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TGTF Spotify Playlist: September 2017

 
By on Monday, 2nd October 2017 at 11:00 am
 

September represents the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, but south of the Equator, September means both spring and Australia’s BIGSOUND Festival. Editor Mary was lucky enough to attend BIGSOUND this year, and TGTF’s September 2017 Spotify playlist features a host of artists she saw on her trip Down Under.

September also saw a fair few new album releases featured here at TGTF, including LPs from Barns Courtney, Sløtface, The National and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. We’ve also featured new singles from Belle and Sebastian, Frightened Rabbit and San Fermin, among many others.

It’s easy to subscribe to follow our monthly Spotify playlists. Just head over to Spotify, type “spotify:user:tgtftunes” (no quotes) into the search bar, then click the Follow button. And don’t forget that you can also connect with us on social media via Facebook and Twitter!

 

Album Review: Barns Courtney – The Attractions of Youth

 
By on Thursday, 28th September 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Album CoverBritish-American rocker Barns Courtney apparently has only one speed setting, and it’s full throttle, all the time. He’s been on a fast track to success since his appearance at last year’s SXSW 2016.  At the time, his collection of released music was a bit haphazard. He had a pair of blazing singles, ‘Fire’ and ‘Glitter & Gold’, propelling his momentum, and he released an EP titled ‘Hands’ later that year. But the long-term project of recording a full album seemed to be a bit of a challenge, especially given his relentless live schedule. Fast forward to autumn 2017, and Courtney’s highly anticipated LP is ready for release, primed for consumption by over a year’s worth of touring on both sides of the pond. The album, aptly titled ‘The Attractions of Youth’, is as full of piss and vinegar as Courtney himself, bursting with the fire and enthusiasm of a young artist on the edge of massive stardom.

Most of the songs on ‘The Attractions of Youth’ aren’t new to fans who have been following Courtney on the live circuit. But the album cuts are every bit as powerful as his live performances: his production team have definitely found the sweet spot in that regard. First impressions being the strongest, the album opens with established single ‘Fire’, easily its most powerful individual track, followed in quick succession by ‘Glitter & Gold’. From there, a refreshed version of gritty EP track ‘Hands’ is followed by the relatively sweet recent single ‘Golden Dandelions’, which for all its sentimental romance manages not to sap away the breakneck pace of the tracklisting.

As blindingly good as the first part of the album is, its real gems start to come out later in the sequence, starting with the spoken introduction to ‘Hobo Rocket’. In this track, Courtney displays both an ironic sense of humour and a musical awareness I might not have given him credit for on first glance. Centered on a theme of homelessness and desperation, the song’s energy takes flight in the chorus, “gonna fly on my hobo rocket / outta time, nothing in my pocket”. It’s a musical reference that somehow manages to conjure two different Beck songs, ‘Loser’ and ‘Where It’s At’, and is quite simply awesome. The subtle artistry is further solidified in the following studio-manipulated interlude ‘Hobo Outside Tesco, London’. [Is he hoping for a grocery store advert sync? – Ed.]

Current single ‘Champion’ is another rock anthem tailor-made for a sporting soundtrack. Courtney’s husky singing voice works remarkably well in the fire-and-brimstone context, and the song’s lyrics about rising from the ashes are both darkly determined and uplifting in the same vein as Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’. The bruised and swollen ‘Never Let You Down’ (streaming below) is more angular and slickly polished, with a jangling piano added to the instrumentation and a hypnotically groovy instrumental bridge. ‘Goodbye John Smith’ and ‘Little Boy’ demonstrate Courtney’s folkier sensibilities, the former showing an exquisite sensitivity in the vocal delivery, while the latter takes on a charming Americana feel.

Courtney once again goes balls to the wall in the characteristically unapologetic rock anthem ‘Rather Die’, where his delivery is nothing short of absolutely convincing in the lyric “I take a beating but I’ll never give up, I think I’d rather die”. But he saves one final surprise for the album’s close. Eponymous track ‘The Attractions of Youth’ dials back the intensity, but only slightly, as Courtney once again turns on his sarcastic humour in a deliberately over-the-top, circus-style album finale.

The rapid-fire success of Barns Courtney’s early singles is firmly validated with ‘The Attractions of Youth’. The album’s 14 tracks could possibly have been culled down a bit, but in total, they serve to display the voracious hunger behind Courtney’s skyrocket to commercial fame. And though such early success is often volatile and short-lived, Courtney has also demonstrated a compelling intellectual artistry that will sustain his career beyond the initial flash in the pan.

9/10

Barns Courtney’s debut LP ‘The Attractions of Youth is due out tomorrow, the 29th of September, on Virgin EMI. Courtney will finish his current UK tour with a show at London’s Dingwalls on the 5th of October. TGTF’s previous coverage of Barns Courtney is right back here.

 

Album Review: Tree House – Into the Ocean EP

 
By on Monday, 25th September 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

TreeHouse Into the Ocean coverWe at TGTF have never written before about London-based electronic musician Will Fortna, but if you’re a particularly astute reader, you might have spied a photo of him here. Multi-instrumentalist Fortna travelled to America last year for SXSW 2016, as touring bass player for alt-pop singer/songwriter Oscar. Our own Editor Mary captured Oscar and Fortna in action that year at the Huw Stephens and PRS for Music Showcase.

Earlier this month, Will Fortna released a new EP of his own original music, titled ‘Into the Ocean’, under the moniker Tree House. The Tree House project began several years ago, when Fortna was living in Brooklyn and teaching himself to compose and play music in a windowless loft. Now living in London and finishing a course of study in American History and Ethnomusicology, Fortna has expanded his compositional style to encompass a wide range of musical influences, most notably American minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Fortna does the singing and much of instrument playing himself, but the EP does feature a few colleagues from his live band, including Alfie Long on bass, Izaak Binet on keyboards, Joel Burton on drums, and Tom Wells on electric guitar.

Opening track ‘Nonsense’ introduces the EP with an immediate smooth jazz feel, centered around a simple, repeated keyboard motif. Fortna’s vocals are equally smooth, his slightly breathy timbre finding just enough traction to keep his lyrics from being lost in the instrumental underlay. “There’s times we get caught up in top down love / and there’s times reality seems so far gone,” he sings, seemingly from a distance, as if the words might have been an afterthought to the musical composition.

Several of the compositions on ‘Into the Ocean’ naturally invoke the ideas of water and swimming, including the EP’s first single ‘Water Fountain’. More slick and polished, this track also takes a slightly darker tone, as Fortna invites us to “take a deeper step into the tide.” He shows here that he isn’t afraid to let a musical idea evolve organically, taking the first instrumental bridge into delicate, Eastern harmonies before kicking back into the shuffling beat of the verse, then into a warmer, mellower second interlude.

The sunny, laid-back sound of ‘Warm Blue Feeling’ is a nice mid-album change of pace, with a gently swaying rhythm and Afrobeat-style guitars. Fortna’s lyrics are a bit less cerebral here as well, as he spends an idle moment enjoying “the sound of crickets dancing all around” and “the warm blue feeling of letting go.”

Early Tree House composition ‘Classical Symphony’ showcases Fortna’s emphasis on rhythm and uncomplicated instrumental textures. The simplified instrumental arrangement puts more focus both on his singing voice and on his lyrics, which are a bit ironic here as he declares, “I never had the patience for classical symphony.” Final and eponymous track ‘Into the Ocean’, by contrast, demonstrates Fortna’s gained expertise in counterpoint and instrumental arranging. The string introduction is mildly reminiscent of Steve Reich’s ‘Different Trains’, and the initially disconnected percussion grows into a steadier back beat as the song progresses. Fortna’s vocals excel here, particularly in the echoing and open-ended final refrain.

Decidedly intellectual in approach and eclectic in its influences, ‘Into the Ocean’ is a strong initial effort from Will Fortna. His ongoing musical studies and genuine interest in a wide variety of musical styles are sure to shape his future endeavours, as well as refining his technical and compositional skills. In the meantime, the songs presented here are a pleasurable and intriguing first listen.

7.5/10

Tree House’s debut EP ‘Into the Ocean’ is available now from Brighton indie label Memorials of Distinction. You can stream or purchase the EP on Bandcamp right through here.

 

Album Review: David Ramirez – We’re Not Going Anywhere

 
By on Friday, 22nd September 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

David Ramirez WNGA album coverWhen I first listened to Austin, Texas-based singer/songwriter David Ramirez, I found myself inexplicably torn. The song was ‘Harder to Lie’, from his 2015 album ‘Fables’, and I recoiled from its unflinching lyrical honesty and Ramirez’ brutally emotional delivery, even as I was drawn to the poignant vocal harmonies and wailing slide guitar. Upon collecting myself, my immediate thought was, “I’m not sure if I want to hear that again, or if I never, ever want to hear that again.”

My curiosity overcame my hesitation and I did some further listening to David Ramirez. His back catalogue comprises three full length LPs and a handful of EPs, all self-released and self-produced, and all with a perversely haphazard feel to them. Ramirez’ new fourth album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, sounds sharply focused in comparison. The songwriting is tighter and more concise, and the instrumentation is both more expansive and more deliberate, perhaps owing to production by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive). But Ramirez hasn’t strayed from his country-blues style, nor has he abandoned the raw emotionality that has become his trademark.

Perhaps the best example of Ramirez’ unique sentimentality on the new album is early single ‘Time’. Its lyrical and musical effects play off of each other brilliantly, conveying a paradoxically clear sense of the dazed apathy caused by time passing without measure or purpose. By contrast, ‘Watching from a Distance’ is the album’s most straightforward single, with a strong vocal chorus and verse lyrics that are simple in tone but pregnant with existential angst: “just ‘cos we can’t speak / doesn’t mean you’re not on my mind / like a ghost / like the moon / like a God / like the truth”.

Several of the songs on ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ make reference to the current American political and social atmosphere. Opening track ‘Twins’ alludes to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, its title referring to New York City’s fallen Twin Towers. Lyrically, the song is almost an astonishingly simple reflection on how the country has changed in the intervening 16 years, with paired couplet questions “where were you when we lost the twins? / where were you when fear settled in?” framing the wistful echo of the chorus “there she goes . . . goodbye America, America, America . . .”

Later on the album, ‘Stone Age’ invokes ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, and Ramirez’ voice seethes with anger in the lines “I’m having trouble seeing colors in the dawn’s early light / no more red, no more blue, all I’m seeing is white”. Amazingly, the recorded version of this track captures the full impact of Ramirez’ live performance of the song in Phoenix last November, when the shock of the 2016 American presidential election was still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Ramirez’ country roots are most evident in ‘Good Heart’, where he adopts the character of a jaded barfly hardened against love, and ‘People Call Who They Wanna Talk To’, which emphasises his Texas drawl and the twang of the steel guitar. ‘Telephone Lovers’, in turn, explores the challenge of maintaining intimacy in a long-distance romance. The desperate refrain “you’re too far away” also harkened back to last November, when the song took that lyric as its working title.

The album closes with a pair of touching and more personal tracks. ‘Eliza Jane’ was inspired by Ramirez’ own great-grandmother, whose story was passed down to him by his mother, and whose narrative weaves inextricably into his own. Closing track ‘I’m Not Going Anywhere’ reflects the pair of women pictured in the album artwork, a mother-and-daughter pair of breast cancer survivors celebrating life on their own terms. Ramirez’ singing voice is at its level best here, both in terms of expressivity and technique, in his delivery of the lines “when you shake hands with grace and pass through the pearly gates / well then, find you the nearest neon sign / then, mama, you’ll see I was right / I’m not going anywhere”.

David Ramirez’s earlier music is somewhat unapproachable, his stubborn defiance proving to be both a fiery inspiration and a bit of an obstacle. But he seems to have softened slightly with ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, despite its recalcitrant title. He describes the songs as being about “fear, and how instead of benefitting us, it sends us spiraling out of control.” My strongest impression is that the new album sees Ramirez overcoming his own artistic fear, and finding clarity in the process.

8.5/10

David Ramirez’ fourth studio album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ is available now via Sweetworld / Thirty Tigers. TGTF’s full previous coverage of David Ramirez is right back here.

 

Sløtface / September and October 2017 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 20th September 2017 at 9:00 am
 

Norwegian pop punk band Sløtface will play a lengthy string of live dates in the UK this autumn, supporting their newly released debut album ‘Try Not to Freak Out’, which our own Steven recently reviewed. Sløtface’s UK dates will follow a run of live shows in Germany and the Netherlands and will precede the band’s show in Paris on the 27th of October.

Tickets for the following shows are available now. A full listing of Sløtface’s upcoming live gigs can be found on their official Facebook. TGTF’s previous coverage of Sløtface is right back this way.

Thursday 28th September 2017 – Bournemouth 60 Million Postcards
Friday 29th September 2017 – Birmingham Actress and Bishop
Saturday 30th September 2017 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club Games Room
Sunday 1st October 2017 – Manchester Soup Kitchen
Tuesday 3rd October 2017 – York Basement
Wednesday 4th October 2017 – Hull Adelphi
Thursday 5th October 2017 – Derby Venue
Friday 6th October 2017 – Sheffield Picture House Social
Saturday 7th October 2017 – Newcastle Think Tank
Monday 9th October 2017 – Edinburgh Sneaky Pete’s
Tuesday 10th October 2017 – Glasgow Broadcast
Thursday 12th October 2017 – Liverpool Magnet
Friday 13th October 2017 – Stockton-on-Tees Ku Bar
Monday 16th October 2017 – Nottingham Bodega
Tuesday 17th October 2017 – Leicester Cookie
Wednesday 18th October 2017 – Southampton Joiners
Thursday 19th October 2017 – Plymouth Underground

 

Single Review: San Fermin – Asleep on the Train

 
By on Tuesday, 19th September 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Brooklyn art-pop collective San Fermin released their third studio album ‘Belong’ back in April, just after their appearance in Austin for SXSW 2017. A mere 6 months later, the group are in the middle of a North American tour supporting the album, and they’ve marked the occasion by releasing a new stand-alone single called ‘Asleep on the Train’. Bandleader and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone describes the song as “a b-side that I’ve always liked, but [that] didn’t fit on the record”. He elaborates, “The lyrics [to ‘Asleep on the Train’] are inspired by late nights on the subway, all flickering fluorescent lights and post-party depression.”

In terms of the sonic realisation of that experience, San Fermin have hit the figurative nail squarely on the head, starting with the harsh industrial opening sounds of the track, then easing into a smoother, almost hypnotically jazz-tinged and quintessentially New York kind of sound. Soothing strings and muted brass underscore precisely tuned vocal harmonies between singers Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye, but Ludwig-Leone’s murky verse lyrics are punctuated by brief interludes of sharp instrumental tones and disjointed vocal effects. The song’s chorus melody “lost and blue, you fell asleep on the train again / and you woke up by the bay / oh, I know it’s hard to get around sometimes / I apologize” is lyrically evocative, but musically even moreso, set to a slightly uneven rhythm that is strangely and singularly reminiscent of a bleary-eyed ride in a mostly empty subway car at the tail end of the train’s service.

9.5/10

ICYMI, we caught San Fermin live at SXSW 2017; you can read about that vivid, broad daylight performance right here. San Fermin’s new single ‘Asleep on the Train’ and their full LP ‘Belong’ are both out now on Downtown / Interscope Records. Details on the band’s upcoming live performances can be found on their official Facebook. TGTF’s full past coverage of San Fermin is collected back here.

 
 
 

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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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