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Mercury Prize Shortlist 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 12th September 2012 at 6:23 pm
 

The shortlist for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2012 Albums of the Year were announced this evening by 6music presenter Lauren Laverne in a special ceremony at London’s Hospital Club. While some of the names on here are no surprise, with bookies predicting their odds for weeks, others seem to be a who’s who of the knife edge between mainstream and indie. And it just wouldn’t be the Mercury Prize nominations without a random jazz album mentioned. Let’s have a look at the nominees…

Not surprisingly to those in the indie blogosphere, Django Django‘s rhythmically dynamic self-titled debut received a nod. The band scored an American label contract this summer. Count on ‘Default’ and ‘Storm’ to get continued airplay all the way up to the night the winner is announced. (Read our coverage on the Djangos here.) So was alt-J‘s debut ‘An Awesome Wave’. I’m sure they expected it; why else would they have booked a tour for *next* May if they weren’t? If the sweaty club atmosphere I experienced on night 2 of the Great Escape this year seeing them (who were then followed by Django Django, I might add) is any indication, their album will be a frontrunner on many indie music fans’ lists.

Continuing with the debuts nominated, the singer/songwriter genre is well represented with entries from the female squeal-eliciting Ben Howard (‘Every Kingdom’), folk newcomer Sam Lee (‘Ground of Its Own’) and Michael Kiwanuka (‘Home Again’). Electro urban newcomer Jessie Ware, who Martin caught at Evolution, appears on the shortlist with her debut ‘Devotion’ released in mid-August. BBC Sound of 2012 nominee and Warner Brothers signee Lianne La Havas, who wowed crowds at the Great Escape and beyond, also received a nod for ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ If she wins the gong in November, expect cheesy headlines using the album title for full effect.

Stalwarts of the Northern music scene have been rewarded with nominations as well. The forward thinking of Sunderland indie heroes Field Music‘s ‘Plumb’ released in February 2012 and Sheffield’s bequiffed guitar bandolero Richard Hawley‘s new psychedelic direction for ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ were both recognised on the shortlist this year. The honour of this year’s wild card also goes to the North, via Leeds jazz rock band Roller Trio. Their self-titled album looks, from a distance, exactly like that of Stornoway‘s ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’. (Not kidding. Have a look here and compare.)

The Maccabees, having returned after 3 years with new album, ‘Given to the Wild’, also appear on the list, making us seriously wonder how groundbreaking this list can be, with so many ‘safe contenders’. Plan B‘s nomination for third album ‘Ill Manors’ is less dubious, especially in light of Ben Drew’s shedding some much needed light on human trafficking in his video for ‘Deepest Shame’. Good save, committee folks.

The winner of the 2012 Mercury Prize will be announced on Thursday, the 1st of November. In addition to the ceremony itself, there will be a unique ‘Albums of the Year Live’ gig series leading up to the big event. The series will see the shortlisted artists play very intimate gigs. Access to apply for tickets to these gigs will be extremely limited and only through signing up a special mailing list for alerts on these very gigs. Each successful applicant will have access to two tickets; a £5 donation to War Child is required at the time to secure each ticket, with Barclaycard matching every donation pound for pound for their cardholders who use their card when purchasing. Go here for more information.

 

Live Gig Video: Field Music’s full set at Primavera Sound 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 21st August 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

Field Music is one of few bands that has not gotten a single negative live review on TGTF. So when we found out that their performance at Primavera Sound 2012 at Barcelona on 31 May was available online, we jumped at the chance to post it. Watch it in all its glory below.


 

Tramlines 2012: Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 21st August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

After the exhaustion of last night’s Crookes set at Tramlines, Sunday had come right on cue. With an eclectic mix of acts on both of the specially erected city stages, it’s finally time to visit the main stage for local legends The Everly Pregnant Brothers. After seeing them on the busking bus last year, their step up to opening the main stage was one to celebrate as their set of ukulele based Yorkshire-ised popular hits including ‘Chav World (Mad World)’ and ode to Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ with more Yorkshire than you can shake a pasty at lightens up Devonshire Green with a brilliant atmosphere.

Leaving the main stage for now to return to the Nando’s New Music Stage, Holland (above) play a set of as or yet unknown tracks, one to keep an eye on perhaps? Either way they’re followed by the guitar-pop sounds of Let’s Buy Happiness. The sound is uplifting even if the lyrics are rooted in dark undertones of sarcasm for loves-passed-by. Neither band are in line to set fire to venues and charts, but they’re enjoyable enough for a relaxing afternoon in the sun.

Going off route a bit, its time to venture to new venue The Hop for a band who’re following in the steps of Sheffield duo Wet Nuns with their blend of hearty rock with a twist of blues and energy for good measure. The Blackbirds (below) are loud and riff heavy with some thumping drums and whilst the band have a lot to do before they achieve such levels as their local peers, the promise is undeniable even if the crowd is limited to around twenty people.

Everything in the day has been leading up to one thing though. Whilst across Sheffield, everyone’s winding up to their final headliners including a hugely notable homecoming show for 65daysofstatic on the New Music Stage; indie underdogs and all round nice guys We Are Scientists are due to close the festival on the main stage. The buzz for their support Field Music (below) is sadly nonexistent; you feel the group would have been better off surrounded by their more devoted fans inside somewhere like the Harley, but the band stick to a tight set that sounds a bit amiss in such a setting.

We Are Scientists come on stage though and Devonshire Green starts to dance. Playing a singles collection of their by now well known indie rock tracks with a few new ones added in to test the water on their upcoming fourth record the band haven’t put many notes out in years and that’s appreciated by the gathered Sheffield masses.  Sadly though, once again the stage is running late so in order to catch a few minutes of another local band on the rise, TGTF heads off up to Soyo.

Screaming Maldini are by now underground favourites. The enthusiasm with which they play their fresh breed of music that treads between the singalongs of pop and the eccentricity of math-rock on a delicate line (landing a bit more on the pop sound) makes for a highly enjoyable finish to the weekend. Of course acts continue late into the night, but it’s once again last-train home time and even with the occasional disappointment; Tramlines has once again proved that you can achieve a hugely enjoyable and bustling festival of solid acts without charging a penny to the fans. This time next year, Sheffield?

 

Standon Calling 2012 Review (Part 2)

 
By on Friday, 17th August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Saturday at Standon Calling 2012, and a frozen smoothie gives potentially life-saving succour whilst ensconced in the Little Den, Standon’s kids’ area. A lie-in means baby massage and reggae nursery rhymes were missed; still, the tent is blessed with loads of playthings for little ones and is refuge from the midday rainshower that’s becoming a Standon tradition. But there’s plenty of toys for grown-ups too. Double Negative dark room have set up an example of the rare and elusive dark-tent, and are offering free portrait prints.

As one who has gone no further in analogue photography than home-developing the odd 35 mm film, the opportunity to see every step of the process that would eventually give rise to an A4-sized contact print is too good to pass up. The camera is as tall as a man, and exposes directly onto paper using powerful flash. That paper is developed, and the resulting negative is in turn exposed onto another piece of paper, giving rise to a positive image. One is allowed to agitate the developing trays oneself, and the image which emerges before one’s very eyes is quite magical – no two are the same, and mine came complete with wash marks and my own fingerprint on the border. Super.

Musically, the heart of the festival is the Folk Tent. Showcasing the finest in Anglian rockabilly, acoustic, and the occasional Anglophile American (yes, that’s you I’m talking about, Willy Mason), the vibe was eclectic yet accessible. Worth the entrance fee alone, this stage’s proximity to the pub, the fine lawn outside, and the swimming pool just around the corner meant it displayed the purest Standon vibe all weekend. Highlights include Delerium Tremens, Beans On Toast, Keltrix, Vardo and the Boss, and The Barker Band.

Better even than the music on offer, was the opportunity to chill out on a finely-cut lawn, fake statues scattered about, watching infants both young and old enjoy a couple of days of freedom from statute. Worth its weight in gold. Stealing Sheep, BigKids, King Charles and Field Music were all good value on the main stage, yet nothing could be more exciting than the almost half-hour effort of Mohamed Farah in winning the 10-kilometre run by the fabled country mile. To cries of “Go, Mo!”, and various choruses of “God Save the Queen” and “Rule, Britania”, the sweeping consciousness was one of the triumph of many years’ accumulation of aspiration, perspiration, and inspiration.

There was plenty of parallel perspiration at Revere’s performance at the Cow Shed stage. Singer Stephen Ellis is wrapped up warm in a tightly-buttoned black tunic, and virtually overheats as the set progresses, attacking his lyrics like they were mortal enemies; the string duo of cello and violin add a touch of glamour and depth to the epic tunes – and was that a Mumford up on stage just then? Ellis challenges the audience to respond, clambering onto the barrier and exhorting for all he is worth, and he is rewarded with rapture. The show ends with a note of genuine violence as Ellis smashes his guitar onto the pianist’s keyboard, which goes crashing to the ground – there’s a flash of enmity, then suddenly the stage is empty. If there were medals for intensity, Revere deserve to win gold.

Sunday dawned with the traditional downpour, yet it cleared bright just in time for Lips Choir. A west London group of singing women with no audition policy, this was the perfect Sabbath performance – as spiritual as any denominational service occurring simultaneously up and down the country, with the worship of pop music, rather than God, at its heart. Later there was a dog show, the second run of Standon’s own Olympics, and the highlight of my own weekend, and what put the whole event into perspective: an interview with Hon. Alexander Thomas Trenchard. Should any of our readers be unaware, Standon Calling is held within Standon Lordship, the family seat of 3rd Viscount Hugh Trenchard. Alex is his son and was jailed for 10 months on 3rd February 2011 for defrauding his employer, Tesco, out of £355,000. His parents repaid the money.

Alex expanded upon the story: the 2008 Standon Calling lost money, and he had no other way of paying the most pressing bill – that of security – than by using his company credit card. Several bills proceeded in the same manner, until a full 2 years and countless sleepless nights later, Tesco deigned to check their statements. This was the point Alex was asked to clear his desk, charged with fraud, and sentenced to 30 months at Her Majesty’s pleasure at Milton Keynes jail. After a brief and loving relationship with cellmate Paddy (it cumulated in a clinch summarised by Alex as “a combination of a Judo bout and a Scissor Sisters gig”), Standon Calling 2012 sees the return of the man who conceived the event as a barbeque for friends back in 2001, paying the ultimate price for his ambition. Your intrepid correspondent asked why it took Tesco 2 years to realise what was going on (“They trusted me, and I abused that trust”) – and whether the global grocer offered a plea-bargain event sponsorship deal so he could avoid jail (“I don’t think that would have worked”).

Such sentiment explains everything: the free use of the pool, the superb efforts of those in fancy dress, the willingness of so many to give so much of themselves just to prove that Standon is not simply the pipe dream of one privileged boy, that it can wash its face financially, and come back just as strongly after the ultimate setback. As Alex says, Standon has found its niche, and long may that niche prosper.

The Skints bring their UK street reggae along for a welcome chilled out mid-afternoon skank… Sunday night crescendos with the appearance of Fat Freddy’s Drop. The presence of musicians that have travelled from the opposite side of the globe is testament to the power of music to bring every disparate strand of society together – and the crowd make their appreciation heard.

FFD are essentially a funky vehicle for their brass trio to show off their chops, and that brass trio is essentially a vehicle for Hopepa the infamous bone man – the tracksuited, paunchy trombonist whose impossibly fluid frame skips across the stage, grinding and parping such that the cold reaches of the cosmos can feel his “rambunctious carry-on”. His is the culmination of a decade of hope, and when we pack up and head north in the cold reality of morning, Hopepa is the man who carries our dreams with him.

There is nothing like Standon Calling. It has its quirks, it has its foibles, it has a dedicated following of fans, and it has a deeply passionate team at its heart. I came for one headliner, but I will return in tribute to the place, the people, and the music. Standon on the shoulders of giants, indeed.

 

Deer Shed Festival 2012 Review (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 1st August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

If required to choose three bands to invite to the apocryphal desert island for a night’s entertainment, one would be hard pressed to come up with a bill more satisfying than Moody Gowns, Janice Graham Band and Dutch Uncles. It is with a heavy heart, then, that I report that that superb line-up is exactly what I missed on Friday night at this year’s Deer Shed festival. Due to a combination of not being able to cut work early, having to perform a new tent’s virgin erection, and putting a little one to sleep in the big outdoors for the first time, the fantasy triumvirate was heard somewhat faintly from distance, and then only with the wavering consent of a fickle breeze.

When the dewy arena was finally breached, Saint Etienne were halfway through their headline set. Sadly, what sounded like a 120dB piledriver interrupted several songs, clearly deafening Sarah Cracknell and dampening what should have been a pillowy ride of joyous gossamer pop. However, no sooner had the main stage shut for the night, then a motley crew of folky songsters took up residence at the back of the ale tent, and kept everyone dancing in a happy, beery fug for until the wee small hours. Local brewers Daleside had come up with a signature Deer Shed ale; a fine drop which by rights required several tastings to reveal its true complexity of flavour. Fuelled by this and several sets of quality Celtic-tinged folk, the tent was still buzzing as TGTF meandered tentwards way past bedtime.

A quick word about the camping areas: in comparison to more populous events, Deer Shed has more camping space than campers, meaning that pretty much everyone gets to rent their own decent plot of prime grassy real estate for the weekend. I saw no cramped camping, except for those groups who chose to pitch together of free will. There were just about enough portaloos, and they were kept clean all weekend; no into-the-pit-of-Hades bravery required. Most campers were respectful of the need for quiet in the family camping, except for one group of morons who insisted on playing terrible songs on an out-of-tune acoustic guitar in the early hours of Sunday morning. Note to them: we’re here to hear professional, world-class musicians. Nobody wants to hear your sad, honking version of ‘Sonnet’ at 1am, you antisocial pricks. Family camping is for families, which implies children and parents getting some much-needed sleep. Children without their parents, like yourselves, should pitch up in regular camping, where your behaviour might be slightly more tolerated. /rant.

Saturday morning dawned with blazing sunshine, the like of which hadn’t been seen all year, adding to the discernibly special atmosphere which would develop over the course of the weekend. Dominated by a vintage Ferris wheel, and looking even better in the sunshine as it had in the dusk the previous night, the arena is simply one large field with facilities dotted around the edge, and the eponymous deer shed up in one corner, behind the main stage. Such is the compact nature of the site, one is never more than 5 minutes’ walk away from any particular attraction, making long drags from one band to another a thing of the past. A stroke of scheduling genius means that as soon as a performance finishes on the main stage, another starts in the tent directly opposite, making for a pretty much continuous flow of music. Ace.

There was so much other stuff going on at Deer Shed, it hardly seems appropriate to call it a music festival: festival with music sounds more accurate. However, this is a music site, so the bands will be reviewed properly. Please note: the nature of attending a festival with kids means that their needs come first; sometimes one has to skip a much-anticipated performance if a little one needs to be fed, changed, or put to bed. If an act is missing from this review, assume that they were missed out of necessity rather than choice. That being said, there was so much on offer, one never felt short-changed. First up, Washington Irving wake everyone up with their Scottish guitar-folk – think bedmates of Admiral Fallow, or moments of Travis on a good day with flutes and big harmony moments. A mellow, widescreen set: the sound of setting sail from Tobermory under an autumn sunrise.

A quick, 1-minute nip to the In The Dock tent, and it’s Woodenbox. These guys boast a mini horn section, just the ticket to jazz up their funkily-loping, ska-jumping sound (the band themselves call it Mariachi-folk). Kicking off with the darkly immense, New Orleans-jazz-infused ‘Everyone Has Their Price’, the tent was bouncing, straight off the bat. Several pieces off their EP ‘The Vanishing Act’ later, it was clear just what a powerful act Woodenbox are. Just two performances in, and the ‘New Band Of The Festival’ award already has a strong nomination.

Via an (un)holy combination of Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent competition and Mumford’s Ben Lovett’s Communion label, we have Treetop Flyers. Whilst they are perfectly fine entertainment in a laid-on-a-sunny-blanket-with-a-pint-of-cider way, one cannot help but think they’re simply a mashup Southern Gothic tribute band – there’s Crosby, Stills and Nash in plain earshot, and indeed plenty of Young in Reid Morrison’s voice. Utterly competent stuff, and possibly the next best thing to seeing Young in person. But when you’ve been exposed to the visceral, feedbacked intensity of a guitar-breaking performance by Young himself, utterly competent doesn’t quite cut it any more.

Laki Mera are in an entirely different league of originality – their sound is both electronic and organic, vintage synths vying with acoustic instruments and the silky tones of Laura Donnelly (pictured above and at top). Comparisons can be made (Massive Attack, Cocteau Twins, Bonobo); however the band have a sound entirely their own: each piece is crafted into a proper song, and it’s simply gorgeous to listen to. Donnelly herself is an excellent frontwoman, shaking her long hair with abandon, and emoting into the middle of next week. Chilled and powerful at the same time, Laki Mera are yet more evidence of the exciting music pouring out of Scotland at the moment.

Beth Jeans Houghton took the main stage attired in a natty purple leotard, tights fresh with mud from the previous day’s show, and proceeded to romp through most of this year’s ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Noise’ released on Mute Records. Such singular material needs no introduction – indeed, no explanation is possible – suffice to say the performance was polished, if a little aloof. Perhaps familiarity has dulled Houghton’s enthusiasm for the songs, or the band are a little gigged-out, having been treading the boards for months on end now. It seems a reasonable guess that her character being as it is, BJH is far happier exploring new avenues and trying out novel material than playing the same set over and over. Such are the trials of pop stars.

Ah, Field Music. How on Earth such subtle, cerebral, detail-heavy, music can be delivered in such an exciting, danceable manner really is one of the small miracles of modern times. The band stick to the format of this spring’s ‘Plumb’ launch gigs, the opening movement of which introduces today’s set. A handful of favourites close it (‘Just Like Everyone Else’ is truly sublime live, a companion mood piece to The Beatles’ ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’). Sandwiched are a few favourites from albums gone by – ‘In Context’ jerks its way into the audience’s feet, the whole performance is warmly received, and judging by post-festival Facebook comments, Field Music deliver the set of the weekend. Weighing up the combination of perfect musicianship, strong, unique, material, and the Brewis brothers’ own easygoing manner, it’s difficult to disagree.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Martin’s experience at Deer Shed Festival, which will post tomorrow.

 

Field Music / October 2012 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 26th April 2012 at 9:00 am
 

Field Music have announced a UK tour for October. They’ve also revealed they will be releasing a compilation of covers with the tour, which should make things very interesting. Tickets are on sale now in the usual places but in an unusual place as well: on this Facebook ticket app page.

Wednesday 3th October 2012 – Aberdeen Lemon Tree
Thursday 4th October 2012 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Friday 5th October 2012 – Leeds Cockpit
Saturday 6th October 2012 – Liverpool Kazimier
Wednesday 10th October 2012 – Southampton Cellars
Thursday 11th October 2012 – Cardiff clwb Ifor Bach
Friday 12th October 2012 – Wolverhampton Slade Rooms
Saturday 13th October 2012 – Leicester Sumo
Wednesday 17th October 2012 – London Electric Ballroom
Thursday 18th October 2012 – Brighton Haunt
Friday 19th October 2012 – Bath Komedia
Saturday 20th October 2012 – Coventry Warwick Arts Centre

 
 
 

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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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