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English singer/songwriter Daniel Pearson has just released a new EP, ‘Escape Acts’, leading into his appearance at Live at Leeds next month. In his recent interview with us, Pearson described ‘Escape Acts’ as an intermediate step between albums and an opportunity to fine tune a couple of his previous recordings. Along with two reworked tracks, the EP is bookended by two new tracks intended to whet the appetites of his growing audience.
The songs on ‘Escape Acts’ are somewhat varied in terms of musical style, but Pearson has pointed to the lyrical theme of “escaping or wanting to escape” as a unifying factor on the EP. Opening track ‘Lost My Way’ (video below) is a fairly straightforward rock number with a punchy “na-na-na” chorus. The lyrics in its verses reflect Pearson’s struggles as an indie artist, “Tell me I’ll never eat lunch in this town again / I need to be told everything twice / Keep your enemies closer than your friends / I got sick of taking bad advice”.
‘Promises Promises’ is a tighter, cleaner version of the guitar-driven, blues rock-flavored track ‘Promises’, from 2012 release ‘Mercury State’. The vocals are featured more prominently in the sound mix of the new version, which I felt was a step in the right direction for a writer whose lyrics are really the distinguishing factor in his music. Pearson similarly focuses on the poignant lyrics of ‘Satellite Town’, giving it a little more space and vocal expression here than in the original version from 2011’s ‘Satellites’. New track ‘I Dug Myself a Hole’ has a bit of a country twang behind its electric guitar riff and a haunting backing vocal in the final chorus, which finally hits Pearson’s emotional mark at the very end of the EP.
‘Escape Acts’ is a solid group of songs that gives a nice taste of what Pearson is capable of as a songwriter. The simplicity and emotional value of the lyrics is appealing, but the unadorned melodies and sparse instrumental arrangements left me wanting more from Pearson’s rather detached vocal delivery. In spite of that, his lyrics do strike an emotional chord, and the raw authenticity of these songs is certainly the strong point of both the new and revised recordings.
‘Escape Acts’ is out now on Saint In The City Records.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 16th April 2014 at 12:00 pm
We’ve been keeping an eye on young Halifax band the Orielles since Martin caught them at Liverpool Sound City last year in the wee hours of Thursday night into Friday morning and my own serendipitous run-in Saturday afternoon with the Hand-Halford sisters (Esme-Dee on vocals/bass, older sister Sid on drums) at the Brink cafe. Just a few weeks ago, the band released their second EP, their first under their new moniker The Orielles, after having shed their original name The Oreoh!s, ‘Hindering Waves’ (video for title track in this previous Video of the Moment). Definitely ones to strike while the iron is hot, they quickly followed up this release with several high-profile support slots, including two sold-out shows at the London Lexington where they opened for the Primitives the first weekend of April. But now we can focus back and squarely on the band again, for they have a new single out the 12th of May called ‘Entity’.
At first glance, ‘Entity’ seems a quite weighty title for a trio of young people still too young for university and sounds like it could have been a b-side on Delphic‘s debut ‘Acolyte’ alongside other one-word standouts ‘Halcyon’ and ‘Submission’. Beginning with a uniquely smooth bass line that sounds somewhere in between the Breeders’ ‘Cannonball’ and Presidents of the United States’ ‘Peaches’, the words then begin, and in my view, they’re pretty snarky: “you are so dead but still in my mind / a voice in my head so hard to define”. Whoever Esme-Dee Hand-Halford is singing about, the person is either physically dead or not real. See what we were saying about them being wise beyond their years? Mind. Blown.
But what’s holding this all together is the second verse: “File your face like you file a letter, at the back like a winter sweater / I like you, it’s pure and plain to see / I like you, but you’re an entity”. The title ‘Entity’ seems to suggest this person, the object of her affection, isn’t a person at all, or lacking things that make a person human, such as proper emotions, or at least manners and consideration. If you’re looking at the word ‘entity’ itself in plain semantics, an entity is generally inanimate, which I think is what the lyrics are trying to get at, and the very chill vibe of the song reflects this.
The second verse is describing the difficult process of putting someone out of your mind. It must be difficult, because the female protagonist has to describe exactly what she’s doing – filing him away, and far enough in the back where she doesn’t think about him – and if it was easy and came second nature to her, she wouldn’t be describing the process to us, would she now? Esme-Dee Hand-Halford’s vocals are measured, as if she’s trying to hold emotions in, while she and guitarist Henry Wade providing backing vocals repeat in between the verses and at the end, “I don’t see you anymore, I don’t…but I don’t mind, boy, I don’t care at all”. But does she really not care at all? Somehow, I think she’s trying to be strong…
But it’s packaged with such a memorable melody! You won’t forget this one. Any way you slice it, ”Entity’ is a wonderful piece of pop, bright yet cool, and it makes me eager to hear what else these young, brilliant and talented minds come up with next.
The Orielles’ next single, ‘Entity’, will be released by Scruff of the Neck Records on the 12th of May. I’ve been told a promo video for the single will be coming very soon. The band will be having a launch party for the single on Saturday the 26th of April at Manchester Deaf Institute. They will also be appearing at the Shipping Forecast on Friday the 2nd of May during Liverpool Sound City and the Packhorse on Saturday the 3rd of May during Live at Leeds.
Header photo by Rich Gilligan
Side projects and collaborations seem to be all the rage among established musicians these days, and Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan has recently jumped into the mix with a venture called Printer Clips. The project consists of a series of duets written by Noonan and performed with female singers including previous duet partner Lisa Hannigan, Martha Wainwright, and Julia Stone, then recorded in spontaneous and unstructured settings.
The first release from the project, ‘Apparatchik’, features the somewhat predictable combination of Noonan and Hannigan, whose voices blend together in harmony as beautifully here as on their version of ‘Some Surprise,’ from the 2006 project The Cake Sale. ‘Apparatchik’ is a very pretty, melodic little tune, which I found myself humming back after only one brief listen, but as usual with Noonan’s songwriting, there’s more to it than what’s on the surface. Lyrically, it has moments of downright ugliness, especially in the lines, “These are the punches that we roll with / This is the shit / But it’s so much easier to stomach it / When I’m downwind of you.” The juxtaposition of that obnoxiously unpleasant line with its elegantly lilting melodic phrasing is jarring, I suspect deliberately so.
The song’s title, ‘Apparatchik’, is an old Russian term for a professional member of the Communist party, now often used in a disparaging way to describe members of any large political organization as parts of a self-perpetuating machine. I almost wonder if Noonan might have been referring to his own role in Bell X1 there, but overall the song seems like a larger rumination on life, especially in its final repeated line, which I believe is quoted from a stencil by street artist Banksy, “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”.
‘Apparatchik’ is the first release from Printer Clips’ upcoming EP ‘The Left Sleeve’, which is due for digital-only release on the 25th of April. A second digital EP, ‘The Right Sleeve’, is scheduled for release on Bone China Records on the 16th of May, followed by a physical and digital release of the full self-titled LP on the 23rd of May. This curious schedule reminds me of the idea Noonan discussed for Bell X1 album ‘Chop Chop’ in my interview with him last year, and it’s interesting to see that design come to fruition, albeit in a slightly different context.
In the end, as always, the interpretation lies with the listener; you can form your own opinion after taking a listen to ‘Apparatchik’ below. Printer Clips will perform a live premiere on the 24th of May at The National Concert Hall, Dublin.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 15th April 2014 at 11:00 am
It’s not everyday I write about a DC band. So I’m very pleased to bring you the full album stream of the debut EP from VEDAS; the five-track ‘Exhume’ is out today here in America. Alex Lee and Andrew Monborne started VEDAS last summer when they wanted a creative outlet to “put the individual subconscious thought and emotion into sound”.
Sounds pretentious, doesn’t it? It’s not at all, though, as you will listen below. People often say anything electronic is devoid of emotion, but you will see and hear through ‘Exhume’ – and on standout track ‘Mis Rajh’ – that voices and electronic notes can be extremely expressive.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 14th April 2014 at 12:00 pm
Fierce Panda Records may be famously noted by pedants of the British music business as being the label that launched the careers of Coldplay and Keane, but if that was all to the label, it wouldn’t be still standing. It’s hard for me to fathom that here we are in the year 2014, and Fierce Panda has been in business for 2 decades. The London indie label has championed the little guy and released so much great music in the last 20 years, it would take me far too long to go through their storied history than there is space on our humble Web site. Instead, I’m going to focus on a new 18-track compilation the label is offering up for free with any record purchase from their online shop.
The LP’s title ‘Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014’ is innocuous enough, not at all telling of its contents when, in fact, it is a careful selection of, oddly, the saddest songs from their back catalogue of the last 10 years. I say oddly, because celebrating and (surviving) 20 years in anything these days is cause for celebration, surely? However, despite being advertised by the label themselves as “some of the weepiest tunes it has had the tragic pleasure to put out over the past ten years”, you should be more impressed by the quality of the music not to slit your wrists. Hopefully, anyway. Maybe the whole ‘sad song’ is meant to be cheeky, now that I think about it.
‘Endangered’ does not rely solely on sob story, folky singer/songwriter types and in so doing, shows the breadth of Fierce Panda’s roster. But let’s first examine the more obvious sad songs. Danish girl/boy duo The Raveonettes‘ ‘Last Dance’ is innocent and twee, and Canadians Woodpigeon‘s ‘The Saddest Music in the World’ that opens the album is similar, but with added Simon and Garfunkel influence. Los Angeles quintet Milo Greene‘s harmonies shine on the Biblical leaning ‘Son My Son’, while the voice and songwriting of Tom Hickox, already being compared to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave’s, haunts with desolation on ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’, with sombre piano and then added strings and horns.
The more bombastic numbers in this collection include the now-on-hiatus Walkmen and their optimistic (or delusional?) ‘In the New Year’, the slow burning Acres of Lions‘ ‘Collections’, Hatcham Social‘s rich guitars in ‘Sidewalk’ and Dingus Khan‘s whistle-filled ‘Made a List’; the latter’s inclusion in particular surprised me, but it just goes to show that even if you’re looking rough and tumble on the outside, you can still feel sadness inside. The sonic beauty of Ultrasound‘s ‘Sovereign’ is marred, presumably on purpose, by the repetition of the lyric “we are unclean” and the business of sex and sin, all wailed by singer Andrew “Tiny” Wood. The same can be said for tracks that include synths or twinkly keys: ‘They All Laughed’ by the Spinto Band sounds cheerful in a music box sort of way but it veils, not very well, the disgust he has for a former love, while the psychedelic feelings that Hey Sholay‘s ‘The Bears The Clocks The Bees’ engenders are appropriate for a song about confusion in a relationship.
It should also noted that sadness can also come out of mind games, craving someone else or the deepest regret. The industrial Nine Inch Nail-sey sound of Department M‘s ‘J-Hop’ (stream above) comes with the element of desire with its sensual lyrics, “we ply / by the logic of the reasoned minds / and one last time I’ll come to your body / what do you need?” The genius behind Art Brut‘s ‘Rusted Guns of Milan’ is Eddie Argos’ admittance, in his usual funny way, that he’s messed up in a relationship and he wants a second chance. Meanwhile, a similar request for a second chance is captured in a brilliant snapshot in ‘Last Decade’ by Goldheart Assembly (video below), showing a man’s final moments, first desperate to reconcile with a lover but then resigning to his fate: “but you know I’d go back, but there is no way…” I Like Trains‘ ‘A Rook House for Bobby’ I’m guessing is named for chess champion and famed recluse Bobby Fischer, using his hermit existence as a metaphor for how love can cause depression. The self-deprecation and admittance of weakness in the little girl voice of Melanie Pain in ‘How Bad Can It Be’ is, no pun intended, painful: “everyone knows I won’t change / everyone knows love is not my game / everyone know who I am / everyone but you.”
Additional Panda melancholy comes courtesy of Sheffield in the form of two exemplary tracks. A man’s exasperation over his lover’s worry about losing him is made all too real in Tom Hogg’s expressive vocals with his bandmates’ gorgeously crooning backing in ‘Would You Be Blue’ by the Hosts (stream below) from this year’s debut album from them, ‘Softly, Softly’. Meanwhile, the loneliness of the protagonist of The Crookes ‘Howl’ from ‘Soapbox’ released today is haunted by the memory of another’s love, as George Waite’s voice is alternately dreamy and contemplative in the romance of song-induced candlelight: “and there’s no time, only light / no clocks, but shadows that hide the point when day becomes night / it’s hard to tell with these skies… I heard the howl, I love you but you keep me down.”
I think those two songs tell the ‘sad song story’ of Fierce Panda’s last 10 years the best, and why? Sad songs, like love songs, are often misunderstood. Emotions like sadness, loneliness and indeed, even love are like jewels. Whether they mean to or not, the people who gloss over emotion don’t seem to understand that they aren’t one-dimensional but instead multi-faceted, with dull and lifeless versus bright and sharp faces and something new to discover upon each listen. As a collection of the ‘sad song’ genre, ‘Endangered’ is a great introduction to the many wonderful artists on the Fierce Panda roster, and I can’t imagine you won’t find at least one song that will make you feel something deep in your heart.
You can get ‘Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014′ now for free if you order any album from the Fierce Panda online shop here. For more information on the bands signed to Fierce Panda, those included in this collection and those not, visit the label’s official Web site. For a limited time, you can get another eight-track song sampler (not all sad songs!); more details in this previous MP3(s) of the Day post.
Camden Rocks is one of a new breed of urbane festival that has infiltrated the scene across the U.S. and Europe. It requires the special kind of electric setting that can be found in places like Camden and Dublin, or organically grown ala SXSW; the corner of Texas that grew into national new music mecca. On 31 May, 20 venues across the borough will fire up their PAs, and over 200 bands will take to the stage from midday through to the small hours. There’s no mud, no tents and no burst fibreglass urinals. But what it lacks in escapist appeal, it will surely make up for in cultural backdrop and convenience. The Subways are what you might call the conventional headliners, but you can almost guarantee that it will be one of the plethora of lesser known talent that will steal the headlines.
Camden Rocks was conceived as homage to the borough’s staggering influence over the British music scene for the past 50 years. For so long an incubator of fragile new talent – from psychedelia to punk to Britpop – festival promoters have sought to express this diversity with an eclectic line up set across 20 of the town’s famous aural boltholes. It began as a one off, headlined by Pete Doherty and Carl Barat in 2009, and boasted a distinctly London chic, even if its scope was embryonic by comparison.
Resurfacing again in 2013, this year’s line-up is now a leviathan with hundreds of slobbering, stage-hardened heads just waiting to gnaw your face off. Some, like electronic punk rockers Sonic Boom Six, will be returning for another bite after appearing at the festival’s inception, whilst the likes of young guns The Hell will be attempting to muscle in and gain their share of the spoils. And, with festival scene rival Camden Crawl shipped over to Dublin in 2013, the locale will likely be chomping at the bit to host an event that expresses the veracity of the areas musical mythology.
For many, it won’t be headliners The Subways or Reverend and the Makers that are the big draw (although the £25 ticket fee would get you little change from going to see either individually on any other night). It is in the malaise of the lower line-up that the rare stones can be found. Starting at the top, Turbowolf and Orange Goblin will be representing the more traditional end of the hard rock spectrum, whilst Hacktivist’s intense hip hop/metal crossover is sure to compliment the likes of the anarchic Gnarwolves, and slackers Nine Black Alps. Further down the list and there is a thread of uber aggressive noisemakers that can be traced through the likes of Hang the Bastard, Crazy Arm and The Hell – the latter of which are solely responsible for leaving Watford as the wasteland it is today. Even the famous London poseur will be catered for, thanks to Blitz Kids and The Blackout.
It may just be a hyperbole of a standard Camden evening, but when your starting point is the motherland for so many generations of musical genres, the magnification creates a heady brew. It’s on nights like these, when Dr. Martens delve into every dive bar from Dingwalls to Dublin Castle, that you can sense the ghosts of Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Clash and Ramones – even Winehouse. On that Saturday in late May, the music of the new generation will do the talking; Camden Rocks has seen to that. But, it’s rare to find a festival at which the talent will be conscious of playing second fiddle to the venue itself.
Tickets and lineup info are available now from the Camden Rocks Web site.
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