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Single Review: Passport to Stockholm – Shooting Stars

 
By on Monday, 21st November 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Passport to Stockholm comes into this autumn as a trio. Still led by Chris “Barny” Barnard and bolstered by the beats plus synths of Henri Grimes, they’ve added a guitarist simply known as “Telmo”, assured to be “really great” according to their Instagram, to complete their new lineup. Back in the spring, they released ‘Better Days’, which represented a more run-of-the-mill pop direction than their previous tunes, which had been enhanced by the unusual-for-pop addition of cello. Following the departure of Mariona De Lamo, it appears that on ‘Shooting Stars’, they’ve continued this further evolution towards the mainstream.

The question now is whether they’ve merely dipped a toe into that pool or dived headfirst. As ubiquitous as synthesisers are in pop music these days, I wouldn’t have been so surprised had it been any other band. However, knowing what they sounded like before, having reviewed their excellent ‘All at Once’ EP in September 2015, the first listen to Passport to Stockholm’s latest felt quite jarring, as if Coldplay or Kodaline had horned in on the band’s recording session and proceeded to give them the Midas touch.

Make no mistake, Barnard’s voice has never been better, and the tune has an enjoyable bopping nature that makes it a clear candidate for feel good pop melody of the year. Listeners racking up a combined incredible million plays on the band’s Spotify account, nearly half of those listens courtesy of the listening of ‘Better Days’, make the point that the people have spoken and they like this new direction. That said, we now live in a world where Bastille have sold millions upon millions of records doing practically the same kind of music. If it’s Passport to Stockholm’s intention to join that particular fray and shoot for mainstream stardom, it’s going to take a lot of work to reach the top and stay there.

7/10

‘Shooting Stars’ is out now. For more on TGTF on Passport to Stockholm, go here.

 

Video of the Moment #1927: Passport to Stockholm

 
By on Tuesday, 29th September 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

London-based rock / pop / classical act Passport to Stockholm released their most recent EP, ‘All at Once’, at the end of August. (Read my review of the excellent extended player here.) The title track now has its own promo video. It’s pretty simple, as you will see below, but when you’ve got a good pop track, you really don’t need a complicated visual vehicle to promote it.

If you’re quick, you can grab a four-pack of free mp3s / at a price of your own naming called ‘What Have We Done?’from American Web site Noisetrade; more details are here on this MP3(s) of the Day post from last week. All past TGTF coverage on Passport to Stockholm is through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JutAWKmo8w[/youtube]

 

MP3(s) of the Day #889: Passport to Stockholm

 
By on Thursday, 24th September 2015 at 10:00 am
 

You may recall that London-based pop / rock / classical group Passport to Stockholm recently released an EP, ‘All at Once’, at the end of August. (You can read my review of that EP effort here.) The group, led by childhood friends and songwriters Chris “Barny” Barnard (vocals) and Tom Piggott (guitar) have joined forces with American free download Web site Noisetrade to give away a sampler of four tracks. You can get them for free, but if you like what you hear, we recommend you giving them a tip for their trouble. The ‘What Have We Done?’ sampler pack includes ‘Imperfections’, title track ‘What Have We Done?’, ‘Carousel’ and ‘Reality’.

Get your ‘What Have We Done?’ sampler of their music from Noisetrade here. For more on Passport to Stockholm on TGTF, head this way.

 

Album Review: Passport to Stockholm – All at Once EP

 
By on Tuesday, 1st September 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Passport to Stockholm All at Once EP coverTeenage friends and songwriters Chris “Barny” Barnard (vocals) and Tom Piggott (guitar) are at the heart of London-based act Passport to Stockholm, who I introduced you all to last summer in this previous Bands to Watch. Just last Friday, the group – which includes percussionist Henri Grimes and cellist Mariona De Lamo – released their latest EP, ‘All at Once’. It seems quite a prophetic title, given that Passport to Stockholm are set to perform this year’s CMJ in October in New York City, having already caught the eye of our friends Baeblemusic in the Big Apple who said their EP track ‘Chemistry propels the band “…into the pantheon of passionate and sincere British pop / folk / rock which has dominated the charts for the last 5 years.” But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

The title track begins the EP in earnest, Barnard’s full voice rising, sweeping note to note and above satisfying above the anthemic but otherwise brilliantly understated guitar strums, cello notes and percussion. The overall effect is lush, with his bandmates’ backing vocals joining to add further richness. The pizzicato strings add interest in the verses of ‘Let Me Know’, which are then followed by Barnard’s alternating staccatoing and smooth vocal delivery; the textural differences show a maturity that puts Passport to Stockholm far ahead of any of their indie pop contemporaries.

The earlier mentioned ‘Chemistry’ is the EP standout track, beginning and continuing on with pounding beats, accompanied by the yearning cello. But it’s Barnard’s vocals and the lyrics that are the real stars here. The chemistry addressed here is the tricky, ridiculous kind that stems from the weird gut feeling we get when we meet someone else and know we should be with him/her and going further from that, the terrible feeling that keeps us up at night when she/he is already with someone else (in this case, the woman is married to another man). The painful conflict of reconnecting with and romancing someone you loved and still love is evident in the words “already in love, you got back in touch, I just couldn’t turn you down.” You feel the ache, the void as the song ends with ” I won’t love like this again / I’ll never love like this again.”

The EP closes with the catchy, xylophone-laden ‘Wanted It More’, and if you’ve been listening to the EP from start to finish you come to the conclusion that this song, or any on this EP really, would feel right at home on a rom-com soundtrack or, dare I say it, Radio 2. The sweeping instrumentation with Barnard’s vocals make for a poppy, accessible sound that I’m betting will make waves far beyond their native England in short order.

8/10

‘All at Once’, the new EP from Passport to Stockholm, is out now.

 

Bands to Watch #304: Passport to Stockholm

 
By on Wednesday, 20th August 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Come summertime every year, I will think of my trip in 2010 to Denmark, when I went to cover Roskilde Festival’s 40th anniversary. There is a certain pleasant vibe to Scandinavia – especially during their warmer months, when the days are sunny and long – that I don’t think can really be matched anywhere else in the world. I’m not entirely sure where London-based alt-folk / pop band Passport to Stockholm got their name, but when I listen to their music, I like to think their mission is to assist your mind to escape to a place like the Nordic region, where things are, or at least seem to be, from the viewpoint of this neurotic East Coast American, calmer and more beautiful.

I forget now where I had first heard about them. I do remember going to look for them on Facebook and we all know what fledgling bands’ Facebook pages look like, devoid of much information because they’re just starting out. I liked their page, figuring I’d keep an eye on their page and eventually get around to writing a feature on them when more information was available. That time is now.

I got an email recently from their new PR representation, and while it’s disappointing to me that they’re still unsigned, with proper promotion, I expect this talented foursome to be snapped up quickly by an A&R man in due course. Their debut single to the world, ‘Imperfections’, is unusual enough to set them apart from the rest of the folk / pop pack, but also has all the hallmarks of pop that could break them into the mainstream.

Barny Barnard (vocals) and Tom Piggott have known each other since they were teens, having written songs together since the tender age of 14. While this part of their history sounds pretty similar to many other bands that have now achieved success, this is where things veer off from the usual course. Completing the line-up are percussionist Henri Grimes and most interestingly, cellist Sophie English, who adds an unexpected, dramatic and (dare I say this?) more adult piece to the proceedings. While fiddle and violin aren’t uncommon instruments in artists we love here at TGTF (e.g., Van Susans, Keston Cobblers’ Club, Stornoway), cello is, usually held back for classical affairs only.

And indeed, the lower timbre of cello notes from English are a welcome accompaniment to Barnard’s compelling vocals. I don’t favour the gravely singer/songwriter types (Tom Waits and Bob Dylan come to mind), preferring those like Barnard’s: more melodic, with more richness, more depth. The video, which was released yesterday, is embedded at the end of this post and I’m assuming the message is that this is a band that cannot be reduced to petty fighting, which has otherwise tarnished the reputations of a few hotheads in this business.

The rhythm of ‘Imperfections’ begs to be stomped to as well, suggesting this would go down well in front of a crowd, whether it be in a club like Camden Barfly where they’ll be launching the single on the 16th of September or a much larger crowd at a summer festival. From the recording, it sounds like they’ve come quite some ways from “pumping fresh air into the lungs of the acoustic genre since forming in 2012”, in these post-Mumford and Sons days clogged with a dime a dozen Mumford clones, fresh air is exactly what this industry needs.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ao-CYbaM8hc[/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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