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Album Review: Various artists from Barnsley – Pareidolia EP

By on Wednesday, 10th July 2013 at 12:00 pm

On my last trip to Britain, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend more time in the North than I usually do, having spent glorious days in Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh (I know, both are in Scotland, not really the North, but that’s close enough for an American like me!), Newcastle and Sheffield. I can’t help it. There is something about the North, something nonspecific that I can’t put my finger on it, that gives me this wonderful feeling inside. And the most heartwarming thing that can happen to you while you’re travelling – or I suppose after the fact, which where this story is going – is the feeling of belonging, of being welcomed into a community that you previously felt like an outsider to.

I can only assume that my recent coverage of shows in and bands from the North is the reason why I am constantly receiving the kindest invites to gigs in Northern towns; sorry folks, but at least for the time being, this editor is stuck stateside and can only look at these invitations with extreme envy. (All legitimate Northern job offers will be gratefully considered…) Further, I have made a similar assumption that my receipt of an EP sampler being put out next Monday by South Yorkshire indie label Of National Importance had to do with my recent but brief first visit to Sheffield. Considering I was only in good ol’ Sheff for a grand total of 24 hours, I consider this a pretty cool turn of events.

Pareidolia coverThis oddly titled EP, ‘Pareidolia’ (defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features”), is, interestingly enough, a collection of tunes all from bands that hail from Barnsley, which I gather is in the northwest corner of the country, just north of Sheffield. Because each of the six tracks are from a different band, I didn’t think it was fair to give the overall EP a rating, so each song will get a rating as if they were individual singles.

The collection begins with a song by the Black Lamps called ‘Low Hanging Fruit’. This might be fruit you aren’t interested in. The sparse, angelic soundscape that begins the song quickly turns into a catchy indie pop affair even before the vocals begin. To be fair, I think the instrumentation might just be the best part of the song, with hooky guitar and percussive flourishes. I say this because I can’t get behind the lead vocals. Err… “I’m kitchen sink / I’m Cote d’azur / surrounded, confounded by lust / and spoonfuls of hand me down dust” – huh? And forced rhymes: don’t do it. Also, “I’m wet dog smell”? I think I missed something. (6/10)

Next up is ‘Suddenly I’m Outside Myself’ by Aztec Doll, a duo fronted by sultry singer Roxanna Mitchell. Goth post-punk your thing? (The title alone should have been a dead giveaway on the genre here.) Are Savages too heavy-handed for your liking? The act makes it no secret their primary influences – the Cure, PJ Harvey, Siouxsie and the Banshees – so if you like those bands and appreciate a dark sparseness, I think you’re going to like this one. Further, lyrically lonerism at its finest: ” I wonder what all the shame is really worth / suddenly I’m outside myself feeling like I don’t exist no more”. (8/10)

Hmmm. How to describe McCarthy Vigil? It’s probably the hardest to do of the artists on this sampler. Less in your face than most of the other entries, there’s a kind of Villagers-type preciousness, with obvious good songwriting chops, but this song ‘Chinese Candle’ kind of plods along instrumentally. I like what I hear, don’t get me wrong, but I think a full album from the band might work better? (7/10)

Owl City‘s ‘Fireflies’ from 2009 kind of made electronic bleeping in intros a crime. But wait for it, ‘Crying in the Temple’ by Imoko Set (pictured at top) gets better. If you can get past any preconceived notions of songs with such additions, you will be rewarded with words like “how can I deplore you / when really I adore you / it’s a double-edged sword” and a smooth rock/pop edge with very nice hooks. Really also like the juxtaposition of the vocals, male (indie) and female (saintly, appropriate for a song called ‘Crying in the Temple’). Also, if you were wondering, the album cover was designed by their singer Jamie Briggs (nice one). (9/10)

Toba Caldera kind of freaks me out. I was as if Ian Curtis’ ghost was following me around after the first time I heard their track ‘Fade Along with Me’. Swirly guitars, intonation of vocals…you’d swear it was 1979 all over again. They named themselves after the largest volcanic eruption in the last 25 million years in Northern Sumatra, which I’m guessing my father is getting a big kick out of right now, but the track is anything but volcanic. A bit of a sleeper. Lyrically as should be expected, a bit dark in here too: “Open arms / lay down beside me / and I’ll drag you down / to where I belong / again”. (7/10)

The sampler winds down with the Exhibition‘s ‘Memento Mori’. The song title sounded familiar, and once I Googled, I remembered why: it’s Latin for ” remember that you will die”. A bit bleak, innit? Oddly (or not?), the song sounds anything but. This is restrained rock that I (dare I say it) will soundtrack those rare introspective Made in Chelsea moments in due time because it’s beautiful in its gentleness but also has its harder rock edge moments. The bleakness comes from the lyrics, which are repetitive and run from romantic “in 4 years I’ll be longing / I’m longing now” to self-loathing “in 4 years I’ll be nothing / I’m nothing now”, I only wish there was more meat on the bones. (8/10)

Good work, Of National Importance. I think by all indications this collection is proof that Barnsley is ready to be put on the musical map. Well, for something other than being the birthplace of Saxon. Stream all of the tracks from ‘Pareidolia’ from the Of National Importance’s tenth record below. The EP will be released on Monday the 15th of July in both digital and physical CD formats. Ahead of that, this coming Saturday sees the Pareidolia release party, get all the info from the label’s Facebook.


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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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