Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Candidate23 - One For You

Hailing from Runcorn on the outskirts of Liverpool and with their band name a reference to post-punk legends Joy Division, this teenage five-piece mix youthful energy with a keen sense of melody on their feisty debut single One For You.  Lead singer Will Hayes’ vocals are full of emotion; lines like “Never look back” and “Put your past away” surely striking a chord with all of us.  So often song lyrics seem cheap and disposable, a cheesy mish-mash of clichés; but here, we’re made to feel every word.   And then there’s the guitar hooks that bands twice their age would be proud of.  All the ingredients for a brilliant song are here and One For You represents a stellar beginning for the band.  They even have a fascinating link to pop royalty; drummer Jono Tringham is the cousin of Girls Aloud’s very own Nicola Roberts. Talent clearly runs in the family.
The band describe their sound as a blend between Oasis and the Stereophonics, and it’s a pretty spot-on comparison – Candidate23 carry that same boyish swagger paired with the intelligence and lyrical skill to mark them out as more than just the next bunch if indie clones.  In a world where young rock groups are ten-a-penny, Candidate23 have the skill and musicianship to lift them a cut above the rest, their songs playing loud and clear to the masses.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Linkin Park - Live at the O2 Arena

Linkin Park
11th November 2011
O2 Arena, London

London’s O2 Arena was made for bands like Linkin Park.  50 million albums sold worldwide, two Grammy Awards... the list of accolades racked up by the band since their ground-breaking debut album Hybrid Theory hit the shelves back in 2000 goes on and on.  And now, ten years on, they remain as big as ever; an international music giant centred around the dynamic duo that lies at the band’s heart - Enter Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington, the former’s lightning-quick raps paired with the latter’s impassioned vocals and guttural screams making for a combo that rocks the venue to its core.  Where their contemporaries have long since fallen by the wayside, Linkin Park remain, standing tall.   And judging by the packed out O2 arena, they still command just as much attention now as when Hybrid Theory went four-times platinum a decade ago.
The set consists mainly of tracks from the band’s two most recent albums; ‘concept’ works that see the band exploring themes of nuclear apocalypse and war, moving away from their rap-metal beginnings to a more traditional alternative-rock sound.  It was a move that alienated many fans, but it gave the band scope to expand their repertoire into previously unexplored areas, whether it be the emotive balladry of Shadow of the Day or the rough and ready punkiness of Given Up.
Most importantly though, despite the shift in the band’s musical direction, the quality of their songs remains; still possessing that unique ‘Linkin Park’ sound, still focused around brilliant melodies and heartfelt lyrics.   It is the band’s earliest material that gets the crowd going the most though, classic singles like In the End and One Step Closer filled with seemingly endless levels of energy, the audience breaking out into miniature mosh-pits, bodies colliding against each-other with wild abandon as the songs’ reach their climax.
The staging is refreshingly minimal – most acts, taking to a venue as large as the O2 Arena, would lavish thousands of pounds on immense lightshows and props– but Linkin Park are content to let the music do the talking, packed tightly onto a small stage that if anything, serves only to emphasise the band’s enthusiasm all the more.  Scattered throughout the show are grainy, distorted videos dug up from the archives of American history, including Oppenheimer’s famous “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” quote.   It’s minimalistic and chilling touches like this, that when mixed into Linkin Park’s music, hold more power than any amount of flames, fireworks and lasers ever could.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

McFly - Shine A Light

One song I’m particular loving at the moment is McFly’s brilliant new single Shine A Light. Ever since the band went all electro with the boundless energy of Party Girl, I’ve had a newfound respect for the boys. They’ve kept the youthful spirit of their early days, but combined it with a new ‘knowing’, a new intelligent and some absolutely cracking melodies.
Shine A Light illustrates this perfectly. And even better, it’s got Taio Cruz on it too. Now, when i first heard Party Girl, its sound struck me as very ‘Taio’, so it seems only right McFly are now working with him. And together these two stalwarts of British pop music have come up with a pure winner of a track. Its strength comes in its relative simplicity, the track is very ‘clean’, all breezy and light – in many ways a breath of fresh air in a world of music where tracks have become so production heavy you often feel like you’re drowning in them.
The chorus is sublime, the melody moving and powerful in equal measure. And then there’s delicate little touches like the echoing guitar hook that bookends the song, or the twinkling piano that plays gently over the end of the track. It’s things like this that revitalise McFly, shooting them out as a force that is very much still to be reckoned with.

Ellie Goulding - Your Song

There’s always a danger when covering well known songs that you lay yourself open to a torrent of abuse and anger from fans of the original track. But every so often comes along a cover that is almost universally loved, and Ellie Goulding’s charming version of Elton John’s Your Song is one such track.
Away from the beats and electronic wizardry that typifies the sound of Goulding’s album, Your Song  lets her vocals shine through and highlights just what a talented singer she actually is. It’s sensitive, full of longing and emotion – the perfect song then for the winter season. It’s a shot of warmth on biting cold days, just the kind of tonic we can all use from time to time. And fronting up the current series of John Lewis adverts on TV, it’s been given the kind of exposure most artists can only dream of. This Christmas, everyone seems to be a winner.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Taio Cruz & Kylie Minogue - Higher

Taio Cruz’s ‘Break Your Heart’ was a piece of sheer fantastic pop joy, and although ‘Dynamite’ did eventually come to grow on me, it never sounded anywhere near the level of amazingness of the former track. So ‘Higher’ comes with a massive sigh of relief, it’s Taio Cruz bang on the money, working his songwriting magic into a track that has got Number 1 written all over it.
Now, the song itself is fantastic in its own right, but add in the ever-wonderful pop princess Kylie Minogue and things go off the scale. ‘Higher’ is one of those tracks that is simply SO good. It demands you to listen again, again and again. The chorus is about as infectious as you could possibly create within the realms of natural science. Kylie’s vocals slot in effortlessly next to Taio’s, seeing a cool return to the R&B side of things she dabbled in for her much underated ‘Body Language’ album.
And then we’ve got the brilliant video, which is just as sleek, glossy and cool as the song itself (although it could be argued it is just one massive advert for BMW). Either way, we absolutely LOVE Higher.
Watch the video by clicking here

Starlings - Weight In Gold

Starlings explode onto your stereo with a blistering blend of glossy synths, Duran Duran-esque basslines and the energy to match any of their contemporaries. Weight In Gold is a stunning debut for the Sheffield based band, the track hypnotising in its beauty and the shimmering catchiness of its chorus before tripping effortlessly into a twinkling guitar solo.
Fans of New Order and Delphic will find lots to love here, but what marks Starlings out in their own right is the organic feel to their music; it feels alive, fresh, more ‘human’. The band’s Facebook page describes them as ‘cosmic indie funk’, and there really could be no more perfect description than that. All the elements are there, capturing the essence of why Starlings hold so much potential to appeal to the masses.
There is most definitely a sense of ‘spaciness’ to there songs, that feeling of a fast expanse that their music flows into, a space of unlimited potential just waiting to be tapped into. ‘It’s a long, long way to fall, when you hover above us all’: a snatch of lyrics from the chorus, and when the Starlings sound as good as this, we’re all ready to fall further and further alongside them.
Released 20th December

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Pierces - Love You More

There’s an old myth about the ease and skill at which musical siblings come together.  A myth they say... but listening to Alabama sisters Allison and Catherine, that myth seems so much closer to reality.  Collectively the twosome make up The Pierces, and summed up in one word, their music is simply magical.
Imagine dark, stormy nights... howling wind and starlight, the hint of something mystical and powerful, this is the music of The Pierces.  This four track EP is headed up by the brilliant Love You More, a song wrapped in such an undeniable, natural sense of melody that you can only marvel at the sisters’ songwriting talent.  The girls have been releasing music for the past ten years but it is only now that they have been picked up by a major label and given the exposure they deserve.
If you’ve ever wondered what Elbow or The Doves would sound like with a female vocalist, The Pierces are a pretty good match.  Their tracks have that same raw energy running through them; the driving, rough guitar hook a thing that has been gripped and beaten into shape with bare hands and untamed passion.  We Are Stars represents a far more gentle sound, but still captures that same hand-crafted, baroque feel.  The duo’s lyrics are poetic gems of beauty too; ‘We are dreamers, wishing upon what we were born from’ they sing on this track.
To The Grave shows off a more jolly, upbeat side to The Pierces, highlighting that they are just at home here as with the expansive, melancholy sound that the EP begins with.  Across all four tracks though, we keep coming back to a consistent, organic feel that is testament to the skills of Coldplay’s bassist Guy Berryman lending a helping hand with production duties.  Indeed, the tracks carry that same shimmering sense of wonder that gave Coldplay’s Viva La Vida album such character.  Every song on this EP is rich and powerful; every chorus completely infectious, each track delivered with a conviction and gentleness that is utterly bewitching.

Dannii Minogue – My Story

Not many people can lay claim to a career in the music industry as varied as Dannii Minogue’s.  Over the last 20 years, she has racked up fourteen top 20 singles in the UK, collaborated with some of the hottest names in dance music and even tried her hand at musical theatre.
Her autobiography My Story captures this all in a revealing and emotional glimpse into an industry that is constantly changing and evolving.  We see Minogue slogging through the hardship of a rough & ready US promotional tour in her early days, striving for the balance between critical acclaim and commercial success as well as the intricate complexities of dealing with her management and the media.
Bookended as it were by Minogue’s beginnings on Australian TV show Young Talent Time to her current role as judge on The X Factor, My Story represents Dannii’s life coming full circle, the impassioned tale of a woman who has experienced more than most, surviving in the cut and thrust of the music industry where many others would have faltered.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Cheryl Cole - Promise This

“Alouette-ouette-ouette...”  Take the hook from a classic French nursery rhyme and transform it into a dance-pop classic.  It could only be Cheryl Cole.  And that little refrain will be stuck in your head all day. Guaranteed.  And despite Cheryl’s claims in Girls Aloud’s 2008 single Can’t Speak French, she manages to do a pretty good job of it here.  Déployer les ailesindeed.
Promise This sees nation’s sweetheart Cheryl doing just that, spreading her wings and building on her already considerable knack at coming up with some of the best pop music out there.  Teaming up again with songwriter Wayne Wilkins who she worked with on last year’s mega-hit Fight For This Love, her new single is all processed beats and a buzzing bassline driving away behind synthetic strings that could have come straight out of a lost 80s New Order floor-filler.  As the chorus floats in, riding on a wave of trippy piano that lends the track vibes of Ellie Goulding, Cheryl sings ‘If I die before I wake,” a line that in hindsight bears startling significance when taken into account with Cheryl’s malaria scare earlier this year.
Yet despite this potentially morbid subject matter, Promise This is brilliantly uplifting – a fitting anthem for a woman who through everything has always remained ambitious, focused and utterly driven on pursuing the career she loves.  The first single from her second album - wonderfully titled Messy Little Raindrops - the song presents a stronger, more confident Cheryl.  The energy and passion in Promise This is plain to see and the song has become another well deserved smash hit for Chezza.