Some forty years from it’s original inception Reading Festival remains one of the major highlights of the glorious British Summer Festival season. The 2013 edition promises to be no different offering one of the festival’s most eclectic line-ups in years.
Eminem‘s scheduled performance on Saturday 25th will see the legend’s return to the stage he last filled back in 2001. Billed as the rapper’s sole UK performance this summer, this is one show fans (and haters) will not want to miss. The other two headliners will be everyoung pop-punk kings Green Day on the Friday as well as Scottish stadium rockers Biffy Clyro closing events on the Sunday.
For the full lineup, head over to the official site and head here for tickets to the Reading festival. You won’t’ have to look far to find some other fine Cougar approved acts on the main stage including Earlwolf (that is Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler, The Creator doing their thing), Foals, Deftones and Editors not to mention Nine Inch Nails.
Elsewhere the lineup is littered with top talent proving that the festival organisers have really gone for quality and variety. Which means you will be able to catch A$AP Rocky, Frightened Rabbit, Alt-J, Jake Bugg and Darwin Deez doing their thing on the Radio 1 Stage. All that without even mentioning the glorious return of Phoenix, the runaway success of Disclosure or the soothing pop of Haim.
Fans looking for something to get their teeth into will be happy to see legends such as Alkaline Trio and Quicksand added to this year’s edition of the Lock Up Stage.
Special mention must go to the one and only Action Bronson who will be lighting up the BBC 1Extra stage but perhaps the artist I’m most looking forward to is lethal mc Angel Haze, particularly as her nemesis Azealia Banks is also due at the festival (albeit on a different day)
All in all kudos must go out to the festival organisers for putting together such a diverse lineup. Come rain or shine there really will be something for everyone on display and hopefully lot of great new music will be discovered.
It is one of life’s great sources of excitement to find a band from obscurity, having had and interest sparked from the bedroom demos and first singles and EPs all brimming with a talent yearning for more ears to listen to their tracks. It is then a privilege to watch the fire kindle the interest of more and more fans until a break allows them to explode into the hearts of many. It is however crushing to see such bands flicker out of existence as they begin suffocating due to a lack exposure to a wider audience they so richly deserved.
For far too many bands, this is the unfortunate fate they face and it is particularly sad to see two of the bands I had so much expectation for bow out in the same month.
Trophy Wife were first recognised by many back in late 2010 when the release of their first single “Macrolite” revealed subtly technical loops over swelling ambience accompanying morose reflective lyrics. Some fine EPs were released from the Oxford boys, including some produced by Foals’ Yannis, a favour returned when they remixed “My Number” into a scintillating ball of energy full of the characteristic traits of the Oxford collective Blessing Force. Solid tour performances consistently impressed the fans that turned up yet the big break never seemed to come and frustrations grew.
The bittersweet news then arrived on May 20th when they announced the release of their first début album ‘Trophy Wife’, available as a pay-what-you–like on Bandcamp would coincide with the news that they would be following their own creative paths and ‘putting Trophy Wife to rest’. Understatedly elegant yet powerful, the album exudes the delicacies of earlier releases yet also has more assertive moments such as in the potent synth lines of new single “Glue”.
150 miles further north in Yorkshire, the members of French Soul Party were beginning to accept the daunting realisation that their time left together was also limited. Playing their career spanning set, consisting mainly of songs written when they were just over 15, it is a shame to know that many of these songs are now confined to memories, as very few songs were ever recorded. “French Kissing” justified its right to be recorded as it made its way all the Radio 1 playlist and a wider audience was drawn towards the punching synth, interweaving guitars and tight drumming. Having many influences who mixed in the circles of Blessing Force, French Soul Party penned songs which were able to take their sound to increasingly further reaching places whilst they worked on the dreamy dance pop of their last single “Tropical Haze”. As thoughts turned towards the impending futures taking them to opposite ends of the country and beyond, the boys, some yet to turn 18, reluctantly decided to call a day on this adventure.
For these bands, and many others in similar situations, this may seem like the end. But all these young musicians have not given up music, their talents have just been turned to a different avenue, and there will still be plenty of good tracks coming from them all. So whilst the immediate future feels like closure to the end of an era, another age is just waiting to be built and it will be just as exciting as the last, so keep going to gigs, keep buying music and keep your ears out for that next wave of progression, because it’s already happening.
This year we sent some of our finest writers to witness SXSW first hand and mingle. This could have been a tale of new friendships, drunken friendships, confiscated platinum passes, lost emails and missed deadlines. Oh, and there was also a lot of music…
Blondfire | Clive Bar (Mood Media Day Party)
Blondfire kicked off our collective SXSW acting as a perfect soundtrack to a typically sunny Austin afternoon. Brother/sister duo Erica and Bruce Driscoll are just the right side of pop without neglecting their alt rock leanings coming across like a younger (hungrier?) Metric.
Bonaparte | Icenhauer’s (Reeperbahn Festival Stage)
We caught Tobias Jundt, AKA the leader of over the top Berlin based rock collective Bonaparte, playing a warm up show for what proved to be a scintillating group performance the following day at the Belmont. Despite being orphaned from the rest of the circus he usually performs with Mr Bonaparte didn’t hold anything back rolling around the floor, getting in his audiences face and spitting his highly entertaining lyrical word plays for all to hear.
Sizarr | Icenhauer’s (Reeperbahn Festival Stage)
One of the authentic surprises of this year’s SXSW hailed from the small town of Landau in Southwest Germany of all places. The young three-piece Sizarr offered a multifaceted performance delivering just the right amount guitar melodies and electronic samples. At a time when bands like Alt-J and M83 are arguably reinvigorating rock music Sizarr fit in nicely representing a middle line between the sonic offering of these 2 acts.
Hands | Parkside (White Iris Records Party)
Kicked off the evening at Parkside restaurant, where the upstairs had been converted to host the White Iris Records‘ party. The venue was slightly underwhelming, but a small crowd enjoyed the good vibes put out by Hands. If Foals had formed in the West Coast they might just sound like this Los Angeles based outfit and their performance proved to be contagious.
Japandroids | Viceland (Jansport Bonfire Session)
Getting to hear Japandroids play “The House That Heaven Built” live once and for all was the only saving grace of this disastrous testament to the failures of corporate sponsorships. Despite Brian King and David Prowse valiant effort to reinvigorate the crowd with their usual high energy performance, including an attempted USA vs Canada chant war, the show was marred by pushy security, long lines and crappy sound; allegedly the result of a last-minute request by the sponsors to move all the indoor concerts to the outdoor stage — because backpacks are an outside thing.
Local Natives | Mohawk (Pitchfork Party)
After the big disappointment of the aforementioned Japandroids show our team reconvened for what was fortunately a radically different aural experience. Local Natives performed the midnight show at what came to be one of my favorite venues, Mohawk , offering stellar energy and a spot on performance. The set closed with a riveting version of “Sun Hands“, so good it gave me chills.
John Talabot |Mohawk (Pitchfork Party)
No better way to end the night than hanging around Mohawk for a radical sonic change thanks to house producer John Talabot- another favorite of the trip — who had the whole place grooving. The Barcelonian‘s polished set wove soulful vocals with dance-worthy electro making the crowd happy to be on their feet even after a long day.
For a band infamous for the unpredictability of the sound their constantly changing tastes will convene on, or even the songs that would be included in their album, it was with great certainty that, regardless of these vital details, the album would be of incredible quality and would yet again redefine the boundaries of their ever expanding collection.
Having already been introduced to “Inhaler”, with its powerful riffs, and raw voice-box-shredding vocals, many prepared for a heavier direction for Foals to take, yet everyone’s hypotheses were evaded when the unashamed pop of “My Number” became their next single. Its fluttering guitars and bongos proved infectiously catchy and it was one of the most welcomed songs in the set when they played in November, inducing a carnival atmosphere in a crowd.
Crucially these singles have managed to infiltrate the mainstream radio stations and allowed Foals to appeal to a broader audience. The singles have kindled and interest, but now ‘Holy Fire’ must ignite fans past, present and future with the burning spirit of the album.
“Prelude” acts as a whitewash, entertaining the possibilities of a repeat of ‘Antidotes’ yet ultimately moving beyond such safe ground onto grittier guitar work which severs the potential to compare the two, creating distance from preconceptions and leaving Foals with a blank canvas from which to embark on their own personal holy campaign. The two early singles follow in quick succession settling nerves whilst summoning a thirst for more new material.
“Bad Habit” begins with a dark Muse-y bass synth line then flourishes into an uplifting ballad full of heavy subject matter and emotional angst before a refreshing staccato solo rides in to elevate the song to a strong statement of Foals’s new direction.
For brief moments, ‘Holy Fire’ has the angular, immediacy of ‘Antidotes’ but they are rarely sustained, often passing as soon as you were getting up to dance, and in other moments there is as cinematic a feel to it as ‘Total Life Forever’, yet it is when the band embrace a brand new area such as in “Late Night” when they seem at their freshest and most exciting. It begins as a slow burner with a piano chord sequence just begging to be built upon and thanks in part to the guitar work giving more licks than an excited puppy dog, it does indeed tower into an excellent bluesy groove whilst the lyrics ‘Stay With Me’ heighten the anticipation for an epic Yannis solo to close the track.
As a whole the album has a very organic feel to it and this may be down to the fact that the band made a conscious decision to bring plants and shrubs into the recording studio so that they could grow and mature just as the album did.
“Providence” fades into your ears with the lyrics “I know I cannot be true, I’m an animal just like you Oh I bleed just a little bit too I bleed just like you”, what follows then forms into overwhelming wild animal of noise tangled in too many ideas causing it to appear to be bleeding to death. However four succinct beats from drummer Jack Bevan simultaneously resuscitates and tames the animal into a ferocious dancing coherence of all the ideas, creating carnage when they played this live late last year. Many of the lyrics in ‘Holy Fire’ have imagery of blood and whether consciously or subconsciously, this creates a strong message that this work has come straight from the beating hearts of Foals now and onto their metaphorical sleeves.
The primordial percussive backbone in “Stepson” nods towards the works of Alan Lomax, most notably his field recordings, whilst the aching voice of Yannis bemoans the fate of having to “Fall into the blue”. In the final track, lightly touched piano keys ripple through a pool of ambience reflecting the moon, bringing both a tranquillity and acceptance to the end but also an exquisite, delicate closure to an excellent third album.
In a strange way ‘Holy Fire’ was exactly what we all expected: to be left overwhelmed and confused, desperately trying to process what just happened. It is too early to rationalise, but just as ‘Total Life Forever’ took a while to adjust to, so ‘Holy Fire’ will require time to understand. But when it does click, the epiphany will make us all realise what a clever little band the continually morphing Foals are, and how engrossed we can be with their incredible feats of escapology from any box anyone tries to fit them into.
Last November the touch paper was lit. What followed sent sparks flying out the speakers of all who listened and ignited a frenzy in the expectant public. Foals were back, and back with a bang.
“Inhaler” is the first single from Foals’ new album ‘Holy Fire’ out in February and the band have taken a new direction for their new album, away from the hi hat, four-on-the floor, dancy ‘Antidotes’ and the brooding ‘Total Life Forever’ to create an album with ‘swampy, stinky grooves’.
Frontman Yannis Philippakis has admitted that Inhaler is the heaviest track on the forthcoming 11 song album but that shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve heard the frontman’s voice as he growls about how he, ‘Can’t get enough space’ over a furious riff. Yes that’s right, Foals now play riffs. Of course there are still the trademark staccato rhythms expertly crafted into hypnotic, swaying, oriental loops but you get the sense that the band are much less restrained than they were on their previous album and are ready to unleash something fierce in the next album.
People got a glimpse into the album when Foals embarked on their small November tour, for which some venues sold out in 3 minutes and it was these developments which hint at the biggest challenge Foals will face. With the band becoming increasingly popular it is becoming apparent that the small venues, and indeed house parties, which made this band will not be able to accommodate the masses of people who now want to see them.
My biggest hope is that Foals manage to strike the right balance between their signature style, albeit in a new direction, with a sound that can fill a much larger venue, whilst keeping the immediacy of their fresh music.
Otherwise, there’ll be thousands of people all cramming into venues to keep their fire burning and Yannis certainly wouldn’t get enough space, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?
Forgive me. I really ought to have cottoned on to ‘Beware and be Grateful‘, the sophomore full-length by Maps & Atlases, sooner.
The Chicago four-piece have been doing the rounds since 2006, after all. Appearances at SXSW, a highly rated previous album and various tours with prominent acts including Foals, Minus the Bear and So Many Dynamos plus a great interview on these pages ought to have alerted me to their brilliance.
Fear not. I have seen the light.
Despite being both current and timeless, it is hard to put a finger on exactly what genre ‘Beware and Be Grateful‘ fits into. That is exactly why it is such an excellent record – experimental, accessible and majestically paced.
This album veers from effortless pop bliss – see track two, “Fever” – to angular rock perfection on Winter and, a little later, onto the quasi Billy Idol-esque “Vampires“. And there’s plenty more to sink your fangs into.
Opener “Old & Grey” draws you into the album patiently, maturely and incredibly melodically. There’s even room for an old school slowy – in a good way – on “Remote & Dark Years“.
This one has ‘album of the year‘ written all over it.
You know that thing when you hear a song on TV or film and you think: ‘Fuck that sounds good‘! Then you go out and buy it and it sounds like a goose farting in the fog?
This isn’t one of them. It happens to me frequently, but I can safely say with or without the effective medium of moving image, Deaf Club‘s ‘Lull EP‘ sounds as epic and evocative by itself, even without gaping landscapes or raucous lovemaking.
‘Forest/Shore‘, although clearly lending itself to images of forests and shores, takes you to the peak of emotion through it’s subtle use of Sigur Ros style guitar and Foals off-high-hat energies.
‘Hana‘ is as apocalyptic as it is a dramatic dawn, it’s rimshots like a tribal dance to a sparse use of bass and relentless twinkling guitar.
‘It, She‘ darkens the mood slightly to a hypnotic drone, reminiscant of Joy Division’s ‘Transmission‘ before a more melodic and couragous chorus kicks in, and the fantastic backing vocals scream from a distant continant.
With or without a David Attenborough TV advert for awesome wildlife, ‘Lull EP‘ will shake your booty whilst you either ball into your jack and coke in ecstasy or give you the unshakable urge to make passionate sexy time to whoever is shaking their fist in the air like a lunatic too.
After reviewing Scoundrels a couple of months ago we caught up with Ned for a quick Q&A covering Tae Kwondo practices, Dr Dre covers and a unnatural dislike for Noah and the Whale.
Cougar Microbes: What time did you wake up today? Was it out of choice or necessity?
Scoundrels: Woke up at 5 am, went for a 10 mile jog, exfoliated for an hour, practised Tae Kwondo and perused the stock market for a while before donning my guitar and heading to the studio.
In an ideal world all of the above would’ve happened, sadly the truth of the matter is that I normally rise around half eight after an epic half hour battle with the “snooze” button on my phone.
Cougar Microbes: Describe Scoundrels to the uninitiated?
Scoundrels: We are a four piece rock n’ cruddy soul n’ blues band heavily influenced by music from South Louisiana. Our music is rooted in an old school sound but is performed in a contemporary way. Our live performances are sweaty, raucous affairs.
Cougar Microbes: How have you been killing time on the road, hobbies?
Scoundrels: We have various ways of passing the time on the road. The usual classics, “i spy”, “kumbaya m’lord” and “what am I thinking of?” will suffice but on occasion a game of “road cluedo” is the only thing that’ll get the juices flowing. “Professor Plum with the lead piping in the glove compartment“, that sort of thing.
Cougar Microbes: What have been your favourite venues to play? Any Venues you hated?
Scoundrels: We’ve played some great venues. King Tuts in Glasgow is a favourite. I recommend “Nice n Sleazies” a bar nearby too for post-gig fun. Also, we used to run nights at The Notting Hill Arts Club which is a fantastic night spot. A really eclectic mix of people, the night to go to there is “Sweet Memory Sounds“.
Cougar Microbes: Is there a song you are simply sick of playing?
Scoundrels: Not one actually, I think there’s an excitement that comes with getting to show people your music for the first time. Each song feels different with different crowds. I’m sure there’ll come a day though…
Cougar Microbes: What is the songwriting process like for Scoundrels. you able to write on the road or do you do this in your off time?
Scoundrels: Normally it happens away from the road. I guess normally I’ll have a riff and a chord structure and an idea of what the songs about. Then i’ll bring it into the studio and the lads’ll bring there own flavours to it and flesh it out, add in their bits and ideas to the mix and that’ll be it. It’s quite tough to write on the road as there’s so much going on all the time.
Cougar Microbes: Favourite Scoundrels track and why?
Scoundrels: On the album my favourite track is probably “Sniff It Up” as I felt we were on great form musically the day we recorded that track in Chicago. It’s got a killer riff that I’d love someone to do a remix of one day an grooves really well too.
Cougar Microbes: If you could record any cover what would it be?
Scoundrels: We’ve already covered Dr Dre‘s “Xxplosive” which was a tune we’d always loved. We may well cover some tunes from our new label’s (Blue Horizon) back catalogue too. Bands like Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, Champion Jack Dupree.
Cougar Microbes: Do your songs go through many revisions via demo recordings?
Scoundrels: I always think the demos are the most true versions of the songs and to stray too far from those initial recordings is to lose the songs essence.
Cougar MicrobesWhat came first, the lyrics or the melody?
Scoundrels: Melody, always. I think it’s far more interesting to hear great vocal tunes and rhythms than to cram words in wherever they fit. Obviously there is Some compromise though as the words can’t be cruddy, although the occasional rhyming of “cat” and “bat” can be effective.
Cougar Microbes: What are your views on auto tune?
Scoundrels: Love it, dangerously so. We were gonna use it on one sentence in ‘Louisiana Song‘ but decided against it, much to Akon‘s disgust I’m sure. George can mimic auto-tune like no other.
Cougar Microbes: Any other band/bands from your local scene we really should know about?
Scoundrels: Givers were great friends of ours from our time living in Lafayette, Louisiana who are already set for a meteoric rise. Also if you get a chance, you have to check out Vadoinmessico, a Mexican, Italian, Austrian outfit who play a quirky, eccentric, melodic folk that is about as infectious as it gets.
Cougar Microbes: Most flattering thing you’ve read about yourselves?
Scoundrels: That we’re from Bideford. That we have “non descript looks“. Actually I was once told that I was “a sex god in the making“. It was an incredibly proud moment for me, I immedealty informed my parents that they had raised a “sex god“, needless to say they were incredibly proud. They told me that many of my teachers had foretold of such career developments from an early age.
Cougar Microbes: What was the first record/tape/cd you ever bought?
Scoundrels: Possibly a Spice Girls single or Bon Jovi‘s “Midnight In Chelsea“, an indication of what was to come.
Cougar Microbes: What was the last song that got stuck in your head?
Scoundrels: Foals‘ “Red Socks Pugie“. What a song. Just saw them play at “Calvi On The Rocks” festival and they were incredible.
Cougar Microbes: What was the last show you paid and queued up for?
Scoundrels: Went to see George’s New Orleans covers band, The Dirty Gentlemen play at Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues Bar the other day. They were fantastic.
Cougar Microbes: If you had to bring on artist back from the dead in exchange for sending a living artist down ,which artists would it be and why?
Scoundrels: I’d bring back Jimi Hendrix because I reckon he’d be the sort of guy that wouldn’t ruin his legacy with longevity. I feel he had a lot more tunes still in him and it would’ve been interesting to see how he’d change.
I’m not sure I’d be up for killing a modern day artist but if I could banish their music from these shores Noah and the Whale would be somewhere up there.