27 December 2008

Los Campesinos! - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Los Camp!. The second most punk rock band in Britain. The indiest band in Britain. More indie than The Smiths, more indie than The Cribs, more indie than the entire teenage population of Hoxton at an NME party watching Foals playing a cover of the Skins theme tune.. They're so indie that this isn't even an LP. According to them, it's an Extended EP. I think you get the point. Released only 8 months after their debut "Hold On Now, Youngster...", "WAB,WAD" represents a band maturing, growing yet still retaining what made them so special in the first place.

LC! specialise in the kind of wordy, studenty racket that typical Enemy/Oasis fans would hate. Their songs won't be shouted from terraces, sung badly on the way home from Yates's, and noone will be shaking anything to them at any 18ths. But just because LC! aren't in-yr-face mainstream doesn't mean they should be cast aside as a "weird indie band". In their own words, "we're undeveloped, we're ignorant, we're stupid, but we're happy."

Opening with "Ways To Make It Through The Wall"
, a swirling piece of electro bleeps, chugging guitars and self-loathing lyrics. Lines like "I identify my star sign by asking which is least compatible with yours" and "I think you've got it in for us/I think you've got it in for yourselves" gives the impression we have a second Morrissey on our hands. Gareth Campesinos! doesn't really cheer up much throughout the rest of the album (must have been a pretty bad 8 months since "HON,Y...") as you can see from song titles such as "Miserabilia". LC! seem intent on summing up the wasteland between teenagedom and adulthood in this album. How else can you describe a verse like this: "As if I walked into the room to see my ex-girlfriend/Who by the way, I'm still in love with/Sucking the face of some pretty boy with my favourite band's most popular song in the background/Is it wrong that I can't decide which bothers me most?"

It's not just the band's lyrics which are superb, the musicmanship has improved greatly from the debut. Where it once had to be everything playing at once in a joyous, overexcited racket, is now restrained or wild when it needs to be. The glockenspiels, keyboards and violins augment the typical guitar-bass-drums set up for the better and let the hardcore punk influence shine through without losing their twee edge or dampening the effect of the lyrics.

"We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed" could turn out to be a significant album for Los Campesinos!. With it's release method (only 5000 copies, free fanzine, DVD, poster and buttons, as well as no singles), it could see them go further into elite indie-ness, shunning the mainstream completely. Or they could possibly become, with an ever-growing fanbase and almost universal acclaim for the album, everyone's favourite outsiders, the underdogs of the 21st century indie scene. For now, they remain a wonderful secret for those who know of them.

9/10 (slightly late review...by 2 months)

23 December 2008

Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls

Imagine a female Cribs or Ramones or even an all girl early Green Day (Red Week? Sorry, gross joke if you get it, but had to make it). Now imagine them with a hell of a lotta feedback over the top. That's the pretty much what Brooklyn's Vivian Girls are all about. Lo-fi punk rock with heavenly harmonies chucked into the wall of sound. What sets them apart from the rest of the "girl power" bands (basically any band with a female member that's a bit "fiesty"), apart from having only two songs over the 3 minute mark on the entire album, is that they don't to be too bothered by anything, apart from making some good old punk rock. And I believe for that they should be applauded for that alone.

But that's not the only reason to praise the band. They squeeze more pure punk rock into 22 minutes than most bands fit into double albums. And hit a lot of reference points along the way. The albums sounds like one big jam session between The Ramones, My Bloody Valentine, The Shangri-Las, The Long Blondes, No Age, The Breeders and even The Smiths (on "Going Insane") and is all the better for it. The varied mix of influences adds up to some of the best punk songs and best melodies of the last few years from the alternative side of the world.


White Denim - Workout Holiday

Woohoo! Band you've never heard of time! Well unless you're the ultimate hipster around these parts (and being fair, I'm the only person to come close to fitting the criteria). White Denim are a garage band, but pretty much a world away from recent definitions of 'garage' music. They are not UK garage which was/is basically R&B but a little bit less radio-friendly. And they are not like the garage rock bands of the early 00's; not rich pretty boys with dollops of cool (The Strokes), booted and suited Scandinavians (The Hives), grungy Australians (The Vines) or a ex-husband-and-wife team in red (The White Stripes). They're pretty authentic. A joyous racket is the best way to describe them.

"Workout Holiday" starts off as you'd expect; loud and thrilling. "Let's Talk About It" which is rather good but overly long and the brilliant "Shake Shake Shake". But after those two singles, White Denim let their weird out. Normal song structures and pop conventions are thrown out of the window. For example, "Mess Your Hair Up" is an almost 5 minute long blues jam that evolves into some crazy freakout with an odd middle eighth (if it can be called that). Then straight after on "Heart From All Of Us", they turn their hand to countryfied pop-rock. But vocals only come into the track after 1 minute 48 seconds and last just over a minute. There must be some method in this madness.

And then to go even further, there's crazy time signatures or weird effects pedals on "Look That Way At It", I can't tell which. Either way it makes for a great instrumentla track. On the remainder of the album, the band goes from poppy (well for them anyways) Hives-esque tracks to slightly softer, soulful songs to somewhat experimental weirdness. Completely compelling and thrilling the whole way through. They may not be reinventing the wheel, but they're giving it another damn good spin.


Morrissey - I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris

Mozza. The Mozfather. The Pope of Mope. Il Mozalini. Steven Patrick. He goes by many names, but you'll always know it's him by the music. Ninth album "Years Of Refusal" is out next year on the 23rd of Feb (a nice birthday present for moi *hint*) and has a slightly odd cover. Make of that what you will. Anyway, back to the music. Lead single "....Paris" is a return to the "You Are The Quarry" territory instead of the calmer, loved up material of "Ringleader". It's typical Moz fare really; a hint of whimsy, good old glam rock guitar, a naggingly familiar melody and the usual feelings of longing, as exemplified in the chours "I'm throwing my arms around all of Paris/Because only steel and stone accept my love". It's slightly obvious that Mozza might have gone through a bit of relationship trouble over the last few years. Long may it continue if this prime piece of rock is the result. A case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".


Good Books - Manifesto

Yet another band to change their name recently (after Panic At The Disco dropped the "!" and The Muslims opted for the much-less contreversy-courting The Soft Pack), Good Books release their yet-to-be-titled second album on the 4th of May next year. Feautring on the album will be "Manifesto", a track which has magically found its way onto teh internetz. GBs first album was full of angular, bleepy math-pop (for want of a better description) but with some big, big choruses which hinted at a lot of potential and a move away from a new Foals.

"Manifesto" begins with the kind of strings you'd expect to hear James Morrison rasping over, but then suddenly bursts into a wall of synth, funky drums and impassioned vocals. To sound like NME, it's like Blaine Harrison from Myserty Jets singing with Glasvegas with Tony Allen on drums. Now back to the actual song. As it progresses, "Manifesto" shows more and more links to the type of melancholy anthemia we've come to expect from the likes of Arcade Fire and British Sea Power recently. If they continue down this route, then they certainly could follow those two into the indie big leagues.


20 December 2008

"With every bubble she sank with her drink..."

Yet another big hyped band for 2009, Florence and The Machine. Methinks she is being picked by most of the big tastemakers to hit the big time next year purely because of her slight kookiness and the fact that her two singles have been entirely different; "Kiss With A Fist" is a ramshackle rocker with a big chorus, "Dog Days Are Over" is a ukelele-using folky song with handclaps, harps and presumably the kitchen sink. Comparisons are being made to Kate Bush and any other female singer who writes her own songs and isn't a complete acoustic bore aimed at the over 40s who go to Glasto or a brainwashed, plastic pop princess. Whilst it remains to be seen wether Florence and her Machine will make it to the mainstream, two things I can say is that she knows her way around a tune and hasn't half got some lungs on her. And her cover of "You Got The Love" by The Source and Candi Staton is simply amazing.

8/10 (Dog Days Are Over)

White Lies - Album Tracks

Well what's this?! Two new White Lies tracks from the yet-to-be-released debut "To Lose My Life" have landed in my (virtual) lap. This is yet another album I'm excited for next year (I think I'm just excited for next year in general), although it's getting a hell of a lot of hype through various DJs and the music media in general which could set the band up for a biiiiiiiig fall.

Half the album is already floating around the blogosphere, so there's a pretty good idea of what it sounds like already. Here comes the bad part. The two leaked tracks "Fairwell To The Fairground" and "The Price Of Love" aren't really anywhere near the brilliance of White Lies' earlier songs. Both songs are near to the end of the album so should be grandiose, epic statements whilst showing some development for the band, but they just come off a bit avaerage considering the talent they've shown on "Unfinished Business" and "Death".

The "new Joy Division" tag is totally unfounded though as it is with the other two bands burdened with the comparison; Editors and Interpol. Whereas JD where claustrophobic, angular and menacingly melancholy, these three modern bands have much grander ambitions with a widescreen edge to their sound, whilst keeping the gloomy feeling and deep-voiced singer.

Anyway back to my point. "FTTF" is the weaker of the two songs, something which should have been left as a B-side as best. It's two clean, polished, too Radio One really. A better chorus would improve it vastly. "TPOL" is slightly better, much more of the White Lies formula. A slow burner which evolves into a typical big, bold album closer with a dashing of Morricone-esque strings for added effect. It's good, but not as good as expected.

6/10 (Fairwell To The Fairground)
7/10 (The Price Of Love)

18 December 2008

"C'mon let's get hiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh"

This may be old news but here's the covers for Franz Ferdinand's next album "Tonight:..." and the lead single "Ulysses"

I don't think I could be more excited for an album out next year, apart from a possible third from the Arctic Monkeys, which would make 2009 the best year ever, bar none.
Anyways back to my point. There's a free download of a live version of album track "What She Came For" on NME.com (and "Ulysses" is floating around the interweb somewhere), so I highly reccomend heading over there right now, as the track is immense. Starting off as your typical groovy Franz with a few synth lines thrown in for good measure, it builds to a killer chorus as the guitars and bass get ever more funky and the song reaches its end with a cacophony of distorted riff-ery. Almost perfect.


15 December 2008

One Month Off

No, not what I want for Christmas (that would be a new iPod) though I wouldn't say no to it really. It's the title of the latest Bloc Party single released from their third album, and sixth best of the year according to this very blog, "Intimacy". A mix of the crunching guitars and electronic paranoia of the band's first two albums with the new dancey direction, the song is a perfect vehicle for Kele Okereke's brilliant-as-always lyrics (trying not to get too far up BP's backsides here). It's a highlight of "Intimacy" and should win over anyone who lost faith in the Bloc after "Mercury" (which I think is a work of genius personally). "One Month Off" is also accompanied with a rather cool video, if not too subtle with it's political feel, which is slightly confusing as the song lyrics are more to do with yet another failed relationship with someone and have nowt to do with tanks appearing out of nothing.... ahh well, it's still pretty good.


14 December 2008

Mainly for my own benefit.....

...as I'll hopefully be going next year, but here's some possibilities for headliners and big acts playing Reading & Leeds 2009.

Kings Of Leon
  • Firmly planted in the mainstream as the new, big stadium band
  • Proven headliner credentials at Glasto last year
  • "Only By The Night" is specifically aimed for a sea of drunken festival goers
    Playing?: 9/10 Headlining?: 9/10
  • Festival veterans having headlined in 2006, and played two other times
  • Currently working on fifth album out in the second half of 2009 or early 2010, so might need a break from the studio
    Playing?: 6/10 Headlining?: 8/10

Franz Ferdinand
  • New album out early next year, their first in four years
  • Also headlined in 2006 and also played two times before
    Playing?: 7/10 Headlining?: 8/10

  • New album
  • Haven't played a festival in a while
  • It's Oasis
  • ...but might clash with their stadium tour
    Playing?: 6/10 Headlining?: 9/10?

  • Recently reformed
  • Huge fanbase
  • Possible clash with a future tour or may be headlining Glastonbury?
    Playing?: 5/10 Headlining?: 9/10

  • First British festival since the release of "In Rainbows"
  • Haven't played the festival in over a decade
  • Might headline Glasto instead
  • May not play any shows next year
    Playing?: 4/10 Headlining?: 9/10

Arctic Monkeys
  • It's Arctic Monkeys...
  • Possible third album next year
  • Haven't headlined Reading and Leeds yet
    Playing?: 7/10 Headlining?: 8/10

  • Apparently the biggest band of this year
  • Popular live
  • Good set at this years festival
    Playing?: 9/10 Headlining?: 6/10
The Cribs
  • Festival regulars
  • Possible new album; first with Johnny Marr
  • Not big/popular enough to headline
    Playing?: 8/10 Headlining?: 5/10
Manic Street Preachers
  • New album out; all lyrics written by Richey
  • Headlined the NME stage last year
  • Big enough back catlouge to headline
  • May not be touring next year out of respect to Richey.
    Playing?: 6/10 Headlining?: 6/10

  • Very popular
  • Not big enough for the main stage?
  • Not enough songs?
    Playing?: 8/10 Headlining?: 3/10
  • Big sound, perfect for festivals
  • Britain's best-loved band, according to NME
  • Either love them or hate them.
    Playing?: 8/10 Headlining?: 5/10
Kaiser Chiefs
  • Popular
  • Perfect festival band
  • Haven't played since 2006
  • New album not as good/popular as previous two
    Playing?: 7/10 Headlining?: 6/10
  • New album out next year
  • Becoming a regular on the festival circuit
  • Has only played R&L once in 2004, but didn't headline
    Playing?: 6/10 Headlining?: 6/10
The Strokes
  • First album in 3 years out next year possibly
  • Popular choice for headliner
  • Big enough back catalouge Playing?: 7/10 Headlining?: 6/10
Vampire Weekend
  • Highly popular at festivals this summer
  • Summery sound
  • Possible new album?
  • Not big enough to be main headliner?
    Playing?: 8/10 Headlining?: 6/10
The View
  • Popular at festivals
  • New album out early next year
  • Have never played the main stage
    Playing?: 7/10 Headlining?: 6/10

13 December 2008

Top 50 Albums of 2008

Obviously not copying this idea from any other recently released lists *ahem*. Here is my personal top fifty albums released this year, for your delectation/scrutiny....

  1. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend - Sound of the spring/summer/autumn/winter. They'll have a job bettering this.
  2. GlasvegasGlasvegas - Epic wall-of-sound debut from the Glaswegians, only improved by the Xmas mini album
  3. Foals - Antidotes - Who cares what Dave Sitek's mix sounded like when we got this classic instead?
  4. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive - Proving that age goes before beauty, their best album yet
  5. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires - Note to all DJs: all you need is this...
  6. Bloc Party - Intimacy - ...and maybe Bloc Party's third too
  7. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid - Totally worth the Mercury Prize. Guy Garvey is a totally underrated lyricist.
  8. Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip - Angles - Thou shalt buy this intelligent, catchy, dancey hip-hop album by any means possible. Thou shalt also not watch Hollyoaks.
  9. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago - If this is what breaking up a band, breaking up with your girlfriend and locking yourself away for a while produces, then the emo kids of today should produce some beautiful heartfelt albums in a few years.
  10. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster… -
  11. Pete And The Pirates – Little Death - A totally underrated band and album, cruelly over-looked by many critics, you'll find more hooks and bouncy indie-ness here than in the whole Kaiser Chiefs discography
  12. The CourteenersSt. Jude - The frontman may be called Liam and they may have the typical Manc swagger about them, but the Oasis comparisons end there. "St Jude" is easily better than virtually every Oasis record since 1997
  13. The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement - Proves that it doesn't have to be all scuzzy guitars and observational lyrics these days. Also proves that Alex Turner is a genius
  14. Late Of The Pier – Fantasy Black Channel - What new-rave did next? Well it seems it got a hell of a lot better and a hell of a lot stranger.
  15. Noah And The Whale – Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down - Bringing folk to the mainstream, along with having the tune of the summer (although it is a little aggravating now).
  16. Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul - A return to form (although the Gallaghers may disagree). some may describe them as Luddites but they're thrilling as ever, and who could say no to that?
  17. The FutureheadsThis Is Not The World - The big self-released comeback from the Mackems. Free from major label restraints and full of anthemic shouting. Heading for the stadiums
  18. The Killers – Day & Age - As camp as camp can be, a perfect blend of their back catalogue.
  19. LadyhawkeLadyhawke - Who knew worshipping the 80s could create such an album, packed to the brim with choruses as big as Beth Ditto
  20. Lightspeed Champion – Falling Off The Lavender Bridge - From pioneering new-rave to this; a lush, countrified debut, with some "interesting lyrics"
  21. The Teenagers – Reality Check - Filthy, fun and French. Not much to ask for really.
  22. Laura Marling – Alas, I Can Not Swim - Once again taking folk to the mainstream. An incredible talent for someone only a year older than me. That's quite a scary thought
  23. The Streets – Everything Is Borrowed - Gone are the geezer-ish references to modern life, and in comes the more spiritual Mike Skinner. It may not be the best move ever, but it works for the most part.
  24. Alexis Blue – Hypothetical Situations - Not enough good things to say about AB and their debut. Bouncy indie pop thrills and dark, clever lyrics mix in the best way since The Smiths
  25. The Cool Kids – The Bake Sale - More than just mere 80's revivalists, they take down the image of hip-hop hardmen to rap about bike and Fruity Pebbles. Not exactly gangsta but still pretty great.
  26. Frank Turner – Love, Ire & Song - Hardcore punk frontman turns acoustic troubadour. Works brilliantly.
  27. The Rascals - Rascalize - Or Miles Kane's other band. They may not be as grandiose as the Puppets, but "Rascalize" is definitely worth checking for Kane's guitar work and dark-as-night lyrics alone.
  28. Mystery Jets – Twenty One - Dropping the dad proved a good move for the Jets; coming over all 80's and providing two big summer hits with "Young Love" and the inescapable "Two Doors Down"
  29. No Age – Nouns - An even bigger wall of sound than Glasvegas and about 10 times as experimental. A definite improvement on debut "Weirdo Rippers"
  30. Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night - So the move to stadiums and headlining spots hasn't exactly proved popular with most "proper" fans, but it's hard to argue with the quality of the first half of the album.
  31. SantogoldSantogold - The album may be overshadowed by "L.E.S. Artistes" but it's definitely worth checking out for genre shattering songs such as "Creator" and "Say Aha"
  32. Hot Chip – Made In The Dark - The Chip had a lot to live up to considering the praise bestowed upon "The Warning", but they came back even stronger, with more dancefloor-slaying tunes than you could shake a fist at.
  33. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular - Personally I can't see how this is deserving of the adulation most critics have given it. Without the three hits; "Kids", "Electric Feel" and "Time To Pretend", it wouldn't be nearly as good.
  34. Eugene McGuinness – Eugene McGuinness - Charming pop from the almost-nomadic singer, featuring his wonderful turn of phrase and sense of humour.
  35. Does It Offend You, Yeah? – You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into… - Silly band name aside, DIOYY have created an odd but surprisingly brilliant mix of Daft Punk, Klaxons, The Prodigy and a bit of the Killers too.
  36. Black Kids – Partie Traumatic - They might not have lived up to the mountain of hype, but "Partie Traumatic" still remains a fun, party album with some future classics
  37. Blood Red Shoes – Box Of Secrets - Angst-ridden, grungy rock hasn't been too popular for the last 15 years, but this duo could change that with shouty, ever-so-slightly angular rockers such as "It's getting boring by the Sea"
  38. Albert Hammond Jr – ¿Como Te Llama? - The Strokes' man's second album is just as good as his first, and even better than some of his own bands. This is either good or bad news for their new album next year
  39. Panic At The Disco – Pretty. Odd. - Well it's definitely odd. Panic drop the "!" and the bland emo for a psychedelic, Beatles-inspired second album which suits them perfectly. Wonder what the next reinvention will be....
  40. Those Dancing Days – In Our Space Hero Suits - Yet another Swedish indie-pop band. They must have the copyright to this kind of stuff. Like Pete And The Pirates, ignored by the masses, but deserving of all the praise they can get for their perfect pop nuggets
  41. Weezer – The Red Album - The third colour coded album from Weezer and just as good. Rivers Cuomo produces yet another classic chorus on "Pork And Beans" and the entire band collaborates for the highly strange yet oddly great "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived"
  42. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst - The Bright Eyes leader breaks away for his first proper solo debut. Pretty similar to his main band in places, but with added glam influences and a bit of good ol' 50's rock 'n' roll thrown into the mix
  43. Johnny Foreigner – Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light - Suspiciously similar to Los Campesinos! in an achingly indie way at times, but they break out into their own style of jittery punk on their solid debut album.
  44. Wild Beasts – Limbo, Panto - Prettier and odder than "Pretty. Odd." itself, the Leeds band's debut is reminiscent of The Smiths in places, and has potential to go just as far.
  45. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak - It might not be the best direction he could have taken (let's face it, miserable hip-hop isn't the greatest idea) but it leaves the door open for Kanye to truly become the innovative genius he likes to think he is.
  46. Nick Cave – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! - The godfather of post-punk and most things dark and gloomy returns with a garage rock album to blow the socks off most pretenders, showing he's lost none of his talent.
  47. Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head - A Hollywood starlet making an album of Tom Waits covers. If that didn't seem surreal enough, add in David Bowie singing on some tracks and there you have it. Obviously it doesn't quite reach the heights of the originals, but still worth a listen.
  48. Snow Patrol A Hundred Million Suns - The bane of hipsters and most indie kids alike, they don't quite escape the shadow of "Chasing Cars" but it's a good enough effort, almost a return to their roots.
  49. Tokyo Police Club – Elephant Shell - aka if The Strokes were still young, fresh and actually making albums. May grate a little but deserving of further listens.
  50. Coldplay – Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends - Another love-to-hate band of the alternative set. The French revolutionary outfits may be trying to hard, but the album cemented them as one of the biggest bands of the modern era.
So congrats to Vampire Weekend. Pretty much the band of 2008 (not sure what everyone else is on about with MGMT...) but not without some tough competition. All in all, a pretty good year, bring on 2009!

11 December 2008

"Never exist without being generic, you have to impress our bovine public"

Recently quite a few bands have come back with big albums, usually their third or fourth effort, only for it to be a letdown. Kaiser Chiefs, The Verve, Kings Of Leon, Fall Out Boy, The Killers, Bloc Party, Snow Patrol. All their latest albums have failed in one way or another, be it critically, commercially or with hardcore fans. Now this may be because of hype generated by the media or the high quality of previous albums, but it's starting to become a worrying trend (well certainly for me), especially for some bands I hold dear. Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes will be releasing their third and fourth albums respectively next year, and whilst all signs point towards two classic albums, there could still be a chance of them flopping (a much bigger worry for The Strokes, considering the year long hiatus). But the main casue for concern is The Cribs. Whilst there is no news on any new material, it is certain that 2009 will see a new Cribs release. This is significant as guitar legend and God in general, Johnny Marr has joined their ranks. The possibilities are almost endless and the outcome is bound to be genius, but some parallels are starting to worry me, especially with Kings Of Leon.

The Followill clan's third effort "Because Of The Times" showed a definite change of direction for the band, one that diverted from their roots but not by much, and won them a bigger audience with their best collection of songs yet. This year, the band has grown even bigger, becoming chart-toppers and Glasto headliners, yet fourth album "Only By The Night", whilst thrusting them into the glare of the mainstream, was their weakest album to date and lost them much of their original fanbase. Now The Cribs last album "Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever" was also the band's best collection of songs yet, with a change in direction but not too big of a change. See the similarity?

Despite the involvement of Marr, most signs point towards a slip-up in terms of quality. The one new song that has been widely heard is "Victims Of Mass Production", which is pretty much what you'd expect from a Cribs/Marr collaboration; all jangly guitar, razor sharp riffing and massive hooks. But the subject matter (fake, generic indie bands. Oh hai Pigeon Detectives and Razorlight!) has already been covered by the band twice in the last year or so. A lack of ideas for the Jarman brothers? Could they be getting too caught up in their War On Fake Indie (© NME 2007) that they're turning into what they hate? Or is it just a massive fan getting a little worried about some coincidences? We'll have to wait and see...

Joseph, Better You Than Me

Las Vegas' own The Killers. The Queen Mother of pop, Elton John. Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant. All together singing a Christmas charity song. This could me much camper if they recorded it in a pink tent in Elton's bedroom. It really shouldn't work either, and it almost doesn't. The levels of kitsch and bombast are almost off the scale, but the song just plods along, with no real chorus or hook to drive it forward. Just the attraction of some of the the campest artists in the music business. It lacks the kookiness of last year's effort "Don't Shoot Me Santa" and the general festive overload of 2006's "A Great Big Sled". But then again, how interesting can a song about Jesus' dad be anyway? Ahh well it's for charity, so may as well go download it.


Cash In My Pocket

You remember Wiley. The guy who was rapping about his Rolex during summer? Got to like Number 2 in the charts? Anyways, his latest single "Cash In My Pocket" is even better than "Rolex", despite the fact that Mark Ronson and Daniel Merriweather were involved with it. A funky, soulful slice of "grime" with a helping of brass (not an overload, but just enough to compliment the track) and a great hook sung by Merriweather (almost enough to forgive him fo destroying "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before"), it deserves to be a massive dancefloor hit. Oh, and the video is a work of total genius too.


7 December 2008

The Fear

Stop the presses! Lily Allen in doing-something-worthy-of-merit shocker! For the last year or so, the gobby queen of the LDN scene hasn't really done much other than get drunk, get angry and blog. It's been 877(!) days since her debut "Alright, Still" came out (and even longer since biggest hit "Smile"), which was full of ska-pop tunes which soundtracked that summer.But all that's changed now. Gone is the cod-reggae and Vicky Pollard image, and in comes synth-pop and a more mature, wiser Lily. Starting off with soft acoustic guitar plucking and lyrics which are about as sarcastic as me, Chandler Bing and Bill Hicks in a room together.

It's pretty clear that Ms. Allen has the lobotomised, reality TV-adoring Barbies of the world (well hello, Pussycat Dolls) in her sights, and so she should too. For far too long, Big Brother wannabees have been clogging up pretty much every media outlet in the country and it's time for it too stop.

The song goes on with increasing levels or cynicism and sarcasm, bursting into an electro-pop stomper of a chorus, talking about the "fear" of the current celeb-fuelled world. I think I can smell another Number One going Lily Allen's way with this single. In terms of electro-pop, if this is any indicator of the quality of "It's Not Me, It's You", then Franz Ferdinand will have a struggle on their hand to better it.


Folie A Deux

"Nobody wants to hear you sing about tragedy". So goes "Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes", the first song from Fall Out Boy's latest album. Dontcha just love irony? Going on general opinion, FOB aren't the most popular band around at the minute, unless you're a 12-18 year old girl with a rainbow coloured range of skinny jeans, ears with more holes than Swiss cheese and a hairspray addiction that could be the reason for global warming. But it appears that there's an actual army (rivalling the MCRmy) of these girls buying FOB albums, explaining why they've become so popular in the last 3/4 years.

"Folie A Deux" means in English "a madness shared by two". Some of you may be thinking, "why could they just have kept their 'madness' to themselves?" But then who would we have clogging up various MTV channels, and who would the hardcore metalheads/hipsters hate for the next two or three years?

FOB have definitely become a guilty pleasure for people with taste. They're undeniably catchy but so's chlamidya. There's something about Pete Wentz too, he was meant to be the freaky, geeky outsider who listened to Morrissey. Yet now he's a multi-millionaire, emo pin up, record label boss and he's getting married to Ashlee Simpson. Methinks something doesn't add up here.

Anyways back to the album. All I can really say is average. It's got the usual pop-rock anthemics, trampling over the grave of punk, though where as the last album had more of a hip-hop influence on it, "Folie A Deux" aimed straight for the pop charts. But this is where it fails. It's a mess of bad lyrics, overthought musical ideas and an oveload of guest stars (Brendon Urie, Pharell, Debbie Harry, whatshisface from Gym Class Heroes, even Elvis bloody Costello). I don't even want to reference any individual songs since they're all one big mess of powerchords and utterly bad titles ("Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet"? What in the name of Joe Strummer is that?). Only the first 3 or 4 songs hold my attention the whole way through, and even they're pretty blah really.

I must admit I'm a fan of FOB. Not in the "OMG I luv dem!!11one1 fob rawkk, peet wents if fit" way (those kind of people should be rounded up and locked in an underground bunker), but I appreciate that they know a good pop tune/melody when it hits their lugholes. Saying that, their apparent "gift" has deserted them this time around, with a complete lack of hits here. The last two albums had, and I may get some stick for this, some solid gold pop/rock/emo classics in the shape of "Dance, Dance" and "This Ain't A Scene..." whereas now all we have is "I Don't Care", which a lobotmised sloth could have written. At least there'll be a good few years before the next album.


2 December 2008

A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss...)

Sick of the usual saccharine Christmas songs trotted out every year? "All I Want For Christmas Is You"? "Wonderful Christmastime"? "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"? Do you tend to get nicknames such as Scrooge or Grinch around this time of year? Well Glasvegas' new mini-album is perfect for you!

It's not exactly your typical Xmas album as such, apart from the mention of snowflakes, Christmas, a few bells tossed in here and there, and it being released on the 1st of December. Oh, and a cover of Silent Night featuring a Romanian choir. Like I said, this isn't a typical yuletide album. The six songs on "ASF(AIFLAK)", in my mind, tell the story of the break-up of a relationship, from bitter arguments ("Fuck You, It's Over") to having nowhere to go and sleeping on the streets ("Cruel Moon" and the title track). You wouldn't really expect anything less from the Glaswegians; they weren't going to be covering "Frosty The Snowman".

The songs have also been stripped of Glasvegas' usual wall of sound and reverb, using just keys, piano and vocals on most of the tracks. That said, single "Please Come Back Home" definitely stands out as the typical heart rendering anthem from the Scots, and is likely to be their third big hit. The most unusual move on the album has to be the cover of "Silent Night". Beginning as a sparse lament, using just James Allan's vocals and a sombre piano, it's possibly the most depressing thing the 'Vegas have recorded. Until the choir starts up, lending a sense of hope and humanity to the song. A Romanian choir singing "Silent Night"...you won't get that with whoever wins X Factor. If it ever happens live, it could be the best gig ever.


"Rick Astley? Have you seen this banal incubus at work?"

^^ To quote the late, great Bill Hicks.
For those of you who hadn't heard, Rick Astley personally "rick-rolled" the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade...

Can we now officialy declare this fad/craze/meme/whatever dead now? Seriously.

30 November 2008

MMVIII: next big things

White Lies
Just think what a wonderful concoction this would be; Joy Divison, The Smiths, The Cure, U2. Now imagine if such a band was a reality. You'd have White Lies then. Their songs are epic, yet dark and disturbing. Name another band who would write a song about a ghost coming back to visit his lover/murderer? Exactly, none. They just sound like they're built for the arenas and stadiums of the world, and their guitar parts don't sound like they're written using fucking algebra.

Cheeky Cheeky & The Nosebleeds
English music has long been devoid of a band with a proper sense of humour. I guess you could class Hadouken! as a sick hipster joke, but I'm talking about a band who's songs are as funny as they are great. I think The Nosebleeds are just that band, ready to take the long-dusty crown of odd-pop once held by the likes of XTC, Talking Heads, Wire and Elvis Costello. Musically they may sound a bit identikit, but they'll be big

Okay, she's pretty big already in indie circles, but 2009 is the year where she'll explode into the mainstream. Her eponymous debut is stuffed to the brim with solid gold, 80's-indebted pop hits, all deserving of as much praise as possible. Latest single My Delirium is just one example of the girl's talent for melody and pure tuneage.


Part emo, part indie, part epic pop, Grammatics aren't your usual blogosphere darlings. They won't exactly be soundtracking any Skins episodes or England sporting failure. But they'll gain a massive following if their album lives up to internet hype. The bass is scuzzy, the drums are complex, the guitars have the tone of typical emo band, the vocals are strained, the keys and strings are mournful. It sounds like it shouldn't work, but it does

The Chapman Family
To some they're "The worst band I have ever seen...an abomination". To others, they're the new Manics; snarling, sloganeering, superb. Back in reality, The Chapman Family aren't either, if I'm being honest. Although they have elements of the Manics (loud, angry, amazing, dumb punk fun), they are their own beast. One with the chance to become a highly important band during these "crunching" times.

Twisted Wheel
Successors to Oasis' lad-rock crown? Well according to a lot of critics, they probably are (after The Enemy, Kasabian, The View etc etc). In my opinion, they only have one good song at the moment; "Lucy The Castle" (although it sounds suspiciously like "Suffragette City" by Bowie) The rest sound like The Clash if they were utter garbage really. But they must have some appeal with the masses. If they pick up a bit of studio sheen and songwriting nous from supporting Oasis, their debut album could be pretty good.

Alexis Blue
Right, if they don't get big in the next 396 days, then I'll eat my hat! I don't even have a hat to eat, I'm going to have go out and buy one, just to eat it! AB have all the right ingredients for success but for some reason, not many people seem to have picked up on it, or at least noone with a whole lot of power within the music industry. I urge anyone reading this to check them out, as your musical taste will improve vastly.

29 November 2008

MMVIII: songs

Vampire Weekend - A-Punk
As previously mentioned, "A-Punk" is pretty much the song of the summer, possibly even the year. The song that brought the band to a much, much wider audience than they would have reached had they become permanent residents of the blogosphere (I'm looking at you, Black Kids). A hit at with indie disco regulars, the chavvy ringtone crew, the Tesco mums and pretty much everyone, despite none of them having a clue what is being said throughout. the infectious "Hey hey hey hey!" chorus means the song latches onto your memory and doesn't let go. An antidote to the current hard times from the anti-Strokes, who are even more brilliant.

Keane - Spiralling
Well this was a surprise. Keane; the purveyors of banal, bland, inoffensive, piss-poor piano pop come out with a heavily 80s influenced monster of a choon, basslines and a riff that Franz Ferdinand would be proud of. Although not representative of the album as a whole, it's a song for the clubs, and for house parties, yet like "A-Punk", has pretty universal appeal. Still can't stand them though.

Hot Chip - Ready For The Floor
Starts of as typical Hot Chip and develops into the perfect pop song. Melodious, dreamy, yet definitely danceable. Alexis Taylor's vocals are dreamy and gentle, just on the right side of twee; a direct contrast to the clunky beats and funky synths behind. Add to that a scattering of guitar and a chorus that grows and grows on you, deserving to be heard by everyone.

Glasvegas - Flowers & Football Tops
For any band, it takes some confidence to put a song of four and a half minutes on your debut album, as this is the one thing that can make or break your career. But to have an almost 7 minute song as the opener of your album, and the first minute and 17 seconds of that as just feedback and noise takes cajones the size of the moon. That's what Glasvegas did in "F&FT". Based on the racial murder of a Glasgow schoolboy, the song goes through the heartbreak of losing a son, with a Spector-ish "Wall of Sound" and James Allan's unmistakable Glaswegian brogue. But it's the last two minutes where the song really turns epic. The drums stop and the feedback continues into "You Are My Sunshine" which cannot be described in word without sounding like hyperbole. But it definitely lives up to hype.

Friendly Fires - Paris
A few years ago, Franz Ferdinand were making the dancefloor seems like the greatest invention ever. Fast forward to now and a different FF are doing the exact same, but not with guitars; with cowbells, plenty of drums, and wave after wave of synth. This band is Friendly Fires. Three lads from St. Albans making a combination of shoegaze, disco and dance may not sound too appealing, but on "Paris", they show that it's a damn good idea. Romantic as can be in it's lyrics ("Every night, we can watch the stars/They'll be out for us") with a wall of noise not entirely dissimilar to Glasvegas, but much more lush and softer. It's as perfect a song can get, like a smoother, cooler brother of "Ready For The Floor"

Late Of The Pier - Heartbeat
LOTP have been described in many ways. From "the future of new rave" to "making Hadouken! look good", nothing really seems to suit them. Trying to pigeonhole them is as hard as trying to keep Pete Doherty off smack or getting Jordan to keep her clothes on, and this is no more evident than on their last and best single. Starting off sounding like a long lost Killers track with a megaton of synth, it suddenly moves into "Paranoid Android" territory and then straight into a manic chorus mix of Klaxons and The Strokes. By the end of the song, we've gone through MGMT, Radiohead, RATM and end on a Muse style rock-out. Genius.

Kings Of Leon - Sex On Fire
You can't deny how good this song actually is. It may not have too much hidden meaning and isn't exactly pushing any musical boundaries, but it has possibly the most bizzare chorus of any Number One of recent times (I'm just guessing here, but actual sex on fire must hurt. A lot). It's a simple slice of stadium rock, something to dance badly to at eighteenths, to bellow with mates whilst walking home from a night out, to "headbang" to in your room while noone's around.

The Teenagers - Homecoming
Not something you'd want to listen to around anyone who's offended easily. Fifteen utterances of "naughty" words, most of them pretty strong. Starting off almost like Joy Division, "Homecoming" quickly changes into sleazy Gallic mode with a pretty simple story; boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy only wants her for sex, boy and girl get it on, boy leaves. I suppose it could be described as most teenage lads dream really....well maybe not most....*ahem*. Anyway, it's basically a slightly cynical, slightly bitter, very dirty take on 21st Century relationships. Either that or just a chance to say some rude words in a pop song

Elbow - One Day Like This
Mercury Prize winners or not, this is still a brilliant song, Elbow's first big hit after 18 years as a band. The swirling strings, the dashings of piano every now and again, and Guy Garvey's brilliant lyrics ("Kiss me like we die tonight...") all combine to make a modern-day "Hey Jude"...well almost. A gospel added to the coda gives the song an almost hymn-like feel. It's something that's perfect for the festival crowds and will be a classic in years to come.

White Lies - Death.
In 2009 White Lies will be big. Actually scrap that, they're big now. Well in terms of their sound anyways. Sonically huge. A brooding bassline that Peter Hook will kicking himself for not thinking up, the crunch of guitar that aren't "angular" or "arty" for the first time in 4 years, a quivering string section, drums pounded to within an inch of their life. These are the ingredients to one of the best songs of the year, the exact opposite to the bright and breezy "A-Punk". "Death" unashamedly has its roots firmly in the 80s, but is also definitely now. By the end of next year, White Lies will be on everyones lips.

27 November 2008

MMVIII: albums

We're approaching December, the end of a rather enjoyable year in terms of music (not so much when talking about the economy). Since there aren't any major, major albums being released from now until 2009 (well apart from Fall Out Boy's Foile A Deux, but the less said about that, the better) I thought I'd give a review of the past 331 days, starting with albums....


Glasvegas - Glasvegas
called them "Britain's best loved band". That may not strictly be true (as I can't find anyone who wants to go to see them in 2 weeks), they have the potential to become an classic band. An intriguing mixture of The Clash, The Jesus And Mary Chain and Oasis, the band tell stories of life on the streets of Glasgow, from absent fathers to knife crime, all under shimmering guitars, rumbling bass and thundering drums. "A furious Wall of Sound" in their own words, and one that's here to stay.

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
A hefty dollop of prime American rock, following on from their breakthrough third album Boys And Girls In America. Craig Finn's distinctive Boston drawl and clever lyrics drives the songs across Stay Positive. Fans of the band will know what to expect musically; crunchy riffs, Slash-like solos, E Street-channeling piano. but a few curveballs are thrown every now and again, showing the progression of the band since their debut, and where they're headed. A harpsichord on "One For The Cutters", an amazing talkbox solo during "Joke About Jamaica" and the Zeppelin-like "Both Crosses". It's an album packed with future classics from a band destined for stadiums and headline slots, but the best is save for last on "Slapped Actress". The
pièce de résistance and closing track, it sums up everything great about The Hold Steady; clever, catchy rock anthems. And who could say no to that?

Bloc Party - Intimacy
The Bloc should be commended for this album, and not just for it's content. Released online a few months before physically going on sale, it was a brave move for the band, this being only their third album. But the move has paid off as the album was acclaimed by both fans and critics alike (although some might disagree) for the new dancefloor-centric direction of the album. There was much grumbling from fanboys over lead single "Mercury", despite it not even being one of the best tracks on the album, but still a piece of genius in my opinion. "Intimacy" swings from Klaxon-aping choons such as "Ares", to heartfelt dance-balladry in "Signs" (did I just create a genre? I think I'm turning into NME) and finally, to a perfect distillation of every element of Bloc Party, "Talons". The jittery post-post-punk guitar, intricate and danceable beat and Kele's angsty howl (which is a good thing).

Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster...

The jerky indie-punk continues with the debut from the Cardiff seven piece (although none of them actually come from Cardiff). Drawing their inspiration from hardcore punk bands such as Black Flag to classic indie bands like Pavement and The Fiery Furnaces, they make an absolutely wonderful racket. Not something you'll ever find on Radio 1, but they don't seem to care. They revel in obscurity and going against the norm (they've released their second album just last month, although it doesn't match up to this). They could be classified as typically studenty, but they're far too good for that tag.

Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires

Imagine a band who's primary influences are dance music, "lush shoegaze melodies" and classic pop. That's Friendly Fires. All the euphoria of a late 80's rave with carnival spirit and massive pop hooks, from 3 guys from St. Albans. I guess in a sentence the album is a anthemic cowbell-heavy party record for anytime of the year. Latest single "Paris" is definitely a contender for song of the year, if the past 8 years .

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

After the breakup of his band, his relationship and a bout with illness, Justin Vernon left his home and moved into his father's cabin in the woods of northern Wisconsin. Not intending to write any music at all during that time, he came out with this beautiful album. Only 9 tracks long but full of haunting vocals and sparse acoustic guitar, it's destined to become a classic album. Highlights include "Skinny Love" and the sublime "Re: Stacks", which may sound like it should be on the soundtrack to House or something...mainly because it has been. But don't let that deter you from "For Emma, Forever Ago". It may not be zeitgeist-straddling indie rock or the soundtrack to your next rave, but it's just as good as any of the bands that fit into those categories.

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Angles

Looking at the two of them, you wouldn't think that they're one of the best hip-hop groups in Britain, but trust me they are. Le Sac and Pip first came to people's attention with their underground hit "Thou Shalt Always Kill" late last year (don't worry Daily Mail readers, that doesn't mean the country's teenagers are going to go on a kill crazy rampage, "kill" means do your best on stage), a satirical attack on 21st Century Britain that sometimes contradicts but never bores. Slaying the legends of music ("The Beatles: just a band...The Clash: just a band"), it proves that Le Sac & Pip are planning on staying for a while and the rest of the album will help them to do just that. They're a hip-hop act with some soul; a rare thing these days, as shown on the title track and various others. Their fingers are on the pulse of modern day Britain, and coupled with a keen wit and some ingenious beats/sampling, they've created something different and even more brilliant for it

Foals - Antidotes
Ahhh one of the biggest hype bands of 2008 definitely came up with the goods, but they differed to people's expectations. Drafting in producer du jour Dave Sitek may have been a step in the wrong direction, seeing as his mix apparently was too reverb-y and sounded like it had been "recorded in the Grand Canyon". But what eventually ended up on the record is a totally different beast to the demos and earlier singles. Of course there's still dancefloor hits in the likes of "Cassius" and "Balloons" but the rest of the tracks have a Radiohead-ish feel too them. Intricate beats and guitar work intertwining with obscure, opaque lyrics ("the lighthouse is an accident" anyone?). Another unexpected addition to the band's canon was a brass section. Trumpets and saxophones augment quite a few early tracks without changing Foals' blueprint for "ballet with beats" and add something different to them; something to keep them apart from the math-rock/indie chasing pack

Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Not just here because of their Mercury triumph (although that was what got me to listen to their album the whole way through and actually listen), Elbow have achieved overnight success after 18 years of hard work. And you can't say they don't deserve it. Just based on this album alone, they should be headlining festivals left right and centre, such is the anthemic, hug-yer-mates-but-in-a-manly-way quality of the songs on the album. Guy Garvey's lyrics border on classic throughout, especially on "One Day Like This", Elbow's "first big hit". "The Seldom Seen Kid" almost borders on epic, such is the arrangement of many of the songs; luscious strings, pounding drums and a bonafide anthem in "Grounds For Divorce". Elbow look set to grow and grow in stature in the future

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

The final of the big three hype bands this year. The preppy purveyors of
Afrobeat-inflected college indie were pretty much the suprise package in terms of albums. They had little hype before "Vampire Weekend" was released, and only then did it pass by word of mouth across this here blogosphere (that's such an oxymoron, I know). Coming out in January, it didn't seem too likely that it would last the distance, but the quailty of the record made sure it did. Which other record in the past...well...50 years of rock 'n' roll references the Falklands War and modern architecture in the first track? Exactly, none (that I know of). The album is packed to the brim with the ultimate summer songs; both laid-back and bouncy. One of which is pretty much a defining song of the year: A-Punk. It may haunt the band for years to come, but I doubt they'll care. Most people may not have a clue what Erza Koenig is singing about, but they're damned if they care. It's too joyous of a song really. I could waffle on about every song on the album, but I'd bore you so I'll leave it at that.


Hadouken! - Music For An Accelrated Culture
Only if your culture is as accelerated as the school bus for Ronald House at a red light, really. Basically H! are a bunch of wannabee LDN scene kids, who think that rapping about house parties, getting wasted and basically what they see in the capital. Which obviously isn't too inspiring to them. Hell, even Razorlight's thrid album was better than this mush. Without James Smith rambling his way over the top, the band do have some good riffs and songs in them, but it's just their need to be "down wid da kidz" that ruins them. Namechecking such 21st Century innovations as the iTunes library, MySpace profile songs, MSN Messenger, Trojan viruses, and ringtones will jsut date them even quicker than expected. I can only hop the credit crunch gets to them sooner rather than later.

A lot of albums were hyped up beyond belief this year, with only a few weathering the media storm. One band who didn't make it were Kings Of Leon, the one time ramshackles "Southern Strokes". On thrid album "Because Of The Times", they changed their image to a slick arena rock band and it definitely worked for them. But this years fourth effort "Only By The Night" may change the band forever. The songs are more streamlined, the writing less interesting and their image is that of a rough boy band really. The album continues their "half good, half bad" formula, and basically, they're writing songs for U2 now. It may have won them a Number One and a lot of new "different" fans, but it's lost them a hell of a lot of old ones. Another over-hyped album from the last 12 months is "Off With Their Heads" by Kaiser Chiefs. You'd think with their Elland Road homecoming gigs, McCartney support slot and the help of Mark Ronson, they'd have come up with something more that "What do you want for tea/I want crisps!". Undoubtedly they'll continue to get bigger by the album, but once again the songs may suffer as a result.

Reviews of: 2008's best songs, best bands and tips for next year coming soon!