Sunday, 26 October 2008

Killer creatures come with talons

No surprises:

There's only a select number of artists for whom I own every album (not counting those who've only released 1 album, that doesn't really count). One of them is The Killers.

So, I was always going to be looking forward to 'Day and Age' (and will be heading towards a suitable record shop on release). And, from the first listen, I liked Human. It's had a few poor reviews, and a bit of bad press. I've heard it compared to Chris de Burgh even, which is problematic. Personally, I actually think the opening bars are a bit Daft Punk esque. Either way, I like it, and it's a very worthy TOTW.

I also like Talons (20th Oct). When I first touched on it a few weeks back, I said how I much preferred it that song about liquid metal. This has got much more of a tune, with the dramatic tones we've come to expect from the band. More faithful to their original output? Probably, but that's what I like. What's strangest of all is that it's not an album track. It was recorded at the same time, and was so good they decided to release it as a single. I, for one, am glad.

2 Honourable mentions this week, surprisingly similar in more ways that one. Bathroom Gurgle (Late of the Pier - 27th Oct), was first released on 10th September 2007 on the Moshi Moshi label. Paris (Friendly Fires - 6th Oct), was first released on 10th December 2007 on the Moshi Moshi label.

Both bands have since changed label (to Parlaphone and XLRecordings respectively), and both bands are of that modern electronica genre that's now appearing. Unfortunately, as they're both re-releases, they lose some brownie points - but it doesn't stop them being good songs.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Let Life Love

Three key words start with the letter "L", and are often used in song titles. So, no shock that they form the basis of this week's alphabetising. And I was definitely spoilt for choice.

Plenty of other suggestions could have been made - but I particularly wanted to throw in Life in a Northern Town for obvious reasons, and The Living Years because it's one of the emotional songs I know of. Love is all around is also worth a mention - everyone knows the 15-week-at-number-1 Wet Wet Wet version, so it's easy to forget that Reg Presley wrote it for The Troggs back in 1967. Could it be the most successful cover ever?

Other "L"s added in include, perhaps with a bit of surprise, Lord Anthony. I am not shameful to say that I'm a huge Belle & Sebastian fan, and I think this song is one of their best - which is going some. Again, really emotional.

To counteract all the emotion though, finish with a bit of comedy. Enjoy the playlist.

The Letter L

Sunday, 19 October 2008

From the Island

I'm beginning to struggle more and more with finding TOTWs now I'm doing the 9-5. I used to be able to listen to various radio stations on an almost 9-5 basis. However now, I'm limited to the evenings when I'm in; or in the car on the way back from somewhere. I don't even listen to the radio on the way to work, as I walk.

For instance, I've not heard Another Way to Die on the radio yet. The new Bond theme is on the playlist, I've just never caught it. Which isn't a bad thing, because on the few listens from the internet I've indulged in, I've not been impressed. It might make an impact in due course, but not yet.

That's the other thing - one play during the week won't really make something a TOTW. It needs that extra longevity to appeal for an entire week. That's why MGMT Kids and Killers Human still aren't selected this week. Still, they're still in there for a Last Change if nothing else.

That leaves me, strangely, with two tracks from the same label - Island Records.

I think I've only heard Wendy by Attic Lights on RadMac. As such, I'm a bit behind with it - the CD was released on 6th October. It's a nice anthemic tune, easy to imagine a huge crowd at a festival singing along with the chorus. Which is probably why it's made enough of an impact to become a TOTW. Official video can't be embedded, so here's an acoustic version:

Keane are definitely one of the big names on the label, and I've previously talked about their 'new sound' with "Perfect Symmetry". Lovers are Losing, released tomorrow, is their second single from the album - and as Chart Blog states, it's nearer familiar territory. However, I'm definitely going to settle for 'nearer'. It's not a horrible mish-mash of "trying to be different yet the same" - it's still a very enjoyable song. It's understandable that the band need to ensure their loyal fans aren't driven away, so they can't be blamed for more traditional output. It's often a very fine balancing act - and I think they've just about managed it. (Again, official video is protected, so here's a Fan-made recording of a live performance at the Q Awards)

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Local Radio

Being the first 'unsung' since I've moved away from my home county, I thought the opportunity was present to look at some new talent from Lancashire thanks to BBC Introducing.

Somewhat surprisingly, the bands featuring on the website are not Houghton Weavers wannabes, as you'd expect on Radio Lancashire. Here are some of my favourites:

The Ragamuffins are definitely a local band for me, and their "kitchen-sink-drama jangly indie-pop songs" really appeal to me. Together with their addiction for cups of tea, close to my heart. It's different enough to fit into the generically popular 'indie' category that's overwhelmed nowadays, but reasurringly similar. Fingernails and Fairytales has hints of Guillemots (the title too I suppose), where perhaps Halfway Between Prada and Primark is more mainstream (Kooks maybe?). It's very difficult to even try and pigeon hole the band. Yes, songs have familiar tones, but overall, they're very much on their own. Which is brilliant.

In fact, reading what they list of their influences, I shouldn't be surprised that I've immediately warmed to their charms:

Musically we take inspiration from jangly pop of groups like The Beach
Boys, The Byrds, The Beatles, The La's, but also the Northern Soul rhythms and
energy that Lancashire made famous in the 60's and 70's. Lyrically we like
witty, dark, poetry the likes of which groups like The Smiths, Belle &
Sebastian, The Kinks and others use to paint pictures about characters they've
seen in their day to day lives.

-BBC Lancashire

I don't often say this, quite possibly because it's often not possible. But, when I'm home in Blackburn, it shouldn't take a huge effort to see this band of ragamuffins perform. So, I will make that effort to see if our dates meet-up.

Triphazard may unfortunately fall into the description of "generic indie rock". But, as I've often said, providing it's done well, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Based near the Merseyside border, they've got the Liverpool music scene to encourage their activites, and they've not made a bad job of it at all.
Sadly, the only two songs I could listen to in full were and Smothered and Fake Up from their Introducing page, but they were definitely the sort of music I like listening to. Maybe not "rush out and buy album" greatness, but enjoyable all the same.

We are most likely to be classed as Indie-Rock but we are unique and don't really have a direct blueprint. Our influences include The Stone Roses, The Doors, The Who, The Charlatans, Radiohead, The Cure, New Order, Joy Division, etc.
It's a bit of a cliché, but for The Substance I'd probably say it's not far off being true. They're definitely not pure indie, maybe more raw indie. It's guitar led, but with different styles of song featuring on their myspace. If I had to say anything, I'd link back to the some of the 90s Brit Pop, but with Oasis having a revival too, it's coming back. A hint of Radiohead too perhaps - listen to Tormented Mind and you'll see what I mean.

It's great to see that there's some good musical talent not far from when I grew up. You'd never consider it a musical hotbed, and it's been a very long time since a 'big' talent came from East Lancashire in particular. But, the talent is there. Just needs a bit of discovery...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

More of the same

Strangely, there's nothing 'new' this week. All the tunes I've heard and enjoyed I've mentioned before in some way shape or form.

Well, not quite all.

The Killers are back. A band I have great respect for. I first heard Human on Round Table the other week, where it got luke-warm reviews at best. Personally, listening to it again now, I still have to say I like it - but I just like their sound. The album's due out on 24 November (so, potential Christmas present there, take note ;) ), but I've not heard the song since on the radio. Therefore it's not a TOTW. Don't expect it to last though.

I'm also going to be daring and mention Love you anyway (29 Sept) for a first time. It has actually been in on the periphery of a mention for a few weeks. It's the sort of soul song that I love. But, it's not been mentioned for one real reason. Listening to the song for the first time, you wouldn't know - but it's by Boyzone. It's not the style of song they released time after time 10 years ago. It's not a cushy ballad. Maybe that makes it acceptable to like it.

So, that leaves some regulars to return. In two cases, literally. Regular readers will know that I hate re-releases. But, I think that both Paper Planes by M.I.A.(13 Oct - originally downloadable in February) and Shape of my heart by Noah and the Whale (20 Oct - originally released in May) are songs that are due a better attention. Noah and the Whale have, of course, had success in the interim with the Laura Marling effect in 5 years time, so it's only natural to bring the other good single they have back. Yeah, the other good single - after Delamere I remain to be convinced they have anything other than these 2, but if their fame continues, maybe the other songs will grow.

(For some reason, the new video can't be embedded - but the old one can - so here you go)
Honourable mentions once again to MGMT - Kids (13 Oct) and Keane - The lovers are losing (20 Oct), but it's Union City Blues that's been really impressing this week.
OK, obviously it isn't Blondie, but Be The One (13 Oct) by The Ting Tings really does remind me of it. That, and a bit of it That's not my name-esque counter melody at the end. I think it's enough to make the group not just a one hit wonder, and whilst I don't think it's quite as good as their break-through hit, it's still good.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


30 years ago today, grown men in France were reduced to tears. What event could possibly have caused such a reaction? Incredibly, it was the death of a singer.

Jacques Brel is more than just a singer though. I first came across him in my French A-level, when I did my course work on the legend. It became clear that he is the greatest French language singer/songwriters of all time. Despite the fact that he's not French.

Born in Belgium, 'Petit Jacques' moved to Paris to really pursue his singing career in 1954, and in 1956 Quand on n'a que l'amour (When you only have love) became his breakthrough song.

Brel clearly isn't the greatest singer. His voice is somewhat croaky - perhaps an inevitable result of the many cigarettes he smoked. Where he truly excels though is in his lyrics.
Voir un ami pleurer (To see a friend cry), one of the tracks from the final 'come back' album recorded just a year before Brel's eventual death, is what I think to be the finest example.
Brel knew he was suffering from terminal lung cancer. He sang with only one lung. And he didn't want people to be too upset by this:
"Of course there's wars in Ireland
And people without music
Of course there's no more tenderness
And there's no more America...
But to see a friend cry"

For some reason, Brel's talents haven't really made it to the British shores. Very little French music has, because people can't understand it. But it's a shame - as there's some really talent there, from the bouncy (Madeleine) to the sombre. Some songs have made it to English, but in a very varied style. Terry Jack's Seasons in the sun started off like this:

Quite different, don't you think?

If you've never heard of Brel before, now's your chance. There's video after video on those famous video sharing websites. Have a look if you get chance. You shouldn't be dissapointed.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


Ironically enough, K is for "The King". Yes, there's not one - but two songs by the great Elvis Presley.

Unfortunately, K is also for Killing. Killing me softly, Killer Queen, great song. But people of my generation remember the Dunblane tribute version of Knocking on Heaven's Door.

Brightening the mood though, there's a wide selection of cheeze on offer.

The letter K

Monday, 6 October 2008

Oi! Over here!

September's last choice, and a chance for me to right a wrong.

You see, giving the Stig a shortlist meant that some tunes that would have been my definite TOTW weren't.

Death was probably an example, but it's a bit morbid for a last-chancher. So, something a bit more sprightly perhaps. Here's BLack Kids:

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Browsing the playlists

Tunes of the Week 2008 - #40

I'm in quite an unusual position this week. I've been listening to the radio, as ever, and I've heard some great songs. But nothing has sprung up to me as "Wow". And I've not been making a shortlist as I go along.

So, I'm left looking at the playlists to see what I recognise.

Move (13 Oct) by Brazilian electro-pop group CSS is one that immediately spotted by name alone. It's bouncy and distinctive, with well sung and clear lyrics.

Sounding quite similar to TOTW33 Spiralling, Keane have another new single out. The thing is, The Lovers are Losing (20 Oct) is still distinctly different. It's definitely from the same album, with this new sound for Keane, and I think it's good for it.

I'm glad I like Talons (20 Oct) by Bloc Party. I didn't really like Mercury, so it's good to see that it's just going to be the odd song and not an entire album.

Totally different - He Doesn't know why (20 Oct). Seattle based Fleet Foxes are creators of relaxing music, and the new single is no exception. It's not get-up-and-go, but it's what you need on a lazy afternoon after getting in from work.

Whilst we're in a lazy mood, Sia sounds very much like Norah Jones. But that's not a bad thing. Soon we'll be found (13 Oct) does showcase the Australian's talents well. Could it be a break through track for her in the UK? Possibly...

For all I say about covers, it's wrong that Girls (6 Oct) is very catchy. But it is. It's different to the original, and it's obvious to all which one I still prefer, but it's not as suicidally-bad as some attempts at covers I've heard.

There were other songs on the shortlists I know I like, but can't recall hearing them this week, so can't really include them. Sorry then to MGMT/Kids (13 Oct) and Noah and the Whale/Shape of my heart (20 Oct - another re-release - ARGH!).

So, with that in mind, which two would I rate most and show videos of? I think these:

Admin note: Apologies for the lack of unsung this week, I started something but unfortunately ran out of time. Normal blogging service should now be resumed, plus at least one special feature over the next week.