27 January 2008

King Creosote Review

This is the review I wrote for King Creosote, who I saw at the Sage, Gateshead on Saturday 26th January:

Before going to see Scottish folk singer King Creosote, I wondered whether the gig was going to be a low-key and even a slightly depressing affair. I approached the gig with some trepidation, worried slightly that I would get no enjoyment out of it, since I’m not really a folk fan.

What I found at the gig was a real surprise. Looking plain and admittedly a bit scruffy, King Creosote joins his support act, Pip Dylan, on stage to help with backing vocals. There was a light-hearted atmosphere throughout Dylan’s set, with the pair laughing and sharing anecdotes in-between songs. The set ended with the pair, the band, and the whole audience in fits of laughter at their stories.

King Creosote re-emerged later on, still in high-spirits. Despite looking completely calm and relaxed, he revealed later on that he was stunned by the amount of people who’d come to watch him perform. He played a couple of songs on his own before being rejoined by his band and working through a cheerful set of his folk-infused songs. He went through numbers such as new single Admiral, Down at the W.A.L, Home in a Sentence and You’ve No Clue Do You, pointing out, proudly, that they’d reached 93 in the charts with that song because 354 people had bought it. His tales added more life to a lot of his songs, giving them more depth and revealing the inspiration behind them. It was good to see an artist having fun on stage, as most bands nowadays are incredibly focused and serious about what they play. The night’s joyful mood was summed up when King Creosote moon-walked back on to the stage for the encore. It was refreshing to see someone who engaged the audience and enjoyed performing their material.

I left the gig feeling elated and amazed that I’d enjoyed it so much, maybe even a little sad that it had ended! There was something for everyone, whether it was the music or the witty banter. King Creosote has taught me not to dread gigs that I think aren’t my sort of scene and to go in with an open mind.

What I omit from this review was the appalling state and manners of some of the audience. Half of the people sitting around me were drunk and noisy, talking about everything and anything nearly all of the way through the gig and if it wasn't for the King's banter then I might have absolutely hated the gig - as it was, some of the quieter, more thoughtful people aroud me were getting very annoyed. I pose this question: what on earth has happened to people attending gigs? Do they not know how to behave anymore?!

19 January 2008

Two Tracks Worth Hearing

Australian band Howling Bells have updated their MySpace website by adding their new song, Cities Burning Down, a song that is equally as good as anything that they released on their debut album. It has a little more depth, with added pianos, brass and synths on top of Joel Stein's brilliant guitar and his sister Juanita sings just as beautifully, adding a slightly sorrowful element to the track. It will take something really impressive to top their debut album of a couple of years back, but if this is anything to go by then they're well on the way to doing so!

Another great song that I've heard this week is A&E by Goldfrapp. They'd disappeared off the radar for a little while but are back with this track. This seems to almost be a step back from their last, disco-fuelled album Supernature, so if A&E is anything to go by, the pair are going back to being a bit darker and reflective, much like their debut album Felt Mountain. This can only be a good thing as Felt Mountain is undoubtedly their best album and while A&E still embraces some of the dance elements that Supernature and Black Cherry had it harks back to a time when Goldfrapp were rather minimal. The best way to describe this song would be to imagine two of their tracks - namely Black Cherry and Utopia - combined.

18 January 2008

Near Misses

I thought that, since I mentioned in an earlier post that there were other albums in the running to become album of the year (in my opinion), I should mention them here so that everyone knows what they are. The three to the right are brilliant, but so are these:

Siouxsie - Mantaray
New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom
Editors - An End Has A Start
Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight
Roisin Murphy - Overpowered
Manic Street Preachers - Send Away the Tigers

Congrats to these 7 artists and bands for also making wonderful records last year - I think that this year will be even more eventful, though!

15 January 2008

Lesser of Two Evils

Oh dear. Pop is back with a vengeance. I'm not talking about the good kind of pop here either - no, I'm talking about the majority of the pop world nowadays that all sounds the same and sends out messages subconsciously to your brain (emotions, normally). But it sticks in your head, doesn't it?

Allow me to explain: this week, the nominations for the ever-popular Brit Awards were announced. Among the artists who were heavily nominated were Leona Lewis, Take That, Arctic Monkeys and Mika . I find Mika completely irritating because he has possibly the highest voice to ever grace a man, and he prances around the stage with giant stuffed animals and plastic people (in a word, disturbing). However, whenever I hear one of his songs it ends up stuck in my head all day (and it must be with superglue - all attempts to banish the evil demon songs from my brain fail). As for Leona Lewis, I can safely say that if she sings that song once more, the world will be put into a state of constant depression. I am, of course, referring to the cringeworthy Bleeding Love which, amazingly, stayed at the top of the charts for weeks - how many, I don't know. Frankly, I don't want to know. At least Take That, who were always the best boy band (if there was a good one at all), are writing pop songs that are neither ridiculous, sappy or depressing.

Maybe at this point I should point out that most of the music world is now actually dominated by rap and R&B. At least a new wave of pop will keep us from hearing some of the awful (or rather, disgusting) "lyrics" that come from these artists.

13 January 2008

A Sad Fact?

It pains me to say that one day we may have to say goodbye to the trusty CD - I've been reading that in the last year, CD sales have plummeted, apart from around Christmas (no guesses to why that is, though).

There must be other people like me who see the problems in downloading - not just for industries and artists who will lose money but for us, because we will lose the personal aspect of holding a CD. Besides, what if our PCs crash and we have to download all of our songs again? That will just be a hassle that I know a lot of people won't bother going through. I'm not opposed to downloads fully but I just find it sad that solid music may be replaced someday.

11 January 2008

Hints, Tips and Things to Look Forward To

It seems that right at the beginning of the year, people were beginning to tout bands and artists around as being the bright new things for 2008. Well, I have ideas of my own.

Adele.... I don't get the hype around her. It's obvious that people are trying to find a nicer, less threatening version of Amy Winehouse and a less chavvy version of Lily Allen. It doesn't mean that Adele is really any good. I think her songs lack some emotion (maybe because, like Allen, her cockney accent comes through very broadly when she sings). On the other hand, at least she does sing! Maybe I've judged her too early and really need to listen more when she starts breaking through - I'm just not impressed at this point. However, I'll gladly take any alternative to Kate Nash (at this point I'll point out that despite her song Foundations being one of the "best" songs of 2007 in the Guardian, her album Made of Bricks was among the worst of the year!)

I'm a little more interested in Foals, mainly because they've taken a bold decision to not put any of their singles on to their as-yet-untitled debut album (so no signs of Mathletics or Balloons then). They're quite edgy and don't sugar coat their pieces to make them sound more Radio 1- friendly. Another band that I think might do something this year - at least away from mainstream broadcasters - is Cajun Dance Party. It's nice, uplifting indie-pop in a similar vein of New Young Pony Club. On the other hand, they're only 15 or 16 so they might put everything on hold until they take their exams.

Finally other things to look forward to (in my opinion): PJ Harvey's new collaboration with John Parish (a follow up to Dance Hall at Louse Point - expect her to go back to her rock roots); This Gift, the new album from Glasgow indie group Sons and Daughters (no hints of very strong Scottish accents coming out here); new material from both Bat For Lashes and Asobi Seksu who are both back in the studio later this month (if a new album is produced by Asobi Seksu, it'll be their third in two years); the Mercury Music Prize, which promises this year not to include the Arctic Monkeys (praise the lord!) meaning that the nominations might actually be more diverse and interesting; Hot Chip's new album due for release in Spring/Summer - if Ready For the Floor is anything to go by, it should be amazing - check out the video on YouTube, that's the way that Alex Miller dances normally (which is scary) but he does really look like the Joker; The Ting Tings' debut album, destined to be an indie disco classic; Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp's fourth studio album, to be released in late February; and the Klaxons are promising a new album that abandons the concept of new rave - in an interview they claimed that they'd be going prog rock. Interesting....

One thing not to look forward to: the Christmas No.1. We'll see in time whether another X-Factor winner has their ten minutes of fame in grabbing the lucrative title. Everyone else may as well just give up now - Simon Cowell's got a masterplan.

06 January 2008

Into the New Year

First of all...


I have included a short list of my best albums of the previous year to the left - it's short because I could probably put a long list on, but figured that this would take up a lot of room, so it's just my ultimate favourites :)

So, over the Christmas period I've added a number of great albums to my collection. Here's a list (in no particular order), and a few reviews of them:

1.) PJ Harvey - White Chalk: I had my doubrs about this album, especially when it was dubbed as being a second, piano-based version of 2005's Uh Huh Her, but White Chalk has more depth, more passion and more emotion than Uh Huh Her could ever contain. It's dark and haunting yet strangely compelling, with Harvey using what she calls her "church voice" to give the album an ethereal feel. However, like in all her other albums, Harvey has created dark imagery in her lyrics. It's good, but I've become so used to hearing PJ Harvey being distinctly rock that I can't quite get over the change in direction.

2.) John Parish and Polly Jean Harvey - Dance Hall At Louse Point: Dance Hall starts relatively quietly and with only hints of some of the aggression that Harvey shows in her other works but starts to pick up the pace through the tracks, most notably in Taut which explodes like a massive bomb after Harvey and Parish seem to try to keep their emotions locked away through the verses. It is interesting to see how in this album, the approach of Parish and Harvey is completely different to White Chalk, where they also collaborate.

3.) Frou Frou - Details: It amazes me when I find that Imogen Heap has only found fame because her songs have been used on various soundtracks to films and TV shows (most notably the O.C. where her solo song Hide and Seek was used in the final credits). Details has little of the aggression shown in her debut solo work, i, Megaphone, but is still a wonderfully pieced together composite of sounds layered with Heap's ever breathless voice.

4.) Kate Bush - Aerial: An album divided in two (A Sea of Honey and A Sky of Honey), Aerial is probably Bush's most laid-back work. The songs drift seamlessly into one another, especially on A Sky of Honey (my favourite of the two albums) where sounds are prolonged and glide along in the background. There are glimpses of some of Bush's other works on tracks such as King of the Mountain, Somewhere in Between and Aerial but this is a very different album to her other works.

5.) Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight: There is something immensely likeable about this album. It does touch on rather sordid affairs, but it doesn't matter. They wash over me, and I'm more interested in the tunes and ways that Jenny Lewis projects her voice. It's a different direction for the band, who seem to be having fun playing around with synths and disco rhythms much more than on their previous albums. It doesn't mean that this isn't a great album, though....

6.) Tori Amos - Under the Pink: The first thing I noticed about this album was that Amos seems to have expanded her lyrical range and starts writing about subjects other than her rape, like she did on Little Earthquakes. She also becomes a lot more imaginative while still maintaining a dark edge. Take The Waitress, which starts calmly enough (despite Amos talking about wanting to murder the waitress in question) before erupting into a riot and calming again. The verses concentrate more on her words, which would be powerful enough without the piano or the guitars. All in all, a brilliant work.

7.) Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future: I wondered whether the Mecury Music Prize winners could live up to expectations that had been raised with singles like Golden Skans and Atlantis to Interzone and it turns out that this is actually a well-rounded album. If anything, Golden Skans sticks out like a sore thumb because it is actually different to the style adopted by the rest of the album, which is loud and brash, unlike Golden Skans' lighter approach. I am completely confused by the lyrics (I don't have a clue what they are talking about, mainly because I can't hear a word that they're saying), but I like this album in the same way as I do Rilo Kiley's - for the tunes.

Well, it took a while but I've finally managed to get through all of the albums in a fairly condensed way. Hope none of you fell asleep during that. Be back soon :)