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Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews Uncategorized

Looking Back: This Modern Glitch

God, I can’t believe I’m writing this but, a whole ass DECADE has passed to the day since Matthew Murphy (Love Fame Tragedy), Dan Haggis (Dan The Man), and Tord Øverland Knudsen, better known together as the iconic indie band The Wombats released their second full-length LP; This Modern Glitch. To this day one of the most interesting drops of an indie band who rose to fame in the late 00’s because of the left turn it took. Now I’m not saying it’s as sharp a turn as something like Radiohead’s Kid A was to OK Computer, but This Modern Glitch completely reinvented The Wombats sound at one of the strangest periods for modern music. It was 2011, around the time where pop music was changing completely, four on the floor beats, synth-ridden hooks, and the age of the pop ‘band’ was on its way out. So what does a Liverpudlian three-piece do for their next outing? Drop one of the coolest follow-up records of all time, that’s what.

This Modern Glitch takes that raw indie rock outfit from the band’s debut album, and polishes it off, wraps a layer of divinely played synths, and just dial up the wow factor to 11. Kicking off with Our Perfect Disease, slapping you straight in the face with this new synth focused style right off the bat, in fact, there’s no guitar until about 44 seconds in, and further yet there are no LOUD guitars until after a minute of playtime. It’s there with the vocal hooks and spunky guitars that the resonant Wombats sound comes out to play, and as the song progresses the signature twangy Bass tone from Knudsen gets thicker and heavier, and Murph’s guitar gets thrown about in your face more. Somehow it’s the perfect evolution from A Guide To Love Loss And Desperation, and as soon as it’s done the absolute anthem that is Tokyo (Vampires And Wolves) kicks off.

Tokyo is the perfect track for any party, lord knows any piss up I’ve been to hasn’t been complete without blasting this on full singing along to our heart’s content. The intro synth riff, the pulsating bass and the thumping drums carry this song straight into the aether. If you’re new to the sound of The Wombats, Tokyo is a brilliant starting point to get you hooked.

Jump Into The Fog slides right in next and acts as this slower but still effortlessly gorgeous power trip. Again combining the sounds of synth-led pop with the indie structure we’d already grown to love since the marsupials debut album back in 2007. Jump Into The Fog leaves you in a trance for 3 minutes and my god is it wonderful. It manages to pull off this wonderous mixture of texture and dynamics and is only heightened in a stripped-back setting like so. After being an epic synth led song, and now working as an acoustic rendition, swapping lead synths and guitars for cellos and pianos and reinventing the vibe to their own song? Absolutely majestic.

1996 is a weighty synth thumping beast of a tune, acting as the physicality of the themes within the track talking about the horrors of the modern world, longing to go back to the days of 1996 after not being “cut out for the modern life”. It’s the kind of song you just wanna drink and dance to and not have a single care in the world. The Wombats have perfected the danceable sad song and they make no exceptions here. You may feel like you’ve slowed down time, but if you’re soundtracked to The Wombats, you don’t have to worry about a thing.

This Modern Glitch is filled with delightful surprises such as the U-Turn that is Anti-D. A softer sentimental track, proposing the idea that this person could be your anti-depressant. Twinkled with violins that take you back to the days of brit-pop, but with synth under roots that ground you back to The Modern Glitch of life you’re in. Other brilliant tracks I have to gloss over sadly otherwise we really would be here all day, are the sparkly spotlights of Last Night I Dreamt… No no not The Smiths song. This track talks about someone having an epiphany after having a dream that they very bluntly, died alone. Which is fair enough, to be honest, hope you’re good Murph.

Girls / Fast Cars is a brilliant no-nonsense song, brilliant for any sort of workout or when you need to run for a train. I’ve tried it with both and it works, just try not to sing it out loud and look like a lemon at a knife fight in the bowels of Blackfriars station… Definitely more one of the more traditionally rocky songs of the album, but still matched with the synth-tastic sounds of 2011 and feeling right at home among the tracks of This Modern Glitch.

Techno Fan is a song I think everybody relates to at some point in their life. You stay away from something your whole life convinced it’s “not for me darling”, only to find yourself slap bang in the middle of a club moshing to something you’d never heard of before, or you know whatever it is you’ve avoided… It’s a cheerful, bright and spanky song that asks you to “move with me or get out of my face”. This song gets going and if you’re not on board it will sail on without you, and you’ll have to catch it again from the start because it’s got a motive that requires you to pay attention. It’s a phenomenal feeling and you just have to ride this train.

There’s so much identity within this album and so much nostalgia I associate with it and with this band. This Modern Glitch did the hard thing of adapting an indie band to the turn of the new decade, but it blended the two perfectly and without it, we surely wouldn’t have got any of the brilliant work from Murph, Dan, and Tord throughout The Wombats’ musical career and their own solo discographies.

The perfect summer album to play when the world feels wrong, and after the year we’ve had, with things looking up on the uncertain horizon, perhaps This Modern Glitch is what we need all over again.

Listen to This Modern Glitch (10th Anniversary Edition) on Spotify now. Presented proudly, 10 years running.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Why We Love

Why We Love: Dan Haggis

Yeah okay, I did plan on just doing a review of Haggis’ latest solo album Brightly Coloured Creatures but truth is, I couldn’t with a healthy conscience ignore the other work that he’s strived to make. Now I’ve written a review of his solo album Circadian Circus which if you missed you should definitely check that out, but I think (especially right now) with the state of the world and how disproportionately it’s affected the livelihoods of musicians, I think it’s only right to share with you even more of Haggis’ work, give him the rightly deserved streams he deserves. So to focus on Sunship Balloon’s Everywhen (his 2020 album with Tord Øverland Knudsen) and of course his very recent follow up to his 2017 solo album, here’s why we love Dan Haggis.

Obviously, anyone who’s anyone has heard of The Wombats, and if you’re someone with taste you’ll know the absolute passion that goes into making those albums and how brilliant they are, but when it comes to making music outside of that well-established name, Dan gets even more of a chance to show off his skills. Whether you’re falling in love with his solo work for something painfully relatable to, or getting an escape through the space journey of Sunship Balloon, there is absolutely everything to fall in love with.

With 2020’s Everywhen, Haggis and Knudsen created an album full of futuristic sounds coincided with analogue 80s synths, all which whisk you away into an alternate reality to ponder life’s most curious questions. When I first listened to Everywhen I immediately felt some sort of instrumental connection to like likes of The 1975, but even more so to the legendary Brian Eno, the ambient instrumental tracks especially that just change your perspective of the world, sounding like they could have been taken straight off one of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy records or an album like Eno and Robert Fripp’s No Pussyfooting. It just makes for such a surreal listening experience (a crime that it’s not available on vinyl really) and you can just really hear the fun that went into making this record.

The entire album is perfect, there are so many amazing tracks to choose, from the electronic rock blaster that is Interstellar Ride, 1224 Fantasia which just desires to be played on a show like Top Of The Pops back in 1985, to the more experimental Eno inspired tracks such as title track Everywhen and the albums closer Flat Earther’s that really does sound like it belongs with the likes of Neuköln on Bowie’s Heroes. The energetic anthem A4 Life is superb though, it’s here where you can really hear some of those familiar Wombats and even some of Knudsen’s other band Imitating Aeroplanes vibes (I mean why wouldn’t you), but all the same completely turned on their heads to create a sound that’s so presently fresh but heartwarmingly nostalgic.

Glossing over Sunship Balloon and now moving to Brightly Coloured Creatures, after working on Everywhen, Dan The Man’s third solo outing definitely takes some of those 80’s sounds and finds a wonderful home within his new music. Circadian Circus was a brilliant album, but Brightly Coloured Creatures is completely its successor. Everything that was brilliant about the 2017 venture has been put on steroids and increased tenfold. The songwriting, melodies and production have all stepped up and each track is uniquely warm. Thematically it does continue a lot of similar themes that of Circadian Circus, but perhaps a little more universal than the depth into Haggis’ soul that we were exposed to with the last album.

Muscle Memory kicks off the album in such a flawless way, being ever so reminiscent of his previous release, but with bigger everything. Genuinely feels like it’s the opening track to a film, it gives meaning to whatever you could be doing when listening to it, making a cuppa? That cuppa’s DEEP now. Young Lovers the albums second track and first single is where you can really hear how much musical progression Haggis has developed since 2017, sounding more like the kind of track you’d hear off Everywhen but because of that oh so personal touch Haggis effortlessly shines over his lyrics, you know exactly where this track truly belongs.

This album, like its brother, is absolutely perfect and every track is a real gem. From blissful melancholy meanders like Obsolete and Earthmover, which are such beautifully constructed tracks, and the line “Can we just go back and reset it all, Now we’re obsolete” is just *chef kiss*, who hasn’t felt like that at some point? And especially after the year we’ve just been through (yeah happy anniversary to that by the way) it’s such a poignant practice that Haggis just nails every time. It sounds like something you’d find on a Beach House record and is absolutely gorgeous, not to mention the breakdown in Obsolete, which is fantastic. Shaping this woeful helplessness into offset anger mixed with motivation, drenching the line “Swallow the pill” in reverb the way some use medication to put a damper on depression, man Haggis you absolute genius.

See You In Hell is such a tasty track, coming out of nowhere as this almost doo-wop inspired song, albeit with a lot of other influences clearly thrown in the mix, it’s a faster, more energetic and textured sound, evoking vibes of Richard Hawley‘s work and Arctic Monkey’s Suck It And See album. Just magnificent.

Another one of my personal favourites, Unravelling combines so much sonic identity it’s hard to pin it down, but I mean it sounds like Dan The Man so what more could you want? The combined acoustic and spacey lead guitar, and as always Haggis’ vocals are simply a delight here. Lyrically the tracks about DNA, which with the “unravelling” hook makes a lot of sense, but I think the substance behind that goes way beyond where your mind initially registers with it. I think there have been times where we’ve all felt like our very being is “unravelling”, stuck in the fragmentation of crisis and rebirth, along with the prospect of the unknown, and I think this song defines those feelings. I mean it’s either that or it’s a song about DNA but take your pick.

Brightly Coloured Creatures is already one of my favourite records of the year, and we’re only in February. That’s not me being ignorant in the face of what an entire year’s worth of music might bring to my attention, but a statement that Dan Haggis is one of the brightest musicians of our time and I think that goes without saying. Tracks like Memory Lane, Let Me Down and Obsolete are just streamlined perfection and you absolutely must go and listen to the whole album as soon as you can.

I’ll leave you with Peter Pan, a track off Dan’s first solo album which is equally brilliant as both the albums we’ve been over today. Enjoy its festive vibe and take aboard the backlog of music you’ve now got to bathe in. For fan’s of Dan The Man, the music’s going nowhere, and there’s plenty to go around.

Check out Sunship Balloon’s discography here,

And check the rest of Dan’s solo work here.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized

Hidden Gems: Circadian Circus – Dan The Man

Multi-Instrumentalist Dan ‘The Man’ Haggis, best known as the drummer for indie sensations The Wombats, is no stranger to music outside of the award-winning band, with side project Sunship Balloon with fellow Wombats bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen over the last 2 years, working on new music and completing old Wombats demos that never made the final cut. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Haggis has had his fair share of solo music releases since 2012, but it’s 2017’s Circadian Circus that I want to share with you. 

Haggis stated around the time of the album’s conception and release that music is a coping mechanism, and that the passing of loved ones was part of what sparked the sudden creativity that led to this album. Circadian Circus goes into lots of different avenues, but mainly explores a lot of personal experience and mental health all wrapped in this ethereal aesthetic that helps shine a light on humanity, but despite being wrapped in this beautiful soundscape and visual paradigm to accompany it, Circadian Circus is actually a rather dark album. Themes of loss, depression and desperation, it’s a true testament to Haggis. In the leadup to the release of the album, I remember being incredibly hyped for it upon hearing lead single Something Good and telling all my friends to listen to it, and upon its release became such an identifiable release of 2017 that I still cherish now… You know, hence this article in case you’ve gotten to this point and you’re still wondering what’s going on, in which case Hi, welcome to Totally Wired Mag, we’re great, but you know what’s better? Circadian Circus. 

Track 1, Get Out Of Jail Free is a brilliant opener that gives you a great impression of what this album sounds like, with an absolutely killer chorus. Bringing vibes of The Pogues, Metronomy and Sufjan Stevens, this splendid anthem is just something that does nothing but get stuck inside your head. Seriously you’ll be humming this to yourself for weeks. The production on this is also fantastic, Haggis REALLY showing off his skills, and how he absolutely knows what he’s doing here. Combining indie folk to synthy bedroom pop in a sound that’s familiar but thus far, I don’t think has really been replicated since. 

Flowerpot Men (age check if you remember that classic Cebeebies show) brings an almost Beatlesy vibe into the mix, and the chorus is particularly Lennon-esk. Lyrically about the death of someone close which is something Haggis was having to go through during the writing process, but it made for some really humbling lyrics, for example, “They rehoused you on a star / the view must be great from where you are”. Losing someone is obviously something everyone has to go through at some point, but the humanisation of it here acts as such a resounding hand on your shoulder, in times where you’d otherwise feel out of your depth and alone. In addition with that repeated hook of “I’ll be pushing up the daisies, we’ll be flowerpot men”, it’s something that really sticks in your mind, but hauntingly so. 

Waiting For Love is one of the more stripped back (but still musically full on) tracks on the album. Strings and pianos carry this track through, and really hone in that hopelessness feeling. But the outro becomes this triumphant escapade that really does leave a glisten in your eye at the prospect of things becoming better, eventually. It’s just a really beautiful song that shines through specifically. It sounds like something Elton John or Father John Misty could write, it’s absolutely majestic.

Something Good was the lead single, and definitely sums up the album’s entire message and musical theme. It invokes the utter desperation for wanting something positive in the abundance of letdowns and sadness, and that is the key element that makes Circadian Circus. I think we’ve all been at the point where we’ve craved something, anything to fix the hard times, and the hook of the track is just something so personally and relatedly versatile; “Give me something good, even if it’s a lie, if it’ll make me smile”. Haggis knows how to pen down some wonderfully written lyrics and Circadian Circus is a testament to it.

What can I say really, Circadian Circus is the perfect album to listen to when things are falling apart around you. Obviously, that’s a very bleak prospect, but what I mean by that is, this album personifies the darkest of times and emotions you can experience, but shines them in an optimistic outlook. Songs like Something Good and Not As Far As It Looks (Self Help Song) are perfect examples of taking the absolute worst your mind can go through, and reshaping them as motivational speeches through music. Musically this album goes almost everywhere, drawing and clashing inspiration from bands like New Order, The Beatles and even elements of Pink Floyd thrown in there. Honestly, Haggis’ talent writing songs from top to bottom is something I can only really compare to giants such as The Beatles which yeah I know that’s a bloody bold thing to say, but there’s a simplicity to pop music and writing with a rawer soundscape in mind that Haggis captures so magnificently here, wrapped in this blanket of modern production that just enhances every sound, it’s something genuinely beautiful and so polished to perfection it just has to be said.

For those who are deeply interested in more music from Haggis, you’ll be pleased to know that just earlier this month he dropped a brand new album entitled Brightly Coloured Creatures, which if you’ve liked what you’ve heard then you’ll definitely enjoy its follow up. I’ll let the new record mull over before doing a piece on it, but trust me it’s marvellous too. I definitely shall review that in due time, but until then, keep your ears open and thanks for reading.

Listen to Circadian Circus on Spotify.