Wednesday, 31 August 2011

You Me At Six - Sinners Never Sleep

'We could be anything, we could be what you like' sing You Me At Six on their new album Sinners Never Sleep, and using the record as a confident step-up from their mainstream breakthrough Hold Me Down, they make a good shot at it too.

For this is an album of many things, a far more mature, astute affair than its predecessor. And while it lacks the instant thrills of Liquid Confidence and Underdog, it more than makes up for it in its overall consistency.

Bass-heavy lead-in track Loverboy is an obvious first single - making for an agile introduction to the record, presenting a streamlined version of the band's sound whilst still packing all the trademark crunchy guitar riffs.

All across Sinners Never Sleep, there's a sense that the band is easy to please its audience, switching between two clearly defined formulas:

1) An evolution of the weighty, barbed-wire rockers that defined the previous album. This reaches its climax on Bite My Tongue - anguished screams and cries of 'hate every part of you' encompass a kind of complete, total, overwhelming passion of the emotions.

2) Something altogether newer for the band - big Americana-tinted FM rock. Here, the emotions are tuned to a more mature, considered level - just as the band and their audience have grown older, so too have the songs: This Is The First Thing is a refreshing variation from the frantic pace the album kicks off with.

By alternating between these two camps, You Me At Six ensure the album never feels tired. Indeed, Little Death's rallying boast of 'Fuck what you believe in!' betrays the band's desire to pursue new styles, to branch out into new areas, something made plain on pre-album single Rescue Me with its guest rap.

The American-styled material could easily have been cheesy, but instead the band really make it work; Little Bit Of Truth is sublime, a track fit to soundtrack a Hollywood action epic - it packs the album's best guitar solo, an immense swaggering thing of cinematic scale.

Placed next to the album's biggest all-out rocker, Time Is Money, the latter half of the record stands up just as well as its opening. Here, the guitar positively slams out of the speakers over a bed of animalistic growls. It's powerful, rousing stuff.

And if that wasn't enough, the band play yet another card from their hand in Crash. It's this song, more than any other on the album that spells out producer Garth Richardson's influence on the record - his previous work includes Biffy Clyro, and Crash is pure Biffy (...and dare I say it, perhaps even a little Snow Patrol...)

Bursting with those twinkly little music-box sounds that so many bands have latched onto of late, Crash is every bit the lush, winter ballad to rival Many of Horror. Sentimentality is the name of the game here, it's all 'I wrap my arms around you now' and... sorry, I think I've got some dust in my eye...

It's funny, you know, that the song that sounds least like You Me At Six ends up being one of the album's greatest moments. That's no bad thing though; the band's willingness to explore new sounds and directions on this album is what makes it - perhaps even more impressive is the ease at which they take to the variation. The songs fit the group like a glove, and it shows in the maturity and confidence that shines off every edge of this package.

Three albums in, and the band have delivered a pure winner.

Sinners Never Sleep is released on the 3rd October and can be pre-ordered here.

Lady Gaga - You & I (Metronomy Remix)

Another week, another Lady Gaga remix by a trendy indie band. This time, it's those immensely talented guys from Metronomy who take the star's new single into eerie quasi-religious territory with ominous, brooding synths.

Chopped-up vocals and hissing, mechanical beats add to the overall unsettling feel of the mix; the whole thing feels like it's been conjured up in the basement of a Victorian steamworks.

As the track creeps past its mid-point, there's something of an early 80s epic OMD instrumental to it all too, twinkling, burbling little streams of electronic bleeps cascading across the moody backdrop.

While not as instantly appealing as the Wild Beasts mix, it certainly makes for another interesting variation on the song.

Dannii Minogue - Karma Is A Bitch / Fear Of Flying / Weak

When it comes to deluxe edition re-releases, Dannii Minogue sure knows how to treat her fans - between 2007 and 2009 she re-packaged all her old albums and put them out again with glossy new booklets and a whole extra CD of bonus tracks.

During this process though, a couple of tracks fell through the web, not ending up on any of the respective compilations of previously unreleased songs either.

And while pop lovers everywhere are really waiting for the lovely Dannii to announce a full on music comeback with a storming dance anthem, these three songs - Karma Is A Bitch, Fear Of Flying and Weak do very nicely in the mean-time.

These three songs were originally scheduled to appear on Dannii's Unleashed album and see her at her most poppy. Weak is a delicate, sumptuous piano ballad - a real testament to how good Dannii's vocals really are. Fear If Flying is an uptempo number accentuated with little bursts of synths and lush swathes of guitar - an interesting exercise in Dannii exploring sounds away from her dance-pop roots.

Of course, Karma Is A Bitch has become somewhat notorious among fans who've been eagerly clamouring to hear the track ever since they first heard it's rather delightful name. Again, it's Dannii in full-on pop mode, a stirring string section adding real colour to the track.

Latest tracks by TheStrobeLight

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Children In Need 2011 cover Massive Attack's 'Teardrop'

Teardrops seem to be something of a flavour of the moment right now. First Coldplay enthuse about how each one is actually an immense waterfall in one of their typically mystifying pop metaphors, and now a whole host of artists are teaming up in the name of Children In Need to cover that 90s classic Teardrop, by Massive Attack.

So, who's on this year's CIN track? Ok, deep breath... Chipmunk, Dot Rotten, Ed Sheeran, Ms Dynamite,
 Mz Bratt, Rizzle Kicks, Tinchy Stryder,
Tulisa and Wretch 32

And breath! There's an X Factor judge in there, the current UK Number One holder - basically a real who's who of happening stars. And they've all been put together by that unparalleled saint of British music, Gary Barlow. Surely it's only a matter of time before this guy gets knighted, right?

I love the above shot of some of the artists together too - it's like Gary is their cool uncle or something.

Considering some of the previous CIN tracks, Teardrop is a relatively 'arty' choice and I reckon this new cover could potentially by very, very good indeed. It's one of those truly euphoric tracks that speaks out to everyone, a fitting selection for a cause such as this.

Teardrop is released on the 13th November.

Get excited! It's the official 2012 Cheryl Cole calendar - coming soon!

Buying a new calendar of wonderfully glossy, gorgeous photos has become something of a yearly ritual for Girls Aloud fans.

And although in recent years, the band's own calendars have been replaced by solo Cheryl ones, it still feels like an event to get excited about.

That slow drip-feed of increasingly less pixelated images as the promo shots come out in better and better quality... And then getting the actual thing in the post from Amazon and the like... (what must the post-man think handing over that massive slab of A3 cardboard?!)

It's all part of being a fan, and like every other aspect of fandom, it just feels so right.

Just take a look at the cover shot from the 2012 Cheryl calendar above - absolutely stunning. I think this might even rank up there as my favourite Cheryl calendar shot ever - it's that good.

The new Cheryl calendar is available from the 1st September and can be pre-ordered from Amazon here.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Parade party it up in Hoxton Square for Clean & Clear

The hottest new girlband around, a super trendy venue in East London's Hoxton Square, coupons for free soft drinks, some great pop songs... oh, and lots and lots of balloons.

This was the scene for Parade's exclusive gig for skincare range Clean & Clear. With the venue kitted out with what seemed like a thousand helium filled balloons, little green crystals and plenty of sample bottles of facial wash, Parade took to the stage; fresh from their weekend slot at V Festival.

The girls played a fun, intimate set-list featuring hit singles Louder and Perfume as well as fan favourite cover versions Forget You, Yeah x3 and new addition Swagger Jagger.

The highlight for me came with one of the first ever performances of the full studio version of Ticking On It. A stripped-back version of the song with Bianca playing piano has been part of the girls' set for a while now but here we got the track in all its sunny, energetic glory.

There was also a gorgeous acoustic performance of new song Weather Man with Bianca playing along on the guitar - talk about multi-talented! What with these two new tracks, it's getting us even more excited for Parade's debut album - you can pre-order it on HMV here.

Here's a list of some of the tracks that should hopefully be ending up on it - snippets of them have appeared in the two mini-mixes the band have previously put up on YouTube for fans to hear:

Weather Man
Pretty Ugly
Ticking On It
Knock On My Door
Yes You Are
Just A Girl
Like You

I'm hoping my personal faves Rollercoaster and Rokstar end up on the final tracklisting too!

Back to the Clean & Clear gig and the amazing goody bags everyone was given - just take a look at all the fabulous stuff inside them!

Sainsbury's Super Saturday - the pop gig of the summer!

Ok, doesn't this just sound like the best line-up for a pop gig ever?

The Saturdays
The Wanted
Taio Cruz
The Sugababes
Pixie Lott
Nicola Roberts
Olly Murs
Will Young

Actually AMAZING. And it's just down the road from me in Clapham Common too. The addition of The Wanted and Will Young to the bill was only announced today - let's see what the lads had to say...

The Wanted: 'We can’t wait to perform at Super Saturday and hope to get involved with the Paralympic sport demos on the day too. We’re all fairly fit after the touring we’ve been doing so hopefully we won’t embarrass ourselves competing against the UK’s top athletes!'

Will Young: 'Sainsbury's Super Saturday sounds like it's going to be a brilliant day out, there's nothing better than a day of music in the park and I'm thrilled to be able to support our Paralympic team. I'm really looking forward to performing some brand new tracks from my album Echoes and I might throw in one or two classics on the day too.'

Bring on the 10th September eh!

Tickets for the even are still available from Ticketmaster.

Kimberley Walsh to join Shrek: The Musical in October

Don't you just love it when you get two bits of happy news together?

Just as everyone's favourite former Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Holden announces she's pregnant, along comes the news that because of this, Kimberley Walsh will be replacing her in Shrek: The Musical.

Adding yet more fuel to the firey blaze of rumours circulating about Girls Aloud getting back together next year, we have to say that for the time being this sounds pretty exciting!

Long-time GA fans have often hailed Kimba as perfect for the theatre, especially after she guested in Les Mis as part of her Passions episode.

Kimberley takes up the role on the 5th October - we can't wait to see how she does!

Find out more on the show's official site:

The Pierces - It Will Not Be Forgotten (Live on This Morning)

Check out this lovely live version of The Pierces' sublimely good It Will Not Be Forgotten from This Morning - a firm favourite of mine from their album, I was overjoyed to see it get a proper single release.

We featured the track's official video on the blog back in July and it's now available to download from iTunes.

It's also well worth taking a listen to the band's set from the iTunes festival last month too.

Having had the album on rotation for a while now, it's yet to lose any of its wondrous sense of beauty - there's something about Allison and Catherine's divine harmonies and the rich, textured backing of the music itself that just sweeps you up in its arms.

Fantastical and alive with melody, It Will Not Be Forgotten and its parent album are without a doubt amongst my favourite records of the year so far.

Florence and the Machine - What The Water Gave Me

One of the nicest surprises in music is when an act that you previously weren't that fussed about comes back with something jaw-droppingly good and just completely blows you away.

It happened with Adele and her all-conquering 21 album. And it seems it could very easily happen to Florence Welch too.

While What The Water Gave Me doesn't have the ready made 'hit' feel of the likes of Dog Days Are Over, what it does most definitely have is an infinitely richer sense of production and fullness than anything on her first album did.

Everything about the song feels richer, more lush, more involving. From its subtle, gentle beginnings, soaring up into its epic, sky-piercing chorus, the song is quite simply beautiful.

The bass positively purrs as it creeps back and forth beneath the classic Florence blend of harp, piano and other assorted bits and bobs that help conjure up that spider's web of musical foundations.

Best though is when the track takes on a satisfyingly weighty rock punch, the bass strumming faster and faster as it flies into the final chorus.

It's like the sunrise breaking free on the grimmest, most grey of rainy days - the glorious radiance of pure heat and light bursting through to envelop the listener in a wash of pretty noise and an inspired guitar outro. Perfect.

What The Water Gave Me is available to download from iTunes now.

Boy Mandeville - BTSTU (Jai Paul cover)

Take the eerie post-dubstep mechanisms of Jai Paul's BTSTU and add to it the cheery indie charm of Boy Mandeville's guitar licks - the result, a rather nice cover version, which the band performed live on XFM the other day.

We reviewed Boy Mandeville's excellent single Gorilla on the blog back in May, and it's nice to see the radiant little Vampire Weekend-esque guitar hooks back on this cover, substituting the rumbling low-pitched synths of the Jai Paul original.

With the vocals more exposed in this take, the track becomes more humanised - distancing itself from the almost alien otherness originally present in the song.

We like!

RD - Got Me Burnin'

Remember when the Sugababes used to be really good? Cast your minds back to 2000 when their career was still in its infancy, when the group existed as something so far removed from the interchangeable, overly-glossy threesome it is today.

It's as if then, RD are a reincarnation of that first, great Sugababes line-up (they even have a Siobhan Donaghy lookalike!), with a bit of TLC thrown in too for good measure. They're gritty, urban, and in possession of the kind of swagger Cher Lloyd can only ever dream about.

The girl group's debut single Got Me Burnin' was penned by songstress of the moment Katy B and wears her stamp all over it with its sprightly vocals and relentless stomp-stomp kick drum. Bursting with a calypso-styled rhythm, steel drums accentuate sultry harmonies and there's even a nifty little rap towards the end of the track.

With the stylish video and a deal with Polydor in the bag, this feels like a sufficiently mainstream enough debut effort to break through to the charts - but what does it for me though is that definite edge to the group.

They have that 'bite' that leaves you wanting more - sometimes a group just has that perfect synergy between their music and their look, and RD have undoubtedly hit on the right formula.

Got Me Burnin' is released on the 25th September.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Lady Gaga - You & I (Wild Beasts Remix)

There's something reminiscent of epic 90s dance anthems in the blissed out expansiveness of Wild Beasts' moody take on Lady Gaga's You & I.

Coming from such an unlikely pairing, and getting to grips with one of the worst songs from the star's Born This Way album, there was major potential for the group to improve on the original.

And in a way, this does. The tranquil piano riffs and shimmering synths kind of float on a sea of ambient beauty, and while I'm not usually a fan of mixes that only use a little of the original vocal, this does so with just the right level of sensitivity.

The mix is certainly by no means amazing, but it without a doubt breathes new life into a song that really should never have been chosen as a single.

So, while I wait for the brilliant Schei├če or Hair to get released, this mix will have to serve as a diversion - a half-decent one too.

Example announces new UK tour dates!

Last month we reviewed Example's awesome new single Stay Awake - it's out at the end of the month and available to pre-order here.

Example has also just announced a 17 date set to sweep across the UK in November and December! Check out all the dates on the flyer above.

Sarah Harding heads for the catwalk and the big screen!

What's the lovely Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud up to these days? Well, for starters, she'll be turning her talents to modelling for an exclusive Look magazine fashion show at the new Stratford Westfield shopping centre.

The glamorous show will take place during the East London superstore's first week of trading when it opens its doors to the public on September 17th.

The show is part of that high-point of the year - London Fashion Week; expect appearances from big name brands like Miss Selfridge, New Look and River Island.

This isn't the only exciting solo project Sarah has going at the moment though - she's also been cast in new Brit film Run For Your Life.

Appearing alongside the likes of Danny Dyer, Maureen Lipman, Ray Winstone and Denise Van Outen, Sarah plays the partner of the main character - Danny Dyer's South London taxi driver.

Judging by the cast, it sounds like it has the potential to be a future Brit-classic - one of those gritty cockney Lock, Stock styled action thrillers; the kind of film Sarah would be perfect for. Going by her roles in the likes of Bad Day and Freefall, I reckon she'll turn in a great performance again.

In the meantime, you can check out Run For Your Wife's Twitter page, and official website:

Some very nice video stills from Leona's Collide...

What with all the attention afforded to the rather unsavory dispute between Leona Lewis and Avicii over 'that' sample, it's easy to forget just how good a track Collide actually is.

The more you hear it, the more it grows on you, just as the track itself builds and builds within itself to a jaw-dropping crescendo.

Listening to it on some flash speakers or headphones, you can really appreciate that thundering bassline in all its majesty - and above it, that piano riff soaring and crashing like waves breaking on a distant beach... which leads us nicely on to the first of these gorgeous stills from the track's upcoming video:

Stunning! The full video premieres later this week - we can't wait! As many others have commented, Collide is kind of what you imagine Coldplay would come out with if they 'went all dancey' - and this is a very good thing indeed.

What's more, Leona has always been in possession of a truly peerless vocal, but on Collide - removed from the epic balladry of her first and second albums - you appreciate new subtleties, new textures to it.

Here's another shot - Leona looking very hot as she takes a ride in a sporty classic car. Nice!

Monday, 22 August 2011

The chart battle is on - Olly Murs vs. Will Young

I can still remember the day, ten years ago, when I rushed out to buy Will Young's debut single Anything Is Possible/Evergreen (back when Woolworths stocked the entire Top 40 singles). Fresh from Pop Idol, Will had ushered in a brand new era of pop - the age of reality TV dominance. He set the stage for X Factor to follow, and the UK charts have never been the same since.

In the 10 years since his victory, Will has also released some absolute gems - from the eternally popular Leave Right Now, the lovely Who Am I, right down to the soundtrack to a million Natwest adverts: Grace.

His new track Jealousy is something tantalisingly new and exciting - delving into the world of shiny synth-pop with top producer Richard X, the track is a storming exercise in why Will very much still deserves his place amongst pop's higher echelons of stars.

Currently, the track lies at Number 4 on iTunes - a remarkably strong showing considering so many of Will's contemporaries have long since faded away. Standing at Number One however is a male reality star of a newer age - and standing between these two, the makings of good old fashioned chart battle.

As it stands, Olly Murs is undoubtedly the true winner of X Factor 2009 - while Joe McElderry has spiralled perilously first out of the charts and then into reality tv doom via Popstar to Operastar, Olly has nabbed himself three Top 20 singles and a double platinum debut album.

Very well done indeed. To be honest, he remains one of the more likeable X Factor contestants - his early audition of Superstition remains one of the show's high points and his everyman honesty and charm without a doubt played a part in his snaring the Xtra Factor presenter role this year. Oh, and his songs are half-decent too.

New single Heart Skips A Beat is easily Olly's most adventurous record to day, spinning his cod-reggae off on a dance-pop tangent with a guest rap from Rizzle Kicks. Oh, and the track is co-written by Preston from The Ordinary Boys.

It's like an exercise in laddishness - in the month where The Inbetweeners movie has surged to such immense success in cinemas, it seems only right that a song of such boyish enthusiasm and sturdy love-cliches is on its way to the top too.

The Saturdays - All Fired Up (Space Cowboy Remix)

Last week we brought you the sublime Extended Xenomania remix of The Saturdays' new single All Fired Up.

For those looking for more of a more 'partying in Ibiza, out of your mind on insane shots' vibe, the Space Cowboy mix (he's worked with Lady Gaga!) will be right up your alley.

Beats collide with the force of a truck hitting a wall, vocals shoot up and down, tweaked and autotuned out of all sense of normality and sunny synth riffs spill all over this version of the track. We like.

Marina And The Diamonds - Radioactive

When Marina Diamandis released her 2010 record The Family Jewels in 2010, she was riding the wave awash with countless female contemporaries. Fast-forward to 2011 and you can't move for a female singer-songwriter puveying their own brand of catchy pop hits.

The challenge then, is for Marina to prove she deserves her place amongst this premier league of songstresses. And with one listen to new single Radioactive, a first-class shot of sparkly dance-pop, it's plain to see she does.

Tapping into the Euro-Dance influences that seem to have seeped into the consciousness of so many fellow hitmakers this year (J-Lo, The Wanted etc.), the Marina that surfaces on Radioactive is a very different one than the quirky individual of I Am Not A Robot.

Her voice remains as hauntingly ethereal as ever, but now it posesses a drive, a passion, a force that comes from being strapped to a dizzyingly good synth-heavy beat.

'My heart is nuclear, love is all I feel' she sings in the track's chorus as she 'heads for a meltdown' - it's that same brand of apocalyptic, end of the world pop that mega-star Rihanna has sent her career to stratospheric heights with. Tying the two singers together - production whizzes Stargate. These guys are everywhere at the moment, and going by Radioactive, their creativity is far from spent.

Marina herself tells of how Radioactive was inspired by New York's nightlife, the 'fizzing white energy' of the dancefloor - indeed, everything about the song and what it promises is more adventurous and wide-reaching than her previous material.

In her new transatlantic incarnation, Marina has hit upon a goldmine of pop magic - and in doing so, quite possibly nabbed her first UK Number One.

Radioactive is released on the 3rd October.

Thirty Seconds to Mars - MTV Unplugged EP

I have to admit, I'm usually not the biggest fan of rock groups releasing live material to tide fans over to the release of their next album.

The versions of the tracks which fans have spent the last year or so ingraining into their consciousness are usually so close to the original studio takes to be unremarkable, or in the worst case scenario are frankly substandard and unreflective of the band's true quality.

30 Seconds to Mars are experienced in this respect - they've had their hits (their amazing version of Kanye West's Stronger), and their misses (Bad Romance...)

This MTV Unplugged EP lies firmly in the 'hit' camp though. The tracks are largely acoustic, but underscored with a sublime string section that brings out a kind of base, primal emotion in the songs.

Hearing Jared Leto's vocals soar on Hurricane and U2's Where the Streets Have No Name is truly inspiring stuff, a real reminder of the brilliance 30 Seconds To Mars can conjure up when they put their minds to it.

This Is War represented one of the best rock albums of the last few years, and with this EP acting as a kind of fitting epitaph to the era, it lies in the band's hands to deliver an equally fulfilling follow up.

The MTV Unplugged EP is available to download from iTunes now.

Kids In Glass Houses - In Gold Blood

In Gold Blood feels like a rock album of old. The third effort from Kids In Glass Houses, the LP slides from track to track in a wash of guitar feedback and an energy that rarely leaves you pause for breath.

If the band's first two albums were cheerily consistent selections of potential singles, then In Gold Blood sees them taking a far different approach - here the album definitively has the feel of a complete body of work. It has pace, it has highs and lows, each track acting as a chapter in the riotous story the band aim to tell here.

There is no let up - In many ways the album feels like a studio take on a live show, but without the crowd noise or boozed-up spoken word interludes to rough things up. No, Kids In Glass Houses have already done a rather good of sufficiently 'roughing up' their noise already - and this is a good thing.

2008's youthful, intensely energetic Smart Casual (even the title basks in a kind of carefree haze) was more spritely than anything else - follow-up Dirt on the other hand basked in the charms of glossy New Wave sounds. In Gold Blood sees the band selecting a firm middle ground between these records, but also evolving - becoming more intense, real, gritty.

If anything, In Gold Blood's greatest strength is that it feels far more individual, more versatile in the tracks it presents the listener - all helping to make this the band's most consistent record to date.

The first half of the album is a masterclass in big, sing-along choruses, culminating in the brass-pumped The Florist - a track full of nods to songs like Biffy Clyro's The Captain. The horns return on Only The Brave Die Free, pop rock on an epic scale and a future festival fave for sure.

A surprise late-album highlight has to be Fire though, the group slowing the pace down for a remarkably pretty, emotional ballad. If ever a track was made to get people pulling their lighters and mobiles out, it was this one - the spacey guitar solo is divine.

In Gold Blood is available to purchase now.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

(Cover Art & Tracklisting) Nicola Roberts - Cinderella's Eyes

Ok, how gorgeous is this cover shot?

Us pop fans have always known how completely and utterly captivating Nicola Roberts is, but this new photoshoot for the cover of her debut solo album just takes things to a new level of gorgeous.

You can read all sorts into the 'kitchen sink' metaphor here too, Nicola herself precariously perched atop one in the shot.

Eclectic, with definitive hints of retro, but above all effortlessly cool - that's Nicola all over.

We've just got hold of the album's tracklisting too - take a peek!

1. Beat Of My Drum
2. Lucky Day
3. Yo-Yo
4. Cinderella's Eyes
5. Porcelain Heart
6. i
7. Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime
8. Say It Out Loud
9. Gladiator
10. Fish Out Of Water
11. Take A Bite
12. sticks + stones

Track 7, in case you're not up to date on your hits of the early 80s, is a cover of The Korgis track. We really like what Nicola's done with some of the track titles too, playing around with grammar and de-capitalising some of the songs.

While this might play havok with those of us who have consistent ways of tagging our songs on iTunes, it certainly looks cool. You need only look at songs like Yo-Yo and Take A Bite too to see there's going to be some pretty close to the bone emotional outpouring on the album.

In the latter, Nicola sings 'you push me to fight, everybody’s got a limit, so put ’em up', a sentiment everyone can empaphise with - that moment when someone just goes too far, makes that one comment that unleashes the torrent that's been building up for years.

Nicola's co-writing credits extend to every track on the album, except that Korgis cover, and she speaks a little about how she turned to her own life experience as subject matter for the record: “I had to feel like I would say and mean every single one of these lyrics. I would say, ‘I’d never say that in a million years, why would I put it down just because it rhymes?’ It’s as simple as this: I’ve been given an opportunity to make the album I want to make, so I’ve absolutely put every last bit of heart and soul into it.”

Cinderella's Eyes is released on the 24th September and can be pre-ordered here.

Bitter Ruin - Trust

Bitter Ruin's Trust is a big, powerful, acoustic number - a real throwback to Beautiful South boy/girl vocal dynamism.

The verses are stately, slow - the chorus is the polar opposite, insanely fast; an unleashed torrent of emotional outpouring.

The Brighton duo - Ben Richards and Georgia Train - met at music school, and there's a definite sense of that theatricality to their rapid-fire vocal interchanges.

A full UK tour is lined up for August and September and the band have already picked up an unlikely fan in immensely popular comedian Tim Minchin, who branded them 'AH-mazing'.

Trust is released on the 3rd October.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Parade cover One Direction's 'What Makes You Beautiful'

Today One Direction debuted the video for their first single, What Makes You Beautiful - as you might have expected, it features lots of shots of the boys running around in the sea, generally exciting teen girls everywhere.

If you're looking for a version of the song with a bit more feminine charm though, look no further than Parade.

As with their recent cover of Swagger Jagger, they give the track a really nice little spin, adding their own touch and re-affirming why they're one of my favourite new groups at the moment.

Check it out!

(Video) One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful

In a world where The Wanted have become one of the biggest, most succesful groups in the UK in just over a year, it's not hard to see how the big record companies would want to get in on that action.

Enter One Direction, fresh from the last series of X Factor - for them, the fanbase was already all there. Like all boybands, that key 'screaming teen girl' demographic that has lasted throughout the ages - right back to the Beatles - is all over them.

It's only fitting then that there debut single is a kind of meeting of old and new. With its cute little Beach Boys guitar riff and thump-thump beat, it's simple pop, but infused with all the power and gloss of 21st century production.

Launching into the chorus, What Makes You Beautiful shifts up about a million gears, riding high on the wave of slick pop-rock the likes of Katy Perry have recently been tapping for such success.

Of course, the big question - are One Direction new equals, or indeed, better than The Wanted? Only time will tell, but going by this debut, it's all just a little too predictable for my liking. It's as if What Makes You Beautiful has been created to sound as much like The Wanted as possible. A half decent pop record it might be, but it's never going to win any prizes for innovation, that's for sure.

When The Wanted first came along they were a breath of fresh air - something new, different. All Time Low felt comparitively edgy for boyband pop, yet What Makes You Beautiful - for all the pumped up charms of its chorus - is merely second best.

What makes You Beautiful is released on the 12th September and can be pre-ordered here.

Geneva - Karma

Do you ever wonder where the acts that don't win X Factor end up? I don't mean those lucky ones, the JLS's or Olly Murs's that somehow burst into spectacular career often eclipsing the actual winner of their respective year.

No, I mean the ones that fall at the earlier stages. Feisty girl group Belle Amie are one of the more fondly remembered acts from the live shows of 2010's series. In the post-X Factor environment, things are probably dizzying enough for a solo artists, let a lone a group - so the decision for Belle Amie member Geneva Lane to leave the other girls is pretty understandable put in context.

Going it alone, her debut single Karma is a real good old fashioned pop track. I'm talking Spice Girls stuff, classic 90s-sounding pop. There's a nice little disco vibe to the track too, something backed up by the track's sparkly roller-skating based video too.

The track's already been picking up a fair bit of attention from the likes of Heat and OK mag, and in a way, it's refreshing to see an ex-X Factor star actually getting up and doing something about their career. So often they seem merely to float away on a sea of apathy into sub-par reality TV shows or simply disappear altogether.

Not for Geneva though, and for that you've got to admire the girl.

Snow Patrol - Called Out In The Dark

Of late, Snow Patrol have been rather hard to pigeon-hole. It used to be so easy; those big sweeping rock ballads Run and Chasing Cars, those perenial favourites of any self-respecting radio station in the land - that was what Snow Patrol were about.

They'd soundtrack every 'emotional' moment of reality TV, they were the 'rock' band that it was ok for slick city profesionals and middle class Mums to love.

But new single Called Out In The Dark couldn't be further from that - and it all began with 2009's Just Say Yes. Like so many before them, Snow Patrol took that tried and tested route of 'going electronic', shoving a few synths on their latest single and seeing what happened.

What came out the other end was an exceptionally good track, a chilly, glacial bit of synth-pop that saw the band rejuvenated, interesting again, yet still possessing that 'Snow Patrol sound' - namely Gary Lightbody's resonant tones.

Called Out In The Dark is something of a mixed creation - the verses are on very shaky foundations, feeling way too slow, laboured in their plodding bassline. Every part of them seems designed only to get you to the chorus. But oh what a chorus it is...

The chorus is everything to Called Out In The Dark, literally everything. Without it, this song would be nothing, But with it, the track transforms into something magical, enchanting, truly beautiful. Like something from Depeche Mode/Erasure's radiant 80s heyday, Called Out In The Dark suddenly bursts into a full on pop moment, the kind of arms aloft on a glittered dancefloor instant that marks the sign of a truly brilliant chorus.

Even better, the accompanying video throws in some Tron style dancers, bathed in neon light, twisting and twirling around a glossy actor substitute for Lightbody himself. It's a simple narrative, a basic idea, but it's done with just the right amount of comic intention to keep you interested - oh, and it does wonders to perk up those badly lagging verses.

Following on from Just Say Yes, this new, synth-led Snow Patrol makes for a considerable fighting force. Not every band makes the transition from staid commercial rock favourites to pop perfectionism, but Snow Patrol are sure making a good go of it. More like this on the new album please!

Called Out In The Dark is released on the 5th September.

Charlie Simpson - Cemetery

Charlie Simpson's brilliant debut solo album is out this week, we reviewed it back in June and if you're thinking about checking it out iTunes are currently offering one of the best tracks Cemetery as a free download.

Cemetery, like one of the other standouts from the record, Farmer And His Gun, see Simpson dabbling in a real folky/country influenced sound, soaring up into a big rock chorus.

The real mark of Young Pilgrim as an album is how comfortable and confident it feels. This is clearly the music Simpson enjoys making, it's written over every tweak of guitar and vocal line on tracks like Cemetery.

The music feels natural, organic, a natural extension of himself - truly the real test of any musician's first steps when they 'go solo'.

The album Young Pilgrim is available to download now.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Cover Drive - Do It Like A Dude

Cover Drive doing a cover - and it's a good'un. Dating back to the height of Jessie J-mania at the beginning of 2011 when it seemed like you couldn't turn left or right without bumping into some mention of the singer, this tasty little acoustic spin on the track is great.

With a nifty little spin of the track's 'rude' line into 'don't be a hater...', this is up there with the band's cover of J Lo's I'm Into You, a personal favourite of mine.

Twitter has been buzzing with hype for Cover Drive over the past few weeks and it's easy to see why, their harmonies feel fresh and natural and the group's chemistry is palpable.

Their debut single Lick Ya Down is a classy bit of Bajan flavoured dance-pop and my bets are on it doing very well indeed on its release at the end of this month.

Lick Ya Down is released on the 29th August.

Cheryl Cole and David Guetta to work together?

With all the recent media frenzy about Girls Aloud getting back together in 2012 (possibly for the Olympics), it's easy to forget that this time last year the lovely Cheryl Cole was gearing up to release her second solo album.

The possibility still remains that before any GA reunion comes about she may quite reasonably make it a hat-trick by releasing a third solo record - leading to the question, who would she work with?

Will.I.Am's involvement seems a given. His stamp was all over Cheryl's last two albums and going by their intense friendship, it seems only natural that he'd remain at the helm for a third solo effort. But today a number of news sources suggest that Will might rope in pal David Guetta too.

This is rather exciting. There are so many Guetta-produced tracks in the charts these days many would be inclined to say his sound has become completely ubiquitous. But looking back to the beginnings of his 'Imperial Phase', 2009's brilliant Sexy Chick, you begin to get the idea of just how potentially amazing a Cheryl/Guetta collab could be.

Back then, you couldn't enter a club without hearing Sexy Chick at least twice in one night. It's success was immense, in many ways ushering in an era of increasingly dance-influenced urban tracks.

It's a sound Cheryl herself is no stranger to - Messy Little Raindrops was notably more dance orientated than her debut. Yeah Yeah and Waiting, praised by many fans as two of the strongest tracks from the album, were full on dance stormers, and it's easy to see how Guetta's involvement could further Cheryl's music down this avenue.

As for when or if said collab will ever actually materialise, we'll have to wait... But it bodes very well indeed.

Cher Lloyd - Musical battles in the Twitter age...

Oh Cher Lloyd, what ever are we going to do with you? You don't know how frustrating it is to see you turning so many potential fans against you just because you've got a little eager on Twitter.

When Miss Lloyd first performed on the X Factor last year, we knew straight away we were looking at something special. She was fresh, cool, had buckets of personality. She was the most exciting star on the show for ages. Through the course of the competition we followed her eagerly, and in the live shows she delivered some of the best performances of the series with a chain of brilliant song choices to boot.

But post X Factor, it all seems to have gone so wrong. Sure, she's nabbed herself a Number One single, and before 'winner' Matt Cardle has even released any of his own new material. But at what cost?

Where before there seemed to be a united front of Cher Lloyd fandom - one and all seemed to embrace her 'freshness' - now there lies a clear divide, many turned completely off the star by her cocky teen attitude.

There's a fine line between confidence and outright arrogance, and it's one Cher has always trod very gingerly indeed. But ever since she was let loose on Twitter, that cocky 'I'm Queen of the world and none of you are gonna stop me' approach has gone too far. Her uncouth, uneducated mis-spellings and clenched teeth insults do her no favours at all. It makes her bratty, ungrateful.

For all of Cher's talk of haters, the one thing she doesn't seem capable of doing is rising above them. Sure, defend yourself against them, but not with the kind of childish rants that could have come straight from a bunch of chavs out on the street. Cher allows herself to be dragged into these Twitter battles with classic internet trolls, plainly giving them the attention they so clearly crave.

When you get those kinds of insults spilling out into your army of fans, you know you're in trouble. After all, there's nothing worse than an artist with attitude than a bunch of angry fans with attitude.

Acclaimed dubstep producer Skream recently took to Twitter to diss Cher's ludicrously titled Dub On The Track, saying 'Dub on the track by Cher Lloyd is awful, worst attempt at a commercial Dubstep track so far.' He was promptly blasted by countless Cher fans, saying they had never heard of him, to fuck off, etc etc. The usual childish drivel.

The thing is, without people like Skream, it's likely Cher would never even be recording a dubstep track. It was after all Skream's mix of La Roux's In For The Kill that first started to properly fan the flames of dubstep in the mainstream consciousness. What makes this scenario all the funnier is that Cher apparently asked Skream to remix her song, but was refused. As Skream says 'It would ruin my career'.

Being gracious doesn't cost you anything. If Cher learned this, she'd win a hell of a lot more fans. There's nothing wrong with making a commercial dubstep track - just look at Britney. But the problem with Cher is that it doesn't feel genuine. She may even be a genuine, clued-up fan of the genre, but it doesn't show in the finished songs - they're overly glossy, Americanised, cheap-sounding.

Look at people like Katy B or Nicola Roberts, making edgy yet still highly commercial pop. That's the way to do it. If Cher had approached things with a touch more class, elegance and patience, her debut album could have been one of the highlights of the year.

I really, really, really want to like Cher Lloyd. She looks so much the part - the new young female star for the Twitter age. But until she reigns in her outbursts, that's unlikely to happen.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Alexander Price - Rent

The eternal dangers of covering a well-known song. There are those pop standards, those landmarks of modern culture, that need to be handled with caution; the most careful of touches.

The Pet Shop Boys' Rent is one of those songs, a mainstay of radio station 'oldie' playlists across the country - it is a track ingrained in the British consciousness, a song that sums up British culture as much as it does the sound of the Pet Shop Boys themselves.

Kudos must be given then to young singer-songwriter Alexander Price for taking on the track himself. A former pupil of the esteemed Syvlvia Young Theatre School and with the track produced by Ben Dobie (whose previous work includes material with Kylie and Dannii Minogue, the Sugababes and Bananarama), the pop credentials seem to be all there.

As a massive Pet Shop Boys fan, it feels pretty alien not to be hearing Neil Tennant's voice on Rent; but it must be said, Price certainly puts his own stamp on the song. Extremely OTT and fantastically camp, his version takes some getting used to but undeniably picks up once the chorus kicks in.

Best is the track's buzz-saw synth laced production; it's fun, modern, yet still possesses the hidden menace of the 80s original.

Mister Who - Get On It

Hip-hop and animation might not initially appear to be the most obvious bedfellows, but Mister Who makes a case in point of showing just how well they can pair together.

Who, precisely is 'Mister Who', I hear you ask? Well that, to a degree, is what he's all about. A shadowy, unfathomable figure flung from the depths of Brixton, he springs into existence as a comic book character, a Gorillaz-esque figure to front up an eclectic, vital collection of beats and edgy raps.

Get On It leads the charge, now accompanied by a fully animated video. Like that other famous 'Who', Mister Who himself is an irresistibly intriguing character - or rather creation - a being full of mystique. And it's all this that is projected into tracks like Get On It, energetic rap work-outs propelled on a whirl of synths.

When I first heard of Mister Who via his CD in the post, it was accompanied by a whole magazine brimming with colourful artwork and story - personifying the man himself as a crime-busting individual of Spiderman-like superhero capabilities.

Flicking through the comic, you want to know more, to understand more about this guy; to crack down to the core of what he's exactly about.

It's a gripping bit of marketing to accompany an equally catchy track. Rest be assured, Mister Who is one name you won't be forgetting any time soon.

You can find out more about Mister Who on his official site:

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Saturdays All Fired Up (Xenomania Extended Mix) + iPhone app!

What could be even better than The Saturdays smoking hot new single All Fired Up? An extended version, that's what!

In the hands of production wizards Xenomania, the prospect of a good old fashioned 'Extended' version was tantalisingly good, but hearing the track in all six minutes of its grandiosity, it's mind-blowingly amazing.

My favourite bit is still Una's 'Keep me on your radar!' bit, now teased generously out into a full-on whirpool of sultry vocals and relentless synth energy.

What's more, to accompany this suitably dancey Saturdays single, you can now remix some of the girls' biggest hits on the official Saturdays remix app, available on iTunes!

Get mixing!

Sunday Girl - Human Love

Ever since I interviewed Sunday Girl at the tail end of last year, I've been a massive fan of her own unique brand of electro-pop. She's very much the complete package; a glossy, impossibly cool star for the new decade. Oh, and her songs are brilliant too - just take a listen to new single Human Love.

It's a little New Order (when at their most contemplative - see 1993's wonderful Ruined In A Day), more so a trippy, blissed out record reminiscent, like her contemporary Yasmin, of the very best of 90s dance-pop.

Those sombre Bittersweet Symphony strings, elevating up into a classic, utterly anthemic Sunday Girl chorus, Human Love is every bit the amazing follow up to Stop Hey pop lovers could have wished for.

It's half delicate English beauty, half hyper-styled futuristic synth-epic - the image of Sunday Girl herself captured in an instance.

If you haven't been captivated by her model looks and numerous style features across the media, you will be soon. And going by the quality of songs like Human Love, you're going to want to keep an eye on Sunday Girl.

(There's also a brilliant little acoustic version of the track here...)

The Kixx - Standing Where You Left Me

Since I saw The Kixx support Olly Murs on tour earlier in the summer, I've been a massive fan of Standing Where You Left Me - a real standout track from their live set, it packs a real punch with its combo of bouncy techno synths and ballsy chorus.

The perfect follow-up to electro-stomper Already Gone, the video for the track features footage from the band's recent live dates - If you haven't already seen the band, you'll have your chance next month as they play the esteemed O2 Academy Islington on the 1st September.

The single release of Standing Where You Left Me comes as a four-track EP, including We Begin At The End and There She Goes Again which we reviewed as part of their album sampler back in June. There's also new song Close To Me, a pretty little acoustic number accompanied by the tender refrain of violin strings.

These guys make it their mission to impress, and it's a job they accomplish easily - There's an undeniable grit to their songs that many of their contemporaries just don't have. A boy-band with a difference, The Kixx look set to go far.

Standing Where You Left Me is released on the 4th September with their debut album following later this year.

My Chemical Romance - The Only Hope For Me Is You

With a title like The Only Hope For Me Is You, it could only be My Chemical Romance. And while the band's latest track doesn't feel like such a 'classic' moment as previous single Bulletproof Heart, if anything, it sees the band operating at an even more poppy level.

Underscored by the bubbling electronics that are something of a hallmark of their danger Days album, the chorus is exactly the kind of uplifting 'Fuck yeah!' moment you buy a My Chemical Romance record for. It's the kind of moment you go and see them live for, that moment when you rock out and just let loose.

And let's not forget, at its heart, this is a love song; the title itself screaming of pure devotion to that 'special' person. Now that all the hysteria and criticism over the 'emo' phenomena has moved on, it's easier to look at songs like this with an un-clouded eye and appreciate exactly what they stand for.

Out there right now there'll be hundreds of teens for which this song means something, for who The Only Hope For Me Is You will soundtrack the passions of a real romance.

And for that, My Chemical Romance will be made all the more real for them. And sometimes, that's what music is about - those emotions, those memories.

The Only Hope For Me Is You is released on the 22nd August.

Soundgirl - Planes In The Sky

While previous Soundgirl singles have been driven by a distinctly British sense of cool and upbeat street-smart spirit, Planes In The Sky is a song far more from the Rihanna sultry-ballad camp.

With a hushed, spoken word middle eight and delicate touches of strings surging to a full on orchestral moment in the final chorus, if anything, Planes In The Sky feels like a far bigger, more global track. This is Soundgirl getting in full touch with their sense of Americana, taking those planes right over the Atlantic.

Where Rihanna went for the all-out rock angle on her recent California King Bed, Soundgirl's track is more subdued, more grounded in the R&B roots that made their previous tracks so charming.

There's a suitably filmic scope to its choruses, a surpisingly moving tenderness that betrays a maturity far more advanced than the band's youthful looks.

Planes In The Sky is scheduled for a December release date.

New releases round-up - 15th August 2011

Kids In Glass Houses - In Gold Blood

Back with a harder, more gritty sound, Wales' current favourite rockers make it three times lucky with their new album. Following on from the success of last year's Dirt record (which included the amazing Undercover Lover), In Gold Blood is all about the adrenaline, thrills and spills. If you like your rock with the taste of gasoline and sweat-stained venues all over it, In Gold Blood is the album for you - Kids In Glass Houses, re-affirming again why they're one of the most exciting young rock groups around.


Charlie Simpson - Young Pilgrim

He's been in Busted, dallied around with Fightstar, but his solo venture is without a doubt his most comfortable fit to date. Turning to melodic acoustic riffs and folk-tinged melodies, Charlie Simpson's Young Pilgrim album is a real surprise delight for the summer. At its best it surges into Coldplay mega-ballad territory, all emotion and an authenticity that was only ever hinted at in Simpson's previous work. Here, we see him for real, all gimmicks stripped aside - the results are highly impressive.


Emeli Sande - Heaven

Twitter has been in something of a frenzy over Emeli in the past few weeks, but us die-hard Cheryl Cole fans have been aware of her for rather longer. After all, she co-wrote the b-side Boys to Cheryl's 3 Words single. Now there's a fact for you! These days though, Emeli is making waves on her own, putting out soulful pop records like Heaven, which comes on like a lost Massive Attack hit. Top stuff.


Wombats - Our Perfect Disease

The last Wombats single Techno Fan was something of a revelation - finally a song from them that was not just bearable, but very, very good. Our Perfect Disease thankfully takes a number of pointers from the aforementioned track then as its full of the same bonkers synth moments and catchy hooks that marked Techno Fan out above the indie-by-numbers songs that were previously The Wombats' calling card. With the guitars packing a surprising crunch, in another life this could even have been a cut from the latest Bloc Party album.


Monday, 15 August 2011

With love... Hilary Duff is pregnant!

It's really happened. She's up the Duff.

Come on, it had to be done. This is the tabloid headline writer's dream story.

Making the big announcement on her wedding anniversary with hubby Mike Comrie, revealing to the world that, yes, she was indeed pregnant!

I can't believe it has already been a year, time really flies when you're having fun!" she said. "We also want to share the exciting news that... Baby Makes Three!!! We are extremely happy and ready to start this new chapter of our lives."

Congrats Hilary!

It's news to make you stop and pause for a moment - think back, Hilary was the original in the new wave of Disney stars - a forerunner to the mega-successes of Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez etc. She well and truly paved the way. Who hasn't seen the seminal Lizzie McGuire movie? It's a teen classic.

My fondest memories of Hilary will be her standout Dignity album though. When it came out in 2007, I fell in love - it was a crystalline example of just what pop music could do when it wanted to be truly amazing. It was like another Chemistry or Angels With Dirty Faces - packed full of brilliant synth-pop tunes.

And while commercially it certainly didn't set the charts alight, I'll never forget the smug sense of satisfaction I got from seeing the Guardian award the record 4/5 in its review.

That's right - the Guardian giving a Hilary Duff album 4/5. Amazing.

The only downer to the whole album campaign was that Hilary never got to tour the record over here in the UK - that would have just been the icing on the cake.