Thursday, November 30, 2006The Land of the Midnight Sun
December begins on Friday and in Sweden, oh home of music, the days are even shorter than our ever-shortening days. So London is probably comparatively warm and light right now and judging by the amount of Swedish bands playing London in the next few weeks, London's the place to come at this time of year. My Swedish schedule is as follows:
30th November - Robyn - YoYo
1st December - Robyn - Hoxton Bar and Grill
8th December - Peter, Bjorn and John - ULU
15th December - Suburban Kids with Biblical Names - Water Rats
Arguably not that many, but I'm excited. In other news, The Low Miffs' debut single, Also Sprach Shareholder is out now on White Heat records and you can buy it here.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006This is not New Rave!
Junior Boys are a Canadian band, adding to the ever-lengthening list of bands from Canada I've seen in the last twelve months. Indeed, exactly twelve months since I saw the AMAZING Wolf Parade in Berlin. I had no idea about Junior Boys up until a week ago when I was jetsetting it in Berlin with Queen Almost Tropical (I had an excellent time, thanks!) and she played their current album, So This Is Goodbye while we were tucking in to dinner. We played it a further three times successively - it was so perfect and pleasing as background music, but also features some body jerking choons for the dancefloor while melancholic enough for heavy bedroom listening, with each ensuing listen unearthing complexities in its electronic soundscapes.
I was very happy to see on my return from Berlin that JBs would be playing the following Thursday, which was, in fact, last Thursday. The gig was at Cargo, which is a nice, if seldom used, gig venue. After enduring 130db reggae before they came on, the keyboards were far too quiet considering their prominence in Junior Boys' material. After a bit of heckling from the enthusiastic crowd the keyboards were turned up in the mix, despite looks of bemusement on the part of singer/bassist/guitarist Jeremy Greenspan. There were several of these bemused looks over the course of their performance. At one point Jeremy said "Hey, you guys realise that Hot Chip aren't playing tonight?" (the band had just completed a support tour for the hyped electro outfit). I think they are only just coming to terms with the fact that things are really kicking off for them now, that people actually want to see them. Their single, In The Morning got the biggest cheers when its signature opening synth riff was played, cue: more disbelief that people know their songs and dance with their eyes closed to them.
The disbelief might have been tiredness, as synthster Matt Didemus seemed delirious after the long tour. But this tour-closer was not an illusion - Juniors Boys are loved and set to become more and more successful. They are booked in to play Kings College on 20th February, with more UK/Europe dates sure to be added soon. Don't miss them. Here's their MySpace.
Saturday, November 18, 2006It was alright, still, actually
In May I bought some tickets to see Lily Allen at the Astoria in November. Five months in advance is pretty extreme, even by London's spontaneity-free ticket-buying patterns. Lily Allen was a much more exciting commodity in May - no album, no real success, no gossip column inches nor sleeping-with-Mike-Skinner stories - just a MySpace profile, some excellent demos and a genuine sense of excitement that we may actually have a worthy pop star on our hands. The album, Alright, Still went in at number one and despite not sounding hugely far off the original demos, the Lily and her blogs have become over-exposed sound-bites on which lazy tags coule be placed - the most vulgar of which being "chav". Like, hello, she grew up in Islington?! Land of gastropubs and over-priced boutiques. Anyway, I had mixed-feelings before the gig - would she be able to sing live? Would she play eight songs and leave in a strop? Would the show be stale from being performed twenty too many times? Well, I was happy to have my doubts disproven. While six months of constant gigging have taken a bit of the spark out of Lily's performance, she did not disappoint in terms of talent, charisma or set length. She played everything that anybody's ever heard including acoustic covers of Keane and the Kooks, which kept the Q-reading audience very happy. Her voice was just as sweet and Lahndahn as on the record. She was utterly charming and served as a good lesson on not letting the press ruin your enjoyment of grade A pop music.
If you haven't seen it already her blog from Japan is adorable.
And if Lily Allen (or strong individual women making off-kilter modern pop music) is your thing then you simply must check out Robyn play her first UK shows in years and years at the end of the month. She's playing YoYo at Notting Hill Arts Club (incidentally where Lily did her first shows) on Thursday 30th November and then at the Pure Groove night at Hoxton Bar and Grill on 1st December. Be there or very square. Robyn's MySpaz.
Thursday, November 16, 2006How I learned to love Kilburn
Oh dear, I've left it ages again. Luckily/sadly there's not been too many gigs (that I've been to) to report back on. But...a month ago(!!) I went to see one of my childhood heroes...well, not childhood, but adolescent...Luke Haines. Luke Haines was the singer(/genius) in early 90s misanthropes, the Auteurs and then the song writing genius behind late nineties misanthropic glamorous social commenteurs, Black Box Recorder, who were my gateway to much great music. It's now the mid 00s and he's just released his third proper solo album (there have been numerous rarities collections, side projects, orchestrated versions albums...you get the point, he's prolific). It's called Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop and is another great collection of nasty pop songs packed with pop culture and British history references. You can hear some songs from it over at Obscuresound.
The gig was in the beautiful Kilburn Luminaire, a venue definitely deserving of its title as Time Out's 2005 venue of the year. With its rich red walls and glistening mirrorball, it suited the majestic sound of Mr Haines perectly. He took to the stage not a minute too soon (a thoroughly inappropriate Christian rock balladier opened the evening) dressed in an ivory coloured, colonial-esque suit with his colonel-like moustache completing the Royal British Legion look. He played many new songs from his new album, but a nice amount of Auteurs classics. For a few of the songs ex-Black Box Recorder bandmate John Moore joined him on saw playing duties, cigarette dangling from his mouth and also cream suited, their faded-glamour-meets conservative-party-knees-up look. Sarah Nixey, who, along with her singing duties in Black Box Recorder, was also married to John Moore for a while, was standing in the wings of the stage. Though not captured with my camera, I have now seen the entire line-up of Black Box Recorder in one place at the same time and a small hollow in my gig-going ambitions was completed.
I wish there was more I could say to explain why I love these three people so much. I tried in March 2005 but with no more coherence. So I've uploaded one of their best songs, British Racing Green. Download here.
Sunday, November 05, 2006Someone to Drive You Home
It's been a long time coming, but The Long Blondes' debut album, Someone To Drive You Home is out tomorrow. They played their first gigs in Summer 2003, so it really has been a long time coming. There have been close to 30 Long Blondes songs floating around the internet in various forms since then and so, when recording the album, they had to offer something new. Of course, they wanted to make something new and fresh, something that they could only achieve through their now extensive experience. They are realising their visions and it's paying off with outstanding reviews - 9/10 in NME, 4/5 in the Fly, 4/5 in the Observer, you get the point, it's a great album and you will obviously be buying it tomorrow, 6th November 2006.
I went to see them twice last month, once at the Mean Fiddler and then again at Virgin Megastore when they were promoting their new single (old song), Once and Never Again. Both performances were excellent and very different. The headline show at the Mean Fiddler was immense - it felt like a big proper pop show, with a light show and theme tune prior to their entrance on stage. They even did a psuedo-encore, despite opposing the principles of encores. In many ways the performance felt like a step up, a coming of age or a metamorphasis, but also a regression: Kate, famed for her slightly geeky personality and off-kilter looks was a sexxxed-up temptress, dressed in American Apparell silver metallic leggings...and no skirt over them. Part of me was in awe at this roaring confidence, the rest of me found it crass and cold compared to the old performances. Luckily the performance a week later at Virgin was like a more polished version of the olden days and it suited them so much more. They are doing a European tour in November and December and rumour has it that the next UK jaunt will be early next year.