Rhythm and Views: Best of Reading 2014

We all know by now how much I love to ramble about bands I love so, as promised, I thought it was time to carry on that tradition in the form of my Reading 2014 highlights. If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know I was lucky enough to go to Reading this year and now, with a couple of weeks of sleep behind me (although still with an annoyingly persistent collection of illnesses and bruises), I feel I can properly look back on the weekend.

First off, it wouldn’t be right to start with any other than my beloved Arctics, who unsurprisingly smashed it. My friends and I were right near the front before they came on but decided to move further back so we could actually breathe- let alone dance- and I am so glad we did, as I think such a large part of enjoying a band is having a good crowd (yes I’m talking to you, crappy Vampire Weekend audience). From the opening riff of ‘Do I Wanna Know’ I just knew it would be a good’un; Alex was on point all the way through with his perfectly calculated obnoxious charm and the crowd were lapping up his every word. In terms of the setlist, they played ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ which I’ve always wanted to see live, but I can’t help feeling they missed some of their best hits- namely 505, Mardy Bum and Pretty Visitors (probably my favourite live track when I saw them on their AM tour). It’s hard to compare their Reading performance to seeing them at their own show; the latter was probably more slick and technically perfect, but you just can’t beat the amazing festival vibe and a fantastic crowd ten times the size.

One band who have definitely thrown themselves into the industry head first thanks to Reading has to be Catfish & The Bottlemen, who’ve managed to sell out their tour even before the release of their debut album (I’m still bitter that I missed out on tickets). I know they’re going to be huge, and I can’t be more happy that I got to see them in the tiny Festival Republic stage with one of the best crowds of the festival- complete with a naked crowdsurfer, egged on by the band themselves to “take it off, take it off!“. On straight after Catfish came King Charles, hands down my favourite act from 2000 Trees last year; nothing makes me want to dance more than his music does. Fab music, fab voice and even fabber hair- what more could you really ask for?

Now I’ve always been a fan of Cage The Elephant from their ‘Aint No Rest For The Wicked’ days, but I can’t say I’ve listened to a lot of their newer releases (my beautiful signed Shake Me Down picture vinyl is still unashamedly one of my favourite possessions). The same cannot be said for one of my friends though, so at her request we elbowed our way to near the front and I ended up counting it  as hands down one of my favourite acts of the festival. Definitely will be seeing them again sometime in the future. The end of Cage’s set meant a quick dash back to the main stage for Foster The People- I’ve been wanting to see them live for four years now and I’m still pretty amazed that I finally have. I know a lot of people aren’t fans but I really don’t get that- Mark Foster’s voice is just to die for and everything about their music is so happy, especially at a festival- nothing beats being in the middle of a crowd belting out some indie-pop lyrics as the sun slowly sets behind the stage.

I could go on for weeks about every band I saw at Reading, but I think (know) I would probably lose every subscriber I have, which is probably best avoided. I  just had to give a particular mention to a few bands that particularly stood out or I was especially impressed by- as I said before, any chance to ramble about music is a chance that I never fail to grasp with both hands. As I’m sure you’ve gathered.

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Reading 2014

Oh boy, where to begin? I’m currently curled up with a hot mug of Twining’s English Breakfast Tea (yes this is a recurring theme, no I am not ashamed) and have been pretty much consistently since I rolled into my bed on a very soggy Monday morning; drenched, freezing cold and nursing a sore everything, but having had the best five days of my life. For those that somehow aren’t aware, last weekend was Reading and Leeds Festival and I was lucky enough (I say lucky, but I was the one that slaved away at work for months to be able to afford it) to go to the former, and oh my was it an amazing weekend.

As a first time Reading-goer I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and without a doubt it lived up to the “drink, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” reputation that it has gained itself- perhaps with less of the rock ‘n’ roll with the likes of Disclosure and Vampire Weekend topping the bill of famous faces. But in spite of that (or perhaps as a result of) the whole festival just had such a friendly atmosphere and you could tell that everyone was there for the same reason, apart from maybe the wonderful human outside my tent at 4am whose new friend asked him who he was most excited to see and to which he replied “oh I don’t even know who’s playing, I’m here for the ket”.

For those of us that were actually there for the music, we certainly weren’t disappointed, with my stand-out act being Arctic Monkeys (not really a surprise for anyone who knows me in the slightest)- it was the second time I’ve seen them and I finally got to see them play When The Sun Goes Down live, which pretty much made my year. I’ll probably end up doing some in-depth reviews of particular sets from across the weekend as it is way too much to fit into one post, but my other highlights would have to come from Catfish & The Bottlemen, Cage The Elephant, Foster The People, King Charles and The Kooks, just to name a few.

All in all, despite the gag-inducing toilet stench and complete lack of sleep, comfort or sanitation, it was a weekend I won’t be forgetting quickly- not least thanks to the multitude of illnesses I seem to have returned with that garner no sympathy from my parents on account of being “self-inflicted”. Can’t say I can really argue with that.

Rhythm and Views: George Ezra- Cassy O’

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think summer’s coming. I’m actually writing this sat outside (as far outside as my wifi allows) with the sun beating down and it’s awesome. So  with this unseasonably beautiful weather, we of course need some perfect summer music to accompany it, which this week comes in the form of the bluesy tones of twenty-year-old, Bristol-based George Ezra.

IMG_1773dFor those of you that read my blog post on Monday, you’ll know that I was lucky enough to see George twice in the last week at Record Store Day events. I also met him at the first one, and he was genuinely one of the loveliest and funniest singers I’ve met- it’s lovely to see artists that are actually still down-to-earth and up for actual conversations with those who come to see them. George mainly performed songs from his second EP, Cassy O’ which was released last month, and so I thought that’s what I would talk about today.

IMG_1836There are four tracks on the EP, the first of which being the title track and definitely the most upbeat of them all. It’s unusual though, really unusual. Its lyrics are far-fetched and humorous yet somehow he manages to make it into an incredibly catchy summery song that I know I will have on repeat.

Next is ‘Get Lonely With Me’ which is probably my favourite track off the EP, with plenty of opportunities to show off those incredible gravelly tones of his voice that you only really get to truly experience when you see him live. Especially in such a small place as the Friska Cafe, with the speakers turned right up- the only way to describe his voice is truly penetrating, and pretty mind-blowing.

The third track, ‘Over The Creek’ is another catchy tune that is somehow upbeat yet chilled at the same time, and really just reminds me of summer. The EP ends with ‘Coat of Armour’, certainly the most melancholic with an intro that’s reminiscent of M83 and a sing-songy style which brings lyrics that are surprisingly woeful after the eccentricity of those of the previous tracks.

So I think it’s pretty clear that I’m a big fan of this EP, and I’m really excited to see more from him- I’m especially intrigued to see what his debut album will be like. If I had to sum up his sound in a sentence it would be this: beautifully energetic, kookily clever, unreasonably catchy and oh so very ‘BBC Introducing’.

Record Store Day 2014

First off I just wanted to say I hope everyone had a lovely Easter and everything, I would have uploaded this last night but for some reason I hadn’t considered the possibility that my grandparents wouldn’t have wifi… so that’s my excuse.

What I really wanted to talk about today though is Record Store Day, which as I’m sure many of you know, was on Saturday. For those that don’t know, RSD is a national day where music lovers join together to support the few remaining independent record shops, with live music and special releases from artists who actually care about the cause. It’s a really lovely thing to be a part of as it’s all focused on retaining the dying industry that is vinyl, rather than just being about making money and that’s rather refreshing to see.

IMG_1773dMy RSD actually started on Thursday, when my local record shop (Sound Knowledge in Marlborough) had George Ezra doing an in-store performance and signing so I luckily got to meet him as well as him signing my EP which was pretty cool. I am so lucky that even though I live pretty much in the middle of nowhere, I happen to have an amazing record shop in my nearest town that regularly gets artists in for free in-stores and signing- past events include the likes of Tom Odell, McFly, Scouting For Girls and Spector. This is definitely a part of the reason I think RSD is such an important cause, I couldn’t bare to see my local store go and it would be such a shame to lose records all together, because let’s face it.. everything sounds a hundred times better on vinyl.

On the Saturday itself, I went to Bristol to possibly my favourite record shop- Rise. I met with friends that I made when I was in the Dog Is Dead music video over a year ago, who I annoyingly hardly ever see thanks to the fact we don’t exactly live nearby, ranging from Devon to Cardiff to Leeds! It was lovely to see them again for the day though and watch some great music in Rise from the likes of the ever-hilarious Beans on Toast who I’ve managed to see four times now without ever specifically getting tickets to see him!

rsd purcahasesOf course, we also had a mosey round the RSD releases, although by the time that we got there at about 11 a lot of them had sold out already (the fact that the releases are so limited is one of the things that makes them so special and people queue from about 7am to get in!). I did manage to pick up a 12″ Haim special release of the ‘Forever’ single, which I was pretty chuffed with. I also bought the Mumford & Sons ‘Sigh No More’ LP which I’ve wanted for absolutely ages and couldn’t resist purchasing. After looking round some of the shops on Park Street, which are some of my favourites in Bristol, we wandered back up to Rise to catch George Ezra’s set, which was fantastic even though I felt like a bit of a stalker seeing him twice in three days!

Picture2I had a wonderful day, and I just felt so glad that so many people care about music and keeping vinyl alive that they go to these measures to ensure it doesn’t die under the domination of downloads. Maybe it’s just because my parents own so many records and hardly listen to anything else, but I really don’t think there’s any comparison to the sound they create. They’re so much more satisfying than just pressing a play button, and if we’re going to be superficial- they’re a hell of a lot prettier.

Rhythm and Views: Supermodel- Foster The People

It’s very rare that a band releases a debut album that defines them immediately, but this is exactly what indie-pop heroes Foster The People managed back in 2011 with ‘Torches’. Songs like ‘Houdini’ and ‘Call It What You Want’ became the songs of the summer; the perfect aftermath of a collision between half of the genres under the sun. It was completely original and oh-so-very-Foster; there’s no mistaking those dreamy  harmonies and dulcet tones. Not to forget, of course, ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, the hit that rocketed them to fame and became something of an anthem that even my parents recognise and sing along to on the few occasions that I get control of the dinner music.

So after a success like ‘Torches’ that I’m still listening to regularly 3 years later, it was inevitable that a follow-up album that lived up to or even exceeded those standards was a pretty big ask. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that I’ve hotly awaited their second album to see what they’ve managed to concoct this time. After only a few listens, I must say that ‘Supermodel’ doesn’t fail to please.

The album kicks off with ‘Are You What You Want To Be’, which I’ve heard many people rightly point out has a very Vampire Weekend-esque feel to it, matched with their compulsory catchy sing-along style chorus. The pace slows down for ‘Ask Yourself’, a song that takes you to sunny-beached summer holidays as Mark’s silky vocals glide over the dreamy lyrics. ‘Coming of Age’ is the next song and is arguably the most reminiscent of ‘Torches’ whilst still definitely acting as a move away from their roots- although a move towards what I am unsure as of yet. It seems Foster have used this as a chance to ignore the pressure to fit into a genre and to push the boundaries and find their own place in the music industry.

Skimming past the unassuming yet charming ‘Nevermind’ we hit the real stand out track on the album- ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’. At five and a half minutes, it’s the longest  song, and it seems just like any other FTP song until you hit the fourth minute and it starts to slowly descend into a psychedelic frenzy. And I mean that in the best way possible. This is picked up again by the almost choir-like interlude that comes in the form of thirty-three-second-long  ‘The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones’. Leaving you sitting there confused, no time is wasted before leaping into the opening riff of ‘Best Friend’ in a way which is very atypical of Foster, before continuing towards a chorus and bridge which is much more familiar, yet somehow still fresh.

Following this you find the wonderfully new and original ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon’, which hides it’s unusually thought-provoking lyrics behind electronic undertones and the only track on which their full display of vocal range is displayed (plus I can’t help but note the fantastic song name). This is succeeded by ‘Goats in Trees’, which I have heard many people call the low-point of the album, yet I can’t help but find the simple, almost country-like feel of it rather charming. Not something you’d be playing on repeat but it slots into the album nicely, fully proving that Foster have indeed done some growing up in the past three years.

The penultimate track is called ‘The Truth’ and is possibly the epitome of the dream-like state which the album induces, with layer upon layer of refined vocals paired with a toned down backing beat that is an absolute pleasure on the ears. As if they hadn’t varied enough in the tracks so far, the final track ‘Fire Escape’ is almost heart-achingly beautiful. We finally get a chance to hear Mark’s exquisitely raw  vocals with no pretenses to hide behind; a totally unexpected yet warmly welcomed acoustic conclusion that somehow just works.

So is it better than their debut? I would have to hesitate before affirming this since I loved ‘Torches’ and it still remains firmly in my most-played pile of vinyl, but I feel like ‘Supermodel’ is one of those albums that will just keep growing on me. Whilst I can’t help compare its relatively laid-back feel to the makes-you-want-to-dance aspect of their debut that I loved so much, I’m definitely excited to see how the new tracks will translate live when I see them at Reading in August. So well done boys, you’ve done it again. Not half bad.

Best Tracks: ‘Ask Yourself’, ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon’, ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’ and ‘Fire Escape’

Rhythm and Views: Reading Lineup Reaction

If you were scrolling through Twitter at any point on Monday night, you will have no doubt run into countless over-excited teens alternately fangirling and complaining about this year’s Reading & Leeds Festival lineup. I thought it might be a good first post for me to talk about which side of the line I stand and who I’m especially excited about seeing.

For a long time now, I’ve wanted to go to Reading. Aside from the fact that it is only 10 minutes away from my dad’s house, it’s always struck me as the epitome of a perfect weekend: hundreds of thousands of like-minded people, a fuckload of great music, and a general consensus that everyone just wants to have a good time. Due to being a student, which of course comes with the obligatory lack of money, this is the first year I’ve been able to afford a ticket and to be honest it’s the only thing enabling me to look past exam season and to a summer that I hope will be fabulous.

As is always the case with music, I know that there’s a hell of a lot of people out there that’ll completely disagree with my opinions but isn’t that part of the fun of it? It would certainly be a lot more boring if everyone liked the same thing and there were no Beliebers to ridicule. So of course, this is just my personal opinion, feel free to agree or disagree to your hearts content.

Friday

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QOTSA– I’ll be completely honest and say I’ve never really been a massive fan simply because I haven’t listened to a lot of their music. I’ve heard a crazily wide range of opinions on them so I guess the only way to find out is to listen myself. Failing that there’s always the Courteeners to go watch instead.

Paramore and Lily Allen Visit FUSE's "The Sauce" - June 13, 2007

Paramore– Aside from a brief stint in year 9 when I thought that “The Only Exception” was the best song ever written, I’ve never listened to a lot of Paramore songs but the ones I do know are definitely danceable, so you can’t go far wrong with that. Won’t be rushing to the front but wouldn’t mind catching some of their set, if only for Hayley Williams’ famously great stage presence.

vampireweekend

Vampire Weekend– Wanted to see them live for a long time and I think a festival is their perfect venue to be honest. Very excited.

jimmyeatworldJimmy Eat World– It’s quite coincidental actually, as before this year I hardly knew of Jimmy Eat World, aside from “The Middle” of course, which was one of the first songs I learnt on guitar. Recently though I’ve listened to them a lot more and I’m definitely going to be at the main stage for their set.

courteenersThe Courteeners– Been in love with these guys for quite a while. Excited is an understatement.

drengeDrenge– Saw them live supporting Peace back in December and I can’t say I’m especially thrilled about repeating it, I just don’t get the hype. I think enjoyment definitely depends on level of intoxication here.

Saturday

arcticmonkeysArctic Monkeys– anyone that knows me wouldn’t have to ask my opinion on Arctics headlining, and they’d only have to look as far as my bedroom ceiling for reassurance. This time last year I would never have imagined I would see Arctics live so soon, let alone twice in one year. Since seeing them in October I know how incredible they are live and doubled with a festival atmosphere and the same friends I went with last time, I think it’s fair to say it will be an above average Saturday night.

Jake-BuggJake Bugg– Although I’ve always been a fan of his music and admired his ethic towards “real music”, he’s always struck me as, to be completely frank, a complete dick.Who knows though, maybe he’ll put that aside and give a great show, I’ve heard a lots of good things about him live so I’ll save judgement.

imagine dreagonsImagine Dragons– I know that this band are one that a lot of people have a strong hatred for, but I must admit I do actually like their music- I’m a sucker for songs that are easy to dance to.

foster-the-peopleFoster the People– It’s crazy how long I have wanted to see this band for, I’ve loved them for such a long time and it’s kind of surreal I will actually see them this summer. I just pray that they play lots of their older songs.

peacePeace– One of the bands I’m looking forward to seeing most, since seeing them last December I know how incredible they are live and I cannot wait to relive that.

bombaybicycleclubBombay Bicycle Club– For me, Bombay are that one band that you try to get tickets to see everytime they tour, yet for some reason or other you can never go. Believe me, it’s the most irritating thing. So when I heard they were playing Reading and actually headlining the main stage I was beyond excited, but I fear that seeing them would compromise any chance of a decent place for Arctics, even though they assure fans  on twitter that they would not clash, saying “we’re not that stupid”.

cagetheelephantcage03Cage The Elephant–  A band I used to love but haven’t listened to a lot of in recent months, I’m definitely excited to see them play live. Some of my friends saw Cage supporting Foals (no jealously there at all nope) last month and I heard incredible things about them so my expectations are high.

Sunday

blink-182Blink-182– This brings me back to my childhood so much, with Blink and Sum 41 blasting out of my CD, I was such a nineties kid. I’m really hoping that their set finishes later than Disclosure so I can see them; otherwise I might have to try and escape earlier for some good old reminiscing.

youmeatsixYou Me At Six– There was once a time when I had a lot of love for this band. I must admit that time isn’t now, but I’m still really looking forward to seeing them and rekindling my love. Plus I hear they’re amazing live.

DisclosureDisclosure– Although not typically a great electronic/dance fan, I have a definite soft spot for Disclosure, I think what they have done for the genre is phenomenal and they make the kind of music that means you can’t help but feel happy. I’ve heard from people that went last year that they were the best act of the festival, so I’m happy to see they’re headlining the NME stage. Very Excited.

clean-banditClean Bandit– One of the most hotly talked about bands since the lineup was released, I think it’s fair to say the crowd will be large and I will most likely be amongst them.

1975The 1975– Managing to pick up the Worst Band Award at the NME Awards recently, it’s rather ironic that they are now to play on the NME stage at Reading I must admit. Although I have to agree with the masses that say their songs all sound the same and they aren’t exactly the most original band, I don’t think some of their songs are half bad and I feel a festival could be a good venue for them… I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I must admit though, the way they write like // T H I S // all the time is beyond infuriating.

So that’s it. As you can probably tell I am over the moon with the majority of the lineup and I’m really hoping it’ll be a great weekend- well worth the ridiculous fee of £230 that I tried to transfer from my wages with my eyes closed in pain. However there’s always going to be disappointments and people that you’d love to see who don’t appear on the lineup. So who’s missing for me? Foals for one, I was really hoping they would play and I think they would be incredible to see at a festival so I’m definitely a bit gutted by that.

There’s plenty of others and I could talk about this subject for hours but I fear this post is too long already so I’ll end it here. Hope everyone who is going to Reading is happy with the lineup too, and I’ll see you there.

Beckie x