The great British festival.
A right of passage if ever there was one. Music. Music and beer (copious amounts thereof, this is Yorkshire after all). Music and food (patchy quality and only two groups: meat and carbs, this is Yorkshire after all).
Music and friends (or just speaking to anyone who will listen, this is Yorkshire after all). Music and rain (well this is Yorkshire after all). And most importantly music and mud (again, this is Yorkshire after all).
Day after day of music and mud; the very essence of a British summer. After a while it becomes almost impossible to shake the feeling that you are constantly downhill from dysentery.
Folk music in all its guises is often an unforgiving genre to enter into.
Given the tendency for critics to label every contemporary iteration of a sound dating back many centuries, across a rich international tapestry, to the zenith of sleek production Mumford & Sons, or the commercialised pop leanings of Noah and the Whale, it’s easy to see why members of East London’s Dry The River have met such naive comparisons with understandable grievance.
As critically acclaimed 2012 debut album ‘Shallow Bed‘ can lay testament, beyond a penchant for soaring harmonies there is little evidence to suggest this band are merely carbon copies of their fellow folk rock luminaries, showcasing as it did Norwegian born lead singer and guitarist Peter Liddle vocally caressing a feathery instrumental blanket of violin and keys, leading into winding refrains blending the vibrant power of Brandon Flowers’ vocal range and dexterity intermingled with a White Lies aping ability to create a crescendo often teetering on the brink of unsteady foreboding in their fragile complexity.
This emotionally charged wrangling of instruments continues on ‘Alarms In The Heart‘, but with additional emphasis on sky scraping choruses and heavy guitars as an offset to the input violinist Will Harvey had on the previous record before departing earlier this year.
Manchester’s younger sons The Courteeners have returned with a brave fourth album, ‘Concrete Love‘; they’re forever a youthful and inventive band that see the beauty in twisting heads, turning tables, and tearing out hearts.
Their experimentalism is exceptional, their madness amazing. The Courteeners can no longer be marginalised by the narrow-sights and small-sized minds of the judges of modern-day music.
Limited to pub jukeboxes? Not when they have the tunes to pack out palaces across the legendary localities of our globe with as much spite, snarl and seriousness as a real man whilst also being greatly brave, adventurous and innovating, providing some mystery beneath an ocean’s worth of prolific songwriting.
To wildly, and poorly, paraphrase the Messrs Simon and Garfunkel: there is a lot of expectation and concern to be found in silence, or something very similar.
None more so than in that moment between pressing play and when the music finally starts playing, milliseconds become an age.
This has never been more true than on Royal Blood’s self-titled debut album. The Brighton based duo have not only a massive amount of the usual industry expectation and hullabaloo, but more importantly the expectant, pensive angst of all the fans who have been won over thanks to some truly impressive singles and shattering live performances.
Rock debuts are a tough proposition at the best of times, but with absolutely everyone watching, this is as tough as they come. Royal Blood’s particularly viscous amalgam of influences has brought them a true plethora of supporters. Throwing absolutely everything they love at a wall and watching the shattered pieces scatter, they have ultimately managed to create something brilliant. They have Black Sabbath’s ‘Supernaut‘ style rhythms and Rage Against The Machine‘s funk and stoccato ferocity, all flavoured with a little Black Keys duo-style bluesiness and strained Gaz Coombes-esque vocals from Mike Kerr.
“Our aim was always to make music this size,” Twin Atlantic frontman Sam McTrusty has said.
And, from listening to the album as a whole, ‘this size’ should be no lesser than the greatest of heights.
A monolith piece of pop-rock magic is ‘Great Divide‘, still complete with a full-on rampage that captures the adrenaline of their raucous live shows, but now also the love and harmony that knits the stitches closer to how down to earth yet oddly ethereal this band can be.
‘Great Divide’ stands as a reason to believe in a band that care about the intimidation, interrogation and intimacy of love torn apart when headlocks and heartbreak provide energy to relationships. Rabid and hyper, surreal and edgy, it is the Glaswegian interpretation of intelligent pop music we all like to survive. A divide of good and evil, more like a dynamo of sound that explodes and unfolds in 12 great tunes.
Alternative rock as an alternative to rock sounds like an oxymoron.
But Texas’ The Distant Sun aren’t any kind of moronic. This is intelligent and passionate rock, and an alternative to the current rock scene. They are wonderfully reminiscent of alternative rock’s hey day of the late 80s and early 90s, without ever feelingly slavishly contrived.
Indefatigable collaboration-master and growling vocalist Mark Lanegan has established himself as something of a cult phenomenon over the past three decades.
From his beginnings in grunge pioneers Screaming Trees to his brilliant Queens Of The Stone Age contributions and right across a solo career, his output has remained largely consistent or (at the very least) quite interesting.
A new album, ‘Phantom Radio’, is on the horizon for an autumn release, but prior to this potential delight Lanegan has whet our lips with something of an appetiser in a five track EP entitled ‘No Bells On Sunday’. Mmmm, tasty.
As a seasoned festival goer with a collection of heavily worn out wristbands gathered from trips to some of the UK’s biggest festivals – T In The Park, Leeds and Download alongside the godfather of all music festivals, – a visit to an altogether more humble venue in Derbyshire’s Y Not Festival resulted in a glorious reconnection with the grassroots of alternative music.
Y Not’s history is a brief yet wonderfully encouraging DIY story of how a small gathering of music aficionados from a school in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, gathered at a house party with only a couple of DJs for company, organically adapting through word of mouth during subsequent years until the first official Y Not Festival in 2006 heralded the beginning of a three day event now held at the start of August each year in Pikehall.
The carefree passion and jovial atmosphere of the festival’s origins was retained amongst a sell-out bill this year, showcasing a mixture of established artists and fresh faced acts from a range of alternative genres, seeing White Lies, Dizzee Rascal and Frank Turner as headliners above a packed daily line-up spanning four main stages.
This writer first came across Childhood in expectation-free circumstances; a Friday night support slot for Kettering’s own retro-psychedelics, Temples.
Suitably impressed the unprecedented un-British step was taken of approaching gangly lead singer Ben Romans-Hopcraft after their set with the intention of finding out just who this mystery outfit were. “We’re called Childhood” he almost whispered, before going on, “We meant to say it during the set but we erm…didn’t.”
Self promoting scions of Lady Gaga the former Nottingham University students are certainly not.
Impressions on the night was of a group who were enthralled by the ‘indie’ chameleon in its various guises throughout the years, from its raincoaty beginnings in The Cure and Echo and The Bunnymen, to the late-eighties flirtation with acid house, past Britpop and through to the likes of White Lies and Foster The People.
‘Lacuna‘ delivers something less prosaic than that however, containing in it a batch of songs that rarely stop for breath, making up in enthusiasm and rickety charm for what they lack in inventiveness.
…And The Hangnails unleashed their third album ‘Rut’ on July 25th.
There’s a difference between ‘release’ and ‘unleash’; the former would indicate a typical, typecast adopted method of allowing listeners to digest and fall in love a record.
The latter indicates a total takeover of heart, mind, soul and body, when once the victim has fallen to a record as punk, potent and powerful as this one, will later be found as a pile of mush, their remains a small heap of rubbish thanks to the utterly adulterated teenage-angst frenzy that surrounds and energizes this rock, full of fuck you guitar-driven pop-dining-room floor-fillers. Full of fascination.
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