As far as I was concerned, the release of ‘Beings’, the third album from Newcastle’s Lanterns On The Lake marked their ascent to superstar status. It is a stunning work, fully deserving of my Album Of The Year accolade. Yet here I was, able to buy tickets for their show at the charming little venue of Oslo in Hackney just four days before the event and listening to their engaging vocalist Hazel Wilde expressing her delight that the band had sold out the venue. They should be selling out much bigger venues than this. Lanterns On The Lake are one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place.
From the quiet, foreboding chords at the start of set (and album) opener ‘Of Dust And Matter’ everything we heard tonight confirmed my view about this band and the brilliance of their music. Wilde, her vocal in turns gentle and threatening is a haunting focal point. Guitarist Paul Gregory and touring violinist Angela Chan lay down the trademark Lanterns backing sound of spiralling, echoing strings (Gregory plays several songs on his guitar using a cello bow) while bass player Bob Allan and drummer Oliver Ketteringham provide a forceful rhythm section. The songs are to die for. The band’s folk upbringing is showcased in ‘Another Tale From Another English Town’ and ‘A Kingdom’, the latter building to an explosive duelling drums finale. There’s the gunshot drum climax to ‘Stuck For An Outline’. The imagery is evocative. ‘Darling, if the creeks don’t rise you’ll see me again’ sings Wilde at the climax of the epic, six plus minutes of ‘Beings’. This is music of an astonishing scope and depth of ambition. There is a menace about the songs, a sense of something sinister lurking round the next corner – even the Devil himself gets a namecheck in ‘Of Dust And Matter’s opening lines. Then the band pull you back from the brink with the ballads – the pure, plaintive ‘Send Me Home’, Wilde flying solo at the piano on the encore’s first song ‘Green And Gold’. And yet there is still that edge in the lyrics. ‘The Crawl’ is like no love song you have ever heard – ‘Prise my ribs apart – and we can watch the blood drip dry.’
The highlights for me – strangely not massive Dave’s Chart hit ‘Faultlines’, which came early in the set and was the one song that maybe was a little underpowered. So I’d go for the chilling ‘I’ll Stall Them’ and the pounding majesty of current single ‘Through The Cellar Door’. ‘Are you one of us’? asks Wilde. Oh yes! After the beauty of ‘I Love You Sleepyhead’ to close the show, you leave the venue thinking that you can cope with whatever shit is going down in the world, because Lanterns On The Lake and their music are in it too. I absolutely bloody love them! My new favourite band.
Back at the start of 2014, ‘Youth’ was the first No 1 of Dave’s Chart’s new incarnation, spending 9 weeks in all on top of the chart for Foxes, AKA 26 year old Louisa Rose Allen. Two years on then it seems very appropriate that Foxes’ new album, ‘All I Need’ is the first to be reviewed on this new blog.
Despite her EDM origins it has become increasingly apparent that ‘Youth’ and its pulsing, trancey electronic beats is actually a very unusual part of Foxes’ repertoire. The joyous ‘Let Go For Tonight’, also a Dave’s Chart No 1 in the spring of 2014 is much more typical of the new songs on ‘All I Need’, with its piano backing and rousing chorus. These two songs and the title track were the highlights of ‘Glorious’, Foxes’ debut album. It was solid and enjoyable but beyond the big three tracks (and fourth Top 10 single ‘Holding Onto Heaven’) there was a sense of the remainder of the songs being a little unformed and ultimately unsatisfying.
Foxes has taken a major step forward, because things have changed significantly with ‘All I Need’. The promising roots of ‘Glorious’ have developed into a series of exuberant songs with prominent keyboards and strings, clear production and faultless vocals. It does help that the first half of the album is so immediately familiar. After the brief instrumental of ‘Rise Up’ we launch straight into the first two singles, ‘Better Love’ and ‘Body Talk’, both Top 40 hits and both perfect examples of Foxes’ ability to craft and sing perfect pop songs. ‘If You Leave Me Now’, the best ballad of Foxes’ career to date and a new Top 10 entry this week and ‘Devil Side’ are even better, and the lively ‘Amazing’ and the Selena Gomez-esque ‘Cruel’ complete a group of sun drenched, buoyant songs which would be perfect for an afternoon set at one of the big festivals.
They are a tough act to follow and it is greatly to Foxes’ credit that the lesser known songs on the second half of the album maintain this high standard. ‘Wicked Love’ can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a ballad or a more uptempo number and doesn’t quite work, but then we build towards an excellent climax. ‘Scar’ is slower paced and shows off the appealing crack in Foxes’ vocal, ‘Money’ is a lively singalong and ‘On My Way’ is a gorgeous finale, quiet and reflective and string driven. The four bonus songs on the deluxe version of the album are less appealing, with ‘Shoot Me Down’ and ‘Lose My Cool’ lapsing into uninteresting EDM. Stick to the shorter version of the album and you will not go wrong.
Foxes is a major talent. She co-wrote every song on the album, sings superbly and infuses every track with passion and spirit. She is quite possibly the best female pop singer in Britain today, and why her songs do not get wider recognition is a mystery. ‘All I Need’ is a superb album – easily one of the best of the year so far.
Many congratulations to School Of Seven Bells who have hit No 1 in this week’s Dave’s Singles Chart with the wondrous ‘Open Your Eyes’. Grimes drops to No 2 after three weeks on top with ‘Flesh Without Blood’, and Kacy Hill spends her third week at No 3 with ‘Arm’s Length’. It’s a pretty good week for Lanterns On The Lake – ‘Faultlines’ climbs back up a place to No 4 (and is the longest runner in the chart at 17 weeks) and ‘Through The Cellar Door’ jumps spectacularly from No 32 to No 7. And ‘Beings’ is back on top of the album chart. And I’ve managed to grab tickets to see them at Oslo in Hackney on Thursday – my first gig report for ‘Shining The Light’. Other highlights – highest climber for Rachel Platten’s ‘Stand By You’ and highest new entry for Foxes and ‘Devil Side’. Go to the ‘Dave’s Singles Chart’ tab for the full Top 100 countdown.
Coldplay featuring Beyonce and Bruno? Sounded odd beforehand, even knowing the link between the first two named on ‘Hymn For The Weekend’. Turned out it was odd. Coldplay bounced through ‘Viva La Vida’, ‘Paradise’ and ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ (which might have been written just for the Super Bowl show) and then disappeared – obviously the viewing billions needed to see someone they were a little more familiar with. So Bruno (wasn’t he on the Super Bowl show a couple of years ago?) ‘treated’ us to yet another rendition of the most overexposed song of last year – if I never hear ‘Uptown Funk’ again it’ll be too soon.
Then we plunged headlong into political statements with Beyonce and her newly released song ‘Formation’, with its lyrical and visual references to Black Lives Matter, and to Mario Woods… It’s critically important, and we will talk much more about it as I get to hear more of ‘Formation’ and as ‘White Privilege II’ enters the charts, but did it make for a cohesive show? Or am I being short sighted and ignorant when I say that? Is this show purely about entertainment (as it was last year with Katy Perry) or is it about much more than that? When Chris Martin did seize the microphone back we shifted gear again, and were now suddenly into reflective territory with ‘Fix You’ and its lyrics about losing something you can’t replace, as images of departed half time show luminaries such as Whitney, Michael Jackson and (brilliantly) Clarence Clemons appeared on screen. And then a gay pride rainbow finale provided another change of emphasis in what was a bewildering 15 or so minutes.
Should we have just stuck with Coldplay? ‘Clocks’ and ‘A Sky Full Of Stars’ would have finished off their set nicely. Was this the right setting for unveiling ‘Formation’? Did the organisers simply try to cram too much topical content into the show? And why Bruno?
I am going to be writing rather a lot about School Of Seven Bells in the next month, with ‘Open Your Eyes’ on the verge of topping Dave’s Singles Chart tomorrow, and their fourth and final album, ‘SVIIB’ due out at the end of February. Most of you will know that Alejandra Deheza is the only remaining member of the band after her colleague and former partner Benjamin Curtis died from lymphoma at the end of 2013. ‘Ablaze’, the highest new entry on this week’s Heatseekers Chart tells Deheza’s story of her relationship with Curtis, and it is a glorious tribute to him and to the strength he gave to her. ‘You saw the stars in me when I had sunk into the black’ sings Deheza, adding ‘You found a glowing ember and set my world into a blaze again’ as the synths swell and soar behind the vocals. ‘Open Your Eyes’, a perfect contrast with its quiet, ethereal music and whispered vocal breaks your heart, but ‘Ablaze’ puts it back together and is ultimately and astonishingly life affirming. I cannot wait for the album. Check out the audio below.
The basis for my musical life are Dave’s Charts. I produce three charts every week. The Singles Chart (published on Mondays) features current hits, favourite album tracks and the occasional oldie (usually because I have discovered them for the first time recently), and the Album Chart (published on Saturdays) does exactly what you would expect. Songs generally need to appear on my playlists for three weeks before they qualify for entry into the Singles Chart so I have a chance to get to know them properly – before the three weeks are up, new songs appear on the Heatseekers Chart (which is published on Fridays). The current Singles Chart No 1 is Grimes’ ‘Flesh Without Blood’, while Daughter are top of the Heatseekers Chart with ‘Doing The Right Thing’.
As you read more, you will realise two things. First, I love indie music – particularly what I would call ‘epic indie’. And second, I love the female voice. 8 of the current Singles Chart Top 10 are sung by women – and that is pretty typical.
Welcome to Shining The Light, my first blog. My name is Dave, and I am a massive music fan and supergeek from Bromley in the UK. I used to produce a weekly singles chart in my teens and early 20’s – helped by the increased availabilty of music on streaming sites I revived the chart two years ago, and my musical interest has mushroomed since then. Many of my favourite artists and songs get little mainstream attention – so this blog is my own contribution to raising the profile of those artists, and to shining the light onto music that I want everyone to hear.