For editor Mary's coverage of SXSW 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of Liverpool Sound City 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of the Great Escape 2013, go here.
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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th June 2013 at 12:00 pm
We’ve been following Dublin band Kodaline‘s steady rise to fame since last summer, when John wrote this Bands to Watch on them. I don’t think we ever knew how massive they were destined to become; it’s hard to gauge a band’s talent and longevity on the basis of one song, but even then we knew they were something special. This year in 2013 saw the band’s first appearances at SXSW and the Great Escape, and just this past weekend, the four played in front of a huge crowd at Isle of Wight. (Don’t believe me? Check out this Twitter post.) So it’s just perfect timing that their long-awaited debut, ‘In a Perfect World’ is being released this week. Cheryl did the honours of reviewing the ‘High Hopes’ EP earlier this year, and while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what was available on the US version of Spotify and the songs they played when I saw them live in Austin and Brighton, hearing this album all the way through is the first real listen I have of a collection of Kodaline songs. And here we go…
The album starts out strong with ‘One Day’. The twang of singer Steve Garrigan’s voice with appropriately twangy guitars begin ‘In a Perfect World’ on a slower, reflective note: “if life passes you by, don’t waste your time on your own…your heart gets bigger / when you try to figure out / what it’s all about / your skin gets thicker / when you try to figure out”. Brilliant wordsmithing in the bridge there. Things take a dip into sadness for ‘All I Want’, the song that Kodaline have become known most for here in America (thanks, Sirius XM). I actually have trouble listening to this song. Depending on your personal mood at the time you queue it up, it may be too heartbreaking (“if you loved me, why’d you leave me? / take my body, take my body / all I want is, all I need is / to find somebody, to find somebody”) to hear this song Garrigan wrote about his ex-girlfriend.
So imagine my surprise when you’re jolted from sadness into the mandolin jangly happiness of live crowd-pleaser ‘Love Like This’. Of all of their songs, this is the one I expect to get people dancing in droves at festivals this summer. This isn’t the end of the Kodaline roller coaster. Inexplicably, you’re then led into ‘High Hopes’, which, admittedly, has been my stalwart favourite since it was unleashed on the public. Anthemic? Yes. Amazing? Yes. Is it going to draw Coldplay comparisons with the mesmerising piano? Yes. Is it in the right place on this album? Not really. Newer song ‘Brand New Day’ is interesting with its xylophone and its storyline about making it big and travelling the world (see the spoken line “we could be big in Japan!”), but it doesn’t sound like the rest of ‘In a Perfect World’. Or even Kodaline themselves, with a cheesy singsong chorus. Is this the same band? I’m not trying to be flippant here, it’s not a bad song. It’s just so different sound-wise, I was left wondering if this was possibly a song from their pre-Kodaline days.
It, then, falls to ‘After the Fall’ to pick up the pieces and bring things back round to a ‘Love Like This’ sheen. With a driving percussive rhythm and very nice chord changes, it’s another guaranteed crowd-pleaser, with Garrigan’s voice soaring, then slinking around the corners of the song, as his bandmates sing along with him. Speaking of which, Garrigan’s bandmates – Mark Prendergast on lead guitar, Jason Boland on bass and Vinnie May, Jr. on drums – lend such a beautiful harmony to most of the tracks on here, which is not something you can say on a lot of pop records these days. The harmonies on here should be savoured, such as on the soulfully inspiring ‘All Comes Down’, which is helped along with a makeshift gospel choir made up of a group of their boozed-up mates.
The beautiful expansiveness of ‘One Day’ is revisited on ‘Talk’, which is probably close to dethroning ‘High Hopes’ as my favourite Kodaline track of all time. I could have used this song a couple of years ago; the song covers the heartfelt acceptance of a relationship that has ended and how the feelings you once had in your heart now live on in your head as memories. There have been so many songs in popular music about breakups, but none of those had such beautiful words as, “you were a moment in life that comes and goes / a riddle or rhyme that no one knows / a change in the heart, a twist of fate / couldn’t fix it, it’s too late”. May’s crashing drum beats almost sound like gunshots, but they’re tempered by the angelic multi-step harmonies that come in near the end. Like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You will get through this break-up. One day the skies will open up and things will be better.
The last two tracks on the album are the dark yet expressive ‘Pray’, which debuted on the ‘All I Want’ EP last year and is therefore familiar to the Kodaline devoted, and the most extreme opposite to that you can think of, by way of a hoedown in ‘Way Back When’. It even starts with a slurp from a cuppa, it’s so unpretentious. But again, I’m left saying to myself, these are the same guys that wrote ‘High Hopes’? The pacing of ‘In a Perfect World’ leaves a lot to be desired, but because the types of songs being presented here are either of sad love song / torch, happy singalong or folk varieties, I’m not sure how much reordering the songs would have helped. Overall, there are some really great songs on here, but if you do decide to get the album, I think you might be as confused as I am in terms of which is the true Kodaline. Maybe the best thing to do is see them at a festival this summer and decide which one’s for you.
Kodaline’s debut album ‘In a Perfect World’ is out now on B-Unique / Sony / RCA. You can watch the band perform album track ‘All Comes Down’ and additional song ‘Perfect World’ at the Great Escape 2013 here.
Laura Marling’s new album ‘Once I Was An Eagle’ is a bit of an odd duck. Before I even listened to it, I was taken aback by its length, 16 tracks and just over an hour in duration. As it turns out ‘Once I Was An Eagle’ is essentially two shorter albums compressed into one. It feels almost as if Marling had a change of heart in the middle of her writing process, perhaps the same change of heart that led her to relocate to America around the time of its release.
‘Once I Was An Eagle’ is divided into two discrete sections, conveniently separated by an instrumental ‘Interlude’. The first part of the album is difficult, even unnerving, as Marling strays from her typical folk style to experiment with amorphous song structures, alternative tonalities, and shifting rhythms. She also seems to have dabbled a bit in larger musical forms, if the album’s first four tracks are taken as one larger body of work, almost like a classical song cycle. The songs are thematically similar and so seamlessly blended that I almost had trouble telling when one track ended and the next began. Fifth track and first single ‘Master Hunter’ (video below) is a raucous closure to those first four tracks, indicating a change in mood to the dark, powerful tracks ‘Little Love Caster’ and ‘Devil’s Resting Place’.
Then comes the ‘Interlude’, which segues from darkness and dissonance to the sweeter, lighter side of the album. (I haven’t seen a vinyl version, but this would be a perfect place to manually turn the record over.) The second half feels more comfortable somehow, maybe because it is, to some degree, more predictable. The songs become less painfully personal and slightly more external in perspective. Two second-person characters are introduced, the eponymous ‘Undine’, and Rosie in the soaring ‘Little Bird’. Marling warms her sound with hints of blues and gospel, notably in the organ’s harmonic progression in ‘Once’. Final track ‘Saved These Words’ builds from a slow, sparse introduction to a full and resonant chorus: “You weren’t my curse / but thank you, naivete, for failing me again / he was my next verse.”
‘Once I Was An Eagle’ is less immediately accessible than 2011’s ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’. Marling’s voice has matured, both in terms of her lyrics and her vocal timbre. She alternates easily between the declamatory, if slightly abrasive, lower register and the sweet, soulful higher range, using her voice to its fullest effect. Likewise, the instrumentation throughout the album is ingenious and inventive, trading raw, ragged folk for a broader, bolder sound. Rather than making a strong emotional connection, the album instead makes a dynamic and deliberate statement of intent about Marling’s future artistic direction.
‘Once I Was An Eagle’ is available now via Ribbon Music. Laura Marling is currently playing a series of sold out Secret Cinema dates in London.
With no sense of pretence, no dramatic unveiling, New Desert Blues have snuck up on my psyche, with the immense track that is ‘Adam’. The five impeccably dressed lads who sounded raw, and ebbed with potential at The Great Escape at The Fishbowl have created something really special with their debut effort.
Refined, and delightfully genuine, New Desert Blues aren’t bursting with youthful exuberance as you’d expect from a group of five less-than-likely lads. They instead emanate a dastardly sense of cool: whether that is in lead singer James Cullen’s ability to pull of the most pretentious of turtlenecks in Brighton sunshine at this year’s Great Escape, is yet to be uncovered.
Parker’s vocals are delightful on ‘Adam’, with the five-part harmony that the band strike only accentuating the vocal prowess of the young man. The soaring vocals that build to a precipice on each chorus as Cullen laments the bittersweets vocals. Combined with the gently building guitars, ‘Adam’ is a single that has it all and deserves to be a soundtrack to summer 2013, especially with Mumford and Sons threatening to be that soundtrack. AGAIN.
It’s fresh, it’s new and I love it. Check it out in the video below.
‘Adam’, the forthcoming single from New Desert Blues, will be out on the 8th of July.
City and Colour is Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green, formerly with the post-hardcore band Alexisonfire. Green’s side project started out in Alexisonfire’s heyday in 2004, but he eventually left the band to focus on his work with City and Colour and refine his more melodic folk leanings. Fourth album ‘The Hurry and the Harm’ is a lovely piece, both gentle and exploratory. I am repeatedly struck by how often I am drawn to musicians who have turned their hardcore sensibilities into gorgeous acoustic guitar driven music.
Truth be known, I didn’t even know the genre folk punk existed until a few years ago. Green’s music is a step lighter than the likes of Frank Turner and Rocky Votolato in that respect, more folky and less aggressive than the other two. But with a full band behind him, Green has developed his sound from the quiet acoustic bit that drew him into solo work into full arrangements that offer him an opportunity to showcase more musical style than just the simple voice and guitar of his previous releases. Much more expansive than previous albums from Green, ‘The Hurry and the Harm’ has great drums, guitars and strings sprinkled throughout. Not afraid to experiment with the soundscape, Green still keeps the focus on his strong suit, words and melody.
Full of introspection and insight, the album addresses the very internal struggle of yearning and the quest for meaning. The title track itself is a treatise to the hurry-up society we live in today and how it does nothing to fulfill our deeper needs. Lead single ‘Thirst’ (lyric video above) is the most distinctively different with full drums and distortion filling it out to a full on rock song. ‘Two Coins’ is another heavy with bass that resonates both sonically and lyrically, its stark loneliness matches the rumble of the bass. The tune sets out to contemplate the redemptive quality of trying to find your way: “I’ve always been dark / with light somewhere in the distance / I’ve been so unforgiving / stranded in old traditions”. But there is still plenty that is vintage City and Colour to enjoy. ‘Of Space and Time’ rings clear with just the gentlest of augmentation to round out Green’s dulcet tones. While the searching quality of the lyrics suggests it is just another melancholy lament, it actually hints at reaching the end of the journey and being satisfied.
Perfect for a laid back Saturday afternoon in the garden, ‘The Hurry and the Harm’ could easily soundtrack a lazy summer, cool drink in hand swinging in a hammock. City and Colour will be touring much of Europe in June and will hit the UK for Reading and Leeds in August.
‘The Hurry and the Harm’, the latest album from City and Colour, is out now through Dine Alone Records/Cooking Vinyl Records.
Over three decades in the reckoning, and to the delight of metal aficionados from New Mexico to Beijing, the eponymous genre defining metal band Black Sabbath are back with their original line-up of founding member Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi. The result of this reunion and their exposure to producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin (Foo Fighters, Slayer) is ‘13’, their mammoth comeback to the mainstream and a call to arms to metallers worldwide.
With Ozzy back on vocals after the tragic death of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi as the axe man, Geezer Butler providing the bass and Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk sitting in on drums, the sound on ‘13’ is suitably triumphant, with a sense of an impending apocalypse. The ominous commencement of the album ‘End of the Beginning’ is Sabbath at their doom filled best, with Ozzy’s trademark vocals cutting deep from the word go as he croons “Is this the end or the beginning/or the beginning of the end”. Rubin’s influence is apparent from square one, with the producer’s epic sounds resonating throughout the record, and epic seems to be what the aim was on this Sabbath record, with seven of the eleven songs on the record clocking in at over 5 minutes.
To enjoy this album though, you need to forget all pretence of any drama within the legendary metal band, and you certainly need to forget Ozzy’s ill-fated solo record and that dreadful duet with daughter Kelly. This record is about a shameless progression of what made the band a pillar of modern metal. Bring Me the Horizon have produced arguably the most progressive and defining metal record of the past 12 months, but in ‘13’, you have a re-emergence of old-school metal. ‘13’ is best epitomized by a line from the opening track, “rewind the future to the past”, and that is exactly what the band have done on ‘13’.
It’s not exactly back to basics, but Black Sabbath were never in any way basic, they were a progression of what was before them and now, they have set a marker to all bands in metal 2013. Sabbath are revered amongst bands and fans of the genre alike, and it would have been difficult for them to go wrong on this record, and that’s why it almost feels like a bit of a safe effort. Single ‘God is Dead’ is undeniably classic Sabbath, from the booming drums, to the trademark strumming of the Iron Man himself Iommi.
The record falls a bit flat with the staccato guitars that intersperse the mid-section of ‘13’. It feels a bit uncharacteristic of Sabbath, and also again feels very safe. But the album does show a lot of the character we have come to expect from a Sabbath record. It’s obvious why they are so well-regarded and are held in such esteem and their relevance is as poignant in 2013, as it was decades ago at the bands inception. ‘13’ delivers in that respect and seasoned fans will lap this record up; however, if this to be the start of Sabbath 2.0 then a more ambitious approach must be considered. For now though, having the original line-up back producing mammoth tunes like ‘Loner’ and ‘God is Dead’, is quite enough for this not so Iron Man.
‘13’, Black Sabbath’s long-awaited reunion album, is out now on Mercury.
There comes a time in every festival-goer’s life when the spectre of having to give up the annual pilgrimage to the grassy land of song, cider, and occasional sunshine looms large, most likely due to the arrival of those little bundles of joy we call children. 2012 was the year your correspondent faced this sorry fate – and conquered it. Determined to share the joys of the unpredictable, oft mud-laden fields of dream with a young chap barely 6 months old, the discovery of the sublime Deer Shed festival was as if a sign from Dionysus himself. Nestled in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside, Deer Shed prides itself on two virtues – of providing a modest yet perfectly-curated bill of music for adults, and laying on a multitude of activities for children which mean they have as much, if not more fun, as their elders.
Now in its fourth year, taking place 19-21 July in Baldersby, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, this year Deer Shed takes Machines as its theme – all manner of self-propelling man-made apparatus are due to make an appearance. Led by modern mad scientist Paul Granjon, the objective is to improvise with a group of volunteers and a pile of obsolete electronics to build an interactive construct of some kind. Not to mention the invasion of “Thingies” – small, mobile robots with a hint of canine (and a tail) will be mingling and entertaining, and no doubt slightly scaring the kids. There’s a real life Scrapheap Challenge to build a boat, the results of which will be tested on the lake on Sunday. Add in a Minecraft party held on a LAN of Raspberry Pis, programming workshops, learning to solder, meccano, nano quadcopters and the opportunity to play a theremin, there’s ample opportunity to unleash your inner geek.
And that’s just in the Machines tent. There’s another entire strand of workshops to get the creative juices flowing – and it all gets very Blue Peter here. Take your pick from making a robot mask out of a giant roll-mat, making a mini dog out of a date-stamp casing, or a superstructure from screw-together water pipes. For the boys – water bottle rockets, and for the girls – friendship bracelet making. Or do it the other way round if you fancy. Make a windmill, a badge, or a balloon powered car, but don’t forget to learn how to play the ukulele with the pUKEs (last seen at Liverpool Sound City).
And that’s just the activities for kids (and big kids, we should add). There’s a whole lineup of fantastic music over three days – at Deer Shed Friday is an evening warm-up session, Saturday is an all-day marathon of goodness, and it bears repetition here that last year’s Sunday afternoon was the most chilled-out wind-down this correspondent has witnessed, anywhere, ever. The creative activities themselves and beautiful camping space would be enough to justify the entry price alone, but of course there’s far more to Deer Shed than that. Check back in for part two of our Deer Shed preview, where we run down the music and comedy lineup – trust us, there’s some unmissable stuff going on.
If you’ve already made up your mind that Deer Shed is your cup of family tea, then tickets are available at the bargain price of £89 plus booking fee, with children only £25, and under-6s free of charge. Buy them here. Still not convinced? Read Martin’s reviews of Deer Shed Festival 2012 part 1 and part 2.
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