Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Josh Rouse at Islington Assembly Hall, London - 22/05/13

Two months after his surprise intimate gig at The Lock Tavern in Camden, Josh Rouse returned to London last Wednesday to perform at the Islington Assembly Hall, in support of his most recent album, The Happiness Waltz. Josh took to the stage with a full band to play to a sold-out crowd of 700 fans, a very different atmosphere to The Lock Tavern gig, in which he played a solo acoustic set in a cosy upstairs room in a pub.

Since I purchased the tickets to the gig through PledgeMusic, my friend Steve and I got the opportunity to attend a meet and greet with Josh and watch him and his band soundcheck in preparation for the evening's performance. The soundcheck was like a concert in itself, with Josh playing eight tracks, all of which got us excited for the night ahead, though it was hearing the first verse and chorus of 'It Looks Like Love' that really got my feet tapping, and left me hoping that the song would be included in the evening's setlist. I always enjoy watching soundchecks, as they allow the lucky few who are in attendance, an insight into what goes into prepping for a performance. This one was no exception, as we were able to watch Josh and his band in the setting-up process, from the warming up of instruments to an actual preview of the possible setlist - all in all, a fascinating experience.

The actual gig began at around 9:15pm, with Josh and his band starting the set with early classic 'Dressed Up Like Nebraska', a bold choice for a set opener, but one that successfully got the crowd invested in the music. This was followed by 'This Movie Is Way Too Long' and 'It's Good To Have You', two tracks that eased the set into the more recent sounds of The Happiness Waltz. These new songs sounded fantastic with a live band. Other key moments of the newer material included 'A Lot Like Magic' and 'The Ocean', the latter of which featured hauntingly beautiful vocal harmonies that brought the song to life.

Though this show was naturally centred around The Happiness Waltz, Josh did play a good variety of songs from previous albums, most notably 1972 and Nashville, though it was also great to hear so much material coming from Subtitulo. 'It Looks Like Love' was a particular highlight - after hearing a teaser of the track in the soundcheck, I was thrilled to hear it live in its entirety, especially as it had never been played at any of the previous Rouse gigs I had attended. Another standout song was 'Domesticated Lovers' - from 2007's Country Mouse, City House - which featured a guitar solo that was almost as smooth and enticing as Rouse's vocals. However, my favourite moment of the night came in the form of the four-track encore, which featured some of my most loved Rouse tracks. 'Sad Eyes' in particular was a welcome surprise, as during the meet and great earlier in the day, Josh had informed me that it wouldn't be included in the set. Much to my delight, he must have had a change of heart.

Overall, this has been my favourite Rouse gig to date. His band showed great musicianship, while delivering a wonderfully diverse setlist (though there were certain tracks that I felt could have benefited from a keys player, particularly on the material played from 1972 and Subtitulo). Rouse is a gifted musician whose songs translate just as effectively live, as on record, regardless of whether he is playing tiny pubs, or in the case of this gig, sold-out concert halls.

'Dressed Up Like Nebraska'
'This Movie Is Way Too Long'
'It's Good To Have You'
'Domesticated Lovers'
'I Will Live On Islands'
'A Lot Like Magic'
'Julie (Come Out Of The Rain)'
'Quiet Town'
'Western Isles'
'My Love Has Gone'
'The Ocean'
'It's The Nighttime'
'Love Vibration'
'Simple Pleasure'
'It Looks Like Love'

'Sad Eyes'
'Comeback (Light Therapy)'
'Winter In The Hamptons'

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Franz Ferdinand Announce New Album

Franz Ferdinand have announced that their fourth studio album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, will be released on August 26. The album, which is the band's follow-up to 2009's Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, has a confirmed track listing of ten songs, seven of which were debuted recently at an intimate gig in Glasgow.

This album will be an interesting and eagerly awaited release, especially since Tonight, quite deservedly, received a mixed response from critics upon its release. I think part of the problem with Tonight, was that it was previewed as a heavy departure from the previous sounds of their 2004 debut Franz Ferdinand and 2005's follow-up You Could Have It So Much Better, with the album promising Jamaican influences, along with elements of electro. Upon release however, it was clear that aside from one or two tracks, Tonight pretty much sounded like any other Franz Ferdinand album, which would have been great if the material on it had of been anywhere near as strong as those previous two records. As it is, the brightest moments on Tonight lie in the opening three tracks ('Ulysses', 'Turn It On' and 'No You Girls'), a trio of songs that are perhaps a reminder of what made Franz's music so well liked in the first place. Apart from the experimental, eight minute spectacle that is 'Lucid Dreams', the rest of the album falls short and is a fairly dull listen.

With Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, the album trailer suggests the band may have returned to the signature sound of their first two releases, though it is difficult to tell from such a brief snippet. I look forward to hearing more track previews - and hopefully a tour announcement - in the coming months.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Track of the Day: Satellite - Guster

Released as the second single from their 2006 album Ganging Up On The Sun, I initially found this Guster track to be somewhat of a grower, especially in comparison to the rest of the album, the majority of which I warmed to almost immediately upon the first few listens. However, there is something so subtlety endearing about the song, a quality that perhaps refreshingly, isn't glaringly obvious on first impression, that over time the track gradually featured more and more frequently in my Guster listening marathons. All aspects of the song - vocals, lyrics, instrumentation, tempo, structure - all contribute to an overall captivating listen, with verses that feature lines of "Shining like a work of art / Hanging on a wall of stars / Are you what I think you are" leading into choruses that offer up equally dreamy lyrics - "You're riding with me tonight / Passenger side, lighting the sky / Always the first star that I find". Though, the defining moments occur in the latter half of the track in the form of an instrumental break, that is only matched by a concluding chorus and instrumental outro.