Fleet Foxes have confirmed details of their second album ‘Helplessness Blues’.

Good news comes in threes….

Number One: Locked away in the studio for a year, Fleet Foxes are now ready to release their second album. The twelve track album was recorded in a variety of studios, with the band teaming up with producer Phil Elk.

‘Helplessness Blues’ is set to be released on May 2nd, with Bella Union once again handling the British release.

Number Two: Fleet Foxes have released the title track of the new album as a free download. Stream / grab the song below…

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues by Bella Union

Number Three: Fleet Foxes have confirmed a series of tour dates. Beginning in their native United States, the shows continue to continental Europe where the band will play a series of shows.

The tour finishes with a one off British show, the band’s first visit to these shores in some time. Taking place on May 31st, Fleet Foxes will play the Hammersmith Apollo with tickets going on sale this Friday (February 4th).

Passes will be available from 9am but BE QUICK this is sure to sell out extremely quickly.

Fleet Foxes have confirmed the following show:

May
31 London Hammersmith Apollo

Click here to buy tickets for Fleet Foxes!

“As a kid I was reading every music magazine, paying attention to my favourite bands and I was aware of what critics would term ‘the sophmore slump’. I knew that there was this curse on the second record”.

Andy Butler sounds worried. Sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and in this case knowing the impact Hercules & Love Affair had on the nascent disco revival was almost crippling. Recorded in studios across the globe with a host of guest vocalists, second album ‘Blue Songs’ has an almost palpable edge. On the phone from Denver, the songwriter stops now and then to locate a certain track, a long lost house cut which has disappeared from everyone’s view apart from his. A vastly experienced DJ, the songwriter returns to the decks in order to gain inspiration for his second album.

“I definitely was pushing myself to not only find new music and connect to what is happening currently but it made me look back at my record collection and really find those jams which made me crazy as a 15 year old” he explains. “The first record, people heard ‘disco’ and they really went with disco to describe it. But I was born in 1978 so I didn’t live through disco but I did live through house music. The nature of DJing changed for me in that I was playing bigger clubs with more prominent slots and I had to find those tracks which would hit hard.”
Stepping outside the confines of Hercules & Love Affair, Andy Butler made contacts across the globe. Stumbling across crazy new sounds at every corner, what retained his concentration was the house scene which initially inspired him. Packed with references to the classic house era, ‘Blue Songs’ is sublime retro-Futurism, both an exercise in nostalgia and a continual search for identity. “It is retro, I’m not embarrassed to admit that” he asserts. “It’s funny that people use the word accusation when you’re described as retro, I don’t think being retro or looking back is a bad thing. I think that we embody a new spirit, there’s a new spirit which inhabits the song and that video. It’s not just a complete rip off of the 90s. I don’t worry about that, in terms of making music which might reference earlier days. If you want to call it retro it’s not offensive to me.”
 


Hercules & Love Affair – My House


– – –

Driven by guest spots from Antony Hegarty and trans-sexual diva Nomi, Hercules & Love Affair’s debut album was a shimmering, euphoric affair. Stripped basic down to their basic elements, the collective have returned with a decidedly edgy album. With more street sass on show, ‘Blue Songs’ swaps straight ahead ecstatic abandon for a defiant attitude. Recalling the recording sessions, Andy Butler reveals that ‘Blue Songs’ was driven by a difficult time in his life. “There were changes in my life – personal changes, relationship changes. Friends shifted, changed, left, came. The reality of music as work rather than music as just this passion which I have had since I was a kid inspired maybe some of the frustration which appears lyrically on the record. There’s also some sort of sad, therapeutic process involving thinking about sad moments in my life in general”.

However rather than dwelling on the past, Hercules & Love Affair push their energies into the transcendent power of house music, matching emotional tension to the kick of an 808 drum. “When we were recording ‘I Can’t Wait’ Kim Ann and I had a big fight that day. We went into the studio and she didn’t want to be in the studio so I was like “dude we have a studio, we need to use this I know I was being a dickhead but please channel it into the song”. So she ended up writing up half of the lyrics and if you listen to them they say things like: “I’m always by your side”. She’s singing to me, basically, saying don’t take me for granted because I’m a good friend and you’re really fucking up right now. It ended up on the record, and it’s a very personal moment which she and I had in the form of a banging house track.”

Far from a straight forward house record, ‘Blue Songs’ contains some startling guest slots. Leaving behind Bloc Party, Kele Okereke recorded his part before working on his own electronic project ’The Boxer’. “With Kele, he has a very, very British voice – the accent is very present” Butler explains. “He sings in something of an almost post-punk style, but in the best of ways. For me, when I heard Kele or thought about Kele it just reminded me a bit of Ian McCullough from Echo & The Bunnymen. That voice is a voice I have always loved, and always wanted to put on a dance track. Kele offered the same kind of longing and vulnerability, just a really great British post-punk voice. It just made sense. Then on top of that, which is usually key, is that we were really friendly. We had a great rapport so going into the studio was a joy, so that was kind of what made that work so well.”

Also working under the Mr Intl moniker, Andy Butler is directing his energies in completely distinct directions. Hercules & Love Affair are set to tour later this year, while Mr Intl is a more club-heavy sound. “I wanted to take a back seat, I thought this was an opportunity to create a vehicle, a forum for other artists who are interested in the same era, aesthetic of dance music as I was” he explains. “I wanted to help them get their music out, whether that meant co-producing it or just releasing it. Mr Intl is going to provide that for me. The other thing is that I only really got to bang bang bang when I got to do remixes for people. Hercules & Love Affair albums I want the freedom to be able to write a song like ’Boy Blue’ – a slow song which involves weird instruments and isn’t intended for Panorama Bar or Fabric. So Mr Intl offered an outlet for me to focus on something which would go over at Fabric. It was all about dance tracks.”

Ultimately, this is what drives Andy Butler. The ever expanding universe of house music takes in so many influences, such a disparate sonic panorama that there seems little sign of him surfacing. Throughout the interview the songwriter names specific records, at times inspired enough to hum synth lines down the phone, tapping out drum patterns on a nearby table. “It’s funny because if I go through a catalogue in my head of my favourite records. Why do I love those Little Louis Vegas records? Because there’s just so much joy in there, the uplifting piano riffs and the vocals are just so awesome and make me want to dance dance dance. Then if I go to Chicago I think about Ron Trent and some of the abstract house productions which were coming out of there, it’s like there’s so much depth and substance. It created an atmosphere and mood which wasn’t being explored even in disco. It went deeper, it was more subterranean. If I think about the San Francisco sound which was a bit groovier, maybe even a bit more psychedelic” he reminisces.

“There’s a lot of different reasons. Generally it’s the emotional content which house music can evoke, which is a lot wider than some people think. One of the issues I had with the first Hercules record is that disco was about a lot more than just ‘toot toot blow your whistle, get on the dancefloor!’ House music similarly has a range of emotion in it, you could hear songs which would make you cry. It’s really about the emotional content and how it works on the dancefloor.”

Hercules & Love Affair’s new album ‘Blue Songs’ is out now.

Animal Collective mastermind Panda Bear has spoken about his guitar heavy new album ‘Tomboy’.

With his album ‘Person Pitch’ Panda Bear discovered a new way of writing music. Tossing aside his acoustic guitar, the songwriter began to use a sampler to layer bizarre yet melancholic new sounds.

The results have been massively influential. Helping to spark the wave of bedroom producers who would shape the invented genre ‘chillwave’ Panda Bear went on to guide Animal Collective’s seminal album ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’.

Now the songwriter could be set to change direction again. Panda Bear is planning to release his new album ‘Tomboy’ later this year, which he claims will strip back the sampling and re-introduce elements of guitar.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Panda Bear explained that he began to find samplers constricting. “I think I just hadn’t done it in a while, so I thought it might force me to write different types of songs, and it did. But using the samplers and strictly electronic means to write songs, I just started to feel like I was writing the same song over and over again.”

Continuing, Panda Bear revealed that he was already anticipating a change of direction during the recording of ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’. “I was definitely thinking about it. Even when we were recording the Merriweather stuff, I was already kind of considering songs, parts of songs” he said.

“I would just kind of jam on the guitar, singing sometimes, before I even started writing songs, kind of just seeing if I could come up with little parts here and there – really kind of like scrapbook style. And then when I really started sitting down to write songs, I would often go through these little pages of stuff to see if there were little parts in any of those things that I thought I could make a song out of. It was a long process, it was a long road.”

Panda Bear is set to release his new album ‘Tomboy’ in April.

James Blake is close to releasing his debut album, and you can listen to a preview on ClashMusic now.

Originally making his reputation as a member of Mount Kimbie’s live set up, James Blake quickly firmed up his own identity. Last year the producer tore up the rule book for bass music, stripping away the fleshy meat on the carcass of dubstep.

EPs such as ‘The Bells Sketch’ and ‘CMYK’ demonstrated a unique production style, sitting easily at home on the soundsystem and the bedroom of an indie kid.

James Blake covered the Feist track ‘Limit To Your Love’ as 2010 drew to a close, with the single set to appear on his debut album. Due to be released on February 7th, the album has already gained rave reviews.

Check out ClashMusic’s verdict HERE.

Nominated for the Critics Choice Award at this year’s BRITs, James Blake was also named #2 on the BBC Sound Of 2011 poll.

In a new move the producer has made elements of the album available to preview. Uploaded to YouTube, you can hear snippets from the eleven track release below…

In case you missed it – how could you? – James Blake was our cover star in January. Read an excerpt from that interview HERE.

Listen to a sampler of James Blake’s self-titled debut album, released on February 7th on Atlas/A&M.

Read Clash Magazine’s interview with James Blake HERE and read a review of his debut self-titled album HERE.

You can also watch a video interview as James Blake shares his tips for 2011 HERE.

As wise by design as the persona he’s held since arriving as the first wave of Rawkus’ potential scene savers, the Brooklynite’s latest attempt at delivering listeners from evil grows from same old Talib tattle to glowing earworm. Piling up respect for a staunch allegiance to hip-hop fundamentals, TK’s scholarly defiance and evocative pictorials ride an ideal chariot of soul food, grown man beats that preserve half a hope of becoming a chart-breaker amongst a handful of imagination-firing tough nuts. Kweli’s ‘Rainbows’ are a shining light for those wanting out of a system where booksmarts get bumrushed.

8/10

Words by MATT OLIVER

Robert Plant has explained his commitment to working on solo material with Band Of Joy.

Stepping away from Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant’s career has taken him in intriguing new directions. Winning a host of Grammy awards for a collaboration with Alison Krauss, the singer then focussed on Band Of Joy.

A rolling collective, the group have been known to tackle everything from lost Delta blues classics to the odd Led Zeppelin number. Recently defending his stance on the rock icons’ re-union, the singer has now underlined his commitment to working solo.

Currently writing material with Band Of Joy, Robert Plant intends to continue rejecting calls for Led Zeppelin to reform.

Speaking to The Observer, Robert Plant explained that following his own path remains of primary importance. “It is exactly what I have to do. If you’re a singer, you can never say this is where the voyage ends, the job is never done” he said.

“Once you have got it, you cannot sit on it. I have to try and change the landscape, whatever it is. I have to find a new place to ply my trade, to get lost in another place, and locate myself again. I’m an older man now and so it’s even more important.”

Continuing, the singer insisted that Band Of Joy has its roots in his work during the 60s. “This is the Band of Joy I played in all that time ago, or at least that was the plan: to go to the place where much of the music we were playing in the 60s originated, and play it with these people” he said. “But now it has a life of its own. In the free-form moments of our music, we’re playing a mixture of Indo-jazz fusion and a great gig by Jefferson Airplane.”

Remaining an instantly recognisable rock icon, Robert Plant insists that he savours the democracy of a band. “It’s a great way to see America and a great way to meet interesting people,” he explained.

“But most of all, I want to be on these kind of terms with these kind of people. There’s no point in doing it any other way, and if I did, I’d feel uncomfortable. I’ve got the big name, but I’ve always wanted to be in a band, one of a band. And this is what I have to be to do it.”

Read the entire feature HERE.

Andy Lewis is set to release a new seven track mini-album on Acid Jazz later this year.

Paul Weller’s recent resurgence has seen the Modfather reinvent himself. A true songwriting legend, the singer’s obvious talent is matched by that of the people around him.

In the singer’s band each member has their own project. Members of Ocean Colour Scene, The Moons and more back up Paul Weller, each contributing to the music in their own unique way.

A notorious record collector, bass player Andy Lewis is a talented songwriter in his own right. Releasing a solo album on Acid Jazz back in 2007, the LP produced the cracking Paul Weller aided single ‘Are You Trying To Be Lonely?’.

Since then, Andy Lewis has worked extensively with Weller on two acclaimed albums. ’22 Dreams’ and ‘Wake Up The Nation’ saw the singer move in a new direction, but did not allow time for Lewis to explore his own songwriting voice.

Now the bass player intends to release a new seven track mini album. Due out on Acid Jazz, ’41’ was recorded during the final two weeks of 2010.

“In the space between getting home from my touring duties with Paul Weller in mid-December and the end of 2010, I found myself gifted with a particularly hyperactive musical imagination” he said.

“New musical ideas and lyrics were coming to me on an almost daily basis. I set myself a bit of a challenge to see how many of them I could turn into complete songs before the year was out. I expected to finish about one or two, and put the others on the back burner, maybe forever. I ended up finishing seven.”

The mini album will be released on Acid Jazz, with a digital version available on iTunes from February. The full physical release will come in mid March.

Andy Lewis is due to release ’41’ later this year.

When the future finally came, it sounded slightly familiar.

The opening decade of the 21st century was marked not by ground breaking forays into the future but by a re-evaluation of the past. The rise of freak folk, nu folk, wyrd folk – call it what you will – has produced some of the most fascinating music of the last ten years.

Inspired both by traditional music and ground breaking 60s artists such as Bert Jansch, Anne Briggs and more a new generation of artists took up the mantle.

Describing inventive experiments in folk music across the decades, Jeanette Leech’s new book ‘Seasons They Change’ is a fascinating insight into this evolution. Written with a clear love for the music, ClashMusic has barely been able to put down the authoritative tome since it landed on our doorstep.

As a special preview, we have been able to get hold of a short extract. Containing the rise of Green Man, it captures the British scene at an important point in its history…

– – –

These scenes were supported by a new live circuit, with specific modern folk events growing in number. There were large events, like the Moseley Folk Festival and Adem’s Homefires, alongside innumerable local folk nights that welcomed the new psychedelic and experimental acts. The biggest of them all was the Green Man festival, based in Wales and founded by Jo Bartlett and Danny Hagan in 2003 as a one-day affair at the small Craig Y Nos castle in the Brecon Beacons.

At the time, Bartlett and Hagan were performing and recording together as It’s Jo & Danny. Their debut album, the self-released Lank-Haired Girl To Bearded Boy (2000), was well received and led to a deal with RCA for Thug’s Lounge (2001), but the jump to a major label proved to be a brief, unhappy experience. “We got dropped,” Bartlett recalls, “so we were wondering what to do.” She and Hagan had recently moved away from the hubbub of London to the Brecon Beacons in Wales. “We were living in such a beautiful, awe-inspiring area that Danny, one night, had the idea – why don’t we start a festival?”

The pair decided to name the event Green Man after the folk legend of rebirth and re-growth. It seemed to fit well with their post-London, post-RCA outlook. The event was billed explicitly as a folk festival. “We actually thought it would shock [people],” Bartlett says. “We thought it was like calling something a punk festival in 1976.”

Strongly represented at the first Green Man was Fife’s growing Fence Collective, with both King Creosote and James Yorkston playing. By the time of the second year, interest had grown enough for the festival to relocate to a larger site at Baskerville Hall. This was the year that established Green Man as a central part of what was now seen as a ‘folk revival’ in the UK. The event’s two very different headline acts, Alasdair Roberts and Four Tet, represented
the breadth of the modern folk scene in the UK at that time.

“That year was possibly the most magical,” Bartlett says. It was also notable for the buzz created during a Saturday lunchtime set by a young harpist, Joanna Newsom. “She was astounding, just jaw-droppingly good,” Bartlett recalls. “The otherworldly, wonderful music that the Americans were bringing into it was just a whole other dimension.” (Newsom appeared again the following year, this time as a main-stage headliner.)

With the resurgence of interest in folk music gathering pace, Green Man needed to change location again, while Bartlett and Hagan found that they could no longer do everything themselves. “It nearly killed Danny and myself,” Bartlett says. “We had 2,200 ticket sales, then with the journalists, the bands, the stallholders, guest list, and so on we had about 3,000 people on site. You become aware that you’ve got to feed people, let people go to the loo, and entertain them. I don’t think we slept a wink the whole weekend.” To make matters worse, most of the stewards the pair had hired left their posts. Bartlett and Hagan had to undertake refuse collection duties themselves, while Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s headline set was interrupted by a power cut. “Somebody made a film of the festival that year and they interviewed us on the Thursday, and we’re all healthy, and we look really optimistic about the weekend ahead,” Bartlett recalls. “Then they interviewed us again on Sunday, and we were totally emaciated and wired. I’m sitting there fiddling with my fingers the whole time, talking like some nutcase.”

Green Man moved to the Glanusk Park Estate in 2006, when it was attended by 6,500 people. By 2009, the capacity had grown to 10,000. In the intervening years, the event has moved gradually away from billing itself explicitly as a folk festival. “It’s a very tricky thing,” Bartlett says. “The general public are a little bit scared of the word folk. And it’s more than just a folk festival, which is why I’m a bit nervous of being labelled.” All of this seems to indicate that folk had become mainstream again by the close of the decade, particularly with the rise of indie-folk acts like Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, and Noah & The Whale, all of whom have found considerable success by combining acoustic music with a populist sensibility.

It would certainly have been much harder for these acts to break through without the important groundwork laid by Trunk’s Wicker Man release, The Memory Band, and The Owl Service, not to mention Alasdair Roberts and Sharron Kraus. But what this also indicates is that post-millennial British psychedelic folk was not a cohesive beast in itself. It was only a small part of a much wider rejuvenation for young British folk-influenced musicians during the first decade of the 21st century, and one likely to mix with other forms of music.

As such it was less identifiable, and less tightly knit, than the US ‘freak folk’ boom had been. It caused a smaller media firestorm and spawned fewer derivative artists. What happened now, in Britain and elsewhere, was a splay. The experimental flourished, and the individuals spoke up.

‘Seasons They Change’ is out now

It’s with great sadness that we report that John Barry, gentleman, scholar and towering figure in his field has died of a heart attack after a prolonged period of ill health, aged 77.

Film composer, arranger and conductor, Barry’s work saw him win 5 Oscars during his career and be awarded a slew of additional honours including an OBE, the Bafta Fellowship and the French honour, Commander in the National Order of Arts and Letters. He is probably best known for his scoring of eleven of the Bond films but was additionally acclaimed for his work on such iconic movies as Zulu, Born Free, Midnight Cowboy, The Lion In Winter, They Might Be Giants, The Ipcress File, Out Of Africa, Dances With Wolves, The Cotton Club, Jagged Edge and especially memorably, for Chaplin.

He was born in Yorkshire in 1933, the youngest of three siblings. His father owned several local cinemas and by the time Barry was in his teens he was running the projection box of the The Rialto in York almost single handedly. These formative years spent immersed in cinema were to have a profound and lasting effect.

He had studied both piano and trumpet as a youth but it was only during his period of National Service and after playing with various jazz bands that he formed the John Barry Seven. The band signed a contract with EMI in 1957 and secured a number of small hits which then saw him begin arranging and conducting for other artists on the label, ultimately arranging the Monty Norman score for the first Bond film Dr No.

His work has been sampled on literally hundreds of occasions and influences multiple musicians to this day. The current Bond film composer David Arnold paid tribute to his predecessor and mentor.
“I am profoundly saddened by the news but profoundly thankful for everything he did for music and for me personally,” he said.

Colleague and friend, the director Richard Attenborough was quoted as saying of Barry, “He’s never satisfied with what he does. Every day he wakes up and believes that into his mind and soul is going to come some magical arrangement of notes that he’s going to ultimately either entrance you with in a concert hall or cinema. It’s because he thinks there’s still a peak to climb that he’s a great film music composer.”

Many more tributes are expected to be paid over the next few days to his remarkable talent, good humour and inherent professionalism.