Advertisements

Archive

Monthly Archives: May 2014

justlikegiantsepTITLE: Take It Back
BAND: Just Like Giants
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: December 1st 2013

Finding new pop-punk bands, especially British ones, is always hugely exciting for me as I love seeing how we channel the classic West Coast cheeky sound. Just Like Giants are a recent appearance on my radar and their debut EP Take It Back is a little slice of pop-punk perfection. This quartet from Southampton haven’t been around for a year yet but they already seem to have amassed a small online fanbase and are offering their music for free from their Bandcamp page.

Taking a little bit of New Found Glory’s upbeat demeanour and mixing it with All-American Rejects’ darker angst, they are on the grittier side of pop-punk but their sound is undeniably of the youthful energetic notes that is to be expected of the genre. Take It Back is a great debut as it shows the band’s various sides in just three tracks, which are all strong guitar-led anthems.

Beginning with Enemy, the metallic riffs and melodic vocals start. Just Like Giants’ classic pop-punk flavour shines through but the British accent on the voice brings it home. Full of energy and a tricky instrumental halfway through, it’s clear that these talented musicians know how to show off their skills. Pretty guitar slides echo underneath the vocals as the beating drum brings it to a close. Tackling a tough issue of not really knowing where you stand with someone -“Do you call me enemy?” gives it a serious undertone while not alienating those that have come for a good time. It’s an issue we’ve all dealt with and having that honesty is really important in music that is aimed at a young audience.

justlikegiantsIn the middle is Stay The Night, a story of unrequited love and the agony of being in the friend zone when you desperately don’t want to be. Again, it’s a topic that people of all ages know well and Just Like Giants have paired it with crashing drums and an upbeat energy. Although the song isn’t ultimately a happy one, the instruments keep you from writing it off as depressing rubbish. An incredibly catchy hook gives it earworm status and the pretty guitar patterns on the instrumental before the final verse are simply genius. It’s probably the most commercial-sounding track on the EP and oozes big hit potential.

Ending on the title track, Take It Back winds it down on a serious bout of regret. The soft melancholy ripples and heartfelt vocals tell of pure remorse at letting someone go. The crashing passionate drums and growling guitar on the chorus add to the drama and this ballad is rounded off with a dark throbbing riff. It stands out on the EP due to its hugely different pace and mood to the other two songs but it effectively shows that Just Like Giants can do both bouncy pop-punk and the sadder slower ballads.

A cracking debut from an exciting new band who show potential to be big hit writers. Just Like Giants are definitely for fans of all things pop-punk done in a unique British way. You’ll dance around your bedroom and sit and reflect with this three-track EP, so it’s perfect for satisfying whatever mood you’re in. Be sure to look out for more from the band!

Advertisements

An interesting question this week that is unlike anything I’ve answered before. I’m not sure where the answer will go but it’s definitely exciting and intriguing!

What is something you believe to be true but have no actual proof of?

I am not a religious person and never will be. On the whole, I wholeheartedly disbelieve anything where there is no concrete proof because what am I then basing my belief on? Speculation from other people who also have no proof? I don’t understand where people find the blind faith needed to believe in a God and a religion so much so that they dedicate their lives to it.

However, I do believe in something else after this life. I don’t believe in a Heaven, a God or a Hell but I do believe that every living thing has a spirit and that there are spirits everywhere. That may be a pretty creepy thing to think about but I don’t think many people can deny that there is a spiritual quality to humans and animals. The fact that we have the ability to love unconditionally and the power to inspire others is something that surpasses the concrete mundaneness of the real world. I believe that everyone’s soul is made up of who they are -their hopes, dreams, fears and loves- and when we die, that life with those things ends. The soul leaves our body but remains close to those we leave behind. We don’t suddenly sprout wings and become angels or join with an all-powerful deity -we are our own afterlife. Whether we meet up with dead relatives and friends, I don’t know, but if there is nothing after this life, then what is the point? What would be the point in living one life and then that’s it, that’s all you get?

I’ve always been very interested in the supernatural and I love stories of people who claim to have had encounters with the dead. In some cases, I really think there is some truth in it because there are some things that simply cannot be explained without dipping into discussions about the possibility of a spirit world living invisibly alongside ours. Maybe we are also living invisibly alongside them and they are as afraid of us?

Similarly, I also believe that there is life on other planets and possibly stars. It’s ignorant to think that we are the only life in the entire galaxy and the idea of aliens is wholly believable. They probably don’t have as much interest as we do in them which may explain why they have never contacted us but there’s no reason to think that we are an isolated population amongst the vastness of the galaxy and indeed universe. I’m not sure if we’ll ever find them but that definitely isn’t to say that they’re not real.

So although I don’t normally believe in things without proof, spirits and aliens are definitely things I do believe in. We have no real proof of their existence but we also don’t have any proof that they don’t. However, we do have considerably more proof of both these phenomena than we do of any kind of omniscient God.

amgigGIG: Arctic Monkeys
BANDS: Arctic Monkeys, Tame Impala, Miles Kane, Royal Blood
VENUE: Finsbury Park, London
DATE: May 23rd 2014

As soon as I heard about these two exclusive gigs, I knew I had to get a ticket for myself and my boyfriend. Arctic Monkeys are his favourite band and their recent album AM got a brilliant review from me. I hadn’t seen them live before but had been told that they are masters at capturing a crowd. Finsbury Park was of course packed to the brim and to avoid being squashed by people much bigger and drunker than I was, I stayed relatively near the back. As a result, I couldn’t see that much of the stage but I could certainly hear and appreciate everything that was happening on it.

Earlier on in the evening, Brighton rock duo Royal Blood had played a set and introduced us to their garage-inspired sound that has spawned singles Out Of The Black and Little Monster. Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders is a long-time supporter of the band and has been on board with them since before they came onto the scene. With backing such as this, we’re sure to hear a hell of a lot more from them. Scouse musician and The Last Shadow Puppets frontman Miles Kane then played his energetic dirty indie while warming up the crowd. The crowd had quickly grown by the time Australian psychedelic group Tame Impala took to the stage. Plenty of colourful trippy graphics accompanied their weird and wonderful set which included their hit single Elephant. The crowd were certainly pretty chilled out before the headliners arrived.

arctic-monkeysgig1The dark sultry riff of Do I Wanna Know? echoed out across the park and the crowd went wild. Shouting the lyrics back to them, Alex Turner lapped up the reception and retained his distinctive drawl into Snap Out Of It with its catchy rhythm. Continuing the AM theme, Arabella followed complete with a Black Sabbath’s War Pigs interlude. Taking things back a few albums, the frantic intro to Brianstorm began and the long-time fans finally got something else to sing along to. With little to no chat with the crowd, Alex simply glided through to Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair and then back to the old stuff again with Dancing Shoes. An extended intro led to Suck It And See track Library Pictures before the soaring rock ballad Crying Lightning rang out across the field. Latest single Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? came up next and received some of the best feedback yet. Sticking with AM, the tribal sounding Fireside preceded their debut smash I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.

Bringing the crowd down from their high-energy indie mania, She’s Thunderstorms and No.1 Party Anthem chilled us out for the emotional Cornerstone which saw the band show off their acoustic skills for the first time. Being able to hold an audience across Finsbury Park with an acoustic guitar is something only the best can do and they certainly lulled their audience into a slump following it up with Knee Socks. Flip back to early Arctics for Fluorescent Adolescent and 505 which seemed to bring the gig to a slow, casual end.

amgig2The encore began with Alex Turner’s acoustic solo version of A Certain Romance. It seemed a strange choice for the first track in an encore but as the sun was fading in the park, Alex’s vocals really set a chilled atmosphere and soothed away all the frenzy from the first half of the gig. The undeniable intro to One For The Road then sounded and it gently lapsed into beautiful ballad I Wanna Be Yours. Ending on an explosive last note, R U Mine? got the last slot and continued into an extended outro singing us back to the tube station.

Arctic Monkeys are certainly a great live band. They’d clearly organised their set-list to evoke different emotions at certain points in the show and as a result, they were in complete control of how their audience felt. The combination of the venue, the warm calm weather and the dulcet tones of a great live band had a wonderful early-summer, boho vibe and it really was a great night of indie heaven!

*Photos are not mine.

eleanorandparkTITLE: Eleanor And Park
AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell
EDITION: St Martin’s Press
RELEASED: February 2013

Although I read a lot of YA books, I mainly read them for fun. I love the light-heartedness and simple realism that often comes with them. Of course, a lot of them can end in devastating circumstances but the main characters are always stronger and more mature after their journey of self-discovery. I went into Eleanor And Park expecting something like this. I knew nothing about the story or characters before going into it and I think this might be why it had such a big effect on me.

Set in 1986 in Nebraska, it follows Eleanor, a large teenage girl with long red hair and questionable fashion sense and Park, a half Korean half white boy who tries his hardest not to draw attention to himself. Eleanor comes from tough home life where there is little money and an overcrowded house. Park lives a pleasant family life with his parents and brother but struggles to please his father. The story of their meeting on the school bus and falling in love is a simple but beautiful one that is told through both their perspectives alternately. Both are misfits who feel pushed out by the world but who bond over a love of comic books and music.

Littered with plenty of 80s pop culture references, the story spans one school year as Eleanor the new girl befriends the loner Park and the two embark on a beautiful romantic adventure that comes to a head at a heartbreaking crash of an ending. In fact, I was so taken aback by the ending that I had to read the last couple of chapters more than once to check that I’d understood correctly. As you race towards the end, the book suddenly becomes so much darker before dropping you from a great height. I guarantee you’ll be left with a whole multitude of feelings on turning the last page.

Through the dual perspectives, we get to know both main characters extremely well. As such, when they finally come together, it’s almost as if you’re witnessing two friends begin a romance. It’s a slow-burning love but one that is undoubtedly realistic and captivating to watch. Of course, so many books and films aimed at teens centre around misfits but they tend to have a romanticised view of love. Rowell is brilliant at depicting first love in a way that is so true to life. Young readers who aspire to have a relationship like this are not harbouring fantasies but gaining an insight into their possible future.

One thing that sets Eleanor And Park apart from a lot of YA novels is the beautiful but tragic fact that both parties are mature enough to know that first love probably isn’t going to last forever. They’re very aware of the fact their relationship could well be doomed from the start but they love each other enough to try anyway. This is a wonderful sentiment to come away with and could well be why Eleanor And Park will resonate with me for a long time.

Another book related question this week that will see me plough my inner most thoughts and delve into my previous reads. I do, of course, have an answer to this question and I’m sure most people who read a fair amount will too. Let me know what your answer is!

What is one book that you feel has significantly changed the way you think about the world and why?

Of all the amazing books I’ve read, I’m afraid I cannot pick just one. However, it is a toss up between two, both written by the same author. I discovered this author in January of last year and I’m delighted that I can now pick up one of his books for a read that I know will be funny, emotional and thought-provoking. These books are The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns by John Green.

The Fault In Our Stars is one that I’ve discussed a lot on this blog already and regular readers will know how much of an effect it had on me. After finishing the book, not only was I deeply moved by the story but I was also inspired to work hard at achieving my dream. The way John Green told the story of Hazel and Gus made me realise how lucky I was to be young, fit and healthy with my whole life ahead of me. As someone with anxiety that often holds me back and depression that often leaves me feeling awful, it was exactly what I needed to kick me into finally feeling good about my own life. Of course, I knew that Hazel and Gus were fictional characters but they do actually exist everywhere all over the world. Cancer is real and it affects people in exactly the way it did them. I’m just so lucky that I don’t have it too.

Paper Towns left me with a different message but one that was just as strong. It’s not considered to be one of John Green’s best books with many people preferring The Fault In Our Stars and Looking For Alaska but for me, Paper Towns was another inspirational thought-altering read. It reminded me that not everyone is as they appear to be. There are different sides to everyone and some of those sides we never get to see. In turn, this raises the question of whether we actually really know anyone properly or just a certain version of them. It’s definitely an interesting concept and one that I think has a lot of truth in it. I definitely have different “faces” for different people and it’s possible that most of those people will never know another side of me. This makes it very hard to judge anyone because their actions could be products of a side to them that we know nothing about, so we should just be mindful of this at all times. A simple message but one that definitely affected the way I thought about both friends and strangers.

 

The-Black-Keys-Turn-Blue-Album-ReviewTITLE: Turn Blue
BAND: The Black Keys
LABEL: Nonesuch Records
RELEASED: May 12th 2014

Having changed their style again, Ohio duo The Black Keys are back with the follow-up to 2011’s El Camino. The lead single Fever was released in March and reached number one in the US Alternative and Rock Airplay charts. Turn Blue is highly anticipated due to the three year gap between albums but current Black Keys fans should beware that their loveable rock ‘n’ roll sound is long gone.

The duo appear to adopt an unusual method of recording albums, as like El Camino, they entered the studio for Turn Blue without any songs written. Singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach said  “Every morning we got to the studio, we’d start from scratch and by the end of the day we’d have a new song and that was really it.”. Like El Camino, Turn Blue was co-produced and co-written with Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse, who may be responsible for The Black Keys’ new electronic sound.

Certainly the main song of note is the six minute long opening track Weight Of Love. A two minute long instrumental intro consists of a slow country twang, whistles, twinkling chimes and a gentle drum. Along comes the piercing notes of a bluesy guitar and a lazy trudging bass. The dreamy rhythm and resonating backing vocals are catchy and beautiful, gently easing you into the quirky modern-sounding album.

the_black_keys_press-2013-650Typical strong drums and bass lines can be heard on the title track, Fever and Year In Review. Turn Blue has a simple hook that repeats throughout and creates a chilled-out atmosphere that is perfect for lazy summer days. It finishes with an injection of electronica and a final hit of bass. Big summer single Fever has an incredibly catchy electronic bounce on the chorus and a thumping beat with easy-to-grasp lyrics, so you’ll soon be singing along and tapping your feet. Year In Review is another chill out festival song with electronic sighs and tones and breathy indie vocals. Ghostly echoes in the back of the vocals are another recurring motif on the album and they add an other-worldly feel to the songs on which they occur. The bluesy guitar solo towards the end is a nostalgic nod to their previous work.

Bullet In The Brain and Waiting On Words possess the spaced-out vocals that their new style encompasses. The former is based on a soft beat and features electronic chimes and a chilled acoustic riff. Tinkling keys and ringing riff appear in the second half and echoes of their indie selves become more apparent. The repetitive lyrics hammer home the message and actually take on the form of becoming the bullet in your brain. Their echoing vocals add a whimsical, casual slant that is common on Turn Blue. Waiting On Words has a light simple riff and ethereal dreamy vocals. The soft piano is haunting with the calm vocal delivery until the drum kicks in halfway through, when the song becomes quirky and a little dark. The heavier drums towards the end provide a dramatic definite stop.

Perhaps the song that is most like their earlier work is 10 Lovers. A funky bass, steady drum and a retro pop feel has notes of their former style but the screeching electronic riff and soundscape in the middle drives it into the present day. It’s an atmospheric summer track with an ethereal chorus which will be a favourite with fans of the band’s Brothers album.

The last two tracks on the album couldn’t be more contrasting. In fact In Our Prime, the penultimate track, was originally the last but the band decided that they wanted to end on a high. In Our Prime is a quirky downbeat track with dreary vocals and a melancholy blues riff and steady piano. Closing track Gotta Get Away is a cheerful beat, a funky country riff and an Americana-filled summer track. It’s a great choice for putting on while driving down open roads, singing along to the catchy melody.

If you love The Black Keys as a retro-inspired rock band, then Turn Blue isn’t going to be your favourite album. However, if you’re ready for a new stage in their career then this is the perfect summer record for you. From the funk of the days of rock ‘n’ roll to the futuristic tones of later decades, The Black Keys are evolving with every album. Who knows what we’ll get in another few years?

Something light-hearted and perhaps a little comical this week. I don’t feel like I do enough of this but here I am, treating you to some cheer!

What is your “They’re probably crazy” red flag?

As a sufferer of anxiety, particularly social anxiety, “that person is crazy” is a regular thought that goes through my head when I’m out and about. However, I am aware that because of my anxiety, my red flags would possibly just be totally overlooked by someone who is comfortable in the company of strangers, so I am bearing that in mind while I write this post i.e. you’re probably not as crazy as me!

For me, living in London where everyone is incredibly self-absorbed in their own lives, if a stranger talks to me about any other topic other than directions or what the time is, then I get a bit edgy. I know that to those who live in small communities or maybe even just outside of London that probably sounds mental and maybe even fascinating at the same time but in big cities, particularly London apparently, this is just the culture.

Londoners aren’t comfortable conversing with people we don’t know. Small talk is fine to a degree. If you have a question that we might know the answer to, for example, “How do I get to Oxford Street?” we can tell you but we would then politely expect and appreciate that you then leave us alone. As a Londoner, I’ve adopted many approaches in order to appear occupied and give off a “don’t-talk-to-me-please” vibe -earphones up loud, looking way more engrossed in a book or magazine than is actually humanly possible and even pretending to be asleep- but alas, those who are seemingly unaware of the unspoken no talking rule will still find a way to bother me.

On the tube and at train stations, I’ve had experiences that I’ve been so incredibly uncomfortable in that I’ve had panic attacks. Sadly and admittedly, they have all been to do with interactions with strangers. A few years ago, I was travelling up to Essex to spend time with my boyfriend and despite my earphones being firmly in whilst on the tube, the guy in the seat next to me still felt it appropriate to talk to me about what I was listening to and where I was going. When I nervously told him both of these things, he continued into a conversation about himself and how he wanted to be a millionaire by the time he was 30. Stuff I, nor any other stranger, cares about. I neither have nor want anything to do with this guy and he begins to tell me all about himself and his dreams. As a stereotypical Londoner, to me this certainly raises the crazy alarm to me.

More recently, I was asked for my phone number within the first minute of meeting another guy. What kind of person does that? Quite clearly, a weirdo to say the least. Needless to say, I didn’t give him my number but escaped unscathed after much panicking and fear of what he might do to me once he’d realised that I was rejecting him. Even now, the thought of a stranger having my phone number or e-mail address scares me to death. I don’t want or need any more friends, thank you particularly if you’re going to terrify me in our very first five minutes together. Leave me alone!

See, that’s the thing with me. I can’t just say no. If I don’t want to do something, I have to come up with a drastic or ridiculous excuse not to do it. Maybe that makes me one of the craziest people out there. I’ll let you be the judge of that!