• Metronomy, 2011, Leadmill.

    Set 24 2011, 19h17

    Thu 22 Sep – Metronomy, Fiction, Alt-J

    When I used to listen to Metronomy’s debut album I would never have predicted them as one of the success stories of 2011. It was great little record (and they have always been an enjoyable live act), but they felt like a band for the moment, rather than a long term preposition. Fast forward 5 years and they are heavily hyped throughout the music press, nominated for a Mercury prize and are embarking on an almost sold out tour. Quite a change of fortunes for the band that, admittedly, played to “about 5 people” last time they visited the Leadmill.

    So where has this sudden success come from? Unlike most of their over-hyped 2006 contemporaries (The Zutons, the Vines & The Feeling for example) they have managed to refine and move forwards, rather than trying to recreate past successes. Instead of getting lost in the post-2006 “ladrock” scene that dominated (and almost sank) rock music, they steadily built up a fan base and played festivals. With alternative music returning back to being more of a cult concern, the stars have aligned and they have released a career defining album. An album that derives it strengths through subtlety and atmosphere rather than by stealing pop gimmicks.

    Online hype is a fickle thing, but there is nothing wrong with being introduced to a wider audience. There is, though, nothing worse than popularity ruining a bands live experience. Back in 2008 I saw the depressing sight that was British Sea Power trying to work up a crowed of people who only knew one song. It had recently both been played on an episode of Skins and picked as “single of the week” in Q. The mix of bored looking 15 year olds and 30 year olds was a strange site, but not a particularly compelling one. Metronomy’s album orientated approach to their new material appears to have paid off. Their expanded fan base seemed equally overjoyed by material from all the bands past earas, giving older songs a new lease of life.

    Their energetic live interpretation of recent material provides a great link between their current maturity and the Metronomy of old. Its good to see the LED lights still pinned to their chests, and glad to see them having so much fun. Lets hope the rest of the tour is as successful as their stop in Sheffield.
  • EMA - The Deaf Institute, Manchester

    Set 17 2011, 16h47

    Fri 16 Sep – EMA, Ghost Outfit

    EMA live
    The Deaf Institute - Manchester

    I recently saw a newspaper headline proclaiming this to be “The Year Of The Woman”. In reality this article was in relation to the chart dominance of female pop stars such as Adele and Lady Gaga, but in practice this could easily be extended to the alternative scene. Lykke Li, PJ Harvey, Laura Marling, Anna Calvin and St Vincent have all produced outstanding albums, with Zola Jesus hopefully soon to follow suit.

    For me, though, the best female star of this year has been South Dakota’s Erika M. Anderson (EMA) with her album Past Life Martyred Saints. The mix of grunge, noise rock and folk mines similar territory to her previous band Gowns, a band who were recently described by Pitchfork (post breakup) as “one of the most jaw-dropping live bands on the American DIY underground circuit”. Hype was high then, and I had a huge amount of anticipation for this gig. And boy did it deliver.

    The most immediate and stand out features of her songs are their internal manipulation of fidelities, the sheer density of sounds within, and their coherence but complexity. I was intrigued as to how this could be achieved live and the answer was, surprisingly well. Her voice and guitar were backed up on stage by percussion, a second guitar and most importantly an electric viola. The interplay between the 4 musicians was impressive, always important when a structure is required in such cathartic songs.

    As good as the band are, and as impressive as the venue is (it cannot be understated how wonderful The Deaf Institute is), it was still EMA who was the star of the show. From imitating the tricks of long dead blues singers (playing the guitar with her teeth) to punk rock posturing, she did everything in her power to entertain the crowed. At one point she announced her wish to pay homage to the “only other music to come from South Dakota” before bursting into a particularly energetic version of Add It Up. I recently saw this performed by writer Gordon Gano himself (with Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah!) and it is honestly difficult to decide who did it better.

    This song was in fact chosen by her fans on Twitter who were asked to pick their favorite Violent Femmes song for her to perform. This type of fan interaction was also present in the show with her proving quite chatty between songs.

    As mentioned before the magic of the evening was further increased by a wonderful venue and a great support band. I would recommend seeing her live to anyone, and her tour with Zola Jesus later this year should be well worth attending.


    (Link to blog and photo:
  • Pj Harvey - Manchester Apollo

    Set 10 2011, 15h45

    Thu 8 Sep – PJ Harvey

    Stepping out just two days after winning the prestigious Mercury Music prize, PJ Harvey was greeted by a rather enthusiastic crowed in Manchester. If she was still giddy from the award, she managed not to show it, choosing instead to embody the sombre character befitting of her recent material.

    Refraining from speaking throughout the entire first half she produced an atmospheric performance bathed in the illumination of only a single beam of light. This proved especially impressive during Uh Huh Her’s “Pocket Knife” where her movement between the darkness and light added a sinister edge to her seductive dancing. When she did speak, her thanks seemed genuine and heartfelt and possibly reflected the good cheer due to recent accomplishments.

    Her backing band included long term collaborator John Parish (who always looks like the happiest person alive) and bad seed/composer Mick Harvey. Mick’s deep voice is perfect accompaniment for Polly’s and weaves the same magic live as it did on record. Parish was as reliable and wonderful as ever. He is often considered a muse to Polly, and it is almost telepathic how they exchange looks when performing together on stage. Rather oddly he appeared to have his own throne in Manchester, which he used for sitting between songs.

    Let England Shake was played in its entirety, but there were also plenty of older songs scattered througout the 90 minute set. Some of the more mainstream fans may have felt a twinge of disappointment at the lack of Stories From The Sea material, but this left room for some great versions of songs from the superior “Bring Me Your Love”. A particular highlight of the older material, along with the previously mentioned Pocket Knife, was a stunning version of Angeline from underrated (and personal favourite) album “Is This Desire”.

    A spectacular gig then, and proof that Harvey is as creative and wonderful 9* albums into her career as she has ever been.

    *Not counting the two essential calibrations with John Parish, and the (also essential) compilations “4 Track Demos” and “Peel Sessions”.

    (Taken from my blog: