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!