Sunday, December 24, 2006
Have a neon Christmas!
And two excellent Christmas songs:
The Long Blondes - Chrtistmas is Cancelled
The Raveonettes - Christmas Song
Sunday, December 17, 20062006 Year End Chart
It's been a great year for music. So good that I felt twelve albums definitely deserved a proper mention while countless others have provided much enjoyment. So enjoy!
12. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan - Ballad of the Broken Seas
The pairing of the angelic Isobel Campbell and gravel- voiced Mark Lanegan was always going to be an interesting one, but this album of murderballads is darker than one might ever have imagined. It all sounds like it could have soundtracked a Tarantino film with its minor keys, twangy guitars and hushed voices. You start to wonder whether Campbell is really a wolf in sheep's clothing - her soft tones are just as haunting as Lanegan's Nick Cave-like drawl. This album works excellent as an entire work - it takes you on a journey through sleepy backwater towns. And lastly, commendation for coming from Glasgow but not sounding like a Glasgow band, which is no mean feat.
Download: Revolver Man
11. Islands - Return to the Sea
What kind of indie pop album stats with a nine minute epic song about Swans? An Islands album, of course. Forming out of the remains of The Unicorns (who took Arcade Fire as a support band in 2004!), Islands were bound to make an eccentric and off-beat debut and Return to the Sea is just that. It is passionate and sweeping, while also humorous and dancable and its influences range from calypso to hip hop (notably Where there's a Will there's a Whale Bone) they have proven themselves masters of many trades and jacks of none.
Download: Rough Gem
10. PlanningToRock - Have It All
When I left for Berlin all of fifteen months ago I was expecting to be exposed to a myriad of exciting musical artists. After nine months of boring German indie bands I was finally introduced to PlanningToRock and was relieved to know that Berlin is still inspiring hugely creative artistic visionaries. I finally got to interview Janine for Wears The Trousers (next issue out soon) and was struck by how coherently the music, the artwork, the videos and the personality link up. Have it All is about finding yourself, being inside your comfort zone outside your comfort zone and is an incredibly complex and original composition. And she can boast to be the only person the Knife have ever remixed (more on that soon!).
Download: Bolton Wanderer
9. CSS - Cansei de Ser Sexy
Hailing from Sao Paulo in Brazil (where a quarter of me is from!) CSS electrified the international music scene with their sexy, sleazy carnival pop on their debut album. It has grinding synths, pop culture references and an ice-cool attitude. The originality is clearly in part thanks to developing creatively far away from the opressive, scene-y music cities like London, New York or LA. There are no "Sao Paulo band" tags to assign to their sound, they are truly in a league of their own with this spunky, sexy offering.
Dowload: Alala (Bonde de Rolo Remix)
8. The Gossip - Standing In The Way Of Control
2006 has seen a huge increase in fortunes for The Gossip. Before this album's release they were playing tiny clubs and ladyfest events - and putting on great shows wherever they went. But the dancefloor magnetism of the album's title track has caused a whirlwind effect in terms of popularity and acclaim which culminated in Beth Ditto being named the coolest person in rock by the NME. Slightly ironic considering the same magazine described her as a sweaty fat lesbian pig, or something similar, in a 2002 live review which has miraculously disappeared offline. In any case, the acclaim is much deserved for this intense and empowering album which will leave you gasping for breath after its short duration.
Download: Jealous Girls
7. Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country
Camera Obscura do not disappoint with their third album, bringing a necessary slice of twee escapism to an otherwise tweeless 2006. It's so escapist that it's even about escaping the country! It tells of overly familiar situations and itchy feet and reminds me of how it felt to be that person needing to get out of Scotland (it's a very small place, y'know!). The songs on this album almost glimmer in their perfection and literally sweep you off your feet with their romantic impulses of adventure.
Download: Let's Get Out Of This Country
6. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
This album melts me. Jenny Lewis' voice is the sweetist, bluest thing I've ever heard. The soft cooings of the Watson Twins make this album utterly perfect. Its soft country lilts remind the young listener that the country/white soul sound is not just for tobacco chewin' bourbon swillin' rednecks but can actually be the most heartfelt, romantic and sad music out there. Jenny Lewis is also one of the most popular figures on the alt scene and the album features guest appearances from Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) who can both be heard on Handle With Care.
Download: Handle with Care
5. Peter, Bjorn and John - Writer's Block
What a romantic album this is. Something to do with growing old, something to do with loving somebody more than anything and a song with a memorable whistle line. PB&J write beautiful pop songs with wistful undertones. The overall feel is very organic with simple instrumentation, which shows that you don't need a big production to make a big impression.
Download: Paris 2004
4. Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia...
They describe themselves as Brechtian Punk Cabaret, which to many may seem elitist, but this is as exciting and dramatic as pop music gets. The songs are composed almost entirely on piano, drums and Amanda Palmer's powerful and travelled vocals. The elegant swagger and knowing wit of their delivery is certainly in the decadent and bittersweet style of cabaret. Everything about the Dresden Dolls, from their stage make-up to their soul-baring lyrics, eminates their intelligent and original character. This is the saddest and the most exhilerating album of the year. For sure.
Download: Dirty Business
3. Love is All - Nine Times That Same Song
Love is All's frantic half-hour debut is so exciting it should carry a health warning on the front cover. The production is lo-fi and chaotic - plenty of saxophone, fuzzy guitars and sing-a-long choruses. It is an exhilerating ride but not without killer ballads like Felt Tip Hip Kids. It's not always clear what the songs are about, but it never seems to matter when they cause as much dancefloor blood as these. They got quite a bit of hype at the beginning of the year, but it failed to materialise into much commercial success, perhaps for the same reason as The Raveonettes - that the majority of listeners are put off by its production. Persevere with this album - it will reward unendlessly and I can think of very bands with this much energy.
Download: Talk Talk Talk
2. The Knife - Silent Shout
2004's Deep Cuts was a half excellent album. Silent Shout is totally 100% excellent and also a complete departure from its predecessor. It is a dark, haunting and sinister trip to the North. It only ever hints at saying anything explicitly. You are left with impressions and feelings and no explanations, but it feels hugely important, not only to me, but the thousands of people who bought tickets to their select few shows of 2006. The reactions to these anti-performances laden with visuals and symbolic imagery were equally elated and confused, which just about sums up the inexplicable genius of The Knife. Download: Like a Pen
1. The Long Blondes - Someone To Drive You Home
The Long Blondes have long been my favourite band and have even longer been one of Britain's best unsigned bands. 2006 saw them signing a deal with Rough Trade and finally releasing their debut album. Previous to its release there were at least 25 demos and live versions of songs floating around the internets, many of which had already become cult favourites. Rather than keeping it easy and just recording these, the Long Blondes had plenty more tricks up their sleaves and kept their debut feeling fresh and modern, with plenty of vintage references, meaning that the album was still new to those who had followed them for a long time. Their social-realist themes resonate strongly their idols, Pulp, who helped produce the album. Let's hope 2007 is the year when the Long Blondes become the superstars they have long deserved to be.
Download: Lust in the Movies
Tuesday, December 12, 2006I wish I was Swedish Part 2
After several failed attempts (I'm getting lazy, basically) I finally saw Peter, Bjorn and John last Friday night at their sold out show at ULU. Preceded by two excellent Swedish bands/artists (more on them later), PB&J took to the stage and played almost all of their songs from Writer's Block (plus some old ones) and it was very good. I love this album, it's definitely one of my favourite albums of the year (more on that later too). It all started at Berlin Festival when I saw someone wearing their T-shirt. The font was so nice that I had a listen to their album in Saturn and was drawn in immediately. It's the kind of album that you can close your eyes, tilt your head skyward and let it absorb you. It's wistful and romantic in a way that British music-making-men never seem to be. Is it uncool to be in love in Britain? Or is it just executed in cliché ridden James Blunt songs?
The show was good. I always like going to see bands who don't have a big media presence as you can build your own ideas of what people who make music that sounds like that look like and so PB&J was a nice surprise. Bjorn's English wasn't that comprehensable (meant in no negative way - have you heard my Swedish? I haven't) and therefore really endearing. Not being able to verbalise well in other languages is something I'm familiar with so it's nice to see other people with lots to say struggle to say it. In an empathetic sense. The Concretes' former frontwoman, Victoria Bergsman put in an understated guest appearance on Young Folks, which was a really nice surprise. She seemed a little uneasy on stage, probably due to her six month hiatus from performing following her departure from her old band. The show ended with a four song encore of old material which was kinda anti-climatic due to its unfamiliarity with the crowd. They were aware of where they stand, though, with Bjorn joking after Young Folks "Ok, you can go home now!".
Here's the Girl Talk Remix of Let's Call It Off:
click click click
Friday, December 08, 2006Lucky/Organised
This was the scene on the internets at 9.05am. Luckily, I have a ticket for 1st! This will hopefully make up for the times I missed them in 2005. I'm very excited.
Thursday, December 07, 2006The Organ Grinder
One of this years' most promising bands, The Organ, have split up. They announced it on their website and their MySpace earlier today:
We are sad to announce that we're breaking up. We want to thank our friends, fans, and family for all the support you gave to us. Thank you.
Shelby, Jenny, Katie, Debora, and Shmoo.
I feel very lucky that I got to see them on that sweaty night at Knaack Club in Berlin. When the music is as dark and as laden with hopelessness as theirs, it shouldn't be surprising that they weren't happy (as a band)!
I'll upload a commemorative mp3 later this evening when my sleeping flatmate who has the CD in her room wakes up!
And in terms of death and new life, a very exciting old new arrival will be hitting London for a five night residency. Yes, THE ARCADE FIRE!!! are playing three nights at St John's Church, SW1 - 29th, 30th and 31st January. And then two nights at Porchester Hall (near Paddington) on 1st and 2nd February! With my dissertation being handed in on 1st February, you can guess how I'll be celebrating (subject to getting tickets tomorrow at 9am!).
Sunday, December 03, 2006Who's that girl?
Thursday and Friday last week saw the Robyn whirlwind roll into town with short, intimate gigs in bijou Notting Hill and hipster Hoxton. The Notting Hill gig was astounding, the crowd was absolutely ecstatic for Robyn's first ever UK gig. Do you know Robyn - Swedish Robyn? Does the name ring a bell? In 1997 she had a few pop hits, Show Me Love most famously, and Max Martin, the man behind Britney Spears' early work was her writer. She was only seventeen at the time and disappeared from the British charts. In the meantime she moved between record companies released albums withwhich she was not happy and decided to buy herself out of her record deal and set up her own record company, Konichiwa, so that she could do what she wanted. She collaborated with the Knife on her amazing single, Who's That Girl? which features on her self-titled album finally due for a UK release in March 2007. Read my review of this album here.
I was so impressed by the rawness of her performance and the different levels of her music and personality it revealed that I set about organising an interview as soon as she was off-stage. I secured one for the following afternoon and she was absolutely lovely, the most professional pop star I've interviewed. She's experienced so much and knows exactly what she wants, but is so down-to-earth and warm. I can't wait to let people see the interview in the forthcoming issue of Wears The Trousers.
Her gig on the Friday night at the Hoxton was bigger and just as ecstatic. There were, of course, a load of Swedish people there to check her out in a small venue, but a real buzz among the indigenous music-loving population. She is releasing Konichiwa Bitches in February, followed by the album at the beginning of March and will be playing some more shows around that time. I'd definitely recommend checking her out, she means her every word. You can listen to some songs from her current EP on her MySpace.