In something of a departure from the norm for TIE, allow us to present five great albums from last year which you’ve might have missed, compiled by guest poster Jordan Thomas. Agree? Disagree? Confused? Leave a comment below.
Tonight Alive – The Other Side (Sony Music)
Tonight Alive’s first album was a decent pop punk album in a world filled with samey pop-punk bands, this second album however raises them far above the rank and file. While it doesn’t exactly break the mould for the genre it does show exactly how it should be done. The underwhelming cover art aside, this album is stunning; every song is catchy and immediate, with grounded lyrics you can actually relate to and massive, clear sound production (not to mention Jenna’s fine vocal performance). With Paramore having moved onto new grounds these should be your go to guys for your pop-punk fix.
Check out: Lonely Girl
Katatonia – Dethroned and Uncrowned (Kscope)
Dead End Kings was one of the best metal releases of 2012, so how did the band think they could top this? The answer as it happens was to take that same album, strip it of all guitars, aggression and metal and use it to craft a haunting semi acoustic masterpiece. All of the songs work surprisingly well, with the biggest difference being Buildings, with heavy thumping piano replacing the crashing guitar of the original. While the original record was gloomy, this is a whole different league, the songs are slow and dripping with melancholy. it is not a happy record by any stretch, but it is a beautiful one, one which deserves repeated listens to hear all it has to offer.
Check Out: The Racing Heart
Steven Wilson – The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) (Kscope)
From his humble beginnings making tapes of supposed forgotten bands to his current status as one of the most revered men in music; Wilson has always been making excellent boundary pushing prog rock. Building on the jazz influences of his last solo outing this album pushes his sound even further away from that of his other works. Extended jazz solos (courtesy of the excellent Theo Travis) are frequent, and though his heavier side is still there it’s more in the background, with gentle melodies being allowed more of a front row. Like Katatonia, it is not an album to cheer you up, but it is one to close your eyes and listen to in mellow bliss.
Check out: Drive Home
Deafheaven – Sunbather (Deathwish)
Take the dreaminess and distorted melodies of shoegaze, and slam it together with the pummelling heaviness of black metal and you get Sunbather. The resulting album is not always an easy listen, but is a worthwhile one. BM screams and drumming are the main meat of the sound, but there’s nearly always melody from the guitars, and slower instrumental parts and spoken word help to break it up into a more manageable listen. Since the album’s release, it has gone almost mainstream, bringing with it the usual hype and backlash, but regardless of whether it is really as important a release as some claim, it is undeniably an excellent one.
Check out: Dream House
Pet Shop Boys – Electric (x2)
I haven’t really kept up with the animal themed store boys lately, my knowledge spans pretty much their heyday period and drops off when they did. However this one seemed positively met so I decided to give it a go. Boy, am I glad I did. It’s obviously PSB, but manages to sound very modern as well. More bass heavy than a lot of their famous stuff, with a strong dance feel running through the album it’s an exhilarating listen, Bolshy and Love Is… are probably the most recognisable stuff on offer, with the interesting additions of pseudo dubstep (Shouting…) and a surprisingly decent piece featuring Example (Thursday) giving the album a nice bit of variation. Whether you be a fan of pop, dance or just the PSB this is an album you should consider.
After a decade of live music you think you’ve seen it all, but Reading Festival continues to deliver unique experiences year after year and nothing can compare to this festival’s atmosphere, excitement and passion.
This year saw the return of Green Day and Eminem to the headliner slot on the Main Stage, and a long-awaited rise of Biffy Clyro to close the show with a, frankly tremendous, bang.
A ray of sunshine greeted While She Sleeps as they opened the festival on the Main Stage to a lukewarm reception.
The arena this year has had a re-jig, expanded to include a new stage and split the entrance into two – one heading to each side of the campsite – a tactic which largely works, though a bit of crowd education is necessary.
Highlights of the afternoon were New Found Glory, who began the retro trend with a complete rendition of breakthrough album Sticks and Stones.
“They forgot to check how long we needed and only gave us 40 minutes,” said frontman Jordan Pundik. “Our album is 42.”
As a result the band struggled to fit everything in, and in the end skipped the last track in favour of ‘All Downhill From Here’.
The show was well received by fans, despite many being only children when the album was originally released, and the bands energy was in full show.
As the evening drew in, Bastille drew the biggest crowd, packing out the NME/Radio 1 Stage with their calm melodies, and then, in contrast, the return of System of a Down to the Main Stage was met with a fantastically enthusiastic crowd.
At the same time, both The Living End and Alkaline Trio added weight to the line-up on the Lock-Up Stage, proving that these established bands can still deliver.
Green Day’s set on the Main Stage was hotly anticipated, and overall did not disappoint, with something for every fan, old and new, with a flurry of new songs at the beginning giving way to a complete rendition of Dookie, the band’s breakthrough release – which has it’s 20 year anniversary next year.
The band’s charisma was in evidence, particularly that of Billy Joe Armstrong – ever fond shouting ‘eh-oh’ to the crowd in true Freddie Mercury style.
But, in the band’s defence, the crowd responded, and caused Armstrong to proclaim that Reading is “the greatest festival in the world.” To which there was little argument.
The second day brought a change of feel and a change of crowd as headliner Eminem sets the tone, and changes the demographic of the crowd. Oddly there’s even racial diversity, something not often seen at this predominantly Caucasian festival.
Lower Than Atlantis earn their billing on the Main Stage with a fantastic set, for a band which played the Festival Republic Stage only last year. The band’s latest album shines particularly brightly and has the crowd entranced despite the inevitable rain.
The Blackout brought a strong dose of Wales to proceedings, who were well represented in the crowd throughout the weekend. The medley of hip hop classics was particularly inspired segment.
Strength of the bill through the afternoon holds up, with Twin Atlantic and even more so White Lies keeping the crowd entertained.
The latter pledged to give a set with more ‘girth’ in the programme and delivered, finishing with the timeless ‘Bigger Than Us’.
Imagine Dragons were the draw for everyone as the evening built up momentum. Playing most of their debut album, Night Visions, the band had their audience entranced and singing along with every single song.
‘Radioactive’ proved to be an epic closer, and the band made full use of the on stage percussion to give an epic, almost film soundtrack-like quality to the atmosphere.
Eminem’s set in the evening reflected the complete journey he has been on as an artist. There was banter from the crowd, singing along with hits such as ‘Real Slim Shady’ and ‘Without Me’.
There was an even a rare appearance of collaborator Dido as the rap star brought out his radio-friendly tune ‘Stan’. This prompted widespread arm swaying and singing along from the audience, which was massive and filled almost the entire arena on its own.
Following a teasing encore, there was a return to ‘Lose Yourself’, prompting yet more singing along. In all the show met everyone’s expectations.
Best kept secret of the night was the films in the Radio 1 Extra Stage, which featured Star Trek Into Darkness, prompting a huge woop from the crowd as soon as Benedict Cumberbatch came on screen.
The final day’s highlights were strewn throughout the day, but the Main Stage remained the place to be.
Hadouken! brought a real disco vibe which recalled the classic performances of acts like The Prodigy in the past, with an element of Pendulum. The crowd enjoyed the early afternoon boogie and it got the energy levels up early considering how late in the weekend it was.
Editors brought gravitas of a strong, well-established British band, with a number of hits – most of which you can’t quite remember the name of – and the crowd responded well. Songs from the new album did better live than on record.
The Lumineers went the extra mile, with front man Wesley Schultz fending out into the crowd to play a song, though the momentum was somewhat lost by Fall Out Boy delivering a set full of songs from all areas of their career but forgetting to put them in a discernible order, leading to a haphazard mix of styles clashing.
As darkness fell the might of Nine Inch Nails‘ light show was undeniable, with dozens of lights creating a hypnotic and dazzlingly elaborate display.
The set was slow to start, focusing on the band’s electronic sound, but by the end the rock was back in full force and slapping the audience in the face.
Finally it was the turn of Biffy Clyro to close the show. The new album Opposites was a fantastic platform to build the set around, packed with instant classics, and the hits from their back catalogue just kept on coming.
The show reflected the range in the band’s style well, even featuring ’57’ from the band’s first album, and the crowd responded with some of the loudest singing along of the entire weekend.
Closer ‘Mountains’ hit the sweet spot of the audiences knowledge, with old and new fans being drawn in.
The festival in all was a success, some questionable car parking organisation aside, and leads to thoughts of who might hit the line-up in 2014.
After months of teasing, Festival Republic have now revealed all three headliners for Reading and Leeds 2013, along with a handful of other names. Green Day, Eminem and Biffy Clyro are confirmed as the three big-hitters for what is, for many, the festival highlight of the year.
After the height of success in 2004 and 2005 with American Idiot, the last time they headlined the main stage (even before the multi-million selling album was released), the band have been fighting hard to remain relevant.
Young up-starts like All Time Low and heavier alternatives like The Blackout have got the attention of the pop crowd. On the hardcore punk side, the sort of bands who dominate well-known punk institutions such as The Warped Tour, bands like The Wonder Years, Such Gold and Man Overboard keep the momentum of the genre without the highly polished production.
What is undeniable though is that the band did make a massive impression at their secret performance at Reading last year, and Billy Joe’s reputation for strong showmanship is well-founded. It remains to be seen whether the band have any new ideas to bring to the table as a headliner.
The wildcard act
Rappers have not had a great time at Reading in past years. 50 Cent famously got bottled off after 20 minutes, and Jay-Z didn’t even arrive, cancelling shortly before the event began.
Marshall Mathers III, has been quiet in recent years, with only ‘Crack a Bottle’, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘We Made You’ reaching the UK singles chart (and that was in 2009, four years ago). The days of ‘The Real Slim Shady’ and ‘Stan’ are behind him, making this a comeback gig.
Eminem has a lot stacked against him to get a rock audience on side, perhaps we can expect a rapped up rock cover or two? To win this audience, which will have its collective eyebrow firmly raised, Mathers will need all the excitement and atmosphere a live show can bring.
Despite the seemingly bleak setting, it’s worth remembering that Eminem is reportedly the biggest selling artist of the 2000s, and it’s likely everyone at the festival weekend will have heard at least one of his songs, if not three or four.
The more restrained image Eminem gives off these days may make him appear a bit more grown up, but this isn’t necessarily good for Reading. Clearly a big star in the pop world, Eminem has little foothold in ‘rock’ as a genre, with the fun tracks released as his alter ego Slim Shady being the most rock-friendly of the lot.
The man is absolutely there to promote his new album, rumoured to be coming out after Memorial Day in the US (the final Monday of May), but is he there for much else? You can’t expect a love poem to Reading like nice-guy Dave Grohl gave with Foo Fighters‘ set last year. Although he has had one previous headline performance, in 2001.
The Scotch alternative rockers
These are the guys you should be definitely excited about. Biffy have played Reading on and off for the past 12 years, debuting on the smallest stage you could come across and working their way to the top through seven performances.
Latest album Oppositeshas gone down well with critics, and the band’s tour this year sold out in minutes. Things have never looked stronger for the band which began with Blackened Sky back in 2002.
To be trending up is a good thing, and immediately makes the group worthy of the highly sought-after Sunday night slot, which historically runs for another 20 minutes longer than the other nights.
Hits like ‘Bubbles’ and ‘Mountain’ scream for a further festival outing, and new tracks like ‘Black Chandelier’ are ripe to be picked by an eager and hungry audience.
The stage presence from the band has slowly risen over the years, to a level which is fit to explode and potentially blow the roof off the festival. As great as last year was, you can’t help but think that it was all a bit predictable. Hopefully with this mix of styles between the three nights there should at least be a nice breadth and variety to proceedings.
And still many more yet to come
Another one to watch for the weekend, and one which really shows that this is a festival with its finger on the pulse, is Skrillex, but expect more on him and the rest of the line up once more bands have been announced. For now, plenty of time to acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with the titular trios’ back catalogues.
Biffy Clyro are a band which always seem to have been around. Despite rising to power with debut Blackened Sky back in 2002, the band never seem to grab attention in the same way as a charismatic rock outfit like Foo Fighters, which is a shame when you consider the strength of their catalogue to date.
Latest effort Opposites is no exception, and succeeds in grabbing attention from the very beginning with ‘Different People’, in which a slow build of keyboard give way to a perfect sing-along melody.
Title track ‘Opposite’ is as touching a ballad as any of their contemporaries have ever managed and sets the tone for the album as a whole – this isn’t raw and gritty Biffy, but this isn’t them going soft either.
The sound has been distilled, concentrated and rounded off, but without sacrificing the band’s edginess. Their fiddling of offbeat time signatures remains present, as does the occasional Scottish twang from the vocals which never fails to raise a smile. You won’t find anything quite like the early works such as the iconic ’57’ and ’27’ here, but the polish added with time has made the band shine rather than dull, and those familiar with the Only Revolutions era are sure to feel right at home.
The music adds in a few rogue elements to full effect, such as trumpet in the appropriately named ‘Spanish Radio’, and despite having the usual dash of melancholy, Simon Neil’s dark vocals continue to hit home with their vivid imagery, forcing you to engage where other bands may be happy to let you phase out. The tempo swings up and down, often within the same song, making the album arresting to your ears.
In truth, Opposites has all the elements to serve as a very strong entry point to the journey of Biffy Clyro themselves. Still going strong after almost 20 years, this album is a stop which could see a lot of new fans jump on board for the ride, and the train shows no signs of slowing down.
With such a consistently strong album, Biffy deserve to be noticed and recognised for their obvious talents, and a few songs could even sneak into the pop charts if marketed right. It’s unlikely that this is what the band had in mind of course, but to show the world that the British can still make music, bands like this need to step up and take their well-deserved place in the sun.
The fact that America has the Warped Tour every summer might seem unfair (and it is), but what it does mean that on the odd occasion it does make it to the UK you know you are in for something special.
The 2012 Warped Tour saw a host of bands, and some extreme sports stars, take over the iconic Alexandra Palace in north London – and the building scarcely lived to tell the tale.
For hours before the doors were even opened, a motley crew of punk rockers, metal heads, trendies and outcasts flocked around the venue like strung out rock ‘n’ roll junkies – which obviously NONE were…- waiting for their fix.
After navigating a queue which would put any Apple store to shame, the crowd were greeted by an elaborate entrance hall quite out of tone with the ‘hardcore’ happenings within (and, unfortunately, a bit of a bottle-necked navigation nightmare).
Entering the West Hall is the first moment the event really begins to fit like a glove. A huge vert ramp for skateboarding and BMXing stands proudly next to the bright orange Jagermeister Stage, home to bands who weren’t necessarily smaller names, but took things a little less seriously.
Through the grand doors at the far end is the main hall. Filled with two stages, East and West, joined at the hip like Siamese twins, the set up proved to be a stunningly simple way to pack more music into an already tightly-packed afternoon.
The first band to catch this reviewers attention were It Boys, whose enthusiastic pop/punk stylings included an impromptu rendition of internet sensation Gangnam Style. The spirit of fun continued throughout the day and the likes of Family Force 5, Breathe Carolina and 3OH!3 all successfully getting the crowd into gear. 3OH!3 pushed the envelope the most, showing off the range in their musical repertoire without alienating fans of any one song.
Music policy for the day largely held together, with a few jarring juxtapositions between heavy bands like Architects and pop/punk legends New Found Glory, though this did give time to scope out the hustle and bustle of the merch market.
NFG themselves were well below form. The band tried hard but leading man Jordan seemed strained throughout the set, far from the stellar performances of even just a few years ago.
Luckily the rest of the big names were unanimously true to form, with Funeral For a Friend swelling the Jager crowd to almost bone-crushing proportions before making way for the ska punk Warped Tour Veterans from Gainesville, Florida: Less Than Jake.
As the years have passed LTJ have lost none of their fun and enthusiasm, and the crowd were instantly behind them. From there the punk-tastic vibe was carried on by Bowling for Soup who stuck to the formula (some old, some new) but kept the crowd entertained throughout.
On the main stage the scale was a lot more stadium rock than intimate pub gig as Lostprophets kicked off the final act of the night with ‘The New Transmission’. Vocalist Ian Watkins seemed increasingly frustrated with the crowd (perhaps overly familiar with a ‘prophets only crowd after a UK tour?), calling them out to shout, scream and sing louder after almost every song, but still the hits kept coming.
In all this year’s Warped Tour, the first in the UK since 1999, was an undoubted success. A sold out crowd packed into a venue which, while it may not have been the number one choice in practicalities (people traffic at times was unbearable and rooms had to be closed off to avoid over-occupancy), it definitely had character – something which has always been the driving force of the tour itself.
Fingers crossed it will find its way back to Blighty next year.
Variety can divide people. For almost 20 years Muse have been steadily growing in popularity, culminating this summer by being asked to contribute the official song for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, not to mention selling out the London O2 Arena.
In what could well be the height of their career, you might expect the band to play it safe and give chart-lovers what they want to continue their ascent into legendary status. The 2nd Law however, is not afraid to buck the trend and give fans something different to what they’ve heard before.
From the outset the album is unmistakeably Muse, with the signature crunchy guitar and operatic vocals introducing opener ‘Supremacy’. All the things fans have come to know and love about the band are present and correct, including the slightly hypnotic vocal style of leading man Matt Bellamy, in a tune which wouldn’t sound out of place as a theme song for a new James Bond film.
Almost immediately though, the band shake things up with second single ‘Madness’ a track stripped bare and back-to-basics, it could just as easily have been an acoustic number. ‘Panic Station’ takes a completely different tack altogether, sounding like a lost gem from the early years of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Throughout the album the band continue to change things up with every track, making an eclectic mix which just barely hangs together as one album. In interviews the boys have said they wanted to write songs for this album which couldn’t have appeared on any other Muse album – and they have undoubtedly succeeded.
The influences shown with previous effort The Resistance have moved on again this time around. There are clear elements of Queen in ‘Madness’ and ‘Survival’, but that couldn’t be further from the likes of album tease ‘Unsustainable’, which has a glimmer of dubstep akin to the likes of Skrillex.
In many ways the Muse DNA shown in their previous album has been pushed to its limits here, reflected in the contrast between the geometric technicolour of its cover art, to that of The 2nd Law, which is a mass of sprawling strands of colour, almost fighting to escape.
If it’s ‘normal’ Muse songs you are looking for, then there is still something here for you to enjoy. ‘Big Freeze’, ‘Animals’ and ‘Follow Me’ all stick closest to the ‘traditional’ formula, but still each offer something new.
The band’s knack for a deceptive slow number continues with ‘Explorers’, which seems to be the spiritual successor to tracks such as ‘Invincible’, ‘Guiding Light’ and even ‘Sing for Absolution’.
The real unexpected pleasure on the disc is the much-discussed debut of songs penned by bassist Chris Wolstenholme: ‘Save Me’ and ‘Liquid State’. As well as writing, Chris also takes lead vocal duty, and the songs really give a completely different vibe to not only the rest of the album, but the entirety of Muse’s back catalogue.
Luckily both tracks are a triumph. Chris’ voice is similar to Francis Healy from soft pop-rock outfit Travis, and the effect of combining it with Muse’s style is excellent. ‘Save Me’ is a calmly flowing plea for help, while ‘Liquid State’ is more familiar waters musically, but has a refreshing tone to it. The most enjoyable part of the songs is that Matt remains almost completely silent and lets Chris steal the show, no easy task for a musician with such distinctive talent – though since he still remains timid at live shows he may well have enjoyed sinking into the background.
This album is not out to prove anything to anyone but the band itself. It takes a while to get used to and doesn’t necessarily give the first impression you might expect, but it rewards perseverance in a way no other album in Muse’s back catalogue does.
Feeder return to the mainstream with a vengeance in new album Generation Freakshow. Following the Renegades ‘experiment’, which ended with the Feeder album of the same name, fans were yearning for a return of the pop rock anthems of ‘Just the Way I’m Feeling’ and ‘Buck Rogers’. The three-piece have delivered that 100% with twelve infectious slices of pop mastery.
While the days of pop chart domination may be behind them, Feeder have always remained consistent, while still keeping room to try something different. This latest effort is no exception, with a trumpet making an appearance in ‘In All Honesty’, which throws in an incredibly subtle slant to the mix in what is one of the most upbeat songs on the record.
Leading man Grant’s singing-with-himself style is in abundance here, but it never seems unwelcome. On a song like ‘Tiny Minds’ it even adds something in itself by suggesting multiple smaller Grants to be the minds suggested by the title.
Singles ‘Borders’ and ‘Children of the Sun’ are prime examples of what Feeder does best. The first is a punchy anthem complete with all of Feeder’s trademarks. There is delayed vocals and ‘woo’-ing from Grant, as well as a fringe of keyboard and soft distortion on guitars in the verse. The song tells a story of Jessie, a girl who wants to get away and escape from a life, something which everyone can relate to at one time or another. The ideas are simple, but effective, with the inherent catchy-ness we have come to expect from the band over the past 20 years.
The second is a sombre closing number which could well be about the band itself, holding on through the years and through the changes and challenges they have all faced together – especially in the face of the freakshow obsessed generation which the album’s title alludes to.
The album hangs together beautifully, with each song returning to its central themes of feeling like an outcast, or an outsider, and not understanding the whims of modern society. The titular track ‘Generation Freakshow’ epitomises this, continuing Feeder tradition of the album title track being one of the strongest on the album. The song is gritty and less produced than the other songs, coming off as more of a pop/punk tune, rebellious and full of attitude, but still fitting in effortlessly with the rest of the album.
This record sums up everything Feeder are as a band in 2012. A group with a wealth of experience, but still outsiders in the charts compared to the likes of Muse and Coldplay. Crucially though, the band don’t mind that.
They are making music for the love, and after seven varyingly successful studio albums, their eighth is still up there as one of the best of their career. It might not be the height of innovation, but is a clear example of a band playing to its strengths.
Grant said that those who enjoyed Yesterday Went Too Soon and Comfortin Sound would enjoy this album, and it pitches between the two of them perfectly. While it might not propel them into the top ten, it deserves to keep them around for years to come.
With American bands outnumbering British by at least 10 to one, to find a band going strong is a rarity. Lostprophets stand on the brink of British-ness – fiercely Welsh in everything they do – but the consistency shown in latest effort, Weapons, deserves praise worthy of Her Majesty.
The spirit of the album is one of rebellion, and builds on the seeds sewn by songs like ‘Everyday Combat’ in previous work Liberation Transmission to reach a climax of defiance.
The message of opener ‘Bring it Down’ is clear, a call to arms to keep fighting despite the odds, and this could well be the motto of the band itself. Things haven’t come easy for Lostprohets, they’ve had to work hard to stay close to the top for the past decade – since winning Best British Newcomer back in 2001. Despite an impressive number of stand-out tracks to their name, the band have never really taken off in the same way that heavyweights like Muse or The Strokes have, nor have they seen any chart success.
You get the impression that the band don’t really care though. They aren’t interested in fame and fortune, but the fun and games of being on the road and making music.
What has changed though, is the band’s attitude to their home town – Pontypridd in Wales – which was once “a town called hypocrisy” but now leading man Ian Watkins concedes that it “still feels like home” in ‘A Song for Where I’m From’.
The album takes the best aspects of the band’s sound and builds on them. Stand-out ‘Jesus Walks’ – surely a shoo-in for the next single – riffs on the underrated ‘Where We Belong’ from 2010’s The Betrayed, while the band’s catchiness this time around is played out in a more gang-vocal style in the anthemic ‘We Bring an Arsenal’.
Those who may have heard advance single ‘Better of Dead’ shouldn’t be put off by its bizarre rap-inspired verse. Despite being seemingly out of character for the band it fits in well with the context of the album, and is more of an experiment than a new direction. In all the musical direction is doing what the band do best rather than trying to re-invent themselves.
The energy and passion doesn’t let up from start to finish, making it an album ideal for live shows, and with no screamo-esque tracks in residence it means the entire album feels less rough around the edges. The sombre side is shown through reflective, semi-acoustic number ‘Somedays’, hinting at the depth the band can reach when they take a moment to catch their breath.
There is plenty of inspiration drawn in from American post-hardcore rockers Rise Against on this album, particularly the line taken as the theme for the album: “I’d rather die on my feet than ever live on my knees.” In fact the line appears in Rise Against’s last album Endgame in the song ‘Survivor Guilt’, which talks about the destruction of great empires. Not quite over the line of anarchism though, Lostprophets are happy to make a stand for themselves rather than ‘getting political’ about proceedings.
Weapons then is Lostprophets battle cry, stating load and clear they aren’t going away quietly without a fight, and even with so much quality through their back catalogue, this album manages to be their most consistently high quality offering yet. Long may the ‘prophets prosper.
Acoustic sets are usually a gimmick or a cheap trick at gigs, something to fill out the time while seemingly doing as little as possible. This isn’t always true of course, and there’s nothing like an acoustic set for intimacy. The Joy Formidable set the scene sublimely with their ‘campfire’ moment and took the concept to a whole new level, playing out their finest moments as the crowd swayed along peacefully just inches away.
All of this was only a warm up though, and the best was yet to come. The Joy Formidable are somewhat out of step with their contemporaries in that they don’t sound quite like you think they should. Every time you think you have their sound pinned down, they throw in a bit of electro or a bit of folkiness or even heavier rock to confuse you.
Ending up somewhere between the upbeat rhythms of Blondie, and not just because of blonde-haired frontwoman Ritzy Bryan, and the melodic pop of Ellie Goulding. Luckily the mix translates well on stage, and the crowd are quickly stirred into an uproar as the band begin to fire out tracks like ‘I Don’t Want To See You Like This’ and ‘Austere’, building to the epic ‘Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie’.
Ritzy’s tortured expressions as her crisp, clean voice fill the room (or, in this case, shed), hint at the passion and enjoyment she takes from performing. Her fellow band members Rhydian Dafydd (bass) and Matt Thomas (drums) share her enthusiasm and all three throw themselves into the musical sections with their entire bodies and then become suddenly subdued as the anarchy calms down again.
Even with a captive crowd at the event, the audience were drawn into the band’s spectacle, joining in with their easily followed melodic moments and listening intently as the band teased with new material – reportedly all recorded but not yet mixed, suggesting a release may be due later in the year.
The combination of energy and simplicity through the set was relentless, leaving a sharp intake of breath from onlookers as the band teased with the traditional encore. The finale itself brought the evening’s energy to an absolutely nuclear climax, to the extent that the stage took some punishment in the fallout. Cymbals and drums were strewn across the stage as Thomas exploded with energy in the final moments.
A convincing performance which mixed a considered approach, commonly found in bands with far more experience, and anarchic energy of youth to create a captivating display, which undoubtedly left them wanting more.
Australia can be thanked for plenty of great music. The likes of AC/DC are world renowned, pop-rockers Jet have made their mark in the charts and even lesser-known treasures like The Living End are continuing to deliver consistently fantastic material.
It should come as no surprise then that the latest good thing to come out of Australia is another musical delight in the form of Monks of Mellowah. Despite a name which suggests an obsession with marshmellows, the band’s sound is a well-rounded stab at indie rock and roll, which combines musical variation with a hallowing vocal style.
They have already had some success, winning the Best Indie Rock Band awards earlier this month at the Artists In Music Awards in Los Angeles. Their first tune, ‘Swamp Groove’, was featured on the American music show RAGE last year, and their new single ‘Neurogenesis’ really takes things to the next level with its memorable vocals and bold but simple guitar pieces.