Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Jhameel - A Maiden Calling

Hailing from Oakland, Jhameel casts himself in the guise of a suitably chameleonic sonic wizard as he leaps from genre to genre on bewitching new single A Maiden Calling. With a rhythmic, pin-prick guitar line underpinning the track, a trailing breeze of treated vocals whisper themselves into an enveloping shell of sound – atmospheric in the most ethereal of senses. There’s hints of Temper Trap hit Sweet Disposition to the overall composition, but Jhameel pushes A Maiden Calling towards a far more futuristic feel; a glossy, involving soundscape to really lose yourself in.

Marvell - London 2 Atlanta

Tinie Tempah might have made Miami 2 Ibiza a byword for club-land thrills, but it’s MC trio Marvell that take a bassier, more minimal approach for London 2 Atlanta. Positively purring beneath a smattering and crisp beats, it’s the distinctly transatlantic allure of a tweaked vocal hook that really lifts the track a cut up. As a slow-burner to underscore the excesses and pleasures of the club, London 2 Atlanta hits the spot and carries on out the door, ushering you away to a life of jet-setting with reassuringly confident swagger and cheeky lyricism.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

[Cover Art & Tracklisting] Cheryl Cole - A Million Lights

Can we just stop for a moment and appreciate how bloody good the artwork for Cheryl’s new album is? (And yes, that is ‘Cheryl’ – singular – that whole ‘Cole’ business seems to have been dropped, at least as far as her musical output goes anyway.
That font – all futuristic and amazing, like something you’d see in Star Wars or something, all painted up in Neon and phosphorus. And then *the* hair, which pretty much dominates the cover – but I mean, when you’ve got an asset as lovely as Cheryl’s ‘You’re Worth It!’ locks, you’re going to flaunt it, aren’t you? And flaunt it she does. She’s making good use of her tattoo too – clearly not wanting to be trumped by ‘The Female Boss’ Tulisa, it’s fair to say Chezza’s getting her money’s worth out of her tattoo, giving it pride of place on the cover of her third album. And this whole hand business too – it’s like a special hand signal conjured up by a secret society. There’s been rumblings on Twitter recently that Cheryl has been dabbling with the Illuminati. It all sounds pretty fantastical to us, but I suppose it all adds to the Cheryl ‘mystique’.
The tracklisting of A Million Lights is as follows:
1.  Under The Sun
2.  Call My Name
3.  Craziest Things
4.  Girl In The Mirror
5.  A Million Lights
6.  Screw You
7.  Love Killer
8.  Ghetto Baby
9.  Sexy Den A Mutha
10. Mechanics of the Heart
11. All Is Fair

Rebellious Jukebox – Killer On The Dancefloor

Pressing play on Killer On The Dancefloor – the new single from Brummie three-piece Rebellious Jukebox – is like slipping through a fault in time, falling backwards into the folds of gloomy Cure-esque atmospherics and a lapping, sea-like wash of throbbing bass and emphatic vocals. There’s a touch of the White Lies to the group too, but with an arty piquancy that hints at something potentially far darker. Killer On The Dancefloor makes for a formidable introduction to the group, albeit one that leaves the listener haunted by a soundscape that is as slippery as it is involving. One for greyly overcast days where somewhere out there in the mass of clouds, there’s a hint of something moving...
Released 25th June.

Monday, 21 May 2012

A little something called opportunity...

Something I’ve been mulling over recently as my final exams drew closer is the concept of ‘making it’ – getting yourself into that position where you’re ‘sorted’, so to speak, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Basically, the point where you’re doing a job you feel completely happy with, and are making enough money to live enjoyably. Ask any young, aspiring writer what they’d like to be doing in five years’ time, and they’d probably all say working at their dream publication, ‘living the life’, maybe with a love interest in tow if they’re lucky. And something I believe very firmly in is that if people have a dream, they shouldn’t be barred from trying to achieve it – after all, we only get one shot at life, so why should we waste it stacking shelves or putting up with nightmare customers in dead end retail/call centre jobs?
When I first decided, at eighteen, that I ‘wanted to be a journalist’, I had already been tinkering away with the idea of writing for a living for quite some time, albeit in the medium of teen fiction (think The Hunger Games but with more magic and demons). During my youth, I’d absolutely lap up novels like this, and I wanted to put my own creativity to use, to pour out everything that was swirling around in my brain and put it down on the page. The thrust of it anyway was that I had been reading and writing prodigiously pretty much throughout my time at secondary school – for me, this was more than a vague idea of what I thought might be a ‘cool’ career, it was something physical, an almost bodily urge to want to write.
As I got older, and properly ‘discovered’ my love for music, my focus shifted from wanting to be the next Stephen King to wanting to dip into that beautiful world of music writing. Every time I heard the latest Girls Aloud single or pressed play on New Order’s greatest hits again, I could feel my fingers trembling, already sensing the words they wanted to commit to the computer screen. And so obsessive young me set about plugging reviews into iTunes and Amazon – I’m not sure how many people read them, or how many people cared – all I knew was that it felt incredible.
I’ve written before about my personal route to where I am today in the piece I did for The Guardian (and I still thank my lucky stars every week that I got to write that for them), but suffice to say, I did ‘quite a lot’ of work experience during my gap year and time at university. If anything, it gave me God knows how much more confidence in myself – I barely recognise the person I was before I started doing ‘all this’. To feel like I was part of the publications I worked for, even if it was only for a week, was almost magical. Even just being in an office gave me a buzz, to be ‘doing work’ in these shiny palaces of journalism, to pretend I was an adult even if I still felt very much like a teenager at heart. If I was determined to ‘get into journalism’ before I started interning, I was about one-hundred times more determined to do so now. Even now, it’s a rare night I don’t go to sleep thinking over and over again about what I want to be doing and where I might be twelve months down the line. Maybe that sounds sad, but it’s how I feel.
Since I wrote that piece for the Guardian I’ve had a lot of young people coming to me on Twitter and asking me for advice about ‘getting into journalism’. And that’s part of the reason I wanted to write this post, to put some of my thoughts on the matter together in one place so I’d have something I could share, so they could understand what fired me up to walk this road, to make these choices in life. And I find myself telling them, above all else, that they need to make sure they do lots of work experience, and make those connections, and get a move on with networking and brushing up on social media. It’s what’s worked for me so far; and I absolutely loved all the publications I served time at, and always felt like ‘part of the team’ – but maybe I’ve just been lucky. After all, I live in London, so that’s one big worry for many aspiring writers wiped off the slate straight away. So I got to thinking about the whole culture of internships and how for some people, they might not work out so well as they have done for me. After all, it’s something of a hot topic in the press at the moment – a phrase that’s fast becoming a byword for exploitation; ‘unpaid internships’.
I’d be the first to hold my hands up and say that I’m all for unpaid internships/work experience while you’re in education. Hell, it’s what I did. Of course, in an ideal world they would be paid, but we don’t live in an ideal world. But here’s where things get tricky. There seems to be a culture now, where ‘unpaid intern’ is no longer just that, but instead it’s morphed into a whole panoply of other entry-level jobs; full time positions but without the barest hint of a salary. I logged into a job-listing site a few days ago and was shocked to find that amongst almost thirty advertised roles for entertainment writer positions, not a single one was salaried. All were explained away with that catch-all phrase of doom; ‘expenses only’, almost as if sheer human rights – the need to eat and travel – should be something you should be thankful to them for paying.
And worst of all, these weren’t for big publications. I can sort of accept the high and mighty movers and shakers of the media world offering unpaid internships – after all, the ‘pay’ is in the exposure/CV boost their name will afford you. But if some no-name ‘boutique online magazine!’ is asking for writers just to bolster their own ranks with free labour, that’s a big no-no in my eyes; as was evidenced in the awful case of Guitar Media magazine earlier this year. Oh, and just for the record, stuff like new TV series The Exclusives makes me sick to the stomach – turning  a career into a televised contest, and broadcasting to the nation an image of media wannabes as TOWIE-styled buffoons. People will see this, and believe it to be an accurate representation of the industry, and what they need to do and be like, to succeed. And that’s just wrong. As many of my Twitter compatriots have said, writing seems to be one of the only jobs in the world where people almost ‘expect’ you to work for free for a significant amount of time. And increasingly over recent years, it seems to me like the way the industry is marketed to aspiring youths is as a kind of ‘game’ where you have to jump through a heap of hurdles to even have a glimmer of a hope of doing it for money. Not got your NCTJ? Not up to scratch with your shorthand? All seem to be extolled these days as the word of God if you visit traditional ‘I want to be a journalist’ careers’ advice websites. It paints a bleak picture.
So, back to the subject of ‘making it’. I think I’ve been pretty lucky with what I’ve achieved so far. And while I’m still only on the cusp of graduation, there’s still a hell of a lot more I’d like to achieve with my so called ‘career’. But beyond the obvious fact that I’d bloody love to make a living writing about what I love most in the world – music – the other reason I so badly want to ‘make it’ is because some day in the future I want to stand up there on my Twitter pedestal, or maybe go round universities and colleges and tell the next generation how this thing called ‘becoming a journalist’ goes. I want them to hear the truth of it, not a rose-tinted view offered by ‘journalism schools’ eager to make a pretty penny from all your ambitions, and not a tired sermon that ‘media is dead!’ and that you should all give up now and get ‘proper jobs’. Because dreams are important. Ambition is king. Determination is the fire that drives us ever onwards and (hopefully) upwards. I want to be the person to offer a hand of companionship and advice, to say ‘Yes, it’ll be tough, but things will be OK.’ Because I was fairly lucky (I think...), but there’s hundreds, if not thousands of young writers in my position who won’t have had the opportunities I’ve had, but who want something more for themselves than the droll refrain of jobseekers’ allowance and Jeremy Kyle re-runs.
David Cameron has talked incessantly of a new entrepreneurial United Kingdom led by its youth into an empowered age of prospect and opportunity. A Britannia that once again rules the waves. But the way things are looking at the moment, those waters are looking mighty dangerous, haunted by that terrifying shark-like entity; unemployment. ‘We can’t go on like this...’ Cameron’s party posters claimed, and it’s perhaps the only time anything he’s said has really rung true – because quite simply, we can’t. Young people need to feel safe in their search for work, for happiness, for ‘life’. And it wouldn’t take much – just something, somewhere, somehow, that is able to guarantee that if you work your hardest, and put in the time, anything is open to you. Maybe it’s a lot to hope for, but as that other great British institution has told us for so very long, every little helps.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ben Montague @ Soho House, Old Compton Street

From supporting The Wanted on their UK arena tour to the refined opulence of Soho House, the past few months have been quite a journey for Ben Montague. And it’s in the environs of the latter that we find him tonight, treating the assembled audience to a truly intimate performance. Stripped back to an uncluttered minimum, Montague’s vocals were given room to shine to the fore – and what a voice, a rousing statement of intent that stands as a rallying call for a fresh British male solo artist to finally stand up there alongside the influx of songstresses we’ve had of late.
Montague’s four-track set - comprising well-rounded numbers Another Heart Fall and Pull The Trigger, intensely moving piano ballad Haunted and current single Love Like Stars – presented a talent very much occupying that tricky middle-ground of commercial appeal. The songs have the instant pop hooks to sway the likes of Radio 1’s playlisting committee, but beyond that, there’s a maturity in the lyrics and production that speaks to an older audience too. It’s Montague’s knack at straddling both at once that really stands out, and gives the impression that his upcoming debut LP Tales of Flying and Falling will be impressively consistent.
Interspersing his set with cheeky banter and the proficiency of a singer very much within the classic vein – born of hours on the road and a simple enthusiasm for what he does – Montague is a leather jacketed troubadour of the old ways for new, modern times.
Love Like Stars is released on the 18th June.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Given Motion - Human Dictionary

The Given Motion are a band clearly well aware of the importance of a great hook in amongst the midst of all the guitars, a voice to speak up out of the bleak city streets of their New York home turf. They’re a group with plainly-manifested youthful ambition, a work-man like appeal. What we’ve heard of them gives us a good impression of well-rehearsed, tuneful rock – with a real brooding back-current to it. Sing To Me feels agile and light, nicely underproduced, allowing the vocal harmonies to come to the fore, where they belong. Don’t Blink follows nicely along the same lines, but tipping things up into a sunnier kind of optimism. It’s, Human Dictionary, the title track of their extended seven track EP that stands out most though; a brawling stormer of a track whose sharp riffs recall a meatier incarnation of fellow New Yorkers, The Strokes. ‘She’s a bitch and I don’t think you’re ready for it,’ they warn the listener, but when it comes for The Given Motion’s music, we’re definitely ready.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Helen Boulding - The Innocents

We're very much liking this new single by Helen Boulding - she's sort of like Ellie Goulding meets The Pierces, and The Innocents makes for a solidly tuneful pop-rock number. All soaring and anthemic in the right places, it's an impressive front for Boulding's upcoming album Calling All Angels, set for a July release. It's the kind of radio-friendly morsel that so many female songstresses in Boulding's vein aim for, but never quite seem able to pull off with the right degree of songwriting maturity and tasteful production. Considering her experience in the industry (she co-wrote tracks for 911 and Alex Parks as well as providing backing vocals for Holly Valance), it seems only right that Boulding has crafted her own solo efforts into being with ease.

Released: June 25th.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Gary Stewart - Year and a Day EP

There's something enchantingly captivating about Gary Stewart's vein of folk, captured here on this four track EP with apt professionalism. There's the achingly sad minimalism of Eve Master - caresses of strings underscoring a slow lament of tear-racked emotion. But there's room for versatility here too, Stewart flips the formula on its head on Green Master, an up-beat romp of sunny May-day proportions that'll come as sweet nectar to any whose appetite is whetted by the likes of Mumford & Sons. Closing number Blue Master is the most accomplished track here, bringing all the component elements of Stewart's sound together in one singularly charming moment. The Year and a Day EP excels in its natural unfusiness, content to do what it does without overagrandising gimmicks or strained politicism. Instead, it's a contently contained hymn of the earth and the air, an EP born of organic processes, and resonating with all the subtle power that might entail.

Released: 18th June.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Kimberley Walsh & Alfie Boe - One Vision

What do we think about what effectively amounts to Kimberley Walsh's third solo musical effort after her Aggro Santos collab and the Horrid Henry soundtrack job? Well, the thing about her cover of Queen's One Vision is that you have to approach it on two levels.

At face value, I think it's fair to say that it's probably the weakest track any of Girls Aloud - either as a combined force or individually - have released as a single. Queen are one of those bands that you just don't touch when it comes to covers, it's too much of an impossibility to ever come close to matching anything of Freddie Mercury's original performances on the tracks. It's in the pizzaz of it all, and the flamboyant diction.

And you'd sort of think, that with her theatrical background (and Kimberley really has utterly excelled in Shrek of late), that flamboyance would suit Kimberley. But in this case, it really doesn't - it's sort of like a Glee version of Queen, if Glee was populated by successful British popstars. Too studied, too safe, too predictable. And Alfie Boe's operatical blasts across the track certainly don't help either - it trips the track over into a kind of Mary Poppins-esque extravaganza of jazz-handed showbizness that wipes away the firey heart of the original.

What does the cover have going for it then? Well, for starters - because it comes from one fifth of Girls Aloud, we - as long-serving eternally loyal fans - feel honour bound to purchase it, which we did. There's also the fact this is all in support of the Olympics and Team GB, and we felt it might be rather patriotic of us to 'do our bit' and part with our pennies. And to be fair to this re-work of the Queen classic, we rather like the way they've kept much of the production pretty faithful to the original - those strings sections are really quite gorgeous.

And above all, there's a real heart-bursting sense of inherently British pride to the whole thing. It makes you swell with passion for our great nation, this wonderful land that has had the fair grace to produce such musical greats as Queen and Girls Aloud. And while this cover presents a rather cock-eyed look at both groups' ongoing legacies, we like to think we can take One Vision as a reminder of how good they are in their own right rather than this rather outlandish mish-mash of extravagance.

One Vision is available to download from iTunes.

The Winter Olympics - I Prefer The Early Stuff

I Prefer The Early Stuff is grass-roots Brit-rock at its most gutsy, the kind of spit and paste-board jumble of snarly guitar licks and chanty lad-aholic vocals that have been firing up the passions and ambitions of the disaffected youth for decades. Like a roughed up, punked up incarnation of the Kaiser Chiefs, The Winter Olympics push rock in the most honest, rollickingly rumbustious of ways - an XFM-styled band of and for the people. With the single revolving around girls and bands, it's boyishly self-referential, every indie-chap's dream slapped down in three and a half minutes of blistering bullishness. If anything, The Winter Olympics sure are determined. But in the cut and thrust of London's musical boiler-room, would you expect anything less?

Released: May 28th.

Reeson - Hold On

For those that like their dance music gritty, Reeson's new single Hold On offers a chillingly arresting playback of social ills and tormented ills. It's that music to blast away the pain on the back of a bottle of vodka, to wipe the slate clean and start again. The track's video makes for pretty gritty viewing, and the song itself posits itself comfortably in the darkest reaches of the club, sitting nicely alongside recent Chase & Status productions. There's a flavour of Katy B to the vocal line to that really brings out the edge in the video's haunting account of domestic violence. Hold On is unforgiving, but in the lost abandon of clubland's darker side, it offers its own kind of solace.

Released: 31st May.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

[Official Video] Dragonette - Let It Go

In the world of Dragonette, all is bright and colourful and snazzy - even in the sterile scientific conditions of a bleached-out laboratory. But this, being Dragonette, is the kind of quirked-up place where random rabbits and people in cages are a daily occurrence, where the walls practically fizz with the same jerky eclecticism that powers Let It Go itself. All that saturated yellow? That's what happens to you when you swallow a whole bag of flying saucer sweets in less than five minutes. Or if you listen to Let It Go on repeat all day long. In both cases, we can attest it's a pretty good feeling.