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LIVE REVIEW: Sudan Archives, Loppen, 10.07.2019

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Sudan Archives live at Loppen for Copenhagen Jazz Festival

Sudan Archives has sold out Loppen. This is impressive on its own terms, and even more so for an artist from outside of Denmark with only two EPs to her name. But there isn’t a second of her set that makes you doubt how she got to this point. Brittney Denise Parks is a performer

The set is, rather confusingly, part of Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Though Parks has cited a range of influences for Sudan Archives — hip-hop, West African rhythms, R&B — jazz isn’t an immediately obvious one. The violin isn’t generally associated with jazz, but it is central to Sudan Archives. And what she does with the instrument challenges the ideas of what it is meant to do. Aided by pre-programmed beats, Parks loops her instrument in an endless fashion, sometimes bowing it, sometime giving a solid thump, and sometimes strumming it in a way more akin to finger-picking a guitar than the traditional pizzicato. 

Parks works every angle of the stage, whether singing or playing violin, strutting in dangerously high flatform boots and getting the crowd moving in a hot, sweaty mass. Her vocals blur in such a way that it’s hard to tell what’s a backing track (like the beats) and what’s been looped, but her delivery is dynamic. She can be half-spoken and direct as on “Nont for Sale,” but she can also flatten everyone in her path by belting out a note. 

As we’ve all seen many phoney encores, a genuine one can take everyone by surprise, including the artist. Parks has left the stage following her planned (and, admittedly, appropriate) encore, but the audience is still cheering, then stomping, then chanting for her. It takes her a moment to return; again, she only has two EPs, what is there left to play? But she does treat us to a new, beat-driven song. While it doesn’t have the impact of her planned final song, “Come Meh Way,” the thrill of the collective excitement is enough to carry us all home.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2019 Day 4, 06.07.2019

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Lizzo live at Roskilde Festival 2019

The fourth and final day of Roskilde 2019 greeted us with a one-two punch of positivity and acceptance. There’s a lot to unpack from Janelle Monáe’s set on the Orange Stage. Do you start with the visuals? The radical politics? The messages of love?

Janelle’s visual references, like her musical references, are broad. There are nods to Rhythm Nation in both costume and dance, Wakanda, plus the vagina pants from the “Pynk” video. Her walk on music is the theme from Space Odyssey and her guitarist shreds a Prince riff. She delivers heartfelt messages about want to make memories and the need to protect one another (but we have to take her claim that it’s her favorite festival with a grain of salt when she shouts “Copenhagen!” at the crowd more than once). And while so much of her message is rooted in being American — whether or not she’s calling for the impeachment of her president — the sexual and geo politics of songs like “Screwed” extend beyond any one country.

Late in the set, Janelle pulls three audience members up on stage to dance during “I Got the Juice.” One girl is so overwhelmed that she just throws her arms around the singer and cries. Janelle hugs her and gets her to dance (and the girl does dance). All three dancers from the audience are warmly cheered by the rest of the crowd and that, more than singling people out, is what makes this segment endearing. That maybe you really can encourage people to love each other, that you can make a memory, that you can fight the power while making the people dance. 

Before Janelle can finish her set, Lizzo is on stage at Apollo echoing many of the same sentiments. The hip-hop-pop artist has built an identity around body positivity and loving yourself. She’s having an easy time of things; the masses assembled for her have already been converted to the church she wants to take them to. Chants of “Lizzo!” interrupt her between songs and lead to an impromptu singalong of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.” 

Though the enthusiasm of the crowd probably helps, Lizzo herself seems like she has energy to spare. She comes out ready to toss her hair and check her nails, shimmying with her back-up dancers, getting the crowd to sing lines back to her. She knows which songs the audience has seen on YouTube, she knows what catch phrases they’re expecting of her, and just how much she can tease while espousing her mantra.

In some ways, it’s easy to see Lizzo as a next generation Janelle, that in a few years the production budgets will catch up and she’ll be on a bigger stage with more dancers and more costume changes, still owning her own juice, still telling audiences that she loves them and they should love themselves.

Converge live at Roskilde Festival 2019

A run across the main festival area gets us to an altogether different atmosphere with Massachusetts hardcore royalty Converge. It’s getting close to twenty years since their breakthrough album, Jane Doe, but if the band is looking a little long in the tooth they are showing no signs of tiring during this set. Frontman Jacob Bannon channels that manic straight-edge energy by practically flying around the stage, occasionally tripping himself with his own mic cable only to continue hollering from the floor. Bassist Nate Newton contributes his fair share to the chaos, at one point improvising an emergency backwards roll that sees him punch the air in mock celebration before getting stuck in again. Clearly drummer Ben Koller and guitarist Kurt Ballou are playing the sensible half of the outfit, balancing the anarchic energy of their bandmates with their signature math-rock and metal inflected virtuosity.

The Comet is Coming live at Roskilde Festival 2019

Contrarians that we are, we studiously avoid the Cure at Orange Stage, preferring to conclude our Roskilde experience with a set of psychedelic acts on the literal fringes of the festival. Some might be surprised to see London-based trio The Comet is Coming playing at Apollo, a stage normally devoted to dance music. After all, isn’t saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings being called “the reigning king of British jazz”? But just as the Pharoah Sanders-esque cosmic introduction to the set concludes, the stage feels more than appropriate. Drummer Betamax moves effortlessly from wild jazz intricacy to floor-stompers, aided by the synth wizardry of Danalogue, who veers between Tangerine Dream, er, dreamscapes, and absolutely filthy basslines.

There is always abandoned vibe to the last day of Roskilde, and the Comet is Coming have perfectly tapped into it, drawing a crowd to themselves, stealing ears from the Cure with this high-energy distillation of cosmic jazz and club music.

Kikagaku Moyo continue the late night spaced out theme. The Japanese band’s 60s psychedelia is cut through with some serious noise and the occasional noise-maker to add to the percussion. Ryu Kurosawa’s sitar is interesting on a conceptual level as a nod to the band’s 60s influences, but also because it is used in such a way as to not resemble a sitar at all. In Kurosawa’s hands it more closely resembles a third electric guitar in the line-up, one that allows its player to go off on different warbling tangents.

The five members of Kikagaku Moyo have clustered together in a tight circle make the stage seem big, but it adds to a sense of unity and spontaneity, as if this all just came together rather than being carefully orchestrated. The bass sits very heavily in the mix — making the drums seem light by comparison — providing a very clear anchor for each song. The shifts from chilled out jam to hard rock feel organic and keep the mood around the band relaxed, even as the energy in the crowd picks up. The band end on a high note, walking away from a cheering audience that has been vibrating along to one of their sharper songs. They then come back on a few minutes later, sheepishly announcing that they thought their set was only 45 minutes. They are orchestrated enough to pick up immediately and play for another 20. We can forgive an accidental encore.

And so, for us at least, Roskilde ends at Avalon tent again with Gaye Su Akyol and her “peace, love and rock and roll from Istanbul”. The Turkish singer is no stranger to Denmark or Roskilde, having played at the festival for the first time in 2016, and then again at Alice last November. Each time her performance becomes a little more colourful, this time with the addition of a golden cape with which to lead her band of masked players. The rest is a blur of surf-rock, 70s Anatolian psych and garage, the backing band packing serious punch when it comes to the funked up rhythm section and squealing synths. Which is far from a bad way to end a festival.

Interview: Tacocat Talk Touring, Birth Control, and Powerpuff Girls

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tacocat band

Seattle quartet Tacocat have brought the raucousness of Riot Grrl back with a wickedly barbed sense of humor. The band, comprised of singer Emily Nokes, bassist Bree McKenna, drummer Lelah Maupin, and guitarist Eric Randall, rolls feel-good punk together with lyrics reflecting life for girls, whether that means periods, cat-calling, or childhood obsessions with horses.

The band records at a pretty steady rate. Their new album, Lost Time, was released on Subpop subsidiary Hardly Art in April, and it seems like the only interruption to recording is an extensive round of touring.

“We’re trying to figure out when we want to write some more songs before recording our next…anything,” says Lelah.

“You have to schedule the free time, too, so you’re not like, ‘Our next album is about what the back of the van looks like,’” says Emily.

Tacocat are as hilarious in conversation as they are on record. The three women have an energetic dynamic, often finishing thoughts and jokes for each other. Eric, meanwhile, chimes in occasionally, mostly quiet but clearly listening actively to fit in his own jibes. We sat down with them before their show at Huset back in May when, in addition to life on the road, they talked about ’90s TV reboots, emergency contraception, and why it can be okay to read YouTube comments.

You’ve been on tour for a month now?

Emily: This is actually our second. We had a US tour for a month, and then we were home for 24 hours just to take the flight to London. We’ve basically been on tour for two months.

Lelah: It’s becoming a little bit blurry. You guys were talking about Oslo this morning, and I was like, “Nope.” That was two days ago? I was like, I can’t remember two days ago. What was that?

But you give me the details and I’m like, “Oh yeah!” But you say “Oslo,” and I’m like, “No.”

What are some of the highlights?

Lelah: Every day there’s a highlight! Like Sweden was so incredible. We’ve been in Sweden twice on this tour. The people are wonderful to talk to and they treat you really well.

Emily: Shorndorf, Germany was really sweet as well, with food and nice people just being like, “what do you need! What do you need!”

Bree: It’s nice to be treated well when you’re traveling and so far from home.

Emily: The US is not like that.

Bree: The US doesn’t accommodate bands quite so well. It’s like, “here’s two drink tickets for bad beer.” Since we’re a little fragile from touring so much, it’s just nice to have. I think European culture is a little more respectful of art.

Lelah: We played in Geneva, Switzerland. We played this really big club that’s also a cultural center. Afterwards they were like, “Do you guys want to go upstairs? There’s a DJ.” There was a whole other club with a party happening. And I’m like, “Oh, a DJ. I know what to expect: Some dance music or electronic music.” Nope! We go to this club and the person DJing is 80 years old —

Bree: And he’s dancing like crazy to merengue.

Emily: They were merengue records from the 1920s.

Bree: It was exactly what you’d think of when you think of what an old man would want to party to. Everyone was dancing and having a great time.

Lelah: Yeah, it was amazing!

You write really hilarious, smart lyrics. For starters, “Dana Scully” —

All: Yay!

Emily: She’s my favorite.

Have you seen the reboot?

Emily: I have! Wasn’t that good. There were a few that were really good, I thought. Or just well-done campiness. They tried to cram too much weird stuff into the last episode, it’s like a movie.

Eric: That stupid Lumineer’s song.

Emily: Yeah, that was the most ham-fisted music I ever heard in my life.

Eric: Also, longer than the song actually is! They must have looped it.

Do you think it’s Scully or Gillian Anderson that’s the feminist icon?

Emily: I think it’s Gillian by way of Scully. Actually, I think that she made her like that, probably. Because I know that she was supposed to be a sex symbol, and even the very first episode of The X-Files there’s a scene [where] she’s running in the rain and you can see through her blouse. She’s an FBI agent and it’s like, “Hmmm white bra.”

Then both the writers for the show and I think Gillian Anderson were like, “Just make her smarter.” And she’s the smartest person on the whole show.

Bree: This is something really interesting that Emily told me about: The spike in young girls’ interest in science and law enforcement.

Emily: Yeah, it’s called the Scully Effect.

Bree: Because how many role models do we have that are like, “We’re quirky or sexy” — she’s just so straight.

Emily: They went into the hard sciences, and there’s a direct correlation to her character.

My sister wanted to go into the FBI because of Silence of the Lambs

Emily: That’s a similar kind of character, too. I feel like that sort of severe woman — or not even severe, she’s just not hysterical, which is usually how they put men and women together. Mulder is hysterical, she’s not.

Bree: I think that’s what made their dynamic so interesting: I know women with more Sully vibes, they’re always clinical about their thinking, rational, logical. That’s very much not represented like that.

A lot of your songs address serious subjects with a great sense of humor. How do you make a song about birth control like “Plan A Plan B,” for example, funny?

Emily: I think that’s just how we talk. All of our conversations about this kind of stuff are like — we’re not very serious about it together, or in real life, so it’s how we write songs together.

Bree: I remember, we were in class one day, and we were like, “Isn’t it funny that it’s called Plan B? What was your Plan A? Haha.”

Emily: It’s true! “Some guy who looked nice? I don’t know! Classmate?”

Bree: Plan A is, “He’s cute. Let me ask him out.” Then it’s like, “Plan B.”

Emily: You’re like, “There’s no way it’s going to be more than dinner — Plan B.”

That could be a really excellent advertising campaign. But then they tell you that you should just have it in your house, because shit happens.

Lelah: I feel like the only time it was ever in my house was one of my roommates somehow acquired —

Emily: Planned Parenthood would give you like 10 —

Lelah: I think she was going to make a mobile out of them. You know, one of those things you put above a crib.

Bree: There was a while I was going to Planned Parenthood and they were like, “Let me send you home with some Plan B pills.”

Emily: But they do it for every female, they give you two so if you live in a house with more than one woman you have like a gift basket of it.

Bree: But there was a while I was like, “My partner is a female,” and they were like, “Oh I’m just going to give you these just in case.” I’m like, “okay.” I’ve got so many Plan B boxes, I’m like, “Who needs ‘em? I got ‘em!” I’ve had people hit me up, though. I think they get burned out. They’re like, “You still got those Plan B boxes?” — “Yeah, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to go anywhere, just down the block.”

Emily: Dealer.

How did you end up recording the theme for the new Powerpuff Girls?

Bree: Some writers on staff at Cartoon Network were Tacocat fans, and then a lawyer called us and said, “Hey, the writers want you to do it.” He was really funny. They do mood boards, and they were like, “We want the theme song to be like Tacocat vibes.” He was like, “I didn’t know what that was. I looked it up and I found a meme of ‘Tacocat spelled backwards is tacocat,’ so I guess they want it to be like this vibe. I don’t really get what they’re going to do.” They’re like, “No, it’s a band.”

Emily: So we have a theme song now. It’s really funny.

Bree: It’s funny because their composer flew up and gave us sheet music, and we were like, “We can’t read that.” So we compromised. It’s a funny process.

Lelah: It was so weird. It’s the most professional thing we’ve ever done.

Bree: We’re a punk band. We’re not used to working with people who have composers giving us sheet music.

Emily: But he wasn’t used to us, either. He was used to studio musicians, so he thought we were going to be like — click track drums! It has to be exactly 30 seconds long!

Lelah: It’s the only time I’ve ever recorded to a click.

Were you fans of the show?

Lelah: Oh yeah. It’s a great show. It really is. We were in LA on tour, and they were like, “Oh you’re in LA? Wanna pop by?” So we met everybody and they showed us an episode before it ever aired. I cried.

Emily: Yeah, it was so good. It’s really well written.

Bree: I love the new show. The reboot is amazing, and it’s awesome to be a part of it.

Emily: We got to go around and meet every single person who worked on the show, which was nuts. There was one woman whose only job was to draw hands. All the different hands in different action poses of them holding things is all her. There was one person who does all the backgrounds, so she was just doodling, making a couch and a face. I can’t imagine how much work goes into that.

It’s all very high-tech, but they still had a ton of people on deck. I think that they didn’t want to disappoint the old-school fans either. There’s a couple changes to the way their hair ties are, the way their dresses are, and people were like, [gasp!]. It looks exactly the same to me, but as for those nerdy super fans —

Lelah: The day they released just the theme song, it was a YouTube video of just the intro, and we were like, “Oh my God, this is so exciting!” and we shared it, and we were looking at the comments, like you do — you’re not supposed to, but we did — and 99% of them were these really intense fans being like, “What’s up with that bow? It’s different. I hate the new bow!”

“Well, they don’t hate the song. This is cool.”

Bree: I was really surprised about the bow thing. People were losing their minds about these details.

Similarly, the outcry about the Ghostbuster’s reboot from people saying it’s ruining their childhoods.

Emily: You can have both. There can be an old one and a new one. You can choose and you can not even pay attention to it. You can not watch it.

Eric: But there’s women in it!

Emily: Women just aren’t funny.

Eric: Women ruin everything.

DFI Musikfilm Festival 2016: Our Picks

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Copenhagen’s Cinemateket is back with another edition of Musikfilm Festival, a film festival dedicated to music documentaries, rockumenatries, gigumentaries and more neologisms we can’t be bothered to come up with right now. It’s a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes of the music world, as well as a celluloid window into some of the most mythical concerts of the last half century. Behold, our picks for the coming week:

Daft Punk Unchained (Saturday, 16:30)

The festival opens with the (free!) showing of Daft Punk’s odyssey from the brash kings of ‘French touch’ to the robot-headed, disco overlords of today. Expect lots of teasing about “the men behind the masks”, hordes of celebrities quite rightly, if self-servingly, gushing over them, and the burgeoning realization that Homework is still the best thing they ever did. CC.

Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle (Sunday, 17:30)

Kate McGarrigle’s death in 2010 was a major loss for folk music, and the musical family she left behind. Her children, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, have McGarrigle’s influence written all over their careers (sorry Loudon), which they drive home with this tribute concert from 2011. Brace yourself for added emotional intensity from personal photographs and anecdotes, and because no one does emotional intensity quite like the Wainwright/McGarrigle family. AF.

Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay (Tuesday, 21:30)

It’s all in the name, really. If you’re into brutalist architecture, the clanging of metal, and that peculiarly British sense of liberation through grimness, this is the film for you. Starting with industrial legends like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, the film looks at the influences and influence of the genre that bridged the gap between pop music, avant-garde art and post-modern theory. CC.

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (Tuesday, 21:45 and Sunday, 19:15)

If you’re still feeling sad about Bowie, you can find one of a million rips of Cracked Actor on YouTube, or you can sit in on one of these screenings with a room full of other people sharing your feelings. This classic 1973 concert film is young Bowie in all of his technicolor splendor and still offers the right amount of weird more than 40 years later. We’re not saying we’ll cry during “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” but we’d appreciate it if you’d avert your eyes. AF.

The Possibilities Are Endless (Wednesday, 19:00)

Edwyn Collins is the former Orange Juice frontman, Postcard Records founder, and the guy behind “A Girl Like You,” which his been licensed a million times. His role as respected indie stalwart was nearly destroyed after a brain hemorrhage left him paralyzed down his right side and only able to say “yes,” “no,” his wife’s name, and “the possibilities are endless.” Yet Edwyn is still writing and recording music today, and this is the story of how. AF.

Mavis! (Thursday, 19:15)

Mavis Staples is surely one of the perfect subjects for a documentary film: a lifetime of music, civil-rights activism, and a never-ending string of collaborations with the great and the good in American music (her latest album includes songs written for her by Nick Cave, Neko Case and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon). Take a gander and find out just why everyone wants to work with Mavis, and why Bob Dylan wanted to marry her. CC.

Hot Sugar’s Cold World (Thursday, 21:15)

After splitting up with his girlfriend, field-recording musician Hot Sugar goes hunting for new sounds in Paris. It sounds more like a Tao Lin novel than a music documentary, but if you didn’t convulse with rage while reading Taipei you can probably take this too. But I will admit that this film first sparked my interest because I was not expecting to read the names of both Jim Jarmusch and Neil deGrasse Tyson in the blurb. CC.

The Amazing Nina Simone (Friday, 19:15)

Look, the forthcoming Nina Simone biopic is a trash fire that’s already started smoldering. Forget it exists and look instead to this  semi-authorized documentary about Simone’s incredible work as a jazz singer, a protest singer, and a civil rights activist. It won’t downplay the controversy the music or the person; Simone was a complex character of the sort Americans could take inspiration from in an election year. Let’s not let that be upstaged by a controversial casting decision. AF.

Our Top 20 Albums of 2015

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Every December the staff of Here Today meet to decide our favourite albums of the year. It’s an ugly brawl, with scars lasting well into the next Spring. This year, to save ourselves a bit of dignity, we thought we’d ask our readers to pick the best of our 20 candidates for best album. The voting will end at midnight on the 20th of December, but we will be arguing the case for each album until the final day.

[yop_poll id=”2″ tr_id=””” show_results=”-1″]

Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?

When relationships end, it can get ugly fast. Some people lash out, and some turn it inwards. The source of heartbreak on Majical Cloudz’s Are You Alone matter far less than the overarching contemplation of what it means to be in love or alone. The down tempo album of pianos, synths, and solo vocals on this particularly lovelorn album makes it your best friend and companion for rainy days or just days when you can’t bear to face the world. And it’s still got more dignity to it than a Netflix marathon.

Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

Protomartyr had all the makings of the next garage rock band of the minute, but there are already enough swampy vocals out there. What there isn’t enough of is the deadpan delivery that makes this band instantly recognizable. It’s as if that voice has given them license to go ever so slightly off the rails; with atypical narratives and atypical song structures, The Agent Intellect wraps its frayed ends around you and grips tightly. All the proof you need is in the second movement of “Why Does It Shake?” If that doesn’t make it a contender for song of the year, there’s no hope for any of us.

Jamie xx – In Colour

It seems ridiculous that In Colour is actually Jamie xx’s debut album as a solo artist. After two LPs with the xx, producing Gil Scott Heron’s I’m New Here, and countless remixes, finally we have a full-length album with Jamie’s name on the cover. Not that he is alone: xx bandmates Romy Croft and Oliver Sim make an appearance, as well as Young Thug and Popcaan. The result is a bright collection of down-tempo dance tunes with a nostalgic bent.

Viet Cong – Viet Cong

The Canadian quartet’s self-titled album is a soundtrack through a dystopian fairyland (and with song titles like “Pointless Experience,” “Bunker Buster,” and “Death,” that’s not really projecting). Pulled between ambient synths and math rock guitars, pulsed by deceptively understated drums,Viet Cong falls into loops that you could easily roll through for hours at a time without wanting to break out of the cycle. You’ll snap out of it, though, when the faux nice-guy vocals kick in and remind you that these guys have a fatalist streak in them. It’s definitely one of the most exciting debut albums of the year.

Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss

It’s been exciting to watch Chelsea Wolfe develop as an artist, and even more still to see how she’s harnessed the competing elements of her music in new ways. Abyss is her most balanced record yet, allowing her voice to float through quieter arrangements instead of always serving as a contrast to the intensity and harshness of the noise she works with. Songs liked “Grey Matter” hit that sweet spot of letting her voice shine over the aggression instead of in spite of it, but never let us worry for a second. Wolfe can make even the ugliest noises sound beautiful.

Sufjan Stevens  – Carrie & Lowell

Where other albums this year have distinguished themselves in their inventive production, Sufjan Steven’s seventh studio album takes the opposite approach: the instrumentation is limited, often nothing more than a finger-picked guitar, and effects are kept to a minimum. What we are left with is the deep melancholy of Stevens’ soft vocals, and his lyrics of loss. As a counterpoint to this close focus on the singer-songwriter’s emotional state, there is a limpid precision to his playing that cuts through the whole record, elevating it from naked confession to finely-wrought statement.

Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

Noah Lennox, co-founder of Animal Collective, returned with an album that showcases his signature blend of electronic pop and off-kilter psychedelia. It’s all there: the weird tropicana, angelic Brian Wilson voice, the bouncy synths. Noise and melody intertwine until they are indistinguishable from each other, lyrics melt into chorus-laden chants. Some critics have complained that none of this is particularly new with Panda Bear, but when the results are this good, it seems like a rather minor complaint.

Mbongwana Star – From Kinshasa

From Kinshasa to the Moon: this is the trajectory declared by the Congolese 7-piece at the beginning of their debut album. The record label may have neglected to append the destination to the album title, but the rest of the world hasn’t. It’s an often-bewildering journey, full of unfamiliar pulsating rhythms and dark bass lines, that don’t conform to what we would comfortably like to call ‘afro-beat’. Acoustic elements clash with lo-fi synths, the synchopated drums countered by the regularity of the electronic beats. It’s the sound of a big, busy, alien city moving into the future: crowded, idiosyncratic, chaotic and heady.

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Some of us refused to believe that a member of Fleet Floxes could have a sense of humour. But say what you like about I Love You, Honeybear, it is not an album that takes itself very seriously. Josh Tillman has produced an album of nostalgic bar-ballads and folk love-hate songs suffused with bright colour and a sly wit. Perhaps what has captured the imagination of so many listeners is this odd juxtaposition between, on the one hand, Tillman’s emotional delivery and sentimental arrangements, and on the other, his withering treatment of millennial culture. It might be ridiculously mean-spirited, but if Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind” is anything to go by, most people are down with you insulting your former girlfriends as long as you do so in such an obvious way that it ends up biting your own ass.

Tobias Jesso Jr – Goon

Father John Misty was not the only one this year to make waves with some retro singer-songwriter nostalgia. But Tobias Jess Jr is less barroom depressive, more of a grand piano melancholic. Double-tracked vocals, minimal instrumentation, and heartfelt lyrics: it’s probably not a stretch to guess that plenty of weddings in 2016 are going to feature “Without You” on their playlist.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

West-coast rap’s rising star exploded this year with To Pimp A Butterfly. Grandiose yet subtle, rooted yet avant-garde, the album is the perfect distillation of the best of both the old guard (Dre, Snoop, George Clinton, Ronald Isley) and the new (Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Rapsody). Full of the smoothest grooves and catchiest beats, the real strength of the album is how even the smallest details contribute to creating a vibrant, exciting whole. There is a moment at the end of “Wesley’s Theory”—when what sounds like a phone vibrating turns out to be the saxophone intro to the wild jazz of “For Free”— that perfectly sums up the level of creativity, humour and dedication that has had critics call this the definitive rap album of the decade.

Joanna Newsom – Divers

A new record from Joanna Newsom should always be considered a notable event. But if Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly can be considered a defining part of 2015, to say the same of Divers would feel faintly ridiculous. Divers is as much part of 1715 and 2215 as it is of this year. And that is what makes Newsom such a unique, fearless voice, one that can dedicate itself to the research of how humans work through and against time without even a hint of pretension. And an album whose first single opens with these lines is worthy of every accolade: “The cause is Ozymandian / the map of Sapokanikan / is sanded and bevelled / the land lone and levelled / by some unrecorded and powerful hand.”

Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida

Sometimes what makes an album stand out is the reception it gets when you play it to other people. This year Dick Diver’s Melbourne, Florida stood out for this very reason. The sound is instantly familiar, songs distantly remembered from a past life, worming themselves back into your working memory. Those more familiar with the Aussie quartet will point out that the band have already made a name for themselves with their first three albums, but I can personally testify that everyone I’ve introduced to “Waste the Alphabet” and “Tearing the Posters Down” already has these engraved in their minds alongside the best that 80s and 90s indie pop ever produced. And don’t be fooled into taking this as twee: with song titles like “Beat Me Up (Talk To a Counsellor)”, there is a dark, caustic wit to Dick Diver that makes them worth anyone’s time.

Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness

After dazzling us with the dark, swirling chaos of Loud City Song in 2013, Julia Holter’s follow up, Have You In My Wilderness, presents itself as something of a return to the light. Gone are the dark horns and paranoid bass, replaced by harpsichord and dreamy strings. But don’t be fooled, there is still plenty of dark weirdness in Holter’s lyrics and vocal delivery. It’s just that they have been transferred into the bright, white room shown in the cover art. Opening with “Feel You” the closest thing to a pop-song Holter has ever produced, Have You In My Wilderness demonstrates a new, luxuriant side to an artist that will always be a part of Here Today’s personal pantheon.

Holly Herndon – Platform

If there’s an album that would be ridiculous to listen to in any analogue format, it’s Holly Herndon’s Platform. This collection of glitchy digital compositions captures the often-overlooked joys and perils of living through computers. Herndon has taken the Knife’s school of heavily-effected vocals to new extremes, sounding more like a computer that is trying to reconstruct music from a broken hard-drive. If that sounds a little off-putting, one can only respond that this is the whole point, but that is not to say that songs like “Chorus” and “Morning Sun” aren’t almost danceable. It’s just that they re-create what it’s like to listen to dance music on headphones, whilst browsing the internet: fractured, distracted, introverted. And it’s about time that we focused on the way that most of us listen to music day to day.

Blur – The Magic Whip

Since their reunion in 2009, Blur have peeked their heads around the corner every so often with a tour and a new single to make their existence more than a nostalgia trip. The Magic Whip, however, is the first real evidence that there is intention left in them. They’re a band whose members have gone in different directions in the last 10 years and brought those experiences back with them, but remember what it is everyone loves about them. Crunchy, abstract guitar solos? Check. Moody broody ballads? Check. Big, joyful singalong choruses? Check. Any memory of Britpop? Successfully traded for the here and now. Rather than argue that this is the best album of their career, it’s more apt to appreciate that this is exactly the record you would hope they would make now.

Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, Girl

It’s taken five albums, but with Apocalypse, Girl Jenny Hval has finally found a way to skip down the weird/accessible line with just the right balance. The Norwegian singer (who is one fourth Danish) got us all grooving to references to breast cancer and soft dicks, sneaking in feminist and anti-capitalist declarations with admirable wit. Her avant garde pop is a patchwork of electronic music, chilled beats, spoken word and gentle vocals. And yeah, you do feel a little dirty singing along to some of it (most of it?), but a huge part of Hval’s appeal is that she never forgets that the most effectively subversive music is, at its heart, fun.

Various Artists – Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton

Karen Dalton was a literally unsung hero of the New York folk scene in the 60s. She released a couple of albums of covers, but was too affected by anxiety to keep recording, and never shared any of the songs she wrote herself. Fast forward to 20 years after her death and her songs are seeing the light of day, albeit through the interpretations of other artists. While Sharon Van Etten had chords for the title track, other artists had only lyrics to work with, making this album a collection of songs by artists like Julia Holter, Marissa Nadler, Isobel Campbell, and Josphine Foster, with lyrics by Dalton. The lineup alone should make Remembering Mountains an overlooked gem, but the thread of Dalton’s work tying the songs together makes it truly special.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BBNZIKlMpw

New Order – Music Complete

New Order have existed under that name in various incarnations for 35 years, but they still hold a place as the quintessential party band for the types of kids who don’t get invited to a lot of parties. Music Complete will definitely get you dancing, and the loss of Peter Hook means that there’s something really genuine in the laments of broken relationships (and with such a distinctive style, Hook is actually pretty easy to copy). Plus the guest appearances from Iggy Pop, La Roux, and Brandon Flowers also bring in unique sinister vocals, over the top pop shine, and a kind of meta-New Order interpretation respectively.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett is one of those artists that you really feel you could be friends with. She has no trouble relating the mundane in life with a dry delivery and a sense of humor that holds your interest. On Sometimes, she’s learned to use that voice to convey a deeper sense of ennui, as on “Depreston” and even hint at unexpected emotions other than boredom in “Dead Fox” before amping things back up with “No One Really Cares If  You Don’t Go to the Party.” And that’s really why Courtney Barnett could be our pal; she’ll tell crazy stories and entertain a full room, but probably spend the next two weeks hiding at home. We can get behind that.

Roskilde Festival: Day 4

in Blog/Live Reviews by

Girl Band (Pavilion)

There are some bands that are compelling for the racket they make rather than the performance they give, and Girl Band are one such band. The four boys from Dublin play loud, blistery post-punk of questionable aptitude — not a lot of proper chords, and lots of beer bottle slides — with curiously serene expressions on their faces. Their singer has perfected both a throaty yowl and a pose where he grabs hold of the mic stand and pops his hip at a sharp upright angle. Aside from his constant, aggressive tugging at his shirt, it’s all very casual. Even the between-song chatter betrays a friendliness or at least an as-yet undeveloped ability to talk to the audience without breaking character. But it doesn’t matter how chilled out they look when they play or harmless they seem when they talk when there’s a constant thud-thud-thud making people give themselves whiplash while standing in place. — AF

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Joanna Gruesome (Pavilion)

To the casual observer Joanna Gruesome’s lightning-fast set at Pavilion is simply a welcome moment of fun, noisy jangle-pop from an impressively down-to-earth band. But simply counting the people on stage is indication enough that something up: billed as a five piece, today Joanna Gruesome consists of six people. Behind the feedback and sweet melodies there is the story of frontwoman Alanna McArdle’s departure of the ban–citing mental health issues–and the subsequent inclusion of Kate Stonestreet and Roxy Brennan. But other than being a little cramped on the small stage, everyone is working well together. The three vocals work well, melding sweetness with harshness in tandem with the guitars. Later on in the day we learn that this is their second-ever gig as a six-piece, which explains some of the initial awkwardness, but mainly proves the dedication every band member, new and old, to succeeding in spite of adversity. — CC

chelsea wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe (Gloria)

The slightly oppressive darkness of Gloria seems to suit Chelsea Wolfe, adding another surreal texture to her brooding, quasi-doom compositions. Drawing from material from her 2013 album, Pain is Beauty, Wolfe and her band do a good job of making you forget the sun outside. Guitars drone and snarl under her delicate vocals, while the drumming is absolutely impeccable. On songs like “House of Metal” they appear to contract and expand the time of the song, resulting in a hypnotising series of rhythmic waves.

Wolfe herself is on the quiet and reserved side, thanking the audience a couple of times, but otherwise remaining within her aloof persona. Then again, hers is an act that draws precisely on that theatricality. A real standout moment is the song “Iron Moon”, which manages to sound more like PJ Harvey than most recent PJ Harvey records do. It sounds like a lazy analogy, but those vocals are pure Polly Jean, and at any rate, the guitar tone alone is enough to earn Chelsea Wolfe a reputation as a must-see performer. — CC

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Deafheaven (Pavilion)

As the bassline of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”—the runt of the White Album, and possibly the worst thing McCartney has ever done—wafts over from Orange stage, Deafheaven have come to provide some welcome relief. The San Franciscan five-piece has been a mainstay of hip European festivals for the last two years, bridging the gap between black metal and shoegaze revival, and gathering considerable critical praise. Their set at Beta last year confirmed their reputation as an intense and skilled live act.

As they tear through material from Sunbather and Roads to Judah, the band demonstrate themselves to be the perfect act to help push us into the small hours: intensely energetic, uplifting in a gently melancholic sort of way. Slow instrumental tracks like “Irresistible” allow a little Red House Painters-esque reprieve from an otherwise blistering set. Frontman George Clark is in fine form, throwing himself into the crowd, beating his chest and contorting his face into grimaces that fail to disguise his boy-band looks.

But as usual it is the compositions of Kerry McCoy and the effortlessly precise drumming of Daniel Tracy that really stand out. And sure, sometimes the songs do sound quite a lot like Slowdive, but is that really such an awful criticism? — CC

Myrkur (Pavilion)

It’s a tall order for a band to make their live debut at a festival the size of Roskilde, but that is what Amalie Bruun, the woman behind Myrkur, has done. The project is described as black metal, but Bruun has done a good job prettying things up; she has a strong, beautiful soprano and is backed by a chorus of women. It’s in sharp contrast to the machine-like drums and fractal short circuiting of the guitars. Bruun holds her own as a screamer as well, and her dual-microphone stand encased in a tree branch is delightful in its own right.

There are the usual first show glitches, and it’s understandably not the tightest set. Though Paul McCartney is still playing through her set, Pavilion is full. Perhaps the only way to compete with a living legend is to put up a hometown girl backed by a choir of hometown girls. — AF

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Africa Express (Arena)

Africa Express–less a band than a mini-festival in itself–is a chance to catch a lot of bands such as Songhoy Blues and Jupiter and Okwess International who performed earlier in the festival, as well as trying to spot celebrity guests amongst the line-up. Spotting Graham Coxton in the wings messing around with a Telecaster instantly upped the excitement of these two Blur fans.

There are times when the camera pans to Albarn when it really could have stayed focused on other performers or DJs. It’s a subtle reminder of who is considered the priority instead of who is ostensibly the star of the show.

Ultimately, we couldn’t make it through the set, checking out sometime in its fifth hour. It was disappointing, because it was exactly the kind of late night party you want to end a festival with, and as we hear more and more about the artists and songs we missed out on. But if this train rolls through again as an evening with Africa Express, we’ll be at the front of the queue. — AF

PLAYLIST: Here Today Listening

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We are debuting “Here Today Listening“, a weekly-updated playlist for which we pick out the 7 tracks from recently released or upcoming albums that we have been obsessing over the most. Follow us on Spotify and stay updated on the best tracks of the week.

Father John Misty – “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow”

The second studio album from Father John Misty, the moniker of Baltimore-born singer-songwriter and former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman, has received high praise from critics around the world. Witty songwriting and lush melodies are at the center of this album. Lilting sadly like a barroom ballad, “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” shifts from lapsteel guitar to strings, and even a jazzy clarinet solo. But when it comes to Father John Misty, it’s all about the cynical one-liners: “She blackens pages like a Russian romantic/ Gets down more often than a blowup doll.”

Darren Hayman – “May Day 1894”

Darren Hayman, formerly of the band Hefner, is no stranger to history concept albums. In the summer of 2013 Hayman released Bugbears, the last album in his trilogy about 17th century Essex. Two years later he is back with a new concept album that rewrites an old arts & crafts pamphlet by nineteenth-century polymath William Morris. The result, Chants for Socialists, is collection of beautifully crafted songs that are as relevant now as they where more than hundred years ago.

Marika Hackman – “Animal Fear”

In the music press you are more likely to hear about Marika Hackman’s privileged background and famous model friends than her music, but the London-based singer-songwriter lush and down-tempo take on alt-folk doesn’t need any such context. Her latest single, taken from her debut album, We Slept At Last, balances laid-back vocals with ponderous drums, poised like a cat ready to spring.

Blur – “Go Out”

We still have two months to way before the release of The Magic Whip, Blur’s first album in 12 years. Judging by “Go Out”, the supposed “Asian” theme of the album is thankfully limited to artwork and lyrics, rather than the cultural insensitivity of Siouxsie and the Banshees “Hong Kong Garden”. The single features a cheeky bass-line, care of Alex “the smug cheese man” James, noisy guitars from Graham Coxton, and Damon Albarn singing about onanism “at the local.”

The Pop Group – “Mad Truth”

The comeback of the year aware has to go to The Pop Group, not just for the length of time between album releases (35 years), but also for the power of this belated punch to the face. Citizen Zombie might be a little more accessible than their 1979 debut, Y, but the same manic energy is apparent. “Mad Truth” is a gorgeous piece of violent disco funk, proving frontman Mark Stewart has lost none of his confrontational attitude.

Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”

The Australian singer-songwriter came to critical attention with the release of her double EP in 2013, full of laid-back Americana-influenced jangle. “Pedestrian at Best” substitutes that slacker image with grungy riffs and a witty barrage of lyrics (“I think you’re a joke but I don’t find you very funny”). It’s a promising taster of her upcoming album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, due at the end of March.

Screaming Females – “Ripe”

Speaking of grunge, New Jersey’s Screaming Females are back with the scorching Rose Mountain. Thanks to the production of Mat Bayles, the band’s sixth studio album has a decidedly stoner-rock flavour, full of chugging bass-lines and fat guitar tones. Marissa Paternoster’s vocals punch through the noise, adding a brilliant demented edge to the already manic tones of songs like “Ripe”.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Angel Olsen, Lille Vega, 17.09.2014

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After experiencing Angel Olsens last performance at Ideal Bar HT writer Amanda Farah forecasted that she wouldn’t be playing a small venue like that again. She was right. Tonight, Olsen is standing higher from the ground on the stage of Lille Vega. When looking at the solid mass of people huddling in front of the stage curtain, the stage-upgrade seems like a wise decision.

Already from the second track ‘Hi-five’ Olsen reveals her impressive voice – effortlessly sliding through her vocal register she instantly mutes every talking head in the crowd. The honesty is shattering when she sings, and though you could make a list of musical references, it’s unnecessary since she is very much her own. But not only while singing. The laughing and smiling between the songs is natural and shows a charming soul. Maybe it’s the drinks from the day before that made her so easy going, however she seems strangely unaffected by the fact that she’s actually playing a show. And the same thing goes for the drummer who sneaks up his phone from behind the drum kit to take a picture. “Josh! We’re doing a show, dude!” Olsen laughs.

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Bursting into another song from the newest album Burn Your Fire For No Witness, the performance of ‘Stars’ convinces me that the band is not only a bunch of soft ballad-ambassadors. The song is crafted with a great sense of songwriting and executed with sharp accuracy. And Olsens lyrics are equally sharp and precise in their brevity. Combined with her numb facial expressions the words gain further meaning when she sings “To scream the feeling until there’s nothing left”. A feeling that a couple of younger girls at stage edge seem to relate to – with their gazes fixed on Olsen the helplessly frustrated girl mind is reflected in their faces.

angel-olsen-0290

But Angel Olsen’s fan base does not only consist of young girls with their hearts broken – I see plenty of older people as well as guys like myself, who have been mesmerised by the voice of the angel (or the positive critical acclaim – after all we are herd animals). With a distorted veil blurring the guitars, hit single ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ shows the band from a raspy and dirty side. It’s a short and effective two-verse rock tune that reaches into a noisy climax, before the band leaves Olsen alone on stage to sing the last song.

The lights are turned on as a signal for us to leave, and I’m already standing in the door way as the band comes back on stage. A cover version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ certainly surprises me, but if someone ever is to deal with an old classic like that, Angel Olsen is definitely worthy.

LIVE REVIEW: Pharrell Williams, Forum, 12.09.14

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Pharrell Williams is like a Zen guru for thirteen year olds. He looks into the audience with a deep, brooding passion whilst the weird bunch of keys on his jeans clatters around him. He makes the heart shape with his hands repeatedly and likes to offer little nuggets of wisdom and philosophy to his audience members. The relentless expressions of gratitude are as predictable as you’d expect, but over the course of the concert, the verbal and spiritual connection with his audience changes from affected to genuine.

‘Come Get it Bae’ is the first track to play in the sold-out Forum. His bow at the end is solemn and serious, although the expression does seem somewhat at odds with his reputation as a man famed for his happiness. This is followed by ‘Frontin”, one of Williams’ multiple Jay-Z collaborations. After a few more tracks from the artist’s latest solo album G I R L, released earlier this year, Williams stops and addresses the audience with his first inspirational quote of the night. “I’m so happy to be in a room full of people who love the world, and their lives, and being different, other. We’re gonna go something different tonight. We’re gonna play some songs that I had something to do with, because you made them hits and I was lucky enough to tag along.” This translates into a medley of the best pop tracks of the 00s, songs produced by The Neptunes, of which Williams forms one half. ‘Hot in Herre’, ‘Milkshake’, ‘I’m a Slave 4 U’ and ‘Shake Ya Ass’ all feature. Williams’ live contribution to this medley is minimal, and it’s a pattern that gets repeated at intervals. ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ and, in the encore, ‘Hollaback Girl’ are played to the common delight of audience members. This is not a solo concert as such, but a playlist of top 40 hits for which Pharrell doesn’t really need to be present at this post production stage. But as someone who is usually at best bored and at worst irritated by the artist’s solo work, I’m glad the chart hits are there.

“What we have to recognise tonight is that in this life, for everything that happens, there are many variables.” Whoopie! More nuggets of Pharrell wisdom! “Many years ago I was involved in something called N*E*R*D.” At this point my ears pricked up. A few minutes later and Williams is performing ‘Lapdance’ with fellow N*E*R*D member Shae Haley. “N*E*R*D for eva!” says Pharrell, with yet another hand heart sign pinned to his chest.

But as cringe worthy as all that stuff is, it seems to come genuinely from the heart. For his encore, Pharrell plays ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Get Lucky’ before turning to ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’ and ‘Happy’. These are songs that, over the past year, even if you were a larvae that lived under a rock in the depths of the Amazon, you’d have had difficulty avoiding. These songs are the latest chapter in a career that has lasted over twenty years and made Pharrell one of the most important men in pop and R&B. And for the very first time since its release, I actually enjoy ‘Happy’. “Who here is sick of feeling afraid of what comes to them on their phone and tablet and TV in the news?” he asks. “You’re not going to be afraid anymore… because the best way to kill fear is what?” The audience responds with deafening volume: “BE HAPPY”. Whilst the artist performs an extended version of the track, he invites a little boy from the audience onto the stage. When Pharrell reaches the chorus, the boy starts performing the worm dance move. Canons fire confetti. You’d have to be an icy person not to find this a surprisingly beautiful and moving experience. This artist doesn’t just spurt out a load of bullshit for the sake of it; he seems to believe every word, and really is a joyful, believe-in-yourself kind of guy. Maybe I was emotionally manipulated by the confetti, but whatever. I’m converted. I like Pharrell now, and I came home happy.

 

Roskilde Festival 2014: Friday 4th July

in Live Reviews by

Photo by Tom Spray

Connan Mockasin

I can’t watch Connan Mockasin without thinking, ‘this guy is creepy as fuck’. Maybe it’s the haircut, or the glasses, or the weird pyjama waistcoat combo, or that smile, but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly because I keep having flashbacks to his video for ‘I’m The Man, That Will Find You’, where he stalks a woman around her house and then when they meet it’s all very uncomfortable, like a 70s soft porn. And although the Pavillion doesn’t have quite the same soft lighting scheme, it’s still an awkward experience to watch him. But at moments, I set my awareness of rape culture to one side, and appreciate the brilliant pop-psychedelia of Connan Mockasin’s echoing, twang guitar and overly vocoded falsetto over the bass on the track, and it’s suddenly a far more pleasureable watch. But it’s also massively repetitive, and combined with the unspeakably hot weather outside the tent, gives everyone a pounding headache. Connan Mockasin manages to compel the audience with his seductive tones, but wholly engaging them is a different prospect.

HT

Connan Mockasin (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Warpaint

Warpaint are cooler than you will ever be. With baggy t-shirts, pink hair and hotpants, they look like the poster girls for the Coachella look, which combined with their heavy dose of talent and skill, and desire to be sexy in sound and persona, puts them in control of their set like it’s a ball of putty. They pull you into a punch-drunk state of awe with dizzy, whirling melodies and effortless vocals that slip and slide through golden high pitched moments, and low, more brooding vocals. Frontwoman Theresa Wayman asks the Danes to party and clap, then tells her audience and band members that it was “the sexiest clap” she’d ever seen. They then move into the shiveringly good harmonies of ‘Undertow’, shredding on a single note, with the stage lights behind flashing up with a matching velocity. ‘Intro’ from their eponymous, sophomore album is played mid-way through the set rather than at the start, making the music feel continuous rather than disjointed. Wayman then starts making cat claws during the chorus of ‘Love is to Die’, then immediately laughs them off; she’s relaxed, comfortable, effortless, and hypnotisingly beautiful to watch and listen to.

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

HT

 

Haim

Haim are like the big sisters every ten year old girl dreams about, who want to teach you how to play the guitar and the drums and tell you to not care what other people think. Their live drummer plays a low, rumbling line in anticipation before Danielle, Alana and Este run and jump onto the stage like a group of excited puppies (probably a long haired breed. They shake their hair A LOT). After opening with ‘Falling’, the girls move into ‘If I could Change Your Mind’, shredding to the end. They then take a pause to ask permission to jam like they’re at home, as “Roskilde is our home now.” The crowd goes nuts. Este pulls the most fantastic bass faces throughout the set. For reference, see the Jenna Marbles video ‘How To Avoid Talking To People You Don’t Want To Talk To’, add some jerking chicken neck, and you get the idea. Alana ‘Baby’ Haim looks confused, potentially stoned, and when she does open her mouth, has a voice so squeeky it’s hard to decipher what she’s saying. But her skills as she rotates from drums, guitar and keyboard mid-way through tracks suggest that she knows exactly what she’s doing. As the set draws to an end with ‘Let Me Go’, each member bounds over to a large tom-tom and smashes it in time for a drumming trio. The stage explodes with silver confetti, the crowd cheers, and the chirpiest girls in California depart.

Haim (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Haim (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Haim (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

HT

Deftones

The only survivors of 90s “nu-metal”, and for good reason, Deftones have something of a split personality: on record they can be dark, introspective, full of subtleties to balance the heaviness of the guitars; live, subtlety goes flying off the stage. Frontman Chino Moreno bounces up and down as if the stage were a trampoline, simultaneously attempting autoerotic asphyxiation with his microphone cord.  This, combined with jaunty banter and Chino’s Beyoncé t-shirt, proves that Deftones have developed an effective, if rather blunt, formula for playing festivals. Songs like “My Own Summer (Shove It)” are made for places like this, full of exaggerated swagger. It might not be enough to fill the field in front of Orange Stage, but with the likes of Haim and Damon Albarn playing at Arena, it is significant.

CC

Deftones (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Deftones (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Deftones (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

 

Damon Albarn

There are two Damon Albarns: cheeky Damon and mopey Damon. You see the latter in interviews all the time, looking a bit wistful, a bit troubled, singing songs that largely reflect what Blur said in 1993: modern life is rubbish. I don’t know where that guy was on Friday, but he wasn’t in Denmark. Instead we got Damon the cockney lad, grinning so broadly you could see his gold tooth from half a mile away. Whatever you might think of Damon’s solo record, Everyday Robots, there is very little of that downbeat meditative quality to the set. Arena is jam-packed and Damon & co. are happy to oblige the mood of the crowd with a set that spans Damon’s career almost in its entirety: Blur, Gorillaz, The Good, the Bad and the Queen, even Rocket Juice & the Moon, his collaboration with Flea and Tony Allen.

By the time the band gets to “El Mañana” and “Out of Time”, this is already one of the great Roskilde gigs. Damon drenches photographers with water, discusses the differences between British and Danish princes, tells us of his Danish ancestry, and generally has a good time. But as the encore reveals, he has a few surprises in store. The band launches into “Clint Eastwood” as Damon introduces Kano, the London-based rapper who had a guest spot on Plastic Beach. It’s the moment when the set moves up a notch into proper crowd-pleasing frenzy. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a great closer for the set, but not so. Damon has another set of friends to play with. They’re in a little group called De La Soul, perhaps you’ve heard of them? It’s a moment of genuine surprise and excitement as the newly augmented band launch into “Feel Good Inc.” and from this moment on it is sealed: for today at least, this is the highlight.

CC

Damon Albarn (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Damon Albarn (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Damon Albarn (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Darkside

No one really sees Darkside. Appropriately to their name, the duo spend their entire set in the shadows, only emerging as silhouettes when the lights behind them flare up. Avalon is packed with people awkwardly swaying along to a ten minute simmering overture. I suppose this is the one set that I was most curious about on this day. Having enjoyed their debut’s brooding, low-key menace, full of muted vocals and Chris Rea-style (ask your parents about him, they’ll know) slide guitar, it wasn’t immediately apparent how Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington were going to translate this into a festival setting. The answer is by emphasising a very basic, heavy, four-on-the-floor drum beat. The crowd was certainly jumping, but the effect was to turn these wrought soundscapes into dance tracks that bordered at times on the formulaic.

CC

Darkside (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Darkside (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Future Islands

Respect to those lucky people who managed to get into the Avalon tent to see Future Islands. Those of us who calmly strolled in fifteen minutes before the beginning were confronted with an ocean of people in the field outside of the tent, trying to peer in. Everyone wants to catch a glimpse of Samuel T. Herring’s already semi-legendary dance moves. If Future Islands are overwhelmed by all this, it certainly doesn’t hinder their playing. Herring invites people to crowd-surf, although we cannot confirm that anyone took him up on the offer. Instead he likes telling us what the songs are about, which would be a mark of awful pretension if it weren’t done with such openness. The great quality of the band is to sound unaffected and completely theatrical at the same time. Songs like “A Dream of You and Me”, “A Song for Our Grandfathers”, “Doves”, are instant synth-pop classics, full of bounce, poise and precision. But if we are going to be honest with each other, it is obvious that most people are at the gig for one song, and one song only. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” is not a fast song, but it comes on like a rush. Herring growls and wails does his dad-dance and mimes the song in sweeping gestures. Though at the back, you had to imagine this more than you could watch it.

CC

Future Islands (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Darkside (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Future Islands (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Future Islands (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Future Islands (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

CC = Charlie Cassarino
HT = Helen Thomas

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