By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 11th December 2013 at 1:00 pm
In case you were keeping score, the last real studio album by Kaiser Chiefs was in 2011. Their choose-your-own-tracks-and-order LP ‘The Future is Medieval’ proved to be less of a commercial boon than expected. The following year say the release of ‘Souvenir: The Singles 2004-2012′, the kind of collection that nostalgia bands like New Order release for their obsessive fans. Frankly, I thought the Kaisers were toast. Interestingly enough, some 8 months after its release, I saw them play before Keane at a Filter / American Rag showcase at SXSW 2012, during which frontman Ricky Wilson’s magnetism and performance nearly left me verklempt and the band brought it. On the basis of this one live performance, I thought, hmm, maybe the group entity known as Kaiser Chiefs still had legs.
Monday afternoon, Wilson stopped in to visit his old pal Steve Lamacq at Western House. While I find it hard to believe that Wilson just happened to be in the neighbourhood and was begged by BBC staff for a chat, it did give him the opportunity to spill what beans he could about Kaiser Chiefs’ new album ‘Education, Education, Education & War’, to be released in the new year. This will be the Kaisers’ album without chief songwriter, founding member and drummer Nick Hodgson, who left the band to pursue other projects in December 2012. Wilson related a funny anecdote about Hodgson’s replacement, Vijay Mistry of Yorks electronic band Club Smith, saying Mistry reminds them of how good their lives are as rock stars, as everything is so exciting to him being suddenly thrust into the big band’s touring life.
But back to the new material. Wilson divulged the album required them to trek out to the States, Atlanta specifically, to work with producer Ben Allen, who also co-produced Bombay Bicycle Club‘s ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ and Delphic‘s panned 2013 album ‘Collections’. Neither band are of the same genre as Kaiser Chiefs, which begs the question, what exactly is this new album going to sound like? Wilson insists that both them and Allen were “hungry” in the process of making the album, which I guess means they had massive appetites for success when working on it together. Can you hear the early days that Nick “Peanut” Baines says it sounds more like than their more recent efforts? Have a listen to ‘Misery Company’, whose song title Wilson explained was given to them as a bit of a joke by Jack White backstage at a festival in 2008.
From start to finish, there is a thudding backbeat throughout the whole track. That, unfortunately, is its most noticeable feature. And not wholly unlike the punishing, entirely memorable one of Franz Ferdinand‘s ‘Take Me Out’. What’s missing from the proceedings? The singalong chorus that made ‘Ruby’ such a fun song live, the frantic pace of ‘Never Miss a Beat’ or even the oddly charming drawls of Wilson such as those found in ‘Every Day I Love You Less and Less’. What you do get instead is a strange cackling sort of laugh from Wilson during the chorus, which frankly sounds creepy on record, as so the . I’m wondering what he’s laughing at.
Lyrically too, the verses are tough: the term “misery company” is used in this tune to describe being a social pariah with few friends (“it’s hard to believe that I smile in my sleep / everyone leaves me, it’s so hard to keep company / I’m misery company”. Probably the best thing about this song are Andrew “Whitey” White’s two – yes, two! – guitar solos, which Wilson explains why this track is White’s favourite off the album. Below is a video of the band performing it at Portuguese music festival Super Bock Super Rock back in July 2012, when the song was reportedly given its first airing. Maybe it’ll work out better live, but I’m not sold on the Hodgson-less Kaiser Chiefs just yet.
Kaiser Chiefs’ fifth album ‘Education, Education, Education & War’ is scheduled to be released on the 31st of March 2014. If you’re quick, you can have a listen to Lammo’s chat with Ricky Wilson on the BBC iPlayer here before next Monday.
A moment of euphoria unfurled in 2010 as Broken Bells shifted 50,000 copies of their eponymous debut album within the first week alone. Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and The Shins’ James Mercer – the songwriting duo behind such a well crafted and somewhat existential collection – toured successfully, supported by five cherry picked compatriots.
But, almost 2 years passed before Mercer spoke of future plans for the indie troupe (save the ‘Meyrin Fields’ EP in 2011), and it would take 2 years more for these plans to become tangible. So here we are; waiting with baited breath for the new year and the answer to whether follow-up LP ‘After the Disco’ can maintain pace, with only new single ‘Holding on to Life’ to dissect in search of clues.
Strip joint psychedelia is perhaps the most accurate summation of the first 45 seconds of the single, with heartbeat bass thud and eerie theremin-like fluctuations giving way to the first words of Mercer, here playing the role of an assured ‘80s new romantic come to rescue his own “waitress in a cocktail bar”. By the pre-chorus, he’s shifted up into a nasal falsetto and the song timewarps back 10 years; Barry Gibb emerges from a low mist of dry ice made turquoise in the glow of an underlit dancefloor somewhere on the disco nebula. The space/time defying detour travels furthest away from planet now during a curious middle eight that possesses an air of both The Beatles and The Kinks, whilst maintaining just enough of their signature sound to make sense. Recapturing the ‘70s buzz, Broken Bells close with a synth line that spins with a sporadic twinkle – a mirrorball mesmerizing in its stationary orbit. And, if this single is anything to go by, fans of their dreamy, multi-faceted sound are likely to get their indie dreamscape fix.
‘Holding on to Life’, the new single from Broken Bells, is now available from Columbia. Watch the song’s ‘pseudovideo’ below. Upcoming album ‘After the Disco’ will be released the 14th of January 2014.
New Zealand pop veteran Neil Finn has released the video for ‘Divebomber’, the lead single from his forthcoming solo album ‘Dizzy Heights’, following a live webcast of a rehearsal session for the new songs. The rehearsal featured Finn on piano and acoustic guitar, accompanied by a full orchestra, and also contained an audience participation element, with Finn answering questions submitted in real time via Twitter and Facebook. If you missed the live Webcast, it is now archived at Finn’s Web site and can be viewed here.
In the webcast, Finn remarked that several of the songs on ‘Dizzy Heights’ include large arrangements with either orchestra or full band, revealing the expansive direction of the new material. “I didn’t want to make it a solo record in a stripped back singer-songwriter sort of way,” he says, explaining his collaboration on the record with co-producer Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala) and fellow New Zealand musicians Connan Mockasin and Sean Donnelly (SJD).
Though he is best known for the catchy pop tunes of Crowded House, Finn has always seemed to take inspiration for his songwriting from unexpected sources, particularly in his solo material. ‘Divebomber’ was inspired by a 1941 film of the same name, which received an Oscar nomination for its vibrant cinematography. Finn’s ‘Divebomber’ video is less boldly graphic, instead using video footage from a beach vacation in Greece overlaid by diffuse aerial cloud imagery to match the discordant, unsettled tone of the musical setting. But the track’s soaring strings, marching percussion and breathy vocals reflect the heroic and tragic nature of the film’s plot line, as well as the bravery and risk involved in Finn’s recent songwriting ventures. As the song’s lyrics state, ‘There’s only one way down’, and with ‘Divebomber’, Finn has taken a headlong plunge into uncharted territory.
‘Dizzy Heights’ will be released on 10 February 2014 via Lester Records / Kobalt Label Services. Watch the video for ‘Divebomber’ below. Finn will be playing a one-off show at St. James’ Church in London on 27 November but the gig is already sold out.
LA quartet Warpaint have been away too long. Their debut album ‘The Fool’ was released in 2010, and it’s been 3 long years since we heard from these enigmatic women. With an eponymous second album being released in January on Rough Trade, a teaser single has been released to remind us of what we have been missing.
Forthcoming single ‘Love is to Die For’ is a mesmerizing trance of a tune that uses the bottom percussion you keep you grounded while the rest of it swirls hauntingly in, through and around you. With the repeated lines “love is to die, love is to not die, love is to danc”’, the ladies bring back their signature evocative sound. If this song is just the intro to what is coming in January, then I am truly intrigued.
Having just dashed off after three dates in the UK, we will have to wait until the album is released before there is another chance to hear this grand stuff live. ‘Warpaint’ is scheduled to be released on the 20th of January on Rough Trade. Their next live dates are listed under the stream of the song.
Thursday 23rd January 2014 – Brighton Dome
Saturday 25th January 2014 – Oxford Academy
Tuesday 18th January 2014 – London Koko (added November 2013)
Wednesday 19th February 2014 – Leeds Academy
Thursday 20th February 2014 – Liverpool Academy
Friday 21st February 2014 – Bristol Academy
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 15th October 2013 at 12:00 pm
Hold on to your hats, folks. Or maybe I should say geriatric vitamins and walkers, because this news should make you feel old. Piano-driven stadium rockers Keane have done the unthinkable and announced they’ll be releasing a greatest hits compilations, ‘The Best of Keane’, on the 11th of November on Island. To hook long-time fans into buying this package are two new songs, ‘Won’t Be Broken’ and ‘Higher Than the Sun’, the latter of which has already hit radio stations.
The tune starts off relatively benignly, with a pleasing drummed rhythm and it isn’t long before Tom Chaplin’s signature voice comes in: “Turn, turn up the sun / takes me higher than the sun / sing, sing from your gut / sing it ’til we become one” – ? Are you serious? Is this really from the same band that brought us ‘This is the Last Time’, ‘Everybody’s Changing’ or even more recent ‘Silenced by the Night’ and ‘Disconnected’? The one saving grace to this song is the grand build-up to the chorus, which Tim Rice-Oxley is a master at orchestrating.
The bridge is admirable – “There’s a song to ease your fears / a song to take you far from here / one for joy, one for desire, one for despair” – but seeing that the song as a whole feels lacklustre, I wonder if the words would have worked better written down in a book in poem form rather than being offered up in a song. Songs are meant to inspire. Are Keane past it? As a long-time fan, I sincerely hope not, but I wonder how much longer they can keep going like this.
It’s difficult to imagine exactly how a band from Leeds should sound. It might have something to do with heavy industry, perhaps a bit of boot-in-the-face blues-rock; certainly there will be an electric guitar or two. Suffice to say whatever the mind conjures it probably won’t be what Fossil Collective offer with their latest song revealed.
‘The Water’ uses layers of acoustic guitar and heavily-reverbed vocals to generate a windswept, desolate landscape, which builds to a gentle, keening brass-laden crescendo of modest beauty. Imagine standing atop a granite boulder somewhere on a windswept corner of the Yorkshire Moors, summoning the spirits of deceased Black Dyke Band members, as photographed by Andreas Gursky. That should do the trick.
‘The Water’ is also the title of their forthcoming EP, to be released on the 28th of October on Dirty Hit Records. We’ve yet to hear the other three tracks, but if they are up to the same standard as this then fans of bucolic UK folk will be dead chuffed, like. Stream ‘The Water’ below, and catch up on their their tour dates across the UK and Ireland posted below as well.
Tuesday 1st October 2013 – Brighton Haunt
Friday 4th October 2013 – Bristol Louisiana
Saturday 5th October 2013 – Cardiff Moon Club
Sunday 6th October 2013 – Exeter Phoenix Art Centre
Monday 7th October 2013 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Tuesday 8th October 2013 – Oxford Academy
Wednesday 9th October 2013 – London Tabernacle
Thursday 10th October 2013 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Friday 11th October 2013 – Liverpool Leaf Cafe
Sunday 13th October 2013 – Edinburgh Cabaret Voltaire
Monday 14th October 2013 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Tuesday 15th October 2013 – Belfast McHughs
Wednesday 16th October 2013 – Dublin Academy 2