Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Luminites cover Cheryl Cole's Call My Name!


Back in November last year we covered cheeky five-piece the Luminites, and their track All Dressed Up, which we rather liked. And now they're back with this cracking cover version of Cheryl Cole's new single Call My Name. We really like the beat-box workover they've given the song and it brings a refreshing new vibe to the track while still keeping all the addictive allure of Cheryl's original intact. Definitely our favourite cover version of a Cheryl song since Delphic's take on 3 Words, that's for sure.

The Saturdays - Turn Myself In [Studio Version Preview]


The other day we listened back to the live version of Turn Myself In from the Headlines tour and were struck at just how good a song it was. At the time of the tour, it had felt like little more than a cute live curio, a little bonus for the fans to fill out the set and offer a taste of what the next album might hold. Of course, as things turned out, said new album (On Your Radar) went for a direction far removed from the moody, rock-centric Turn Myself In, and you can kind of understand why the song was left off the record.

Praise must be given then to the girls for finally giving the song the proper release it deserves, the studio version serving as b-side to their excellent 30 Days. As far as fan incentive b-sides go, this is up there with the Nicola solo version of Memory of You on her Yo-Yo single, which we absolutely loved.

The studio version, interestingly, goes for a harder, crunchier vibe than the live take - the beats pack a real bite to them and the vocals have a smattering of vocoder laced all over them. The result is a haunting, introspective track that offers a fascinating look at what On Your Radar might have been like if the girls hadn't gone wholeheartedly down the dance route.

Noisettes - Winner


It's been a while. Three years in fact. And during those three years, there were certainly moments when we came to thinking, So! What are the Noisettes going to do next?

Well, release an absolute pop gem of a track, that's what. Winner certainly feels like it's been worth the wait, an up-tempo, strutting stormer of a song that goes some way to recapturing that Don't Upset The Rhythm groove. It's the definition of radio friendly, and in its slipstream propelled swagger and energy, it also feels definitively current.

The Noisettes always felt like the kind of group that could adapt with ease, and Winner is adaptation down to a T; a chameleonic chic-styled dancefloor mover n' shaker that reins in the more outre elements of the group to ensure they surge back into the public consciousness with the best of ease. Dare we say it, Winner is even the sort of thing you could imagine Jessie J banging out, if she had the mind to.

Released: July 9th.

Shibuya Crossings – I’ll Meet You At The Station


Shibuya Crossings feel like a real song-writer’s band, the kind where the music is gripped in the realities of life and all its parts, whether they be good or bad. New single I’ll Meet You At The Station centres around a rather lovely sort of melancholy and sweet refrains of ‘hazy is the sky for you...’, as if the very world around them is seeping into their emotions. There’s a kind of love-lorn lyrical poetry to it that feels like it doesn’t have to strain or boast to persuade of the band’s purpose. And while most of the track feels composed, almost stately –the middle-eight ups the snarl a notch or two on the guitars, the grit and spit beating at the heart of the song. Apt, for a group whose name translates as ‘Bitter Valley’.
Released: May 14th.

Lizzie & The Yes Men - The Broadwalk / The Loneliness


File Lizzie & The Yes Men next to Howler; coming on sort of like a scrappier, female fronted Strokes, their track The Broadwalk is perfunctorily breezy and up-beat, with just the right strain of punk heritage to give a satisfactory bulk to it. The Loneliness is the better of the two tracks on their double-a-sided debut single, shifting towards a more defined pop melody at the heart of the track – at its best it guns for a Debbie Harry styled vocal via the route of bratty Brit-poppers Sleeper.
Released: 4th June.

Kaiser Chiefs - Listen To Your Head


The new Kaiser Chiefs' single is a bit of a revelation. Firstly, it's really rather good. And secondly, it sounds almost nothing like the Kaiser Chiefs of old. Cutting off all the loose, fatty excess that so marred commercial disaster The Future Is Medieval, Listen To Your Head transforms the band into something far sleeker, infinitely more mature and affected with a quality that even in their enthusiasm and energy of their first two LPs, they never really possessed.

With the slick Hollywood thriller style video in two, all guns and flash cars, Listen To Your Head feels like a band revitalised, kicking their recording career back into touch when it was on the verge of dropping off into disaster and apathy all together. If there's any element of the old Kaisers that does remain, its their knack for a properly anthemic, sing-along chorus - but here it looses the boozed-up chant-along vibe of Ruby and bolts it onto a lush, atmospheric guitar outro. Oh, and those glitchy, icy electronics that flicker over the opening minute of the song are a very nice touch too. Perhaps its apt that the band's best track in ages is the one to front up their forthcoming Greatest Hits compilation - it makes for a nice transitory touch-stone, and hopefully the beginnings of more of this sort of stuff in the future.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Why the UK needs a star like Jessie J


We need her. We do. That’s right, the lady who’s most definitely ‘not about the money’, the one with the bob haircut off The Voice – whichever incarnation you most affectionately view her as, Jessie J’s importance (if we can call it that) is sort of indisputable at the moment. And to affirm it, this week she made UK chart history by becoming the first British solo act to achieve six Top 10 hits off a single album.
Put aside the fact that two of the hits are from a re-released version of the star’s Who You Are effort, because frankly, Jessie’s record stands up as the kind of stat normally only reserved for your big US stars – your Rihanna’s or Katy Perry’s. What’s more, if you throw in the underrated Who’s Laughing Now (Jessie’s only single to miss the Top 10), that actually makes seven Top 20 hits off the same album. It’s a veritable squeezing of the record for all it’s worth, pumping every last bit of pop juice from the ripeness of the fruit. What lies behind this chart dominance, this longevity to an album campaign in an age where most acts will draw proceedings to a close after just three singles?
At the heart of it, there’s the simple fact that Jessie has absolutely nailed the ‘current’ sound – that concept as mutable and formless as the elusive ‘X Factor’. It’s that blend of a cracking pop chorus, dressed up with a dash of the urban and the right dash of credibility that stems from Jessie’s street-wise attitude and obvious vocal talents. Her OTT ad-libs (or ‘runs’ as she seems to love calling them on The Voice) might not be to everyone’s taste, but the fact that Jessie J is the big mainstream ‘POP’ act that can ‘sing good’ deals a very attractive hand for herself. It was a kind of pop that appealed to everyone, not just niche audiences, and that vital market; Radio 1’s massed audiences who’d normally much rather be worshipping at that altar of modern taste: Mumford & Sons.
And while Jessie’s album might have failed to live up to the daring, bratty, up-tempo promise of Do It Like A Dude, the likes of Price Tag and Nobody’s Perfect preached a gospel of pocket-book advice that seemed oh so relevant in a troubled Britain plagued by daily stories of financial woes and social malaise. She was the star we could look to for solace – the example of a young person who had gone out and achieved her dreams, but who had the gutsiness and face-value normality to still appear like one of us. Of course, it’s a formula many pop acts have played to in the past, but with Jessie it seemed to beat with particular vibrancy. Her shtick, as much as it might sometimes resemble a hyperactive kid dosed up on too many sweets, was refreshing, for its honesty and individualistic pizzazz, if nothing else.

Last week came a wash of tabloid coverage, touting ‘revelations’ about Jessie’s sexual preferences, most of it we had already heard first hand from Jessie’s mouth months ago – after all, she’d always been open about it all. No, if there was anything really troubling at the heart of the whole thing, it wasn’t who Jessie was into sleeping with, it was that she might have been pushed down a certain route to appear more ‘trendy’. Would we really, in our day and age, have been less likely to buy Jessie’s music if she had been ‘100% lesbian’? But lesbian or bi, the fact remains that Jessie’s position as a musical act that can simultaneously appear on a compilation like Pop Princesses and be seen as an element of pop-culture feminism stands as an incredibly reassuring sign of the kind of artist the youth of a nation are willing to buy into. The Guardian’s Sophie Wilkinson does an excellent job of summing up why Jessie is such an important role model for teens, but it’s also worth noting just how much that slippage between role model and musical star is one of the real cornerstones of any young person’s life, and has been since the days of the Beatles.
The passion we invest in our favourite musical acts during our formative years can’t be underestimated, and Jessie’s remarkably consistent chart success is the measurable proof of that. For a 24 year old to take on this kind of position, not just for young people, and British music, but our nation as a whole, serves as a thrilling reminder of the ambassadorial powers of the pop star in contemporary culture. People don’t just buy into Jessie J’s music, but the essence of her nature as a ‘star’ too – and all in a way faceless guitar band entities can rarely, if ever, achieve. We need these people to look up to, to hold our hands, to tell us that everything’s going to be alright.
Yes, Jessie might be playing the role of a Tulisa or Cheryl on The Voice – the bit of ‘hot totty’, but the fact an artist who no-one had even heard of two years ago can now be the star attraction of a prime-time TV show can only be admired. And again, it helps to remind ourselves – she’s only 24. When Alan Sugar talks of the entrepreneurial spirit of Britain’s youth, Jessie J would make a fresh-faced poster star for the ideology. Who You Are might have been a flawed product, but what it lacked in sheer song quality, it more than made up for in personality. And personality is a quality Jessie has always possessed in impressive excess.
Her dubbing of her fans as ‘Heartbeats’ might have more than a whiff of sickly sweet over-indulgence to it, but its inclusiveness to her army of fans owes itself once again to the acceptance at the heart of her music. There’s a ‘You’re alright with me!’ fighting spirit to the Jessie J manifesto that at times can be incredibly irresistible. I remember being unsure at first of how good Katy Perry-aping single Domino was, but after the video premiered, I was hooked. It was like the Cool Britannia movement of the mid 90s all over again, that slight eccentric quirkiness given a quick glossy makeover to bring it into the oeuvre of mass-market tastes. And that was Domino, and Jessie J, in a nutshell. 60 Million YouTube views within only four months – the mind boggles at such figures, but love her or hate her, for the UK to be able to call a star capable of creating those degrees of success their own is to be wholly celebrated. When the upper reaches of the UK charts are so often flooded with the incomparable scale of big US releases, it’s nice to know we have one home-grown star that can operate on similar levels, to hold her own amidst the heavy hitters, and oh, yes, bang out those David Guetta collabs with the best of them.

Lulu James - Be Safe


Her soundcloud page dubs her with the sobriquet of '21st Century Soul', but Lulu James is so much more than that. Her track Be Safe is a rich, deeply atmospheric affair, a bit like a female version of James Blake channelled through the silky, pop sensibilities of Jessie Ware. Production wise, Be Safe is beautifully minimal, allowing James' vocals to shine through all the more - and shine they do, radiant with a kind of blissful beauty that in its best moments is properly breathtaking.

Jodie Connor feat. Busta Rhymes - Take You There


Remember Jodie Connor? You know, the one who released pop gem Now Or Never last year, with it's dreamy 'I've always had a crush on you...' chorus refrain. Well, she's back, and her new single Take You There plants her firmly in more aggressive terrain - it's a pumped-up electro anthem that could give Alexandra Burke's Elephant a run for its money in sheer four-to-the-floor swagger.

When we first listened to the track, it sort of passed us by a bit - but then we went back and played it again, and by the fifth listen, it dawned on us how amazing it actually is, especially the 'streets of gold...' bits. It just feels like it's operating on a far bigger scale than anything Jodie has done before, like the adrenaline rush of the 'this is my moment!' mindset is burning at its hottest, ready to shoot her into the Top 10 where Take You There clearly feels like it was recorded to inhabit.

It's markedly different terrain for Jodie, but you get the feeling that considering Now Or Never and follow up Tinchy Stryder collab Bring It only achieved middling chart success, the dancier angle might be a good move for her. After all, it was club-friendly Roll Deep smash Good Times, which Jodie provided the vocals for, that propelled her to Number 1. Considering Busta Rhymes fulfils the guest rapper role on Take You There, it seems like there's a fair bit of momentum behind the track already, so let's hope it pays off.

Usher - Climax (Diplo Bouncier Climactic Remix)


Sometimes, even with some of the best songs, there remains that nagging feeling in the back of our minds that there's something missing. Some little part of the mix that could maybe do with being a little louder, sharper, bigger. Diplo-produced Usher single Climax is one such track - in its original state it makes for a enticingly electronic exploration of seductive energy, but with the producer on hand to provide his own remix of the song, it becomes even better.

Is it bouncier? Noticeably. Is it more climactic? A little. But somewhere in the mix, Usher's already rather delectable track gets given that edge that elevates it up to even greater, more synthetic heights.

Rudimental feat. John Newman - Feel The Love


We all love a big dance anthem, and it's far to say Rudimental's Feel The Love is a bit of a monster in the making. Radio 1's Huw Stephens has it as his record of the week (or 'Big Thing' as they're calling it these days) at the moment, and from the moment those chunky, soulful vocals kick in, you can already picture the track blaring out of car stereos all summer long. It's one of those ones - those year-defining clubland behemoths that seep through to properly dominate the airwaves in the most all-encompassing of ways. Oh, and the video features some blokes inexplicably riding round town on horses. Always a plus.

Released: 28th May.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Little Night Terrors - Pocket Rocket (Where The Light Is)


They might be called Little Night Terrors, but there's nothing scary about their new single Pocket Rocket - in fact, it's positively brimming with welcoming cheer and live-wire energy. Coming on like a synth-edged Vaccines (who they've previously supported) or a more frenetic Horrors, the track makes for a bolshy, rough-edged introduction to the group, but its rollicking, choppy guitar licks inject an essential dynamism that fuels the song to its sweat-drenched completion. Pocket Rocket indeed.

Released: April 29th

Little Nikki - Intro Intro


Here's what you need to know - One of the lasses from SoundGirl has 'gone solo' and her debut solo track is bloody brilliant. A brash, bratty electro-smash anthem if ever you heard one. Or at a push, you can even imagine Little Nikki as a British Azealia Banks. Either way, Intro Intro is a hedonistic thrill ride of a song, and we love it. Also, any video with as many sweets and cans of Red Bull in it as this gets our vote.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Sneakbo feat. L. Marshall - Sing For Tomorrow


Teaming up with Wretch 32 collaborator L. Marshall for his latest effort, bright new London rap talent Sneakbo has been making some rather significant ripples of late. 20 million YouTube views? Easy. 5000 downloads of his most recent mix-tape? Sneakbo's got it covered. But it's in new track Sing For Tomorrow that he presents his case most honestly and successfully.

Opening with a haunting piano melody, underpinned by a surprisingly moving string section, it harks back to the street-tale wisdom of Tupac's Ghetto Gospel, combined with the bite and contemporary sheen of Tinie Tempah's Written In The Stars. Sing For Tomorrow is definitively a gritty South London rap track at heart, wearing its heart blazen on its sleeve - but its real charm is the way it works in a depth of sonic variety and hurt-ridden passion into the production and Marshall's chorus vocals. There's substance to it; emotion, pain, hopes, fears.

In a world of bleak urban wasteland and broken dreams, Sneakbo's track speaks out with a universal ambition - a willingness and power to build onwards and upwards to greater things, and going by initial support, it looks like a journey he'll make with accomplished ease.

Sing For Tomorrow is released on the 4th June.

Cheryl Cole - Call My Name


So, what do we make of the new Cheryl Cole single? We were all looking forward to it with the kind of anticipation usually reserved for Christmas and Birthdays when we were a kid. We also knew that Calvin Harris was involved in general production/knob twiddling type duties, and perhaps the biggest surprise is just how much it sounds definitively like a Calvin Harris track.

In a radio climate populated to the brim with We Found Love, Let's Go and other dancey work-outs like the new Tulisa and Saturdays singles (actually, let's just make that pretty much almost everything in the charts right now), Call My Name slips effortlessly in. It's got 'Summer Anthem!' all over it, from the tightly packed chorus hook right down to the 'oh oh oh oh oh' outro bit (our personal highlight).

In that fizzing synth bassline and the sensuous, teasing slip and flow of Cheryl's vocals, it's possessed from the start with one of those all-powerful grooves that glues itself to your feet, no, every single cell of your body. It wants you to dance, it actively gets up and pushes you till you make a move, react to it, anything. Call My Name feels profoundly 'alive'. There's those lovely little bits of electronic blippery between the verses and choruses too that just *make* the track, the icing to top the cake as it were. And what a cake it is - packed full of jam and cream and all round sugar-rush goodness. For the insatiable appetite of the pop fanatic, this resolutely hits the spot.

Just like Promise This before it, Call My Name demands instant repeat-play precisely because it works to such a simple formula - it is after all, the epitome of commercial dance pop. You want to glean more from its snappy 3.30 duration, you want to squeeze and pump it for every bit of its pop energy. But beneath that machine-tooled exterior, there's a beating heart of artistic confidence that speaks of a forthcoming third album which could very well be a bit of a revelation. If we had a Cheryl shaped crystal ball right now, we imagine it'd be telling us very good things indeed about it.

Call My Name is released on the 10th June.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Farewell, SoundGirl...


Earlier today, girlband SoundGirl announced via Twitter (because everything usually seems to be announced there these days) that they were splitting up. Those precious few of us who paid attention to what the band did had kind of suspected it for a while, considering how pretty much zilch news had come out from their camp in months, and their single releases had flopped without trace.

Here's what they had to say:

So we've decided that we're all going to go our separate ways!! Were all going to be doing our own music and starting our own adventures. But don't worry we're all still really good friends, that hasnt changed and we wanna Thankyou all for supporting us your the best fans ever!

Which is pretty standard as far as pop 'we're calling it a day' affairs go these days.

It's a shame really, because like so many of the other girl bands to falter over the past year (Oh My! and Wonderland come to mind), their was real potential to SoundGirl. With Miranda off of Xenomania on board, there was a real pop niche audience on from the outset, and support slots for Pixie Lott helped circulate them in broader teen circles too. SoundGirl certainly weren't without fans - their 30,000+ Twitter followers testify to that. They even garnered a fair bit of radio airplay for what will now go down as their 'most well known track', Don't Know Why - both Radio 1 and 1Xtra supported it to a degree not afforded to the two other aforementioned acts, so why did it all go wrong for SoundGirl?

Perhaps people subconsciously deemed them too similar to the Sugababes? Or maybe - in a world where Little Mix had yet to win the X Factor - they looked to young and preppy. Whatever the reasons were, their five track album sampler - which we thankfully received a copy of - will now go down as their only 'bulk' contribution to the world of popular music. And here's the thing that we always think is a bit of a shame, that the general public at large will never get to hear these tracks - indeed, if they're not leaked in any form, the fans won't hear them either. Those people for which the band meant most, in a way, miss out of the most crucial part of the band - the music.

And as sampler's go - SoundGirl's was top notch. I'm The Fool and Don't Know Why were the kind of perfectly self-contained teen-pop anthems that harked back to a more innocent age, when we were all bopping along to the likes of Billie Piper and rushing home from school to watch CBBC. But SoundGirl were also more than that - they might have been young, but they switched it up with a bite of street-smart edginess that spoke to their fans, saying: 'You can be like us, you can be cool!'. And SoundGirl were cool - or at least we think so. Unreleased numbers Something To Dream About and Planes In The Sky also offered a more mature side to the group; heartfelt, elegant tracks that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an All Saints effort. They were even pencilled in on singles release schedules for quite some time, but kept getting pushed back into the ether until it became evident they would never see release.

For the most part, the passing of SoundGirl into that boundless space of pop afterlife that all departed groups inhabit will go by without much ceremony or lamentation. Indeed, the curse of all groups that split up before they ever really 'make it' is that to the record buying public at large, they never really did exist in any form at all - it's like the old cliche of trees falling soundlessly in a forest. But to us pop fans that did take SoundGirl to heart, they will, at the very least remain as a touchingly remembered footnote on the year 2011.

Aiden Grimshaw - Is This Love


Right from the outset, Aiden Grimshaw established himself as one of the most interesting contestants ever to grace the X Factor. With his moody, sometimes overbearingly theatrical demeanour and performances, it always felt like he was underserved a little by what the X Factor could offer him. He was certainly never going to win, no, he was too much of an acquired taste for that. He was too much an undefined quantity - you just know that if he had gone on to win he'd have been morphed into a formless Joe McElderry clone and have descended into z-list-dom less than a year later.

But life post-X Factor throws up some fascinating surprises, and one of them is Aiden's actual debut single; a synth-tastic journey into dream-kissed airy pop heaven. It's like Frankmusik rebooted for 2012 pop market, laced with dub-step beats, 80s gloss and vocals that really capture a sense of who Aiden is as both person and potential star. It's a clever move too, with all the shiny pop appeal to grab hearts and minds of a horde of teen girls, but the trendy dance credibility to make its own way into clubland domination.

So, with fingers in both domains, Aiden has recast himself as quite the aspiring dance-pop prince, and it's a look that suits. Is This Love is a terrific debut, and if the rest of his album is as good as this, it could land itself up there with Rebecca Ferguson's Heaven as one of the best LP's ever produced from the ITV ratings giant.

Listen to Is This Love HERE.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Cheryl Cole announces Call My Name and new album A Million Lights!


It's the news we've all been waiting for. That's right, the details for Cheryl Cole's new single and long awaited third album are finally out! Hurrah!

You'll be hearing Calvin Harris produced track Call My Name all over UK radio at 8.10am on Friday morning (20th April) and it's safe to say we're going to be subsequently playing it on repeat again and again and again. Going by the Calvin production, if it's a uber dance behemoth of We Found Love proportions, we're in for a real summer smash from our Nation's Sweetheart.

What's more, we'll be getting that tantalising video for Call My Name (we've all seen those simply gorgeous pics from LA in all the papers) on the 2nd May.

Call My Name is released on the 10th June, followed by new album A Million Lights on the 18th June.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Northern Soul: 20 Original Classics Volume 2


Now here’s a compilation with real class. And not just that, consistency too. Because there’s one thing you can be sure of here, and that’s genuine, proper soul. From the Bond-esque brass and spy movie flamboyance of You Didn’t Say A Word to the gloriously upbeat Can’t Satisfy, these twenty Northern Soul classics come together to form an album of universally sublime vocals and wonderfully rich production.
In a world so attuned to the retro-revivalism of Mark Ronson productions and Aloe Blacc, it makes for a fascinating trip to journey back in time and hear the genuine article, the real fire beating at the heart of great soul music. The tracks here stand the test of time remarkably well, perfectly chilled enough to accompany the coming summer nights, but underscored by a series of irresistible grooves.
As a whole, this is a record that feels remarkably at ease with itself – far removed from the disparate jarring qualities that often mar ‘various artists’ compilations. Indeed, as a snapshot of a time and genre, this makes for as good an introduction as any, as well as a lovely reminder of undeniably great music for everyone already acquainted with these classic tracks.
Download: Terry Callier – I Don’t Want To See Myself / Dusty Springfield – What’s It Gonna Be / Yvonne Baker – You Didn’t Say A Word
Northern Soul: 20 Original Classics Volume 2 is out now and available to purchase on Amazon.

Scissor Sisters - Only The Horses


The flagging fortunes of Scissor Sisters' last album Night Work was a real lament of changing times and tastes in music - of one of the former stalwarts of radio airplay and sales figures being hung out to dry. It was a shame, because Fire With Fire is a masterpiece of songwriting while Invisible Light was a delightful piece of synth magic. But for all that it might have been a great album, it just didn't seem to connect with the public in the way the band once did. And much the same could be said for Azealia Banks collab Shady Love earlier this year. Again, a great track, but after all the initial hype, it seemed to fizzle away into nothingness come its actual release.

We have to hope Only The Horses will reverse affairs then, and on first impression, it does indeed sound like the kind of track with the potential to do so. With Calvin Harris on board for production duties, where the song excels is pushing the band simultaneously in a new, cooler direction, while canvassing all the glam-disco vibes that made their 2004 debut LP such a joy. With a Radio 1 premiere and the Calvin touch, there's the sense that Only The Horses is the distinct mainstream push the band really need to get them properly back on the public's radar, and it goes without saying that Only The Horses is quite the pop delicacy in itself - all icy and glacial, and as the Scissor Sisters always are, wonderfully flamboyant.

Only The Horses is released on the 14th May.

[Lyric Video] Rebecca Ferguson - Backtrack


We like lyric videos. When all your want to do is get your grubby paws on your favourite artist's latest song, fresh from its radio premiere, those lyric videos - so carefully uploaded by the record labels to go live just as the radio premiere finishes - are a little bit of magic in themselves. They offer just that little bit more, that little touch of flair that brings that connection a static image shot on a YouTube video can never do.

There's probably someone somewhere who spent days putting the whole thing together, and the result you're watching right now is their little baby. And the video for Rebecca Ferguson's smokily soulful new song Backtrack is the epitome of the lyric video, the jumbo-size supreme - a veritable blockbuster of a lyric video. With everything superimposed over real live-action shots, it's almost rather trippy, even! And in an age where the digital medium and online video content becomes ever more popular, give it a few more years and we'll probably be head-deep in stuff like this every minute of our online lives.

Maverick Sabre - These Days


It could have been Open Your Eyes, it should have been Open Your Eyes. When we first listened to Maverick Sabre's excellent Lonely Are The Brave, that was the one track that really stood out above all the rest, an enchanting, haunting gem of a song that really transcended above all the others. Still, as far as furthering the nice little niche he's cut out for himself with previous singles, new effort These Days follows the Maverick mold rather nicely indeed.

On These Days it's all a bit of a Bill Withers meets Massive Attack type affair, beautiful hiss and crackle bringing out all the gorgeous retro beauty in those soaring string sections and the jangly stabs of guitar. It's when those gospel undertones surge to the fore though that These Days is at its best, and while it's by no means Sabre's finest moment, it's perfectly indicative of the velour of quality and consistency that runs right through his excellent debut LP.

These Days is set for a July release date.

Kasabian - Man of Simple Pleasures


How do we approach Kasabian's latest single Man of Simple Pleasures? Released at what must surely be the tail end of their album campaign, even from the very sound of the thing, there's a sense that this is a closing of a chapter, a quick swill of the remnants in the album's barrel to shake out those last few album sales and brush up a bit of familiarity for the song before the festival season kicks in.

Man of Simple Pleasures sees the band pursing those same Morricone Western refrains they seem so obsessed with at the moment, but beyond this, the track feels utterly flat, depleted of all the swagger and bravado we usually expect as given from Kasabian.

With disappointing chart placings for every single from the album, and this more restrained side of the band on show here and with previous single Goodbye Kiss, there's the very easy temptation to say Kasabian are teetering down the verge to becoming a Radio 2 act. One can only hope that come the next album, they'll storm back with an absolute monster of a track (basically, another Fire).

Man of Simple Pleasures is released on the 7th May.

Conor Maynard reveals what he looks for in a girl!


Conor Maynard must be feeling pretty rosy right now. After all, his new single Can't Say No is currently sitting at No. 2 in the UK iTunes chart, almost an affirmation of his much-touted status as the 'British Bieber'. And as such, we imagine he certainly isn't short of female admirers - but what exactly does 'lil Conor look for in a girl?

'I always find it hard to answer this question, as when I look back at previous relationships the girls have always been so different!' says Maynard in an Q&A session with Muzu.tv. 'There aren't really many common factors between them. I just think if there's a connection there, whether it’s liking the same things or having the same sense of humour, then it can grow into something! Although i definitely can't say no (heehee) to a girl with a flyyyyy dress sense.'

So there you have it girls, get yourself a fly dress sense, and Conor will be putty in your hands!

Can't Say No is out to download on iTunes now.

Linkin Park - Burn It Down


Well, this is quite something. With the initial hype about the new Linkin Park single and quotes from the band themselves, we had ourselves set up for their new single to make a dramatic return to the classic Nu-Metal sound evidenced on their first two albums - a sort of triumphant return to form that'd sweep them right back into the massed general public's hearts again (not that, in our opinion, they ever lost their 'form'.)

But Burn It Down is something else entirely. A synth-laced behemoth that propels itself on a fiery concoction of mechanistic beats and another classic Chester Bennington vocal. You could even, at a push, call it Linkin Park's most 'pop' single to date. With the guitars largely switched out, Burn It Down certainly doesn't sound like a return to the band's early work, but in its supercharged kinetic energy, it feels like the group's most on-point work since What I've Done. It's the kind of track that wears its goals on its sleeve, a big anthem of a number that says 'We're back, and this time we're aiming high'.

While in the grand scheme of things, the epic grandeur of The Catalyst might stand - musically speaking - as the better record, Burn It Down acts as a marked progression on from the A Thousand Suns sound, losing the more outre elements for a cleaned-up, agile single that stands up there with some of the band's best choruses. And Mike Shinoda's raps - well, they're properly, properly back; again, with an energy the band haven't displayed to this degree for years. And all this bodes extremely well for new album, Living Things, released on the 25th June.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Parade show you the dance routine for Throw It Up In The Air!


Now, we love a bit of Parade, and their new track Throw It Up In The Air is quite the mover and shaker - the kind of song to really work those carbs off down the gym (do we sound like one of those instructional exercise video tapes?) It's also a rather brilliant pop song. But have you ever fancied learning the dance routine to the track? Well now you can, by following this video from the Parade girls themselves! It reminds us a bit of being back in PE lessons at school where it was all 'One! Two! Three! Four!' and the squeak of plimsoles on the floor. But suffice to say, you couldn't ask for better teachers to get you dancing away to Throw It Up In The Air.

Taio Cruz Feat. Pitbull - There She Goes


As much as Taio Cruz's courting of American success has to be admired, it's sort of a shame to see how readily he's played into the uber-generic commercial dance-pop formula when he previously came out with far more considered, individualistic gems such as I Can Be and Moving On.

And the trouble with new Pitbull-featuring track There She Goes is that not only is it generic, but it isn't even that good. If we wanted a new Pitbull-athon, we'd go to the new J Lo track, which is infinitely better. And even Taio's previous chart workout Hangover at least came with a indelibly catchy chorus hook - even if the track wasn't to your tastes, odds were that it'd be lodged in your brain before the day was out.

But There She Goes is neither overly catchy or possessed of any real sign of quality, and with even Hangover stalling at 27 in the UK charts, we're inclined to ask whether it's time for Taio to make a return to his roots.

There She Goes is released on the 11th June.

Marcus Collins - Mercy


Where did it all go wrong for Marcus Collins? For an artist that looked so promising for most of his X Factor journey, come the show's final and the subsequent release of his album and dire White Stripes cover, it all seemed to have gone a bit tits up.

While Little Mix were busy becoming the UK's new sweethearts, Marcus devolved into a kind of cabaret act, and Mercy only furthers the dispiriting sense of 'Is this it?' that surrounded his attempt at Seven Nation Army. A methodical stomp through big brass riffs and Motown vibes, it's symptomatic of the largely disposable nature of Collins' debut.

And it's a shame really, because there's a glimmer of potential still in there somewhere - Break These Chains and Gary Barlow-penned Feel Like I Feel were actually rather good, and it'd have been nice to see Marcus push the boat out a bit and release the latter as a single. As it stands though, it's hard to imagine Mercy doing anything to reverse the fortunes of its parent album.

Mercy is released on the 3rd June.

Lawson announce UK tour dates!


A couple of weeks back, we caught awesome new band Lawson at North London's Water Rats and were suitably impressed, but if you didn't manage to see them then or on any of the dates they spent supporting the Wanted on their arena tour, you can now see the lads on their very own UK headline tour. The dates are as follows, and you can expect both a rousing performance of excellent new single When She Was Mine and a top night out in general:

14th May - Glasgow O2 ABC2
15th May - Leeds Cockpit
16th May - Nottingham Stealth
18th May - Sheffield Leadmill
19th May - Manchester Deaf Institute
30th May - London KCLSU
31st May - Birmingham Temple

Catch the Showcase Live Live-Stream tonight!


As far as championing up and coming artists, Showcase Live represents one of the best opportunities for keen musicians to get their music heard by industry types. Since 2007 they've been offering a platform for artists to get themselves out there, and at its current venue - Under The Bridge - which quite literally sits under the impressive Chelsea stadium, there's a real touch of class to the proceedings too.

But if you can't make it down to the venue yourself, there's now a rather nifty alternative - you can tune into Muzu.tv's Live Stream of the event at 8pm tonight, here. Today's performers are Domino Go, Alex Buchanan, Daytona Lights and MITSOTU - considering past acts at Showcase Live have included Pixie Lott, The Saturdays and the Wanted, it's worth keeping an eye on the events. You never know, you might just be watching those first vital steps of the next big thing in pop.

The Showcase Live Live-Stream - now that sure sounds like a whole lot of live-ness.

SD-JEM - Live at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, 15th April 2012


They say that family members have a natural affinity for performing together, and that certainly seemed to hold true for brother and sister duo SD-JEM, who took to the stage at London’s esteemed Shepherd’s Bush Empire to support Cher Lloyd on her Sticks & Stones tour. With an audience comprised almost solely of excitable young kids and a smattering of their parents, dragged along for the ride, it’s important to remember that in many ways, this represents music fans in their purest, most innocent of forms – raw and untapped. Praise has to be given to SD-JEM then, who by the end of their set-list had the crowd eating from the palm of their hand, totally engaged in the call and response feel-good factor of their pumped up party tunes.
Through a combination of the duo’s slickly orchestrated dance routines and radio-friendly tunes, which neatly pick up the baton for urban-flavoured pop where N-Dubz left off, SD-JEM ended up coming away with a rousing crowd-reaction scarce seen for support acts, and for a group still very much in their infancy, that has to be applauded. For Shanel and Denis, who make up the duo, there’s a confidence and energy to their performance that really feeds off that audience reaction, filling that wide open stage with a presence far greater than the two of them. And here’s where the family-factor comes in, that almost unerring ability to know what the other will do, a second before they do it – and as such, there’s a supreme tightness to the whole SD-JEM live show that really fits the glossy, sugar-rush feel of their songs.
With a host of tracks including Addicted To The Dancefloor, Let Go, Bass Drum and current single Roll With Me, there’s the immediate sense that SD-JEM’s music is definitively keyed in to a party setting. For the young kids arrayed in front of them, this is like their first taste of proper nightlife, a souped-up world of hedonism and clubland grooves that awaits them a few short years in the future. It’s confident, big, full of presence; and that’s what these kids want to latch on to, something that makes them feel part of something on a far wider scale. Where other acts in the urban-pop vein have often faltered at the first few hurdles – lacking the cohesiveness to keep standards up - there’s already the sense that SD-JEM have the momentum to go much further, the songs and the proficiency to carry them forward on a wave of popular appeal. The UK has been calling out for a cool, street-smart new group with a unique-twist for quite some time now, and last night, that call was answered in fine style by SD-JEM.
Roll With Me is released on the 20th May.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Little Comets - Waiting In The Shadows In The Dead Of Night


Sweetly melodic piano balladry from Little Comets who we previously covered on the blog back in November last year. Waiting In The Shadows In The Dead Of Night precedes new single Jennifer, which is released on the 28th May, and seeing how this delightful little acoustic version is free, there's no reason not to download it. With touches of a more mannered Mumford & Sons, Little Comets dazzle with a wonderful essence of rural charm and quality songwriting.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Alexandra Burke - Let It Go


I think it's fair to say that Alexandra Burke has decided she's usually at her best when banging out immense dance anthems, so, having promptly delivered Elephant into the hands of a nation of eager pop lovers, she's gone and done it again with new single Let It Go. But whereas Elephant fired away like a high-powered nuclear reactor of futuristic electro energy, Let It Go dips into the past - specifically, the 90s, and rides away on a bubbly Show Me Love-esque riff and shades of 2 Unlimited.

The good thing is, Let It Go is rather decent, if a little by-the-numbers - and that trancey chorus bit is DanceAlex in full-tilt. But the trouble is, will this be the track to finally warm the public to Alexandra again in the way Elephant only really half managed? I'm not so sure. There's only so long an artist can coast along in the Top 10 for without the backing and full support of the public and radio, and right now for Alex, this is looking particularly intermittent. We shall see...

Let It Go is released on the 28th May.

[Official Video] Rebecca Ferguson - Glitter & Gold


Rebecca Ferguson's voice will never get old for us. Just like her album, it feels utterly timeless - and watching the video for new single Glitter & Gold, which in its gloss and luxury feels like such a well-rounded part of her continuing campaign, you only wish she was riding high up in the charts with the likes of fellow female crooner Emeli Sande. Yes, you can bandy around phrases like 'Oh, but Rebecca's an album artist...', but really, with tracks as good as Glitter & Gold, there's no reason why the nation shouldn't be taking these songs to heart and going out an downloading them in their droves.

There's a standard of songwriting across her Heaven album that sets a new high water-mark for X Factor acts, and Glitter & Gold stands as a real showpiece for that. And as for the video, which wouldn't look out of place as some high-grade M&S advert, well, it fits the silkiness and velour of *that* voice perfectly. Then there's the whole 'Oh, these people are paper cut-outs, they must be *literally* shallow people' thing going on. Frankly, we love it, and we love her too.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

[Official Video] Delilah - Breathe


Taking the luxuriant string-wrapped hiss and crackle of previous masterwerk Love You So, Delilah's latest single - Breathe - goes for a far more minimalist approach, all broken beats and tempting vocal melodies. It's haunting in the most seductive ways, a street lament of the most moving kind, and a wonderful showcase yet again for those incredible, mind-blowing vocals that really mark Delilah out. Rest be assured, her debut album, released in July, will be worth the wait.

Breathe is released on the 13th May.

[Official Video] Emin - Baby Get Higher


When we went to Emin's album playback a couple of weeks ago, Baby Get Higher was one of the tracks that really stood out for us - a mix of confident up-tempo hooks and heartfelt vocals, it's the kind of slick modern pop track that'd feel equally at home in the repertoire of The Wanted or Gary Barlow. As far as launching Emin to a new audience - whose back catalogue already features a plethora of best-selling albums in his native Azerbaijan - it's spot on, and there's a persistent drive to that piano riff that underpins the whole song. With a Radio 2 premiere already notched up, Baby Get Higher is shaping up very nicely to warm Emin to the hearts of the UK, especially when he takes to the Eurovision stage in May.

Baby Get Higher is released on the 21st May.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Linkin Park unveil Burn It Down cover art!


It's the first single from the new Linkin Park album. It's called Burn It Down. The cover art features a burning man. All we know right now is that we can't wait to hear the song. Bring. It. On.

Rebecca Ferguson - Glitter & Gold (Fever Pitch Mix)


Last week we posted the Cahill mix of Rebecca Ferguson's excellent new single Glitter & Gold, but the Fever Pitch mix - which we've just had the joy of hearing - is even better. Taking Rebecca's luxuriantly soulful vocal and wrapping it around a poppers'o'clock exuberant burst of magnificent that synthpop maestro's Erasure would be proud of. It's the kind of thing we would be over the moon about if we heard it as we walked into a club on Friday night. We love it, that's for sure.

Glitter & Gold is released on the 30th April.

[Official Video] Lawson - When She Was Mine


The video for Lawson's rather excellent debut single When She Was Mine is out and we reckon it does a top-notch job of emphasising the whole 'band' aesthetic we were going on about so much in our review of their live show at Water Rats last week. Our favourite bit of the video has to be one minute in though when the girl of the song's title takes a massive swig of wine straight out of the bottle - nice one!

When She Was Mine is released on the 27th May.

[Official Video] Jessie J - Laserlight feat. David Guetta


Laserlight sort of makes more sense with it's video. Sort of... You see, as much as you might want to, you just can't shake that feeling that Laserlight is a poor man's version of that Guetta masterwork Titanium. While Jessie's previous single - Domino - might have been an unashamed aping of Katy Perry tropes, it at least fit her voice and energy well, whereas Titanium reduces Jessie to filling a generic club-diva placeholder role. Anyone could be singing, and the tracks morphs away into a formless entity that could just as easily be on the new Nicki Minaj album. Even with all of Jessie's visual prowess in the video and the flash of neon writ large on the big screen, Laserlight is only ever the song that goes half-way, leaving you teetering on the edge of the commercial club banger production line, with this as the hastily packaged together left-overs. As a recipe for chart success, Laserlight pushes all the right buttons, but as any significant artistic statement, it feels distinctly ill at ease.

Laserlight is released on the 14th May.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Rebecca Ferguson - Glitter & Gold (Live from Echo Arena)


Rebecca Ferguson is someone that knows all about classy live performances. Aside from her giving one week in, week out on the X Factor, she's just polished off a tour round the UK, from which this stunning video of her singing I Need A Dollar-esque anthem Glitter & Gold comes. How beautiful does she look!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

[Official Video] The Saturdays - 30 Days


When I’d finished my first watch-through of the new Saturdays video for 30 Days, I had to sit back for a moment and just think. There was one thought above all others, one lingering notion of ‘Wow – they’ve actually done it’. But done what? Well, as I addressed in detail in a previous post, for quite some time now, it feels like The Saturdays’ chart success has been impacted on by something I like to refer to as the boyfriend-stealer principle, a subconscious worry felt by girls towards girl-bands that are perhaps ‘too hot’ for them to fully associate themselves with on an empathic level. And so, something had to be done, the issue had to addressed, the overall ‘image’ of what The Saturdays are – and stand for – had to be ever so slightly changed to re-welcome all those disaffected fans back into the fold.
And this is what the video for 30 Days does. No space-age lakes of black water or impossibly-white office blocks for The Sats any more – no, the setting for the new video is a humble American diner where that wonderfully quaint component of modern life is taking place – speed dating. The girls could have so easily followed the futuristic rave-athon vibe of their previous videos, but by bringing 30 Days firmly back to earth and grounding it within the cramped confines of a food outlet, they completely shift the focus of what 30 Days is about. Listen to the track alone and it sounds like a natural successor to All Fired Up, but combined with incongruous setting of the diner video, 30 Days strikes a far deeper emotional chord.
The video feels like one long series of interconnected in-jokes, of which we, the viewer, are in on. The Sats speed-dating their way through a plethora of guys is custom-tuned to show the girls’ personalities at their best, and allows them to be more than just the unreachable Pop Princesses of their other recent videos, but something far more relatable to the average fan. A very pregnant Una even gets to show off her tummy (giving baby Aoife a very early introduction to the Sats world!) and if that doesn’t go some way to elicit empathy, then I don’t know what will. Equally, when Rochelle flashes her engagement ring around, there’s a wonderful blurring between The Saturdays of the fictional-fantasy world they inhabit in their songs and videos with The Saturdays as real women that have their own individual lives. Here, they’re remade as the girls out on the lash (albeit where the only drinks are brightly coloured milkshakes), larking about and pulling funny faces. It’s universal.
Those facial expressions – well, I could watch them all day long. But the key thing here is that these expressions show of the Sats’ personalities in a way the impassive HyperBabes of All Fired Up never could. They’re now the girls you could know, the girls you do know, the girls you one day might know – all wrapped up into a right royal knees up where, despite the apparent failings of the speed-dating, everyone ends up dancing about and going home as friends. 30 Days – both song and video – become a moment of communion, of shared enjoyment and a bringing together of friendship so perfectly wrought in the longing of the lyrics: ‘each second I’m here thinking what I want to do when I get to you... one month, four weeks, too many hours...’
Sure, it doesn’t have the instant neon-flair of the All Fired Up or Notorious videos, but in terms of marketing The Saturdays to who they now so crucially need to be marketed to, 30 Days is spot on.

Lawson - Live at the Water Rats, 4th April 2012


So, last night we went to see exciting new four-piece Lawson at Water Rats up in King’s Cross and it’s fair to say we came away pretty impressed. You see, more than any of the lads-who-play-guitars style boy groups that have come before (I’m looking at you McFly and Busted), Lawson genuinely feel like a proper band. There’s a remarkable fullness to their sound that seemed only emphasised in the tight confines of the North London venue (basically a rather decadent old pub with a stage strapped on), and across their forty minute set, the band delivered again and again on a collection of songs that not only felt highly consistent, but which reached for new levels of maturity for a band of their type too.
At their heart, Lawson are still fundamentally a pop group, and come with the poster-ready looks to go with it – debut single When She Was Mine shines with a classic, almost timeless chorus melody; the kind of thing equally at home on the radio or shouted along to by the press of frenzied teen girls at the gig. But beyond that, what really makes Lawson special is the proficiency and depth of the music itself. Of course, an element of that comes from the fact they all play their own instruments – but it’s more than that; songs like Waterfall and Stolen resounded with a scale that seemed brimming with the promise of everything the group will surely go on to achieve. More than just the sum of their songs, Lawson sound like a group easily worthy of staking their claim as an accomplished contemporary pop-rock outfit.
The rest of the set was comprised of a rousing cover of Ed Sheeran’s The A Team (more upbeat and arguably better than the original), fan favourite Standing In The Dark and Gone, which sounds a little like The Wanted’s Lose My Mind, replete with arena packing chants. Amongst all this, there was a continued air of respect from the band to their music, an innate understanding that these were their songs, their gift to their fans – and as such, they played them all the better. Supplemented with cheeky Northern banter, chatter with the sound crew, and a sort of subtle, assured confidence, Lawson already very much feel suited to their role. Even the black jackets, leather and New Romantic quiffs they were attired with had the touch of a band content in offering something far more uniquely ‘them’ than chasing trends. Come the end of the gig, we wanted more, to dive into the studio versions of the songs and really appreciate the production and well-roundedness of the tracks, and that – for any up and coming band – must surely be an accomplishment.
So – Andy, Ryan, Joel and Adam – we’re impressed, very impressed.
Lawson’s single When She Was Mine is released on the 27th May.

The Wanted - Chasing The Sun


They've done it again. The Wanted have come up trumps once more, delivering another lad-anthem dance stomper every bit as excellent as Glad You Came - fitting then that new single Chasing The Sun is set to become its follow-up over in the States. We could go into an essay-length discussion of how brilliant it is that the group are doing well in the US, but suffice to say, Chasing The Sun feels like the sound of a band on top of the world - riding high on another classic chanty Wanted riff and a pumping club bassline. There's a sort of smooth, sultry glide to Chasing The Sun that shoots it into new levels of the whole futuro-synth work-out vibe the band really cornered with their second album and frankly we just love the song. It's also, we hear, the song that Example originally wrote for Kylie - and it sounds like it - which makes it all the more amazing. It's essentially, crucially instant in a way The Wanted have always done with such ease, and if we're this excited about it, we're just trying to get our heads around how excited all those American girls must be. Quite a lot, we imagine.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

[Official Video] Keane - Silenced By The Night


I don't want to call Keane's Silenced By The Night a return to form, since they've always been brilliant, but there's certainly that air of zeitgeist to the song that seems to resound with the sense of the 'return'. Its chorus is triumphant, soaring, anthemic in all the ways Keane's best songs are, and it also manages to deftly combine the clinical piano lines and pop ethos of Hopes & Fears with the touches of 80s flair that has so dominated their more recent work. It's a bringing together of the many various parts of Keane into a new, magnificent work that feels so wonderfully 'them'. We're glad you're back guys.

Silenced By The Night is released on the 30th April.

The Staves - The Motherlode


Sometimes you just need to be eased gently into the day with something wonderfully tender and soothing. In an age where all the stresses of modern life can seem all too much to cope with, when you just want to spend all day in the comfort and safety of bed, The Staves new single stands as a pretty good reason to get up for. Where The Motherlode works is in its essence of soft tranquillity that placates itself to your emotions like a seasoned professional of relaxation, delicate folky refrains nestling up into pretty vocal harmonies and an inherent sense of natural beauty. The Staves are set to tour the UK throughout April before heading out to the US to support Bon Iver.

The Motherlode is released on the 20th April.

Dragonette - Let It Go (Laidback Luke Remix)


As we established last week, Dragonette's new single Let It Go is one of the best synth-pop tracks doing the rounds at the moment - and for those seeking to up its electro-factor a bit, you're in luck. The Laidback Luke mix is a bit of a revelation, positioning Martina's vocal amidst a rumbling, grinding onslaught of riffs that positively flip out of the speakers with ecstatic glitchiness. There's a bit, about two and a half minutes into the mix, where everything properly 'goes off' and it's like the song's been tossed into a whirlpool of production effects and electronic tomfoolery, and through sheer, blinding chance has emerged as something of insanely danceable proportons. Or maybe that's just Laidback Luke's considerable talents coming up trumps again - either way, we're fans.

Let It Go is released on the 2nd April.

[Official Video] Rita Ora feat. Tinie Tempah - R.I.P.


If there's one well connected up and coming female star to keep your eyes on right now, it's Rita Ora. From DJ Fresh to man of the moment Tinie Tempah, she's been plastering the airwaves with bite-size pop melodies keying effortlessly into a street-smart urban groove.

And with Tinie on board for her debut solo single R.I.P, it wouldn't surprise me if the track ended up as a shoe in for the No. 1 spot come it's May release date. Surfing a wave of Pendulum-esque D'n'B production (actually courtesy of supremos Chase & Status), the track feels energised with every ounce of the enthusiasm and drive you want from an artist making their big splash into the mainstream. And of course there's Rita's vocals - smoky and soulful in a way that feels infinitely more unique than your usual club vocalist types.

And therein lies the real power of R.I.P, it's ability to stand across both the raw force needed to send dancefloors across the UK into rapture, but with the slipstream pop hooks to take it that bit further to dominate on daytime playlists. And here, Rita Ora achieves both goals with impressive ease.

R.I.P. is released on the 7th May and can be pre-ordered here.