Thursday, 13 December 2012

Women to watch out for in 2013

So, lets face it...this year has been pretty good for giving a leg up to women on the music scene.  It would appear that since Beyonce headlined as the first ever female headliner at Glasto in 2011, 2012 has been set a president where females have been encouraged to showcase their stuff and hold the stage.

For the most part, I am readily applauding and pretty happy about this encouraging development. For one, Florence has had a tremendous year, as well as Liane La Havas, Aluna George (well the Aluna side), Grimes, Lucy Rose, 2:54, Jesse Ware, Bat for Lashes, Romy from the XX, B-Traits, Annie Mac, Azealia Banks, Angel Haze and even Taylor Swift. Christ, even the Spice Girls came back for a song or two.

Others have, granted, either been rammed down our throats (Emile Sande/Rita Ora/Rihanna), overly exposed (Lana Del Rey), so media trained her face offends me (Cheryl) or have just released blatantly awful music (Tulisa and Nikki Minaj). I'm not by any means saying that the FORMER - NOT LATTER is the end of the world or demoting of the music at all...but c'mon ladies, surely pulling stunts such as having a sex tape released, flying to 7 different countries in 7 different days or even dumping Rob Kardashian because you've slept with 20 other men should be no way be the route to have your music heard.
Stop ladies, publicising yourself in a ridiculous manner and maybe, just maybe some women with some shame, morals and love for genuine music and not lyrics as awful for example "buns out/wiener/but I gotta keep my eye out for Selener" will get into the top 100.

ANYWAY. Onto 2013 and lets just hope that the recognition of more women in the mainstream will assist in bringing those lesser well light ladies up onto the meteoric dream they've always wished for. Here is my predictions and ones to watch for in 2013;

YEAH YEAH YEAHS - Ok, so technically its just Karen O who is the only female of the band- but she's the lead and amazing. YYYs are due to release album number 4 in 2013 so lets hope it brings them back to the festival circuit where they belong and driving indie kids everywhere wild.

HAIM - the three sisters from LA made a pretty prominent impression in 2012 releasing two singles and two EPS AND supporting the heroine that is Florence on her tour. We can expect the album to drop next year and for it to be a smasher.

THE STAVES - slightly undervalued and perhaps their issue of being too under the radar and reserved. But their music is amazing. Just not perhaps 'big' enough to make a big impact and so I fear will end up being a slow 'grower', but non the less-worthy of some attention

SHARON VON ETTRON - hyped by the Fly and all indie blogs and mags across the USA and UK. Topped for big things in 2013 and will easily fill tents in the summer

STEALING SHEEP - three Scousers with sparkling personalities and psychedelic tunes. Not cut out for the mainstream I fear, but certainly for the indie disco kids.

FOXES - Kayla - the lead has amazing vocals, can hold a stage on her own but perhaps sits in the shadow of other artists today. But if they can cough up a good enough album next year then I'll definitely take some time to pay attention to it after seeing her support other bands.



Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Kylie Minogue's 'The Abbey Road Sessions'





So the multi-millionaire pop starlet, Kylie, better known for perhaps her 80s cheese tracks including 'Better the Devil You Know', 'The Locomotion' and 'I Should be So Lucky'. Or maybe you're of a younger generation and are more acquainted with her dance era material including 'Can't Get You Out of My Head', 'All the Lovers', 'Slow' and 'Love at First Sight'? Either way, she's created a sixteen track album ranging in material but has twisted it all into altered, unheard versions of the tracks that made her a first-name sensation.

Aged 44 and arguably Britain's favourite Aussie, she's sustained her plateau of fame with a stripped down and instrumentally altered collection of her best hits. With a complete makeover, many of these tracks are completely unrecogniseable. You'll find yourself singing along, knowing all the words and still unable to put a finger on where exactly you know the song from until a signature line or melody from a chorus will alert you to the true nature and original sound of the track.

The swung version of 'On a night Like This' is something quite unexpected. The descending baseline is similar to that of Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good' whilst the build in strings and vocals creates huge drama and maturity that gives it a completely alternative persona. 'Hand on Your Heart' seems to have taken on an adorable southern state style through the use of bushes on the drums, a quaint guitar and charming vocals. Meanwhile, 'Confide in Me' seems to have taken on a much darker and dramatic version of its earlier self. I much prefer this 2012 version as the all important riffs, melody and general attitude have been kept, but appears to have been sandpapered down to a much better tidier track. 

Other tracks on the album do have a limit in imagination or element of predictability to them such as 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' and 'Flower', but how many different sounds can you get out of one female artist?

16 tracks? One re-recording by Nick Cave? How much more exciting could it get?
Available from the 29th Oct.

Favourite tracks; 'Hand on Your Heart', 'On a Night Like This' and 'Slow'.

Like the review? Then why not try Emilie SandeLana Del Rey and The Noisettes?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Jake Bugg's 'Jake Bugg' album



So the sulky, Nottingham soloist rocker made it to number one this Sunday in the album chart. Not easy in a day of the disco disco, trancey dubstep world that we seem to be living in. As I speak, the X Factor weekend was themed on club classics and the top 100 DJ list came out via DJ mag. LUCKILY this Monday has seen a slight change in Radio 1's distinctly varied but perhaps favoured dance preferences move over to shed light on the rock scene as it begins its 'Radio 1 Rocks'.

 Although perhaps not as hard core as Wolfmother, The Blackout and Linkin Park which are currently being featured by Radio One. Jake Bugg certainly has a traditional (i.e., Beatles, with a bit of Dylan ('Note to Self') influence or even a tease of Arctic Monkeys) rock sound. With raw vocals, an excellent use of effects that highlight his genre and by no means overshadows the purest element of the genre and good rock music. Especially in tracks 'Simple as This' and 'Trouble Town' the effects truly pulling and pushing Buggs' musical creation in the right direction.

 Ok so a few of the tracks have similar sounds and directions. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the overall content of the album. The slower tracks 'Seen It All', 'Simple As This', 'Country Song', 'Broken' really shine. Whereas the faster paced, hyped tracks debut single - 'Lightening Bolt', 'Two Fingers', 'Taste It' and 'Trouble Town' serve well as anthemic tunes. The hard edge to his voice only adds grit to each and everyone of the tracks.

'Two Fingers' could easily pass as an early Beatles track, with jingly jangly guitar, an ascending bass in the bridge and sing along chorus. Similarly, the length of most tracks average just 3 minutes (or the majority less) which brings songwriting back to its traditional root. Less self indulgent riffs, progression or vocal gymnastics. Its to the point and crude. I like it.

 A brilliant, young talent who exceeds himself live.

Fave tracks: Lightening Bolt, Broken Note to Self and Trouble Town.

Like Jake Bugg? Then check out Marching Donald, Jack White and Ben Howard

Monday, 8 October 2012

Annie Mac's 'AMP 2012' album review



The queen of Radio 1 and the UK DJ scene returns with her latest neatly curated compilation album.

If you're a slave (as I am ) to her Friday night show or gigs then you wont be surpised at the line up. For those you dont follow her so intensely - with their tongues hanging out then here's a summary of the highlights contained on the album; artists as big as Avicci (Levels), Madeon, Porter Robsinson, Florence and the Machine with Calvin Harris, Rudimental and Eric Prydz (remix of M83's 'Midnight City') sit side by side acts as small as AlunaGeorge, MMOTHS and Kindness. This only highlights how the UK's first lady of the decks brings the very best of dance musc toagther and not by relying on tracks that sell in bulk but by the quality of the actual tunes.

The album divides into two where the first album contains all the essentials needed for a heightened night out. The second CD contains more laid back tunes including AlunaGeorge's 'Watching Over You', Drake's 'Crew Love' and MMOTHS' 'Over You'. The mixing on the most part is strong with much time, money and effort poured into the record. There are the occasional changes in gear as tracks move from one to another (eg - Aluna George into Major Lazer) , however, transfers from Joe Goddard's remix of Nneaka's 'Shining Star' into Para One's 'Vibrations' as well as TNGHT's 'Higher Ground' into Nas' 'The Don' into Netsky's 'Love Has Gone' is simply superb.

The artists brought to the attention of the public certainly gain acknowledgement, fame and almost instant success through Annie's curation. Artists for example which performed at her AMP night at Bestival this summer included Disclosure, Mele and Jessie Ware. Annie stormed the Big Top tent at Bestival which was quite deservedly her own tent for the whole of the Saturday night. As the warm up act for dance legends Justice it only seems right that her Friday night show grows in recognition and that her club nights continue to take off. An appearance on Annie's show for those under the radar or even recognised but not always acknowledged artists usually serves as a gateway to fame.

The AMP logo is really building a name for itself by showcasing the latest talent in upcoming EDM. The compilation makes brings to the surface a mash of dance genres, new faces alongside those of the old and manages to sustain a level of decent music. I would be quite content simply raving to this album all night or in prep for a night out.

Faves; Gemini's remix of Emilei Sande, Iggy Azealia, Azeali Banks, Nneka (Joe Goddard's remix) of Shining Star.

Like Annie?? Then why not try SBTRKT or TEED (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs).

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Killers' 'Battle Born'



I wasn't sure what to expect from The Killers' 4th album. I have to say I don't think there's been THAT much coverage in anticipation of the new material (apart from a few live events and the odd mention in a tabloid...) but aside from that they haven't been overly excelling themselves on the media front.

After the debut- 'Hot Fuss' which included many a hit and thereafter, the awesome 'Sam's Town' which included 'When You Were Young' and 'Bones' and then most recently, 'Day and Age' which contains the storming single 'Human' the four piece had a lot to live up to.

Most significantly, they've stayed true to their roots and loyal to their usual style. 'Battle Born' continues with the American rock genre. Everything from the artwork of the front cover featuring an American 50s car driving through what looks like the Grand Canyon to the phrasing of content "In this transient town/ waiters and dealers trying to get their foot in the door" - Heart of a Girl, The Killers have nailed what they do best.

This does, however to a certain extent make me wonder whether they're capable of branching out at all. The similarity of their tracks including 'Flesh and Bone' is a little too much like 'Human', whilst 'The Way it Was' although very reminiscent lacks imagination.

 However, 'Runaways' is obviously a strong choice for a single release. 'Flesh and Bone' is a natural second release from the album with such a strong vocal line, curious intro and indulgence in instrumentation, including the use of more electronic drumming, strings, a choir and more production than perhaps their earlier stuff. Other tracks which encourage me to give the album a chance include 'A Matter of Time', 'Battle Born' and 'Heart of a Girl' - a soft ballad that strips everything down to a hypnotizing, wandering tune. Overall the sound is much more mature and perhaps slightly reminiscent of a more 80s feel than anything as modern as Day and Age. Perhaps more of an album for the Dad ( or for those Dads that love Brucey Springsteen).

Like the Killers? Then why not try Alabama Shakes or Jack White?

The Mercury Music Awards nominations....in brief.

So what kind of blog would this be without a brief moan and recognition of the Mercury Music Awards shortlist?

I thought instead of rambling I would just keep it short and snappy. So here we are;

Richard Hawley 'Standing at the Sky's Edge' - Your Dad will love it

Lianne La Havas 'Is Your Love Big Enough?' - Your mum will love it (and deservedly so)

The Maccabees 'Given To The Wild' - Underrated and should get tons more praise for such a fantastic third album

Alt J 'An Awesome Wave' - The most refreshing thing I've heard all year

Plan B 'Ill Manors' - Obviously a groundbreaking record but not worthy (in my mere opinion) of heightening his already catapulted status

Field Music 'Plum' - Pop/folk at its most catchiest and undoubtably an entertaining performance

Jesse Ware 'Devotion' - A fresh approach for a female soloist with some beautiful tracks... but sadly not fresh enough

Django Django 'Django Django' - A good whole hearty piece of musicianship which should receive more recognition

Ben Howard 'Every Kingdom' - A gorgeous debut, staple record which everyone should own

Michael Kiwanuka 'Home Again' - A grittily raw blues and soul album

Roller Trio 'Roller Trio'   - The obligatory jazz ensemble who hold some unexpected twists

Sam Lee 'Ground of It's Own' - The true folk 'boundary' pusher.




Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Example and DJ Fresh at the iTunes Festival



So last night I was jammy enough to have actually won some tickets to the iTunes festival. As a haven for all fifteen year olds (or students) being on a school night and the fact that the festival is free, whether you win tickets or choose to queue outside he roundhouse and pray you get in, its certainly a younger persons 'do.

Not only the logistics of the gig, but the talent drafted in for last night included dubstep and pop- fusionist pioneer, DJ Fresh as support for Example was certainly a reason for attracting such a young audience. Fresh 'Live' was a genuinely impressive live band performance. DJ Fresh himself was on the electronics and keys as well as providing backing vocals. In addition, the extremely competent vocalist and excitable MC, warmed up the stage pretty well for Example. With hits as big as 'Golddust' , 'Louder' and 'Hot Right Now', the young, mosh-pit-loving crowd were kept bouncing throughout the entire set.

Example, albeit not the strongest vocalist (nor a riveting lyricist) gave an impressive performance. Up -beat, with excellent stage banter ("I'd just like to especially thank all the corporate f***ers sitting down there upstairs") and a strong band backing him, the overall vibe was sustained through the whole set. Both me and my buddy who'd tacked along were surprised at how many hits Example had ('Changed the Way You Kissed Me', 'Midnight Run', Kick Starts', 'Wont Go Quietly' and 'Natural Disaster'). How would have thought he could've easily filled a headline slot-with time to only perform 2 unknown new tracks from his upcoming album? I give him credit as he didn't overly plug his new material and was relatively loyal to his older stuff.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Noisettes' album 'Contact'



The latest material and third album from The Noisettes is finally available.

 Combining a pop feel reminiscent of the 80s with an up to date approach in showcasing the band's tight song writing skills such as tracks 1, 'Winner' and 'Let The Music Play' the band here demonstrates everything that makes the band such a stronghold.

Funkadelic beats in the bass, recognisable and remaining distinctive element of the Noisettes (remember Don't Upset The Rhythm?) especially in 'I Want You Back' and 'Let The Music Play' (where I especially enjoyed the grunginess of the keys and even likened it to a Gossip track).
Shingai Shoniwa's vocals also tie the noisettes nice package together for making them stand out. A dynamite on the stage, she's certainly an entertainer.

 More perhaps ground breaking track would be 'Ragtop Car' as they offer something just that bit extra to their regular feel (such as a country feel - oddly enough).  However, the material overall doesn't contain much of a push in an alternative direction to what the duo have provided us with before. Although, the bass dropped in 'Traveling Light' does provide an unexpected but pleasant drop in the middle of the serenading ballad.

If you are a pop thirsty bass guzzling musical monster then the strong choruses, catchy hooks and easy to sing along anthems will certainly satisfy your needs.

 Favourite tracks; Let The Music Play, 'Contact' and the delightful hidden track at the end of the record.

 Like The Noisettes? Then try Elton John's latest project with Pnau, Josh Osho, and Emile Sande.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Elton John Vs Pnau 'Good Morning to the Night'


So Sir john is back, and not just back with a nifty hair cut, outrages outfits or turning all exhibitionist on us (Madonna, take note).

But he's returned with a new attitude and musical responsibility to endeavour and better his previous material. Sticking to his roots and retaining elements of traditional Elton, the veteran of disco has collaborated with producers Pnau (AKA Empire of the Sun) to create a project worthy of recognition from the likes of Zane Lowe amongst others.

The main vibe for the record is a well produced dance album with funkadelic bass, typical Elton melody lines and plentiful of spacey effects. The songwriting and development of tracks ('Sad' and 'Black Icy Stare') are of course, perfect.

 Smashing the opening track and latest Single, 'Good Morning to the Night' with a distinctive guitar loop, build in layers and bouncy bass line, this track is sure to be used in the clubs and on Radio 2 alike. I have no doubt that every person you ask whether they like this track will agree and then continue to gasp when you announce to them in proud knowledge that it's Elton John's. Savour the moment and feel smug.

With different tracks offering alternative takes to genre, the production of vocals and showcasing Elton John's songwriting talents the album does a very good job of providing canape sized examples of the trio's work. With 'Black Icy Stare' conveying elements of reggae and seamless mixing as well as staying in your head for hours. 'Foreign Fields' offers a bit more of a disco pop vibe. Indulgent 'Telegraph to the Afterife' presents an indulgent and spaced, soothing track. The finale, 'Sixty' is something altogether off this planet and a brilliant piece of music.

I'm glad the three haven't over indulged in their excellence. An eight track record is a good, short and sweet approach to a very fine album.

Fave tracks; 'Sixty', 'Morning to The Night', 'Phoenix' and 'Back Icy Stare'.

 Like Elton?? Hmmmm..... then give Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs or Grimes a go!


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs' Trouble album



So, Indie by name, electronic dance music by nature...The newest of the pack to join the ever increasing dance music scene. The new MGMT? The new SBTRKT? A ravier side of Friendly Fires?

You know what, I'm fed up of trying to find the latest fad, fashion and trend. Dance music is in. On the whole, it actually involves strong song writing ('Garden' and 'Your Love' in the case of this album), requires something 'extra' of the vocals to off set the eletronic elements of a synth ('Shimmer') and doesn't always have to reminisce the e-pumped-80s rave feel but has its own EDM (that electronic dance music for those not down with the lingo) genre. There doesn't always have to be big Eric Prydz beats, awful Example penned lyrics, giant chordal progressions and it doesn't have to have the massive breaks that appear in Deadmau5's dubstep tracks.

 Take the two commercial tracks good enough for the masses 'Household Goods' and 'Garden' off TEED's (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) new album. 'Garden' is sure to be an anthemic tune in its own right this summer. I certainly plan on dancing my socks off to this bouncy beat, echo drenched and gleeful Casio chord dance track. Arguably the most sing-along track on the album. Meanwhile, 'Household Goods' with its unexpected, Calvin Harris synth part that bursts out for the chorus is brilliant. The thing I don't get is the placidity of Orlando's (that's the main dude) vocals. But that's fine, he's a pretty cool, laid back cat. I do wish that this track was extended and let its hair down even more...but there's always the room to extend it when he's on stage live... right? (Bestival-watch out! This kid is going to tear the roof off!)

'Shimmer', with its reflective instrumentation of its title is so similar to a SBTRKT track that I genuinely thought my ipod had switched albums half way through. It does eventually come into its own though with a bubble gum bass line that adds perhaps the unexpected. Similarly, 'Tapes & Money' could pass as a Deadmau5 track with the addition of dozy vocals. Despite this evident influence, the build in the bridge and chorus is fantastic. Sure to be re-released if anyone is thinking straight out there.

'American Dream, Pt. 2' is another anthem which is susceptible to other DJs and producers for some re-work and exposure to the dance scene. I think the wash of synths and repetitive riffs are a project waiting to happen.

Other catchy tunes to listen out for include 'Your love', 'Trouble', 'You Need Me On My Own', 'Tapes & Money' and 'American Dream, Pt. 2'.

Some tracks seem to meander off route.... As a debut album, there's a high frequency of tracks so hats off. However, this inevitably has led to weaker tracks ('Panpipes' amongst others) appearing which just don't hold the cut against the catchier, stronger soon-to-be-hits.

Fave tracks: 'Garden', 'Household Goods' and 'Promises'

Like TEED? Why not try SBTRKTMike Snow or something slightly different: Grimes


Monday, 11 June 2012

John Osho's L.I.F.E EP



John Osho is the freshest soulfully, pop, acoustic bad-boy-done-good face to the music scene.

With the new album in full, L.I.F.E set for release in a few weeks, this teaser which is now available has given me an insight into the potential Josh's album could contain.

Josh's voice reminds me of John Legend with his powerful, yet smooth and easy- to-listen-to warming low register.

Opening with the catchy and up-beat 'Giants' featuring Childish Gambino, the sing along melody catches your attention instantly.

The single, 'Redemption' featuring Ghostface Killah (these high-profile guest stars in the full album includes acts such as Wretch 32) has been a hit with Radio 1 and certainly holds it own in relation to chart topping tracks. With the romantic violin riffs, no faffing about with vocal gymnastics and a positive, feel good vibe, its set to be an anthem for the summer.

The Ebenezer hotel, a tale from Osho's previous drug dealing lifestyle before gracing the music industry's scene, opens with a catchy blues riff and showcases his soulful, smooth and distinctive vocals.

Overall, a well produced EP that includes catchy single releases, characteristics of Josh's background and some tracks which demonstrate potential and signs towards hopefully what'll be another successful album with some room for development into perhaps a more alternative writer.

Fave tracks: 'Ebenezer Hotel' and 'Redemption'

Monday, 21 May 2012

Grimes' 'Visions' (with a bit of a speculation on the music industry)



Released in March, this intensely electronica and simultaneously relaxed record spills influences from Bjork, the darkest corners of dubstep and electronica.

 I love that such a large sound has been produced by a solo artist. Is this the future of EDM? Is this the future of the no longer existent bedroom-based-singer/songwriter? It would now appear that we expect musicians to be songwriters, DJs and producers as some kind of musical all in one. With artists such as Grimes, SBTRKT, Deadmau5, Jamie XX and Burial as well as top dogs Calvin Harris and David Guetta - the all in one music maker has some heavy burdens to carry over and above being able to strum a few chords. To produce tracks, or to even leap from the springboard into this kind of industry the music maker/DJ/producer needs good equipment, some kind of alter ego or persona (see Grimes with her eye on her head, Deadmau5 with his Mau5-head or Feed Me with his massive smile-one stage) as well as the expectations of recording their own stuff to get noticed in the first place AND perform it all live to sustain their popularity. In other words....it's HARD to break the scene with a modest budget and no plug sockets.

 That by no means says Grimes isn't a good musician. Her vocals are hypnostising and spectacularly eery which fuse well with the delicate keys and pads of the tracks. The illegibility of lyrics is one, insignificant problem. But, the fact that she can deliver these vocal lines live speaks volumes.  Catchy riffs, intense harmonies 'Skin' and 'Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)' create a mature evolution in the tracks way beyond this 23 year old's career.

I find myself frowning in trying to understand the complexities of the melachonic shape of chords and harmonies (Skin). All I can feel is pain. Does it matter how she gets there with repetitive drum loop and lonely guitar melody? No. Other similar tracks include; 'Eight' all which speak volumes in dictating mood and emotion. Why should music always be so blatant?

Pop-ier tracks 'Genesis', 'Be A Body' and 'Oblivion' have a bubble bass line that is a venerable, potential victim for re-mixes. With 80s effects (including sweep pads, an old school drum track and tons of reverb) threaded into the various instrumental parts (especially in 'Oblivion') its hard to slap a genre sticker onto this track. I'm going to have a go anyway and say neo electronica pop? Yes. That sounds good enough to me.

 I hope that this is an album which sticks with me long term and isn't a fad or phase. With the rise of electronic music I'm sure Grimes will become a key leader of the pack to a more alternative approach to synthesised sounds.

Fave tracks: Genesis, Oblivion and Be A Body.

Like Grimes? Try SBTRKT .

Saturday, 19 May 2012

BOY at The Borderline


  Fresh faced from Brighton-based-festival, The Great Escape just the weekend before, this female, swiss-German guitaring duo made their way to the rather cramped and jam-packed Borderline for a cheeky gig supported by a full band.

  Despite their relatively plain stage presense and modest personalities, they held their own on stage. I liked that this is the case with these two. No, they're not exactly in your face such as Jessie J or as introvert as perhaps Laura Marling, just sweet, nice, talented girls who can storm their own stuff live.

   With an album due for release in the summer, their genre of  music can be distinctively defined as indie pop. With catchy melodies, love sick harmonies and softly German-accented English you cant help but fall in love just a little bit with the two of them. Whilst on stage they give banter to the crowd and despite the language barrier, the two make good fun of themselves and the crowd. "We're disgusting... PAHAHAHHA HAHHAHAHA!!!" - goes the bassist Sonja Glass. "I mean-DISCUSSING!!!" And the entire venue falls about laughing. Absolute genuine charm.

  Catchy single 'Little Numbers' tip-toes around Regina Spector influenced piano fills and a catchy bassline that I plan on being (if not my own personal) a summer hit. I hope they have much more to offer us in the upcoming summer... Otherwise check out singles 'Drive' and 'Little Numbers'.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Jack White's 'Blunderbuss'



Ok, so it's been out for ages..... And yes, I've been slow on the uptake.

Recorded in Nashville (which is pretty well suited to the southern state roots this album has eg, 'Blunderbus' and 'I'm Shakin'') This first solo album by the rocker-of-three-bands (does that make him a band slut??) is not overly ambitious and ridiculously pretentious but contains strong song writing skills and a solid collection of a variety of tracks.

From the heavier 'Sixteen Saltines' to 'Freedom at 21' and 'I'm Shakin', the album contains the expected rock tracks that spill from the White Stripes era.

However, softer 'Missing Pieces', 'Love Interruption', 'Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy' and 'Blunderbus' show just damn good instrumentation and song development with improvised bluesy like roots that I lap up on my morning commute.

Such a recogniseable vocalist will always have the challenge of trying to create a new record.  White has appeared to overcome this via creating the track, riffs and instrumentation (with excellent backing vocals) to be the focus. His vocal is not the main focus here unlike say, Thom Yorke.

He was outstanding on Jools Holland (on the 4th May) - go and catch up with it if you haven't already seen it. He's a brilliantly established musician who knows what he's doing and I can imagine to be the driving force behind his own success as opposed to leaning on a big team. This is even backed by the fact that Indie label XL (who Adele's signed to) has him on their roster. Smashing.

No more needs to be said. Go and buy it, Goddamn it.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Richard Hawley's 'Standing a the Sky's Edge'





Opening with an eeriness, this album moves through the genres of late 90s rock and indie guitar music into it’s own developed record with fixed ideas in direction. Influences I think Hawley takes on for this album include; Oasis, Embrace, The Verve and to a certain extent, relatively newcomers to the scene, The Horrors. Hawley is a well established musician, probably best known for his short spell in Pulp, but it is obvious from the start that these British guitar bands are what contributes to the shape and feel of the album. This doesn’t by any means allow for this album to sound all samey-samey. The lazy, British and Faris from the Horrors-esque like vocals really gives it something that makes it stand apart from any average Kasabian, Mark Knopfler or My Morning Jacket record.
Track 1, ‘She Brings The Sunlight’ has a pretty large soundscape. With instrumentation including a pretty brash sitar and violin, the development of the parts work well to create a strong introductory track to the rest for the album. The guitar solo at 4:03 was inevitable, but with a splash of flange, it creates the perfect harmony between the melody of the solo and the sitar in the background.
‘Standing At the Sky’s Edge’ is a chilled out, reminiscent-of-a -Moby track with a soft piano part, lots of reverb, sustained vocals on harmony and a close mic (this also goes for ‘The Wood Colliers Grave’). All in all a very relaxing and unhurried track that deviates (shortly) from direction to a pointless, downwards chordal progression but otherwise the track is memorable and worthy of the album title to summarise the atmosphere. 
‘Seek It’ and ‘Don’t Stare At The Sun’ give a more relaxed feel. With a repetitive riff in 'Seek It', its easy to kick your feet up and relax. ‘Dont Stare at The Sun’ contains less effects on the vocals add uses brushes on drums with an acoustic guitar that soothes the mood. This also goes for ‘Before’ which is excellently produced and has a wonderful build up into the escapism-like-instrumental.
It has to be said that by the time you get to track 7, ‘The Wood Colliers Grave’ you’re ready for a bit of a pick up... Which luckily is indulged by ‘Leave your Body Behind You’. A drum-heavy and instrumentally busier track then the rest of the tracks, providing a colourful side in a minor key. With a simple and catchy bassline, predictable chords and riffs it’s a compact and well written track that I fear is slightly overburdened in production where the (albeit repetitive and relatively simple) vocals are abandoned. But as ever, the guitar part is brought to the forefront from the mid section onwards to rock the heck out of the back-end of the track.
More impressive guitar indulgence can be found in ‘She Brings The Light’, ‘The End of Time Will Bring You Winter’, ‘Before’ and ‘Leave Your Body behind You’. Produced well with effects are essential here. Meanwhile, the continuous movement of the album such as ‘Time Will Bring You Winter’ into ‘Down In the Woods’ shows maturity, strong awareness of music and the needs of the listener to play on moods.
All in all, an enjoyable, well respected album in my opinion. If my Dad was into cooler music I’d happily share this with him, but as his collection consists of Enya, The Corrs and Savage Garden I think I’ll just keep it to myself....(and you guys!)

 Like Richard Hawley? Then why not try Bombay Bicycle ClubThe Black Keys or Jack Savoretti

Monday, 7 May 2012

Jodie Marie's 'Mountain Echo'



The enticing vocals of Miss Marie are enough to sell this album by itself. It's unquestionable that she has a beautiful voice with the ability to seep across many genres from pop into folk, jazz and blues. One could argue she has a tone (especially in 'Greeney-Blue') that matches Laura Marling (which believe you me is a compliment and a half from me as I am her NO. 1 FAN). This is really explored in the album. From the more bluesy tracks ('Singing Black Canvas') to the jazzier ('I Got You') and just for good measure some folk ('Greeney-Blue'), all tracks incorporate her abilities as a vocalist to showcase the extend of her voice.

 This however does sometimes act as a tad of downfall to the album. The change of direction in genres confuses me slightly. Undoubtedly, genres such as bluegrass, folk and blues have similar ties with each other...but I feel that if there was more binding of direction, the album may sound slightly more developed and perhaps mature. The album is one which shows some real highlights that sparkle just that little bit more than other, weaker tracks ('Remember Me') where there's simply not enough musical development.

 Saying that though, it doesn't stop me from enjoying the range of this genre-jumbled album. 'Greeney-Blue' for instance is a beautiful soft folk tune with lazy guitar accompaniment and a strong level of command in the vocal. 'What Would It Take?' matches this similar style but not to the quality or maturity that 'Greeney- Blue' has.

Upbeat, classy and jazzy 'I Got You', uses huge orchestration inclusive of strings, many guitar parts and  an organ to really add va va voom. Vocals let rip here which I enjoy after the contrast of Greeney-Blue beforehand. However, I'm uncertain as to whether the vocals are still big enough to match the sheer size of the instrumentation. I would've also really liked maybe a break-down in the middle to add an extra section and some suspension to the track. However, I consider it to be a well composed, catchy and finger clickin' good! Similarly, largely orchestrated 'On The Road' is a delightfully bright, exciting and catchy gem which matches Marie's vocals in all it's grandeur.

'Like a Runaway' is a very Alison Kraus-like-country-come-bluegrass track. The use of country electric guitar, harmonies on vocals, brushes on drums and saloon styled piano helps point this album is a slightly alternative light. I think the contrast in these genres, such as the pop-ier track 'Numb' goes to show just how well the album is produced. Not only is the delicacies of Marie's vocals captured well ('Greeney-Blue'), but the right feel for the more country orientated tracks and prioritising of instrumentation against effects and the placement of vocals has really been produced very well.

My fave tracks are; 'Greeney', 'On the Road' and 'I Got You'.

Like Jodie Marie? Then why not try Lianne La Havas, Honey Ryder or Marching Donald?

Santigold's 'Master of My Make-Believe'



I couldn't wait for this album to come out....did it live up to my hopes? Well here is my dissection, in a typically rambling like manner...

 Opening with 'Go', all the elements than define Santigold for what she is remains the same (which I love). For example, the distinctive vocals, alternative harmonies and funky beats are sustained throughout the album. Admittedly, there are some overly similarly tracks to the debut album 'Santogold'. But I loved it, so why complain?

 The single 'Disparate Youth' has basslines which I'm sure shall be pumping through an Urban Outfitters BY YOU soon. A staccato, synth string section and ridiculous echo on the drums, this track gets your head bopping from the very start. With remixes of the anthemic tune by The Two Bears and Justice, it's soon to be a hit in the coolest of clubs. In summary, it has distinctive and sensual vocals that reflect everything Santigold has done in the past with intimate drums throughout the chorus and a guitar lick which punctures the vocal line and harmonic progression. The keys are hypnotising and the bass is pulsating from the very beginning.

Perhaps most alike to this upbeat, reggae and electronic pop fusion is 'Fame', a catchy and I'm sure favourite of the Santigold fans. "Me don't want no fame" is a catchy and down-with-the-kids-lyric. Leaps and unexpected turns in the vocals keeps this track fresh. More fusion tracks like this includes 'Freak Like Me', an edgy, hyped and again, unpredictable track. I think this stop-start track is quite similar to her older works such as 'Unstoppable'.

'God From The Machine' is the third track which edges away from the angelic pop electronica and moves to a brave reggae rhythm with ghostly backing. A haunting vocal line and lack of rush is key to this track. Off beat rhythms is what Santigold does to a tee, from the beats in 'Go!' to the syncopation in 'Disparate Youth', to the bass and off-beat accents in 'Pirate in the Water'.

'This isn't Our Parade' and 'The Riot's Gone' shows that she hasn't moved entirely into a world of  reggae beats come synth pop fusion but that she still has the ability to write the cutest of love songs including alternative keys and her ever powerful vocals. With hazy accompaniment that lazily joins in as a mimic of the vocal line "I can hear you now, I hear you calling", the song feels personal, the delicacies of the sustained chords, gentle drum track and reserved use of fills makes me feel subjected to Santigold's deepest depths.

In terms of musical development, the production of each track is exquisite (just listen to 'Pirate in the Water') . It's evident much time, energy and money has gone into perfecting the production, making everything as tight as possible and so has added an extra layer of electronica which may have not been as present in the first album. I like it. I think it helps move Santi into 2012.... And I was also extremely impressed how well this was brought over when performed live on Zane Lowe's show last week. Her band is TIGHT.

 In terms of songwriting, she hasn't taken any extreme paths away from the Santogold feel and I'm glad.  Some tracks do throw a curve ball into the equation such as 'Look At These Hoes' which features much more rapping and more aggressive songwriting that perhaps equates to 'Creator' from the first album, but the heavy dependency on the bass, contrast through the use of more R&B lyrics, the backing atmospheric wash and electronica adds a bit of spice to the album. I would have liked to have heard maybe just the odd track that could've offered something completely different. But her distinctive sound is what makes her stand out, especially for me anyway, in the alternative world.

Fave tracks: Disparate Youth, God From The Machine, This Isn't our Parade, Look At These Hoes and Big Mouth.

Like Santigold? Then try SBTRKT

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Jack Savoretti's 'Before the Storm'




This English/Italian singer songwriter has completed his third album, 'Before the Storm' which is set for release sometime this summer. Following a false start to his career with the first album given away as a free download by gigwise.com, the musician hopes to regain recognition through this relatively upbeat and a well composed album.
Vocally, Savoretti has a slightly softer tone than Paulo Nuttini with the occasional rough edge ('The Proposal') that reminds me of Paul Weller ('Last Call'). His genre sways between country (‘The Propsal') and elements of rock and pop. 
My personal favourites on the album consist of; 'Take Me Home' (with its soothing vocal line and ‘friendly’ guitar parts), 'Last Call' (with its jazz influences), 'Lifetime' (a Jack Johnson-esque track) and 'Knock Knock'.
With songs such as 'Changes', where the build up is paramount, there's an excellent use of 'cello and harrowing vocals that I thought from the start may be a tad of a boring track, but ultimately ended up proving me wrong. It's heartfelt, emotive and stronger than I first assumed. I think this is a strong metaphor for the album in whole and do consider it quite the ‘grower’.
As good as it is to hear fresh, new guitar music in such a heavily saturated dance market at the moment, there isn’t much to mark Savoretti out from the crowd though.  As a maturer songwriter and performer you can certainly hear it in his songs, voice and especially lyrics "You'll find love, just wait your turn", "I hear songs in the key of sadness" (The proposal). As a positive, this adds layers and well practiced musicianship that’s perhaps missed by other, younger musicians such as Ed Sheeran or an early James Morrison. If there were more anthemic tunes on the record I would be more inclined to see him live and be encouraged to await another album. For the meantime I shall savour this album for mutual, social situations and easy listening on a Sunday afternoon or a hectic commute to help focus everything...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Honey Ryder's album teaser


British country/rock trio Honey Ryder have distributed their album sampler prior to their album release due this coming summer. With tracks worthy of release such as singles 'Marley's Chains' and 'You Won't Find Me' on the album, the band prove themselves to be a tight, well constructed and matured group. They have a strong grasp of genres including rock, pop and country as well as good songwriting skills and use of strong harmony and melody.

I'm usually quite skeptical of British musicians performing and writing in such an American dominated genre (of country), but the band have done it well and have still managed to incorporate elements of British rock (such as the use of classical strings as opposed to a fiddle in 'World's Way'). With influences including Sheryl Crow, Oasis and The Beatles however, the band was set from the start to include a real mix of musical genres. The result is a soft Corrs combined with Lady Antebellum and Athlete or Keane all fused together.

The track 'Marley's Chains' is my favourite because of its build and typical country sound. With fantastic harmonies and up-beat 12 string acoustic guitar sound, the track really stands out on an otherwise relatively average album. The anthemic opening vocal for the verses really captures the ear of the listener. 'You Cant Say That' is a condense and well co-ordinated song. With typical instrumentation, Shania Twain like fills on guitar amongst the predictable melodies, the build up the chorus is strong whilst the chorus itself is quite catchy.

Aside from perhaps 'World's Way' which includes the occasional catchy vocal line, other tracks 'The Orange Tree' (which sounds like perhaps a rom-com soundtrack) and 'You Wont Find Me' are relatively weak tracks with not as much as direction or perhaps outstanding elements to the song that attract me to buy the album in full on release.

Like Honey Ryder? Then you might like Alabama Shakes for more of a rock feel, for a soloist country rocker then try Marching Donald or for more of an indie vibe then give Ben Howard a go...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Alabama Shakes' debut album 'Boys and Girls'


Another week has flown by in the land of musikalische and I haven't had much time to review anything!! Luckily, this album is only a week old...so I pray you forgive me.

The southern-state rock group Alabama Shakes release their debut album 'Boys and Girls'. With roots in rhythms and blues, traditional rock, progressive rock and jazz the trio have music which includes laid back vibes, catchy hooks, indulgent riffs and vocals reminiscent of early Kings of Leon. On top of that you get treated to influences by Otis Redding and the Rolling Stones. A 'dusty' approach to the production works utter wonders (which is most noticeable on Heavy Chevy). The vocals sound crisp enough for today's audience but authentic and reminiscent of a rusty 60s-70s rock 'n' roll fused with Motown's real feel. The guitars are also perfectly produced with a combination of authenticity and full of character.

The distinctive single 'Hold On' which as been flaunted around extensively by both Xfm and Radio One (Fearne' Cotton's big thing a few weeks ago) is catchy and is an outstanding track with easy going rhythms, a recogniseable guitar riff and laid back bass. The build of vocals throughout the track is fantastic with the listening inevitably ending up shouting 'WAIT!' towards the end with the singer (and most likely out of time and followed with a big neck-jerk/head bash on the drum fills).

With tracks 'You Aint Alone', 'Boys and Girls', 'I Found You', 'Be Mine', and (the brilliant interlude and rhythmically delightful) 'Goin' to the Party' with their jazz chord sequences and bluesy vocals, the band stand apart just that bit from their southern rock and roll contemporaries The Black Keys. 'I Found You' is a feel good track with uplifting wah wah guitar, passion, an excellent build up for the chorus, release for the verse, chord bashing at end on keys and is overall refreshingly familiar. 'You Aint Alone', with its 6/8 time and swung rhythms has everything there that screams at you recognition, tradition and full of roots. But the application of rock vocals and harsher than usual guitar spikes make it stand out from a-typical blues.

'Typically rock' tracks include 'Hold On', 'Heavy Chevy', 'Hang Loose' and 'On Your Way' where the fills and guitar lines remind me very much of Kings of Leon. 'Hang Loose' has a care-free guitar line that keeps the rock in the song whilst the layers build up later to include a brilliant saloon style piano part. With lines like "Don't you ever worry about a thing/Don't be your own worse enemy" it's impossible not to chill out when listening to this one. Cider. BBQ and sunshine. That's what I want when I hear this song. This also applies to 'Rise To the Sun' which is championed by the inclusion of an organ part.

I imagine the band to be spectacular live and have already pencilled them in on my top list to see at Bestival this summer. Favourite tracks off the album are; 'Hold On', 'Heavy Chevy', 'You Aint Alone, Goin' To the Party', 'On your Way' and 'Be Mine'.

Like Alabama Shakes? Try The Black Keys and Marching Donald.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Ryan Davies' debut album 'Marching Donald'


Folk rocker Ryan Davies launches his debut album under his pseudonym 'Marching Donald'. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and an impressive growler (steady on), this passionate musician demonstrates his undoubted guitar talent and extensive song writing skills.

So he's not compatible to any Ed Sheeran or up and coming Lewis Watson of the acoustic singer/songwriter variety but is more comparable to rockers and undoubtedly his influences; Bob Dylan ('Love & Theft'), with AC/DC like rhythms and a elements of Paul Weller thrown in for good measure. Suitable contemporaries of today to compare him with include Jonny Flynn and Belle and Sebastian.

Production here is not top priority with Davies as a starting out musician on undoubtedly a low budget, limited hours, lack of multi-tracking and in an amateur studio. There are, in parts peaks and troughs. Generally, there's a perfect balanced between guitar and vocal parts ('Author of the World', 'Touch of Blue') and an excellent level of reverb ('Touch of Blue' and 'Creeping Thistle'). 'Release Me' has an addictive and emotionally charged vocal line that is obviously heartfelt and very emotive. There's a few out of tune squarks, but at least The Donald doesn't have the audacity to use auto-tuner which puts the finger up to current acts such as Will.I.Am and captures a raw feel, which let's face is is what guitar music is about.

'Author of the World' introduces us to the album with an up-beat pace, chords full of character and honest lyrics. Catchy, impressionable, simple and effective. Heavier rock-orientated tracks 'Praise for your Portrait', 'Drowning Appetite' and 'Valley Skies' include passionate but distinctive vocals. Occasionally forced in parts, but necessary in others, such as the impressionable 'Praise to your Portrait' which helps define the vocal line. Otherwise these three really stand out as something that pushes Davies away from the ever so smoochy Sheeran and towards a maturer approach to singer/songwriting that doesn't always include the a-typical contrast between tentative vocals or pedals and loops. 'Valley Skies' are owed much recognition for its build of tension, alternative takes on each verse and the break down towards the end of the track which I can vouch for is always impressive live.

Softer tracks 'Touch of Blue', 'Grindstone', 'Creeping Thistle' and 'Duvet Day' show a softer side to Davies and demonstrate his instrumental playing as not just a rhythm guitarist but also his capabilities as the lead with interesting riffs and fills ('Touch of Blue', 'Creeping Thistle' and 'My Book'). The ironic 'Touch of Blue' has beautiful melodies and a delightful ending. Lyrics "You're just so bright, with a touch of blue" and "Just when you think your thread is bare, some harmless breeze comes and throws you off your chair" particularly warm the heart. 'Creeping Thistle' is reminiscent of southern-state melodies with accents on the vocal line, a plucked guitar line and twists or hammering on throughout. Doubling up on guitar and melody vocals are quite simply charming on 'Duvet Day'.

Best tracks include 'Praise to Your Portrait', 'Release Me' (with it's brilliant chord sequences), 'Valley Skies and 'Creeping Thistle'.

The album launches Friday 6th April across many online retailers including amazon, iTunes and napster. Follow him @MarchingDonald and keep up with gigs and his antics also at facebook.com/marchingdonald OR head to marchingdonald.co.uk for a FREE download.

Like Marching Donald? Why not check out: Ben Howard and Lianne La Havas

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Miike Snow's album 'Happy To You'


This open minded trio of Swedes released their second album 'Happy To You', following up from their eponymous first album. With a strong set of catchy riffs that would make MGMT jealous, drums to startle an army and a genre that can be shortly defined as electronic indie pop, the album includes a scattering of strong re-mixes alongside their own masterpieces in their full glory.

So there's not the usual instrumentation ('Enter the Joker's Lair' including a Marimba), lyrics ('Paddling Out') and mad rushing ('Archipelago') you may hear in an extrovert Indie-electronica group such as Foals, Justice, Hot Chip or MGMT but it carries it's own niche sound very well. With the inclusion of Swedish military drums in 'Bavarian' and 'The Wave' to the Miike-Snow-typically white washed vocals in 'The Wave' to the synths in 'Vase'. The group sustain their unique sound which is so distinctive from their previous hits such as 'Silvia', 'Black and Blue' and 'Animal'.

Tracks to WATCH OUT! (in a good way) for are include 'Devil's Work'-a favourite of mine (and Tiesto's) with it's big brass, singable vocals and break down on the second half of the chorus with stabbing strings and full of emotion, the song is perfect for pulling apart which is precisely what DJ Alex Metric has done. It'll also most probably be the next release off the album... 'Bavarian' includes a delicate and repetitive minimalist piece that warms the heart. With it's strong structure, and genteel approach to layering against the harshness of the snares in the military drums, the track really clings onto something unique. Not to mention the vocals and harmonies which include surprising directions that inevitably round up into the repetitive riffs that were introduced at the very start. Genius.

Unfortunately the album has low production on an overall scale. Play it after any dance track you have on your ipod and you'll hear the failure in the size of the sound that's produced overall. This is probably a result of less cash been thrown at the band as say, DJ Fresh or Madonna but at the end of the day, the rest of the album points out that the album IS produced to a very high level of production. Tracks 'Enter the Joker's Lair', 'Devil's Work' and 'Archipelago' just point to the range of the production techniques from creating soundscapes in 'Enter..." to the typical band sound with rock drums, driving keys, strings, brass and functional bass that is required in 'Devil's Work'.

The first single 'Paddling Out' is a real keyboard basher with condensed songwriting and excellent builds in the bridge up to the chorus which provides a brilliant release. The single was the reason I delved further into the album and the lads should be proud of it, exploit it for re-mixes (which they have) and really channel it as a dance anthem for the summer. Unfortunately there's a distraction bleep/glitch that sounds somewhere between an Apple Mac uploading something and a metronome which really grates on me. However, remixes on the album are also noteworthy- Wolfgang Gartner's remix is a bass and dancefloor friendly version that underpins the entire track with a simplified but big drum sample and a contrasting chorus including a heavy, trance - chunky synth part which holds a strong line throughout the rest of the track after it's initial introduction. The Jacques Le Cont remix includes a tad more creativity, thought and brilliant build ups, releases and alternative structure to the instrumentation whilst it also pulls apart and stretches out the track. Much more Justice-like and adds a layer of grandeur.

I hope that the extent of the band's creativity and lack of fear to try anything new will help this album rocket. With Radio 1 plugging them on Annie Mac's show and Tiesto including them in his podcast, I think they'll be able to capture a pretty large audience.



Monday, 19 March 2012

Michael Kiwanuka's 'Home Again'


This British musician offers a fresh injection (and for some, introduction) of soul into the charts. Recognition in the BBC's Sound of 2012 Poll has evidently led Kiwanuka to the bright lights of fame and the ever important airplay. His jam packed festival timetable this year includes Bestival,
Liverpol's Sound City, Latitude and naturally, Radio 1's Big Weekend which just goes to shows how high in demand this new talent is.

Opening with track 'Tell Me a Tell' is a fantastic and simplistic introduction about what this artist and his music represent. Soul, country and blues. With heavy accents on upbeat vocals, a subtle use of soft brass and the flurry of polite flutes as well as brushes on drums a genre is defined in seconds. There's a real rush that the verse provides which contrasts against the coolness and release of the chorus ('Goooood gooooood lovin').

First single 'I'm Getting Ready' is one which breaks up the average grafters day as it floats through your radio speakers against the background of Swedish House Mafia and Katy Perry. The swung guitar rhythms and swishing of the snare on drums is delightfully refreshing, meanwhile Kiwanuka's mature and rich vocals transcend his years by about two decades. The next single which features on the album, 'Home Again' is a heavily guitar-fill filled track. Strings here are not an understatement but a necessity to chunk out the layers and emphasise the chorus on 'One day I know I'll be home again'. I'm glad however, that the producers and Kiwanuka have kept it relatively simple to reflect its bluesy roots.

As the album moves through soulful tunes including acoustic guitar licks, flute flurrys and more off beat rhythms, tracks to listen out for include 'Bones', a bluesy love song with saloon styled piano and irresistible backing vocals. Its horse and cart styled rhythm with extra swooning on the vocals allows the song to propel itself as well as pick up the pace of the album.

'Always Waiting' is a darkly charming track which delicately balances the effects to allow a softness on the acoustic guitar part. Minor chords interject the upbeat guitar licks whilst a troubled trombone slides in and out of the orchestration to add extra sincerity and loneliness. A lack of lyrics in the chorus adds an air of hopelessness. All in all, I consider this track to contain many elements that pull the fundamental intention of hopelessness, loneliness and acceptance together.

For something a bit different, skip to track 'I wont Lie' for it's impressive brass and instrumental interjections that swamp the vocals. It sort of reminds me of a Christmas track. The primary focus appears to be on the grandeur nature of the orchestration and creating a big sound whilst the vocals play a secondary part. Furthermore, I don't feel that the vocal line is that strong or catchy but it certainly stands out on the album.

Finishing off, 'Worry Walks Beside Me' is an electric guitar accompanied track that shuffles the album to a close. Not only is the vocals lazy but it's a great sing along song when drunk and I think has potential as a single. The pain and recognition of blues here is evident. A slight downer to finish an album on, but a track that certainly makes an impression.

To have succeeded in such a stark genre in today's chocca-dub-block styles that are flittering around, Kiwanuka goes to show just how some time out is desperately needed by some of us.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Florence and The Machine plays Alexandra Palace



Following her outrageously and gloriously overly exuberant performance at the Brits, the swiping of 2 NME awards and much dancing at the after party with Rizzle Kicks just a few weeks ago... Florence Welch took on Alexandra Palace on Thursday the 8th March 2012.

The Horrors, as second in line for support set up in a very casual state while Faris got his fringe flinging on. They were tight, they were cool and their new stuff is brilliant. Despite the Southend group hardly pumping me up for Florence and the Machine, it was music at a good calibre of musicianship and if at the end of the day, I hadnt got that from the Horrors, with their four albums, countless festival performances and being the teacher's pet of NME, I would have been disappointed. And disappointed I was not.

After a diva-ishly long wait for Flo.....she came out from behind her 1920s deco-adorned stage in full cape, sparkly shoulder pads and pinned up deep red hair. YES, gold and sparkles is still in season apparently (check out the fcuk website if you dont believe me). Backed by a ten piece choir and a string section TO DIE FOR (not to mention her Mcfitty lead guitarist) and of course, the harp. All in all, it was a very impressive presence on stage. Opening with Only If For A Night Florence set off with her stationary new style although there was some twirling and pointing with the arms to get some movement into that cape.

She continued through various tracks off the new record and then launched into some of her old stuff including Cosmic Love with an outstanding break-down in the middle where she completely owned the entire room. (I'm going to also state here, quite outrageously, that I believe Welch to be one of the strongest vocalists certainly in the UK and potentially in the western world right now.)

Once she'd proved her worth of owning the palace she launched into a bombardment of uplifting tunes and ever so gradually returned to her immature character which encompassed Lungs. Beginning with current single Shake It Out and moving a bit more around the stage (the cape was long gone by now to reveal a black velvet catsuit) the next song progressed to Dog Days Are Over where suddenly she returned to her old self, flailing arms around, skipping and general fiasco.

Alternative adaptions included Heartlines where a 12 string guitar was introduced to create a more folky approach and initially softer drums which gave all the more impact when they did play in full. Leave My Body was dowsed by the choir and given a more soulful vibe. There was a brief interlude as the strings did their thing over a few chords to introduce You Got The Love and naturally, the room was filled with the punter's voices fused with the intermediately overwhelmed and giggling, but fantastic Florence's.

As the first of many, many gigs I hope and have no doubt that the rest of the tour is to the same standard. Florence appeared affectionate to Alexandra Palace as a venue, especially as her family was there (apparently a rarity). But to be honest, I think the girl's got it all under control and will nail the rest of the tour as it sets off across the country and Europe this spring before a handful of festivals, come summer.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Emeli Sande's 'Our Version of Events'



The eagerly anticipated album makes a huge impact within the first 30 seconds of the single 'Heaven'. No messing about on strings. No faffing about with the drum sample and no pissing about with some showey-offy overly ridiculous over the top vocal gymnastics. Just a concise, strong and tightly composed track. Heaven makes a reliable, catchy, well orchestrated and satisfying introductory track to the album.

Other singles 'Daddy' (WHICH by the way you haven't youtubed the remixes, then go and have a root around) is passionate, involves a bell and has shape, direction with once more, good orchestration and song writing. Meanwhile, 'Next To Me' proves to be an upbeat, soulful, strong, vocally led track. It sounds like it belongs to a GOOD Bridget Jones soundtrack. Singalong stuff. (I dare you NOT to attempt the backing/high pitched ooooos).

Ballads you should tune into include 'My Kind of Love' and 'Where I Sleep' which, in parts, admittedly does sound like a slowed down version of 'Next To Me'. But is otherwise concise, and gets the job done. 'Mountains' is a diamond track. Electric guitar led, with a gradual increase in texture that wraps itself like a cozy cozy blanket round the listener. Her voice wraps itself round the listener. Pretty effortless for Emeli, this one. But that's exactly what the track needs. (I heart 'cellos. They make everything wonderful.) 'Hope' is a strong track with R&B influences, predictable chords but just perhaps a tad too much reverb.

Slightly more up-beat track 'Maybe' uses a deliciously close vocal mike. I feel like I'm INSIDE Sande's MOUTH. If it wasn't for the repetitive 5th interval that gets pushed in the chorus and it'd been a little little bit more creative I'd really really love this track. Instead I just like it a lot. It spells out spring for me. I think it portrays potential well, it's not definitive in its musical tonality or direction vocally. It gives and takes a lot with no overly exploitative vocals until the end where it inevitably gets a bit passionate. Otherwise, I think it's very clever.

Tracks to sit up, shut up and listen to are; all the singles, ' Where I sleep', 'Breaking the Law' 'Mountains' and 'Lifetime'. In general, a good, uplifting album for this time of year, also for listening to on your bus route and when you have people over for a posh dinner.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Lana Del Rey's 'Born To Die'



My relationship with Miss Del Rey is a complicated one.... I fell in love with her in January when Video Games had been played a couple of times on Radio 1 and was then nicked by Danny Smith to feature on Radio Verulam's Drivetime playlist. I couldn't stop listening to it (don't get me started on that bassline, though) and thought it both intriguing and outstanding against anything else that was played on the radio and the British public, (as ever!) followed my lead and also fell for her.

THEN single 'Born to Die' came out...and the lips and the mumbling and the draaaaaaawl started to get on me nerves. THEN giant photos of my girl-crush appeared everywhere. She was on the front cover of British Vogue BEFORE her album even came out!! WHO THE HELL WAS HER MANAGEMENT AND PUBLICIST AND WHAT GOD GIVEN SPECIAL POWERS DID THEY POSESS?!

Then Ms Del Rey hit a couple of low points such as on French TV channel Canal-plus where the singer was reportedly 'ambushed' by the channel to show that the singer had lifted an older song to produce Video Games which lead her to storm off and the entire strop to be edited out. Her live performance on Jools Holland was quite frankly awful, awkward and the poor girl seemed unable to think of anything else but THE hair and THE lips.

The album however, is obviously well produced (well it WOULD wouldn't it, with that much money behind her), the musicality of it isn't outstanding and the main focus is of the artists' voice, which is a change I spose when we consider today's bubble gum pop of The Wanted and Little Mix alongside dance giants Skrillex and Guetta where it's all about build ups, drops and suspension. Tracks 'Born to Die' and 'Video Games' do their fair share of uniting recognisable material. Meanwhile tracks 'Blue Jeans', 'National Anthem' and 'Diet Mountain Dew' do fantastic jobs as representations of a solid mix between American patriotism, social comment and catchy, twisting, state-sounding music with modern flair. Fame Academy champ, Sneddon assisted with songwriting to 'National Anthem' which I think will be the next release.

My fave tracks are sarcastic and ironic-drenched 'Off to the Races' for it's sheer exploitation of Del Rey's innocent vocals, 'National Anthem' for its dark observations on society, sex and the US. Obviously 'Video Games' is fantastic. Shame Lana isn't her real name... or that there isn't more creative flair in the song writing.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Black Keys 'El Camino'


El Camino is the band's sixth studio album. I'm ashamed of myself for only picking up the duo on my radar this far into their career and not a moment before. ASHAMED!

The album kicks off with the very, very feisty and southern state sounding 'Lonely Boy'. Effects on the guitar, alongside a simplistic and stripped down production does the album wonders. 'Lonely Boy' is a fantastic representation of the band's genre and general feel of the duo. Third on the album is the single 'Gold On the Ceiling' which grabs the listener. What with its massive riffs, off-beat clapping, White Stripe-esque harmonies and chant-able lyrics, the single is sure to do well and guaranteed to be a festival anthem.

Other tracks worth noting include the bass driven 'Run Right Back', the utterly predictable and yet brilliant 'Sister' alongside reminiscently U2 sounding 'Money Maker'. 'Stop stop' offers Arctic Monkey fills and rhythmic guitar parts to break in the track. Again, the ease to sing along to the vocals make this band a strong contender to pull in a big crowd at all big festivals, come summer.

So whoever is claiming guitar music to be dead is a FOOL. Hats off to all Indie rockers, we salute you in these dark and Dubstep days.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Lianne La Havas 'Forget' EP


The EP features 5 songs, with the titling 'Forget' single as the outstanding and shining track. As La Havas' second EP, the record contains a good mix of soulful acoustic music from the dramatic and ear grabbing single 'Forget' to the piano accompanied, vocally shining ballard 'Gone'.

Close and personal production here is what really highlights Lianne's soulful, soothing and distinctive sound. Everything from the closeness of the microphone, to the intensity of the backing vocals which is usually shoved up somewhere against the wall of drums. Here, every instrument and musical element is made poignant. In 'Forget' the use of layering, contrasting vocals from the whispers to the sustained notes on the word 'Forget' are brilliant. Meanwhile the heavy use of reverb and closeness of the vocals in 'Same As Me' really blends together smoothly with the guitar.

La Havas' voice is one which I think shall really stand out this year. It contains a depth and warbling sound which really sets her apart from her musical peers. Providing she continues firing out singles as catchy as 'Forget' and the previous single 'No Room For Doubt' featuring Willy Mason she'll be a huge success in 2012.

The inclusion of the 'Au Cinema' live performance proves La Havas' potential as a live musician with more use of chromaticism and off beat vocals. I'm gutted I cant get any gig tickets for her. No doubt she'll be rocking the festivals this summer, and what a sound to be heard outdoors, with cider in hand!!!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Caitlin Moran's 'How To Be A Woman'


Ok, so acknowledged. I'm a few months out to review this book and certainly in no position to point out whether it'll be a guestimated hit or received well. Because it has been. I just wanted to verify how good it is and point out how well worth a read is for anyone who wants a fresh insight into the world of modern day feminism and fancies a bit of a giggle.

Moran's writing is humorous, yes "Strident feminism NEEDS big pants. Really big. I'm currently wearing a pair that could have been used as a fire blanket to put out the great fire of London at any point during the first 48 hours or so." It contains banter, it contains a certain degree of moaning, nagging and bitching about things that personally and generally grind against her "...I've seen feminism-to remind ourselves: the liberation of women-blamed for the following: eating disorders, female depression, rising divorce rates........ But these are all things which have simply INVOLVED WOMEN, and have nothing to do with the political involvement 'feminism'." The majority of these delightful observations however are often worthy of the criticism they get from the witty writer.

I believe this book should not only be brought to the attention of younger women, older women but also men alike. I believe it is read bestest when in private. Just because the urge to laugh out loud is over compelling. If that though makes your commute to work all the more entertaining, devious and tempting by suppressing an out loud giggle in public, then knock yourself out.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

SBTRKT's Eponymous Album



An electronica, bass heavy and vocally soothing album with thanks to the extraordinary singers Sampha, Little Dragon, Jessie Ware and Roses Gabor. The London musician and producer responsible for this masterpiece works under the sudoname SBTRKT pronounced 'subtract'.

With catchy melodies and a minimalist like approach to textures and development, the album contains a variety in genre, production and influences. Everything which is guaranteed to be a massive hit this year in the music industry from Electronica, Dubstep, drum and bass and hip hop combined with the 'unlikelys' such as funk, pop and ambient music is what draws this album to its unique whole.

The single 'Hold On' breaks my heart. The relaxed attitude to vocals (by Sampha, who is an amazing contribution to this album) and wonderfully chilled high notes are so easy to listen to and are simultaneously reminiscent. Plus, what song cant make it when it has a xylophone?!?! The Caesers did it, and now SBTRKT are bringing it home, to Dub and Electronica. The next single to be released must surely be 'Something Goes Right' (feat Sampha) because it's so distinctly SBTRKT, but contains an uplifting and percussion like Casio chords, up-beat tempos and fun filled vocals which really does contain many elements that allows this track to go further than an underground single on an underground album. I think it also faces a lot of potential for remixes.

Tracks like 'Wildfire (feat. Little Dragon)', are going to be a sure hit on the mainstream now that Dubstep, with thanks to the giants such as Skrillex, Knife Party and Chase and Status are entering our eardrums at 10am on a Wednesday via Radio1. 'Right Thing to do' (feat. Jessie Ware) has a Two Step, softer approach to the reverb filled land of electronica and house music. Funk based 'Pharaohs' (Feat Roses Gabor) with its bouncy bass, off-beat high hats and catchy chorus allows for a breather from the intensity of the otherwise complicated glitches and electronica quick-fired-beats that fills the rest of the album. It is the inclusion of tracks such as this that makes SBTRKT a contender for the mainstream charts.

The more perhaps, outstanding tracks such as 'Sanctuary' develops in its own time, pace and layering of electronica. It belongs to those who want to invest in the album and pay it undying attention. 'Go Bang' (despite sounding like it's just fallen out of an episode from the TV series 'Skins') is a stunning track. It takes its time, fills an atmospheric and ambient space with simplistic but effective harmonies and shape. A producer who uses pizzicato strings in an ambient piece is well worth giving a high five to. I hope it stays untampered and well received.