Ruth's Manuvas

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My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Two Door Cinema Club – interview

My interview with Two Door Cinema Club’s Kevin Baird at the beginning of the year…

Two Door Cinema Club

On the afternoon I caught up with Two Door Cinema Club, the band had already spent their day so far on a whistle-stop promotional tour – a fair indication of the inroads they’ve made into UK music over the last couple of months.

Although the TDCC name has been slowly simmering away in the musical cauldron for a while, their placement on the BBC Sound of 2010 longlist looks like being the ‘abracadabra’ to finally cast the spell for these Northern Irish lads. And with debut album, Tourist History, released on March 1, the timing has been magical.

The band, who met at high school in Bangor, Northern Ireland, are Alex Trimble – lead vocals, guitar, synths and beats, Kevin Baird – vocals and bass and Sam Halliday – guitar and vocals.

Two years on from when they first established themselves as TDCC, they now stand on the edge of their first album release. Only these boys have killer tunes, lauded live performances, plus a record deal with trendy French label, Kitsune to catch them.

Column inches have compared the band to Death Cab For Cutie and early Bloc Party. Acknowledging these influences, Kevin describes the band’s sound as a mix of electro, pop, indie, rock and a lot more to boot; “we like to think we’ve got a really fresh sound about us, something a bit different,” he adds contemplatively. He’s not wrong, because TDCC have the same musical effect as a sunrise peeking in through a chink in the curtains.

Tourist History itself is a 10-tracked 35-minute affair full of genuinely positive mental attitude-inducing electro indie pop. Kevin explains, “Sonically, the sounds on the album are different from the singles, but it’s really accessible and easily to listen to as a whole.”

The album name sprung out of TDCC’s experiences of new places on tour, as well as their memories of growing up in Bangor –Northern Ireland’s equivalent of Blackpool in its 1950s heyday. “We grew up really on the ashes of its tourism, so it’s fitting to have a title in relation to where we come from. It’s about having to choose to leave a town to make a record, which was a difficult decision to come to.”

Labels don’t get much cooler than the cutting edge, independent French Kitsuné name they are signed to. Has it given them a leg up? Kevin agrees this is quite likely and adds, “It’s been really important, because we knew we wanted an indie label. If we’d been pushed in the wrong direction we know we’d only have a short shelf life. It just means we’re bigger fish in a smaller pond.”

TDCC were originally signed after performing at a Kitsuné gig party for La Roux in Paris. They also sit on the label alongside fellow breakthrough act for 2010, Delphic, who were named third in the BBC Sound of 2010 list and whose debut album has notched up some serious critical acclaim already this year. These coincidences could easily prompt a degree of rivalry between the two, But Kevin assures they are good friends who just see it as a chance to exchange banter.

On the subject of the BBC Sound of 2010 longlist, the band cannot help but hope for the same catapult to success that it has offered others in the past. Kevin adds, “When we first heard it took a while to sink in. We were sitting in an airport in Tokyo and I was trying to get rid of my yen in an internet café. It was totally unexpected.

“The difference between us and Delphic and the other bands on the list is that we have been touring for two years, so to finally have that recognition felt really nice.”

Looking ahead, the band is looking forward to taking on some bigger venues across the UK and Europe when they headline their own tour in spring. It’s clear they’ve already got their 2010 carefully planned out, packed full of festivals and live dates, as well as a tour of America with a handful of dates alongside Phoenix.

As for a master plan, for now it seems, TDCC will be happy if they are able to continue making new music and playing gigs. With a diary this packed you wonder if they have time to dream and plot ambitions and hopes. Kevin muses, “My own personal dream is to play on the beach in Rio de Janeiro in my shorts with the carnival in the background.”

One, two, maybe even three components of his vision could be easy enough to manufacture. As for the Rio de Janeiro part, if you close your eyes, the sound of Tourist History might just take you there anyway.

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Summer Sundae 2010 – festival review

Summer Sundae 2010 - crowds at the Main Stage

Reviewed for Gigwise

The story of Leicester’s Summer Sundae 2010 will always tell that it was a shrewd early move to book Mumford and Sons that ensured the safety of the much-loved festival’s tenth anniversary.

A lot of proverbial eggs were placed in one basket when the popular indie-folk act were boldly announced as Sunday’s headliners. Organisers must have been rubbing their hands together as the foursome notched up best Glastonbury performance, rubber stamping a sell-out for the festival based at De Montfort Hall and its leafy grounds and part of the city’s Victoria Park.

Friday’s headline was grabbed by a down-to-earth Seasick Steve’s eagerness to play longer than his allotted slot, and so, starting earlier than planned, the blues musician flaunted a long and raucous list of favourites from his five albums. The hobo-turned-music-star flirted with an array of busking instruments and silenced any naysayers in the process, even managing to woo an unexpecting female fan with a dedicated song.

Meanwhile, a luckily timed quick shifty indoors saw Roots Manuva calling all to raise their index finger and declare, ‘One hope one quest’, as he unveiled Witness. The British hip hop artist proved that like Seasick Steve, he was also a master of a polar opposite side of the musical spectrum.

Earlier that day, Kyte’s shoegaze indie kicked off the main stage weekend with an aplomb that belied their baby faces, no more so than during the cover of Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill. Erland and the Carnival, comprised of former Blur and The Verve’s Simon Tong, Paul McCartney’s Fireman’s David Nock, and the immaculately-voiced Erland Cooper, took to the increased-capacity Rising Stage with triumphantly revamped folk antiques.

That paved the way for a not-disappointing set from The Sunshine Underground back in the main arena, whose sing-a-long mid-noughties indie classics like Borders and Commercial Breakdown hit the mark and kept a bulky audience rooted to the spot during torrents of rain. Glaswegian alt-rockers, Teenage Fanclub followed, making a welcome comeback appearance to the festival breach.

Twenty-strong female choir, Gaggle, kicked off Saturday’s main stage lineup with woe-betide tales of men, debauchery, drugs and drunkenness. Their powerful acapella and drum beats were the perfect tonic to blow away the cobwebs. Dog Is Dead might have been all-male and a quarter of the size, but they continued the pitch-perfect harmonies indoors with refreshingly different jazz-infused indie with tongue-in-cheek shouted lyrics like, “This is a zoo, could you not feed the animals?”

We Show Up On Radar’s gentle electronic folk at the Rising Stage was child-friendly enough for toddlers to fall asleep in their parents’ arms and audience-friendly enough to induce a sway at the front, or some wellies-off time at the back. While popstrel, Diana Vickers, faired well with a young audience; her number one hit, Once, and a little-known aptitude for trumpet playing thanks to an instrument she named ‘Tommy’, got the best reactions.

Fun, mystical, folky poptronica from Tunng followed indoors, but it was Caribou that packed out the venue. Grouped at centre-stage, Dan Snaith’s foursome rolled out funky grooves, pulsating acid house, psychedelica and plenty of bleeps and tweeps, culminating in an extended version of the Mr Scruff-esque Sun from recent critically acclaimed album, Swim, to mark a festival highlight.

The Go! Team’s first performance in two years cranked up the evening pace at the damp Main Stage ready for Tinchy Stryder. But it was the return of Mark E Smith’s on-stage nonchalance that was the talk of the festival that night, as The Fall graced the alternative headline spot. It might not have been to everyone’s taste, but the performance was enigmatic and showed just why the band had been so influential to punk.

A closing late night live set from The Whip stirred the remaining partygoers into a soft peak as Saturday hit its climax.

For the most part it was the DrownedInSound Indoor Stage that harboured the anticipation for Sunday’s bands. Lo-fi tales of young love from Summer Camp were at times beautiful, at others, a little too sickly sweet. Errors’ angular electronic post rock went down a storm, before twee-indie favourites, Los Campesinos! justified the size of their crowd in De Montfort Hall. The ecstatic audience reactions to You! Me! Dancing! obviously delighted sharp-tongued lyricist, Gareth, as an impromptu stage dive during Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks resulted in a catalogue of injuries and mild concussion that somehow didn’t stop the remaining two minutes of the band’s set.

Frightened Rabbit’s rousing, gut-wrenching high points from across Winter Of Mixed Drinks and Midnight Organ Fight, delivered by Scott Hutchinson’s endearing Scottish twang showed the band as one of the most, if not the most exciting of their genre at the moment.

Earlier, at the main stage, the sun had finally hardened the mud and the crowds were happy to sit and listen to a day of stomping folk and acoustics, which would become both a theme and a slight criticism as the pace remained rather static. Nonetheless, it was easy to drink in the sounds of Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit, as well as Jose Gonzales’ Junip, who mixed a heady cocktail of the ambience of Air with lulling plucked guitars and effortless vocals.

But it was Mumford and Sons who won the heart of the weekend. An abashed Marcus declared how honoured the four were to play their inaugural headline spot at Summer Sundae, but admitted there had been a double-edged sword to their meteoric rise, as they had struggled to gather enough material to fill the hour-plus slot. The band needn’t have worried as every Sigh No More track was an audience favourite – The Cave moistening eyes and loosening even the most tired of feet.

Indoors, The Futureheads took their stiff competition a rival headliners with great humour and did not suffer painfully on numbers, as a busy crowd duly obeyed Barry Hyde’s request for them to do the ‘bouncey bounce’ dance during Skip To The End. The Mackem three’s loyal cohort were clearly determined not to be wooed outdoors, away from their dry wit, tongue twisting lyrics and catchy guitar riffs at breakneck speed.

One thing is for sure, having wavered on the brink of cancellation throughout the latter part of 2009, Summer Sundae came back fighting for its tenth anniversary and proved it has become a vital fixture of the British festival calendar, with a dexterity that allows it to span both generations and genres.

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Arcade Fire: The Suburbs – album review

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

On The Suburbs, Arcade Fire seem to have reconciled the fact they can both be serious about their craft, and create an album that is a joy to listen to.

Neon Bible told stories of a band absorbed by questions of religion, politics and the state of the world, so much so that it lacked the thrill of Funeral. It is as if the seven sat on pedestals facing in on themselves, concentrating on all that was high brow and worthy of being introspected upon. The Suburbs regains perspective but maintains all that was brilliant about the previous two.

On their opening title track, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne tell us they are ‘Moving past the feeling’. It’s a stark declaration and sets the trend for a 16-track album that recaptures the passion for matters closer to home. It’s a homecoming of sorts based around everyday observations – no coincidence then that chunks of the language circulate around home, suburbs, sprawl, cities and children.

These references mean it has charm, with honest declarations like Empty Room’s repeated ‘I can be myself, I can be myself’ that seem not insignificant to the overall picture of the band.

Shades of Neil Young crop up on Modern Man and City With No Children; even McCartney’s Norwegian Wood chords are traceable on Suburban War. Ready To Start and Empty Room have that familiar, euphoric, poppy, yet unique hallmark as with Rebellion (Lies) and No Cars Go and there is time during the hour for Month of May’s punky rock, extra helpings of piano-drama on We Used To Wait, and daring 70s traces on Sprawl II. Rainfall chords and orchestral strings on Half Light I merge and contrast beautifully with muted disco beats on Half Light II.

The Suburbs feels like a truthful album. It has less of the preaching, but all of the musical nuances of Neon Bible, and also manages to extend and better the beautiful, sad acceptance of life’s losses on Funeral. Arcade Fire are no longer trying to change a view point, they are genuflecting to the things that fundamentally matter – looking into their own back yard if you will – and it’s a lengthy journey, but an exhilarating one.

Filed under: album review, , , , , , , ,

Erland and the Carnival: Erland and the Carnival – album review

Just found this in my documents and can’t believe I didn’t put it up earlier in the year. So here goes – a belated Erland and the Carnival review!

Erland and the Carnival

If you were selecting three musicians to sensitively refurbish and bring to life old folk songs and poems from dusty bookshelves and vinyl collections, you would probably chose the three that make up Erland and The Carnival.

Erland Cooper, a folk guitarist and singer from the remote Scottish island of Orkney, has a reverence for the genre which is necessary to keep this collection of songs true to their roots. With a CV including The Verve, Blur and The Good, The Bad and The Queen, guitarist, Simon Tong, offers a respectable balance between creativity and traditional guitar-based indie rock. And dummer, David Nock, formerly of The Orb and Paul McCarney’s The Fireman, bridges the decade gap enough so as not to impose anything too conceptual for the sensitivity this album requires.

Erland and the Carnival is an album full of samples turned into contemporary folk. Yes, it is a collection of classic English and Scottish folk songs and poems rearranged and revamped. But more than that, it is an exercise in researching and digging up semi-forgotten verses to breathe new life into them.

There are touches of The Coral on Love Is A Killing Thing, whilst northern soul, echoes of the Beatles and Mancunian guitars feature sporadically throughout the rest of the album. Military two-steps also gallop throughout the entire record, with heavy twinges of Western and The Last Shadow Puppets, most noticeable on My Name Is Carnival, The Derby Ram, Everything Came Too Easy and You Don’t Have To Be Lonely.

Leonard Cohen’s poem is reworked on Disturbed This Morning, but the star of the collection is the loop onto which William Blake’s poem, On The Echoing Green is carefully double stitched. It leaves you paralysed for three-and-a-half minutes.

The whole album has a haunting sound deeply rooted in folk, which is why the original songs and verses avoid sounding too rehashed. On every level this complex record packs traditional drums, psychedelic organs and the tale-telling vocals of Erland.

It’s not as though Erland and The Carnival immediately drags you in and does something revolutionary to your musical preferences. But it feels like a record which should be genuinely appreciated, because it does for folk what an archaeological dig does for unearthing forgotten gems. It is enchanting and freakish and makes the genre accessible without being mainstream, psychedelic but not loud and trippy, and thoroughly other-wordly, yet unmistakably British.

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