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(6 Music Festival 2016 and SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: Bloc Party – Hymns

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd February 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Bloc Party Hymns coverBloc Party are the definition of the word ‘evolution’. If you listen back to the sharp indie tones they burst onto the scene with ‘Silent Alarm’ back in 2005, you would struggle to believe that you’re listening to the same band now in 2016. Technically though, you aren’t listening to the same band. Only one half of the original lineup remains, with the band citing increased tension and disagreement in the barracks the reasoning for this.

What Bloc Party do here on ‘Hymns’ is, at the root of it all, be consistently inconsistent. This is something we’ve come to expect of them. Although after their debut they didn’t evolve the sound too much on 2006’s ‘A Weekend in the City’, third record ‘Intimacy’ was a full-on revolution in terms of the sound they created. Focusing more upon dance and electronic than indie rock, it was a brave and bold move that saw tracks such as ‘Flux’ and ‘One More Chance’ becoming massive Bloc Party staples, just sans guitars. Fourth album ‘Four’ was the weakest in this evolution, where the collapse of the band was seemingly imminent, and a Kele Okereke solo album showing where this evolution stemmed from. Now, none of this is necessarily a bad thing; It shows they can develop and evolve beyond being a one trick pony. But to the extent shown here, where one track is barely similar to the next, you find it hard to engage and follow the record. But, it’s still entertaining, as much as a McDonald’s burger is still food, but it’s not so exciting, so you just don’t Instagram it.

Opener ‘The Love Within’ was our first look at this second coming of Bloc Party, and it was met with a mixed reaction. The sound itself is not too dissimilar to that of ‘Four’ or ‘Intimacy’, but it’s the approach they take that lends itself to the confused reception. It seems almost abrasive in its attempts to be an opening statement telling us this record won’t be a return to 2005-era Bloc Party. This continues through to ‘Only He Can Heal Me’, which is a soft, yet dark dance track.

Track four ‘Good News’ becomes almost the Bloc Party twist on country, with a devilish helping of slide guitar that complements the chord structure beautifully. Of course, the next track is the exact opposite: ‘Fortress’ is soft, a sentimental dance track that relies upon a low rumble of bass to push it forward with synthesised drums providing the percussion rather than the human equivalent found in new drummer Louise Bartle.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ox68svCfm8k[/youtube]

‘Into Earth’ has a softer version of the twinned, alternating guitar progressions we’ve come to love and adore from both Okereke and co-guitarist Russell Lissack. Think ‘Banquet’, but if it was given some Valium. “You’ve seen the colour of my cash, does it not impress you, was I too flash?” is sung almost seductively by Okereke. The majority of the record from here carries on into a similar fashion: there are no particular fast numbers per se, and it all remains at a steady tempo, which can at times be a bit of a struggle to get through.

This is an evolution that Bloc Party have taken which, on an artistic level, has a lot of merit, though strictly it wasn’t necessary. While on the previous two albums, they’d already broken past being a straightforward guitar band and proving they had more to say, this new LP feels like an accumulation of trying to bury that past forever and sending out a new statement of who they are what they do now. Obviously it breaks boundaries and attempts new sounds, but at the same, it can be quite dull. Hopefully with time the new lineup will begin to pull together a sound that is a more controlled culmination of everything they’ve done so far rather than a proverbial smorgasbord of anything and everything.

6.5/10

Bloc Party’s fifth album ‘Hymns’, their first in 4 years, is out now on Infectious Records in the UK and Vagrant Records in North America. They’re currently headlining the NME Awards tour through next Friday, the 12th of February at Birmingham Academy. They’ll also be appearing at the 6 Music Festival in Bristol the weekend directly after, as well as SXSW 2016 in March in Austin. To read more coverage on Bloc Party on TGTF, head here.

 

(6 Music Festival 2016 and SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2003: Polica

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd February 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Ask most anyone here: it sure is a scary, uncertain time here in America. Minneapolis electronic group Polica clearly agree, as their latest promo video for ‘Wedding’, from their upcoming third album ‘United Crushers’, shows. Scenes of militarised police are included alongside scenes of a brightly coloured, Sesame Street-style setup starring frontwoman Channy Leaneagh. In the politically charged video, she teaches children about peaceful protests – even showing in a craft class how to make your own teargas mask – and safe practices around police. It’s both weirdly powerful and sad that such a video had to be made, and unsettling as this is, it’s reflective of the world we live in now.

‘United Crushers’ by Polica will be released on the 4th of March on Memphis Industries (UK) / Mom+Pop (US) / Pod + Inertia. Channy Leanagh and co. will be appearing at the 6 Music Festival in less than a fortnight now in Bristol (all the details here), followed by a now sold out gig at London Village Underground on the 15th of February. The band also will be appearing at SXSW 2016. For more on Polica on TGTF, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fG8JMSMDICI[/youtube]

 

(6 Music Festival 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: Field Music – Commontime

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd February 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Field Music Commontime album coverPeter and David Brewis are two intelligent guys who don’t sit still for very long. Or ever. Sometimes I wonder if they’re just musical vampires and don’t sleep at all. Last year, the composed soundtrack to the 1929 documentary Drifters that they were commissioned to compose by the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival was released to the wild. In 2014, while David was putting together his latest School of Language album ‘Old Fears’, his older brother Peter went off with frontman of Maximo Park Paul Smith for their own LP ‘Frozen by Sight’. Last year, I also saw them moonlighting as part of fellow Sunderland musician SLUG’s (Ian Black) backing band at the Great Escape 2015. So yes, while the last ‘true’ Field Music album was 2012’s ‘Plumb’, they haven’t exactly been sitting around the Good Apple Cafe, twiddling their thumbs.

The most noteworthy thing news-wise that’s happened to the Brewis brothers recently is Prince’s apparent discovery of them in early December. Evidently, the Purple One had a pleasurable head bop to the first single off of ‘Commontime’, ‘The Noisy Days Are Over’, just as we have had here at TGTF Towers. (You can read Steven’s thoughts on the single here.) The inherent catchiness of the melody, matched with the always intriguing percussion of Field Music, is great already. But what makes the song truly a winner are the lyrics, which I think most people are reading literally as the acceptance of “getting on”, growing older and eventually the end.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43wTJLg-De8[/youtube]

I can’t help but read it within my own as well as in a musician’s context: those of us who are long past our school days but still go out to shows (or play them), who don’t do normal things like take the bus and go to bed at an acceptable hour, are looked upon as oddities and weirdos. It’s not that we’re going out of our way to be weirdos. It just *is*. To me, the song is a statement that we’re not going to change our ways. Which is something I feel must be a credo for this pair of talented bros. Throughout this delightful 14-track collection of tunes, there’s satisfying elements of pop and funk, sometimes together on the same track, and this combination with incisive lyrics makes Field Music what they are.

The Sunderland duo have pretty much cornered the market in art rock these days, and they don’t show any signs of changing their tune (no pun intended). With the off-kilter drums and guitars – neither of which I can be sure could be said to be leading or following – and its almost spat out words, ‘I’m Glad’ is bonkers, and amusingly so. ‘Same Name’ seems like a bunch of things were thrown into a pot at once – jerky guitar notes, other bits of noodling guitar, atypical drum patterns, piano chord crashes – and somehow, otherwise cacophonous, disparate elements manage to play nice enough with each other to come together as a relatively cohesive song. The vocal delivery of the verses of ‘They Want You to Remember’ is pretty pop, gently reined in to accompany a beautiful string section. But then the oom-pah-pah rhythm of the chorus comes in, and you’re reminded we’re not in mainstream land. Which is perfectly fine by me.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWoVU7Zd894[/youtube]

The other day I heard a Charlie Puth song called ‘One Call Away’. It’s not a terrible love song – it’s what passes for MOR pop on American top 40 radio these days – but the lyrics are pretty groanworthy. Contrast them to those of ‘Disappointed’, in which our protagonist asks for forgiveness for minor offenses in the context of a long-term relationship that seems to be a Pretty Good Thing otherwise. On the ultra funky and album standout ‘It’s a Good Thing’, the merit of giving up your singledom and pulling away from the pretense of “being fixed to the ocean” is explored: “It’s a good thing to give yourself away. It’s a good thing to give yourself to someone else.” And perhaps I’m the only one, but I can’t help laugh to myself when on a Field Music album I’m being sung to with a particularly clever line. In ‘Don’t You Want to Know?’, the listener is asked, “don’t you want to know what’s wrong with you?”, as well as encouraged (or perhaps mocked) to “time to use your brain”. Can you imagine the look on a top 40 station boss’ face upon hearing that?

‘Commontime’ also marks the return of keyboardist Andrew Moore, who hasn’t appeared on a Field Music album since 2007’s ‘Tones of the Town’. His contribution of twinkly notes and organ buzzes are appreciated on ‘But Not for You’, ‘That’s Close Enough’ (in which the piano stands up to a ghostly guitar solo) and the instrumental bridge of ‘They Want You to Remember’, where they are particularly effective. As mentioned earlier, there’s also a string section that appears on some tracks of this album, adding a level of smoothness (dare I say maturity?) to the proceedings. But fear not, this is still a Field Music album through and through, so there is *plenty* of weird and wonderful stuff going on.

8/10

‘Commontime’, the new album from Sunderland brother duo Field Music, is out this Friday, the 5th of February, on Memphis Industries. The brothers and their band will be appearing at the 6 Music Festival in a fortnight in Bristol (all the details here), and they will begin a UK tour in the last week of February (live dates listed here). For more on Field Music on TGTF, head this way.

 

(6 Music Festival 2016 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #1992: Suede

 
By on Friday, 22nd January 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

It’s funny how you may be introduced to a band seemingly randomly, and then it turns out that said band becomes increasingly important to your existence as time goes on. It was years ago when I was in uni that a friend told me I should check out one of her favourite bands, Suede. Suede weren’t a band that was played on DC area radio in the ’90s (or if they were, I must have missed them), and it wasn’t until they’d broken up post-2002’s ‘A New Morning’ that I’d investigated their music with any gusto. Fast forward by a decade and these days, Suede is celebrating a revival in popularity, fuelled by the strength of their 2013 comeback album ‘Bloodsports’.

Today sees the UK release of ‘Night Thoughts’, and the latest video from Brett Anderson and co. Despite the return of Suede’s anthemic brand of jangly guitar rock, the promo that goes with ‘No Tomorrow’ shows the desperation of an obsessive-compulsive sufferer that ultimately leads to a sad, fatal end. I’m not sure if I am more upset that the band are using such a story to ‘sell’ their song, or if I’m glad that they’re showing what is all too real for the people of the world who suffer from anxiety and what they’ve done is a public service. Have a watch below and decide for yourself.

‘Night Thoughts’ is out today in the UK; its American release comes in a week, on the 29th of January. Suede have been announced as a Saturday headliner at the 6 Music Festival 2016 in Bristol in February; read more about the festival line-up in my preview of the 3-day event here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHQRz_15s3g[/youtube]

 

(6 Music Festival 2016 flavoured!) Single Review: Steve Mason – Planet Sizes

 
By on Friday, 22nd January 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

While I am certainly not saying that he wasn’t adequately celebrated while he was alive, one of the biggest lessons I think we should take away from David Bowie’s passing is that we should truly acknowledge the gifts of the greatest musical talents we idolise, whose music we hold dear in our hearts, and while they’re still living. We’re all mortal, and one day too soon, it will be too late.

And one such person I wish that would get far more attention than already does is my subject for today. Scottish singer/songwriter Steve Mason used to be most famous primarily as a founding member of The Beta Band, then pioneering a genre that was then not even termed folktronica. Since The Beta Band’s disbanding in 2004, Mason has had a moderately successful solo career, having unleashed his debut album ‘Boys Outside’ in 2010, followed by ‘Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time’ in 2013. Having my interest piqued by the effortless folky soul of ‘All Come Down’, I’ve been keeping tabs closely, ever keen to hear more from him.

Earlier this month to start off 2016 on a positive note, he announced his third solo outing, ‘Meet the Humans’, will see a late February release. Coinciding with the new album news, he also unveiled new single ‘Planet Sizes’, and it seems too perfect to be writing about such a song the week that a possible ninth planet in our solar system has been discovered by Caltech astronomers.

In my mind, Mason’s politically-charged double album ‘Monkey Minds…’ would be a tough act to follow, especially in the wake of Britain’s current political climate, not to mention the entire world’s. Since that last album, Mason has had a change of heart, at least with respect to his songwriting process, and this new, simplified approach is crystal clear upon listening to the new single. In a different yet oddly similar guise to that of ‘All Come Down’, the genius of ‘Planet Sizes’ is its driving melody, paired handily with Mason’s sweepingly positive vocals in the chorus.

He’s always been a deft hand lyrically, and he doesn’t disappoint here. The verse “know my 6 times table / I learned where the planets lie / I know my planet sizes / the universe makes me cry” suggests that he has an intellectual understanding of how the world works through the practical (maths and science). However, he wants to go against the grain, beyond what he’s been told is possible, beyond the planet sizes that are accepted as fact, concluding, “the universe is mine” to have. What an inspiring concept.

Even the single’s animated promo video is another take on (relative) simplicity. Coloured, indistinguishable blobs that turn out to be humans toil apathetically on earth while planets and constellations play and dance above society’s heads. Well, until society finally gets the hint and joins them. How many of this world’s ills would be solved if we all stopped long enough to be kind to one another and dream of the positive energies that lie beyond our usual realm of comprehension? (In his own way, isn’t that what Bowie did for most of his career too?)

9/10

‘Meet the Humans’, the third album from Steve Mason, will be released on the 26th of February on Domino Records. Mason will be playing Saturday night at Motion at the 6 Music Festival 2016 in Bristol next month. For past articles on him on TGTF, go here.

 

Update: 6 Music Festival 2016

 
By on Thursday, 21st January 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Following on from the previous announcement back in December that the event would be moving south in the new year, the full line-up for the 6 Music Festival 2016 (12-14 February) was announced on air Tuesday. Tickets are on sale this coming Monday, the 25th of January, at 10 AM, and below are the ‘greatest hits’ of sorts on all the details on the 3 nights of music in Bristol happening in just over 3 weeks’ time.

Previously revealed headliner Primal Scream will be playing Friday the 12th of February at Motion. Bobby Gillespie and co. will be joined by Yeasayer (check out their latest video for ‘I Am Chemistry’ below), Roots Manuva, Savages (who are releasing their newest album ‘Adore Life’ on Matador Records this Friday), !!!, BBC Introducing darlings from Stockport Blossoms and Sherwood & Pinch. Tickets to Motion for this evening will be £35 each (plus booking fee and postage). However, Friday’s festivities are just a mere aperitif to the rest of the exciting weekend in the trip-hop capital of the world.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XzqCUbiPc4[/youtube]

For indie kids of all ages, Motion’s Saturday headliner Suede (pictured at top, with one of their newer singles ‘Outsiders’ below) are sure not to disappoint. With their newest album ‘Night Thoughts’ – the follow-up to their triumphant 2013 comeback ‘Bloodsports’ – out this Friday, they’re sure to wow with their legendary classics and soon to be classic tunes. Frankly, I’m just a little jealous I won’t be in Brizzle to see Brett Anderson holding court at “the UK’s most unique music venue” (their words, not mine). In this interview and live session Tuesday morning with 6 Music presenter Lauren Laverne, Anderson himself said he was super excited that Elena Tonra and Daughter, who have just released their own new album ‘Not to Disappear’ earlier this month, will be playing the same stage. Other artists on the Motion stage on Saturday night include 2015 Mercury Prize-nominated artist Roisin Murphy and C Duncan, the previously announced Tricky presenting material from his own new album ‘Skilled Mechanics’, Beta Band alum Steve Mason and Sunderland brother duo Field Music, also due to release a new album of their own, ‘Commontime’, at the start of February with Memphis Industries. Tickets to Motion on Saturday will be £35 each (plus booking fee and postage).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL15Nvlf7ZU[/youtube]

Saturday evening activity also kicks off at two more venues. The electronic grooves of Underworld and Roni Size & DJ Krust are the biggest names at the venerated Colston Hall, but they are supported by popular American rockers White Denim, the weird and wonderful Ezra Furman, youth favourite from Essex RAT BOY and Welsh songstress and ex-Pipettes Gwenno (introduced here), among others. The cavernous Academy will see American rock pioneer and Hüsker Dü founder Bob Mould supported by Mystery Jets (fresh off the release of their 5th album ‘Curve of the Earth’ last week) and Spanish girl group and flavour of the moment Hinds. A ticket to gain access to both Colston Hall and Academy on Saturday will £40 (plus booking fee and postage).

On Sunday at Motion, things turn back towards relatively newer indie (well, at least newer than Suede, ha), with Foals, Manchester’s Everything Everything, Beirut, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Polica, Kurt Vile and Mercury Prize-nominated experimental rock band The Invisible. Sunday night tickets to Motion will cost £35 (plus booking fee and postage).

Arguably the stronger night at Colston Hall, when Laura Marling, John Grant, 6 Music presenter and Elbow frontman Guy Garvey and Julia Holter will take the stage, along with many other acts. However, if you’re looking for more mainstream entertainment (to me, anyway) to round out your weekend in Bristol, the Academy will play host to the legendary Buzzcocks, the return and retooling of Bloc Party (seriously, have you heard ‘The Good News’ from their upcoming album ‘Hymns’? If not, hear it below) and the latest of young Liverpudian hopefuls ahead of their maiden voyage to SXSW in March, Hooton Tennis Club. A ticket to access both venues Sunday night will set you back £40 (plus booking fee and postage).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ox68svCfm8k[/youtube]

And in case this post hasn’t been enough information overload for you, there’s still the line-up of the 6 Music Festival by Day – artists of spoken word, poetry and performance having their turn in the limelight – yet to be announced next Tuesday, the 26th of January. And for the first time, even sister station BBC Radio 4 is getting into the spirit this time round, with the Miles Jupp-hosted panel show The News Quiz landing in and being recorded in Bristol during the festival. So there’s really no excuse not to be excited by the goings-on down south. Don’t fret if you can’t travel to Bristol or don’t manage to score tickets after they’ve gone on sale. (In case you hadn’t heard what happened in the past 2 years in Manchester and Gateshead, the tickets will fly out the door as soon as they go on sale, so you’ll have to be quick.) The BBC will be bringing you coverage on 6 Music, BBC Red Button, and iPlayer, so they’ll have you covered.

Right. So I’m going to go back to my corner again and sob that I’m missing Suede live again…

 
 
 

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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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