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It's very nearly eight years since the release of First Aid Kit's fully formed debut album 'The Big Black And The Blue', and just over three and a half since their biggest selling record to date, 'Stay Gold'. Rather incredibly, given that this is their fourth full-length album since the Soderberg's emerged onto the international stage some ten years ago, the oh so talented sisters are still only twenty-seven (Johanna) and twenty-five (Klara). Their collective artistry belies their relative youth and manifests itself in such a glorious musical form. They have continually managed to raise their profile subsequent to their initial breakthrough, and have now established themselves as part of the public consciousness with a raft of songs that are, at their very least, seriously difficult to dislike.
Just like your favourite old sweater there is something very warm and comforting about a First Aid Kit album; it's like coming home or being given a supportive hug. With 'Ruins', the band's latest release, you're going to need a degree of comfort, whether it be food, a stiff drink, clothing or emotional support because, despite some of the rhythms throwing you off the scent with their upbeat feel, this is the mother of all break-up albums (if you have a proclivity to be the least bit teary you're going to need a box of Kleenex). 'Ruins' is the estranged grandchild of Joni Mitchell's 'Blue' or a long lost relative of Nick Cave's 'Boatman's Call'; it's got the whole gamut of unrequited love, rejection, loneliness, despair and jealousy to boot. It's lyrically heart-wrenching, at times tragically sad, but throughout a thoroughly compelling, engaging and emotional experience.
We've already been treated to three tracks ahead of the album's release; the country infused recollection of the philosophical 'It's A Shame', the honky-tonk shuffling of 'Postcards' and the magnificent melancholic splendour of 'Fireworks'. The latter is a masterclass of emotive expression that is full of raw hurting and shredded emotions; a track built on utterly real despondency and a despairing sense of reality that somehow manages to be empowering in its brutal honesty. "Why do I do this to myself? Every time I know the way it ends, Before it's even begun, I am the only one at the finish line."
Continue reading: First Aid Kit - Ruins Album Review
It's perhaps fitting that my prevailing memory of this year's Isle of Wight Festival will be guitars. This was after all the 45th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's legendary performance on the Island, something that was being widely celebrated by festival organiser John Giddings and his team across the site. Fender, for example, brought some specially designed guitars to the party for artists including You Me At 6 to play, and there was also a world record attempt for the most number of people in one place to be wearing a mask, the face in question was naturally Hendrix himself. Despite that backdrop, it was some of the guitarists who played across the weekend that demonstrated the power of the instrument and reinforced that guitar based rock isn't on its last legs as some have speculated over the past few years.
The festival got into full swing with a Stones-esque swagger on Friday afternoon when The Struts took to the Main Stage. Their enthusiasm signalled a continuation of their set from the previous year's festival, indeed they are an ideal opening act when you want to energise a crowd. Their appearance at Download the following day, will no doubt have had a similar effect. There seemed to be a Rolling Stones theme to many of the acts getting the festival underway. Over in the Big Top The Ruen Brothers covered 'Miss You' during their rousing set that was well received.
The first moment that sent a shiver down my spine this year was the Counting Crows though. The guitar line to 'Round Here' sent a wave of excitement across the main arena. It was a strong opening statement in a nine song set that featured the likes of 'Mr Jones', 'Miami', and 'Rain King' into which singer Adam Duritz dropped some Elbow lyrics as a nod of the hat to Guy Garvey. If Counting Crows' guitars weren't haunting enough, it was actually The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach whose riffs were the most powerful and elemental of the day. The dirty Blues grit of Auerbach's playing was like a roll of thunder that saw the heavens open to drench the crowd in torrential rain. While much of the set was dedicated to material culled from 'El Camino' and 'Brothers', rather than recent record 'Turn Blue', the band's graduation to a headlining slot was well deserved and warranted. The final song of the set 'Little Black Submarines', which builds from a delicate solo performance to a dramatic climax, utilised every trick in the book for The Black Keys' expanded touring band. If Patrick Carney's drums and Auerbach's guitars are the perfect union on record, it seems their live shows rightly now have the power to command top billing with the inclusion of bassist Richard Swift and keyboardist John Clement Wood.
Continue reading: Isle Of Wight Festival - 2015 Live Review
We preview some of the top acts on the bill this year.
Summer festival season kicks into high gear this weekend with the first big event of the calendar taking place on the south coast. Tens of thousands of people will be heading to Seaclose Park on the Isle of Wight for a bill, which is top heavy on heritage acts that bring with them a sense of nostalgia. While recent years have welcomed the likes of Jay-Z, Calvin Harris and Kings Of Leon to headline, this time round it seems big names with an even bigger back catalogue are being used as the main attraction.
However, many of the headline acts seem to be experiencing a renaissance of sorts. For example, Blur, whose new album 'The Magic Whip', their first since 2003, has won critical acclaim. The former Britpop poster boys will take to the Main Stage on Saturday night in the knowledge that this is one of the first times that UK crowds will get to see this new material given the live treatment. You can expect a set heavy on those new songs, but peppered with all the classic singles, certainly a formula for a memorable festival appearance. It's a similar story for The Prodigy who'll headline the Main Stage on Friday after The Black Keys. Both acts have played the festival in recent years and here they're repeating the joint top billing that was given to Biffy Clyro and Calvin Harris last year. As with Blur, The Prodigy's new album, 'The Day Is My Enemy', has revived interest in the band following an extended period out of the spotlight. Elsewhere, Fleetwood Mac will bring proceedings to a close on Sunday, bolstered by the return of Christine McVie to the band, a set covering Rumours era gems like 'Don't Stop' and 'Songbird' is a strong possibility.
Elton John and Mumford And Sons are leading the line-up.
Outside Lands organisers have finally unveiled the spectacular 2015 line-up for their eighth year, featuring headliners Elton John and Mumford And Sons. The event is set to bring its usual combination of music and munchies to San Francisco this August.
Joining Elton and Mumford are a range of equally exciting acts, both of the veteran and the up-and-coming variety. Man of the moment Sam Smith - whose already bagged a total of six awards this year, including four Grammys - will bring his pop genius to the stage, alongside The Black Keys who released their first chart-topping album last year, and Kendrick Lamar whose highly anticipated third album 'To Pimp A Butterfly' sailed to number one in both the US and the UK last week.
Widespread Panic and Modest Mouse will also perform at the Kentucky rock fest.
Locals My Morning Jacket lead the line-up for Forecastle Festival 2015, as the first selection of acts entice more and more towards a sun-soaked weekend in Louisville, Kentucky this July. The band will also be joined by Brit singer Sam Smith.
Hot on the heels of their latest album announcement 'The Waterfall', My Morning Jacket return to their hometown for a jam down by Waterfront Park this summer, alongside British superstar Sam Smith who is looking at his most successful year yet with four Grammy wins, a sell-out tour and a number one already with his re-released debut single 'Lay Me Down' featuring John Legend.
Andrew Lockwood’s Top Albums of 2014
10) Luke Sital-Singh - 'The Fire Inside'
A mixture of previous EP releases and new material 'The Fire Inside' is a fully loaded debut album from the short listed 'Sound Of 2014' artist. Luke wears his heart on his sleeve through tragedy, torment and failed relationships giving rise to some magical musical moments.
9) Deptford Goth - 'Songs'
The second album from Daniel Woolhouse is a thing of joy that needs to be appreciated without distraction, It's soft, smooth and oh so soothing, it can't fail but to relax and chill you out. If you need to wind down just let it wash over you, you'll feel all the better for it.
8) Perfume Genius - 'Too Bright'
Mike Hadreas has broadened his horizons on this, his fourth album. Here he not only deliveries on his signature piano ballads but also explores new sonic territory to great effect. Too Bright is a multifaceted album full of surprises that never fails to delight.
Continue reading: Andrew Lockwood’s Top Albums Of 2014
Although The House Mafia and Icona Pop may take exception, First Aid Kit must surely rank as Sweden's finest musical export of recent years. The sisters from the suburbs of Stockholm have delighted us with sublime sibling harmonies since the release of their debut album 'The Big Black And The Blue' in 2010.
Klara and Johanna, still only 21 and 23 respectively, are seemingly blessed with an abundance of talent, maturity and craftsmanship way beyond their meagre years. Their music is full of such a depth of expression and emotive dexterity that you can't help but be swept up in each of the beautifully balanced songs. Tales of love and loss, sadness, regret and reminiscence are all delicately set in some flawless arrangements that really highlight and enhance the quality of the compositions.
First Aid Kit really started to see a marked change in their fortunes with the release of their second album 'The Lions Roar'. Their blend of close vocal harmony folk was mixed with a country lilt and given a more polished finish with the undoubted help of producer Mike Mogis. With festival appearances and radio airplay helping to put the band in the limelight and onto the fringes of the mainstream, First Aid Kit established themselves as a formidable songwriting duo.
Continue reading: First Aid Kit - Stay Gold Album Review
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