Thursday, 31 December 2009

2010 is going to be the big one...

This time of year tends to be dominated by dissections of the year just gone, written by journalists who seem to think everyone apart from them has been in a coma for the past 12 months. But not here! No, I thought it would be better to tell you what is happening next year instead. Predictions? Not quite – I have it on good authority the following is 99.9% likely to happen within the year.

January: BBC Sound of 2010 is announced and my choice will either be shockingly overlooked or will win. If the later I will spend the following 12 months squirming as my choice embarrasses me by releasing a less than satisfactory album and saying stupid things on Twitter like: “Oh, highlight of my career - I’m going to be in Grazia next week.”

February: Typically the coldest and most depressing month of the year but not for 2010. A freak heat wave will prompt a revolution in British music with Mark E Smith releasing a calypso influence album, and Morrissey teaming up with H from Steps to produce an record called Everything is Great. Charlie Brooker is seen walking out of the Apple store on Regent Street, smiling.

March: After Fun February things take a turn for the worse when Simon Cowell chokes on his own smugness and dies. The nation is officially in mourning.

April: 175,000 people return their Glastonbury tickets when they realise that Michael Eavis’ ‘festival to remember’ may not include one of their favourite bands headlining on the Pyramid stage. Billy Bragg announces a gig in the leftfield tent with a special guest appearance from Nick Griffin. 175,000 people buy their tickets back again.

May: I go to Camden Crawl and have an absolutely amazing time.

June: At Glastonbury Michael Eavis gets wasted, storms on stage and tells Bono he’s a cunt. The audience walks out in protest. They all go up to The Park where they suddenly realise all the best stuff has been happening anyway. Emily Eavis is heard muttering ‘I told you so’.

July: It’s not as hot as we thought it might be and it rains an awful lot. Everyone acts surprised.

August: Lilly Allen moans about something on Twitter and then goes out and buys some more boots and panties. Everyone blames Stephen Fry.

September: Mercury Music Prize nominations are announced and everyone complains how meaningless they are but then goes out and buys the winning album anyway. The following week nobody can remember who won.

October: To mark the first anniversary of Stephen Gately’s death Jan Moir releases a record in aid of the Terrence Higgins Trust called I’m not homophobic (some of my best friends are gay).

November: Sufjan Stevens wins X-Factor

December: I run out of blog ideas, consider quitting the blogosphere and then decide against it. I write a review of the best of 2010 (making little reference to my predictions in 2009).

Happy New Year everyone, see you in 2010!!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas songs are rubbish

Chances are over the last few weeks you have been to a shopping mall and heard one of the following:

Cliff Richard – Mistletoe and Wine

Wham – Last Christmas

Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody

Wizzard – I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday

I have a theory about these songs. I believe they have been specially designed by multi-national corporations to be so insipid that eventually they breakdown your brain at molecular level and cause you to buy everything insight regardless of whether anyone in your family will actually want it. They drill irritatingly catchy choruses into you like a Scientologist until you actually believe you are having a good time. Of course the reality is you’re stuck in a queue as long as the Great Wall of China and you’ll have to remortgage your house to pay off the debts you have surmounted.

What really makes me gag is that the people who wrote these awful tunes must be absolutely raking in the royalties. This financial benefit seems to be limited to a select few whose tasteless tunes are rolled out year upon year. Nobody new has been allowed on this A-List for years now.

If someone else was allowed on the list I wondered who the contenders might be. Surely first in the queue should be the great Bob Dylan who recently released an album of Christmas songs called Christmas in the Heart. Bob would be there to save us, surely?

Wrong! I’ve only heard clips of it, but to be honest that’s enough. Dylan’s voice has disintegrated so much now that he sounds like a drunk staggering around the streets of Soho on Christmas Eve at the split second before he pukes in a wheelie bin.

Julian Casablancas has also had a stab, but it’s not much better. I wish It Was Christmas Today is a cover of a Saturday Night Live sketch. Casablancas takes the mildly amusing sketch, gets out a big old iron and makes it flatter than the hills of East Anglia. Maybe something got lost in translation when crossing the Atlantic, but for me, if you’re going to do a comedy song then, well, you have to be a comedian and not a moody rock star.

The only Christmas tune that is worth anything is Fairytale in New York by the Pogues, featuring Kirsty McColl. I’m a sucker for a song with a story, and this is one of the best. You can see and feel the characters McColl and McGowan create, and the lyrics pack a punch too. My favourite is probably: I could have been someone/Well so could anyone. So mean, so cruel, so true!

If only there could be more proper miserable Christmas songs like this then maybe I would truly enjoy Christmas!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

London I love you but I also need my space

So I have left my darling London and like the bird, flown south for the winter. Of course it is always exciting to be somewhere new and warm, but as much as London gets me down sometimes it will always be my home and I will always be glad to get back after a break away.

People not from London find this strange. It’s dirty, its crowded and everyone shoots each other. How can you possibly like that? I agree that’s not so great, however the thing that makes me love my city so much is the music scene. I’ve traveled around the world and found so few places that have anything like it.

Someone said to me once that they’d rather be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. What they fail to realise is that in smaller cities and towns there aren’t that many ponds. In London everyone can be a fish because we’ll swim even in the smallest puddles, and whatever time or day they’ll always someone who will come.

The fact that there are so many puddles means that you get a huge diversity of music. You can go to a rockabilly burlesque night on Tuesday and be at a gay bangra night on Wednesday. And there is always something new happening. Some of it is pretentious art school nonsense, but some of it is different and exciting.

So yes I have left the filth and fury for a few weeks in favour of some space and sunshine. When I get back however there will hopefully be a small collection of gig tickets waiting for me and I will give a little girly squeal of excitement at the new season of exciting live music before me.

My five favourite music venues in London:

  1. Camden Crawl – every nook and cranky in the north London suburb is turned into a space for music. The festival has provided the break-through for some of the biggest names in music. I can’t friggin wait!
  2. The Sun and 13 Cantons – a tiny room below the pub in Soho has hosted many a great party. Small enough to be intimate and big enough to build up a crowd. The only downside is the DJ bit is behind the bar and I once got a bit tipsy behind the decks and smashed a pile of pint glasses in the middle of my set!
  3. Bardens Boudoir – a reliable and cheep night out where you can catch a selection of new bands. Always a good crowd, especially on the Gypsy Hotel nights when some crazy burlesque action can normally be caught.
  4. The Lock Tavern – the Camden pub, owned by Mr Monkey Mafia himself, can host some very big names in very small rooms. Even if you don’t get in on one of those nights you can usually find something else that’s definitely worth a listen. Arrive early to avoid very long and disappointing queues.
  5. Brixton Academy – there are very few places I can say I’ve been going to for over 15 years, but the academy is one of them. It’s got some ridiculous corporate name now, which I chose to ignore. What’s important is that it still hosts some of the very best bands from all over the world. And although a sizeable venue it never loses its intimacy.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Shuffle Sunday - 29/11/09

Who cares about U2. Here's some of the best acts I've seen at Glastonbury that were on somewhere other than the Pyramid Stage.

Shuffle Sunday - 29/11/09

1. Rufus Wainwright: Art Teacher (Other Stage)
2. Willy Mason: Oxygen (John Peel Stage)
3. Super Fury Animals - Golden Retriever (Other Stage)
4. Elbow - Ground for Divorce (Other Stage)
5. Hot Chip - Ready for the Floor (John Peel Stage)
6. Orbital - Belfast (NME Stage)
7. Primal Scream - Higher than the Sun (NME Stage)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Why we need to stop worrying about the headliners and just get on an enjoy Glastonbury

So U2 have been announced as one of the headliners for Glastonbury. Hands went up in the air across the country: some were in ‘hurrah I love U2’; while others were in ‘Mamma mia, this was supposed to be the festival of a lifetime!’

I have to admit at first I was one of the later. Andy Williams, U2…this didn’t sound like the amazing line up I was hoping for. But then I had to shake myself by the shoulders and give myself a hysterical slap around the face. “Glastonbury isn’t just about the headliners,” I shouted. “There’s so much more to it than that!” Then I had to stop because my work colleagues were looking at me funny.

When I’m at Glastonbury I barely set foot in front of the Pyramid stage. I don’t like it for a number of reasons: I think you find more interesting bands on some of the smaller stages; the field is too big and sprawling; and the toilets are always by far the worst.

Last time I was at Glastonbury I abandoned my friends by the Pyramid stage and went off in search of something a little different. I ended up at The Park and while I was there I went to a café and had some delicious carrot cake, watched some break dancers, contemplated climbing the tower (and then remembered my vertigo) and finally sat down in the sunshine and enjoyed an afternoon of fine music. While roasting myself under the old ultra-violet I saw Laura Marling, The Mystery Jets and Caribou.

So let’s remember, when Mr Eavis promises a festival to remember you know he will deliver just that. It may not be your all time favourite band headlining, but go off into the corners of the festival and wonders will await you.

Five things to do when U2 are on:

  1. Go to the John Peel Stage and check out some new bands
  2. Go to Trash City, pick you jaw up off the floor and then party the night away
  3. Go up to the stone circle, light a fire and sing songs with your new found friends until the sun comes up
  4. Lose your mind in Shangri-La, and then find it again next day in the Green Fields
  5. Go to the Greenpeace field, have a warm shower and a nice cup of tea and find out about some of their many important campaigns.

Do you have a favourite moment away from the Pyramid stage? Share with us your recommendations on how to have fun without being bothered by a strange old Irish man in sunglasses.

This week I bought tickets for Grizzly Bear, The Pyjama Men, The XX and Camden Crawl. Roll on spring time, I love you already!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Shuffle Sunday - 22/11/09

Continuing the theme from my last post, here's some recommended tunes. Happy listening...

Shuffle Sunday - 22/11/09

Tracks listings
1. Laura Marling - (Interlude) Crawled out of the Sea
2. Moldy Peaches - Anyone Else but You
3. Laura Marling - My Manic and I
4. Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man
5. Foals - French Open
6. Neon Neon - Michael Douglas
7. Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream

Friday, 20 November 2009

Is your music collection in cardiac arrest?

A friend suggested I write a blog for people like her that might be…let’s say…a bit out of touch. This sounded like a good idea so I asked her when was the last time she bought any music. She replied: “Ohhh, I’m not sure…maybe sometime in the 80s.” Time to fire up the defibrillator and resuscitate those music collections.

I’ve not bought any music since the beginning of the noughties...
Ok, don’t panic - you’ve missed a decade of fantastic music but you can still catch up. Chances are if you were buying music in the late 90s/early noughties you might have been a little bit caught up with the likes of Blur, Pulp and Oasis. Some of those bands are still knocking about, but let’s not dwell on the past. The noughties has been one of the best decades for indie music. There’s so much to choose from, such as Kings of Leon, Franz Ferdinand and Artic Monkeys. But if you really want to give your music library a shot of adrenalin then maybe try something a little more daring, such as The Foals. Their crazy syncopated rhythms and big horn section have brought a fresh injection into the indie scene, which by the end of the decade has became dominated by what I’ve termed Shouty Boy Bands.

If you’re feeling a bit old for indie music then there is further good news. With the re-emergence of folk music, young people are now old people too. They’re calling it anti-folk as it doesn’t have the earnestness of the 60s scene. Have a listen to the beautiful lyrics of Mercury nominated, Laura Marling; Moldy Peaches, who dominated the Juno soundtrack; or Mumford & Sons who bring together both folk and bluegrass.

I’ve not bought any music since the 90s…
Ok, it’s time to put the glow stick down and move away from Manchester. If you really can’t bear to leave the past behind then New Rave might be just what you’re looking for. Big acts include Klaxons, who step too far into previously mentioned Shouty Boy Band category for my tastes. Alternatively there’s Brazlian band Cansei de Ser Sexy who as well as writing brilliantly titled tunes like Music is my hot, hot sex, have a lead singer with a splendid collection of all in one lycra body suits.

I’ve not bought any music since the 80s…
Although your music collection is in a life threatening condition, you can still be saved. Fortunately for you we’re having something of an 80s revival, with bands like Neon Neon using a range of retro synths to recreate an authentic 80s electro pop sound. My personal favourites though are Australian synth kings, Empire of the Sun. They produce an amazing soundscape of beats and bleeps and you can almost smell the Sydney surf when you listen to them.

I’ve not bought any music since the 70s…
Don’t call the hospital, call the morgue.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Shuffle Sunday - 15/11/09

There's no particular theme to this week's Shuffle Sunday - just a few tunes that are getting a thorough workout on my ipod. I must give credit to The Guardian Music Weekly Podcast, as many of these song come from their Singles Club (without which my iTunes library would be a musical desert!).

Ok, enough words, let's play some music...

Shuffle Sunday - 15/11/09

Tracks listings:
1. Matias Aguayo - Rollerskate
2. Monsters of Folk - Dear God (sincerely M.O.F)
3. The XX - Crystallised
4. Julian Casablancas - Tourist
5. Karen O and the Kids - Capsize
6. White Lies - Death (Chase & Status remix)

(After last week's massive failings by Spotify I've moved over to using iMix to showcase the tunes. However let me know if you think Spotify is better, you don't care, or you just wish I'd shut up and go away.)

Friday, 13 November 2009

Why aren't there any freedom songs from Tooting?

This week Severin told me about a documentary idea he had around apartheid and the links to music. It got me thinking about the controversial mixture of music and politics. Severin believes that if musicians have a stage then they should use it to spread an important message, a viewpoint shared by Bono. However others feel that the two worlds don’t and shouldn’t mix. Obviously these are cold-hearted people untouched by songs like If that were me by Mel C (my favourite line being: I couldn’t live without my phone/but you don’t even have a home) or the powerful War Song by Boy George.

Personally I would say that I’m not that big a fan of political songs, which is strange considering I used to be resident in the socialist republic of Tooting (maybe that's why the revolution failed?). Am I right in my political dissent or do I just need a better education?

After much brain ache I came up with these few....

Marvin Gaye - What’s Happening Brother?

From the What’s Going On album, which marked a new direction in Marvin Gaye’s song writing. Marvin Gaye was one of the first artists I got into when I moved away from pop into more serious music in my teenage years. Always a socially conscious youth I found his later work was far superior. This was always one of my favourites.

Bob Dylan – Times they are a changin’
Ok, so it’s a bit obvious, but it was the first tune I ever learnt to play on the guitar, and still the only one I can play with a modicum of decency. Dylan has always resisted the title ‘voice of a generation’ but of course he was and still continues to be. I thought he was a bit of a cock for this – if he doesn’t like being admired and respected then maybe he should have become a traffic warden rather than a musician.

The Specials – Ghost Town
Although I can’t listen to this tune now without thinking of that episode of Father Ted, it’s still one of my favourites. The tune was written in response to Thatcher’s policies, which the band thought would increase unemployment.

The Clash – Bank Robber
I’ve always been a fan of a song with a story, which is why I love this one. Behind the story however is a tale of social deprivation and the drudgery of a working class life.

The Streets - The Irony of it All
Maybe not the strongest tune on the album, and a bit naïve in its political messaging, but compared to his contemporaries, at least Michael Skinner was trying to say something interesting. Makes a change to Lilly Allen whose idea of politics is to shout ‘fuck off’ to the people she doesn’t like. Hmmm, that’s going to change the world Lilly!

This week I have been trying to get Severin to broaden his musical horizons and failing miserably.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Anything I can do You Tube can do better

With the hopelessness of Spotify to have anything vaguely decent on the dance music front, I went in search of other sources. You Tube came to my rescue with not only the full version of Eyen but an amazing video to go with it. Although it shatters my intergalatic image I thought it was worth sharing none-the-less.

DJ Rolando's Jaguar is also in there, but it's awful. Seems the master is better at making music than he is making videos. Watch it at your peril!

Shuffle Sunday

It appears that someone has stolen several hours or even days out of my week. One minute it was Monday and then the next it was Friday, and I can barely remember anything in the middle. If someone has found those missing hours can you please let me know as I had so much I wanted to do with them.

Due to this shortness of time, today's blog will be short and sweet. It's a Sunday Shuffle dedicated to my dearest Severin who was complaining the other day of not enough good instrumental tracks for the latest show he's working on. I do like to try and infiltrate the BBC with my music, and the rare occassion one of my choices makes the final cut it does give me a very cheap thrill (as opposed to the very expenses thrills I give others). So if you hear any of the following popping up in a BBC documentary then you know the Mistress has been at work.

Shuffle Sunday - 08/11/09

Track listings:

1. The XX - Intro
Enough's been said about The XX recently without me boring you further with my dull opinion. All you need to know is that I love 'em.

2. Boards of Canada - Roygbiv
I love the way this starts really dark and scary. Then you hear the amazing piano line and children's voices, and it feels like such a relief. Phew! Everything is going to be alright after all. Simply beautiful!

3. Plaid - Eyen (not available)
Sadly this wasn't available on Spotify, but do check it out because it is an extraordinary track. I could easily imagine it in Dr Who or Star Trek when the hero reaches an intergalatic garden of Eden full of lazers, spaceships and sexy girls in silver mini skirts. Without wanting to sound like Mr Job's advertising agency, it is available on iTunes.

4. Noah and the Whale - Instrumental Part 1
From the latest album comes another great builder with the full force of an orchestra behind it. Quite unlike their usual minimalist folk approach it is a welcome and refreshing change.

5. Supergrass - Coffee in the Pot
It's plain sillyness but I love it. Just try listening to it without tapping your feet...go on, just try!

6. DJ Rolando - Jaguar (not available)
Seems Spotfiy isn't so great on the dance front. I was disappointed to find the ommission from their database of this this early noughties dance music classic. Amazing beats and beeps from the Underground Resistance camp, and then there's the strings...oh the strings!

So these are some of my faourites. If you think there is something essential that I'm missing though, do let me know.

Friday, 30 October 2009

And now for something a little less serious...

Phew, that was an awfully serious blog post. Just to balance things up here’s a great little site that I guarantee will fill you with absolute joy for…oh…30 seconds at least:

Many thanks to Ruined By MTV for sharing this with the blogosphere!

Today I have been listening to Datarock and did a little bit of air slap-bass in the lift up to the office

Help keep Lilly Allen in boots and panties

I do feel like there is something very wrong in the world when our Government gives us three years to reduce file sharing by 80%, but 60 years to cut carbon emissions by the same levels. Climate change is the biggest threat known to our planet. File sharing makes some rich people a little less richer.

I’m not saying file sharing is right – it is illegal. However we do need to get these things into perspective. Mr Hot Chip argues the case really well in his blog by claiming that although the industry has been hit, it has simply made them function like an ordinary business, rather than having a licence to print money.

In this week’s announcement Mandelson states that “as an economy based on creativity, we can not sit back and do nothing as this happens.” Yet let us remember the artists still get paid regardless of file sharing. And further more, many make thousands every year in performance royalties alone. It is the corporates that are most hurt, not the creatives. You could argue that if the corporates are stung there is a roll over onto the artists. But as Mr Chip rightly argues, Lilly Allen is still spending thousands on “boots and panties.”

Back to my climate change comparison - just a few months ago Tony Blair spoke at a conference in China stating that we can not expect people to give up their cars. Instead, he argued, we should be investing our money and efforts into technologies that will beat climate change. So why not the same strategy with file sharing? The music industry need to wake up to the fact that now file sharing is here it isn’t going to go away. They need to find a way to work with it rather than battling against it. Sky have just launched their Sky Music package which makes an attempt at this, but it’s quite a lame one. For £6.50 subscription a month you can get one free album or 10 individual songs. Hmm, not really much of a deal is it!

I think it’s time for the music industry to get their thinking caps on and find a creative, rather than a legal solution to this problem.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

You can't beat a good list

Last weekend I bought the Karen O movie soundtrack for Where the Wild Things Are and I can’t stop listening to it. I have been ridiculously excited about the forthcoming film as the book was one of my childhood favourites. If I ever come in sniffing distance of a child I’m like a Jehovah Witness with a copy of The Watchtower. (What you’re only three and the monsters scare you? Oh grow up you little cry baby!)

The soundtrack by Karen O only added to my excitement. The score features Karen on most tracks with an “untrained children’s choir” who bring a ram-shackled charm. Rather than the sugary sweetness of most children’s choirs, The Kids sound as mischievous as our hero, Max.

The album got me thinking about other great movie soundtracks. These are my favourites – what are yours?

  1. Tommy: The only time you will hear me saying I like Elton John and Tina Turner is in the context of this soundtrack. Both performances walk a fine line between genius and madness.
  2. Trainspotting: This could be the soundtrack to my youth with 90s big hitters Underworld, Blur and Leftfield sitting along side the classics such as Blondie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed.
  3. The Piano: This rarely makes it into top ten lists, or even top 100 lists for that matter, but this was one of the first soundtrack albums I bought. Michael Nyman’s unrelenting flurry of plaintive piano scales make me want to weep. I felt utterly privileged to see him at this year’s Bestival.
  4. The Jungle Book: Who doesn’t love the jazz/swing classic I Wanna Be Like You (monkey song). I’m such a fan I named my cat after the permanently stroppy jungle panther, Bagheera.
  5. The Graduate: Simon and Garfunkle’s ethereal, dreamlike soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to Dustin Hoffman’s aimless, lay-about Benjamin Braddock.
  6. Superfly: I’ve never actually seen the film but the album I played until I nearly wore the grooves out. It’s been described as a pioneering soul record, yet Mayfield's death seemed to go almost unnoticed on Boxing Day 1999, aged just 57 years old.
  7. O’ Brother Where Art Thou: This was probably my first introduction to bluegrass, having previously had an allergic reaction to anything vaguely country. The soundtrack left me feeling like I’d had an unexpected homosexual experience – all flustered and at odds with myself, yet undeniably excited.
  8. Withnail and I: I knew Whiter Shade of Pale long before I had seen the film, yet now when I hear it I instantly think of that grotty Camden flat and Richard E Grant walking around in an overcoat and y-fronts. The film changed the meaning of the song to me, yet somehow it still seemed a perfect fit.
  9. Juno: There are a number of bands who try and do the unpolished anti-folk thing, yet nobody pulls it off quite like the Moldy Peaches, who dominate this soundtrack. Just as Simon and Garfunkle captured Benjamin Braddock, Kimya Dawson, with her shouty, rough round the edges vocals, captured the spirit of Juno.
  10. The Rocky Horror Picture Show: This has been so done-to-death that it’s easy to forget the genius gems, like the outrageous Sweet Transvestite or the hilarious rock and roll pastiche, Eddie.

Today I was mostly listening to Karen O and The XX and somebody told me I looked like a female Johnny Cash

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Shuffle Sunday

Although today is the fifth anniversary of John Peel's death, and I could do a playlist tribute to him, there are so many around it seemed a little redundant. Drowned in Sound have posted some interesting Peel stuff if you're interested in this. In the meantime, carrying on from my antipodean theme I'm going to leave you with some of my favourite tracks from down under. Enjoy!

Shuffle Sunday - 25/10/09

Track listings:
1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, featuring Kylie - Where the wild roses grow
2. Empire of the Sun - We are the people
3. The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition
4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig! Lazarus, Dig!!
5. The Temper Trap - Science of Fear
6. The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatrist
7. The Flight of the Conchords - Hiphopopotamus vs Rythmenocerus

RIP John Peel - I still miss you!

Five years ago today John Peel died. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news - I was in Rome with a bunch of Americans who had never heard of him. I struggled to explain to them who he was, and why he was important to me. To say 'well he always played really great records' sounded so trivial. I couldn't find the words for everything else he represented.

He did of course play really great records. He turned me on to some of my favourite all time bands, from The Undertones to Aphex Twin and Franz Ferdiand. I owe all these treasures to JP.

Yet there was definitely more to him than that. He was a bit like David Attenborough dressing in the same old blue shirt and chinos to let the nature do the talking. John, with his slightly amateurish presenting style, bushy beard and cup of tea, just let the music do the talking.

That's not to say he wasn't charismatic. He had a wicked sense of humour and I have fond memories of watching him and Jo Whiley sitting on bales of straw at Glastonbury discussing the latest bands. In 2005, the first year after his death, his lack of presence at the festival created a huge void.

When I hear of a famous person dying I respect the tragedy for the family and loss of talent to society, but I generally feel no more. Why should I? I never knew them. However when John died I felt genuinely gutted. I knew his death was going to create a massive hole in my life. It has and I still miss him.

There's a few good John Peel things doing rounds on the internet. Sweeping the Nation have posted a documentary from 2006 with a great interview from Jack White. BBC 6 Music have also done a tribute podcast, which inclues highlights from this year's Electric Proms.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Australia vs New Zealand - let the battle commence!

Let's get this established from the outset - I hate Australia. Who gives a fuck about the nice weather and multiples of beaches, when in the UK we have Glastonbury Festival, the Tate Modern, Edinburgh and Mike Leigh. And we've got Gordon Brown (yeah I know - but have you seen Kevin Rudd!?).

As Marcus Brigstock says:
"It takes someone with a real lack of imagination to only be able to enjoy themselves when the sun is shining".

I know this won't be a popular view, Australia is the Fendi of international travel. But I just don't understand it. I don't get why anyone would want to spend that long on a plane for a can of VB and a high risk of skin cancer. It seems even more ludicrious when just a few hours over the Tazman sea you have New Zealand.

Oh, lovely New Zealand with your glorious mountains, lakes and funny flightless birds. Give me a few hours in Lake Wanaka over a week in Cairns any day. Actually I'd take a few hours in Hull over a week in Cairns to be honest.

Having said all that something has happened recently to challenge my slightly zenophobic viewpoint. They wear funny hats and played beautiful synths and call themselves the Empire of the Sun. Over the course of 2009 I have become, oh, just a little obsessed with them. They're endlessly compared to MGMT, and of course there are some similiarities, but I think Empire have much more range to their music. Plus I think they're technically much better musicans.

Just as the first Aussie bomb landed in my earhole, along came another in the shape of The Temper Trap. The glorious Sweet Disposition went to number 1 in the iTunes chart and rightly so. It is an achingly beautiful track that I could listen to on repeat all day and not get bored. While the rest of the album isn't quite up to that high, and some of it is verging on slightly standard indie fare, there are other tracks, such as Science of Fear, that blissfully rock.

The Australia hatrick comes to you in the form of Little Red who seem to have transported Swinging 60s London to Melbourne. Not quite one for my playlist yet but they're good fun retro indie pop, which will put a smile on your face and a swing in your stride.

Back in NZ we of the Conchords???

I went to see Auckland band Pitch Black at the Rhythm Factory last night and half way through I realised I had drifted off and was thinking about what I was going to have for tea tomorrow night. Yes, sadly it was yet another NZ dub band and I'm a little tired of them. All the sounds I've heard before, they're just in a slightly different order. Isn't it time for something new? With the exception of Ladyhawke nothing very exciting seems to be coming out of NZ. If someone wants to correct me on this then please post your comments - I'm always open to new suggestions. In the meantime however I think I'll just go back to admiring your funny birds!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Shuffle Sunday

This is the first of my playlists to help ease your Sunday into Monday. Get it on your mp3 players people - it will make the transition to the new working week much easier.

This week I've chosen a mix of dirty, funky, electronica. I hope you enjoy them as much as me.

Shuffle Sunday - 18/10/09 (access to Spotify required)

Amanda Blank - Might Like You Better
Amanda Blank could most definately give Mistress Wanda a run for her money. She's got more
front than Brighton. The nerve of this tune really makes me laugh.

Neon Neon - Sweat Shop
I know this tune from the Stainless Steel album wasn't popular amongst everyone, but it's actually my favourite. It's just so filthy!

Har Mar Superstar - Power Lunch
An oldie but still a goodie. The first tune by Har Mar I ever heard and from then I was in love.

Dan Black - Pump My Pumps
A momentary move away from the smut towards a feel good party tune. Is it just me or does the chorus sound a little bit like Devil Woman by Cliff Richard?

The Young Knives - The Decision (Datarock remix)
Ok so this is a bit of a red herring. I'm not a massive fan of The Young Knives particularly and I was actually looking for Datarock's Give It Up, but it wasn't on Spotify. However I stumbled upon this and actually thought it rocked. Do check out other Datarock stuff though. I saw them at last year's Camden Crawl and they blew the roof off.

Simeon Mobile Disco - Audacity Of Huge
A bag of Bill Murray, Damien Hirst Telephone, Check got that gold-thronged studded alligator leather. What can I say - it's huge!

Peaches - Fuck The Pain Away
Another oldie, but again another master of smut.

New Young Pony Club - Ice Cream
This is one of the tunes that I remember most from Glastonbury 2007...and I didn't even see them. My friend was singing it, I was a little worse for wear, it was very funny...probably enough said about that. It's a great tune.

Empire of the Sun - Swordfish Hotkiss Night
I'm slightly obsessed with the lovely Aussie boys and their funny hats. I think this is them at their most filthy and funky.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Too posh to rock?

Mistress is seething this week after the reviews of the new Mumford & Sons’ album. The Guardian described it as “too polite” while Drowned in Sound said it “lacked character”. The worst was probably from The Independent who described the band as “posh kids who’ve suddenly discovered that actually folk music is, like, really good actually”.

The message boards weren’t much kinder, with one person saying: “They originate from a middle class public school…what did you expect?” And an Amazon reviewer said: “Hailing from posh Wimbledon….(they’re) not your typical working class northern heroes.”

It’s not that people don’t like the album that bothers me (each to their own) but the fact that they somehow it lacks substance because they’re posh. Since when did you have to be working class to either be a hero or a good musician? Jez people! When are we going to move on from this class obsession? So what if the band grew up in Wimbledon? So what if he went to Edinburgh and studied Classics? If I’m thumping my foot and strumming my banjo why should anyone care what my postcode is?

It’s interesting that, despite hailing from a similar background, the same hasn’t been said about posh rockers, Empire of the Sun. Maybe because when a man puts feathers in his hair everything else is eclipsed. Chances are however it’s more to do with the fact Australians aren’t as hung up about class as we are.

Linked in with this class obsession seems to be the belief that you need to have suffered for your art. Sylvia Plath did not achieve success until after her death. I asked Severin once whether he thought if she hadn’t died whether she would have become so famous. He thought for most people her death was an ‘oh, so you really meant it then’ moment. The tragic thing is she probably didn’t.

Of course out of great pain can come great art, however to claim someone isn’t good because they are too posh or nice seems petty and ridiculous to me. Mumford & Sons have a great technical ability, and I quite like the fact that they don’t take themselves too seriously. As far as I’m concerned I’ll take a Mumford hoedown over Morrissey misery any day.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Happy birthday Warp!

I've just been enjoying the Warp podcast from the nice people at Guardian Music Weekly, and it's brought back many fond memories.

My first introduction to Warp was through Andrew Weathrall and The Sabres of Paradise. I think specifically it was Smokebelch (1993), which to this day remains one of my all time favourite tunes. From there I went on to Aphew Twin, Black Dog and Autechre (which I have literally just found out I've been mispronouncing all these years...or maybe they've been mispelling?!!). Through a friend I was introduced to some of the earlier stuff (LFO, Nightmares of Wax) and then of course came Boards of Canada and the spastic drill and bass master, Squarepusher.

It doesn't stop there: Warp's ties with the award winning Chris Cunningham, have produced videos that have shocked, amused and made me cry. If you haven't seen his video for Bjork's All Is Full of Love then I urge you to do so. I know it's not a warp track but the vidoe is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Now Warp is 20 we see them moving in a different direction. The Guardian blog comment's page is full of people complaining they have sold out. But have they really? I think for some people anyone will a successful company is a sell-out (poverty is chic don't you know!). Others seem to think they have sold out because they aren't dedicating themselves 100% to electronic music any more. These people forget that the founder's of Warp had origins in rock/indie bands. And anyway, for music to stay new and inventive all things must move on.

I have to admit I haven't followed Warp in years, but their birthday celebrations have give rise to a new enthusiasm in me. Today I set off in search of the latest big thing in the Warp stable and while I can't say it knocked me off my seat, I could still hear in Grizzly Bear the inventive Warp spirit, and although I don't think I could sit down and listen to Hudson Mohawke, I think it's one of the best album covers I've seen in a long time!

So I say thank you Warp for all the wonderulf music you have brought us. Here's to another 20 years!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The best of Bestival

Bestival was a wierd and wonderful affair, with surprises in all sorts of places. My highlight was Seasick Steve, with his self confessed 'piece of shit guitar'. When he glared at the crowd and growled 'I need me a girl' most females in the crowd took a few paces backwards. However one brave lass took the gamble and jumped back on stage, sat down next to Steve, and let him sing her a love song. It was a brilliant moment. She couldn't have look more pleased, and Steve sang and played beautifully. The crowd loved very minute and it went down as one of those strange but true festival moments.

When your hereos let you down

After spending many long hours explaining to friends why Kraftwerk were the most exciting thing on at this year's Bestival, it was a trifle embarrassing to come back and have to admit they were only average. I saw their tiny smirks and inside I am thinking about warming hot pokers.

So yes, Kraftwerk weren't quite what I hoped for, but don't throw the genius baby out with the bath water (probably not quite the right metaphor there, but never mind). They wrote some of those tunes in the early 70s and they still sound fresh and relevant today. Maybe their live performances don't quite live up to the expectations, but you can't knock their influence on many of today's big hitters. Even Karl Hyde joined the 'I am not worthy' troops by warming up for them with David Bowie's Hereos.

I thought I could survive the disappointment as the new Muse album was out on Monday. Those lovely Cornish boys with their alien obsession and big operatic sounds make me weak at the knees. Well they did the last time anyway. This time they just feel like a boyfriend that I got bored with months ago and haven't got round to dumping yet.

Don't get me wrong, the album is stunning and amazingly produced. But it's the same sort of stunning that I heard last time. They don't seem to have move on anywhere. If anything the big sound now just seems a bit caricatured and ridiculous.

And if that wasn't enough I was burdened with the new(ish) Regina Spektor album last week. Is it just me or has she been so over produced her rough charm and naivety has been lost?

As autumn prods its ugly finger in my face, and winter whispers lies about me behind the bike shed, all seems dark and gloomy. Having said that Camden Crawl just sent out their first Tweet today so spring time pleasures isn't entirely out of reach.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The two exceptions to the rule

A mistress can never allow a roving eye. However there are two women for whom I would chuck the notion of fidelity on the outdated ideas pile, along with slavery, burning witches and voting Labour.

The first of these gorgeous ladies is Ms Lauren Lavern. Not only is she beautiful, glamourous and funny, but I have also had the pleasure of meeting her (if albeit briefly) and can testify to her genuine all round loveliness. The thing that really rocks my boat however is her passion for music.

I have never understood why so few women are into music. I have several female friends and family members that don't own a single album. The worst offenders however are women who have 'inherted' their boyfriend/husband's iPods when they upgraded. Included in this inheritance package is all his music. I mean, what's that all about...? That's like wearing someone else's underpants...after they've pissed in them.

Those women who do buy music tend to stick to the safe bets - Robbie Williams, Beyonce or The Kooks. Very few seem interested in actively seeking out new music and I don't understand why. Music, as far as I see it, isn't a gender specific thing. It's not like cars or computers or other boring men stuff, that's just about cogs, wheels, nuts and bolts. Music is about art, beauty and the thing men fear most...feelings!

I am a self confessed new music geek. I spend far too much time online reading blogs, downloading tunes and buying tickets to see new bands just because I like their name (can't wait to see Dinosaur Pile Up!). But I feel a bit lonely in my music fetish men's world. So the lovely Lauren warms my cockles and makes me feel a little less alone.

My second dazzling doll is Venus de Milo look-a-like, Florence Welsh (of Florence and the Machine). On hearing last night's Mercury Music Prize Award announcement I cursed and spat in the eyes of Speech Debelle, screaming from the rooftops (or at least my Facebook page): "Florence you was robbed!!!".

I'm not one to be caught up in hype. I genuinely think her album is the best I have heard all year: her voice has amazing range and sends shivers down my spine; her lyrics pack a punch (Drumming Song); she writes with beauty on the most original subjects (My Boy Builds Coffins); and god dam-it she just makes me want to dance (Dog Days).

She reminds me PJ Harvey in that there's a feminist heart to her music. In some ways she's better than Harvey who could be a bit heavy handed with the snakes and bleeding symbolism. But boy, how many women do I think of when I hear Kiss With A Fist. Way too many for my own liking.

After I'd got over the horrible injustice of it all I actually went back and listened again to Speech Debelle and relented slightly. My first sneery 'She's just a black female Mikey Streets' changed to 'Hey, cool, she's like a black female Mikey Streets', because actually I think the world needs a black female British hip hop star, especially after the sad demise of Ms Dynamite.

And this is why I think the Mercury Music Prize is important. The Guardian reports today that this is the first time a woman has won the prize in seven years. It gives young black women in South East London a platform. I think that's reason enough to keep the awards and I personally will be watching again in 2010.