In this week’s episode of the Blinkclyro Hour, I chat about Arcade Fire’s new album Everything Now, Bandcamp’s donation to trans charities and critically mixed or panned albums that I enjoy.
By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
It would probably surprise you to hear that despite the abundance of music projects available on the internet, only a hand few seem to ever reference this in some shape or form. What wouldn’t surprise you is that out of those artists that have, Tom Fraser can raise his hand and say he has. To those that know Fraser, or happen to follow him on his twitter, his wit and humour is one of the first features of his that will pop to mind: after all, we’re talking about the man whose twitter name is an infusion of a Channel 4 presenting duo and the person responsible for the death of Jesus Christ.
Fraser is not a one trick pony though, currently playing in Codist as a drummer and backing vocalist, two contributions that helped their debut LP Nuclear Family to be one of the best records of last year. Now the spotlight is finally upon him as he has a stab at the big bad music world with his project Broad-Shouldered Boy, dropping the first EP under this moniker I Must Be Tired (see, that intro wasn’t a waste after all!).
While it could be easy to let the pressure topple Fraser over, his solo efforts stand firmly on their own, embedding his own unique quirkiness into the staple bedroom pop/rock template that makes for one of the most refreshing listens of the year so far. An essential example of this would be the second track Trunk, a song that focuses more on a giant grey elephant than the boot of a car. Stomping along at a steady pace with its bellowing drums, Fraser’s silky vocals adorned with a Scottish tinge lead as he sings about insecurities and paranoia, outright mentioning the EP’s title to touch upon the exhaustion these feelings have caused.
It reaches its peak as Trunk approaches its climax, Fraser naturally warping his voice into this deep narration to detail this metaphor for this anxiety (The elephant is in the room, has its trunk around my neck), a moment that highlights Fraser’s knack for making emotions that countless artists talk about into something truly special.
It really is Fraser’s vocals and lyrics that make I Must Be Tired such an essential listen though that’s not to say the instrumentals are drab or dull by any means. Following on from the aforementioned track featuring a large grey mammal, Cake is a far slower number that features layer upon layer though is juxtaposingly sombre in tone, reaching a turbulent conclusion which includes a spine chilling piano feature alongside a timid projection of Fraser’s vocals. This mixing pot of wit, lyricism and an undeniable talent helps Broad Shouldered Boy to stand out in a scene that feels over-saturated quite frequently.
Finishing off with that staple acoustic number, there’s a real feeling of The Hotelier with the running inclusion of a simplistic lyric and the different sound it evokes as seen on Goodness (I see the moon, the moon sees me) . Broad Shouldered Boy is a dangerous project due to it traversing the fine line of bedroom pop, a genre that is traditionally very safe: using that appealing sound and infusing it with many of the traits Fraser embodies, I Must Be Tired comes off as one of 2017’s strongest EPs. The future is looking bright for Fraser’s venture though he could do with a rest – he must be tired.
By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
Submergining you in post-rock drenched guitars from the get-go, Max De Hoogd’s solo project Broken Headset makes a few things immediately clear. Firstly, despite being from Belgium, many of the themes that his songs channel don’t get lost in translation with the aforementioned intro track Am I Goin’ Insane touching on vanity, envy and ambition as well as providing light social commentary on police and showbiz. This kind of smart song-writing, at least lyrically, stands out as being unique and varied.
That’s not to say the songs aren’t pleasant to listen to though: the album opener sounds just as broody as Brand New‘s Sowing Season, to which the track bears a lot of similarites to. There’s a lot of influences coursing through the veins of De Hoogd‘s music and, for the most part, it refines his sound rather than acts as a detriment.
Clocking in at just under forty minutes, Hoogd takes on an abundance of styles, embedding them with his own Belgian tang. Take Mahdawg for instance, a bare bone track instrumentally with a lone guitar and drum being the only thing De Hoogd uses, leaving the two part story he weaves to be the main attraction. Singing of nostalgia and denial, the song takes on a very lo-fi aesthetic with De Hoogd‘s vocals satisfyingly curling around his zesty guitar in the latter half.
If that didnt scratch your lo-fi itch then there’s Nostalgia, a purely instrumental track full of dreamy synths and gentle compressed horns that would fit perfectly into any 8-bit game. It all leaves a Crywank or Dandelion Hands taste in your mouth, one that is rather easy to swallow.
With the album revolving largely around change and how people react to it, it’s a shame that one of the LP’s flaws comes from that. Certain tracks, notably What I’m Gonna Do, feel a bit more bland compared to what comes before and after though, granted, it is different enough to help further diversify the palette of sounds Changements champions. In addition to this, it can sometimes feel like De Hoogd isn’t fully getting to be himself due to the influences being so heavy handed though, as we’ve discussed, some of the act’s best music comes from this.
Criticisms aside, De Hoogd pulls off a good job on his latest LP, giving his tales of reminiscence and denial a lot of life thanks to evokative vocal performances. Once again, the variety on display and the unapolegtic impact his influences have, which result in some of Broken Headset‘s best music, leads to Changements being well worth a listen, a dud track here or there aside. To paraphrase De Hoogd on the eponymous closing track, changes are bound to happen but thankfully on this LP, they don’t bring any pain or suffering.
You can keep up to date with Broken Headset via their Facebook.
RELEASE OF THE WEEK
Looking at the tags on Fake Boyfriend’s bandcamp will tell you all you need to know about them before diving right into this punk rock rich release: existential crises, heartbreakers, heartbroken, and philly sad girls.
On Mercy, their first EP, it’s clear that they’ve hit all these tags quite well, most of all on the track Bumtown that decides to spend the first half of its running time to be tranquil and retrospective before breaking into a whirlwind in the latter half. “I need to learn how to be told ‘no,’” is screamed in unison by the band, reaching blisteringly loud volume levels with heartbroken aggression that overshadow the chugging guitars. It’s no surprise when you realise this was recorded alongside Jake Ewald, better known as the guitarist from equally heartbroken, sad romantics Modern Baseball.
It doesn’t mean that this is a girl band who are destined to sing solely about ex lovers though. In fact, at the Mercy EP release they stated that opening track Ship was about “the self-blame, shame, and confusion that comes after being sexually harassed… Despite what the fucking journalists say”, proving the band have something worth saying, or rather shouting about.
There are moments of calm on this release and they come on the appropriately smooth track Wax, a spellbinding and contemplative listen that serves as a reminder to the listener that they can easily transfer from finger licking good rock to sweet and humble pop and back again with ease.
Abi Reimold said that Fake Boyfriend’s music is a “retaliation against the preconceived notions of how women are supposed to behave and process emotions.” This is a fairly accurate statement as the tracks on offer here sound more like the band would rather use a spoon to knock you out than to stereotypically scoop some ice cream with it.
Alongside the fact that each member took up a different instrument than they were used to, something that could have easily become a gimmick but instead adds to the beautiful clunkiness of this EP, Fake Boyfriend seem to be drawing more of a comparison to Pussy Riot than the likes of Haim.
A band worth keeping an eye on.
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