23 December 2008

The 10 Best Singles of 2008: Part 1

I've decided to split this into two because between me, my ramblings and the Youtube videos that should be accompanying all of these songs, it's gonna take up a lot of room just to do 5 on each post - the top 5 singles will be displayed tomorrow, but for the time being here's the countdown from 10 to 6:

10. Hot Chip - Ready For the Floor

For their first and dominating single from their third album "Made in the Dark", Hot Chip employed one of Daft Punk's best (and sometimes worst) qualities. Repetition. And repetition that would hang around like a bad rash until you scratched it so much that you just had to go out and buy the single. That's probably what makes this song work so well - it may be more accessible and simplistic in style than "One Pure Thought" or "Shake A Fist" but at the same time it allows you to dance. Oh, and that line about "You're my number one guy" isn't a homosexual comment - as Alexis Taylor's outfit might suggest, it's a line that the Joker says to Batman (I forget which one the line's in though, sorry.... I've failed you....)
Video:



9. Neon Neon - Belfast

These guys have practically released every song on their album as a single - which is good because I get to pick my favourite song (although maybe I could've plumped for "Raquel".... ho hum...) You do get a slight shock with how fast the song starts and how aggressive it sounds at the beginning and then there's this whole gothic vibe going on in the middle where it sounds like someone's going a bit bananas with a suped-up harpsichord but Gruff Rhys' delicate vocals turn this into a dark love song to the Northern Ireland capital.
Video:



8. Friendly Fires - Paris

First entry for Friendly Fires (we'll be seeing them later, mark my words) and it happens to be their first single, originally released late last year but then re-released after the success of their second single, slightly revamped and with a shiny new video to top it all off. There couldn't have been a more aspirational song this year as Ed McFarlane lovingly sang of running away to France as soon as he brought some money home to lead a better life, watch the stars and find love. Their passion for samba is not as prominent here, but the percussion manages to give the airy, dreamy synths a slightly serrated edge. I know a song is good when it goes by in a flash despite it being nearly 4 minutes long.... this one passes at the speed of light.
Video (I've chosen the old one because the sound is better):



7. Ladyhawke - Dusk Til Dawn

Inspired by a nightmare, sang like a dream (oh God, I think these cheesy things I write are getting worse). The video showed how our heroine Pip Brown was woken in the night by strange noises only to be attacked by strange men in masks. And one with a Rubik's Cube on his head. Lovely. Why everyone keeps saying that "Paris Is Burning" is her best single, I have no idea.... The fact is, "Dusk Til Dawn" showed us that you can make a great pop song without having to make it overly long... or even three minutes long, for that matter. It had a kind of swaggering simplicity that you wouldn't find from someone who is really so shy. We love you, Pip!
Video:



6. M.I.A. - Paper Planes

She re-released it. But the only reason it didn't score higher was because someone must have told her to fool around with the sound effects on the record because now everyone is playing the "censored" version. Now, she doesn't swear but they seem to think that she does, and the power is lost with the covering up of the chorus with some weedy sound effects. But for your pleasure I've tracked down the original version complete with video! It's the only version you need - take delight in this comment on working just to pay off debt, dead-end jobs and getting pushed into crime. If anything it condemns guns and violence, and as she nicely put it in a an interview earlier this year: "the intelligent 5% will now that it's ironic". Indeed.
Video (not the awful tampered one):


22 December 2008

The 5 To Watch For 2009!

Wayhey! I like doing this kind of thing - listing people who've done well/ should/ will do well in the future. By the future I mean next year, and this is the list of the 5 bands and artists I'd love to see do well in 2009!

All the bands shown here are compiled by a simple system: great bands and artists who haven't released an album yet! Enjoy!

5. White Lies

Funny that a few months ago I wouldn't have even considered these guys for a list like this. Simply put, I hated their first single! It was worse than Glasvegas (sorry Glasvegas fans, no offense meant)! But then "Death" came along. And I slowly turned on to their almost Interpol-esque feel and dramatic arrangements. And then "To Lose My Life" burst around and suddenly they were all dancey and I was struck in a major artery to bleed happiness every time I heard the song. I hope they don't go back to their roots - but until they do, long may they prosper on the list!
Video for "To Lose My Life":




4. Magistrates

Went off the boil slightly in late 2008 but I can only assume they're up to something good - I hope! Their music is like a British Prince colliding with A Tribe Called Quest and back to some good old fashioned indie disco. For some reason they don't want to put up any more tracks on their MySpace (secretive so-and-sos) but I could listen to "Make This Work", "The Inbetweens" and "Colour Co-Ordination" forever amen! Not bad for a guy who used to work as a butcher in Morrisons....
Video for "Make This Work":



3. Florence and the Machine

This would be taking the tempo down a notch if it wasn't for one factor - Florence Welch's booming, omnipotent voice that makes her songs sound so much more dramatic and imposing than they really are. "Dog Days Are Over" is a burst of sunshine where you can scream along with Florence about letting go and forgetting your worries. And watching horses run along. Then we have the completely misunderstood single. "Kiss With A Fist" is not about domestic violence, no matter how much you hear about the "abuse" that happens between the two lovers. No, Florence's reactions may lead you down that route but it's not true. And she's the winner of this year's Critic's Choice award at the Brits.... Just be mesmerised.
Video for "Kiss With A Fist":



2. La Roux

Elly Jackson claims to make pop music that isn't as accessible as say, Girls Aloud. And she definitely gets there. We could well say that her blend of pop and electro is different - in fact, very different. A one-woman stab at being a more dangerous Hot Chip perhaps? Well, unlike Alexis Taylor she's got a marmite-styled voice that you'll either love or hate. And a distinctly retro form of production behind her. Oh, and don't forget the fact that she'll be terrifying twee Lily Allen fans when she tours with her early next year.... Bravo!
Video to "Quicksand":



1. Thecocknbullkid

Pop doesn't come much better than this. It can't if I'm in to it anyway. I'm not a fan of the whole pop scene right now - everyone has followed the Americans in making either R'n'B tinged ballads or Diva-tinged ballads (here's looking at you, Leona) but here is a British girl who's making sweet music with awesome hooks and simple backdrops that are so effective it's unbelievable. Okay, so I know some people who aren't impressed but... LIKE I CARE!!!! I would much rather have thecocknbullkid singing to me about her thick ex than another completely shallow attempt at sales. I don't need her to wail at a cover version of one of the dirgiest songs for ages to make me feel like pop is reborn. We need more like her. And we need the other people on this list to get their acts together and reclaim the pop banner - let's rebel against the soulless ones!
Video for "On My Own":


21 December 2008

The New List

Just uploaded the new playlist on live365. And here it is! Hope you like it. Not quite it alphabetical order but I did my best and failed miserably while trying to put it on the website but I hope you like the fairly christmassy feel! Here it is:

1. Chemical Brothers - Hey Boy Hey Girl
2. Faithless - God Is A DJ
3. Wizzard - I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day
4. Koll and the Gang - Celebration
5. Air - Cherry Blossom Girl
6. Arcade Fire - Neighbourhood 2 (Laika)
7. Basement Jaxx - Oh My Gosh
8. Bat For Lashes - Trophy
9. Beck - Milk and Honey
10. Bjork - Army of Me (Live)
11. Black Kids - Hurricane Jane
12. Cajun Dance Party - The Race
13. Camille - Money Note
14. The Clash - Rock the Casbah
15. CSS - Rat Is Dead (Rage)
16. Daft Punk - High Life
17. Editors - Lights
18. Friendly Fires - Jump In The Pool
19. Goldfrapp - Twist
20. Hercules and Love Affair - You Belong
21. Hot Chip - Hold On
22. Howling Bells - Across the Avenue
23. Ida Maria - Drive Away My Heart
24. Interpol - Narc
25. Kate Bush - James And The Cold Gun
26. Kings of Leon - Fans
27. Klaxons - Gravity's Rainbow
28. Ladyhawke - Manipulating Woman
29. LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum
30. M.I.A. - Paper Planes
31. Fleet Foxes - Mykanos
32. Elbow - Fallen Angel
33. MGMT - Future Reflections
34. Mystery Jets - Young Love
35. Neon Neon - Steel Your Girl
36. PJ Harvey - The Sky Lit Up
37. Roisin Murphy - Leaving the City
38. Roxy Music - Editions of You
39. Royksopp - Circuit Breaker
40. Santogold - You'll Find A Way
41. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Painted Bird
42. The Go! Team - Doing It Right
43. The Kills - Cheap and Cheerful
44. The Long Blondes - Weekend Without Makeup
45. The Raconteurs - Many Shades of Black
46. Yeasayer - 2080

Oh, and stay tuned because tomorrow I'll be counting down the five best bands to watch next year.... the first of my "End of 08" lists on JJS!!

16 December 2008

Quickie...

It's getting round to that time of ear when I'll be announcing my special awards to go to bands and artists that have achieved so much over the past year!

Before that though I want as many people as possible to leave a comment saying what their favourite SINGLE, ALBUM and BAND were this year - even if it's an old band who haven't released anything, if you've got a good reason then put 'em down!

I'll be interested to hear from you all before I release some xmas cheer on some very lucky bands!

Although.... as a slight teaser I think one band in particular are running away with all the accolades... Oooh, mysterious....!

28 November 2008

"People Shouldn't Be So Scared of Asperger's"


This week Pip Brown, aka Ladyhawke, revealed that she had Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of autism. She said that she'd only been diagnosed with the condition a couple of years ago, and it sort of explains why her live shows can be so erratic.
She said: "People shouldn't be scared of it or anything. Some people don't even realise that they have it. I went through my whole life not knowing until only a few years ago, when it was just doing my head in and I had to get help.
"I only have a very mild form of it and there are some people who have it so bad that they find it too hard to even write a message to me - I love that I've been able to talk to people and be able to relate (to them) like that."
"I have real moments, quite often in soundcheck, when I just don't feel like I can perform. I don't feel like I can sing. I have these voices in my head telling me that I suck and I can't do it. There's one side of me saying suck it up and do it. And there's another side that says everybody's looking at you and they're judging you."
I think it's brilliant that she's been able to open up about it to try and raise awareness but since she's only really a little artist in comparison to what most people are into, I actually doubt how much of an impact this is going to have. While it does clear up a lot of the grey areas around Pip's performances and she makes a good point about the syndrome, not enough people will be listening. Of course I have and since I always found Pip to be a pretty nice young woman I was a bit shocked to hear that she has the condition. But then, this is exactly what she's trying to say - too many people are ignorant of the condition and don't really know what it's about. In 2004, Craig Nicholls, frontman with The Vines, was also diagnosed with the condition but yet it hasn't stopped him from getting on with life either.
Pip points out that there are many people who ave it worse than her, and I suppose if you want to see a comical version of this then you can look at Jerry in law firm comedy Boston Legal. But even he is quite cuddly and has a heart of gold.
Now if only someone like Kanye West or one of Girls Aloud would come out and say that they have the condition - that might get some more people thinking....

25 November 2008

TV... On the Radio!

TV On The Radio are a band that have, until now, slipped through my usually water-tight musical grip and have somehow managed to release 3 albums without even crossing my mind or me (gasp) hearing a single track.

That all changed the other week when I finally saw them live on Later... (bless that show, it can, on acassions, be quite revelatory) and lo and behold I was fairly hooked. Fairly because they only played two songs from their latest effort "Dear Science". Luckily for me the band now have their full album on their MySpace page so all I had to do was click and enjoy.

Then, by some crazy coincidence I keep seeing their video for "Golden Age" on the TV and I can't escape them. I think they're trying to tell me something. And it's been told well, since now I can't get enough of their slightly odd and kooky style of music. I can't quite contain them in one frame, as they seem to glide from genre to genre quite effortlessly but I can describe them like this - it's like what Radiohead would be like if they weren't so darned tedious and.... urrgh... (See? Radiohead must be boring since I can't think of any other words to spend on them).

I think you'll agree that there's some mysticism in there:

13 November 2008

Introducing: The RGBs

I have to thank the guys at Bridging the Atlantic for alerting me to this London-based band who really love a good keytar. Well, the instrument is making a bit of a comeback at the minute and I always marvel at how well everyone can play them, especially since they look like complicated bits of machinery.

Well, that's a different story. I'm really supposed to be talking about The RGBs, who are creating a big slice of fem-disco that is really not that safe if you happen to listen through all of the six tracks on their MySpace site. Little Boots is making a very broadcast-friendly name for herself but these guys will probably only ever be played on late-night obscure shows. Which, as ever, is a huge shame considering that their debut single "The Everlaster" makes singer Becky sound like Kate Bush going all electro. At least in my opinion. Actually, that's the thing that intrigues me about the band: Becky's voice. It seems to change effortlessly with each song but at the same time the music never seems disjointed as a result.

Then again, I would say that: I really hate it when there's only one style of singing or the same tune over and over again. Which brings me to the next point: tunes. I don't know what anyone else thinks but some of those wobbly disco beats and melodies are really catchy!

I can't go on forever, which is why I've found the video for "The Everlaster":

Quick News

Asobi Seksu are releasing their third album entitled "Hush" in February next year, and guitarist James Hanna says that it will not feature as many of their thunderous, distortion-filled, seven-minute long musings. Which is a shame because it worked really well on their last album "Citrus" where they got the balance between that and the more classic three-minute-long pop tunes just right.

Well, we'll just have to see how it pans out.

12 November 2008

Introducing: Jape


So in my last post I said that I wouldn't use the "Introducing" tag for a band that wasn't technically new - well I've pretty much instantly screwed that up by using it here for weirdy electronica man Jape. It's actually a side project from Richie Egan, a guy from the band Redneck Manifesto. But it's a side-project with friends in high places (heh heh, see the coincidence with the picture?) as the Raconteurs covered his song "Floating" on their tour. Not bad for a guy who's often branded as the Irish Beck.
But, er, I wouldn't call him the Irish Beck really.
He's a little bit more folk-like than Beck but on recent album Ritual he's gone more electronic. That's good. I can't actually get "Graveyard" out of my head if I hear it. It must be the kind of plinky-plonky keyboards that introduce it - good funky gravestone music (erm, this is odd since Beck's video for "E-Pro" was set in a graveyard...).
I better stop talking now and just let you make up your own mind. Here's "I Was A Man":


Go With The Flo

Not a new band, so I can't put my little "Introducing" tag in the title. However, I am becoming increasingly endeared to Florence and the Machine. While "Kiss With A Fist" was at first annoying with its slightly blues-rocky feel, I think I fell instantly in love with "Dog Days Are Over" - even if some people say that it's a bit like a Kate Nash look-a-like trying to be trendier than Kate Nash.

But come on! I think the Nash comparisons are a bit harsh for Florence Welch: after all, she's her own woman and doesn't look like a little cockney girl in a tea dress. Actually, she's like the rough and ready version of Alison Goldfrapp, as demonstrated by her video for "Dog Days Are Over" (careful if you don't like clowns):




See what I mean? She doesn't sound all weak and girly, and is actually singing people! What kind of a phenomena is that? Someone in this day in age who doesn't shout/talky sing? Great!

Neon Neon Review

The Sage Gateshead
7th November 2008

Producer Boom Pip and Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys created Neon Neon last year with a goal in mind – to create an album that celebrated the lives, wives and death of car designer John DeLorean. “Stainless Style” ended up being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and with good reason; the album mixed various genres together to create a brilliant collection that has to be one of the albums of the year.
But when they came to the Sage, I didn’t really know what to expect: just a standard show with some flashing lights or something much, much grander?
The group had taken the time to create a series of short films to accompany the music, starting with a look at the manufacturing of DeLorean’s vehicles during “Dream Cars” and moving on to a choppy movie examining the films of actress Raquel Welch while playing an extended version of their single “Raquel”. The mystic voice of DeLorean spoke from beyond the grave to address the band through this time, asking “how did you get inside my head?” after they finished a typically bouncy version of “I Told Her On Alderaan”.
The group were then joined onstage by Har Mar Superstar during “Trick For Treat” and then by their support band, rappers Yo Majesty, for “Sweat Shop” – both sending the temperature to boiling point. They started their encore with the slightly demure “Steel Your Girl” but then ended with a spiced up and feverish extended rendition of “Stainless Style”, marking the death of DeLorean.
This was no ordinary gig – it’s not everyday that you see a band putting in so much effort to try and make the night a special occasion but Neon Neon managed it without looking as if they were trying too hard to impress. It might have been a touch too short but it was spectacular while it lasted.

02 November 2008

Introducing: School Of Seven Bells

Today seems like the day when all the bells are ringing: first Howling Bells now School of Seven Bells - yet another wonderful Brooklyn band, would you believe? There seems to be a good thread of bands from there thinking along similar lines: if you examine Chairlift, MGMT, Yeasayer and these guys hard enough you'll notice that while they are obviously influenced in some by psychedelia, and have a distinctly dreamy quality to them.

Formed by former Secret Machines guitarist and vocalist Ben Curtis, he recruited Alejandra and Claudia Deheza to sing for him together so that they created harmonies and then branched off in different vocal ways at certain parts in certain songs. They've just released their first proper single (there have actually been quite a few demo EPs), "Half Asleep". As the title suggests it's a typically dream-pop inspired piece of electronica punctuated by some fuzzy background guitar work and some rather spaced out vocals, different to the singing on some of their other songs.

Other songs like "Prince of Peace", which is probably my favourite song right now (can someone please tell me where I can download this!?) - this is quite Yeasayer like, it has a rather eastern quality to it almost completely driven by the girls' vocals as they chant and power away through admittedly repetitive but ultimately lovable lines that put you in some sort of trance.

Everything is distinctly light and airy about this band but with some slightly darker undertones lurking somewhere beneath the fuzz - I would say that if you like any of the bands mentioned above, and enjoy people like Royksopp then you're probable on to a winner here. The debut album is supposedly out.... tomorrow!! But I've had bad luck with release dates before (curse you, Chairlift!) so keep checking. Until then... well I can't find a proper video so I'll just have to leave the MySpace URL. Enjoy:

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=82880408

The Wonder of Arrogance... Or Maybe Not


Last night I read the extended interview and article about Razorlight in Q Magazine (which is the first time I've bought it, I've been reading it for three days and still haven't quite gotten to Martin Scorsese yet!) and I still think that Johnny Borrell comes across as a bit of an arrogant little so-and-so.

I've heard more new tracks on various programmes here and there and yes, locking yourself away in a little Scottish cottage obviously works as does breaking up with a Hollywood star* (still think it was an odd couple though) - and here's the thing, he hasn't changed a bit.

Okay maybe appearance-wise he's no longer wearing those awful white spray-ons and he's got an earring but big whoop hey? Fact is, Borrell comes across as more accepting of other bands (Keane, for instance, but I would have forgiven him if he wasn't accepting of them) but still thinks that Razorlight is the best band in the world today.

It got me thinking though that maybe you need a touch of arrogance to make it in the music world? Correct me if I'm wrong but quite a few popular bands and artists have made their name through being somewhat arrogant. Sometimes being too shy and reserved can backfire on you, hence Ladyhawke's live shows in which she can't bear to even look at the audience and sings in a super-fragile manner (actually, add Cat Power to that mix as well although maybe it was the drink and drugs with her).

Hmmm.... the whole point of this post I suppose was to make you think whether or not his arrogance is a hindrance to his band or not - if I'm painfully honest I have to say that surely it isn't! People like presence and personality on stage as well as off it. Whether you like it or not Borrell has a large stock of the stuff.

What the Bells? They're Finally Back!


It's been nearly three years but Howling Bells are finally releasing some new material and I say... about time! I've been waiting for the follow up to their extaordinarily beautiful and different 2006 self-titled debut for absolutely ages!
They plonked "Cities Burning Down" on their MySpace site ages ago, but have only just come round to releasing a proper single in the form of "Into the Chaos". When I first heard the song my immediate reaction was that they seem to have gone a little bit more "standard rock" (I think you know what I mean) but then when the chorus kicked in I was pleased to hear that Joel Stein hasn't given up his wonderful style of guitar playing. It still contains all the sweeping magic that it did on wondeful songs like "Setting Sun" - and his sister Juanita's voice hasn't lost its slightly breathy and flexible sound either.
Well from what I can gather the new album will be called "Radio Wars" (correct me if I'm wrong but can't seem to get any other information) and I managed to pick up a video for "Into the Choas", albeit a live segment so I've teamed it up with the vid for one of my favourite Bells' songs "Low Happening". Enjoy!





26 October 2008

Did You Catch This?

So... did you manage to catch thecocknbullkid on Later the other night? No? Not matter, here's a video anyway:


24 October 2008

Feeder Review

Newcastle Carling Academy
Thursday 23rd October

With many influential rock stars having milestone birthdays this year, few people actually remembered that Feeder frontman Grant Nicholas turned 40 – not that getting older has stopped his band from thrashing out an exhilarating set to a packed-to-capacity crowd.
The stage was packed with blinding lights and flashing displays that would accompany the band through their packed set and add to the wonderful atmosphere.
There was hardly time to take a breather between each song, tracks coming harder and faster than the last. Starting with their latest single “We Are The People” from their latest album “Silent Cry”, from which they performed many songs, the Welsh band stormed through all their hits including “Just The Way I’m Feeling”, “Come Back Around” and “Feeling A Moment”.
By the time the band played the first chords of “Buck Rogers” the crowd was going wild; one of their most famous songs really got the temperature cranked up to boiling point. During another song Grant encouraged the audience to sing a rendition of “All My Life” by Foo Fighters and declared the attempt to be the best of the tour so far – pretty impressive considering that I struggled to remember all of the words!
In their encore they played “Seven Days In The Sun” from their 2001 album “Echo Park” and then the crowd exploded again when they finished with “Just A Day”, perhaps their most successful sing-along moment.
So what if they getting “old”? Feeder can still put together a wonderfully fun experience that leaves you with ringing ears and temporarily blind – who says that you can’t rock over a certain age?

21 October 2008

Introducing: La Roux

This is La Roux, a synth-pop star in the making I think. In the latest edition of the Observer Music Magazine Brighton-based postrel Little Boots said that the only people carrying on the tradition of quirky and eccentric British pop were Hot Chip - well if all goes well then our friend La Roux will be able to join them.

Her real name is Elly Jackson, she's based in London and writes odd songs that don't have a clean-cut meaning with fuzzy vocals and brilliant synth hooks - far better than some of the other pretenders we have out there at the minute! An added bonus to all this? Unlike a lot of female artists coming from London lately (I'm looking at you Adele, Kate Nash, Lily Allen etc.) she's not singing in a horrible cockney accents. And she can bend her voice really well, willing it to stretch it to its limits, a bit like Camille singing that bit on "Money Note" when she takes the mick out of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion's faint weak voices then bursts into harmonic screaming, only more British! What a breath of fresh air...

Yep, it really is that good - at the minute she only has just over 2000 friends on MySpace which is nothing so maybe I've picked up on something good here. There's only a minute and a half worth of her single "Quicksand" but it's all you need to get hooked. Then again you can listen to "Reflections Are Protection" and a new mix of "In It For The Kill" in full which is a blessing! It's really a one for people who like singing and not talking, Hot Chip's odd take on electro and a good dollop of eccentricity!

Check out that page anyway, I'll leave the link right... here: http://www.myspace.com/larouxuk

Oh. My. God - This Is Terrible!!


Well I've just learned that the Long Blondes have officially split up! What a shame, I really enjoyed both of their albums, even the supposedly "dodgy" second album. The reason behind this was because their guitarist Dorian (the one in the red shirt) had a stroke in June and they didn't want to put any pressure on him.
He seems very young to be having a stroke so my heart goes out to him since I bet it was a real shock, and hope you recover soon Dorian!
In the meantime singer Kate Jackson says that she's still writing songs and getting around to writing music for the first time since they broke up. She's thinking about pursuing a new solo career, which should be interesting. I hope it still keeps all the little quirky, Blondie-esque elements of the Long Blondes.
*Sigh* what's a girl to do? I must have cursed them in June when I said that they had no reason to split despite receiving some suspect reviews from some people who probably just thought they were a joke band - fact was, they didn't really sound like anything else out there at the time! When they released "Someone to Drive You Home" in 2006 it was a breath of fresh air from lad-rock and the limited musical scope that it had - at least they were airy and light-hearted with their songs.
Hmm... good luck with everything. I will still have a wonderfully warm and fuzzy feeling when I listen to what you produced in two short years.

19 October 2008

Grade E: This Blog Is Rated Excellent



... by Diva! This is perhaps the only time when an E grade is rated as being great, so I might print this off and show it to people if and when (heh heh) I screw up a bit. Hmm... stickers to paste on work....

And apparently I rock. Nice!

Anyway enough of those ramblings! I need to nominate some people to give this lurvely award to:

  1. Rozella
  2. Brett
  3. Noelia
  4. Popin
  5. Laurie

So there we have it. I've only just got back and I'm already getting awards... Sniff... I feel so privileged.

Thank God For the Fires!

Did anyone actually catch the triumphant performance by Friendly Fires on Later... the other night? For those of you not in the UK I probably should take a little time to explain that Later... is a show that brings together lots of bands and artists and has them perform different songs together in one room (significantly smaller room than it used to be).

So in what was an absolutely dire show (sorry fans of anyone else on the show), Friendly Fires really brought some much needed life to proceedings. And what a breath of fresh air it was! Even though they only performed their singles it was still nowhere near as plodding and genuinely boring than the other acts - in fact it was about as far removed as possible from it!

So here's just a little reminder of why we all love the Fires, the video for "Jump In The Pool":


The Late Edition: Ladyhawke


Sending yourself back while keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground? It's what this girl does for a living


Hmmm, so I guess you could say that since this post comes about 3 weeks too late since that's when I actually got the album through the mail that I haven't been doing my job properly! Still, you could also say that it's given me time to fully appreciate the full length and breadth of the album and not just give a general overview.

But then I don't want to blab on forever (which is possible, believe me, but I really don't want to!)

Ladyhawke's album has a wide range of lyrics on it the more you listen to them. Sometimes you think she's just going to stick to the subject of love like on "Back of the Van" - who cares if it was written about a woman anyway!? - but then she veers on to the subject of bad dreams on "Dusk Till Dawn", and drinking and dancing the night away in everyone's favourite European captial on "Paris Is Burning".

Okay, maybe not as wide as some people might like but hey! This album is really about the atmosphere created on it. As my little opening paragraph suggests, she draws on great influence from her 80s icons but while you can hear this there's still an element of bringing this kind of pop right back into modern day. This is most evident when the album progresses into the second half and songs like "Paris Is Burning" and "Professional Suicide" (a great little malicious song attacking people who make comebacks decades after splitting, thus "you had a hit in '89/too bad we don't all age as good as wine"). The retro elements are there in abundance on tracks like "Another Runaway", "Love Don't Live Here" and brilliant "Better Than Sunday" but sometimes the best songs are the ones that give a nice blend between the two...

So step up "Manipulating Woman", probably the best song on the whole album. Can we all really relate to the story of a girl spreading rumours and breaking up friends for her own gain and enjoyment? Possibly yes, which is why I like the song. I think Ladyhawke gets her revenge in this song, singing "you must be used to the pain" as if she's stabbed this woman in the back with a sharp pencil. This particular song has obvious retro elements with the synths in the background but then the guitars and drums sound pretty up-to-date and so you get this wonderful mish-mash of old and new. A bit like the soundtrack to the clothes we're all supposed to wearing now. This version is a re-recording of the one she's had on her MySpace for ages now, and the first time I listened to it the dynamic difference and added malice blew me away. The extra time in the studio really paid off!

Poor Pip Brown probably won't get anywhere fast in the music biz right now - we're too bogged down in rubbishy American "starlets" to even give the slightest nod of recognition to this shy New Zealand girl. It's a real shame, but then the people at Modular Records should have a firm pat on the back for making sure that her album has at least seen the light of day. It's a real gem.

12 October 2008

Shameful?

I feel a bit weird saying this considering that I don't really like this band at all. Just see if you know who I'm talking about before I go any further:

1.) The lead singer was once a member of The Libertines
2.) The drummer released a thirteen-minute album of little ditties for charity
3.) I'm pretty sure they've headlined Glastonbury or T in the Park (maybe both, but a couple of yars back now)
4.) The lead singer was (I'm pushing this now) dating Kirsten Dunst

and... here's the one that'll give it away for most people

5.) Their biggest hit was with a song called "America"

Yep, congrats if you got it within a couple of clues, kudos if you got it at all. But Razorlight's new song is growing on me steadily. All of their songs are watered down mush really but I was compelled by "Wire to Wire" - it's a little bit different for them I suppose but not in the scary way that Keane (shudder) have gone all nu-rave on us.

Edit 19th October - Whey-hey! I've found a place where I can get the embed URL for the Youtube video! Enjoy!!

02 October 2008

Just Some Daft Fun

Actually I've nicked this idea from someone else, not that it matters! We've all probably heard of Brooklyn band MGMT (shame on you if you haven't long-time readers!) but what do these crazy initials stand for?

Now yes, I know that it's an abbreviation of Management but what I want is words to go with the initials. Here's my sensible one:

Moonshine Goes Musical Terrifically

And a not so sensible one (don't ask where I got this from):

My Greatly Misunderstood Turtle

But what does MGMT really stand for? Place your comments and make me laugh, or go serious! It's just a bit of Thursday Fun!

25 September 2008

I Did Get Round To It Eventually

Yes, it's been a while but I've finally updated my playlist on the radio station and here it is in alphabetical order (well I've turned on the randomizer so I've got no idea what's coming next!):

1. Asobi Seksu - Strawberries
2. Basement Jaxx - Cish Cash (featuring Siouxsie Sioux)
3. Bat For Lashes - Sarah
4. Beck - Tropicalia
5. Bjork - There's More To Life Than This
6. Black Kids - Hit The Heartbreaks
7. Cajun Dance Party - Amylase
8. Camille - Gospel With No Lord
9. Chemical Brothers - Hey Boy Hey Girl
10. CSS - How I Became Paranoid
11. Daft Punk - High Life
12. Earlies - Morning Wonder
13. Editors - The Racing Rats
14. Faithless - God Is A DJ
15. Feeder - Seven Days In The Sun
16. Goldfrapp - Cologne Cerrone Houdini
17. Hercules and Love Affair - Time Will
18. Hot Chip - Shake A Fist
19. Howling Bells - Velvet Girl
20. Ida Maria - Stella
21. Imogen Heap - Whatever
22. Interpol - Obstacle 1
23. Kate Bush - Hammer Horror
24. Kings of Leon - Charmer
25. Klaxons - It's Not Over Yet
26. LCD Soundsystem - Time To Get Away
27. M.I.A. - Amazon
28. Manic Street Preachers - Empty Souls
29. Metric - Empty
30. MGMT - Kids
31. Muse - Plug In Baby
32. Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down
33. Neon Neon - Belfast
34. PJ Harvey - Good Fortune
35. Rilo Kiley - Close Call
36. Roisin Murphy - If We're In Love
37. Santogold - You'll Find A Way
38. Siouxsie and the Banshees - She's A Carnival
39. Sons and Daughters - Split Lips
40. Super Furry Animals - Slow Life
41. Supergrass - Diamond Hoo Ha Man
42. The Go! Team - Doing It Right
43. The Kills - What New York Used To Be
44. The Long Blondes - Century
45. The Raconteurs - Attention
46. The Sugarcubes - Traitor
47. Yeasayer - Sunrise

24 September 2008

How To Keep Warm In The Winter: Depeche Mode Style!


I know when I must be starting to feel the effects of dark nights and cold days around September and October because I instantly reach for Depeche Mode's "Ultra". I'm much more of a fan of "Ultra" than any of their other works, which includes the highly praised "Violator" (i.e. the one with "Personal Jesus" on it).
I've done this for a couple of years now, so I'm starting to wonder why it's such a good winter album. Strangely enough, despite the dark undertones there's a sort of coziness and warmth about the album as a whole. Okay, there are some pretty rock moments in "Barrel Of A Gun" and "Sister of Night" among others but then there's other songs that only feel right if you play them at night. I know this sounds weird but "The Bottom Line" in particular makes me think I'm a cat stalking through some dark alley - the fur is soothing! Of course it could just be Dave Gahan's sumptuous voice.
Well, whatever it is I'm sure I won't be getting through the winter without this album. It's like a cure for cold...

Friendly Fires

What do you get when you cross British electro-pop with some good old fashioned Brazilian samba? A wonderfully eclectic debut

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the appeal of Friendly Fires, a three piece band from St. Albans who are effectively saving the UK from another year of washed-up UK indie-rock. While indie-rock seems to be the genre du jour, electro-pop and all its associated sub-genres are creating an underground storm far more exciting than your Courteeners, Oasises and Glasvegases (yeah okay I know this is really bad grammar!) There's a reason why I'm buying mainly American this year - luckily this band have saved me from saying that I've only actually bought three albums from British acts this year! Now it's four.

"Paris" was featured last year of a taster of things to come from this little band and provided a glittering saving grace from the brash nu-rave that dominated the new music scene. While Klaxons et al were pushing a form of electro that was incredibly in-your-face, "Paris" was a sparkly, dreamy piece of electronica that could be enjoyed by anyone.

So to my despair they dropped off the radar, I thought into obscurity. Then they come back with the equally dreamy and very percussive "Jump In The Pool" which glides along magically as the first track on this album - the soaring vocals at the beginning of the song transport you to a magical world. "Lovesick" is a soulful, totally danceable track where Ed McFarlane's voice morphs so much you can hardly tell that it's the same man singing! There are moments of pure pop heaven as "Photobooth" and "In The Hospital" play and although these are both what you may term as "safe" songs they also show that Friendly Fires are willing to try different things and aren't glued entirely to one style of playing.

"Skeleton Boy" is almost childish in its persona but then it grows up in the chorus, then we have "On Board" which is daft but likeable - it's a bit like listening to Daft Punk in their least repetitive faze when they actually put together a "traditional" song (that'd be on "Discovery"). The most rock moment comes from "White Diamonds" which has a swagger all of its own.

I don't really know what's happened to the UK scene this year - it was all looking up in 2007 but now we've fallen off the bandwagon and gone back to the dirge of a few years ago. Once again America (and in particular New York) is leading the field for inventive and distinctly cool music but at least Friendly Fires are putting up a very respectable battle to save our face. Good on them!!

23 September 2008

Another Award! Seven To Give Away...


I got an award from Brett, thank you very much, as with all awards there are certain rules to follow:

1. Link to the giver

2. Nominate up to seven other fab blogs and link to them

3. Leave messages announcing their rise to greatness.note - You may have been given this already, so that means you are a GREAT blogger


I would like to award this to the following fellow bloggers who are my daily reads no matter what, and cheer me up on a daily basis,

  1. Babooshka
  2. Diva
  3. Noelia
  4. Tina
  5. Popin
  6. Kitty
  7. Daryl

21 September 2008

Braindead

Congratulations to the Kaiser Chiefs who have released what is not only their worst tune but also the most irresponsible piece of music they've ever written!

So for those who've been living under a rock and have escaped being exposed to "Never Miss A Beat", you can count your lucky stars that you haven't heard the following lines:

1.) "Why didn't you go to school/I didn't want to"
2.) "It's cool to know nothing"
3.) "What do you want for tea/I want crisps"

I presume that the Kaisers were thinking of releasing this song as a bit of a satire against the increasing problem of laziness and "something for nothing" in society today. However this bitter irony will probably be lost on many of the people who listen to and enjoy the Kaisers' music, which is where the problem starts.

In the states people started accusing M.I.A. of glorifying guns and violence in her music (particularly "Paper Planes"). Maya sensibly replied: "The intelligent 5% of the nation will probably work out that it's irony and it'll get lost on the rest." I doubt the Kaisers will fall into the same trap because of who they are and what they've, ahem, achieved.

However, it is clearly irresponsible for such a mainstream band to seemingly "back" the actions in their lyrics, even if it is tinged with irony or satire. In discussing this point with friends, they also acknowledged that younger people might listen to the song and start a mini-rebellion against learning. We can't have that now, can we?

I've written a couple of pretty angry posts this week haven't I? Maybe I'll get back to happier posts next week. I'm hoping to grab my hands on Ladyhawke and Friendly Fires and possibly if I have enough left in my budget the old Raconteurs album too - for now I'm letting my anger melt away.

Four Times Meme

So thanks to Rozella for having faith in me that I'll actually complete this meme!

So...

Instructions: What you are supposed to do...and please don't spoil the fun...Copy/paste, type in your answers and tag four people in your lists! Don't forget to change my answers to the questions with that of your own.

(A) Four places I go over and over: Office, home, H&M and er, various supermarkets

(B) Four people who e-mail me regularly: I really don't get spam (luckily) but just people from work...

(C) Four of my favorite places to eat: Home, Thai, Indian and anywhere that I deem to serve good food!

(D) Four places you'd rather be: On holiday, on holiday, on holiday and er, on holiday

(E) Four TV shows I could watch over and over: Dexter, The West Wing, The Simpsons and Futurama (wow, what a contrast!)

(F) Four people I think will respond: Babooshka, Tara, Brett and Noelia

Have fun peeps!

17 September 2008

Gleeful Quick Post

How silly is this? Last week I was in a semi-conversation with Mark Beaumont aka The Raving Reporter from the NME, discussing the apparent role of Jon McClure aka The Rev of Reverend and the Makers (now of Mongrel. Don't ask).

So basically it was about politicising songs, and I said that if the songs became too political then it would either alienate the fans and they would stop caring because they wouldn't understand OR there would be a mass cheering of "play Heavyweight Champion!!"

He conceded defeat in his next post - he admitted that there needed to be a balance between the two in order to maintain a steady fanbase that keep the more popularist followers.

Scarlet 1, Mark 0!!

16 September 2008

Free-Range Voices

And at the minute they're not going to come too much more free-range than this - Wild Beasts are from Leeds via Kendal in The Lake District and Hayden, the real frontman of this four-piece set-up, has a falsetto voice that's just like Marmite. So basically, you're either going to love it or hate it. Luckily for those of you who are going to fall into the latter category, I imagine you'd be more tuned into Tom and Bert's voices who are described as tenor and baritone respectively.

Well there's one word that you can't apply to this lot: that's boring. Since I've been plugged into America for so long lately and am under the stupid influence that The Lake District is a place where folk music is born and raised, I was surprised when I listened to their songs a few times and was gradually turned on to the melodic harmonies and general weirdness of the lot. "Limbo Panto" is supposedly out now, and here's the video for the very Marmite "Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants":


Wild Beasts - Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairevoyant

14 September 2008

U R So Shallow

Why so shocked Katy Perry? Surprised that someone is actually angry that you've realised possibly the most a.) annoying, b.) degrading and c.) infuriating songs of recent years?

Well here I am! Ready to say that "I Kissed A Girl" is possibly the most pre-packaged, vile piece of garbage the music world has known for a while (and that's discrediting some of the reality show stars and, gasp, Miley Cyrus!)

Allow me to explain: Here is the daughter of very strict protestant parents (I think her dad was a vicar or something) who used to sing nice little gospel songs. Someone obviously found her and thought that she'd be a great "rebel" and threw a homophobic song in "U R So Gay" at her. Then America is thrashed with "I Kissed A Girl".

Here's where the vile part comes in: forget all the stories about female "experimentation" and start to thinking about it this way - the song is pandering to the sick fantasies of idiotic men who have wild sex fantasies about, yeah, two women. And I'm not going any further than that. So really the record companies are on to a winner. In the one corner we have a bunch of sicko men who lust over the idea of their girlfriends going around snogging other women and in the other we have impressionable teen girls (and, perhaps most unfortunately, tween girls) who think that it's okay to be lured into this highly sexual world - often too much, too young.

Luckily most of my friends hate "I Kissed A Girl" with a vengeance - but none of them actually stop to think about the almost brainwashing effects that it could have on impressionables. It's obviously a song that's made millions worldwide but at what cost?

Finally, can we please have some sympathy for some great bands and female singer/songwriters who are today struggling to even get the slightest foothold on the chart ladder - that includes my lady of the moment Ladyhawke who releases her debut next week. I am in no doubt that it will not sell nearly as well as I'd like it to, but in an ideal world her warm and uplifting pop would be up there with the best. If you want R'n'B, what's wrong with M.I.A? She's still infuriatingly underground, completely eclipsed by Perry and other so-called "stars".

Be ashamed Perry - you're not only a brainwasher but you're also keeping truly talented people from getting anywhere in this industry!

11 September 2008

Congratulations Elbow!

So to everyone's surprise, Elbow won the MercuryMusic Prize this year for The Seldom Seen Kid. It came as a slight shock to me because even though they write good music and on that level they are deserving winners, the prize is meant to be about innovation and breaking boundaries - something the band have kind of failed to do with their album.

But still... Kudos to you Elbow, hopefully this makes up for when you lost to PJ Harvey in 2001!

09 September 2008

Returning To Musical Heaven


I imagine that if I lived in New York I'd be spoilt for choice band-wise - I already have too many lurvely bands to talk about from there, in particular Brooklyn which is firing forth so many brilliant bands and solo artistes that I'm suffering from a massive overload.

Come forward our latest discovery, whose MySpace site boasts the supreme support of psych-pop golden boys MGMT and Yeasayer - we're talking here about shapeshifting three-piece Chairlift who're getting around to releasing their debut album here in the UK. Soonish.

Well their signature tune is "Planet Health" - it's about a made-up world where the food pyramid is a church and health advice must be given as law. Slightly freaky but it's such a gorgeous song that you're sucked into its charms no matter what. But really, who wouldn't want to live on a planet where disease doesn't exist and people actually care about what they're stuffing into their bodies? The song has a slightly far-eastern feel to it, which stays with the theme that the world really is getting smaller (as proven before by Yeasayer, remember that?). But see what you think for yourself:



Ack, and I'm really sorry about the whole text bunching up thing that keeps happening at the moment! I can't get it to stop!

08 September 2008

Houston, There Is No Problem

For the masses who choose to read SCG instead of JJS:

Scarlet's Culture Garden is now officially re-opened for business! Come back to me after a long break I have finally written! And how good does it feel?

Mercury Round-Up

Feeling guilty is horrible - I promised to give a full round-up of all the Mercury nominees before the prize was announced. It's being done tomorrow. And I still haven't discussed British Sea Power, Estelle and Burial. So quickly, here's the mini-roundup of these peeps.

BSP - Maybe "Waving Flags" and "No Lucifer" should win it for them. "Do You Like Rock Music" has been touted as being absolutely brilliant, but if I'm honest (and it's not really that easy to say this) I don't think they have a brilliant chance of winning at all. 'Tis a shame.

Estelle - Oh gosh, where to start? Well I think I'll start by saying... WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!? Every year there seems to be someone on the list who should have been left off altogether and this year I'm saying that Estelle should be written off. I don't mind different styles of music winning the prize and I have nothing at all against R'n'B - when it's done well. Sorry, but I have no kind words. However, M People managed to shockingly win one year so perhaps it wouldn't be too hard to see why she's in with a shout.

Burial - The outright favourite. By far. Even beating Radiohead and Last Shadow Puppets. I think perhaps this is the true winner - the style never faulters, there's no ego and until recently the guy was completely anonymous, a bit like a Dubstep version of Banksy or something! Unless of course we have a screw-up like last year when (with all due respect) Bat For Lashes was robbed by Klaxons, and the year before Richard Hawley was robbed by Arctic Monkeys, we're staring at the winner right here.

So there. Stand-by for the winner to be announced. Reaction wil hopefully come on Wednesday...

And We Have Relaunch...

By which I mean that I've been very very bad and neglected the blog for what seems like ages! I must now say that if I seem to have gone AWOL from my blog desk, I must be very busy and bogged down with a whole load of work.

Now for the fun part: here's a little electro number that's pretty, well, catchy, and with (whisper it quietly) a guitar! Yes, it doesn't stop with Hot Chip's "One Pure Thought" because now Metronomy have used everyone's instumental weapon of choice to give me a wake up call.

Now these guys have been around for a good while now, but to be honest it wasn't until I was blasted out of bed with this riff (or rather blasted into the waking world while trying to pick out some clothes to wear - because of course there's nothing in my wardrobe I don't think) and suddenly I've done nothing but think and ever so lightly hum this tune ever since. I don't like particularly everything about the song - personally I think his vocals are a little iffy. Still, see what you think of "Heartbreaker":


04 September 2008

Shoot Me - We're Friends

So here's three things you should know about Friendly Fires:

1.) They all seem to be called Ed in an almost comical Ed, Edd and Eddy kind of way
2.) They're inspired by both samba and electronic
3.) You'll follow their orders when they tell you to "Jump In The Pool"

Although actually it was their debut single "Paris" that drew me into them when I heard it last year. And then I all but forgot about them, thinking stupidly that they'd died the death before I was turned back on when I heard "Jump In The Pool". "Paris" is a simple little song but very catchy although I'll let you decide for yourselves:



Hee hee I'm just loving the Youtube inbed function...

29 August 2008

Temporary Loss of Transmission

So I know I haven't blogged in a little while anyway but for the next week I won't be around because my PC is being dismantled! I might be able to do a little post here and there courtesy of Jerry but don't expect anything major.

Just thought I'd say in case some of you thought I was gone forever...

xx

26 August 2008

Reading And Leeds: By Far The Best Quote

Says grime artist Wiley when quizzed about why he had donned white trainers instead of wellies:

"Someone needs to pimp my wellies, man."

I thinked we'd all love a pair of seriously pimped wellies anyday. Has anyone got the glitter?

A Date For My Diary At Least

Ah, so I've just learnt that Ladyhawke's debut album will be coming out on 22nd September! I don't know about anyone else but I can't wait - she deserves to be more well known. Her music is, shall we say, slightly retro but with modern twists, not cheesy in any way and although some of it is quite gentle (like "Back Of The Van") she doesn't fall into the trap of being terribly sentimental or insular like Adele or Leona Lewis, or heck, any of those pop divas!

Why am I comparing poor Pip to those people? Well I really can't say that she's rock and she doesn't really fall into a dance/electro category either. She's a lot more pop than people woud like to think - but then along with the Black Kids there's more substance, so it makes it okay!

I sourced this down especially for you: it's the video to her single "Paris Is Burning". Not literally, of course:

23 August 2008

Rock Royalty

You know what? I actually have a slight soft spot for Queens of the Stone Age. Yeah, they're a bit more rock than I'm used to - okay, they're much more rock than I usually go for - but ever since I heard "3s and 7s" I've been slowly warming to them. I can't get away with everything they do but I was more than happy to watch them last night (which is more than I can say for most rock bands like this).

I don't know what it is about this song but I found this footage of them performing "3s and 7s" on T4 and felt the need to put it up, considering I'm becoming a huge fan of this tune. It's something I would never imagine saying, but I have:



Magic Managed, Almost

And the award for best poncho of the festival goes to... Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT for his massive red, orange and spangles number yesterday at Reading!

In all seriousness though this was a pretty good set from the Brooklyn boys, they sounded quite together even if some of the vocals were a bit rocky now and then. Theunfortunate moment came right at the end when someone thought it would be a good idea to practically turn off their keyboards so that the synths on "Kids" (the core of the song, very important) were barely audible, at least through the TV. It probably would have been an ok finale if someone had just turned them up but unfortunately everything ended up a little drowned by some virtuoso guitar playing and Andy's vocals (his voice ended up a bit muffled by the end anyway when he decided it would be a good idea to use his poncho like a bedsheet to turn into a psychedelic ghost).

Still, the rest of the songs still sounded pretty good (or at least what I saw) so maybe it was just a blip - here's some footage of them playing "Electric Feel" earlier in the year to give a taster of what they do:



P.S. I realise this isn't the best footage but it's the best I could find in a short space of time. Enjoy anyway!

22 August 2008

Hit Me With Your Magic Stick




No idea where this band is from or who it consists of, since their site has very little info apart from when they're touring and what singles they've released. What I do know is that The Magic Wands are seriously hot property, following in the slightly retro footsteps of the likes of Ladyhawke and Black Kids to create a world of fantasy, dreamy pop.

I was first attracted to them thanks to their single "Black Magic" which swaggers along with a killer riff and echoing vocals - certainly the most dangerous of all their floaty pop-rock songs. "Kiss Me Dead" is unusually joyful despite the rather dark subject matter but then I seem to pick my music in this way - you've got to bear in mind that I'm a fan of Asobi Seksu and The Sugarcubes!

This definitely isn't shoegazing rock though, it's setting out a bit of a league of its own. Distinctly less sugary than Black Kids and yet there's something quite sickly underneath it all - but not in a bad way of course. Other favourite tracks of mine include "Kaleidoscope Hearts" and "Starships". I like the distance of the vocals - sometimes it just doesn't work but here it works wonderfully. The lack of immediacy and in-your-face quality just makes everything better while other bands could suffer from not having the singers right in the mix. The overall effect is that the vocals blend lovingly into the music, so you can appreciate both on an equal level.

The production on some of the tracks on their MySpace site is a bit questionable, but hey if it gets ironed out then it could be a good prospect for the future - they're already touring with Black Kids so I see no reason why they shouldn't be big on the indie scene.

Singin' From The Balconies

Canada's music scene is starting to explode a little even though people seem to know of very few bands coming from the area (hmm, ask someone and they may say Arcade Fire or Feist at a push. But little else if anything). That being said, Canada has a lot of decent bands going for it including this bunch: The Balconies.
They hail from Ontario and are made up of vocalist and guitarist Jacquie Neville (from gazillion piece orchestrated Jetplanes of Abraham), vocalist and bassist Liam Jaeger (of math-rockers For The Mathematics) and drummer Steve Neville - I'm pretty sure that's what they play from the footage I've seen.
Jaeger's distinctly math-rock sensibilities can be heard on "Elephant Lamp" while Neville's soft yet engaging vocals are more prominent on "Battle Royale". They describe their music as being a collaboration of different songwriters and styles coming together to create a dynamic sound rich in texture both vocally and musically. I'm well and truly turned on but as of yet they're unsigned. Sign them up somebody please!

Mercury Month: Radiohead


Who: Oxford five-piece Radiohead have been going for years, and frontman Thom Yorke has been nominated 6 times for the prize (including his solo album "The Eraser" and his collaborations with PJ Harvey on her winning 2001 album "Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea")

What: Their new, somewhat controversial album "In Rainbows" (people could pay what they wanted for the album, which is okay because why do a massive band like this need the money anyway) which has been hailed as a masterpiece.

Why: I'm definitely not a fan. I know there's a lot of people out there who are absolutely CRAZY about Radiohead but I agree with the frontman from the Hold Steady who says they've lost the plot. If I was ever going to get in to Radiohead it was going to be around the time when they were more rock, since the only song I actually think is any good by them is "Just" (thanks to Mark Ronson who has slaughtered the angst and replaced it with posh-boy brass sections on his cover version. Write your own songs and wreck 'em!). So really they've gone all thoughtful and "weird" on "In Rainbows" and everyone's gone ape over it. I've found listening to the singles very hard going indeed, especially "Nude" which lumbers along like a snail going against a headwind. Not to mention depressing as hell. God, am I the only person in the world who just detests them? I'm sure they've nice enough blokes but they need to lighten up. Nevertheless they're joint favourites to win. "No Surprises" there (oh lord that was an awful joke).

20 August 2008

Hold On, Isn't This...?

Yeah, yeah, so the picture shows American rockers The Hold Steady and I'm posting this because slowly but surely I've been drawn into their new song "Sequestered in Memphis". Having never really been into them it's come as a bit of a shock - they're not really like anything I'm into and they play what is bordering slightly on dad-rock so why oh why have I fallen for this track?

Well for starters I don't care what the papers say, I don't pay attention to the lyrics. I pay attention to them if I've bought the album and have a mind to dissect them like a frog in a science lab to get to the bottom of what makes the song tick - they supposedly have very clever lyrics these lot. But then, all I can really only hear the chorus properly, possibly because their frontman sounds slightly like he's had one too many cigarettes before singing (maybe he has, I don't know, I've never met him).

So perhaps it's the tune, since it's really the only other thing that could have attracted me to the song. There's a bit of jaunty piano-playing, a bit of a trumpet going on in there, placed between what could be seen as a pretty standard rock song. I don't understand - this is probably just a phenomena like when my mum said to me the other day "I really like that new Coldplay song" (shudder, I pointed out that after ten thousand times of hearing it wears very thin). But maybe not. After hearing this song and being reeled in, I am starting to appreciate their other songs more.

Ooh, do I actually have something in common with Harry Potter? Only time will tell.

Mercury Month: Elbow


Who: Veteran Manchester rockers Elbow, fronted by the humorous and yet still mysterious Guy Garvey.
What: Their fourth album "The Seldom Seen Kid", a more upbeat and accessible collection of tracks compared to their third attempt.
Why: Look, in my own humble opinion you should just give the prize to them for "The Fix" (in which hard-done-by-Mercury-loser Richard Hawley guests) for its hilarity - who would have thought rigging a horse-race could be so much fun? Watch out - that jockey's cocky and vicious... heh heh.... Getting back to being serious for a change though and they've been a bit unlucky not to win it in previous years. Perhaps a sympathy vote will come into play - they've certainly been one of the most consistent British bands of recent years, but it's only really with the release of this album that they're getting some very strong recognition. "One Day Like This" is becoming a bit of an anthem, with everyone knowing the words at the festivals they've played and it being plastered on nearly every promotion that the British Olympic Team have featured in. Deserving winners, more so than some of the other people on this list...

Baile, Es Bueno!

I thought that this band were defunct - I thought they split up about six months back because they were all tense and imploded. But no, apparently they're still touring together and becoming increasingly popular with each gig they play.

This is news to me - I really honestly thought that Bonde Do Role, CSS' little Brazilian colleagues, had called it a day. It was hard not to enjoy the bounciness of their completely bonkers but brilliant tunes. By the end of last year's World Cup, everyone had probably unwittingly heard their song "Solta O Frango" but never really paid much attention to who was making that wonderfully summery tune that planted itself in your brain and wouldn't leave. At least until they stopped showing the advert.

Actually, I too was under the impression that "Solta O Frango" wasn't their song. I was too wrapped up in "Office Boy" which put a hook in me like I was a mountain trout. Luckily not literally. Someone out their must have heard this song - does no one listen to any good radio stations? Hmm, maybe I dreamed that this all happened then. I'm just glad that they're still going - I should really pick up their album "With Lasers" and give it a go; you never know until you try, but if it's anywhere near as good as "Office Boy" I'd be a monkfish eating a juicy worm...

Mercury Month: Laura Marling

Who: Laura Marling is an 18-year-old singer/songwriter who also works with bands such as Noah and the Whale (who are currently sitting in the Top 10 in the Charts, with a little help from her)

What: "Alas, I Cannot Swim" is a collection of modern folk songs mainly focusing on love and heartbreak, as most of the albums coming out from new young things generally are these days

Why: To be honest, she seems more wrapped up in her side-projects to take her own solo work seriously! It was a shock entry in a way because so many people expected the Mystery Jets (whose album Laura provides vocals for, surprise surprise) to make the list. Her inclusion probably means that the prize is looking to give awards to people who perhaps are a bit different and break outside the indie mould. However, my personal feeling is that she just can't sing! She has a girly but weak voice that rarely strays outside the framework of a few simple notes. It also grates after a while. If she wins the prize it will be more for her songwriting skills and the arrangement of the music on the album rather than her skill as a singer.

19 August 2008

Mercury Month: Last Shadow Puppets

Who: Miles Kane from The Rascals and Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys (winners in 2006) teaming up for this stylistically different side-project

What: "Age of the Understatement", an apparently semi-conceptual album that sees the pair going epic and retro all in one

Why: Well let's put it this way - if I had a choice between The Last Shadow Puppets and either of their "everyday" bands, I'd choose this side-project. I really wasn't that keen on their first single "Age of the Understatement" but I think "Standing Next to Me" is definitely a grower. I still can't get past Alex Turner's voice, which I find doesn't have much soul or heart in it (actually I'm under the impression that he can't sing) but yet this is still more deserving than the Monkeys' "Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not". No-one has ever won the prize twice (even though I think PJ Harvey has been robbed of this accolade on several occasions) - can he make history and win it with two separate bands? We'll just have to wait and see. At least if this pairing wins I won't be bitterly disappointed like I have been for the last couple of years.