Friday, 24 February 2012

Yr Friends Have Already Left

Alexei Berrow of Johnny Foreigner is almost disgustingly productive, not six months have passed since the last EP from his solo project Yr Friends - and in that time Johnny Foreigner released their brilliant third album 'Vs Everything'. Such prolificacy would be annoying, except anyone who finds more music from Berrow/Jo-Fo to be a bad thing is clearly not listening properly, if at all.  This EP is in much the same vein as his previous release, 'Yr Friends Have Been Lying To You', which we described as "wrapping you up in gentle guitar melodies... addictive and affecting".

This time Berrow sighs his accounts of bills, exhaustion, late nights and hope over soft electronic humming and warm harmonies, rather than the gently plucked guitar of the previous EP. It gives you a fleeting glimpse, on a misty night, in to Berrow's world - he promises to "sing from the heart" and he does. The stories he weaves are given all the more weight for the authenticity they communicate. But it's not all beautifully worded realism, on the fourth track things get a bit more morbid "I wanna sea burial, I won't leave a mark". Tackling money woes, relationships and death in less than 17 minutes, it's a real gem and we can only hope there's yet still more to come.

Buy it for only £4

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Live: The Twilight Sad - Bristol Fleece, Feb 13th '12

The Twilight Sad's latest album, 'No One Can Ever Know' is the result of a conscious decision to change the band's sound. Any decision that attempts to avoid stagnation, in a climate where bands often seem almost afraid to try anything different on the next album, is certainly admirable. So, gone is the crashing wall of wailing guitars. But at its heart, the album still has the confidence and individuality that make the Twilight Sad stand out, something they've maintained since their first releases. 

 They begin the gig with the heavy droning beat from 'Kill It In The Morning', the final track on the new album. The unsettling feeling that their music has always induced in their audience so well is even more powerful live, and as the first synth melodies shiver out it's clear that this 'new sound' is going to be even more potent live. Lead singer James Graham barely opens his eyes throughout, contorting his face as he shudders along to the beat. His vocals are one of the best things about the band - consistently strong, clear and melodic - in fact sometimes on record they aren't quite given the spotlight they deserve. Graham's intense concentration may be contributing to the fact that tonight his voice is something of a magnet, grabbing the audience's focus and holding it. Although that's not to say that the rest of the band aren't equally talented; the echoing thrum and fuzz of the surrounding sound contrasts well with the solid beauty of his voice. 

 The between-song chat is kept to a minimum, Graham mumbles with a smile in reply to a heckle of "I love you", that "you wouldn't, I'm a total nobhead" and aside from their murmured words of gratitude, that's it.  Each song is blended into the next; they are clearly comfortable playing the new songs, side-by-side with some of their older stuff. The melodic hum of 'And She Would Darken The Memory' swells around, as Graham howls "the rabbit might die" then, without missing a beat the next track is reverberating around the dingy, fairy-light lit interior of The Fleece. The constant barrage of sound is arresting, but in a consuming, intense way and the open (if slightly chilly) interior of the venue suits their sound well. They seem genuinely surprised and grateful at the turnout, modestly calling themselves "only a tiny band from Scotland. The Twilight Sad may only think of themselves as a tiny band, but they are a band guaranteed to give an atmospheric performance and in the context of tonight's show their latest album has really starts to make more sense for me. Captivating, engaging, and well worth watching.
The Fleece have got some really great gigs coming up, take a look (the Xiu Xiu date in particular should be incredible).

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Benjamin Shaw - There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet

Audio Antihero Records, November ‘11

In much the same ways as a wise old man might sit down by a fire and impart his wisdom, Benjamin Shaw uses ‘There’s Always Hope…’ to tell tales of everyday trials and tribulations with flair and a humorous sense of gravity. ‘Interview’ details the inevitability of stressing out about a job interview, knowing that even if you got the job it’d only make you more miserable. His self-deprecating humour is one of the reasons this never even begins to sound like the work of ‘just another bloke’ with an acoustic guitar, no mean feat when you’re a bloke with an acoustic guitar making music. He may be keen on chaotic clamour, but you’d be a fool to let Shaw’s talent for melodies pass you by. These melodies sink their claws into you, refusing to let go as they ride the ebb and swell of the surrounding fuzzy mess. That’s not to say that we’ve not been shown this talent before, the opening track on his EP ‘I Got the Pox, the Pox Is What I Got’ gives us over a minute of beeping and unintelligible voices, before the gentle guitar strumming begins and his characteristically heart-wrenching, yet simple, lines are mumbled out. It could be suggested that Shaw is trying to disguise an ability to make very listenable and pleasant music, behind a barrier of noise and dissonance. But that would be unfair and inaccurate at best. The droning and creaking that begins ‘HULK’, the closing track of ‘There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet’, only adds to its absolute, aching beauty. This track pulls at you, it’s addictive and there’s a bizarre sense of joy permeating through the pain. And as Shaw declares in his dejected but strangely powerful voice that “I can’t control…what it does to me”, you’ll begin to wish that not only is there hope and cabernet, there’s also more to come from this (self-confessed) ‘singer-songwanker’.
Buy it