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Top Gigs of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Tuesday, 17th December 2013 at 11:00 am
 

2013 did not disappoint to deliver another year of brilliant live performances for me here in America and in Britain. Which shows will I remember the most from 20-13? (I wrote it out that way, because I was told this last time in England that me pronouncing it that way makes it obvious I am an American. Do you reckon that’s true? I’m trying, folks, I’m trying, but as the majority of you know, I am American, born and bred!) Read on about the most exciting shows I’ve been to this year…

5. the 1975 at U Street Music Hall (20th June 2013) – I’ve been lucky enough to have seen the 1975 5 times this year, with 3 of those times in DC, and unusually, the one show that sticks out in my mind among all others is not their largest show in DC, nor their smallest, but the one in between.

The energy at U Street Music Hall, coupled with the screaming fans down the front, made it clear I was witnessing history. So what if “she’s got a boyfriend anyway”? We’ll be singing and bopping to the music like we don’t care, that’s what.

The 1975 Washington June 2013 1

4. Savoir Adore at DC9 (25th September 2013) – DC9 doesn’t have a great reputation for sound quality, but on this Wednesday night, all the stars aligned for a near perfect sounding show, highlighting the shiny, glittery ambiance that Savoir Adore brings to their shows.

Deidre Muro and Paul Hammer now have an impressive back catalogue to draw from, and this was just a wonderful gig to showcase their music, with punters having such a good time dancing to their tunes.

Savoir Adore Washington 2013 live 2

3. the Crookes at Sheffield Shakespeare (19th May 2013) – as the American editor of a UK-centric music site, all too often I’m left banging my head against a table or a wall when I come to the disappointing conclusion that I can’t attend a show I really want to be at. (Maybe one day when I have my own private plane…)

While the travel to Sheff was a pain in the arse – I must have taken the slowest Sunday train known to man from St. Pancras to the North East – and I’d not slept the night before, as John and I had been in Brighton all weekend to cover the Great Escape, it was all worth it for this chance to see one of my favourite bands in a teeny tiny gig in their hometown. As soon as I’d arrived at the place, I knew I’d made the right decision, having been greeted with the singing talents of a good friend wafting ‘Dance in Colour’ out of the top windows of the pub. You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Read my review for further musings.

2. OMD at Gateshead Sage (13th May 2013) – where do you go to see a favourite Northern band when possible? The North, of course. Martin had alerted me ahead of time that the Sage was quite a posh place and to expect people to be dressed fancier than I was used to seeing in clubs.

Hate people talking on their phones at gigs? The Sage has high-tech mobile phone blocking technology. The beautifully lit, swiveling panels suspended in the air above us and the band were awe-inspiring, as were Andy McCluskey’s seemingly inexhaustible singing and dad-dancing talents. ‘Electricity’? Why, yes.

OMD Gateshead live 1

1. Little Comets at the Hamilton (13th August 2013) – for the longest time, it seemed all my music friends had seen this Geordie band live and I hadn’t; further, so many of the bands I was personally friends with either had toured with them or had become friends with them after being impressed by their live show at a festival.

Well, it took 4 long years but I finally got to see Little Comets live, and I’m pleased to report they were well worth the wait. The dinner theatre-style setup of the Hamilton means at most shows, punters will remain sat at their tables, chewing on their tapas. Not this night: with fans shrieking and letting out catcalls of delight, stomping to their favourite songs and singing along word for word to tracks like ‘Isles’, it was definitely a moment in time I will never forget. More of this, please!

Little Comets Washington 2

Honourable mentions:

Franz Ferdinand at Strathmore Hall (17th October 2013) – I was under the distinct impression I would never see Franz Ferdinand live, unless maybe I was lucky enough to catch them at a festival. It had been 7 years since they’d played in DC. Great show punctuated with Alex Kapranos’ Olympic-effort leaps and bounds, and I have to say, you haven’t lived until you’ve been sat next to Nick McCarthy’s extended family at a show. Just saying.

Kodaline at Jammin’ Java (13th October 2013) – it must be nice to be on your first headline tour of North America and arrive in a city to find out you’ve sold out your gig there. I’ve seen quite a few post-gig fan queues in my day, but this one for Kodaline stretched to about forever. We hung around for over an hour and a half, watching the band say hello, sign autographs and take photos with each and every fan that wanted to meet them. If only all bands were as considerate.

the Static Jacks at DC9 (2nd October 2013) – this guys just get better and better every time I see them. They managed to turn a humdrum Wednesday night in Washington into a disco, with appreciative fans cutting a rug to their music. Doesn’t really get any better than that.

Villagers at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel (13th June 2013) – this was the first time I’d see the Villagers full band setup, having only seen Conor J. O’Brien solo in 2010. If you had reservations that ‘Becoming a Jackal’ was a whimper-y kind of record and you weren’t sold on their new direction in ‘{Awayland}’, go see them live now and watch them rock out.

the Joy Formidable at 9:30 Club (21st April 2013) – I prefer to see this Welsh band in smaller, dingier confines because I think their music suits that kind of environment better, but still, this was an amazing show. Hard to believe the first time I saw them was in November 2010, barely filling half of Black Cat Backstage’s capacity of 200.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2013. The runner-up gigs are also marked.

Continue reading Top Gigs of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 

Top Albums of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Monday, 16th December 2013 at 11:00 am
 

It’s amazing how quickly a year can speed by, and 2013 has been not been an exception. While there is no doubt that the biggest, loudest and most annoying press campaign to promote an album this year was the one related to Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’, it won’t appear on my list of top albums. Nope, not a chance. Like all things in life, musical tastes change over time, and judging from the LPs released this year, mine definitely have.

I haven’t decided why the pop and dance worlds not haven’t been able to produce a good amount of excellent albums (notice I said albums, not singles), but I suspect that deep down, it has to do with heart. That said, I wonder if it’s symptomatic of the industry, but I’ve been having a hard time finding albums that I want to listen to in full, over and over again. So here are my top five albums of 2013 that I think everyone should own. Or at least listen to all the way through at least once to make your own judgment about them.

Static Jacks In Blue cover1. The Static Jacks – ‘In Blue’ (Old Friends) – The best albums are those that can span the entire spectrum of emotions for when you need it. The Static Jacks came of age on their second album, writing songs that can act like an old friend who is there to laugh with you or give you a knowing hug when you need a good cry. Not to mention, despite being still pretty young guys (at least they’re legal now, which they weren’t when I first saw them in 2010), they know how to write a memorable pop melody, which, judging from a lot of the rubbish on the charts these days, is a real talent.

It’s all here. You want fun? ‘I’ll Come Back’ and ‘Wallflowers’ are clear standouts, and to be honest, I’ve had such an up and down year, I needed something to cheer me up. ‘People Don’t Forget’ is probably the closest you’re going to get to the best pop song of the year. And lyrically, title track ‘In Blue’ hits in the spot: it’s an emotionally-charged piece of pop, “you try to run from all your problems / it just makes you stumble harder / realise I’m just sorry, and I know you’re still lonely”. Just perfect. Read my review here.

Dutch Uncles Out of Touch in the Wild cover2. Dutch Uncles – ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ (Memphis Industries) – Oddly, they’re the only ones from their town of Marple from the class of 2010 (the others being Delphic and Egyptian Hip Hop) still standing tall these days. Or maybe this is not odd at all. Breaking boundaries is what Dutch Uncles is all about, having recently put on a series of shows with a string ensemble, in addition to their atypical time signatures that have become their signature, and the uniqueness has paid off.

From the frenetic pace of xylophone in ‘Fester’, the feeling that you’re floating in space when you’ve got ‘Bellio’ in your headphones or my personal favourite, the smooth string –tinged jam of ‘Flexxin’ that caught Pitchfork’s ears, this is an album you’ll want to listen to over and over again, because you’ll discover something new and exciting each time. Oh, and while I’ve got your attention, you might as well get their debut ‘Cadenza’ too: different, but also wonderful. Read my review of ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHXxKitLdrU

Fenech-Soler Rituals cover3. Fenech-Soler – ‘Rituals’ (B-Unique) – I’ve listened to a lot of dance albums this year, trying to find The One (figuring it’d be easier than finding the right man) and mostly, I found disappointment. Fenech-Soler’s follow-up to their 2010 debut as worth the wait, with massive singles ‘All I Want’, ‘Magnetic’ and ‘Last Forever’, as well as the beauteous ‘Maiyu’.

It also contains quite possibly this year’s best floor filler in ‘In Our Blood’, an uplifting song about an ending relationship. It might be winter right now, but this album will keep your blood pumping all through to the next season of summer festivals. Read the album review here.

Fiction The Big Other cover4. Fiction – ‘The Big Other’ – ‘Effortless’ is the best word I can think of to describe London band Fiction’s debut album released in March. This LP feels like classic New Wave, yet does one better by being not at all heavy-handed: it’s got a lightness that will have ‘80s children feel nostalgic, with ‘Parting Gesture’ and ‘See Me Walk’ feeling like they would have been at home in a John Hughes film.

Regardless of how old you are, young and old should be able relate to (and love) this album because as evidenced in ‘Big Things’ and ‘Museum’, it’s just damn good: rhythmic, melodic, interesting. Read my review of ‘The Big Other’ here.

Arctic Monkeys AM cover sm5. Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’ (Domino) – Not sure how much they should owe their placement to producer and friend Josh Homme, who basically helped reinvent them into a darker, harder version from the one that I’ll admit used to annoy the hell out of me on ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’.

For me, it’s less about Alex Turner’s vocals, sounding almost rap-like on some of the harder tracks. No, it’s the attitude throughout this album, from the bluesy guitars on ‘Do You Wanna Know?’ and ‘R U Mine’, to the Richard Hawley-esque ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ and ‘Mad Sounds’. Mark my words, latest single ‘One for the Road’ will be a minimalist rock classic.

After the cut: discussion on albums that disappointed.

Continue reading Top Albums of 2013: Editor’s Picks

 

MP3 of the Day #788: The 1975

 
By on Tuesday, 5th November 2013 at 10:00 am
 

Fancy something free from The 1975? You do You’re in luck, then. We’ve got the Knocks‘ remix of ‘Girls’ for you this Tuesday morning. Listen to and grab it for your very own from the Soundcloud widget below.

In case you’ve been living under a rock or have forgotten the brilliance that is the new ‘Girls’ video, watch it in this previous Video of the Moment.

 

Video of the Moment #1363: The 1975

 
By on Thursday, 24th October 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

The 1975 have unveiled their latest video, this time for ‘Girls’. And you’ve never seen the Manchester band like this before: in dazzling Technicolour! And joking around too. Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkubQCI4Fxo[/youtube]

 

Live Review: The 1975 with Linus Young at Black Cat, Washington DC – 11th October 2013

 
By on Friday, 18th October 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

The gig I went to the other night almost turned out a disaster. Clearly, I was just cranky. The queue was wet and cold, the crowd was smash-y right from the get-go, and I was stone cold sober, unlike the squealing underage girls around me. Loud, wet, drunk teenagers could have ruined my night, but I forgot how much I like the 1975. That is, until they started playing.

Linus Young Washington live

First up, however, was Los Angeles-based Linus Young. Neither a ‘Linus’ nor a singer-songwriter as the name seemed to imply, they seemed more like a hipster 2.0 band. Nary a flannel shirt or thick rimmed glasses in sight, but the band were replete with massive ungroomed beard, tattoos and velvet trousers. This is not to say that I didn’t like them, I did. They had a massive groove that I totally got into. With a flow and a vibe that called to mind the best of LA music, sans sunshine-y pop, they offered up a slow, melodic set punctuated by some killer guitar work. By the time they ended their set with ‘Give It Away’ some of my crankiness had left me.

The long sold out show had the 1975 on shortly thereafter and as I mentioned, my mood lifted immediately as the stage lit up with a neon rectangle surrounding the drum kit, echoing their logo. Matt Healy burst onto the stage obscuring his trademark half shaved, half floppy mop with an enormous hooded scarf. It didn’t last long though, as the music built there was no way that head gear could have stayed on his whipping body. I did think that he seemed a tab disconnected from the audience when he doffed his guitar; he seemed to get lost in the microphone in his hands. The songs were short, punchy and vibrated with life. Masterfully crafted bits of pure excitement lifted and threw the crowd. The band brimmed with confidence in their audience. Allowing numerous times for Healy to step back from the the mic, the crowd swelled with full-throated lyrics that carried them to the next bridge. Playing through about 75% of the eponymous album released just a month earlier, there was the same level of frenzy for the new songs as there was for the earlier ones like ‘Milk’ and ‘Head. Cars. Bending.’

The 1975 Washington October 2013 live

Despite the shrieking young girls, I was happy to see a significant group of guys there really getting into the quite excellent shredding going on. Healy may make ‘em scream with his on stage thrashing, but he can also play pretty well. One girl, in a living room presumably far away, got a thrill when Healy snatched the phone from someone in the front row who was face-timing said girl. He sang to her for a few seconds, then shrugged and handed back the phone. I could just imagine the squeal! That girl’s night was made. And mine was saved by the fun and energetic set by the band. I hear they may hit our shores again in a while and I will be sure to be there again.

After the cut: the 1975’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: The 1975 with Linus Young at Black Cat, Washington DC – 11th October 2013

 

Live Gig Video: The 1975 cover One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ in Radio1 Live Lounge

 
By on Thursday, 5th September 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

Just when you though the Radio1 Live Lounge couldn’t get any weirder than Biffy Clyro going in there and covering Vampire Weekend’s ‘Diane Young’, The 1975 come round with this surprising gem that is slower and slowful. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Your ears are not deceiving you. The Mancunian band is actually covering One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’. Even more hilarious, frontman Matty Healy introduces the clip, looking a little confused and saying, “I don’t know where the rest of them are…” and pointing to a virtual sign. I’mn also wondering where those glasses went that are in the still on the YouTube video…

Read my review of the band’s self-titled debut album on Dirty Hit here; it was just released on Monday.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEVXmzHY1lU[/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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