Friday, 30 December 2011

looking forward: 2012

the last big hurrah/biggest let down (delete as applicable) of the year is almost upon us, and once the clock has struck midnight on 31st December 2011, we shall all of a sudden find ourselves engulfed in 2012 for a whole twelve months.

traditionally, most blogs and websites will be telling you what were the best things to have been listening to in the year just gone, and also informing you of who you will undoubtedly be listening to in the new year fast approaching.

i'll only touch on the latter briefly, with more pressing concern on sharing good music with you, no matter what current trends on social practice may dictate.

and there are a couple of collaborations that are helping to wave off the soon departing MMXI AD in a rather twee fashion before we get too far ahead of ourselves

there must be thousands of these type of videos sprawled all over youtube, you know the ones, bedroom, webcam, guitar, but not many of them feature the delightful pairing of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt melting hearts with their hipster pleasing duet

and another team-up in the form of Frank Turner, who has gone from strength to strength this year, hooking up with country singer and past collaborator, Jon Snodgrass, for a little ditty that was knocked out together in about half an hour, and was shared by Turner via his soundcloud

 download: Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass - Happy New Year

now we look towards the future

a lot of anticipation is building to see what The xx will deliver when they release their second album after creating a slow building buzz with their emergence and praised debut which carried with it a new wave of electronic-shoegaze in it's wake.  early clues from the band hint at a more upbeat direction, yet this teaser demo, for two and a half minutes at least, suggests otherwise

 download: The xx - Open Eyes (Demo)

also making a return in 2012 will be Scissor Sisters, who provided a sleazy assault on the senses when they burst onto the music scene, but have since seemed to have lost their way a little.  perhaps in an attempt to induce some shock tactics, they have teamed up with Azealia Banks for the single 'Shady Love' that will debut on January 2nd 2012.

The name Azealia Banks should not be new to anyone by now, being one of the most hype-inducing artists of previous months and featuring highly in many websites tips for 2012, including the highly debated BBC sound of 2012 poll.

She will no doubt continue splitting opinion throughout the new year if she continues in the same way she started.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas from Desperately Seeking Susan Boyle

it's the most wonderful time of the year (or so the song goes) and although i hate the fact that the first smattering can be heard as early as late October some years, i genuinely love Christmas songs

there have been occasions where i have been driven to the brink of losing my sanity as the same songs repeat over and over and over by the 24th of December, but with enough ducking and diving through the festive period, it is possible to get through it mentally unscathed.

i'm still filled with joy when i hear the likes of The Waitresses, Wizzard and Wham (and other festive favourites that have not been brought to us by the letter W) but my coping mechanism over the past few years has been to invest in a couple of alternative Christmas albums (i would suggest James Brown's Funky Christmas for a rather chilled one, or the rather rare xfm cool cool Christmas compilation), compile my own seasonal playlists and to have a good hunt around for any other jolly holiday records that are unlikely to see as much airplay as Mariah Carey and Slade.

i've even had a stab at recording my own Christmas single in 2008, taking a rather cynical stab at all the things that seem to make up our modern vision of what Christmas is to so many people in our current culture.

but this year, i do decree that i have found two absolute crackers (please forgive me for the awful pun, it just comes so naturally this time of year) that stand up to the kind of repeated plays that as all the old standards that get trotted out each year, just don't expect Radio 2 and office parties to pick up on these at all, we're keeping it pretty niche.

first up is an artist that i make no secret of being a fan of, Akira The Don, who joins the likes of Michael Buble this year by releasing his own Christmas album which could be dropping down your digital chimney before Santa is doing his rounds tonight.

yes, it is true that i get a shout out over the outro of the release, but there is no bias when i recommend the tongue in cheek auto-tuned romp of Sexmas featuring Envy, which turns up the heat while it is cold outside, stuffed with some rather ludicrous innuendo yet utterly irresistible with it.

 stream: Sexmas ft Envy by Akira The Don
from the album, Saturnalia Superman

and pushing the limits of what is acceptable in a Christmas song even further is a free download from L.A duo, The Connects, who take the absurd and crank it up to 11 with an anthem that should by all rights be heard all the world over, but under no circumstances is it a suitable stocking filler for young children or easily offended grandparents.

 download: Christmas in the Club by The Connects
from the free EP, How The Connects Stole Christmas

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Worst Case Scenario

in a band?


don't worry about it.

shunning expensive studio time, Worst Case Scenario show local bands how it should be done, self recording and self releasing their debut EP.

'Lost In The Element', available through iTunes, is a clear indication of a D.I.Y ethos prevailing and proving how a clear talent and determination can shine through and give hope to other bedroom musicians.

Formed in 2005, Worst Case Scenario have garnered six years of experience performing live and becoming a well respected act amongst Enfield's musical community, and it is these years, along with a recent roll-call shake-up that has lead to the long overdue recording of 6 tracks, that were released in late October.

A laptop with Cubase was set up, a microphone was borrowed, £10 was invested in a pop-shield, a mic-stand was improvised by taping the microphone to the side of a door, and some friends and family were roped in to provide shouted vocal takes that were recorded onto a phone before being added to the final mix

and yet, aside from the EP's interesting and inspiring creation, the music speaks clearly for itself.

Mostly a mid-tempo affair with a number of crowning flourishes, the tracks featuring on 'Lost in the Element' connects the dots between a number of disparate influences, touching on the sounds of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paramore and KT Tunstall amongst others.

As the EP plays through the opening 'Intro' and into 'Point of No Return' the band lay down their wares as a serious band with considerable talent, showcasing a tooled-up acoustic sound that permeates throughout the release.

with 'Save Myself' and 'This Is Your Truth' the strength of these mature songs, belying the youthfulness of the band, holds strong, whilst the musical direction simmers down until it reaches the stripped back, yet overwhelming, stand-out track, 'Whole Again'.

The EP seems to hinge on 'Whole Again', taking in the listener as the the pace has eased through four tracks out of six, only to be hit by a breathtakingly beautiful track that is all the more fragile through the sliding contrasts that have lead to that very point.

leaving us with only the closing salvo of 'Throw It Away' to once again kick things up a notch and round out an accomplished EP that signposts a promising future for Worst Case Scenario.

It may not have the professional sheen that these songs are clearly deserving of, but this is only the cherry on the top of a very pleasing cake that is missing,  it is still a powerful set of songs recorded and released in a manner that is a testament to one young band's capabilities and conviction.

 stream: Worst Case - Whole Again