Timothy van Sas
Timothy van Sas

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Real Estate - Leeds live at Brudenell 19th Feb

As two time winners of Bitchforks Best New Music’s award, (something which seems to carry more kudos than a Mercury, Grammy and Brit rolled into one) New Jersey’s Real Estate don’t need to do a whole lot on stage to curry favour with the hipsters who attend their shows. In a strange way thats a good thing, as tonight’s easy-going performance is the perfect reflection of their carefree sound. Under normal circumstances I would chastise a band for such inertia on stage, but if Real Estate were to perform in any other way it just wouldn’t fit.

If you’ve never heard Real Estate, a quick listen to any part of their discography would validate my view point. Their sound is heavily influenced by New Jersey forebears, the Feelies and is suffused with the warmth of a sunny afternoon. Where guitars hooks gently drift on the faintest wisps of air and hazy vocals recount stories of suburban life in America. In the context of Brudenell’s working man club furnishings they should sound alien, but instead the band offer tonights equally mellow crowd escapism from the last throws of a bitter winter. In return they applaud generously, reserving the bulk of their cheers for singles ‘Easy’ and ‘Green Aisles’ taken from the excellent new album Days.

Taking a closer look, it becomes obvious just how hard the band works to appear so carefree. The brunt of the heavy lifting is done by the bands rhythm section. Where Jackson Pollis beats the drums like a ginger step child and Alex Bleeker relentlessly nods like a dashboard mounted Elvis as he thumbs out the baselines. The two provide enough bounce to the hazy melodies, holding your attention without intruding on the relaxed atmosphere. This allows the interplay of singer/guitarist, Martin Courtney and guitarist, Matthew Mondanile to sound like the equivalent of two slackers having a contest to see who can look more contented whilst spread eagled on a sun lounger. The effect is extremely pleasant and had me recalling my own fondest memories of summer which on a cold Sunday night in Leeds is no mean feat.

You can download more of my pictures of here.

Monday, 20 February 2012

KNOW YOUR NME (Or why do the so-called music press never learn?)

By Lawrence Piddock

I’ve been away for a little while. I’ve not been idle, but plans have gone awry. My idea for a CSS tribute band involving kazoos, bassoons and a ukulele didn’t quite work out. Neither did my quick fire game show featuring twelve hosts and a couple of schizophrenic contestants called Who Said That? Which has bizarrely not been picked up by any of the TV stations I pitched it to, not even Bravo or Nuts TV...

Also it doesn’t help when you send pieces to somebody and they don’t read them (a little clue, his first name’s Kevin...*).

Anyway, last time I wrote I was having a pop at festivals and this leads on a tad conveniently. A piece in the pre-Glastonbury NME excelled itself when it declared that if people were willing to protest against U2 for dodging taxes in Eire, then why aren’t people were willing to protest against Beyonce taking a princely sum for performing a private gig for the Gadaffi family a couple of years back.I’d like to make it clear that I had very little time for the not-so-dearly-departed Gadaffi and his ilk, but there was more chance of the Daleks turning up on the Pyramid Stage during Coldplay’s set and exterminating Chris Martin than any anti-Beyonce protest ever happening.

And the NME know it...

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Right Now, If You Believe

Willis Earl Beal - Take Me Away

During a recent seminar, a lecturer asked “who are your modern day soul and blues voices?” For a minute the group sat in silence before our brains sparked into life and names like Erykah Badu, Macy Gray and even Amy Winehouse were mentioned. Our reticence to answer is understandable because apart from Badu, the soul and blues genres are devoid of credible voices that have found their way into the mainstream psyche. The selection of soul artist Michael Kiwanuka as BBC’s “sound of 2012” would suggest that the industries taste makers recognise this void and are trying to fill it. Predictably they’ve backed the wrong horse.

Step forward Chicago’s 27 year old, Willis Earl Beal who on the evidence of “Take Me Away” is about to invoke the spirit of 1920‘s blues acts like Robert Johnson. The home recording is primal and rhythmic, distorting the thumping sound of a rudimentary diddley bow to striking effect. Vocally Earl Beal is equally powerful and
from the opening line of “Oh lord! Take me away” he sounds like a snarling Isaac Hayes lost in a gospel trance. Given it’s near 90 year old inspiration, it’s strange that Willis Earl Beal sounds so fresh when his contemporary, Kiwanuka, sounds so hackneyed. The harsh truth is that when it comes to blues and soul, genuine emotion is everything and unlike Kiwanuka’s coffee table version, Earl Beal really means it.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Living off the last hurrah is killing me

Burning Hotels - Days Are Gone

A while back, a friend of mine introduced me to Burning Hotels, an ‘80s inspired indie pop quartet from Texas. Their sound, is a delicious mixture of The Cure, The Smiths and modern electronic trends. “Days Are Gone” is the best example of how they blend these influences into a cohesive whole. Taken from last years self titled EP, the synths throb and swell melodically over the Marr inspired guitar riff’s, making for a disarming soundscape that gets people dancing. Hidden amongst this rousing music are bleak lyrics that sentimentally dwell on a past rather than hope for a better future. This sort of musical juxtaposition always draws me in, a track overtly melancholy but with the power to liberate any set of feet from a stationary position.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Resolutions Are Only Dreams

King Krule - Bleak Bake

For me, talent schools are a contentious issue. Does an artist gain or lose merit by attending? What does it mean for their authenticity? Does it even matter? It’s a minefield that shouldn’t have any relevance to what I think about the music, but apparently it does. In King Krule’s case I’m willing to make an exception because despite his Brit School background (the same talent school as Jessie J and Adele) his music is blessed with a mediative quality that appeals to my introverted nature and tugs on the same emotional strings as The XX or Burial. Like both of those artists, Krule’s music is nocturnal and urban in tone, resonating more when walking on dimly lit streets. His style of vocal morphing sounds a little like drunken slurring and will be a barrier for enjoyment for some, to others (and me) he’ll sound intoxicating, there really isn’t any middle ground. 

 “Bleak Bake” is the best example of these musical traits to date. Emotive lyrics like “I’m pretty sure my mind ran down this line again, only last week,” recall how easy it is to drift off into your own little world whilst commuting during a packed rush hour. Krule backdrops his lyrics with an expert use of repetitive violin modulations. These sharp pockets of sound represent a moment of mind paralysis caused by a combination of commuter induced claustrophobia and too many strands of thought forming at once. It’s something most commuters can relate to and hearing this type of internalisation represented so skilfully is rare indeed. Making any of my own doubts about the dubious authenticity of Krule’s talent school roots ill-founded.