Friday, 26 February 2010

Hurts @ London Wiltons Music Hall

There is a school of thought that says to be engaging as a band you have to display honesty. The indie ethic of building a fan base through song writing and hard gigging, of being ‘real’ not ‘manufactured’ is important.

This is why it is easy to cynically dismiss Hurts. Playing only their second ever gig with a major label deal already behind them, a placing on the BBC Sound Of List, rumours of David Sneddon (remember him) co-writing for the band, two heavily stylised videos unleashed on the web and mysterious one word tweets on Twitter, Hurts seem to have jumped on board as deceitful tricksters; a kind of pop noir Bill Fagin for the new decade. Yet if they are, they are masters of their trade.

There’s a real sense of occasion to this gig. Wiltons Music Hall is a fantastically creepy, decrepit, yet beautiful venue. Built in the 1850’s, its sloping wooden floors, barley twist columns, two tier stage and subdued lighting transport you into a decadent past where raunchy French can-can girls and sordid striptease artists paraded for drunken gentlemen. It’s no wonder Mumford and Sons recently hired the place to shoot their Little Lion Man video. It has a unique atmosphere and for Hurts there’s a palpable level of expectation in the air, which when the band arrive on stage is almost at ejaculation point.

Popjustice recently described Hurts as ‘the greatest male pop duo of the 21st century’ and based on this performance we agree. With their slicked back hair, cheekbones to die for, and smart suits, singer Theo and keyboard player Adam look brilliantly pretentious. Theo even wears a white scarf and carries a comb. They look a little like a gaunt and sombre Johnny Hates Jazz. If that sounds terrible on paper, in reality it works superbly. Everything they do visually, which often is very little, is executed with a certain rehearsed moody and theatrical stillness. Theo stares at the crowd with a slightly unhinged look in his eyes, and even has the audacity to spend a significant amount of the gig with his hands in his pockets.

Behind the duo on the elevated back stage a drummer, keyboard player and white bow tie sporting male opera singer help deliver the music - epic and grandiose pop songs that have elegance and majesty written all over them. Unspoken, which the band dedicate to the recent winter Olympian (Nodar Kumaritashvili) that died, starts as a plaintive boy-band ballad but then skyrockets into a gloriously haunting Vangelis styled power epic. Illuminated is even better, a modern day electro-melancholic Vienna complete with apocalyptic operatic backing vocals and warlike synth riffs. The only song that doesn’t hit the spot on first listen is rumoured future single Better Than Love, a darkly pulsing synth-pop tune that features a multitude of swirling computerisations straight out of the Now That’s What I Call Alternative 80’s back catalogue. But with this one song excluded, if all commercial pop music was as stylish and as powerful as what Hurts delivered to Wiltons Music Hall, the charts would be a far better place. Proof that honest or not, ultimately it's the quality of the music that is the most important.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Delorean - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

After having just recently spent a week in the Costa Blanca it seems only appropriate for us to bring you some Spanish tuneage. We’re not talking flamenco here though.

Instead here is some rather good, sun kissed, trancey pop. It’s the kind of machine driven dance that lights up the hipster blogosphere. Yes, this is fashionable hallucinogenic electronic bliss. And whilst in our opinion sometimes the hipsters try too hard to be as cool as, and forget the all important quality, this one loads big bundles of that as well.

The name of this band is Delorean. They are from Spain. Delorean are a group who have mutated from a brash hardcore guitar act to a much lusher, scenic, grooving synth based gang. During this period of change Delorean have created near perfect remixes for the likes of The XX, The Big Pink, Lemonade, Franz Ferdinand and another recent Breaking More Waves new wave Glasser. They have also released the sparkling four track Ayrton Senna EP. Here’s to hoping that Delorean will follow it with a series of releases that name check F1 drivers who died in action starting with Gilles Villeneuve and our favourite Swedish geezer Ronnie Peterson.

The lead track from the EP - Sea Sun (live video below) - brings hypnotic Orbital-esque Cafe Del Mar beats and loops whilst Deli takes the guitar picking and sixties dreaminess from Nothing Can Stop Us Now by St Etienne, pushing forward with kind of modern dynamic sound energy that acts such as Delphic and Miike Snow are moving the times with. This is all rather neat as Delorean are supporting Miike Snow stateside in March and April after an appearance at South by South West 2010 in Austin, Texas. We’re starting early, but this is the sound of our summer.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Let's Buy Happiness - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Yesterday we fell in love.

We fell in love with the sound of sleepy chiming guitars and the sweetest of female vocals. This voice, these bewitching tones, come from a girl named Sarah Hall. Her band are called Let’s Buy Happiness. They come from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK. Let’s Buy Happiness may be very much in their infancy, but they make a breathtakingly beautiful sound, like an alternate version of late 80’s / early 90’s cult indie guitar band The Sundays. Or a woozier earthier version of The Cocteau Twins.

Let’s Buy Happiness produce a dreamy ethereal reality. This reality can be heard on their self released 5 track EP No Hot Ashes. It‘s absolutely lovely. Managed by Martin McLoon the bass player from Prefab Sprout, the band have already gathered support from Tom Robinson and Lauren Laverne on BBC 6 Music and have reached the final of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition whittled down from 1600 entries to just 12 acts standing.

Listen to Works Better On Paper below and you will see exactly what we mean. With fountains of doomy but transcendent guitar work that wouldn’t seem out of place on Disintergration by The Cure and girlish-yet-knowing vocals Let’s Buy Happiness are about to make you fall in love. Again.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Marina and the Diamonds - The Family Jewels

The Family Jewels has been a long time coming. Since we first wrote about the Greco-Welsh singer/songwriter back in 2008 (here) and named her as one to watch for 2009 (here) Marina Diamandis has been slowly building her following of ‘diamonds’ through the groundwork of live gigging, blogging, twittering and a succession of singles which culminated in the chart success of the American trash cultured obsessed Hollywood and the release of her debut album this week.

In the new web-wide-world artist development happens so publicly, through posting of Myspace demos, blog MP3 downloads and the like, that many of the songs on The Family Jewels are already familiar to fans and followers. In this respect this recording feels not dissimilar to many debut albums, in that it is a summing up of the artists work so far rather than a complete new collection being unveiled. However, there is the odd new song such as the tall standing and muscular piano near rocker Are You Satisfied that will engage and satisfy even the most ardent Marina and the Diamonds obsessive.

So what is the appeal of Marina and the Diamonds that has enabled her (and yes Marina is very much a solo act, even to the extent that she wrote all the songs on the album herself with no co-writing options) to sail into the UK pop charts that are awash with sub-rate R&B and X-Factor or TV tie-in blandness? For Diamandis certainly doesn’t fit into these categories.

The Family Jewels gives the answers even though lyrically it is very questioning. It has qualities that keep the diamond flag flying high for the first time since the sequinned-up frog prince Neil Diamond crooned the pants of some old age pensioners with his career reviving 12 Songs and Home Before Dark. There’s enough diversity to appeal to a cross section of the public, from the quirky cool-kid who typically loves Bjork / Regina Spektor / Bat For Lashes to the more mainstream music fan that is growing out of JLS or Britney Spears right across to the older listener who grew up on a diet of Kate Bush or Lene Lovich.

There are big pop songs in the aforementioned Hollywood and the uplifting drowning your sorrows m-o-r future hit Shampain, tender mournful piano ballads such as Obsessions and a number of slightly left of centre maverick work-outs where Marina can let off steam with her theatrical high drama ballsy whooping. Examples here are the sassy anti-gossip culture eurostomp of Girls and angelic string laden Numb. The name Kate Bush often comes up in comparison, we’ve mentioned it already, but we’d say that Marina’s vocal mannerisms were closer affiliated to Siouxsie Sioux gone pop, although Bush and Tori Amos certainly fall within the set. Lyrically Marina jibes and questions on subject matter ranging through success, femininity and self-doubt, often colouring it with a layer of cold winking irony; “Don’t do love, do do friends, I’m only after success,” she sings assertively on Oh No! Her angsty songs wrestle with questions and challenging statements, but from the word go Marina hints that the answers she may be looking for are not always simple. “Black, white, black, white,” she sings at the end of Are You Satisfied, but you get the feeling that in her heart Marina realises that often the answer is clouded grey.

The combination of brash confidence and insecurity that Marina displays on the album makes for a winning listening experience - one where like a psychiatrist you find yourself returning with her in the chair to analyse lyrics that could have many double meanings. “I’m no good to anyone, ‘cause all I care about is being number one,” being one particular example. Of course all of this would be pointless without the songs to back up the words. Whilst occasionally her simple repetitive piano chords can grate, for the most part the compositions are rewarding and have depth, being formed out of old fashioned live musicianship with just a wash of studio trickery.

The Family Jewels doesn’t have the supernova commercial appeal of Florence and the Machine, another big voiced contemporary solo female artist that Marina and the Diamonds has been compared with, but then neither is it commercially obsolete in its sound. Overall it’s a cracking debut, one that has plenty of idiosyncratic character both musically and lyrically. It justifies the long wait and has enough variation to allow her to go wherever she wants with album number two.

Marina & The Diamonds, "I Am Not A Robot" from Neon Gold Records on Vimeo.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Chateau Marmont - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

The four men above are Chateau Marmont. They look like four hip architects or effortlessly cool graphic designers from any time between 1968 and 1977. They are actually a band; albeit an effortlessly cool looking and we suspect quite possibly intellectual band from 2010. Chateau Marmont are one of the new French electronic generation, and appear unafraid to give more than a nod and a wink to their nations pioneering synthesizer forefather Jean Michel Jarre.

Raphael, Galner, Angy and Guillame make up Chateau Marmont and to date they have released an EP and featured on the Kitsune Maison 7 compilation back in 2009. They are however probably just as well known for their remixes of the likes of Midnight Juggernauts, Ladyhawke and La Roux. Chateau Marmont have also been recently been working with sexy French songstress Alizee, producing tunes such as the downbeat Limelight, which reminds us a little of Slow by Kylie Minogue and the soft focus Les Collines (Never Leave You) which is a fantastic piece of minimalist electro pop. You can catch these songs here (a teaser) and here. However the bands Myspace currently states “We are remixing nothing anymore, we’re focused on our own material.”

This material starts in 2010 when Chateau Marmont step out on their own again with the release of the Nibiru EP. If their debut release the Solar Apex EP has Oxygene by Jean Michel Jarre stamped all over it, then for the lead track on the Nibiru EP the band have jumped from 1976 to 1978 to take influences from Jarre’s Equinoxe. It’s a sci-fi spacey ambient piece of retro-futurist electronica where distant vocoder sounds and pulsing lush analogue synths blend to create sonic soundscapes that bubble and brood ambitiously. Fantastic. We feel its time for a Jarre revival. It's been long overdue. If we can have that and then an 80's synth pop wizard Howard Jones revival we will die happy. It would make a change from reviving Brit guitar bands from the 60's again, wouldn't it ?

Here’s the video for Solar Apex

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sarah Blasko - We Won't Run

Back in January (here) we introduced Sarah Blasko, a singer who after having had success in Australia is turning her attention to Europe. First up comes the single We Won’t Run. Recorded with Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John fame We Won’t Run finds Blasko delivering a captivating tune about the illusion of relationships. “Longing to leave, but begging to feel that something will make you stay,” she purrs. The video is a simple one-shot piece that slowly reveals an eye with Blasko at the centre, vein like branches holding her steady. When we’re used to high gloss, high production pieces the film seems almost too simplistic, yet the symbolism is powerful - Sarah has opened her eyes and is moving on, stronger. “Tired of guilt, tired of being sorry, haven’t we suffered enough,” she questions.

After a couple of listens We Won’t Run gets under the skin and stays there. The production by Yttling certainly helps the song, formed from simple tribal drums, a repetitive bass line and flushes of piano and strings. It seems like it could have been angrier, but its restraint gives it a sure-footed strength. Nothing is overstated or overcomplicated, it just does what it needs to do. We Won’t Run succeeds as a piece of music because of the simple qualities of melody, vocals and instrumentation.

The single is released on March 22nd and Sarah will be touring the UK to support to fellow Australians The Temper Trap in April and May.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Maccabees featuring Roots Manuva - Empty Vessels

Here’s a collaboration that in theory sounds terrible, in but in practice is sublime. Brighton band The Maccabees team up with Roots Manuva to produce Empty Vessels, a reworking of The Maccabees single No Kind Words. Manuva takes the song to a whole new level and combined with the slightly ‘edgy’ video (below) we’d go as far as saying that this is the best thing The Maccabees have ever produced and the best thing Manuva has produced for some time. So far The Maccabees have avoided being thrown into the landfill indie amenity tip by producing a reasonably well received second album that was just far enough distanced from their debut to make people believe that they were a guitar band worth cherishing. With Empty Vessels The Maccabees show that they are prepared to try something different, with high quality results.

Empty Vessels has been available from I tunes for a couple of months now, but has only just recently been released on 12" vinyl, including a Surgeon remix. We thought it may be worth bringing to your attention, even now, just in case it slipped you by. It can be purchased here.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Nedry - Condors

Heavy late night beats, shuddering dubstep basslines, ripples of guitar, ethereal female vocals, subtle moments of post rock heaviness and nods to artists such as Massive Attack, Portishead, Death In Vegas and Burial, these are the sounds that form the debut album, Condors, from London based trio Nedry. Originally self released as an internet only recording last year, Condors attracted attention from Monotreme records and has now been re-released to include a CD version.

It’s very easy to get trapped into defining a record as sounding modernist or even futuristic only for cynics to pull out one hundred and one artists that already operate in the same genre. Certainly the references named above, together with Bjork and Four Tet are musical comparisons, but Condors is also undeniably forward thinking, fresh and totally of the moment, but it doesn’t lack the depth that is often associated with such terms.

The album may be relatively short with just eight tracks, one of which the gracefully ambient Four Layers of Pink, only clocks in at a minute and a half, but better to keep things within a tight quality control regime rather than find an album that noodles itself off into shadowy indistinct corners. Condors is an album that stays sharp by delivering tracks such as Shattered. It starts with a heavy ghoulish bass not so far from the seminal Portishead song Strangers before wrathful riffing guitars crank things up for a fight with broken Windowlicker styled drum and bass beats. It definitely has a hint of sounding like an Aphex Twin remix. In fact talking of remixes, we can imagine Nedry providing a neat line in this field of work. Their track Squid Cat Battle could well be what La Roux would sound like if Nedry took Elly Jackson round the corner, had her up against the wall and pressed her buttons roughly. Not all of Condors is aggressive though. For the most part it is enduringly pretty. Tracks like Apples and Pears with its folktronic tempered beats are dreamy, whispy and downright haunting, partly due to the heavenly vocals of the Japanese singer Ayu who brings a flowering femininity to the whole affair.

Condors is a very urban and ultramodern sounding album, full of dark sub bass headphone beauty. It’s not always an easy listen, but is worthy of your concentration. You can order it here.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Glasser - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Glasser is the alter ego name for one Cameron Moscow a musician from the United States who creates the kind of dreamy rhythmic ghost dance that could sit comfortably next to the second Bat For Lashes album. Glasser has a misty new-age sound, but keeps on the correct side of being a soundtrack to sleep by layering primitive childlike notes and tribal beats over each other to make something that verges on spiritual. Her debut EP Apply was released in the US last year, the tracks originally recorded using garageband. Glasser is now working on an album, with her original songs being reworked with new music and vocals. Although Glasser has yet to release anything in our homeland of the UK, moves are afoot for her songs to be more available here in the future.

Besides creating her mystic maverick pop, Glasser has also been involved in the production of a conceptual piece of music using a giant bifurcated pump organ together with designer Tauba Auerbach. They performed daily at the Deitch Projects contemporary gallery in New York which you can see here. Glasser also runs an image blog here where you can find sculptured forms made from empty tea bags, photos of discarded vegetable rubbish, puffy jewellery and a variety of intricate and unusual patterns. For now, here is the video for the Glasser song Tremel, which demonstrates her astral and bewitching musical style perfectly.

Monday, 15 February 2010

First Aid Kit - I Met Up With The King

This week we’re taking a short break to surf some real waves rather than internet based ones. We will therefore be nowhere near any sort of IT device for almost seven days.

However to keep you entertained / educated / informed / interested we will still be posting blogs here. We like to think of it as some kind of internet magic, but the reality is that these posts are simply pre-written pieces, posted up each day by the wonders of blog scheduling.

So whilst we’re sitting overlooking the sea drinking sangria, enjoy this video from First Aid Kit. I Met Up With The King is the second single to be taken from the duo’s album The Big Black & The Blue and is released on March 8th. Klara and Johanna make a warm weary county folk sound filled with soul and depth. They sound more like a couple of seasoned early 70’s American songstress types than two young Swedish girls, but then life is full of surprises. I Met Up With The King is a charming harmonious piece with melodies plucked from the stars. It may not be anything strikingly original, but it’s lovely nonetheless.

Right, we’re off for paella now.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Antlers - Bear

Sometimes we talk too much. Today we need to listen. It's Sunday after all. Here is the new video for the wonderful Bear by The Antlers, who made one of our albums of last year. We have no more to say. Let the music speak for itself. Gorgeous.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Kate Nash - I Just Love You More

Here’s the perfect valentine gift for your punk rock girlfriend or boyfriend. It starts with a wail of guitar noise then adds a simple garage rock riff and a straight laced slightly sexy female spoken vocal intoning “I just love you more,” over and over before caterwauling and screaming into the microphone. Repeat for three minutes and that’s pretty much it. Add a few ba ba ba’s and shouts of I love you with some sweaty heavy panting at the end and voila, your angry tattooed suicide girl or boys underwear will be well and truly off. Now consider this question. “Thanks darling, who was that music by? Was it a lost Bikini Kill / Huggy Bear riot girl song? “

Er, no. Unbelievably it’s a new song from Kate Nash. Yes, Kate ‘I-wear-vintage-dresses-and-sit-at-my-piano-eating-cake-and-drinking-tea-whilst-playing-cute-Lily-Allen-Regina-Spektor-pop-songs’ Nash. Of course we all know the girl is all loved up with Ryan from The Cribs, and has been playing some secret shows under a nom de plume 3 piece named The Receeders, but really, did anyone expect this? Well actually yes. When this blog was a developing babe at the back end of 2008 we reviewed a Kate Nash performance (here) and suggested that she had become an indie mentalist and that she could go anywhere with her new material. Now here’s proof of that pudding.

Of course on hearing the name Kate Nash your punk partner will immediately dump you, but consider this; Kate Nash could have started her second album campaign with just more of the same. But instead she has offered up something obtusely non-commercial that if nothing else is going to shock a lot of her fans. Career suicide maybe, but we admire her bravery. Of course the song isn’t the lead single from her forthcoming album, just a taster, that will be left to the potentially seriously annoyingly titled Do Wah Doo, so this track may not tell the whole tale. We blogged recently (here) about the new haircut of the Nasher and how things could go seriously wrong for her because of it, but we’ll wait till the album released in April to decide if our comedy theory is correct.

You can listen for yourself to I Just Love You More by downloading the track for free from the new Kate Nash official website (here) in exchange for your email address until next Monday. Then go chat up a new indie-punk partner, play them this song, get their knickers off, but don’t tell them who the track is by if you want it all.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Future of Music Blogs

Today the Guardian ran an article entitled The Blogs Bite Back (here). It revealed that US research organisation Pew Internet had found that where, in 2006, 28% of teenagers described themselves as bloggers, that number had now tumbled to 14%. The piece quoted Nicholas Carr who wrote an article entitled Blogging: a great pastime for the elderly (here) where Carr stated that blogging is now the uncoolest thing you can do on the internet.

The Guardian also identified that a growing trend is the way that social networks have played a part in the shift away from music blogging, suggesting that many readers now prefer to sit on Twitter or Facebook and wait for punchy opinions to arrive. Certainly we can see a future where Twitter is used as a method of providing links to new free downloads, particularly for those who aren’t interested in reading about music and just prefer to download and listen.

So readership of blogs may be changing and it seems there are less new music blogs starting up. This is probably because of the ways that people now consume information, but also because of the dangers in investing time in producing a blog only to suffer from it being removed rather like the recent Google musicblogocide2k10 blog deletion controversy (here). Blogs that close / stop do so for a variety of reasons, but as with any not for profit publication, the biggest issue will always be motivation to keep the blog running. However those that keep going and survive will find a natural core audience, even if ultimately in years to come that audience decreases as people move onto new models and applications. Rather like vinyl junkies or paper fanzine addicts, there will always be some out there who stick with a form they like when technology moves on.

Therefore we firmly believe that the days of the music blog are not yet numbered. We believe that there are many people out there who love music, but who also like to read about it and debate opinions. This is why sites such as Pitchfork and Drowned In Sound get so many hits. Blogging may no longer be cool, but that’s fine. Cool is transient and lacks integrity. Those who blog just to be cool or only to focus on what they believe to be cool will one day find themselves suddenly uncool or their content uncool, won’t like it and will stop. The blogs with their hearts in the right place, who don’t give a sh*t about being hip and simply focus on what they believe is good music will win through.

Stornoway + Beth Jeans Houghton @ Brighton Komedia

The first time our spotlight turned to Stornoway on stage they were nervous wide-eyed creatures. Ten months on and they are composite, assured and full of the majestic flurries of romance. Stornoway are a band that we are utterly in love with.

Stornoway are not a blog buzz band. They are not surfing on a wave of unrealistic hype. With their casual straightforward look they are not even fashionable. Yet they succeed because of one simple reason; an abundance of great songs that charm. Maybe this is the reason why the audience at the Komedia encompasses every age from 18 to 60. This crowd may greet the group with almost chattering indifference but Stornoway leave stage having seen unprovoked waves of spontaneous clapping bursting out during songs, big smiles on faces and gaining an encore that is fully deserved.

Stornoway show the power of music formed out of quiet acoustic instrumentation. Their songs are awash with subtle and delicate harmonies, but they also hold a robustness which enables tunes such as On the Rocks to build from a gentle lament to a tempered crash of noise and Zorbing which delights with giddying trumpet and pop sensibilities. The bands mild mannered English eccentric charm, exemplified by intensely staring lead singer Brian Briggs, is another reason why they provide such good value. We can’t imagine that there are many performers who in between songs tell the audience of the only record of a camel in captivity in England being struck by lightning in 1997.

But away from Brian’s straight faced comedic banter, there’s the music. Steeped in themes of nature and travel, the combination of inspired song craft and distinctly enunciated lyrics make even the simplest of life moments seem special. “Waiting for a train going nowhere in a nowhere station,” Brian croons in a style not dissimilar to Tim Booth and hearts melt. Fuel Up is the distant cousin of Nizlopi’s JCB Song, but far less annoying, whereas the closing number, the philosophical and thoughtful banjo led We Are The Battery Human captures the spirit of an old English Fleet Foxes slowly Morris dancing with Mumford and Sons.

Come the end of 2010 we really hope that this band will be pretty special to many. They deserve to be.

Stornoway may not have a strong visual aesthetic, but main support Beth Jeans Houghton (pictured) certainly does. Dressed in a pink and black lycra all in one and sporting the most outrageous blonde wig, she is backed by a band who wear painted on false moustaches, bowler hats, braces and ties. It’s no surprise that someone in the audience asks her if she is straight or not, her outrageous dress sense reminds us a little of a once young Boy George. Like George, Beth is something of a personality, swearing, chatting about leprosy, abscesses and a dead rat that she found on the beach as well as clearing her throat and playing and pulling awkwardly with her finger nails whilst singing. It certainly makes for an entertaining, if slightly awkward performance.

The music Beth and her band make can broadly be described as loose-celtic-skiffle-soul. Houghton’s voice is strong and of high quality and the songs such as Lilliput with its Clannad styled ooing and the xylophone enhanced Dodecahedron are jauntily pleasing. “Red wine and whiskey, you’re no good for me,” she sings over the near-afrobeat rhythms of Atlas, the whole song having a ramshackle feel which is compounded when the harmonies at the end of the song fail and die miserably. A cover version of At The Hop by Devendra Banhart shows Beths influences, before the looped vocal and keyboard of Nightswimmer shows that Beth has more than one idea.

Beth Jeans Houghton was an entertaining diversion, and has a great voice, but ultimately the evening belonged to Stornoway. In a modern world their old fashioned virtues work small wonders.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Google Deletes Music Blogs

Never rely on something you get for nothing. That statement has had strong resonance over the last few days as Google’s free blog site Blogger has shut down a significant number of music blogs that host MP3’s including a number of high profile blogs such as Pop Tarts Suck Toasted, To Die By Your Side, I Rock Cleveland and It’s A Rap in one big sweep.

The controversy comes from Bloggers consideration that these and many other blogs had violated Bloggers DMCA agreement by posting copyright material for illegal download. This is the email that a number of bloggers received in their in box:

We'd like to inform you that we've received another complaint regarding your blog (http://xxxxxxxx.blogspot.com/). Upon review of your account, we've noted that your blog has repeatedly violated Blogger's Terms of Service (http://www.blogger.com/terms.g). Given that we've provided you with several warnings of these violations and advised you of our policy towards repeat infringers, we've been forced to remove your blog. Thank you for your understanding. Sincerely, The Blogger Team.

For many bloggers this represents months or years worth of (often) unpaid work deleted at the touch of a button by Google / Blogger.

Now of course, the obvious argument is that if the blog in question has violated the terms and conditions of the terms of service then they can only expect what they get. Putting the morality of arguments aside, the legal position is clear. If you have agreed to terms of service and then have not followed those terms then Blogger could and in some cases has pulled the plug. Here’s the Google explanation of things (click here).

However not all blogs operate in the same way. Sure, those who host whole albums illegally cannot be claiming to help recording artists and in our opinion deserve to be shut down. But what of those who just host one track, or a remix, giving the artist exposure, which may then lead to increased sales? And what of those who have hosted those tracks with consent at the time from the record label / PR company or artist direct? Some of the blogs shut down claim that they had consent to host the material they were hosting. For example see here. This is where things become grey.

Here’s a simple scenario. A band sends out free tracks to bloggers to host. Later they sign a record deal and the record label decides it doesn’t want the tracks hosted anymore as it now owns the copyright. Rather than politely emailing blogs who are hosting the tracks asking for them to be removed from the blog, it adopts a heavy handed / lazy approach and complains to Blogger that these particular blogs don’t have consent to host the tracks. Blogger then emails the blog author. This happens several times in relation to a number of tracks and then ping, the whole blog is deleted. The point here is who owns the music? Does the blogger still ‘own’ the music that was given to them at the time? The issues over intellectual property in the internet age, both legally and morally are highly complex. Ownership is a grey area.

It is for this reason that Breaking More Waves has never hosted MP3’s, even though we get sent many by PR companies who state that we have permission to host. It was something we thought about long and hard before starting this blog. We don’t particularly want to see our whole blog taken down.

Of course blogs that host MP3’s gain much bigger hit counts through sites such as Hype Machine, but we don’t write this blog to get huge hits or become a ‘status / leading light / high profile’ blog. This blog is more low-key than that, but through our reasonably regular posting and sticking to our own non-hip style we are developing a small and growing core regular readership and we are very happy with that. We’re more interested in the type of person that reads our blog than the numbers. We’re not interested in those that visit the blog for 10 seconds to find an illegal download of the La Roux album. We are interested in those who are prepared to invest time in music, who like to read about it and discuss it, as well as consume it. In a way this blog is like a clich├ęd old school indie band. We’re doing it not just for the love of music but for some sort of questioning ideal and philosophy / argument behind music. That’s why we publish blogs about talking at gigs, why record labels are important etc. If anyone likes or reads what we write, that’s a bonus.

We have massive sympathies for the blog authors that have had their work deleted over the last few days, particularly those who try to work with the established music industry for the benefit of the art and the artist.

We only hope that following Bloggers recent actions bridges are not fully burnt and that a sensible dialogue between bloggers and the industry can occur to ensure some workable solution. Like most solutions, some compromise may be required on both sides, and at this moment in time it’s not clear if either group is in a place to do that. We’ve read one idea about some sort of ‘blog licence’. We have strong reservations about the workability and policing of such an idea. The internet being what it is there will always be those who find a way round things.

For now though if you’re on Twitter you can follow the discussions and articles that are going up under #musicblogocide2k10

His Girl Friday - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

So, if we told you about another electronic based pop songwriting duo with a female vocalist and a male counterpart who plays all the instrumentation, you could easily be forgiven for stifling a yawn and looking blankly at these words with a sigh of “Oh no, the world really doesn’t need another La Roux.”

But if the Bulletproof duo are not your cup of tea, fear not, for His Girl Friday are a band that produce a much more adult pop sound than the youthful shrillness of La Roux. Synths are still predominant, but there are guitars in the mix and lead singer Jess Mills has a much more restful, easy on the ear vocal than young Elly. In fact it seems that just as in the eighties where post Live Aid electronic music found stadiums and grew out of teenage posing to take itself a little more seriously, then there are a number of acts such as the previously blogged The Cordelier Club and now His Girl Friday who are trying to make acceptable middle of the road pop music again. Take a listen to their version of MGMT’s Kids on their Myspace and you will see what we mean. They’ve stripped it naked of fashion and turned it into a sweet summery sounding acoustic piece. Then there’s Middle Of Nowhere which shows that they’re a bit like Tango In The Night era Fleetwood Mac, a band who they list as an influence on their Myspace together with Joni Mitchell, Korg, summer twilight and solitude. We think this sums His Girl Friday up almost perfectly.

Although His Girl Friday are currently unsigned they’ve already managed to get one of their wriggling polished pop songs, Take Shots in a new Virgin advert in Australia. One listen to it and you start to think, 'that sounds like a song that should be used on a TV advert'. It's obvious and safe enough not to offend but has enough tunefulness and melody to hold you. The group have also played Shepherds Bush Empire in London, as support to Just Jack, which seems a bit of a mis-match; but you have to grab these opportunities as you can. Take a look at the simple video below for their epic pulsing torch song Silent Space which has a hint of the chugging widescreen soundscapes that Polly Scattergood used on her debut album. If these are the sorts of sounds that will be preferred by record labels or the public remains to be seen. We pass that judgement to you, but we think there's a chance.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Yes Giantess - The Ruins

Since we last caught up with Yes Giantess on the NME Tour at the back end of last year here and here there have been a few alterations, namely the departure of one of their number and the addition of a guitarist. Times change, things move on, bands evolve and so it is with Yes Giantess. What hasn’t changed is our child-at-Christmas excitement for the band. For Yes Giantess are quite a bit better than good. No, change that. They’re a lot better than a bit better.

Following a recent tour with La Roux stateside, the group are about to take another step on their journey through planet synthtopia with the release of a new single - The Ruins. The Ruins is the second Yes Giantess release through pop-gold tastemakers Neon Gold. With Starsmith (he gets everywhere these days doesn't he?) taking time out from recording his own album to handle production duties, The Ruins brings shimmery oil-slick synths and the dirtiest engine of a bass sound we’ve heard for a while to create a flashing vocal stabbing dance floor pop anthem. There’s even a trance styled build in the middle of the track for that everyone-put-their-hands-in-the air moment. And what a moment. The Ruins is a little heavier than their debut single Tuff N Stuff, but even though Yes Giantess now have a guitarist in their midst The Ruins is still very much in the arch pop camp.

The release of The Ruins is also accompanied by the groups first video proper which features some rather Doctor Who-esque cyber robots. Enjoy.

Yes Giantess - The Ruins from jan rosenfeld on Vimeo.

Stornoway - I Saw You Blink

Since we first introduced Stornoway last May (here), we have grown ever more in love with the Oxford bands beautiful homespun unaffected folk pop. If good music is to be judged by the way it makes you feel and nothing else, then Stornoway would score ten out of ten. There’s something about their songs that makes the heart quiver, shot with one of the arrows of Cupid. Stornoway combine a sense of honesty, nature and dreamy realism with the tunes they write. This is why we named them as one of our Ones to Watch for 2010 and voted for them on the BBC Sound of 2010 poll. It really is rather wonderful.

On March 22nd Stornoway will release their new single I Saw You Blink. It’s another piece of pure untainted loveliness - the stuff of which is slowly growing the band a devoted fan base. It’s the simplicity of the groups melodies and romantic turns of phrase such as “I caught the sun on my way home, when I got lost in thinking,” and “I saw you blink and I missed your eyes, your blue eyes,” that is so very special. Following Zorbing and Unfaithful this makes it a hat-trick of cracking singles from the band, and from what we have heard, there's more to come yet.

Here's a video for I Saw You Blink, with the band playing live unplugged. We think more bands should introduce their videos like Stornoway do in this one.

Stornoway start out on a national tour this week, having now finally signed a record deal. Come April the tour will see the them finally playing a show in the Outer Hebridean town after which they were named. Although that one is a little too far for us to travel, keep an eye out for a write up of one of the bands shows here very soon and no doubt more Stornoway blogs as the year goes on. Our favourite newly signed band, for sure.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

VV Brown and Marks & Spencer - Just a Brand ?

Yesterday in the media you may have seen or heard an article that supported an argument that we ran last week in a piece about one of our new favourite groups - Yuck - here. This argument was simple; one day it may be possible for a band or artist to be a huge commercial success without ever releasing a song. Such a statement may seem ridiculous, but rather like the concept of a man on the moon in the fifties, limitations only exist in the mind.

Yesterday it was announced that VV Brown was going to be one of the faces of the new Marks and Spencer advertising campaign. A number of you may have shrugged your shoulders and asked “Who?” Well, she’s the retro-fringed singer who had a minor Top 40 hit last year with the song Shark in the Water. Remember ? Maybe not. But that’s irrelevant, because young Vanessa appears to be doing very well thank you, building a career and profile based on selling very few records in the UK.

The logical progression of this model of ‘success’ is for another future artist to build such a media profile that he or she can earn significant income but never get round to releasing a record. Of course this is effectively a modern day celebrity. Not famous because of a talent or skill, but because of their exposure in the tabloid media. The time will probably come when following a wave of blog buzz, media hype or tipster prediction derived from a carefully orchestrated marketing campaign by the artists label, that artist will generate enough income from advertising deals, merchandise and product endorsement that they will ‘forget’ to actually record a single or album. Maybe they’ll ‘play’ a couple of TV shows or heavily media saturated awards events, where they mime along to their possible future single. The performance will be to remind everyone why they are famous in the first place, but by that point no one will care anyway, especially if the artist in question manages a very carefully planned ‘media moment’; turning up in the most flesh revealing costume of the evening perhaps, or revealing a little more skin than they supposedly meant to for example during a ‘shocking’ slippage of an item of clothing.

We’re not there yet though. But it wouldn’t surprise us if this day comes. As revenue through record sales continues to decrease, it is surely only a matter of time when an artist stops (hello Lily Allen) or doesn't even start releasing material to make money. Of course in the curious case of VV Brown, the songstress has an album. Not many people cared. But maybe the Marks and Spencer advert will help boost her profile. VV Brown advertises the M&S brand which in turn boosts the VV Brown brand, which in turn makes the VV Brown brand more desirable. It’s like turning a plastic Tesco carrier bag into a Gucci handbag. You can then sell the Gucci for a lot more money. Before you know it, that ‘pop’ career has long been forgotten. Can we alter the words of Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip a little here ? VV Brown - Just a brand ? You decide.

And once you've asked that question, consider this as well, does a VV Brown promo single float in the Thames ? Not exactly relevant to this post we know, but kind of interesting anyway...

Monday, 8 February 2010

Yeasayer - Odd Blood

Yeasayer are pretty much in the perfect place right now. With both hipsters and critics on their side and the song Ambling Alp being the most accessible and poppiest track they have ever released, there is plenty of interest out there for their second album Odd Blood. The good news is that for a reasonable proportion of the recording, it delivers. Not in a huge "album of the year,” statement, but as a decent and often absorbing electronic progressive-pop record. It manages to wig out with invention but be direct enough to enjoy on first listen. However despite the directness, the biggest problem with Odd Blood is Ambling Alp excepted, there are no huge vocal melodies or big instrumental hooks to remember after the piece has finished.

With the punchy Ambling Alp being the most knockout and commercial song on the album - even if its reference points are 1930’s boxers - the next most obvious track is the weird groove and clattering rhythms of O.N.E. This gives the former a run for its money with a near-tropical pulse, and rather like a sexed up Brooklynised Hot Chip, it’s gleeful fun. Opening track The Children seems darkly misplaced compared with rest of the album which seems intent on being experimentally elated and upbeat. With its creepily downwardly pitch-shifted vocal and heavy echoing drum it makes uncomfortable listening. The Children seems to have jumped ship from the Fever Ray album and found Odd Blood as an island to rest on. Love Me Girl is however much more dance floor friendly, starting with ecstasy laden trance synths , spiralling samples and acid-disco piano. It verges on a hands in the air moment before the whole track drops into an awkward funk pop workout; the kind of sound that white soulful Pringle wearing pop lads used to make in the 80's. Finally it resumes its journey for the dance floor again whilst tropical bird machines and squelchy bass close the thing off.

To reference Hot Chip once more, it seems that with Odd Blood Yeasyer have decided to share similar territories. There’s at least half a foot skipping towards the dance floor, half a foot in the oddball / quirky camp, and at least a couple of toes in the 80’s pop arena. They’ve combined all of this with what seems like a computerized attempt to produce something that intends to make people feel good. So thumbs up for the vibe then, but after its all finished it’s not the most recollectable of works. This is an album that sounds like a band still developing their songcraft, but with an openness of ideas. There’s potential there to make a classic, but as enjoyable as Odd Blood is, this isn’t it.

Yeasayer "Ambling Alp" from Team G on Vimeo.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Yuck - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Brand or band? It’s an argument that seems to be cropping up a lot recently. Ask the Sugababes and the answer is simple. Brand. As a group of identifiable musicians or personalities the concept of the Sugababes no longer exists. Members can be replaced and the brand continues.

As the viability of music as a commercial revenue stream decreases, the brand becomes all important in generating income. For a band to be commercially successful it now seems that music is just a small part of the package. Synchronisation earnings are as important as selling CD’s or downloads for a significant number of artists who want to make a living from music. Right now in this rapidly changing world bands need to find a brand that people identify with to generate income. One day maybe a band will form and be a huge commercial success without ever releasing a song. We suspect that time will come.

So what happens when your brand doesn’t generate the money you hoped it would? It seems that one model is to re-brand. Fear of Flying became White Lies. Delphic have operated under different brands before finding some commercial success. Ex-members of Mumm-Ra are currently trading under the name Mirrors. Change the product, the image, the style and the music (yes the music is only a part of the re-branding) and commercial success may come your way.

Now of course this all sounds very cynical. We’d like to believe that bands just evolve naturally. Personal differences and life changes sometimes lead to a band splitting up. Sometimes some members remain and form a new band / brand with a new name.

This brings us to the subject of this post. Yuck are a band who test the branding argument right from the word go. Not because they don’t have good product, but because they have the worst name for a group we have ever heard of. Even worse than Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head. (If you haven't heard of the later, trust us they exist, just Google them.) Furthermore they’ve evolved from a previous band, two of their number having once been Cajun Dance Party. Remember them?

The music that Yuck create is, on the evidence of the two demos on their Myspace, nothing like Cajun Dance Party. Georgia is a fuzzy, swirling pop song reminiscent of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Yo La Tengo or Ride whilst the gorgeously quiet Automatic is a slow candlelight ballad similar to something you might expect from Spiritualised or Mojave 3. We have been playing it on repeat for the last couple of weeks almost non-stop. It really is that good. It’s very early days for Yuck, having only set up a Myspace page two months ago. However in terms of the music, on the limited evidence we have heard, Yuck deserve your attention. On the question of branding, we’re not so sure yet. Just judge the songs yourself. Click here and you can download and listen to the two songs we’re talking about, legally, for free in the January section of the Yuck blog. With a quick scan of the internet we've also managed to find one piece of footage of the band playing live from just a few days back. The song here we believe may be called Rubber. A less melodic affair it's one for those who like their musical landscape filled with a cartilage of sustained shoegazey sounds.

YUCK- The Lexington from Stacy Martin on Vimeo.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Bestival 2010 Line Up

OK. Regular readers will probably know that Bestival (and its baby sister event Camp Bestival) are two of the highlights of the Breaking More Waves calendar.

Today the initial line up for Bestival has been announced. Whilst the first two headliners (The Flaming Lips and Dizzee Rascal) certainly tick all the right boxes, what we’re most excited (times one thousand) about is the number of bands that we’ve blogged about over the last year that have found themselves a place on the bill. Acts such as Samuel and the Dragon, Hurts, Unicorn Kid, King Charles, Ellie Goulding, Delphic, Stornoway and Beth Jeans Houghton are all included. In fact six of the ten artists that we listed in our Ones to Watch for 2010 will be present at Bestival. Now, if head honcho Rob Da Bank could arrange for our other Ones to Watch, particularly Clare Maguire and Clock Opera to play we would probably go all over the top and announce it as the best festival line up ever. All it would then need would be for our ongoing campaign (see here) to get 80’s synth pop star Howard Jones booked to play to be successful and we could retire in a blissful rose tinted state of happiness. The full band line up so far is as follows:

Dizzee Rascal / The Flaming Lips / Hot Chip / LCD Soundsystem / Gil Scott Heron / Chase & Status / Echo and the Bunnymen / Simian Mobile Disco / Delphic / Rolf Harris / Marc Almond / dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip / Ellie Goulding / Fat Freddy's Drop / Flying Lotus / Four Tet / Kitty Daisy & Lewis / Stornoway / Tinie Tempah / Vitalic / The Cuban Brothers / Chilly Gonzales / Beardyman / Tunng / Hurts / Gaslamp Killer / The Vegetable Orchestra / Ulrich Schnauss / The Twinkle Brothers / High Llamas / The Antlers / Archie Bronson Outfit / Beth Jeans Houghton / Mixhell / Glen Matlock / Samuel and the Dragon / The Japanese Popstars / The Lost Brothers / Hear We Go Magic / Goldhawks / Countryside Alliance Crew / Laura J Martin / A Genuine Freakshow / Bookhouse Boys / King Charles / Three Trapped Tigers / Worship / French Horn Rebellion / Sisters of Transistors / Spindle and Wit / Starless & Bible Black / The Boy Who Trapped The Sun / Telegraphs / Tim and Sam Band / Unicorn Kid

Muchuu - Getaway Train

Today we show you the new video by cute posters Muchuu. Getaway Train is the follow up to Somebody Tell Me and will be released in March. According to the band it's a little story about finding a magic ticket. It follows in very much the same vein as Somebody Tell Me in so far as it's all ickle-cutesy girly vocals and toystore electronica. There are however two highly relevant moments in this video that we wish you to take deep notice of. Are you paying attention ?

First between 00.01 and 00.03 we see a pair of Doctor Martens. The importance of this legendary footwear cannot be overstated. One of the most forgotten 80’s pop classics featured a heavy dose of Doctor Martens (watch here) and since then they are Breaking More Waves footwear of choice. Alternatives cannot be considered.

But there is something even more profound. It occurs at exactly 0.56. Blink and you’ll miss it. But yes, there it is in all of its glory. A copy of the lost “classic”. The 12 Inch Album by Howard Jones. An album that even had a 1:1 scale picture of a real 12 inch ruler measuring its cover just to prove the point. It is fragments in time like this that are truly amazing. A Howard Jones album cover in a modern pop video. We think Muchuu are onto something here. Time for a revival of the bleached spiked haired synth pop man we think. Are you ready ? We are.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Xfm Xposure All Dayer @ Camden Barfly (Part 2)

As day progresses into evening so things begin to get a little rowdier at the Camden Barfly. Kill It Kid may have been nominated by Xfm listeners as one of the debut albums of 2009, alongside the likes of The XX and La Roux, but as the band wryly observe today “La Roux couldn’t make it.” Quite what Elly Jackson would have made of the primitive, kick you in the gut, raw-deep bluesy growl that Kill It Kid make would be anyone’s guess. Their brutal powerful sound is a hard satisfying shag against the mainstream, the mix of fiddles, guitars, keys and drums giving two fingers up to those (like us) who argue that pop music can be as forceful and exciting as so called ‘real music’. For half an hour we are proven very wrong. Delta-blues shafted us big time. And even though we’re bleeding, and understand why our veins look blue, we’re pleading for more.

In the same way that our paths keep crossing with Tinashe (see part 1), likewise with Goldheart Assembly, who have also journeyed the couple of miles from Notting Hill to Camden (see previous gig review here). Although Goldheart Assembly may produce bearded muso perfection, today a wrong chord leads the band to announce “That was the bit that sounded shit – well shitter.”

They may be well-mannered and almost stuttering polite, but Stornoway (pictured) play perfect acoustic pop. As we’ve said before in previous blogs there are hints of James in the vocal and the gentleness of Belle and Sebastian circa If You’re Feeling Sinister in the melodies. It’s not all fey and nice though - Coldharbour Road has a boldness to it that raises hairs on the back of the neck with its hostile drumming and fiddle. Then there’s the barbershop harmonies of Zorbing, a pop song that seems to effortlessly capture the first flushes of romance in a very real way. It is absolutely spot on. Lead singer Brian still stares resolutely straight ahead when he plays, but this just adds to the bands charm. Who can resist the allure of a band that between songs tell you how the first escalator was installed on the London Underground in 1911 and finish with a tale of Iranian honey finger sucking women. Wonderful.

Having already received Goldheart Assembly, those who have been enjoying the all day drinking a little too much may be a bit confused by Goldhawks name, thinking this is the second time for the band on stage. Differentiations can easily be made though as Goldhawks plough into a series of masculine guitar riffs and fists in the air stadium-lite anthems. It’s the nadir of formulaic, familiar and dull rock music. Predictably a good percentage of the audience love it.

The programming of the running order at the Xfm All Dayer seems designed to contrast. After the anonymously dire Goldhawks, Django Django at least offer something a little different with their pastel short sleeved suits and spacey oddness, even if their slightly curveball approach to making music doesn’t always work. Surf guitar, Beta Band styled druggy percussion and vocals combine with sixties underground musical styling to position Django Django out there in the experimental art-pop world. Maybe their sound is a bit too trippy for this time of night, and lacks any emotional core, but we’d take this over Goldhawks any day.

Then we’re nearly done. Eleven bands in one room in one day. There’s no big Band Aid style finale for the occupants of the Barfly to enjoy. It would probably be a bit too much anyway, as a good percentage of the crowd are looking a little frazzled. A hard days drinking has to take its toll at some point. So all credit to We Have Band for finishing those who can still take it off. Their shamanic percussive drive and mix of electro and rock influences brings on the last dance, the robotic groove of Honeytrap being a fitting end to what has been a gratifying musical marathon.

Xfm Xposure All Dayer @ Camden Barfly (Part 1)

The XFM Xposure All Dayer at Camden Barfly in London is now in its fifth year and provides opportunity to see a diverse range of up and coming talent for a bargain price in a relatively small (200 capacity) venue. The 2010 stellar line up included a number of Breaking More Waves favourites and ones to watch including Holly Miranda, Stornoway, King Charles, Tinashe and The Cordelier Club. Those who managed to get out of bed early enough witnessed some of the highlights of the whole day, the line up being as strong on the bottom of the bill as it was the top.

This strength started at the very foot of the ladder. We’re informed that King Charles recently underwent some sort of near death experience, but his tribal blend of celtic psych folk is life affirming. With glorious pagan chanting, noodling angry guitar riffing, doomed drumming and braveheart sampled strings, the man with possibly the biggest hair in pop music knows how to ram power packed brilliance tightly into the cracks, with songs such as the jigalistic Love Lust and the upright Time for Eternity. Surely any man that can play a song entitled Hot Blood of a Polar Bear and the Cool Head of a Crocodile and make it sound phenomenally good deserves to go places.

With so many bands peddling the early 80’s sound back into fashion, it would come as no surprise if The Cordelier Club did the same. Yet the four piece reference 1986-1988 rather than 1981-1984. It’s a time when pop music discovered shoulder pads, big hair and pretended to be adult. Fronted by a brother sister duo, lead singer Alice encourages the audience to shout “I f*ckin’ love synths,” and bounds and bounces in an unashamed not-quite-sure-how-to-dance-but-I’m-going-to-anyway school disco manner to their extremely likeable middle of the road pop. Later day Eurythmics, The Pretenders, even Elkie Brooks come to mind and we suspect Alice could be one for the dads. Someone put them in the studio and watch their songs finding big local and BBC Radio 2 support. Possibly. Hopefully.

From FM friendly pop to something more ghostly, hazy and unsettling. The slender framed Holly Miranda (pictured) has none of the obvious hooks or choruses that the previous two acts have had. On first listen some of her tunes can seem almost impenetrable, formed out of odd rhythms, strong ethereal vocals and ambitious layered guitar complexities. This however is the beauty of what Miranda does. Hardly making any eye contact with the audience, Miranda immerses herself in her world and produces something with true depth. “Imagine you can hear bells,” says Holly when the instruments at her feet cannot be heard. There’s certainly something about her music that rings true.

The check shirted Tinashe seems to be everywhere that we are right now, having recently caught him at a Marina and the Diamonds gig (here) Like a distant cousin of Jack Penate bringing afropop influenced snappy acoustica he once again wins new friends, something he seems consummately skilled to do.

To keep the musical variety going Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs push out a seamless mix of laptop and knob twiddling dancefloor breaks that seriously doesn’t take itself too seriously. We seriously mean that. From creature like headwear to whipping out a keytar for a jittering piece of d-i-y techno, T.E.E.D rolls up sleeves and nimbly demolishes any respect for chin rubbing intellectuals. “A weird little afternoon rave” is how T.E.E.D describe the performance. But weird in this case is good. “Do you want it louder,” the chief dinosaur asks. Hell yes. Make it Brontosaurus.

It’s half time, the dancefloor is starting to become rather beer sodden, and the air has become rather stale so a trip outside the venue calls. Part 2 to be continued.....later today.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Dawn Chorus - The Carnival Leaves Town

Portsmouth is not particularly known as the UK’s musical hotbed of talent, innovation or creativity. The fact that the city and its surrounding environs most recent high profile output was the dreaded Same Difference says it all.

So step forward The Dawn Chorus, who with an almost single handed conviction could change the perception of Portsmouth from a musical wasteland, to somewhere with ideas, passion and a willingness to look outside of its near island insularity. The city football team may be going down the pan, but with The Carnival Leaves Town, The Dawn Chorus give Portsmouth something to be proud of again.

Having already gained the endorsement of modern folk-punk hero Frank Turner, who provides guest vocals on the bands recent zestful and uplifting single Carnivalesque, The Dawn Chorus deliver a recording that provides joyous, melancholy and heartfelt twists and turns through song writing that veers between folkish acoustic subtlety and fervently big indie rock moments. The whole thing is then liberally coated with soaring trumpets, soft accordion and even fleeting ferocious stabs of electric guitar. There’s enough here to drag you in on first listen, but also enough complexity to make successive visits even more rewarding.

The album opens with the evocative accordion based fairground sounds of Enter: The Carnival. It’s a monumental piece of gypsy stomp. Images of the freakshow, the weightlifters, the acrobats and the high-wire walkers marching through dirty south streets appear in the musical mind as seething guitars clash with Arcade Fire styled masculine chants. Then before you’ve had time to catch your breath you’re bounding headlong into the decadent ska-rock-romp of The Guilt (video below). It’s an eager start and it’s just as well that things are slowed down a little with the more gentle Pacifists for a moments reflection, otherwise we’d probably be collapsing in a heap with musical exhaustion.

Besides being a collection of charismatic indie-folk-rock songs, the album is also loosely thematic. A number of the tunes concern a storytellers love of a girl called Antoinette, a trapeze artist who performs with the carnival. The accordion makes a further appearance to provide sustenance to the intimate nightcap strum of Carnival Sound, a song that could easily have drunk grown men putting their arms around each other and crying into their pints. “I can’t stand the thought of that carnival sound, the way that old Antoinette still pulls a crowd, while I’m breaking my back to stay in the black,” lead singer Kyle mourns sadly in his not nearly as nasal but slightly flat Conor Oberst styled vocal. “How I long to get back to the way things were, before the fame came and got the best of her,” he wistfully dreams later on the closing title track. Out of these heavyhearted tales there are songs that are surprisingly likeable; it seems that from the sadness comes pleasure.

So when the carnival has gone and the album is over, the lasting impression is of a body of work that may not be particularly fashionable in its sound, but succeeds by virtue of being a genuinely impressive collection of songs. Quite a show. Three cheers.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Marina and the Diamonds @ London Tabernacle

Over the last eighteen months Marina Diamandis, better known as Marina and the Diamonds has dug solid foundations to give herself a concrete claim to at least a few of the jewels from the new princess of pop crown. With an imminent sold out tour and debut album ready to roll, now is the time for Marina to surface above ground into the public consciousness. This show at London’s Tabernacle, a converted Grade II listed building complete with curved beams, timber panel roof, ornate balcony and restaurant downstairs provides for a slightly more sophisticated venue than some of the sweating beer stained clubs that she’ll be playing.

The venue is only an eighth full when first support act, and recent Breaking More Waves new wave Tinashe plays. He benefits from the Marina hardcore standing right up against the stage. Playing taught tight snappy acoustic guitar backed just by a drummer to his side his set is almost too short. From the Vampire Weekend influenced A-Liar to the hooky “What do you know, what do you know about me,” chorus of the jiggle-skiffle Mr Presumption, the set is warmly received and deservedly so. Stripped of studio production, Saved with its Motown lion sleeps tonight hip wiggling “Oo-oo’s,” and Mayday with its obvious accessibility come across as gorgeously raw pop songs.

When the stage is filled with bearded check shirted men with non-descript haircuts, stereotypes kick in and it’s a fairly safe assumption that the half hour that follows will not haemorrhage dance routines, synth pop or celebratory club bangers. It doesn’t. Predictably Goldheart Assembly bring west coast harmonies to the country / folk / rock path. Yes another UK Fleet Foxes perhaps, who rock out a little more. Unfortunately they destroy any muso cool they may have obtained when they plea desperately “Please buy our album when it comes out in March, otherwise its back to work.”

“Hello diamonds,” Marina chirps; not to her backing band of what appear to be session musicians, but to the audience. These ‘diamonds’ are Marina’s crutch. Like any other performer she needs an audience, otherwise being on stage is worthless. The Tabernacle crowd give her the platform to play at being a ‘proper’ pop star, with her oh-my-god drama school graduate confidence, big smiles and Toyah goes opera euro-pop songs. Marina exudes quirky theatrical belief, albeit sometimes it seems too calculated and contrived in its ‘look at me posing’ control.

There are however hints of vulnerability that seep through. “I’m a snail without a shell,” she sings with whispered vibrato. Later she admits to being very scared about the release of her new single on Monday. It’s these moments of fragility that leave a perception that underneath Marina is as brittle and real as anyone else.

Marina and the Diamonds have the big pop songs in the trash culture obsessed Hollywood and the immense romp of Shampain, to have chart success, as well as slightly more complex tunes such as Oh No and the piano ballad Obsessions for a more long term musical relationship. If she can bring home the openness of her character more fully to the live arena, and appear less stage managed without coming across as being over affected or zany, then she could well be on to a winning formula live as well as on record.