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Norwich Sound and Vision 2015: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 15th October 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

After a fantastic lineup of bands on the first night of Norwich Sound and Vision 2015 Thursday, I was raring to go for another round on Friday. Of all the artists to appear at the event in East Anglia, the one I wanted to see most and had marked with big red asterisks on my schedule for my time there would be appearing at the Norwich Arts Centre that night, so I was very excited.

EKKAH, Hannah Lou Clark and Lonelady @ Norwich Arts Centre

Regular readers of TGTF know that I enjoy a good dance band that I can shake a tail feather to. So I was delighted to see EKKAH – made up of two Brummie girls named Rebecca Wilson and Rebekah Pennington, naturally – up first at the Arts Centre. Loudly self-described on their Facebook page as purveyors of “DOWNTOWN DISCO”, they didn’t disappoint with their colourful live presentation, which included the girls on vocals and their own instruments (Pennington on guitar and Wilson on keyboards), backed by an energetic band to give their sound added oomph that filled the venue well.

Ekkah live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

EKKAH’s songs have a sultriness that Donna Summer would approve of on ‘Figure It Out’. Yet there is plenty of glittery pop and r&b referencing in their music that make them totally relevant here in 2015. Even if they did a cover of ‘Forget Me Nots’ by Patrick Rushen (aka where Will Smith lifted a catchy line for ‘Men in Black’) while I was rushing out of the room to catch a glimpse and earful of my next band. They’re on tour in the UK now through November and have a bunch of festival appearances lined up, so you really have no excuse not to see them live.

A famous friend in London pointed out to me that in another life, Hannah Lou Clark was the mastermind behind FOE, a weird misfit band she fronted several years ago that both John and I adored, so no way was I missing her latest solo venture. I got a chance to see FOE perform to a packed upstairs space at LIFE club at the Great Escape 2012 during my first visit to Brighton and was reasonably impressed, so maybe my expectations were placed unreasonably high?

Hannah Lou Clark live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

Unless I feel moved emotionally by their music, I usually palm off the singer/songwriter artists to Carrie, because unless someone has an amazing voice or has some unique characteristics that set them apart from their contemporaries, they all start to sound the same to me after a while. Unfortunately for her, Clark played after EKKAH, so going from a full band with coloured lights and sparkly presentation to a single woman with a guitar onstage with no other backup couldn’t have provided more contrast. She had local support in the audience, having released her ‘Silent Type’ EP last year on Norwich label Gravy Records, whom she thanked and then got whoops of cheers in response. ‘Kids in Heat’, which appears on the EP, was a good effort live, though I couldn’t help wondering that if the volume was louder and/or she had a full backing band behind her, the effect would have been that more arresting. Guess we’ll see where she goes with it.

In London just days before, I was asked by a radio presenter mate of mine who I was most excited to see at Norwich Sound and Vision. “LoneLady. I was so upset when she pulled out of Live at Leeds.” “Was there an explanation of why? Hmm, well, she’s a fragile flower…” That isn’t how I pictured Julie Ann Campbell from Manchester at all. So I have to admit I was happy to be right, when I finally saw her onstage at the Arts Centre wielding a guitar, wearing in a dark jumper with what appeared to be a Sesame Street-themed alphabet jumper and “BEAT” emblazoned on it in coloured letters. Ha!

Lonelady live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

I had several conversations in Austin this year with male electronic artists and how there are so few female ones that have been able to rise above and become prominent on the scene. Just by name, ‘LoneLady’ seems to evoke this disparate nature, that what she is does is different and unique, separate from everyone and everything else, and this difference is refreshing. The unrelenting beats of current radio single ‘Silvering’, with its staccatoed guitar notes, couldn’t be beat (no pun intended), while the funk of the earworm that is ‘Groove It Out’ never lets up either, which worked well to get punters moving under the cover of darkness. I didn’t leave disappointed.

PINS, Beach Baby and Black Honey @ The Mash Tun

I’ve never been a fan of PINS. When their star first started to rise, I had a listen to their early stuff and was nonplussed by it. Okay, so it’s lo-fi with guitars, and it’s nothing special. What exactly wasn’t I getting? The clue probably was that it was the kids who were responding to their music, as it completely passed me by. Or at least now I can say I think I was searching too hard and looking for the wrong thing in them. When I finally saw a whole set by them in Norwich, it finally clicked for me like it had when I saw the Vaccines play live in DC 2 years ago.

PINS live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

While there’s an attempt at aloofness on the lyrical delivery on one of their earlier hits ‘Girls Like Us’ and more recent song ‘Young Girls’ (gee, notice a trend?), this isn’t the kind of music you should be taking a magnifying glass to, or to have some deep emotional bond to either. It’s the kind of music you jump up and down with your friends when the band invite you onstage to do so, which several very excited fans – both girls and boys – got to do with much glee. If you can leave your pretensions behind at the door, you can have a pretty good time getting drawn into the world these girls have created. (You might not even have a choice: I was invited by their lead singer to stand close to her while they performed, but I got away with not doing so as I was taking notes!)

Continuing the fun at the Mash Tun were London band Beach Baby, who are currently in New York this week. This should tell you something about the hype behind them; until I saw them on the bill for Norwich Sound and Vision, I’d never heard of them but apparently their cool factor must be up to 11 if they’ve already made it out over here for CMJ, including two shows at Baby’s All Right, aka where the most hyped UK bands always seem to land first when they come stateside (Glass Animals would have played their first American gig proper there last May if Dave Bayley hadn’t fallen ill).

Beach Baby live at Norwich Sound and Vision 2015

As you might rightly guess from their band name, their sound is pretty surf-y, with plenty fanciful guitar work and a disaffected vocal suggesting they’re so cool, they’re over themselves already. I suppose this is a good way to think, to be egoless, as they already have two massive (drunk) fans in Norwich: danced like no-one was watching, the pair stood near the singer and kept yelling “mega!” at him all night. To his credit, the band’s singer took this ball and ran with it, humouring them, saying they were going to name their next single ‘Mega’ in their honour. Snort.

My final band of Friday night were initially another mystery to me too, but they turned out to be so much more than I had expected. Although they’ve been trying to maintain an aura of anonymity in a way similar to what Mancunian recluses WU LYF were doing back in the day, after their appearance in Norwich, Black Honey can hide no longer. The Brighton group have that scuzzy, lo-fi sound that is all the rage these days with the indie kids. But the difference with this band over many others of the same genre – even PINS can’t compete on this level, I don’t think – is the charisma of their blonde, bass-playing frontman Izzy B. Phillips.

The way she talked to the crowd, it suggests she doesn’t really give a monkey’s, which is subversive in a Johnny Rotten kind of way, but it’s also oddly endearing. I don’t think it’s an act; when she told the audience they had new t-shirts for their current tour and they were selling them after they got offstage, she reminded everyone that, “you know, we need to eat.” Within the confines of lo-fi, the elements of psych and surf rock are there, and I can even hear a bit of No Doubt and Wolf Alice when Phillips puts her guard down long enough to expose her softer side, if only briefly. Oh boy, did the kids go mental over Black Honey, cheering and screaming for them after every song. If their first reception in Norwich is anything to go by, this band has got it in the bag.

Oh, and they also have a stage prop (unfortunately, I did not get a photo of him). A lawn flamingo, oddly named Jerry. You work that one out. Poor thing almost got his head bashed in by one of their guitarists, overexcited by the gig. Hope they have a spare…

 

Video of the Moment #1907: PINS

 
By on Wednesday, 9th September 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

Following on from the lo-fi Super 8-filmed video for ‘Everyone Says’ they released back in June, PINS have a new promo featuring the same aesthetic. The band describes the visuals for ‘Dazed by You’, from the band’s second album for Bella Union, ‘Wild Nights’, like this:

We made this video when we were on tour in America, driving across strange landscapes and visiting unusual places. The filming was done when we drove 2,500 miles, from Seattle to Michigan in a week. We stopped off at a natural hot spring on (PINS’ new keys and guitar player) Kyoko’s birthday, detoured though the Badlands, pulled over in the middle of nowhere to check out some old abandoned cars, and found an old petrol station in Jackpot, Nevada. The video was filmed on Super 8, then drawn on, scratched and burned afterwards.

Watch the promo below. Past coverage of PINS on TGTF is this way.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEAAsRu-7HY[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1830: PINS

 
By on Saturday, 20th June 2015 at 10:00 am
 

The latest promo video from Manchester girl group PINS is for ‘Everyone Says’, off their sophomore album that was released last week on Bella Union. (You can read Carrie’s thoughts on the LP ‘Wild Nights’ here.) Going off a completely DIY vibe, this video was filmed by their guitarist Lois Macdonald on a Super 8, matching the usual lo-fi nature of their music. But as Carrie describes in her review of the album that ‘Everyone Says’ is one of “two quasi-ballads” on the new record, they’re odd in that “while earnest, they both feel slightly awkward and out of character”. Judge for yourself by watching and listening to the promo below.

‘Wild Nights’ is out now on Bella Union. Catch the girls on tour in September on a recently announced UK tour; tickets are on sale now. Read more on PINS on TGTF through this link.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7TcdGIXSGo[/youtube]

 

Album Review: PINS – Wild Nights

 
By on Tuesday, 9th June 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

PINS - Wild NIghts coverWith their second album ‘Wild Nights’, Manchester all-female band PINS attempt to expand beyond the garage punk label they earned with their early releases ‘LUVU4LYF’ and ‘Girls Like Us’. In the press release for their upcoming American tour dates, the band are quoted to that effect. “With ‘Wild Nights’ we didn’t want to be bound to the sound of our first album. The albums were recorded years apart, and in ‘Wild Nights’ you can hear the new experiences, ambitions, and influences we’ve taken on. ‘Wild Nights’ is a diary, complete with confessions and secrets — the album is a mixture of emotions.”

‘Wild Nights’ opens with a pair of upbeat tracks that are illustrative of the album’s title. ‘Baby Bhangs’ is immediately catchy with its overdriven guitar riff and rapid-fire rhyming couplets: “Downstairs, unaware / Well I never, is this forever? / Chain-smoking, never-ending / Love-lusting, it’s disgusting”. The openly rebellious recent single and Video of the Moment ‘Young Girls’ refuses to be contained in society’s metaphorical box, with lead singer Faith Holgate adamantly declaring “We’re not trying to be brave / We don’t want to be saved”.

Two quasi-ballads, ‘Got It Bad’ and ‘Everyone Says’, are as close to heart-on-sleeve love songs as these cool, devil-may-care ladies ever get, and while earnest, they both feel slightly awkward and out of character. PINS are stronger and more confident on darker tracks ‘Oh Lord’ and early single ‘Too Little Too Late’, which delve into sexual innuendo and romance gone wrong, while ‘House of Love’ explores the seamy side of the band’s native Manchester. But by the time I heard Holgate intone the eponymous line “you get so bored in the house of love”, I was indeed becoming a bit dispirited by the album’s steady offering of square melodies and repetitive lyrics.

Standout track and current single ‘Molly’ redeems the second half of the album, with an immediately hypnotic, serpentine guitar riff and crisp lyrical couplets in the verse (“Wild nights, with money, she’s got a hold on me”) that inspired the album’s title. More importantly, the song evolves around the halfway point into something almost improvisatory, its instrumental bridge section showing the only brief hint of unrestrained melodic progression on the entire record.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/BmJ95BHnRxc[/youtube]

For all its emotional and thematic variety, ‘Wild Nights’ feels musically somewhat inhibited. The heavy, overdriven guitars are muted and dampened throughout, and the distant, echoing vocal lines feel emotionally detached, even standoffish. The album’s post-punk nonchalance is carefully and deliberately crafted but its energy occasionally drags, as if perhaps one too many wild nights have begun to catch up with the Mancunian quartet. However, the recent addition of keyboard player Kyoko Swan may add a needed jolt of intensity to PINS’ live sound as they hit the road in support of the new album.

7/10

PINS’ sophomore album ‘Wild Nights’ is out now on Bella Union. PINS will support the album release with live tour dates in America this summer and a September headline tour of the UK.  Previous TGTF coverage of PINS can be found here.

 

PINS / September 2015 UK Tour

 
By on Monday, 8th June 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Manchester garage rock quartet PINS have recently evolved into a quintet with the addition of keyboard player Kyoko Swan to their lineup.  The now five-piece PINS released their second album ‘Wild Nights’ today (the 8th of June) on Bella Union.  After playing live dates in America throughout June, PINS will return to the UK for a run of headline shows this September.  Tickets for the September shows listed below are on sale now.

Previous TGTF coverage of PINS is right this way.  Stay tuned for a full review of ‘Wild Nights’ later this week.  In the meantime, you can watch the video for album track ‘Too Little Too Late’ just after the tour date listing.

Thursday 17th September 2015 – Cambridge Portland Arms
Friday 18th September 2015 – Manchester Deaf Institute
Saturday 19th September 2015 – Edinburgh Sneaky Pete’s
Tuesday 22nd September 2015 – Birmingham Hare and Hounds
Wednesday 23rd September 2015 – London Oslo

[youtube]https://youtu.be/6UvTPoDGzrY[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1803: PINS

 
By on Wednesday, 13th May 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

Indie rock quartet PINS have just released the video for their new single ‘Young Girls’, which had its exclusive premiere last week on Noisey.  The track will appear on PINS’ upcoming second LP ‘Wild Nights’, due for release on the 9th of June on Bella Union.

The video for ‘Young Girls’ was filmed on the streets of Manchester and directed by Amy Watson, who also took the helm of the previous PINS video for ‘Come Back’.    For ‘Young Girls’, Watson took an alternate perspective on the typical “girls just wanna have fun” theme.  “I wanted to take that wholesomeness and push it to a weird place,” said Watson, who has incorporated a rather ominous ‘Thelma & Louise’ style twist into the video’s plotline.

Previous TGTF coverage of PINS can be found right back here.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/BaSqb__TYSE[/youtube]

 
 
 

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