What I’ve been listening to: Bit of an odd one for me, and not my usual cup of tea (I’m a coffee drinker, y’see), but over the past two months, I’ve really enjoy the tracks released by American DJ and producer Baauer. The Brooklyn based twenty-two year old has a true gift when it comes to mixing; a keen eye, or ear, for amenity. Forever playing shows and club nights, he still finds time to remain sincerely humble and socialise through his Facebook, play radio shows and come out with anthem after anthem. He’s probably most known and recognised for creating ‘Harlem Shake’, or at least that is his top played track on Last.FM, a track where you find yourself involuntarily swaying your shoulders and bopping your head along to.
I came across this refreshing and new chap via. Cody B. Ware’s Instagram feed where he recently attended a show in the UK whilst they were both blessing British shores, and from behind the decks the crowd looked immense and I thought to myself ‘Who is this guy? Time to investigate’, and I’m so very glad I did. All these little mixes he produces, like in his Day of the Dead drop, just make my head scream “Oh God, this is so good”!
As an idea, I would love to see a collaboration with someone like Cage; it’d be very good for both careers (and easy due to location), bridging the gap as Nas would say; they seem to cover similar themes within their songs, take ‘My Nose’ for example, or at least see a remix made. Especially if there was more works like ‘The Void’ to be played around with. However, I did read a few months back that Cage stated that he more than likely wouldn’t be making another track like that again (as it was very dubstep based – probably created for club use and to help get his name out there), but also there was no track like it on his new scheduled releases (two upcoming EPs), and despite there’s only about four or five degrees of separation, it’ll probably never happen.
The other night I was in charge of the playlist as my house was hosting a small party, and I found plugging a bit of Baauer certainly spiced things up a lot better than previous parties where Watch the Throne is just played on repeat (sorry Ye). So, if you are in that party mood, play some Baauer, and get the attention of everyone around you (including all the pretty girls that otherwise wouldn’t give you the time of day – win/win), he’s definitely worth checking out.
Acres have done it again. Those clever lil’ Portsmouth spitfires have conjured up a cracker, spitting out small sparks of amber, to a shower of light, kindling and catching on to the bridges that align them with any competition, hissing and sizzling as it sets ablaze and leaves, incredibly, everyone else to perish… Ultimately in the dust. Left standing: six minute long ‘The Tallest of Mountains’. Vivid, I know, but the new release, a half-single, half-demo (just a new song they put out), is incredible; building on the imagery before mentioned, it’s like Sagat’s Tiger Uppercut from Street Fight II.
To indicate how good this new track is, I was eager to vacuum my bedroom, yet could not start until I had listened to this song three times. Okay, I realise how bad that sounds, but it is true – I had to listen to it, and I had to listen to it again, and again. ‘The Tallest of Mountains’ compiles an enriched Devil Sold His Soul sound, whom they are often compared too, along with hints of a more advanced Rinoa, and even reminiscent of Rosetta, but less eerier and experimental – they use solid instruments to create a more subtle, ambient product; it works better, and it is nicer to the ears; it’d be easier and wider received.
The track is a mellower and controlled early Burn Down Rome (if you remember them), infused with stronger vocals now, less nasal, more aggressive, not distorted; so they will be fantastically audible live, vocalist Morgan has upped his game tenfold.
|Copyright of Animal Defence Records, 2012.|
Acres posted that they were all set for world domination in 2013, and I hope that is the case. Let’s hope they cover acres of land… Ha. Go send them some love.
My buddy Alex (of before mentioned Acres) went off on one (in a good way, obviously) recently about a band called Kerouac. My curiosity had already got the best of me through the name alone (surname to my second favourite writer, Jack Kerouac – there’s a sweet, little photo of him on my desk at work), so I felt it vital to investigate, and listen to them, unsure of what to expect. With a southern rock twang, for example the bending of the strings at the start of ‘Fiends’ that suddenly erupts into throat-lacerating, chaotic hardcore, Kerouac are damn heavy, and I like it a lot. They seemed to have achieved a sound I know several Peterborough bands strived for but could never attain.
Sadly having split mid-2012, there will be no more releases to accompany their well-written reckless and thunderous debut and two dangerous split EPs (with Pariso, and The Long Haul), but you shouldn’t let that put you off listening to the riff Armageddon hailing from the south of England. Young and angry, their lyrics portray a generation’s mindset perfectly and capture passion amidst bile and rage from an already bitter band. Take ‘Fiends’ again from the split with Pariso: “You let yourself get f***ed by any compliment”.
Holy Roar Records proudly claimed Kerouac as “One of the most brutal and unforgiving bands to have emerged in recent memory. […] Visceral, […] and memorable”. Spot on.
Similarly aggressive, and having recently played several shows in Europe, Jackals burst through with a new release, Everyday Fabric, compiled of six fast and furious songs with new hints of sludge and Swedish hardcore influences. For any fan of hardcore, I would suggest giving Jackals a good listen and learning a new (yet old school) thing or two.
Looking back, it’s nice to see that Jackals have travelled many emotional miles since their first show; I remember it, for I was there! A chilly January 2010 night saw Cambridge’s Man on the Moon venue somewhat packed (which makes a nice change), as my friend Jez hired the venue out for his first and only (to date) show. Hey, I designed the poster for the night… Free entry, baby. A night that saw an explosion within such a small pub. I have some good ties with the Cambridge x Norwich dual vocal extreme punk surge. Having lived in Cambridge for two years, I became friends with guitarist Parker and bassist Palmer pretty much as soon as I arrived, spending several nights sleeping on their floor and also found high respect for drummer Uden for his Lonewolves backlog, and being an avid Norwich City supporter like myself.
I was able to grab a copy of their blistering self-titled EP on gold vinyl, which I still cherish, back when they started out, but this latest release has taken them a step further into a heavier, crustier, gloomier, sludgier, darker, et ceteraer sound, and is worth picking up also. You can have a ganders, download a fair bit for free (including Everyday Fabric), along check out a couple of other bits and bobs of theirs over at their Bandcamp: click here.
Obsessed: past participle, past tense of ob-sess. Verb. To preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent: "he was obsessed with thoughts of her".
With regards to Decade, I am obsessed. The other month on payday, I headed over to iTunes and purchased the latest release from Decade, which has been circulating over the last few months; a great buzz, their self-titled debut EP. Previously, they’ve only released a demo and a single (which was not included on the record), so I like to see this as their first official main release. Decade, the record, is a pop-punk-rock killer; seeping with future talent, the catchy hooks and neatly written riffs concocted by the Bath five piece, it is their most stellar release to date.
Lyrically, I don’t think they’re as strong as they could be at this stage of their existence, but they are incredibly intriguing, and I wish to discuss the good points. The self-titled record feels like a (successful) experiment from the guys, rearranging their own style in attempt to find a new voice; it works well for me, I like it. It’s short and sharp, and scrappy. Take ‘Low’ for example, lines like “She wouldn’t want that, she’d probably tell me to sort it out”, and “Forget about your friends, they’ll ditch you in the end” really ooze that blunt punch. It’s the word choice, and perhaps Sears’ lexis that convey a great uniqueness about the writing; ‘sort it out’ and ‘ditch’ portray a very British way of life - very Lower than Atlantisy rather than Americanised ideals like most bands attempt, often aiming for without even realising as they simply fit the mould and don’t deconstruct what music they are producing, which in turn gives us the generic responses and the band a lack of real success and credibility, more a “Oh yeah, them… They’re alright, I guess”.
With all of the world’s apathy behind “I'm bored of being bored, of being ignored” (‘Low’, Decade, 2012), and “I'm so bored I think I might die” (‘Home Alone’, Decade, 2012), (a phrase I’m sure we’ve all said. Hell, I said it today at work, or perhaps just sang the song without realising), the content appears a lot different from their original in Lost at Sea record/demo that was released a year prior.
Short tracks containing odd lyrics that (unless they were very personal and glinting with subtle references) seemed very (again, I hate this word, so sorry) generic: “It’s like Broadway all over again” (‘Lights Out’, Lost at Sea, 2011), “Man down, man down, what are you gonna’ lie about this time?” (‘Lights Out’, Lost at Sea, 2011), “What’re you gonna’ do when I turn the lights out?” (‘Lights Out’, Lost at Sea, 2011). These very common ideas have now been transformed and moulded into obscure and eerily beautiful lines: “Rest your bones, before they fall apart again” (‘Never Enough’, Decade, 2012), “God only knows I try to keep my head above the water, but sometimes things get the best of me and I can't breathe” (‘Down and Out’, Decade, 2012), and “There's nothing left of what we had, in this hospital bed” (‘Never Enough’, Decade, 2012), where the songs themselves now seem to carry a story. I only hope that it is with these later songs, they get recognition for.
With the main box ticked, in the form of being able to work together and produce something, the gimmicks and excitement has left them to truly work on who Decade are. As great as ‘It’s Good to be a Vampire’ is, it only held good as a result of referencing iconic film The Lost Boys – thankfully, albeit being a great little banger, it didn’t stick as their ‘main’ song and become a burden, especially if they intended on becoming serious. In turn you can see songs like ‘Mic Skillz’ by Blessed by a Broken Heart end up leaving them a gimmick based band, based on parody and lacking merit, solidified by a sequel, ‘Mic Skillz II’*, anyway, I digress!
A creative ability in the song writing comes from turning assumptions on their heads, which Sears has conquered in ‘Down and Out’. After beautiful word work, he ends with "Let these words guide you home", which at first is a little disappointing and lacklustre, but it is then repeated again, brought back to their own house style with a harsh (shouting, not screaming – lovely touch), unpredictable ending; not straying entirely from the market.
Despite creating a band that work ‘it’ in such a great, stylish and unique way, it worries me they won’t be as critically accepted as I know they deserve, and in general not as popular as they could be (as in, the attention they already receive) because they don’t fall under that same old America criteria. But with full bodied fantastic guitar tones (that sometimes overpower the vocals – it feels as if the music was wrote first unlike the demo, which seemed the opposite), striking vocals, and an intense live show, they’ve came a long way since Ready Set Low (original name: which I wonder if it ties any reference to their song ‘Low’) and will continue to make waves.
* Besides, Blessed by a Broken Heart were still a great band, and once they lost that glam-metalcore gimmick, they had a firm sound and were a great addition to my iTunes library (even if I did personally prefer the more aggressive, screamo demo version of ‘Don’t Stop’ with their original vocalist), and oddly massive in Japan (YouTube it). I caught them live, and they truly impressed me – so yes, nothing against the band really.
Thought of the fortnight: More like thoughtnight, am I right? Just a quick one this time. The Christmas number one race is always a bit of a bore to me, and an excuse for news readers to fill up time and make it into something exciting, when really, it shouldn’t be regarded as something higher, and no more important than every other week of the year – the glory of having a number one alone should be enough.
Radio stations tarnished with terrible love ballads that don’t incite us with Christmas, cheap covers, horrible rip-offs, or general terrible songs with bells jingling away in the background, accompanied by a low-budget snowy music video – it’s all wrong!
Single sales seem to shoot through the roof, but simply disregarded as stocking fillers; there’s money in it, but no merit; it’s probably why the likes of the X-Factor contestants see it as an easy way to cash in rather than claim they have a passion for music, much rather the fame. I believe that’s why Rage Against the Machine actually secured that number one slot a few years back – people downloaded the single because they actually wanted it, they didn’t have their uncle buy it for them on a last minute whim whilst queuing up in ASDA for his milk and bread.
Within the rock scene, somewhat underground but digging up, seeing the light (poor metaphor for bands that are breaking into the mainstream, receiving radio play, etc.), Lower than Atlantis came out with ‘Merry Christmas (Wherever You Are)’. I don’t want to have a dig at the guys, but the track feels a little rushed, despite not really having a lot to work with – I suppose you never really do when dealing with Christmas songs. A slow verse, a bridge that builds up and an epic chorus, full of little Christmas lines and, as before mentioned, a lot of jingle bells. Still, it’s nice, pleasant, and was good enough to get on Soccer AM the other week, so it can’t be all bad; it is a grower.
Likewise, Kids in Glass Houses have just released one too: ‘Secret Santa’, playing on modern tradition. Again, a little heavy on the jingle bells, and a style that is incredibly similar to the Lower than Atlantis track, but I do prefer this one. Despite the recording/mixing seems a little harsh and thrown together, the chorus is very KIGH style; Phillips’ voice excels and the lyrics are a lot more up-to-date and tongue in cheek. I’ll be buying that when I get paid, that’s for sure, because at the end of the day, it’s fun, and that’s its purpose.
Both are now available on iTunes now to purchase, or you can YouTube the songs to check out their respected music videos for a little chuckle and Christmas cheer. These tracks may even just scrape into the charts.
Nonetheless, music aside, I wish you all a merry Christmas.
Slam Dunk festival made its first announcement in relation to its 2013 experience this week (the festival appears to be a column regular), but I’m not as excited this year round about the initial line up, so I’m unsure if I’ll go. It’s a good mix, but not the mix for me. What did grab my attention was the confirmation of The Early November having a high slot up on the bill – which did really entice me and make me smile. It’s so pleasing to see them really getting back on the horse and with that new, fantastic record behind them, playing out old classics too; they’ll really hit the spot and be one of the best bands to see.
It looks as if the headliners next year will be All Time Low – still going strong after all these years, which is a truly impressive feet, still producing catchy pop-punk sing-alongs and touring like mad. I’m sure many will be happy with that. I do like the band, but they’re not a band I would go out of my way to see – I was able to catch them at Give it a Name one year and wasn’t disappointed, but their music has never stood out to me. The same sort-of goes for Four Year Strong, also on the bill. I like them, but not much more. Their latest record seemed to receive mixed reviews, so this performance could make or break their new sound in the UK and be a different experience to see live.
Nice surprises in Pierce the Veil performing, whom I was big on a few years back following the release of their debut album; and then it went a little bit downhill thereafter, I liked the second album a little less and I’m yet to give their latest a real listen… But I am certain they would be a very lively, energetic band, and awfully entertaining – especially to those who know little of the band.
It’s nice to see, due to phenomenal success and it’s all around coolness, that the travelling circus has added an additional date, a bank holiday Monday show in Wolverhampton prolonging the fun and allowing more fans to enjoy the sell out show.
What I’ve been up to: The only band ever is now no more. After announcing their intent to break up on 5th August last year through a statement published on their official website (click here to read), Alexisonfire frontman, George Pettit, cited Dallas Green's departure from the band to focus solely on City and Colour, Wade MacNeil's departure to join another band (later revealed to be as the new vocalist for Gallows), and other personal issues among the remaining members as reasons for breaking up. Pettit also described the break up as not being amicable (emotions running high), with the hope to complete a farewell tour before parting ways. In reply, Green said to Spinner in an interview that splitting his time to dedicate himself to two major projects was “killing him”. Perhaps it was a reality they simply did not want to face.
In July however, Green stated he had been in contact with other ex-Alexisonfire members, and that he and MacNeil had been "starting to talk about doing some final shows, because when we did play our last show nobody knew it was our last show". And so, fifteen months after the band's breakup announcement, Alexisonfire embarked on their international farewell tour with stops in Canada, UK, Australia, and Brazil; originally announced to be a nine-date tour, but due to demand, the tour was later extended to fifteen dates, a somewhat fitting number.
My first memory of Alexisonfire had nothing to do with their music at all. As silly as it sounds now, I used to run a (moderately successful) Jeff Hardy website; yes, the “high-flying”, ten-botches-a-match, pain-killer-addicted, ex-WWE wrestler, and this was hosted by a website called Internal Disaster, which was a personal blog of some girl who happened to take a liking to the Charismatic Enigma. Anyway, one layout that Internal Disaster had saw an ambulance grace the entire screen, and across the front of it read ‘Alexisonfire’ backwards, which seriously confused me. I realise now it was more than likely in conjunction with the release of ‘Accidents’.
Musically, with thanks to the MySpace music player on everyone’s profile, I took it upon myself to cheekily get hold of a copy of Watch Out!, and have a listen to see why everyone had their songs blaring out on their personal page. I remember being shocked. Absolutely shocked. Back then, I wasn’t used to screamo, and I couldn’t class myself as a fan (to genre I would slowly see becoming a firm favourite). I could bear ‘Happiness by the Kilowatt’, which saw me play the album continuously, over and over, as the remaining songs grew on me through my iPod and cheaply bought speakers for Christmas – where I had to blu-tack its wire into the port, and prop the end of it against the wall so it wouldn’t fall out. It’s the only album I remember playing through those speakers.
This appreciation of the band slowly transgressed over to the self-titled debut, and then subsequent releases to where we are today.
Thus, Monday 13th August saw me, along with hundreds of others, flood TicketWeb in attempt to get pre-sale tickets to their sole UK show. I was at work, and had two web browsers up, along with trying to purchase some on my mobile, but I lost out, and spent the rest of the day ranting on Twitter along with the majority of my friends. They had sold out within five minutes and crashed the website in the process. As a result, the band announced that they added another London date at the same venue, a day before, on Sunday 2nd December.
Alexisonfire have always has a fantastic relation with the UK. For example, they released three live albums along with the release of third album Crisis as they toured the UK, and held a show on a boat for the album’s release along the River Thames in 2006, along with many tours and festival appearances. It was if one show would not suffice the hunger of the UK crowd.
“So we talked a long time ago about maybe doing just a couple shows to celebrate what Alexis was as opposed to have it fizzle out like it did […] It would be more about celebrating what we had and what we did and what we accomplished"
- Dallas Green
Enough with the facts, and on with the show. I acquired tickets to the Monday date, and after seeing the incredible set let and hear such tales of wonder about the previous night, I was beyond delirious with butterflies in my stomach. Final shows are such fun, the band seem to perform better than ever, but it is always a sad affair, where you feel your heart being ripped out from beneath you, as it sinks to the floor, and there is nothing you can do about it. I’ve been to several from small time Peterborough bands such as Between Broken Ashes, to mid-card UK acts, such as Londoners From Grace to one of the final festival appearances from chart toppers The Streets.
Having missed The Ghost of a Thousand due to travelling issues, I arrived amidst the buzz and murmur of the O2 Brixton Academy, anxious and sober, as the crowd waded forward to the barriers. The lights dropped and I didn’t know what to do with myself. My back did not ache for once, as I peered over to witness these fantastic entertainers, performing at truly their peak – highlighting their significance. It was, without a doubt, one of the best gigs I’ve been too – visually, they were superb (even the reused backdrop and light show pleased me), and musically, even better. The mixing was the best I have ever heard, especially for the size of the venue, and perhaps how rusty the band themselves may be.
|Copyright of Laurent "Lags" Barnard, 2012: Source.|
This was just not the case: Alexisonfire were superior in every field than what they were back in 2009 when I saw them last: just mesmerizing. A twenty song set featuring songs from all major records, appeasing all fans, followed by three song encore, totalling two hours on the clock was a glorious way to leave the UK, a truly respected farewell show. A highly passionate and energetic performance, with a great atmosphere (much like the hound dog gang, leather cladded band I saw earlier that day at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park; rockabilly at its best!). They still remained intact after the full throttle of ‘.44 Caliber Love Letter’ late in the set, and the gang vocals throughout ‘We Are the Sound’ will haunt the corners of the academy for years to come; still echoing, still ringing out.
Running wild; riding high on the wave of marvellous with lyrical ecstasy helping them harness more aggression, release more emotion, and fine-tune all the tracks, the encore consisted of one of the latest singles, the aggressive and rough ‘The Northern’, waving goodbye to what the band had become, followed by the latest release ‘Dog’s Blood’, where the crowd were silent, left with chills tingling down their spines as Green stood in a single spotlight to the left of the stage, quietly and perfectly whispered out “Howls heard for miles around. In dog's blood we will all drown. No escape, no mercy, through the ruined town. We will all bathe in the blood of hounds”.
Dynamic and intense, the set ended with an emotional, heartfelt and teary ‘Happiness by the Kilowatt’, before an electric standing ovation that seemed to last hours. I was almost in a daze the whole time, filled with an exhilarating rush from start to finish. I’m glad I had two beers by my side so I did not have to take my eyes of the spectacle for a second.
My friend Ryan told me he spoke to someone who came all the way down from Scotland on his own to attend, which shows the impact this band truly has had on the lives of people all across the world.
Green said to Spinner to finally and solemnly conclude the Alexisonfire story: “I'd like to say that we're still all pals”.