17 February 2009

For The Love Of Benji!

Okay here's two things that are annoying me about Empire of the Sun that has absolutely nothing to do with them (they're great and I'm listening to the album on MySpace now and it's bliss - I beg you a second time to check them out)!

Numero Uno - Has anyone had the same blood curdling feeling when their parents swipe their music and you find that you've been robbed of something that you've discovered yourself? Mom's excuse - "Well I was into the Sleepy Jackson before you!" Aha, yeah, fine. They're two different bands! Just because Luke Steele happens to be in Empire of the Sun doesn't mean you have to steal them away from under my nose!
Numero Due - Oh why, oh why, oh why have I found that the album is third in the bestsellers list on iTunes? This peed me off terribly. Regular readers will probably know by now that if there's one thing I hate it's a good little band suddenly going big overnight. I bet it's great for them but at the same time I don't want loads of chavs and indie wannabes clawing at them!
(Sigh) What's a girl to do?

15 February 2009

Youth Novels

A few weeks back I became the owner of "Youth Novels", the first album by Swedish songstress Lykke Li. It took me a few listens to get into - when you've only heard the singles, sometimes it can be hard to warm to the album tracks. Here's why:
Lykke Li's selling point is obviously her unusually cute and childlike voice which sounds like a very talented twelve-year-old. And this is essentially what drives the whole album - many songs get by on little more than hand claps or little intrusions by a piano, particularly "Dance Dance Dance", "Time Flies" and her first single "Little Bit", and occasionally Lykke will allow herself some works with the synth jutting in to make something a little (little being the operative word) grand.
And then there's the opening track "Melodies and Desires" which was a shock for someone not used to hearing the singing of little Lykke. Her real voice, which she also uses on the short and oddly haunting - due to its fast acoustic guitar and vacuous vocals - "This Trumpet On My Head" is deeper and gives the music a little more depth.
But then, who needs depth when Lykke has composed two amazing singles that provide the most magnificent moments on the album? "I'm Good I'm Gone" is another hand-clap-and-piano combo that makes use of some vocoders and gentle drumwork to turn it into something more attention-grabbing than you might first think. But it's "Breaking It Up" with its disjointed choir and repetitive organ that ultimitely steals the show. Placed between the minimal yet somewhat disturbing "Complaint Department" and the sweet "Everybody But Me" (take note of the message in that song - follow Lykke's lead, kids!) it storms through like a piece of jag lightning over a settled ocean. It's these moments of brilliance that keep your attention well and truly going.
Of course, every good album needs a good ending. "Window Blues" sees Lykke showing a more adult side to her singing. Her vocals dip, the piano is urgent and ever so slightly out of tune (in a good way of course) and the harmonies give the perfect ending to a much more diverse and exciting album than you may first think.
Like all the female artists at the minute who, through no fault of their own, seem incapable of selling any albums at all, Lykke Li has created something entirely different to anything else on the market. This is an album that grows on you with each play, with each track developing new and interesting facets with each listen.

New Royksopp Finally Here!

So a few weeks back I said that Swedish dance duo Royksopp were preparing their comeback - and it's here a lot earlier than I imagined! "Happy Up Here" sees the band returning slightly to their old days, and sounds a lot like "Eple" with a better beat.

Of course, any big fans of "Eple" (of which I'm not one, the best song of their debut stuff was definitely "Poor Leno") will probably think that they're ripping themselves off but it really is quite different, trust me!

Anyway, I'm looking forawrd to their 3rd album "Junior" and think it will be a slightly more upbeat affair compared to "The Understanding" - just what the doctor ordered in this rather bleak winter!

Scarlet: The Interview

Wayhey! So I finally managed to get my interview together from the lovely Diva! It's been a while but hopefully that says to everyone that I've really thought about these questions long and HARD!

Oh, but this will probably be a loooong post so bear with me:

1. I enjoy both your blogs Scarlet. Do you find that it is easier writing for one blog than the other? What motivated you to start them and what is your ultimate goal for the blogs?

I think it’s easier writing for Jamjarsuperstar – I find I don’t have to be as motivated to write things for it. Scarlet’s Culture Garden is a bit more like a place where I can vent some anger or have a good complain – not that it’s all negative mind, you know that I’ve got some positive things about film and TV on there! Jamjarsuperstar is older and at first I didn’t know what the heck I was writing – I think one of my first posts was about the week in music and I didn’t have a clue what I was writing! It’s been pretty natural to move into the whole thing of hunting down bands, introducing them, reviewing stuff and then writing about any other musically-intriguing (or irritating) things that I find out about. I think one of the best pieces I’ve written was about Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Boy” – I think it really resonated with a lot of my readers….

I don’t know what really motivated me to start SCG – I think I just wanted to write about some things that were a bit different and I think it shows me as a person more. I think my readers have learned a lot about the way I think from SCG because in a way it’s less detached compared to JJS. Hmmm… actually I don’t know why I started JJS either! Actually, my mum had a blog and suggested that I should try it so I gave it a go and thought that I’d fall off the bandwagon after a few months but I’m still going strong after a year so I must be pretty into it!

For SCG I think I just want to be able to keep writing casually. With that one I don’t feel like there’s any sort of onus on me to write a lot because it’s like the secondary blog – in reserve in case something drastic happens or I want to talk about TV, films, fashion, or whatever! If I was in domination mode I think I’d have to say that I want JJS to steadily become quite influential – I don’t think it’ll really ever happen though so I’m happy as long as I’ve got a steady stream of regular readers coming back and commenting on what I write. That’s more than satisfying for me!

2. Jamjarsuperstar is a wonderful resource for new music. I’ve twice read about a band on your site before they became popular on the radio over here - I’m thinking of MGMT in particular – so I consider you to be something of an oracle. What band do you think will blow up next? Who will we be grooving to in the near future?

Firstly, thanks for calling me an oracle – I don’t actually analyse a band and say “yeah, they’re gonna be big”, I just say that it’s good music and for some reason the stuff I pick always does well for itself! But, if you think that I’m some sort of musical prophet then I guess I can’t complain!

It’s hard to say, really. If I use my head, I’ll go for Little Boots and Florence and the Machine – I like Florence a lot because she’s like a stronger-voiced Alison Goldfrapp singing a-cappella and she’s already won the Critic’s Choice award at the Brits! I think we’ll be seeing more of her…. However, I’m not too fussed with Little Boots but the hype machine has been working so hard trying to get Victoria Hesketh to stardom that it’s bound to happen at least in the UK. Gauging what’s going to happen in the US is always a tricky one though. Trends in music change as much as they do in fashion (which by my calculation is… oh…. every 5 minutes?) so it’s hard to say with my head what’ll be big. Anything R’n’B is always huge in the States though. Too bad I’m not really into that sort of thing though! From the heart and my own personal taste I’d have to go for Magistrates, La Roux and Empire of the Sun – they’re all brilliant in my opinion!

3. Given that you’re in the UK and I’m in the US, I can’t help but think of the British invasion – some of my favourite music of all time came from that era. In your opinion, who is making better music today? British or American musicians? (List examples, if you please)

There are only really one or two British bands that can be classed as truly exciting today and even they wear their influences on their sleeves with pride. I’m thinking about Magistrates (very Prince-like), La Roux (just about anything from the 80s), White Lies (Duran Duran mixed with Editors and Interpol) and Florence (folk for the new age) are the best of the new bands. Of course, there’s people like Editors, Bat For Lashes, PJ Harvey and M.I.A. who fly the flag really well but I can name so many bands from NY alone who are ten times as exciting as anything going on here.

You’ve already said MGMT are a band that are big in the US right now, and I think they’re amazing. It’s the album as a whole that’s so captivating – the singles are okay and I love “Electric Feel” but the sweeping, sometimes disturbing nature of the album tracks are where I think they shine. “The Handshake” and “Future Reflections” are stand-outs for me.

Now I can go through my list: Asobi Seksu, Yeasayer, Interpol, Chairlift, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On the Radio…. all just from NY! Doesn’t this just show you how much better you guys are in the States? I want less indie rock here and more Africa-inspired electro like you!

4. This is the one question I know you will not want to answer, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask it…. where do you find all this great stuff? Do you work in the music industry or is it a personal passion?

NO! I don’t work in the music industry but it would be so amazing if I did! I’ll be honest – it’s hard work trying to find all of the new bands but my top tip is to get to gigs early so that you see the support bands. Quite a few of them have been a bit rubbish but then you get some real gems – when I went to see Beck, for instance, Yeasayer were supporting him so that’s how I clicked on to them.

I guess this is all just a personal passion though! I do it out of the goodness of my heart! Actually, when I started my blog I didn’t think anyone would read it so knowing that people are enjoying my little personal notes and thoughts about music is amazing!

5. You and I differ in our opinion of Kaiser Chief’s “Never Miss a Beat.” While I appreciate your critique, I can’t help be a fan of any song that contains the lyrics “What do you want for tea? I want crisps!” So, dear Scarlet, what do *you* want for tea? What’s your idea of a perfect meal? (Don’t kill me – being a food blogger, you know I had to go there!)

Hahahaha! Why didn’t you just say that you liked the song? I would’ve totally understood! I don’t mind people disagreeing with what I say – as long as you don’t JUST say that I’m talking a load of rubbish and back it up with some reasons WHY I’m talking a load of rubbish then I’m cool with it!

I’d probably say something cooked at home on the food front though – home-made spaghetti bolognese, chili or Sunday Dinner all make my mouth water. The Sunday Dinner in particular – the turkey or chicken is always just right, the stuffing balls are ultra tasty and the Yorkshire Puddings get cooked to perfection (none of that tiny crusty crap that they try to shove on to you when you’re at a pub!). That said, I used to ADORE the grilled salmon in tagliattelle pasta with vodka and tarragon sauce at this place called Barluga – until they took it off the menu!!

Thanks for interviewing me! The questions were oddly challenging – I haven’t had to think this much about myself for ages! But it was fun and you were a brilliant interviewer Diva! Ciao now!