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In the Post #91: Bloc Party return to the music scene with ‘Octopus’

 
By on Wednesday, 11th July 2012 at 5:00 pm
 

How do you break news that everyone already knows? Well if you’re part of a tight-knit friendship group, there’s a good chance they’ve already made up their minds to continue liking you before you tell them what they’ve previously heard through gossip. If you’re Reading and Leeds festivals, then you just ignore that everyone knows and continue with the disappointment. If you’re Bloc Party however, it doesn’t really matter.

After all the ridiculous speculation that saw the London band propelled from cult rockers to tabloid garbage in the forms of Kele, the NME and a horde of blogs and even newspapers, its good to have Bloc Party back where they belong: on our screens, in the studio and on the stage. The new video for ‘Octopus’ surfaced a few days after the audio spread like wildfire across the net through the week, and its ‘DIY meets high production’ aesthetic is exactly the kind of vibe Bloc will be wanting to give off if they’re to reconnect with their fans after their hiatus.

So, will they? Judging on ‘Octopus’ alone, the road to redemption will be one that Kele Okereke and company will traverse with relative ease.  It’s a bombastic four-piece rock return, as in your face as 2005’s ‘Silent Alarm’ opener ‘Like Eating Glass’ but with the mature confidence of 2008’s ‘Intimacy’ opener ‘Ares’. The tight sound that they’ve always had is retained and just like that, the affections come back.

Of course, if you’ve never liked Bloc Party, there’s a good chance this will mean little to nothing to you, but there’s a certain rock feel here that eclectic producer Alex Newport may have brought to the table. It would be foolish to say this is definitely the new direction of the band, especially considering their tendency to joke about, but its certainly a belter of a first release.

“Keep the faith”, said drummer Matt Tong at their Bournemouth show in October 2009. “Bring on ‘Four’” say we. You can watch the video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkeUFRK4i7w[/youtube]

 

Album Review: Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

 
By on Monday, 9th July 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

It’s rare that experimental music, or at least guitar-led music with such an interesting style is taken in at such a level that Dirty Projectors experienced with ‘Bitte Orca’ over 3 years ago. With a Pitchfork rating of 9.2 and a general consensus little short of impeccable, the group rose out of relative obscurity to indie champions faster than you can say ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’.

So now we’ve made it to 2012 and there’s a whole host of bands doing their best to be unique in the same way as the Brooklyn collective, which whilst in itself an ironically futile objective has produced some of the most interesting music of the last few years. Most recently for example, one of this year’s most critically acclaimed records is alt-J’s debut ‘An Awesome Wave’, which it could be argued takes plenty of influence from Dave Longstreth’s creations.

Of course, Dirty Projectors are hardly the forefathers of this sort of music, but there’s just something in the blend that makes the collective such an interesting listen time and time again. It’s within that niche that ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ falls into.  From the off there’s instantly a quality in the sound that draws you in. It’s the opening page to what sounds like a story that unfolds via so many acts that have tread a similar path. In the calmer moments you could be listening to Elbow, in the frenzied sections you could easily be listening to The Flaming Lips or David Bowie. The craft that’s gone into the all round audible feel of this record feels like a conscious decision to ignore anyone that sounds similar and to just make something that can keep a Dirty Projectors name without any contamination.

Therein lays both the genius and the problem. Whilst tracks like ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ (I dare you not to enjoy the brilliance of the vocal lines in ‘About to Die’) push the vocal strengths of Longstreth, you drift away in the middle as if you’ve heard it before; and that’s because you have. You’ve heard previous Dirty Projectors and you’ve heard all of the other bands that push for a similar sound. It’s only in tracks like ‘Unto Caesar’ where you feel that they’re aware of this and whilst they remain in their comfort zone there’s the jesting of “that doesn’t even make any sense”. It doesn’t.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_qFaFl7JVc[/youtube]

So what will you learn in the 42 minutes it takes to traverse ‘Swing Lo Magellan’? You’ll learn that they’re still the current daddies of this music and that their blend of measured insanity, expert harmonies and purely enjoyable songs that are both near impossible to recreate and simultaneously still easy to make noise along to, is still amongst the most infectious around.

8.5/10

‘Swing Lo Magellan’, the Dirty Projectors’ new album, is out today on Domino.

 

Single Review: Blur – Under the Westway / The Puritan

 
By on Thursday, 5th July 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

This month, Blur’s debut album ‘Leisure’ turns 21. Of course, their debut 12” single of ”She’s so High’ is well on its way to 22 (I should know, I own the ruddy thing), but nonetheless, the big birthday of ‘Leisure’ at the end of this month signals a certain coming of age for the winners of that Britpop battle all those years ago.

Of course, much has changed in those 21 years. People listened to the Stone Roses and we had a Tory government. Well, maybe not much has changed in society but for Blur, things have. Alex James has consumed a lot of cheese and Dave Rowntree’s dabbled in politics. Damon and Graham have split, done their own thing, harmoniously reunited, briefly parted ways again and are now back together again as part of Britpop’s best bromance. It’s certainly been a roller coaster relationship.

That second coming together back in February at Graham’s War Child show was where they first premiered the better of of the two new tracks premiered live from a London rooftop on Monday night, ‘Under the Westway’. Coming in at a cross between Procol Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ and the Beatles‘ ‘Let it Be’, it’s as much a reconciliation between lost brothers in arms as it is a rambling to last call in the bar. It’s Blur at their most honest and that’s with Damon at the helm, baring his soul. It’s 1995’s ‘Best Days’ for the modern era.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5DlAZoEsfo[/youtube]

I only wish you could say the same about ‘The Puritan’. Whilst it’s a culture conscious pop-song with lyrics that Damon just couldn’t have created with Gorillaz, that’s no excusing everything else. That drone, the appalling drum sound, the torturous la’s (not the band, the actual bit of the song), it’s all a festival for a band that simply lost the plot and tried to re-create the singalongs of ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘Parklife’ without ever coming close in audible enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed ‘Think Tank’, but this is not it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zDNv8HTecw[/youtube]

In coming of age, Blur have reminded us of what most people do on their birthdays. They’ve reminded us of the beauty they can create and the lyrical possibilities of twisting madness into social commentary with a London flair (aka, the best). They’ve also reminded us that mixed into those albums there’s the last half of ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’, the middle of ’13’ and right inside the brilliant ‘Parklife’, there’s ‘Trouble in the Message Centre’ and ‘Jubilee’, which are nothing short of painful. If they’re going to do them both at Hyde Park to close out the London 2012 Olympics, I’d bring some tissues to dab your tears and then block your ears with. Then again, they never did anything by half.

The recorded versions of ‘Under the Westway’ and ‘The Puritan’ are available for download purchase now. A limited edition, double A-sided single will be released on Parlophone on the 6th of August.

 

Festifeel 2012 Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 19th June 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

The Queen has been on the throne for yet another year. This means we all get to go to festivals all weekend and no sooner had Bushstock, Field Day and the Applecart shut their dampened stalls had the Queen of Hoxton opened its doors for a day of frivolities in the name of breast cancer charity Coppafeel and Festifeel.

Dog is Dead: Image by Paul Hudson

The day starts early with a bright atmosphere in the dark basement as Dog is Dead take to the stage. It’s been a busy weekend for the group but they show no signs of fatigue and kick off the festival in winning style. Showing off both their sun-soaked tracks (fan favourite ‘Glockenspiel Song’ is a highlight) as well as their deeper side on set closer ‘Teenage Daughter’ shows they’re real contenders for act of the summer.

Following this come the disappointing ska meets indie Yes Sir Boss. TGTF hopes they have day jobs.  In stark contrast to this however, one lady who we hope doesn’t is rising star Kyla La Grange. Exuding both grace and grunge at the same time, the stylish singer shows she’s far more than an image with a short set of dark pop tracks from her forthcoming debut record. Her set is over far too quickly though, so TGTF goes for a wander about site.

Newton Faulkner

Laid out across three floors, the Queen of Hoxton is a peculiar yet logical place to put a festival. Today there’s a photobooth, popcorn, a huge barbeque and roof garden added to the bar and club aesthetic. A ukulele band roams about playing poorly enacted covers of ’80s tracks. It’s basically a normal festival in a bar! As with all good festivals, Newton Faulkner is present and his set on the roof garden is an enjoyable one. Completely unplugged, Faulkner teaches the crowd surrounding him lines and the tracks build from there. As such, he doesn’t get time to play many, but it’s certainly something to behold whilst the weather holds out.

It’s then back into the darkness for Slow Club. Having two records and preparing a third should make for an interesting set, but when you weight your half hour with zero tracks from the widely celebrated debut and sound shaky on the three new tracks given an outing, it makes for little short of disappointment. Still, ‘Two Cousins’ is always a highlight, so at least it’s not all a letdown.

Slow Club: Image by Paul Hudson

You get used to adjustments after a while but Lianne La Havas’ set being moved into the main bar (in which everyone moves between upstairs and downstairs, also, to the bar) was baffling to say the least, but once those having conversations were shushed and a microphone was found for Havas, her gorgeous tones shone through. The endearing nature of the young singer-songwriter took those assembled into a hushed admiration and the 20minute set ends with smiles all round, none more than Lianne herself.

Then it’s back up into the daunting clouds of the rooftop for two completely unplugged sets. First Jamie N Commons mixes his own material with covers from the likes of Pink Floyd, creating an atmosphere that brings people from the outskirts to sitting on the Astroturf infront of the London troubadour. Second comes one of the strangest, yet most enjoyable few minutes of the weekend as Angus Stone and his band take to the benches and play in a half hushed, half stunned silence. It would have felt like a lullaby had everyone not been stood up. Whatever it was, it was appreciated.

The View, you remember the View right? The band that did that song about jeans. Yeah, the View; they’re next down in the basement. The lighthearted join the ‘lads’ in the crowded space as the Scottish rockers power through 45 minutes without blinking. It’s energetic, but they’ve long lost their appeal. They didn’t even do that one song that everyone knows about jeans! That said, hearing a few hundred singing “the one I love the most has turned into a junkie” brought back some nostalgia in ‘5 Rebecca’.

Just like that, the weekend’s over. The Milk headline but fail to ignite as most people have already left. It’s been the strangest festival TGTF has ever been to, but that’s probably the appeal. Well done Coppafeel, Festifeel 2012 was a success.

 

Album Review: Hot Chip – In Our Heads

 
By on Monday, 18th June 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Hot Chip aren’t your average band. Their members appear to be cropping up everywhere (2 Bears, New Build etc) but the band are consistently putting out a record every two years. They’ve been everywhere, with everyone and gained notoriety as both a good band and exciting live band, but they’ve never stepped out of everyone elses shadows for long enough to shine at their top billings (LCD Soundsystem immediately spring to mind). Furthermore they’ve had plenty of success without ever actually having released a great album (‘Over and Over ‘and ‘Ready For The Floor’ carrying them through.) So what does album five have to show?

“Remember when the people thought the world was round, the world was round” opens Alexis Taylor on ‘Motion Sickness’. It’s light, it draws you in and then it bursts into a chilled track that just oozes summer for a whole 5:21. Then comes what sounds like a 2 Bears single in the form of ‘How Do You Do?’. Alexis’ vocals are what turn it from the kind of thing that could be dropped in a club to something that could be played almost anywhere, and that’s what makes Hot Chip the band they are; they’re likeable and inoffensive.

This doesn’t make them a great band though. Inoffensive is the stuff of Train and Eliza Doolittle. Likeable is the kind of thing that got Gary Barlow and Will Young into the dreams of middle aged Britain. Herein lays the problem for Hot Chip. “Within In Our Heads”, there’s a lot of decent music. ‘Flutes’ for example, is enjoyable, but not speciall. Those aforementioned opening two tracks; great if you want to chill out in a field all summer but by the time you get down to ‘Now There Is Nothing’ though, you’ll be iPod scrolling as you finish off that bottle of Koppaberg.

There are of course exceptions on both ends of the scale. If you’ve seen the video for ‘Night and Day’ (below), you’ll know that its full of everything that could have made Hot Chip a big band for all the right reasons. It’s borderline bombastic, in your face and huge sounding, without crossing the line to being a Calvin Harris track (minus the Justin Timberlake style “You know I’m thinking about you”). On the other hand, you’ve got the tedious “Look at Where We Are” and ‘I Have Always Been Your Love’. They’re probably intended to show the deeper side of the band, but they come off as nothing short of mind-numbing.

Hot Chip are not an average band. But if they keep on like this, they’re in danger of sounding like one.

6/10

Hot Chip’s fifth album ‘In Our Heads’ is out now on Domino Records (their first for this label).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxg2JbWA7Nk

 

Bushstock Festival 2012 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 14th June 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

If you’re a music fan, there was a good chance you hit a festival on this past Jubilee weekend. There’s options ranging from Dot to Dot to Field Day and in one corner of west London, there’s Communion’s very own Bushstock. Shepherds Bush lays host to a diverse selection of acts in an even more varied selection of venues. Running is borderline mandatory.

Rae Morris opens the day’s music in an incredibly crowded Defector’s Weld pub. Coming out of an increasingly vibrant singer-songwriter scene in Blackpool (of all places!) her endearing and soulful piano music has seen her tour with Bombay Bicycle Club and even be featured on the most recent series of Skins and this afternoon she wins over any doubters. Her powerful voice over slow piano lines on tracks such as ‘Day One’ prove to be a stunning way to start the day.

Not too long after it’s over to the Shepherds Bar, where the lovely folk at Communion are handing out cupcakes to go with the day’s festivities. All this and Juan Zelada is about to take to the stage. A recent favourite of TGTF, Zelada’s friendly, sun-drenched sounds all the way from Spain make those present forget about the ominous looking clouds approaching London. Complete with live band, Juan brightens up everyone’s spirits with his energetic Nutini-esque tunes.

Following him on stage with a similar band set up, but a different way of using it is Ellen and the Escapades. It’s 21st century folk in its most summery form. Happier and fuller sounding than Marling but (thankfully) more reserved than Mumford, it dances delicately on the line of purist and folk-pop to the point that you’d enjoy it at Wimbledon. It’s not hugely exciting or day changing, but for early evening, it’s enough to keep everyone satisfied.

After a quick dash about Shepherds Bush, it’s underground into the converted public toilets of Ginglik. The room smells of incense and is lit by fairy lights. The stage is relatively bright though, as many would if they were covered in this amount of smoke and as Gabriel and the Hounds take to it, the mood changes greatly. The New Yorker’s sound is dark yet uplifting. Think the xx meeting We Are Augustines and you’ve probably not got anything like this band, but the similarities are there for the taking. Nevertheless, its’ dark down here so it’s off to church!

Tonight’s closing trio all come back to back at St. Stephen’s Church. Starting off are Newcastle’s finest in the form of Lanterns on the Lake. The setting is perfect and they do not disappoint. Playing from last year’s debut record ‘Gracious Tide, Take me Home’, they fill the room with a huge sound creating a thick atmosphere of beautiful music. It’s a standout performance of tracks with slow builds and epic climaxes that left many in the crowded church in a borderline state of comatose for the duration of the half hour set.

To follow this was difficult but the Irish spirit of Fionn Regan surely won him admiration from those present as the church descended further into a state of lucid dreams. Whilst Regan never lived up to Lanterns’ incredible sound, his three record back catalogue is enough to keep his strong and yet somehow intricate sounding tracks in check. It’s another performance that lacks the sucker punch, but given the setting, it more than fits the tone.

Closing the night are Communion and Bushstock favourites Daughter. Elena Tonra’s group is one of calm music performed in both a shy and masterful way as from the off there’s attention to detail in every chord. Whilst the equipment may decide to break at will, Daughter pull through with stories of rum nights and friendly conversation. Crowd favourites ‘Run’ and ‘Landfill’ feature early on and suit their placing as they draw a crowd who’ve opted against other choices around the festival in from the rain. The songs of heartbreak and lost days fill the old building as both crowd and band get into the flow of things and the hour long set seems to go far too quickly. As the last few powerful chords of ‘Home’ break through it’s all over and it’s been beautiful. Managing to catch a few minutes of Bastille en route to the train home; TGTF awakens from sleep and dances to ‘Flaws’ before reflecting on a day that seemed a bit like a strange dream. It wasn’t perfect, but it’ll more than do. Take that, Field 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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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