Thursday, 31 July 2008

josh weller

It is no secret that the London-based acoustic singer/songwriter scene has become somewhat over crowded of late, yet there is a young man with more grit and personality that could convert any cynic. Josh Weller is a quirky individual; whose single "Pretty Girls" is packed with a vicious cynicism framed in the context of a chirpy pop-song. Underneath the songs cheery melody the lyrics about girls who are "never nice, cause they've been pretty all their lives" become all the more personal when we realize that Josh is talking about "one girl in particular."

Josh Weller spent his early years in Borneo, devouring his dads Elvis Presley records and when listening to songs such as 'Circus" it is easy to see the influence of Randy Newman, buddy Holy, Woody Allen and 1940s musicals. He cut his teeth in Leeds in various bands before going solo armed with a kazoo, a guitar and a loathing for much of mankind. The buzz surrounding his single certainly hasn't lifted the singer's feet too far off the ground, when I caught up with the young singer in Brick Lane he talked of the important things in the music business "Don't try and change the world. Don't try and be cool. People can always tell when you are pretending."

Standing in a crowded marketplace of acoustic singer-songwriters is a hard thing to do, but due to his cuttingly sharp and witty lyrics, Josh is sure to find success due to both his friendly nature and combination and funny and thought-provoking songs.

You can listen to other Josh Weller tracks here

Monday, 28 July 2008

primavera festival, barcelona // day 2

I woke up slumped against a wall or some kind of barrier. I had absolutely no idea where I was. You know when you just wake up and there is a short hazy pause, whilst your brain figures out where the fuck you are. Usually, it's your own bedroom and that's not so bad, the pause is pretty short. Sometimes you wake up on sofas or floors or in other people's beds, sometimes you're happy to be there, sometimes you aren't and you just wanna get out fast.

Like I said before, I woke up against some kind of wall or crowd barrier. I was surrounded by people, none of whom I knew, and I had that tired feeling in my face, probably brought on by alcohol. It was near the sea, and it felt like some kind of epic car park with a hundred steps going up to somewhere else.

After a minute or two, I got up and stumbled / wandered into the centre of the crowd and then I heard this song and then it hit me. Barcelona. Primavera. Vice Stage. Set against the backdrop of a giant solar panel (see above.) El Guincho was playing. It was an incredibly happy and euphoric moment. And then I found my friends.

El Guincho - Palmitos Park
El Guincho - Antillas
visit his myspace///buy Alegranza

Live, El Guincho reproduces his summery sample based pop mastery with a laptop and a drum that he bashes whilst grinning like a madman. Once he has more material and notoriety, this could be a serious live show to savour. Admittedly, you have to factor in the home-turf effect, it went down a treat in Barcelona as one would expect, but with vibes this happy, wider success can't be too far away.

Again, drinks offers had proved to be my nemesis. The 1€ Jagermeisters this time round had waylaid myself and my group.

Earlier in the evening, I had a conversation with my friend Sam, who kinda writes this blog and also contributes to The Guardian on a regular basis. He was really drunk, it was really terrible.

Here's one of his tips.
No Age - Eraser

The only other thing that stood out on Friday sadly, let's be honest, was Holy Fuck (Interestingly, both on Young Turks). The Sonics were fun, don't get me wrong. Cat Power was distinctly overwhelming. Holy Fuck assault you with relentlessly schizophrenic rhythms that exist solely to pound you into submission with the help of warm, monotonous synth lines and juddering guitars. Best thing to come out of Canada for a while.

Out of this happy malaise then comes Lovely Allen. It jitters into life slowly, before revealing its trump card, a melody that could frame a million phone adverts and probably soundtrack a day when you win the lottery. Layers of noise get added to the mix, at Primavera it incited a massive stage invasion and just made everybody want to dance joyously like the Doc at the end of Back to the Future after he's just sent Marty back to 1985. Except without the flaming tyre tracks.

Holy Fuck - Lovely Allen
Holy Fuck - Super Inuit
buy their stuff///visit myspace

I need to see them live again. Just for them.

Friday, 25 July 2008

dot to dot festival, nottingham // day 2

So...yawn. About a million years ago, I went to Dot to Dot festival in Nottingham (first part here). It's a beautiful city, as the above photo taken in the town square testifies. Here is day 2.

I awoke with a dirty hangover courtesy of the Sailor Jerry £2.50 mixer offer. I guess, usually, at a festival to get out of the slow-roast sauna that is probably your tent, you wanna get out there as soon as possible and back seeing some music to jolt the senses somewhat. You don't have to do this in a city.

Nobody like old news (or maybe I'm wrong you might like old news?) I'd planned on being extensive but this has dragged on for far too long so here's the highlights.

OPERAHOUSE make nice indie-pop. Or at least that was their intended career path until they decided they wanted to do more. Or that they needed to if they were to have any kind of longevity. That isn't guaranteed yet, the proof will be in their album, due out later this year. The singer, Johnny, needs to use his voice like I'm sure he knows he can as well as being supplemented by the backing vocals of the guitarist, Alex. They blew away any cobwebs that were still present in my mind that day...Diane is a beautifully catchy little tune, perfect indie-pop basically. Plastic Cage is an early sign of the band trying to inject a little more inventiveness using loops and layered vocals to update their indie-pop formula.

Operahouse - Diane

Operahouse - Plastic Cage (demo)
visit their myspace////buy their single Diane here

MYSTERY JETS - I'd last seen the Jets in January at Fleche D'Or when their stunning album, Twenty One had not yet been released or leaked to the world. Four months later, having played this album so much and still somehow not sick of it, I was giddy with excitement to see them perform tracks from the album live. Surprisingly, they didn't open with Hideaway but instead chose Zootime. This omission upset Doug greatly, but when they string tunes together in a combo like Diamonds in the Dark->Young Love->Two Doors Down->Half in love With Elizabeth->Veiled In Grey->Behind the Bunhouse, the result is astonishing. The latter, and album closer Bunhouse was my favourite of the night, with William taking over vocals mockingly for one of Blaine's early parts with a microphone lead in his mouth to try and replicate the voice of his friend. The point in this song which really gets me is towards the end, as the final chorus arrives and Blaine changes pitch to emphasize his kicking in the ribs. It works so well because the song has such a great pace to it, building up really slowly in power up to this point. Glorious climax to an album.

Mystery Jets - Undercover Lover (early demo of Hideaway)
Mystery Jets - Behind the Bunhouse (undercover lover demo) - this is practically the same as the album version. If you don't own this record you should.

I have held out until now because I wanted it on vinyl. The guys at Pure Groove, obviously due to their connections with sixsevennine, have it on vinyl exclusively. Check it out. (It came this morning, the A-side is possible the greatest A-side ever and the artwork is sick.)

This is what Doug had to say after the show. He reveals his track of the year eventually.

Ratatat - Shiller

ESSER was my next port of call. Was pretty excited about catching this boy live, as being a former drummer, the beats were sure to be tight. I like the air of nonchalance he brings to proceedings, his lyrics are pretty dry and musically he occupies a certain electronica-pop area that is never going to be too in your face in an aggressive way, often recalling the mid-nineties?. He did his best to rock out to an empty room though, debut single I Love You was a highlight (it reminds me of White Town), but my favourite is Satisfied - it has a wonderfully over-the-top fairground / silent movie feel to it. If it's a future single, I can definitely envisage Esser being dressed up like a mime artist or something and disappearing into thin air at the end. Not such a huge fan of Headlock, recent single on his new home, Transgressive Records. Don't get me wrong, it's good but it leaves me wanting more. I'm hardly left satisfied. I think the idea of selling a single via the medium of a T-shirt is a bit of a gimmick, but then it could well be the best T-shirt ever.

Esser - I Love You (live on 6music)
Esser - Satisfied (live on 6music)

courtesy of the legendary Daily Growl///visit Esser's website

In brief, Sons and Daughters warmed up for Mystery Jets excellently. William from Mystery Jets advised everybody to go see Santogold but the queueing was ridiculous so it didn't happen for me. Kissy Sell Out was disappointing (more than that, he was gash), his brand of glitchy roller-coaster in a sweet shop electro was not on display. I wish I had gone to see Primary 1 and The Shoes instead.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

florence and the machine : live !

Okay, so I first mentioned Florence and the Machine way back in January. If you haven´t yet experienced her incredible voice, then you are missing out. Incredible is the only way to describe her voice, which is a brimming with an intense power, unrivalled in terms of her indie singer-songwriter contemporaries.

It's fair to say she is aware of the power of her voice, mostly choosing to surround it with sparse arrangements of guitar, occasionally piano and a dash of percussion. This, in my eyes, is a move filled with self-confidence as her voice is powerful enough to almost stand entirely alone, and covering it too much would dampen the raw emotion. Her self-confidence is also evident in lots of vocal show-boating (see Beirut cover)...Florence would not lose in many voice-offs.

Lyrically, she makes references to her lungs in Don't Tell Me (there's a ghost in my lungs) and Lungs which is interesting. Mostly the songs are quite angry and dark but playfully spattered with moments of tenderness, I wonder whether this is perhaps the natural mode of expression for such a powerful voice, or maybe she is just angry and dark when she sings.

The production on her debut single, A Kiss With A Fist, doesn't really allow this power to shine, which is annoying but perhaps is the reason why her cover of Hospital Beds (originally by Cold War Kids) is included. It's moving, to say the least. Her cover of Postcards from Italy is better though. I'd kill for a cover of Hallelujah a la Jeff Buckley.

Apparently, she's just signed to Virgin. I hope she doesn't rush the album out like some of her female indie singer song-writer contemporaries...not mentioning names, coughKateNashcough. It would be a pity, as she has potential bursting out of her, lungs in particular.

buy single from IAMSound here

If, like me, you still haven't seen her live, download her set from London Calling in Amsterdam here and hope that someday you will.

1) Girl With One Eye
2) Hospital Beds
3) Lungs
4) Postcards From Italy
5) Bricks
6) Kiss With A Fist
7) Donkey Kosh

I'm still knackered from Melt! festival. It was amazing. Festival round-up this week I promise.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

radiohead @ lccc 29/06/08

Doing things in any kind of specific order isn't proving to be my speciality at the moment. A few weeks ago, I popped up to Manchester to see Radiohead at LCCC, supported by Bat For Lashes and MGMT.

I'm never really too sure what to make of these super, uber-huge stadium style gigs because usually they are complete organisational nightmares, where buying a drink takes about 2 hours and you feel like the bar queue is a mosh pit.

This wasn't as bad in that respect, compared to my previous visit a year ago to see Arctic Monkeys reach the apex of their touring for Favourite Worse Nightmare. Make of that what you will.

Radiohead were incredible. But I guess you expected that anyway. Paranoid Android was probably my highlight of a stellar set that included every song off In Rainbows except my favourite, House of Cards. The new record is easily their most exquisite, and has real moments of tenderness that made for a thrilling performance when combined with their older electronic Kid A period and earlier rockier periods. Thom Yorke is officially the master of the ethereal vocal.

I caught Radiohead when they toured Hail to the Thief and was left with similar emotions afterwards. Completely, utterly, amazing but just annoying that they didn't play the song you were hoping for. Sod's law I guess. It's the problem when you have such a back-catalogue to go through.

Here are some Radiohead songs that they didn't play, so you don't feel like you actually missed out on anything, in case you haven't seen them on this tour. They have a lot of quirky videos too, apparently this one was filmed without a camera. It's pretty futuristic...

Radiohead - House of Cards
Radiohead - Knives Out
Radiohead - Exit Music (For A Film)
Radiohead - High and Dry

MGMT live were disappointing. Really disappointing when I feel like Time to Pretend is easily one of the tunes, if not the tune of the year so far. Whilst we were queueing for our tickets outside, it sounded like somebody was just playing a CD...and upon gaining entry and getting closer to the action, it still didn't sound much better. I really don't understand why they think it's a good idea to prance around to a backing track of Kids instead of actually playing the damn tune?

Bat for Lashes on the other hand was great. She didn't play my favourite song either, but I shall forgive her. Her voice isn't quite as ethereal as Thom's either, but you can't have everything I guess. Maybe in time....

Bat for Lashes - Sad Eyes

So much stuff to blog about too little time. I'm going to Melt! in Germany this weekend. It's going to be incredible (Justice, Boys Noize, Whitest Boy Alive, Late of the Pier, Bjork, Battles). Expect a big festival round-up soon. Hang in there...good times are round the corner. And come to Respect is Burning tonight....I shall be spinning a few tunes with the record makers all-star crew.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

whatever happened to my glastonbury?

Edith Bowman ended BBC coverage of Glastonbury ’08 remarking on how she’d seen for the first time how important the slotting of bands is. Indeed Glasto’s setup never looked so skeletal in my memory, and that’s for one reason: meagre resources. It wasn’t the lack of Macca-mega traditional headliners; last year thrived offering scorching music of the moment. It was mainly buoyed by a huge injection of staggering American talent: Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse and Rufus Wainwright took the weekend so far that it didn’t matter how good fledgling headliners Arctic Monkeys and The Killers were (both in fact pulled off gracious, sparkling sets). Fresh-faced bands towering on the bill wasn’t the reason this year looked limp. A fixation on new music is itself nothing new; look at The Smiths triumphantly headlining Glasto in 1984 with only one studio album to date. Nor was the oh-so-controversial first hip hop headliner a spanner in the works. Jay-Z’s set and attitude was refreshing. George Lamb commented in this month’s Arena on the pleasure of interviewing hip hop artists over snotty “monosyllabic” indie bands: “Those rap boys are so drilled, they’re straight in: ‘Yo Georgie! When I’m in London I hang with George Lamb!’” Jay-Z’s bombastic performance was a joy to watch and a welcome change to the moody mumbles and yells of the likes of Foals, who have gotten a little tiresome to say the least.

The problem at Glasto ’08 was not how new or controversial many of the acts were, but how crap their music is. And worst of all, it’s a British problem. The Kills writhed as sexily as ever, The Raconteurs (led by the coolest rock star alive, Jack White) made me want to go to Tennessee and Leonard Cohen was the act of the festival. Even pedestrian Texas three-piece White Denim fed us some riotous beardy noise-pop from the Queen’s Head. Yet what was sitting second on the bill on Friday night? The demented Fratellis. Flying the flag on Sunday? The Pigeon Detectives. On home turf for their Glasto debut? The stupid Ting Tings. It doesn’t sound like there is half a person in any of these bands, and this is the supposed forefront of British indie! In the shadow of such goons it was gorgeous to see witty janglers Franz Ferdinand, upward-bound Mystery Jets and a curiously clean Pete Doherty up at The Park (the newest and best stage and area of the festival with a stall selling amazing steak sandwiches). These guys, who came up right before NME lost its nose and hit freefall, are (along with Moz) all we have on our doorstep. They’ll come a time when it’ll be no good spitting the alternative of glitchy electro at ranks of betrayed indie fans missing shoegazing, Fender-laden anti-heroes. Glastonbury showed that British indie needs to grow up again, and stop thinking that Glasvegas et al are the answer (someone needs to tell that lead guy that he’s not Ian McCulloch, he’s not even Ian Brown).

Songs of Glasto '08: