Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Rupert Stroud - Chasing The Night

Amongst the broad oeuvre of bloke and his guitar songwriter types, the UK is crying out for someone with a bit more substance. Forget your Ed Sheerans and James Morrisons, where are the real forces of musical dynamism that once called legions of fans to their cause in the midst of the Britpop glory days – those chaps with a bit more substance to them?
Well, Leeds lad Rupert Stroud feels like a resolute move back in the right direction. There’s airs of a Noel Gallagher or Richard Ashcroft to his world-worn vocals and the menace-tinged edge that characterise the title track single to new album Chasing The Night. Stroud’s songwriting is neatly compact, sleekly efficient but with a rousing heart to it that recalls Coldplay in their darker, more low-slung moments.
Just like the brooding, noir-like video that accompanies Chasing The Night, Rupert Stroud’s music breathes professionalism and the air of a consummate talent. This is one night that we’ll certainly keep chasing...
Chasing The Night is released on the 21st May.

Lana Del Rey - Blue Jeans

While the Lana Del Rey hype certainly isn't showing any signs of slowing down, there's a sense that it's marginally more palatable now, through sheer force of its overabundance. In essence, we've become so numb to the Lana hype that she's now like the same old faces we always see every time we pop down the pub. Part of the furniture.

And all this helps with appreciating new single Blue Jeans for what it actually is, a bloody good track. Boasting what's probably one of her strongest choruses, Blue Jeans moves away from the pretensions of Born To Die and Video Games for a more clean cut, vaguely more up-tempo pop sound. It's not the unadulterated thrill-ride that album standout Off to the Races is, but in it's indulgent 'I will love you until the end of time' refrain, there's the manifestations of Lana as a proper popstar.

And it's there, removed from the sexual posturing and drama school theatrics, that she actually functions best.

Blue Jeans is released on the 8th April as a digital download, remix bundle and exclusive 7'' picture disc.

Could Cheryl Cole's new single sample Operation Blade (Bass In The Place)?

All us pop fans are pretty much balancing on a knife edge right now, leaping at any precious morsel of information regarding Cheryl Cole's much anticipated third album. After all, she's been working on it a while, so the hopes are high that it'll mark a real high water mark for the former X Factor star's career and top her previous two efforts.

Turning to Twitter to tease fans with a possible snippet of lyrics from a new track, Cheryl revealed:

'You know it turns me on when the beat starts dirty dancing.. The way it calls to me I can almost feel its rage.. La da da da da Dum Dum. Bass in my face, put the bass in my face, put the bass in my face, put the bass in my face.'

Now, all this might be nothing much in particular, but maybe.... just maybe... it could be that she's sampled that grand old dance classic Bass In The Place, also known as Operation Blade (the track samples the Pump Panel Remix of New Order's Confusion, as featured on the original Blade movie soundtrack).

Of course, being the massive New Order fans that we are, the prospect that Cheryl might have sampled New Order (however indirectly) is all rather exciting. And either way, the Operation Blade track is a bit of a 'tune', and this gave us an excuse to post it.

Noel Gallagher - Shoot A Hole Into The Sun

Serving as the b-side to new Noel Gallagher single Dream On is this: The first taste of Noel's much-touted collaboration with electronica outfit Amorphous Androgynous. Shoot A Hole Into The Sun is a bewildering medley of sky-piercing strings, funky basslines and guitar twangs that seem to echo back through all history. Think Primal Scream's monumental Screamadelica album, and you'll be on the right track.

It's an epic, sprawling trippy uber-psychedelic reworking of previous single If I Had A Gun and is pretty much the sort of stuff to straight-on blow your mind. It's movie-like in its expansive grandeur, and skillfully keeps all the integrity of Noel's lyrics and songwriting talent whilst twinning them with a genuinely horizon-broadening backing. This is no remix, more a first tantalising glimpse of just how brilliant the second Noel solo LP is surely going to be.

The Smiths vs Lana Del Rey - This Charming Video Game

On most occassions, a mash-up either 'works', or just sounds bloody awful. In this case of this melancholia steeped toss-up between The Smiths and LDR, the jury's out. Bit of it are beautiful; an oddly moving, funereal outpouring that almost betters the original Video Games for baroque decadence. But there's also moments where the two songs just don't fit, usually stemming from the fact that This Charming Man's chorus is just too fast to be strewn over the more languid Lana affair. It's a shame, because if Mozza ever took a fancy to recording orchestral versions of his tracks, we reckon it might sound a lot like a better version of this.

The Smiths vs Lana Del Rey - This Charming Video Game (mashup) from Reborn Identity on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Kimbra - Two Way Street

She's the lass off of Gotye's mega hit Somebody That I Used To Know, but for my money, Kimbra's Two Way Street is way, way better than the Gotye track. The song's one of those real surprise gems that sneaks up on you before unleashing a hook so magnificently brilliant you struggle to conceive of how you got by before it. *That* chorus, it's so uplifting, so reflectively hopeful, it's like all the rays of the spring sun kissing the very core of your essence. In short, when people talk about something being feel-good, they mean what Two Way Street sounds like. Oh, and 800,000 YouTube views can't be wrong.

The meandering piano chords, the blissed out, carefree vocal harmonies, it's the summation of contented nature. And again, *that* chorus. The Gotye track might have put her name out there, but Kimbra, as a solo star in her own right, more than proves on Two Way Street that she's got the punch to stand on her own two feet.

Tomos Lewis - Four Songs EP

Heartfelt singer-songwritery stuff from 26 year old Tomos Lewis, debut EP Four Songs feels grounded in the earthy Welsh hills of Lewis’ youth, while in its best moments recalling echoes of Dylan via Damien Rice. Lead track I Died Deep Inside starts from hushed beginnings to layer on a surprisingly moving chorus and sweetly tuneful guitar lines. Four Songs feels big, hearty, for an EP; far wiser than Lewis’ scant years, with standout track What’s A Man To Do verging into alt-rock territory for a real Ryan Adams vibe. Gently subdued, but with a profound maturity often glossed over by up and coming songwriting talent these days, Tomos Lewis’ debut shines with a world-wise confidence befitting his self-evident skills.
The Four Songs EP is released on the 19th March.

Jessie Ware - Running

She’s the girl to turn heads, the girl to dazzle and enchant at a glance. Jessie Ware’s excellent new single Running casts her as a seductive, mature songstress, burbling 80s synths sliding alongside sultry, soulful vocals. There’s touches of Dusty Springfield, Janet Jackson, Alison Moyet to her – a voice so expressive it positively leaps from the foundations of the song. Running, all in all, is like everything the ill fated Clare Maguire never quite managed to be, and in that full-pelt crescendo, crystallises her as one of the most exciting new female talents around. A real class song.
Running is released on the 26th March.

The Shins – Simple Song

The Shins, in the UK at least, have always seemed to be one of those groups quite content to boil away on the backburner – always well received – but never quite breaking through to the mainstream. Fey, quirky pop-rock at its best, The Shins have never sounded as well mannered and done up in slick production as they do on Simple Song. The inventive find-and-seek your father’s will premise to the video is brilliantly witty too. A rousing comeback after five years away.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Eyes On Film - Something Wicked (This Way Comes)

The debut EP from London four-piece, the title of Something Wicked (This Way Comes) betrays the ‘evilness’ of its constituent sounds. The vocals on the title track are deliciously threatening, like Marilyn Manson cursing through a mouthful of honeyed syrup. The whole thing courses with darkly electric energy – spitting biting intensity out from every angle – angular guitars and a colliding medley of cut-and-paste percussion that glitches outwards like a malevolent sprite. At its most intoxicating, Something Wicked is like a deeper, bleaker Placebo, an evil twin of the most trickstery kind. And that’s just how we like it.
Something Wicked (This Way Comes) is released on the 7th May.

Paul Weller - That Dangerous Age

For an artist who's been knocking around as long as Paul Weller has, to release an album as vital sounding as Sonik Kicks (and with artwork that looks like it's come straight out of a neon-drenched Hoxton nightclub) is a proper achievement.

And the thing is, new single That Dangerous Age isn't just treading comfortable water, as so many of Weller's contemporaries arguably have, but a track that really stands out with all the bright intense vibrancy of that neon cover.

Motorik rhythms, crudely fizzing steam-punk synthesizers and a chorus to set the morning alight, That Dangerous Age is a big, bold pop record at heart; of the kind that could teach upstart young bands a thing or two about penning a great hook. A real treat from one of music's true legends.

That Dangerous Age is released on the 12th March.

Stooshe - Love Me (Feat. Travie McCoy)

I'm really struggling to like Stooshe - and that's a rarity for me, because usually I adore girlbands. The thing is, Love Me/Fuck Me (whatever you want to call it, depending on your appetite for naughtiness), just doesn't feel strong enough for a proper 'let's break into the mainstream' single.

Yes, it might be doing the rounds on Radio 1 with a nice boost from ubiquito-man Travie MccCoy on board as your standard rent-a-rapper feature role, but beyond all that, Love Me feels at best, only perfunctory.

The hook's decent, in it's own right, but put alongside similar teen-bopper R&B/Pop types like Dionne Bromfield, Stooshe's brand just feels too insubstantial and airy to make any lasting mark. The girls' attitude's might be charming - filtered through some cheery comic ad-libs, but as those funky guitar lines trail out, you're left with no voracious need to immediately listen to the track again; to really, really buy into the group.

Love Me is released on the 5th March.

Madonna - Girl Gone Wild [Listen]

It's been a long time since we felt a Madonna track sounded like 'classic' Madonna. Hard Candy was a tired chasing of popular R&B tropes while Celebration felt too rushed. But in Girl Gone Wild, we finally have a move back towards Madonna's dancefloor roots via a calculated new dabbling in the dark, synth magic that made Confessions on a Dancefloor such a joy.

Girl Gone Wild's chief merits lie in its simplicity - a great hook and a classic Madonna club groove that also mirrors some of the best moments of her Music album. It's a self-conscience looking back, and while it might lack some of the emotional maturity and depth that characterised Confessions, it's a definitive move in the right direction.

From what we've heard, Girl Gone Wild is far more respective of the MDNA album than Give Me All Your Luvin is - probably a good sign given said 'taster' single failed badly to set the charts alight in any shape or form. While us pop aficionados might have loved it, the public didn't seem to be swayed by Madge's MIA and Nicki team-up.

The best way to see Girl Gone Wild is as a prototype - yes, it's by no means perfect, and it's a long way off the absolute Madonna can produce when she puts her mind to it - but as a base template to expand from, it holds a whole load more promise than most of what she's done for the past few years.

Rita Ora - Party and Bullshit

Rita Ora. You'll know her vocals - she was 'the voice' behind DJ Fresh smash Hot Right Now. And while we were a little unconvinced by that track - it felt too similar to the previous DJ Fresh record, Louder - Rita's first proper solo offering represents a far more attractive prospect.

The tantalisingly named Party and Bullshit sees Rita lined up as Ke$ha/Katy Perry type, out to cause some mischief and mayhem. Signed to Roc Nation, there's certainly now the heft for her to start punching up there with the pop heavyweights, and with dreamy refrains of 'when the sun sets baby, on the avenue...', Party and Bullshit feels so of the moment, so neatly positioned to enter the pop market, you feel you could almost pen Rita down as an assured success already.

From dance diva to pop starlet, Rita Ora seems to be turning heads whichever way she goes.

Mark Ronson feat. Katy B - Anywhere in the World

We've been crying out for some new Katy Be material, especially after the absolute travesty of her receiving not even a single BRITs nomination, and new Mark Ronson collab comes up trumps. Moving away from the clinical sounds of Katy's debut towards a tribal medley of fuzzy synths and sampled homespun beats comprised of actual taps and gasps from athletes, Anywhere in the World feels 'big' in every sense of the word.

With the sponsorship power of Coke on board too, the track has a real 'jingle' feel to it and artfully repositions Katy as a proper trailblazer popstar - it's a look and sound that suits her, and Anywhere in the World feels like exactly the kind of record to keep her star shining brightly through the Olympic year.

Best tie-in track since Shakira's Waka Waka, it's fair to say.

Rebecca Ferguson covers Drake's Take Care

We were already mega-excited for Rebecca Ferguson's tour, but after seeing this sublime cover of Drake's Take Care, we're positively counting down the days to the date we're going to. Rebecca's smoky, sultry vocals suit the song perfectly and we love the arrangement of the track she's gone for - very classy indeed!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Mohombi - behind the scenes on his UK radio tour!

A good radio tour round the UK is always a sure sign of an artist really willing to put in the groundwork to ensure a dedicated fanbase, and we reckon Mohombi - the man behind insanely catchy pop tune In Your Head - had a pretty fab time rocking it out on the road, going by this behind the scenes video.

Stopping off up north he even finds time for a sneaky little acoustic performance in front of Liverpool FC's grounds - 'it's cold but we're hot!' Mohombi chuckles. Such a charmer!

In Your Head is available to download on iTunes now.

Labrinth - Last Time [Official Video]

Look, it's a green alien! Oh... wait, now it's blue! No, no.... now there's about fifty of them, all dancing away like it's Saturday Night Fever all over again!

And this is only one of the many brilliantly bonkers bits and bobs in the new Labrinth video for Last Time, a panoply of bizarrely surreal imagery that seems half like the cork's been unstoppered on a bottle of distilled sci-fi, and half like a venture into the hilly landscape of Teletubbie-land.

Flying cars, elephants bouncing on trampolines, and Labrinth himself arrayed in a magic coat of many colours - you can guarantee this'll be the only video this year where you'll get this degree of sheer What?! moments. And that's how we like it. Oh, and the track itself is excellent - as another writer put it, like Drake meets the Pet Shop Boys.

Vinyl Jacket - Red Light

Introducing Vinyl Jacket, who come on like a high pitched Vampire Weekend, twirled up in all the fey pop sensibilities of The Maccabees. It's a beat-focussed blend of eclecticism that leaps and bounds about faster than a rabbit on speed.

Red Light pushes the quick-beat element to the max via an Everything Everything-esque route of quirk. Indeed, the EE lads have fittingly been rafted in for remix duties of the track. The lasting impression of Vinyl Jacket is a group that thrives on sheer electric dynamism, twitching across all aspects of their music with a sprite-like dexterity. Red Light, with its bewildering assortment of concocted synth tweaks and funky bass underpinning plays as a real calling card for the group, and has already been charming its way around the Radio 1 airwaves.

Red Light is released on the 5th March.

iAm1 - Watching

Since meeting at Westminster Uni in 2008, the enigmatic duo that is iAm1 has set about a delicately artful fusion of urban tropes with a more subtle folk melodiousness. It's an intriguing combo of genres and influences, but on current single Watching, the merits are self-evident. Sure, there's flavours of Ed Sheeran and Maverick Sabre in the wise man of the streets sort of thing going on, but Watching strikes far closer, and keener to the heart.

Accompanied by a deeply arresting hand-drawn animated video, Watching slips nicely alongside the current raft of urban contemporaries taking the UK by storm right now, but with a real tenderness not yet cornered by any of them yet. There's an artistic ethos that goes beyond mere genre categories and while Watching feels at heart like it could easily become a big 'radio' track, there's a stirring sentimentality to its string-washed closing moments that marks it out as something more.

UK rap has been missing a good touch of sentimentality of late, and iAm1 do much to redress that balance.

The Watching EP is released on the 19th March.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Vanbot - Got To Get Out

The Vanbot album was basically one of our favourite things of 2011 (up there with Little Mix winning the X Factor). So when we saw there was a new Vanbot song doing the rounds on the internet, and as a free download too, we lapped it up like catnip.

Repositioning the trademark synth-heavy Vanbot sound in a glossier, more streamlined finish - everything about Got To Get Out feels bigger, pacier and on a grander scale. While it might lack some of the lovely New Order-esque 80s touches that made the album such a joy, it compensates with real, sparkly punch.

Got To Get Out is available as a free download here.

Vanquish - The Harder You Love [Teaser Video]

We always fans of a bit of clever colour-coding in a pop video, and Vanquish's one-minute teaser is certainly brimming with more colour than a pack of Smarties. Blue, orange, purple, yellow - it's all making us feel very summery indeed.

Like a shot of vitamins to blow away those winter blues, the fab girl-group's debut single is just one of those fist-pumping explosively energetic tracks that feels like it should be prescribed as a cure to all common ailments. Cold, flue, hangover? Bung a bit of Vanquish on, you'll be sorted in no time.

We can't wait to see the video in full!

Kovak - Killer Boots

Towards the end of last year we featured Kovak's slick synth work-out Radiate on the blog - loving all things 80s, as we do, it's fair to say we were a bit infatuated by the group's sound. And turning to their more flirty, playful side, they deliver once again on new track Killer Boots.

In a gloriously decadent anthem to hedonistic fashion, Kovak boost the colourful and bright factor up to ten and let fly with a flashy electro anthem that feels like the Human League in their prime. I mean, the video even has one of those drum-pad things in it, you can't get more 80s than that!

All the sugary sweetness of concentrated pop essence, and then some.

The Beautiful - Open Your Heart

A couple of weeks ago we reviewed the first track from new four-piece The Beautiful, headed up by former Wonderland member Shaz Condon - Love's Leaving was a firm, decisive move towards a more determined, adult sound. And taking that track as a foundation, Open Your Heart builds to even greater heights.

It's better produced, more full-bodied, more visceral - a real single-worthy contender of a track that works Condon's vocals to their best and throbs with that proper 'band' vibe that we liked so much on Love's Leaving. It's in the sky-slicing chorus that Open Your Heart reaches its fullest potential though, a proper 'moment' that really notches the song up to the next level.

There's touches of real ethereal beauty to the track, like a rocked-up Ellie Goulding let loose to frollick amidst the wildness of the elements. With all the pop charm befitting of Condon's past, The Beautiful also look forward to a more maturely demeanoured future, and going by what we've heard so far, the prospect of a whole album of this sort of stuff is very exciting indeed.

Words and Music by Saint Etienne [Cover Art]

We’re what you might call map obsessives. Tube maps, Ordnance Survey, atlases – you’re always find us studiously analysing something or other to this effect, because quite frankly we just find the way they compact so much into so little fascinating. We like to know where our little locale fits into the world.
And when it comes to a great album cover, going by our obsession, bunging a map on the front of your new LP wins you a lot of brownie points from us. So hurrah Saint Etienne, who’ve done exactly that! We were already excited for Words and Music based on the brilliant Tonight, but now we’re positively on the edge of our seat for it.

The Enemy – Gimme The Sign

It’s been a while. Three years to be precise, since the Enemy released their sophomore effort Music For The People. And these days, three years is a hell of a long time in the music business, especially if you’re a young guitar band. The days where said groups ruled the Radio 1 airwaves is long gone, and now, with free download Gimme The Sign, the Enemy are looking to cleave their way back into the public consciousness.
Just stop for a moment and think about the fact that the band’s debut sold 600,000 copies. That’s not just successful, that’s proper double platinum success. The Enemy, of all their contemporaries, felt like a band really going places, the kind of group that might one day take up the mantle from the likes of Kasabian.
But if Gimme The Sign is designed to further their cause, it’s a rather belated affair – too little, too late. Sure, it packs all the raucous punk revivalism that made their debut such an exhilarating affair, but the maturity of No Time For Tears is gone, and the hooks the band previously crafted so well now feel diluted.
It’s sort of like The Enemy coming up with a track based on themselves – and thus, aside from being a bit rougher round the edges, it does little to push the envelope. And for a band that in many ways now stand as outsiders, there’s the general feeling that pushing the envelope is very much what’s needed. Gimme The Sign is not bad, per se, but it tells us little we didn’t already know, instead merely soundtracking a band treading water.
Gimme The Sign is available as a free download from The Enemy’s Facebook page.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Saturdays - The Celestial Princesses photoshoot

Two of our biggest passions are pop and sci-fi/fantasy, so when the two combine with brilliant ingenuity, we get pretty excited. Whether it be Cheryl Cole dressing up as Seven-of-Nine in X Factor press shots, Kylie appearing in Doctor Who or Madonna taking a styling lesson from the lands of Skyrim, we love it all.

So imagine how bowled over we were by this dreamy Saturdays photoshoot from their All Fired Up tour programme - we're going to dub it the 'Celestial Princesses' photoshoot. What with its wintery theme, it all fits very nicely with the Icelandic setting of the My Heart Takes Over video too. Because we like to let our mind run away with itself, we started musing about the photoshoot and the song and something began to crystallise within our consciousness. Play the track with this image in mind, and think of another time, another place, where all this is the beginnings of some Final Fantasy-esque epic of unparallelled levels of amazing.

Across the foreign oceans and the shores of black volcanic silt, up along the sharp craggy peaks and down through the valleys to a distant tower looking out on the realm arrayed at their feet - these five princesses hold a kingdom in the palm of their hands. Therein lies a song, of ancient orgins, passed down their royal lineage back through the hazy generations to the dawn of all creation...

Are you really walking away from this?
Can you really break this love?
Tell me, do you know - when is your heart in need?
If you leave, then leave
Make up your mind before you shut the door

Going back in time,
You know we have tried, too hard to let this fade
Almost disappeared, still we made it here
Look me in the eye, promise I won't cry
This is your choice to make
If you go, then go
You change your mind, I won't be here no more

If there's a chance
We might've missed
If there's a ray of light in this
If there's a small piece left of us
Somewhere in the battles we have lost
Look at me - this is where my heart takes over...

Evanescence – My Heart Is Broken

When you go to Evanescence, you go for theatrics. And My Heart Is Broken, while for me lacking the on-point feisty energy of album standout What You Want, is about as theatrical as Evanescence come. Lots of lyrics about wandering until the end of time and souls and that sort of stuff pretty much comes as standard with the band, but it’s easy to forget just *how* good Evanescence are at coming up with a stellar hook. My Heart Is Broken rides high and proud like some gleaming white stallion of majestic rock beauty; Amy Lee’s vocals as achingly beautiful as ever, the guitars suitably beefy. A towering blockbuster of a track.

Introducing Lisa Mitchell...

Gearing up to release her second solo album and new track Spiritus, photogenic Australian songstress Lisa Mitchell sounds like the kind of untapped songwriting talent you listen to knowing it’s only a matter of time before they make that artful transition to mass appeal. Her website’s quirky, like an art student indulging their most playfully creative side, and the music sounds equally fey and cutesy-charming. Oh Hark is tuneful pop-rock, think a cheery Aussie version of KT Tunstall or Amy McDonald. In her more piano-driven moments like the sublime Pirouette there’s even airs of a Christina Perri or Birdy to her. Indeed, Neopolitan Dreams sounds like the kind of quirky piano stuff ad agencies dream of when crafting their next campaign – its delightfully pretty, as if crafted from the very essence of smiles and sugary cupcakes.

Santigold - Disparate Youth [Animated Youth]

We featured Santigold's Disparate Youth on the blog a little while ago, albeit in a muffled live version. Even then it sounded good. Now it sounds very, very good indeed. It's bigger, more jagged, more deliciously dubby and boasts a trip-inducing ambient synth outro. In short, a proper pop gem - a genuinely exciting 'comeback' single. The animated video is rather cool too.

On Your Radar - A speculative retrospective...

The sign of a good girl-band – and here we’re talking the ones that truly endure to place an indelible stamp on a decade of pop history – is how well they make that carefully balanced transition to ‘maturity’. Even the word itself is troublesome, because when we say ‘maturity’, we don’t mean mums dressed up all-sexy and riffing on the success of past glories (Spice Girls re-union anyone?). No, what we mean is that vital crux when the band crystallises within the public consciousness and take that step up to the next level, that degree of success where phrases like ‘national treasure’ and ‘pop greats’ can be employed with heft of not only long-standing enthusiasts, but with the voice of a nation whole.
Girls Aloud did it. Tangled Up (their fourth studio effort), via the cool, glacial beauty of Call The Shots, took them to the kind of band that could sell out arenas at the drop of a hat. Every member was a fully fledged celebrity (and woman) in their own right and with this album, that individualism was allowed to shine through in a way only glimpsed at before. It was a pop album that breathed richness and complexity in a way they only bettered in follow-up Out of Control.
And now the Saturdays stand at this point too – if we’re going by full studio albums (so Chasing Lights, Wordshaker and On Your Radar), they’re due their Tangled Up moment with their next release. And about time too. On Your Radar went by criminally underrated, charting poorly and receiving lukewarm reviews. Within a month of its release, it seemed to be already forgotten, in much the same way Wordshaker had before it. What was going wrong? What was stopping the Saturdays from becoming a band that could not only charm the airwaves with pop gems, but really make a stand in the album charts and linger around for weeks on end like your Adele types.
What did the reviewers (and perhaps more importantly, the public) want from On Your Radar? Maybe they wanted more depth, more meaning. But while On Your Radar might not be no 21, replete with love-lorn intensity and backstory, I’d argue it has meaning aplenty within it. As a pop album, it stands as brilliantly post-modern – an effort so sleekly synthesized that it almost becomes a girlband LP about being in a girlband. It posits the five Saturday girls as characters within their own contemporary drama, a world of celebrity get-ups, drink and glamour. It’s exciting, intoxicating; a world where the pace never dies and the every night holds its possibilities.
And this is the message the album sells to its fans. From the sexual politics and dancefloor allure of Get Ready Get Set and Move On U, the album propels itself forth on a hyper-drive of future-synths and breathy appeal. The album tells its listener: ‘this is the high life. We’re showing you what it’s like, now do you want a piece of it too?’. With a rub of well-oiled palms it invites you in throw the open door to a boutique paradise of hedonism, a sort of Great Gatsby for the pop age.
We hear the delectable Una Healy is working with Nerina Pallot on material for the next Saturdays LP – and for those in the pop-know, this is basically knee-tremblingly good stuff. Add in the fact there’ll be more Xenomania tracks (All Fired Up is for my money one of the best singles The Sats have ever released), and there really is the suggestion that the next Sats album could very well be ‘their’ Tangled Up. The girls still don’t have that long aspired-for No. 1 – maybe this time, that dream will finally become a reality. God knows, they deserve it.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Parade debut new track 'Throw It Up In The Air'

Those Parade girls certainly don't hang about - it's only been three months since the release of their debut album and already they're pumping out new material, and going by the sound of ace new song Throw It Up In The Air, there's a lot to get excited about!

Building on the street-smart PopR&B combo of their album, Throw It Up In The Air steps the Parade sound up to a bigger, more anthemic level via airy, glacial synths and an absolute killer of a chorus (seriously, how good are those 'oooooohhh' bits?!)

It's safe to say we're hooked, and we reckon the song will be netting them a whole new raft of fans as they perform it alongside old favourites like Louder and Perfume as they support The Wanted on their current arena tour.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

NERVO - We're All No One ft. Afrojack, Steve Aoki

For starters, anyone that tours with the actual Britney Spears wins our vote. And that’s exactly what Aussie sisters Nervo did, living it up Femme Fatale style on the pop princess’ latest tour. And now, turning to dance types Steve Aoki and Afrojack, they look set to make a keenly targeted assault on the British charts – about time too, we could use a bit more pure-pop around like these two. We’re All No One, for all its dance trappings, remains thoroughly a pop record, and comes complete a with gloriously decadent pop hook of suitably immense proportions. We first featured the track on the blog back in December, but we like it so much we're doing it again. It’s like a head on collision between Ke$ha and Kylie, which as any pop fan worth their salt will tell you – is a dizzyingly tantalising premise. Party pop at its most unabashed, We’re All No One spills good time vibes and hipster coolness with equal measure, as we love it for it.

The Black Keys – Gold On The Ceiling

The Black Keys’ latest album El Camino ended up walking away towards the end of last year with the kind of reviews a genuine future classic is built on. What it offered was a new take on something old; choppy, bluesy riffs pulled down an alley of keen contemporary rock hooks – it was a record steeped in the past but one with its eyes faced resolutely on making a splash in the here and now. With its fuzzy guitar riffs new single Gold On The Ceiling hits like a dollop of Aladdin Sane era Bowie, processed through the quirk-penetrated filters of something like the Dandy Warhols. It’s rock at its most earthy and truthful to its roots. For a band that have been going as long as the Black Keys (their first LP was released back in 2002), its enervating to see them finally hitting the big time, and with tracks as raucously fun as this, they do it with fine aplomb.

Michael Kiwanuka - I'm Getting Ready

When Michael Kiwanuka’s name first started getting bandied around as a genuine frontrunner for the BBC Sound poll, I’m Getting Ready was – for me – the song that really sold him as a winner. As with the rest of his material, it boasts his lovingly produced retro-soul formula but in this instance, the melodies really cut at their cleanest and the tender touches of guitar feel at their most warm. The result is a thing of real beauty that easily positions Kiwanuka as one of the most exciting new songwriting talents in the country. There’s no ‘getting ready’ about it, we’re already full-time believers in him.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Katie Melua - Better Than A Dream [Official Video]

It's the lead single from Katie Melua's beautiful new album (which we reviewed here), and now it's got an equally beautiful video to go with it. Better Than A Dream is every bit the warming, elegant singer-songwritery craftsmanship you go to an artist like Melua for, and delivered in this touching live clip, the song's love-wrapped message is conveyed all the more plainly. We're in love.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Diplo - Express Yourself feat. Nicky Da B

He's the mastermind behind pretty much some of the best tracks around at the moment, and the recent Usher collab he debuted the other day is all rather promising too - but not one to rest on his laurels, uber-producer Diplo has unleashed another beat-heavy sense-assault.

It goes by the name of Express Yourself (and no, it's not a cover of the Madonna song, despite how neatly referential that'd be after the Give Me All Your Luvin/Beat of my Drum similarities). What you get from the track is a gatling-fired medley of thumping kick drum and Diplo's characteristic lazer synths, spitting out at adrenaline-fired pace.

In tracks like Express Yourself, Diplo crafts more than just another club anthem, but an immersive 'experience' that completely surrounds the listener. With so many bits and pieces flying around in the track, there's a sense of everywhere-ness that deluges down torrent-like, awash with the potential to be the next Pon De Floor. Top stuff, all in all.

Dry The River - Shallow Bed [Album Review]

British folk music – the great ambassador of a nation these days courtesy of bands like Mumford & Sons. Ever since Dry The River began making tentative movements within the industry, people were quick to liken them with Mumford – and while it’s true they bear much in common, Dry The River offer a far richer palate of sounds, deftly coupled with a keen knowledge of great pop hooks. Their tracks feel looser, freer, and more spacious. It’s like the gates to England’s green pastures have been opened wide and the band given liberty to sow and reap their sustenance.
And what wonders they have grown. As an album, Shallow Bed is the richest of broths, a hearty concoction of good honest songwriting, guitar lines that shine out like the brightest of stars and string sections that swell and rise like the pulse of a living body. If that body be England’s own spirit, then Dry The River are the coursing sweep of its energies leaping out to all corners of its dimensions, and in the tapestry of material presented on the band’s debut, it welcomes all to its fold.
You don’t get pop more sweetly rounded than the likes of History Book and New Ceremony (two of the best tracks on the album) – all sugared harmonies and arts-n’-crafts jaunty cheer. They’re the kind of songs to lay out full-pelt come the Jubilee, long tables strewn down the road and people gathered round to share in lovely old fashioned companionship. Bible Belt is equally charming, beautiful too – a lover’s ballad of uncomplicated romance and emotion. Dry The River’s music goes beyond twee upkeepings of appearance and quaint gifts, it’s the stuff at the heart of what love really is – that gut feeling that sweeps you up in its arms and tugs you down a path you can’t resist.
Lead single The Chambers & The Valves plays like the band’s calling card – a neatly composed three minute presentation of everything the rest of the album then goes on to explore. The almost tortured cries of ‘I loved you in the best way possible’ on No Rest function to similar effect, a heart-wrenching swipe at our feelings, and we’re thrown head-first into a love story we can all engage with. Big, rough-handed percussion give the songs an earthiness, and those everyman vocals that seem like more than just a singular individual, but instead an amassed collective of spirited yearning.
Yearning for what? For life. The essence of life itself. And a profusely natural, organic depiction of life at that. The lush minimalism of Demons is Dry The River at their most pastoral – a word that seems inescapable when summarising what the band’s sound encompasses, but the only one that really does it full justice. The track, like so many of Dry The River’s best moments, builds from small, village-like beginnings to an impassioned, forceful crescendo that breaks over the soul like a wash of birds’ beating wings. There’s a feathered elegance to Dry The River’s message, a moral capacity for empathy that strikes across all audiences – varied enough to appease the indie crowd, but with the precision and composure to sweeten the tooth of the pop lover.
The piano balladry of Family moves on to emphasise the values of home. Timeless, enduring concepts. There’s moments when every part of the band’s sound comes to bear – guitar, strings, brass, vocals – all slamming home at once. You’re knocked to your knees, not in submission – for Shallow Bed is never overpowering – but in the awe of raw adulation. In its near seven-minute glory, Lion’s Den is the apotheosis of this side to the band – a grandiose epic of truly baroque scales. The soaring guitar solos that underpin its sprawling outro are the stuff heaven is stitched from.
It takes skill to craft a good album, but it takes craftsmanship of artisan-like levels to go beyond that and create a debut record worthy of proper, acknowledging respect. Shallow Bed is one such album.
Shallow Bed is released on the 5th March and can be pre-ordered here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Charlie Simpson announces Father & His Gun EP release

We were super happy when we found out Charlie Simpson was going to release Farmer & His Gun as the next track from his Young Pilgrim album, but what's even better is that it's not just a regular single release, it's going to be a proper EP packed with extra tracks. We reckon the EP cover is brilliant too, tying in nicely to the autumnal shades of the song's folky refrains itself. Available across a number of formats (including a duo of vinyls), the details of the release are as follows:

Digital EP
Farmer & His Gun (Radio Edit)
Farmer & His Gun (Original Demo)
Barricades Of Heaven (Jackson Browne cover)

7” Vinyl 1 Farmer & His Gun (Radio Edit)
Barricades Of Heaven

7” Vinyl 2
Farmer & His Gun (Original Album Version)

CD Single
Farmer & His Gun (Radio Edit)
Farmer & His Gun (Original Demo)

The Farmer & His Gun EP is released on the 25th March.

Marcus Collins - Break These Chains

The jury's still out on Marcus Collins' predictable cover of Seven Nation Army, but here's a thing... the single's b-side is amazing. Likely properly full-on pop scales of amazing. What we disliked most about Marcus' White Stripes cover is that it proved nothing that he hadn't already made evident on the X Factor, but in Break These Chains, he positions himself as the kind of pop artist that can actually bring the big guns to bear.

With all the bombast and pizzaz of some Erasure classic twinned with sleek Ronson-esque production, Break These Chains succeeds on every level that its a-side fails. It also poses the question, if this is a b-side, what delights can we expect on Marcus' album itself?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Usher - Climax

We really liked Usher's collab OMG - it was a sleek electro makeover that posited him firmly as a star still very much at the top of his game. So when we heard Usher had recorded a track with Diplo behind the production desk, we got quite excited - the man clearly knows how to pick his work partners, no?

Turns out the track in question, Climax, is a spacious, futuro-jam that slides Usher's vocals over a bubbling hotbed of synths. Slow, sensual, resolutely 'cool' - while it doesn't feel like the uber lead single OMG was, there's certainly a sense of innovativity and willingness to push boundaries and in the euphoric middle-eight, the track transcends into properly blissful dimensions. Thumbs up on this one Mr. Usher.

Marina & The Diamonds announce Electra Heart tour dates!

We absolutely adored Radioactive, so the prospect that the much fabled Electra Heart album from Marina & The Diamonds is finally, really on our doostep fills us with all kinds of tingly pop sensations. Preceded by new single Primadonna, the album release leads into a full UK tour where you can get your Marina fix up close and personal. (By the way, how gorgeous is the lovely promo shot above? Stunning, right!)

Catch her at the following dates:

May 4th       MANCHESTER        Cathedral    
May 5th       LIVE AT LEEDS FESTIVAL        
May 7th       EDINBURGH          Queens Hall    
May 8th       GLASGOW             ABC           
May 10th      LEAMINGTON           Assembly Hall 
May 11th      BIRMINGHAM           Institute       
May  12th     SHEFFIELD           Leadmill     
May 14th      NORWICH             Waterfront      
May 15th      CARDIFF            Coal Exchange

Electra Heart is released on the 30th April, preceded by Primadonna on the 16th April.

Santigold - Disparate Youth

Back in 2008, Santigold looked like the kind of artist that was going to really go places. You’d have bet money on it. Indeed, she even nabbed weighty nominations from the likes of the BRITs and Q magazine for her debut album, a glitter-dusted collection of quirk-pop tunes so warm in their appeal you wanted to run up and embrace them. But despite a sea of rapturous reviews, commercial success was only middling. But now Santigold is back, with second LP Master of My Make-Believe scheduled for later this year. The lead single Disparate Youth is a jaunty, reggae-tinged number – big beats and sun-spilling piano stabs. It’s a bit like Rihanna, if she built her tracks on a strict DIY ethic.
And while I still get confused about whether she’s currently Santigold or Santogold (clearly one vowel makes all the difference), Disparate Youth sounds really promising. The current market might be awash with indie-pop types in a similar vein, but Santigold seemed, at the crux of her LES Artistes days, like the artist most singularly encapsulating of the sound as a whole. Disparate Youth feels like the kind of track that could not only recapture that, but go one further, and push Santigold into the mainstream success she so clearly deserves.
Disparate Youth is released on the 9th April.

Sak Noel - Paso

Every year there is that one ubiquitous ‘Euro Hit!’ that you can’t move for hearing. In 2011 it camee courtesy of Sak Noel – the brazenly titled Loca People striving to act as some little piece of the Med 18-30 lifestyle that you could take back home with you to the rainy shores of England. Of course, removed from its natural setting, it was the kind of record that could only truly be enjoyed while absolutely sloshed on tequila slammers. It was also, not to put too fine a point on it, bilge.
As for follow-up single Paso... Well, in short it shares so much of its predecessor’s musical DNA you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same song. Same strutting backing, same insistent beat, just slightly different lyrics.
‘I tell you mama, there is no need for a drama, but I don’t want to study, I just want to party’.
Let’s just say, that’s not our life philosophy.
Paso is released on the 16th April.

Franz Ferdinand – Covers EP CD release

One thing you can always rely on Franz Ferdinand for is a sense of distilled coolness. They’ve been away for a while, but with a new album pencilled in for later this year (their first since 2009’s Tonight), the sharply suave Scots are giving their Record Store Day covers EP from last year a full release on CD to serve as a gentle reminder that they’re very much still with us.
I mean, what other band could get Debbie Harry and LCD Soundsystem to appear on the same EP and turn out versions of their songs? Only Franz Ferdinand – and it’s in that ideal of New Wave revivalism slicked to a knowing contemporary pop awareness that the very essence of what the band stands for lies.
Franz Ferdinand – The Covers EP is released on CD on the 2nd May.

Deluxe edition round-up! Nik Kershaw and Diana Ross

Don’t you just love a glossy deluxe edition package – your favourite album all re-mastered and glossed-up with a load of extra tracks shoved on to satisfy even the most voracious of hard-core fans/12” mix collectors.
The coming month marks two lovingly curated special editions from the chaps at Universal Music Catalogue: first up, 80s icon Nik Kershaw. Now, we’ve always been a bit partial to his classic track The Riddle, but preceding that there was of course Human Racing, Kershaw’s platinum selling debut LP. Reaching No. 5 in the UK charts back in 1984, it contains those delightful hit singles Wouldn’t It Be Good and I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (try saying that one when you’ve had a few bevies).
Released as a two-disc set, the newly re-mastered version of Human Racing – out on the 27th February – contains a plethora of b-sides and extended mixes.

Up next is Diana Ross and her self-titled 1976 record. Once again, all put together in a two disc set with more alternate versions than you could fit in a tour bus. What’s more, there’s a 24 page accompanying booklet filled with in depth song annotations and a load of photos. Perfect!
The Diana Ross expanded edition is released on the 5th March.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Florence + The Machine - Never Let Me Go

One word bandied about a lot in relation to Florence + The Machine is ‘big’. It’s kind of inescapable – big vocals, big record sales, big performances. But Never Let Me Go not only feels justified of the ‘big’ moniker, but goes beyond it to become suffused in the very essence of what the word means. From its swaying gospel-tinged refrains to the pounding piano chords, it acts like a dazzling stained glass window to capture saint-like Florence in every aspect of her glory. Her recent Q magazine interview is fascinating too, the kind of feature that portrays an artist whose life and career you absolutely want to be a part of. Florence is the sort of artist and persona you want to dive into, to completely submerge yourself in and drink deep. An acquired taste no doubt, but one that in instances like Never Let Me Go, is the most refreshing, revitalising taste of life you can get.
Never Let Me Go is released on the 5th April.

Dot Rotten – Are You Not Entertained?

He’s appeared on UK urban artist extravaganza The Collective and collab’d with our personal fave bright young talent Russo, but for his debut single proper, Dot Rotten goes for the all-out onslaught of swaggery raps and beats so fierce they could tear your face off. Are You Not Entertained is the kind of track that has every bit of the punch needed to back up combatitive lyrics like ‘if my attitude stinks am I meant to change’. At its best, Are You Not Entertained sounds like a profusely British version of Outkast, pumped through the filthiest of grime filters. Going in hard, Dot Rotten is all the determination and attitude you want from a new artist smashing into the mainstream.
So, to state the obvious, we’re definitely entertained.
Are You Not Entertained is released on the 5th March.