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Album Review: Barns Courtney – Hands EP

 
By on Tuesday, 28th June 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Bluesy alt-rocker Barns Courtney has been making a name for himself on the festival circuit this year. For starters, he’s appeared at Live at Leeds and SXSW 2016 (where he had a chat with TGTF’s Carrie) and BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend. And he has a few more up his sleeve for the remainder of the year, including Latitude. He’s also been played on Huw Stephens’ show on BBC Radio 1 and recently performed his 2015 single ‘Fire’ on Conan O’Brien’s American late night programme, the tv debut for the track. Courtney released his new debut EP ‘Hands’ in late May.

The EP features four tracks, including an upbeat remix of his earlier ‘Glitter and Gold’ single and an atmospheric and drawling cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody to Love’. Courtney’s throaty vocals, are, without sounding a tad dramatic, transcendental of time and place. I can’t help but think of the songs being sung from the top step of some suburban street in the Deep South, or else on a grimy city street corner during the Great Depression, which highlights the range of musical styles and influences that Courtney has drawn from.

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

Title track ‘Hands’ is evocative of the punchy indie-rock vein that Jake Bugg tapped into on his debut album. It’s one of those simply written songs that gets stuck inside your head, from words in the chorus (“so I’ve been walking / I’m gonna find you”) to the “woohoos” that feature throughout. With the thumping drums, crisp guitar and relatable lyrics, it’s easy to see why it was released as a single earlier this year.

‘Goodbye John Smith’ has a slower tempo to the rest of the EP, with piano being the sole instrument used on the track. In contrast to his other tracks, it’s a sorrowful ballad, with Courtney croaking out a tale of heartache. The verses are emotive and familiar to anyone that’s had to deal with the ending of a relationship or loss: “come on feet don’t fail me now / ‘cos I fall too hard if I hit the ground”. Then there’s the chorus, where Courtney talks of being afraid: ‘if I don’t see you ever again / oh where do I start?” This is layered with a harmony of vocals, emphasising the depth of emotion.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRZ8y2ak-NE[/youtube]

In 2015, Courtney released ‘Glitter and Gold’, which began to garner him some attention along with ‘Fire’, also shared last year. On the ‘Hands’ EP, the single is revisited in the form of a remix by Zibra. The original had a raw energy to it, with stomping drum beats and whole manner of percussion and stringed instruments jangling together. In contrast, the remix sees the rough edges that make ‘Glitter and Gold’ so appealing smoothed out, but with an electro texture to it, synth sounds pulsating in the background and featuring a distorted break.

‘Somebody to Love’ sees a gritty reimagining of Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic rock hit that was released back in the ‘60s. The song that already underwent a rehash when it was remixed by the Boogie Pimps in 2003 and transformed into an electronic dance number. Different from both Jefferson Airplane and Boogie Pimps, Courtney strips the track bare and lays his vocals on thick and heavy. Supported by the scratch of percussion, softly-strummed guitars and an undertone of stomps and claps, ‘Somebody to Love’ takes on a eerie and distorted quality, accented by the occasional whine of an electric guitar.

All in all, it’s a debut EP that packs a punch and feels like it was drawn from the earth itself: it’s evocative, timeless and seriously good. Courtney has a number of your dates coming up, including in France, the States and the UK, and you should definitely check him out.

9/10

Barns Courtney’s debut EP ‘Hands’ is out now on Virgin EMI. For more on Barns Courtney on TGTF, go here.

 

Video of the Moment #2079: Barns Courtney

 
By on Saturday, 7th May 2016 at 10:00 am
 

Folk rock singer/songwriter Barns Courtney is maintaining the fast and furious pace he set for himself back in March at SXSW 2016. Having only just returned to the UK after an American radio tour, Courtney recently announced the upcoming release of his new EP titled ‘Hands’, due out on Virgin EMI on the 27th of May.  The title track has already received radio play from Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1, and on Wednesday Courtney teamed up with NME to unveil the promo video for ‘Hands’.

The main players in the video are Courtney and his well-worn acoustic guitar, which appears to be the same one I saw him play in Austin Saturday night at the British Music Embassy. Apparently filmed in various locales across the United States, the video emphasises the gritty sound of that guitar and the raw emotion in Courtney’s voice. The intensity of the vocals and the song’s aggressive four-to-the-floor rhythm are suggestive of a man possessed by the charms of an elusive lover, as Courtney sings in the repeated first verse lyric “all that you left me was a number on the back of my hand”.  The song’s frenetic tempo only pauses momentarily for breath in the catchy, rhythmically off-kilter descending chord sequence of the chorus.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/OTqHhrhSFhg[/youtube]

‘Hands’ will feature on the EP of the same name, along with three other tracks: ‘Goodbye John Smith’, ‘Glitter and Gold (Zibra Remix)’ and Jefferson Airplane cover ‘Somebody to Love’. At the time of this writing, the ‘Hands’ EP appears to be a UK-only release, as American audiences get more familiar with previous tracks ‘Fire’ and the original version of ‘Glitter and Gold’. If you’re keen for more on Barns Courtney, TGTF’s previous coverage can be found here.

 

SXSW 2016: final Saturday night festivities with NME and UK Trade and Investment at the British Music Embassy – 19th March 2016

 
By on Monday, 18th April 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

I’ve always had a fondness for stories with tidy endings, so it seems quite natural that I finished SXSW 2016 on Saturday night at the British Music Embassy, even if Mary and I were a bit delayed in getting there. After our dinner hour activities at the Hilton Austin’s Liberty Tavern (which you can read about right back here), we stopped for a quick drink across the street from Latitude 30 before heading over for the NME / UK Trade and Investment showcase. As often happens with when I’m with Mary, we ended up engaged in a rather interesting conversation with some industry acquaintances of hers, and we had trouble tearing ourselves away for the final evening of live shows.

"Lusts

As much as we might have liked to stay and chat, Mary and I both had other activities planned for the evening, and we made our way to Latitude 30 just in time to catch the first act on the showcase, groove rock brother act Lusts. In the brief snippet of what I saw and heard, their music was an interesting combination of heavy rhythms and hazy vocals, but it was really their insistent and compelling energy that left the strongest opening impression.

Julia Jacklin internal

The next act originally scheduled on the showcase was rap collective Section Boyz, but a last minute substitution gave us instead Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin. She facetiously introduced herself and her band as Section Boyz just to see if her audience were paying attention, but in truth, Jacklin’s warm folk rock couldn’t have been stylistically farther from the act she stepped in to replace. Jacklin’s music had more sonic impact than her diminutive appearance might suggest, and the lyrical substance of her track ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ particularly tugged at my heartstrings after she shared that she had written it for her little brother because she wanted him to think she was cool. Those small personal details can make a song seem much more special to a listener, and Jacklin certainly won herself a new fan in me that night.

Pumarosa internal 2

Following Julia Jacklin was self-described “industrial spiritual” band Pumarosa, who I’d seen previously on the Tuesday night showcase at Hype Hotel. They had the same lengthy setup issues here at the British Music Embassy, but once they got started, they fairly shook the stage with a much more confident sounding set than what I’d heard from them earlier in the week. The lighting at Latitude 30 allowed me to get a better photo of frontwoman Isabel Munoz-Newsome’s unusual guitar technique (which you can see below), and I was thrilled to have another go at dancing to Pumarosa’s exotic hit song ‘Priestess’.

Pumarosa internal

Next on the bill was an artist I’d been looking forward to seeing since our initial preview of this showcase, rock singer/songwriter Barns Courtney (pictured at top). After seeing him blaze through a spectacular set including his currently released tracks ‘Fire’ and ‘Glitter and Gold’, as well as the curiously-titled ‘Hobo Rocket’, I’m more convinced than ever that he has the potential to be a breakout superstar on the order of James Bay or Hozier if he plays his cards right. In the intermission between sets, I snagged Courtney for a quick back alley interview, which turned out to be quite possibly the most unforgettable conversation I had all week long.

Barns Courtney internal

I came back inside just in time to catch dance pop duo Formation, whose number had apparently multiplied ahead of their appearance at SXSW. Comprising brothers Will and Matt Ritson along with Jonny Tams, Sasha Lewis and Kai Akinde-Hummel, the band and their equipment fit on the small British Music Embassy stage with very little room to spare. But despite the close quarters on stage, the band played a beat-driven, movement-inspiring set list much to the liking of the late night dancers in the crowd.

Formation internal

Formation were followed on the docket by another Special Guest, who hadn’t been officially announced before the show but was rumoured to be American veterans-turned-newcomers on the music scene, PARTYBABY. I’d seen PARTYBABY along with Pumarosa on the Tuesday night Hype Hotel showcase, and I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the choice. PARTYBABY would certainly make an energetic closing act, I hadn’t found them engaging enough to stick around for twice. Fortunately, Mary arrived back at Latitude 30 just as they came on stage to set up, and we took the opportunity to make a final round of fond farewells to our friends at the British Music Embassy before officially bidding adieu to SXSW 2016.

Au revoir, Austin…until we meet again.

 

Live at Leeds 2016 Preview: editor Mary’s best band bets

 
By on Monday, 18th April 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: as we recommend with all of our festival previews, the information we post here on TGTF on Live at Leeds is current at the time of posting, but we encourage you to check in at the Live at Leeds 2016 official Web site closer to the start of the event to confirm venues and set times. Wristbands for the event in Leeds on Saturday the 30th of April are still available at the bargain price of £32.50. This year for the price of £45.00, a VIP option is also available; it will allow you to jump queues at venues (subject to capacity), entry to the VIP bar at the First Direct Arena and free entry to the afterparty at the Wardrobe. More information on where you can purchase your tickets in person or online is available here.

SXSW 2016 alums: I’d be remiss not to give a shoutout to the artists we saw in Austin that we enjoyed and we think you will too (in order of appearance):
Barns Courtney (5:30 PM, Leeds College of Music)
The Sherlocks (5:30 PM, Leeds Uni Union Refectory)
Declan McKenna (6 PM, Brudenell Social Club main stage)
Clean Cut Kid (6:15 PM, Leeds Uni Union Stylus)
Autobahn (6:30 PM, Leeds Beckett Uni Union Stage 1)
DMA’s (6:45 PM, Leeds Uni Union Refectory)
Blaenavon (7:00 PM, Oporto)
Isaac Gracie (7:15 PM, Holy Trinity Church)
Pumarosa (8:00 PM, Wardrobe)
Haelos (10:00 PM, Belgrave Music Hall)

In addition to those acts, here are 10 more acts recommended from the amazing Live at Leeds 2016 schedule:

Atlantic Shore

In the mood for sparkling, upbeat synth rock? This quartet with ties to nearly all of the great Northern towns (Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester) will start your day at Live at Leeds on an energetic note. Check out Atlantic Shore’s latest single, ‘The Comedown’, which was released last month.

Atlantic Shore are set to perform at the Faversham at 12:30 PM.

The Jackobins

Staying in th’ North (this festival is in Yorkshire, am I right?), turn your attention to music of a harder edge. Forget Manchester for a moment: The Jackobins’ ‘Waiting on the Sun’ will remind you of Oasis in the brashness of their anthemic rock.

The Jackobins perform at Leeds Beckett Uni Union Stage 2 at 1 PM. (Incidentally, Plaitum – who Rebecca introduced you all to when they received a shout for SXSW 2016 – will be playing at the same time of day at Headrow House.)

The Velveteens

Let’s not kid ourselves, surf rock came back, so what’s to stop the other trends of past decades returning? Co-ed group from Leeds The Velveteens will be leading the charge when the revolution comes. ‘Simply Plain Mary Jane’? Hardly!

The Velveteens play at the Brudenell Social Club’s Games Room at 2:30 PM.

Demob Happy

From Leeds, you can either go north to Newcastle or south all the way to the coast to Brighton for Demob Happy. As a science boffin by (day) trade, I am more than a little amused they’ve got a song called ‘Junk DNA’. “Gene Manipulator” should have been my nickname in uni. Make of that what you will… And we could all use a little bliss, eh?

Demob Happy are scheduled to play at the Brudenell Social Club’s main stage at 3:00 PM, which make them a nice follow-up after The Velveteens.

Xylaroo

Cover me, folks, I’m going into Carrie’s usual bailiwick and into the singer/songwriter den. A girl duo signed to Rob da Bank’s Sunday Best label, Xylaroo have done a fantastic acoustic treatment to cover of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’, turning a song I don’t even like to a palatable one (!), so suffice to say, I’m looking forward to their debut album ‘Sweetooth’ (not a typo) out the 3rd of June, which includes ‘Sunshine’.

So if singer/songwriter-y, harmonising type music is more your thing, you can catch Xylaroo at Leeds College of Music Recital Room at 3 PM.

Girl Friend

Okay, I’m outta there and back to my specialty and having gone on to another duo. Girl Friend, a girl/boy pair from Manchester (seriously, where else would they have been from? ha), do clean, crisp electropop that’s music to my ears and heart, not to mention my feet. Check out the fab ‘Nocturnal’.

Girl Friend will play the Belgrave Music Hall at 4 PM.

Jones

Jones has the kind of voice music producers clamour over: soulful, rich, strong. Her voice lend well to both electronic/urban pop and acoustic treatments. Judging from her collaboration with TGTF friends Honne on their track ‘No Place Like Home’, she’ll be a sought-after vocal talent for years to come.

Jones is set to perform at the Wardrobe at 7:00 PM.

Catholic Action

Ready to do some hand clapping in my favourite venue in all of Leeds? Then you’re definitely ready to have some fun with Catholic Action and fall in ‘L.U.V.’ with this band from Glasgow. We have!

Catholic Action will appear at Nation of Shopkeepers at 8:00 PM.

Anteros

Staying in the pop realm, we arrive at London’s Anteros. Their sci-fi name makes them sound like they’re from another planet. However, to our benefit, they’re just writing really great pop songs. Have some ‘Breakfast’ with them below.

Anteros perform at the Brudenell Social Club’s Games Room at 9:30 PM.

Fatherson

I’ve been a fan of these Scots and their uplifting, swooning anthems since I saw them in Edinburgh 2 years ago. And it’s a great time for them to appear at Live at Leeds, as they’ve just released their newest single, ‘Just the Point of Breaking’.

Fatherson appear at Leeds Beckett Uni Union Stage 2 at 9:30 PM.

 

SXSW 2016 Interview: Barns Courtney

 
By on Friday, 15th April 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

My very last interview of SXSW 2016 was also one of the most memorable conversations I had during the week in Austin. Up-and-coming alt rocker Barns Courtney played a blinding set on the NME in association with UK Trade & Investment showcase at the British Music Embassy, and afterward I spirited him off into the alley outside for a chat. As it turned out, his fast and furious pace on the stage was matched by a quick wit and a ready sense of humour after the spotlights were off.

Courtney’s American accent rather took me by surprise, and when I asked him about it, he explained that he’s a British citizen, though he spent most of his youth in Seattle before moving back to England. His career is currently based in London, but he cited an eclectic mix of musical influences, including the White Stripes and Kanye West. That conversation led to discussion of Courtney’s own music, which he describes (very accurately, in my opinion) as “raw” and “percussive”.

Courtney’s early tracks ‘Fire’ and ‘Glitter and Gold’ have already gained traction on both sides of the pond, and he has tentative plans to record an album in the near future, having signed with Virgin EMI in the UK and Capitol Records in North America. He hopes to put out some new music in the EP format ahead of the full album, and I must admit that it struck me as funny that he described the EP approach as “old-fashioned”, but the success of his early individual tracks is nothing if not a testament to how quickly a single song can take flight in the digital music age.

SXSW was only the beginning of Courtney’s American tour, and he played an exhausting 10 shows during the week in Austin. Be sure to listen through to the end of the interview clip, where he describes losing his voice at one point, but miraculously managing to bring it back to life. Barns Courtney has a lengthy list of UK dates on the horizon; you can find details of those on his official Facebook.

Thanks to Jason for his assistance with setting up this interview.

BC set list BME

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Clash in association with PPL, and NME in association with UK Trade and Investment at the British Music Embassy – 18th-19th March 2016

 
By on Friday, 4th March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy will return to Latitude 30 at 512 San Jacinto Boulevard, right by the heart of the action off 6th Street during SXSW 2016. On Monday and Wednesday, our editor Mary previewed the talent on show on Tuesday night (Huw Stephens with PRS for Music showcase) and Wednesday, then Thursday (Output Belfast and PIAS in association with AIM), respectively. This year’s showcases on Friday the 18th of March are set to include a host of artists from around the UK, including hotly-tipped acts from Wales and Scotland. The Welsh artists will be highlighted during the daytime show, presented by British Music @ SXSW in association with Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales. A pair of Scottish acts will feature on the evening showcase, presented by UK pop culture magazine Clash in association with music rights and licensing agency PPL.

The Friday afternoon show will feature a delightfully rich lineup of female artists, beginning with alt-folk singer/songwriter Rozi Plain and continuing with two Welsh acts, pop singer/songwriter Violet Skies and electronic musician Gwenno. Both Welsh women will be introduced in more detail in editor Mary’s upcoming preview of Welsh artists at SXSW 2016 later today.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/H4S0ME8Xyc0[/youtube]

Closing out the afternoon are two alliterative acts, our recent Band to Watch #372 Fickle Friends, followed by fellow TGTF alumnae Stealing Sheep. Fickle Friends vaulted to popularity in the UK with their debut single ‘Swim’ back in 2014 and have been on an upward trajectory ever since. Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep are sailing strong on their April 2015 release ‘Not Real’, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a hint of something new from them in Austin as well.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqVYDRM842s[/youtube]

The Friday evening Clash showcase is set to begin with DJ/producer/all-around-Renaissance-woman Throwing Shade, whose soon-to-be released EP ‘House of Silk’ features the above reflection on pop culture and social media called ‘hashtag IRL’. Scottish pop songstress KLOE and avant/experimental trio Hælos will fill in the middle part of the evening lineup, ahead of a rather intriguing To Be Confirmed notation at 11 PM; bets are open as to who might fill that coveted slot.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/vKakNhz2ToA[/youtube]

Playing at midnight will be Glasgow electro musician The Revenge, followed by London-based soul pop duo Honne (read more of our coverage on Honne here). The Revenge will feature in our upcoming preview of Scottish artists at SXSW 2016, along with the aforementioned KLOE.

On Saturday, the 19th of March, the afternoon show at Latitude 30 will start with Sheffield slacker punk pair Nai Harvest (read more about them on TGTF here) and Leeds goth-punk band Autobahn. Falling square in the middle of the docket, Liverpool indie rockers Sugarmen are sure to win fans with their psychedelic recent single ‘Plastic Ocean’, while grunge rockers Fizzy Blood and Demob Happy finish off the daytime slate.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/qVkdCG_tfvk[/youtube]

Latitude 30 will be taken over by recently retooled and relaunched pop culture magazine NME in association with UK Trade and Investment on Saturday night, the final event at the British Music Embassy for SXSW 2016. Leicester brothers Andy and James Stone, known onstage as synth-rock duo Lusts will open the show (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here), to be followed by rap collective Section Boyz. London five-piece Pumarosa have already announced an autumn 2016 support slot for SXSW 2015 hit act Gengahr and will feature in the middle of this final night lineup.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/XA97m6L2-Dc[/youtube]

Deep-voiced Americana singer/songwriter Barns Courtney could easily follow in the successful SXSW footsteps of Hozier and James Bay before him. He’ll round out his trip to Austin with an appearance at the British Music Embassy, ahead of dance duo Formation (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here) and another tantalising to-be-announced special guest for the evening’s final set.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/ckNWtmkA2_g[/youtube]

 
 
 

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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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