I've talked about my pop crush on Oh Land here a couple of times already, let's go again with two new tracks taken from her forthcoming album Earth Sick.
Pop is a genre I float towards on occasion but tend to avoid, we've probably got twerking and X Factor to blame for that, yet all be said, when it's done as well as it is by the Danish bred, New York based Nanna Oland Fabricius, a joyous listen is pretty much guaranteed...
"Head Up High” sticks closely to the glittery, formula that has worked so well for Oh Land previously on the likes of "Renaissance Girls", "Sun of a Gun" and "White Nights", a propulsive power-pop beast full of infectious, kinetic synth energy and catchy, upbeat choruses, it's infinitely better than any pop song heard on Radio One this year.
The second track shared is the title to Oh Land's fourth album, "Earth Sick" is a world apart from "Head Up High", highlighting her genre-swapping ability perfectly, moving from pop scarlet to minimal, brooding electronica at the drop of a hat, this intimate, emotive beauty is soft, brooding atmosphere and ethereal wonder. The harmonies and strings that close out the track are simply stunning.
Earth Sick set for release November 11th via Oh Land's own independent imprint, Tusk or Tooth. A Pledge Music campaign with is currently running (only 5 days left) if you fancy some exclusive extras.
The last week was spent looking forward to 2014 with my own series of ten 'Tips For 2014'. I'm pretty happy with the list and look forward to seeing how they get on next year (and the same goes for those who I listed as ones to watch in 2013 that never released anything like Alice Jemima or Bird). This week sees the focus switch to my favourite releases of 2013, I wrote a short-list (well I guess a long-list) of albums I've been listening to the most this year and it came to about 34, I whittled down slowly to what you'll find posted over the next seven days. The order changes depending on what time of the day so don't take much of it all that seriously. There are obviously hundreds more albums released this year that I've not even heard, that's one of the reasons I prefer to say 'my favourite' rather than the best, everything here is my subjective opinion.
2013 was a good year for albums of me. The artists responsible for my favourite album of 2009 (Editors), 2010 (Caitlin Rose) and 2011 (The Joy Formidable) all releasing an album alongside some of my all-time favourites, I'll leave the introduction there to avoid further spoilers and get started. They'll be posted here at a rate of four albums a day for the next six days followed my number one on Sunday. That's if I get all the words written on time - It was my Daughter's first birthday last week so I've been a little bit preoccupied with real life.
I'm kicking off this years album run down with a band that I belatedly fell for in 2013, Big Deal. June Gloom is their second album and leaves behind the whimsical folk of debut Lights Out for a big, soaring guitar pop album full of addictive hooks, relentless energy and songs that recall the youthful memories of falling in and out of love.
The best starting point is "Dream Machines", it instantly radiates like the carefree summer anthem it should become with glistening guitars and robotic beats complimenting the dual toned vocals of Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood. "In Your Car" and "Swapping Spit" both adopt a similar formula built around familiar power-pop foundations with distorted fuzz and echoey drums whilst "Teradactol" is a completely different monster formed around a cacophony of noise and aggression.
There are softer acoustic moments that reward equally, opening track "Golden Light" starts as a languid beauty full of saccharine-sweet vocals and perfect harmonies before punchy beats breathe new life into it while the dreamy bliss of "Pristine" is perhaps the most intimate and personal track on the album. June Bloom sees Big Deal become a fully realised band clearly having fun and making some pretty sweet noise too - long may that continue.
The self titled debut by Mackenzie Scott's Torres was one of my early year highlights, an affecting but beautiful listen throughout (perhaps too difficult a listen for some) introducing a versatile voice that will knock you for six with a stirring group of songs that provide a white knuckle ride of powerful and devastating emotion.
The track which propelled Torres to the attention of many blogs was the six minute tour-de-force "Honey", a fractured, raw anthem to rival the likes of EMA, full of breathtaking intimacy ("Everything hurts but it’s fine, happens all the time") and intensity with progressive shades of darkness contrasting between Mackenzie's velvet-toned vocal and her accompanying fuzzed-up guitar strums.
The brutally honest "Jealousy and I" possesses one the most personal lines I've heard all year, "I'm suffocating you I know, it's just the way I know to love" amongst bare-boned guitar shimmers is someone pouring out their heart and the result is as spine-tingling a moment as music will give you. The stark and un-rushed "Come to Terms" is equally spellbinding, an acoustic ballad with a heartfelt melody that is beautifully simple and complex at the same time - melancholia has rarely sounded so good.
I can't really do a Torres review without mentioning the gorgeous "November Baby" either, a moment to saviour, bruised, personal and oh so damn beautiful.
Something a little different than my list pick now. The only pure pop album on my list (I decided against including Haim because half their debut was released last year and covered by me at length then). Oh Land's third LP (I keep reading second but that's ignoring Fauna) Wish Bone is nothing short of mood-enhancing brilliance which flutters around multiple genres within 13 dance-floor friendly Scandi-pop anthems.
Nanna Oland Fabricius doesn't just have an effortless knack of producing music full of dynamic energy and propulsive rhythms, she's also got a truly stunning voice and writes brilliant pop hits. "Renaissance Girls" could almost be a sister track to earlier songs "Sun of a Gun" and "White Nights", full of clattering beats and ultra-infectious rhythms topped by Nanna's soaring vocals - it's about the best power pop song I've heard all year.
Wish Bone is an album that doesn't stay on any beaten track, there's the pure Robyn-esque pop of the quirky and brilliant "My Boxer" or the funk-laden groove of the infectious "Pyromaniac" and "3 Chances" (possible the first song to mention both kittens and zombies), a beautiful, saccharine sweet ballad amongst softer, heart-felt moments like "Love You Better" but "Bird in an Aeroplane" is perhaps the best indication of Oh Land's glittery charm.
Esben and the Witch return with 'the difficult second album' Wash the Sins not Only the Face and produce something that's just as impressive as their debut. Of course the prevalent mood here is stark, chilly beats built around swirling, creeping guitars but Rachel Davies ethereal vocals are more prominent this time and the beautiful scary mood reaches more towards the half light realms of haunting dreamscapes.
Of course there are terrifying moments, "Iceland Spar" though opens the album with typically Esben-esque noise, instantly scorching out your heart with uncontainable energy where pummeling drums and heavy guitars collide before parting for Rachel's chilly vocal chorus, the contrast between the two continues throughout and imposes itself with wondrous levels of claustrophobia. "Deathwaltz" similarly deals in dramatic atmospherics, though not quite the grim death-march the name indicates, shimmering guitarscapes offer a kaleidoscopic tapestry not heard from the band before, creeping with a mysterious intensity amongst unsettling swirls and Rachel Davies haunting, creatures of the night air chanting.
"Despair" is a short and sharp blast of a nightmarish whirlpool whilst the pulsating "Yellow Wood" builds and builds to a truly stunning climax yet my highlight is the soft, haunting intimacy of the icy ballad "The Fall of Glorieta Mountain", a delicate thing of true beauty it sends shivers right through me. Of course, being and Esben and the Witch album we're not allowed to end in blissful melancholy and the track is followed by "Smashed to Pieces in the Still of the Night", a foreboding finale of epic drums and searing guitars.
Pop music isn't generally my "thing" but I have always been prone to the odd stray towards the mainstream - not manufactured I'll add - Lana Del Rey was my album of the year last year after-all (a few of you may raise an eyebrow after the comment I just made!). Other occasions in memory include Alphabeat, whose debut album and shows (yes, I saw them twice) at The Great Escape in 2010(?) were nothing short of mood-enhancing wonders and then Oh Land, who flutters multiple genres within her dance-floor friendly Scandipop anthems.
I first fell for her music back at Glastonbury 2011 whereI saw her perform two intimate shows, at The Crows Nest and The Rabbit Hole, one half-acoustic which highlighted a truly breathtaking ethereal voice and one 'proper' set full of dynamic, kinetic energy and propulsive pop hits. Do also check out her version of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" - it's a totally different take on the track and I think it's rather great.
Anyway, the reason I'm here is for Oh Land's come-back single, taken from the follow up to 2011's self-titled second album (Wish Bone due September 24 via Federal Prism), "Renaissance Girls" could almost be a sister track to earlier songs "Sun of a Gun" and "White Nights", full of clattering beats and ultra-infectious rhythms topped by Nanna's soaring vocals - it's about the best power pop song I've heard all year.
I'm confusing myself here, I'm pretty sure I've posted about Oh Land before though, apparently I have not. Apart from my review after seeing her twice at Glastonbury, this is the maiden posting about the Danish singer-songwriter / pop-star, she's yet to be officially launched in the UK, her self-titled (second album) is due for release here on November 21st (though it reached no 5. in the Danish charts in March). Any purveyor of synth-pop would be wise to investigate Nanna Øland Fabricius as soon as they can and if you are reading this, let that time be now...
The album is probably the best pop album I've heard this year (I can't bring myself to listen to Nicola Roberts), "Sun of a Gun" is the catchiest, an energetic slice of fun that's both dance floor and radio friendly, similarly "White Nights" keeps things playful, sparkling synth hooks, looping drum beats and gorgeous melodies make for one of the most irresistibly infectious tracks of the year. My favourite track though is "Wolf & I" where Oh Land's sultry vocal completely enchant you in a goose-bump inducing ballad.
Anyway, all that gushing wasn't actually the reason for this post, this was... Oh Land has released a cover of The National's "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and before you fanboys go running off screaming, listen to it, it's actually all kinds of brilliant. A restrained synth warble and delicate electronic beat create this dreamy, brooding ambiance and the switch of vocals from Matt Berninger signature baritone to Oh Land's ethereal whispers create an emotive version that is nothing sort of beautiful. Covers can be a dangerous thing, Oh Land have pulled this one off no question.
Oh Land play Heaven on November 10th - tickets - unfortunately it's the same day as St Vincent and until somebody gives me a DeLorean DMC-12 I'm unable to time travel or be in two places at the same time.
The start of my belated Glastonbury review - I needed some time to recover!
Unlike perhaps 95% of the 175 thousand punters who now go through Glastonbury's doors (surely too many) I arrive early on Thursday and spend the first few hours doing undoubtedly the worst thing of the weekend, walking (and walking) with a heavy bag and camping gear finding a suitable place to pitch up. The less said about the better, I spend most of the day wandering around the green fields having a couple of drinks and enjoying an extended afternoon's rest - after the rain of Wednesday the walkway's are pretty muddy and wellies are essential though at my campsite the ground is okay to enjoy some sun. Anyway, that's all a bit boring, this is neither a weather, nor a camping blog. I do meet a few bloggers on Thursday afternoon, hello again to them!
The music starts for me on Friday morning at the place where I will watch most of my acts, The Park. Group Love aren't my thing, their summery, happy music wins over a pretty large midday audience but I move after three tracks to the BBC Introducing stage and see Deep Cut. Musically I'm impressed, their tracks are definitely the sort of thing I'm into but perhaps nerves take the better of the lead singer who fails to engage the audience between the tracks, it's not disappointing but it could have been better.
A short walk next to see Summer Camp at the renamed Oxlyers in West - Glastonbury was one stage down this year (I for one missed the Queen's Head Stage) and during the day some 'indie' bands played in one of the dance tents - Summer Camp are great, Elizabeth's swooning vocals, Jeremy's keys and guitars and for the first time I've seen, a live drummer win over a pretty impressively large early afternoon audience. A combination of sweet and powerful songs with an overwhelming vibe of summer sunshine, just what the overcast day needed. Closure "I Want You" stands out ahead of earlier singles "Ghost Train" and "Round The Moon".
A walk back to The Park area next, where I'll remain for the rest of the day (it might not be too long a distance if you took away all the punters, but through the crows and mud I decided a trip back from the Park to the BBC intro stage and all the way back again is too much, so later in the day unfortunately miss Spotlight Kid). One of my most anticipated acts of the weekend is next, Caitlin Rose.
Caitlin is perhaps more subdued than normal on the big stage at the start of her performance but before long her charm and humour win over the stage and then of course there are her songs. The stomping "Spare Me" and "Shanghai Cigarettes" especially work well and even though it's now raining it's still goosebumps as she closes on "Sinful Wishing Well", rich, warm and utterly wonderful. Caitlin's first show of the festival ends, thankfully I'll see her again tomorrow.
Next I take my first walk up to The Crow's Nest - After seeing Mountain Man here last year and being blown away I knew I'd be spending quite a bit of time here. It's probably the highest and most intimate setting of the entire festival situated at the (very) top of The Park hill and this year it's even better than I could have hoped. I end up seeing seven or eight bands here over the weekend.
The first is an acoustic duo show of Summer Camp, seeing them for the second time in two hours, this time in much more intimate setting which allows them to relax a little and entertain the crowd. The highlight is definitely at the end when after some prompting from Elizabeth, Jeremy says he'll cover a song from the soon to be 'Special Guests' Radiohead. He plays "Karma Police" and it's pretty brilliant.
Next back down the hill for Warpaint who play to the largest crowd of the day so far on the main stage, their hour long performance is the best I'd seen them for a while, the sound was brilliant which helps, the girls really need good sound (it wasn't too great at Primavera) and their psychedelic tinged extended guitar meandering jams are perfect. Their stunning vocal harmonies are great and of course, as I've said every time I see them, Stella steals the show. The rain even holds off for most of the set, that's what you call a Brucie Bonus.
My thighs get more of a work-out as I climb back to the Crow's Nest and catch Alice Gold play the tail end of her set. Her acoustic guitar numbers are pretty good and I remind myself to check out her material when I get home. I take some shelter from the increasingly wet weather and admire the view of the site, it's pretty darn impressive as the crowds assemble for the not so secret Radiohead set about to happen. Here's a view from outside:
I however prefer to stay in The Crow's Nest and watch Oh Land play to a ridiculously small number of people (it's not her fault she clashes with Radiohead) and it's great too. Really, really great. Pop tinged electronic music with a stunning beautiful voice and look, she says this is only a half-set but it sounds wonderful. "White Nights" excels. I even recorded on my crappy camera - my good camera's video broke after the two attempts above! Watch.
Walking (slowly) down the hill I hear Thom and co playing a track or so as streams of people appear to be leaving after realising they were to be treated to a set containing newer material and not a 'greatest hits' set. I head to The Rabbit Hole and come across Beth Rowley. Her bluesy, gospel voice is quite delicious. I'd not come across her before and I certainly enjoy her set. Compelling and beautiful, she mentions writing some new material for a forthcoming album and it'll certainly one I'll be checking out.
I stay to catch another set by Oh Land, this time her full setup and it's even better than the earlier one. There are a dozen or so younger people in the crowd dancing at the front and I do my best not to join in - I'm too old for that sort of thing. I'm pretty sure most of the 150 or so people in tent will have all made a mental note to check out the Danish star. After seeing her play two extremely intimate sets I'm shocked when I get home to find she has seventy six thousand fans on facebook. The UK it seems is way behind with Oh Land. Given the quality of her shows this will change, "White Nights" and "Wolf & I" are gorgeous, brilliant and then their is "Sun of a Gun" which is a monster pop hit.
Crystal Castles end my day. They come on stage late, over half an hour late. I'm not sure if it's their fault or if the stage is overrunning due to the Radiohead set earlier but I manage to get close to the front and enjoy the set a lot more than I expected to. The couple of beers I have whilst standing around in the rain might well help. Even without Robert Smith to lend a hand with the vocals my highlight is "Not In Love". Alice is pretty well behaved, she heads into the crowd a couple of times but I'm sure the security guards were anticipated more of a work-out. The set is cut short due to the overrun, it's a good time to call an end to the first nights proceedings. A highly enjoyable first day of the main festival. Now if only the weather could improve.
It's less than a week until Glastonbury 2011, like everyone else who writes a blog and is going to Somerset next week, here's a list of ten bands I think you should see... I'm not going to give a survival tips post, basically ignore everything it says in this Telegraph article and you'll do alright. Fingers crossed that this weather forecast is accurate too, after the horrendous weather of the past week I'll certainly take it.
Saying that, here are a few of my places to go tips. Firstly, the Crows Nest (up the hill at the back of The Park). I saw Mountain Man at the Crows Nest last year and it was amongst the highlights of my entire weekend, their schedule isn't announced yet but so far confirmed acts include Summer Camp and Guillemots.
Secondly, Strummerville, this isn't so secret anymore after some quite big bands took to stage around the late night campfire to play short sets. I saw Lissie and a few others here last year, the atmosphere was great and we may need the fire to keep us warm. I'll certainly be aiming to get myself in place for some bands rather than enduring the madness of late night Shangri-La.
I don't particularly think it's the best line-up ever this year (of course it's my opinion only), The John Peel stage bears only passing resemblance to the sort of music that its namesake would play, The Other Stage seemed to have been curated by someone who's done nothing but listen to Radio One this past year and The Pyramid, well the less said about it the better.
Thankfully with it being Glastonbury there are plenty of other stages to pick from and plenty of acts worth checking out, the smaller stages (especially The Park) have picked some pretty good acts to play, I've highlighted my first five picks below (with five more to follow tomorrow):
Caitlin Rose The Park, Friday 24th, 14.15 - 15.00 Acoustic Stage, Sunday 26th, 14.00 - 14.45
Caitlin is back in our shores for quite a few festivals this summer starting with two sets at Glastonbury (though I'm hopefully she'll play one of the places I mentioned above too) and I cannot bloody wait to see her again, I've seen her ten times in the past twelve months and I'm yet to be disappointed, I know that's one word I won't be using to describe her show at Glastonbury.
The scheduling God's have not been kind to me and it's doubtful I'll make the Acoustic Stage show, but The Park on Friday afternoon, cannot wait. According to my last.fm geekery I've listened to her two and a half times more than the second most played act over the last twelve months, it's fair to say that 'Own Side' is firmly up there with my favourite ever albums.
I shall finally be catching up with Esben and the Witch next week after being unable to make their last couple of London shows and I'm really looking forward to it. I've been obsessed with a recording of theirs from a recent Amsterdam show. The bass sounds like it killed the tapers headphones it was so heavy and in one of the renamed dance tents Esben will sound perfectly at home, if only the show was at twelve midnight instead of midday, nevertheless this show is un-missable.
One of my favourite albums of the year, expect to see it feature highly in my end of year lists. I meant to post about their incredible record store day release previously, if you haven't got the Chorea EP then rectify that as soon as possible, the b-side "Corridors Installation" (a reworking of one of the highlights of their debut EP) is 18 minutes in length and by far the best thing the band have ever done.
The Park, Friday 24th, 16.45 - 17.45 John Peel Tent, Saturday 25th, 16.50 - 17.40
Surprise! I think Warpaint have been at every festival I've attended so far this year and have made by 'bands to watch' list in every one as well, if you've seen the girls yourself then you'll know why I love them as much as I do.
On stage they always look to be having such fun, beautiful vocal interplays, extraordinary guitar play and have I mentioned Stella's drumming before? Yes, yes I think I have - it's incredible. Two shows equals twice the fund. One the highlights of the weekend is written right through Warpaint's sets.
I'll be giving Bono and co a wide-berth and although I can't see the Danish pop starlet performing for the allotted time of 90 minutes I'll be taking a trip to the bizarre underground club of The Rabbit Hole (well that's if I get the riddle right and then can fit through the tunnels!) to see Oh Land.
Her self-titled album is one of the pop albums of the year, the beautiful opener "Perfection" is delicate, graceful wonderful and then there are her hits "Sun of a Gun" and "Wolf & I" which will surely sound like real dance anthems in a little makeshift club in Glastonbury's Park area, I'm not sure some of the fans nearby watching Crystal Castles will agree, but sod them!
BBC Introducing Stage, Friday 24th June, 18:00 - 18:25
A band I've had a post half written for about three months (I'll get it done soon I promise!), Spotlight Kid blasted their way onto my agenda after being hand-picked for a support slot with The Joy Formidable at Koko in early May (and Leeds).
Their new tracks are the best work I've heard from them to date, "Plan Comes Apart" will literally blow your socks off, frenetic pacing, a driving beat, loud and noisy guitar melodies, it's bloody brilliant. As is "Haunting Me", check that track out below and then see the band at the BBC Introducing stage on Friday evening before every magazine gets hold of them and calls them the 'saviour of the shoegaze genre', or something: