Frank Turner

June 18, 2014, Posted by Richard in Books, Music

Frank Turner to write touring memoir

Frank Turner has played over 1,584 shows across the globe, so the man knows a thing or two about life on the road. Well then, you lucky people, it’s a good thing he has decided to write a book chronicling his journey from another nambucca show to ruddy Wembley arena.

The book is set to be published next Spring by Headline. The man himself said:

“It took some persuading for me to think about writing a book of any kind, but in the end I realised that I have spent a pretty unusual amount of time touring hard in the last few years, and I have a fair few stories to tell, and maybe even a tiny smidgen of wisdom to impart to people starting out on the same path. Plus I come from a family of yarn-spinners, and I can run my mouth, so it makes sense.”

Headline will publish the as yet untitled memoir in hardback and e-book in Sring 2015. Read more here on NME.com

To mark this pretty spectacular news, here are a few of our favourite Frank Turner videos…

 

May 17, 2014, Posted by Tom in Live reviews, Music

Benjamin Clementine live review – an incredible performance from a unique talent

Since his breakthrough appearance on Later with Jools Holland in October of last year, Benjamin Clementine has been an artist on the up. Having first come to attention busking on the Paris Metro, Clementine has now risen to the level where he can headline a show at the 1,400+ capacity Koko before he’s even released an album. By the time tonight’s performance came to a close, it was easy to see why.

Koko is a beautiful venue (apart from the scandalous £5.20 charge for a can of warm Red Stripe – poor Ben Willis looked on the brink of either passing out or kicking the bar staff), and it was perfect setting for an artist like BC. The stage set up was simple, with just a piano and a microphone, and as he wandered on stage at just after 9pm he was lit by just two spotlights. This wasn’t a gig that needed gimmicks to hold your attention; it was all about Clementine’s incredible voice.

KOKO

There are few comparisons that spring to mind when watching Clementine perform, as his delivery is incredibly unique. Antony and the Johnsons and Nina Simone seem to get mentioned a lot in press about him, but the best thing to do is give his songs a listen and draw your own conclusions. On some songs he barely whispers, and on others he sounds so tortured you just want to get up there and give him a big cuddle. Either way, it’s impossible not to be blown away.

Inevitably for an artist who has only released one 3-track EP, it was the well-known songs that received the most rapturous reception, but the material tonight was strong enough to suggest that his debut album, when it eventually arrives, will be something special. For the most part, however, the audience stood in respectful silence, mesmerised by what was happening on the stage.

Clementine performing ‘Nemesis’ on Jools Holland. It’s bloody good.

The between song chatter, whilst kept to a minimum, was also pretty funny, adding to Clementine’s charm and skill as a performer. But really is it’s all about the voice. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea; some may argue his delivery can be a bit OTT, but to me (and the entirety of tonight’s audience) it’s haunting, intense, and unconventionally beautiful. Basically, he’s one of the biggest new musical talents in the country at the moment, and if you do get chance to see him live, do it.

Benjamin Clementine‘s Cornerstone EP is available now
cornerstone

April 25, 2014, Posted by Tom in Album Reviews, Music

Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots review

Pretty much everything Damon Albarn has touched throughout his career has turned to gold.

Whilst many of his Britpop contemporaries have faded away or become pale imitations of their former glorious selves, Mr Albarn has kept on innovating. Whether it’s with Gorillaz, writing operas, teaming up with Paul Simonon from The Clash, producing for legends like Bobby Womack, or getting the old band back together, he’s always been one step ahead of the rest.

So it’s a bit of a surprise that he’s taken so long to bring out a proper solo album. It’s quite lucky then that it’s been worth the wait.

Everyday Robots is a bittersweet, subtle and beautiful album. It’s not one that gets in your face, but one that takes a few listens to really hit home. You’ve probably heard the singles ‘Everyday Robots’ (with creepy spinning head video), ‘Lonely Press Play’ and ‘Heavy Seas of Love’, and it’s fair to say that if you like these songs, you’ll love the rest of the album.

There’s a sense of melancholia running throughout Everyday Robots, as is often the case with Albarn’s work. The main exception here is ‘Mr. Tembo’, a song about and for an elephant he met at a zoo in Tanzania. Featuring uplifting vocals from The Leytonstone City Mission Choir, it’s a real contrast to the rest of the album, but doesn’t feel out of place.

However, for a solo album, the lyrics here are perhaps not as revealing about their creator as they could have been. Most of the depth comes from the melodies, rather than the words, and you don’t come away feeling like you know Albarn any better. As a whole, it seems that, despite the quirky samples and interesting grooves, Mr Albarn has played things rather safe here. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing when the songs are this good.

If you’re a fan of any of Damon Albarn’s previous projects (who isn’t?) then this is an album you’re going to want to hear, and, whilst not as groundbreaking or original as some of his back catalogue, it definitely rewards repeated listens.

8/10

everyday-robotsImage: © Parlophone, Warner Bros, XL

Tracklisting:

Everyday Robots
Hostiles
Lonely Press Play
Mr. Tembo (featuring. The Leytonstone City Mission Choir)
Parakeet
The Selfish Giant (featuring. Natasha Khan)
You and Me (featuring. Brian Eno)
Hollow Ponds
Seven High
Photographs (You are Taking Now)
The History of a Cheating Heart
Heavy Seas of Love

April 10, 2014, Posted by Tom in Live reviews, Music

Vampire Weekend: Live review

Vampire Weekend perform at the Roundhouse, Camden, as part of the month-long iTunes festival.

It’s a strange beast, the iTunes Festival. 30 days of free gigs from world-famous acts like Arctic Monkeys, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga and Sir Elton John sounds amazing. But no matter how good the act is, the actual gigs themselves can be a little lacklustre, and not necessarily due to any fault of the artists themselves.

On a damp and wintery Sunday evening, New York’s finest alt rock/afrobeat/pop quartet Vampire Weekend rolled into town, with their gig marking the halfway point in this year’s festival. Tight, polished and a lot of fun, they delivered a frenetic set that packed in the hits from their three excellent albums.


Kicking off with the disgustingly infectious recent single Diane Young, lead singer Ezra Koenig kept onstage chatter to a minimum as the band raced through their set. They played a healthy chunk of material from their latest album Modern Vampires of the City, with Ya Hey being a particular highlight. In fact, whilst the songs from the first album still sounded fresh, the band really seem to have upped their game with the new album, with each song being a lot more multi-layered and ambitious.

If there was any criticism of the band, then perhaps they were a little too perfect. Every song sounded almost identical to how it does on the record, with a nice segue from Campus in to Oxford Comma being the only deviation.


If the band were great, what went wrong? Basically, the crowd were rubbish. With tickets available for free by lottery, the majority of punters apply for every gig, regardless of whether they are really a fan of the act. I can’t complain, I did it too, but thankfully I didn’t win tickets for Rizze Kicks.

As a result of this, the crowd were flat, with many even leaving after the band had played probably their biggest hit, A-Punk. It was telling that early B-side Boston, which usually gets a massive reaction at their gigs, was greeted with virtual silence. Similarly, the old ‘filming a gig on your mobile’ thing was a big problem here. Sure, I took a few photos, but several people had their iPads held aloft for the majority of the set, spending their time staring at a screen rather than watching the band.

It was a shame as you couldn’t really ask for more from the band’s performance, and the venue itself is one of the best in London, but you just came away thinking about how good it could have been.

You can watch the full set for free on the iTunes store


Vampire Weekend played:

Diane Young
White Sky
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Holiday
Step
Unbelievers
Horchata
Everlasting Arms
Cousins
California English
Diplomat’s Son
A-Punk
Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)
Ya Hey
Campus
Oxford Comma
Obvious Bicycle

Encore:

Hannah Hunt
One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
Walcott

April 9, 2014, Posted by Tom in Live reviews, Music

David Brent and Forgone Conclusion review

The earring’s back (‘fashion, innit’). Foregone Conclusion are back. David Brent strode out onto the stage complete with Bono-esque sunglasses and leather waistcoat (Sergio Giorgini perchance?). 

With this tight hour of tunes at the Bloomsbury theatre, Ricky Gervais has found the perfect vehicle to celebrate his most glorious creation fronting the band that famously spurred Texas on.

We were treated to an album’s-worth of songs debuted during Gervais’s Learn Guitar With David Brent, all performed brilliantly by Brent’s backing band (‘couldn’t get the original guys back together unfortunately’), whilst Gervais sang with rock-star earnestness, before breaking out Brent’s trademark bottom lip biting for air-guitar solos.

Gervais has been there before, of course, so he knows very well how to put on a gig. Any criticism that there should have been more mistakes, that the band is too tight, is missing the point. This is Brent’s dream when he’s not repping he’ll have tried his absolute hardest. Also, musical comedy is one of the most difficult things to get right and it never, ever works when there are ‘deliberate’ mistakes. Look at Tim Minchin, Bill Bailey, The Concords, Isy Suttie and Bo Burnham, they work because they’re brilliant musicians.

Only when the music’s stopped are we treated to some excruciating (and hilarious) stage patter, particularly when he introduces rapper Dom Johnson (played by Doc Brown): ‘Chris Martin has Jay-Z, Frank Sinatra had Sammy Davis Jnr. And I’ve got one!’ That’s the thing with Brent give him a microphone and time to speak and it’s only a matter of time before he digs himself into a gloriously awkward hole.

The new song ‘Lady Gypsy’ was a particular highlight part wistful reflection on Brent’s coming-of-age, part recollection of his clarification about a cash exchange and some heather…

Whether or not the inevitable stadium gigs will work is another matter this did seem suited to a tiny venue; after all, the function room of a pub with the smell of stale beer and feedback squeaking through the silence is where Foregone Conclusion would be playing every Sunday afternoon.

But then again, I kind of want as many hardcore Brentians as possible to see Freelove Freeway performed in the flesh…

As he walked off stage, fist raised in the air like a conquering hero, I thought there goes David Brent. I must remember to thank him…

the national

April 8, 2014, Posted by Ben Willis in Album Reviews, Music

The National: Trouble Will Find Me review

The National’s previous album, 2010’s High Violet, saw the band make the transition from cult heroes to the mainstream without sacrificing any of their credibility or idiosyncratic charm. Make no mistake, they are now a big band; they’ve performed at the White House for President Obama, headlined Latitude Festival, and even contributed a song to the Game of Thrones soundtrack. Three years on and they are back with yet another beautifully crafted collection of songs. From the opening chords of ‘I Should Live in Salt’ right through to the gentle sway of closing ballad ‘Hard to Find’, this is a record that immediately grabs your heartstrings and refuses to let go.

Despite leading the band’s charge up festival bills, singer Matt Berninger still seems racked with self-doubt and anxiety. Renowned for his intense, red wine-fuelled live performances (check out ‘Mr November’ from Glastonbury 2010, where he basically collapses/falls over at the end), he often comes across as a man uncomfortable in the spotlight. However, his rich baritone has never sounded better than on Trouble…, particularly on the more fragile tracks such as ‘Heavenfaced’, the album’s emotional centrepiece. He doesn’t hold anything back in his highly-personal lyrics, dissecting his insecurities on ‘Demons’ (“When I walk into a room I do not light it up…F**K!”) and his difficult love life on the majestic ‘Pink Rabbits’ (“You didn’t see me I was falling apart, I was a television version of a person with a broken heart”). With so much raw emotion in his voice, you get the feeling Berninger could croon the ‘Rush Hour Crush’ section from the Metro and its sheer beauty would reduce grown men to tears.

Elsewhere, twin guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner create intricate arrangements that gently build to huge finales without ever slipping into over-sentimental Snow Patrol/stadium rock territory, and each track is driven on by Bryan Devendorf, who further cements his reputation as one of the most innovative rock drummers of the 21st century. With the whole band on top form, there’s also an impressive cast of guest stars present, including Sharon Van Etten, Sufjan Stevens and Richard Reed Parry. Reed Parry’s day job is as a multi-instrumentalist with Arcade Fire, who may well be one the few household-name modern rock bands that you could justifiably class as contemporaries of The National.

Detractors (absolute fools) may be quick to dismiss them as ‘gloomy’ and ‘miserable’, perhaps even ‘boring’, but that is to completely miss the point of The National. Their music can break heart, but can just as easily put it back together again. At times complex, at times simple, each of these songs merits repeated listens, and as a body of work this is without doubt the best album of 2013 so far. I bloody love The National.

Rating: 9/10

Key tracks: ‘I Should Live in Salt’, ‘Sea of Love’, ‘Heavenfaced’, ‘Pink Rabbits’

Postal Service

April 8, 2014, Posted by Ben Willis in Live reviews, Music

The Postal Service: Live review

In 2003, Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie and Jimmy Tamborello of DNTEL meshed indie navel-gazing and Laptop Electronica to form The Postal Service (the name derived from the way the two chose to share their demos). Their one and only album ‘Give Up’ became a cult classic, boosted further from Iron & Wine’s glorious cover of lead single ‘Such Great Heights’ in Zach Braff’s Garden State.

Ten years later and a group of wide-eyed fanatics have come to the Brixton Academy to see Gibbard and Tamborello play ‘Give Up’ in its entirety as part of a ten-year anniversary tour.

Any worries that the two have lost their mojo were instantly quashed as a huge cheer greeted the beginning of ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight’. Backed by Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley and Laura Burhenn of Bright Eyes fame, Gibbard was surprisingly animated, with some decidedly dodgy drunk-Uncle-at-a-wedding dancing going on, as well as skipping over to a dormant drum kit to add some weight to Tamborello’s beats.

Having a look on exciting new social networking microblogging site ‘twitter’ after the gig, in amongst the breathless, frenzied loveins and ohmygod hashtags, there were quite a few people grumbling about the sound mix – and there was a noticeably bass-heavy sound which did rather drown out Gibbard’s soft, lilting vocals at times.

Undeterred, the band ripped through their limited material, banging out the b-sides in front of some lurid lights, and returned with a triumphant encore, finishing with ‘Brand New Colony’.

‘Everything will change,’ Gibbard crooned, the crowd needing no encouragement to yell it back at him. To the lucky lot who saw the band in London ten years ago, it probably didn’t feel like much had.

Rich

Check out the The Postal Service setlist HERE

Kevin Devine

April 8, 2014, Posted by Beau Merchant in Live reviews, Music

Kevin Devine: Live review

Paddy reviews Kevin Devine’s superb gig at The Lexington in Islington, 4th February…

Kevin Devine’s show at the Lexington was originally billed as a show with his backing band, The Goddamn Band – an exciting prospect in light of their album, Bubblegum, released with Kevin last year. Kevin also released an accompanying album, Bulldozer, with both albums being funded by one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns for music in the history of the site. Having declared both of these albums to be my favourite records of last year, I was really excited to see Kevin come and play his blistering new songs with the band, having last seen them play at the Borderline in 2012.

So I was a little disappointed when I heard that, due to the difficulty of making a tour outside his native US viable with the full band, the show would now be a solo show. And then I remembered it was a Kevin Devine show.

With or without a band to back him up, Kevin Devine always puts on a great show, a fact known by every single person in the sold-out crowd the filled the Lexington early in the evening for opening act Katie Malco. Katie is also a singer-songwriter who shines with or without her backing band, and her smartly written melancholy love songs held the audience enraptured from the word go as she appeared solo, playing a right-handed Telecaster left-handed and with beautiful tone and chiming chords.

Kevin Devine took to the stage unassumingly and was greeted with the whoops of affection and excitement that only a loyal fanbase, built through hard work and a fifteen-year career of great record following great record, can produce. Kevin’s gratitude for and emotional connection with his fans felt genuine and was more than a little infectious, as he allowed himself to be pleasantly surprised by spontaneous singalongs by the audience and engaged in small talk with the audience about the new records, touring Europe and the possibility of Limp Bizkit’s DJ Lethal appearing out of the blue in the DJ booth at the side of the stage to ruin the show. That didn’t happen, thankfully.

What did happen was that I didn’t think, for a second, about the absence of the band. The energy and intensity of Kevin’s live performance outweighed the absence tenfold, and many of the songs were performed in altered ways that made them perfect for a live show. Even the high-speed political punk rock song “Fiscal Cliff,” which Kevin acknowledged might sound odd on an acoustic guitar, sounded great. Kevin’s songs are often political (another example was “Private First Class,” written about US whistleblower Chelsea Manning), and to see these songs performed with conviction was incredibly powerful; but equally moving were the songs with lyrics more personal in tone, such as the surprisingly romantic “Matter of Time.” Kevin covered all bases with his setlist, mixing old and new material well and responding to a crowd request for an Elliott Smith cover. The crowd was also free of the incessant chatting that often ruins acoustic shows, so every song fell upon appreciative ears.

There wasn’t an encore, but it wasn’t necessary – Kevin’s usual final song, Ballgame, is a long and inspiring one about, in his words, “trying to get your shit together,” and I (along with the rest of the crowd) hung on its every word, leaving uplifted and sure that the show was worth enduring the tube strike and walking home in the rain for. Let’s hope Kevin comes back soon.

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