Sunday, 31 August 2008

TOTW - 31st August

Just when you thought it was safe to visit the blog again - he's back! Madder, and with even worse jokes than last time!


Mr Asp has kindly sent me a long shortlist of songs to get through for TOTW, and after a myriad of problems posting this, I think it's about time I got on with it.

On the list were a few songs I didn't like. For a start, although I have enjoyed Franz Ferdinand's previous offerings, I wasn't so keen on Lucid Dreams. Although it keeps the distinctive FF style, it just seems a bit lacking compared to their previous work. You never know though, it's quite catchy so maybe it's a grower.
Secondly, Bloc Party's latest offering, Mercury I didn't like, although I did enjoy their previous single Flux.  To me it seems much more disjointed and difficult to listen to. And the video is just weird, even by Bloc Party's standards. 

Now, for the middling ones. I've never really been one for the Coral's occasionally eclectic style of music, but Being Somebody Else isn't half bad. Nice bit of chill out  guitar music. Ignore the slightly strange retro video mind. Similarly, [and this is one from my list, not Asp's] The Automatic's latest offering Steve McQueen isn't all that bad, but it's not great either. At least they've lost the annoying yappy chap. McFly's Lies also isn't all that bad [avoid the dodgy "Mad Max*" inspired video though], but at the same time it's just a bit ... um ... well it's like that kind of music which teenage girls go and scream along to, boy bandish with a bit of rock in it ...oh...typical McFly then.

Does it offend you, yeah? [seriously, who thought that up for a band name??] turns up with yet another new twist on the electro-rock theme. It's not actually all that bad, and one of the few tracks I've heard recently with the apparent inclusion of a mandolin. Tune of the week though? errm...  

I did enjoy Royworld's Brakes. Curiously, it's not that disimilar to Turin Brakes and their laid back approach to a rocky, poppy, style. I think it could become rather popular soon, Why not check it out for yourself?

One to keep an eye on there I thinkies. 

Another one to definately listen to is Ladyhawke's "from dusk to dawn". It's very catchy, well produced, and almost nothing like Ladytron at all. Well ok, just a little bit. Tron - Hawke, who cares? It certainly reminds me of something, but I can't think quite what. Oh and watch out for the strange video - I'm sure Max Headroom turns up at one point. Ignore the vid, and just have a couple of minutes dancing around to the catchiness! 

By the way, if you want the better quality, you'll have to go to youtube and search for the one uploaded by the record label, who stopped people embedding it.  What do you want Island? Viral marketing or not!?

I think that's quite enough of me waffling for now. I await all the e-mails saying how rubbish I was. Untill then, toodles!


Friday, 29 August 2008

David Byrne & Brian Eno: Everything that happens will happen today

Fresh from downloading Strange Overtones, the 30-years in the making (well, not necessarily making, but definitely waiting) Byrne/Eno collaboration is (just like The Verve's "Forth" was) streaming on their website (and below if you don't feel that clicking away).

So, as I asked last time - has listening to the entire album encouraged me to go and buy a CD of it?

Surprisingly, no. The album is a good listen. But that's really it for me, listen in the singular. There's some tracks I could listen to time and time again - One Fine Day is nice and soothing. But immediately after that you've got Poor Boy - which is clearly meant to be modern, yet to me sounds like two tunes stuck together with a bit of superglue instead of a cleverly mixed piece of work.

I think it's just that there's some tunes that sound right, and fit Byrne's voice perfectly - Home and the country-esque My Big Nurse. There's even a stand out track - Life is Long has a slightly anthemic edge to it.

But there's too many tracks that I don't like, that I can't find a tune in, to make the album a real must have in my eyes - I Feel my stuff is 20th Century classical music in the piano part. Ie - play some notes and someone will think there's something there, but I can't.

It could be a grower, and due to time constraints before my enforced internet absence I've only listened to it in full once. I will listen to it again, and might like it more then. I also think that my review doesn't really paint a true picture - it's definitely a good album. I just wouldn't rush out to buy it after 1 listen, which surely is the mark of an exceptional record, which is probably more what I was expecting from the partnership.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


I thought when I got to letter H I could just do differing versions of one song. Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah was only recorded in 1984, but since then has been covered (officially) over 120 times. I don't profess to have heard all of these recorded versions - but I've heard plenty, and I'm yet to hear a bad version. The song is just so immense, it seems to be impossible to destroy it. I think Jeff Buckley's is the most famous, but Rufus Wainwright is possibly the most recent one. Willie Nelson's is different.... They're all subtly different, but all brilliant.

The letter H

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


The problem with listening to music is that you normally don't have the lyrics infront of you. And the singers are concentrating on the music - not always the lyrics. Thus, we have the perennial problem of "misheard lyrics", or Mondegreens as I've recently learnt they should be called.

youtube is full of videos demonstrating the misheard lyrics. And, just last week, there was a survey about the most common mondegreens. The Police won that one, with "You make the best homemade stew around" in When the world is Running Down.

So, whilst I'm without internet access, something to keep you amused - what's your greatest misheard lyrics? Either that you've heard, or that people have told you about.

One of my favourites is "Totally pissed as a fart" - I'm sure there's better out there though, so over to you....

Sunday, 24 August 2008

What do you do at the weekend?

Tunes of the Week #34

When I started with TOTW a significant number of months ago, it was less a look at singles around and about, but more the tunes that were stuck in my head. They might not necessarily have been good songs, but they were sticky - and I spent far too long in the course of the week singing the tune. Thankfully, Sandi Thom's Saturday Night(Aug 25th) is not just so sticky I've been bopping around cleaning cars and unpacking boxes whilst whistling. It's a genuinely good song as well

I like carrying on themes, even if they are pretty crap. Still, after my recent comment discussions about Queen, I think it's fair enough to return to them as C-lebrity is getting airplay, the new song from the collaboration with Paul Rodgers - to be released on 8th September. It's unmistakably Queen. There's even the classic Brian may guitar solo. However - and I suppose it was inevitable this was going to be the case - there's something missing. Queen without Freddie Mercury is a bit like Laurel without Hardy. France without onions. Chips without gravy (hey, I'm from Lancashire). They're fine on their own - but not quite the same. It's still a great song. And Paul Rodgers is a fine singer, and carries the tune well. Yet, I'm still left thinking "Well, what would it be like if Freddie had been singing it?"
10,000 nights is in my hearing at the minute, because the Beeb are using it in "The Games today" on their Olympic coverage. But that's not Alphabeat's latest single - on the 25th their releasing Boyfriend. What is it about the Scandanavians that means they release such catchy music? I feel like I should be ashamed saying I like it, it's the sort of thing I'd have danced to when I was 6. Just try not tapping your foot along to it though!
It's another dreaded re-release. Still, Glasvegas has come on leaps and bounds since releasing Daddy's Gone first time round, so it's understandable that it's coming back on Monday. Surprisingly, I've heard it on the radio on less occasions than last year - which I can't figure out at all, and means it's not really 'implanted', whilst still being a brilliant song.
Couple of 'smoothies': Colbie Caillat's father (Ken Caillat) is a producer. You might have heard some of the albums he co-produced, "Rumours" perhaps? Growing up in the presence of Mick Fleetwood is a great start in life for anyone, so it's no surprise to see her first single Bubbly (Sept 8th) being so enjoyable. As I often say, it's that music that can't offend.
Similarly, I don't think In My Arms (Aug 18th) is the sort of anyone can really hate. Another off-spring of musical fame (Richard & Linda), Teddy Thompson hasn't had the commercial success you might have imagined. But, with this single sitting on the Radio2 playlist, a video cameo by Rufus Wainwright, and country music going through one of its more popular phases - perhaps this could be the big break?
Talking about country, is it wrong to still be liking Glenn Campbell's cover of Good Riddance?
Moving a bit more modern though, David Holmes I heard wonders (Aug 25th). The Daily Music Guide describes it as a "wonderful listen, [but] it doesn't scream 'play me again!'", which I think is a perfect analysis.
Jump in the Pool (Sept 1st) is nothing to do with Tom Daley, instead it's the new single by Friendly Fires (which is turn is nothing to do with Olympic Flame). Distinctly different to Sandi Thom, and probably not quite as "sing along" - but this semi-electronic style of music (cf. Late of the Pier, and probably also the Klaxons in a round about way) is definitely appealing to me.

The advantage of a Sunday TOTW (it's still weekend, so totally valid) is occasionally you hear an extra track to mention. And in the last 24 hours I've heard the new single from Ben Foulds twice. You don't know me features Regina Spektor and is released on the 22nd September. It's good, definitely, and I'm sure we're going to hear a lot of it in future weeks, and future mentions here are almost guaranteed.

I'd say guaranteed next week - but I'm not here again. Unfortunately, I'm starting a new job, so am moving house - and therefore won't have internet immediately. At time of writing, I don't know exactly what's going to happen, but something will appear, I'm confident in that much...

Friday, 22 August 2008

The Verve: Forth

Only if you've been living in a hole recently will you not know that The Verve are back. I've talked about Love is Noise more than once - and next Monday (25th) the album "Forth" is released.

However as a teaser, for this week only, the entire album's been available for streaming on the band's myspace. The aim no doubt to encourage us out to buy it in hard copy (or download for those that do that sort of thing).

Has it worked then? Well, it never was going to for me - I'm moving house next week so the pennies are being carefully watched until pay-day. It's still a good album though.

A nice mix of new and old - songs like Rather Be and I see houses in a similar vein to their earlier work. Contrast that though with Noise Epic, which is an eight-minute, erm, epic - loud, raucous, and a variety of styles within one song alone. You think it's finished at around the six minute mark - but it restarts even more brash than before. Then you've got Columbo and (of course) Love is Noise - which sit together as a pairing in an almost pyschadelic fashion.

There's actually a lot of songs that are very lengthy. Gone is the "3 minute pop-song". This will certainly make them less radio friendly - although I predict radio edits might soon make an appearance to solve that issue. I don't consider it a problem though - the song are proper songs, and feel complete. Often 'long' songs feel long, none of these do - they are the right length for the type of music. The only restraint on the song is the music itself.

It's diverse, it's different, yet it's refreshingly familiar. The come back is all the rage nowadays, and as a result it's often done badly. But, The Verve have managed to - perhaps once again - break the mould.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Road to V

Apologies that it's a Thursday 'Unsung' this week, but I am (unsurprisingly) running a little bit behind schedule post-V and all that...

And given V (plus a lack of time to pick anything else), the obvious bands to look at are the annual "Road to V" winners, who opened the 4music stage on each day.

If you don't know, "Road to V" is a competition for Unsung bands - 14 are originally selected, and eventually the judges pick just 2. Simple. The Young Knives won it back in 2005, so there's some proof that it can work.

Matt Trakker first of all then, who was the first band I heard at V2008. Neither band I stood and watched (in heinsight I should have thought ahead to write this post - ho-hum), but I have recognised a few songs from just listening to his myspace - which is a good sign. I actually would say that their myspace is better than what I heard live. "Untamed" is how I'd describe it live - very harsh and brash. You always expect it to a degree - otherwise producers would be redundant - but I think it was fairly marked. Still, the music is definitely of a high quality, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Secondly, meet The Rebs. When I heard them, I described them as "Arctic Monkey wannabes". Listening to their myspace, I think I can partially stand-by that description - but it was a bit harsh. There's huge similarities in the music - Lady Jane the first I'm listening to on the tintaweb; and I think Happy Face the one that made me say it whilst backstage. It lacks Alex Turner's South Yorkshire twang, but the guitar-heavy sound and harsh qualities of lead singer Russ are made in the same mould. But it's definitely different. Maybe a bit more 'classic' with 'older' influences (yes, I'm explaining myself pathetically as ever - try Poison Eyes though, see what I mean, there's something in there). After the first song in their set, I'll be honest, I wasn't impressed. But by the time they finished on Sunday afternoon, I didn't have anything to wish against. And listening to a bit more, I'm more impressed. We often say that songs are "growers" - this could be a case where the band itself grows on you.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Asp @ V - Final thoughts

DSCF0076 Well, I'm back - and whilst I know many view V with an element of snobbery, it being perhaps the most commercialised of festivals, you can't complain about the line-up so I don't feel too guilty about saying that I had a great time.

As you might have gathered (especially if you read Asp Bites itself), I wasn't going as a punter to Hylands Park, I was working in my capacity as a St John Ambulance first aider. Being there to do a job, that has to take priority - so you do lose a bit there. But, backstage access and obviously lack of paying to get in do, in my opinion, make it a fair swap.

I was posted next to the 4music stage, which I was pretty happy about given the line-up including Air Traffic, The Courteeners, Duffy, Amy MacDonald, and Sunday stage headliners the Kaiser Chiefs to name but a few. Yes, I'd much rather have seen Muse than the Prodigy (as it was, I didn't see anything of the Prodigy anyway, we had a rush of patients instead). Mind you, I'd originally had gone to see the Verve instead of the Kaisers - and (without seeing the Verve on TV highlights yet) think I got a decent deal being stuck with the Leeds lot - a pretty interactive performance giving the fans their money's worth

Many of my comments made at the time are as good a summary as necessary. So, whilst my live updates weren't as technologically advanced as Winston's (I might change that for future festivals if I'm able to update my one to one that does more than ring and text), I still think that if you've not already - just have a read of what I said in the time.

A few things I didn't mention at the time though that are worthy of comment - The Pigeon Detectives were very enthusiastic and had a powerful set. Sunday afternoon was a generically nice listen with Delays, The Courteeners, The View, Reverend and the Makers, The Rifles and One Republic - if only as background music as it all ended up becoming much of an indie muchness, none of them really making me sit up and take notice (although, it was busier on post on Sunday, so I wasn't able to stand and watch as much as I did on Saturday). Final things that really stand out though:

Low-light of the festival

If you saw my live comments, this won't come as a surprise. One of my colleagues said that Newton Faulkner's set was brilliant - apart from his final cover. I suppose it wasn't that bad - I didn't like his cover of You spin me right round - but after hearing Thea Gilmore's, all other covers pale into insignificance. It's just Bohemian Rhapsody was nothing short of destroyed. It's obviously so difficult to cover, and I'm not sure if I've heard any good covers of it. But, Newton Faulkner's attempt was a total annihilation. I put my ear defenders on - even though I wasn't in the pit at the time - to try and lessen the impact.

Seriously, words can't describe how crap it was. Sorry Newton, but please stop covering things.

Surprise of the festival

Roy Stride in the pit engaging with the crowd I've always been fairly dismissive of Scouting for Girls. I've always said that they've got one good song. The only problem is - it's all of their songs. I've said that they seem like great personalities - but every song is that same piano twonky tune.

However, which band got the biggest demand for an encore on the 4music stage? You'd think either The Prodigy or the Kaisers as the stage headliners? Nope - SFG. Roy Stride was able to work the crowd in a truly brilliant fashion. And somehow, hearing the songs together, they didn't really all seem that 'samey'. It might be viewed as 'teeny-bopper pop', but even I was won over.

Highlight of the festival

Amy McDonald on the 4music stage MOR, friendly, semi-acoustic pop. It doesn't sound that awe-inspiring when you say it like that. However, Amy MacDonald was my favourite act of the weekend. That wonderful cover of Dancing in the Dark and an exclusive listen to Troubled Soul made a very well balanced set - everyone able to join in with Mr Rock & Roll and the more lively tracks from "This is the life". I don't think there was anything in there that could have caused offence - and it just seemed to fit on a sunny, summery afternoon in August.

And that's V for another year. Huge thanks to Hazard for assisting with the live updates, I hope they brought a bit of the festival atmosphere to life for you. Overall, it was a great occasion - only a few bands I wouldn't mind not seeing again (starting with The Prodigy). Depending on how holidays and other events fall, I might even be back again next year...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

So, last week then...

Just a very quick one whilst having a tea break from unpacking post-V: of which I will obviously talk about in more detail in due course. I picked last week's TOTWs on the Friday night so I wouldn't be influenced by what I saw and heard in Hylands. Despite an influence of both Little Jackie (again) Gabriella Cilmi (Save the Lies (Good to me)), it's actually two tunes that I downloaded for free not so long ago that have now been getting plenty of airplay and I've really enjoyed.

It's a total change of direction for Keane, and a refreshing return to form for the renewed Eno and Byrne collaboration.

, , , ,

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Asp @ V: Kaiser Chiefs

Such a good opening. I donned the full waterproofs and helmet (no hood - so it keeps me dry) for I Predict A Riot.

Not Disappointed.

Asp @ V: Scouting For Girls

Roy Stride really knows how to play the crowd.

Good festival band in other words. No Micheala Strachan though - unless I missed it whilst treating...

Asp @ V: Rifle Delays

Delays and The Rifles - mainly new tunes to my ears but definately good stuff.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Asp @ V: The Hoosiers Continued & Newton Faulkner

Bewildering covers.

I think I heard We Didn't Start the Fire from the Hoosiers whilst in the mess tent, but it was so crap I'm not sure.

(Hazard says probably)

Then returning to post, Newton Faulkner did You Spin Me Right Round. Similarly bad.

Oh dear god. He's trying to cover Bohemian Rhapsody. Very trying....

...words can't describe this total massacre. Can you tell I'm shocked? Absolutely terrible.

Asp @ V: Duffy Pt 2 & Hoosiers

Duffy has a surprisingly potty mouth, but is a great singer.

The Hoosiers opened by holding up letters spelling their name. Amazingly, they spelt it right!

Asp @ V: Duffy

I've heard two notes of Duffy - all I can see is what is she wearing?!

Asp @ V: Amy MacDonald

Acoustic cover of Dancing In The Dark? Who'd have thought it'd work so well?

(Troubled Soul could grow a lot too)

Asp @ V: The Hold Steady

Sequestered In Memphis is the only half decent song by The Hold Steady.

I know I'm grumpy.

Amy MacDonald and Duffy are next!

Asp @ V: Shed Seven

Shed Seven just finished their set with Chasing Rainbows. It took until then to figure out how I knew them.

Asp @ V: Air Traffic

Where have Air Traffic been? I don't think I've hard of them since this time last year. Once they got all the equipment working, it ended up being good - but the same as last year.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

G is for go...

The Letter G

Some obvious choices to be fair, but starting with a couple of relatively modern ones. When looking at the 'archives', I'm mindful of those that have 'stood the test of time'. Meaning I often end up looking at the 60s - if they've lasted 40 years, all is good. But whilst Go West and Girls & Boys are both from the 90s - they're both instantly recallable at this stage (even if Go West is technically a 1979 cover - it's the most popular version) 15 years later on.

As regards The Beach Boys, proof as if it were needed as to the huge number of hit songs - I could have chosen God only knows or Good to my baby. I had to pick one though...

I do have my favourite "G" though - and again it's probably the most popular version of a cover. The thing is, everyone knows Ray Charles' version of the Gorrell / Carmichael penned song more than any others, and he made it his own against racial tension and political problems.

Oh, and we end with some cheese. I apologise.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Some more live videos

Tunes of the Week - #32

With a full week of British music for the first time in ages, it's fair to say that there's going to be a long list this week. Said, writing this introduction on the Tuesday. So, going for a short and sharp hit to each song mentioned. Blunt, but should work:

Midnight Man (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds): 28th July - Ironically enough, I got a text from Dark Sprout yesterday. "Dear 6 music. I like nick cave too, but is it really necessary to play 'midnight man' every 15 minutes. Love Dark Sprout". I hadn't actually noticed that in my liking of the song. That said, it lacks a bit of the power of Dig, Lazarus, Dig!, and wouldn't on its own encourage me to run out and buy the album.

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) (Glen Campbell): 5th August (album) - I'm not normally much for covers. But sometimes, it's such a strange idea, my ears prick up. For instance Glen "I am the lineman for the county" Campbell covering Green "American Idiot" Day. My ears prick up even more when it works. I'd never have thought it would have made a country song, but I think it does. He's got an entire album of covers coming out, which add covers of Velvet Underground (Jesus), Travis (Sing) and Tom Petty (Walls) amongst others. Difficult album to pull off, but if anyone can...

You (Atmosphere) - Hip-hop / Rap / anything that doesn't involve actually singing is rarely mentioned here. However, I noticed it creeping in more and more. I think it's normally when they produce a bloody catchy chorus that actually is sung, such as here

The man who can't be moved (The Script): 25th July - The Script are definitely one of these "up and coming" bands. They don't seem to fit into any particular genre - U2 meets R&B is the most common description, but that sounds worse than the actual result, which is pretty pleasing. Unfortunately, I can't really say much more than that, it's a bit wishy washy. No problems listening to it on the radio, but any more than that?

Man-sized Wreath (R.E.M.) : 11th August - It's the third single from the album "Accelerate", and after the frankly disappointing Hollow Man it's a much stronger track. Classic R.E.M. by all accounts - but that's not necessarily a good thing as all the tracks are beginning to merge into one.

Left Behind (CSS): 21st July - Electronica is getting more and more popular, in what some people are calling a 'retro' vibe. I don't think it's a return to the 80s at all, it's got a distinctly different edge, as this clearly shows. Electronic opening, fair enough - but after that a strong tune well sung, that is not "80s" by any stretch of the imagination.

I decided (Solange): 18th August - An unusual selection, in that I can offer you two different versions of the same hit. And both are great. You've got the original Neptunes production (which is the one I've heard on the radio) - but you've also got the Freemasons edit. Both are really good, personally I prefer the second slightly, with it's stronger beat - if I could perhaps imagine the "DJ" playing it at my 4th birthday party back in the late 80s. At least it gives you options to pick one too!

Learnalilgivinanlovin' (GOYTE): 11th August - Someone lost a space-bar when writing the title of this track. I've got to say that this is retro, and really has some 'get up and go'.

The world should revolve around me (Little Jackie): 25th August - Mentioned last week, still liking it. Not much more to add from last week.

Love is noise (The Verve): 11th August - I've been trying to figure out the backing vocals to this track. My latest theory is that it's the Tellytubbies ("Eh-ho, Eh-ho, Eh-ho"). What's most impressive though, is that the vocals seemed to really fit the big-stage festival-ending Glastonbury set. So, I hear the song, and I think to the live performance - which even on the TV was highly impressive. With a small dose of luck, I'll be able to see it live myself next weekend...

Mecanno (Red Light Company): 11th August - The more times I hear the song, the more I like it. Every time I listen, I pick something different from the song, and it still sounds really fresh. Which, considering the first time I mentioned it was in TOTW27, isn't a bad feat at all. (Although, with the official video not embeddable, they lose points! Have a live version instead...)

I like you so much better when you're naked (Ida Maria): 21st July - I presume she's talking about salad here. From interviews, and the songs themselves, you get the feeling that Ida Maria is a bit of an eccentric artist. Definitely individual, with a distinct sounding voice, which is probably why I like her so much. Quite brave to have a song with a title like this, but now it's charting well, it was a risk that paid of handsomly.

Expect TOTW to be a few days after the weekend next time. Reasons for the lateness - I'm off darn Sarth to Hylands Park for the V Festival. All going well, I will still be blogging directly from the festival site - if by proxy - so keep your eyes peeled over the weekend.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Returning to the endless search for new talent

Where to start the endless search for new talent when you've been away for months? Well, start with the obvious - who's been on my myspace?

Joe Palen's from San Diego, CA, USA - and wants to tour the UK one day he tells us. And his myspace is full of some nice acoustic numbers. OK, so Hey Joe isn't a patch on the song it shares a title with; but I don't think it ever could be - and it's still a nice bouncy little song. Country-esque perhaps, it's totally inoffensive, and thoroughly enjoyable on a weekday evening.

Continuing the international theme, Dikta is from Iceland. No, not where Mum goes, the country - one assumes at any rate. In their e-mail, they said that we had a similar taste in music - and yes we do. There's nothing really radical in any of the myspace tracks - Just Getting Started could easily be a number by Keane; some like Breaking the Waves are a bit 'rockier' (if that's a word), but not dangerously so - there's nothing wrong with anything. I suppose that means that the risk is of them falling into a generic pit of similar sounding bands, as there's nothing that makes me jump up and scream about them being the next big thing. Still, all it takes is one breakthrough single and the rest are very radio friendly, so they can't be written off either.

If Winston describes them as a "Hot New Band", they're definitely worth a listen to - especially if he describes them as 60s throwbacks, which is a particular favourite of mine - so I introduce to you to the Junior Victors. Got to say, not quite what I was expecting - maybe I was thinking more Last Shadow Puppets - but still enjoyable. I actually think that Juvenille Deliquent is more punk than 60s - but not Sex Pistols style; where as Jennifer Mundane reminds me of Elvis Costello. Listening to the whole set of tracks available on their myspace, their description as "IndiePunkRockRollPowerPop extravaganza" is surprisingly accurate. Yet, once again, a potentially dangerous melange of styles is pulled of with style so that it works, and is very enjoyable. Definitely worth a listen.

Finally, a bit of self discovering, and fresh from the recent trip I though a search for "French pop" might yield interesting results. A bit of a dangerous approach, not knowing what could turn up - but amazingly the first myspace profile I actually stayed around to listen to wasn't that good. guaraniz are from Ile-de-France (that's the region around Paris, if you don't know), and sing in English and French. They've also grouped themselves into folk, and the guitars (particularly in Soul of Liberty) match that. OK, production values mean it's very accompaniment heavy - but if you listen to hear the actual tune, I don't think you'll be disappointed. La Havane is distinctly French (not just with the lyrics), if a little bit too discordant - you're almost left wondering if they're wrong notes or meant to be like that. It's the sort of music, if I was still over there, that I'd be happy to hear whilst sat outside a little bar with a demi-pêche on a pleasant evening; and they're infinitely better than what you often here on the Metro in Paris. Which is ultimately a bit of praise!


A lot of bands nowadays are making occasional tracks available free on their websites. Some for limited periods, most for the tiny price of signing up for a mailing list - which you can always unsubscribe from if you really want to later. I do it often, and it accounts for a fair bit of my digital record collection.

Anyway, two such downloads that are well worth a listen also mark a comeback of the relevant artists.

If you go to Keane's website, you can download Spiralling, which is drastic change for the piano twonky music we've come to expect to them. Their brand new album "Perfect Symmetry" (Oct 14th) is apparently all like this. Tom Chaplin explains:
"The first band who we were all into together was The Beatles. You look at a band there, who over the years went from writing love songs for the masses, to changing the face of music and popular culture.”

“Those are lofty ambitions but we wanted to try and emulate that in some kinda way. With this record, at this stage, we really feel we’ve pushed ourselves and gone out of our comfort zone as much as we can.”
-BBC 6 music
Tell you what, if they're all like the single, it's so radically different it could be great.

Not quite a polar opposite, but still vastly different, not-that-long-ago-mentioned David Bryne is back with old sparring partner Brian Eno, with new album "Everything that happens will happen today" (18th August release) - on whose website you can download the single Strange Overtones. Byrne has stated that he wants to promote the album via internet hype and word-of-mouth, so I'm pleased to be a part of that. He says himself that it's only one track and may give a skewed taste of the album - but for such an illustrious partnership it doesn't dissapoint in the excitement it offers.
I understand the album will be available only via the website - streaming and digital download - with no record label around. I for one will certainly be streaming it, if nothing else.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Last Chance Saloon

I'm going to start giving the monthly "last chance" it's own separate post. Partly because it keeps posts to a more manageable length; and also for reasons that will become apparent next month. But also because I forgot to include it earlier - hey, honesty for you at least.

It's fair to say that the summer quiet spell with many artists off on the festival circuit has perhaps hurt the number of tracks in consideration. Add the fact that there's some tracks that have been on the TOTW shortlist that I wouldn't have mentioned myself. Madonna for instance.

However, I was glad when Hazard mention The Ting Tings Shut up and let me go. I heard it a few times before my own vacation; and several times over there - but I think the 'stand-in' was bang on the money saying that's it's no That's not my name. I don't not like it - but it is a bit bland and repetitive, and not as in your face as some other tracks. So, it's not the last chance-ee.

I end up, perhaps predictably but with no insult toward Hazard's selections (except maybe the Madonna one), going back to the beginning of the month and one of my picks.  Mainly because of all the songs, it's instantly memorable. Actually, the video is instantly memorable - but it's a brilliant song and probably could have been TOTW back then if it wasn't for me not wanting to feature Dizzee Rascal twice on the trot. But, featuring David Byrne, and the talent in BPA "raw", I think it's forgivable. Here's Toe Jam then.

So, nothing really changes

Tunes of the Week #31

I can see exactly what Hazard meant when said a couple of weeks ago that there's nothing but summer pap about. I've only been back in Blighty for a few days, and so many 'new' tunes that are being played on the radio are exactly the same as I left the country nearly 4 weeks ago!

That said, this morning I've heard the new releases from both Vampire Weekend (Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa) and the Mystery Jets (Half in love with Elizabeth) - so whilst they can't really be a TOTW today based on one listen, keep your eyes peeled for the future.

Just to show I'm not completely behind with the times though, I thought I'd mention some Proper Rock. And yes, that is the title - RadMac's Pick'n'Mix winner for the past week by The Chap. And yes, that is his actual name. With an electronic-esque opening, it does then move into, erm, proper rock. Not heavy stuff, but enjoyable. It's a real melange, but it's not an annoying hotch-potch of someone who couldn't decide what genre to work in. It's available on the 25th August.

I'm also keen to mention Little Jackie, with The World Should Revolve around me - as a previous unsung now getting airplay on national radio. It's a classic example of what I described her music as - it's the presently highly popular soulful stuff with a hip-hop back beat. Brilliant to 'get funky' too, it's out on the 25th August.

A regular prompt for TOTW is Ken Bruce's Record of the Week. Last week, it was the new single from punk-rocking devil-beating Sandi Thom, who's now up to something on a Saturday Night. It reminds me a bit of Shania-Twain esque country music, which could have been a bad thing - but it really isn't. It just makes a nice and smily, bouncy, happy summer tune. Great idea for an 'interim' youtube video too. Not been able to find a release date, but probably a couple of weeks away.

Anyway, just creeping into the awareness before I left was Bloc Party's Mercury - although it hasn't been released yet set to appear on the 11th. It's got the same electronic-stlyings as Flux, however I don't like as much as that previous single. Far too often in the song there isn't a tune, just a big bass drum and a stuck record (intentionally perhaps, but really not my cup of tea).

A similar release date applies to Meccano - see a metallic theme there - which I actually mentioned in TOTW27. I still stand by what I said back then - the song by Red Light Company reminds of something. And I can't figure out what. I think it's the vocal echo in the chorus that does it. Sadly, I don't think it's anything special, there's nothing sit up and listen about it. But, it's pleasing enough.

When I watched Noah and the Whale at Delamere, I was fairly scathing about their performance. There were only a couple of songs I liked from the set - thankfully one was Five Years Time. Again, it was just about aware of it a month ago - but now it's getting played a lot. And in France too strangely. It's out, on this side of the channel at least, tomorrow - and it's unique sound will hopefully mean it does fairly well.

Going back a long long time - Adele re-released Hometown Glory on the 21st July. Worthy of mention, mainly because it was mentioned first time round. Only problem with it - apart from my well known hatred for re-releases, is that it is exceptionally dreary. Releasing it over summer when everyone else is releasing bouncy singles for the holiday season - no thanks...

Brave comment coming up. McFly aren't that bad a band. Now, before you close this window whilst spitting and vowing never to return to this blog, hear me out. Their problem is their reputation - they're a boy band. Except, they're not. Boybands perform cheesy covers - especially ballads, and preferably with a cringe worthy keychange in the middle. Boybands are made up of a solitary one who can sing - but doesn't for fear of making the others look bad; one quiet and shy; a dancer; a writer; a sex symbol; and one for the "mum's to adore" (thanks to Mitch Benn - Boy band - for that one). In McFly, they can actually do harmony. They can actually write - themselves - decent pop songs that are memorable, and fairly enjoyable. Which is why they've described their new single One for the Radio as being about their "constant struggle for critical acceptance". Personally, I've not taken to the mid-July release that much. The opening sounds too much like Gummi bears. But, there are a lot worse songs out there, and I might yet like another from the latest album and mention it in the future.

I mentioned it before I left, and also yesterday as a big hit over in "L'hexagone". It appears it's also still pretty big over here - Coldplay's Viva la Vida. I suppose with almost a month of constant playing, it's definitely become implanted into my brain. Thing is, it really is different to the usual dreary output from Coldplay, and it's physical release only occuring on the 29th July last, it's probably got a bit extra airplay to go yet.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

From the continent

I'm back.

Many thanks to Hazard for keeping things in perfect working order during my absence, and also to Kev for the additional unsung.

If you've been wondering (or, not reading the personal blog which explains everything) where I've been for the past month, then the simple answer is France.

So, what better way to return back to usual blogging ways than looking at the music that's appearing popular on the other side of La Manche at the minute.

Some music I've mentioned myself in recent times. Duffy (Mercy - TOTW4); Estelle (American Boy - TOTW14); Rhinanna (Take a Bow - shortlist on TOTW20); Sara Bareilles (Love Song - TOTW18 - and surprisingly they still don't pronounce it like Marseilles over here) - they're all all on several playlists. As in Coldplay with Viva La Vida (TOTW26 shortlist). I presume they like the cover of the album, it being Bastille Day recently and all.

Unfortunately, they also have a very unhealthy obsession with whiny diminutive former army officers. Not a day has gone by without hearing some improbable hit. I must have lost a pint of blood from my ears constantly bleeding. Talking about bleeding, they also like Leona Lewis. Bleeding Love? Bleedin' annoying more like.

One that I've not heard yet in Blighty is a cover of Frankie Valli's Beggin'. It's not the Pilooski edit I featured 2 years ago on TOTW, as there's rap in the middle of it. Madcon actually released this version back in October 2007, and since then it's been the, erm, Norwegian "VG-lista" number 1 twice.

Another "English" song that's big over there is After the Rain - a dance track by Fedo Mora and Camurri. I very very rarely feature anything that could pass as 'dance' in MB - but it's really catchy, and is the summer dance smash over in France at the minute.

Of course, the French have had a law since 1994. French radio stations must play 40% French language songs. One way round this that I quite like is to take an English song, and turn it into a bilungual duet. My favourite version of this back from 2003 is also quite possibly the best example of making a cheesy song even cheesier. Even the video is covered with a healthy topping of Camembert.

Being involved in such projects is probably the only thing that Bonnie Tyler and Enrique Iglesias have in common, with this version of Tired of being sorry. Subtitled Laisse le destin l'emporter due to the extra contribution from Nâdiya, it's not actually that bad. I don't like the original, but I do love the way the French can make such songs different enough.

Before I left England, I read a review in The Times that described Carla Bruni's (Sarkozy) latest album as "the best album by the wife of a serving head of state". However, the competition in that cateogry is very little, and after hearing some of the songs I must agree that it's not exactly bad. Somehow, Comme si de rien n'était become the best selling album in France, which is probably a bit too much. Have a listen to L'amoureuse anyway, you could do a lot worse.

Similarly different the usual style of music on MB - here's Zouglou Dance Joie De Vivre. At time of writing, it's the French number 3, and the band "Magic System" are probably best described as "RnB meets dance meets hiphop". But I don't think it's an accurate description - so just listen to it

I could go on with a number of pretty good tracks. However, I've already been prattling on for a while; and one difficulty with many French radio stations is that they never introduce the track. So, there's a good tune with a Noah and the Whale-esque trumpet bit; and an enjoyable duet about a silhouette. However, I can't tell you what they are. So, I'll finish with a tune that when I first heard, thought could have been the Mavericks. It's on more playlists than any other track, and is distinctly different to anything else I heard whilst over there. So, it's a justifiable French number 1. Meet William Baldé - with Un rayon de soleil