Tag Archives: Daughter

“Baby You Left Me Sad And High.” – An Overly Personal Look At My Top 6 Albums Of 2013

It’s easy to forget in the flurry of lists that inevitably appears at this time of year, but music is ultimately a personal thing (…I don’t think that’s the first time I’ve said something like that on this blog). All told, this has been a pretty blockbuster year, particularly when 2012 felt relatively lean in comparison (to me, at least). With so many great records around, how do you decide the most worthy of praise? Personally, I keep coming back to the albums that have the greatest emotional resonance – and in that regard, 2013 has conspired to produce half a dozen records that align with the various emotions I’ve often felt this year. “…But I will not spill my guts out.”  – though if you read between the lines, perhaps I’ve come a little closer to doing so than I’d care to admit…

6. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

A friend of mine compared the words of Nick Cave to the ramblings of a madman when I was playing this record on a drive home, and to be honest, I found it difficult to refute him – but then, the line between madness and genius is one that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have often straddled. Cave’s lyrics on Push The Sky Away may seem impenetrable on first listen, but focus on them a little more intently and you’ll find some surprising moments of clarity – and I’m not just talking about the year’s most oddly prescient reference to Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus (on ‘Higgs Boson Blues’).

There’s the wounded pride of ‘Mermaids’, whose opening lines suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks one evening (“She was a catch, and we were a match. I was the match that would fire up her snatch. There was a catch: I was no match.”), or the desperate longing of ‘We Real Cool’, perhaps epitomised by the line “Wikipedia is heaven, when you don’t wanna remember no more.” But its most stirring moment comes at the close of the album, with ‘Push The Sky Away’ having the quiet yet bloody-minded determination of a man close to breaking point – “You’ve gotta just keep on pushing, keep on pushing, push the sky away.”

5. Daughter – If You Leave

Daughter - If You Leave

Daughter – If You Leave

Honestly, Daughter could pretty much have been designed by committee to appeal to me. Beautiful shrinking violet of a singer whose voice is gentle while still having an undeniable power? Check. Lyrics about love, loss and heartache? Check. Set to a backdrop of swooning guitars and tasteful percussion? Check. Thankfully, If You Leave never seems as cynically conceived as that – indeed, it’s a record of such sincerity that one can’t escape the feeling that vocalist Elena Tonra might be nursing some serious emotional wounds.

Don’t get me wrong, the music is gorgeous, but it’s the way it combines with Tonra’s lyrics that really makes this album so special. She’s at her most affecting when she’s making the kind of desperate pleas that will no doubt go unrecognised by the one person they’re aimed at: “Don’t bring tomorrow, ’cause I already know I’ll lose you.” / “Please take me back to when I was yours.” / “Give me touch, ’cause I’ve been missing it.” But she’s also equally moving when dealing with other aspects of loss and heartache, as evidenced by ‘Still’s portrayal of a disintegrating relationship or ‘Youth’s bitter inability to let go of the past. Even ‘Human’, the one moment of defiant resilience on If You Leave, ends in defeat – “Despite everything, I’m still human… but I think I’m dying here.”

4. Arctic Monkeys – AM

Arctic Monkeys - AM

Arctic Monkeys – AM

If Daughter have effortlessly captured the feeling of heartbreak on If You Leave , then Arctic Monkeys have created an unlikely yet perfect companion piece in AM – an album that focuses on romantic and sexual obsession. It’s there from the off with the sultry groove of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ (“…if this feeling flows both ways?”), before ‘R U Mine?’ ramps up the ante and throws down the gauntlet to a desired partner – “Are you mine tomorrow, or just mine tonight?” It’s an album about being obsessed with someone whether you’re awake or asleep – “I dreamt about you nearly every night this week.” / “I just cannot manage to make it through the day without thinking of you lately.” – and also about trying to satisfy that desire (‘One For The Road’, ‘Knee Socks’).

But it also touches on the situations that would lead these thoughts to occupy your mind – being too close to the one who used to love you (‘Fireside’), seeing an old flame and feeling like they could do so much better than their current beau (‘Snap Out Of It’), or simply being completely wasted (‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’). In the end though, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ closes the album with the admission that Turner is ultimately following his heart rather than his libido – though he’d certainly like to satisfy the latter in the process.

3. Jon Hopkins – Immunity

Jon Hopkins - Immunity

Jon Hopkins – Immunity

Wait a minute, isn’t this all supposed to be about feelings and emotions? What’s a largely wordless album of electronica doing here? And yet, the reason I love Immunity is precisely because Jon Hopkins manages to imbue his electronica with a sense of emotion. Perhaps it’s most obvious on the sensual, throbbing ‘Collider’, a song which bristles with a relentless sexual energy. It’s immediately followed by the most perfectly-placed comedown in ‘Abandon Window’, which is all stark pianos and ambient swells, together with the fireworks exploding in the distance, as if to emphasise some far-off celebration that the listener is barely part of. King Creosote also appears on the title track to add even more emotional weight to proceedings, with his distant, mournful voice delivering lines like “you said forever was unkind,” as the record comes to a beautiful climax.

But even outside of that, there’s joy to be had in the pure, propulsive techno of  ‘We Disappear’ and ‘Open Eye Signal’, or the way that the piano chords cut through ‘Breathe This Air’ like a moment of clarity. All told, Immunity combines relentless thrills with a melancholy comedown to create one of the year’s most smartly constructed and perfectly-paced records.

2. These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds

These New Puritans - Field Of Reeds

These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds

Again, the latest record from These New Puritans might seem like an odd fit in this list. Were it not for the sheer emotional power of my number one album, Field Of Reeds would probably take its place thanks to its unquestionable compositional mastery. But under the surface, it too is an emotional record – frontman and chief composer Jack Barnett has stressed as much in interviews. The album is able to match the power of classical music to create feelings without words – epitomised by the lump-in-your-throat moment when ‘Organ Eternal’ reaches its crescendo – with the ability to be explicit with words in the manner of a pop song, as on ‘Nothing Else’ (“I pray that just for a minute, real life and dreaming swap places”).

Make no mistake, These New Puritans have crafted an emotional journey on Field Of Reeds – just not in a conventional manner. But then, one shouldn’t expect anything remotely nearing ‘conventional’ from the band these days – and that’s another reason why I love them. (You can find many more reasons in my review of the record over on Soundsphere Magazine.)

1. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

The National - Trouble Will Find Me

The National – Trouble Will Find Me

Over the past five years, The National have gone from being a band I like and casually listen to now and again, to one I absolutely adore. 2010’s High Violet was the catalyst (as I’m sure it was for many others), slowly winning me over and causing me to re-visit the copies of Boxer and Alligator that I already owned but had yet to truly fall in love with. By the time I had attended the ATP event that the band curated at the end of 2012, they’d captured a permanent piece of my (medium-sized American English) heart. All of which leads us to Trouble Will Find Me, whose mere existence made it an almost certain contender for album of the year in my eyes – but that didn’t stop it from having the settling-in period that all records by The National seem to have. But when it hit, it hit hard.

Pretty much every single song on this album has at least something about it that yanks at my heart or sets my mind racing – and I’m hardly even going to have room to mention the wonderful sonics on display, such is the intense nature of this record’s lyrics. ‘Demons’ describes a feeling of social inadequacy, (“But when I walk into a room I do not light it up. FUCK.”), ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’ cuts to the heart of emotional turmoil (“I have only two emotions: careful fear and dead devotion. I can’t get the balance right.”) and ‘Graceless’ tackles feelings of self-loathing (“You can’t imagine how I hate this, graceless.”).

But many of the record’s finest moments concern matters of the heart. ‘Fireproof’ portrays the devastating realisation of a gulf between two ex-lovers (“You’re a million miles away, doesn’t matter any more.), the final lines of ‘This Is The Last Time’ perfectly sum up the bittersweet nature of lost love (“Baby you gave me bad ideas. Baby you left me sad and high.”), ‘Slipped’ mourns a would-be relationship that will never come to fruition (“I’ll be a friend and a fuck and everything, but I’ll never be anything you ever want me to be.”), ‘I Need My Girl’ captures the way losing someone can make us feel incomplete (“I can’t get my head around it, I keep feeling smaller and smaller. I need my girl.”) – I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ll just leave you with one final example, a line from ‘Hard To Find’ that caught me completely off-guard when I wasn’t even listening to the album – I saw it while reading through the lyrics. “I’m not holding out for you, but I’m still watching for the signs. If I tried, you’d probably be hard to find.” 

The lyric “And if you want to see me cry, play Let It Be or Nevermind,” appears in the chorus of ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’ – and I can’t help but think that, years from now, Trouble Will Find Me might be cited by some future artist as being similarly tear-inducing. It certainly has that effect on me sometimes.

Find a Spotify playlist containing all these albums here.

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Under This Weather: An Iceland Airwaves Adventure, pt II

Welcome to part two of this review/travelogue of my visit to this year’s Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik. If you haven’t seen part one already, may I suggest clicking here. If you have, then let me continue from where I left off…

Friday 2nd November

As the ominous notices posted around our hotel indicated, the high winds that had been present throughout Thursday got much worse overnight – we’re talking 40 mph winds, strong enough to knock me off my feet and blow Alex across the road as soon as we leave our hotel. We’re supposed to be going to the Blue Lagoon today, but as we stand around uncertainly in the lobby clutching our swimming towels and waiting for pickup, we’re eventually told that all the buses have been cancelled. The postponement of our trip actually proves to be a blessing in disguise, as it means we can go watch more bands. The day is mostly spent in a bar called Hressó in the centre of town, where they have a tent set up in the courtyard. Throughout the afternoon we hear some indie-pop from Passwords, a slice of luscious folkiness from Half Moon Run, and the hit-and miss electro of Doldrums – half the time they nail an interesting, expansive sound, but the other half is a mess of mis-matched beats and aimless scratching. We also catch FM Belfast percussionist Borko playing in a fish restaurant – his off-kilter, often melancholy alt-pop is a genuine surprise by comparison, but a very pleasant one nonetheless.

The afternoon’s most engaging set is provided by Reykjavik locals Retro Stefson, whose sound ranges from the anarchic, African-tinged ‘Kimba’ to the sleek, cutting-edge electro-pop of ‘Qween’. The tent is packed and very much ready to party, with frontman Unnsteinn Manuel Stefánsson oozing charisma and even leading us through a simple but effective synchronised dance routine at one point (jump four steps to the right, jump four steps to the left, repeat) – it’s daft, but it’s a lot of fun.

For dinner, we continue our theme of going to a restaurant and not eating anything vaguely appropriate with Tabasco’s, a Mexican place in the centre of town. I admittedly get closest with a large rack of BBQ ribs, while Alex has an Icelandic fish soup, and Pete goes for a very nice piece of salmon.

Alex and I then make our way over to Fríkirkjan in order to get a good spot for Patrick Wolf – Pete, not being the biggest Wolf fan, heads off in search of alternative entertainment. The church is actually rather lovely inside, though the sight-lines aren’t exactly the best for the purposes of a gig – fortunately, we’re early enough to bag ourselves seat next to the aisle, so that’s not a problem for us at least. Icelandic singer-songwriter Lay Low provides our warm-up, opening with a couple of songs on acoustic guitar before being joined by a full band. Her folky songs are sweetly sung, and there are even a few sung in Icelandic, whose lyrics are inspired by some of the countries female poets – they’re particularly lovely regardless of my complete lack of understanding.

Even with the church crammed to capacity, Patrick Wolf takes his sweet time appearing, but he’s worth the wait and his performance is sublime throughout. Highlights include the ever-beautiful ‘London’, a never-more-appropriate rendition of ‘This Weather’ (“the storm blows around this harbour town…”), the stirring ‘Overture’ and the stripped-back version of ‘Vulture’ that sounds the way it probably should have all along. He’s accompanied, as ever, by violinist Victoria Sutherland, but he’s also joined on stage by his sister Jo Apps for a couple of songs – her haunting vocals make tonight’s rendition of ‘Teignmouth’ spine-tinglingly good. Alex tells me after the gig that it’s one of the best she’s ever seen (by any artist, period), which surprises me – not because it was at all bad, it’s been wonderful in fact. It’s only now that I realise why – having never been disappointed by Patrick Wolf in the 10(!) times I’ve seen him before today, I’ve sort of come to take these things for granted. But all things considered, this is probably the best Patrick Wolf performance I’ve seen in the past few years – and he seems genuinely humble and happy to be here.

We could probably go home satisfied after that to be honest, but the night is young and we decide our next stop should be Gamli Gaukurinn, where Icelandic classic rock band The Vintage Caravan prove to be entertaining and (unintentionally) amusing, even if they’re not really my sort of thing. We’re really here to see what Thee Attacks have to offer in a fully electric capacity, and I must admit their show makes a lot more sense this way. It’s a brazen display of lust-driven rock and cocky showmanship from Jimmy Attack, who commandeers a guitar that’s been left backstage after his own breaks, and at one point suspends himself from the lighting rig whilst continuing to sing into a dangling microphone. There’s nothing desperately new or original about what they’re doing, but the Danish band are worth watching for the showmanship alone.

Finally, because one FM Belfast party just wasn’t enough, we head back to Harpa to re-unite with Pete and catch their headline set at Silfurberg. See part one of this review for more details, but suffice to say their show still works on a larger scale, pretty much matching Wednesday’s performance for sheer fun factor -and it makes me very much happy to be here.

Saturday 3rd November

It’s fair to say that Iceland Airwaves throws up its fair share of oddities. For example, one of the ‘off-venue’ locations is in fact a very small house (more of a shed, really) in the town square, where artists play to about three or four people (and anyone else who wishes to stand outside and listen. It is there that we find ourselves watching oddball Icelandic folk-punk band Pollapönk at three in the afternoon, and it’s a slightly surreal experience. Ólafur Arnalds takes his turn in the shed a little later, playing a three song set that’s as soothing as the weather is cold. We also catch Low Roar playing some delicate solo tracks at a record shop inside Harpa.

Dinner comes courtesy of Icelandic Fish & Chips, which is a little bit tricky to find (it’s slightly to the west of the central area) but worth a visit. They basically offer a more refined take on your traditional British chippy, with neat little chunks of fish instead of a single large portion, crispy potatoes instead of deep-fried chips, and a variety of different sauces on offer. I decided to try a fish that’s imaginatively titled ‘Red Fish’ – by doing so, I discover that it’s actually a white fish, so I can only assume it’s red on on the outside.

Musically, Fríkirkjan is our first stop for the evening once again. We arrive to find Ben Frost & Daníel Bjarnason’s performance of their avant-guarde classical work Solaris already underway. Personally, I struggle to engage with it – there are sections towards the end that are quite impressive, but it proves a little too formless more often than not. There’s also a slightly awkward moment at the end where the music appears to have stopped for a good 15-20 seconds before the audience finally starts applauding. But perhaps the silence is, in fact, part of the composition? If so, I guess it confirms that such things are far above my puny musical brain.

I’m really here to see Daughter though – Alex contemplates fighting her way out of the building to go see Sin Fang again, but ultimately decides to have a bit of a power nap in the pews instead. I basically can’t see anything at all as we’re in the back corner of the church, but musically their performance is wonderful. The fragile emotions of ‘Candles , the stark love/hate dynamics of ‘Landfill’ and the trembling atmospherics of ‘Youth’ are all beautiful highlights of the band’s set, and they seem overawed by both the setting and the crowd’s response. If tonight’s performance is anything to go by, 2013 is going to be a big year for them.

We then head back to Iðnó so we’re not left out in the cold later on. Ólöf Arnarlds (yes, she’s Ólafur Arnalds’ cousin) is playing when we arrive, but her floaty voice is a little too Joanna Newsom for our liking. Sweden’s I Break Horses prove to be a more entertaining proposition – I was hoping to give them another chance after not being able to give them  a fair appraisal at Latitude this year, and their performance here seems more impressive. Occasionally their sound does verge on being too hazy and indistinct, but more often than not they really nail their electro-shoegaze aesthetic – ‘Hearts’ and ‘Winter Beats’ are particularly successful in that regard. While not one of my absolute festival highlights, they nevertheless proved very enjoyable.

I was quite looking forward to seeing US post-punks Diiv, but their show proves to be a disappointment for a couple of reasons. First, the sound is absolute crap, as whoever is mixing is doing a pretty awful job of keeping things balanced, and over-compensating for that with the volume. Secondly, the band themselves fall into a trap of repetition, to the point where I experience déjà vu on more than one occasion. “Have I heard this song before?” I think to myself –  no, but it sure feels like it. By the time ‘Doused’ comes along to inject a bit of variety into proceedings, the sound is so bad that it sounds like the engineer has decided to sack his job off entirely and just whacked all the faders up to full – the song’s urgent guitar lines are buried under the weight of bass and drums, making it feel like an exercise in squandered potential.

I’ve heard via Twitter that Patrick Wolf is playing a DJ set at some sort of ‘Pink Party’ that’s being held at a nearby hotel, so naturally Alex is very keen to go there. And thus I spend my last 1000 Krona on entry to a gay night – we then stay for about two songs, one of which is ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba, the other of which is some Godawful piece of shit I’ve never heard before in my life. With no sign of Patrick Wolf behind the decks, we decide to leave and come back later (I actually walk right past him as we leave, but am completely oblivious to the fact until Alex points it out).

On a tip from Alex’s friend Nik and an intriguing description in the program, we head over to Þýski Barinn/Deutsche Bar. I’m really glad we did, as Elektro Guzzi prove to be an absolute revelation. On record, they don’t necessarily sound much different to a lot of other dance acts – but live, they play all their music using just drums, guitar and bass (and presumably a fuckload of effects pedals). The result is a thrilling, constantly evolving, non-stop feast of propulsive sound – think Battles gone techno and you’re pretty much right on target. They’re probably my best surprise discovery of the festival.

After that, it’s back to Hotel Borg, where Patrick Wolf’s DJ set is well underway – the mix of music we hear starts out with a  selection of empowerment-friendly female-sung anthems (Florence & The Machine, Gossip, Lykki Li) and ends up sounding like every other Saturday night in my recent existence (Rihanna, LMFAO, Azealia Banks). We decide it’s time to leave again when Patrick disappears without warning and his replacement starts playing something that sounds like someone vomiting on a track by The Knife.

We make it back to Deutsche Bar in time to catch the very end of Ultra Mega Technobandið Stefán. Their music is basically what would have happened if Europe were a shit punk band – terrible, but hilarious. After that, we end up in Factory, where after spending a while in the queue we’re eventually let inside the packed out venue to bear witness to both Icelandic hip-hop (Emmsjé Gauti) and Icelandic dubstep (Hermergervill) – both things I of I never thought I’d find myself listening to, but there you go. I end up dancing with some crazy woman from Estonia, and the venue winds up at about half four in the morning – I decide to make the short walk back to the hotel, while Alex and Nik continue on to find the after-after-party.

Pete’s awake when I get back, and we’re both still chatting when Alex returns shortly after, having beaten a hasty retreat from some weird, dimly-lit nightclub where a whole bunch of Icelandic people were making out. I almost wish I’d stuck around, if only out of morbid curiosity.

Sunday 4th November

Sunday is about two things – the Blue Lagoon, and Sigur Rós. The stormy weather of the past few days has all but disappeared – the sun is out, the air is still and it’s a positively tropical 4-5 degrees, making the trip infinitely more pleasant than it would have been on Friday. It’s also a good chance to relax after the past few hectic days, so visiting on Sunday turned out for the best in more ways than one. The warm, milky waters of the lagoon are reputed to be good for the skin, as is the silica mud that’s available to use as a face mask – I don’t know if it’s just a placebo effect, but my skin does feel a little softer after my visit. Without wishing to ruin the romance of the place, the water in the lagoon actually comes from the nearby geothermal power plant – even Icelandic entertainment is environmentally conscious.

After we get back to Reykjavik, we walk a couple of blocks from our hotel to Svarta Kaffi (Black Coffee), where we have one of the best meals of the holiday. The concept is simple – get a decent-sized circular loaf of bread, hollow it out, and fill it with soup. The restaurant offers both a meat and vegetarian option, which changes daily depending on what ingredients are available. Pete and I go for the meat soup, which is chilli and lamb, while Alex takes the vegetarian one, ginger and coriander. It’s also pretty damn good value, and with a sizeable amount of bread to go at you can’t really complain about going hungry (I eventually manage to finish the lot, though I wouldn’t blame you for giving up). A group of friendly locals call us a cab, and then we’re off to Laugardalshöllin, despite my utter failure to pronounce the name of the venue correctly to the taxi driver.

Fortunately, he understands that we want to go see Sigur Rós, and we’re not the only ones – there’s a long, snaking queue outside the venue. The gig takes place in a dark, featureless barn of a room, and the band make us wait an hour past their advertised stage time with nothing more than an ambient drone as a soundtrack, but when they finally take to the stage, such gripes are forgotten. Tonight’s show features both a re-vamped version of the band’s stage show, in which spectacular videos are projected alongside the music, and the debut of a brand new song ‘Brennisteinn’ (‘Brimstone’ – or sulphur, if you prefer. Perhaps it’s a nod to Iceland’s geothermal power, and the fact their hot water smells like eggs because of its sulphur content?). Beyond that, I won’t attempt to gush about specific songs or regale you in any great detail, but suffice to say the band’s performance is imposing and breathtakingly powerful. Like the casual fan that I am, my ‘moment’ comes during ‘Hoppípolla’ – and in an instance that seems all-too rare for me these days, I feel like I can forget everything else while I’m listening to it. That it somehow actually means something because of that. Which could be considered ironic, given that the song is sung in a nonsense dialect of a language I don’t even understand in the first place, but I wasn’t about to let that get in the way of my enjoyment. It’s a reminder that, at its best, music can overcome any such barriers – and tonight, Sigur Rós were absolutely transcendent.

Monday 5th November

This journey ends as it began – on a plane, sleep-deprived, contemplating how different things will be when we arrive. I feel like I’ve seen so much, yet only just scratched the surface of Iceland and its music scene. To be honest, I wish I’d had the opportunity to spend a little more time in Reykjavik before and after the festival – fear not, I tell myself, you’ll be back some day…

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Let’s Get Cynical About Latitude Festival 2012, pt IV: Sunday

Sunday at Latitude 2012 will prove to be a day of great musical highs, contrasted with moments of abject failure. The first of these is an organisational cock-up – despite the schedule stating that there’s meant to meant to be an artist playing at 10am, the arena isn’t open until 10:45. This will become relevant both immediately and later on in the day. The immediate effect is that Catherine A.D. ends up playing to a fairly sparse crowd a mere 10 minutes after the arena opens. It’s a shame really, as her melancholic chamber-pop is quite an intriguing proposition – her take on Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ is an unexpected highlight.

It’s Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains who get the most unfairly screwed over by the change though – after scrambling to get their significant amount of gear on stage, they end up only being allowed about 20 minutes to play. They’re not going to let that stop them from having a good time though. During opener ‘Les Plus Beaux’, Frànçois addresses the crowd – “Were you dancing last night? Did you dance like this?” he asks, before he and his bandmates seamlessly break out into a synchronised dance routine. It sets the tone for a gloriously fun set of feel-good afro-pop, and the clamour for more after the band are unceremoniously told they have to stop is both loud and absolutely justified. I hope the organisers took note –  Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains absolutely deserve to be invited back next year and given a much better slot.

The reason for the sudden curfew is that classical superstar Lang Lang is playing on the Waterfront stage – although that doesn’t stop loud bass music echoing from somewhere in the main arena for the first few minutes of his performance. After that eventually fades away, the crowd can sit back and enjoy this rather pleasant experience, thanks in no small part to the fact that the rain has disappeared entirely today. Putting his  performance by the lake proves to be an inspired choice – not only does it create a lovely atmosphere, it also affords the Chinese pianist the opportunity to enter and exit the stage by gondola, which is a nice touch. I won’t pretend to know a great deal about classical music, but I will say that Lang Lang does appear to be quite the fan of Franz Liszt – and he also acknowledges his roots by playing a couple of Chinese piano pieces. The only thing that spoils his performance slightly is the small number of people who insist on talking every time there’s the slightest break in the music – their inane nattering inevitably spills over into the next song, which gets frustrating after a while.

Tell me honestly, have you ever seen an Irish, improvisational rapper before? Watching Abandoman in the comedy tent makes me glad that I can now answer that question with a “yes.” Before starting out, he asks the audience to present him with the most random objects they can find in their pockets and bags – then proceeds to improvise a bizarre but highly entertaining flow with this random collection of items as its subject. It sets the tone for a hilarious set that culminates in a rap-battle style number about a game of ‘Connect 4’ he’s playing live with members of the audience – it’s the kind of insane genius that must be seen to believed. Afterwards, Reginald D. Hunter gives us a slower-paced but no less amusing performance, his wry humour attracting a huge crowd – prompting a few shouts of “turn it up!” from those outside the tent, as his voice was often overpowered by Rufus Wainwright bleating away on the main stage.

Indeed, I can’t help but notice that the Obelisk Arena sound levels seem much louder than on Friday, as Alabama Shakes get their set off to an almost deafening start. Though singer Brittany Howard’s voice is an instrument of raw power rather than finesse, their set of jangly blues-rock is nevertheless solid and workmanlike – but for reasons I can’t quite pin down, I find it difficult to get really excited about. I think a lack of engagement with the crowd doesn’t help matters – indeed, I find that the most endearing thing about their set is when Brittany stops to tell us how much they love our beautiful country (and our painted sheep) before the band’s final song.

Afterwards, it’s back into the woods, where Zun Zun Egui are overrunning. Except they’re not – the artist who was supposed to be playing at 10 in the morning has now been shoehorned in at 2pm, throwing the rest of the i Arena’s stage times off. This information doesn’t appear to have been relayed around the site very well, as the only place it seems possible to find out about the changes was on a list pinned to the back of the tent’s sound desk – though I kick myself a little for not thinking to look there earlier. It also has the disappointing effect of forcing me to choose between Daughter and St. Vincent, rather than being able to see both.

I originally intend to revise my plan and listen to a couple of songs from Daughter before heading over to see St. Vincent, but I actually find myself enjoying their set so much that I end up staying for the whole thing. Elena Tonra’s breathy vocals could well be compared to The XX, while the songs themselves are swooning mini-epics – ‘Home’ is all echoing guitars and longing sighs, while ‘Youth’ nurses a quiet bitterness over a sparse acoustic guitar line before a galloping drumbeat up the ante. The band seem genuinely surprised that the tent is full of people singing their words back at them – but on this evidence it’s the least they deserve.

Much to my chagrin, I realise later on that the time I spend waiting around in the woods could have been spent watching either Chilly Gonzales or Rich Hall. It’s not quite a total loss though, as I still manage to catch St. Vincent shimmy and shred her way through a couple of songs, ending with a vicious take on The Pop Group’s ‘She Is Beyond Good And Evil’.

The fail then continues, and unfortunately for Battles, so does their luckless streak at UK festivals this year – after being due to play the second day of the abandoned Bloc Festival in London, they have their set time almost halved by technical difficulties here. The four songs they do play are as incredible as always – particularly the closing pair of ‘Atlas’ and ‘Ice Cream’ – but it’s such a shame that they can’t play for longer. The band are clearly disappointed too, with drummer John Stanier visibly frustrated as the set comes to a premature end.

Meanwhile, Bat For Lashes finds herself in an odd position on the main stage – playing to a sizeable crowd that may not necessarily be here to see her, what with Ben Howard following on later. That doesn’t stop her set from being a perfect reminder of what an enchanting live performer she is, with cherry-picked numbers from her first two records mixed in with some promising new songs from her upcoming third album, The Haunted Man – including just-released piano-ballad bombshell ‘Laura’. Natasha Khan may have to work harder than usual, but nevertheless she does a good job of winning the crowd over – and while playing three new songs in a row might be a bit cheeky, I suppose you might as well if your audience isn’t planning on going anywhere regardless…

While I’m grabbing a bite to eat, I make the most of my proximity to the Word Arena and chill out while listening to a bit of M83 – though there’s a rather noticeable exodus from the tent after ‘Midnight City’. Back at the Obelisk Arena, Ben Howard draws some of the shrillest screams of the weekend as he takes to the stage, and subsequently after every single song he plays. I’ve kinda been kicking myself for missing his performance in the 450-capacity venue where I work – and considering that was a mere 15 months ago, he’s come a hell of a long way in a fairly short time. But if he’s nervous during what he rightly calls “the biggest gig of [his] life,” it doesn’t show when he plays his songs. He may be a little too middle-of-the-road for some, but there’s no denying he’s got a good voice, and with the weekend drawing to a close, his set is a pretty good way to wind down.

I leave Ben Howard early in order to make sure I’m in good time for Perfume Genius – so of course, he’s late on stage (whether as a result of the earlier timing shenanigans or not, I can’t say). He more than justifies the wait, however, reducing the Latitude crowd to absolute silence for the first time all weekend. It’s a performance of engrossing fragility, with Mike Hadreas sounding like he might be about to have a breakdown any second – the likes of ‘Dark Parts’, ‘Hood’ and ‘Mr. Peterson’ are both stark and utterly compelling, and he even throws a curveball by covering Madonna’s ‘Oh Father’ towards the end of the set. It might not be one of the showiest sets of the weekend, but it stands out as one of the most essential.

I really can’t see myself enjoying an hour and a half of Paul Weller, and I imagine the crowd will probably have enough obnoxious twats shouting “play ‘Going Underground’!” without me going out of my way to do so. Fortunately, the organisers have seen fit to have Wild Beasts headline the second stage, which is pretty much perfect for me. Much like The Horrors the night before, there is an air of familiarity about the band’s set – with the exception of ‘The Devil’s Crayon’, it’s a fairly typical mix of songs from Smother and Two Dancers. Thankfully, familiarity has yet to breed contempt, and while the crowd may not be as animated as for other bands this weekend, the response after every song is no less strong. What the audience lack in physical movement, they make up for with exuberant (if off key) attempts to match Hayden Thorpe’s voice – and try as I might to stay in tune, I’m probably guilty of getting carried away too.

Finally, as seems vaguely appropriate for such a festival, we end up back in a Poetry tent that’s once again jammed to capacity, and for good reason – the legendary John Cooper Clarke is here. His set is a mix of humorous observations, jokes that are so bad they’re good, and his trademark rapid-fire punk poems. He does tend to wander off on tangents a fair bit – at one point he even introduces ‘Beasley Street’, then spends a further 10 minutes talking about something completely unrelated before actually reading the poem. It’s endearing rather than frustrating though, and his finale of ‘Evidently Chickentown’ is a fantastic way to round off the weekend.

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