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Way Out West — Day One

  • Published in Live

Way Out West kicks off in blazing sunshine. Walking through Slottskogen, we’re surrounded by a sea of Fjällräven backpacks and fashionable monochrome. For three days a year, Way Out West takes over the heart of Slottskogen, the huge park at the heart of Gothenburg. This year, the festival is celebrating its tenth year: music-wise, there are five stages to choose from where you can see popular headliners and the bands who, in a year or two, will be headlining the bigger stages on their own. Just ask Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and Warpaint, who played at Way Out West just before making it big.

But Way Out West isn’t just about music. The focus is much more wide-ranging. Keen to support the environmental movement, the festival has been 100% vegetarian since 2012 and it went dairy-free last year. As well as checking out music, you can head along to talks about environmental and societal issues throughout the festival— an example of this being, Karolina Skog from the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, who is giving a talk at the Höjden stage. This being Musos’ Guide, we’re going to stick with the music. Tonight’s headliner is Morrissey. But before night falls, there’s plenty of music that we want to check out.

 We start things off by going to see Vasas Flora och Fauna at the Höjden stage. It’s at the bottom of a gentle slope and lined with trees, making it a natural amphitheatre, and it’s a great place to grab a spot on the grass and enjoy the music. Vasas Flora och Fauna are a trio of Swedish-speaking Finns, whose gentle indie pop is utterly charming. After that, it’s time to catch Jason Isbell on the Azalea stage, one of the festival’s two main stages. He plays a fantastic set that’s tight and full of soul. Our mate, who’s a huge fan, spends the entire set in a swoon. The track '24 Frames' is better live than on the Grammy award-winning Something More Than Free, Isbell’s most recent album. Other tracks that really fly are 'Stockholm­­­­­' and 'Cover Me Up'.

London band Daughter have been gaining lots of traction recently and we’re keen see what they’re like live. We head over to the Linné tent to find out and aren’t disappointed. It’s atmospheric stuff and tracks 'New Ways' and 'Youth' go down really well with the crowd. I’ve got a real soft spot for the Saturdays=Youth album by M83, so we amble over to the festival’s main stage, Flamingo, to catch their set. It’s just the kind of music to get the crowd moving and they crack through a decent set that includes 'Midnight City', 'Outro' and, happily for me, 'Couleurs'. After that, it’s time for a shot of Scotland in the form of Chvrches. They draw a big, appreciative crowd and blast through a cracking set that includes 'Bury It' and 'Never Ending Circles'. Lauren Mayberry banters away with the crowd, stopping at one point to tie the laces on her platform shoes. It’s a sign of their success that even the typically reserved (“No, discerning”, says my Swedish co-writer) Swedes are dancing away by the end.

The Last Shadow Puppets are one of the highlights of the day and they play an absolutely delicious set. Alex Turner and Miles Kane are on top form with Alex posturing his way across the stage in a shocking pair of maroon trousers while Miles flounces about in black and white silk. The set is high camp, knowing and utterly glorious with Alex channelling a stage presence that’s somewhere between Grinderman and Neil Diamond as he croons that he’d “like to play something from my last LP”. They blast their way through a great set, the best of which are 'Standing Next to Me', 'Age of the Understatement', 'Everything You’ve Come to Expect' and 'Bad Habits'.

There’s a sticky moment just after 8pm when The Libertines set gets cancelled at the last minute but the Way Out West app quickly notifies us that they’re taking over ANOHNI’s set tomorrow night. ANOHNI is down with the flu, which is a huge disappointment but I’m keen to see The Libertines live, even if it’s a day late, as it’s been twelve years both since they last played in Sweden and since I last saw them live.

Finally, in the headline slot, it’s time for Morrissey. It’s good to see that he’s as provocative and combative as ever and the crowd devours his set. He’s winningly self-aware as he chats to the crowd between songs, a particular cracker coming after he applauds the festival’s vegetarian ethos when he says “No death for sale, no pain for sale, no torture for sale… except for me”.  The set blasts through his best tracks, even 'Ouija Board' gets an airing, and standouts are “The World Is Full of Crashing Bores' (accompanied by a picture of Kate and Prince William looking particularly vapid with the slogan “United Kingdumb”), 'English Blood, Irish Heart' and 'The Last of the Gang to Die'. The crowd clap and cheer long after he leaves the stage with a bow before dispersing into the night. 





Album Review: M83 - Saturdays=Youth

  • Published in Albums

Greetings and salutations; Saturdays=Youth, M83's 5th album released in April this last year, is 100% a nostalgia trip. From the Duran Duran-esque synth noises, through the warm guitar washes and soft-voiced vocals to the teen movie archetypes on the front cover (including a dead ringer for my biggest teen movie crush ever, who is also name-checked in 'Graveyard Girl' in what is perhaps the best lyric of 2008: "She worships Satan like a father but dreams of a sister like Molly Ringwald"), this album evokes the '80s better than most of the music from that decade.

Now I'm well aware that if you mess with a bull, you'll get the horns; it's so easy to retread the same tired paths over and over again without ever bringing anything new or even enjoyable to the musical table, but on Saturdays=Youth, Anthony Gonzales has managed to cherry pick the best bits of the golden age of synth music and construct it intelligently and emotionally without it sounding like the creation of a focus group. Rather, all the different elements feel like they organically came about because they just work well together. Even when second vocalist and Kate Bush voice-doppelganger Morgan Kibby sings "The hounds of love, they bite our heels" it feels like a happy accident rather than a musical in-joke for beard-scratching musos such as myself.

After a preparatory intro, the album really begins with 'Kim & Jessie', the lead-off single, which features particularly affecting harmonies and a chorus which feels like being punched in the face by Kevin Shields while you were having a bit of a snog with Nick Rhodes, which is to say momentous, unforgettable and something you want to tell your friends about despite being slightly embarrassed to admit you enjoyed.

The next track, my personal highlight, 'Skin of the Night' is huge, stately and icy-cold. If I were writing this review back in the '80s, I could have described it as glacial - but seeing as that now means "a bit melty", I'm stuck with the less compact depiction. It also, as I sit at my desk ostensibly doing my "real job", just made me play air-electronic-drumkit in such an involved way I just knocked half a carton of Capri-Sun over my work. And what's more, I don't regret a second of it.

By the time you get to the second half of 'Graveyard Girl', it's a testament to how much the album has won you over that you barely bat an eyelid at the awesome, towering ridiculousness of the spoken word section ("I'm 15 years old and I feel it's already too late to live, don't you?"). By then you've been caught and you barely notice anything else as you're swept along in the freezing-cold but strangely comforting flow of the record as it worms its way around your brain poking the buttons you didn't think still worked anymore.

The album, like Weird Science, is not without its faults. The production techniques that make the album as a whole so distinctive can render some of the tracks slightly indistinguishable, and the last track 'Midnight Souls Still Remain' is the rare time you lose a bit of patience with M83 - sure it's appropriate enough to end the album with a formless, synthy blur, but does it really have to be over 11 minutes long?

But really, you can forgive him his little indulgences. It may be over eight months old now, but there remain a disappointingly large section of the population that haven't heard this wonderful record. If you enjoy any Kate Bush, Duran Duran or Tears for Fears songs unironically I have two things to say to you. Firstly, congratulations, you are a good person and secondly, whether you're a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess or a criminal, you should do yourself a favour and get hold of Saturdays=Youth any way you can.

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