Tag: Zane Lowe

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 ….

It’s Album Time: Dermot Kennedy’s self-titled debut album reviewed.

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Dermot Kennedy – Dermot Kennedy

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Dermot Kennedy is a twenty five year old singer-songwriter who honed his craft busking on the streets of Dublin. He he has over three hundred million streams on Spotify. I’d never heard of him before listening to this album, which is largely a gathering together of the singles he has released over the past few years.

But those singles have received considerable backing from big beasts of the music industry. Power Over Me debuted on Annie Mac’s Radio One Show in the prestigious Hottest Record in the World slot. Moments Passed premiered on Zane Lowe’s Beats One show.

His self-titled debut album was released on January 4th, and its an unusual record. There’s a lot of sadness and loss tinged throughout the record, with love and spiritual imagery featuring regularly as well. That being said, the album never really feels like a collection of songs that belong together. There’s nothing that binds together the various songs and both the tempo and ‘vibe’ of the album oscillates wildly.

The most notable asset on this album is Kennedy’s voice. Hovering somewhere between David Gray and Marcus Mumford, it is full of power and emotional heft and when it is used correctly gives an impressive rawness to the songs. Unfortunately, it is very rarely used correctly.

From the outset, the production on this album drowns any emotional heft the demos had. Album opener Power Over Me is a love song that feels insincere due to overproduction, with its big backing vocals and mass-appeal stabilisers.

Moments Passed has some heartbreaking lyrics (She said, “Oh, I know that love is all about the wind, How it can hold me up and kill me in the end”, Still I loved it, Does that mean nothing to you now?) but is renderer oddly soulless and pedestrian through the whirring, unnecessary noise.

The entire album continues in a similar manner. On almost every track I found myself writing negative comments about over-production, or emotions being diluted. I found myself wishing I could hear the acoustic versions of the tracks, to try and connect with Kennedy’s initial intentions. It’s no coincidence that the first three minutes of – the acoustic – An evening I will not forget feels like the most honest and straightforward on the record, until the unnecessary strings join the party.

Sadly this album has few redeeming features. Overly baggy (it’s drags quite badly towards the end), drowning in production to the point of soullessness and feeling relatively insincere, I hope Mr Kennedy is able to go back to basics in his future work.

4/10

Ramblings: on VANT & Radio 1

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Back in July 2015 I heard my first VANT track; The Answer immediately stood out from a lot of the guitar music around at the time. With it’s extended intro, swagger and politically-charged lyrics I was immediately intrigued by this band I hadn’t previously heard off.

Based purely on the strength of that single I went to see them a couple of weeks later. There was a lot to be impressed by. They had several other cracking tunes in their locker, they were great fun live and – perhaps most strikingly – they connected with the very young fans there in a very special way (including a stage invasion).

I’ve followed them very closely from then on and have seen them twice since; the first was the night after the Bataclan terrorist attack. It was a strange night to go to a gig; the first time I’ve ever checked where the emergency exits are… just in case. Yet all three bands that played that night – FIDLAR, Bully and VANT – paid tribute in their own way, and I was so incredibly pleased I went. It felt like a collective show of defiance; that life will go on.

The last time I saw them was late last year at Scala, at the gig where they filmed the – re-released single – Do You Know Me? video. I was struck that night by how much they’d improved; how they really owned the stage and controlled the pace; a difficult skill for new(er) bands to learn and master.

On Friday they release their debut album – Dumb Blonde – and there’s a tour to go with it in the next few months. Alas they’re playing London on the same night I’m going to see The XX so I thought I’d have to miss out on seeing them again. However I’ve won some tickets to a BBC Introducing gig tonight at the Roundhouse, headlined by VANT, so I’m really looking forward to hearing the new material.

VANT have received a lot of Radio 1 support in the past eighteen months and it’s a reminder of what Radio 1 can do when it is at its best. They had the double whammy of Zane Lowe’s departure – along with a number of producers – and an enforced shift towards  their target audience, which really left them floundering, and they have more often than not responded in the worst possible ways on how to move forward.

Patronising young people and trying to make everything ‘cool’ is not a successful strategy; Radio 1 should remember that generations of young people kept coming back to Radio 1 because it played and supported the best music and employed people who were passionate about music. A quick glance at the daytime ‘DJ’s’ might point to why Radio 1 is struggling.

VANT are a politically charged band that are connecting with young people and Radio 1 has played a massive part in that. So – ahead of Friday’s album release – tonight should be a celebration of their relationship together and hopefully the first of many album release celebrations for the lads ‘from Planet Earth’.