LISTEN: Rosemary Fairweather – Chemicals

Bitter Sweet Symphonies

Rosemary FairweatherNever judge a book by its cover. When you first see the name Rosemary Fairweather, you can be forgiven for assuming that the Toronto songstress is a folk artist, someone writing music that conjures up images of Scarborough Fair and freshly cut wheat for men with beards to nod thoughtfully along to.

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The Strokes – Future Present Past EP REVIEW

 

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The Strokes embrace every element of their new EP’s title

The Strokes have always been hampered by their past exploits, and the problem has always been the same: if they continued making music like their debut, they were called safe, and if they deviated, people complained because it wasn’t Is This It. But in recent years, the band has diversified massively, with Albert Hammond Jr’s solo project, Julian Casablancas’ album with The Voidz, and Nikolai starting up Summer Moon. This could mean that finally, people will stop expecting The Strokes to recreate their past glory, and let them just do what they do best.

And it seems that, after 3 years of musical silence, they’ve decided to return with a concept EP, as Future Present Past’s track list seems to mirror its content. If the sinister 80s synth grumble of Drag Queen represents the band’s future, then OBLIVIUS is the band’s transitional present, and Threat Of Joy is a nostalgic flashback to the glory days.

Drag Queen, a song that’s strangely evasive despite its relative simplicity, kicks off the EP. Although the sound of this track is very sinister and interesting, it feels weirdly uncertain, as if the band weren’t quite sure what sort of song they wanted to make. There’s a noticeable influence from Julian Casablancas’ extra-curricular activities too; in fact, this track feels like it could’ve slotted neatly into the tracklist for Tyranny with its odd jazzy guitar stabs and tense chorus soaked bassline.

By contrast, OBLIVIUS is a flawless meld of every version of the band’s sonic blueprint. The low-fi feel of Room On Fire (a production style that encompasses the whole EP) is teemed with slower moody touches reminiscent of First Impressions Of Earth. The vocal melody darts about during the verses, settling on a fantastic hook in the choruses. ‘What side are you standing on?’ howls Julian, as the track explodes with pent up energy. It’s a great new addition for the band, although it feels as if it could’ve benefited from more solid backing vocals.

Threat Of Joy, with its spoken word opening, feels especially tongue and cheek. Julian Casablancas seems to be actively engaging with the band’s critics, asking why they won’t play with him anymore. But the song itself, with its laid back vibe and woozy delivery, is itself very playful. But, like OBLIVIUS, the song is crying out for committed backing vocals. We get some attempt, little bits here and there, but the choruses of both songs would benefit massively from a really strong harmony, and would take these songs to the next level.

What’s re-assuring about this EP is that it shows that The Strokes are still capable of working together and cranking out some really delightful tracks. The band sound largely cohesive throughout, though less so on Drag Queen. Future Present Past, as its title suggests, is very aware of the band’s heritage and history, and although its something of a safe release, it sounds like The Strokes are having fun playing together again, and when it comes down to it, isn’t that all that really matters? Despite its shortcomings, Future Present Past is a lot of fun, and a cheerful reminder that, for The Strokes, this isn’t it yet.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool ALBUM REVIEW

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Radiohead make a stunning return with A Moon Shaped Pool

One does not simply LISTEN to a new Radiohead album. At this point, Radiohead inspire so much discussion when they drop any music, that it can take time to cut through the onslaught of journals, blogs and social media posts to get down to your own opinion.

In recent years, they have not been a band that necessarily thrived on the immediacy of their music. As time has gone on, they’ve become increasingly artful and subtle, making it difficult to have a knee jerk reaction to A Moon Shaped Pool on first listen.

Nonetheless, it is a new album, and one full of familiar Radiohead-isms, though there are enough tweaks and new ideas to make it stand apart from anything else in music, as well as anything else the band themselves have already done.

Production-wise, this album feels fragile and ethereal. It takes the brooding skeletal blueprint of The King Of Limbs’ more emotional cuts and injects it with the organic instrumentation that album was lacking, bringing Greenwood’s strings and Yorke’s vocal to the forefront on many of the tracks, most notably on Glass Eyes and Daydreaming.

In fact, Thom Yorke’s vocal hasn’t sounded this upfront and direct since the 90s. Gone is much of the swirling delay and reverb adorning tracks from TKOL and Yorke’s solo material, and his voice is all the more enthralling for it. It is, at times, totally bare, sitting atop the mix as if the man himself is standing an inch from your face, both intimidating and totally hypnotizing.

And of course, Nigel Godrich continues to allow Radiohead to be bottomlessly creative with production techniques. The shifts in bass and treble EQ in Ful Stop make the song sound as if it is, as Yorke croons on Burn The Witch, emerging from the shadows. Pieces of guitars are used as delayed percussive hits in Decks Dark, and the strange, shifting time signature of Identikit keeps you on your toes.

But production aside, there is one question being dodged: is A Moon Shaped Pool a good album?

Yes. It’s stunning.

Whereas TKOL left some feeling lacking, A Moon Shaped Pool is an album packed with captivating new material. I implied before that this album was not one that could be understood immediately, and this is true. To the casual listener, this album may not have much to offer initially, but you will inevitably want to go back and listen to it again, because the curiosity and intrigue of the music cannot be ignored.

Is this to say then, that this album is a love letter to Radiohead fans, meaningless to anyone outside their cult? Certainly not. Although initially, the inclusion of True Love Waits seemed like fan-service, in the context of the album, it acts as both a stark reminder of the band’s past, and a melancholy closer that causes chills. The song feels ghostly in comparison to the aggressive acoustic original that many expected to be the only version they’d ever hear, but it works. It’s as if Radiohead are showing that the overpowering sadness of waiting, of longing, can take the energy out of life in the same way that sadness has come to define the now definitive studio version of the song, and indeed much of this album.

This is an unescapably sad album, it delves deep, into the dark, and never really emerges. But it never feels insincere in being devastated. Like the moon from which it gets its title, the band acts as a temporary guiding light through a landscape that is shadowy and full of fear. The journey is uncertain, and at times even frightening, but you realise that beneath the evasive and veiled production lie enthralling songs and heart-wrenching truths. It is infinitely exciting, and completely unstoppable.

LIVE REVIEW: Delamere + SKIES + Glass Caves + FLIIIS at Sound Control, Manchester

Bitter Sweet Symphonies

DelamereScruff of the Neck records clearly have a good thing going for themselves. In a night which showcased a number of acts associated with the independent label and promoter, it was impressive that, right from the off, Manchester’s Sound Control was playing host to new talent of a dizzying height. The night was about collaboration, with new music advocates, The Hyve and Australia-now-Manchester-based label Canvas Sounds also co-promoting the event alongside SOTN. Each bringing their own expertise to the table.

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LIVE REVIEW: SKATERS at Night & Day Cafe, Manchester

Bitter Sweet Symphonies

SKATERSSkaters’ debut album Manhattan has become something of a cult classic amongst the indie and alternative community, and rightly so. Full of tight, concise and extremely fun songs, the record was a perfect groundworks from which the band could really go anywhere on their next project. As it turns out, the band have gone for a more rough-around-the-edges, surf punk feel on their newer material, much of which they played at Night & Day Café, their first foray into Manchester since they last visited the country.

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Interview with…NARCS

My first proper interview piece! Check out this interview I did at Live At Leeds with fiery up-and-comers NARCS!

Bitter Sweet Symphonies

narcsFollowing a stonking set at this year’s Live At Leeds festival, we caught up with the city’s own Narcs. Despite channelling a political urgency and visceral stage presence, the guys were jovial and friendly on initial meeting. Frontman Wilko arrived with a pair of freshly picked daisies, and brought Joe (lead guitarist) and John (bassist) along for the ride. The band were fast to open up about the nitty-gritty of their mission statement, their influences, and their new album…

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