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Single Review: Little Boots – Headphones

 
By on Thursday, 7th June 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

She wears her headphones at the disco apparently and after last month’s delve into her new material with ‘Every Night I Say A Prayer’ (previous Video of the Moment here), this upbeat dance track is just what was needed to re-whet everyone’s imaginations for Little Boots.

Since the international success of her June 2009 debut album ‘Hands’ demanding touring schedule, Victoria Hesketh, aka Little Boots, has emerged from her Dead Disco and DIY bedroom-artist days into one of pop’s shining figures, whilst still maintaining an appeal to the underground. Now she’s back and readying her second album for release. So what does ‘Headphones’ give away about the direction she’s gone in?

Well, from the off, it’s got funk. That bass line alone shouts out to times long gone but gladly not forgotten. The tune’s desperately catchy and that’s all before you get to the chorus. “I wear my headphones at the disco and nobody ever has to know / I wear my headphones at the disco and when the music stops then you’ll hear me singing la la lalala” sings Little Boots. It’s got everything a good pop song needs without resorting to the cheap tactics of autotune, guest appearances for hit counts or even taking that much of a step away from what made ‘Hands’ such an enjoyable record. It’s doubtful whether this will set the charts alight, but it’s got that kind of vibe that should push it across the airwaves all summer. Time to press repeat again…

7/10

‘Headphones’, the new single by Little Boots, was made available digitally starting last Sunday (the 3rd of June). An EP including the original and four remixes will follow on the 16th of July on 679.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJaH2GqT220[/youtube]

 

Album Review: alt-J – An Awesome Wave

 
By on Wednesday, 30th May 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

“Remember, you heard it here first!” shouts the high and mighty publication. “Remember, they heard it here first!” sighs the blog in return. Can we be honest before I start writing this, as long as it was around the right time, I frankly don’t care. If you’ve switched me on to something new and great, thank you, but there’s a good chance I read it somewhere else first and just passed it by.  I’m glad I’ve got that out of my system, it feels good to release ‘buzz band’ anger from time to time. I suggest you try it next time someone tells you they heard of Django Django first and just check their last.fm to save us all the hassle.

So here we come to another ‘hype band’ and their 2012 effort of a debut record.

A little background perhaps, if you’re not tired by the monotony of press regurgitation. They met in Leeds at university whilst all forging out life paths. They messed around, they played shows under different names and then they got out. They’re ‘a Cambridge band’, having recorded the majority of this record in Cambridge and having lived there since leaving university. Their name makes no logical sense unless you know Mac keyboard shortcuts. They’re called alt-J and in the last 380 days (at time of writing) since their eponymous demo EP, everyone and their cat has laid claim to their folk-step chains.

So, the record. Yes! For music as difficult to describe, it’s surprisingly accessible. In not over-complicating time signatures and instead channelling into our desire to understand each and every layer of any given sonic cake, alt-J have found a formula which can crossover between the simple hip-hop feel of their ‘Intro’ track through to the jumping lines of ‘Breezeblocks’ (video below). Its playful nature crosses between wordplay and illegible wordsmithery as it pulses on. You feel though that even with this kind of atmosphere about their music, the refined madness destined for radio, alt-J are aware that they still exist in a sub-culture. As such, a few interludes appear throughout the record, breaking up the studio-sheened final products with a series of snippets of down time. They’re not exactly organised in the best of ways, but they’re a welcome getaway.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVeMiVU77wo[/youtube]

Just like that, you’re back in and it’s slowly but surely back to the layers. For a four-piece, its hard to place where each new layer actually forms from and dissolves away to again but in tracks such as ‘Something Good’, the multitude of ideas presented can seem a bit messy. It’s borderline bipolar as a series of logical yet strange lines are introduced and taken away again. In contrast, ‘Matilda’ is simple, relaxed and welcoming whilst “Ms” is just not very good.

The centrepiece of the record, though, is ‘Fitzpleasure’. It swirls around the pan with acapella vocal lines fused quickly with deeply powerful guitar and synth lines. It makes no sense, but all the same time, does. And that’s what this band do best. That’s the reason everyone wants to claim them. alt-J are the absent madness from modern music whilst also being the calm before the storm within the same record. They’re by no means the messiahs, but they’re onto something. In mixing African influences of complex lines that fit together with the ever-growing British electronic scene and a safe amount of guitar, they’ve created a formula that many are aiming for but few are achieving.

8.5/10

alt-J’s debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’ (whose triangles prove impossible to post properly through our Twitter feed so we’re not even bothering to insert them) is out now on Infectious Music.

 

Album Review: Sigur Ros – Valtari

 
By on Monday, 28th May 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Imagine this: Sigur Rós get back into the studio for the first time in 4 years after taking a hiatus. They pick up their instruments and start to record the first few notes of their sixth record. Their only real decision to make is which direction to take their eclectic career as a unit. With the likes of ‘Hoppipolla’ gaining them an accelerated curve of fame from their near perfect ‘Takk’ and most recent record ‘Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust’ even breaking into the top 5 of the UK album charts, the knowledge that your work will be heard regardless of its merit is something that could’ve made many acts lazy. Not Sigur Rós.

What they’ve actually done is write their least accessible record yet.  It’s expansive and rich in its tapestry, but there’s much less structure to it. Gone are the jumpy lines found in 2008’s ‘Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust’. They’re replaced by full sounds of choral lines and orchestral fills.

Opener ‘Ég Anda’ (Video of the Moment here)is a prime example of this as its string lines glisten in the background of Jonsi’s trademark gobbledygook lyrics. As a record, its much less approachable than any of their music before. ‘Valtari’ feels much more difficult to listen to than past efforts as there’s nothing really to draw the listener in. The most approachable it gets is listening to ‘Varúð’ in which it’s near impossible not to get snowballed into its incredible build. On its own, it’s probably one of the best tracks the group have ever written. It’s pretty much an artist’s impression of heaven in 6 and a half minutes. Without it, ‘Valtari’ really suffers.

It’s hard to say though whether these changes are a good thing. Whilst there’s so much beauty to be found within ‘Valtari’, you really have to dedicate your ears to it. The whole record demands attention as if in some way a little more regal than anything the band have created before. As a standalone record though, it never really lives up to those demands. In many ways, it’s the England football team of Sigur Ros records. There’s a lot of good tracks to be found, but it never really shines when the time comes. It’s fantastic in so many ways, but there’s no big finish. The comparison may be cheap, but the boot fits I’m afraid.

It’ll probably fit in to add depth to their already perfect live set, but as either tracks adding up to over 50 minutes, it just doesn’t quite match expectations.

6.5/10

Sigur Ros’s ‘Valtari’ is out today.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFzs2RXPtls[/youtube]

 

Live at Leeds 2012: Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 24th May 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

With the festival season beckoning, the seasonal weather up north has brightened up as some of the brightest upcoming stars look to start their summer crawl on Saturday the 5th of May at Live at Leeds, the same weekend as Camden Crawl and ahead of other upcoming major city festivals. With this 1-day line-up arguably looking stronger than the London weekend this year, it’s difficult to see why you wouldn’t drop up for the day, especially with so many bustling venues in the Leeds city centre within a short walking distance.

Beginning TGTF’s day in the city are Manchester dance band Swiss Lips. Whilst the venue may be difficult to navigate, that may be because it’s rammed in the early afternoon. With indie hit ‘U Got the Power’ having given them some heat, the crowd stay for their infectious breed of ‘sexy pop’ and the band are sure to make some friends with their upcoming debut record.

After this, it’s the atmospheric, but not hugely entertaining iLikeTrains at the O2 Academy. Later, Niki and the Dove also suffer the same fate with a great sound that’s not really matched up front in entertainment. Luckily, there’s so much to see at Live at Leeds that you can never be bored for long. Opening up the Met Uni are Bastille. Their recent mixtape has proved popular with the hundreds that have quickly assembled, and away from their own electropop, the tender vocals of Bastille are the highlight, especially in the cover of City High’s ‘What Would You Do’.

Back at the O2 Academy, Spector flounce about the stage with overly polished indie rock. There’s potential here but the act never really materialises to greater things in the songs, being much more annoying than hoped in the process. This leads to TGTF seeing the end of a powerful Dan Mangan set in Holy Trinity Church followed by a packed show from Lucy Rose. The young singer/songwriter’s music fits perfectly in these surroundings and even the more energetic songs such as ‘Red Face’ sound fitting to her increasingly confident set. With a band behind her, Rose has depth to match her stunning voice and the crowd agree, shh-ing anyone that talks, even in between songs. There’s a muted singalong early on to ‘Middle of the Bed’ and throughout the set there’s a real quality to Lucy Rose’s set that shines in this church. As soon as it starts though, it seems to be over and it’s quickly down to the Cockpit for part one of tonight’s two headliners.

With Ladyhawke making her return to the UK with album two, Lianne La Havas stepping up to the headline mark left by Marina and the Diamonds, there’s a lot of talent on display across the headliners of the festival. TGTF’s route is one of a blend of safety and guaranteed fun in the form of the Subways, followed by Scroobius Pip. First up, the Subways rock out a venue half the size of their most recent tour, making the room sweatier than a sauna and more energetic up-front than most football teams. Blending tracks from all three of their diverse records, noughties classics ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ and “Oh Yeah” fit in with the likes of ‘Shake Shake’ and new single ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ as ‘It’s A Party’ turns lead singer Billy Lunn’s trademark stage dive into a venue-long crowdsurf to the back, up onto the sound-desk and then a dive from 10 feet back down and towards the stage (did you follow that, we nearly didn’t). The man’s got balls, and the Subways still rock.

Closing the night with a set starting long past 11, Scroobius Pip executes a well thought out and powerful set of his solo material to the underground venue. Even without B Dolan by his side on tour, Pip’s tracks have venom and everyone present joins in with every lyric from last year’s record. There’s crowd surfing, huge men bashing each other about and one man with an MCA-stolen VW badge on his necklace up front leading the events. It’s a fitting way to end the night, and TGTF can’t help but feel that the right decisions were made. It’s going to be a bright summer for so many of the artists on the bill at Live at Leeds, there’s no doubt about that, but definitely watch out for the likes of Lucy Rose and Swiss Lips, and by no means underestimate those who’ve been around the block.

 

Live Review: The Cribs at London Troxy – 8th May 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 22nd May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

It’s hard to think that they’ve now got five albums to their name, had a member of the Smiths amongst their ranks for a while and all without losing their accents. Tonight, the Cribs are bringing ‘The Belly of the Brazen Bull’ (reviewed by Cheryl here) to London’s Troxy, and they’re leaving the flowers at home.

They open in boisterous fashion with the fitting ‘Glitters Like Gold’: “it’s a straight seeming / like a friend follows the few / you can be what you want / ignore the genius”.  It’s not as bouncy as you might expect, but it’s got structure and it’s a mission statement that plays on the departure from their last album ‘Ignore the Ignorant’. The band constantly blend clean sounds with rough tones and roll straight into ‘I’m a Realist’. It’s been almost exactly 5 years since ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’ was released, and yet tracks from it still sound as powerful as when first spun around the radio. It plays as one of the fondest memories for many here as the converted cinema fills with chants of every word.

Lead single from their new record “Come On, Be a No One” has already been learnt by the thousand-strong army out and dancing with vigour this evening, its catchy shouting chorus gives way to moderate relaxation in the verse. It feels borderline grunge and adds a sense of diversity to the set list that’s weighted with new tracks. Whilst the album is far from perfect, tracks from it seem to go down well. There’s slow tracks to ease the mood but with such a ‘…Brazen Bull’ heavy show, you feel that it loses some of the atmosphere that builds up so well in other tunes. ‘Anna’ is the highlight of the bunch as ‘Chi-Town’ is singable but not necessarily very good.

The highlight of the night however comes from the Jarmans’ interaction with the punters. They allow the crowd to pick what track they hear next at one point (they choose ‘Baby Don’t Sweat’) as well as even joking around with early tracks (and the lack of memory to play them). This results in a chant of ‘It Was Only Love’ that could turn even the balcony sitters into believers.

Of course like any live show, the hits are loaded at the back as the request time becomes the projected, backing tracked ‘Be Safe’. The place erupts with every fan releasing more air than should be possible, as the band turn it up to 11. It’s probably the best the Cribs will ever be, with or without Marr and after traditional set closers ‘Man’s Needs’ and ‘City of Bugs’, they’re gone again. It’s hard to say whether they’re better, but they’re certainly bigger.

 

Live Review: Bombay Bicycle Club with Lianne La Havas at London Alexandra Palace – 28th April 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 8th May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

They grew up just down the road. They’ve had two, well, three popular records, and their meteoric rise doesn’t show any signs of stopping tonight as Bombay Bicycle Club top the bill at Alexandra Palace. The atmosphere’s as friendly as the music in Ally Pally as Lianne La Havas comes on stage. Her rising star flying over her homeland tonight as her reception is immense. Ever since her appearance on Jools Holland, the singer-songwriter’s endearingly personal EP ‘Lost and Found’ has been played to a wide array of fans. Starting on her own and being joined by a live band a few songs in, Havas’ sound is nowhere near as small as you might imagine and there’s scattered polite singalongs accompanying her.

Half an hour down the line, Steadman and company arrive on stage behind a curtain as Apache: Jump on it blends into the opening purr of ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’. As it kicks in, the curtain comes down and tonight really begins. There’s a slight timidity about the 10,000 strong crowd tonight but quickly the band’s simple light show and stage set up becomes their stomping ground as they get into the swing of things. At points this evening, front man Jack Steadman casts off his quaint demeanour and becomes a rocker in his own right as Bombay’s sound is deepened by Lucy Rose on vocals for much of the evening and an appearance from a brass band.

‘Flaws’ tracks ‘Rinse Me Down’ and ‘Ivy and Gold’ split the night’s feel up a bit, but rather than Mumford-ing up for live response, the band instead add an almost Friendly Fires-style jovial samba to it, extending the tracks with small percussive dance parties. It’s a nice touch,  (especially the man in a Kigu with a spare snare) but you can’t help but feel it’s slightly unnecessary.  ‘Evening/Morning’ comes as if you’ve turned over a side on the band’s life and arrived back at one of their finest tracks. Its bass line and singalong “I am ready to owe you anything” sounds as big as the band ever will and the crowd agree.

At times it feels like a festival. Thousands of people are crammed in, standing under one roof. There’s people dancing on shoulders (Lucy Rose on guitarist Jamie’s shoulders is just one of many) and their silhouettes cut as if by sunset. It’s even raining outside! The only thing reminding you that this isn’t the case is the regal surrounding. That, and the choices of ‘Beggars, Still’ and ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ bonus track ‘Beg’ filling time in the set. They don’t make a huge amount of sense in the live setting, but with only two proper albums, they have to find a way of filling such a demanding space, and each track in its own right is at least well written.

Of course, the set is back-loaded for added effect as ‘Always Like This’ gets an incredible response from front to back and ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’ sets up for the encore. It was always going to end one way and as ‘Shuffle’ kicks in, everyone does. The band’s biggest track to date inspires everyone to get moving as their last chance is approaching. It comes in the form of ‘What If’: it’s poignant and powerful and it shows that given a bit more material, Bombay can challenge the top. Humbled, they leave the stage. They’ve not been the best show you’ll see, but in time, they could be.

 
 
 

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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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