There's few (any?) voice that get me as weak at the knees as Molly Hamilton's, her vocal purrs with a smooth, effortless ease and to steal a comment from the band's Facebook page 'takes me to another planet and back'.
"Girls", the first track to be heard from Widowspeak's upcoming fourth album All Yours (out September 4th via Captured Tracks) sums that up perfectly. It continues in the same languid, sultry alt-country meets dream-pop realms that the band have inhabited for many a year now, a gorgeously simple, nostalgic track where pared-down instrumentation glides beautifully around that heavenly voice, it makes for a sublime listen.
Widowspeak never fail to press the right buttons with me and latest single "Calico" keeps that history right on track the instant I press play with a typically (for the band) swoonsome, nostalgic mood sweeping through as pitter-patter drums and shimmering guitars create a slowed-down waltz for Molly Hamilton's ethereal goodness vocals to shine. "Calico" is dreamy, hypnotic and transports you to somewhere infidelity more beautiful than reality.
I've previously posted about "True Believer" but I've included the track again, here recorded as a live version from a recently recorded event for the ever exquisite Wild Honey Pie, recorded on a boat with a backdrop as idyllic and beautiful as the sounds the Brooklyn based band produce - simply sublime.
Both tracks are taken from Widowspeak's forthcoming EP The Swamps, released 28/29th October via Captured Tracks.
End of the Road, in its seventh year, confirmed itself as the best festival of its size in the UK this year, the idyllic weather definitely helped (though it sure did get chilly overnight on Saturday) but it was the glorious atmosphere and near-on perfect combination of musical acts and artistic crafts that makes the festival what it is. Basking in sunlight Larmer Tree Gardens had everything you could want, arts & crafts, decent festival food, a real ale festival and an impeccable selection of music from the delicious folk harmonies of The Staves to the brass-laden success of David Byrne and St Vincent and the imposing, wide-eyed Savages. The next few posts will be my trip through the weekend, the things I did and the bands I saw. Hopefully you'll pick up on a few nice things if you follow it through...
I'd spent the previous three days in West Lulworth with the family (a beautiful place, you should go) before packing up early on Friday and heading to Larmer Tree Gardens. We met no traffic at all and were soon in the car park. People scared of Glasto like experiences with travelling from the car park to the tent areas, fear not, you are through wristband exchange and into the camping areas in no time at all. A quick set up (thank you pop-up tents - I'd still be there now trying to put up the impressive yurt tent we were pitched next to) and we headed straight to Big Top stage to catch Widowspeak.
An incredible start to the festival saw clashes happen as early as midday. Widowspeak were a worthy selection though, as breathy, beautiful introduction as you could hope for. Playing as a duo they played songs taken from both their albums and were heavily based on the spaghetti western influenced guitar twangs and Molly Hamilton's seductive vocal purr (there is a small drum box providing some beats). A large audience lapped it up, hazy sweet and creeping mood - what more could you want. My five year old enjoys it too and pulls some dance moves more suited to the nearby silent disco which makes me worry what my future may hold!
We head outside and after spending a few minutes waiting for our eyes to adjust head to the nearby main stage to check out Landshapes. A band signed to Bella Union whom I really should have given the time of day sooner than this.
The quartet weave dreamy, upbeat melodies with funky bass, wonderfully percussive rhythms and superb harmonies that perfectly match the need of the audience sitting primarily in shorts and t-shirt with beers from the nearby bar in hand. The sun soon makes a welcome appearance, peaking from behind clouds to close a perfect summer show, the band are appreciative to their early audience and the feeling is mutual. A mental note is made to check out their record on my return (which I shall do shortly!)
As my weekend was one of balance with two young children with me (aged five and eight months) I had to ease my usual insatiable appetite to hit front row centre for as many bands as possible with their needs so we grab some food (the first of three stops at the wonderful Pizza stall) and then head to the circus area.
There are plenty of things to pass kids time there, on this stop my little one plays hula-hoop, juggles and does some other things I have no idea what they are called. Half an hour soon passes and we head for a drink.
I have ale, there's more choice than I can cope with but I find Viking an early winner and we also grab a Frank Water bottle, a brilliant and cost-effective way of keeping supplied with cold, fresh water throughout the weekend - do check out their website and support their great cause.
I get to do a solo trip next as my partner takes the children off, I head back to the big top for Pins. They deliver a set which has developed incredibly since I last saw them yet still oozes with the same raw attitude. The quartet are tighter and slicker than ever, the vocals uncompromising amongst darkly, metronomic rhythms and guitar thrills. It's high energy and relentless (with the exception of "Eleventh Hour" which has been slowed down with languid shimmers), older tracks like "Say To Me" stand equally alongside new ones "I Want It All", "To You" and the title track from their forthcoming debut "Girls Like Us". That, like this set, promises to be electrifying.
I head straight outside to meet up with my family who have taken residence at the back of the Woods stage for Allo Darlin', the weather Gods haven't read the script and dark clouds form above, the rain keeps away but the quartet's beautiful, warming indie pop is not played out to glorious sunshine as it should have been. It matters not as the combination of tracks from their two albums (and new ones from a seemingly nearly complete third) keep the crowd smiling and singing along, Allo Darlin' seem in the rightful place and are the perfect festival band.
More family time and a change into evening wear follows before heading to the festivals most picturesque stage for the first time, we find Serafina Steer just walking ontothe beautiful garden stage.
Her fluttering harp and beautiful vocals feel right at home here and when she's joined by a guitarist and percussionist her set comes alive, soaring peaks and sparser tracks sit side by side amongst her amusing banter. "Night Before Mutiny" is saved for the end of her hour long set - a length Serafina seemed not quite accustomed to - but it was sure worth the wait, just lovely.
Time for another beer next before we grab dinner and settle down at the back of the Woods stage to watch Eels. Not my pick but as I picked most of the weekend I can hardly grumble. What I can grumble about was the rain which briefly followed, perhaps only ten minutes or so but enough to make everyone reach for their waterproofs. We were treated to a double rainbow though so I won't complain. Once the kids are asleep I venture out solo and return to the Woods stage for the evenings headline act David Byrne & St Vincent. I wasn't sure what to expect, if you've followed this blog for a couple of years you may know I'm slightly obsessed with Annie Clark but I didn't connect fully with last years' Love This Giant album. Until now.
The show was phenomenal, any doubting concerns the crowd may have about the slightly unusual pairing is cast aside after about two minutes. They walk on stage, David Byrne impeccably dressed (like a happy Johnny Cash as Annie herself says) and St Vincent with hair dyed bleach-blonde armed with her guitar.
They are accompanied by a brass band (seven or eight members deep) an immediately launch into as quirky and commanding set as you'll see this year, synchronised dance moves from the full ensemble of musicians, the band playing their part and not hidden from the audiences view as the pair take it almost in terms to lead the songs.
Byrne's questionable dance moves remind me of Kryten from Red Dwarf with karate chops and robotic movements but it works in an equally baffling and amusing way. St Vincent's art-rock guitar playing is as electric as ever, her skills unquestionable as brass trumpets et al add a funk-laden backing. There are solo tracks from both careers too, "Marrow" an early highlight and "The Party" a sombre mood changer in the encore sandwiched between the two big singalongs of the evening, Talking Heads hits "Burning Down The House" and finally "Road To Nowhere".
Marching jazz bands, St Vincent's tiny tiny steps, robo-Byrne and fantastic music, this show had it all - I don't think anyone even noticed it rained.
It was going to be hard for anyone to top that if you could pick an act you'd want to be following it, Savages would be quite high on the list. I had time to grab a beer (I hope you're noticing a reoccurring theme) and heading somewhere near the front. I'd not seen them for a little while and what was a tight-tight set is now even more so, as slick and polished as any live act today. Jehnny Beth is imperious and a genuine front of the band, she stares out to the crowd wide-eyed in between her imposing lyrics. The music masterful, rumbling rhythms and colossal soundscapes ring out and a few people at the stage seemingly lose it as they bounce around in delight.
About as good as close to an evening as you could ask for. End of the Road day one - you've treated us alright.
I've been a little bit slack with Festivals this year (granted my failures with Glastonbury was out of my control) but aside from The Great Escape and a couple of one day festivals (one of them this weekend in Portsmouth where I'll be seeing The Joy Formidable and Charlotte Church) I've not actually done a 'proper' festival until now. End of the Road was one of the highlights of this year and I think this one may be even better. In my opinion it is the line-up of the summer, add in a relaxed atmosphere and loads of real ale tents and what more could you possibly want - yes sun (fingers crossed on that one).
The next two posts will see me pick a dozen acts to check out over the weekend which is now just a week away. I certainly plan on doing so. You'll see which I actually do and what else I get up to (well not everything) in my post weekend review. Anyway, straight onto it:
Not the most unique of starts I know but an essential act to see at the festival this year is Daughter. Her album If You Leave is a sure-fire inclusion in my 'favourite albums of the year' lists and is surely, if there is any justice, up for consideration for many other peoples too - a heart-wrenching, beguiling, emotive, bedazzling experience from start to finish - live they manage to hit places long though lost with their potent combination of glacial guitar textures and beautifully intimate vocals. Unmissable.
Whilst I'm on blindingly obvious choices lets throw another in, a UK festival exclusive sees Warpaint hit these shores for the first time in 2013. A set that is sure to include a few new tracks amongst their spellbinding existing material, we've not been treated to any of the new stuff yet (given a UK tour set for October I'm certainly expecting to hear something soon) but given the history of this LA quartet, I've no worries about it being a perfect continuation of their delicious harmonies and beautifully textured rhythms.
Golden Fable - Facebook Tipi Tent Stage - Saturday
I finally got to see Golden Fable at The Great Escape and was blown away metaphorically and almost literally too. I was pretty close to a speaker stack and their live sound is a lot bigger than I previously anticipating, combining the majestic vocals of Rebecca Palin's with Tim McIver's instrumentation and some extraordinary drums - the band are currently busy recording their second album and I'm sure we'll be treated to a few new songs next week.
Come see them and be blown away.
Anna Von Hausswolff - Facebook Tipi Tent Stage - Saturday
An altogether new act for me discovered by delving into the line-up, Anna Von Hausswolff released her second album Ceremony in June, a captivating, uncompromising vision of darkness and the morose.
"Deathbed" takes four minutes to introduce Anna's typically haunting vocals, starting with a creeping organ which can be quite frightening whilst "Mountains Crave" is about as accessible as it gets, a cinematic melody and beautiful soaring vocal delivery. The record ebbs and flows throughout (from "Red Sun's" brooding power to "Liturgy of Light's" soft guitar textures).
Perhaps an even more challenging than Soap&Skin - I think it promises to be a quite extraordinary performance.
Indie pop darlings (sorry) Allo Darlin' are sure to bring summer to Larmer Tree Gardens no matter what the weather is as Friday draws to a close.
I recently saw the quartet at The Buffalo Bar and caught a wonderful set with highlights from last years Europe, their debut and a helping of new tracks too. Expect to see dancing and singing along. Fun times a guarantee.
Widowspeak - Facebook Big Top Stage - Sunday (to be confirmed - Widowspeak's website suggests Friday)
I think the band are on a duo tour so this Widowspeak show might be a little different to the one I recently saw at Cargo, what is guaranteed though is the irresistible vocal purr of Molly Hamilton and spidery guitar patterns that will temporarily transfer the audience to a hazy, American west. Widowspeak are a wonderful live band who are not to be missed.
News of this release came as a bit of a shock to me, obviously heading off on worldwide tours and releasing albums is the way Widowspeak find the time to record new material, hot on the heels of their second album Almanac (released in January this year) comes a new six track EP entitled The Swamps and this track "True Believer" is the first taken from it - due for release October 29th via the ever wonderful Captured Tracks.
The track is gorgeous, dark and mystical from first listen, pulling you in with its absorbing atmosphere and the bands typically intertwining melodies, with Molly's warm, hypnotic vocal delivery swooning around dreamy guitar and languid bits, perfect for a hazy-summers' day like this one then, enjoy:
There's no let up from Widowspeak ahead of next weeks release (or yesterday's in the States) of Almanac, their second LP via Captured Tracks. The Chicago duo have already highlighted a meatier, full-blooded approach to their sprawling, dusty soundscapes on the splendid "Ballad of the Golden Hour" and "The Dark Age" and now comes the superb "Locusts", which gets in your brain immediately with one of the deepest, addictive bass lines rhythms of recent memory.
The black & white video that accompanies it fits perfectly within the vintage, psychedelic of the bands sound, with girl group backing dance moves complimenting Molly Hamilton's vocal haze, luxurious and shadowy, it might just be my favourite snippet of Almanac yet. One of 2013's early essential albums for sure.
The band are currently on tour in the US with a show tonight in Philadelphia with the wonderful (in my somewhat biased opinion) Lockets - if you are heading to that one, I am very, very jealous.
Widowspeak continue to spoil us with appetisers for their second album Almanac (due via Captured Tracks on January 22nd with this special edition vinyl looking extremely eye catching), after the wonderful "Ballad of the Golden Hour" came "The Dark Age" just before Christmas, a track drenched in the bands signature dusty, twangy guitar and hollow drum rhythms, this one though races along at a faster tempo than much of the duo's earlier work and really does rock-it-out around Molly Hamilton's gorgeous, wistful vocals, longingly seductive, "The Dark Age" does nothing but further heighten expectation for that album.
Yet, if that wasn't enough, yesterday saw the release of another track from Almanac, "Thick as Thieves" is eerier and stripped bare, amongst it's reverb-drenched haze of a melody is spidery violin, accordion and intricate guitar, sparse and haunting this hushed beauty is another winner from this wonderful band, one of my most anticipated albums of the year so far, I can't wait to hear it in full...
Seriously, what is it with November and artists announcing new singles / albums and more! I cannot keep up with the news at present (which is definitely a good thing), Widowspeak are the latest candidate to throw their hat into the ring of early album of the year potentials with the first track from their upcoming album Almanac (due January 22nd, on Captured Tracks).
Entitled "Ballad of the Golden Hour" it's a perfect continuation from the newly stripped-back Brooklyn two piece, a wandering, strumming waltz sees shiny guitars race away with each other amongst melodic drums and the heavenly purr of vocalist Molly Hamilton, overwhelming easy on the ear it builds gradually to a Spaghetti Western soundtrack fitting crescendo of pummelling beats and dusty guitar spirals. I've only seen Widowspeak live once to date, a dreamy show at The Underbelly last year where sultry Molly's vocals and the wonderful guitar work had me all weak at the knees, I wasn't the only one... more UK dates please!