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Top Albums of 2011: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Tuesday, 20th December 2011 at 1:00 pm
 

As we get ready to bid adieu to another year of fantastic music, your faithful editor has made a list and checked it twice to choose what she considers the best of the year. Agree? Disagree? As always on here on TGTF, comments are welcome.

1. Noah and the Whale – ‘Last Night on Earth’ (Mercury) – With all the bad news about the economy in our faces each day and scandals rocking public institutions and public figures, we could really use something that can lift our cynical spirits. The third album from Noah and the Whale was unfairly maligned by critics bemoaning that they sound “too American” on this effort; what’s more important to me is the strength of the songwriting on this outing compared to their previous sombre material.

Not only is Charlie Fink happy, his writing is so grand it could finally bring Noah and the Whale into the big time. The most emotional moment is proffered in ‘Waiting for My Chance to Come’: “when you’re walking next to me / I can feel my body speak”. While the song title appears in the tune ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.’, the defining lyric of the album is in here as well: “what you don’t have now will come back again / you’ve got heart and you’ll go in your own way”. In March, I stated this “will be 2011?s most optimistic, inspiring, life-affirming album” and months later, I still feel strongly about this album. Read my review here.

2. Lykke Li – ‘Wounded Rhymes’ (LL) – If you were expecting more of the same from Lykke Li based on her debut ‘Youth Novels’ (1 part strange ‘folk’ music, 1 part infectious dance), you’re sorely mistaken. Instead though, the Swedish songstress pushed new boundaries with her new partner in crime, Peter Bjorn and John’s Bjorn Yttling, and showed her songwriting abilities go far beyond a forgettable pop song. Maturity suits her, and even if she herself doesn’t like her fans being fixated on her in rapt attention at her concerts instead of dancing like they just don’t care, there’s no denying that her heartbreak makes for good song. Read my review here.

3. Young Rebel Set – ‘Curse Our Love’ (EMI) – Paul Lester damned this band with faint praise in this New Band of the Day feature in 2009 and I hope he ate his words upon listening to the band’s debut album on EMI. Singalong choruses in rock have become somewhat of a cliché in these Coldplay days but I like what these guys from Stockton-on-Tees are doing: a little bit of folk on rock. Sounds like what Noah and the Whale used to do, doesn’t it? ‘Walk On’ and ‘Fall Hard’ are ready made festival winners, and ‘If I Was’ is probably the prettiest love song you haven’t heard yet. If only the Brits took to them as much as the Germans already have…

4. Patrick Wolf – ‘Lupercalia’ (Hideout) – Multi-instrumentalist Patrick Apps presented himself to the world in 2003 with ‘Lycanthropy’, filled with teenage angst. This was followed by ominous autumnal musings in 2005’s ‘Wind in the Wires’, freewheeling happiness in 2007’s ‘The Magic Position’, and “stick it to the man” ‘The Bachelor’ of 2009. This year’s album is a celebration, literally (Wolf drew from on an old Roman holiday designed to avert evil spirits and for purification for his thematic inspiration) and absent is the brooding, pensive Patrick, a mode he knows well. But who cares? The man is in love, the songwriting is top notch and this is an album you can listen to again and again. Read my review here.

5. The Whip – ‘Wired Together’ (Southern Fried) – As the year went on, I was getting really worried that there wouldn’t be a dance album in 2011 to truly stir my restless soul, to make me feel alive again. Trust Manchester to come through with a corker: the Whip’s ‘Wired Together’ ticked all the boxes. ‘Shake’ is an in your face, dirty dancing delight. It starts slow and cool before you are compelled to put your hands in the air and you start seeing the coloured lights. Read my review here.

Under the cut: albums that almost made the top 5…as well as some albums that disappointed.
Continue reading Top Albums of 2011: Editor’s Picks

 

Video of the Moment #647: Noah and the Whale

 
By on Monday, 5th December 2011 at 6:00 pm
 

Noah and the Whale‘s new video for ‘Give It All Back’ was directed by principal songwriter / frontman Charlie Fink and is an alternate history of the band, if they started at about age 10. It’s a great song, so even if you don’t like the video, I encourage you to load it and play it in the background.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yod4AbnZ7Bk[/youtube]

 

Leeds 2011: Day 2 (John’s Roundup)

 
By on Wednesday, 7th September 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Five minutes of rain was all the heavens had in store for us on Saturday at Leeds. On a day which promised to be the heaviest of the weekend, with acts like Bring Me the Horizon, Rise Against and headliners My Chemical Romance gracing the main stage, the weather held off and it was primarily dry.

To kick off the day of music were the Blackout, who brought by far the Welshest set of the weekend. ‘STFUppercut’ was loud and hit with the ferocity of a festival goer with a full bladder running to the loo. ‘Children of the Night’, which in my humblest of opinions is their most solid track, sounded weak and laboured, no matter how much front men Sean Smith and Gavin Butler bounced about the stage.

New Found Glory were up next and found themselves in a familiar position to last time they played in 2009 where they were 3rd on the main stage once before. They opened with easily their best offering ‘All Downhill From Here’ and well… It really was. Nobody was expecting a set full of hits, because the band doesn’t have any. ‘My Friend’s Over You’ simply sounded like the whines of an unwanted child and the rest of the set just isn’t worth explaining. Poor throughout. As expected.

The failure of the Main Stage bands to whet my appetite led me to fresher pastures. My first port of call was the Festival Republic stage, where acts like Franz Ferdinand have cut their teeth and gone on to headline. A band familiar to TGTF were next up; they played 2nd on the bill on TGTF’s stage at Brighton’s Great Escape this year. Foster the People are currently riding on the crest of a wave with their hit single ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ that has been played to death on Radio 1. This has done them a world of good though, because as with all hotly-tipped acts on the stage the tent was bursting to the brim. For good reason, these boys were fantastic and thoroughly deserve all the plaudits being given to them by the press at the moment. Even with the briskly cold weather Foster the People managed to create a ray of sunshine in the tent.

Back to the Main Stage I ventured then. Up next was punk rockers Rise Against, who immediately came out with a mission, it was going to be mosh pit central and I don’t think we had a choice about it. To go from Foster the People to Rise Against was a bit of a culture shock, but festivals are about diversity in music and I think there can be few similarities seen between these acts. Rise Against’s set was frantic, with guitars roaring above the wind, with ‘Savior’ sounded positively epic in the Main Stage’s surroundings and ‘Prayer Of The Refugee’ had the entire crowd singing along.

Booze by this point was taking its toll on my body and my decision making capabilities, so it was to no surprise that I was convinced by my fellow festivalers that going to the Dance tent for some sweaty raving was a fantastic idea. Nero were playing a DJ set and with hits like ‘Promises’ and ‘Guilt’, they were going down an absolute storm in the confines of what the day before was the Lock Up Stage. It was the set afterwards that really, excuse the cliché, blew the roof off though. ‘Sub-Focus’ took the crowd in the palm of their hand and easily had people skanking to their will. The beats were infectious, dirty and the perfect mix for a bunch of booze infused teenagers with 90% attempting to pull.

With a quick dash/stumble across the site to the NME stage I was able to catch the spectacle that is Noah and the Whale. The nu-folk dealio had been done last year with Mumford and Sons, but while nobody can fully excuse Noah from being mainstream there was by far a more eclectic crowd gathered than for the heaving mob created by Marcus Mumford and co. The tracks from their new record didn’t seem forced upon the crowd: the masses received them with joy and while movement was low, the joy amongst the fans was apparent to all. They are a band on top of their game at the moment, playing beautiful music to fans who adore them.

Up next were gloom rockers White Lies. Opener ‘Farewell to the Fairground’s’ trademark drums got the people in the tent excited, and for good reason, as this was surely to be one of the sets of the festival so far. White Lies didn’t fail to disappoint; Harry McVeigh’s voice resonated among the punters with an eerie gloom, while the bass roared to life in the background. Set closer ‘Bigger Than Us’ for sure has to be nominated for the loudest song of the festival award, as I was surprised the people at Reading couldn’t hear the drum beat blasting along.

Headlining the evening was My Chemical Romance, another band with a troubled Reading and Leeds history. MCR were bottled off during their last visit to the Reading site in 2006 and vowed that they would never return to the festival unless they were headlining. Five years later and the emo pin-up boys had done it. They were headlining the Main Stage and wow, you could tell they loved it.
‘Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)’ was greeted to roars from the crowd, as Gerard Way patrolled around the stage akin to a general directing his troops. The energy was frantic during the opener; you could tell the boys on stage were playing like their lives depended on it. It was paying off though; naysayers and MCR skeptics all about the Main Stage crowd surely were having their heads turn by the display of blasé rock ‘n’ roll on show in front of them.

If that wasn’t enough they followed it up with their now classic ‘I’m Not OK (I Promise),’ fists were already pumping all around the crowd, flares being lit left right and centre. The band powered through a set with all the hits and songs from their newest record, with the highlights including the glorious sing-along that is ‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W’ and a ferocious rendition of ‘Famous Last Words’. To finish the set though there could only be one song. The anthem that saw them loved my millions, yet tarnished by the brand of a suicide cult. ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ was everything it was meant to be though that night, a triumphant call to arms, awry with guitar solo’s that Queen would be proud off. A successful set then for MCR, one which can leave few doubting that this band deserves to headline bills like this.

 

MP3 of the Day #369: Noah and the Whale

 
By on Monday, 1st August 2011 at 10:00 am
 

Noah and the Whale‘s track ‘Life is Life’ has been remixed by French club / electronica producer Yuksek. That sounds wrong on so many levels. Oddly, he’s turned it almost disco and it sounds great…? Listen to it and download it below.

 

Live Review: Noah and the Whale with Bahamas at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 17th June 2011

 
By on Monday, 20th June 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

In one of the most unexpected moves of the year, London’s Noah and the Whale put an album in 2011 that made some people scratch their heads. They went mainstream pop. With synths! (You can read more about ‘Last Night on Earth’ at my review here.) Even if you’ve seen this band in the past, I can promise you you’ve never seen Noah and the Whale like this. Trust me. And I am so glad I dragged my weary body to their late show at the 9:30 last Friday. (Late show, because Marina and the Diamonds headlined an earlier show at the club and I’d already had my fill of Marina going to see her there last year with Mary Beth.)

The opener was Toronto-based Bahamas, which seems like a strange name for a Canadian singer/songwriter whose material isn’t tropical at all. Turns out Afie Jurvanen is a great folk pop singer, with songs that skirt rockabilly and throwback ’60s (think Roy Orbison on tracks like ‘Ok, Alright, I’m Alive’). The man’s voice is warm, he plays a mean guitar and he sports a quiff that Morrissey would approve of. Playing to underage girls is probably not what he expected when coming to Washington the first time, but he was able to win them over: a pretty good feat in itself. With drummer Jason Tait and two female backing vocalists, he showed the crowd he knows how to write emotional songs as well as ones designed to get people dancing.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for Noah and the Whale’s set. The only other time they’ve played in DC was 2009 at the Black Cat, in front of mostly teenagers and their dates. (Sensing a theme here?) And that was a decidedly lo-fi experience. Fast forward 2 years in time and you’ve got the blazingly bright, loud and energetic Noah and the Whale live experience. As last time, I’m pretty sure I was one of the oldest people in attendance. While the girl next to my left didn’t know any of the songs (err…why are you down the front?), the girls to my mate’s right were squealing and singing along the whole time.

Which is the right reaction, because NATW have hit the big-time. Really. Their new stage show is more designed for festival stages and stadiums, which is not something you would have thought of back in the ‘Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down’ days. ‘Give a Little Love’, which sounds pensive on record, became a guitar grinding behemoth as the set opener. Sweeping songs like ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Love of an Orchestra’ work well with this treatment, as the music swelled and filled every corner of the club.

And something else: Charlie Fink is noticeably happier and more confident than he’s ever been, with witty banter announcing the “romantic part” (‘My Door Is Always Open’, ‘Wild Thing’) and “party portion” of the evening (‘Rocks and Daggers’, ‘Shape of My Heart’, ‘5 Years Time’, ‘Tonight’s the Kind of Night’). Seeing them play so assertively and with so much raw power, the sky’s the limit for these guys. Just goes to show what a little pop magic can do.

After the cut: more photos and set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Noah and the Whale with Bahamas at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 17th June 2011

 

MP3 of the Day #350: Noah and the Whale

 
By on Tuesday, 7th June 2011 at 10:00 am
 

Have a listen to RAC‘s remix of this Noah and the Whale song. This version of ‘Tonight’s the Kind of Night’ is even more poppy than the original, if that’s possible. Listen and download it below.

Noah and the Whale hit the road in October in the UK – details here.

 
 
 

About Us

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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