Saturday, May 30, 2009
SPEECH Debelle's debut album, Speech Therapy, luckily isn't just all talk.
The London-based female rapper does have a real gift of gab, giving her male peers a run for their money with a proficient lyrical flow delivered with a voice that teeters between sweet and streetwise.
But for me the real talking points of this album are the backing tracks, which are cunningly crafted hip hop tracks laced with jazzy ornaments and acoustic instrumentation.
There are dips - Go Then, Bye and Daddy's Little Girl are a tad toe-curling for my tastes - but in a genre dominated by male MCs, Speech Debelle has demonstrated she doesn't just talk the talk.
Friday, May 29, 2009
IS IT a bird? Is it a workshop? No, it's a countrified folk group, here with their debut album, Sleight Of Hand.
Because Sparrow And The Workshop claim this release is a 'mini-album', too long to be an EP and too short to be an album - which is either lazy or self-indulgent, depending on your point of view.
Anyway, what isn't lazy is the Glaswegians' music, which for the best part rattles along with a pleasing acoustic guitar twang and evocative vocal intertwining of drummer Gregor Donaldson and Jill "Dead Sparrow" O'Sullivan.
But is the trio's Scottish Americana worth a listen?
Only slightly - in fact, why not wait for them to bother making a full album.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Not only does it leave the listener wondering how the singer songwriter managed to leap direct from the straight down the line hook-laden indie pop rock of his first album These Streets to this melting pot, but the question of where the bloody hell his singing voice comes from exactly looms larger than ever.
Musically, the genuinely uplifting Sunny Side Up draws from a baffling collection of sources - from reggae rhythms to big band trumpets to tin whistle solos, Paolo's new sound is harder to pin down than a greased Hulk Hogan.
And over this his voice veers wildly between from Otis Redding-style grizzled growling to Bob Dylan nasal moaning - all with an, ahem, distinctive pronunciation that's Nutini's alone.
It's hard to say what exactly Sunny Side Up sounds like - but as sure as eggs is eggs, Nutini doesn't sound like yet another James Blunt, James Morrison clone any more.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
TOP rock band Athlete are bounding into town for a gig this Saturday.
The group, whose hits include Wires and Hurricane, play Loughborough Students’ Union from 7pm on May 30.
Spokeswoman Nikki Shipley said: “With some huge anthems behind them, these four guys are guaranteed to give a performance never to be forgotten.
“This is the first venue of a new UK tour and the opening night will not disappoint!”
For more information click here, here or here.
Faith No More spent around a decade fusing heavy metal, rap and funk with some superb results, and all boxes have been ticked with this double-LP of singles backed with a collection of B-sides and rarities.
From the proto-rap rock of Epic through the slap bass of We Care A Lot to the twisted Be Aggressive, via the thunderous Ashes To Ashes and Mike Patton's inspired "ewww" on Easy, the memories all come flooding back.
Innovative and inspirational, if you can't catch the reformed Faith No More headlining this year's Download, then download yourself a copy of this compilation.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
GRANDMASTER Fred, Loughborough's talented breakdancing pensioner, has abandoned his dream of body popping his way into the pop charts.
Fred Bowers had planned on releasing a hip hop single, following in the footsteps of last year's winner George Sampson.
But following national press articles claiming that the 73-year-old star of ITV's Britain's Got Talent, who Simon Cowell described as "brilliant" after he auditioned in Birmingham, was a "fakedancer" who claims disability allowance, the pensioner has shelved the plan.
Rumours had circulated in the town that Fred had already signed a deal with Decca Records, who have had artists including The Rolling Stones, Adam Ant and The Smurfs on their roster over the years.
Grandmaster Fred will take part in the show's live semi finals on Thursday, May 28.
SABBAT will indeed be playing at Download this year, as well as a host of other acts confirmed today.
Bleed From Within, Sleepercurve, Blackhole, New Device, The Outcry Collective, Tripswitch, The Instigators, In Case Of Fire, Hardcore Superstar, Symphony Cult, The Crave, Billy Boy On Poison, The Ghost Of A Thousand, People In Planes, The Auteur, 13 Riots, Forever Never, The Computers, Serpico, Flood Of Red, Attack! Attack!, Logan, Fei Comodo, Jett Black, Million$ Reload and Raucous Jays will all appear.
VETERAN Nottingham band Sabbat have announced they will be appearing at this year's Download Festival.
In a message on the group's website, guitarist Andy Sneap said: "We are pleased to announce that after months of being really annoying and badgering Andy Copping, the man responsible for Download, he finally broke down and added Sabbat to the bill on Sunday.
"We have to be the most local band ever to play at Castle Donington having been in attendance most years and even walking to the festival a couple of times.
"I must say I have been somewhat disappointed in the lack of pigs heads and bottles thrown during the latter years, kids today just don’t know how to enjoy a good festival!
"I personally am looking forward to getting one half of my face sunburnt Richard Dreyfus style and feeling like George Best's left kidney on the 15th. Should be fun!"
ONE artist who I've been impatiently waiting for new stuff from is Mr Hudson, whose debut album with The Library, A Tale Of Two Cities, was one of my Albums Of The Year 2007.
He resurfaced last year in a collaboration with Kanye West on his album 808s And Heartbreaks, and it seems that working with the rap superstar has heavily influenced his new work.
Minus The Library, Mr Hudson's new single, Supernova - a sparse hip hop track that swells with emotion by its close - is now upon us.
It took me by surprise knowing his piano-based origins, but it's quickly lodged itself in my brain, and I simply can't wait for the full LP, Straight No Chaser, later this year.
And if you want to hear a snippet for yourself, there's a free mix mp3 of some of the tracks available here.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
YOU know when somebody falls into the first flushes of love, and they become a doe-eyed idiot - that's me with Veckatimest.
I keep droning on and on to disinterested people about how great Grizzly Bear's fourth album is.
I keep pining for it when I'm not listening to it.
I spend my days staring at the cover art and sighing.
I've written "Isaac 4 Veckatimest" all over the front of my reporter's notebook.
The music, described as psychedelic folk, is a glorious mixture of Fleet Foxes' baroque folk pop and Battles' math rock.
Veckatimest, named after a Massachusetts island, is a dense, complex collection - in fact on your first listen, you'll probably think you don't see what all the fuss is about.
On the second listen you'll think something along the lines of: "Actually, this is alright."
And third time around, you'll be a doe-eyed idiot too.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
SKANKING dance act Dub Pistols are hoping to shoot up the charts with their fourth album, Rum And Coke.
And were they to do so, it would surely be in the style of a gangster from "Landan taan", the sort you find getting into scrapes in a Guy Ritchie movie.
Because the group's shtick of mixing reggae and ska with house beats and a generous splash of British hip hop is the sort of music that's sure to make you have a good time - or else.
But while this exuberance is entertaining in short bursts, over the course of Rum And Coke this uber-cool approach does become a bit repetitive and cliched.
Rum And Coke is a refreshing change, but nevertheless is unlikely to become my usual tipple.
HONEY Ryder, a London-based pop duo who share their name with both a Bond girl and a sex toy, are Rising Up with their debut album from Monday.
A pretty slick collection of folk-tinged pop rock, Rising Up has a few tracks that could trouble the top 40 - although it's all a bit sweet and safe for my taste.
So instead, here are some facts about honey -
1) Honey is the only food that doesn't spoil.
2) Honey is one of the oldest foodstuffs known to man - and was used a currency in Ancient Greece.
3) Honey is 25 per cent sweeter than table sugar due to its high concentration of fructose.
4) The flavour of honey depends on the flowers used by bees to make it.
5) Honey has many health benefits, and has even been used to cure dreaded superbugs, as reported in reputable newspapers.
Friday, May 22, 2009
WOLVERHAMPTON wonder Scott Matthews's latest album Elsewhere is a work of subdued beauty.
Pillow to the face subdued.
Following the debut album Passing Stranger, which stunned listeners including myself with its sweeping arrangements and Jeff Buckley-esque guitar and vocals, Elsewhere progresses to a less showy, more introvert delivery.
Maybe some of the aforementioned Buckley comparisons had an impact on the vocals, which are held back to the point of sounding more like Chris Cornell.
And added to this, the tracks here are more restrained than before, though still lovingly smothered in strings and horns.
Listening to it, it sounds like either Matthews is unsure exactly how good he is, or he's too scared to show us.
So while you should probably decide to look elsewhere for the time being, Scott Matthews should remain one to watch.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
KNOWING some of the work of German electro artist Alec Empire's group Atari Teenage Riot, I was half expecting to be bludgeoned around the head with some hardcore electro shouting by his latest EP, Shivers.
And opening track Control Drug duly obliges, hitting you like a musical fist with techno bass throbs and rampant breakbeats.
But then something strange happens when the title track kicks in.
From track two onwards Empire comes across as some sort of Nine Inch Nails-produced rock singer in the vein of a Teutonic Leonard Cohen or Lou Reed.
It's an interesting twist, which is sure to whet appetites for a full album later this year.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
TOP DJs Filthy Dukes are set to headline a two-part all-day Superfuzz Alfresco Bank Holiday bonanza in Loughborough.
From 3pm on May 24, acts including Nic Nell, The Heroes, The Pennyhangers, Penfold Gate, Phil Jarram and Kids With Sticks will perform at The Orange Tree in Ward’s End.
Then, from 11pm, the festivities move to Rapture in Swan Street, where Filthy Dukes, who featured local band Late Of The Pier's Samuel Eastgate on their latest album Nonsense In The Dark, headline a night featuring Nick Carrelli, Parker And Pasquale, Phil Jarram and the Clip Clap Clop DJs.
Tickets to The Orange Tree’s section cost £3 in advance or more on the door, and Rapture admission is £4 with an Orange Tree admission and £6 without.
TWO festivals are coming to the Loughborough area this Bank Holiday.
Glastonbudget tribute festival is taking place in Wymeswold, headlined by one hit wonder Chesney Hawkes, while the Off The Tracks Spring Festival comes to Isley Walton, featuring acts including Edward II, Banco De Gaia and Peatbog Faeries.
AHEAD of a new album this Autumn, Mika is set to release a four-track EP on Monday.
Sadly, he needn't have bothered with Songs For Sorrow.
Recorded live with the aid of Final Fantasy's Owen Pallett, the acoustic EP gets off to a good start with the Culture Club-esque Blue Eyes, which gives African rhythms a Western pop-soul makeover.
But then things turn ugly.
Admittedly Lonely Alcoholic, which kicks off with the truly awful line "you're a lonely alcoholic with a tendency to wine", and Lady Jane are merely turgid ballads, but Toy Boy is actual torture to listen to, a cheap metaphor dragged out over the course of three long minutes.
So by the end, Songs For Sorrow left me with a tear in my eye - lamentably for the wrong reason.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
SORT Of Revolution, the fourth album from singer and songwriter Fink, is part of a continuing campaign to quietly plough his own furrow - after all he is now Ninja Tune's sole singer songwriter act, less than a decade after the label signed him up as a trip hop producer.
And I have to say I'm glad he made the switch.
Each track here by Fink, real name Finian Greenall, is a mini-masterpiece.
Classical strings soak lo-fi indie strummers laced with chilled out dub grooves throughout.
The tracks sound like a mix of D'Angelo's laid back approach with a Jose Gonzalez knack for subtle beauty and a reined-in Jeff Buckley-emotion to his vocals.
Buying Fink? It's a no-brainer.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Because I put out a plea for recommendations on the Isaac Ashe's Sound Advice Facebook site, and I wasn't disappointed.
Now I'd never heard of it before, but I was urged to listen to Sunhouse's sole album, Crazy On The Weekend.
"You'll love it!" I was assured.
And I did.
An acoustic album designed for the morning after the night before, the Nottingham band brought to my mind Mancunian indie rockers Doves and Elbow.
In fact, it's mad that the 1998 album Crazy On The Weekend proved to be the group's only effort.
AS JAZZ musicians go, there's not many about who can demonstrate effortless virtuosity while still sounding damn good as well as Medeski, Martin And Wood can.
In a genre known for its ability to turn the general listening public off, the trio of keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood make their jazz sound fresh, funky and fun.
On Combustication in particular, they take their jazz roots and thrust elements of funk, hip hop, soul, rock, anything they can lay their hands on, in to what is an instinctive, experimental journey.
For those unsure, download yourself a copy of the track Coconut Boogaloo and be instantly converted.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I'M SURE we're all well aware of acts like 'The Godfather Of Noyze' Rahzel and Britain's finest Beardyman, who can beatbox and drop basslines or sing or imitate an instrument simultaneously - and I mean properly, not like that human saxophone idiot on Britain's Got Talent.
If you're not aware of Rahzel or Beardyman, check them out right away - they're very impressive.
But I stumbled across a beatboxer the other day combines his art with playing the flute.
Please click on to the site of Nathan "Flutebox" Lee and have a listen for yourself - it's abso-flutely amazing.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
AKIN to my inclusion of Michael Jackson's Bad in my Classic Collection selection, Evil Empire probably didn't struggle to shift many units when it came out - in fact it hit the top of the charts in the US and peaked at number four in the UK.
However the follow-up to Rage Against The Machine's rap rock crossover classic Rage Against The Machine has ended up being overlooked, merely for being wedged between the group's eponymous and best-known first album and their undoubtedly brilliant third album Battle Of Los Angeles.
However the fact remains that Evil Empire was created by one of the greatest bands of recent times whilst at the height of their powers, lacing heavy grooves with virtuoso playing.
This is a politically hard-hitting album delivered expertly by rapper Zach de la Rocha with a brutal sound to match, which literally thumps the listener with stripped-down funky metal riff after stripped-down funky metal riff.
Although Rage Against The Machine may be their finest work in terms of their legacy, Evil Empire's release was the one that confirmed they fighting a campaign, not just a battle.
Friday, May 15, 2009
CHINESE singer songwriter Mamer is the leading light of the Chinagrass scene - a genre yet to break into the UK Top 40 as far as I'm aware.
In fact, to these ignorant Western ears, his mixture of Kazak folk and alt-country music is so alien and other-worldly, it took me several spins of Eagle to decide if it was any good or not.
Before I go on, I apologise to my Kazak readership - as according to my analytics software, amazingly I have one - for my lack of knowledge of the culture of the Chinese/Kazakhstan border, but the best way I can describe Mamer's ethereal sound is a kind of mixture of Nick Cave, Neil Young and Borat.
Using traditional acoustic instruments to accompany Mamer's deep vocals, Eagle is a tranquil, honest affair that deserves to break Mamer outside of the Far East.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Because just in time for the summer, the album, They Know What Ghost Know, is here.
Sharing a number of tracks and an overall vibe with the aforementioned EP, the Texan DJ's sophomore album is a blissful, sunkissed blur of live drumbeats and subtle, shifting psychedelia.
Funky, but with a hard edge to it, this instrumental eclectic collection has a slow-burning appeal to it that grows and grows and then hits you, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud.
Although destined to be criminally unsuccessful commercially, those in the know know where They Know What Ghost Know should go.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
LOCAL band Late of The Pier are set to play a DJ set at Rapture Nightclub in Swan Street, Loughborough, this Friday, May 15.
The Clip Clap Clop party will see the Castle Donington group supported by Lame, Skello and the Clip Clap Clop DJs.
Organiser Nick Carelli said: "Late Of The Pier are an indie electro band unique to their scene and one that is incredibly difficult to pinpoint.
"Complex but utterly danceable, with songs laced with dirty bass, synths, and video game SFX, the most common reference point is the Klaxons, but comparisons have been made to artists all over the genre map, from Prince to Frank Zappa to the Human League."
For more information or to book tickets call 01509 233613.
IT'S a testament to the talent of Tori Amos that she is allowed the freedom to make an album like Abnormally Attracted To Sin.
The LP, the American singer songwriter's 10th studio effort, is the epic, self-indulgent succession of piano-led, electronica-tinged breathy ballads and sultry rockers anyone familiar with Amos's back catalogue would expect.
Anyone without 15 years experience in the business would probably had a flea in their ear from the record company had they attempted to put out such an arduous album.
Because although there are some typically beautiful moments hidden away on this album - and I say this as a long-time fan of Amos - the fact that Abnormally Attracted To Sin wasn't condensed is a real sin.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
For example, I've done in in my first bleeding sentence.
Because his dad's afro-blues guitar work casts a hefty shadow over Fondo, Vieux's third LP - an afrocentric bluesy collection of laid back world music.
Here Farka Toure Jnr's crisp guitar work is clearly proficient, and his songwriting is extremely listenable as well as being just distinctive enough from his dad's output.
The problem is despite the differences it needs to be outstanding in order to stand out in comparison to Farka Toure Snr - and it just isn't.
It's the reason why Julian Lennon will always be a jealous guy, why Ziggy Marley will never be able to stir it up quite enough, and why Dweezil Zappa will, er, never have weasels rip his flesh.
Monday, May 11, 2009
IT'S half marks for Innerpartysystem's Heart Of Fire EP, because basically, half of the six tracks here are red hot, and half are not.
The Pennsylvanian rockers' eponymous EP opener, the full-on Heart That Heals, and closing track The Lovers Dancing (Remix) all point towards a band that can successfully blend elements of rock and dance, sounding like a beefed up Depeche Mode.
The other three tracks, well, you can take them or leave them.
Overall although it would have been as worthwhile an exercise as a single, inside Heart Of Fire beats a very promising band whose album will be well worth listening out for.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
THE Smoking Gun webzine has an entertaining section detailing artists' concert rider requests - and by far the most entertaining I've looked through so far has to be Iggy Pop's.
It may not go so far as to mention brown M&Ms, but the 18-page request, written by roadie Jos Grain, is laugh out loud funny throughout.
Check it out here.
Especially page 18.
Because the West Midlanders' new album, Threes, Fives And Sevens, is like a derivative whistlestop tour of some of their favourite bands.
There's the Kasabian-style opening, a bog standard indie band slowy and it all goes a bit Stereo MCs in the middle.
The problem is it's all been done before - see Britpop - and it's all been done better.
Subkicks are a promising act, but the opportunity to record this album probably came a bit too soon for them - the result is Subkicks sound like they're punching above their weight.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
ALTHOUGH drummer Malcom Catto has worked with a glut of acts including work with Heliocentrics, Herbaliser, DJ Shadow, Madlib, The Keystones and The Soul Destroyers, 2001's Popcorn Bubble Fish is his solitary solo effort.
And more's the pity.
The music here is a fuzzy freeform freakout of farty synth basslines, sparse guitar licks and general noise.
However all of this is second fiddle to the rare showcase of Catto's funky and forceful drumming, which despite him never knowingly hogging the limelight has still made the man the stuff of percussive legend.
Friday, May 08, 2009
GUITAR man Tom Brosseau's latest album sees the singer songwriter growing from a solo act into a full band scenario - and for large parts of Posthumous Success it's dead good.
The album, his eighth outing, sees Brosseau experimenting with a fuller sound which brings to my mind a kind of Turin Brakes harmony in its more straightforward numbers.
And at other points Brosseau crafts a distinctive acoustic grunge sound, and although he has a tendency to overcomplicate the sparser tracks, there's always lots to like in his lyrics - such as his genius rhyming of hole and Dave Grohl.
Dead or alive, the blues folk guitar work of Brosseau on Posthumous Success is finger pickin' good.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
BASED On Actual Events, the debut EP from Warwick, is like a musical version of a steaming mug of cocoa.
Rich and warm, the group, led by Scot Keith Warwick, have crafted some tasty folk tunes for this first foray.
Keith Warwick - who played Trent in the children's TV series My Parents Are Aliens, fact fans - clearly has a knack for lacing his tracks with subtle hooks, and with the backing band in full flow Warwick are very easy on the ear.
Based On Actual Events truly is a promising EP.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
I'M SURE nobody really cares, but it was a lot of work for me, so I'm going to write about it anyway.
If you look to the right, you'll see that I've put an Index into my blog, so now you can sort my site's 450-plus posts into Reviews, Downloads, Local Bands, Gigs, Albums Of The Year and Classic Collection categories.
The Marmaduke Duke duo of Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro alongside JP Reid of Sucioperro release part two of their musical trilogy, Duke Pandamonium, on Monday - and it's a right royal treat.
Exploring realms previously hinted at in Neil's day job, such as the Infinity Land intro to Glitter And Trauma, the rockers throw themselves at the synths, throbbing basslines and thumping electro beats with aplomb, spreading the guitar work thinly.
And as a result the album, which was shelved in 2006 after Biffy Clyro's brilliant Puzzle justifiably broke the band into the mainstream, is a fresh, freaky, funky venture.
In fact, Duke Pandamonium could the best dance album of the year so far - not bad for two long-haired beardy alternative rockers.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
ANOTHER flurry of acts have been added to the bill for this year's Download Festival in Castle Donington.
Steel Panther, Trigger The Bloodshed, Lauren Harris, Hexes, Hollywood Undead, Hunting The Minotaur, Japanese Voyeurs, White Man Kamikaze, Loverman, Black Spiders, General Fiasco, Sacred Mother Tongue, 69 Eyes, Dear Superstar, Pulled Apart By Horses, Violent Soho and Brides will all be gracing the stage this year.
SO THAT track, Beggin', has finally fully burrowed into my head and lodged itself there for good.
And as a result, this Bank Holiday Weekend I gave in and did Madcon the courtesy of listing to sophomore album So Dark The Con Of Man.
But the Norwegian rap duo's breakthrough track is clearly head and shoulders above anything else here - although there are some highlights here like Back On The Road.
The main feeling I get from this album is of a group that's torn between being Black Thought and Black Eyed Peas.
The next Gnarls Barkley, anyone?
Monday, May 04, 2009
IT SAYS something that classic turntablist album Carpal Tunnel Syndrome comes with a free comic book and computer game.
Now that's value for money - clearly Kid Koala, real name Eric San, is a DJ bulging with ideas.
And never content to just drop a beat and sit back, from start to finish this album is a lesson in DJ-ing technically as well as creatively.
And clearly the leg work has been done beforehand as well - there's no Eric B or James Brown sampling here, in fact nothing obvious at all.
From the 'wakey wakey, eggs and bakey' of Music For Morning People through the meandering Drunk Trumpet to the clucking bizarre Like Irregular Chickens, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is some of the most original, skilled and entertaining music to come out of two turntables.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
B-LIST R&B star Ciara releases her Fantasy Ride on Monday - although it's a bit more Ford than Ferrari.
As you would expect from an established major label American star on her third album, the club-orientated beats here are as sleek and polished as they come.
And although there are no mind-bogglingly outstanding tracks here, you can see a few hits as you glance down the track listing.
But the most telling thing is that the best bits of Fantasy Ride are when the excellently chosen guest vocalists such as Ludacris, Justin Timberlake and Young Jeezy take the driving seat.
Overall, Fantasy Ride, although never white knuckle, is undoubtedly a smooth ride.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Sadly, back then Hannigan, who provided backing for Rice on both O and 9, hadn't done any solo work.
Now it was a bit of a wait, but at least at last all that has now changed, with Monday seeing the UK release of her debut album Sea Sew, already a hit in her native Ireland.
Led by Hannigan's breathy, enticing vocals, the album is chock full of folk songs that will please fans of her work with Rice.
However where Damien Rice's work is often characterised by its sparseness, here the tracks are laden with strings and horns and xylophones which, like a musical monkey hormone are pumped in to increase each song's potency.
In fact, I would recommend that you see Sea Sew for your self.
Friday, May 01, 2009
AS AN '80s child, the two things that I know about Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, is that he converted to Islam, and he wrote the theme tune to Ricky Gervais's sitcom Extras.
And Roadsinger, his impending album, is unlikely to bring his music to the fore of people's minds once again.
Because despite it being a brilliant vehicle for Islam's distinctive rich vocals, it's actually quite a sombre listen.
Low key strummer after low key strummer, these are kind of one-miserable-man-and-his-guitar compositions about floods of blood and people hating each other that will be pulled out in 20 years time to soundtrack a documentary about how deeply awful the recession was back in 2009.