Archive | August, 2015

The Fine Art Society – Music for the Long Walk Home

31 Aug

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Before we get to the profile of The Fine Art Society, let me introduce Conor Davies, the Music Court’s newest contributor. Davies will cover a diverse assortment of music, and, tonight, he has for you a band out of Derby, England. Please help me welcome Conor to the blog!

The East Midlands is a pretty fruitful region in terms of music nowadays. Leicester has Kasabian, Nottingham Jake Bugg, Indiana and Sleaford Mods, but Derby? Not a lot comes from Derby. That’s not to say there isn’t a thriving music culture in the city, one of 2015’s biggest breakthrough act Slaves put part of their success down to touring cities like Derby extensively. Aiming to add to the esteemed list of acts preceeding them are The Fine Art Society, an indie-rock trio from the city.

The trio as it is right now consists of guitarist and vocalist Matt Turner, bassist and vocals Ben Marshall and Max Chambers on the drums. TFAS specialise in shouty vocals and catchy chords which when following some intriguing drumming beats, creates some fulsome slices of rock and roll. The band have been active since 2011, gaining pace and accruing members, but Turner and Marshall have been there since the beginning, and 2015 has seen the two fully focus on pushing the name of their band. They’ve played countless venues and festivals around the region over the years, sometimes playing to a man and his dog, other times filling dancefloors and creating raucous atmospheres.

Two of their most important shows as a band came just this past month. The first saw them make their debut at Y Not festival, Derbyshire, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Primal Scream, Nottingham’s very own Saint Raymond and California rapper extraordinaire Snoop Dogg…well they didn’t get close to Snoop but they were on the same bill! Just a few weeks later, the lads played their home city, at Bar One in Derby city centre, and I was there…

Kicking off with your lead single is generally a ballsy move, but ‘Omegle’ has recently been given a glossy, comedic music video (see below), and it seemed only right for it to be the opener. The song pretty much sums up what the band are about, with frank lyrics, that cut directly to the point, and some extremely catchy guitar riffs backed up by tight drumming. One of the things I admire with the band is their ability to tell a story within 3-minute tunes. They’re often comedic in nature, and you wonder what adventures they’ve been on to influence the song-writing experience!

With the night being the launch of their EP, ‘For Old Times Sake’, ‘Omegle’, ‘Plaything’ and ‘Sadie’ were all strong high points of the night. Most importantly they offer enough of a musical variety in terms of the music compositions for newcomers to the band, ‘Plaything’ is probably a song most young people can relate to, with tales of ‘borrowing a couple of quid from a mate’. Another point of note is the band’s decision to delay the release by three months to allow them to master the recording process perfectly, and you can really see the fruits of the labour that must have gone into the process. ‘Sadie’ is a bit seedier, keeping in tone with the subject matter of the song, but the rawness of the drums and the catchy ‘woah’ vocalisation fit perfectly for the song. Turner’s vocals are strong and guiding as usual, with his throaty rasping quality Frank Turner-esque in its qualities.

The band decided to throw in some covers, most notable among them were their renditions of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ and the unique mash-up of Taylor Swift and Stereophonics ‘Shakota’. The last one in particular is an ingenious combination of ‘Shake It Off’ by Swift, and ‘Dakota’ by Wales’ famous sons, which is insanely catchy, proving to even the most ardent Swift hater, that she can write some damn good pop tunes.

But aside from showcasing other artists work, TFAS also showed off some of their ‘oldies’, as much as a band with a 4-year history can have ‘oldies’ anyway! ‘Long Walk Home’ stands apart in the live environment for many reasons. A) it is one of the fewer slower tunes, with an ability to get a crowd swaying and bobbing their heads B) it’s melodically terrific and shows the lads are musically talented in more ways than their louder songs, such flexibility hints at a bright future. It may be about partying, yet again, but is a much tender tune and does all the well for it. ‘School Days’ and ‘Ticking Clock’ round off the list of original tunes, and take us back to more familiar territory, with yet more humourous, catchy compositions.

By their own admission, The Fine Art Society aren’t at their most complete yet. They’re a band halfway through a big year, their biggest to date, but they have much more promising milestones to come and achieve before they can raise a light to their East Midlands counterparts. But you just get the sense, if they keep working three gigs a weekend, and keep plugging away, they’ll certainly be able to achieve a certain level of success in the not too distant future.

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Grab Your Air Guitars and Let’s Jam

26 Aug

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Ah, the dog days of summer are upon us. Need a way to fight the end-of-summer blues? How about jamming on an air guitar. Yes, you heard me right. The air guitar, which has become a performance staple in places like the car, shower, or karaoke bar, is celebrated every year with the Air Guitar World Championship, which begin today in Oulu, Finland and run through August 28th.

Air Guitar is not all about performance. According to the World Championship, it is judged by a panel using four categories: technical merit (how close to an actual guitar does it look), mimesmanship (how can the performer effectively create the illusion of a guitar), stage presence (how much you can ROCK), and Airness (how much the performance was art … not just moving your hands around an invisible instrument). Yeah, they don’t joke around at the World Championship; you need to have a combination of guitar knowledge and pretend playing skills mixed with the innate ability to bedazzle the stage with moves aplenty.

You can track the proceedings of the 20th annual tournament (yes, this has been a thing on the competitive level for 20 years) on the website.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking. I play air guitar all the time. Just play me some Slash and I’ll be effortlessly and apoplectically moving my fingers up and down an imaginary fret board while miming the best guitarist facial contortions. Do you want to see a professional?

That was almost like a hardcore dance routine, which air guitar pretty much is, as you have to entertain the crowd while wielding an invisible instrument. She employed the outstretched windmill, though, and that’s impressive.

This whole air guitar thing got me thinking. What is the most classic Air Guitar song. In order to come up with a list, I considered some of the most important categories to an Air Guitar song: guitar riff/solo and quick beats. That didn’t help narrow it down. Heck, I’ve seen people air guitar to “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas; you can break out the imperceptible instrument anytime. That said, I’ve narrowed it down to one song, which, in my mind, will always be the perfect air guitar song. I’m eager to hear your opinion, though, so share what your thinking in the comments.

Without further ado, here it is, the perfect Air Guitar song!

A Little St. Lucia before St. Lucia

14 Aug

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I cannot wait to hear the soothing sounds of St. Lucia tomorrow night. No, not St. Lucia but St. Lucia; well, maybe I’ll be listening to St. Lucia. Confused? I think I am too. Let me try to explain with the pictures (above). Tomorrow, I will be vacationing with my lovely wife to the island of St. Lucia. St Lucia, though, is also the name of South African-born, New York-based musician Jean-Philip Grobler, who, since 2012, has been releasing music through Neon Gold Records. So, to announce my week-long sojourn from the blog, I will keep with the theme and talk a little about St. Lucia’s electric sound.

St. Lucia, the artist, has been known to experiment with music, remixing tracks for bands like Passion Pit and Foster the People. He grew up on a steady diet of 80s tunes, and this effervescent 80s sound influences his music. In October of 2013, St. Lucia released his debut album When the Night, and he found success to the tune of the 191 on the US album charts and 6 on the US Heat chart; this success was due to several solid tracks, one being “Elevate.”

“Elevate” immediately features a bouncy drum beat with staggered, reverbed guitar. Grobler’s voice certainly has an 80s flair and the percussion helps the song take on more of that 80s feel. Though, while it does have that almost Indies/80s blend, it is such a mature track, so concise in its production, that it eliminates the choppy feel that some 80s tracks have; I credit his Phil Simon inspiration. The mix of horns at the end of the track is also sweet, and, almost tropical. That fits well! Sweet harmonies, beach beats, and an awesome sound. A little St. Lucia to get me in the mood for St. Lucia. Enjoy!

Josh Ritter is Ready to Get Down

5 Aug

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When I saw Josh Ritter several months ago (just after he finished recording his new album Sermon on the Rocks, which will be released on Oct. 16.) he introduced his newest ditty off the upcoming release, “Getting Ready to Get Down.” It was a crowd mover, a bubbly track much in the style of “To the Dogs or Whoever” with rapid lyric spitting and a funky bass riff mixed with a hip drum beat. Ritter recently released it to the public (July 31), and it has shot up the iTunes ranks, so much so that it appeared on the front page of Hot Tracks today.

So, of course I need to share the track. Josh Ritter is one of my favorite artists creating music today. He blends several styles of folk/rock with intelligent lyrics. It’s easy to sing-a-long to most of his songs, and he carries the title of almost universally creating highly listenable tracks. “Getting Ready to Get Down” is that type of song.

I particularly enjoy the country guitar stylings featured in the middle of the song; it’s a bit different, and it may signal an intriguing dynamic on the new album. But, like always, Ritter’s most endearing quality is his lyric, and this song has a killer verse that I need to share.

“They said your soul needed savin’ so they sent you off to bible school
But you know a little more than they were sure was in the golden rule
Be good to everybody, be a strength to the weak
A joy to the joyful, the laughter in the grief
And give your love freely to whoever that you please
Don’t let nobody tell you ’bout who you oughta be
And when you get damned in the popular opinion
It’s just another damn of the damns you’re not giving”

Talk about bible puns and satirical paradoxes. Ritter tells a message with a punch, a socially liberal sermon from his own personal mount, and I am an eager myrmidon to Ritter’s church of great music.

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