First glance at The Wombats forthcoming ‘Glitterbug’

The Wombats are releasing new album ‘Glitterbug’ on the 6th April 2015 which comes four years after 2011’s ‘This Modern Glitch’. They have always taken their time in between releases which suggests that writing doesn’t come easily to them. They acknowledged in an interview that ‘This Modern Glitch’ included some ‘filler tracks’, which led Murphy, Tord and Dan to shake up their writing process (Dan and Tord created backing tracks in London, whilst Murphy wrote in LA) and to work hard at their craft for the sake of their new album. So here they are in 2015 armed with a heap of tunes and a concept about a fictional woman in the city of Los Angeles. Here’s how the promising ‘Glitterbug’ is shaping up so far:

Emoticons 

The opening track finds the band kicking off ‘Glitterbug’ in melancholic territory which is trumped by a soaring pop chorus. They have always had a knack for creating a melancholic atmosphere in and around their poppy melodies which makes the band’s sound so compelling, they are like the sonic equivalent to the last episode of ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’. Murph’s concept about the fictional woman and the city of Los Angeles begins here, it juxtaposes the falsity of emoticons with real feelings (“behind these metaphors I want you literally”) which can arguably be reflected in the equally false nature of Los Angeles. However, Murph seems to like this idea as the outro finds him proclaiming “I like it here so much I might stay.” ‘Emoticons’ pulls you into the world of ‘Glitterbug’ 

Greek Tragedy

The lead single from ‘Glitterbug’ was unleashed right at the beginning of 2015, the question on everyone’s tongues was: what musical pathway have the indie boys from Liverpool gone down? The answer came in the form of this big glittery pop song about a doomed romance with a girl who “hits like ecstasy.” The spiralling synth-loop and its bursts of Eastern melodies shows their sound has expanded way beyond the indie-guitar sound of their debut album; it is a glimpse at the aces up their sleeves.   

Your Body Is A Weapon

The band released this single way back in October 2013, on reflection it’s clear that ‘Your Body Is A Weapon’ aided the direction of ‘Glitterbug’ sonically and lyrically. Murphy is great at carving out characters and their stories, this one is a creepy account of a paparazzi photographer being romantically infatuated with one of the A-list stars he is snapping. Big walls of U2-reverb echo throughout this tune in amongst the ‘locked in’ drum and bass, the band sound tight and are firing on all cylinders from the vocal harmonies right through to the screeching guitar solo.     

The English Summer

This is a nod back to the old Wombats sound, it’s simply guitar, bass and drums; there’s no tricks here and its great to have it back for one track. This will undoubtedly have ‘ex-indie’ boys and girls dancing at this years festivals like its 2007 – it’s fun, a bit throwaway and catchy as heaven.    

‘Glitterbug’ is shaping up to be the album that ‘This Modern Glitch’ should have been. I’ve always had a soft spot for The Wombats (which probably comes from the indie-boy within), the fact is that they are never going to be ‘Mercury Prize winning darlings’ or dominating the critic’s end-of-year lists. The group instead have buckets of charm and an undeniable ability to write great pop songs, and who would want anything more? Bring on ‘Glitterbug’ man!

Lyricscapes #2

Paul Weller – ‘That Dangerous Age’ from Sonik Kicks

Paul Weller carves out the story of a man in a mid-life crisis on the centrepiece of 2012’s ‘Sonik Kicks’. It is the punk-stomp counterpart to a 50-something yearning for life: round two, where in some alternative universe he would be able to “go far in his car”. It is an interesting lyrical concept which is appropriately reflected in the sound, the punky energy with pop twists is a great sonic backdrop for this character’s story. You would think there could even be an autobiographical undertone to ‘That Dangerous Age’ as Weller was 53 when he wrote this, however as someone who’s at the peak of his experimental and creative powers I think he will or has been dismissed from such an event occurring.

It’s simply a great sub-three minute pop song.The highlight in the lyrics are the two lines which bookend the song which also suggests that this particular character is stuck and going in circles:

“And when he wakes up in the morning it takes him time to adjust/ so sick of the money and all the life that he’s lost”

Father John Misty is waking up our culture man

Who would of thought the sassiness, hilarity and genius of Joshua Tillman could have been encased for all those years behind the Fleet Foxes drum kit? Tillman released the album ‘Fear Fun’ under the moniker Father John Misty in 2012, which is the sonic counterpart to his creative awakening, a revelation which apparently occurred to him whilst perched on the branch of a tree high on mushrooms. Whilst the humour and psychedelic nature of the first album is still forthright on ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, it is also apparent that Tillman has a serious message. 

It was clear FJM was out to make a statement from the get-go with the new album, as he announced it in compelling style to the audience of The David Letterman Show back in November 2014. Accompanied by a grandiose string section, Tillman stooped over a grand piano delivering the saddened and distressed ballad ‘Bored In The USA’ featuring brooding lines such as:

“How many people rise and think/ my mind’s so awfully glad to be here for yet another mindless day?”

Tillman cleverly planted the seed for ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ on the show. The performance which sees him climbing atop a piano, strutting and flailing his arms in amongst a swirl of strings and a haunting laugh-track, no doubt leaves the audience and Letterman himself confused. It is pretty remarkable to see something so anti-establishment on mainstream American television. The numerous elements which make up the performance means it takes a few listens to fully digest. 

Here, we bear witness to Tillman breaking out of the singer/songwriter cake delivering similar witty lyricisms backed up by stunning instrumentation, with a sash which reads “I’m back, you like this accessible sound but I’ve got something to say as well” (not literally).

He continues to mock and bring attention to our flawed modern day attitudes even in his tongue-in-cheek promotion for ‘I Love You, Honeybear’. Last week he posted a MIDI version of his new album which takes a swing at our streaming-obsessed society via a fabricated website called SAP. SAP’s aim is to be a platform where “the joy of the free can be extended to the fan and the artist” by offering the audience an accurate MIDI version of popular albums. From hearing these, an audience should able to make a judgement on whether they like it and want to pay for it or not. You can listen and decide for yourself right here. It sounds hilarious.

He also gatecrashed Spotify headquarters in New York last week to perform karaoke versions of songs from ‘ILY,H’, backed up with budget pyrotechnics. He even manages to slip in the line: “Bored In The USA with so much streaming options!”

His label Sub-Pop and Bella Union seem to have invested a lot into their promotional strategies for his new release; the album announcement on Letterman, the access to Spotify HQ plus posters of him are beginning to dominate the London Underground, where he stands in shades like a sassy Jesus Christ. These efforts allow him access to the mostly baron mainstream landscape of 2015 and it’s all the better for it. Not only is he exciting, fun and innovative but he also has a motive and an opinion on modern culture which he expresses through excellent song-craft. FJM is here as an alarm call to make us aware of the musical culture we have slipped into, something which has desperately needed a shake up for a long time. 

‘I Love You, Honeybear’ is out in the UK on the 9th February on Bella Union Records.

Lyricscapes #1

Alex Turner – ‘Glass In The Park’ from Submarine (OST)

‘Glass In The Park’ is a gentle cut from Alex Turner’s six track EP for Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut Submarine released in 2010. This period in Turner’s writing showcased him in a singer/songwriter light paving way for his most intriguing set of lyrics yet, the words feature brilliantly strange metaphors, allegories and lovelorn imagery.

This batch of songs is closely related to Arctic Monkey’s 4th LP Suck It and See where Turner predominantly wrote stooped over an acoustic guitar at home, causing a shift in his songwriting; the chords and vocal melody at the core of the songs were the nirvana for these tracks instead of the Monkey’s usual collaborative approach.In this time Turner cited influences from country music, he expressed his admiration for their wit and simplicity: “They’re really sort of smart arses sometimes those guys, like George Jones and that kind of thing. The sound doesn’t speak to me but the lyrics do.” (Alex Turner)

Ayoade gave the songs their full running time within the film, with three scenes dedicated to Turner’s sonic backdrop, he stated that some of the songs were formed after seeing footage from the film, giving him a guide-track to the moments he was portraying. The song perfectly reflects the psyche of the troubled and confused fifteen-year old protagonist (Oliver Tate) who’s in the swampy depths of his first love. The hopelessly romantic lines such as “the white part of my eyeballs illuminate” and “I’m your man on the moon” glimmer throughout. However, it’s the final darker line which fittingly closes this doe-eyed love song:

Highlight: “and like a grain of diamond dust, you float/ and my devotion’s outer crust cracks”