private’ just below. [Vera Blue is a recent signee to Capitol Records. – Ed.]

[youtube]https://youtu.be/leQ7baz6rWY[/youtube]

Devin Dawson

Nashville singer Devin Dawson has a definite twang in his vocals, but also enough raw edge and smooth charm to appeal to those who might normally shy away from mainstream country. His recent singles ‘All On Me’ and ‘I Don’t Care Who Sees’ were among the slow-burning highlights of his solo acoustic set.

Caitlyn Smith

Fellow country singer singer Caitlyn Smith is already a well-known name in American songwriting circles, having composed songs with the likes of Garth Brooks and Meghan Trainor. In a nod to that aspect of her talents, Smith performed an acoustic version of ‘Like I’m Gonna Lose You’, made famous by Trainor and John Legend, on her brunch set here. But her rich vocals were best highlighted in the muscular ballad ‘Before You Called Me Baby’, from her own recently released ‘Starfire’ EP.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/J9KZ9ma2NoQ[/youtube]

Michael Blume internal

If anyone in the brunch crowd was still sleepy at that point, soulful r&b singer Michael Blume most definitely woke them up. His defiantly powerful songs force you to sit up and take notice, with silky vocals and bold rhythms defining their sound and brash commentary on political and social issues permeating their lyrics. In live performance, Blume’s charisma and massive stage presence were undeniable. His EP ‘When I Get It Right’ was released last July; have a listen to breakout track ‘Colors’ just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/T5Z8g0ztrUY[/youtube]

Brayton Bowman

Pop/r&b singer Brayton Bowman was equally brash and equally charming, and perhaps even more viscerally effective. His flashy vocal stylings and intensely personal lyrics were captivating, and his easy banter between songs only drew his listeners further in. His recently dropped autobiographical mixtape ’22 Minutes Later’ features standout track ‘The Second I’m Rich’, which you can sample right here.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/8iw320DkOQI[/youtube]

Morgxn

The final performer on the Acoustic Brunch show was electropop songwriter Morgxn, whose brilliant blue hairdo was only upstaged by his rendition of smouldering single ‘Love You With the Lights On’. Keep an eye out for his latest track ‘XX’, due out tomorrow, the 14th of April. I didn’t get the chance to chat with Morgxn myself on the day, but you can hear his insightful interview with Austin Underground right here.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/1GkdKtGGP5Y[/youtube]

Special thanks to Jodie for her assistance with this review. Stay tuned to TGTF for post-SXSW 2017 question-and-answer sessions with Michael Blume, Brayton Bowman and Morgxn in the coming days. For an up-close perspective on the BMI / AT&T Fiber Acoustic Brunch, featuring interview clips with the artists, take a look at the video below, courtesy of BMI.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/suI8my_LBeU[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2017: Thursday night ups and downs at the British Music Embassy, Elysium and St. David’s Bethell Hall – 16th March 2017

 
By on Thursday, 13th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

I’ve often said that you can’t go wrong in Austin during SXSW, because there’s good music going on literally everywhere you turn. On the Thursday night of SXSW 2017, however, my general enthusiasm was dampened ever so slightly. I saw some amazing performances that night, mind you, but I also saw, for the first time in my SXSW experience, some performances that fell below my expectations.

Happily, the first performance of the evening wasn’t one of those. I started off at Latitude 30, where Holly Macve played the British Music Embassy stage with a full band in attendance and a subtle air of self-assurance about her. Like Northern Irish act Silences, who I covered earlier in the week, Macve’s previous experience at SXSW 2016 was clearly a valuable one for her in terms of confidence and exposure. (If you missed out on our earlier coverage of Holly Macve, you can catch up right back here.) She had clearly built a reputation that preceded her, as her set at Latitude 30 drew a full crowd on the Thursday night, and the lovelorn songs from her excellent debut LP ‘Golden Eagle’ made a strong impact, especially the uptempo ‘Heartbreak Blues’.

Holly Macve internal

You might recall from our earlier review that Macve’s album was released on indie label Bella Union, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Label boss Simon Raymonde was in attendance at Macve’s show on Thursday evening, but it’s his commentary at Friday afternoon’s panel session Bella Union at 20 that comes back to my mind as I write this review. In choosing acts to sign to his label, Raymonde’s guiding motto has been, in his own words, “Don’t be a dick.” In other words, there’s no need to go out of your way to harshly criticise or publicly disparage music you don’t like; just politely decline and move on.

How does Raymonde’s comment relate to my Thursday evening review, you ask? Well, several of the acts I saw later in the evening were . . . less than stellar, in my opinion. While I don’t necessarily feel the need to insult these artists by writing scathing recaps of their performances, I will give my honest opinions, as gently and genuinely as I can.

CP Stelling internal

Leaving the British Music Embassy, I headed to Elysium, which was hosting the Anti- Records showcase. In sharp contrast to the full-capacity Wednesday night crowd, Elysium was nearly empty at 9 PM on Thursday. This was unfortunate for Brooklyn folk singer Christopher Paul Stelling. He’s a songwriter I’ve enjoyed on record in the past, and I was eager to see him play live. However, his demeanour on stage was an immediate indication that this might not be his best night. I honestly think he might have been drunk, which I realise wouldn’t be unusual at SXSW. But if he was, it didn’t seem to enhance his performance. His comments to the small audience were a bit snide, and he apparently had some kind of disagreement with his bass player. It must be said here, though, that the bassist and the violinist accompanying Stelling provided some lovely tone color behind Stelling’s aggressive guitar playing and intensely passionate vocals. Expect to hear more of that savage sound on Stelling’s forthcoming LP ‘Itinerant Arias’, which is due for release on the 5th of May. Check out the video for the latest album track ‘The Cost of Doing Business’ just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/OMTdQVK7Jzk[/youtube]

The crowd at Elysium grew exponentially between sets in anticipation of New Jersey native and guitar virtuoso Delicate Steve. We featured his delightful album ‘This is Steve’ just before SXSW, and I was very happy indeed that his live show leaned heavily on songs from that LP. However, Delicate Steve did have a fair number of dedicated, longtime fans in the audience that night, and they were equally pleased when he threw in a couple of older favourites. His set was a visual and sonic spectacle, truly a joy to behold, and though I’m not always much of an instrumental music fan, I left Elysium with a grin on my face after seeing Delicate Steve play.

Delicate Steve internal

I debated about leaving Elysium, as Australian songwriter Cameron Avery was next on the bill. But I made the fateful decision to take a chance instead on a handful of Los Angeles area songwriters, in an effort to follow up the preview of L.A. artists I’d written just before SXSW.

Mark Eitzel internal

One of the songwriters mentioned in that very brief preview was Mark Eitzel. I walked into St. David’s Bethell Hall as Eitzel was preparing to play, and it quickly became clear that he didn’t particularly want to be there. In fact, he flatly said as much at one point during the set. His continued grousing during the set was off-putting, and I found it rather hard to believe his defensive statement “I’m usually very funny”. However, his songs did have a certain wit about them. Their lyrics were actually quite charming, in a French art song kind of way: elegant and romantic, understated and delicate, plainly sentimental. If you’re on the fence about giving Eitzel a listen, I’d still recommend him, in spite of his rough showing here. His new album ‘Hey Mr Ferryman” is out now on Merge Records (U.S.) / Decor records (UK/EU), and he’s just wrapping up a tour in North America.

Karen Elson internal

British ex-pat Karen Elson, who now calls Nashville home, was next on at Bethell Hall, and I was intrigued straightaway when her stage setup included a harp alongside the acoustic and electric guitars. She played stripped back versions of songs from her new album ‘Double Roses’, including recent single ‘Call My Name’, and for my money, the gentle sound of the harp was just the right accompaniment for her delicate singing voice. It was a bit unfortunate that Elson played for such a small gathering here, but the audience did include her friend and fellow songstress Allison Pierce, whom I’d covered at Lambert’s the night before. (Small world.) ICYMI, Elson very graciously answered TGTF’s Quickfire Questions in the days leading up to the festival; you can read her responses right here.

Alex Izenberg internal

Even from the vantage point of 4 weeks’ distance, I’m still not sure what to make of the final performer I saw on Thursday night, chamber pop songwriter Alex Izenberg. Though he is based in Los Angeles, the songs Izenberg played from his 2016 album ‘Harlequin’ were very 1970s’ New York-sounding to me: jazzy, sophisticated, vaguely cinematic. The potential was evident in tracks like ‘To Move On’, but Izenberg’s performance on the night fell completely flat. Like Eitzel, he wasn’t very personable, barely looking up from the keyboard to make a connection with his audience, and his between-songs banter was mumbled and perfunctory. Technically the performance was a bit stilted, possibly due to the stark solo keyboard arrangement of the songs, but Izenberg seemed almost like a child in a piano recital who has to pause between chords to remember where to put his hands. I’m sure this wasn’t the case — it couldn’t have been, right? — but it was impossible not to notice it. In his situation, I might have been tempted to improvise, to take advantage of Bethell Hall’s lovely grand piano for a virtuosic flourish or two, but Izenberg kept his head down and stuck to the figurative script. Then again, he was playing to a mostly empty room in the dreaded 1 AM time slot, which I’ve already mentioned many times as a difficult one.

I think we sometimes forget, as fans and listeners, and even as music journalists, that festivals like SXSW can be incredibly stressful for musicians. Rushing from gig to gig, handling press commitments, and the constant pressure to put on a good show despite less than ideal conditions is undoubtedly exhausting. A few of the musicians I saw on the Thursday night of SXSW might have been a little worse for the wear, and I hope their experience improved from that point forward. My lasting impressions of the night, though, were of brilliant performances from Holly Macve, Delicate Steve and Karen Elson, who definitively stood out among the evening’s offerings.

 

(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Live Gig Video: inside Spoon’s ‘Eno’s’ residency, set to ‘Hot Thoughts’

 
By on Wednesday, 12th April 2017 at 4:00 pm
 

I can personally attest to the fact that The Main Thursday night during SXSW 2017, dubbed jokily ‘Eno’s’ for Spoon‘s 3-day residency during the week, was a hot, sweaty, uncomfortable mess. I was there for the final of 3 nights where Britt Daniel introduced excited fans to their then upcoming album ‘Hot Thoughts’, their ninth and marking their return to Matador Records. (You can read my review of the sultry title track single through here.) Seemingly as proof of the low production values of the residency at the Main, the band have released this live video taking badly shot clips from the shows. You could never accuse Spoon of wasting their money on ridiculous stage setups! Watch it below. Our archive on Spoon on TGTF is right this way.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrLVAQYfeZ4[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2017: Thursday afternoon at Music From Ireland’s Full Irish Breakfast – 16th March 2017

 
By on Tuesday, 11th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Thursday at SXSW 2017 was another full day, but my tired feet did get a bit of a reprieve after the lengths I walked on Wednesday night. I started the day at the Austin Convention Center for Zane Lowe’s keynote session, then spent the remainder of the afternoon at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, which hosted Music for Ireland’s day show, the Full Irish Breakfast. (Editor Mary caught the opening acts on the Irish Breakfast bill, New Portals and Ciaran Lavery while I was listening to Zane Lowe; you can read about them in her Thursday afternoon review.)

AS Fanning IB

I arrived at B.D. Riley’s with just enough time for a plate of breakfast before “dark folk” singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning began to play. I’d seen Fanning earlier in the week at the Convention Center Next Stage, but as I’ve noted in the past, B.D. Riley’s has a very different ambiance from other SXSW venues, especially the sterile Convention Center stages. Fanning’s sharp lyrics and dramatic rock-tinged musical style skillfully elicited a mood of brooding melancholy in both environments. I caught him later in the afternoon for this quick interview, where we talked about the different venue atmospheres and his upcoming album ‘Second Life’.

"Loah

One of the afternoon’s pleasant surprises was soulful singer/songwriter Loah, whose West African musical influences were delightfully unexpected in the context of the Irish showcase. Her silky vocals and exotic stage presence were nothing short of stunning, bringing the bustling pub to a momentary standstill. Take a listen to my interview with Loah right back here, and watch this video for her full band performance of ‘Cross’, courtesy of Press Record.

Cloud Castle Lake IB

Next on the bill were electronic act Cloud Castle Lake, whose cool detachment and distinct avant-garde tendency took a decidedly different tone. Brendan Jenkinson’s ethereal falsetto was almost lost in the shuffle of background noise at B.D. Riley’s, but the band’s heavily rhythmic musical arrangements made a strong impression nonetheless.

"JOB

Northern Irish alt-rocker Jealous of the Birds (aka Naomi Hamilton) played a full band show at B.D. Riley’s, as opposed to the stripped back set I saw her play on the Output Belfast boat earlier in the week. Her erudite lyrics and eclectic mix of musical styles took on a much more vibrant cast in the fully-arranged versions of her songs, especially the popular ‘Goji Berry Sunset’. Hamilton and her bandmates fully embraced their punk-rock undertones in this pub setting, exponentially raising the energy level on the stage as well as among the punters in the growing crowd.

That newly-generated energy was immediately picked up by fellow Northern Irish band Silences, (pictured in the header photo above) who took the B.D. Riley’s stage with a decided air of confidence, quite different from frontman Conchúr White’s demeanor in his solo appearance last year. White and his bandmates didn’t waste a lot of time on chatter, preferring instead to impress the crowd with their massive, soaring five-piece sound. I was literally stunned to silence (pun intended) by the goose bump-inducing arrangement of their single ‘Breathless’, and I bubbled over with excitement for the up-and-coming Silences in this post-set interview with White and guitarist Chris Harbinson.

Taking full advantage of the momentum built by their Northern Irish compatriots, avant/experimental group Robocobra Quartet brought a surprisingly brash punk attitude to their jazz-tinged classical aesthetic. Based on our Adam’s description of them in his preview of NI artists, I probably should have expected punk, but I didn’t realise the extent of that influence until I heard lead singer/drummer Chris Ryan do his frenetic routine. The jazz side of things came through in the unique combination of saxophone sounds provided by Tom Tabori and Thibault Barilon. It’s an odd but intriguing mélange of sounds, and my immediate post-set commentary probably sums it up best: “I’m not sure what I just listened to, but I think I liked it.”

Birds of Olympus IB

I was equally intrigued by Dublin psych-rock act Birds of Olympus, especially after their frontman Spud Murphy described their sound to me as “Talking Heads mixed with Ennio Morricone”. Their songs were broadly expansive and strangely hypnotic, with smooth vocal melodies and edgy rhythmic grooves evolving in vivid kaleidoscopic fashion. Check it out for yourself in this live video performance of ‘Cinder to the Sun’ on the band’s official Facebook.

The Academic IB

Mary and I had been waiting over a year to see young Dublin rockers The Academic, and they took the Irish showcase by storm at SXSW 2017, with a set that was by turns wildly energetic and broodingly sullen. Frontman Craig Fitzgerald has cultivated a certain bad-boy mystique that feeds into the band’s more introspective songs, like ‘Thought I Told You’ and ‘Small Town Lovers’, while the driving momentum of songs like ‘Different’ is clearly the band’s strongest suit.

Picture This IB

The final act on the Full Irish Breakfast was another up-and-coming mainstream pop band, the swaggering Dublin rock duo Picture This. I’d taken the opportunity to sit down with band members Jimmy Rainsford and Ryan Hennessy earlier in the week, and their unabashedly cocky demeanor in that Tuesday afternoon interview had piqued my interest for seeing them live. As it turned out, they had every reason to be confident. The anthemic rock-leaning pop of tracks like ‘You & I’ was enthusiastically received at B.D. Riley’s, ending the day on an ecstatic high. Also, for the record, Hennessy fulfilled his earlier promise to play topless, which I hadn’t taken seriously until he actually did it.

Picture This 2 IB

All in all, the Full Irish Breakfast once again lived up to its reputation as one of the best shows in town during SXSW, and the bands on the showcase fully exceeded even my high expectations. For more on the fine Irish acts at SXSW 2017, you can read back through Mary’s coverage of the official Music From Ireland showcase at the Velveeta Room on St. Patrick’s Day.

 
 
 

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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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