Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions and show and festival cancellations,
no new content has been added here since February 2020.
Read more about this here. | April 2019 update
To connect with us, visit us on Facebook and Twitter.
SXSW 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2018 | 2015 | 2013 | 2012

Top Albums of 2014: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Monday, 22nd December 2014 at 11:00 am
 

When it comes time for a music editor to review the year’s releases, it’s something that should not be done lightly. With great power comes great responsibility. This will be my fifth top albums of the year at the helm of TGTF, so this year I feel this even more so. Without a doubt, 2014 was politically tumultuous, not only literally with the Scottish referendum and all that’s happening with Obama vs. Congress and Cameron vs. Parliament, but also on the music front, where we saw Apple buy Dr. Dre’s Beats Music and enable U2 to give iTunes users a free album they never asked for, Taylor Swift withdrawing all of her songs from Spotify, and online streaming outpacing and resoundingly beating download purchases.

I’ve got no industry crystal ball in front of me, but it’s clear 2015 will bring additional challenges for the music business. Companies will need to look to and develop new models and new sources of revenue, and at the same time, artists and bands will need to retool and reinvent themselves to not only endure and survive but thrive in these exciting, challenging times. With that, I turn your attention to the albums I deemed the most worthy of your purchase from this year, as I tell you about the artists who made them.

1. Teleman‘Breakfast’ (Moshi Moshi); Teleman on TGTF
It’s the most important meal of the day, isn’t it? So it makes uncannily appropriate sense to start with Teleman’s debut album. A lot has been made about the differences in sound from three out of four of their members’ previous band – the now-defunct Pete and the Pirates – and yes, they do sound different. There are buzzy synth lines by the Pirates’ former drummer Jonny Sanders, and overall, the sound is more pop than the rock of their previous band. The live experience, as I thankfully finally got the chance to witness in New York City in September, is a whole lot of fun too.

But the most important pieces have stayed constant: the band’s excellent songwriting and singer Tommy Sanders’ voice, going from angelic (opening track ‘Cristina’) to borderline vitriolic (‘Mainline’), depressive (’23 Floors Down’) to frantic joy (‘Skeleton Dance’), and everywhere in between. The jewel of the crown of ‘Breakfast’ is, I suppose somewhat ironically, the most difficult day and time of the week, ‘Monday Morning’, where Tommy Sanders shows yearning alternating with ire as he expresses regret about a relationship that could have been so much more…but wasn’t.

The album’s brilliance as a whole is that no two songs sound the same, yet they’re all about transport and the action of moving or leaving, and in a way that I’ve never been touched by before. I’ve laughed to this album, I’ve cried to this album, I’ve contemplated the meaning of life to this album. It hasn’t left my car since I got it for review in May, which says a lot. Magnificent, Teleman. Truly magnificent.

2. Sir Sly‘You Haunt Me’ (Interscope); Sir Sly on TGTF
I’m sure you readers have noticed I generally go out of my way to avoid mainstream artists who by some “miracle” just jump to success off the back of a major label. American indie rock / r&b trio Sir Sly have been around for a bit, but I didn’t pay much attention to them until I queued up ‘Where I’m Going’ as part of my research on them a couple of weeks prior for their co-headline slot on a North American tour with Wolf Gang. (Read my review of their show in Washington DC in September here.) I was hooked immediately by the sultriness of singer Landon Jacobs’ vocals, paired with a electronic pop / funk background that’s catchy as all hell yet mysterious.

Their debut album for Interscope finally dropped in mid-September, and it’s a pop masterpiece. Title track ‘You Haunt Me’ shows the band at their poppiest, with a bouncy, infectious rhythm guaranteed to make you pogo, while the synths gleam and glitter with the best of them. Yes, there is a commercial thread running through this album – a remix of ‘Gold’ was used to great effect to sell Cadillacs to young people in an American telly advert this year – but dark, buzzy beats on ‘Ghost’, rattling percussion on ‘Nowhere/Bloodlines pt. 1’ and the oozy smoothness of stretched synths accompanied with the painful vocal delivery in ‘Too Far Gone’ prove Sir Sly are no one-trick pony. In a world where pop, r&b and electronic struggle to coexist peacefully on the charts, this is one band that proves it can be done, and done very well. Expect them to be the next massive pop/r&b act.

3. The Crookes‘Soapbox’ (Fierce Panda); The Crookes on TGTF
And now, for something with a bit harder edge. Which sounds a bit strange coming from the happy, peppy, back to basics New Pop of Sheffield’s Crookes, doesn’t it? From the starting discordant guitar note of first single ‘Play Dumb’, they made it evident to the world that they wanted to be and should be taken seriously, which totally makes sense on an album called ‘Soapbox’. Prior to its release, it was a big year for the band, as they explained to me in an interview after SXSW 2014, having signed to American label Modern Outsider in 2013 and headlining their night that week in Austin at Parish Underground.

While the foursome didn’t entirely reinvent themselves, they really ratcheted up the quality of the songwriting on their third album. ‘Echolalia’ and ‘Howl’ exhibit a sadness you feel deeper through their words and music in such a different way than from their previous releases. ‘While You’re Fragile’ and ‘Outsiders’ confirm lyricist Daniel Hopewell hasn’t strayed far from his usual direction; at the same time the band haven’t lost their pop sensibility altogether for which they have become favourites with their fans. Hopewell said in an interview for One Week One Band’s Crookes feature earlier this month, “I think I’m more honest now. And hopefully my writing is improving so I can express simplistic, honest ideas in a more beautiful way”. Taken together with how they’ve changed musically from 2012’s ‘Hold Fast’, ‘Soapbox’ seems to suggest there is plenty more room for the Crookes to grow, both in lyrical and musical artistry.

4. The Lost Brothers‘New Songs of Dawn and Dust’ (Lojinx); The Lost Brothers on TGTF
When two people are destined to be musical partners, you can listen to a single song of theirs and on some subliminal level, you just know. I don’t want to make it sound like the songs contained within ‘New Songs of Dawn and Dust’ are basic; rather, it’s a true testament to the Liverpool-via-Ireland duo’s gifts to us – beautiful singing voices and incredible guitar dexterity – that they can make indie folk sound so effortless, yet so gorgeous.

This is the ultimate autumnal folk record, probably best listening to late at night. You can practically hear the fallen leaves crunch under your feet as you listen further through the effort. From the gentle simplicity of instrumental ‘Nocturnal Tune’, on through the heartbreak experienced by the actions of one ‘Derridae’, then to the anguish of a disillusioned fighter in ‘Soldier’s Song’, there is a lot of poignancy to feel here. But then you get to a track like the seemingly too happy (for them; I talked to Leech about this in a recent q&a) ‘Walking Blues’, and you know the sun will rise again. All in all, remarkably restrained beauty.

5. Sivu‘Something on High’ (Atlantic); Sivu on TGTF
After several singles and EPs scattered over the last year or so, James Page’s debut album was long awaited by me, especially after chatting with him at SXSW 2014 and seeing him live in Austin. It was a special privilege to be present for his LP’s launch party at Hackney Oslo in mid-October, bearing witness to quite possibly his first overzealous fan and stage crasher. So what is it about ‘Something on High’ that can cause such crazed devotion?

Page has separated himself from the other guitar-toting, may I say boring male singer/songwriters (for one, hello, entitled Ben Howard in Norwich) or ones who are trying for the r&b votes (like Hozier, whose popularity still makes me groan). How? There is beat, experimentation and strings in opening track ‘Feel Something’; earlier single ‘Can’t Stop Now’ is inspiration in the form of sunny pop. Yet the true genius of ‘Something on High’ is just how much this album will lead you to think, to truly contemplate one’s existence, something truly rare when it comes to pop albums. Page examines the keys to human existence (‘Miracle [Human Error]’), the desire to start over (‘Bodies’) and crushing self-defeat in the face of heartbreak (‘Sleep’) and in such a sensitive, yet stunning way.

 

Album Review: Sir Sly – You Haunt Me

 
By on Monday, 15th September 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Sir Sly is comprised of frontman Landon Jacobs (vocals, keyboards and guitar) and multi-instrumentalists Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen, though their identities were kept well hidden until success necessitated their unmasking: earlier released track ‘Gold’ hit #1 on the Hype Machine in January 2013. But it’s taken nearly 2 years for their debut album to surface.

Their most recent single, title track ‘You Haunt Me’ released in July, sees the band at their poppiest: a sprightly drummed rhythm is at the forefront while an almost hymn-like progression of synth chords anchors the background. The lyrics are philosophical if you want to go there – the theme of recounting and regretting a past life ruined by alcohol could be taken literally or with losing a partner as a consequence – but there is no escaping the overall catchiness of the song that will no doubt be more important to the droves I expect to be gobbling up this album.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0E5aWv0YdA[/youtube]

Inevitable comparisons to the Neighbourhood have already been made, but that connection is far too dependent on the fact that both bands call Los Angeles home. We see this far too often (and unfairly) when bands from Manchester are pigeonholed by their storied history, don’t we? Yes, both groups have an underlying cool hip hop swagger, but the big difference to me between them is in the way Sir Sly are able to effortlessly weave big beats and electronics into the mix of indie pop and r&b. As evidenced by watching the crowd totally into them last Monday when they performed at Washington’s U Street Music Hall, the beguiling combination is sure to win over the indie kids, the pop kids, the hip hop kids and anyone else in between, suggesting to me that they’ll be the band to beat in 2015.

Early on in their career, Paul Lester of the Guardian was quick to point out the commercialism of Sir Sly’s sound. You do sense while you’re listening to this album that many of these tracks would feel right at home synced on tv programmes and adverts, because the songs are so damn catchy. True, the lyrics focus on the well trod on pop theme of lost love, but even in those usually suffocating confines, there are nuggets of gold to be found. Opening track and album standout ‘Where I’m Going’ has the hallmark tenets of regret – falling in love (“I went ahead and opened my heart”), getting your heart broken (“all of my love was wasted on you”), yet still wanting the other person (“you know I’m going to come for you”) – but with a unique, seemingly musician-centric twist, I’m wondering if the song was written from Jacobs’ personal experience. The first verse touches on ambitiously “climbing the rose” on the way to stardom, then unexpectedly “finding the one all of a sudden”, making the song sound similar to Glass Animalsdebut album ‘Zaba’ opener ‘Flip’ (“I was in full bloom / ’til I met you”), but slightly less vindictive.

Other previously tracks are memorable too. It makes sense that the synth lines employed in ‘Ghost’ are haunting: they’re meant to be. Except for a few lighter moments of clarity in the bridge, including a repetitive falsetto referencing the grave and home, the song is purposely made dark as Jacob wonders aloud how he chose the ‘wrong’ girl, now gone, and is literally haunted by her spirit that still comes round to remind him of what went before. The sped up, sunny Betablock3r remix of ‘Gold’ was used in an American tv advert for Cadillac this past summer but in that form, it’s virtually unrecognisable from the original, which is similarly dramatically dark like ‘Ghost’. Heavy beats, guaranteed to cause some heads near you to bop along, propel the track forward. But the song is more remarkable for its insistence that that it’s far more important to stay true to yourself and go after your dreams than be lured in by the promise of money.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5_47eLxb8o[/youtube]

‘Found You Out’ slows things down, showing the trio’s versatility in a less electronic environment, but is likewise philosophical like ‘You Haunt Me’, referencing historical figures Judas and Brutus to point out to a former lover her traitorous, treacherous ways. A song like ‘Leave You’ makes one continue to speculate just how badly Jacob has been hurt in relationships, though with such glittery synth notes, I suppose he’s gotten over the hurt. Enough anyway to record this album. Their ballad ‘Floods’ shows a further introspective side to the band: despite a hip hop-y delivered bridge suggesting that the best way forward to is to move on and get on with your life, the mournful piano that accompanies Jacob’s wistful vocals that the song exits with seems to indicate otherwise.

This vocal dreaminess bleeds into ‘Too Far Gone’, illustrating the band is entirely capable of pulling back the potential heavy-handedness of electronic production to write a more mainstream song. But don’t worry: for those who favour more production and more of a dance beat, ‘Inferno’ starring former touring mate Lizzy Plapinger of MS MR is a tune assured to raise the roof at all of Sir Sly’s future shows. For me, if there’s any fault on ‘You Haunt Me’, it’s that the electronics don’t get their due on every track on here. The band clearly know what they’re doing with them, able to elicit emotion whenever they do appear. But I get the feeling that was Sir Sly’s point: they wanted to show they’re capable of turning on a dime, changing and bending genres to their will, writing incredible songs. (If you still have any reservations, watch the acoustic version of ‘Ghost’ below and prepared to be spellbound.) ‘You Haunt Me’ proves their talent.

9/10

Sir Sly’s debut album ‘You Haunt Me’ is out today on Interscope Records.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hp2mtj5rRbY[/youtube]

 

Live Review: Sir Sly and Wolf Gang with Secret Someones at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 8th September 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 10th September 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

After having seen sold out shows at U Street Music Hall starring the Gaslight Anthem, Kodaline and more recently, Glass Animals 2 months previous to the day, it seems that from here on in I should just expect ridiculous scenes at the place. This past Monday night, the initially dance-orientated but now fully indie-friendly venue played host to a Cherrytree / Interscope Records label tour starring some of the brightest stars in their universe. Interestingly, the three bands chosen for this tour – opener Secret Someones and co-headliners Sir Sly and Wolf Gang – all make pretty different music, but pop is the thread that unites them all.

Like seemingly 90% of all the bands in the United States, Secret Someones hail from Brooklyn. Seeing three girls onstage in a band, I was expecting a Bangles-esque sound to come blaring through the speakers. However, it soon became apparent that whether drummer / multi-instrumentalist Zach Jones’ maleness makes a difference or not is moot. This is a young band with a lot of potential, if they only could decide on the direction they want to take. Given the way the music business is right now, maybe it’d be better if this group continued the way they are going and then be a quadruple threat in indie rock, straight rock, pop and folk? That’s a lot of keep track of. So what happens to them remains to be seen.

Secret Someones at U Street Music Hall

Bess Rogers, Hannah Winkler, and Lelia Broussard are clearly gifted in singing (they take turns taking lead vocals) and in particular their combined harmonies, which are wonderful. If you’d never seen them before, you might think incorrectly that they were actually sisters. That’s how tight their harmonies are, making me think of the pure pop sensibility of Wilson Philips. But such sweet harmonies make more sense in softer pop or folk contexts, don’t they? Those styles seem diametrically opposed to the kick-arse rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Breed’ they unleashed on us, which also makes an appearance on their debut EP ‘I Won’t Follow’. Jones felt it necessary to explain after that they’d just played a Nirvana cover, which should tell you a lot about the average age of punters at the show. The title track of the EP, which Secret Someones used to close out their set, sends the right kind of message not only for young women but for everyone of all ages and genders: be confident in your own strength.

I’ve seen London indie pop band Wolf Gang multiple times now at U Hall, it’s now a running joke with me and the guys, and even frontman Max McElligott himself mentioned it onstage on this night, saying it was practically like their second home. Not a bad thing at all. Now fully a four-piece band comprised of McElligott, guitarist Gavin Slater, bassist James Woods and drummer Lasse Petersen, instead of just McElligott’s vision of grandeur with backing touring members, is readying for the release of the second Wolf Gang album, ‘Alveron’, here in the States.

Early single ‘Lay Your Love Down’ revealed a couple weeks ago has been a clear indication that McElligott intends to continue Wolf Gang with the epic pop songwriting that continues the reign of ‘Lions in Cages’ and ‘The King and All of His Men’ to this day. While McElligott proffered an acoustic version of ‘Ghost in My Life’ in the second half of the set to “change things up a bit”, it was left to the core love and relationships’ type of songs this band is known for to keep things upbeat. The exuberance of spring 2014 single ‘Black River’ grabbed hold of your attention straight out of the gate, while the sweeping yet funky ‘Back to Back’ wowed and proved a definite standout of the night. The sexy, r&b-tinged ‘Now I Can Feel It’ off the new album shows the band isn’t afraid to spread their wings.

The most tender moment of the night was when McElligott dedicated ‘Midnight Dancers’ to a couple they’d met earlier at the meet and greet, who had explained tearfully this was the song they used for their first dance when they married recently. He said they felt so special and honoured to have been a part of their lives. And when a personable band like Wolf Gang does come into your life, you can’t help but feel grateful that as a massive fan of the band, you’re being taken along on the ride while that band works hard for their successes. You feel like family. Having followed their story since 2009, I anticipate with the release of ‘Alveron’, their time will finally have come.

Black River
Stay and Defend
Something Unusual
If You Could Believe (new song)
Suego Faults
Lay Your Love Down
Back to Back
Last Bayou
The King and All of His Men
Ghost in My Life (acoustic)
Now I Can Feel It (new song)
Lions in Cages
Alveron (new song)

Like Wolf Gang, Sir Sly have toured America several times as support for bands I’m not particularly fond of, and I was certain it would not be long before they returned to DC as a headliner. While they are a three-piece on paper, live they are a five-man crew creating a massive wall of sound so magnificent and loud, I had to excuse myself from the pit about 25 minutes in because the beats were so relentless. Watching them further back didn’t diminish their impression at the slightest. When I saw the vertical light strips hung on the back wall of the stage, I knew we were about to be sonically and visually assaulted.

I’ve been watching this band, comprised of frontman / guitarist / keyboardist Landon Jacobs with multi-instrumentalists Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen pretty closely over the last couple of months, primarily because I’ve been beguiled by the intoxicating combination of electronic, r&b, hip hop and pop they’re offering up. Considering the disparate populations of fans we have in the world who like one of two of these genres and might hate the others, Sir Sly does an incredible job putting it all together in a way that’s palatable to all. I thought it was a quite ballsy move to begin with ‘Where I’m Going’, one of their biggest songs to date; it was the gig equivalent of putting your cards out on the table right from the very start. It could have set a terrible tone for the night if it’d gone badly.

Instead, the massive underlying buzzy synths, combined with Jacobs’ oozy yet boy next door vocals, electrified the audience. The buzz from the synths continued with ‘Ghost’, with a super infectious backbeat and Jacobs’ little boy lost vocal delivery. With a rapped intro and heavy-hitting percussion, previous EP title track in minor key ‘Gold’ was a crowd favourite, punters’ hands in the air. But for me, the defining moment was when they brought out ‘You Haunt Me’, their most recent single and coincidentally the title track of their debut album out next week. The song has a bouncy ‘80s style rhythm throughout and features a glittery synth chorus that could have gone into cavity-inducing territory in the wrong hands. But no. Sir Sly brings it back far enough where it sounds fresh and new AND catchy. No mean feat. If I were to pick the next American band to be huge in 2015, no contest. Give Sir Sly the crown now.

 
 
 

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us

Privacy Policy

Keep TGTF online for years to come!
Donate here.