Friday, 17 September 2010

So long, farewell

The time has come to say goodbye. After nearly year in the world of new music blogging the final curtain is falling on this blog. It’s been a fun experience, but alas I no longer have time to maintain it.

But if nothing else I have a great record (excuse the pun) of a year in music. Starting off with the amazing performances at last year’s Bestival, including by Seasick Steve. And then there was the rather disappointing Kraftwerk, but let’s move swiftly on from that one…

The release of Sign No More by Mumford & Sons was greeted with a mixed reception by the media, but it didn’t stop their tunes exploding across the airwaves. Over the past year it’s featured on everything from the World Cup to BBC1’s Secret Britain (three times no less!).

In January the sound of 2010 was greeted by scepticism by some, including myself. The one shining light in the line-up for me was Delphic. However the best news about that list of predictions has been that Daisy Dares hasn’t taken off as much as anticipated.

Spring brought highlights in the form of amazing gigs from Grizzly Bear and Beach House. But our smiles were then crushed with the awful news that BBC 6 Music faced closure (now saved – hooray!). Meanwhile a very wet Camden Crawl brought a small ray of sunshine in the form of Gaggle.

And then I went and wrote a review of Lady Gaga - not something I ever imagined I’d do on this blog!

So that’s it for now but fear not, I will still be very much alive on the blogosphere. If ethical fashion is your thing, then come and visit me on my new blog. I’ll be waxing lyrical there about all things environmental in the world of textiles. And I promise not to bang on about Lilly Allen’s panties any more!


Thursday, 26 August 2010

One self proclaimed ‘genius’ who very might well be just that.

Earlier this year Alexis Petridis played a track from a little known artist called Perfume Genius on the Guardian Music Weekly’s Single’s Club. I was instantly hooked, and went off to find out more.

Disappointingly there was little out there to discover at the time, however several months later Perfume Genius was back in The Guardian. This time with a track called The Drum. Blissed out harmonies float over a simple piano melody in about as striped down a track as you can get. Yet it is absolutely magical.

The video too is spell-binding. It reminds me of the cartoons you’d get before the main feature in the good old days when you got value for money at the cinema. Maybe it’s the nostalgic quality that gets me (I’m sure Professor Indie would have an anthropological answer for me) but I absolutely love it.

Perfumed Genius has an album out, which disappointingly doesn’t feature this track. Yet there are many other gems in there waiting to be mined. I would say this is one to watch for 2011, but I’m usually always wrong about things other people pick up on. What can I say – some people recognise true genius while others listen to Scouting for Girls.

Friday, 23 July 2010

That's not the portaloos you can smell - it's the festival organiser's greed

Festivals are great, aren’t they. You get to sit out in the sun, listen to great music and enjoy the company of your friends.

Yet over the past few years festivals have been getting more commercial. Of course they have to make money to survive, I understand that. But sometimes I do feel like Alex in a Clockwork Orange, strapped into a chair with my eyes wired open, while advertisers try and brainwash me.

The Heineken International Festival of Benicasim is probably the worst – four days with nothing to drink but Heineken. The Hard Rock Calling gigs in Hyde Park are similarly bad, banning all outside food or drink, including water. Of course you expect this from some festivals, but one place I didn’t think I’d see it was Field Day, the new music festival in Victoria Park (London).

I’ve wanted to go to Field Day for some time now, but for one reason or another I’ve missed it. This year I made sure it was in the diary early on, and eagerly bought tickets. It’s the perfect festival for me – new music, just a short distance from my house, with the chance to hear new bands and also enjoy some old favourites. A nice day in the sun, with friends, great music, fine wines and good food. It’s the perfect Saturday afternoon.

Except it appears that the fine wines and good food part is off the menu as Field Day have banned any outside food or drink. The drink thing I can kind of understand – glass bottles can be dangerous. But why food? There is only one reason I can see – an agreement with the food stall holders to ensure maximum profit.

It might seem a minor point, but it niggles me, especially as they have a lovely page on their website claiming to be ‘green’. Well I tell you one way to be green – let people bring their own food. Home cooked food tends to have less packaging, uses less energy to prepare, and if you’re buying organic (or growing your own) is less damaging to the immediate environment.

So I asked Field Day on Twitter for a response to why they are doing this, but they ignored me. I threatened to come with sausages smuggled down my pants, but they still ignored me. I said all I wanted to do was have a nice picnic with my friends, but still they ignored me. I’ll tell you, there’s a pretty sour taste in my mouth at the moment, which has nothing to do with the bottle of cheap wine I drank last night.

I’ve spoken to other people about the no food and drink issues at other festival and I know I’m not alone on this. If you think it’s time for change too, then why not tweet Field Day with your thoughts. You can find them @fielddaylondon

Friday, 2 July 2010

Glastonbury: Geeks, mods and Aussies

I always feel a bit sad on Sunday knowing it is the last day. And despite being one of the best line ups of the weekend, this Sunday felt no different. Even the sweet tones of Frightened Rabbit on the Other Stage couldn’t quite cheer me up, despite being a really great performance. In the end it was The Hold Steady who got me out of my funk. I’m not a particularly a fan of the band, but their energy and enthusiasm was so massive you can’t help but smile. I also have a bit of a soft spot for nerdy front men. You know, the ones that probably got bullied in school and really shouldn’t be fronting a band. Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip tops that chart, but Craig Finn from The Hold Steady comes a close second. His beautiful dad dancing was brilliant and had everyone smiling and dancing along.

I don’t think the Hold Steady are a bad band, it’s just that America rock isn’t really to my tastes. For those reasons I wasn’t massively keen on going to see Slash, but I was talked into it. I have to admit that in the end I was glad I went. After I got over the awful rock clichés (lead singer’s arm round Slash cos their proper bro-friends) I did actually start to enjoy myself. There were some good sing-alongs to the G&R classics, and even the newer stuff was tolerable.

At the end of the day though, I will always be more of a mod than a rocker, and I was definitely down for my main man Ray Davis. The performance of You Really Got Me with a full choir backing was one of those spine tingling moments. This was only beaten by Davis dedicating See My friend to Pete Quaife, who died last week. As the choir sang the legend was clearly choked up, and a lump formed in my own throat.

Choosing which headline act to see was a tough one on Sunday. Stevie Wonder is a legend, but I had one of my best ever Glastonbury moments to Orbital in 1994. However the winner had to be Empire of the Sun, who I have been waiting for nearly two years to see. I was so excited that I had to question whether the band could possibly live up to my own hype.

As the lights dimmed, the crowd roared and then the stage was filled with smoke. Luke Steele burst out of the mist, wearing a crown of swords, and picked up his guitar. From the moment he hit those first few chords I was completely captivated. It was stage theatrics at its best, with dancers dressed up as swordfish, and giant pink guitars with neon lights. The show was so slick it could put KY jelly out of business. As a first UK performance it was a stunner and as soon as it was over I wanted to go back an hour and live through it all again. When someone invents that time machine I promise you I will.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Glastonbury: which tribe are you?

Glastonbury has definitely got more commercial. Forty years ago you wouldn’t have seen Sony and Orange down there. And you certainly wouldn’t have seen stag and hen dos with those ridiculous matching t-shirts. That said, I’m not completely against commercialisation. I’m quite a fan of the Chill ‘n’ Charge tent, and with the exception of the arrogant drunks, I think a more diverse crowd adds character to the festival.

Take Delphic, for example, who played the John Peel tent on Saturday. They were slick and professional, and full of energy, but for some reason they just didn’t do it for me. I was surprised by my reaction as I always thought, listening to the album, that they would be amazing live. Like Orbital circa 1994. But as I watched the two teenage girls scream and shout in front of me, I wondered whether I was just a bit old for it all. Trying to recapture that moment 15 years ago is a bit futile and best left to the kids.

Over on the Other Stage the National were playing to a much older audience. In fact many of the people there had kids with them. I’m not against people taking kids to festivals – the children’s area and circus arenas are excellent for the little people. However I really don’t think in front of one of the main stages is the right place for them. Not only is it filthy and damaging to their hearing, but most of them looked bored out of their minds, not to mention hot.

Heading over to the Pyramid stage the Scissor Sisters were just finishing their show and introduced to yet another type of Glastonbury fan –the older woman. They were having a wail of a time, with a mass crowd dance routine going on. You couldn’t help get caught up in it. I wouldn’t call myself a massive Scissor Sister’s fan, but I do think they put on a good live show.

As the Scissor Sister’s left, the audience of older women was replaced by large groups of young lads lining up for Muse. I was initially a bit apprehensive about being surrounded by them, but they were actually, with the exception of one or two, good natured. As the Cornish boys entered stage they went wild, and the first few songs were accompanies by bad singing and pogo-ing. Then Muse started playing some slow songs, and stuff from their new album (which let’s face it, is a bit mediocre), and interest started to wane. People began talking amongst themselves, and it seemed Bellamy and the boys had lost the crowd. A couple of favourites, like Starlight, brought people back round again, but the original energy seemed to have been lost.

I also have to voice my disappointment in the special guest appearance of The Edge. Guest appearances can be brilliant, but sometimes they just feel like they are just doing them for the sake of it. I don’t think The Edge was a good match. I’ve talked before about my dislike of the hype around The Edge, and standing there next to Matt Bellamy it just seemed a bit of a joke. Bellamy is a virtuoso guitar player, where as The Edge just uses a lot of effects pedals. Why was I supposed to be impressed that someone with less talent had come on stage to play with this brilliant band? It was all lost on me.

I'm not sure what tribe I fit in exactly, but as far as I'm concerned they're all welcome as long as they, in the words of Wayne Coyne, be nice to each other.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Glastonbury: It's not all sunburn and Stevie Wonder

When the traditional media (bleh) cover Glastonbury it always obsesses about the mud, like it was something new or different. The reality is that it’s neither of those things, nor is it particularly interesting in the grand scheme of things. It’s like standing in front of the Coliseum saying it could do with a lick of paint.

This year the media were deprived of the mud - cue endless discussion about sunburn. Once that had run out of steam, and they actually got round to some reviews, it was the same handful of bands: Gorillaz; Muse; Pet Shop Boys; Scissor Sisters and Stevie Wonder. In protest against the pandering to the masses, I have decided to resurrect my waning blog and give a more alternative view of the festival, celebrating what it does best – diversity of music.

The weekend was kicked off with a very likeable Rolf Harris, doing all the favourites to an excitable crowd. Harris isn’t a great artist, or musician, but he was one hell of an entertainer, and hats off to him for that.

Over on the Other stage The Courteners churned out a range indistinguishable indie tunes. It felt like 2005 all over again and I soon zoned out. Next please…

Sanctuary was found in The Park, one of the best areas of the festival. With its fairground-like viewing tower, and delicious cream teas at the Tree House Café, The Park has an other worldliness about it. To add to its deliciousness, Steve Mason was performing. However excitement turned to disappointment as a rather dull performance ensued, the blame for which I mainly put on the surly looking session musicians. So obviously we know they’re session musicians, but for 45 minutes we need to believe they are as passionate about the music as we are, not just wondering when they’ll get their pay cheque. It would also have helped if one of them could sing so they didn’t have to resort to a backing track for the vocal harmonies. All in all a bit lack lustre, and not worthy of Mason’s great talent.

Fortunately disappointment was remedied by Mumford & Sons at the John Peel stage. As the crowds spilled out of the sides of the tent the look of awe on the band’s face was priceless. It’s refreshing in this age of cool and ego to see some genuine emotion from a band, and gratitude towards the fans that put them there. And Mumford & Sons repaid their debt with an explosive performance that would lurch from the raw heart breaking emotion of Winter Winds, to a good old fashion hoe-down and sing-along of Sign No More. The pace and energy of their set left barely time to breath, and before we knew it everything was over. But we were left with grins as wide as that of the bands, and a glorious feeling that we had been part of, and helped create, one of the best moments of their life.

As night fell it was off to the Pyramid stage for the Gorillaz. However the crowds were so huge it was impossible to get in so we went back to The Other stage to see the Flaming Lips. And how glad I was that we did! To think I could have missed out on giant bubbles, massive gongs, dancing girls, organ-tans and giant bugs. The spectacle was brought to an end with a beautiful rendition of Do You Realise?. As the first day of this wonderful festival came to a close, Coyne’s lyrics took on a new meaning, and a lump formed in my throat.

It's hard to make the good things last/You realize the sun doesn't go down/It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Camden Crawl Day 2 - finally the sun came out

Despite the hangovers we made an early start on Camden Crawl Day 2. I would highly recommend dragging yourself out of bed for the daytime programme as it is bloody good fun. There was some brilliant improv comedy at the Theatre Technis and stand-up courtsey of The Fix at the Camden Head. But it was Musical Bingo that really brought us out of our post-alcohol gloom. Big respect to Jess Indeedy and the crew for the lunch time fun.

As the evening drew closer it was time for band action. We headed over to the Electric Ballroom to see Midnight Jungernauts. We were a bit anoyed that the band were late on stage, and even more anoyed when they turned out not to be from Australia, have any guitars, or even be men. Oh dear, we were were at the wrong venue! We decided to stay anyway which probably turned out to be our smartest move of the entire festival.

The band we got to see was Gaggle. They're a 20 piece all girl choir that came on stage dressed like something out of Lord of the Flies. They delighted the crowd with pop songs that were both technically astounding and brilliantly funny. Their cover of Marina and the Diamonds', Mowgli's Road was a definate high, but I Like Cigarettes was a close second. They won Camden Crawl's Emerging Talent Show, and rightly so. The only question I had was why hasn't anyone thought of this before. Girl Power has never been so cool.

Next on the agenda was Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster at Koko. Although it wasn't the sort of music that I would ever buy, or even listen to at home, it was one hell of a gig. Guy McKnight is an amazing front man, working the crowd into a frenzy by crawling around on the stage on all fours and then launching into press ups. The audience were made up of some real die hard fans, and then others, like me, who were just enjoying the spectacle.

Back to The Underworld next for Surfer Blood. For all the joy that Koko brings me as a live music venue, the Underworld comes along and takes away again. Cramped and hot, with a view of the back of someone's head, it wasn't much of a live music experience. It's hard to concentrate on the band performing (somewhere) in front of you in such a miserable environment. Pass on that then and move on to the next.

Gang of Four were on at the Electric Ballroom so despite, not knowing much about the band we decided to give them a try. I'm not sure what to say, except the experience was a bit Spinal Tap. From the dad dancing, to staring out the crowd, the whole thing was a bit comical. Or maybe it was just the end of a long, alcohol influenced day. Either way, I couldn't really take them seriously.

The plan had been to stay on for Dan Le Sac vs Scroubius Pip, but sadly we were too tired, so decided to catch the last tube home. If anyone saw it, let me know what it was long as you reassure me it was rubbish. I wouldn't want to think I'd mised anything!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Camden Crawl 2010 - 2 days of music, rain and too much sake

The annual pilgramage that is Camden Crawl did not get off to a good start this year. The heavens opened as we approached the north London suburb and the queue that greeted us was heart sinking. It is astounding that the Crawl has been running for this many years and still can't get it right (anyone for multiple wrist band collection points perhaps?).

Having said that the queue did move fairly quickly. Once tagged, a few beers in the Enterprise revived us. Then after a scour of the timetable and we decided to make our way to the Electric Ballroom to see Wild Palms.

Wild Plams are a fairly standard four piece. Their drummer is amazing, but their singer really lets them down. Even the one song that could have been good was let down by his shoddy vocals and poor timing. Shame.

Although we were only one band in, a diversion to a Japanese restaurant was scheduled for some much needed sushi snacks. The plan was to go and see Mount Kimbie afterwards, but an inability to read the timetable and too much sake meant we missed them. Oh well, it was off to see Dead Meadow instead.

Dead Meadow hail from California and have great moustaches and can really play guitar. They are slick and professional, nailing that 70s rock/psychedelia vibe like no other. However I did wonder whether we really need yet another band that sounds like Led Zeppelin. It would be nice if they could bring something new to the party.

Next off to Koko for Teenage Fanclub. I was excited at seeing an old teenage favourite of mine and even though I owned Bandwagonesque at some point, I couldn't remember a single tune from it. I was hoping that the gig would awaken some memories, but alas not. It was slightly disappointing to be honest, as although faultless, the performance left me feeling a bit cold. It seemed to go down well with the rest of the crowd though, with some spectacular moshing to some pretty relaxed and melodic music.

After Koko we headed to the Blues Kitchen to see Silver Columns. This was the top pick of my night so I was expecting great things. However, whatever went on in the midnight slot sounded nothing like any of the Silver Columns stuff I'd heard. If anyone else was there and can shed some light on to this I would love to know. Was I the only one to leave disappointed?

So at the end of day one I was left with a slightly bitter taste in the mouth, but day two was still ahead of us with all sorts on offer. Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Playlist dedicated to the London Marathon runners

Every year it never fails to amaze me how people manage to run 26 miles around London, come rain or shine. As I did my pitiful 3 mile jog this morning I did wonder if I could ever take a on a challenge like that. After much thought I, probably not!

One thing that really does help when you're running is having the right tunes. It can totally lift your spirits when you hit that wall. Last night on BBC 6 Music, Steve 'the legend' Lamaq was doing a playlist for London Marathon runners. In the spirit of plagarism I have decided to do the same. However I'm dedicating mine to my lovely friends who are putting themselves through the ridiculous ordeal in the aid of two excellent charities - Anti Slavery International and Health Poverty Action. If someone hasn't tapped you up for money yet then please follow those links and sponsor them. Alternatively suggest some music that they should list to during tomorrow's race. At 19.5 miles they might very well need it.

Here's my choice.

The Chemical Brothers - Hey Boy Hey Girl
Delphic - Counterpoint
UNKLE - Reign
Simian Mobile Disco - Turn Up The Dial
Foals - Red Sox Pugie
Queens of the Stone Age - Noone Knows
Kings of Leon - The Bucket
The Hours - Ali in the Jungle
Maxïmo Park - Our Velocity
Muse - Knights of Cydonia
Queens of the Stone Age - Feel Good Hit of the Summer
Scissor Sisters Scissor Sisters - Filthy/Georgeous
Zoot Woman - We Won't Break
The Go! Team - Pantha Dash

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Iranian indie rock is cool for cats

It's tough trying to start a band. You've got to find the right members, write some decent tunes, find time to rehearse, market yourselves and get those all important gigs. A large percentage of bands never make it much past their first album, and those that do will still find super stardom a long way off.

If things are hard here, imagine trying to start a band in Iran. The struggles of Iranian musicians is the focus of Bahman Ghobadi's film No-one Knows About Persian Cats. The movie follows Nager and Ashkan in their attempts to organise their band on a tour of Europe. However before they've even started the odds are weighed against them. For a start, half their band are in prison. On top of that only one of them has a passport, and none of them have visas.

They are befriended by the smooth talking Nader, brilliantly played by Hameed Behdad. Passionate for the music, Nader attempts to help them find new bands members and stage a concert locally to raise money for the black market passports and visas. However even finding rehearsal space proves to be a massive problem, as unsympathic neighbours regularly snitch to the Police. They meet a heavy metal band whose practice space on a farm is brought to an end when one of them gets heptitus; an indie rock band who sit on their roof waiting for the neighbours to leave before they can steal 15 minutes of practice time; and a rap band who meet on the top of a building site to avoid prying eyes and ears.

Sadly, what starts as a brilliantly original and insightful film starts to trail off about half way through. Ghobadi is obviously passionate about the music coming out of Iran and turns it into a showcase of local bands, often at the expense of the story. Every few minutes we meet a new act, who play for a bit while shots of veiled women are intercut with wailing guitar solos. It might look pretty but it brings the narative to a complete standstill. Now and then Nager comes back in moaning about the passports as a limp reminder of the story.

The other problem with the film is that many of the bands are not that good. It seems a shame that they go to so much effort to play, but then just do a lame imitation of Western music. As Iran has such a strong cultural tradition it seems like a missed opportunity to not experiment in ways to fuse that with popular music. One scene where the bands members eagerly flick through a dog-eared copy of the NME is both charming and a bit sad. The world doesn't need yet another band that sounds like The Strokes. The world, and indeed Iran, needs an energised youth marking out their own territory.

Of course when the odds are stacked against you like they are in Iran, even picking up a guitar and playing a chord is a triumph. There's a great scene where the band share a traditional Iranian stew while dreaming of one day owning a Rickenbacker. While taking all this into consideration I still couldn't help but wish they had bit more originality in their ideas.

The film is an eye opener and makes you realise how much you take for granted. Despite its faults its great to see something like this on the big screen. Iran isn't all niqābs and prayer mats - many of the young people of Tehran are just as passionae about new music as you and me.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Albums That Shaped My Life: Walking On A Dream, Empire of the Sun

I had a dream the other night I was looking for the minutes of a meeting. Was this my sub conscious trying to tell me I was getting boring? At times like these it's time to delve into the dream-like world of Empire of the Sun, thick with massive soundscapes, big beats and surreal imagery.

Walking on Dream came out at a time when I was well and truely sick of the British music scene. Glastonbury 2008 had just been and gone and was hugely disappointing. This wasn't anything to do with the whole Jay-Z saga - it was, I felt, because the music scene was in a lull. Then Empire of the Sun came along and restored my faith. It was what my ear-holes needed.

The critics accused them of being a bit too 'silly' and 'unpredicatble', but when it was impossible to distinguish between one indie guitar band and the next, I found this really refreshing. I liked the fact they were willing to go out on a limb and mix it up. From the hip shaking Swordfish Hotkiss Night, to the Julie Cruise-esque Country.

In Australia they have enjoyed a huge amount of success, including top ten hits and featuring twice in Triple J's Hottest 100. In the UK they were marked as 'ones to watch' by the BBC in early 2009, but they have failed to take off. This may be due to not having toured yet over here. Aussie friends tell me this is because they've been off doing different projects. However they seem to have some UK festivals scheduled in this year, including Glastonbury. Maybe this will give them the boost in the UK that they so richly deserve.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Album Review: Laura Marling, I Speak Because I Can, Laura Marling

Laura Marling suffers the scrutiny common to many female artists. An obsession with her personal life, from her hair cut to her love affairs, which can sometimes take precedence over her music. In Marling’s case the situation was exacerbated of course after Charlie Fink bared his soul about their break up on The First Days of Spring. It is disappointing none-the-less for an artist like Marlin, whose contribution to British music should not be underestimated.

Out of all the artists on the anti-folk scene, Marling has probably been the most successful. Her Mercury Music Prize nomination for her debut, Alas I Can Not Swim, brought her music to a wider audience. Certainly on the blogosphere there was much anticipation for her second album, and whether it could match the virtuosity of the first.

Now it is here the general consensus seems to be that there has been a maturity in her sound, which is no doubt helped by the production. Where as Alas I Can Not Swim was produced by Charlie Fink, production for I Speak Because I Can has been handed over Ethan Johns, who has worked with the likes of the Kings of Leon. The sound is fuller and bolder, building to its gut wrenching crescendo in Alpha Shallows. It’s the kind of track that makes you want to cry, although you don’t really know why.

The album is by no means all bells and whistles. Fans of the simpler side of folk should delight in the striped down melancholy of What He Wrote or the Joni Mitchell-esque Rambling Man. From these to the rockabily stylings of Nature of Dust, the album is certainly one of diversity.

With so much of the female new music market dominated by the much debated kooky women brigade, its refreshing to listen to an artist of such sincerity and depth. Where Marling will go from here, and how long she lasts, is anyone’s guess. In my mind she deserves however to became the sound, if not the voice of a generation.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Albums That Shaped My Life: Phantom Power, Super Fury Animals

I like dogs. They have wet noses and waggy tails. In fact I like a lot of animals. In many cases I like animals a lot more than humans. They’re less than complicated.

So it stands to reason that I should like a band called Super Fury Animals. Yet it took me an astoundingly long time to get into them. I was aware of them but they were slightly off my radar. In fact I just looked it up and it was nearly 10 years before I finally noticed them. That’s shocking, because they’re a great band. A really great band!

The song that finally locked me on to them was, maybe slightly unsurprisingly, Golden Retriever from the Phantom Power album (2003). It was fun, bouncy, bassy and made absolutely no sense (why on earth would you compare your girlfriend to a dog?). I loved it!

When I bought the rest of the album I was a bit shocked. Although there were tracks like Out of Control that had a real rock edge, the rest of the album was chilled out with delicate harmonies and dream like effects. Even Sex, War & Robots talks about ‘going to bed before midnight’. They sounded a bit wussy.

It took me several listens to get my head around it. I’m not sure what eventually made it click, maybe the brilliant line in Cityscape Skybaby (She came in smelling of cabbages/Winter roots and winter’s ravages) or maybe the off kilter electro beats of Slow Life that gave a small nod to their techno beginnings. Whatever it was I suddenly saw them for what they were - one of the most exciting, creative and fun bands of our time. A view that was only the more enforced seeing them live dressed as yeti’s driving around in a golf cart to the A-Team theme tune.

Phantom Power isn’t necessarily the best SFA album, but it was the one I bought first and I love it. Gruff Rhys has gone on to other projects, such as Neon Neon, laying on the genius in spoonfuls (and I’m talking tablespoons not teaspoons). He really is a musician who keeps on giving. Here’s to those lovely Welsh boys…may they continue to entertain us for many years more.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

First BBC 6 Music and now Camden Crawl

The Sugarbabes at Camden Crawl – what’s that all about then? It’s like putting ketchup on a Chinese takeaway.

Camden Crawl has always been about curious young (and not so young) minds coming together for two days to discover the very best in new music. It’s about discovery, and chance surprises. It’s about popping into a bar for a drink and finding the place going off to a group of Norwegians in matching tracksuits playing slap bass (trust me, it was good!).

Of course there are always headliners, and they can sometimes be a bit predictable. Last year we were treated to been-there-done-that Kasabian, and the dullsome Macabees. No doubt they delighted fans, and that’s fine - festivals need headliners and everyone has their own tastes. But still, there is a big jump between that and the Sugarbabes. They are not what Camden Crawl is or should be about.

I did really like the Sugarbabes when they first came on the scene in the late 90s. For a start they looked different from all the other pop acts around (wow, a red head in a girl group – whatever next!). Their debut single Overload won a Brit award and seemed as at home in a Hoxton club as a teen disco. That’s a pretty hard combination to get right.

Then in fighting caused the departure of our flame haired wonder and bit by bit they dissolved into yet another plastic Barbie pop band. What once seemed so filled with promise had turned into dull predictability.

I don’t know whether headlining Camden Crawl is the Sugarbabes way of trying to appear a bit more edgy, or the organisers trying to bring the festival to a wider market. Whatever it is I find it really disappointing. If the Sugarbabes are going to be at a festival then they should jump on their bandwagon and head off to V.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Why the world needs Lady Gaga

Since its launch on Friday the new Lady Gaga video (featuring Beyoncé’s) has received 15 million hits. It seems the world has gone Gaga, and in my mind, rightly so.

Although I think that many of those 15 million will be teenage boys who’ll jizz in their pants at the sheer mention of a lesbian kiss, there is much more to it than that. In fact watching it, I feel like a spoilt kid at Christmas. There is so damn much in it that I have to watch it several times to take it all in. The video for Bad Romance was much the same. I have to agree with Pitchfork in fearing that they’re throwing so much into these videos that they’ll quickly run out of ideas. Sustaining the freak show will be difficult.

It’s not all good of course. Both videos have rather standard pop dance routines at the key change, and the necessity for women in pop to wear as little as possible is always tiresome. In addition the overt product placement makes me want to scratch my eyes out. But having said all that the video is a spectacle – it oozes creativity and is totally hilarious (the cigarette sunglasses being my favourite). It is the moment that sees Gaga snatch the Queen of Pop crown right off Madonna’s botox filled head.

Gaga brings to the world a breath of much needed fresh air. Although I think the actual music is diabolical, laden with terrible euro pop synths, she puts personality and performance back into pop. I think before the next series of X-Factor all contestants should be made to watch and take notes on Lady Gaga. That way we might get a bit of life into the conveyer belt.

Grizzly Bear, The Roundhouse, Camden

The Roundhouse in Camden is amazing, isn’t it. It is though, isn’t it. I haven’t yet been to a bad gig there and I’m starting to think that this has less to do with the bands and more to do with the majestic awesomeness of the venue. How can you not be inspired and moved when staring up at those huge Victorian pillars. It is the St Peter’s Basilica of music venues.

The service last night was delivered by Grizzly Bear, a band from Brooklyn who defy definition. Some call them lo-fi folk, or anti-folk but I think that’s a massive over-simplification. They soar from blissful harmonies to full on bass and noise, the later being pretty non-typical of folk.

The real beauty of Grizzly Bear is in their vocals. Those boys can really sing. Of course singing isn’t necessarily a barrier to producing good music (just see Dylan or Hendrix) but it is nice to hear a band that do it so well. Their vocals have a choralistic quality, which when amplified across the Roundhouse’s amazing acoustics, creates the nearest thing to a religious experience I am likely to ever have.

And its not just vocal skills where the Bears excel. They bring on stage with them a variety of instruments and use a range of effects creating a glorious ethereal dimension. For a couple of songs they also added Victoria Legrand from support band, Beach House, adding an extra dimension to the already mutli-layered musical experience.

As far as gig going goes its near on perfect. If there is an after life then I certainly hope that Grizzly Bear will be in it with me.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Albums That Shaped My Life: The Score by The Fugees

In 1996 I saw Lauryn Hill on Top of the Pops singing Killing Me Softly. I was mesmerised by her plaintive vocals, the beautiful lyrics and the beats. I didn’t know at the time that it was a cover, so I must now give proper credit to Lori Lieberman for her heart-breaking poetry. Yet Hill brought an unmistakeable freshness and funk to it that keeps it lodged in my soul to this day.

Although I loved the song it wasn’t enough to make me go and buy The Fugees album. I’m not a fan of American hip hop. I can just about handle (some) British hip hop, but stateside I just find it too misogynistic, and tales of guns and bling impossible to relate to. But then I heard Ready or Not and again Ms Hill brought something different to the mix that finally hooked me in.

Once I had brought the album I realised how much I had been missing. It’s funky, it’s funny and while I had previously only seen Hill as just a soulful diva, the album showed me she was a butt-kicking rapper too. I loved the way she wasn’t afraid to hold a mirror up to the scene she came from, directly challenging their attitudes and behaviour (So after all my logic and my theory/I add a mother fucker so you ignorant niggers hear me).

And while other hip-hop groups were busy singing about bitches and ‘hoes, The Fugees were tackling race and politics head on in tunes like The Beast; they challenged gang black on black crime in The Score; and drug abuse in Mista Mista.

I went on to love and adore Hill’s solo album, the multi Grammy winning Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. But as amazing as that album is, it doesn’t have the rawness of The Score. The Fugees created an album that changed my perceptions about American hip-hop forever.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Support the music not the touts

The other night, as previously mentioned, I went to see The XX. As we left the venue there were two touts outside selling bootleg band t-shirts. And at £5 per t-shirt they were doing a brisk trade.

Seeing this kind of thing makes my heart sink. Although people buying these shirts might think they were getting a bargain, even in the dark I could tell that these shirts were rubbish quality. What’s more they’re steeling money from the band, a band most of those people were probably claiming to love just a few minutes earlier.

So here is a plea to you all – please don’t buy from touts. These guys don’t love the music like we do. They don’t give a shit about it. From selling over priced tickets on Ebay to selling knock off merchandise outside venues, they are destroying the music scene. Don’t give them a helping hand in doing that!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The XX - Shepherd's Bush Empire

Tonight I saw The XX. Well, when I say saw I mean I stared at the back of someone's head while The XX played on stage somewhere fairly nearby. Yes it seemed tonight I inadvertantly stepped into the land of the giants. When I go to a gig with someone who is 6'2" and a large percentage of the crowd are bigger than they are I know I'm in trouble.

Maybe my vertical disability was the reason that for most of the gig The XX just didn't do it for me. Their entrance was brilliantly theatrical, and the light show a technicolour delight, but it didn't help. The band felt flat and lifeless.

There was little audience interaction, and when it did occur it was one or two mumbled words. You could feel their awkwardness, which manifested itself further in duff notes and plodding basslines. At one point they actually said: "We haven't practiced this one much so we may stuff it up." Jeez, talking about setting yourself up for a fall.

Then half way through it suddenly changed. From somewhere the band found their mojo. There were more dynamics, the basslines had more drive and the vocals more confidence. Finally the crowd were dancing.

For a group who have toured so extensively it seems strange that they should act so inexperienced. Maybe it was the size of the venue and the fact that for the first time they were headlining rather than just supporting. Whatever the reason I hope the next time they don't take 30 minutes to warm up. Otherwise they may find the giants get angry and that's definately a sight I don't want to see.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Save BBC 6 Music

Back in January Nigel Lythgoe was interview on Radio 4’s Front Row where he was asked if he agreed with the BBC Trust’s view that there were too many formulaic reality and talent shows on TV. In his response Lythgoe said the shows were successful because ‘that’s what the public wants to watch’. He went on to say:

We pay our license fee so we can have what we want to watch, not what someone wants to give us.

I wondered whether it had ever occurred to Lythgoe that although 12 million people watched the X-Factor finals, there are nearly 60 million of us in the country. A lot of us don’t like that crap at all. A sizeable portion of them made their voices heard this Christmas when they projected Rage Against the Machine to the number 1 chart position. Another comparatively small but vocal group are making their voices heard now in response to the BBC’s treacherous decision to axe BBC 6 Music.

The BBC 6 Music rumour has been floating around us for several weeks now but was seemingly confirmed by The Times on Friday. I’m still in denial about it simply because I can’t believe the BBC has the gall to actually do it. Axing BBC 6 Music is in complete contradiction to the BBC’s position of diversity. They say they want a commercial outfit to take the reigns but that will never happen because commercial stations are inevitably forced to bow to market pressures (as already witnessed with XFM). Just the same way as the Roundhouse in Camden is able to support a wide range of music and artists because of its unique chartiable status, the BBC, with its public funding is the only one in the position to run a station like 6 Music. Without it new music will have no regular major broadcasting outlet and a significant niche of people will have nobody catering for their tastes.

The news that they are also probably slashing BBC Asian Network is another kick in the teeth as there isn’t nearly enough broadcasting for ethnic minority communities in the UK. In addition the media industry is notorious for being full of white middle class kids. What kind of message does this send out to Asian broadcasting graduates now?

So here’s an idea for the BBC bods – why not axe one of the many reality TV and format shows currently bunging up our airwaves and sucking the life out of our licence fee, and use the money saved to keep 6Music going. One thing I know for sure, without it the UK music scene is going to be a considerably duller place.

There are a bunch of petitions and websites going round but I found the best was Love 6 Music They give you a comprehensive list of things you can do to make you voice heard. You can also find them on Twitter @Love6Music. The guillotine hasn’t dropped yet people - make your voice heard while you can.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Shuffle Sunday - I ♥ Gruff Rhys

This week's Shufle Sunday is dedicated to y favourite Welshman Gruff Rhys, for no other reason than I think they man is a legend and genius (and under-rated one at that). I've provided a few tracks that I love in some of his many guises. It was a tough choice though - there are so many classics. If you have a favourite Gruff tune then why not share it with me.

Shuffle Sunday - 28/01/10

1. Golden Retriever, Phantom Power, Super Fury Animals
2. Juxtapose With You, Rings Around the World, Super Fury Animals
3. Michael Douglas, Stainless Steel, Neon Neon
4. Cream Dream, Temporary Please, Simian Mobile Disco
5. Sweat Shop, Stainless Steel, Neon Neon

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Albums That Shaped My Life: U.F.Orb by The Orb

Welcome to a new feature called Albums That Shaped My Life. Each week I aim to feature an album that has change my musical perceptions or set me on a different life course. Some maybe new, but most will be old. All will be classics that have been much loved by me and maybe some of you too.

The first album to kick off this series is U.F.Orb by The Orb. Released in 1992 from the warped minds of the self -proclaimed Dr Alex Patterson and Kris Weston this album rocked my world like never before. I was only 18 when it came out and still trying to forumulate my musical tastes. I was living in Essex and the only electronic music I knew was happy hardcore, which dominated the east coast music scene at the time. Based on what I'd heard so far I decided all dance music was shit and I was going to stay a rock chic (a lightweight riot grrl) for the forseeable future.

But then I heard Steve Lamaq playing Blue Room on the Radio 1's Evening Session. The ambient sounds and soft but funky beats immediately got my toes tapping. I knew I wanted more. I went out and bought the album and played it on loop. I loved the fact it could be comedy, dancey and spacey all at the same time. And of course I was majorily into smoking weed at the time and it was the perfect soundtrack for that.

Listening back to it now I think it still holds up. The 7 minute intros might be a bit self indulgent (a fashion that has gladly gone the way of the ra-ra skirt) but the beats and sounds are just as fresh today as they were then. They also have an amazing range of dynamics, looping sounds in and out of each other, back and forth that makes you feel brilliantly dizzy. And despite its ambient tag it really works as a main dancefloor act, which I found that year at Brixton Academy when I realised there was more to life than just moshing.

The Orb was my gateway into a whole range of other acts, many of which will be profiled here at a later date. These other artists also had a big impact on me, but The Orb as probably there first. And for that I will always be grateful.

U.F.Orb was released in March 1992 on Big Life

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Shuffle Sunday - 21/02/10

A selection of my favourit tunes at the moment, headed up by Gil Scott Heron. His latest album is a pure delight. Go out and buy it now!

Shuffle Sunday - 21/02/10

Track listings

Gil Scott-Heron - New York is Killing Me
Yeasayer - Ambling Amp
Local Natives - Airplanes
Gil Scott-Heron - Me and the Devil

Also highly recommended this week is the Mathew Dear remix of VCR by the XX. Check it out here.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

My Life in Techno

In 1991 someone gave me the Prodigy album. I had previously dismissed them as ‘toy town’ rave and tossed them aside. However as I drove to college one day I fumbled around for some music to listen to and accidentally grabbed said album. With a shrug I popped the cassette into my stereo and everything changed: my inner techno was born.

By 1997 I was so obsessed with techno that with the exception of the odd bit of Pulp or Divine Comedy, I was listening to nothing else. My weekends were spent throwing shapes on some sweaty, nitrate filled dance floor, and while other girl’s consoled themselves after a bad break up with a box of chocolates and a rom-com, I would go out and buy myself a Detroit Techno box set. Myself and my similar techno-obsessed girlfriend even earned ourselves the title of Techno Witches (not original meant as a compliment but none-the-less we took it as one).

It took me about ten years to come out of my techno coma. It started with a bit of tech-house, which gradually developed into deep French house. Before I knew it I was horrifying myself by buying folk music! What had become of the techno queen?

As I make my inevitable trudge towards middle age my techno days seem well behind me. However I still get a little twinge when I hear people say ‘I can’t stand techno’. I find it particularly strange when people into metal or punk say it as there are so many similar elements. After all, many of the old techno DJs were ex-punks.

I’m convinced these people don’t really hate techno, they just haven’t been listening to the right stuff. Therefore I have created a special techno compilation and urge any techno haters to give it a listen before writing off the whole genre.

One of the originals but still one of the best. Although the sounds are quite retro it still holds up as a really solid track.

Joey Beltram: Energy Flash
Energy Flash turned up on an ‘influences’ album by the Super Fury Animals, which I think illustrates the depth of its appeal. Another classic that oozes with amazing sounds.

Underworld: Rez
They were playing Rez as I walked into last year’s Bestival and I remember getting a little tingle run down my spine. Come on, try saying you don’t like techno now. Don’t lie, I know you have your hands in the air!

Dave Clarke: Southside
Now I know you’re going to say this is more house than techno, and admittedly it is one of Dave Clarke’s more gentle moments, but there is still a lot of techno edge to it. Always one of my favourites, and so much fun to mix with that it was a permanent feature in my DJ sets.

Jeff Mills: Bells
The Orbit anthem I’ve grown to love as much as hate. It is an amazing tune but the Morely massives insistence on having it played every Saturday night did get a bit tiring. This version brings a breath of fresh air back to it though. It is strange yet truly wonderful. I love those trombones (and that’s a sentence I never thought I would use in relation to a Jeff Mills track).

DJ Rolando: Jaguar
Underground Resistance in my eyes were the masters of techno. They proved it didn’t have to be fast four-to-the-floor. Techno could have melody and rhythm too. I want to cry every time I hear this track. Beautiful!

Felix Da Housecat: Cosmic Pop
This isn’t really techno admittedly, but if we have Detroit it only seemed fair to have Chicago too. Probably one of my favourite Chicago producers was Green Velvet but I couldn’t find any MP3s of his stuff. And beside Felxi Da Housecat is bags of fun and is more than deserving in taking the final song any anyone’s techno set.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Shuffle Sunday - A Valentines Special

Love is in the air, and even I, the Mistress, can sometimes be romantic...especailly when it comes to music. So today I've had a little help from Cupid to develop a special Valentine's mix of my favourite love songs.

5 Songs About Love.

Track listsings

1. Moldy Peaches - Anyone Else But You
2. Rufus Wainwright - The Art Teacher
3. Flaming Lips - Do You Realise?
4. The Hours - Love You More
5. Divine Comedy - In Pursuit of Happiness

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Field Day first batch of artists announced

Field Day, London's one-day festival for new music, has just announced it's first batch of artists, and it's looking pretty hot. In the list are Caribou, Gold Panda and Chilly Gonzales.

My plans to go to this festival have often been thwarted at the last minute, however I hear it's pretty good. If the rest of the acts announced are as strong as this then I think it's going to have to jump to the top of my priority list.

Meanwhile Camden Crawl organisers are making regular promises on Twitter to start announcing their line up. It may be minus two outside but I can still smell summer in the air.

If Cameron's bagged Radiohead, who will Brown go for?

In 1997 Labour swooped in to power and everyone cheered and saw only birds singing and pixies dancing over rainbows. Everyone that is, except me.

Although I hate the Tories, and my heart sinks at the thought of them winning the next election, I’ve never voted for Labour. The reason being is that while most people were distracted by the pixies I couldn’t shake that horrible tune out of my head. Yes, go on, think back…remember now? I’m referring to their campaign anthem - D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better. How could I vote for a party with such terrible music tastes?

Of course Cameron has tried to make himself ‘down with the kids’ by citing his love of The Smiths and Radiohead. He even went as far to claim that Thom Yorke played a tune at his request at a recent gig, a claim that Yorke hotly denied.

So as the election draws near it begs the question: what will the music accompanying this year’s party campaigns be? I have some suggestions of my own, but maybe you can think of more.

Radiohead’s Creep does spring to mind, but since Davo is also such a Smith’s fan maybe he should pick something from their back catalogue. My suggestion is Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want.

Well many may suggest Can’t Stand Me Now by The Libertines, or I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better (when you’re gone) by The Byrds. However a more sensible suggestion might be The Rolling Stones’ Try a Little Harder.

Liberal Democrats
Well, let’s face it, they’re only going to get in on a wing and a prayer. My suggestion is that they go for the sympathy vote and so could try Remember Me, by Blue Boy.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Sunday Shuffle - It's a Folk Thing

I'm still not coming across that much music at the moment that is sending my heart a flutter. The new Yeasayer album is out tomorrow so may that will rectify things. In the meantime I've picked out some of my favourite folk tunes - past and present - to soothe you into your Sunday evening. In my eyes you can't beat a bit of folk although, as is the case with things that become fashionable, there is a lot of dross out there at the moment. I think these are some of the better ones.

Sunday Shuffle - 07/02/10

Track listings:

Noah and the Whale - Stranger
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
Willy Mason - Gotta Keep Walking
Neil Young - Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Bob Dylan - I want You
Laura Marling - My Manic and I
Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man

Friday, 5 February 2010

It Might Get Loud: two hours of my life I'll never get back

I saw Severin the other day.

Him: Do you want to watch a film?
Me: Sure, what do you want to see?
Him: There’s this movie with Jack White blah, blah, blah, blah
Me: Yeah sure. I love Jack White

I should have listened a bit better to what he was saying. If I had I might have saved myself two hours of utter boredom.

It Might Get Loud features Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White discussing all things guitars. It’s not necessarily a bad movie, it’s just got quite a specific audience. If you want to know everything about The Edge’s effects pedals or Jimmy Page’s fret boards then you’ll probably love it. The rest of us might just want to stick Seven Nation Army on our headphones and turn the volume right up.

Having said that there are some classic moments: from Jack White’s mini-me (complete with bowler hat and bow tie) being encouraged to jump up and down on the guitar he used in the White Stripes; to Jimmy Page playing along with The Edge to a U2 song and Jimmy Page persistently asking: “Are you playing that right? Surely it should be a D instead?” Only Jimmy Page could tell a member of U2 that they were playing their own tune wrong!

The film also sees The Edge admit that their music is only two notes and one hefty old effects peddle, a joke that Bill Bailey makes about them (83.50). The Edge seemed a bit out of place next to the likes of Page. Successful he maybe, but he’s hardly up there with the legends.

Well make you mind up for yourself. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 80% so I’m probably wrong anyway.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Shuffle Sunday - remixes special

A day later than advertised due to Blogger outage last night, here is the lastest Sunday Suffle, which is a remix special (although I think technically some of them really are covers rather than remixes). The inspiration for this came from Sterogum, who posted an amazing version of Hot Chip's Boy from School by Grizzly Bear. You can hear that here.

Other remixes come to your from Spotify: Shuffle Sunday - 31/01/09

Tracking Listings

1. Passion Pitt - Kingdom Come (Artwork remix)
2. The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition (Caged Baby remix)
3. Florence and the Machine - Raise it Up (Jamie T remix)
4. White Lies - Death (Chase & Status remix)
5. Florence and the Machine - You've Got the Love (Jamie XX re-working)

Messing with classic tracks is always dangerous business. Some may think that about some of these (especially Sweet Disposition, but stay with it as it gets better towards the middle of the track). But I reckon sometimes there's more than one way to skin a cat. I quite like hearing the influence of another artist on a track just to see how else it can be done.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Friday, 29 January 2010

La Roux talks more crap

This week some poor unsuspecting blogger got thrown into the spotlight when careless comments she’d made on her blog were published, out of context, by the Daily Mail. In hindsight it’s fairly easy for me to say she was ‘careless’. I doubt she ever imagined that her blog would have been picked up by a national newspaper and used in this way. Who would?

The same can not be said of Elly Jackson from La Roux. She should know better. I mean, surely this is the first thing they teach you at pop school (isn’t it?). Despite this she seems to be making a bit of a habit of saying stupid things.

Her most famous gaff is probably the interview with The Quietus when she said that women who dress in ‘short skirts and tank tops’
“…wonder why they get beaten up, or having relationships with arsehole men. Because you attracted one, you twat.”
I’m not sure what galled me most about this comment. The sheer ignorance and misunderstanding of why domestic violence occurs, or the lack of sisterhood for victims of this horrendous crime. I wonder if Jackson also thinks the women who get stoned to death in Afganistan had it coming because they were ‘a bit slutty’?

Jackson is back again with comments that assert her ridiculousness. In an interview with 6 Music about her Brit nomination she gives an Lauren Cooper-esque type answer: Brits? Bovered? Do I look bovered?

Actually she didn’t say that, but it wasn’t far off. Her actual words, according to the BBC, were:

“You need to be involved in these things, if you weren’t you’d be annoyed and people would be like ‘You said you didn’t care’. Of course you care, but the thing is, as long as you’re happy with what you’ve done, that’s all that should matter. You shouldn’t need to have everything confirmed by an awards ceremony.”

Sorry? Run that by me again…did she just say she would be annoyed if she wasn’t nominated but she doesn’t care if she isn’t nominated? If Jackson wedges herself any further on that fence I fear for her future fertility.

This week someone told me I looked like a lady pirate, and I started making plans with a minor celebrity to take over the world

Thursday, 21 January 2010

You've got the love? Or maybe the wrong voice

The comments section on a recent Guardian blog discussing the use of certain tracks on adverts sadly descended into a bitch about Florence and the Machine (she being guilty of having licensed her music to a number of advertisers). I was surprised to see a number of people complain about how she ‘couldn’t sing’. Say what you will about dear Flo, she certainly has a hefty pair of lungs on her. I could only think that people were responding to her slightly jerky and coarse vocal style, which she herself said in a recent interview, would win her no prizes on X-Factor.

A number of people in the comments section talked in particular about a cover she did of Beyonce’s Halo. Intrigued I looked it up…and yeah, they were right. It is shocking. I wondered what possessed Florence to do this cover after already admitting her vocal style isn’t suited to that glossy pop style. Maybe it was an attempt to reach a new audience, or rock up the pop queen. Or maybe it was just a bit of a mistake…we do all make them. I once thought I could look good in a pair of tartan trousers.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Shuffle Sunday - 17/01/10

A New Year and some new(ish) tunes. I present to you, Frightened Rabbit, Swim Until You Can't See Land; Grizzly Bear, Southern Point; Marina and the Diamonds, Mowgli's Road (Gaggle cover); Gold Panda, Back Home; and finally Delphic, Clarion Call.

Shuffle Sunday - 17/01/10

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Manchester's Back!

I don’t normally go in for reviews of albums, mainly because I’m not organised or nerdy enough to get anything written in time for a new album coming out. By the time I get round to putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) there are reviews all over the blogosphere and any addition by me would feel a bit redundant.

This is exactly what happened with Acolyte by Manchester band, Delphic, which came out on Monday. The difference this time being that I didn’t think any of the reviews entirely did the album justice. They weren’t negative, they just didn’t seem as moved by it as I am.

Delphic caught my eye in the BBC Sound of 2010 line up, but I wasn’t overwhelmed at first. However the new album far exceeded expectations. It is full of warmth and energy and seems to capture a spirit that seems to have been lost in the music scene in the last few years. As the synths coil around your ears you feel almost hypnotised. Then the beat kicks in and suddenly you’re transported back to the 90s in desperate search of a glow stick.

Delphic aren’t groundbreaking by any means. In fact they often sound a little bit like something you’ve heard before. What that something is though – New Orbital, Orbital, Hot Chip? – is never quite clear. They seem to have blended a range of influences into something new and exciting that in my eyes definitely seems fit to become the first big sound of the new decade.

So if you like indie a bit dancey, or your dance a bit indie, then definitely give this band a go. I guarantee you’ll be making shapes on the dancefloor by sundown.

Monday, 11 January 2010

The Great Ticketmaster Swindle

Yesterday I received an email ‘congratulating’ me on taking out Missed Event Insurance . At first I thought it was a scam email, and laughed at the ‘attached document’ it wanted me to open. I was about to assign it to my deleted items when something caught my eye. The email address said:

A couple of days before I had bought some gig tickets from Ticketmaster. Maybe this was a genuine email after all. However I certainly didn’t remember asking for event insurance, and at over £5 for a £20 ticket it wasn’t exactly a bargain.

I decided to do a search on the issue and found a few others on the blogosphere similarly surprised to receive an email from Mondial. One blogger had apparently complained to Ticketmaster and received as response from them saying:

The scenario you described was quite alarming to us and I want you to know that I have looked into it. I can assure you that we do not automatically charge people for the insurance. This type of “opt out” marketing practice is not used on Ticketmaster’s website. Each ticket purchaser is given the option to purchase or not purchase insurance.

This blog was written over a year ago.

When I called up about it the girl on the phone said: “Yeah, this happens quite often “ with out any sense of irony. She did offer to refund the money, but warned me it would take 5-10 days to do so. It always makes me laugh that it takes them only a few days to take the money out of my account, but can take nearly two weeks to put it back.

Just wondering if anyone else has experienced the same problems? Please do share your thoughts or any responses you’ve had from Ticketmaster/Mondial.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Shuffle Sunday - 10/01/10

As I've only just come back from holiday so haven't had time to buy any new music. Instead I thought I would share a few of my favourite comedy songs. In celebration of today's fantastically digital looking date (100110) let's start off with Flight of the Conchords and The Human's are Dead.

Next the incredibly catchy, as well as utterly hilarious, Tim Minchin.

And then there's those lovely Boosh Boys....

Tip of the week: The Pyjama Men

I know this is supposed to be a music blog, but comedy is my second love, and I've just been to a real belter of a show.

The Pyjama Men are a comedy duo from Chicago who at the Soho Theatre last night delivered what can only really be described as an hour long sketch with a multiude of stories weaving in and out of each other. All characters were played by the PJ Men, otherwise known as Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez. A subtle but superb musical accompaniment was provided by Kevin Hume.

The story centres around a train journey where we meet a range of characters, from a couple of gay bandits to a little girl ghost. Stage props included two chairs, and the costumes...well they wore pyjamas. Despite this you always knew exactly what was going on down to their incredible talent for a wide range of accents, vocal inflections, and mime.

The comedy ranges from brilliant human observation to the damn right sureal. Due to popular demand they have just extended their stay at the Soho Theatre and I strongly recommend checking them out.

In the meantime I have left you with a little clip from their previous show in Sydney which should give you a taste of what's on offer.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Snow, ice and indie pop - it's a depressing start to 2010

Snowed into my suburban retreat and I'm worried I'm getting cabin fever. I've only an iPod for company and even that seems to be turning against me. It desperately crys out for fresh fodder but I'm at a loss to know what to feed it. I was hoping for some inspiration from the BBC Sound of 2010 list, but from the 15 bands on offer I'm struggling to find any I like.

Jump back 12 months and we were in a very different position. The sun was shining and the list from the Beeb positively sparkled with electro pop joy from Little Boots, Dan Black and Empire of the Sun. The year held such promise and it delivered with brilliant albums from Passion Pit and Mumford and Sons. Others, such as Florence and the Machine and Lady Gaga amazed with live shows .

Back in 2010 and I feel like I'm watching a sparkler fizzle out. From this year's BBC list only Gold Panda and Delphic stand out to me. The rest just sound like a rehash. From tedious indie folks like Two Door Cinema Club, to the 'ok but haven't we heard it before' types like Ellie Golding. It's a classic case of record labels thinking: 'Well this sold well last year so let's do a bit more of it.'

Am I alone in thinking 2010 looks like being a stinker? I'm hoping that the BBC list this year just missed the mark and there are some gems out there waiting to be discovered as soon as this damn ice thaws.

This week I was thinking how utterly ridiculous it is to be considering buying gig tickets for shows that aren't taking place until September