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Top Gigs of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Tuesday, 17th December 2013 at 11:00 am
 

2013 did not disappoint to deliver another year of brilliant live performances for me here in America and in Britain. Which shows will I remember the most from 20-13? (I wrote it out that way, because I was told this last time in England that me pronouncing it that way makes it obvious I am an American. Do you reckon that’s true? I’m trying, folks, I’m trying, but as the majority of you know, I am American, born and bred!) Read on about the most exciting shows I’ve been to this year…

5. the 1975 at U Street Music Hall (20th June 2013) – I’ve been lucky enough to have seen the 1975 5 times this year, with 3 of those times in DC, and unusually, the one show that sticks out in my mind among all others is not their largest show in DC, nor their smallest, but the one in between.

The energy at U Street Music Hall, coupled with the screaming fans down the front, made it clear I was witnessing history. So what if “she’s got a boyfriend anyway”? We’ll be singing and bopping to the music like we don’t care, that’s what.

The 1975 Washington June 2013 1

4. Savoir Adore at DC9 (25th September 2013) – DC9 doesn’t have a great reputation for sound quality, but on this Wednesday night, all the stars aligned for a near perfect sounding show, highlighting the shiny, glittery ambiance that Savoir Adore brings to their shows.

Deidre Muro and Paul Hammer now have an impressive back catalogue to draw from, and this was just a wonderful gig to showcase their music, with punters having such a good time dancing to their tunes.

Savoir Adore Washington 2013 live 2

3. the Crookes at Sheffield Shakespeare (19th May 2013) – as the American editor of a UK-centric music site, all too often I’m left banging my head against a table or a wall when I come to the disappointing conclusion that I can’t attend a show I really want to be at. (Maybe one day when I have my own private plane…)

While the travel to Sheff was a pain in the arse – I must have taken the slowest Sunday train known to man from St. Pancras to the North East – and I’d not slept the night before, as John and I had been in Brighton all weekend to cover the Great Escape, it was all worth it for this chance to see one of my favourite bands in a teeny tiny gig in their hometown. As soon as I’d arrived at the place, I knew I’d made the right decision, having been greeted with the singing talents of a good friend wafting ‘Dance in Colour’ out of the top windows of the pub. You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Read my review for further musings.

2. OMD at Gateshead Sage (13th May 2013) – where do you go to see a favourite Northern band when possible? The North, of course. Martin had alerted me ahead of time that the Sage was quite a posh place and to expect people to be dressed fancier than I was used to seeing in clubs.

Hate people talking on their phones at gigs? The Sage has high-tech mobile phone blocking technology. The beautifully lit, swiveling panels suspended in the air above us and the band were awe-inspiring, as were Andy McCluskey’s seemingly inexhaustible singing and dad-dancing talents. ‘Electricity’? Why, yes.

OMD Gateshead live 1

1. Little Comets at the Hamilton (13th August 2013) – for the longest time, it seemed all my music friends had seen this Geordie band live and I hadn’t; further, so many of the bands I was personally friends with either had toured with them or had become friends with them after being impressed by their live show at a festival.

Well, it took 4 long years but I finally got to see Little Comets live, and I’m pleased to report they were well worth the wait. The dinner theatre-style setup of the Hamilton means at most shows, punters will remain sat at their tables, chewing on their tapas. Not this night: with fans shrieking and letting out catcalls of delight, stomping to their favourite songs and singing along word for word to tracks like ‘Isles’, it was definitely a moment in time I will never forget. More of this, please!

Little Comets Washington 2

Honourable mentions:

Franz Ferdinand at Strathmore Hall (17th October 2013) – I was under the distinct impression I would never see Franz Ferdinand live, unless maybe I was lucky enough to catch them at a festival. It had been 7 years since they’d played in DC. Great show punctuated with Alex Kapranos’ Olympic-effort leaps and bounds, and I have to say, you haven’t lived until you’ve been sat next to Nick McCarthy’s extended family at a show. Just saying.

Kodaline at Jammin’ Java (13th October 2013) – it must be nice to be on your first headline tour of North America and arrive in a city to find out you’ve sold out your gig there. I’ve seen quite a few post-gig fan queues in my day, but this one for Kodaline stretched to about forever. We hung around for over an hour and a half, watching the band say hello, sign autographs and take photos with each and every fan that wanted to meet them. If only all bands were as considerate.

the Static Jacks at DC9 (2nd October 2013) – this guys just get better and better every time I see them. They managed to turn a humdrum Wednesday night in Washington into a disco, with appreciative fans cutting a rug to their music. Doesn’t really get any better than that.

Villagers at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel (13th June 2013) – this was the first time I’d see the Villagers full band setup, having only seen Conor J. O’Brien solo in 2010. If you had reservations that ‘Becoming a Jackal’ was a whimper-y kind of record and you weren’t sold on their new direction in ‘{Awayland}’, go see them live now and watch them rock out.

the Joy Formidable at 9:30 Club (21st April 2013) – I prefer to see this Welsh band in smaller, dingier confines because I think their music suits that kind of environment better, but still, this was an amazing show. Hard to believe the first time I saw them was in November 2010, barely filling half of Black Cat Backstage’s capacity of 200.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2013. The runner-up gigs are also marked.

Continue reading Top Gigs of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 

Top Albums of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Monday, 16th December 2013 at 11:00 am
 

It’s amazing how quickly a year can speed by, and 2013 has been not been an exception. While there is no doubt that the biggest, loudest and most annoying press campaign to promote an album this year was the one related to Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’, it won’t appear on my list of top albums. Nope, not a chance. Like all things in life, musical tastes change over time, and judging from the LPs released this year, mine definitely have.

I haven’t decided why the pop and dance worlds not haven’t been able to produce a good amount of excellent albums (notice I said albums, not singles), but I suspect that deep down, it has to do with heart. That said, I wonder if it’s symptomatic of the industry, but I’ve been having a hard time finding albums that I want to listen to in full, over and over again. So here are my top five albums of 2013 that I think everyone should own. Or at least listen to all the way through at least once to make your own judgment about them.

Static Jacks In Blue cover1. The Static Jacks – ‘In Blue’ (Old Friends) – The best albums are those that can span the entire spectrum of emotions for when you need it. The Static Jacks came of age on their second album, writing songs that can act like an old friend who is there to laugh with you or give you a knowing hug when you need a good cry. Not to mention, despite being still pretty young guys (at least they’re legal now, which they weren’t when I first saw them in 2010), they know how to write a memorable pop melody, which, judging from a lot of the rubbish on the charts these days, is a real talent.

It’s all here. You want fun? ‘I’ll Come Back’ and ‘Wallflowers’ are clear standouts, and to be honest, I’ve had such an up and down year, I needed something to cheer me up. ‘People Don’t Forget’ is probably the closest you’re going to get to the best pop song of the year. And lyrically, title track ‘In Blue’ hits in the spot: it’s an emotionally-charged piece of pop, “you try to run from all your problems / it just makes you stumble harder / realise I’m just sorry, and I know you’re still lonely”. Just perfect. Read my review here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1Fv0MyGvx8[/youtube]

Dutch Uncles Out of Touch in the Wild cover2. Dutch Uncles – ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ (Memphis Industries) – Oddly, they’re the only ones from their town of Marple from the class of 2010 (the others being Delphic and Egyptian Hip Hop) still standing tall these days. Or maybe this is not odd at all. Breaking boundaries is what Dutch Uncles is all about, having recently put on a series of shows with a string ensemble, in addition to their atypical time signatures that have become their signature, and the uniqueness has paid off.

From the frenetic pace of xylophone in ‘Fester’, the feeling that you’re floating in space when you’ve got ‘Bellio’ in your headphones or my personal favourite, the smooth string –tinged jam of ‘Flexxin’ that caught Pitchfork’s ears, this is an album you’ll want to listen to over and over again, because you’ll discover something new and exciting each time. Oh, and while I’ve got your attention, you might as well get their debut ‘Cadenza’ too: different, but also wonderful. Read my review of ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHXxKitLdrU[/youtube]

Fenech-Soler Rituals cover3. Fenech-Soler – ‘Rituals’ (B-Unique) – I’ve listened to a lot of dance albums this year, trying to find The One (figuring it’d be easier than finding the right man) and mostly, I found disappointment. Fenech-Soler’s follow-up to their 2010 debut as worth the wait, with massive singles ‘All I Want’, ‘Magnetic’ and ‘Last Forever’, as well as the beauteous ‘Maiyu’.

It also contains quite possibly this year’s best floor filler in ‘In Our Blood’, an uplifting song about an ending relationship. It might be winter right now, but this album will keep your blood pumping all through to the next season of summer festivals. Read the album review here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXFK1CQPnto[/youtube]

Fiction The Big Other cover4. Fiction – ‘The Big Other’ – ‘Effortless’ is the best word I can think of to describe London band Fiction’s debut album released in March. This LP feels like classic New Wave, yet does one better by being not at all heavy-handed: it’s got a lightness that will have ‘80s children feel nostalgic, with ‘Parting Gesture’ and ‘See Me Walk’ feeling like they would have been at home in a John Hughes film.

Regardless of how old you are, young and old should be able relate to (and love) this album because as evidenced in ‘Big Things’ and ‘Museum’, it’s just damn good: rhythmic, melodic, interesting. Read my review of ‘The Big Other’ here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySBYXerX8jc[/youtube]

Arctic Monkeys AM cover sm5. Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’ (Domino) – Not sure how much they should owe their placement to producer and friend Josh Homme, who basically helped reinvent them into a darker, harder version from the one that I’ll admit used to annoy the hell out of me on ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’.

For me, it’s less about Alex Turner’s vocals, sounding almost rap-like on some of the harder tracks. No, it’s the attitude throughout this album, from the bluesy guitars on ‘Do You Wanna Know?’ and ‘R U Mine’, to the Richard Hawley-esque ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ and ‘Mad Sounds’. Mark my words, latest single ‘One for the Road’ will be a minimalist rock classic.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qN7gSMPQFss[/youtube]

After the cut: discussion on albums that disappointed.

Continue reading Top Albums of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 

Live Review: The Static Jacks with Cherry Tree at DC9, Washington DC – 2nd October 2013

 
By on Monday, 7th October 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

If you’ve been a devoted reader of TGTF for the last 4 years, you probably have noticed that I really don’t follow American bands. It’s not that I haven’t tried to listen to and to take to them – believe me, I try and constantly, it’s not that I’m a snob and only listen to British bands – but very few seem to make the cut. I sensed something very special in the Static Jacks the first time they came to Washington, 3 summers ago, opening for Sunderland’s Futureheads.

At the time, they were underage and were sporting Xs on their hands, and then they actually had to beg the audience for a place to stay that night because they had no place to go. (Some girl and her parents offered their house to them, which I have to say was a very nice gesture, considering I’m sure they had no idea prior to that night who the band were.) I mentioned this exact night to the Static Jacks when I caught up with them after their show at DC9 last night. It seems like that happened a lifetime ago, now that they’re stars in their own right, with their stellar second album on Old Friends Records, ‘In Blue’, was released last week.

Cherry Tree live 1

The opening band were locals Cherry Tree, who barely interacted with the audience. Admittedly, there weren’t all that many people at the club when they started to play, so maybe that caused them some anxiety. I actually didn’t even know they were from Washington until I looked them up on Facebook. I will stress again to new fledgling bands, you have got to talk to the punters, tell them where you’re from and if at all possible, try and engage them so if they like your music, they’ll remember who you are.

Cherry Tree live 2

They’re a rock three-piece of power, and the best comparison I can make to them is a less accomplished Led Zeppelin. It’s a little strange that their singer / bass player plays a pretty tiny bass (think of a Macca-like Hofner, just not a Hofner), but the guitarist is clearly a virtuoso, and they take advantage of this, giving him ample opportunity for solos. As their set wound down, the more bluesy they went, the more enjoyable I found them.

The Static Jacks 2013 live 1

As I said in this review last week for ‘In Blue’, the Static Jacks have a lot to be proud of from this brand new release. So understandably, they wanted to bring out these new tracks Wednesday night and show them off to us. I knew I’d be waking up the next morning with a froggy voice once epic singles ‘I’ll Come Back’ and ‘Wallflowers’ were trotted out one after another early on in their headline set. Oh my. There is something to be said about shouting, “happiness is all the rage!” and “I can’t get enough of this!” back at Ian Devaney, and for once, there was an uberfan with dreadlocks (who I believe was the drummer of Cherry Tree!) behind us who was going more mental at this show than I was. (He was also the same one who successfully ‘negotiated’ an encore for us later.) The heaviness of ‘Ninety Salt’ contrasted well with the feel good New Wave-y sound of ‘Decoder Ring’ and proved their versatility as both musicians and songwriters.

The Static Jacks 2013 live 2

Nearly every song off ‘In Blue’ was offered up on this night, and the songs all sounded huge. The Static Jacks are riding on a huge wave of confidence coming off the album release, and it translates to an exciting, super fun experience. They’re young guys and they’re clearly having a lot of fun performing. Devaney is very endearing funny with the crowd, dropping jokes left and right, as is drummer Nick Brennan, who my gig mate spied stealing guitarist Michael Sue-Poi’s Bud Light halfway in the middle of the set. Brennan also provided comic relief in the form of asking us, “has anyone gotten glasses at the age of 25 and found now they finally see?” (I think you had to have been there, and maybe also a long-time glasses wearer like myself, but I found the quip hilarious. And all this time I thought his Buddy Holly-esque thick black-rimmed glasses were a Harry Potter-type fashion statement.)

The Static Jacks 2013 live 3

Had the ending of the night been my favourite track from ‘In Blue’, ‘People Don’t Forget’, I would have been pleased. But no. After aforementioned dreadlocked dude shouted for everyone to demand an encore, Brennan joked, “you’re in luck. We know exactly one more song.” Laughter. ‘My Parents Lied’, from the band’s 2011 debut album ‘If You’re Young’, capped the evening – and the end of their autumn American tour – off in style. Thanks very much, Static Jacks. We’ll be very pleased to see you back in our town soon. Come back anytime.

 

Album Review: The Static Jacks – In Blue

 
By on Thursday, 26th September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Static Jacks In Blue coverIt’s pretty sweet when you can watch a band’s progression through the years and see them grow up. That’s the sense I get with the Static Jacks from Westfield, New Jersey. Back in my early years as a music journalist, I seemed to have much more time to investigate the support bands on a bill and have some feeling even before I arrived whether or not I’d like them. I forget which song it was on their MySpace, but I was impressed enough to show up early for their opening slot with headliners the Futureheads and other opener, the short-lived girl group the Like (who, for the record, I didn’t like). I was not disappointed that night at the Black Cat in June 2010, nor was I when they opened Biffy Clyro‘s first headline show in the DC area, at DC9 in September 2010. At the time, they were probably best described as loud, abrasive, and fun. These three adjectives also work well to describe their 2011 debut album ‘If You’re Young’, and although that was only 2 years ago, it’s a great snapshot of what the Static Jacks were then.

In 2013, the New Jersey rockers offer up a new album called ‘In Blue’, to be released next Monday the 30th of September in America on Old Friends Records. There is still most definitely an element of fun on the new record – the same kind of “rah rah rah!” drunken fun reserved for house parties – but the Static Jacks sound has matured. Usually, I’ve found that’s a bad sign, especially if a band had become known for raucous recordings and live performances, and then they seemingly suddenly morph into another band without warning. The 11 songs that make up ‘In Blue’ show a clear progression of the band in becoming better songwriters, with catchy as hell choruses and stick in your head guitar riffs, while not losing the energy of youth.

Even the inclusion of the short, less than 2-minute long song ‘Horror Story’ to begin the proceedings shows wisdom; ‘If You’re Young’ blasted your eardrums straight away with ‘Defend Rosie’, but in stark contrast, ‘Horror Story’ gently eases you into the new album, acting as if it’s one of those introductory clips at the start of the film to help set the scene for what is to come. Even Nick Brennan’s drums seem pensive until the song really gets going after the first minute. Singer Ian Devaney emotes, “take a stroll through your misery / I’m not afraid of the house or what you used to be / and now you wanna start again, so differently / I’m not afraid of the house or what you used to be”. Food for thought. Good way to start.

I’ve already discussed on TGTF previously revealed singles ‘I’ll Come Back’ (free mp3 here) and ‘Wallflowers’, which follow ‘Horror Story’ in quick succession. Both are exemplary on how to do guitar rock right: super memorable melodies, insistent instrumental bridges, singalong choruses. Maybe touring with Futureheads and Biffy in the States rubbed off on them in a good way. ‘Wallflowers’ in particular, simply because it’s a bit slower, showcases Devaney’s voice, and it’s not a hard stretch of imagination that girls will be swooning over him at their live shows. This will happen. I guarantee it. Guitar work by Henry Kaye and Michael Sue-Poi provide the perfect foil to the vocals in the song too.

The charm doesn’t end there. The relentless driving rhythms of ‘Home Again’ and ‘Katie Said’, paired with its wistful vocals, conjures up great ’80s power pop. Like the aforementioned singles, they’re tailor made for summer festival headbanging and dancing. ‘Decoder Ring’ has – gasp – buzzy synths. It’s not Foster the People, thank god, but more of an everyman anthem in the grand tradition style of fellow New Jerseyans Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’.

However, it’s when you get closer to the end that you are met with the gems of this album. It’s interesting that this album is coming out in September, because title track ‘In Blue’ would be perfect in a rom-com to describe young love gone wrong in all its anguish, as if the guitar chords as they fly in mid air are sympathetic to the story. For sheer pop perfection, the award has to go to ‘People Don’t Forget’. And you won’t forget it. I am still hearing the words and infectious hooks in my heads days after I first heard the album. It’s that good.

Less poppy and more hard is ‘Ninety Salt’, which should suit those of the harder rock fraternity, with severe, severe guitar chords appropriate for severe headbanging. “Alone with all our feelings were bleeding out of me”: hello, ’90s angst rock. And if you’ve been paying attention up to now, you’re rewarded: lyrics from ‘Horror Story’ also reappear here. This is the song that best exemplifies this bit from their most recent press release: “In the end, we decided that we just want to watch the audience slowly headbang and lose their hearing.” Job well done, then.

9/10

The Static Jacks’ sophomore album ‘In Blue’ will be released on Monday the 30th of September in America on Old Friends Records.

 

Single Review: The Static Jacks – Wallflowers

 
By on Monday, 23rd September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

One of my fave bands ever from New Jersey, The Static Jacks, are gearing up for the release of their second album, ‘In Blue’, which drops on the 30th of September stateside on Old Friends Records. In mid-summer, the band revealed ‘I’ll Come Back’, which we featured as a previous Video of the Moment here. ‘I’ll Come Back’ is a real earworm if there every was one. If I’m entirely honest, that song was so great, I didn’t think there was any way they could top it. I was wrong.

Just a couple days ago when I was on holiday, they revealed another song off ‘In Blue’, called ‘Wallflowers’. A while ago, the band asked their fans on Facebook for a bunch of ’80s specific games and toys for a project they were working on. In the promo video embedded below, you can see why they needed them. It’s an adorable homage to the ’80s cult film Weird Science, but with a twist. I don’t want to tell you more, b/c it’ll ruin it for you.

The more I’ve listened to the song, the more it reminds me of earlier We Are Scientists, and these days, based on ‘Something About You’ and ‘Return the Favor’, I’d say they sound more like We Are Scientists than We Are Scientists sound like We Are Scientists. (Try saying that three times fast.) It also simultaneously sounds like the kind of mega guitar rock with huge riffs that I would listen to in the ’90s by Everclear and Weezer. (God, just saying that out loud makes me feel old…) The guitar riffs and melody of this song will not, I repeat, WILL NOT leave you. Resistance is futile.

And speaking of bands changing sound, the Static Jacks have definitely evolved since their 2011 debut. ‘If You’re Young’ was very much an in your face affair, with singer Ian Devaney’s punky, shouty vocal style perfect for ‘Defend Rosie’ and ‘Into the Sun’ (my personal favourite from the album) and his trademark thumpy, boot stomping on ‘My Parents Lied’ when played live. ‘Wallflowers’ is still sounds huge rock-wise, but it seems like the Static Jacks have refined their aesthetic, and the result is a more mainstream, radio-friendly sound that even us indie snobs will love. I’ll go into more detail in the album review for ‘In Blue’ that I’m planning to do in the coming days, but for now, all you need to know is that ‘Wallflowers’ is a song you definitely want in your music collection now, because it’s going to make the rounds very soon.

9/10

The Static Jacks’ second album ‘In Blue’ will be released next Monday the 30th of September in America on Old Friends Records.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdFL8-yYhMQ[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1268: The Static Jacks

 
By on Tuesday, 23rd July 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

New Jersey rockers The Static Jacks are releasing their second album ‘In Blue’ in the autumn, and here is the video for the first song they’ve revealed from it, ‘I’ll Come Back’. Colourful characters in a karaoke bar? Check. Melody as infectious as all hell? Check. “Happiness is all the rage”? Why, yes, I’m behind that. Watch the video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iozK63pT2IU[/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.

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