13 July 2009

>>>TRACKS>>>13/07/09>>>Dizzee Rascal, Jay-Z, Bloc Party, The Big Pink, The Twang

Dizzee Rascal - Holiday (featuring Calvin Harris and Chrome)
Just over a year since "Dance Wiv Me", Dizzee unleashes a second collaboration with Chrome and kinda-crap, kinda-alright dance-master Calvin Harris. Less immediate than "Dance..." and "Bonkers", the synth riff is pretty much Harris' "I'm Not Alone" but toned down slightly, whilst Dizzee sounds half asleep throughout the track. Only when it gets a bit trance at the end does it really grab any attention. Not sure if it'll be a third Number One in a row for Dizzee, but it'll be a hit either way.

Jay-Z - D.O.A (Death Of Auto-tune)
Anyone who witnessed the opening to his Glasto set last year will testify that Jay-Z cannot sing, so why his comeback single denounces something to help people sing better is a bit baffling to say the least. Anyways, it's more a "diss" (yeah I can't pull that off) on the plethora of rappers using it; Kanye, T-Pain, Lil' Wayne et al. The great guitar riff and tumbling drum beat make for an addictive tune, as well as the jazzy trumpet breaks. If this really is the "Death of Auto-tune" then good riddance.

Bloc Party - One More Chance
The ever changing Bloc are back, with their third one-off single (after previous in-between-album singles Two More Years and Flux). Those of you hoping for a return for the spiky post-punk of Silent Alarm may as well just give up, as Kele & co seem intent on delving deeper into a dance direction. All the elements are there, a "Blue Monday"-aping beat, the classic house piano riff, a pitch-shift on the vocals and an overly-repetitive chorus. If it was released about 20 years ago, it'd be a classic today. But seeing as it's Bloc Party and a significant amount of fans want the band to stick to the same formula as their debut, it'll most likely be viewed in the same light as "Mercury"; messy, mediocre and a mistake. Even though it's better than most of "Intimacy" and is up there with their best work, fanboys are rarely pleased.

The Big Pink - Stop The World
First came the superb "Velvet", and now this. The Big Pink are much too kind. "Stop The World" is a whirlwind of hypnotic feedback, heavy drums and one massive chorus, as well as being strangely uplifting despite the seriousness it purports. As dancey as it is moody thanks to the pulsating bass, TBP should be huge by the time their album arrives, even bigger than Glasvegas were hyped up to be last year. B-side "Crushed Water" is a more spaced out affair, sounding a bit like Massive Attack, a bit like Foals, but completely unique at the same time. This is a special band so hop on the bandwagon whilst you can.

The Twang - Barney Rubble
Remember them? A gang of 40 year old Brummies (well they're closer to 40 than 20) who NME salviated over a few years back, calling them "the best band in Britain" and making Stone Roses and Happy Mondays comparisons. Yet another case of NME getting way too worked up and messing it's pants over a merely "alright" band. But The Twang have soldiered on through the mass derision and return with a summery shuffle. They haven't reinvented the musical wheel and they're not making zeitgeist-riding, seminal music, but they weren't doing that in the first place and never will. Just enjoy it as something that is positive, pleasant and pretty good.
Little Boots vs Florence vs La Roux

So it's finally happened. After all the hype, tentative interviews, glamourous photoshoots and all the other bollocks that comes with showbiz, the "Three Hot Ones To Watch in Pop 2009" Little Boots, La Roux and Florence & The Machine have finally all released their albums for public consumption on the derision of music snobs (a.k.a me). Impressively Little Boots and Florence have both made the Top 5 in the Album Charts, but La Roux has grabbed a Number One single which puts her in pole position to become the biggest of the three. But enough chit-chat.

Big catchy pop tunes, a few of which are better than anything Girls Aloud have released (excluding "Love Machine"). "Stuck On Repeat" is one of the pop singles of the year, without a doubt and succeeds where Madonna and Kylie have failed recently in crafting pure electro-pop that is actually worth listening to. Similarly "Meddle" shows Little Boots' talent for a big pop hook, as does "New In Town". But that's all "Hands" is really, choruses. Even Steps and S Club Juniors could do choruses! Even whilst listening to it now, I can't remember "New In Town"'s verses. When she decides to get a bit ravey (e.g. the intro and chorus to "Earthquake") Little Boots has tunes to rule the charts and the clubs. But whilst she decides to peddle schlock like the overly-80s and tired Symmetry, which features The Human League's Phil Oakley (sample lyrics "You're the night to my day/And the left to my right". Anyone else have an almost jaw-breaking yawn at that?) she'll unfortunately be stuck dangerously close to the pop scrapheap. I'd advise sticking to singles, but then again I have no bearing over anything in music really...at least she's better than The Saturdays.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "New In Town", "Earthquake", "Stuck On Repeat"
FOR FANS OF: Madonna, Kylie, Girls Aloud anything big and shiny and pop


Or the non-electronic one as she may be seen as. Barely a hint of synth or keyboard anywhere on this album, which leaves Florence seeming more human, more real than tired, boring mainstream pop (Little Boots) or cold, expressionless 80s revivalism (La Roux). Oh, and the fact that she dress like a woodland sprite and is a mainstay on the London scene, but we'll brush past that. "Lungs" is the most ambitious out of the three, with some big orchestral ideas just beneath that "modern Kate Bush" exterior. "Dog Days Are Over" and "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" should be pretty familiar to anyone who's listened to Radio 1/read NME in the last year, as they showcase Flo's good set of lungs (awful pun, sorry) and ear for a tune. Much of the album follows suit, with liberal use of harp and various other folksy elements along with the mystical or magical feel brought on by the lyrics. The only time "Lungs" diverts from the style is for the early White Stripes-aping "Kiss With A Fist" and "Girl With One Eye" which is so bluesy that I imagine it being sung in a smoky bar somewhere in the American south. However, the foresty, folksy schtick does begin to grate after a while with a handful of tracks indistinguishable from each other but skip past them to get to the good stuff.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Dog Days Are Over", "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)", "I'm Not Calling You A Liar", "Kiss With A Fist", "Girl With One Eye", "Between Two Lungs", Cosmic Love", "Hurricane Drunk"
FOR FANS OF: Kate Bush, Laura Marling, Bat For Lashes, Lightspeed Champion


La Roux are already on the path to being big. A duo with a public face and a producer beavering away in the background, a unique look, possibly iconic album artwork and of course a Number One single and a Number Two album (thanks to a certain Mr Jackson). Whether they're a retro-futurist pop act to be loved or shameless 80's revivalism to be discarded is an arguement that will rage on for quite a while, but personally, they land somewhere inbetween. The tinny synths of "In For The Kill" as well as the Thriller-esque spoken word middle-eighth belong back with the miners strike and Thatcher, whilst drippy ballad "Cover My Eyes" is sooooo 80s that the video for it would involve a smoke machine with a black background, a slightly out of focus camera, lots of pastel and Elly Jackson on a stool. I don't care if she broke down in tears after recording it, it's shite. But apart from this and the plodding "As If By Magic" and "Reflections Are Protections", "La Roux" is a suprisingly good, modern pop record. It manages to steal the theme of heartbreak from country & western/crappy emo and bring it to the euphoria of electronica without being too cheesy or heavy-handed. Elly Jackson's voice, which trembles between annoyingly fragile and ear-bleedingly shrill often within the same verse, may make it a bit hard to like as well as her looking like the most twattish of LDN scenesters, but don't be suprised if she gathers a few more Number Ones in future.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "In For The Kill", "Quicksand", "Bulletproof", "I'm Not Your Toy", "Fascination"
FOR FANS OF: Little Boots, Ladyhawke, Lady Gaga, Passion Pit, Erasure, Eurythmics

>>>Bombay Bicycle Club>>>I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose
Child stars, or whatever you want to categorise them as, have been prett rife in pop music pretty much since it all kicked off. From Stevie Wonder to Michael Jackson (R.I.P) through to the Osmonds and the Disney set (Justin Timberlake, Britney, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus *shudder*) even in hip-hop with Lil' Bow Wow and Lil' Wayne and other "lil" people with chains bigger than them. But indie/alt. rock has never been a place for those below drinking age. Apart from Tiny Masters Of Today, "underage" rock wasn't really even a thing until the mini-explosion of the 'scene' a few years back. It gave us Poppy And The Jezebels, Cajun Dance Party and this lot, Bombay Bicycle Club.

Things have been quiet for BBC since winning the 2006 Road To V competition and opening the festival, but 3 long (well for uber-fans anyways) years later they've produced their wonderfully-titled debut "I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose". The band have one foot in Britpop and the other firmly in American alternative rock, often sounding like a youthful Death Cab For Cutie, especially on "Lamplight". For four teenagers who have barely just finished their A-Levels (which, personally makes me feel like I've wasted the last few years) BBC are suprisingly mature musically. Whreas most teenage bands end up sounding like godawful Arctic Monkeys/Klaxons/No Age soundalike bands, BBC make epic-sounding alt. rock that stands out from the rest of the indie class of '09. Fluid guitar lines explode into spiky powerchords in a way last seen on Bloc Party's "Silent Alarm".

Comparisons with Bloc don't end their; BBC's songwriting have a delicate, heartfelt edge which has been eradicated in Bloc Party thanks to the overwhelming dance elements. But whilst they may be talented and unique in today's music scene, "I Had The Blues..." isn't the fantastic debut promised by their early demos and hype. It does have a handful of brilliant songs, lead single "Dust On The Ground" for instance, as well as "Always Like This" which is manages to sound like The Smiths, Vampire Weekend, Foals, Bloc Party and Jeff Buckley (due to Jack Steadman's acrobatic vocals) all at once, but there isn't much else that jumps out or strikes me as a work of genius like the aforementioned two tracks. However, BBC show tons of promise and will probably produce album after album that better this...hopefully.
(Apologies for the awful title, there was nothing else I could think of)
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Dust On The Ground", "Always Like This", "Cancel On Me", "The Hill", "The Giantess"
FOR FANS OF: Bloc Party, The Maccabees, Cajun Dance Party


6 July 2009

Maybe the new hairstyles were a good thing...
>>>Arctic Monkeys>>>Crying Lightning>>>
To surprisingly little fanfare, Arctic Monkeys slipped back onto the music radar with "Crying Lightning"'s first radio play. No big advertising campaign, no countdowns, just an announcement on their website and Zane Lowe's tweets. Which is surprising, as a) they're probably one of the biggest bands in Britain, b) they're headlining Reading & Leeds and c) this is quite different. Whereas previous Arctics material has been characterised by a taut, funky rhythm section and either spiky guitar stabs or crunching powerchords, "Crying Lightning" sees the band return with a swagger.

The plodding bassline, revealed in an early form in one of the band's "The View From..." video blogs, is up there with their best whilst the lead guitar snakes in and out of the track, hinting that Josh Homme's influence on the new album will be fairly noticeable. It bares more resemblance to "Matador" and "Too Much To Ask" than "Fake Tales..." and whilst it may not be a big sing-a-long moment at gigs like the latter (seeing as the lyrics seem to be more pre-occupied with "gobstoppers" and various other confectionery) it'll be a welcome change of pace. It's all too tempting to call it a "Crying" shame (and thus produce one of the worse Arctics puns) but all signs point towards a hat trick of classic albums.
("Crying Lightning" is available to download from iTunes now. So go get it, now.)

3 July 2009

FROM: New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
GENRE: Rock/Punk/Alternative
SOUNDS LIKE: Brandon Flowers fronting the Hold Steady, covering Bruce Springsteen. Check shirts a-plenty then.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "The '59 Sound", "Great Expectations" "High Lonesome", "Here's Looking At You, Kid"
YOU'LL LOVE THEM IF YOU LIKE...: Bruce obviously, Green Day (at a push), Kings Of Leon (similar passionate, tuneful, wholly American approach), The National, The Hold Steady.
CHECK OUT: Their second album "The '59 Sound" is out now
MORE INFO?: Official site, MySpace