FIDLAR Are Sillier Than Ever On “Almost Free”

FIDLAR first properly entered the public consciousness in 2013 with their self-titled debut album. An energetic garage punk affair with lyrics focusing around themes of drug use, depression and general debauchery, FIDLAR’s lyrics have always been on the cringey side but their debut had a level of charm and strong, simple songwriting which made it the soundtrack for angsty teens experimenting with drugs and skateboarding everywhere.

Almost Free has FIDLAR flex their versatility as a band. The group plays with a varied palette of sounds with the band dipping their toes in hip-hop, blues, and even gouse music, amongst other styles. The album also boasts a warm and full production style that contrasts nicely with their earlier lo-fi leaning endeavours.

This album also stands out as FIDLAR’s most hilarious album to date. When the listener puts on Almost Free they are immediately hit with the group trying to do a cool hip-hop track complete with aggressive, yet cringey vocal delivery and cool dad-rock worthy blues licks. A truly strong start for the band if they were aiming to make their funniest album yet. The problem here is that it’s unlikely the band were trying to make funny music (with the exception of By Myself but we’ll get to that). However, the blend of sounds the band has adopted over the years mixed with the still cringe-ridden lyrics makes a lot of Almost Free just unintentionally funny.

Too Real features lead vocalist Zac Carper giving out hot takes about current American politics and society today with an attitude that can only be described as too woke. The bridge section sees Zac spitting venom about flaws in both left and right leaning politics in a progressively angry tone. After some awkward ranting the chorus hook enters “Was that too fucking real?!” the listener is left thinking No. Not Really.

By Myself, arguably the silliest track on the album starts with Carper on acoustic guitar singing the song’s chorus, solo: “I’m cracking one open with boys, by myself”. Now ignoring the glaring fact that the boys in FIDLAR have based the hook of their song around a long dead meme there seems to be a level of irony built around the track that’s a bit refreshing. By Myself proves that FIDLAR are able to laugh at themselves from time to time and also shows a level of self awareness they’ve never shown before (Carper can even be heard laughing at his own bad joke). However, when the song launches into the verse section and adopts a cheesy house beat the self awareness disappears and we can be treated to FIDLAR running a dead meme song into the ground for just under four minutes.

This is all quite unfortunate as a level self awareness would greatly benefit FIDLAR’s music at this stage in their career because in some ways they seem to have developed into an unironic parody of themselves over the years.

When this album isn’t being edgy it tends to just be downright bland. Tracks such as Can’t You See and Flake have very generic indie aesthetics especially with the former which sounds like a track written by any local Arctic Monkeys influenced band ever.

Almost Free is far from terrible with songs such as Alcohol and Called You Twice been stand out tracks. The band are obviously competent songwriters and skilled musicians but it’s the band’s blend of cliched ‘cool’ blues riffs, generic indie stylings, bad integration of hip-hop and the all round cringefest that is FIDLAR lyricism that really makes Almost Free stand out as FIDLAR’s most unintentionally funny album yet. – Liam Toner (@tonerliam)

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Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross meld indie music with spoken word on ‘Experience Essential’

words fae jen hughes (@dearoctopus4)rating 7

Experience Essential is the debut album from Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross, a collaboration between spoken word performer Kevin P. Gilday and multi-instrumentalist Ralph Hector. It’s a kaleidoscope of poetry and colourful indie music, and one of the strangest albums you’re ever likely to hear. Picture this: you’re at a party. You are stoned, not enough to be out of it but just enough to go with the flow. You meet some guy in the smoker’s area, and you could sit and listen to this guy’s smooth accent all day. Because you’re a bit intoxicated, you don’t pick up everything but the nuggets you do speak to you on a deeper level. This is how best to describe this album.

It isn’t really rap music. Where rap music marches to the beat, spoken word floats alongside it at a leisurely pace. It does not try and stay on the beat because that is not the point. Each track is a window into Kevin P. Gilday’s life, from his experiences on Glasgow’s surprisingly enthusiastic poetry scene (The Plates Keep Spinning… pt 1 & pt 2; I’ve Fallen Out of Love With Poetry), his working class upbringing (To Live and Die in Denniston) to his political leanings (How To Spot A Tory) and his commentary on masculinity (Me, Masculine Me; Hitler’s Moustache). His poetry tends to be more humorous but also self-effacing and self-aware. The songs themselves tend to stick to only one or two musical ideas or motifs and don’t stray far from these within the track. Each track’s musicality is varied enough, and tracks don’t drag on for long enough that this would be a problem. To listeners whose primary interest lies in poetry, this is not a concern anyway as spoken word still takes precedence here.

The spoken word/music combination is a hard sell and is difficult to pull off, especially if you’ve heard any of William Shatner’s cover songs: they are hilarious. While there are a few weaker tracks in Experience Essential, where the musical ideas do not work as well with the spoken word, the majority of the album is reasonably enjoyable. For the most part, Gilday and Hector can bring the two aspects together to a good standard, though there are some tracks that didn’t work well to the point where it distracted from what was being said. With these tracks, it’s a case of two ideas not working well as a combination but fine separately.

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Out of all the singles to be released, Atheist’s Prayer is a particular highlight. A smooth, melancholic synth accompanies Gilday as he asks the opening line, “Who do the atheists pray to?”. It sounds like rain and smoke. Gilday’s performance of this song is passionate, and the music reflects this as it crescendos and brings in guitar and drums. Arguably, the tracks released as singles aren’t the strongest on the album; for example, The Man Who Loved Beer, which was released first, gets things off to a shaky start as the music noticeably detracts from the spoken word. On the other hand, it’s possible that the upbeat rock music reflects the mood of the poem itself, so it could be there for good reason.

Other recommended tracks are mostly deeper cuts from the album such as The Vision (Jesus of Possil), How To Spot A Tory and There’s a Workie in My House, which touch upon themes of the divisive nature of social class. They’re both humorous but self-aware. The Vision talks about what would happen if the reincarnation of Jesus Christ visits Possilpark, Glasgow, whilst There’s A Workie in My House describes the time a repairman came to fix Kevin’s boiler, prompting him to reflect on his own career.

As a poet and a music enthusiast, it’s difficult not to admire that a fellow Glasgow poet is bringing two worlds together. If you’re a music fan who is looking for that gateway drug into spoken word, Experience Essential would be as good a place to start as any. Gilday’s poetry is genuine, relatable, not too reliant on references to classical texts or other poets you may not have heard of and – for the most part – unpretentious. As an added bonus, the music itself is pretty decent. There’s bound to be at least one track on the album you can relate to, so for that reason, it’s highly recommended to check it out and discover which track you relate to most.

Album Review: The National – Sleep Well Beast

By Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

‘Taking a break’ is a notion that carries a sense of inevitability. Often a vague suggestion with an indefinite timeline, its utterance appears to spell doom for many ill-fated relationships despite the best intentions. Eager to prove otherwise, The National have spent time apart after wrapping up Trouble Will Find Me. While not an official decision per se, all five members have taken a breather from the tumultuous life of touring to spend time with family and embark on other pursuits; enigmatic frontman and famed wine guzzler Matt Berninger, for example, teamed up with Ramona Falls founder Brent Knopf to bring indie project EL VY to life.

The band have spoke of fraught relationships in the past, predominantly down to the differing musical philosophies of minimalist Matt and trailblazer Aaron Dessner, but this newfound sense of creative freedom appears to have granted the Cincinnati-originating outfit a new lease of life. Relocating from Aaron’s garage to his rural Long Pond recording studio has proven an ideal congregation point for the now-geographically dispersed five-piece, who can come and go as they please. One significant bonus is the soothing effect its scenic surroundings appears to exert on the recording process. “It’s hard to be a dick when you look out the window and there’s this tranquil pond”, explains Matt.

This chilled-out, bohemian approach to songwriting has culminated in The National’s most exploratory output to date. Perhaps in keeping with that ethos, Sleep Well Beast surely ranks as one of the year’s worst kept secrets. While other artists tend to keep their cards close to their chests, fans have instead been treated to a myriad of opportunities to hear new material, ranging from a steady influx of single releases to numerous live performances debuting certain tracks. The first of those singles, The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness, offered a good insight into what could be expected to emerge from the Long Pond studio. In stark contrast to the opulent guitars of Trouble Will Find Me, sharp, jutting riffs appear at the forefront augmented, much to everyone’s surprise, by a guitar solo; a sign of stylistic change towards a more freeform approach. Whereas in the past every carefully-layered texture, every chord change felt calculated and precise, this record feels notably more off-the-cuff in nature. In hindsight, “we’re in a different kind of thing now” becomes prophetic.

Upon first listening, Sleep Well Beast immediately strikes as an album of extremities. Raucous tracks like the rip-roaring Turtleneck occupy one end of the scale, an outburst not heard since the Alligator era. Sung with Nick Cave-esque abandon and strewn with dueling guitars, this signals in no uncertain terms that the rulebook has well and truly been thrown out the window. Within tracks such as this Bryan Devendorf stakes his claim as one of indie’s pre-eminent drummers: his driving rhythms and grasp of unusual time signatures form a significant basis of most tracks, controlling the flow with surprising nuance.

On Day I Die he demonstrates his abilities yet again, kicking off one of the highlights of the album with a blistering drum intro. Relentlessly uptempo and featuring guitar licks reminiscent of The Cure, themes of marital affairs are navigated with reference-laden lyrics. Matt Berninger boasts that, “Young mothers love me, even ghosts of / Girlfriends call from Cleveland“, although he’s still clearly more concerned about the no-mans land his current relationship occupies, struggling to understand where things stand. During the bridge, further context is given to “great uncle Valentine Jester“, a character visited previously and, as it happens, someone who Berninger finds himself sharing a lot in common with, particularly when he gets “a little punchy with the vodka“.

There’s no doubt the subject matter is more introspective than ever before and these domestic issues are explored in customary fashion. While there’s an abundance of esoteric wordplay, the frontman’s unique songcraft is equally able to deliver upfront, candid lyrics. In Carin at the Liquor Store, an ode to his wife and intermittent co-writer (it’s pronounced Cah-RYN, god), crypticism is eschewed in favour of sincerity. On the previous iteration, Karen, he was unabashedly defiant whereas this time round he appears more reflective: “It’s gonna be different after tonight / You’re gonna see me in a different light” Accompanied by tender piano and an achingly beautiful guitar solo, this slow-burner is one of the more conventional songs on the album but it delivers volumes of raw emotion.

Following on, another straightforward ballad appears in the form of Dark Side of the Gym. Noticeably more mellow and laid back than Carin, it showcases the Dessner brothers’ willingness to experiment with electronic sounds. While electronic influences tinge some songs, they dominate others such as I’ll Still Destroy You. Cryptic verses about self-medication are sung with a distinct Tom Waits inflection as several narratives converge towards the end, amounting to something of a revelation. As his overindulgence in substances begins to spiral out of control, everything is placed into perspective. “Put your heels against the wall / I swear you got a little bit taller since I saw you” ponders Berninger, an allusion to worries about spending time away from his daughter and missing out on her growing up.

The album’s titular closing track, Sleep Well Beast, ranks as one of the most unorthodox offerings in the band’s entire back catalogue. Berninger’s voice is almost a whisper as his characteristic baritone reaches its lowest pitch in a wonderfully dreamy six and a half minutes of glitchy lo-fi guitars, haunting backing vocals and programmed drums which ebb and flow throughout. One minor disappointment is that the band haven’t extended this avant-garde attitude to stripped-back tracks like Born to Beg and Empire Line which, perhaps, could’ve benefited from injections of experimental style.

Although The National’s songs are renowned for their blend of earnestness and dark humour, moments of optimism on Sleep Well Beast are fewer in number than before and occasionally it feels like the album needs one or two more songs like Day I Die; tracks where the music stretches its legs and the band allow themselves to let go. It would be difficult, however, to argue that such a profoundly affecting record doesn’t deserve to be ranked among their greatest output.

8/10

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Album Review: Daddy Issues – Deep Dream

By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)

What Daddy Issues do isn’t necessarily too ambitious, but it is done with such style that you won’t honestly mind. Their sound could be described as a spin on grunge while stealing melodic cues from indie pop.  Both of which their first LP Deep Dream shows an exceptional love for. The whole album is obviously a complete passion project for the Nashville punks. Each song sounds like a celebration of internalised regrets escaping in the most primal way. In an interview with BITCH Magazine, the band stated they were trying to prove “Girls aren’t all sugar and spice and everything nice” which they’ve definitely achieved here.

Deep Dream is not an insidious record by any means however, it’s just a very honest one. Lyrics focus more on introspection and regret rather than explosive bouts of anger. Lyrically the LP is actually very reminiscent of early 2000’s bands such as Brand New and Manchester Orchestra at their prime. Take for example one of the stand out tracks Boring Girls, with its vitriolic rhythm section backing a tale of desperation, regret, and self assessment. Lead singer/guitarist Jenna Moynihan‘s rhymes come off as incredibly amusing and distressing in equal measure here. With the titular “Boring Girl” transforming from her lover’s partner who finds them, to herself as she questions her self-worth, before finally settling upon the guy knowingly stringing two people along. It’s a captivating account of misdirected rage, short in length and high energy, catching the setting perfectly. Before culminating perfectly with “Boring boy, don’t hurt yourself, I don’t think they have guitars in hell”, it’s a satisfying conclusion to one of the most enjoyable songs on the record, but Daddy Issues have larger issues to tackle on Deep Dream.

Take for example I’m Not, written by drummer Emily Maxwell, which tackles the far more disturbing topic of sexual abuse. It’s a very personal song which challenges Maxwell‘s lack of self-worth and how she felt “naked and dumb” after her experience. Yet it’s not a tearjerker, and you feel that was never the type of reaction Daddy Issues wanted to evoke either. Instead, Moynihan‘s harsh vocals are a manifestation of the rage that enveloped Maxwell‘s life after. At no point is her experience being exploited either. Instead, it’s a plea to be open with the traumas haunting you, before they take over entirely. I’m Not shows an incredible maturity in songwriting that a lot of bands would kill to achieve which is especially impressive on a debut album.

It’s a shame then that the next song on the track list is possibly the only weak offering here: a cover of Don Henley‘s 1984 cheese fest Boys of Summer. It’s not necessarily a bad cover, with a punkier edge that’s stylistically in keeping with the rest of the album. There’s also a nice attempt to bring out the angst within the verses, but it just sounds so oppressively twee in the chorus, and no amount of fuzz on the guitar parts will change that. It’s a real misstep and one that prevents Deep Dream from reaching perfection.

Thankfully this only a short escapade, however, with final track Dandelion sounding like a Bossanova-era Pixies single. Based on a toxic ex of Moynihan‘s, it’s viciously amusing and makes for a nice ending to the album, drawing themes of regret and retribution together in a short outburst that you’ll wish was just one minute longer. That’s one thing that is exceptionally refreshing about Deep Dream, the short song lengths make for an album just over half an hour: it’s a perfect length for the music they’re trying to create. No song feels bloated, each one is a calculated and fast paced story.

Overall, Deep Dream is a very pleasant surprise, a mature record with elements of grunge and pop coinciding effortlessly. With a half an hour run time, there really is no excuse to not listen to it.

8/10


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TRACK REVIEW: Soul Of Bass – Just The Thing

While many of us are able to leave our teenage creations and names behind us (MSN’s destruction has lead to a lot of cringe worthy material disappearing from the face of the planet), Ƶed Dew is not so lucky. Naming his “Internet Indie at its finest” project Soul Of Bass at the age of 14 is one that he admits isn’t a very good one and is a nice little nod to his self deprecating nature that the artist manages to convey nicely on Just The Thing.

Despite the fact that this track is accompanied by a music video involving lots of references to videogame consoles, the sound itself is without a doubt the most “indie” Soul of Bass has delivered thus far. While previous tracks like Path Of Light have had a 8-bit lick of paint to them, Just The Thing ticks all the boxes for what you’ve come to expect from a solo artist armed with a guitar: Humble? Check. Love adorned lyrics? Check. A hook that will etch itself into your mind and one that you’ll find impossible to stop humming to yourself? Check.

Soul Of Bass has admitted that he doesn’t yearn to be a rockstar despite his idols being the likes of Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins which, while not entirely unique, is refreshing in this internet music-sphere where artists sometimes struggle to keep their ever growing ego at bay. If he continues with this attitude and starts to delve more into his electronic tinged sound that he has previously experimented on, there’s definitely a place in this saturated market for Soul Of Bass.

Soul Of Bass

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Dan & Drum-Fixin Up Right TRACK REVIEW

In the world of music, sometimes it’s not just your sound that is important but your own public persona, something that can help change you from being just another white boy with a guitar into something else entirely. Take Mac DeMarco for example, a talented artist whose wacky, odd sense of humour and actions help to make him stand out from the norm while his music is there to cement the fact he deserves the attention he gets.

Humour can go a long way and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a main factor that drew me in to Dan & Drum, a band from California that approached me via my tumblr with the promise of an unbreakable childhood bond and Dan in question getting a little turned on by the coverage. Out of all the emails I get, this one stood out and thankfully this humour wasn’t a tacky gimmick either as Dan & Drum are a delightfully laid back, chilled act who implement some rather weird sounds into their tracks that go hand in hand with the aforementioned weirdness.

Without sounding moronic, Fixin Up Right starts off with a charming albeit simplistic drum beat that along with the weirdly twinged guitars and almost Bon Iver vocal delivery though less draped in sadness and more perky and ambitious like Dan had downed one or twenty cups of coffee. Often it’ll go a bit creaky, maybe even out of tune but along with that odd guitar I mentioned, Dan And Drum seems to pride itself on its own peculiarity which makes recommending this act an easy job. Even if everything I’ve referred to puts you off, it’s worth checking out especially if any of the comparisons to Bon Iver and Mac DeMarco have peaked your interest at all.

Dan and Drum: Soundcloud | Facebook | Tumblr

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Blink and you’ll miss it! (7/06/2015)

A bit of context before I start this blog post. I’ve been writing music reviews and other articles for nearly 2 years now. Something I started off as just a passtime has become a big part of my life and now that I’m studying journalism in Glasgow, I’ve managed to improve my articles dramatically (if you’re able to find my review on Mumford from 2013 then avoid it at all costs). I’ve spent a huge chunk of time reviewing big bands and now that I’ve managed to get some attention from my blog, I thought it would be silly not to shed some light on the new and upcoming artists that I think are bound for success. Although my word will not magically transform them into the next Biffy or Bowie, if even one person gives these artists some attention then I’ll have did my bit. Moving on, here’s the first installment in a series of posts about the bands and individuals who deserve your attention:

Amy Louise Rogers
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The rise of acoustic guitar wielding teens has been nothing short of amazing, being inspired by a lot of musicians who had the same origins as them such as some of Scotland’s finest like Paolo Nutini. However with Amy, her exposure to older music has had an impact on her music even if it’s not been easy to detect so far. “The music my dad showed me had a big effect on me such as Fleetwood Mac and Big Country” she said when we were talking about her music which includes her upcoming debut album Her Imagination where she’ll be showing the creativity that her influencers had in bucketloads. ” It’s gonna feature a whole lot of instruments that I’ve never used in past works hidden in there is some violin , electric guitar , banjo , and even a kazoo line!”. Anyone who’s interested in hearing more from her will be happy to know her new single Problems (She Wants To Be A Marine Biologist)  is released on the 20th of June so there’s not much longer to go to experience some pop folk goodness.
Spotify: Amy Louise Rogers |         Youtube       |      Facebook

Sweet White
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Just one listen to this 5 piece indie band’s latest single How You Feel and you’ll know why Sweet White are worth your attention. “Catchy as funk, sharp indie rock numbers guided by pop sensibilities” it says on the Peterhead boy’s site and they’re not wrong with the tracks reeking of psychedelic sounds. The interesting thing about the band is how important every member is to the works. Whereas many bands have one or two members whose abilities help to shoot the band into stardom, Sweet White have 5. With Kyle Drysdale and Ruairidh Sandison on guitar alongside James Butcher on Bass, the band are able to craft some insanely addictive riffs and melodies, Flesh ‘N’ Blood on their 2013 Eponymously titled EP being vaguely reminiscent to the likes of Foals in various ways with a hint of Peace’s Bloodshake for good measure. Not only that but frontman Jake Cordiner is gifted with a flexible yet powerful voice that manages to impress just as much in live performances as it does recorded, possessing the same scottish tang in his singing voice that people associate with the likes of Simon Neil and Scott Hutchison. Last but certainly not least, Shaun Wilson’s drum playing is essential to the band’s funky rhythm that’ll have you coming back time and time again and from their performance I saw back in April, he and his bandmates look natural on stage, looking relaxed and never faltering. If you live near Glasgow and have no plans for tonight, or even if you do have some, get over to Nice N Sleazy tonight for 8PM to witness the guys in action alongside Codist for £2, you won’t regret it.

Site | Soundcloud | Spotify: Sweet White | Facebook | Twitter

Cheapside

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Starting off life as Floorboards before changing to Cheapside, this Glasgow 4 piece pop punk band are sort of a rarity at the moment. When I was talking to drummer Josh, he praised the Glasgow music scene for its diversity, calling it absolutely incredible. However pop punk is a genre that seems to be less apparent in the music scene with the likes of indie rock bands and solo acts taking up a large chunk of the scene. You’d think for a band that’s genre is usually full of pessimistic attitudes that it would put them off but Josh thinks differently. Unlike artists such as Noel Gallagher who constantly slate the state of music nowadays, Josh said it was in pretty good condition and any musician with a positive attitude towards music is one to keep an eye on. Not only did he have a positive attitude but when asked if Danny DeVito was to be a member of the band, he said he’d offer him his place on drums, manners and everything. As he listed off his influences, it wasn’t that difficult to see how much of an impact they had on him and the band as a whole. “The first sort of rock music I got into was blink-182, biffy clyro and the foo fighters so just listening to Travis Barker, Ben Johnston and Taylor Hawkins made me want to be in a band.” From the demos alone, Cheapside have the rawness and untidiness of early biffy ,helped by both Josh on drums and Ian Gordon & Dan Drennan on guitar, which is strangely appealing to the ears alongside a Tom Delonge-esque delivery from John Sim. The band are currently looking for a bass player so if you think you’ve got what it takes then don’t hesitate to contact the band because from what’s been hinted at so far, there’s something special bound to be crafted.

Bandcamp | Facebook |Twitter

So that’s the first entry in what I’m hoping will be a weekly sort of series. If you want to be considered for it then don’t hesitate to contact me by email (liammenzies96@gmail.com) or by twitter (@blogclyro)!