Tag Archives: Americana

Glowing House: ‘Taming Lions’ single (“beating time on a tumbledown shack”)

12 May

Out at the helm of Glowing House, Steve Varney is raw, ruffled, hollering and sounds born to run. This is just as well. Trouble is hot on his tail. “I don’t think there is a gauge that will save me – / somehow they overpower gunpowder, like it’s easy…”

The head-up single for the second Glowing House album, Taming Lions is all about the incipient, savage disaster that’s just about to crash down on Steve’s head. The band’s fall-apart folky acoustic noise catches the feeling perfectly. They sound like the kind of band which survives credit crunches, small nuclear wars and the collapse of most of the functional parts of civilization. You can see yawing flashes of light straight through the gaps in the barefoot, wind-tossed rhythms.

Besides the cluck and clunk of Steve’s banjo, the song’s a superb stomping wobble of school piano, Salvation Army brass, foggy rasps of accordion and dirty cello, and someone beating time on a tumbledown shack with a handful of big sticks. (I checked back on this – it’s actually a third of the band playing on church pews. Talk about muscular Christianity…) At the top of his carrying, celebratory bruise of a voice, Steve’s making it quite clear that he’s stuck in a rigged and increasingly dangerous game. “They gave me a ten-minute head start, and they started counting. / I need a top-notch hiding spot I can hide out in. / Don’t be fooled they’ll give you space in the chase for a reason – / they wait for the perfect minute to stop the healing.”

Off he hurtles; firing a cartoon blunderbuss for cover, and to no great effect. They keep coming. As the song bounces on, there are more than a few suggestions that what Steve’s actually fleeing are his own demons, bouncing after him like a tin can tied to his ankle. Not much hope in escaping that way. But the sheer vigor of the band – of the song itself – suggests that they’re people who thrive on this kind of peril and the energy it kicks up. This is enormous fun. Keeping one step ahead of disaster rarely sounded so lively.

Glowing House: ‘Taming Lions’
Bandcamp
download-only single
released: 8th May 2012

Get it from:
Free download from Bandcamp

Glowing House online:

Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp

Last Harbour: ‘Never’ single (“a tremendous spit in the face of futility”)

7 Feb
Last Harbour: 'Never'

Last Harbour: ‘Never’

If you want to keep doom in your pop, you need a trade-off. For every reverberating song of blasted hopes, naked disaster and dramatic plummets into death, there must be a moment when the naked emotion cuts loose: beyond taste, beyond the little voice of reason and logic, and straight into the sweet spot. It’s the same emotional pornography that you’ll find in an overcooked opera, and it works like a charm. If you’re writing deep in the vein of Southern Gothic (in itself, a kind of blue-collar grand opera), this can be the only trick which makes that long black coat billow like it should.

For Never, this point comes about halfway in. Up until then, Kev Craig has been riding a majestic groundswell of piano, bass and anticipatory gushes of cymbal. He’s been singing, obliquely, of love’s fears; of chances lost under blushes, of words becoming “wingless birds.” The guitars and drums have been biding their time, creeping in and out, hinting at heart-crashes.

Now, as all but the piano slips away, here comes the payoff – an invisible gusher, with only Kev’s voice here to ride it. What, up until now, has been a fruity Johnny Cash-cum-Nick Cave impression summons up an even deeper Americana accent, rears high and (as Kev’s lover takes his hand) joyfully bursts its banks: “You told me this truth – / that lovers, unafraid, should open up their graves / and just jump in…”

It’s a tremendous spit in the face of futility; twisting off the sting of death while accepting that it will, one day, be back for its dues. The celebratory boom of instruments that follows could be Arcade Fire or the Waterboys. The blanketing, poisoned romanticism recalls Australia’s great lost desolation band, The Triffids. The weight – ultimately, the whole towering and fruity triumph – is all Last Harbour’s. From here on, the rest of the song is a view down the mountain, but no less grand for that.

There’s more hand-holding on The Heath. This time Kev is sunk deep in a fug of baritone foreboding, with a lone chamber organ looming through the murk to keep him company. There’s a pallid sun, and a gunshot. All else is blurs of detail: coldness, a sense of struggling and drowning, a need for escape. Sometimes the game tilts the other way. Sometimes the view just doesn’t come clear.  Sometimes the long black coat just hangs – just like that, just fine.

Last Harbour: ‘Never’
Little Red Rabbit Records, LRR030
CD/download single
released: 30th January 2012

Get it from:
Free download from Little Red Rabbit Records or Bandcamp

Last Harbour online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Bandcamp

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