Wednesday, 17 September 2014

REVIEW: Lower Than Atlantis, 'Lower Than Atlantis'

 In a world seemingly full of calculated choruses and faux punk angst, it's been fairly easy to overlook Lower Than Atlantis. Swept along in the British invasion wave that made bigger stars out of You Me At Six, Kids In Glass Houses and Twin Atlantic, there's never been anything wrong with the Watford' quartets chipper radio rock, but something was failing to ignite.

Having signed up to Sony records for the release of their self titled record, it quickly becomes apparent that the band have gone for the slow burn rather than the media inferno. It would have been easy to make a record bemoaning their peers, but instead, this is an album that fizzes with determination, sounding like they're having more fun that ever before.

Opening with the well radio-rotated 'Here We Go', it's clear they mean business. A chugging riff that would make 'Puzzle' era Biffy Clyro happy, it's their strongest track to date, epic strings just low enough in the mix to recall some sort of heavy take on a James Bond theme. The cinematics are upped even further for 'Criminal', which lets Mike Deuce's vocals shine as the bands strongest asset. When he sings about the perils of selling out and how he's 'taken shit before', you can really believe how much trash-talking must go down in the alternative scene. Whilst the message could be considered a cliche, his delivery definitely isn't.  

English kids in America wins points for being featured on MICNYC with an American eagle of a chorus that will see them taken even more firmly into the hearts of the tumblr generation. It's stateside inspiration nestles nicely alongside 'Emily', an infectiously bouncy track that would have fit comfortably onto any American Pie OST, summarising the woes of a million teenage boys with the line it sucks that you’re cool and I’m not.’  

If power rock isn't your thing, 'Lower Than Atlantis's latter half may be of more interest. 'Word's Don't Come So Easily' is a touching acoustic ballad that quickly turns into a suprisingly thumping chorus, whilst 'Just What You Need' is really interesting – changing pace all over the place until it becomes nearly genreless, almost RnB like in it’s sexy come-ons .‘If you want love let's make some’? Ooer.

If 'Lower Than Atlantis' does have a downside, it is perhaps that the record is a little one dimensional. Although there are moments where they flirt with other genres and some tracks are truly standout, each song does tend to feel more like a race to the chorus line rather than anything you might truly take to your heart. However, their songwriting has improved beyond recognition, boding well for their future. Fancy a set of lyrics for a new tattoo? You might be better off looking elsewhere. But fancy packing all your best mates in a car and heading off an a super fun road trip? You best get downloading.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Safety In Sound's Mercury Music Prize Predictions

It's that time of year again... the UK music scene's best, brightest and hippest cram into a room to watch Jools Holland/Lauren Laverne announce the best record of the year, on musical merit alone. Whilst the 'pay to enter' scandal may have marred it's potency somewhat, it's still my favourite musical event of the year and a welcome alternative to the corporate shock factor fest we're presented by the Brits and the VMA's. With the nominee shortlist due to arrive on Wednesday, here's my look at the 12 bands I think will be nominated. Best get down the local betting shop...


 Wild Beasts – Present Tense
After the great ‘Smother’ snub debacle of 2011, I have a good feeling that 2014 might finally be the year that our Kendall kings get what they deserve. Well known and respected but not necessarily the most commercially successful in this list, the prize money and media attention post-win could greatly benefit the production of their next (hopefully world dominating) record.

Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
Whilst Scotland is still attached to the UK, I’m betting that Chvrches debut will be making it’s way onto the list. With Lauren Mayberry making her voice heard in the music press with THAT incredibly eloquent summary of misogyny in the music industry, here's hoping that the profile raise from winning the mercury could help elevate their platform of social consciousness and great electro-pop.

Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
A SIS favourite, Bombay's slow burning rise to the top has seen them finally become the mainstream radio dominating force they've always threatened to be, without compromising any of their musical integrity on the way. Their colourful, multi-tonal fourth record is a masterclass in cultural appreciation over appropriation.

Sam Smith - In The Lonely Hour
A populist choice, but a likely option for nomination, even if it doesn't win. Most likely to donate the money to charity instead of adding it their empire.

FKA Twigs – LP1
This year's potential newbie curveball choice, FKA Twigs embodies the quirky spirit that usually demands a Mercury nod. Her smoky, sultry record would be sure to be performance of the night if she were to be recognised.

Drenge – Drenge
They'd no doubt be fairly indifferent to a nomination, but the Mercury Music Prize would definitely tip the world off to one of the north's best new bands of the past two years. Drenge's debut is remarkably self-confident and would definitely add fuel to the rumour that rock music is well and truly back in vogue. 

Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love
Another popular choice, but Nutini's latest record has garnered almost universal critical acclaim and definitely ticks the 'wouldn't look out of place on a Guardian readers record label' box that makes any artist a shoo-in for the prize.

Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
It wouldn't be the MMP if there wasn't the Classic returning artist nomination, so that slot falls surely to Damon Albarn in 2014. Whilst 'Everyday Robots' was not without fault, Albarn may well fancy his chances now after rescinding Gorillaz nomination back in 2001.  

Jungle - Jungle
Bringing something a little different into the mix, South London's Jungle have been taken into the hearts and minds of media types this year, and are likely to rank highly on the perpetually middle class Mercury panel. Not that I'd mind too much though - they're a genuinely promising outfit who could probably do a lot with the money.

Kate Tempest - Everybody Down
Whether her record label will want to cough up the nomination cash is another matter, but poet Kate Tempest is surely another high ranker who's crossover appeal from spoken word to music will make a great story in the gear up to election year. I call this the M.S Dynamite effect... just wait and see.
Royal Blood – Royal Blood
I’d probably rather see a nomination for Drenge’s self titled debut, but whilst  Royal Blood are reining high at the top of the charts, they make a good case for the populist ‘rock’ choice and it would certainly be the cherry on top of their recent chart reign. 

Temples - Sun Structures
The retro stylings of Temples fill the glam void needed for the Mercury party, and their straightforward jangly indie is a crowd pleaser that almost anyone could find some solid enjoyment in. A current way to round off this year's list. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

REVIEW: 'I'm scared of the day when I have to stop' - Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Leeds Brudenell Social Club, 02/09/2014

It's a sad, unfortunate truth in music that sometimes, despite an artist's brilliance, the time comes where they believe they have done all they can with a project and wish to move on. Such is the case for Sam Duckworth a.k.a Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. Despite soundtracking the adolescence of so many strong minded, introspective teenagers with his heartfelt, cult classic debut 'The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager', at the age of 28, Duckworth clearly feels the time is right to say goodbye to this chapter of his life with one last, countrywide lap of honour.

The air of nostalgia is thick inside the Brudenell Social Club as Duckworth walks unassumingly, nervously even, onto the stage, looking both troubled and thoughtful. Using a laptop to create musical layers and textures has become common practise in the modern music industry, but whether it's the songs or the setting, the thumping beats that accompany the opening strains of 'The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager part 2' feel decidedly, heartwarmingly familiar and old-school, the way it's always done. It sounds great, but something isn't right: Sam looks visibly shaken by the magnitude of the project he is about to bury, and the audience seem to hold back, wondering whether he is going to be alright. With Get Cape, the fan-band barrier has always been blurred; he feels to many as much of a friend as a hero, and the emotion of the evening weighs heavy as people will him on through his obvious torment.

Halfway through a performance of his eponymous song 'Get Cape', Duckworth finally snaps. He puts his guitar down, apologises and walks off. This is far from a traditional diva strop - a bemused minute of genuine concern passes as we collectively wonder whether he really is ready to pack away the past ten years of his life. A political activist through and through, the song's lyrics about consumerism remain as current as they were in 2006, and one has to wonder whether in that moment, singing it for the last time in Leeds felt to Sam like giving up on the cause.

Like always, he isn't down for long. Returning in a fit of apologies, a quick run through of 'Find The
Time' edges the party out of wake territory and back into a celebration, waves of applause greeting him as he asks for forgiveness over the 'therapy session' before giving 'Get Cape...' another go. He admits that he'd had a hard day and 'couldn't sing that song in that headspace', a wonderfully human moment that sets the tone for the rest of the evening. With the fourth wall  well and truly brought down, all that is left to do is to make the most of the occasion.

Despite a slew of technical hiccups that seem to frustrate only Sam rather than anyone in the audience, it is patently obvious that these songs haven't aged at all. 'Whitewash is Brainwash' still brings back personal memories of printing this songs lyrics off and taking them into a year 10 poetry lesson, and both 'Collapsing Cities' and 'Call Me Ishmael' incite the sort of singalong that could fill arenas. Heck, let's be honest - most songs played here fill the hearts and voices of the devoted audience. Even newer track 'Remember' brings a tear to multiple eyes, tinged as it is with the fear and worry that plagues so many of us. It hits home heavily as a new graduate, entirely bewildered by what is next and the worries of impending 'adult life' that lurk in the shadows. As he sings 'I'm scared of the day when I have to stop/I'm scared of the fact that I might be wrong', it's pretty obvious that we're not the only ones who feel the anxiety of facing the unknown.

As we bookend the evening with 'Chronicles...part 1', and the 'Ba Da Da Da Da' singalong rings out of the club and down the street, it's a bittersweet affair. Tonight may have marked Duckworth's 'first onstage breakdown in ten years', but despite the technicalities, it felt like a fitting end. The work of Get Cape, and 'Chronicles...' in particular achieved so many things that such a lyrically noncommercial record ever should, and quite clearly meant so much to so many people. Whether it be admitting it's weaknesses and walking off stage or joking with the ardent fans in the front row, there is absolutely no denying that Sam Duckworth has heart.  And in a world saturated with sell-outs and suppressed passions, heart means everything.


NOTE: Safety In Sound wishes Sam Duckworth the best of luck in his future musical endeavours, and thanks him for his contribution to the site back in August where he shared his favourite songs of his Get Cape career. Read that post here