Monday, 26 November 2007

artist: plugs

"That number looks familiar. It's mine."

Remember that chorus, because it's sure to sear its way into your mind over the next six months.

Plugs are three guys from St. Albans armed with drum machines, keyboards and guitars and some beautifully catchy choruses. I think it's fair to say that they blur the boundaries somewhat. They share a manager with Friendly Fires as well as being on People In The Sky, a relatively new label who put out FF's first releases.

That Number is set to be the first release by Plugs, and it's a pretty damn good way to get the ball rolling. A slow repeating keyboard riff and a hypnotic drum beat bring the song in, before the verse kicks in underpinned by some electronics that sound delightfully skewed. As with Friendly Fires, there is a certain warmth to their sound at times which I really like, if only because when it isn't there you really notice it. The aforementioned chorus builds up slowly, being traded with the verse to good effect before an awesome acapella / rap style breakdown surfaces around the 90 second mark. The song isn't just about the chorus though, the verses are just as catchy but it's the combination of these two components to some seriously eccentric, but still poppy electronics that really makes it work. The vocals are good too - the image that pops into my head is Thom Yorke circa Kid A minus the paranoia and whininess.

I think these guys would do well to avoid being pretty damn big in 2008. My friends in London tell me the live show is pretty immense. Few other songs on the myspace that are really worth a listen.

Plugs - That Number

Yuksek has also done a remix of the song, which beefs it up considerably, making it perfect for the dancefloor. You can find it over here on redthreat.

I downed one of these on Saturday. I wouldn't really advise it.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

artist: friendly fires

I have spent a lot of time this week out. The grèves have meant that walking is the only way to get around Paris, which is draining. There is a service where you can rent bicycles, but they don't really agree with me.

Have quite a few things in the pipeline with this blog, but they aren't quite ready, so see this as a bit of a stop-gap.

I first encountered Friendly Fires in Brighton at Concorde 2 as part of The Great Escape. My recollections of the night are somewhat blurred but I remember them being quite fun, crammed with all manner of electronic pop ideas.

They've had a few EPs out on People in the Sky and now they are back with a single for the Moshi Moshi Singles Club, entitled Paris. If previous MMSC singles are anything to go by, Friendly Fires could well be on the brink of the big time - Late of the Pier and Kate Nash have gone on to sign major label deals after MMSC Singles Club releases.

Paris is certainly the tune to launch Friendly Fires. It has a vibe that just evokes a cold, winter night walking down by the banks of the Seine looking up at the stars. A slow, shimmering synth line leads the song in over some sampled film speech, before the cowbell-heavy beat and vocals arrive simultaneously. A verse about wistful dreams of moving to Paris and living it up at Le Showcase follows before a soaring chorus comes in and takes you away. It fits this time of year perfectly, in the way that Digitalism’s Pogo will always make me think of this summer. Also posted a remix by Nic Nell, which is dynamite.

Friendly Fires – Paris
Friendly Fires – On Board (Nic Nell remix)
///order Paris here

Monday, 19 November 2007

incredible day of releases

Today has been weird. I seem to just keep finding out about more and more amazing releases. All on one day.

I'll jump right in with Daft Punk's ALIVE album. As soon as I was out of bed today, I pretty much ran to Virgin Megastore down the road to get my hands on my copy. There was a guy in front of me in the queue that took forever. Seeing them at 02 Wireless in Hyde Park this summer was possibly the best live music experience of my life. I don't think I've ever seen people have so much fun dancing at a gig. I was lucky enough to catch them at Global Gathering last year as well, but Wireless was much, much better. Not entirely sure why, but I think that it being outside at Wireless as opposed to inside a tent at Global helped. Also, being with a lot more of my friends helped, because it was outside and they came on at that magic time when the sun is just setting really helped to create an amazing atmosphere.

The album, if you can get the double CD version, is wonderfully packaged in a little hardback CD case that contains some amazing photographs from their world tour, which don't really do justice to the wonderful light show that accompanied their set, but is still worth a look. The audio is taken from their gig this July at Bercy, which is on the outskirts of Paris. If you aren't familiar with Daft Punk, you really really should be. The first two albums, Homework and Discovery received a better critical reception than their more recent offering, Human After All, but the 85 minutes on this CD is just flawless.

They manage to seamlessly piece almost their entire back catalogue into an incredible live experience. I remember at the time never really knowing what was going to happen next, so when Aerodynamic or Around the World came in suddenly, it really hit the spot. It was almost as if this was how they intended all the songs to be played all along. Digital Love is a notable omission, but I'm sure they had their reasons. It was the first thing to go on at the afterhouse party.

Below is the opening track to give you a taster, and the track which they sample heavily from for it. Go see Daft Punk if you can, it was incredible. Rumours abound that they might be playing a secret show for NYE but that's all it is. One half of the duo, Guy Manuel de Homem Christo just produced the new Sebastien Tellier album too, which will be worth watching out for.

Daft Punk - Robot Rock / Oh Yeah (ALIVE 2007)
Breakwater - Release The Beast (cheers to palms out sounds for this)

Buy Alive 2007 here.
Please stop reading this and run to Tesco and pick it up.


The next two artists are from London and could be bracketed into the whole anti-folk scene that seems to be going on in the capital at the moment. I don't really like when artists get pigeon-holed into scenes because a lot of the time it's really stupid, as a load of artists get included when really the musical similarities between them aren't always present. I think the main reason these artists have been grouped together is probably because they are all mates.

Johnny Flynn is one of those people who you might describe as annoyingly multi-talented. Not only is he a talented musician, lyricist and singer - he's also a trained Shakespearean actor, last seen starring in productions at The Old Vic. One would assume he feels comfortable on stage; I haven't had the pleasure yet, but I'm sure it won't be long. With his band The Sussex Wit, Johnny Flynn has released two 7" records on Young and Lost Records. The Box is his first for Y&L's parent label, Vertigo Records, and it's certainly the most catchy. The chorus is to die for and makes me feel like I should be in a field on a sunny day, sitting on a bale of hay whilst drinking home-made lemonade. They are playing in London on December 10th at Bush Hall for the Noah and the Whale Christmas party.

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit - The Box
Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit - Eyeless in Holloway
///buy The Box here

Emmy The Great deserves to be massive, but probably won't be just yet. Out of all the female artists that have emerged from London and the surrounding area recently, (Lily Allen, Adele, Kate Nash, Laura Marling, Florence Welsh etc.) I think I prefer Emmy. Mainly because she has a turn of phrase that straddles a boundary between vulnerable and sarcastic. Her choice of subject matter is wide and thought provoking, ranging from car crashes to abortions. On her latest self-released single, Gabriel , she puts herself in the position of a woman in Victorian times marrying for money. She has a clear ability to evoke an emotional response, whilst still having reference points in modern culture. This interview from The Times with her reveals a lot more about her than I could hope to at this point. City Song is from her previous release - the amazing but appalingly titled My Bad EP. There are also a few tracks available from the Singles Club of Kruger Magazine, which is free to join.

Emmy The Great - Gabriel
Emmy The Great - City Song (XFM session)
///buy Gabriel here on Close Harbour


Remixes galore now as the reworkings of Bolt Action Five's Knightmare inspired Tree Friend Tree Foe, the debut release on new Pure Groove imprint, Lost In Paris reaches shelves today. I've mentioned this before so I won't go into too much detail, but the song certainly has awesome remix potential. Kissy Sell Out certainly earns his dough, it's worth buying just for his track. The Hadouken remix reminds me of Klaxons quite a lot.

Bolt Action Five - Tree Friend Tree Foe (Jamdouken remix)
buy Tree Friend Tree Foe remixes here

GoodBooks are an indie band that get remixed a lot - almost as much as Bloc Party. So I'm quite excited to see that they've released a remix album, entitled Control Freaks - The Remixes. Their songs seem to lend themselves beautifully to remixes, perhaps due to the vague electronics that pervade their ultimately guitar-based indie. In some cases, the remixes sound a lot better than the original versions - The Teenagers reworking of The Illness especially so. Again, Kissy Sell out rears his crazy fashion-core mullethead to wonderful effect on Leni. I was hoping that the Marvin The Martian take on Walk With Me would be on there, but sadly it isn't. I've put it below for you to check out. Is it a bad thing that the remixes seem to be better, in my opinion at least, than the actual album? They must be doing something right, that's for sure.

GoodBooks - The Illness (Teenagers remix)
GoodBooks - Leni (Kissy Sell Out remix)
Marvin The Martian - I Don't Go 'Alone'

buy off Control Freaks - The Remixes off I-tunes. Listen to the whole thing here


Last, but certainly not least, is a lovely bit of French electro from Danger. Heard about him off Good Weather and whilst I think it's certainly a bit early to be comparing him to Justice and the track to Waters of Nazareth, it's definitely deserving of your attention and possibly a place on party mixtapes. It's got a dirty 8-bit gamegear feel to it, with a vocal to match. There's another track over at Discobelle too, so check those out.

Danger - 11h30
buy 09/14/2007 Ep (Elkler'o'ShocK) here

I'm not going to do a release review like this every week, I just thought it odd that so many really good releases happened to fall on the same day. I definitely want to talk about releases, that's why I put the upcoming ones that interest me over in the box on the right. If there are any other good ones that I've missed today, please let me know. Should have RSS feed sorted by the end of the week also.

I'm incredibly excited about the album version of the following track, Red Sox Pugie.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

artist: jens lekman

I stumbled across Jens Lekman's latest album, Night Falls Over Kortedala, last week. I'm not really sure why I ordered it, but I did anyway. I think it's important to sometimes make random stabs in the dark because you might come across something really fucking good.

Jens Lekman, a 26-year old from Sweden, sings in a style that is reminiscent of 1960's crooners. The music which supports his voice has a similar sheen, in a more overblown 80’s pop sense, which is almost sickly. However, this proves to be the perfect accompaniment to his concise and witty lyrics, which demonstrate a strong understanding of melancholy and in particular its relation to memory. I definitely agree with the idea that melancholy is something that is terribly saccharine; something that you can lose yourself in almost to the point of uneasy delirium, which when bound to the unreliable faculty of memory can yield interesting results.

Every detail that Lekman reveals through his words is drenched in this lovely joyfulness, even if the subject matter isn’t always so cheerful. Lekman sets out his stall with the first two tracks which push the theme of memory to the forefront, before filling the rest of the album with a series of anecdotal songs about life in Kortedala (an area of Gothenburg), all rendered in this dreamy clarity.

One such tale is A Postcard to Nina, a message to a girl that Lekman was in love with, but who was in love with a woman. Lekman recalls the delightfully awkward meal with her father, which he agreed to attend, posing as her boyfriend, in order to save face.

Other highlights include I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You and Shirin. The former offers up some useful alternatives to “It’s not you...its me” and other reasons that are often mumbled out in situations when only brutal honesty will suffice. The latter is a beautiful account of receiving a haircut from Shirin, the proprietor of an illegal beauty salon. Lekman promises not to tell anyone.

Samples feature heavily on the record amidst a wide variety of instrumentation including trumpets, accordions, harps, violins and various bits of percussion. This diversity lends a rich quality to the record that is perfectly matched by Lekman’s use of language. Not a single word is wasted.

Jens Lekman – A Postcard to Nina

Jens Lekman – I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You

visit his website /// buy Night Falls Over Kortedala


In other news, I'm getting quite excited about the new Erol Alkan produced Mystery Jets LP, which will surface early next year. Here are a few videos to whet the appetite and a demo of a song called 'Half in Love With Elizabeth', which when properly recorded could be sensational.

Mystery Jets - Half In Love With Elizabeth (demo)
visit their website for tour dates.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

remembrance sunday

I think it's important. Admittedly, I was fast asleep at 11.11am this morning. I haven't bought a poppy either cos they don't really have them here like they do in Britain, but I think it's important to not forget about these things.

Today I want to mention a few artists that I feel have used the subject of the wars of the early 20th century to good effect - Jeremy Warmsley and GoodBooks.

Jeremy Warmsley
is a 24 year old singer / songwriter / producer from West London. His debut album, The Art of Fiction, was released last year on Transgressive Records. Since then, it's probably been the album that has received the most play on my mp3 player. It's starts off like a speeding train with Dirty Blue Jeans and doesn't relent in its intensity. Warmsley's music embodies the new and the old, belonging somewhere in the gap between electronica and acoustic folky pop with a strong emphasis on lyrics, sometimes about different characters and stories, sometimes more personal.

The song which is relevant to today's discussion is the second track on the LP, I Promise, which was also Jeremy's debut single.

Quite simply, it's a wartime love song supported by army-style marchine beats and gentle guitar strumming which mix well with the multi-layered vocals. It makes me think of Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks in that there's a sense of longing of there allied to the idea I guess that an occupied country isn't that safe a place to be.

The military theme is also something I believe Jeremy will continue to use occasionally, judging by the following song, 15 Broken Swords, taken from an XFM gig at Camden Barfly earlier this year, which concerns a military wedding. It should figure on his second LP, due to surface next year - early reports suggest it will be immense.

He also took the time out to produce a remix of Passchendaele by ex-Transgressive label buddies, GoodBooks (who seem to get an incredible amount of remixes!). Passchendaele is a blissfully catchy tale of a father and son who both give the ultimate sacrifice for their country, fighting for the cause in the First and Second World Wars. Warmsley's version strips back the guitars and the electronics leaving just the vocal, which he then surrounds with a series of strings. This adds a more sombre tone to the song, perhaps more in fitting with its subject matter, without subduing the great melodies within it. It doesn't really showcase the depth of Jeremy's producing abilities as demonstrated on his LP, but that clearly is not the point. The original still has the edge, but the Warmsley version is a nice alternative.

Jeremy Warmsley - 15 Broken Swords (live at Barfly)
GoodBooks - Passchendaele (Jeremy Warmsley remix)
GoodBooks - Passchendaele (demo)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

gig: foals + lightspeed champion @ la boule noire 9/11

I really hate getting to gigs late. Pushing your way past the bouncer, trying to rip the ticket in half for the stupid woman with the clipboard and then depositing your coat in the cloakroom, all whilst craning your head manically to where the sound is coming from and trying to run at the same time. All because Foals are on first. Before Lightspeed Champion. Followed by The Twang.

Do not adjust your screen.

You did read that correctly.

In an ideal world the line up would have been different, because then I wouldn’t have been late for Foals. I wouldn’t also have to feel like I’m somehow subsidising the Twang’s Stella and Burberry habits.

Foals are Yannis, Jack, Jimmy, Edwin and Walter. Live, they make me want to bounce. They eschew the conventional idea of playing facing the audience, instead positioning themselves so they face each other. This has the effect of destabilising things somewhat, as it makes me feel like they are playing ultimately for themselves. I don’t mind this at all, in fact I quite like it because it just makes you want to get involved. And bounce.

Their set of danceable, technically astute pop was chaotic, as is the norm for their shows, with the band regularly crowdsurfing and jittering all over the place, but still utterly flawless. They played some songs that I hadn't heard before, including the wonderful Red Socks Pugie, which the singer, Yannis, informed us was about love and his one, shit experience of it. There is a certain sense of a paranoia which pervades their music, I can't quite put my finger on it. Their debut album, produced by TV on the Radio's David Sitek, is going to be one of the records of 2008. I wouldn't be surprised either if they show up Bloc Party on their upcoming UK Arena tour.

The three songs below are all amazing in their own way. Their next single, Balloons, is out through Transgressive Records on December 10th. You can get it on a variety of formats here. I'm a huge admirer of their artwork too, Tinhead is talented.

Foals – Red Socks Pugie (XFM Session)
Foals - Mathletics ///buy it here
Foals - Hummer (Surkin remix)

Lightspeed Champion has impressed me of late. I must admit I wasn’t the biggest Test Icicles fan aside from the odd single, and his subsequent reinvention as an alt-country / folk artist surprised me. I really tried not to like Galaxy of the Lost, but somehow it just got under my skin which resulted in a lot of play on my bedroom turntable. Sometimes it takes me a while to flip the record over and check out the B-side and upon doing that a similar process occurred. Waiting Game is superbly written in the way it builds up deftly, revealing its authors feeling’s of complete isolation and disorientation which leaves you in no doubt that the closing lines eagerly awaiting the end of the song are sincere.

Lightspeed Champion – Waiting Game

It turns out that Dev doesn’t know how to play the song anymore, which is a pity but hardly surprising due to his prolific songwriting nature (rumoured to be at least a song a day). With a band behind him (but no Emmy the Great or Florence Welch sadly) the songs certainly have a lot more weight behind them as one would expect and I enjoyed the performance immensely, even if it wasn’t as good as Foals. I think that after the release of his debut LP next year, and the bigger gigs that will surely follow its success, Lightspeed Champion’s live show will surely be slightly more grandiose. The prospect of more instruments, more songs, more backing singers is certainly an interesting one. He is certainly capable of captivating an audience by himself, but the idea of a show with more depth excites me.

Finally, it wouldn’t be fair to ignore The Twang completely would it? I mean, just because I really despise them doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write about them if I happen to be in a venue where they are ‘performing’. I thought about staying, but I just couldn’t. The venue was emptying slowly anyway, and I don’t like empty venues. I managed to catch the opinions of this young Twang fan, Dudley, who eloquently describes his feelings towards them.

Friday, 9 November 2007

gig : shychild @ point FMR 8/11

Have been laptopless for the past month. Borrowed other people’s but it makes me feel a bit rude and uneasy at times. It has made blogging very difficult, mainly just because I haven’t had access to the music on my computer. I haven’t been able to charge up my mp3 player either, so it’s pretty much been a vinyl month.

Anyway…I first saw Shy Child at Knife the Wife at Corsica Studios back in May with Kap Bambino.

For those of you who don’t know – Shy Child are a two piece from New York. Nate Smith plays the drums like an absolute demon, whilst Pete Cafarella sings and plays the keytar with such vitality he shatters any conception you might have that his instrument is just a toy.

Admittedly, on the various albums and the smattering of seven-inches released to date, this energy is not as evident; I only say this due to the sheer impact of their live show. Point Emphémère was sparsely populated last night, I think due to Les Inrocks Festival starting with gigs galore for the next few days (New Young Pony Club and Bondo de Role were in town last night). Support came from Holy Hail, who were not good. They lacked skills and enthusiasm, which is all I’m going to say.

Shy Child weren’t that happy at the lack of crowd, as a brief conversation outside with Pete testified. After ordering every crowd member to take five steps forward, the two boys commenced proceedings. They make a lot of noise, and they get you dancing and it’s just completely unrelenting in its objective of drawing you in. I often wonder how a lot of two-pieces make such a tremendous amount of noise, and other more populated groups often struggle to create anything with quite as much dynamism. If you can catch them on tour, I would highly recommend it due to the sheer exuberance of the Shy Child live show.

Shy Child – Noise Won’t Stop
Shy Child – Drop The Phone

Also, why is it that people never talk, or even look at each other on the underground. I don't see why the commute has to be that mind-numbing. I enjoyed the following video from La Blogotheque, showing Malajube playing some songs on the Parisien Metro. Really check out La Blogotheque / concerts a emporter. They are incredible.