Monday, March 27, 2006Those bastards at Lycos Webhosting messed up my domain registration, so my main site (and hosted images) are not working. Poo. Hopefully it will be back up again very soon and I will not have to buy a new domain. Oh internet stress.
In the meantime, recommend me some blogs - my blogroll needs updating!
Monday, March 20, 2006Les Lumieres
I've been kicking myself for almost a year about my missed opportunities seeing The Arcade Fire in concert. I was too late, I'll admit it. I tried to get into their album in Virgin Oxford Street on 30 second samples. It didn't work - the immensity and genius of their sound cannot be fully be appreciated with Ciara blaring in the background. Alas, it worked for me eventually and became my (and seemingly everyone else's) favourite album of 2005. Richard Parry (Guitar / Percussion / Helmet / Backing Vocals / Upright Bass / Keyboards / General Mayhem) is also a member of Bell Orchestre, an instrumental five-piece also based in Montreal. On their first ever European Tour they paid a visit to Berlin's stately Roter Salon.
Their stage show is enchanting. They entered through the crowd, dressed purely in white with blue lightbulbs between their clothes and their skin, a brass duet being played as they walk up the carpeted steps to the venue's stage. It sent the tone for evening - majestic, profound, passionate, beautiful, strange. Their music doesn't need lyrics - the soundscapes speak inexplicable but entirely comprehendable emotions. Clear is the bands love for touring together, discovering new cities, but most notably the music they play. After they played Recording a Tape they expressed their gratitude that the audience had listened so intently, and told how angry they felt as they played it in Torino where the crowd were a little too chatty. Attention is exactly what they deserve, and moreso, makes the gig all the better for the punter. I wish I could even pretend to know more about their kind of music, but I feel last night was a gateway of sorts into a wider world of music that I'd listen to by choice. Hmmm. Something to think on!
In the meantime, check out their myspace to hear some of their songs/get news/etc.
Sunday, March 19, 2006Lost In Time
Stellastarr*, eh? Flavour of the month in 2003, had the Killers as support in 2004, hibernated for most of 2005, and in 2006 they released their second album, Harmonies For the Haunted, in Britain, 5 months after its release in North America. The Stellastarr* case is a fine example of just how awful Sony are at their job. The 5 month release delay, the sales/computer crippling copy-protection, the lack of marketing spend - has all been detrimental to Stellastarr*'s success. But this also shows clearly the fickleness of the UK indie music market - one need only look at NME's Top 50 album lists from 2002 or 2003 to see how many of these bands have gone out of vogue, whose sales have dwindled having failed to generate the same neccessary level of hype second time round.
When I saw Stellastarr* at King's College London two weeks ago I was very aware of their attempts to make it a "rock" set, to be a "rock" band, to be exciting and appeal to the fickle London teens. It felt dishonest and try-hard, and they didn't look like they were enjoying it too much. At the same time it worked - beers were thrown, crowds were surfed, stages were dived, old men felt up my female friends, fat girls grabbed for Shawn's crotch. Despotic! Once it was over I felt sad. I felt like a small part of my last two years had disappeared. You see - in 2004 I met the band at a Raveonettes aftershow party and my flatmate and I ended up going on tour with them, sleeping on the cream leather seats of their tour bus, eating stale sandwiches from the rider in Portsmouth, watching DVDs at night, shit 80s clubs in Bristol, hanging out with The Killers (Brandon is such a dullard, by the way)...when you're 18 years old, it seemed like the coolest thing ever (I still think it is - no music experience I may have will ever top that!). So I have this soft spot for Stellastarr* which will never really grow cold. But I think it's time to stop going to their gigs so that my memories of them and that formative time remain positive. And, for the record, their new album is good, no matter what NME say!
Saturday, March 18, 2006Do You Like The Like?
I think I like The Like, though opinion on the LA three-piece seems pretty divided. Girl friends have said "They are all in the NME for boys to ogle" and then I read over at Wears The Trousers a review of their afternoon Camden Barfly gig which I also attended, which said of the band: "a perfect, classic indie pop-rock threepiece with a masterful grasp of the epic and the intimate". Their music is really nice indie-pop-rock, which is perhaps why it is receiving the kind of mixed response. For a girl band to be widely accepted, they must be truly exceptional - like The Long Blondes will be (although, reassuringly, they have two men to play instruments) with iconic frontwoman Kate Jackson, but to think of an all-girl band who are even remotely as widely successful as, say, Franz Ferdinand or The Kaiser Chiefs might cause brain over-fry. The truth is that far more average "boy" bands can enjoy widespread success without any discernible talent than can all-girls bands.
But enough rant, the Like are good. I especially like singer Z Berg's voice, it's a bit croaky and a bit floaty. And their music is both polished and grunge-tinged in a way that reminds me of Hole's Celebrity Skin. Live they were very endearing in a Los Angeles precocious rich kid kinda way, expressing faux-horror at the fact that nobody in the Sunday afternoon crowd had been to church that morning, before later remarking "Phew, it's hot in here, but I guess that's 'cos we're all going to hell, right!?", coming over like an indie-rock Scarlett Johannsen. And to top it off, LA's most precocious rich kid, Kelly Osbourne, came over after their set to catch up. Their album, Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking? (bad title, nice album) is out now. And you can hop over to their MySpace to hear some songs from it.
Sunday, March 05, 2006Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me
I effin' love the Pipettes. They are island of unpretentious, fresh pop in a sea of same-y indie-bands-with-boys. I've blogged about them before, but that's no reason not to do it again. The band are now signed to the wonderful Memphis Industries, a lovely independent label with independent ideas and truly original bands. They put out their first proper single, Dirty Mind in November and it just missed the Top 40. They are releasing the equally fantastic Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me on 27th March on two vinyls and a CD, and you'd be a fool not to go for the ALL 3 for £5 offer at recordstore.co.uk. The girls made no small point of telling the crowd at (fucking awful, worst club in London) Frog last night about their upcoming release and their dreams of Top 40 success. This is the kind of music that should be on Top of the Pops, not Chico, not James Blunt, not the Arctic Monkeys. If only they would come to Germany soon to give the German indie crowd a break from the tired but abonible nu-Brit-pop monster of the FutureArcticMaximoChief-fi Party. If you still aren't convinced that there is a place for the Pipettes in your record collection, have flick on to their MySpace page and try and not sway/flail/do the mashed potato to those tunes.
Thursday, March 02, 2006Rad
If I was a jealous person, I'd be jealous of Smoosh. Smoosh are sisters Asya and Chloe, from Seattle. Oh, and they are 13 and 11 years old respectively. I might be jealous of how they are so prodigiously talented at such a young age. I might be jealous of the fact that Sufjan Stevens, Sleater-Kinney and Rilo Kiley are all huge fans of them. But jealousy is a waste of time when the music's this good. The set-up is pretty basic: Chloe plays drums, Asya plays keyboards and sings. The arrangements are obviously very keyboard driven, but the overall feel when listening to the album or seeing them live (as I did supporting the Go! Team at Koko last night) is much denser and more complicated than this might suggest. Their songs are very distinguishable from each other, which might not seem likely considering the set-up. They range from funky (Rad) to introspective slowies, to downright dirty electro (La Pump).
It's clear that their originality is a result of their age - had they spent their teens listening to hundreds of different bands, then they would wear their influences on their shoulders like most bands in their early twenties or late teens do. It's a progression - you like a type of music, you form a band and you play that type of music. The innocence of simply picking up instruments and not striving to emulate any particular sound and just playing what you feel...that's something you just don't hear that often.
You can see the animated video for La Pump here or a live performance here. And you can buy their sublime debut album, She Like Electric in all good recordshops.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006Steadier Footing
I'd quite forgotten what it was like to go to Big Gigs in London. Last night was Death Cab for Cutie at the Asoria, DCFC's first London show since they played ULU in February 2004. Most of the myspace kids had never seen them before, so anticipation levels were sky high. Most striking was how young the crowd was - in Berlin, in any case, the average age of a gig feels like 25 or so, but as a 20 year old in London I felt old. Around me I could hear AS-level girls bitching about their classmates, and the boys were preening their asymmetric fringes. It felt good to be back.
The gig was stronger than the Berlin show. Four weeks of touring Europe had built up a much more confident stage show, though the setlist was almost identical. Most pleasing was the sound quality and acoustics. You forget that these old theatre venues like the Astoria and Shepherd's Bush were designed for the effective projection of sound to the stage in times when PA systems were not as loud. It was brilliant hearing Ben Gibbard's utterly unique and sometimes haunting voice above the guitars and drums and keys. I definitely think his voice is the thing with DCFC - it's so high and angelic, with an almost childlike naivety. It's surprising when it comes out his mouth - he's brushing thirty, pleasently plump and has a lifetime of experience to speak of, yet this voice comes out of him, and he means every word he sings. Absolutely wonderful.
Death Cab will be coming back to Europe in the early Summer and have just announced a date at Brixton Academy on 28th June. Tickets from here.