Friday, 29 July 2011

The Kush - Aniseed


They say wherever you go, places leave their stamp on you - and Newcastle band The Kush have that distinct Northern staying power, no doubt about that.

Debut single Aniseed is a real funky little number; relentless in its blend of frantic beats and fuzzy guitars - coming on like The Charlatans at their very best. This is the new Britpop, proper lad-rock for the modern age.

Gritty, livewire vocals might seem like a bog-standard ingredient for any up and coming indie band, but here, in the instance of The Kush, they seem almost animalistic in their electric intensity.

It's riotous stuff this band are in the business of producing - real breathcatching stuff. Rest be assured they won't stop for you to catch up if you fall behind the pace; but then, sounding this good, you'd be missing out not to stay with their lead.

Picking up impressive praise from The Sun's Gordon Smart, The Kush bear all the hallmark energy of fellow Geordies Maximo Park, but pour it into a far more classic brand of rock. Rolling Stones influences are everywhere, particularly on the single's b-side Loose Lips.

Aniseed is released on the 26th September.

Make Sparks - Your Heart's On Fire


It's the classic indie lads tale of wanting to break out from the hum drum of normal, everyday life, that yearning for something more.

Dundee band Make Sparks know this tale only too well, writing sick notes for school to get out of classes - they'd then sneak back home to play all day long. It's a romantic tale, the passion for music offering that window out into a world of promise and adventure.

And it's evident in their new single Your Heart's On Fire too, all angular, spiky Kids In Glass Houses style guitar hooks and impassioned vocals akin to fellow Scot-rockers Biffy Clyro.

Here Make Sparks build their own foundations - energetic, powerful music to break out of towns with. As one particular line recalls 'Forever is over... forever is such a long time' - the eagerness to escape the stagnation of their old lives is plain.

Their debut album is lined up for a 2012 release and an autumn tour accompanies the single release.

Your Heart's On Fire is released on the 5th September.

Kasabian - Days Are Forgotten


Kasabian are never ones to let the public down. And after all, where would they be without those seething crowds to sing back every word of the likes of Club Foot to them?

No, Kasabian are one of those precious few bands who seem to live an almost symbiotic existence with their fans - feeding off their very energy and channelling it back into their latest musical creations.

Maybe this, then, is the secret of their success. The reason why they remain at the top of their game when so many others have faltered. When we covered their new teaser single Switchblade Smiles back in June we loved how it felt like a return to the darker, more brutal sounds of their first album - Days Are Forgotten feels much the same.

With its classic, jabbing, bassy guitar hook, like its predecessor, it already seems destined for the soundtracks of Top Gear episodes and sports montages.

Indeed, this is Kasabian at their most epic; a Good, The Bad, and The Ugly meets James Bond composition of anthemic proportions.

Days Are Forgotten wears those filmic influences bared on its sleeve and boy does it merit from them - the chorus is one of the band's most slick to date, a monster of a thing that screams 'hit'. Add in those eerie vocal wails and you have something completely and utterly thrilling.

Four albums in, and Kasabian still at the top of their game, you wonder how many bands would kill to get their hands on that magic formula.

The band's new album Velociraptor! is released on the 19th September.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Horrors - I Can See Through You


When it comes to the 80s stylings that so gloriously define The Horrors' new album Skying, I Can See Through You ranks relatively low down. Compared to the dreamy, flanged guitar of Dive In or the majestic synth-epic Moving Further Away, it feels a far leaner, more bared-to-the-bone creation.

Certainly in terms of richness, it's not as involving as the magical, enchanting sea of intricacy the rest of the album stands as - but as a storming tour de force and exercise in a track that you just know would be incredible to see live, it more than gets the job done.

What I Can See Through You really represents is The Horrors making a stab at a proper 'pop' moment and for a band so often depicted as nothing more than gloomy indie types, it's amazingly good.

Fat, juicy bass pulses away behind the defiant cries of the chorus, high-pitched whines of organ underpinning that grimy crunch of guitar that ties Skying together as an album.

Previous single Still Life was a real masterpiece - the perfect introduction to exactly what this new incarnation of The Horrors was all about. I Can See Through You feels then like its brawling, rumbustious younger cousin, spoiling for a fight; fists up and ready.

Where Still Life shone in its rapturous, considered slow-beauty, here The Horrors hit the ground running, sweeping away all before them. Top stuff.

I Can See Through You is available to download from iTunes now.

Katy B - Witches Brew


Is there anyone who's got it so continuously right as Katy B this year? Probably not. Witches Brew is the sixth single from her debut album yet feels like it could just as easily lead a whole campaign - it's that good.

Like its predecessor Easy Please Me, Witches Brew again sees Katy at the more poppy end of the spectrum - the enticing, seductive 'Come with me, I'll make you feel so good...' chorus is simply irresistible, a promise of untold pleasure and excitement.

As her recent Mercury nomination proves, this year arguably belongs to Katy B. Both critically and commercially loved - she strides that delicate fine line between musical worlds, latching on to brilliant pop hooks and club-ready dance beats with equal ease.

She is the chameleon of her art, morphing and redefining herself constantly; even within songs themselves. With its bleepy, GameBoy synths and barrels of punchy attitude to rival the likes of Jessie J and Cher Lloyd, Katy B is the ultimate promising young star for the future.

If there's anyone that deserves that Mercury prize, it's her.

Witches Brew is available to download from iTunes here.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Same Old Story - A Great Disgrace


Sweden's Same Old Story come with a distinct youthfulness as part of their make-up. It's there in their papery, colourful artwork, and it's there in their music too.

Keening yells of raw emotion propel this fiery, remarkably consistent batch of pop-punk tracks - everything feels speedy; guitar, bass and drums all blending into one unified force.

It's a battering ram of sound, a sonic assault that comes reinforced with a strong sense of the band knowing exactly what kind of album they want to make.

In 2009 the band released their taster EP Waste Of Time, and combined with their name itself - Same Old Story - there is a constant notion of urgency in everything they do.

The intention is clear, a straight-out fight against any kind of stagnation, a malaise so often present in debut rock albums. And thankfully, stagnation is something this record never falls prey to.

Early highlights Another Reason and Don't Blame The Penguins see the band at their most melodic, riding high on powerful guitar solos - the latter even finds time to launch into a bizarre interlude of circus music.

It's here we see the album's undercurrent of dark humour, bringing a real punchy personality to the tracks. Daily Crime benefits in this respect too, whilst also blending in a muscular bassline reminiscent of the Silversun Pickups.

If there's a 'best track' though, it's to be found in Reality. Standing proud in the album's mid-point, it is the anchor to which the rest of the record can steady itself from.

Sound-wise, the album shares much of its DNA with another incredibly accomplished debut from this year - Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows' self-titled effort, released back in February. Both records feel alive with the enthusiasm of the respective bands' members, the album functioning as a natural extension to their own lives.

A speedy adrenaline shot of cool, A Great Disgrace leaves you breathless in its wake; a fitting manifesto for a band plainly brimming with ambition.

A Great Disgrace is available to download from iTunes now.

Alexis Jordan - How You Like Me Now


How You Like Me Now is a bit of a random one - at this point in an artist's album campaign, they're looking for a radio-friendly single that will wrap up sales for the album with a nice little boost.

And that's exactly how this track feels - a nice little boost. Nothing more, nothing less. With its scrawly, Arabian-esque synth-brass hook, it sees Alexis shuffling towards a more middle-of-the-road R&B direction; a kind of second-rate Rihanna.

Now, this might be all well and good on its own - after all, the song's not a bad little number, but we fell in love with Alexis for her all out disco-stompers, and there remains on her album one of the very best of an excellent bunch.

And that track comes in the form of High Road, a jaw-droppingly good bit of beat-heavy electro-pop. Snappy, feisty vocals - this is Alexis down to a T, all her personality, fire and charm packed into three minutes of WOW. This, for me, would have been the logical single.

How You Like Me Now can be downloaded from iTunes here.

Monday, 25 July 2011

New releases round-up - 25th July 2011

Six D - Best Damn Night



Since seeing the six-piece group for the first time supporting The Saturdays on tour, Best Damn Night has grown and grown on me. It's one of those tracks that at some point suddenly clicks and you see it for the piece of absolutely brilliant pop it is.

And what's more, Six D aren't just purveyors of ace tunes, but they're super-skilled dancers too. Seeing them perform the single on Daybreak this week, the energy they pack into this track and its accompanying routine is undeniable - I predict big things for these guys.

Download

JLS - She Makes Me Wanna



Again, another dance-pop smash that is just impossible to get away from right now. That unmistakable 'oh oh oh' hook stands out as one of JLS's best with this track picking up where Eyes Wide Shut left off, the band moving firmly further down the clubland route.

It's a bit of a flavour of the moment for pop bands at the moment with The Saturdays and The Wanted pursuing a similar direction - but you know what, when the tracks sound as good as this, we're all for it. Now where did we put that glo-stick?

Download

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - The Body



A real highlight from a stellar album, this is one of my favourite indie tracks of the year. Mining deep into a vein of Cure-esque melodies, pairing soaring 80s synth glides with frantic guitar, The Body is a case in point as to why you need this band's album in your life. At its most anthemic moments there's touches of Manic Street Preachers too - that wistful, indelible notion of life-affirming music at its very best.

Download

Now That's What I Call Music 79



If the NOW compilations were an actual person, they'd be old, wrinkly and walking with a limp by now. But instead, they seem in exceedingly fine health - continuing to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. There's something indefinably special about holding in your hands a collection of the best/most successful pop tracks of the past few months - it's a kind of time capsule quality really.

This thing, this sliver of plastic stands as a record to what those people we like to call the 'public' went out in the droves and bought (or more likely downloaded these days). And as such, it could be argued that the NOW albums stand as the best albums ever, through sheer fact that they contain the highest concentration of 'hits' - of course, it might not all be to everyone's tastes, but the odds suggest there'll be at least something on here you'll like.

Download

Battlefield Band - Line Up


Unmistakeable, soothing, elegant - So much can be said of Battlefield Band's brand of Scottish folk, but in truth, the overiding fact is their obvious talent. It's there in the sense of scale Line Up embodies as an album, floating from track to track like a spirit, leaving the stamp of quality in its wake.

From pacey album opener Raigmore, the tone is set - pipe and fiddle melodies stand at the forefront of the majority of the tracks but its the underpinning of bass and rhythmic acoustic guitar that really elevates the tracks to their best.

Full of tradition and legacy, the four-piece group make clear through the course of the album's duration that this is music both from the soul, and Scotland itself; the songs seeming to spring up from the very ground.

On the band's cover of Otis Redding's soul classic That's How Strong My Love Is we hear singer Sean O'Donnell vocals; crisp, clear and tender. It's a tasteful rendition and one that fits effortlessly in with the rest of the record.

Breezy whistle melodies add a distinct cheeriness to the likes of Easy Peasy, while on the other end of the scale piano ballad Song Composed In August wraps itself up in a lush blanket of beauty.

The scope of Line Up feels impressive, the multitude of instruments capturing so many different facets and layers of emotion, all interwoven in a way folk music seems so apt at doing.

Every track, every strand of thread that makes up this collection; each tells a different story, another line in the story of Battlefield Band's carefully wrought perspective of the world.

Line Up is out now and can be downloaded here.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Saturdays - All Fired Up


When I first heard Girls Aloud's masterpiece Sexy! No, No, No... I loved it right away. That feeling of eagerly listening in to a radio show, tuning in especially just to hear the new single from one of your favourite bands... there's nothing like it.

And so Sexy! No, No, No... became one of those rare songs that I absolutely loved from the out. No need for it to grow on me, the infatuation was there from the start - and the song remains to this date my favourite Girls Aloud single.

It brings me great pleasure then to be able to say that I'm experiencing all the same emotions with The Saturdays' spell-binding new single All Fired Up.

Initial reports and 30 second preview clips made it clear the track was a hyper-upbeat floorfiller, but hearing the full thing played on Radio 1 today, calling it merely a 'floorfiller' would be an understatement.

All Fired Up is positively alive, blasting away anything in its path with atomic levels of power and punch. Launching straight into the chorus straight from an ambient, moody intro, the Xenomania influence is clear.

For years the thoughts of The Sats working with Xenomania existed as a kind of Holy Grail of pop, a collaboration that seemed logical seeing as the band launched off the back of touring with Girls Aloud.

But of course, Xenomania in 2011 is in many ways a rather different creature to when dear Girls Aloud were putting out Tangled Up and Out Of Control, and it shows in All Fired Up. The DNA of tracks like Sexy! No, No, No... are there in the song; whether it be the structure, vocodered vocals or hectic pace. But it's an evolution of that sound - a FutureXenomania; a sleek space-rocket of pop amazingness that blasts away to stratospheric heights.

All Fired Up is the pop dance anthem to end all pop dance anthems - If there was a time when The Sats might finally claim that No. 1 single which is so overdue for them, then it is now.

With flirty, playful lyrics like 'we make the party super-naughty', All Fired Up is just as irresistible  - if not more so - as its forerunner Notorious was. And then there's Mollie's uber-cute 'We're all animal!' chant, oh, and Una's inspired 'Keep me on your radar...' outro, quite possibly my favourite bit from the song.

All Fired Up's real charm is that it channels repitition in a way that is impossibly exciting - by the time the song's finished you feel like you've already heard it ten times - and that's a good thing as it's So Damn Great!

This represents a big step for The Saturdays - in its entirety it sounds like nothing they've done before, yet zooming in, it stands as a very natural progression from what they began in Missing You and Notorious - now brought to full fruition.

It's The Saturdays go trance - and quite simply it sounds as brilliant in reality as it does on paper.
All Fired Up is released on the 2nd September and can be pre-ordered here.

Dionne Bromfield & Tinchy Stryder - Spinnin' For 2012


Now, we all know movie tie-in songs - those tracks released off the back of a film soundtrack (usually tacked over the closing credits) to help cross promote the movie/artist in question.

Of no less note are sport tie-ins - after all, who could forget the classic World In Motion, or more recently, Shakira's Waka Waka?

Only right then that the biggest sporting event the UK has seen in years has a track of its very own. Step in Dionne Bromfield and Tinchy Stryder.

Spinnin' For 2012 is far more in the tradition of Dionne's album than any of Tinchy's material, but it's a cool team-up and really embodies the whole sense of unity and togetherness everyone's been stressing the Olympics is so much about.

An upbeat little soul-pop number, it plays that beautiful trick of having 2012 in its title - thus ensuring it receives mass airplay across TV and radio as said year rolls in. It's what I like to call the Robbie Williams Millennium effect (Robbie's track, despite being released in 1998, got its fill of airplay all the way through 2000 too, simply by the very virtue of its title).

Throw in lots of glossy picture-postcard shots of the London skyline in the video and you've got yourself a complete package - an Olympic anthem from two of Britain's brightest young stars.

Dionne and Tinchy will be performing the track live at Trafalgar Square on the 27th July as part of a 'one year to go' ceremony.

Spinnin' For 2012 is released on the 25th July.

Oh My! & Britt Love - Live at The Hoxton Pony, 21st July 2011


All the trendy people come out to play in Hoxton. Whether it's the snazzy-dressed indie types eagerly drinking away Daddy's money or the smart bankers letting loose after a long day in the City, three things fuel this little corner of London - money, booze and good times.

And tonight was all about the good times. In the packed basement level of the Hoxton Pony, something exciting was happening.

Oh My! are a delightful duo, consisting of Alex and Jade, still buzzing with the youthful energy of their teen years. Their punky, angular synth-pop is ready made for club settings like this, their witty rapped dialogues the perfect accompaniment to a good spot of partying. You couldn't get more London if you tried.

Whistling through four or five songs, the Oh My! girls whipped the crowd up into a frenzy with their super-catchy tunes, including Example-penned Kicking & Screaming, which can be downloaded for free from their website.

Up next was the ever-charming Britt Love - now, I've been keeping an eye on Britt since her days as one half of the amazing Mini Viva, and I can safely say that her new solo material is just as gloriously brilliant.

Full of fire and feistyness, her set was a storming showcase of hi-energy electro-disco; one particular highlight saw Britt sampling both Kylie's Speakerphone and ABBA's Gimme Gimme Gimme in a blistering shot of Pure Pop Awesome.

Much has been said about how now is the time for the British female - well, Oh My! and Britt Love certainly subscribe to that theory - keep an eye and an ear out for them, you definitely don't want to miss pop this exciting.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Six D announce UK 'Best Damn Night' signing tour


Super-cool new UK pop group Six D are set to release their brilliant debut single on Monday (we reviewed it back in May) and to help celebrate, they're giving their fans a chance to say hi and get their CD copies of the single signed!

The dates and locations of the band's signing tour are as follows:

hmv Hanley, The Potteries Shopping Centre - 24th July at 3.00 pm
hmv Milton Keynes, Midsummer Arcade - 25th July at 1.00 pm
hmv London Westfield, Shepherds Bush - 25th July at 5.00 pm
hmv Brighton Churchill Square - 26th July at 1.00 pm
hmv Thurrock, Lakeside Shopping Centre - 26th July at 5.00 pm
hmv Birmingham Fort Shopping Park - 27th July at 1.00 pm
hmv Manchester 90 Market Street - 27th July at 6.00 pm
hmv Reading Oracle Centre - 28th July at 1.00 pm
hmv Oxford, Cornmarket Street - 28th July at 5.00 pm
hmv Sheffield Meadowhall - 29th July at 1.00 pm
hmv Leicester, High Street - 29th July at 5.00 pm
hmv Bristol Cribbs Causeway - 30th July at 5.00 pm

We'll be popping along to the Westfield date where the group will also be performing live - Exciting times!

With Best Damn Night sitting proud on Radio 1's playlist and the band fresh from touring with the likes of The Saturdays, Six D are definitely ones to keep an eye on.

Best Damn Night is released on the 25th July and can be pre-ordered here.

Listen to The Saturdays All Fired Up & Ladykiller previews


Don't you just love it when Amazon/iTunes post those 30 seconds of preview of new songs ages before they're released? What this means is that we get to hear The Saturdays' frankly amazing new single All Fired Up, which gives its name to their upcoming winter tour.

Following in the more dancey tradition of Notorious, but stepping the drama and pace up another few notches, All Fired Up is a relentless onslaught of trance madness and My God does it sound good.

The lightning-quick repition of the chorus 'All Fired Up! I feel alive!' is hyper-catchy, channelling the song's energy and power on a non-stop track straight to your heart, delivering with it a massive shot of adrenaline. It's like the first time you ever drink Red Bull - but a hundred times better than that.

If this doesn't get you up on your feet dancing like it's your last night on Earth then I don't know what will. What's more, the track was written by Space Cowboy (he's done stuff for Lady Gaga!), Brian Higgins and Miranda Cooper (Xenomania - need no introduction!) and MNEK.

Meanwhile, Ladykiller looks set to continue the tradition of absolutely brilliant Sats b-sides. Their last effort Not That Kinda Girl stands as one of their best to date, so I have high hopes for the full length version of Ladykiller when it comes out.

Indeed, by this point in the Saturdays career you could quite easily put together a compilation of all their b-sides and it'd still be better than a good deal of other pop albums out there.

All Fired Up is released on the 2nd September.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Example - Stay Awake


Example can do no wrong at the moment. Every artist (if they're lucky) goes through that phase of their career where they bang out hit after hit, a veritable torrent of amazing tuneage.

New single Stay Awake picks up where the masterful Changed The Way You Kiss Me left off, an assault of domineering dancefloor magic. Example's all-inclusive calls to the 'leaders of the messed up generation' feels buoyed up with the confidence of a man who now has a Number One single under his belt.

Seeing Example play the Capital Summertime Ball at Wembley, he was clearly in his absolute element - 85,000 people arrayed before him, all dancing away.

Indeed, it was quite possible that he received the best reception of anyone that day; whipping the crowd up into a frenzy despite the apocalypticly dismal weather.

Stay Awake is the sound of a man so versed in producing an anthem you feel he could probably just as easily do it with his eyes closed. Melody, lyrics, rhythm - listening to Stay Awake is like seeing a master-technician at work, fine tuning a high-end sport car for the race. And when that machine is unleashed, boy does it fly...

Stay Awake is released on the 29th August.

Pixie Lott - All About Tonight


Pixie Lott, what are we going to do with you, eh? I have to admit, I was hoping for a lott (Ha, ha...) from Pixie's new single; the first from her second album.

Her first record had been jam-packed with a veritable feast of pop treats - radio friendly, cute, and possessed with a sense that this was specifically Pixie's music.

Like the best in teen pop, it's not just about the music, but the whole package - that 'X Factor' Mr. Cowell is always banging on about. And never was this more true than with Pixie Lott - her songs were the very essence of 'her', the breathtakingly pretty girl about town that girls wanted to be and guys wanted to be with.

Records like the sublime Boys And Girls got that balance spot on - but new track All About Tonight goes too far, tumbling away off a cliff of generic-ness.

Taken with its video in too, the whole thing feels overtly glossy - a more global, commercialised Pixie, processed into a tight package of tinny-sounding synths. With massively-blatant Nokia product placements flying in one direction and a dance routine clearly designed to show as much bared-thigh as possible going in the other, there's just too much going on.

For a song that's supposed to be all about the thrills and pleasures of partying it up at night, the track feels remarkably studied. Every part of it seems to have been precisely calibrated to push all the right buttons; but with those component parts pushed together into the finished article, it just doesn't work. Something crucial is missing - the soul.

Radio and TV will doubtless lap All About Tonight up, but for me, everything that made Pixie's debut so great - the fun-loving liveliness and real heart - is gone. And for a girl who 99% of the time can look so effortlessly smoking hot, she doesn't half look like she's just going through the motions here too.

Pixie, we love you - but let's have some real 10/10 stormers on the new album too please?

All About Tonight is released on the 5th September.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Jo Birchall - Wonderful


When it comes to dealing a card from the deck of life, you don't get much better than Mr Gary Barlow - surely as close to British pop royalty as you get these days.

And so the story began for aspiring young songstress Jo Birchall. Under the guidance of good ol' Gary, Jo also toured with Westlife and appeared on shows like Children In Need - so far it's sounding like a silver-studded ride right to the top, right?

But sadly, a series of unfortunate events led to Jo's career faltering before it had truly started. Through no fault of her own, the dream was put on ice, for the time being at least. With Gary Barlow off on his jaunts with the newly reformed Take That, it was time for Jo to go it alone.

Reinvigorated by the assorted setbacks, she set about recording her debut album Something To Say, intent on putting together a collection of 'real songs with real meanings and experiences'. Music wrote straight from the heart.

Lead single Wonderful is every bit the cheery, one-with-yourself ditty you'd expect then of someone so clearly determined and radiant in the face of everything - as light and as airy as a sea breeze, but with that inner heart of true emotion.

The likes of Wonderland and Taylor Swift have cornered the market on this kind of inoffensive, radiant pop of late - plenty of space then for Jo Birchall to add herself into the mix then.

Frolicking away in a floral dress to a backdrop of coastal scenes, Wonderful's video feels as quintessentially English as Birchall herself - there's a Richard Curtis movie plot in here somewhere, and Birchall is ready to step it up to the next scene.

Wonderful is released on the 21st August.

Kids These Days - Hard Times EP


Eight members, and all of them in their teens (or just pushing over into their twenties). Nope, it's not the cast list from the latest series of Skins, it's trendy Chicago outfit Kids These Days.

Serving up a classy blend of smooth, laid back jazz and loose raps, the band manage to sound at once surprisingly mature and also possessed of a throbbing, youthful spirit.

Their five track EP Hard Times is a real treat, especially the title track; riding high on sax riffs, soulful vocals and funky basslines. It's a rich sound for a band so young, but they wear it well.

The Hard Times EP can be downloaded from iTunes here.

Kids These Days - Hard Times EP by Kids These Days Band

Monday, 18 July 2011

Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Adventures Of Raindance Maggie


And the prize for the most random track title of 2011 goes to the Red Hot Chili Peppers! Seriously though, what's all this Raindance business about?

Indecipherable collections of words aside, the jury's out on whether the Chili's big comeback track is good or not. Because it comes down to precisely that - it doesn't sound 'big' enough.

Remember when Dani California came out - a tune of such immensity that it still receives mind-boggling amounts of airplay on radio stations everywhere to this day. Dani California was a masterful example of how to create a rock anthem, but new single Adventures... just sounds like the Chili's running on autopilot - a Peppers-by-the-numbers if you will.

Funky base - check. Cowbell - check. Jagged, scratchy guitar hooks - check. All the ingredients are there, but when the chorus kicks in at just over a minute into the song, it just feels achingly flat.

With a band as monumental as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, when they come back from a long absence, you want so much for them to be there with something brilliant, something fantastically fresh - but instead we're left with Adventures..., which truth be told sounds like a second-rate b-side or album track.

When you think of the Chili's at their very best (and boy have they had some amazing moments), you think of the big, anthemic, singalong choruses. The Adventures Of Raindance Maggie? It's only 50% there...

The band's new album I'm With You is out on the 26th August and can be pre-ordered here.

Cocknbullkid - Yellow


If you downloaded Cocknbullkid's self titled taster track a while back you may have been given the overall sense that she was very much a variation on the Marina & The Diamonds mold - a quirky young singer-songwriter serving up highly-catchy, delicate, airy pop and witty takes on modern life.

Indeed, with a name like Cocknbullkid, you're presented with the question: how much of what she's singing about is genuinely heartfelt, relevant stuff? Enter, Yellow - a song which takes Anita Blay's (her real name) music to a far grander, bolder, bigger scale.

This is the song that seems most befitting of its parent album's title - Adulthood. This is Blay progressing from youngster to adult - thriving on a more refined sound. Whereas other moments of the album are playful, energetic, constantly bouncy; Yellow is the result of a more considered wisdom - 'I don't want to regret a life that hasn't happened yet'.

Born of her Hackney upbringing, lines like 'I would beg, steal and borrow' hold equal charm - a Dickensian re-envisioning for the modern age that buoys the track's chorus to a surprisingly epic level. Blay's voice is in many ways relatively small - but it has a gutsy-ness to it that propels it onwards, fighting tooth and claw to mark her lyrics into your consciousness.

Hers is a story she wants you to remember, not dismiss, and going by her support slots for the likes of Janelle Monae and on Later With Jools Holland, she's already earned herself some formidable allies.

Yellow is released on the 7th August.

New releases round-up - 18th July 2011

Snoop Dogg - Boom



Just like The Saturdays before him, Snoop Dogg turns to a classic Yazoo track for his latest single - the merits of which being that you can't really go wrong with it in there. While not quite up there with Sweat/Wet for levels of sheer sleaze, this remains a big summer anthem.

Download

Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie



I wanted so much for the Chili's new single to be absolutely amazing, but truth be told, I wasn't convinced on first listen. While all the trademark sounds in place - the only thing missing is a big chorus, and Adventures... just feels lacking. The band's landmark Stadium Arcadium album defined 2006 with its endless stream of catchy hits, and five years on from that, you can't help but feel the band could have delivered something a little more dynamic for their big comeback. Still, with a band of their calibre, there remains a benchmark of quality - and Adventures... remains quite capable of holding its own against singles from groups half the Chili Pepper's age.

Download

Chase & Status feat. Tinie Tempah – Hitz



The sixth (Yes, sixth!) single from the production duo's massive album, this one's a goody - Tinie Tempah is something of the man of the moment right now and his 'The only thing bigger, blacker, slicker... is a Taxi' rap in this is brilliant. Moving away from the synth-heavy behemoths of Let You Go and Blind Faith, Hitz is instead all vocal samples and low, menacing stabs of brass. Great stuff once again from the Chase & Status lads.

Download

Kylie Minogue - The Albums (2000-2010)



A timely box set release collecting together her last five studio albums to celebrate Kylie's remarkable decade as the Princess of Pop. It's amazing to think that a song like Spinning Around is over ten years old now, a calling card from another age. Yet it's indelible pop charm remains, as does the vigour and breezy sense of fun Kylie injects all these albums with. Whether its the likes of Light Years and Fever which rejuvenated her career or the fan favourites Body Language and X, there's one thing you can be assured of with this collection - some of the best pop music ever made.

Purchase

The Saturdays get All Fired Up for Nintendogs plus Cats!


I've always had a soft spot for the Nintendo DS adverts - it's testament to how far gaming has come towards being accepted as a true part of the mainstream that we get popstars and other assorted celebs fronting the latest releases, and I think this new one featuring the gorgeous, ever-lovely Saturdays might just be my new favourite!

It works so well because Mollie is totally the kind of girl you can imagine being enchanted by petting a virtual dog. And in a nice little touch, Rochelle even points out the relevance to Mollie's real dog - also called Alfie.

Now, while I've always been more of a Playstation kind of guy, Nintendo's marketing success at launching these cutesy games at a new customer base is undeniable - and it's through adverts like these that this success stems from.

Just imagine all the youngsters, already fans of The Saturdays, who see their idols on telly and get straight on to their parents asking 'Can I get that game Mum, please!'.

It's a win/win situation for everyone - so while everyone's rushing out to purchase their sparkly new copy of Nintendogs plus Cats (very important not to forget the cats too!), they're also getting excited about the fact The Saturdays' latest single All Fired Up is getting its first radio play very shortly indeed!

We literally cannot wait! The track gets its full release on the 4th September and is apparently a 'total floorfiller' - we're already shaking at the potential pop-amazingness of it all!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Hard-Fi - Fire In The House


Hard-Fi have been turning heads recently, and for all the right reasons. Let's add another reason then, and that's that their new single Fire In The House - the second from third album Killer Sounds - is all kinds of fabulous.

Unlike the bold, striding swagger of the Jay-Z/Stone Roses aping Good For Nothing, this feels more subtle, more melancholic, but equally drenched in the sounds of the past. Half storming Brit-pop anthem, half moody synth epic dredged up from a shady nightclub, this is Hard-Fi doing what Hard-Fi do best.

Remember when Hard To Beat and Living For The Weekend came out, charming a nation with their perfect twinning of shouty indie credibility and big pop hooks. It felt so effortlessly spot on, so in the moment, so much like songs for the time - and Fire In The House feels the same.

Good For Nothing was aptly, rather good - great even. But this is on a whole other level - epic is a word that has been immeasurably cheapened over the last few years, but Fire In The House *is* undeniably epic.

The real test, of course, will be if the album can remain of a similar quality. Consistency, the great holy grail that so many aim for. Of the bands of Hard-Fi's generation, only a few remain, even fewer still delivering on the same scale. Kasabian have managed it, remaining eternally popular - and Fire In The House is exactly the kind of track that will ensure Hard-Fi stay up there with them in the premiere league of British rock acts.

Seeing the band perform at T4 On The Beach the other weekend, they felt like the band you always knew they had in them - not just Stars of CCTV, but real, genuine stars.

Fire In The House is released on the 14th August.

Leona Lewis - Collide


You can't accuse Leona of not taking chances - well, in this latest incarnation at least. You see, it would have been so easy for her to come back with another epic ballad of the kind she clearly does so well. The trouble is, it would never be as good as Bleeding Love.

That track, both her making and her undoing. Bleeding Love stands as one of the greatest pop tracks of the last decade, spending an incomprehensible amount of time at Number 1, and enchanting a host of people on both sides of the Atlantic.

But it also means that everything Leona has done afterwards will be compared to it and weakened due to the simple fact that it just won't live up to those dizzying heights of Bleeding Love.

What to do then for her third album? Traditional the make or break point for most pop acts, Leona has made the spot-on decision by going and doing something completely 'out there'. Well, as 'out there' as you can get with Leona. And you know what? It's damn good.

Collide is pure dance-floor beauty, the summer club anthem with class. Riding on an enchanting piano hook that repeats again and again throughout the song, there's a music-box-like quality to the track, a mechanical precision that rather than sounding overly-produced, seems so exquisitly crafted and buffed to a sheen that you find yourself asking, is this the same Leona?

But then, that's the point. This is Leona proving all the doubters wrong, proving that she has more than one trick in her bag. Collide is like Coldplay given the 200% dance overhaul, accentuated beautifully with African-esque chants that remind me of Dario G's Sunchyme.

I'll admit, I wasn't convinced initially; but as the track builds and builds, properly kicking in with the second chorus, you know what you're looking at - a bonafide smash hit. And Leona pulls it off with considerable aplomb - well done indeed, Miss Lewis.

Collide is released on the 4th September.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Parade get their rather awesome revenge on The Wanted


Everyone loves a good pop feud don't they? Think back to the glory days of Oasis vs. Blur... Lily Allen and Cheryl Cole...

And now to add to this glorious list of pedigree stars - Parade and The Wanted! Of course, there's an added finesse here - there's very much a flavour of Boys against Girls, the thrill of those playground battles back at school, each team dreaming up new and impossibly exciting ways to get their own back with each coming day.

And you've got to give it to the Parade girls, they've got nerve - watch below as they sneak into The Wanted's dressing room and promptly cover it in silly string, all the while still looking effortlessly stylish - multitasking at its very best. Oh, and bonus points awarded for putting a shoe in the drinks chiller - nice touch indeed.

Of course, those cheeky Wanted boys aren't ones to take a raid like this lying down - they respond by dousing the Parade girls in beer (a suitably laddy kind of revenge). I did get a bit worried for a moment when band member Max exclaimed 'I'm going to shit in their dressing room!', as lets be honest, no-one wants to see boy-band excrement smeared around...

And at the end of it all - there's hugs all round and what we can only imagine is a temporary truce... Parade vs. The Wanted? Watch this space...

Thursday, 14 July 2011

(Official Video) Take That - When We Were Young


When the Take That boys were young... well, you'd have to have been living under a rock for the past twenty years not to be aware of the whole Robbie-gate business and the ultimate dissolution of the group, the end to a glorious, shining pop career that would finally be resurrected - the band reformed and rejuvenated - 10 years later.

It's a defining saga of pop music. The tale that everyone knows. Yet it still holds an undefinable power to it - and much the same can be said of the band's new single, the last to be taken from their dizzyingly successful Progress album.

Interestingly, When We Were Young sees a return to the sound of the Robbie-lite Take That, the band that banged out mega-ballad after mega-ballad to massive success. It was a formula Gary Barlow seemed born to fulfill - unleashing these behemoth-like songs on the UK, a nation of fans lapping them up.

For all the song's charm though, it feels a little flat compared to both past successes like Rule The World and Greatest Day, and even more so compared to the new electro-driven Take That which has manifested itself courtesy of Robbie's return to the band and the involvement of super-producer Stuart Price.

No, if anything, it's the track's accompanying video which is the real attraction here. Shot in ear-wateringly rich quality at Wembley Stadium during the band's immense eight night residency there, it simply looks magical. All in black and white, it feels classy, magical - a fitting showpiece for the group who stand as Britain's premiere pop band.

As Gary Barlow sings in the track, 'We adored the fabulous' - Take That, we adore you.

When We Were Young is released on the 22nd August and features on the soundtrack of new movie The Three Musketeers.

Nerina Pallot - Turn Me On Again


Nerina Pallot's Year Of The Wolf album is without a doubt one of the best records of the year. That goes without saying. I saw a great review of it the other day where it was described as the next logical step for anyone lured in by Adele's songcraftery - and sure, both records excel in both their subject matter and the way they pair it to a luxurious, retro-tinged production.

But in truth, Nerina's record holds far, far more depth to it, and songs like Turn Me On Again - the next single to be taken from the album - are the living proof of that.

I had the good fortune to catch Nerina live a couple of times last month and the affection she had for this track in particular was clear. She treated it with such tenderness, such delicate playfulness, that you couldn't help but fall in love with her.

With its miniature detail of all those wonderful little things we notice in the people we feel for, the song feels refreshingly honest; a breezy new take on just what it means to be in love.

I love Nerina's own description of what the track is all about, 'It's essentially a song about shagging, but specifically the bit before you've seen the goods and you're in that flirty, chemistry soaked phase. The phase before you find out they still live with their Mum and/or have a wife and kids tucked away somewhere.'

There you have it - it's a song about shagging; plain and simple. That flirtiness she talks about is there in every ad lib and harmony, oozing out of the lyrics - and we love the track for it.

Leaping from the hushed beauty of the verses to the rousing emotion of the choruses, just as she did in massive airplay hit Put Your Hands Up, Nerina takes us with her on her journey through love. Classy and enchanting in equal measures, Turn Me On Again stands as a real life-affirming anthem.

Nerina also heads out on tour for a series of Autumn dates later this year:

Opera House, Jersey - 16 September
Oran Mor, Glasgow - 2 October
Academy 2, Manchester - 4 October
Academy 2, Birmngham - 5 October
Shepherds Bush Empire, London - 6 October

Turn Me On Again is released on the 22nd August.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

(Official Video) Wonderland - Nothing Moves Me Anymore


The Wonderland girls take on a far more solemn direction in the video for their latest single Nothing Moves Me Anymore - Gone are the carefree tones of Starlight, replaced by a song wrapped up in that aching sense of loss that comes from the ruins of a broken relationship.

Through the heart of this loss though, we have lots of shots of the girls in 'We're all in this together' poses - if everything's falling to pieces around them, they still remain together, defiant to the last.

The single mix of the track has been given a few tweaks, a nice little bonus to fans - it serves to add to the big ballady feel of the whole package too. It might be the middle of summer right now, but if ever a song and accompanying video felt more suited to one of those Comic Relief/Children In Need moments, it's this one.

My favourite bit of the video has to be the carefully poised shot of someone using the 'Delete Photo' button on their iPhone to prime effect - never before has modern mobile phone technology been so dramatic!

In another key scene, two members of the camera crew filming the whole video bump into each-other, prompting giggles from two of the girls - we imagine this accidental nudge leads to a whirlwind romance and eventually marriage; a romantic tonic to the previous 'Delete Photo' scene.

It's all rather lovely, charming stuff and the Wonderland girls carry it off well. Incidentally, the band are also running a Facebook competition where you can design your own cover for the single.

Nothing Moves Me Anymore is released on the 14th August.

Monday, 11 July 2011

(Official Video) The Pierces - It Will Not Be Forgotten


We reviewied The Pierces' It Will Not Be Forgotten (the fourth single to be taken from their stellar You & I album) last month, and today we have the video for you too!

Opening, as it does, with curtains drawing back, the video seems full of all the magic and splendour of the theatre itself - a fitting presentation for a band who's music is so artisan-esque in its delicately crafted nature.

For Catherine and Allison Pierce, their beauty isn't just in their own ravishing good looks; it shines right through to their surroundings - quite literally giving life to all around them, transforming the bleak, dark scenes of the video into glorious summer.

It Will Not Be Forgotten is undoubtedly my favourite video from the You & I album campaign - there's just that special something to it, all wrapped up in the enchanting, fairytale feel of both track and video alike.

As starry skies open up above the sisters, we're reminded that the brightest of those stars are right before our eyes in the form of The Pierces themselves. Taking to the stage at the iTunes festival later this month to support Coldplay, July sees them shining brighter than ever before.

It Will Not Be Forgotten is released on the 8th August.

Cover Drive - Lick Ya Down


Bajan pop eh? Needless to say, there's one very special lady cornering that market right now, and she goes by the name of Rihanna. But Polydor-signed Cover Drive stand to provide a fresh alternative to 2011's Queen of Pop with their fantastically titled debut single Lick Ya Down.

The track comes on like a close relative of TI's massive hit Live Your Life, all machine-gun beats and chants. Band member Manda takes the lead with the lion's share of the vocals on the track with her three accompanying boys - Barry, Jamar and T Ray - playing guitar, bass and drums respectively.

It's a big, bolshy package, bursting with energy and colour - something that's very much reflected in the frenetic drive of the single itself.

The band also do a very nice cover of J Lo's I'm Into You - all stripped back and acoustic, the track really shines and plays to the best element's of the group's unique style. The phrase 'summery' is thrown around a lot, but for Cover Drive, it feels genuinely earned.

So pull on the shades, soak up the sun, and enjoy... I reckon we're going to be seeing a lot more of these guys over the coming months.

Lick Ya Down is released on the 28th August.

Danny & Freja - If Only You (Remix Competition)


Fans of glossy Eurodance rejoice. 2011 has seen something of a resurgence in the genre, as well as much seepage into the mainstream in the form of tracks like J Lo's On The Floor.

Sometimes you just want a big, fat dollop of the genuine article though, and that's exactly what Swedish act Danny & Freja deliver.

If Only You is a sultry, futuristic track full of airy trance riffs and pop hooks - the video's also already racked up nearly 70,000 views on YouTube. Impressive.

As if to add to the excitement of it all, the YouTube page also prominently boasts 'TO SEE THE EXPLICIT VERSION OF THIS VIDEO ADD DANNY AND FREJA ON FACEBOOK' - Yup, all in capitals, just like that. As for the explicit content, we're not sure exactly what that might entail, so you'll have to check it out yourself...

And for those of you out there that like to have a tweak around with your favourite dance tracks, the duo are running a remix competition in which the winning take on the track will be commercially released on iTunes. For more information on the competition, visit the group's Facebook page here.

New releases round-up - 11th July 2011

The Wanted - Glad You Came



Putting aside all the glorious opportunities for innuendo and euphemism the title of the boy band's latest single presents, it's actually a cracking summer tune. Gloriously dancey and basking in full-on Ibiza vibes, the track carries the group's laddy attitude perfectly; a strong move forward as the band gear up to release their second album.

Download

Nicola Roberts - Beat Of My Drum



With all the hoo-ha about the pro's and con's of On Air/On Sale, it's important to remember that at the heart of the matter, there still lies a song. And in this case, a very good one indeed. This week sees the physical release of Nicola's debut solo single, backed with the wonderfully titled b-side Disco Blisters And A Comedown (sounds like something the Pet Shop Boys or The Smiths would dream up, doesn't it?).

Quirky, brilliant electro, the kind of stuff that us long-time Girls Aloud fans always dreamed Nicola would come up with, it's yet more proof of how she really is the most amazing popstar around at the moment.

Download

The Horrors - Skying



The past decade has been awash with bands trying to recreate the sounds of the 80s - but perhaps none quite so faithfully as The Horrors do on this, their third studio release. Already racking up stellar reviews across the board, many are touting Skying as a real contender for album of the year.

Download

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Mojo Fury - We Should Just Run Away



Mojo Fury stride the difficult middle ground between the unkempt power of hard rock and the intricacies of deliving into everything else on the sonic platter.

New single We Should Just Run Away initially presents itself as an electronica-tinged slab of Biffy Clyro-esque punch. It's weighty, bulky stuff, but also feels surprisingly agile - a kind of younger, Northern Irish cousin to their Scottish patrons (Mojo Fury previously supported Biffy Clyro on tour).

You get the sense that the band are fighting to stretch the boundaries at every level - but We Should Just Run Away's real charm is the good old fashioned stomp it carries itself with on the immense singalong chorus.

Fury? It's here in copious amounts; bursting from the guitar licks - but there's also a sense of community too. Like the best moments in music, Mojo Fury's sound is something to be shared with others - both massive and for the masses.

We Should Just Run Away is released on the 17th July.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Natalia Kills - Free


Let's be honest, Natalia Kills is fit. She's the kind of singer that's so achingly beautiful that you can't help but fall in love with her - a striking electro-goddess come to dazzle us mere mortals into awe.

Of course, it helps that her tracks are some of the finest grade of pop around at the moment. Mirrors, Wonderland - both latch onto your consciousness with an energy that seems almost alive in intensity.

New single Free represents something a little different though - especially in its single version, featuring Will.i.am. More urban, more rhythmic, it's less about the in your face beat and synth combos that make up so much of Natalia's album, and more about pushing her sultriness to the max.

Imploring us to get our money out, Natalia's delivery is playful, but suffused with a vulnerability too - 'Stretch that dollar bill', she says, a reminder that we all have to make ends meet at the end of the day.

Many have said Aloe Blacc's I Need A Dollar is an anthem for these current times of austerity, but it could just as easily be Natalia's Free.

And as she raps so delightfully at one point, 'I could look fresh in a potato sack' - Yes Natalia, you probably could.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Parade - New album megamix featuring Stars!


OK, time to get really excited. I've been following hot new girl band Parade for a while now, and was overjoyed to hear them get their second Top 40 with Perfume a couple of weeks back.

Earlier in the day I caught up with the girls after an exciting exclusive performance at a flash bar under Chelsea's Stamford Bridge and they were all really thrilled with how well everything is going so far for them.

And now, with the release of their debut album on the horizon, they've released a new mega-mix of tracks from the album which you can download from their website now! How nice is that!

The mix features 'Perfume', 'Stars', 'Knock On My Door', 'Yes You Are', 'Just A Girl' and 'Like You' - All are brilliant, exactly the kind of fresh, modern pop I love and the band carries it really well. Seeing them increasingly frequently in the women's mags, they look stylish, trendy and every inch proper popstars.

Out of this crop though, I have to gush about Stars though because it's absolutely amazing - easily one of my favourite tracks the Parade girls have put out so far. It's something a little different for them, taking on a far more dancey angle, rocketing at you on a wave of trancey synths and feisty raps. Oh, and what's quite possibly my favourite lyric of the month: 'I've even got my own theme song!'

SO good.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Sugababes sign to Sony RCA for 8th studio album


Don't the Sugababes look great in this new promo shot? If they're looking particularly glossy, it's because there's cause for celebration, of sorts. Yup, the girls have only gone and signed with Sony RCA.

After they parted ways with their long-time home Island records, everything seemed to be a bit up in the air - no-one knew quite what was happening; but now, with new single Freedom and an 8th studio album on the horizon, things seem well and truly back on track.

Speaking of the deal, Sony's President of Music Nick Gatfield said: "When we learned of the chance to sign Sugababes, we saw a great opportunity to work with Crown and continue to build on the band’s legacy of successful hit-making.

"I believe we have an exciting future together operating through a new joint-venture model which incorporates the excellent creative skills of Mark Hargreaves and Sarah Stennett at Crown combined with the marketing and promotional assets that Charlie Lycett and the RCA team have to offer."

Everyone has a bit of a soft spot for the Sugababes - with a group that's been in the pop game as long as they have (albeit with a fair few member-changes), you can't help but admire them for keeping at it. And with a repertoire of some of the best pop hits of the past decade, we're hoping the new album can add to that list.

Freedom is released on the 5th September.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

2011 - It's been a good year for albums...


Every year, there's a precise moment when the collective music industry and all associated holds their breath, tense in the anticipation for an announcement of twelve magical names.

Those names represent the final shortlist of what the Mercury Music Prize consider the best 12 British albums released in the past year, from which, one will receive the ultimate accolade of winning the prize itself.

Whatever you might think of the prize, its impact on the industry is undeniable and the winner benefits from an impossibly immense boost to their sales. It's like the floodgates of popular music have been swept open, money rushing out of wallets as the public flock to their local HMV to purchase this piece of affirmed culture.

This year, the Mercury shortlist is announced at 11.30 am on the morning 19th July. Put that date in your calendars - Lauren Laverne will be revealing the list from the heart of trendy Covent Garden; and what's more, for the first time ever, you'll be able to watch the whole thing live via a live video stream on Facebook.

I read a fascinating article in the paper a couple of weeks ago saying that at the time (before the final shortlist was decided), the odds for Metronomy to win were something like 33/1 - Now, I'm not a gambling man but that looks incredible; imagine the pay-out on that! I reckon the Metronomy guys have a good chance of nabbing the award too; their album is one of the most consistent and inventive of the year.

Now, the Mercury prize's entry period is any British album released between July 2010 and July 2011, but to keep things simple, here are a few of my own personal favourites from 2011 so far...

Wonderland - Wonderland
Pet Shop Boys - The Most Incredible Thing
Nerina Pallot - Year Of The Wolf
Metronomy - The English Riviera
Katy B - On A Mission
Jessie J - Who You Are
James Blake - James Blake
Friendly Fires - Pala
Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!
Clare Maguire - Light After Dark
Chapel Club - Palace
Adele - 21

Caro Emerald - That Man


The UK definitely seems to have taken Dutch star Caro Emerald to heart - as it stands, her debut album Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor is in its 5th week in the UK Top 10.

With her charmingly European brand of pop, Caro is the kind of artist who manages to catch a real sense of the 'moment' in her music - every morning I wake up and see the advert for her album on the telly; and a good thing too, her songs are exactly the kind of joyous, up and at 'em numbers that you want to get you fired up for the day.

Like Back It Up and A Night Like This before it, new single That Man carries itself with a distinct bounce and liveliness - a proper old fashioned anthem to passion and romance.

Its delightful video is brilliant too - half James Bond title sequence, half stylistic art statement. The whole thing just seems infused, like the track, with a wonderful sense of retro. In an instant, we're transported to hazy 30s night clubs and whisky bars, everyone dressed immaculately, soaking in the atmosphere.

And as That Man trails away into a jazzy brass outro, we're there, soaking in that atmosphere too.