Wednesday, 30 November 2011

[Album Review] Rebecca Ferguson - Heaven



With last year’s X Factor ‘winner’ Matt ‘credible’ Cardle drowning in a seemingly never-ending sea of his own unfortunate press statements, it falls to the release of Rebecca Ferguson’s album to make a genuine case for why the ITV show is a force for musical good. Cher Lloyd’s debut has already impressed, a surprise pop gem that perfectly captured both her attitude – can Rebecca prove she too has the mettle to stick it out on her own two feet too?
On the X Factor, it was clear that Rebecca was the ‘talent’ – week after week she blew the audience away with inspired, powerful cover versions. And if there’s one overriding theme to Heaven, it’s that it stands as a genuine statement of that talent. Her vocals are flawless, the production of the tracks equally faultless; infused with a timeless gloss of class. Heaven is by no means year-defining, the 5/5 record The Telegraph would lead you to believe it is; but it is undeniably stately, regal – an album that manages to shake off the X Factor tag in its confidence and buffed-up sheen.
In a year of vocally superior empowered female artists, Adele has trailed the banner, managing to break out from the samey cling that affects so many retro-pop records. Rebecca, it has to be said, doesn’t quite manage this – Heaven is a samey-sounding album, but her saving grace is that she does what she does here exceedingly well. Heaven treads a predictable path from track to track, but it treads it with unrivalled elegance.
Glitter & Gold struts with the same timely bounce as Aloe Blacc anthem I Need A Dollar while Mr. Bright Eyes recalls the halcyon days of mid America and white picket-fenced houses. It is here that Rebecca’s vocals are at their heavenly best – and looking to Adele, Shoulder To Shoulder is the album’s real Hometown Glory moment, full of a haunting procession of string laced piano chords.
The lasting impression of Heaven is as an album that ‘serious music’ fans can stroke their beards to and go ‘oh she’s rather good isn’t she’. Of course, it’s important to remember that underneath all the grandstanding of the album, there’s still a fun-loving Scouse girl – if there was ever an artist to bridge young and old in union and mutual appreciation of something, it’s Rebecca.
The album’s not without its groovy moments too – Run Free in particular rocking to a cool Stevie Wonder vibe. Then there’s Diamond To Stone, a bit of a ‘lurve’ on the dancefloor of a 70s disco come close of the night moment. Fighting Suspicions is equally sensual, taking things further back in time to smoky 30s jazz joints; ultimately building to almost Bond theme levels of scale.
It’s in Too Good To Lose that Heaven finds its pinnacle. The album’s most up-tempo number, it’s a Cee Lo Green-esque concoction smattered with a dash of drum machine and synths. Now, if the whole album was as good as this, then it really would be a 5/5. A tantalising glimpse at just how brilliantly amazing Rebecca can be when she wants to be.

Beatrice Eli - The Conqueror


With so much 'wobbly bass' seemingly plastered over every dub-step inspired pop track in the charts right now, it's nice to see some quirky electronics applied to something more chilled out and reflective for a change.

Beatrice Eli's gorgeous, glacial debut single The Conqueror is every bit as epic as its title - from small, ice-pick verses it explodes outwards into a towering snowy-peaked mountain of a thing in its choruses. Crossing its cold-edged synths with some beautifully love-lorn lyrics, The Conqueror feels like the epitome of every tear-stained relationship woe combined into one.

I mean, is there anything more pleadingly heartaching than the line: 'Kiss me like you would bring life back to me'? For the Scandinavian pop princess, that line is the limits of the world, the feelings and emotions that become all-consuming in their intensity.

Speaking of the track, Beatrice explains: 'I wrote it from seeing people –and being in a situation myself  where you find yourself loving the other person’'s love more than being in love'.

The Conqueror is released on the 16th January.

Introducing... Gabrielle Aplin


With over 16 million YouTube views, it's fair to say 19 year old singer/songwriter Gabrielle Aplin has got her career off to a rather good start.

Citing her influences as The Fray and Joni Mitchell, her affectation for gentle, lullaby-like acoustic melodies is clear - the title track from her Home EP is a beautiful, sweeping piece of music with a maturity far beyond Aplin's scant years.

There's an essence of pastoral innocence to Aplin's songs, carried so well in the clarity and warmth of her voice that speaks with real connectivity - Did we mention she does up-tempo too? The rollicking Mumford & Sons-esque gallop of Keep Pushing Me sounds like obvious single material, a marked statement of intent in a post Ellie Goulding world.

Following two previous EP release over the course of the last fourteen months (both of which charted highly on iTunes), the Home EP is clearly the sound of a bright, up and coming talent keen not to rest on her laurels. As the BBC Introducing video of Never Fade shows, Aplin might be young, but the well-roundedness of her tracks speaks of an eagerness ready to speak out to the masses.

The Home EP is released on January 9th.

[Official Video] Nicola Roberts - Yo-Yo


Last week we went to Nicola's exclusive Carphone Warehouse gig and were blown away once again by her professionalism and sheer awesomeness as she treated an intimate audience to a lovely acoustic set, including her new single Yo-Yo.

One week later, Nicola's treating us again with the Yo-Yo video. In it, the Girls Aloud star tries on an assortment of stylish outfits, parties with a load of girls in a kitchen and throws plates at a guy. Just an average day in the life! What's more, three great videos in a row makes that a hat-trick!

For us, Yo-Yo just backs up all the reasons why we already absolutely love Nicola and once again proves why she's been one of this year's most exciting solo stars.

Speaking of the track, Nicola says: 'The song is about being in that position with a guy when you really don’t know whether you’re coming or going. Being in that position can make you really vulnerable. It’s the dark, desperate and doubtful side of love.'

Yo-Yo is released on the 8th of January accompanied by a live version of the track and a demo of Sticks + Stones.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - If I Had A Gun...


Between the dance-inspired stylings of What A Life and the stomp of The Death of You And Me, it is new single If I Had A Gun that is perhaps best representative of Noel Gallagher's solo album as a whole.

Striking out for a beautifully melodic standpoint between his Wonderwall glory days and the most classic, anthemic of choruses, it is a testament to Noel's continuing songwriting talents writ large.

The real charm is that at heart, the song is so simple, so effortless in what it attempts; yet within a few listens it already sounds like something ingrained into your memory for a decade or more. Noel is the eternal everyman, the voice-piece of a nation - just as he was in the 90s, so to now, still plugging away the plight of the normal man. He speaks from the heart, to the heart - and in the slow, methodic strum of If I Had A Gun, he makes that connection every time.

As the tail end of 2011 sweeps round, we can safely say Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds easily has a place within our Top 10 albums of the year; and from an artist with a catalogue already so peerlessly good as Noel/Oasis, that stands as some achievement.

If I Had A Gun... is released on the 26th December accompanied by exclusive b-side I’d Pick You Every Time.

Introducing... Vanquish


Any girl band who covers Linkin Park are in my good books straight away. Let us introduce you to Vanquish, the latest glamourous girl group set to take the UK by storm. Comprised of Bee, Holly, Lizzy and Rianna, the frisky foursome showcase their ace vocal harmonies in this rather lovely cover of LP's Numb.

Holly even plays piano on the track too - these days girl bands are having to fight tooth and nail to get the attention of the sceptical anti-pop radio playlists, and clear display of talent like this is always a favourable extra nod in the right direction.

Fresh from thrilling the UK on a variety of schools tours, club nights and theme park appearances the girls are hitting the ground running with a formidable blast of perky future-pop. We're loving the remix clips of their track Headrush on their website; it's carefree stilettos and disco balls stuff that wouldn't sound out of place on The Saturdays new album.

Their YouTube channel also gives a tantalising glimpse at Steal The Show and The Harder You Love; the girls spent the summer entertaining fans at the British Grand Prix earlier this year and the high octane thrills and spills of the race have clearly spilled over into their songs.

We hear they've worked with the amazing Space Cowboy on their debut album as well as Wayne Hector (the guy behind all of The Wanted's best songs), so we're expecting great things to come from these girls!

You can get more Vanquish on their official site, their Twitter page, and on Facebook.

Kamaliya - Crazy In My Heart


Sometimes, you just want something incredible to dance to. Crazy In My Heart - the debut UK single for Russian superstar Kamaliya - takes the trend for immense Euro-dance smashes to the most epic of levels, propelled on an apocalyptic mix of thumping beats and fist-punching synth bursts.

On one level, it's Eurovision to the power of a million, but at heart, where it matters, it's a full throttle club anthem with a deliciously throbbing bassline.

With some cool kaleidoscope inspired dance routines in the video, the track is as visually arresting as it is sonically - those that loved what The Saturdays did in their All Fired Up video will be pleased to hear the video for Crazy In My Heart features an assortment of water-slashing moves too. It's clearly all the rage at the moment.

What we love most though is the massive moon suspended over everything - like the track, quite literally out of this world.

Crazy In My Heart is released on the 12th December.

Rebecca Ferguson - Shoulder to Shoulder


The press is hotting up for the release of Rebecca Ferguson's debut solo album with The Telegraph awarding it an impressive 5 stars in their review.

It's tracks like the beautiful Shoulder To Shoulder that prove its real merit. Heartfelt and soulful, Rebecca's class and vocals are self evident, easily elevating her above 99% of the other X Factor protegees.

Perhaps the greatest sign of her appeal though is the way she seamlessly blends the sounds of the 60s soul greats with a glossy contemporary overhaul. Rebecca isn't just a clone, she stands as resolutely modern and a real star for the future.

Fancy more of her? Rebecca will be taking part in a live Ustream at 7pm on Wednesday night at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/rebecca-ferguson-live

Don't miss it!

The Staves - Mexico


The Staves claim their music is bred of shared car journeys listening to the likes of Feist, Fleet Foxes, Simon & Garfunkel, and there's more than a definite hint of the swirling, natural acoustic bliss of all those artists in the title track of their new EP; Mexico.

It is in Feist they find their closest compatriot - Mexico revolves in the same quaint, cute melodies, but with the more outre elements of Feist's musical methodology stripped away. Indeed, as the gentle, strummed chords progress, the song becomes not so much a piece of music, but more of a presence - a disembodied thing of ethereal power. It's beautifully moving stuff.

The tuneful threesome are set to head out on tour in February with the brilliant Michael Kiwanuka on the following dates:

11th February - Dublin,Sugar Club
12th February - Cork, Cyprus Avenue
14th February - Birmingham,Glee Club
15th February - Brighton, Komedia
16th February - London,Islington Assembly Hall
18th February - Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
19th February - Liverpool, Masque
20th February - Manchester,Ruby Lounge
23rd February - Newcastle, The Cluny
24th February - Glasgow, King Tuts
25th February - Edinburgh,Electric Circus

The Mexico EP is released on the 12th December.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Lauren Aquilina - Get Here


Christmas is always the traditional time for charity singles - there's something about the cold winter chill and being together with family that makes us realise that there's those out there that are in need.

Praise is deserving of Bristol born singer-songwriter Lauren Aquilina who's donating the proceeds of her single Get Here to the Meningitis Trust. The track is a cover of the 1990 Oleta Adams song and Lauren's version affects it with a genuinely moving tenderness by way of some crystalline piano chords and equally clear vocals.

It's an impressively proficient performance for someone only 16 years old and it'd be a good bet that the girl will be going places in the industry in years to come - voices this good don't just disappear. More of Lauren's original material is available on her website, including the songs Robots, Never Change and More Than You.

Get Here is released on the 4th December.

Nerina Pallot covers Radiohead's 'High And Dry'


What with the plethora of breathy, slow piano versions of songs doing the rounds at the moment on an assortment of random adverts, you'd be forgiven for not wanting to ever hear another. But wait, because Nerina Pallot is here to save the day.

Her version of Radiohead's classic High And Dry works so well because it feels genuine, a heartfelt statement of intent rather than these cheap and thoughtless commercially driven ad covers. Nerina's vocals are delicately, sensually soulful - elevating the haunting, ethereal tones of the original to a whole new level of magnificence.

Properly beautiful.

Listen to the cover version on Radio 2's online player - 1.42 into the show.

Cheryl Cole shows her support for 'electronic charity box' service Pennies!


We all love a good deed, and judging by this cute video, so does Cheryl Cole! Joined by fellow celebs Gary Barlow and Jason Donovan, the Geordie star sings the praises of electronic charity box service Pennies.

Pennies is an intuitive service that allows customers to round up their bills when paying by card, with the extra money going to charity. In our increasingly electronic payment culture, it makes sense for technology to play catch-up here, providing a handy alternative to the classic penny-in-a-box that was a hallmark of so many high-street tills.

The Pennies service has already proved to be a rousing success, racking up one million 'micro-donations' in just 12 months - this has helped raise £250,000 for charities, which we think is fantastic! People go on a lot about wallets tightening in the recession, but it's heartening to see people still digging deep to share a little love and support.

The Twilight Sad - Another Bed


The bleak, steely sounds of The Twilight Sad make for a formiddable edifice. New single Another Bed, propelled on a raft of vintage analogue synths, sounds like a dizzying concoction of Kraftwerk and David Bowie's Berlin trilogy.

The percussion is harsh, brutal; the vocals windblasted and fatigued - The Twilight Sad make music of the elements, profoundly untamed and bewitching in its dark power.

The band have just announced a series of UK tour dates:

 9 Thu UKGLASGOW Grand Ole Opry 
 10 Fri UK MANCHESTER Ruby Lounge 
 11 Sat UK SHEFFIELD Queens Social Club 
 12 Sun UK BIRMINGHAM Hare and Hounds 
 13 Mon UK BRISTOL Fleece 
 14 Tue UK LONDON Cargo 
 15 Wed UK NOTTINGHAM Stealth 
 16 Thu UK LEEDS Brudenell Social Club

Another Bed is released on the 20th February. The album No One Can Ever Know is released on the 6th February.

StooShe - Betty Woz Gone


Remember how revelatory and entertaining Lily Allen's comedy cockney charms were when she first released LDN and Smile back in 2006? Five years later, three-piece StooShe take to the saucy, heavily accented formula with aplomb to deliver the hilarious, irresistible Betty Woz Gone.

Plastered with F-words aplenty and feisty kiss-offs, Betty Woz Gone manages the rare feat of not only being intensely funny, but also being a rather good bit of R&B/pop. StooShe are in many ways an anti-girlband - three girls, yes - but so far removed from any of their contemporaries that they exist solely in their own sphere of influence, free to come up with bonkers delights like this.

The cartoony lyric-video is a must watch, simply for the fact it spells out every punch and upper-cut of the track's deft worldplay. As the band's press release says of them StooShe 'swear, they talk about sex, they wear weird clothes' - it sounds like a pretty promising formula to us.

With an album's worth of tracks already in the can - including In-Bred City (a real track name, no lie) - we can't wait to hear more from this colourful threesome.

Betty Woz Gone is available to download on iTunes now.

Patrick Plunkett - Attracting Attention


Good, solid singer-songwritery stuff is the lifeblood of likeable chap Patrick Plunkett. With a keen sense for pleasant hooks and surprisingly mature guitar work, his new single Attracting Attention looks set to do precisely that.

Moving to Ireland early in his life, Plunkett's music is infused with the heart and soul of that great country, steeped in the essence of those balladeers that have come before him.

With the market choked full of one-man-and-his-guitar types at the moment, Plunkett stands out by virtue of the clarity of his vocals and the natural charm and honesty of his music. Top stuff all round.

The Attracting Attention EP is available to download on iTunes now.

Deers - Orange EP


For all the gentle, delicate natural connotations of their name, Deers sure know how to pack a punch. Their latest EP, Orange, opens with a salvo of punchy guitars on Sleep.Recover before it settles back into a more subdued groove. The choruses however, remain resolutely upbeat - fist raised volleys of passion.

This latest EP is the third in a series of colour-coded releases (preceded by Green and Red) and is being given an exclusive release of 250 physical copies on the band's official store.

What Deers accomplish on Orange is a brooding mass of sonic textures, a band clearly aware of their sound and image - willing to push it to the limits in an effort to better themselves. It makes for a lean, powerful release reminiscent of Foals at their tantalisingly skilled best.

Deers - Orange (EP3) by Sounds Unique Ents

Duran Duran - Girls On Film '99 Remixes


Back in 1999, Duran Duran released Girls on Film — The Remixes, one of those non-descript promo campaigns focusing on remixed versions of old hits to help drum up support for the release of new material. In this case, it all came in the wake of the criminally underrated Medazzaland album with a few of the mixes cropping up as b-sides to the Electric Barbarella single.

Until now though, the majority of the mixes were consigned to uber-rare US 12"s, or quite simply never saw the light of day in the first place - but Duran Duran fans rejoice, you can now download them all!

iTunes has released four tasty collections of the mixes (each conveniently colour-coded), with the following tracklistings:

BLUE

16 Millimetre Mix
16 Millimetre Instrumental Mix
8 Millimetre Mix
8 Millimetre Instrumental Mix

GREEN

Salt Tank Mix
Salt Tank Mix Instrumental
Salt Tank Remix Radio Edit

LIGHT BLUE

Tall Paul Mix
Tall Paul Instrumental

RED

Tin Tin Out Mix
Tin Tin Out Instrumental Mix
Tin Tin Out Radio Mix

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Spandau Ballet - Gold (Paul Oakenfold BMX Remix)


I'm always a little skeptical when it comes to remixing classic tracks - the prospect of giving twenty year old hits a 'rave' reworking is often as attractive as an old professor trying to get 'down wiv the kids'.

That said, there have been some great examples recently, chiefly Stargate's amazing Personal Jesus mix. There is in essence three ways the job can be gone about: Stick fairly close to the track's original format and do a good job, do likewise and come out with a tacky, bloated mess, or - in the most daring of scenarios - do something completely different.

It is in this third category that Paul Oakenfold's mix of Gold resides. With a track as iconic as this, trying to improve on the original would be a foolish, unnecessary affair, so instead Oakenfold takes the song - and focusing on the bombast of that one titular line - creates something that sounds not far off what the clubs of today normally go crazy for.

It's an interesting reworking, and while I'm not 100% convinced, it's certainly a lot better than it could have been. At times, the vocals sound disembodied; floating over the heady mass of synths and beats - but on the whole it makes for an intoxicating, danceable version. Hey, shove a bit of Pitbull rapping over it and it could even sound like a contemporary chart hit.

The Paul Oakenfold remix of Gold is available to download on iTunes now.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Britt Love - Music Makes You Lose Control


When it comes to Britt Love's solo career, up and till now, it's been all about the slow, tantalisingly teasing build-up. First there was Come With Me and Losing The Faith, then her brilliant collab with Monarchy; You Don't Want To Dance With Me.

But in the glamtastic dance-pop perfection of Music Makes You Lose Control, it feels like this is the explosive moment where everything properly kicks off. We heard Britt play this track at her Hoxton Pony gig and loved it straight away - I mean, how can you not love a song that samples both Kylie's Speakerphone and Abba's Gimme Gimme Gimme?!

Us hardcore pop fantatics have been following Britt for a long time now, but Music Makes You Lose Control - with all its trendy nightclub chick - feels like the track with the potential to really make a mark.

The Elder Scrolls V - Skyrim


RPG’s have always been the crème de la crème of the gaming world (that’s Role Playing Games to you laymen out there). Dragons, undead horrors, eleves, magic and a multitude of assorted bladed weapons – to your average RPG connoisseur, these are the everyday building blocks of life. And for the past year or so, only word has been on the lips of these gamers: Skyrim.
The follow up to the staggering landmark release that was Oblivion, Skyrim is the fifth instalment of the iconic Elder Scrolls series. When it comes to RPGs, the Elder Scrolls series is the equivalent of a royal warrant, it is a seal of assured quality – not only do you know your hard earned forty quid is going to a game of massively superior standards to its competitors, but you can count on it giving you unparalleled amounts of playing time. While your average shoot-em-up or action bonanza will at best last a good ten hours or so, Skyrim offers a much-touted ‘infinite’ experience – basically, months down the line you’ll still be playing it, still finding new things to immerse yourself in, still hacking away at all manner of slimy monsters.
Like any RPG worth its weight in gold, Skyrim’s foundations are its intuitive levelling-system. It is this experience-points based system that fuels the drive to continue playing as you plough hours and hours into improving your blacksmithing skills or concocting a new, vibrantly coloured potion. While many elements of the game system remain essentially the same as that which powered Oblivion, there are a few new tweaks; chiefly, the perk system. This will prove familiar to players of Fallout 3/New Vegas (both Skyrim and Fallout share the same developer: Bethesda Studios) – with the new perk system you are given a choice of bonuses with every level-up ranging from being able to spout fire from both hands to bashing your enemies in the face with your shield.
With Oblivion, there was a sense that no matter what path you chose to pursue in the in-game world, your character would ultimately end up the same: an all-powerful clone skilled in everything. With Skyrim, the sense of specialisation is far more balanced – while all paths are still open to you at any stage, you feel far more inclined to stick to just one. Other new features include powerful ‘shout’ moves gained from killing dragons and harvesting their souls: these shouts address one of the key issues Oblivion had, being able to deal with multi-enemy combat. Previously, it was nigh on impossible to battle more than one enemy at once, now it represents an exciting, far more manageable prospect.
Without a doubt though, the most appealing aspect of Skyrim is its sheer scale. You can interact with pretty much everything: travelling through the opening areas of the game you will be attacked by wolves; kill these and you can take their skins to craft into leather armour which can then be worn. Stop off at an inn and the bartender will be happy to offer you a bed for the night (ten gold coins please...), giving you a chance to chat to the locals for work and cook up a stew on the fire. Or, if you’re feeling particularly malevolently inclined, you can kill the town shopkeeper and rob everything from his store – though this will most likely end in you getting carted off for a long spell behind bars. Yes, that’s right, Skyrim even has its own justice system and politics – in short, it’s just like our own world, but full of big scary dragons and raging Norse-inspired barbarians.
Which neatly brings us on to the look and feel of the world, surely a key part of any fantasy RPG. The truth is, Skyrim is gorgeous, completely and utterly beautiful – there are times when you’ll forget all about your quests or the goblin whose brains you’re presently battering in, because, quite simply, the visuals are so jaw-droppingly amazing. Bleak, windblasted tundra stetches away into the distance on all sides, towering mountains peeking up from the mists on the horizon. Glistening rivers blast through craggy ravines, catching the first rays of morning sunlight. Skyrim’s visuals are the kind that you want to dive head-first into, never to emerge – in comparison, Oblivion looks blunt, profoundly second-rate; plagued by its population of rubber-faced individuals.
This was another chief fault of Skyrim’s predecessor – the characters you met on your travels didn’t just look goofy, they acted goofy too – often running headfirst into boulders and getting stuck behind them. With Skyrim, the AI is given a first-class fine tuning, resulting in people that look and feel like actual human beings – as such, the overall experience is again made just that little bit more immersive. Skyrim is a thing of immense scope, of incalculable scale, and when I say the game world is huge, I mean absolutely fucking massive. An average journey between quest locations will often take twenty minutes or so, and this represents a mere twentieth of the entire game world – and that’s before we even consider the multitude of creepy, monster-filled dungeons and caves of Skyrim’s underworld.
Funnily enough, some of the best new innovations in the game come from other genres – the influence of Call of Duty on the brilliant opening sequence is clear as you are carted along in chains to an execution before the timely intervention of a dragon allows you escape. As with COD, you feel like you’re being given the chance to play the lead role in a Hollywood action movie, leaping from one high-octane sequence to another. With every hour of gaming, you find yourself writing your own script as new possibilities, new eventualities, occur.
In one particularly shocking instance I was riding my trusty horse at top-speed towards the next quest when I unwittingly galloped over a ridge of sharp black stone. The horse trips, breaking its front legs, and I am catapulted off its back and over the edge of a cliff to my instant death. My body smashes like a rag doll against the snow-covered slopes and I am forced to re-load an earlier saved game (loading times are thankfully now much improved from the agonisingly slow process they were in Oblivion). It’s little stories like these that become a daily occurrence in Skyrim, drawing you back again and again – you find yourself leaving behind the monotony of essay deadlines and pot noodles to once again explore this beautiful, fantastical realm; to seek your fame and fortune in a land of dragons and magic.
Oh, and if you haven’t gathered already, Skyrim has absolutely nothing to do with ‘rimming’ whatsoever.

Don Scannell - Mystery


Even in a saturated market, there's still scope for an acoustic artist to come along and blow away expectations, to truly thrill the listener. Irish lad Don Scannell is one such artist - his single Mystery is suffused with the essence of his homeland, steeped in the folklore and power of Ireland itself.

It's real charm though is a clever mix between Scannell obvious prodigious musicianship - frenetically charged finger picking... brooding, gentle vocals - and a sense of adventure. That drive to explore, to search for something new to sweep across the musical canvas.

In Mystery's case, it's a sprinkle of tight percussion, blowing out a track that meets somewhere between Damien Rice and Bon Iver - its immediate charm is self-evident.

Speaking of the track, Scannell explains:

'It’s one human being seeing another go from a troubled state, to a point of genuine happiness, then insisting they celebrate the fact. I think most adults will have experienced dark days ('black inside') until persisting through to days that 'glow'. The Mystery aspect is the awe the helper experiences in seeing how someone can change over time, almost miraculously, and the mystery of loving someone despite their condition.'

The album Three Silver Pieces - including Mystery - is available to download on iTunes now.

[Official Video] Cover Drive - Twilight


That's right - it's the long awaited second single from ace new pop act Cover Drive! Whether you were completely taken in by the group's feisty Bajan cocktail of attitude and catchy hooks evidenced in debut track Lick Ya Down or are yet to join their cause, Twilight makes for a sleek bit of dreamy, romantic dance-pop.

Angling for a more mellow, streamlined sound than the in your face sauciness of Lick Ya Down, Twilight is every bit the equal of anything off Rihanna's new album. Anyone who's watched any of the band's awesome YouTube cover versions will know what unity they have as a band as well as a proper sense of musicianship amongst them.

Above all, they're fun - and when it comes to pop, we love fun. Twilight sounds like a big, proper pop moment from a group that are at the moment standing in their own kind of twilight, that in-between state. Soon, the night-time proper will arrive, the floodlights will flick on, and stardom will beckon.

Twilight is released on the 22nd January.

Lady Gaga - Born This Way: The Remix


For a remix album, Lady Gaga's re-envisioned version of Born This Way does a remarkable job of standing on its own two feet. Part of this is down to the fact the majority of the mixes contained here are cut-down radio edits, sticking to the original formats of the songs in the vast majority of cases. But it's also down to the fact a good half of the mixes come from established bands rather than your usual club remixers.

Highlights include the apocalyptically evil sounding Hurts mix of Judas which sounds like Depeche Mode getting their hands on the track - it's a shame the album didn't come out a few weeks earlier, this version would have been perfect for Halloween, as would Goldfrapp's take on the single.

Again, the overtones of 80s synthpop is strong - in this instance the track's vocals are tortuously tweaked out of all proportion; slowed down and lowered into a bassy masculine drawl. It's properly scary and while it's debatable whether this take is wholly good or not, it makes for a fascinating exercise in just how far you can push a track.

The 80s influences continue in the Twin Shadow mix of Born This Way, making it sound even more like vintage Madonna than it already did, by way of a neat little guitar riff and plenty of slap bass. With the pop sensibilities satisfied, the Sultan & Ned Shepard mix of Edge of Glory mashes the track with the Sweet Child of Mine hook - it's, as you'd expect, amazing.

For the most part, the album positions itself in a dirty, low-slung pit of excess and dark glamour. Whether it's the full throttle, relentless Foster The People mix or the sinister Eastern refrains of The Horrors version of Bloody Mary, Lady Gaga has never sounded as mysteriously cult-ish as this.

While the ace Wild Beasts mix of The Edge of Glory provides a brief down-tempo respite, it's not long before the album launches itself back into the party (albeit a grimly decadent party) with the bonkers Guena LG mix of Schiebe - it's like something the Pet Shop Boys would have come up with in the mid 90s.

Perhaps the best thing about the record though is the way it ruthlessly cuts away the fatty excesses of Americana that bloated the original LP so badly - in this form, Born This Way feels leaner, meaner, sharper.

Born This Way: The Remix is available to download on iTunes now.

J Cole feat. Trey Songz - Can't Get Enough


When you become the first signing to Jay Z's Roc Nation label, you know the big bucks are behind you. For young rapper J Cole, it's the start of something truly special. Touted as the 'long awaited return of real hip-hop', J Cole makes a fair stab at recalling the best moments of rap legacy - dipping into the sounds of decade ago to afford his new single Can't Get Enough a rich, golden lustre of heritage.

Currently fresh from supporting our very own rap star Tinie Tempah, J Cole will be looking to replicate his success - and with millions of Vevo hits in the US already, it's not far of a leap to imagine he'll easily transfer that success to these shores. With the Can't Get Enough video full of an assortment of 'babes' enjoying a beach party, J Cole taps into a more simple vein of pleasure than the heady, overbearing rap-dance combos of recent months.

Back to basics, back to a more streamlined kind of rap, J Cole represents a real up and coming talent.

Can't Get Enough is released on the 28th November.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Introducing... Kelly Erez - 'Not The Girl' / 'This Is Me' EP


There's nothing quite like a live performance that really, properly moves you. These days, with YouTube and so many televised performances, it takes something really special to send those shivers down the back of your neck.

It's those artists with those voices that just carry right through the room, as if through the atoms of the air itself, straight into the very core of your consciousness - it's those voices you need to look out for. And Kelly Erez is one of those voices.

Soulful, sensual, impossibly classy - Kelly's voice is the perfect counterpart to this gorgeous stripped back version of her track Not The Girl - performed here at London's Hoxton Hall. There's a timeless quality, a reverberant sense of awe captured in the instance between melancholic and contentedness that elevates her vocal into something really magical.

Only fitting then that she's become something of a darling on the 1 Xtra airwaves as a 'Track of the week' - Not The Girl makes for a fitting appetiser for Kelly's debut EP, available for free from her Facebook page.

Encore 'Fun Last Night' video coming soon!


You may have heard a thing or two about new boyband Encore on Twitter - they've just polished off a tour with Tinchy Stryder and things are already shaping up nicely for the release of their new single Fun Last Night.

With a title as tantalising as that, we're looking forward to seeing what the accompanying video is like!

In the mean time, you need to check out their free 'Bread and Butter' mixtape - it's rather good! Imagine a three-piece JLS with more vocal harmonies and a bit of rap thrown in too - it's an exciting mix and one that has already won the band a heckload of fans (over 6000 Twitter followers to be precise!)

Jessie J celebrates with the Deluxe edition of her album!


You'd be pretty chuffed if you had the best selling debut album of the year, wouldn't you? For Jessie J, beginning the year with all that hype, all those expectations, who'd have thought that the final few months would bring affirmation of just how successful she's been.

Yup, that's right - Jessie J's debut LP Who You Are is officially the best-selling debut album of 2011. Getting that all-important first album right is crucial and as many would say, you can't argue with the sales. Jessie's been a hands-down success and her performance on this weekend's X Factor will see the culmination of that.

If you haven't already got a copy of Jessie J's album, or if you already do and fancy more, the Deluxe edition is out now, featuring a bonus live DVD and a number of extra tracks:

Domino
Laser (Produced by David Guetta)
My Shadow
Technology (Acoustic)

Rebecca Ferguson's 'Nothing's Real But Love' - Out this week!


Rebecca Ferguson's lovely debut single Nothing's Real But Love is out this week and to celebrate, we've got the track's gorgeous video.

If, like us,  you absolutely adored Rebecca's performance on X Factor last weekend - you'll have already grabbed yourself a copy of the song, but if not, it's available on iTunes here.

Rebecca's debut album Heaven is out on the 5th December.

Introducing... Kovak


With the overbearing wave of precision engineered club music sweeping the charts right now, it's refreshing to hear that there's still those fighting the cause for a more hand-crafted, authentic kind of electronic pop out there. Enter Kovak, the Brighton-based band bringing back all the synth delights of the 80s to pair them with an intelligent contemporary pop outlook.

For the most part, their music beats with the essence of groups like The Human League and Yazoo, but the nostalgia is always tempered with a sleek 21st century refinement.

I Love The Dancefloor is a gloriously up-beat party number, sharp guitar stabs punctuating a bratty Brit-pop vocal. It's like Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out piped through the spirit of Blondie and a gallon of vodka shots. Meanwhile, Living The Dream is half Eurythmics, half Sophie Ellis-Bextor, a glamtastic strut through the trendiest of neon-bathed nightclubs.

The group's girl singer/three guy musicians aesthetic and electro/rock blend also recalls the likes of Garbage. For those who might mistake the synthetic love-ins for a sign of fluffiness, think again - this group has real bite. With Kovak, it's not just the music that's stylish, they look stylish too.

Above all, Kovak's tunes feel good. So often, bands are so concerned about giving off an impenetrable serious stance that they forget one of the core ethics behind music - its ability to touch the emotions. In Kovak's case, they're pushing all the buttons marked, joy, happiness, fun - and we love it.

Latest tracks by OfficialKovak

[Book Review] Purple Your People


‘Get the people stuff right!’ boasts this book – pledging tips to happier, more inspired people. You’d be forgiven for expecting your standard self help stuff, but no; the language of this book is rooted firmly in the cut and thrust of hard business.
It’s the kind of book you imagine the CEO’s of the wannabe ‘next Google/Facebook’ would carry on their person at all times. The blend of hard-hitting business material and cheery ‘positive thinking!’ stuff is on the whole well balances, although the superhero job advert analogy did make me chuckle.
The book’s best merit is probably in its layout – it looks really slick and well compiled from the start. It’s all well bullet-pointed and interspersed with lots of pop-out boxes and the like, you get the sense this highly visual methodology plays well into the pro-active overtones of the whole book. Its greatest downside? The way the whole book reads like one massive advert for Learn Purple itself and their 'friends' (various companies that form in-depth case studies throughout the book)
After all, this is a system based on profound change and action – every page of this guide is about targeting problems – or more specifically areas of improvement – and finding solutions. In its strive for perfection it can all come across as rather domineering, bulldozing right through with no room for stragglers – but you get the sense the ideal market for this book would have no qualms with following the letters of this book to a T.
Of course, by extrapolating an existing ‘improvement system’ into a book format, the tendency to pick and choose what bits you want to use is tempting, but while this methodology would often work with other similar guides, you get the sense it wouldn’t here. In Purple Your People, the strict overtures of business are absolute. For a fairly ‘out there’ guide (just look at the title!), the language of business is laid on pretty thick.
The lasting impression is of a system where you are very much either in or out, and it’s something reflected in the overall readability of the book itself.

Little Comets - His Thunder


Moody, atmospheric music of the UK's far flung regions always seems to hit the spot with us. In a day and age when the likes of Mumford & Sons have dulled the masses with their prim and proper brand of endlessly emoting rural tunes, it's easy to forget that there's a far darker, more intense flavour of music out there.

Little Comets' chief strength is that they're not afraid to push their track to the very limits of what a genre can contain - from subtle beginnings their new single His Thunder boils up into a lush, expansive piece of real scale. The vocals are impassioned, cast out from the body like shouting into a storm - swathes of guitar drape themselves over the song's latter portions, cloak-like manifestations of beauty in aural form.

Hailed as 'Geordie mavericks', Little Comets give voice to their homeland, compressing all the power and heart of their locale into three minutes of brilliant music.

His Thunder is released as part of the Worry EP on the 12th December.

The band have a series of live dates lined up for April:

Sat 21 Apr 2012 - Glasgow - Oran More
Sun 22 Apr 2012 - Manchester - Academy 2
Mon 23 Apr 2012 - Leeds - The Cockpit
Tues 24 Apr 2012 - Birmingham - O2 Academy 2
Thurs 26 Apr 2012 - London - Scala
Fri 27 Apr 2012 - Norwich - Arts Centre
Sat 28 Apr 2012 - Brighton - The Haunt

Bernhoft - C'mon Talk


Norwegian singer Bernhoft (or rather, Jarle Bernhoft), is clearly the kind of guy that would absolutely ace a music exam. Watching the video for his immensely popular track C'Mon Talk (over a million plays on YouTube), you see him looping a multitude of tracks over the top of each-other: vocals, bluesy acoustic guitar, beat-box. It's the epitome of cool.

With his blend of singer-songwritery tropes and fast-paced rap-esque lyric-spitting, there's something of Ed Sheeran to Bernhoft, albeit in a much cooler, slicker format. The soppy tales of Sheeran are nowhere to be found here - Bernhoft represents an infinitely more stylish kind of music; hell, there's even shades of an Adam Levine-esque slinky sensuality to his voice at times.

Oh, and did we mention he's already appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show? With it's snazzy radio-friendly chorus hook and clinically precise aesthetics, we can easily imagine Bernhoft being a massive hit when he hits UK shores.

Fanfair perform acoustic version of new track 'As I Am'


Our fave new girlband on the block Fanfair have turned out another great acoustic version - this time it's one of their brand new tracks As I Am.

Showcasing the girls' beautiful vocal harmonies, As I Am shows a real maturity to the group and positions them as a band with real substance as well as the good-time fun of their previous live track, The Vaccine.

A bittersweet ode to personal insecurities the track abounds with lines confessing the pressures a girl has to put up with these days: 'there's a woman in the mirror and I'm wondering will you love her... take me as I am because I can only be me'.

It's heartfelt stuff and we love this stripped back, sensitive take on the track!

Being busy girls, the band have also recorded some special how-to make-up vids in conjunction with leading brand Collection 2000. You can watch Roberta and Aimee's videos on the band's official YouTube page.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Oh My! - Dirty Dancer (Alvin Risk Remix)


Love Oh My? Love their track Dirty Dancer? Love hot as hell remixes? You're going to adore the Alvin Risk remix of the track then.

Packing a positively filthy bassline, the track sounds even cooler, even more fantastically bonkers - if that's at all possible.

Our favourite bits are the bleep-out moments, as if the original was full of expletives (which it isn't, but imagine if it was!)

IC1s - Karma (On Your Side)


Here at TotallyVivid we loved the last IC1s single Levitate - it reminded us of all the best bits of Britpop and made us come over all nostalgic, longing for the days when you couldn't move for hearing an impassioned chorus booming out from someone's walkman.

New single Karma (On Your Side) dips further into the musical past, throbbing with a Clash-esque gutful of grit and meaty guitar hooks. The vocals are deeper, more world-weary; and like the rest of the track, feel steeped in a sense of history - the rough and ready production places Karma in the days of scratched 7"s, when you'd love a song so much you'd wear the sleeve out long before the year was done.

So many of the up and coming rock bands around these days are so desperately clutching at trends that they forget the most important part of crafting a great track - just to be yourself. Thankfully, the IC1s are authentic as they come; Karma is buoyed up with a sense of pride and contentedness not just at a job well done, but a job done their way.

For more information, visit the band's label at http://25hourconveniencestore.com/

Karma is released on the 19th December.

[Official Video] Vanbot - Make Me, Break Me


This morning we took some time out to revisit the amazing Vanbot album and were blown away again by just how good it is. If you're a fan of the very best in crystalline melodies and lush synth-pop soundscapes, this really is one of the contenders for album of the year.

One of the obvious standouts - Make Me, Break Me - was released as a single earlier in the year but now it's back on a second wind with an ace video (directed by Jacob Mohlin) in tow too!

A remix compilation of tracks from the album is also in the pipeline - earlier this month we got rather excited about Bremen's take on Bitter Is The Sweetest Part.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Vince Clarke and Martin Gore team up as VCMG for 'Spock' EP


These days, Vince Clark is the keyboard whizz in Erasure and Martin Gore is the multi-talented wonder-kid of Depeche Mode, but back in the early 80s (on the band's magnificent synth-pop masterpiece Speak & Spell) the two worked together as founding members of the latter group.

Exciting news then as we hear the two are teaming up under the name of VCMG (short and simple, we like) to release their debut EP entitled Spock. We're wondering if it has anything to do with Star Trek...

The EP features the title track and remixes by Regis, DSV1 and Edit-Select. What can we expect? The chunky happy-go-lucky vibes of Erasure or the sinister gloom-pop of Depeche Mode? Rumours suggest it will instead be influenced by the more clinical sounds of modern dance music.

The Spock EP is available to download from iTunes on the 12th December.

Seal - Wishing On A Star


Seal and soul. Two words linked with the smoothest of ease. As the lead single from Seal's follow-up to 2008's Soul album, Wishing On A Star sees the legendary singer teaming up with equally predigious producer Trevor Horn for a beautifully realised version of the Rose Royce track.

Seal captures all the essence and class of the 1978 original while polishing up with his charicteristic conemporary sheen. The result is suitably glossy, every instrument and vocal flourish picked out with crystal clarity.

Every snippet of the song feels like a vignette of the most sumptuous luxury wine, a heady mix of beauty and full-bodied flavour; a calibre that is carried through to the track's b-side Let's Stay Together.

Seal once again epitomises that magical instance of when singer, producer and concept reaches a perfect equilibrium. Another impressive chapter to add to the man's career.

Wishing On A Star is released on the 21st November.

Jasmine Ash - Starlight


Revolving on an axis of jolly, childlike piano and sugary sweet vocals, Jasmine Ash's debut single Starlight recalls Feist at her most poppy - think of a more up-tempo 1, 2, 3, 4 and you'll be on the right track.

Co-written and produced by two of the members of Phantom Planet (them of the OC theme tune fame), Starlight benefits from the group's keen sense of pop sensibilities and plays to all the surefire recipes for crafting the most indelible of tunes - chiefly a cute whistling section.

The track's undeniably sweet overtones clearly strike a chord as they're currently soundtracking a new TV campaign of Ferrero Rocher adverts and if anything, that chocolatey burst of goodness is the perfect confectionary-based equaivalent to this rather charming track's appeal.

Coming up with advert-friendly songs is something of a habit for Jasmine, one of the other cuts from her debut album was used as part of a tutorial for the iPad 2.

It's a sign of the times that this now seemngly uber-popular trend for airy piano-pop with vocals supplied courtesy of up and coming female artists is so inescable these days - but if you're searching for the best of the bunch amidst the increasingly crowded market, Jasmine is assuredly one of the superior finds.

Starlight is released on the 26th December with her debut album Beneath the Noise following in February.

Brave Yesterday - For The Sake Of Symmetry


Icy angular rock with the sharpest of guitar hooks - this is the rollicking state we find Channel Islands group Brave Yesterday operating within on the title track of their upcoming album For The Sake Of Symmetry.

The keen-edged, glacial riffs will please fans of Kids in Glass Houses while the hearty vocals admirably keep pace, fuelled with enough fist-fighting guts to plough their mark amongst their contemporaries.

Brave Yesterday ride high on the confidence of a John Peel stage Glasto slot already under their belts and next year sees them touring the UK in support of the upcoming album:

24 Feb – The Cooler, Bristol
25 Feb – Dublin Castle, London
26 Feb – TBC
27 Feb – 93 Feet East, London
01 Mar – Fox and Firkin, London
02 Mar – Spice of Life, London
03 Mar – Grinning Rat, Ipswich
04 Mar – The Horn, St. Albans

For The Sake Of Symmetry is released on the 9th January.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A$AP Rocky - Peso


A$AP Rocky's Peso has a lot going in its favour - over a million YouTube views since it was uploaded in August, Radio 1 airplay, an impressive 8.2 rating for its parent mixtape on the notoriously hard to please Pitchfork. The man is clearly doing something right.

Travelling down the Drake route of moody, ambient hip-hop, A$AP has no qualms about confrontational lyrics - the first few lines of Peso are littered with expletives, but his flow is contrastingly smooth, chilled. This is a man with lots to say, but which he's going to say in his own time, within his own rules.

The track itself glistens with affected vocal samples and old school synths - it's a potent cocktail and one that feels continually exciting. Good job then that the mixtape contains fifteen more tracks of the same.

The full mixtape is available to download for free on A$AP Rocky's official website.

Avicii - Levels


You'd be forgiven for thinking Avicii's last minute inclusion on Leona Lewis's Collide would overshadow any future releases by the Swedish DJ - with all the furore over the track it did more than take away from the actual quality of how good the producer's command of dance essentials on the song were. The inspired reworking of the Perpetuum Mobile piano riff, the rise and fall of the track's surging bassline - that was all him.

But he's back, and with a club-busting smash to boot - new single Levels boasts one of those indelible dance hooks that on first hearing already feels familiar. Surely, if anything, the sign of a future classic. With all the R&B/dance crossovers at the moment, Levels is a refreshing return to good honest floorfiller magic at its best.

Levels is released on the 2nd January.

Sway - Still Speedin'


You know you're on to a winner when a track has a sample of Black Box's Ride On Time plastered all over it. Sway's latest single Still Speedin' takes British rap to the biggest of scales, cleverly mixing in the rave classic amidst a swirling brew of bass heavy beats and grinding synths.

Still Speedin' is grime on an orchestral standard - ambitious, confident and packing all the swagger you'd expect of someone with Sway's experience. It's been a good few years since his last Top 40 excursion (2006's Little Derek), but Still Speedin' boasts such obvious appeal you pretty much count on it beating that on release.

Still Speedin' is released on the 5th December.

Twin Atlantic - Free


With a hefty amount of Radio 1 airplay under their belts already, Twin Atlantic are fast becoming one of the UK's most exciting new rock acts. And Free sees them at their best yet.

Free builds again on the more streamlined sound of the band's awesome Make A Beast Of Myself, continuing to push their Biffy Clyro meets Lostprophets blend of massive choruses and tower-block sized guitar riffs.

If ever a song was made to be played as loud as humanly possible, it was this one. Free positively blasts itself outwards, an unstoppable force of brawling energy. Not only is it the band's most radio-friendly track to date but it also feels perfect for the band's upcoming run of tour dates throughout November and December.

Already being hailed as The Next Big Thing, Free justifies every bit of the hype these guys have already amassed for themselves, and then goes that little bit further.

Free is available to download on iTunes now.

Oh My! - Dirty Dancer (Unicorn Kid Mix)


When do you get when you combine everyone's favourite flirty new pop duo with one of the best remixers out there? Yup, that's right - it's the rave-tastic Unicorn Kid mix of Oh My!'s Dirty Dancer.

If you've never heard a Unicorn Kid mix before, basically imagine a game of 8-bit Super Mario kicking off at your local night-club. Bleepy synths ahoy as the Oh My! girls' vocals are stretched and cut and pasted all over the place, transforming their gritty, feisty anthem into a tropical-sounding bit of bonkers dance-pop awesomeness.

We love it.