Saturday, 20 December 2008

Girls On Top?


Slaves To Synth Guardian article

I stumbled across this piece on female electro artists on the Guardian website (posted 17-12-08), but felt it begs the question, why is it that women and men are still segregated in terms of music? As Caroline Sullivan spouts on about:

"this time the hottest prospects are women"

"They have pretty much nothing in common with the male guitar groups who are spending the final weeks of 2008 watching their much-anticipated new albums fail to sell"

"The male guitar band is dead. The future is electro, female, DIY - and very in your face."

... you have to ask WHY it always has to be male vs. female, as though one gender always has to beat or be better than the other one. Kings Of Leon have had one of the biggest selling records on 2008... are you still sure that the male guitar band is dead, Carol? Plus there are loads of talented male musicians that are all for equality - why should male musicians be demonised - you can happily declare love for a female musician without having to denounce men to prove your point!

All the women mentioned in the article are successful and may rely more heavily on synths than a 4 piece setup, but why lump all of these artists in the same group? Because they share a gender, which apparently makes it a lot easier to dream up a 'scene' that doesn't really exist; to join the dots between acts that aren't dissimilar, but that also should be considered in their own right, rather than linked by lady parts. It's lazy journalism, and it's dangerous. Music shouldn't be about gender, it should be about MUSIC; why is gender still such an issue? It's outdated and an excuse for people who know very little to write as though they are filling us in on a secret underground movement that is actually total bullshit.

La Roux, a so-called "cooler Sophie Ellis-Bextor" states: "Girls look a bit stupid playing electric guitar and drums. It suits blokes better. But girls look wicked playing synths. When they play drums or whatever, it looks a bit butch. I hope that doesn't sound anti-feminist."

Uh huh. Well, all female musicians are concerned with is "looking wicked", after all. Who exactly is La Roux basing this close-minded view on? Everyone who picks up a guitar plays it their own way, and how exactly does playing a guitar/drums though not having a penis make the person look "stupid"? Ladyhawke, who also gets a mention in the article, plays guitar, and she certainly doesn't look 'stupid'. If anything, she looks incredible; majestic, powerful, ridiculously cool and not at all 'butch'.
For someone apparently making such forward thinking music, it's odd that her mindset is so dated.

Let's stop all this men vs women crap, as long as the music's good, it shouldn't make a difference what the gender the person behind the instrument is.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Vivian Girls

Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls LP Review

Vivian Girls’ self-titled debut is a nonchalant hum of feedback-laden, muffled guitars and clattering drumbeats, juxtaposed with hazy, poppy harmonies straight from the sixties girl-group songbook. Not to be confused with the Australian band of the same name that was about in 2000, these three girls from Brooklyn create the perfect balance of sound; enough fuzzy, ramshackle beats and crashing uproar to please lo-fi, shoegaze lovers, but pressed up against assertive, chanting vocals and jaunty tambourine shakes to ensure that the boppy pop sensibilities stay on the straight and narrow. Instantly enthralling on the first listen and with their own solid, unapologetic sound, this record never falls prey to repetitive melodies but is a relentless spin through young love, heartbreak and all that goes between. Whilst every song stands strong alone, my particular first-loves are the woeful Where Do You Run To, the thudding urgency of Tell The World and Going Insane, an unabashedly shameless tracking down of a teenage love interest (“Does he know, does he know, that he’s going to be mine?”). Vivian Girls are creating the kind of music that requires your immediate attention; go and look them up right now and I can guarantee that your day will get brighter almost straight away.

Seriously, go!

Monday, 26 May 2008

The Great Escape Festival, Brighton

To celebrate finishing my degree, I skipped the light fantastic out of Cornwall to Brighton for the weekend, for a much-needed and very much missed live music hit. Now I’m used to the traditional festival-in-a-field set-up, and so The Great Escape was a very different experience. Each ‘day’ (or really evening, as most of the music didn’t kick off until 7pm) had to be carefully planned out beforehand in order to see the most bands in the smallest amount of time, which to be honest sometimes made the event more of a pain than a pleasure. But hey ho, live music is live music after all, and a chance to see some of my favourite bands for less than fifty quid isn’t offered very often. But then most people probably aren’t quite as geeky as me when it comes to music, so will take this time to relax, have some drinks, wander the streets and catch bands as and when they pop up, rather than turning it into an army-style plan of action (which didn’t always work anyway, as these reviews will prove!).


With our trusty timetables (that barely seemed to be relevant after bands had run over/under/not shown up/swapped slots mid-evening) and some cheap wine at hand we headed to our first carefully pencilled performance of the weekend: Eugene McGuinness at Digital. We missed the first couple of songs because of getting a bit carried away watching the seagulls on the beach, but as our eyes adjusted to the enveloping darkness of Digital we were caught off guard by Eugene’s clear vocals and slow-paced, pensive melodies. It’s no secret that he can write more than his fair share of dazzling songs, but seeing them performed live was an entirely different encounter. Shy, shuffling and softly spoken between songs, once the guitar was strummed his presence and luminous voice commanded the room.

Eugene McGuinness at Digital

We later wandered over to the Ocean Rooms to be wowed by Ladyhawke. After listening to her few leaked tracks online for months before the GE, I was expecting her to be a sassy, upfront and slightly showy, but found she was majestic and vunerable, clinging to her mic-stand as though she might topple into an awkward daze at any moment. Like a Kim Gordon and Stevie Nicks’ lovechild, Ladyhawke was incredibly imposing and glorious. Holding her guitar close and coolly reciting her lyrics with no hint of pretension, she occasionally let rip a jerky Angus Young-style guitar thrash, before quietly returning to the mic. Her accompanying band was tight and never missed a beat, and looked like they were having the time of their lives, the drummer grinning broadly every time he hit a cymbal. Besides well-known tunes Paris is Burning and Back of the Van, Ladyhawke proved she is no one-trick writer, and newer songs leant heavily on a disco and soul vibe, paired with her familiar eighties-inspired electro bops.

Ladyhawke at the Ocean Rooms


We then tried but failed to get into Peggy Sue and the Pirates at Hope, so called it a night (for the festival, anyway) and headed over to a local Dubstep night to finish the evening.


Determined to see Peggy Sue & The Pirates after the disappointment the night before, they were our first port of call at The Old Market. As Peggy Sue & The Pirates took to the stage, the sound guy kept playing whatever shite was coming from the speakers – I think it was Reverend and the Makers – prompting polite giggles, jokes about a backing track and eventually resorting to loudly ask him to turn it off (he didn’t, and we all had to listen to the track in its entirety. Thanks for that Mr. DJ). But this didn’t phase Rosa Rex and Katy Klaw, who launched straight into their hand-clapping, finger-clicking melodies. Their voices clash and compliment each other, yelling and screeching, whispering and buzzing through the speakers in a clatter of soulful blues and punk-sharp uproar. With quick-witted banter between every song, they frequently catch each other’s eye and laugh, taking turns to sit at the drums and bang along to frantic guitar plucking or a plinking toybox instrumental. Their best song live was Spare Parts, with its hiss-pop click of sounds and swirling harmonies.

Peggy Sue & The Pirates at The Old Market.



The on to the Honeyclub to see French favourites The Teenagers in all their pervy, teen-angsty pop glory. Their lyrics are often filthy enough to make an audience blush, but somehow singing them in a surly French accent disguises the narratives of fucking “American cunts” and “fuck Nicole”, making them sound positively romantic. This band are so hot right now, but don’t they know it. Singer Quentin purrs into the mic, coyly glancing at the audience and dancing and strolling around the stage, spinning stories of Parisian streets and French kisses. For Homecoming, the now-standard task of finding cheerleaders from the audience takes place, and Quentin and Michael head to the crowd for a massive group sing-a-long. Mainly opting for newer album tracks rather than older demos, the fury might have been slightly lacking but the filth was definitely still there. By far the most entertaining and fun band of the weekend, half an hour just didn’t seem long enough. I just hope they return to the UK soon for a full-length set.

The Teenagers at the Honeyclub

We then had drinks, and some more drinks, and eventually ended up watching Flight of the Conchords at home. Rock’n’roll indeed.


Aah the final day. And so far, we’ve seen 4 bands. Time to catch up. Straight over to Lightspeed Champion back at The Old Market to begin the proceedings. After nearly queuing around the block to get in, by the time we could squish ourselves through the door Dev had already been onstage for about 10 minutes. OK, now I don’t know quite how to put this after my declaration of love for him a few months back… but he wasn’t actually very good. At all. When musicians are referred to as heartbreakers, I don’t think they mean it in this sense. It was just a wail of messy feedback, with Dev frantically pounding at his guitar, never once looking up or interacting with the crammed-in audience at his feet. Occasionally he sung a few lyrics before returning to a self-indulgent proggy guitar wanking session. Maybe in his mind he felt like Hendrix. In reality, he just looked like a tit. We slunk off after 10 minutes, allowing some of the queuing outsiders to come in and be a part of this ear- and eyesore. In his defence, I’m sure that with a band behind him he sounds great, but standing alone on stage he was unable to do any of his fantastic songs any justice whatsoever.

Lightspeed Champion at The Old Market


Seriously deflated, my friend suggested Wiley. In honesty, his music isn’t usually my thing, but feeling bad for dragging her to Lightspeed I agreed, as good music is good music after all. But when we arrived at Revenge, there was no sign of Wiley and no one knew if he’d turn up or not. One very expensive drink at the bar later and we’re told by Bunny Rabbit that he’s a no-show. So we do what anyone would do in that situation: go to a friend’s house, get drunk and head back down to the beach to Digital to join the queue for the Erol Alkan and Mystery Jets gig (not linked with Great Escape). Photos (and pretty terrible photos at that) will have to say more than words now, as I wasn’t really in serious journalistic reviewer mode at that point. But the Mystery Jets were incredible, playing every single hit and favourite, including my favourite, Diamonds in the Dark, and Erol Alkan proved his title as DJ royalty, dropping tune after tune and closing with the Boys Noize remix of Feist’s My Moon My Man and Roxanne.

Mystery Jets at Digital

Erol Alkan at Digital
All in all a great weekend, though probably best avoided if you aren’t a fan of clashing band sets or organisation in any shape or form, and just want to kick back in a massive field and let the bands come to you.

PS. I know my photos suck.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Beach Break Live 2008

There’s something about the summer months that has everyone donning shades, bulk-buying suntan lotion, loading up their cars and heading down to the Southwest to catch some sun and surf. But if like me you’re not a huge water baby, fear not, for the Cornish coast now boasts more than simply crashing waves and shimmering, sandy beaches.


From the 9th to 12th June, Carruan Farm in Polzeath transforms from a traditional livestock farm into the 2008 Beach Break Live festival ground, hosting some of the biggest artists and bands of the year. There is something for everyone’s musical taste, as indie, break beat, folk, dubstep, ska, world beats, d&b, electro, reggae and funk blast out across 5 unique venues from midday to 5am. Indie fans after some guitar-led singalongs in the sun will find The Cribs, The Enemy, The Wombats, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly., Noah and the Whale, Vincent Vincent and the Villains and Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong (to name but a few) are happy to obliege. For something a little more eclectic, Mr Scruff, The Scratch Perverts, Does It Offend You Yeah?, Sway, Team Waterpolo, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Plump DJs and Stanton Warriors and many more will be joining the festivities, making this one of the biggest Cornish musical events of the year and definitely one not to be missed.


What sets Beach Break aside from the mass of music festivals popping up all over the country is not only its stunning location (a 10 minute stroll to one of the UK’s premier surf beaches), but the range of bizarre tomfoolery and entertainment on offer if your dancing feet need a break. Proving that there’s lots of fun to be had on the farm, sign up for the various livestock-related games taking place in and around the Barn in order to compete for The Mighty Cornish Goblet, a prestigious award given only to the worthiest farmyard competitor. Decorate an actual woolly mammal in preparation for The Pimp My Sheep Grand Prix or let off some steam veggie-style at the Cornish Fruit Golf Firing Range. If that’s still too relaxed for your liking, battle for glory at the Mud Hole Show Down wrestling pit or brave the Slippery Slide, a treacherous slope of doom holding various wacky races.


For a chance to catch the best fresh talent before they hit the bigtime, Beach Break has teamed up with Yougofurther, The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) and Ubunto to present The Battle for the Beach at the ACM stage: a search for the best student band, judged by a panel including Groove Armada’s Andy Kato. And of course, a festival held in a surfer’s paradise can’t avoid a few surfing championships thrown in to the mix. Whether you’re a beginner or a self-proclaimed king or queen of the waves, the Beach Break Live Surfing Championships should wet your appetite (but make sure you contact BBL via the website before the festival kicks off to secure a place in the competitions).


All ending with a Masked Ball Fancy Dress Finale, the Beach Break literally caters for everyone, be it partygoers, music lovers, sporty types or simply those with a preference for the art of sheep decoration or pig chucking. For the student-friendly price of £79 for three days of fun and frolics, Beach Break is putting other festivals to shame and is set to be one of the events of the year. See you on the beach!

For more information, visit: Beach Break Official Website

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Kill Rock Stars: Listen Up!

This week, when spring cleaning my room, I came across my favourite Kill Rock Stars hoodie and saw that in the cold light of day, it’s stretched out hood and arms, various rips, faded colour and randomly splattered pink bleach spots (from the time we enthusiastically de-mildewed the bathroom) made it more of a museum item than a piece of clothing.
So, with the aid of my mum’s credit card details (note: they don’t accept debit cards), I headed over to the buyolympia website to get a replacement (and a few t-shirts while I was there, only to justify the postage costs of course *ahem*). And whilst scrolling through the merch section, I realised that I couldn’t remember when I’d last listened to my beloved Bikini Kill, Comet Gain, Gossip (early), Deerhoof et al. Most of my records are still in my old bedroom, stacked in rickety jenga piles at the top of a bookshelf, left unplayed and abandoned for the past two years. So I took the afternoon off dissertation-duty and got reacquainted with some old friends with the help of my housemate’s record player and the few 7 inches I’d thankfully decided to bring to Cornwall at the last minute. And at the risk of sounding like someone more accustomed to Werther’s Original and rainy coach trips than Riot Grrrl: they really don’t make them like they used to.

Bikini Kill


I remember first being aware of Bikini Kill when I was about fourteen and wanting them to be as cool as their name suggested. Luckily for me, they were beyond brilliant. Pussy Whipped crackled with fuzzy feedback shrieks and fast, cranky guitar powerchords, Kathleen’s vocals soaring between an adolescent hissy-fit and vigorous, bellowing commands, “I think I wanna take you home, I wanna try on your clothes, YEAH!”. Being a late-eighties baby I’d totally missed the riot grrrl-style revolution, but Bikini Kill were all the education I needed. Punk, politics and feminism clasped hands and led the record on a rampage, putting the world to rights on a soundtrack that makes the Sex Pistols sound over-produced. Rebel Girl (whch was released with New Radio on single, produced by Joan Jett) was an undeniable force of girl power (before the Spice Girls rocked up on their platforms and associated it with selling Pepsi and anything else they could get their paws on) and Blood One’s shaking bass and “I don’t owe you NOTHING!” yell nearly broke my speakers. But Bikini Kill weren’t all about fury and blaring rally cries. They were passionate, but not preachy, concerned but not needlessly critical.
And For Tammy Rae is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It’s hopeful, a dreamy hum that blurs your surroundings and catches your heart off guard.

“Past the billboards and the magazines
I dream about being with you
We cant hear word they say
Lets pretend we own the world today
I know its cold outside
But when were together I got nothing to hide
Hold on tight I will never let you down
It cant rain on our side of town
Wipe the sweat from my hair
Tell me we’re not better off
Wipe the tears from my face
The sunnyside of the street, where we are”

Must-haves: Pussy Whipped, The CD Version of the First Two Records, Reject All American.

Random fact: Tobi Vail dated Kurt Cobain in the early nineties and scrawled "Kurt smells like Teen Spirit" on a wall, inspiring probably the biggest grunge record of all time.

Now: Kathleen Hanna went on to form Julie Ruin and later, Le Tigre, Tobi Vail is now playing with the Old Haunts, Kathi Wilcox plays in the Casual Dots and Bill Karren is in Boo-Boo and the Corrections.

Bikini Kill - For Tammy Rae

Gossip (pre-Standing in the Way of Control)


Since last year, it’s been impossible NOT to have heard Standing in the Way of Control in it’s various remixed forms. Great song, but the Gossip have a lot more than stomping dancefloor fillers under Beth’s sequinned dresses. Now they might be chucked into that sweeping, varied label of ‘indie rock’ but for years the Gossip have been blaring out urgent, dark basement blues, Beth’s vocals a force that demands your immediate attention; a crash on your chest rather than a polite poke on the shoulder. The Gossip are unapologetic, proud to distance themselves from trendy ‘scenes’ and stand up for the overlooked and the underestimated, while their fan base doubles and triples daily, and the mainstream press pants over their honest, dirty-minded and exuberant frontwoman.
Movement is my favourite Gossip record thanks to the gut-wrenching cry of Nite, No, No, No’s fastpaced, guitar-sped dirty choruses and the confident swagger of Don’t (Make Waves) (“It’s not like I could have stopped her, as a girl can’t be tied down”). Though the Gossip might now be the indie darlings of the NME scene, their ethics remain as solid as their songs and hopefully thanks to that Skins advert, downloaders might stumble across some of their early offerings, a reminder of the raw power that holds up the electro beats.

Must-haves: Gossip EP, Movement, Arkansas Heat

Gossip MySpace

Gossip - No, No, No

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Video Killed the Radio Star

The Cribs - I'm A Realist

MGMT - Time To Pretend (Live)

Laura Marling - New Romantic

Lightspeed Champion - Midnight Suprise (Full Length)

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Oldies but Goldies

New music is obviously important, but sometimes it's nice to dig out and dust off some old favourites. My granny's been down to visit, and I've found myself spending the week swimming in nostalgia and thinking back on the stuff I was into, especially my early teens when I still had bleached blonde hair, spent time scouring Camden for the perfect pair of Docs (I am a cliche) and was ashamed to ever admit I used to love the Spice Girls.

I own tons of records, but have nothing to play them on, and my CD player recently died, so now all I have with me are my mp3s which just don't carry the same warmth and value. I could go on about music and memory but I think everyone knows what I'm talking about here. So here are a few recommendations.. you might know them, it might be the beginning of something beautiful. Either way, here are a few slices of my past (and in most cases, still present) loves...


The band I never get tired of. Ever. S-K was formed by Corin Tucker (previously in Heavens to Betsy) and Carrie Brownstein (Excuse 17), who were later joined by Janet Weiss (of Quasi) and played a big part in the 90's Olympia riot grrrl scene. Some of the music is typically raucous and raw, but Corin, Carrie and Janet are incredible musicians, so the songs aren't as messy and occasionally inaudible as other riot grrrl acts. They went on an indefinite hiatus in 2006 (11 years after they first formed) that they probably will never return from. I think it was partly due to the fact that despite constantly releasing extraordinary records, saturated in love and loss and life and politics, they never seemed to get the acclaim they deserved. Which I suppose gets pretty tiring after a while. For first-timers, I'd recommend the poppier, shout-a-long Dig Me Out or All Hands on the Bad One albums, but if you like thrashing, disjointed layers and powerful beats, try The Woods or One Beat.

Sleater-Kinney : Jumpers (from The Woods)

The Jesus & Mary Chain

This was a bit of a late, cheat-find as my first encounter with the Jesus & Mary Chain was when I got the Lost in Translation soundtrack, and became obsessed with listening to the song Just Like Honey on repeat every night as I went to sleep. To the point where I couldn't sleep, as my brain wouldn't shut up and sang along loudly as I buried deep down under the covers. Anyway, so this led on to the purchase of Psychocandy, which is an album I strongly feel every person should have in their music collection, simply because it's awesome. The sound is a mix of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, and the songs lean heavily on the song-writing style of the early 60s, whilst sounding a hell of a lot like something Sonic Youth would produce. Obviously, they have many other albums, but Psychocandy is a good starting point.

The Jesus & Mary Chain - Just Like Honey

The Kinks

My Dad got me into the Kinks, which I will be forever grateful to him for. You've probably heard of them, or at least know a few of their songs (Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Waterloo Sunset, You Really Got Me, Sunny Afternoon, Lola...) The Kinks wrote a hell of a lot of perfect pop songs, if you're not that familiar with them, you really will be surprised at how many you recognise. Though they are mostly associated with their late 60s/early 70s songs (they continued until '96!), 50 years on the sentiments and themes remain. Dedicated Follower of Fashion could easily be an ode to Vince Noir in the Mighty Boosh ("His world is built round discotheques and parties, this pleasure-seeking individual always looks his best.. he flits from shop to shop just like a butterfly") and Waterloo Sunset, a depiction of a single yet happy life in the capital, watching the world pass by ("People so busy, make me feel dizzy, taxi lights shine so bright") that could easily have been written yesterday. And you can't really go wrong with a song about a brief romantic rendezvous with a transvestite chucked in for good measure.

The Kinks: You Really Got Me

I'll post some more again when I next have time.. keep checking back!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Have Love Will Travel: My Recent Spins

Recently, I've been spending a lot of the time on trains, travelling across the country and back again. I like train travel, it's one of the only times I can truly listen intently to music and spend time getting to know bands (or revisit past loves) without any distraction. Here are some brief encounters with a few of the bands and artists that currently comprise my travelling soundtrack...

Black Kids

(Photo credit to Richard Johnson for NME)

These guys probably need no introduction - I heard in the shower this morning that their song, I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You, is now Radio One's hit of the week or whatever it's called. But rightly so, the song is a slice of pure genius that probably leaves most people wondering why the hell they hadn't played the chords of F, G, C and Am in that way before, and beat the Black Kids to it. Despite the media flurry surrounding them, Black Kids strike me as being a pretty cool, fun bunch who are just making music and not taking things too seriously. They sound like Robert Smith fronting a synth-led Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but with the crude wit and honesty of the Teenagers as narration. Kind of. Check it out for yourselves...

Black Kids MySpace

Black Kids - I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You (ysi)

George Pringle


My housemate Dean actually introduced me to George, and although it took me a while to tune into exactly what she was all about, once I saw the light I was hooked. She may appear to be a typical MySpace poser on first impressions, all pouty and angular, but her songs are actually really delicately executed, especially Carte Postale. It's like a mixture of self-indulgence paired with an acute loneliness, but not in a self-pitying way; George is a fan of the positive outlook. She perfectly captures the beautiful simplicity of everyday lives and loves, "I became the perfect party apprentice, with a phD in sitting on kitchen counters and drawing my cheeks and then shooting you looks I don't even mean, and hips that grind to scratchy indie hits". She won't be to everyone's taste, but is deserving of a few minutes of your time at least. Like the yummy addictive potato goodness that shares the same name, once you (listen to her brand of) pop, you can't stop!

George Pringle MySpace

George Pringle - Carte Postale (ysi)

The Long Blondes


I've been a HUGE fan of the Long Blondes for years now, and am pleased to announce that their follow-up to the magnificent Someone To Drive You Home, entitled Couples, is due to be released on the 7th April. For those of you who may not have had the pleasure of having been introduced to the LB's, they are a five-piece from Sheffield who, in their own words, sound like... "Look at us, we used to rip off the Fall. We rip off Eno now, and sing like Jerry Hall." Mixing tales of glamorous tribulations with kiss-the-dirt normality, Kate Jackson and her alluring gang of indie charmers take the current scene by storm. Century, the first single from Couples that is available now, is a much darker, disco-tinged hit that's more Donna Summer than Jarvis Cocker. Flout, pout, go and see them on tour and allow yourself be seduced by the Long Blondes.

the Long Blondes MySpace

the Long Blondes - Giddy Stratospheres (ysi)

Aidan John Moffat


It's hard to compare Aidan John Moffat to anything I've ever heard, but then his is not an area of music I've ever really explored before. I Can Hear Your Heart is his most recent release that appeared on the record shop shelves last month. Musically, it's unique, a partly autobiographical collection of chronicles, stunningly recapitulated with a blend of spoken prose, the noise of bustling streets and heels sharply clicking on hard pavements and soft, background music that acts more as the wallpaper than the furniture in the compositions. My words aren't really much use here, just hear for yourselves. One thing though.. you might not want to put this on when your granny's over for tea. Trust me.

I Can Hear Your Heart Homepage

Aidan John Moffat - I Can Hear Your Heart (Album Excerpt) (ysi)

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Young Love - Three is a Magic Number...

Mystery Jets - Young Love

Just a quickie today to share this new beauty. Young Love is the new Mystery Jets' single, and features the astounding Laura Marling (channelling a bit of Sophie Ellis-Bextor, possibly) and is produced by the equally fantastic Erol Alkan! What an incredible line-up...mmmm...

Personally, it might be more dancey than their previous stuff, but I think it's still damn catchy and fun.. plus the video is too cute (the out-of-time hand dancing at the end is my favourite part!)

Got to fly.. for more info check out the Mystery Jets MySpace.

Young Love is out on the 10th March and is avaliable to pre-order here

Monday, 4 February 2008

Lightspeed Champion: More Than a Midnight Surprise...

(Photo taken by Jessica Byrne)

I think Lightspeed Champion might actually be my new favourite band (or artist? It all gets a bit confusing). That’s a pretty big statement to make (especially for me… I can barely decide what to eat for breakfast, let alone who I’d cite as a favourite band when the inevitable question is asked) but I think it may be true. And it seems that the more I read about Lightspeed Champion (aka. Dev Hynes, remember Test Icicles? The one that still pops up around the Internet and on telly once or twice with a Geldof? Yeah, that guy), the more I like him. He is a fan of the granddad jumper, writing blogs, deer and other wildlife (including a few deer ornaments in his album booklet that, as an avid deer collector myself, I haven’t yet come across… exciting stuff!) and staying at home quite a bit. Which are all favourite pastimes of mine. Basically, he seems like a cool guy to compare jumper collections and have a cup of tea with, and not the usual too-cool-for-school indie ignoramus (thankyou that tends to grace the cover of NME.

Speaking of which… look who it is this week! I knew I should have written about him sooner (he was mentioned in the Florence & the Machine post... but that’s not really the same). But anyway, enough chit-chat, this is a music blog after all.

You may be aware of the new release from Lightspeed Champion, charmingly titled Falling Off the Lavender Bridge. It is honestly the first CD I have purchased in about 6 months (I’m normally a bit of a downloader) and it hasn’t left my CD player since it arrived on my doorstep. At first, I just played Galaxy of the Lost on loop (and I take back my previous comment about the intro..), but then decided to venture into pastures new. And I wasn’t disappointed. Forget everything that has gone before (especially Test Icicles) as this is a very different direction for Dev. Bright Eyes has been mentioned in some reviews, and rightly so, as many tracks give more than a nod to Bright Eyes trademark folky/solo/self-pitying sound (Tell Me What It’s Worth especially). But emo-tainted this is not. It’s actually happy, mood lifting and uncool, but in a very cool way (basically, Belle & Sebastian without the embarrassment), and some of it’s a bit like a very bitter, confused Rilo Kiley (Midnight Surprise), but with a sugar kick. The lyrics are uncomfortably truthful and self-deprecating (“Sometimes, in the cold night, my phone rings, but it’s not you”/”Fuck, I think she just saw me, stop hiding in the sea/Wake up, smell the semen, this will never happen for you”).

I don’t want to go into too much detail, as this is definitely an album that is best left as it stands and not analysed too deeply… but I honestly can’t recommend it enough. Half of it is streaming at the moment on the MySpace, so why not try before you buy?

Forget crunk... everyone I know will soon be listening to Lightspeed Champion!

Lightspeed Champion's MySpace

The album, Falling Off the Lavendar Bridge, is available from Domino Records now.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Peggy Who? Meet Peggy Sue & The Pirates...


Peggy Sue & The Pirates are not your average band. Firstly, there are only two of them, Rosa Rex and Katy Klaw, best friends who, in their own words, “go together like shooby doo and whop bam boo”. They also really do like good music, although it is somewhat varied. Sleater-Kinney, Billie Holiday, Jeffery Lewis, the Velvet Underground, Devendra Banhart... they’re all there, although it might be best if we politely overlook the Hanson love. And unlike most musicians, their list of superstars isn’t merely an attempt to score some extra cool points; you can hear every one of their influences (although again, skipping Hanson) hiding amongst their songs, burrowing deep into the listeners’ heads and hearts.

Peggy Sue (or Peggy Who? as their merchandise modestly asks) come from Brighton via London, and are aided in their musical composing by a guitar called ‘The Stud’ (their boyfriend) and Sir Pablo, an impressive yet expensive guitar tuner that doesn’t really work properly. Sounding a little bit eccentric? Wait until you’ve heard their songs. From a morose tale of Superman’s many dilemmas (“I’ve been wearing the same outfit since the thirties, everyone else gets to change their clothes, but I still have to wear these”) to an addiction to television or lending out body parts, no subject escapes Peggy Sue’s beautifully shrill harmonies, mad double bass jamming and delicate guitar picking, no matter how bizarre or mundane it may appear on the surface.

Because they are hard to compare to other acts, this may all take a while to digest, but theirs is a world worth becoming consumed in.

My interview with Katy & Rosa will be printed in the upcoming issue of Shebang.

Peggy Sue's MySpace

Their single Television/New Song is available now from

Thursday, 3 January 2008

CSS Live at Portsmouth Pyramids: Gig Review

OK.... a bit of background info on this pretty beefy review. It's meant to be written 'in the style' of NME (combining Uni work with my own, two birds & all that...) so forgive the tedious Winehouse pun and other dodgy bits and pieces (and the length.. nearly 1000 words.. phew!), it's not really all written as I'd have liked, but you get the idea. Plus I really can't face rewriting it for here.
Oh, and also the ending is horrendous.. I'm working on that. But then NME did recently use the title "Lets Make Love and Listen to Jingle Bells", so maybe terrible journalism is their cup of tea. Enjoy!

Gig Review: CSS, Metronomy & Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, Portsmouth Pyramids. 20th December 2007.

It’s a typically chilly December night and just as the car park outside slowly turns into a mini ice-rink, many brave the frost and head for the Pyramids for some blistering dancing action, courtesy of some of the hottest bands of the year on the final date of their tour. While the cold weather forces most to come dressed appropriately, a few courageous individuals don sequins, glitter and other sparkly goodies, that may or may not have been stolen from their Christmas trees, now left bare and shivering at home.

First to take the stage in an attempt to warm up what seems to be a venue similar to a school hall is the terribly named Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, a band becoming a household name faster than the growth of Winehouse’s barnet. While the frontman’s indie cred might have tripled thanks to previous appearances in Peep Show and Nathan Barley, the hype surrounding them does little to distance Joe Lean from his character in the latter, instead drawing attention to the fact that the songs are just overindulgent, overdone dross. Maybe that’s the point and they’re some real-life Barley-esque experiment to see how stupid we all really are? After all, they do appear to tick every box in the indie band checklist, from the fashion to the hairstyles and the ridiculous name to the same stilted chords and song structure. But that seems to be the problem, as this band are so typical of their genre that they become tedious and, as bizarre as it sounds, already past their prime. Five years ago, their Ramones-jamming-with-Mission of Burma stripped down pop-punk might have captured and broken a few hearts, but now it’s predictable and dreary.

Luckily, Metronomy are about as pretentious as their silly light-up moon t-shirts, and step up to the stage to reassemble the wavering audience with their simple electro beats and sweet, bashful harmonies. Channelling Tom Vek’s homemade charm with a Hot Chip-meets-a-less-energetic-Klaxons’ sound, individually a few of their songs might be lost between the bright lights and onstage banter, but overall songs like Trick or Treatz and Radio Ladio prove that Metronomy are not just all gimmicks and dance moves.


With the room suitably warm, temperatures are set to soar with the promise of the fiery CSS. Gathering around the stage, chants of “CSS Suxxx!” break out, leaving a few audience members bemused or baffled as to why so many would go to this much effort to heckle a band. But then if you choose to begin your album with a self-deprecating title track, it’s to be expected, as the smiling throng know all too well. Amid the shouts, snow (smelling suspiciously like washing up liquid) begins to descend from the ceiling, and a woman decked out in a Christmas tree outfit begins handing out balloons to the front row, and chucking metallic confetti across the sea of glowsticks accompanied by Wham!’s Last Christmas. This is so weird, am I sleeping, is this a dream, NO!?

Eventually the lights go down and CSS take to the stage dressed as giant gifts, in a flurry of tinsel and dry ice. After ripping out of their wrapping paper disguises, Lovefoxxx doesn’t disappoint in the jump-suit stakes, wearing a particularly festive black all-in-one covered in multicoloured stars, matching their starry backing curtain dotted with lights. For a band from a much hotter climate, the Brazilian’s certainly show the British how to celebrate Christmas in style, covering themselves in tinsel, streamers and the obligatory revolving glitter ball as they throw themselves around the stage.


After being blasted with festive classics (yes, even Live Aid got a look in) from the speakers for what felt like a lifetime whilst waiting for the headliners, Fuckoff Is Not The Only Thing You Have To Show is a bizarre yet refreshing start to the proceedings and as predicted, gets everyone jumping about with giddy abandon. It’s often forgotten just how many fantastic songs CSS have (Joe Lean, take note) but as they fly through This Month, Day 10, Music Is My Hot Hot Sex and Meeting Paris Hilton the mass of sweaty, glowstick-grabbing bodies surge forward, aiding crowd-surfers up onto shoulders. New songs are dotted throughout their set and sit pretty next to hit singles but in this excited, sticky atmosphere such unknown, fresh meat is welcomed. By the time the dancing Christmas tree appears again, everyone is singing along to Reggae All Night, aided by the words held high on a large sheet, like some eccentric, disco version of Disney’s Sing-A-Long-Songs.


The band finishes and leaves the stage and the chanting soon stirs up again, echoing throughout the room and up to the balloon-clad ceiling. And as if by magic, they are back, with Lovefoxxx wearing possibly the barmiest yet most inspired outfit yet; a flesh-coloured body suit with eyes on her shoulders, a smile on her stomach and a moustache. Many fans take mental notes to add this to their Christmas lists. To the glee of myself and maybe a few others, CSS play a fantastic rendition of L7’s Pretend That We’re Dead and then bring the whole shebang to a close with everyone’s favourite Lets Make Love and Listen To Death From Above, played out to perfection.

After decapitating the stage of all Christmas paraphernalia, the masses make their way back onto the frozen ice-rink outside and skate across the car park, still dancing and full of Christmas cheer.