Sunday, 10 August 2008

black kids - partie traumatic

Formed in Jacksonville in 2006, Black Kids debut EP Wizard of Ahhhs was released last August to an excited fanfare and clambering record labels. With this they had set the hype-machine in full motion and as a result had a lot of expectations to live up to. Luckily for Black Kids their debut album does not disappoint.

Partie Traumatic is an uncompromisingly good pop record. Black Kids seems to have created an album jam packed with singles; from ‘Hurricane Jane’ and infectiously catchy ‘I’m Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend to Dance’ to potential hits such as ‘Love Me Already’. Not to forget sex-obsessed ‘Listen to Your Body,’ in which vocalist Dawn Watley has a conversation with her body mid-song (voiced by frontman Reggie Youngblood), who wants to “feel somebody on me.”

From opening track ‘Hit the Heartbreaks’ with its bizarre knock-knock joke, Partie Traumatic flourishes into an unstoppable and unforgettable mix of Youngblood’s taste for wit, catchy guitar hooks, edgy drum beats and disco synths – producing 10 irresistible melodies.

So what is the presence of a mere six new songs suggest Black Kids aren’t exactly prolific? And whilst 80s revivalist indie is hardly anything new, with Brit-pop veteran Bernard Butler behind the wheel, these Floridians have still created an absolutely fantastic pop record.

Black Kids - Hurricane Jane
Black Kids - I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You (Twelves Remix) - editors note - this is a very very good remix.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

laurel collective : vuitton blues

In summer, I walk around a lot more. It's nicer to because it doesn't rain as much, and there's usually one song stuck in my head the whole time. Three years ago, it was A Certain Romance by Arctic Monkeys, two years ago, it was You!Me!Dancing by Los Campesinos, last summer it was Come on Feet by Pete and the Pirates.

This year, the honour belongs to Laurel Collective, recent signings to Domino imprint Double Six Records (also home to Eugene McGuinness). The song in question is their current single, Vuitton Blues. In comparison, just for comparison's sake, with the aforementioned singles, it has the catchy, warm ambience of all the others, but I find it more subtle. Also with Los Campesinos, the female vocalist just cannot sing, which has somewhat soured my liking for them I'm afraid,

Back to the point, Laurel Collective are a 6 piece, whittled down from a lot more before. They used to be two different bands, but then decided it would be a better idea to join forces and form some kind of super-group. Bob Tallast is one of 2 vocalists, who offers the kind of vocals that you'd expect to hear from indie-pop (think GoodBooks meets O Fracas meets The Smiths if you want a lazy reference point) but imbuing them with a tenderness that I find original. Martin Sakatu brings a lot of soul and more power to proceedings and the combination is just thrilling. Behind them, you have your standard bass / guitar / drum / tasty analogue synth combo.

Vuitton Blues opens with gently throbbing synths, then a riff that sounds familiar but remains hard to place. Handclaps and vocalist number one, Bob, enter with more synthesizer washing around them. Backing vocals from Martin start to creep in. Around the minute mark, a beautiful moment occurs : Bob is cooing that everything in his life is in bloom and then it falls to pieces. The vocal combination at this point is just great, I can't think of any two vocalists that dovetail so well, it's not call and response, it's more emotive than that and doesn't take itself seriously at all.

It's the kind of thing Les Incompetents were aiming for but just couldn't achieve. So, I'm being blown away just by this combination and in comes the chorus. It's a bouncy sing-a-long chorus to die for whilst also marking the point in the song where everything comes together. Before it's dashing off in all kinds of tangents, but this is a brief moment of unity amongst this buoyant mess of a pop song. Cue neat guitar solo, soulful vocals from the other singer and then repeat of the chorus. I think that is the genius of dual vocalists, the second verse never seems like a lazy repetition if the voice changes.

At this point, you know, I'd be happy if the song ended. It's pretty good, I don't ask for much more from my pop songs than this. But, this one weighs in at over 4 minutes, slightly above average and there is a reason for this. After the second chorus, the guitar breaks down before Martin returns with the chorus but this time in badabap form as opposed to the Louis Vuitton bag referencing former version. The falling to pieces comes back after its fleeting appearance earlier and breaks my heart into a lot of little pieces before picking everything back up together into a rousing finale. A little touch like this is what sets Laurel Collective out as a very promising proposition, whilst ensuring the song will remain much more than just a sparkling short-lived summer fling.

Laurel Collective - Vuitton Blues
buy the single here///visit their myspace

Their mini album, Feel Good Hits of A Nuclear War, is out as well and it's great and you will hear about it later. For now though, just savour this song. I will be at their gig at Bardens Boudoir on 25th September for the launch of the next single, International Love Affair, which will be a digital affair as well. I can't wait, if the video below for Vuitton Blues is any hint as to the joys their live show might hold.

Friday, 8 August 2008

primavera festival, barcelona // day 3

LinkPrimavera part 1 here for all those latecomers out there.

Saturday at Primavera was all about the drummers and then the beats. First waking up on a random sofa of our new Catalunyan buddy after going to bed at like 7am, Marc and miserably gathering some energy together before heading back to the forum.

First up was Scout Niblett who just blew me away in the sleepy surroundings of the auditorium. Basically, a plush theatre totally at odds with the Spanish car park chic of the rest of the festival. Sam fucked off to the VIP area as is his wont, and I settled down with my friend Adam, who hadn't slept since about three days previous and was in a bit of a state. He slept all the way through, the seats were far too comfy. Her voice = emotion.

Scout Niblett - Kiss

Next up was Lightspeed Champion, who is an interesting prospect live. I hate it say it, but the guy seems intimidated by the audience every time I have seen him perform. It's a pity because some of his songs are of a very high quality. Midnight Surprise is awesome, all ten minutes of it. He needs a proper female backing vocalist live though, as Emmy The Great's underpinning role in his songs should not be overlooked. MP3 to follow in Melt! review.

Dirty Projectors had sound problems, which is always gonna be annoying when you have vocals that straddle a fine line between tender and painful. Thankfully my ears stopped hurting and the sound sorted itself out. Smiles all round.

Dirty Projectors - Police Story

Next up were Menomena, who never cease to amaze me live. A mix of three talented individuals that could have and do have other projects going on. Each of their vocals covers a different range and it always leaves me wondering which one of them I'd like to see most on their own. Probably the drummer I think.

Menomena - The Pelican

Back to the Vice stage for Alan Braxe, one of the king's of French filter house. He's pretty well known for his work with Fred Falke, and whilst you can't really say that it's original, it's just fucking good. Nobody ever stopped drinking beer or 1€ Jagermeister because it wasn't good. He played the instrumentals from Modjo's Lady which I loved. No vocals but the crowd knew what they were witnessing.

Alan Braxe - Addicted

LES SAVY FAV = incredible live. Everybody knows that they have one of the best and craziest frontman in recent years. I don't need to say anymore.

Back, back down to the Vice stage for some slightly more recent French electro goodness. First up was Surkin, who is 20 but looks about 12. White Night Two is one of the best dance tracks I've heard all year and certainly signals a step up for Ben. His DJing ability has never been in doubt, but I wasn't too sure about the tunes. He's climbing though, and if France were to have an electro fighting tag-team, I'd have Surkin alongside Danger and SebastiAn.

Kavinsky, on the other hand, cannot DJ very well. I think everybody knows this. It doesn't matter though because he is quite possibly the coolest looking motherfucker alive. Take a look at that photo above. He is 34, but acts like he is about 21. What he lacks in live DJing ability he makes up with some killer 80's zombie electro. It bugs me when people bracket Kavinsky in with the Ed Banger lot, because he isn't signed to Ed Banger. And he doesn't use distortion, which the big Ed Banger players are famed for. It's more melodic, arpeggiated and the artwork is like the best comic never made.

Surkin - White Night Two
Kavinsky - Wayfarer

Right, I'm moving out of Paris kinda soon. Gonna try and get a post up tomorrow with my track of the summer so far. It's fucking killer and that's all I'm going to say. Melt! review on Monday and then LOTP instore at Pure Groove on Tuesday. I need to stop going to festivals cos they are so incredibly annoying to write up.

Competition to be announced also. This blog is moving too. Wordpress. And I want more writers. So, if you think you have what it takes, email me.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

jay-z: "What do you say, me, you and your Chloe glasses go somewhere private where we can discuss fashion?"

When I was 13, my school-bus journeys meant being glued to my tape Walkman, staring idly out the window as Korn, Silverchair and Nirvana blared away in my ears. My sister, three years older, was discovering Jurassic 5, early Destiny’s Child and Erykah Badu, so eventually I began to drop the grungy, nu-metal thing that Kerrang! was hot for; I was under the influence of something new. Being aurally fed a mixture of sounds from, not only the above, but the likes of The Fugees, Busta Rhymes, and Phi-Life Cypher, I was discovering the world of hip-hop. I changed habits, bought The Source magazine and some Adidas shell toes; soon enough that old tape Walkman was overrun with globally successful hip-hop artists and the (then largely unfamiliar) American label, Rawkus Records.

A year later, by the age of 14, my collection had grown to include artists not only on Rawkus, but Okayplayer and the BadMeaningGood series, with Stones Throw records – home to Madvillain, Quasimoto and J.Dilla – following suit. Some poppier songs from Kelis, Missy Elliot and Outkast had caught my attention; rummaging around in my sister’s room, I discovered a tape she had made from recording one of Tim Westwood’s Radio One shows. Getting out the Walkman I was promptly introduced to R Kelly’s Fiesta which seamlessly mixed into Guilty until Proven Innocent, a Jay-Z song which not only caught my attention with its catchy chorus and looping whistle, but lodged in my head for the rest of that day. So the following day I went straight to Fopp to purchase Jay-Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt. From the opener Can’t Knock the Hustle, I knew straight out that Jay-Z wasn’t to be ignored.

At that time, Napster and Morpheus were a God-send, giving easy access to more and more Jay-Z. The sample from the musical Annie in his song Hard Knock Life had friends and I singing along and dancing around each other’s bedrooms to Big Pimpin’. I knew that I had found a hip-hop artist who didn’t give a shit if he was mainstream. Jay-Z was always pushing boundaries with what he could sample: everything from The Doors and A Tribe Called Quest, to Earth Wind and Fire.

Whilst Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli were rapping about the language of love, Africa, and people robbing their grandmother, Jay-Z stuck to the popular themes of money, women and notoriety, embodying his success in the song U Don’t Know.

Jay-Z’s sixth LP The Blueprint was released in 2001, reaching number one in the U.S. on September 11th 2001. Mainstream fame here in the UK, not to mention popularity amongst my school friends, was certain. The Blueprint featured Kanye West’s production (before becoming a full-on recording artist himself) combining rawer songs such as The Takeover, with accessible club-hits such as Girls, Girls, Girls and IZZO (H.O.V.A).; the album received much praise and five stars from The Source.

When the rumours started that Jay-Z was retiring, I felt pretty gutted. Being only 16 in 2002, I never imagined that I would see him play live… and then a show at London’s Wembley Arena was announced. My friends and I begged and begged our cautious parents – whose associations of hip hop then were 50 Cent and his 9 bullet wounds – knowing we couldn’t miss out. Forking out £40 (which was a lot, back then even) we donned our tracksuits, straightened our side-ponytails and put on our gold hoop-earrings. Heading to London was exciting back then, and walking to Wembley surrounded by fans, it seemed, from all ages and cultures, we were both scared and in awe.

Jay-Z played a raw and raucous show, men were shouting and jeering, the women were squealing and squabbling. Despite a silencing freestyle rap and pyrotechnics heating up the arena beyond its already fiery atmosphere, Jay-Z never ceased in retaining an aura of someone still angry at the world. He may have been planning to retire back then, but even at that show something felt like it was incomplete.

So when another album was released in late 2002, by way of The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse – a double-album still featuring West’s production, not forgetting the Neptunes and Timbaland – I was surpised. What about retiring? What was with all these ‘featured’ artists? All of a sudden there were 25 songs to digest and it all felt a bit too much, like there was suddenly something Jay-Z had to prove, to keep his reign over mainstream hip-hop. There, my interest in Jay-Z started to wane and feeling a little disappointed I shelved The Gift & The Curse.

Fast-forward to February this year and I hear he’s coming back. O2 Wireless Festival in Hyde Park, as a headliner for an unusual mixture of a day which featured Hercules and Love Affair (not yet tired of their debut), The Cool Kids, Annie and Pete and The Pirates. Well, why not? I’m still into him. It’s a case of, I’m still a fan of (that old chestnut) “his earlier stuff”, but it’s true. I haven’t bothered with The Black Album, despite owning it. And the most recent American Gangster so called ‘concept-album’ about his experiences selling crack on the streets of the Marcy Projects, well I couldn’t even a name a song. O.K. so that’s pretty bad, but the classics such as Ain’t no Nigga, I Just Wanna Love U, Can I get A…and Song Cry were what I wanted to see.

It had been six years since my friends and I had travelled up to London to see him play last time. I felt that a lot would have changed: he’d married Beyonce, leading a very private life, hell he’s even made a concept-album… it screamed maturity and reinforced his ‘ruler of hip-hop’ status, because he seemed to have grown where other rappers have remained making commercial, radio-friendly records. I might not have bothered with his last few, but I certainly wanted to see how he would compare to the fire that he breathed at Wembley. So in early July, the boyfriend and I went for a day of fun in the park. Even this year it was £40 for the ticket but you certainly got your money’s worth.

Jay-Z came on stage at a little after 8.30pm to cheers and an almost unified salute of diamond-shaped hand signs, made by putting your index fingers and thumbs together. One guy to my right muttered to his mate “What’s that all about?”, “Dunno” he replied. See, this is why I’m a fan of “his earlier stuff” because that kind of thing, a mere hand gesture, is never forgotten and unites such a crowd.

The show itself was relentless, featuring brass and drum sections, DJ mixing various beats and Memphis Bleek providing supporting raps. The videos to accompany the songs were clever, creative, featuring everything from beaches and jet-skis to Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull. The crowd rapped along at speed, a guy to my left knew every word, and I surprised myself by being able to remember some, too. Occasionally, taunted by the girls and guys in the front row, Jay-Z joked with the crowd, telling one girl ‘not to do that’ because she was putting him off and thanking another for wearing a Barack Obama t-shirt. Big Pimpin’, Is That Your Bitch, and a rap battle between the sides of the audience for Jigga What, Jigga Who ensued; the 2002 show had tension, but here everyone was just having fun.

The highlights were endless, rapping his introduction to Umbrella, the crowd reacted by putting up their own umbrellas, a theme which remained for the rest of the show because he ‘liked how that looked’. Another was the moment when, after riling up the crowd with images of George Bush, Jay-Z rapped majestically about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation left behind: still there and still ignored. Things brightened up with a remix of American Boy, bringing in a rap about ‘London Bridge is falling down’ but slowing it down and emphasizing in fact he meant London breeches.

Jay-Z closed the evening with his chart-success Encore, drenched in blue light he moved across the stage like a man in absolute power, with the chant ‘what the hell are you waiting for?’ underpinning the song, those final minutes were epic. Here was a single man in front of thousands of others, proving just why he was still conquering. Retire? Give it ten more years.

Jay-Z - I Just Wanna Love U feat. Pharrell