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Album Review: Various artists – Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014

 
By on Monday, 14th April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Fierce Panda Records may be famously noted by pedants of the British music business as being the label that launched the careers of Coldplay and Keane, but if that was all to the label, it wouldn’t be still standing. It’s hard for me to fathom that here we are in the year 2014, and Fierce Panda has been in business for 2 decades. The London indie label has championed the little guy and released so much great music in the last 20 years, it would take me far too long to go through their storied history than there is space on our humble Web site. Instead, I’m going to focus on a new 18-track compilation the label is offering up for free with any record purchase from their online shop.

The LP’s title ‘Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014’ is innocuous enough, not at all telling of its contents when, in fact, it is a careful selection of, oddly, the saddest songs from their back catalogue of the last 10 years. I say oddly, because celebrating and (surviving) 20 years in anything these days is cause for celebration, surely? However, despite being advertised by the label themselves as “some of the weepiest tunes it has had the tragic pleasure to put out over the past ten years”, you should be more impressed by the quality of the music not to slit your wrists. Hopefully, anyway. Maybe the whole ‘sad song’ is meant to be cheeky, now that I think about it.

‘Endangered’ does not rely solely on sob story, folky singer/songwriter types and in so doing, shows the breadth of Fierce Panda’s roster. But let’s first examine the more obvious sad songs. Danish girl/boy duo The Raveonettes‘ ‘Last Dance’ is innocent and twee, and Canadians Woodpigeon‘s ‘The Saddest Music in the World’ that opens the album is similar, but with added Simon and Garfunkel influence. Los Angeles quintet Milo Greene‘s harmonies shine on the Biblical leaning ‘Son My Son’, while the voice and songwriting of Tom Hickox, already being compared to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave’s, haunts with desolation on ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’, with sombre piano and then added strings and horns.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLGd50B16Ck[/youtube]

The more bombastic numbers in this collection include the now-on-hiatus Walkmen and their optimistic (or delusional?) ‘In the New Year’, the slow burning Acres of Lions‘ ‘Collections’, Hatcham Social‘s rich guitars in ‘Sidewalk’ and Dingus Khan‘s whistle-filled ‘Made a List’; the latter’s inclusion in particular surprised me, but it just goes to show that even if you’re looking rough and tumble on the outside, you can still feel sadness inside. The sonic beauty of Ultrasound‘s ‘Sovereign’ is marred, presumably on purpose, by the repetition of the lyric “we are unclean” and the business of sex and sin, all wailed by singer Andrew “Tiny” Wood. The same can be said for tracks that include synths or twinkly keys: ‘They All Laughed’ by the Spinto Band sounds cheerful in a music box sort of way but it veils, not very well, the disgust he has for a former love, while the psychedelic feelings that Hey Sholay‘s ‘The Bears The Clocks The Bees’ engenders are appropriate for a song about confusion in a relationship.

It should also noted that sadness can also come out of mind games, craving someone else or the deepest regret. The industrial Nine Inch Nail-sey sound of Department M‘s ‘J-Hop’ (stream above) comes with the element of desire with its sensual lyrics, “we ply / by the logic of the reasoned minds / and one last time I’ll come to your body / what do you need?” The genius behind Art Brut‘s ‘Rusted Guns of Milan’ is Eddie Argos’ admittance, in his usual funny way, that he’s messed up in a relationship and he wants a second chance. Meanwhile, a similar request for a second chance is captured in a brilliant snapshot in ‘Last Decade’ by Goldheart Assembly (video below), showing a man’s final moments, first desperate to reconcile with a lover but then resigning to his fate: “but you know I’d go back, but there is no way…” I Like Trains‘ ‘A Rook House for Bobby’ I’m guessing is named for chess champion and famed recluse Bobby Fischer, using his hermit existence as a metaphor for how love can cause depression. The self-deprecation and admittance of weakness in the little girl voice of Melanie Pain in ‘How Bad Can It Be’ is, no pun intended, painful: “everyone knows I won’t change / everyone knows love is not my game / everyone know who I am / everyone but you.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE667lCVBDA[/youtube]

Additional Panda melancholy comes courtesy of Sheffield in the form of two exemplary tracks. A man’s exasperation over his lover’s worry about losing him is made all too real in Tom Hogg’s expressive vocals with his bandmates’ gorgeously crooning backing in ‘Would You Be Blue’ by the Hosts (stream below) from this year’s debut album from them, ‘Softly, Softly’. Meanwhile, the loneliness of the protagonist of The Crookes ‘Howl’ from ‘Soapbox’ released today is haunted by the memory of another’s love, as George Waite’s voice is alternately dreamy and contemplative in the romance of song-induced candlelight: “and there’s no time, only light / no clocks, but shadows that hide the point when day becomes night / it’s hard to tell with these skies… I heard the howl, I love you but you keep me down.”

I think those two songs tell the ‘sad song story’ of Fierce Panda’s last 10 years the best, and why? Sad songs, like love songs, are often misunderstood. Emotions like sadness, loneliness and indeed, even love are like jewels. Whether they mean to or not, the people who gloss over emotion don’t seem to understand that they aren’t one-dimensional but instead multi-faceted, with dull and lifeless versus bright and sharp faces and something new to discover upon each listen. As a collection of the ‘sad song’ genre, ‘Endangered’ is a great introduction to the many wonderful artists on the Fierce Panda roster, and I can’t imagine you won’t find at least one song that will make you feel something deep in your heart.

7.5/10

You can get ‘Endangered: Fierce Panda 2004-2014’ now for free if you order any album from the Fierce Panda online shop here. For more information on the bands signed to Fierce Panda, those included in this collection and those not, visit the label’s official Web site. For a limited time, you can get another eight-track song sampler (not all sad songs!); more details in this previous MP3(s) of the Day post.

 

MP3 of the Day #771: Hey Sholay

 
By on Thursday, 1st August 2013 at 10:00 am
 

Hey Sholay have never been a band to follow anyone else. Take a look at the latest from them: they’re releasing their latest EP ‘Cloud, Castle, ____?’ on a limited edition NOS 8-track tape. In June they releasedthe EP on limited edition heavyweight orange vinyl and via digital download.

To celebrate this new format release, they’re giving away track 2, ‘If that big old fat yellow thing in the sky was to burn out I would grab you by the hand and float off into orbit (a song for robert wyatt)’ (yes, that’s all in lowercased letters and it’s driving me crazy). The download is only available this month of August, so if you want it, get cracking below.

 

Live Review: Fierce Panda 19th Birthday Slamdown starring the Crookes with Hey Sholay and the Heartbreaks at London Scala – 21st May 2013

 
By on Monday, 3rd June 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

Header and black and white photos by Lennon Gregory; colour photos by Mary Chang

It may be hard to fathom, but Fierce Panda Records is getting close to celebrating a full 2 decades in the London indie label business. From its humble beginnings written on a cocktail napkin during a drunken night out, it wasn’t long before Fierce Panda founder Simon Williams spotted promise in one of its earliest acts, a then-unknown band called Coldplay, going on to put out the band’s debut single ‘Brothers and Sisters’ in 1999. And we all know what happened to Coldplay…

In the last couple of years, the Panda have had a renaissance of sorts, putting out sought-after releases by bands such as Goldheart Assembly brilliant debut ‘Wolves and Thieves’ (this editor is waiting with baited breath for the highly anticipated follow-up album) and American folkies Milo Greene. Not to mention releases from the three acts that graced the stage this particular Tuesday night the 21st of May at the Scala: the Crookes, anticipatorily celebrating the release of their double-A-sided single ‘Bear’s Blood’ / ‘Dance in Colour’ the following Monday, supported by their mates Hey Sholay and the Heartbreaks.

The Scala from the outside looks rather boring from its corner location on Pentonville Road, just down the road from Kings Cross Station. Capacity-wise, I was surprised to learn that it fits just about the same amount of people as our 9:30 Club (1,145 vs. 1,200); I was sure with all the walking I did during the day up, down and around the place, working hard on some TGTF exclusives with our friends from Sound Influx, that it had to be far larger. (Good thing I brought trainers.) What’s a little unsettling about the place, especially to a small-town girl like me, is the fact that when the place is empty, no matter where you’re stood, you can hear the sound of trains running directly below the building. I was assured by the lovely Suzanne at the box office that after a while, “I’ve worked here so long, you get used to it”. Once you go through the foyer and up the worn stairs into the place, the old-fashioned tiling, preserved from back in the days when it was used as a cinema from the ’20s to the ’70s, along with its grand stairwells and labyrinthine corridors, give you the feeling that this isn’t just any club in London, it is a place in time, to be savoured and remembered.

Once we’d finished filming, I went outside to meet friends and join the queue. I have a feeling I was stood in the queue ahead of a band member’s parents but I was just too shy to say anything, so their identities will remain a mystery. Once inside, my friends and I proceeded to take our places down the front, where I was surprised to hear from all the chit chat around me that I’m pretty sure I was the only person there yet whose first language was English; German, Japanese and Russian girls’ voices fought with each other in a din that was entirely unfamiliar to me. It just goes to show how dedicated the Crookes’ fans are, and that travelling from no matter how far wasn’t an issue to them to support their favourite band at their biggest show in London, ever.

Hey Sholay London Scala Lennon Gregory live

Sheffield / Leeds artist / musician collective Hey Sholay burst onstage as the first band of the night. The singer’s main gimmick was to get audience members to shout “Sholay!” whenever he decided to shout at us, “hey!” This worked to a pretty good extent and was more entertaining and crowd-involving than I guessed. The song of theirs I’m most familiar is ‘Burning’, which got a huge amount of airplay on 6music last year; its frantic percussion and piano notes with their singer’s emphatic vocals were something you couldn’t really escape, and why would you want to? Rhythmically, it’s very fun to dance to, and the punters were really up for their blend of pop / rock.

The Heartbreaks London Scala Lennon Gregory live

A couple hours earlier, upon meeting them for the first time, The Heartbreaks won me over by being super nice chaps. Being from Morecambe in Lancashire, I was expecting warm Northern hospitality from them, but I was bowled over by the double kisses and hugs I received when I came round to introduce myself and our film crew. What a welcome. I’d never have guessed they were the sweethearts they are in person if I’d only ever seen them perform live, as they’re very serious onstage. They began with ‘Funtimes’ track ‘Save Our Souls’; they had me at the line, “we can walk in the settings of our favourite Smiths song”. Sigh. Despite the lyric it’s a very upbeat song and confirmed to me further that there probably couldn’t be a better band complement to the Crookes than the Heartbreaks.

In our chat earlier, they promised to preview a whole load of new songs, and they came through on their promise. One of the most beautiful moments of the night was courtesy of one of these, ‘Fair Stood the Wind’, with singer Matthew Whitehouse accompanied simply by Ryan Wallace’s notes on a guitar. (Watch the video under the set list.) While they didn’t play their monster hit ‘Delay, Delay’ (to be honest, I was shocked by this, I was sure it was going to be included), they instead finished off their set with a version of ‘I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You’ that was simply on par with perfection. It may have just been 3 days prior that John and I were in Brighton for the Great Escape, but the Heartbreaks brought the sunshine to London the way that only a band from a seaside town can.

Save Our Souls
Absolved
Bittersweet
Robert Jordan
Liar, My Dear
Fair Stood the Wind
Hey Hey Lover
I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg6RkYGHAek[/youtube]

I’ve heard unusual walk-on music in the years I’ve been covering shows. In April 2010, Vampire Weekend surprised everyone when they walked on to DJ Kool’s ‘Let Me Clear My Throat’ at Constitution Hall. The Crookes‘ choice for the Scala seemed equally out of left field: ‘You Give a Little Love’, from the ’70s kids’ film Bugsy Malone. To most people in the venue, they were probably thinking, why did they pick something from a gangster film? Besides my hypothesis for them choosing it for someone who proved very important to them early on their career, the lines “we could’ve been anything that we wanted to be / yes, that decision is ours / it’s been decided, we’re weaker divided” neatly echo the premise of ‘Hold Fast’: friends sticking together against all odds, towards one common goal, making it. So it’s rather appropriate when they did get to the moment of the night when they played the title track off their searing second album, all decorum went out the window in favour of a manically energetic delivery of the song that I could had ever imagined.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXkj-c3NUEo[/youtube]

The Crookes Scala Lennon Gregory 1

The show at the Shakespeare pub 2 nights prior proved to be a nice warm-up to the Scala gig, as the set list began very much like the one in Sheffield. ‘Bear’s Blood’ wowed from the start, proving it’s got the firepower to begin a Crookes show with the right attitude: hard rocking and full of swagger. You couldn’t not have a good time going on from here. When it came time for *that* song (the single released on my birthday last year, I’d like to note), singer / bassist George Waite asked if there were any American girls in the audience. Your fearless editor naturally tried to speak up, but I was drowned out. rather hilariously I might add, by a large bloke who refused to be ignored. George, squinting to see this heckler, complained, “but you have a beard! We’ll talk later.” Laughter ensued.

The Crookes London Scala live 2

Another song that sounded huge to me on this night, more so than on previous occasions, was ‘Sofie’. Somehow I’d forgotten what a stompathon the chorus becomes with the repeated “I’m thinking of you, I’m thinking of you, Sofie, it’s you!” combined with the romantic softness of lines like “promise me you’ll try and stay happy, and I’ll promise you that I’ll do the same” and “I’ve never been one for a cliche, but I want to dance with you in the rain”, the latter of which that conjures up that rain scene in Say Anything. With the harder rock edge practically assured by ‘Bear’s Blood’ and ‘Dance in Colour’ (TGTF exclusive video from this gig here), the only thing I wish for on the Crookes’ third album is that this juxtaposition of brilliant sounding rock ‘n’ roll and carefully considered lyrics is preserved. One can hope!

The Crookes Scala Lennon Gregory 2

In Sheffield, there was no encore. So it was not only a special treat to be gifted with an encore in London, and even better, with songs I didn’t think I’d hear live. Ever. When I saw the Crookes in Austin, I thought it was worth a try to ask if I could make requests, to which George regretfully replied, “sorry Mary, it’s (the set list) already gone off to the printer’s”. When the band left the stage prior to the encore, I was surprised to see George coming back out, alone, putting on a guitar instead of his usual bass. Hmmm, what’s going on here, then? Under a single spotlight and amid fans’ cheers and one person’s wolf whistle (which made him laugh, bless), he broke into an absolutely beautiful rendition of ‘The I Love You Bridge’. (The song is based on the real-life graffiti proposal currently immortalised on a bridge in Park Hill in Sheffield.)

The Crookes London Scala live 1

The other shocker was the playing of ‘Honey’, the b-side to first ‘Hold Fast’ single ‘Afterglow’. I don’t think enough people know about this song; percussion-wise, it’s super punishing, I’m wondering how drummer Russell Bates manages not to come off stage without bloody hands from it. And it contains the immortal line, “I’d rip out my pages out to be somebody else”. What a brilliant lyric and rather appropriate for lads that met in the English lit course at the University of Sheffield. Keep your eyes on TGTF in the coming days because yes, we have video of the encore. (Sorry, I just had to throw that teaser in for you!)

The Crookes London Scala live 3

I have it on good authority from Kelly Johnston of our friends at UK music webzine UnderSong (who I’d invited to come along because she didn’t know anything about the Crookes, and she enjoyed the gig very much, I might add!) that some of the younger girls were overwhelmed by the spectacle of seeing the Sheffield band live, crying upon seeing their idols gig, practically unable to cope. While I wasn’t bawling by the end of this wonderful show, I can say that I will always keep the incredible memories of seeing the Crookes and their friends play this show, representing a huge step up in their career, close to my heart.

Bear’s Blood
Maybe in the Dark
Chorus of Fools
Just Like Dreamers
American Girls
Sal Paradise
Bloodshot Days
Sofie
Hold Fast
Dance in Colour
Afterglow
Where Did Our Love Go?
Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians
//
The I Love You Bridge (George Waite solo)
Backstreet Lovers
Honey

 

Video of the Moment #1210: Hey Sholay

 
By on Tuesday, 21st May 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

Hey Sholay are playing the Fierce Panda 19th birthday party this very night, alongside their mates the Crookes and the Heartbreaks. They’ve got a lovely new video for new single ‘WDYRWMTB’, which will be out as part of the ‘Cloud, Castle, _______’ EP, to be released on the 3rd of June. The video is…well, watch it. You’ll see.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkvfhE_UB54[/youtube]

 

Live Gig Video: Hey Sholay organise a collection of 2012 photos, soundtracked by ‘Go Easy Tiger’

 
By on Friday, 4th January 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

Hey Sholay have done something interesting with a collection of photos taken of themselves in 2012; one of their mates put these all together in a moving picture-kind of way and set the whole thing to the band’s song ‘Go Easy Tiger’. It’s very cool-looking, and don’t forget the song either! Watch it all below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbXb7fviU9U[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1041: Hey Sholay

 
By on Friday, 16th November 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

I meant for us to write about Hey Sholay a long time ago but then after Lammo started playing them a lot on his 6music show, I didn’t think they needed that much more coverage (::grin::). Here is their video for ‘Dreamboat’, a single released this past Monday (12 November) on Fierce Panda; I figured it was worth posting as the band thought they’d lost the video, but they’ve just found it down the back of someone’s sofa. Haha.

Hey SHolay’s debut album ‘((O))’ is out now.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_x6sKv9Pf4[/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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