Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Float like a bee, sting like a butterfly

TOTW is here...a little late. I'm very sorry - I've had little time to get on the net recently. I wish I could say it was a hot girl, but she's just average.

Anyway - for this week's I've decided I must think like an Asp....since I only came up with my favourite bands last week as winners.

So first I'll throw in the woman from a broken home. Mads is back with the second single from her 43rd album, titled Nothing New.

Give It 2 Me is the track - remember the scene where your Dad embarasses you with his new Casio keyboard, as the whiny depthless synth sounds pulse away pretending to be something they're not along with the Bossa Nova preset beat pattern which sounds as good as hitting two pieces of plastic together?

Okay, maybe it was just me. And I still haven't got the hang of this have I? I mean I love this song, I love Madonna - love it when women vocode their voice so much it sounds like a dalek, it really rocks. Please buy this song.

I'll throw in the Ting Tings here. This is no Not My Name - infact, it's not very interesting at all. As tracks from their album go, this is one of the blandest most unoriginal ones to be honest, but is still okay as a song (see, I complemented it!).

So, Shut Up And Let Me Go, which sounds a little too much like New Young Pony Club, who sold their soul to Intel with Icecream, follows the pattern perfectly with the Apple iPod ad.

So the two videos that get posted, to imply they in fact 'won' this, the most desired of all weekly chart countdowns...

I'll firstly throw in Gabriella Cilmi. An unfortunate emergent from the soul sounding crew of girls being churned out, Sweet About Me had an annoying hook, but was way too retro and lacked anything that hadn't been heard 40 years ago - Don't Want To Go To Bed Now has another great hook, and a bouncy beat - yeah, it's fine. I won't buy it, but I wouldn't turn it off if it was on the radio. That's a good sign, honest.

You'll have to make do with the live version, all the official video's have embedding disabled - spoil sports.

Gabriella Cilmi - I Don't Want To Go To Bed Now

New release here, though been out in America a while is Melee, and Built To Last. Typical piano rock, not too different to OneRepublic and the such like. It's a pleasant enough summer tune. It could be anyone really...after it's forgotten it'll get covered by some boyband in 5 years or so and be made to sound even soppier, so get it whilst it's at least got a bass guitar and a single vocalist on it.

Melee - Built To Last

The letter F

There is a partial theme with the first three tracks this week - songs that were made famous not by the original performer. Everyone knows Peggy Lee's version of Fever and Roberta Flack's The First time I ever saw your face was her breakthrough track. However, the former is credited to Eddie Cooley and John Davenport (aka Otis Blackwell); and the latter was written by Ewan MacColl  for his wife Peggy Seeger. Fly me to the moon was written by Bart Howard for Felicia Saunders in 1954, first recorded by Kaye Ballard in the same year - but it's this swing version recorded a full 10 years later by the great man himself we all know and love.

The letter F

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend

I don't actually feel too bad about reviewing the self titled debut album from Vampire Weekend so many months after it was released. Two reasons: firstly, it's still present in the charts. More and more people seem to like them as the weeks go by. But secondly, if I had to describe the album in one word, it would be "summery".

I'd actually be tempted to say "Caribbean", especially when you listen to Cape Cod, and the introduction to Bryn. I don't think they actually use Steel Drums and dance down a beach, but you could imagine it. However, despite the instrumental choice in I stand corrected it's not Caribbean; and M79 is more baroque than anything else. Still summery though.

On the whole, it's a fairly frantic record. Fast beats, and lots of notes. Strangely, whilst that normally relates to dance music, "Vampire Weekend" is anything but. From the John Peel stage at Glastonbury they introduced A-Punk as "the only song of ours you can dance too", and I think it's actually a fair point. It's definitely more music to enjoy than music to spend an evening with.

I do, however, have one distinct complaint about the album - and that's the length of it. The number of tracks (11) is about usual nowadays - but they're all fairly short. There's no "long" track, and when you put the record into your play and it introduces a length of 37minutes you wonder what else they could have put on the CD - especially when some CDs (Sawdust by Killers for instance) manage a full 70+minutes. It does raise the question if they had extra material to put on the record, or if that's it. How long might it take to write enough content for a second album?

Of course, they say the best things come in small packages, and that's probably my only criticism of the album, which can't be a bad review all-in-all. Some tracks are stronger than others, Campus being a particular favourite here, but I wouldn't say there's any that are particularly bad.

I'm expecting the album will continue to hover around the charts for a while. So, whilst it does, I still would recommend heading out and buying it.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Bit of a naff week

Typical that there's nothing but summer palp out. I might even have to comment on rubbish stuff anyway as a contender.

Robyn came back from obscurity re-inventing the same old europop sound, now Annie has done the same. Remember Chewing Gum? Well, her new song is called I Know Your Girlfriend Hates Me. I think it's the same song except the hooks have been taken out. Bin it!

Primal Scream are back with a very layered return single. I much preferred their Evil Heat album sound, Riot City Blues was more gritty and now they seem to be shooting for the current indie trends. Shame. Well, anyway - lets put it here anyway.

Primal Scream - Can't Go Back

Right, and now - with sickening bias I throw in Crawley's only band. The Cure. Robert Smith and the gothlads are releasing a new single on the 13th of every month, and this is the 3rd. The sound of this album seems to be heading for the mixed pop mix seen on their last album and their mid-80's efforts. This song as a chorus hook which sounds almost Bond like. Wah guitars and bouncing bass lines and wailing's so typically The Cure isn't it...and though it's a sub-par effort from them, it's probably the best release this week in my view. That's bad for the week.

The Cure - Sleep When I'm Dead

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Letter E

I can't really think of things to say to introduce these playlists now - you've all got the idea -  so, if there isn't anything special to say (as there isn't today), I think I'll just leave you with the music...

The Letter E

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Hooray, Hooray, He's Away On Holiday!

Tunes of the Week 08 - #28

Well, time for tune of the week. And what a bunch we have for you. I've been left some tracks to put into contention - so without further ado, here they are: Newton Faulkner.

<5 minutes later>

Sorry, I overslept. That was a wonderful powernap. Almost as good as the one I almost had seeing Counting Crows last week before I made a quick getaway for the exit!

Also in the running is comeback queen Kylie, and The One. As our holidaying blogmaster left me a note, pointing out the BBC news pips being sampled in the beginning. True enough. This is Kylie refusing to leave the 80's, makes Impossible Princess seem positively futuristic. A zombie like song structure of synth pads and heavily produced vocals - sounds great in a way, but, well, pointless. She looks a lot taller in this video too.

There's some more acoustic guitars and sing like you're speaking lyrics from Aidan Smith on his track, Drapes In Black which can be found at his Myspace page. Now that I have no idea what decade I'm in, lets move on...

Travis are back, and releasing a preview single with no video it seems for J Smith. Follows on in the style from their last album nicely. However, it doesn't make my top two.

French band The Teenagers (featuring Errol from Fifteen Stories High I think ;)) have a new track out, as their own 20 year old sound permeates through.

The Teenagers - Make It Happen

I've probably mentioned these before, certainly on my blog if not here - but Brighton's nu-grunge act, Blood Red Shoes release one of the stand out tracks from their debut album, though Laura-Mary's hair continues to travel back in time itself with every release.

Blood Red Shoes - This Is Not For You

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Mystery Jets: Twenty One (Repackaged)

If you wanted to form a rock band,  surely the last person you'd want to join in with would be your Dad. However, that's exactly what young Blaine Harrison did, and whilst Henry is no longer touring with Mystery Jets, his influence is still apparent in the latest album.

It's always the case - we do take some musical influence from our parents. And whilst they might not like "yoof music", there's often a clear chain of music from parental favourites to the music us youngsters like. So, given a chance to influence an entire band, Henry's "prog stuff" favourites do appear.

Yet, with the less direct involvement, it's clear that the record is a development or a 'growing up'. Most of the tracks aren't listing as being written by Henry, the majority are by Blaine - sometimes with or without other members of the band.

There's two exceptions. One is the bonus track on the repackaged version of the album - a cover of Aztec Camera's Somewhere in my heart - and for once my tendency to wait a while before buying an album has proved very useful. It's a faithful cover, and very "get up and go", giving you a bit of enthusiasm.

The other is the still exceptional Young Love. Written by guitarist William Rees (who also takes lead vocals) and bassist Kai Fish, after being a TOTW it's still a very strong contender for the Tune of the Year prize.

Young Love also highlights the thing that struck me most from the album - harmonies. There it's with Laura Marling, but there's plenty of songs where you can probably say there's two lead singers, singing different lines of music to make a harmonised tune - instead of boring predictable backing singers. Half in Love with Elizabeth is possibly the best example I'd have of that.

As the NME review states, the previous failing with Mystery Jets was that were a bit ramshackle. Some great pop songs, some not so. To an extent, I'd say it continues here. Some brilliant tracks, but some duds. I don't like hidden tracks at the best of times, and having to listen to dead air to find Twenty One wasn't worth the wait at all. Even in the main album, I can't say I'm a big fan of Umbrellahead.

But, overall, there's a lot more good than bad. Memorable tracks like Two Doors Down (TOTW21) sit pleasingly alongside tracks that I can't imagine anyone could dislike like The first to know. When it's so difficult to achieve perfection, you can rarely ask for more than "Twenty One" offers.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008


Hey, The decoration's changed. This isn't my blog!

What am I doing here? Where am I? Who am I... well that's easy.

I'm Kev. Better known as Stig, and I make films. I'd like to be paid to make films, but that's something to wait for. I'm also a marshal like our friend Asp there... when he's not charging around in a big white van with a disco light on the roof or wearing a wig (or whatever it is that lawyers wear.) And this is what you could call, unsung. Well that's what Asp calls it anyway. Excuse me, I'm Rambling.

Being a film guy, you may expect a somewhat visual approach this week, and you'd be right. I'd like to start with something which fits neatly into both music and film, and you probably haven't heard of it. Unless you have heard of it of course - in which case may I introduce or remind you of the wonderful world of Animusic []

We've all seen music videos. Those things invariably featuring girls, dancing, more girls, and if it's a RnB video a Rolls Royce/Bentley/insert other hyper expensive car here, and some music is featured somewhere too. This is soemthing new. This isn't a music to accompany the music, this is a video created by the music itself. Everything you see and hear is created by American duo Wayne Lyttle and David Crognale and each album takes years to complete. What sets it apart from other animation and music videos is the equal emphasis the music has with the visuals. What you hear is apparently played by what you see, watch this and you'll see what I mean.

Okay, so the main instrument is clearly a guitar - a triple necked laser guided guitar no less - and there's drums and light beams which make noise, but the clever bit is the fact that if you did the exact same movement on a real guitar*, it should sound right. Allegedly. With my Nerdy Harry Potter glasses on (I have a degree in music technology) I can tell you that all the character movements are done using a system called MIDI which plots each indivudual note from the piece onto the instruments and makes them perform in exactly the rig... hey, wake up!

If this doesn't wake you up, nothing will. This is Quarterblind, a Heavy Metal band from Devizes in Wiltshire. I came across them whilst doing a documentary for coursework. This one to be exact, for which I gained the nickname "Speilberg" from the boys, which is rather flattering

Now, if you don't like heavy metal, which I admit, I don't, then you may not appreciate this at all. Which is fine. However whatever the detractors say there is such a thing as badly played metal and this isn't it. Everything's in time and in tune too - something other unsigned metal acts get constantly wrong and never do get signed as a result. Quarterblind has been through a few line up changes now, but nothing seems to be able to stop the boys from churning out a constant string of surefire hits. In the documentary, you can hear the track "Call to the Masses", for which there's a video out there somewhere. However I suggest checking out their myspace for their latest tracks

The Spectaculars (UK)
Speaking of myspace, be sure to drop by and check out the work of Doktor Hotknife [don't ask] and his friends. The spectaculars have their own blend of rock and electronica, with a distinctly Welsh feel not that dissimilar from the Automatic (But without the yappy bloke who repeats everything [Who! Repeats! Everything!]). Except these guys were around before them. Hmm, what's that coming over the hill?

Coming Up
Someone else who will be big soon will be Rachel Ward, of this I have no doubt. Her style is reminiscent of Norah Jones and Katie Meluah and her multi instrument playing talent is amazing (although how she's going to manage at gigs I dont' know.) The debut album is in production and I'm doing a documentary to go with it. Watch this space.

Well, that's it from me. Maybe I'll come back if Asp lets me. If not, thanks for reading, and let me leave you with a shameless plug - I'm off to listen to some Blue Man Group on my iPod. Toodles!

*assuming you have 3 hands.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Some live videos for a change

Tunes of the Week 08 - #27

I think the last time I heard of David Byrne (out of off of Talking Heads) on a song was when he was being particularly Lazy with X-Press 2 back in 2002. He has been around since, with a few bits of solo work and a collaboration with Fat Boy Slim in the theatre - but they're definitely of a different niche. Anyway, perhaps something similar is now back, along with Dizzee Rascal (sadly), with Byrne providing the vocals on Toe Jam by BPA (Brighton Port Authority) - the work of (yes, you guessed it) Norman Cook aka. Fat Boy Slim with Simon Thornton. It's a very impressive lineup of musical talents for a first single, out on 7th July, with a funny and innovative video - and it's a great song. Catchy, bouncy, and summery. With the reputation, it shouldn't do so badly in the charts either.

Talking about people making returns in alternative vogues - son of Neil and Betchadupa man Liam Finn released Second Chance on the 30th. It's the usual good writing we've come to expect from the Antipodean family, personally it's not the sort of music I'd rush to go out and buy - where it builds up to doesn't seem as climatic as I like - but musically it's very difficult to fault.

You can download it from the 14th July, but it's only going to be released on August 11th - Meccano by Red Light Company has been Shaun Keaveny's Single of the Week. It reminds me of something (and I'm not sure what), but it isn't just a tune for young engineers.

It would be wrong after watching Love is Noise conclude Glastonbury 2008 not to mention the latest single by the Verve. It's so different to some of their other singles - that persistent wailing in the backing singers marking the first single to be released (on 3rd August) after 10 years 'in the dark'.

Tom Fleming from Wild Beasts is worthy of mention twice this week. Firstly, he's taken over from usual lead singer Hayden Thorpe for The Devil's Crayon (out from last Monday), and the change really does suit the song. It's great when people in bands are able to swap around - it's shows versality, that they are actually musicians - and not, say, Girls Aloud. Secondly, he took part in Kenbrucemaster last Saturday and managed to mantain a sense of dignity when asked if the controversy at Wimbleon was caused by "Mo Dutta's excessive grunting on his Love Serve", someone misunderstanding the call "Come on Ken", or "Terry Wogan trying to get Lynn Bowels to deuce, but his balls were judged to be out of play". Perhaps you had to be there. Moving on then...

That was White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes. It's extremely unseasonal (although, I'm writing this a few days in advance of publication, so it might be more appropriate for the current conditions that Here comes the Summer), but we can ignore that. The Seattle based quintet describe their own sound as "baroque harmonic pop jams" - and I think it's an ideal way of describing this single. It's dreary - yet dreamy. You feel as if you could float away with it. Which makes it great. It's out on 21st July.

Final TOTW - one I mentioned last week - My Morning Jacket with Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part II. I think the opening lyrics (which is the opening on the shorter radio edit) remind me of Duran Duran - I'm sure I can't be the only one. But after that, it does move into a category of its own. The American Rock band are well known for their reverb heavy music and eclectic mix of styles (I think this is nearer indie electronica than anything else?) - but haven't had much success in the UK, their recent album "Evil Urges" as only made a slight dent in the genre specific indie albums chart. Perhaps this track getting more airplay will get it more attention. Perhaps it's eccentric appeal will limit things. Still, the charts are getting very eclectic - so who knows?

Last chance - June

A quick read through June's TOTW posts, and two songs particularly came to my attention. I very very nearly selected Black Kids; but in the end Cage the Elephant was just different and memorable enough to get the nod.

Housekeeping note:As it's Summer, it's the time when everyone vanishes for some periods of time for holidays, and I'll obviously be no exception. On a few occasions over the next few months, I won't be around to keep make posts myself. However, it is important to keep the features running, without 104 Tunes of the Week it'll make it unfair to chose a Tune of the Year for instance. So, I'm pleased to announce that over the next few weeks (after much consideration - but I think I'm safe that he won't select James Blunt) regular contributor Hazard will be lining up the Tunes of the Week. There'll also be a few guest "Unsung" contributions; alphabetising has been done in advance so they're scheduled to appear in my absence; and there's the occasional features (including some of mine that I've prepared) to look forward. So, the blog will continue to run with very little change - except that I can safely exclude liability for any poor choice of music that may appear.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Letter D

The Letter D

For a playlist beginning with D, it seems only right to note that D is for Dancing - In the street, as a Queen, or in the Dark. Similarly, D is also for "Don't". So, Don't go Breaking my Heart, and Don't stop me now either. In selecting these shortlists, I often refer to how often a song has been coverered to reflect how popular it's been. In a slight change to normal though, in the playlist above, I'm actually playing to cover version. It's very simple, I think that last year's Glastonbury cover of Diamonds are Forever by the Arctic Monkeys of the Shirley Bassey classic is one of the best performances I've heard. Similarly, Vic Reeves and the Wonderstuff's version of Tommy Roe's Dizzy is perhaps better known than the original, and was number one for double the length of time of the original (2 weeks against 1) The tracks by The Beach Boys, The Monkees, and (the much covered one) by Petula Clark were obvious choices; and I conclude with two tracks pointing out that D can also create some fairly silly sounding titles. Good songs though.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

MGMT: Oracular Spectacular

Not so many years ago, one of the best things a new and upcoming band could hope for was to be recognised by the legendary John Peel. A play on his Radio 1 show was the first, and often critical, step towards full recognition.

Sadly, such a thing is no longer possible. However, if - like me - you feel that Steve Lamacq is the closet replacement to Peel that we'll get (I'm sure Lammo - as John himself christened Steve - wouldn't want to be compared to Peel directly, and would be the first to agree that he can't be anywhere close to 'the new John Peel') - then recognition and continued airplay is certainly the next best thing.

Personally, I can't help but wonder if it wasn't for Steve Lamacq's admiration for MGMT if they'd be where they are now. Recognition through BBC Introducing ensured that they become more mainstream at the least (certainly I don't think they'd have come to my attention if it wasn't for their performance at SXSW), and perhaps was the major push required to break them through.

I consider it ironic enough that at Glastonbury last weekend, they performed on the John Peel stage on Friday - the almost spiritual home for new music.

Listening to their first album, there's one really unusual thing that strikes me about it. I can't pick out any tracks as the "stand out" tracks. However, I can't pick out any tracks as the "bad" track from the album either. Using that as a basis, you'd think I'm about to say that the album is decidedly average. But it isn't - I can't pick out anything as a stand-out track because they're all so good.

It's all innovative and eclectic. MGMT are fair removed from the mainstream - "electronic psychedelia" is how I believe it's often described. If you want that something 'different' in your record collection, I can't think of a better album to do it with. You have to be a fan of new and developing music to appreciate it, but appreciate it you will. Every tune is different (Scouting for Girls take note), and twists things in their own little way. Every time you listen to the tracks, you might find something you've never heard before. It really is a listening experience, and not just a pastime.

I still think that the lack of 'stand out tracks' does hurt the album, as there ends up being no track that I want to listen to again and again. Nothing that makes me want to go and find the album so I can listen to one or two particular tracks. I can see it, as a result, becoming an album in the collection as opposed to be an album at the top of the collection - despite it definitely being an immense and powerful piece of work.