Tag: The Twilight Sad

The A List (31st March 2019) – the ten best new music tracks right now

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I’ve been  under the weather with a chest infection the past few days, so one of the three new entries in the top 10 hasn’t featured on the blog this week (apologies to Molly Tuttle, you were meant to be a Track of the Day on Friday but I was in my sickbed). There’s a new number one, and four tracks reach their three week time limit. Check these bad boys out… 

1. Dave – Psycho [New Entry]

The first track on Dave’s recent album Psychodrama, it starts by introducing the listener to the album’s thematic concept, namely that of a therapy session. What follows is a three part drama,   with Dave reflecting on where he is now, he talks about drug dealing and gang violence. The second section is an eruption of confidence and swagger reminiscent of Dizzee Rascal’s pop pomp. The second section ends as Dave starts to identify himself as “careful, humble, reckless, arrogant, extravagant” followed by a reference about how he’s probably battling manic depression. Dave may be peerless when it comes to structuring songs – with outstanding production – around emotional journeys.

2. Rasharn Powell – Warm In These Blue Jeans [Final Week]

Everything in Warm In These Blue Jeans oozes class and style. “If I had wings, I would touch the sky” he sings, and we can feel ourselves soaring with him.

3. Teddy Pendergrass – Life Is A Song Worth Singing (Jamie Jones Remix) 

A truly wonderful remix that can brighten up any day. Every time I listen to it I end up smiling and wanting to dance. It starts with the teasing synths, but from there it throws in all sorts of wildcards. Teasing hi-hats, cowbells, trumpets. They all make an appearance. And the vocals help to keep the track grounded whilst all the chaos happens around them.

4. Lily Byrd – Don’t Move [Final Week]

From her Number EP released in January, New Hampshire’s Lily Byrd does something rather magical with Don’t Move. It is simultaneously familiar, sad, and hypnotic.

5. The Chemical Brothers – We’ve Got To Try [Final Week]

Taking The Halleluiah Chorus’s I’ve Got To Find A Way and giving it some electronic rocket boosters, this is a very funky track that sounds like they’re dipping into some of their earlier works.

6. Mathame – Skywalking [New Entry]

Skilfully walking the line between earphone pleasure and crowd pleaser, Skywalking starts by building slowly. Like a young bird unsure how to fly for the first time, it stutters and teases and grows in confidence for nearly 90 seconds. And then we are off… From a similar mould to Four Tet’s remix of Opus, Skywalking eschews the standard ‘big drop’ trope so familiar to dance music, and instead takes the listener on a journey through the clouds. Impressive work indeed.

7. The Twilight Sad – Girl Chewing Gum 

Lyrically it uses the same lines on repeat, but when you consider what those lines say, it really hits home. These are accompanied with swirling guitars and feedback, which provide the unsettling backdrop. The slightly shouty chorus is accompanied by a guitar part that viciously cuts through the record and into your soul. Even the hint of solace after the chorus is snatched away as the track becomes claustrophobic.

8. Molly Tuttle – Take The Journey [New Entry]

Some stunning guitar playing underpins Take The Journey, yet the track is easily accessible and rather uplifting. The theme of overcoming adversity and persevering are universal enough, and by the end you feel empowered.

9. James Supercave – Alarm Will Sound [Final Week]

Gentle sweeping electronics, a pace that feels gentle but is deceptively quickening, vocals that feel a little jarring until you realise how perfect they are. This is a really solid effort, superbly catchy and a very welcome return.

10. Peer Kusiv – Tundra 

German music producer Peer Kusiv’s latest EP came out in early February, and this is the title track. Full of shifting sounds – both the bass line and top end melody constantly evolve throughout the track – this is an expansive track that sounds great on headphones in the dark.

The A List (24th March 2019) – the ten best new music tracks right now

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No change at number 1 this week but five new entries, which isn’t that surprising given four tracks reached their time limit last week. Rasharn Powell continues to sound immaculate, but the Jamie Jones/Teddy Pendergrass track is an early contender for dance track of the year.  We lose only one track this week due to the three week time limit, the excellent Pressure to Party by Julia Jacklin. 

1. Rasharn Powell – Warm In These Blue Jeans 

Everything in Warm In These Blue Jeans oozes class and style. The laid-back groove kicks in immediately, the silky smooth vocals follow. There’s some lovely electronic touches and counter vocals, and the chorus feels majestic. “If I had wings, I would touch the sky” he sings, and we can feel ourselves soaring with him. The extended outro is also a winner.

2. Teddy Pendergrass – Life Is A Song Worth Singing (Jamie Jones Remix) [New Entry]

Tuesday’s Track of the Day, this is a truly wonderful remix that can brighten up any day. Every time I listen to it I end up smiling and wanting to dance. It starts with the teasing synths, but from there it throws in all sorts of wildcards. Teasing hi-hats, cowbells, trumpets. They all make an appearance. And the vocals help to keep the track grounded whilst all the chaos happens around them.

3. The Twilight Sad – Girl Chewing Gum [New Entry]

Wednesday’s Track of the Day and from the album I reviewed this week, this track has really stayed with me. Lyrically it uses the same lines on repeat, but when you consider what those lines say, it really hits home. These are accompanied with swirling guitars and feedback, which provide the unsettling backdrop. The slightly shouty chorus is accompanied by a guitar part that viciously cuts through the record and into your soul. Even the hint of solace after the chorus is snatched away as the track becomes claustrophobic.

4. Lily Byrd – Don’t Move 

From her Number EP released in January, New Hampshire’s Lily Byrd does something rather magical with Don’t Move. It is simultaneously familiar, sad, and hypnotic. The gentle strumming of the guitar and soft vocals are beautiful, but the distorted saxophone (at least I think its a sax) keep disturbing the slumber of the track, the paralysis of sadness that the song speaks of. “Hypnotised by a lack of love” she sings at the end, and you realise you’re living every heartbeat with her.

5. Julia Jacklin – Pressure to Party [Final Week]

The Penguin has to be honest, lyrically this may well be my favourite track of the year so far. It is just so brilliantly constructed and hard-hitting. It makes you sit up and take notice.

6. James Supercave – Alarm Will Sound 

Gentle sweeping electronics, a pace that feels gentle but is deceptively quickening, vocals that feel a little jarring until you realise how perfect they are. This is a really solid effort, superbly catchy and a very welcome return.

7. The Chemical Brothers – We’ve Got To Try

With a stunning return to form, We’ve Got to Try sounds like an old soul record that has been bastardised (in a good way), because that’s exactly what it is. Taking The Halleluiah Chorus’s I’ve Got To Find A Way and giving it some electronic rocket boosters, this is a very funky track that sounds like they’re dipping into some of their earlier works.

8. Peer Kusiv – Tundra [New Entry]

German music producer Peer Kusiv’s latest EP came out in early February, and this is the title track. Full of shifting sounds – both the bass line and top end melody constantly evolve throughout the track – this is an expansive track that sounds great on headphones in the dark.

9. Tones and I – Johnny Run Away [New Entry]

Tones and I is a singer hailing from Byron Bay Australia and this is her debut release. The song was inspired by her best friend coming out to his dad when he was younger, and in Johnny Run Away she speaks of young love and the negative reaction that receives from those that are meant to love unconditionally. I don’t know whether the title is a reference to the classic Bronski Beat track Smalltown Boy, but it certainly deals with the same theme of a young man feeling isolated by his sexuality.

10. Grand Pax – Lapse [New Entry]

From the opening note Lapse feels claustrophobic. With a beat in the background that sounds heavily inspired by Darth Vader, the close and dense electronics are matched by the vocals until the chorus, when Grand Pax’s voice is allowed to shine. This doesn’t feel a million miles away from the kind of music that Massive Attack produce.

The Twilight Sad – IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME

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The Twilight Sad – IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME

In January Scottish rockers The Twilight Sad released their fifth album. The Penguin was particularly excited to hear it given the lead single from the album was his favourite track of 2018, but not even that really prepared him for the totality of this album. It’s an album that merits – and really needs – repeated listens to understand the sheer scale of ambition and emotional depth the album contains.

The band toured extensively with the Cure and it is easy to hear their influences throughout the record. This is not an upbeat record, as the album title strongly hints at, and it may be that your tolerance for sadness dictates how much you enjoy this album. 

Instead it is a journey of pain, insecurities – riddled with contradictory lyrics “And he won’t leave us alone, And please don’t leave me alone, I don’t know who to trust, Don’t let me do my worst” and anguish, with the lyrical pain amplified by the wall of despair that builds in almost every song.

James Graham’s voice is one of the finest things in music. His Scottish lilt adds an effortless poetry to their sound, his lyrics sound all the more striking because of it. But every instrument is pulling in the same direction here; this is a special album because it’s that oh so rare musical moment when a band are delivering exceptional songs and everything feels essential. The guitars and keys in particular elevate the album into something truly meaningful; walls of tormented noise leave you with little room to breath at key moments throughout.  

[10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs] starts the album off as it means to go on. “Why can’t you remember me?” Graham sings in anguished tones over a wall of noise that sounds deeply unsettled and shifting. The accusatory nature of Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting (“I caught you kissing in the back stairs’’) veers between angry and almost child-like excitement (“I know something you don’t know”). The Arbor feels like a missing classic from the Smiths, with the addition of the swirling echoed vocals that stick around for a deeply unsettling outro. 

VTr is one of the finest moments on the album. Musically more radio friendly than many of the tracks, the softer indie edged mask the brutal honesty of the lyrics (“There’s a monster inside of you, Someone that you never knew, And someone that we didn’t choose”). I/m Not Here [Missing Face] is the band’s finest song to date, and a genuine modern classic. To capture so much despair and tension in five minutes is astounding. 

Auge/Maschine is just a cyclone of accusations “I can’t believe you hit me, I don’t know where to go” and almost oppressive tension, the guitars piercing your ears like the lyrics pierce your soul. Keep It All to Myself speaks of shame, regret and frustration “You put up with me and the love that you see, You deserve so much more” and Girl Chewing Gum is the moment when it all becomes too much “Put me in the ground, I don’t want to be here anymore”. I cannot think of another sequence of songs as emotional raw as these three. 

There’s a couple of weaker moments on the album. Let/s Get Lost struggles to follow the previous sequence of songs and Sunday Day13 feels like we’re covering ground we hear elsewhere on the album, but both are perfectly fine songs. And the album closes with Videograms, which feels like a moment of reflection, musically delicate but lyrically questioning (“Is it still me you love?”) 

Somewhat fittingly, the final words on the album are “I’m Not Sure”. I don’t think the listener is either, the album is only sneaking a glance into Graham’s tortured soul, where pain and contradictions compete for attention. The urge to want to give him a hug crosses my mind every time the album finishes. It must have been so difficult to write these songs and to share this level of honesty. That he has done so and made something so special with those feelings will, we can only hope, give him some joy.

It’s rare to hear a ‘bloke’ – meant in the nicest possible way – open up so much. Where I grew up I was surrounded by northern working class men and they generally didn’t acknowledge feelings, for fear of seeming weak, confused or because they didn’t know how people would respond. It’s a toxic culture where drink masks pain and steam builds up without having anywhere to vent. That Graham is living in a similar culture and allows that steam to form the spine of this album fills me with admiration and gives me hope that maybe things can change. Lots of songwriters can speak of love or heartbreak, but how many let you peer into their soul when they’re genuinely struggling to make sense of the world and their place in it?

This album is an absolute triumph. It may not match the commercial successes of other artists this year, but artistically few will being together an album so coherent, ambitious and brave. You feel all of the raw emotions that Graham’s lyrics give you, and his vocals really are the star turn on the album. But they’re not alone in being exceptional. Those lyrics hit you because they’re surrounded by the emotional instability he feels, only we hear it as backing music. 

It feels a little early to be talking about albums of the year, but someone’s going to have to produce something astounding to steal the annual crown from the lads from north of the border. 

9/10 

Track of the Day: The Twilight Sad – Girl Chewing Gum

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The Twilight Sad – Girl Chewing Gum

In recent weeks I’ve been listening to The Twilight Sad’s IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME a lot to try and bring together a review. It’s not an easy record from which to distill my thoughts into a blog post; musically it’s incredibly accomplished but the lyrics detail such pain and raw emotional honesty. Given the album came out in January and I’ve had it on rotation pretty much ever since, I don’t think it’s a massive spoiler to say its my favourite album of the year so far.

The lead single from the album (I’m Not Here [Missing Face]) was my favourite track of 2018 and it’s an album with several highlights, but one track that has really stayed with me is Girl Chewing Gum. Lyrically it uses the same lines on repeat, but when you consider what those lines say, it really hits home:

I’m leaving now
Won’t see you again
I’m leaving now
Won’t see you again

Put me in the ground
I don’t wanna be here anymore

These are accompanied with swirling guitars and feedback, which provide the unsettling backdrop. The slightly shouty chorus is accompanied by a guitar part that viciously cuts through the record and into your soul. Even the hint of solace after the chorus is snatched away as the track becomes claustrophobic.

In recent weeks the band’s YouTube channel have been uploading song-by-song explanations with the lead singer James Graham. Although they haven’t reached Girl Chewing Gum yet, I’d highly recommend the series as a way of gaining an insight into the background of the album. The way he speaks of the pain he’s channeling in the songs is really remarkable and very moving. And he also goes some way to explaining the somewhat odd track names that they use.

Ramblings: peak excitement levels for new albums from The Twilight Sad, Foals and the return of Bombay Bicycle Club

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One of the exciting things about January is that every music publication gets to run two lists, the new(ish)/lesser known artists they think will be big in the year ahead and the list of more established artists that are set to release new material and albums in the coming year.

In truth, the ‘breakthrough star’ lists seem to be losing a lot of their appeal and ‘guaranteed hit’ status (pure speculation on my part, but I’d guess this decline is through a combination of how we consume music nowadays and how social media has changed how we interact with and receive information from artists directly. Plus there’s about a million of those lists now, which inherently makes them less impactful).

Similarly the album lists are often preempted by the – now very early – announcements of major festival headliners (case in point, I was discussing albums coming up with a friend the other day and he said ‘Tame Impala are headlining Coachella, so I assume they’ve got something new coming out’)

Bu leaving that aside, I could barely hide my excitement when I went through the list(s) of acts with new material this year. Two acts I really admire (The Twilight Sad and James Blake) are releasing new material on Friday. The year’s not even three weeks old and we’re getting stuff from critically acclaimed and adored artists.

The Twilight Sad 

I’m particularly looking forward to The Twilight Sad release, partly as they made my favourite song of last year but mostly because I think they suit the LP format beautifully and rarely make a wrong step on their albums.

They have done a phenomenal job on Twitter creating a buzz for the release. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band create momentum and excitement in such an organic way; they and their fans are building up to Friday as a real key milestone for an underrated band. And the initial reviews certainly seem to indicate that the buzz is worth it.

Foals

The band I was originally going to centre this post around is the mighty Foals. They went big on a teaser last week for their new material that had rock and indie fans everywhere salivating. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is the name of the new album, and it will come in two parts, one in March and the other in the autumn. They must have a lot of faith in the albums to give it that title, it’s a reviewers dream to have something like that if an album – particularly a double album – isn’t very good… 

I’ve been a fan of Foals since I first heard 2008 single Cassius on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show. They sounded unusual and brilliant, and their singles became highlights whenever they were released. But the other side of the coin was that they seemed a sloppy live band. I remember watching them on TV (it was probably a Glastonbury set) and it sounded pretty rough. Yet their albums seemed to continue getting stronger, and I thought 2015’s What Went Down was a very good album – with a monster single of the same name – that was widely overlooked.

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In fact I thought they were ready for big festival slots, they were a band who had honed their live set into something wonderful – I saw them at Wembley Arena and they were absolutely fantastic – and they had enough big songs to justify top billing. Yet the big festivals didn’t quite agree. Glastonbury put them on the Pyramid stage below Muse, which I think was very much the wrong way round. Leeds and Reading did give them a headline slot, but as co-headliners alongside Disclosure. Certainly not a bad set of slots, but they deserved to be up there on their own.

And now we come to their new album(s), and I’m at peak excitement levels. The little teaser they’ve put out is impressive, and I keep my fingers crossed that this is the album that lands them on the top of the British music scene.

Bombay Bicycle Club

Speaking of fantastic bands, I lost my shit yesterday when I saw the news that Bombay Bicycle Club are back together and making new music. They were one of my favourite bands in the world when they went on hiatus (I saw their last tour three times) and I think music has missed their contributions. Seeing that they’re back together was my favourite moment of 2019 so far.

Until next time ….

Top 50 Songs of 2018 – the top 10

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  1. Orbital – Tiny Foldable Cities

Listening to Tiny Foldable Cities feels like you’ve turned into Superman. Soaring high in the sky and rapidly gliding amongst the clouds, you watch the world below as you zoom on by.

 

  1. Azealia Banks – Anna Wintour

My most listened to song of 2018 is the dancefloor destroyer Anna Wintour. From the beats to the vocals, everything sounds fresh and catchy. Originally meant to feature Mel B (of Spice Girls fame) and Nicki Minaj, instead Azealia Banks undertakes all the singing, rapping and slaying duties herself. If this song doesn’t make you strut, you aren’t living.

 

  1. Ben Howard – Nica Libres At Dusk

The opening track of Noonday Dream is an evocative and tender track filled with sadness and longing. There are hints of the idyllic Caribbean beach that is dreamt about within the lyrics, but Nica Libres At Dusk feels much colder and wind-swept, more Bournemouth in autumn than Barbados at the height of summer.

 

  1. Let’s Eat Grandma – Hot Pink

Let’s Eat Grandma are one of the most intriguing acts in British music. I first saw them in 2016 and their girlish charm mixed with gothic pop was captivating. Hot Pink is anything but girlish; a monstrous statement about the strength of women, backed up by production that sounds like the end of the world.

 

  1. SOHN – Nil

Nil is a brutally honest song. “Tell me if I’m not mistaken, but you’re not in love, am I right?”, SOHN sings without judgement or malice. Nil is the end; sadness and pain swirls all around and the voice falters only slightly. This is the laying to rest of a relationship, and it is absolutely heart-breaking.

 

  1. Robyn – Honey

Honey feels you’re dreaming but haven’t slept for days. Sensual, pulsating and entirely hypnotic, it’s the kind of track that makes you check your pulse to make sure it’s all real. Every element of Honey is perfect; from the rumbling synths and subtle addition of samba drumming to the bewitching hi-hats, Honey is a four-minute transcendence into something more meaningful.

 

  1. Jon Hopkins – Emerald Rush

It may be because Emerald Rush reminds me of Hans Zimmer’s amazing Interstellar soundtrack, but no earthly settling feels big enough to imagine Emerald Rush. It plays out like a giant intergalactic battle, with black holes and exploding planets. It’s a magnificent and evocative piece of music, and I bet it sounds massive on a dancefloor.

 

  1. Plastic Mermaids – 1996

The unusual relationships between humans and technology has become an increasingly discussed topic. Whether it be the threat of AI, the overdependence on technology or romantic relationships (for example the 2014 Spike Jonze film, Her), there’s a fascination about how technology can affect us, physically and emotionally. In 1996, Plastic Mermaids give their own spectacular contribution to this discussion, full of upgrades, digital funerals and provocative lyrics, all set to one of the catchiest and least predictable pop songs this year. And if that wasn’t enough, they also made what I think was the best video of the year. I can’t wait for next year’s album and London tour date.

 

  1. Rae Morris – Rose Garden

Rae Morris has been making solid records for a while, but nothing prepared me for the massive step up in her song writing craft that is Rose Garden. Written about a friend who is suffering with a long-term illness – and Morris’s own frustrations at being unable to help – Rose Garden is a tour de force of outstanding production and beautiful melodies that peaks with an almost heavenly bridge. Morris has said that this song reflects a direction she’d like to explore in her future work, and if she can match this quality then we’re in for something special.

 

  1. The Twilight Sad – I/m Not Here [Missing Face]

From the opening notes the claustrophobic tone of I/m Not Here imposes itself. The sense of bitter end is everywhere and relief eludes us. The end of a relationship, the sadness, distrust and blame whirls around, and James Graham’s Scottish lilt gives real meaning to every word. The isolation is obvious from the opening lytrics, “you’re too close for comfort, you’re too close to comfort me.” The piano tries to give some light – some space – but there’s just no way it can win here. This is a stupendous song; one that rewards continual listens and the best work yet from a fantastic band.