Tuesday, 16 October 2012

NME is currently reminding us that The Libertine's Up The Bracket was released a distant ten years ago, and in doing so has recruited a handful of acts to cover the debut album in full.

While it was hardly a heavy hitting album at the time that was dominating the charts, the resulting impact on the changing music scene was what truly made it a seminal release, with exciting new bands (and a bundle of lower regarded copycats) following in their wake as London became exciting again, as the usual barriers between artist and fan were being demolished, thanks in part to Internet forums, but mainly down to ramshackle guerrilla gigs and secret parties anywhere from back room bars to bedrooms.

So it is surprising that there are few higher profile artists involved in NME's covermount, what we have instead are presumably a smattering of hot new acts that the magazine are currently touting as the next big thing, but having outgrown NME's trendsetting attempts and penchant for lists I haven't actually heard of that many of them.

Sadly, what should have been a unique homage to a defining moment of British music history is rather more miss than hit, with most acts paying extended lip service to the lovingly held memory of the Libs and sounding like just another bad cover version lifted straight from soundcloud, kicking off with Peace surgically attaching baggy vibes in an awkward manner and progressively getting worse.

Spector and The Milk add something new to proceedings by transplanting the spirit of Albion into far more diverse host bodies, but the female truncating of Boys In The Band by Stealing Sheep, although brave, just doesn't work well for me, and as for Mystery Jets and The Charlatan's Tim Burgess, well, they frankly didn't try very hard and should have known better, delivering rather uninspiring knock-offs each.

thankfully, they did stay true to the albums brevity, and after 37 minutes that could have been better spent listening to the original or scouring the internet for rare Babyshambles demos, it is all over, phew.

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Monday, 24 September 2012

Am I destroying the music industry?

within a matter of hours I have sourced around two and a half hours worth of music from blogs and then set about creating a cohesive playlist for burning onto CD (if only my girlfriend's car still had a CD player instead of the current tape deck and slim choice of Phil Collins, Chris De Burgh and Disney cassettes).

It is an 80 minute masterpiece that runs the gauntlet of folktronica, unexpected cover versions, codeine hip-hop, bootlegs and a smattering of other down-tempo hybrid genres.

and I did not pay a penny for any of it.

this is the strength of the music blog, with it's ability to expose multitudes of people to brand new talent through tidbits and tasters offered up free of charge.

and in this strange no-mans-land that the music industry has found itself in, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell if this is the right thing to do or not

for all of the success of iTunes, it seems to me that we are still living in the shadow of napster, and the uncertain value of music to many people

ham-fistedly stealing whole albums and back catalogues via torrents still seems wrong to me, and in my old fashioned way, I would much rather pay for a physical product if I feel the music is worth it, yet releases and remixes by smaller artists seem to be worthless

there seems to be a number of reasons for this, firstly may be my placing in the music business as an occasional critic and journalist, unwilling to offer up my opinion on music unless it has been provided to me gratis, and as an unpaid journalist, so should it be... if they want the exposure provided by me, then the music should be my pay-off and my reward.

secondly is the uncertainty of the musical landscape, where some artists and labels have seen the changing tides and decided to swim with the current, providing music for free if it means that artists and songs reach the right blogs and the right people, before crossing over into the paying mainstream, yet how can we be certain which free mp3s have been co-erced and given the blessing by the sanctioned provider, and how many blogs are just towing the line that music is free and effectively stealing from the creator.

and so it is that I seem willing to exchange currency for the upcoming Muse album, a major label release from an already established band, and yet paying for the wares of far smaller artists seems to be somewhat unjustified, as if their art is worth less.

the music business is still clearly in a state of flux, as almighty majors now suffer and new ways and mean of reaching an audience and turning a profit are still being tried and tested in the wake of file-sharing.

so am I getting my own personal views on paying for music the wrong way round?

am I destroying the music industry?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Noel Gallagher, and the decline of the b-side

for the first time in a very very long time, I bought a CD single.

in fact I bought five of them.

all housed within a rather splendid little case, as part of the Noel Gallagher and his Flying Birds boxset.

Having laid my hands on practically everything Oasis have graced the world with since those glorious brit-pop years, I am keen to hear the b-sides that Gallagher senior has delivered with each of his releases to date.

I listen to The Death of You and Me and The Good Rebel, and then take the CD out, and then listen to AKA What a Life and Let The Lord Shine a Light on Me, and then take the CD out... and the process is repeated again and again.

With just the a-side and one sole b-side to each CD single, it is a far cry from the glory days when Oasis singles carried 3 additional tracks, usually of startlingly good quality, making every release an event in itself when such bounteous goods were handed down to us mere fans that were eagerly awaiting a new fix.

even when the media hyperbole died down after the critically derided Be Here Now, Oasis were still churning out tracks on the flipside that would give most band's singles a run for their money.

but as time marched ever forward, this tradition slowly sank into decline, as singles from 2000's Standing on the Shoulder of Giants had its accompanying tracks whittled down to 2 per single, and the unthinkable happened when tracks released from 2008's Dig Out Your Soul were packaged with remixes, an act that was unheard of in the band's long and rich history, save for a small number of hard to find rarities.

and there it is, the sad truth that as the digital age has fully flourished, less value is being placed on the now disposable pop single, and crafting extra material for releases or culling the best of the left-over album sessions is being left far behind us, consigned to the past along with the memory of physical singles stocked in actual record shops and being sought after by collectors and completists.

Even Noel doesn't escape unscathed from the remix syndrome, with two of the five b-sides in fact taking the form of psychedelic reinterpretations by the Gallagher approved Amorphous Androgynous.

Those that have followed Noel's post Oasis career will remember talk of an album made in collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous, an album that now seems destined for the scrap heap after Noel admitted that his touring schedule had kept him too busy to complete the reportedly 'far out' long player that was originally announced in July 2011 and was due to follow his own solo release.

and a pity it is too, since the reworkings of If I Had A Gun and AKA What a Life, following on from the 22 minute remix of Oasis's Falling Down, show a side of The Chief that is far removed from the usual Dad-rock misgivings that he has earned over the past decade and a half.

Yet, despite the pitfalls of these modern times derided earlier, the presence of iTunes playlists in most of our lives means we can neatly collate the three Amorphous Androgynous reproductions into 46 minutes worth of aural bliss that can be played without keep changing CDs, as we wonder just what might have been.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Back to Back to Black (Amy Winehouse tribute album)

Last year Q magazine compiled a track by track cover version of U2's Achtung Baby to coincide with the album's 20th anniversary, and to be honest, I found that particular issue rather hard to track down, scouring a number of local newsagents before finding a solitary copy in WH Smiths.

And understandably so, since I was impressed by the calibre of contributing artists taking part to pay homage to the classic album.

Having fallen for this trick a number of times before from the predictable Mojo magazine and their re-covered Beatles albums featuring a whole host of people that I hadn't heard of and hadn't done a great job either, I was dubious of the magazine's ploy.

In this case tho, Snow Patrol, The Killers, Jack White and Depeche Mode, had all been drafted in, and the result was a startling reinterpretation of one of rock's well respected artefacts.

And so, to mark a year since the sad and untimely passing of Amy Winehouse, Q's latest cover mount is a song by song reconstruction of the modern classic, Back To Black, originally released in 2006.

The Cribs and The Manic Street Preachers head up the talent this time around, alongside The Temper Trap, The View, St Ettiene and up and comers Dry The River and Hollie Cook.

It is my sad duty to report that even with these artists on board, the album fails to impress, the over all feeling of it is far too muddied, cluttered and lacking focus, bleakly paralleling Amy's final years in the media spotlight.

Not to say that there are not good tracks on there, just that they are few and far between, Hollie Cook's reggae light take on You Know I'm No Good stands out as a highlight on the first half of the album, and at the half way mark The Temper Trap seem to mimic Spandeu Ballet balladry on Love Is A Losing Game (my opinion of which, the verdict is still out on), from here on in tho, the quality somewhat improves.

Karima Francis tackles Tears Dry On Their Own and buoys it with enough emotional weight to make it work and claim it for her own, Swindle and Zed Bias both inject a controlled dose of dub step into each of their more zion-skewed cover versions, and both sound all the more refreshing for their challenging takes, meanwhile The View's attempt at Addicted doesn't stretch itself too much, but satisfyingly adds a cheeky twist to Amy's ode to cannabis.

yet even with these positive points going for it, it does still leave half the tracks to be filed under forgettable, or even worse, skippable.

perhaps the reinterpretations were just handled incorrectly, or perhaps it is just too soon, perhaps it is because the memory of Amy Winehouse and her unique contribution to the music world still resonates with us too much, and no matter how fondly we look back on it, we are not yet far enough removed for this project to feel right.

Back To Black's impact on the musical landscape was phenomenal, inspiring a renaissance in self-empowered female artists, as well as bringing a flavour of Motown and soul back into the charts ahead of the inevitable imitations that would follow.

But very few would ever get close to Winehouse's troubled talent and her noir fuelled delivery, so closely intertwined with her turbulent life, indeed, with the lead single Rehab, she laid her problems bare for all FM radio listeners to hear.

so I must conclude that while Q and the artists involved made an admirable effort, it falls some way short of living up to the already considerable legacy that Amy Winehouse left with us in such a tragically short career.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Barbarossa - Butterfly Plague E.P

evocative synths and scattered drum machines breath life into the beautifully delicate Butterfly Plague E.P, creating a perfect example of how to tug on the heart strings with just a few simple concepts, a fragile voice and a little technology.

since catching Barbarossa live at a charity gig late last year and gorging myself on whatever sounds of his the Internet could offer me, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of new material.

a folky nuance on display in previous offerings is hard to shrug off, by no means a bad thing, as it lends the tracks a genuine warmth and earthiness, a certain campfire feeling that draws you in and engages with you on a personal level.

indeed, Temporary and the Stones are both shot through with heartfelt emotion and completed with vocal turns that are so entrancing so as to mark out Barbarossa as a leading light in post-break up anthems, destined to be played on repeat in the bedrooms of the lonely across this land.

and it pains me to say anything against it, but I certainly wish that this release offered up just a little more...

those, like me, that have been waiting for the return of Barbarossa are dreadfully teased with just two brand new tracks, supplemented by a re-recording of 2006's sublime Stones (and an additional remix of the hypnotic title track exclusively for those that still consume their music on vinyl).

so it is that the Butterfly Plague E.P serves as a timely taster of a unique talent, a talent that I would plead effervescently with others to witness live at all costs, and I plead with Barbarossa to grace us with more material pretty sharpish (please).

Monday, 11 June 2012

Misha B

As the years keep progressing, I must admit that with each passing series I am subjected to more and more x-factor than I'd care to admit to.

And even when my viewing is kept to an absolute minimum, the contestants of 2011 are the ones that I had a greater awareness of and as a consequence, actually formed opinions on.

for all my kicking and screaming, there was one episode (and one performance in particular) that silenced my moaning and had me having to pick my jaw backup from off the floor.

Misha B was an absolute revelation to me, and her unique rendition of the already ubiquitous Rolling In The Deep was a thoroughly brave choice, refixing it with her own larger than life interpretation that was far too good to simply stand as just another entry in the UK's largest karaoke competition.

It would have made me happy to have seen her win the whole thing, but to be honest, she was far better than that, she didn't belong there, but it gave her a welcome exposure that it would have been hard to find elsewhere.

Now the time has come for her to throw off the shackles of Simon Cowells talent show albatross and make a name for herself independent of the normal reality tv expectations of drab cover versions.

more recent efforts by ex-X-contestants seem to have wizened up to the fickle music business and far more time and thought are put into post-TV careers.

But Misha B should be the star that outshines the rest of her peers, if she is willing to flaunt her obvious talent and exploit her previous TV notoriety to reach the maximum audience possible, she should live up to my high expectations.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Akira The Don - Unkillable Thunderchrist

Starting a mixtape with an accapella rap is certainly making a statement.

And what a statement, the beat drops and inside of 60 seconds we have already witnessed a dozen or more pop-culture references, including Salvador Dali, the Farrelley Brothers, Charlie Sheen and the 2012 olympic stadium, and chances are there may have even been a fair number that I haven't even picked up on.

It is this richness of reference points, combined with an honesty and wit that has seen welsh rapper Akira The Don blazing his own unique trail with every release.

Unkillable Thunderchrist is a ridiculously over-inflated title for the rappers 27th mixtape, which comes a year after the release of the second album proper, yet with suitable scope and a magnificent pomp, it hardly seems inappropriate given Akira's larger than life character and tendency to put the world to rights through the power of song. 

In terms of content (though not quality) it certainly is a mixed bag, from the self-explanatory Wu Tang riffing D.R.E.A.M (debt rules everything around me), onto Lemmings, sampling the classic computer game of the same name while broaching recent issues such as the mis-handling of the possible fuel crisis and the sinister Kony 2012 propaganda, right through to more personal experiences like watching Terminator underage, school's sex education and the exuberance of time mis-spent after a move to London.

Fans of rap prefixed with the term 'gangsta' may turn up their nose at a droll cover version of Justin Beiber's Baby, delivered over an elevator style Muzak track, but with an array of guest raps provided by collaborators old and new, there should be plenty more besides for those that are still immune to rampant Bieber Fever.

Indeed, it is the 7 minute opus, Give Me Something (11:11), at the heart of the mixtape that features Akira The Don solely on production duties and is instead headed up by Manchester MC, Envy, that is the absolute highlight of this release. A moving tribute to her late mother, recounting both the hardships and the happy memories that flood back as a simple drum beat kicks over a delicate guitar sample.

Although this is followed by the aforementioned Baby cover.

You have been warned.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Lois and The Love: Live @ The Macbeth

Intimate Hoxton bolthole, The Macbeth, is hosting the second date of a three gig residency by up and coming London band, Lois and The Love, and considering the sizeable crowd that has turned out for the second gig in as many weeks, there surely must be something about this band, whose buzz has been steadily building as they work towards the release of their debut EP later this summer.

Already with a number of London gigs under their belt, the band stepped up their game as they infiltrated the blogosphere in February with single Rabbit Hole, a Juliet Lewis and the Licks-esque romper stomper of a track that certainly kicks out the jams.

So any expectations are definitely delivered on when witnessing Lois and The Love doing their thing live, 'their thing' incidentally is a rock and roll spectacle, shot through with a blues-rock stomp and a down to earth garage band vibe, but it is no wonder that practising in garages or rehearsal rooms couldn't contain them, once you have feasted your eyes on the snake-hipped onstage cavorting of Lois herself.

All of the energy and immediacy of the live performance is heightened as their energetic lead pulses across the stage, yelping and wailing like a woman possessed, and putting in a frenetic vocal performance, and it is this exuberance of self-confidence that the band exudes that makes the atmosphere in a venue this size absolutely electric.

Watching them make short work of the fans assembled today, I recognise a flair that I have seen before, it is the appeal of a new band that you have found, a band you may have simply stumbled upon, but that tick all of the right boxes.

Perhaps others at this gig are experiencing them for the first time after deciding to stick their head into a free gig to see what the fuss is about, or perhaps it will be catching them on one of the smaller stages of a festival over the summer, but whatever the circumstances, I recognise that Lois and The Love deliver a performance that is as enjoyable for the crowd as it is for the band.

And that certainly bodes well for the future.


the third and final free gig at The Macbeth is this coming Wednesday 16th May

Friday, 4 May 2012

Coldplay's Chris Martin admits ten year tinnitus torment

back in February, during tinnitus awareness week, i ran a post concerning our nation's coverage of the problem that i, among with many other people are afflicted with, and the fact that the tinnitus angle of the story is swiftly swept aside as the red tops prefer to focus on the celebrity angle

but what should turn up on the front cover of the daily mirror today

Chris Martin's agony and anguish caused by his own tinnitus problem 

yes, it is finally real news now that the Coldplay frontman has voiced the fact that he has been suffering from tinnitus for the past ten years

he now lends his voice to a new campaign called Loud Music for a rebranded RNID (now Action on Hearing) alongside Plan B and Gary Numan and this news blitz has resulted in coverage on BBC, ITV and Sky news programmes and seen far more people discussing the condition on twitter today

and all of this welcome attention can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned

i have suffered with tinnitus myself for a number of years, and sadly it is all too often the case, as it was for me and it is for other sufferers, that it only ever becomes a problem that you care about when it is too late and the damage is already done

the hardest part to understand is why Chris Martin has not stepped forward a moment sooner in the past to make the larger public far more aware of a serious problem that affects music fans the world over, but it is better late than never and now I hope that with the support of high-profile touring artists will see a far more visible attempt to carry on spreading this awareness at the gigs, venues and festivals that will be housing Coldplay and Plan B this summer and beyond.

for more information on tinnitus and how to protect your hearing, visit http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/ and http://www.tinnitus.org.uk/

Saturday, 28 April 2012

how original is The Voice?

it's a Saturday night and I am home infront of the telly.

it may be time to admit that my life has slowed to a worrying pace as i join my girlfriend, and probably the rest of the nation, watching BBC's The Voice. 

yes, dire times indeed, but at least it fuels my mind for blog fodder.

you'll be relieved to know that I haven't been tuning in every week, but there have been a number of weeks when I have caught the 'blind' auditions and found it to be an interesting alternative to the standard X-factor format (although I can hardly claim to be an expert on it), it wasn't quite reinventing the wheel but the real difference that stood it apart was the fact that some contestants were able to choose between mentors if chosen by more than one of the judges, and that these judges could only fill ten slots on their team, meaning will.i.am, Jessie J, Tom Jones and the other one from The Script were all playing their own games to out-psych their competition and also bide their time to pick a strong team.

the very concept of The Voice was the strength of an individual's voice, so presumably everyone was vetted and there is no need for 'novelty' acts to fill the airtime, and anything that places Cassius Henry back in the public eye is alright by me (hey, can we maybe get Aaron Soul making a comeback next year?)

the real challenge would be to see how the mentoring and the representing of theses teams played out and whether this show would continue to pique my interest.

singing against each other in a boxing ring didn't sound bad if only the show wasn't on so long for me to not even bother tuning in when I noticed a repeat on BBC3 that dragged on for an hour and a half. and so, the live shows.

oh, hang on, this seems familiar.

like I said, i'm no expert, but isn't this what happens on the X-factor?

oh, and the result show is tomorrow.

I must admit I care a lot less now.

celebrities mentoring contestants as we yet again search for another new reality tv star...

oh hang on, this really does seem familiar.

other than the new spin on the selection process, it appears that the BBC is pretty much pulling the same shtick that it did ten years ago with Fame Academy only this time we have will.i.am, Jessie J, Tom Jones and the one from The Script working full-time instead of Ronan Keating and Mariah Carey casually dropping by to offer advice

yeah, the beeb found something real special when they picked up The Voice

and maybe we'll have found someone really special by the time the show runs its course

although if the contestants were told that they have the chance of becoming the next Alex Parks, maybe, just maybe, they wouldn't have bothered


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

glassworks review roundup: march

it was last September that I was bemoaning the fact that any activity that was bringing new music my way via glasswerk had all but dried up as I posted the last couple of live reviews

so I finally took it upon myself to knock out a couple of reviews, both of which i have some personal investment in.

first up was the debut EP from a fledgling North London record label, that just so happens to be run by a couple of Enfield lads that I have crossed paths with a number of times, from their time performing together in Those Handsome Animals, and also separately in Retro Crooks and The Waterloos in the golden age of Enfield's live music scene.

but that is all in the past now, and they are now concentrating their efforts on sniffing out new talent as Njord and releasing limited edition cassettes with a lo-fi feel.

Connecticut born solo artist, Gift Lions, has the honour of kicking off their release schedule with 5 tracks that shimmer and glow with a nostalgic warmth, but you better move fast if you want to covet the physical format, as only 100 copies of the cassette release are in existence

Gift Lions review here

the second was a look at the latest single to be released by Akira The Don, who I have never shied away from heaping praise upon.

We Won't Be Broke Forever Baby, has long been a personal favourite of mine, teased out at occasional live performances long before being committed to record, featuring on the sophomore effort, The Life Equation and gaining itself a single release

Akira The Don review here

and with these two recent reviews under my belt I gathered up a bunch of contact details from promo CDs and sent out the feelers to see if anyone out there would like to send some new music my way

and some people did, I was rather disappointed with the bland Burning Shapes, rather more impressed with the subtle hip-hop head-nodder from Niko (which, due to technical difficulties, had to be reposted in April) and also gave the seal of approval to the debut album from film makers and art-collective turned musicians, Breton.

The press release may have been full of hot air in order to push the band's high-brow and artistic nature to anyone that would listen, but when the music was allowed to speak for itself it showed a highly diverse and post-modern collection of songs that may look set to infiltrate the public consciousness via car commercials if any advert executives spot this bands crossover potential, but don't hold that against them

Breton review here

Saturday, 10 March 2012

are Radiohead tickets worth £65?

it is kind of a big deal that Radiohead have announced a bunch of arena tour dates.

it is a big deal when Radiohead announce anything whatsoever.

whether it is the aforementioned tour, a from the basement video-cast or cryptic clues pointing to a new album.

Radiohead occupy a unique space within the musical hemisphere, having gained enough popularity and respect so as to be as experimental as they desire and tackle the industry on their own terms, and still be praised every step of the way. They are the musical equivalent of an eccentric recluse and we still love them for it, which means that any public appearance is something to get excited about.

The Bends, OK Computer and Kid A form my own holy trinity of Radiohead releases that changed the way that i viewed music, discovering that there was more than just commercial radio and pop hooks in this world, the progression of Kid A in particular shaped my perception of music, leading me to develop eclectic new tastes and also proved inspirational when i eventually came to create music myself.

Although i believed most of the upcoming tours set-list would be drawing heavily upon King Of Limbs and In Rainbows, i gave myself enough time to consider how this band have impacted upon me so greatly in my life, and having been blown away by live videos of the band performing, i knew that i had to be there, i had to join the legion of clamouring fans that would be clogging the ticketing site come 9am on friday.

that was until i read of the pricing structure.

standing tickets would be £65.

with fees, the cost of a single ticket exceeds £70.

and full of disappointment, i decided that i was not going to be paying that.

there are a small number of acts that i would expect to charge phenomenal prices for tickets, and as such, on principle, i would not pay to see, included in these are Madonna and Paul McCartney, and before his death, Michael Jackson, as much as i may have wanted to see all of these acts live, i just can't reach that far into my pockets.

more recently i was shocked to see that tickets for Kanye West and Jay-Z's Watch The Throne jaunt at the O2 would be as much as £65 before fees for a standing ticket, but having witnessed the first leg of Kanye's Glow In The Dark tour some years back, presumed that the outlandish cost would be in order to cover the massive overheads involved with such an equally outlandish stage show.  regardless, i declined the chance to purchase tickets.

and now it seems Radiohead have hauled themselves into this pocket universe of exorbitant entrance fee commanders alongside Madge and Macca and the double-teaming rap power vehicle.

when In Rainbows was released on a 'pay-what-you-feel' manner to download, Radiohead were seen as forward thinking and innovative in their business model, whilst others moaned that only a band that had reached an enviable level success could even contemplate such a practise without hemorrhaging money, and in the years since we have seen Radiohead play an intimate free gig in Brick Lane, Thom Yorke personally hand out promotional newspapers on the streets of London and collaborate on DJ sets in support of the Occupy London movement and overseas alongside Flying Lotus, and Radiohead (either whole or in parts) have played surprise sets to well-informed crowds at Glastonbury.

yet now it seems that anyone wishing to see the band live in an arena environment on a proper tour are the people that are quite literally the ones that will be paying the price for Radiohead's recent flare for an unorthodox departure from the music business' grinding gears of commerce.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Gift Lions - Indian Summer EP

In those fleeting moments of much-heralded British sunshine, it is important to pick your listening pleasures wisely.

Thankfully, Connecticut born Jordan Blatchley, in his guise as Gift Lions, has got that covered for you, debuting 5 tracks of hazy, warm audio breeze, on the aptly titled Indian Summer EP.

Opener, Enough Said, glistens with its simplicity, capturing the catchy surf-pop sound of The Drums and stripping it of their overblown theatrics, showcasing Gift Lions musical approach of going back to basics and allowing for the focus to shift to a songs atmospheric tones, as on the down-tempo and Doves-esque All and Watersong.

The sprawling, near 8 and a half minutes of Brighton Beach give a refreshing take on the resurgence of singer-songwriters and Mumford style folk as the slightest twist of psychedelia chimes out before the calming lull of a tide slowly moving into shore eases us into the delightfully gentle Running that rounds out the release.

An ethereal glow washes across the EP, capturing a lo-fi dreaminess seen through rose-tinted glasses and creating a sound that is nostalgic, yet timeless, perfectly encapsulating the essence of the Instagram generation that use latest technology view the world through retrofitted filters.

And perhaps this trend for sentimentally is befitting for a collection of songs released on limited edition cassette by fledgling North London label Njord, although those that have long since abandoned their Walkman for an iPod can also find the EP as a more socially acceptable mp3 download.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Brits 2012

while much can be said for the annual flag-waving and chest-puffing of the Brit Awards, it just doesn't do it for me anymore.

quite why i felt any excitement, pre-awards, this year, i'm not entirely certain.

i think part of it may have been down to the guessing game, invented last year, of 'match wHe0wfo9wartist to the award they will win'

Coldplay's opening set was traded in for a Best Band Award, with similar accolades going to Bruno Mars, Rihanna, and of course Ed Sheeran and Adele.

but sadly, the reality of the Brit Awards was that it just wasn't as exciting as the pancakes being flipped in my kitchen, and that is a damn shame, considering this should be our chance to fly the flag for the UK and revel in the momentous spectacle of it.

instead we got a handful of 'shocking' moments to be blown out of proportion by twitter and the media.

'OMG! James Corden interupted Adele'

'OMG! Adele flipped the bird'

'OMG! Blur sound rubbish'

and yet no-one is calling out the largest embarresment in this years Brit awards.

no, not One Direction laying claim to having the Best British Single, but the Brit Award itself!

while last years statuette, designed by Viviene Westwood, was a very understated and graceful redesign, seeming to drape the figure in patriotic red, white and blue, for the 2012 ceremony, Sir Peter Blake, yes, he of Sergeant Pepper cover fame, decided to produce a far brighter overhaul, daubing the primary colours boldly as he went, which may have worked fine, if only he had held back and not felt the need to spell out the word BRIT in large descending block-capital letters, presumably just incase anyone was unaccustomed to the   long established and recognisable trophy.

so while Ed Sheeran may be immensely proud of his first Brits win, scooping Best British Male and best British Newcomer, i dare say that they will both be pushed to the very back of his trophy cabinet.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Ed Sheeran

seriously, who is Ed Sheeran?

the mainstream may recognise him as as the rusty haired troubadour that has made significant inroads with his radio friendly hits, catapulted into the spotlight with the gentle lulls of The A-Team (a surprisingly un-radio friendly song about prostitution, drug abuse and death, that hit big regardless) and is likely to be the only possible contender to be putting paid to an all out Adele whitewash at next weeks Brit Awards.

but the truth is, this is only just scratching the surface, as well as hanging around with the likes of Rizzle Kicks and reportedly writing for One Direction, Sheeran's street credentials are boosted somewhat when his no.5 collaborations project EP, released early last year, is taken into consideration, featuring a handful of grime artists and rappers including Devlin, Wiley, JME, Dot Rotten and Wretch 32.

Ed was rejoined by a handful of his collaboraters for a special live session for BBC 1xtra last December, and since then it seems that he is showing no signs of slowing down or allowing himself to be pigeonholed easily, as various sources throughout December and January confirmed that Ed Sheeran had been recording with American rapper Yellawolf, and has also recorded duets with both Example and Jessie J.

and this week saw Sheeran leak the aforementioned 4 track collaboration with Yellawolf, from the comfort of his twitter feed, racking up more than 100,000 downloads in under 24 hours and throwing another curveball to those that expect him to follow pop formulas since his debut album hit the UK top spot upon its release last September.

so while music snobbery may tell you to hate on those that become popular, Ed Sheeran still maintains his integrity and remains an anomaly.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Tinnitus Awareness Week 2012

i don't buy the red tops on matter of principle

but many people that i know do, and i will still find myself flicking through the pages of absurd, lowest common denominator news and celebrity tittle tattle

so it is with some surprise that i occasionally find The Sun actually broaching a serious subject that more people need to be aware of, it is just such a shame that the real story they should be covering is always so brief

and as we near the end of another Tinnitus Awareness week, i thought i should do my duty to highlight the problem again, after my initial piece published in 2010

it was also in 2010 that i read a short article regarding Black Eyed Peas head honcho, producer and solo artist, Will.i.am, admitting that he was suffering from tinnitus, a high pitched ringing in the ears that is caused by prolonged exposure to loud music, and is common among musicians, DJs, clubbers and gig-goers

sadly the article swiftly shifted the focus onto his much-rumoured relationship with Cheryl Cole and his staunch support of that years X-Factor contestant, Cher Lloyd (an expanded article, including more name dropping, but also an opinion from The Sun doctor can be found here)

and then, just last week, almost perfectly timed to coincide with the annual campaign to highlight the causes and prevention of Tinnitus, N-Dubz lead and now solo-artist, Dappy revealed that due to his severe tinnitus he has now had small speakers installed around his bed to play soothing background noises, so that he is less aware of the constant ringing that is most obvious, and often frustrating, when you realise that you can no longer hear 'silence'.

of course, the newspaper was more interested in getting there jolleys by mocking his band's music and thinking up a shockingly bad rhyming headline rather than providing any real support or advice for anyone that may find themselves in a similar situation to Will.i.am and Dappy.

suffering since 2004 myself, i was relieved when i was first handed a leaflet about earplugs while at Glastonbury, not feeling quite so alone and happy to be pointed in the right direction for where to find advice and suitable hearing protection

and i believe that as a duty to fans and gig goers, more should be said about the causes and effects of Tinnitus so that people can hopefully spot the signs early enough to spare themselves the fate shared by not only Dappy and Will.i.am, but also Bono, Trent Reznor, Pete Townsend and Moby, among many others

more information about Tinnitus and Tinnitus Awareness Week can be found in this article by the great Eddy TM and on the British Tinnitus Association website

Friday, 3 February 2012


with an upcoming collaboration EP with Cypress Hill on the horizon (the lead track of which can be yours, in exchange for your email address) i thought that now would be a perfect time to take a closer look at the musical output of Rusko.

fans of throbbing basslines will already be well aware of the impact Rusko has had on the musical landscape of dance over the last few years, yet even i was surprised quite how far reaching his influence had been.

firing up raves and hype-raising blogs with the harder edged dubstep that superseded the sparse atmospherics pioneered by the likes of Burial, Rusko was part of the charge that forged the fledgling niche genre into wider territories and onto wider recognition.

with a full length album released on Diplo's Mad Decent label in 2010, which was bolstered by the likes of the squelching, bass-heavy Woo Boost and 2-step flavoured Hold On and a follow up album, Songs, being preceded by current single Somebody To Love, Rusko has proved himself to be an in demand producer and remixer, as evidenced on a 16 track remix collection that is available to download guilt free.

having tackled and retooled heavyweight dance acts like Basement Jaxx and The Prodigy, releasing a single that splices old skool jungle with the current incarnation of dubstep, and with the first taste of the Cypress Hill team-up already upon us, i was slightly bemused to find that there was one other collaboration that had slipped under my radar.

little did i know that Rusko had taken himself completely out of his comfort zone to give girl-next-door turned sex-kitten Pixie Lott a top ten hit in November of last year, shrugging off all expectations with a far funkier affair than we are used to that proves that he is certainly an adaptable beast that can even handle pop in his stride.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

the unlikely return of Nu-Metal

these are strange, uncertain and occasionally exciting times for the music industry.

the market growth and profits of major labels is not the issue at hand as far as i am concerned right now.

more so, it is the cross pollination of genres that sparks my interest.

although the liberal borrowing from a thriving genre is certainly not a new idea, it is certainly churning out some polarising efforts and unlikely collaborations from those striving to remain relevant.

riding on the coattails of the inescapable wave of dubstep that swallowed whole continents in 2011, we now see bloggers' favourites turning their hands to production duties for returning icons from a bygone musical age.

writing this specifically with Korn's most recent effort in mind, their tenth studio album most prominently featured collaborations with flavour of the month Skrillex, as well as a number of other electronic producers in an attempt to re-tool a tried and tested formula for a new generation.

and now it is the turn of Cypress Hill to foray into the realms of pulsating bass as they team up with Mad Decent alumni Rusko for a dubstep EP due out in April, having found their way from Hip Hop and through the other side of Nu-Metal, an incredible 21 years since their breakthrough single 'How Could I Just Kill A Man' was released in 1991.

i am still yet to cast aspersions on the whole of the new Korn album and whether all this band wagon jumping is manipulated by shady puppetmasters wanting to sink their teeth into new trends, or whether this is genuine re-invention spurned on by a passion for dabbling in exciting genres that are now growing out of their infancy.

but with the rap-metal fusion that both influenced and was influenced by Nu-Metal some ten years behind us, and given the cyclical nature of music trends that keep coming back around, will these collaborations inspire another attempt at returning to the mainstream by the floundering Limp Bizkit, this time on an album helmed by Caspa, or perhaps even Papa Roach teaming up with the filthy warped bass monster Borgore.

while at first the very idea of it sounded unlikely and a rather desperate attempt to be 'down with the kids', personally, i feel that Korn's  Narcissistic Cannibal is something of a revelation for me from a band that has been drifting slowly out of favour and has also created something new that is infused with the ever-more integrated dubstep sound, creating a hybrid Nu-Step which is just as abrasive as the first parent-upsetting and face-shredding riffs of Nu-Metal that hit our shores over a decade ago.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Twisted Hearts

as a fine purveyor of Enfield's local music scene, i was proud to have a physical copy of The Twisted Hearts' debut EP hand-delivered to my door by their drummer.  i had seen the band a few days prior at a charity fundraiser in Palmers Green, where the band had breezed through a blistering set that was short and sweet and all for a good cause, and had been promised a copy of the release would be heading my way very soon.

we stood there on the doorstep, making small talk, when it was noted that the cover of the CD was cracked, i was asked not to mention it in the review, i made no promises, but insisted that it would not reflect badly on my opinion of the music contained there-in (sorry Tom)

so let us concentrate on the music then!

the EP kicks off with a short 'Introduction' scheduled sensibly at the beginning, as if to whet our appetites, teasing lovers of the genre known as 'Rock' with an acoustic strumming that gives way to an electric guitar that swirls and soars before careering into the start proper of The Last Breath, that pulls no punches with its upfront riffs, pounding drums and grandstanding guitar solo.

© Annelie Rosencrantz 2011  http://www.anuli.co.uk/   

and as their debut progresses, we are shown a young band that are almost a step out of time with current trends, keeping with a traditional Rock n Roll sound that carries with it a bluesy garage stomp that features more than just a tip of the hat to the reverred sound of Jimi Hendrix and a mild case of psychedelia as evidenced on Paint Me Red.

with the exception of the down-tempo laid back funk of Chemistry, every track present seems to be more expansive than the small backroom venues that the band have been playing recently, equipping their garage-rock with an arena sized scope, especially with the revival of 80s hair metal guitar solos and power ballads in Walk To The Light that seems firmly aimed at Wembley and the lighters aloft tenderness of A Thousand Steps.

This isn't to say that there isn't room for improvement, with the recordings occasionally sounding a little rough around the edges, but The Twisted Hearts have clearly found their own niche and are revelling in it right now, with more gigs upcoming and a convincing statement of intent in the form of their debut EP, they have marked themselves out as a local act to keep an eye on.

stream: Walk To The Light by The Twisted Hearts
from the EP, The Twisted Hearts EP

credit where it's due:
photograph © Annelie Rosencrantz 2011  http://www.anuli.co.uk/  

Saturday, 7 January 2012

BBC Sound of 2012

in an exercise of self-fulfilling prophecies, BBC's sound of 2012 has just announced London soul singer Michael Kiwanuku as being at the pinacle of acts that they are tipping for the top this year

UK based 'tastemakers' are polled for their favourite acts that look ready to break though in the upcoming 12 months, yet it hardly seems surprising that most years have seen these people plump for those that are already riding on a considerable amount of hype

the voting system that it is founded on is basically a glorified popularity contest, with those topping the pile being the acts that are increasingly harder to avoid come November as record label's PR's must have become increasingly savvy to the elevated profile that the poll has garnered in recent years, and the timing of their client's game-plan will no doubt be scheduled with this in mind.

perhaps it is cynicism or the fact that the record industry is becoming more transparent with it's business activities, but in many cases it only serves to heap more hype on an already hyped act and sealing their fate of chart supremacy with that little extra nod.

with that said, perhaps we are looking at the most leftfield choices yet that seem to skirt some of the more obvious radio fodder

with genres bouncing around from the cool electro-pop of Swedish trio, Nikki and The Dove to the smack-in-the-face screeching dubstep of Skrillex landing at fifth and fourth place respectively, and the lurid rhymes of the already much-hyped Azealia Banks in third, we seem to have quite a mixed melting pot ready to be served to us this year.

 stream: Avicci - Levels (Skrillex remix)

second placed Frank Ocean is personally my favourite of the listed acts announced, the best thing about Odd Future, who were themselves heaped with unfathomable hype last summer, Ocean has been operating under the rader writing for Beyonce and John Legend, and made a transitional shift with his productions on Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch The Throne following on from his own unique nostalgia,ULTA mixtape that i have not been able to get enough of and have had on repeat in the months when the sun still shone, after delving deep and finding it languishing unheard on my generic mp3 player.

which brings us to the 'winner', Michael Kiwanuku, who i must admit to being rather ignorant of until december just past, and although he may not be as abrassive as Azealia Banks and Skrillex, nor as innovative as Frank Ocean, i can't help but like him.

perhaps i am mellowing as time passes ever faster, but Kiwanuku's music that i have heard so far is soothing and evocative, and a welcome change of pace from dance-hip-hop hybrids that clog the airwaves and a real 180 degrees about face from last years winner, Jessie J's upbeat urban-pop

musically, Michael Kiwanuku sits somewhere between Jack Johnson and Damian Rice in terms of style and may signal a revitalised male singer-songwriter presence in the mainstream, following on from the success of Ed Sheeran and wrestling attention away from the dominating female forces of previous winners Adele and Elle Goulding and 2009 runner-up Florence and the Machine.

releasing his music via the Communion label that was set up by Mumford and Sons' Ben Lovett (who were inescapable in 2010) and having supported Adele on tour in 2011, Kiwanuku will surely be on the right track for replicating the track records of both of these acts in 2012.