Monday, 28 February 2011

Music That Made Me #9 - Foundations - Kate Nash

In terms of musical hierarchy, it would probably be possible to trace back my history of love of female fronted pop to some sort of birth point, but this series is not in any linear order – like rummaging through a pile of clothes at a jumble sale memories are best all muddle and mixed.

So let’s zoom in on the summer of 2006 to the now defunct Electric Gardens Festival in Kent and pick out something from the mountain of memories. It starts with a gang of vibrant, colourful excited teenagers crossing my path as I wait for the days music to begin. One of them in particular bounds chock-full of energy at the head of the pack - a pale skinned flame haired girl in a green dress with a unique flower design. There’s something distinctive and exciting about her but it’s not quite quantifiable.

Twenty minutes later I happened by chance to be at the smallest stage on the site – the Myspace stage – a muddied white canvas marquee that could hold no more than a hundred or so people, to take a punt on whoever was playing there. It was a girl called Kate Nash and as she took to the stage I saw that it was the same girl I’d spotted bouncing across the site just a few minutes before.

Her set was awkward, full of technical difficulties, had a lo-fi d-i-y aesthetic to it and seemed to be mainly watched by a small handful of family and friends. However, underlying it all there was charm, pop melody and a girlish kookiness that hinted at the makings of a British Regina Spektor. I absolutely loved it and it was, despite being what you may expect to be the early afternoon lunch time lull, the highlight of my festival.

After her performance I spoke to Kate to find out if she had any recorded material available, but at the time she was unsigned and told me to listen to her GarageBand demos on Myspace. This was a time when Myspace was at its peak – it was a simple and direct way to communicate with new artists. Alongside another new act that I was enjoying (Adele) I’d occasionally send a message to Kate and she would usually respond. It led me to go and see her at a songwriters showcase in Brighton a few months after Electric Gardens. By this time she’d been signed and was about to release her debut single through Moshi Moshi records. She only played 4 or 5 songs that night but I had fallen in musical love.

The last time I heard from Kate via Myspace was the week her first major label single – Foundations - was released. I messaged her via Myspace to say I thought it was brilliant and that it should get in the UK Top 40 singles. A week later she wrote back “OMG, Foundations is no.2 in the mid-week charts!” Suddenly Kate Nash became a pop star – something to this day I’m not convinced she ever really intended or wanted.

Kate Nash, like quite a proportion of much of the music I like, was derided by the music snobs, yet I maintain that “You said I must eat so many lemons ‘cause I am so bitter, I said I’d rather be with your friends mate ‘cause they are much fitter,” is one of the funniest, cleverest, cockiest and most memorable lyrics in a pop song of the last few years. Kate’s My Fair Lady gawd blimey LDN accent may have irritated the pants off many, but Foundations was an edgy, poignant and brilliantly constructed tune that stood out like a sore thumb in a chart full of R‘n’B footballers wives tosh.

There may have been nothing of Kate Nash’s that that has grabbed me in the same way since and her second album and subsequent live shows have left me feeling exasperated and disappointed, but Foundations will always be my bargain find at the jumble sale.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Queen of Hearts - Freestyle (Dreamtrak Remix)

There’s often criticism of bloggers getting lustily excited about an artist based on one or two songs and then the artist not living up to the hype built around them – but isn’t that part of the excitement of pop music ? Hasn't a song ever kissed your ears and left you shouting YES !!!!!! In font size 72. Isn’t that partly what great music should be about – grabbing your emotions with ballsy domination and making you feel something? Taking you away from your drab mundane existence and making you want to dance, sing, cry or f*ck? We think so.

Freestyle by Queen of Hearts pretty much makes us want to do all of those things. It’s the only song we’ve heard of hers, so we have no idea about the future. One night stand or long term partner, let’s not worry for the moment and just enjoy.

We’ve already been there with the teaser video, the song itself (which we’re a little surprised hasn’t been picked up by more bloggers, but that’s taste for you) and now here’s the remix. An extended dub version clocking in at 7 minutes, we’ll be spinning it at our first DJ set of the year in (of all places) Bognor Regis this weekend. Download it by clicking on the arrow and get excited.

Freestyle (DREAMTRAK Remix)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Hurts - Sunday

Look. It’s Hurts with (left to right) Marina and the Diamonds larger elder sister, Amy Winehouse and Little Boots. Possibly.

Tuesday’s NME awards certainly proved two points. First that for all the subtle shifts the magazine has made since Krissi Murison became editor back in 2009, the publication and the majority of its readership are still incredibly conservative in their musical tastes. With Dave Grohl, My Chemical Romance, Muse, Biffy Clyro and Arcade Fire all being announced as winners (full list here) the magazine is hardly giving out a message of being that in touch with what is ‘new’. Secondly with awards such as Best TV Show, Hottest Man and Most Stylish it seems to be placing itself as being more than just a music magazine. After a long history maybe it’s time for a re-brand – New Musical Express seems to be a less relevant title these days.

Whilst physical magazine sales of all sorts are dropping worldwide NME was the only title in the sector to report a double-digit year-on-year fall, having a circulation of 32,166 in the second half of last year, a 5% fall on the previous six months, so maybe a re-brand needs to go even further – possibly merging with another magazine to give a wider content base to a greater audience?

Thankfully though the NME awards did throw up a shock or two, probably the biggest being that the much derided (but Breaking More Waves favourites) Hurts picked up best new band over the more ‘typical’ indie guitar sounds of Everything Everything, The Drums, Beady Eye and Two Door Cinema Club. A victory for pop. Whatever your thoughts on Hurts, it felt a little fresh and brave to give the award to a band who last year stood out as doing something different from the norm, even if they wound a great number of people up in the process, particularly in the UK.

So whilst Hurts celebrate and continue their commercial success in Europe, Germany being particularly kind with 2 top 5 singles (Stay and Wonderful Life) plus an album that has sold well and recently re-entered the top 5, they have also issued the video for their next single Sunday. The UK in the main will probably ignore it, although the song has been A-listed on Radio 2, but in our world this is absolutely perfect pop. NME, we’re with you on this one.

Nedry - Dusk Till Dawn

Suffused with upwardly-rising late-night beats, mellow electronics and the Bjork in a fishtank vocals of lead singer Ayu, post-dubstep trio Nedry are back with a new single Dusk Till Dawn. The track represents the first fruits of their on-going labours to create a second album, the follow up to Condors, which we featured a number of tracks from on the blog in 2009/10. We’re not sure if there’s any link to the film of similar name, but we would like to think that George Clooney would approve.

Dusk Till Dawn is dagger-trippy, both unsettling as it is beautiful, perfect for that late-night after clubbing bus ride home whilst there’s still some adrenalin pulsing through your veins.

As Nedry slowly build towards the album they’ve booked a few live slots. Catch them in London at Huw Stephens presents at The Social on March 8 or an XFM Xposure gig on March 10 at Camden Barfly. The band will also be at SXSW in Austin Texas.

Dusk Till Dawn is free to download legally from this link for the time being, until the the bands label Monotreme officially release the song on 14th March - plus the evocative dreamy video streams below.

Dusk Till Dawn from monotreme records on Vimeo.

Spark - Crave (MNEK's Floor Owner Mix)

So this is how some blogs work. Host a free download from a PR company (see below). Make sure it’s a remix. Post some words that make you sound cool. Hit publish. Total time spent 2 minutes. Simple.

Today for once we fancy doing that (but without the coolness), after all we’ve posted forty wordy blogs this month so far and that’s a hell of a lot for a ‘hobby’ blogger with a full time job, family and a life outside of a laptop. So let’s be kiss me quick today – we’ll leave the slow long tender stuff for another time. If you want to hear the original of the song and read more words, we suggest you click here.

This is a rather frantic everything-but-the-kitchen-sink foot-to-the-floor remix of the current Spark single Crave by 16 year old boy-wonder producer / singer / songwriter / remixer MNEK. As the man says himself “That's pronounced M-N-E-K. M-Neck – Incorrect. M-Neek – Incorrect". Got that ? Time’s up. We’re out of here.

Spark - Crave (MNEK's Floor Owner Mix)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Paper Crows - Follow The Leader ( George Lenton Remix)

With its gentle piano twinkles, wobbly dubstep surges and big euphoric spacey-synth washes this new remix by George Lenton of Breaking More Waves favourites Paper Crows (was it really last summer when we first wrote about them, time flies doesn’t it?) certainly captures the zeitgeist and sounds hugely impressive. It makes us want to use words like spiritual, moody and ghostly to join the dots and then colour it all in with a variety of shades of grey and black. As we've said before there's a whole wave of darker pop bands (and in particular duo's) emerging from the tunnels right now, and Paper Crows, together with Alpines are two of our favourites.You can download and stream the remix below.

Incidentally if you’re of a certain age you’ll be pleased to know that it’s OK for you to dance to dubstep – its lack of high energy tempo means you can bend your knees a bit and move around nice and gently, thereby not inducing back pain or heart attack. We’re expecting a dubstep for dads LP very soon - record labels please take note.

But back to Paper Crows. Having recently played one of the over the top titled Next Big Thing events in London, Paper Crows are now getting out on the road a little and also have some festival dates announced including Live at Leeds and Brighton’s Great Escape, where line- up clashes permitting we’ll be doing our best to catch the duo’s dynamic sound and hopefully tweeting about it. If you fancy us tweeting you up, why not just click here. Now please press play. Thank you.

Paper Crows - Follow The Leader (George Lenton remix)

Dog Is Dead - New Waves

There’s something about the use of the word dog in a band name that somehow seems a little bit wrong, or should we say do(d)gy? Band names such as Dogs Die in Hot Cars and Dogs D’Amour must go down in musical history as some of the most appalling ever, and now here’s another one to join them – Dog Is Dead.

The name certainly doesn’t conjure up images of musical invention, excitement or velocity, then add to this the bands appearance – that of typical dishevelled indie kids who would rather be on the cider-spoilt floor watching bands than up on stage doing it - and things don’t bode well. But these are prejudiced judgements made without using the vital key to great music – your ears. Once you’ve put that bodily part into practice, then chances are another part of your body - your brain - will be thinking very differently.

For Dog Is Dead have ambition in their musical pop-vision. Listen and you’ll hear references running all over the sonic spectrum – from the rhythmic stop-start grooves of Local Natives to the off-kiter pop mentality of Mystery Jets, throw in some Beach Boys harmonies for a weighty measure and a pinch of Clarence Clemons 80’s sax-appeal and there ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, you have your new favourite band of the week.

It’s not just us that think so either. Dog is Dead have already picked up coverage by the likes of the NME, have been play listed on BBC Radio 1 through BBC introducing and have picked up significant Brit-blog love from many of the movers and shakers. Soon you’ll get to hear and see new single River Jordan – an affecting mash up of Fleet Foxes multi-layered vocals, complex guitar picking and unlaundered noise on Channel 4’s Skins, where the band will follow in the footsteps of Foals and Crystal Castles and play themselves in the final episode of the current series.

Dog Is Dead are also out on tour in March at Manchester, Darlington, Nottingham, London, Bristol and Brighton where you can catch their glorious gang vocals and rammed-full-of-ideas approach. Why not make it a date?

Dog Is Dead - Motel

Dog Is Dead - Glockenspiel Song

Kites - Take The Reins (Video)

Earlier this month we brought you a new song and a new band called Kites. Next up is their video for the song we posted – Take the Reins – it was filmed by the folks from the Brit School – Film and Digital Art.

We’d like to draw to your attention several interesting facts about the film.

1. The band appear to have spent all of their money on their music because Richard Baldwin on ‘mechanics’ doesn’t seem to be able to afford a suitably tall table to put his laptop on, instead using some books to give him the extra height.

2. If guitarist Taio Renee-Lawson got off his chair and stood with his guitar as most band guitarist types do Richard Baldwin could then sit down at the table with his Apple Mac without having to risk a potential laptop wobble from the books. This would be more practical and sensible, but probably wouldn’t generate the required image that this band are a literate bunch and can actually read.

3. Except of course that just having a bunch of books under a laptop doesn’t actually show you read at all – just that you’ve got some books around the house.

4. Richard’s Mac is obviously not at eye level and therefore we would raise serious concerns as to whether the band carried out a health and safety display screen risk assessment before letting Richard perform in this way. We would conclude that they probably didn’t and therefore have put their friend / band member in risk of neck, shoulder and eye strain injury, which is not very safe and not even very rock and roll.

5. However, such a performance position was good enough for Kraftwerk (without the books) and is therefore good enough for us. As is this song, which is more than good.

KITES - Take the Reins from BRIT SCHOOL - FILM & DIGITAL ART on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Star Slinger - Mornin'

Hit count. It’s the dreaded word that some bloggers obsess over – particularly those who are generating some income through advertising on their blog or using their blog to further their lives in some way. Luckily we don’t have to worry about that too much – as long as somebody is reading / listening we’re happy and we fully intend to remain ad-free and independent.

The fact that we’ve more than doubled our monthly hit count and feed subscription over the last year is nice, but by no means essential and probably has more to do with the increased number of posts and traffic directed from other sites such as Hype Machine, Shuffler FM and Elbows than the brilliance of Breaking More Waves. Being well networked seems to be the route to increased exposure on the internet and it’s something that if we’re honest we don’t work particularly hard at.

Star Slinger however seems to be using the internet to his advantage massively, connecting with music bloggers around the world and finding himself as one of the most blogged artists on Hype Machine. His hit count is most definitely up – let’s just hope he manages to turn it into something of real value for himself.

You could therefore ask the question, why post yet another blog about Star Slinger, having already featured him back in January on Breaking More Waves? The answer is simple, our criteria for posting doesn’t relate to how many other bloggers are posting an artist or not, but simply if we love the music.

So today we’re bringing you Mornin’. The accompanying video went to the internet just a few days ago. It’s an awkward bleary summer-soul jam that makes up for the fact that that next Avalanches album never arrived. That’s really all you need to know. Get connected with it.

Star Slinger - Mornin' by Star Slinger

Monday, 21 February 2011

Rizzle Kicks - Price Tag

We’re becoming massive fans of Rizzle Kicks – there’s something just massively engaging about them – they display a cocksure combination of humour and cool that only lads of their age can. Their song Down With Trumpets (here) remains one of our vital tracks of last year and their home shot videos entertain with rich and occasionally silly invention.

Now Rizzle Kicks have turned to Jessie J’s recent no.1 hit in the UK – Price Tag. Note the money t-shirt, the funny miming effect as Jessie J’s vocal kicks in, the CafĂ© Nero loyalty card, the beans-on-toast straight from the can pause moment and the comedy shades and bling chains dancing towards the end. Ch-ching ch-ching - Rizzle Kicks boil with enough charisma to flip our pan lid.

Jessie J - Price Tag (Rizzle Kicks X Rural Remix) by Rizzle Kicks

Camp Bestival 2011 - Do You Want To DJ ?

We’re pausing for breath in our posting of new music today and instead bring you news of some extra-curricular activity that we’re involved in.

Regular readers will know that some of the absolute highlights of our year are the 2, 3 or 4 days of camping, music and mayhem (and hopefully not mud) that make up the UK’s summer music festivals. There’s nothing we love more than leaving our worries behind us, making new friends and spending almost every minute of our waking hours listening and dancing in the open air to live music before crashing weary but happy back in our tent, only to do it all again the next day. Music festivals are one of the reasons we exist and this year you’ll find us at Glastonbury, Summer Sundae, End of the Road, Field Day, Bestival and Camp Bestival with one or two more still to be confirmed.

But it’s Camp Bestival that we turn our attention to, for earlier today the first part of its line-up was announced. It includes Blondie, Mark Ronson, Katy B, Clare Maguire, The Wonderstuff, Wretch 32, Breakage with Jess Mills, Eliza Doolittle, Fenech Soler and many many more…

This year we’re proud to announce that Rob da Bank - Radio 1 DJ, Sunday Best records head-honcho and organiser of Camp Bestival has asked us to get involved with the festival. Some of you may know that in 2008 we DJ’d in the Hidden Disco at Camp Bestival’s big brother Bestival under the alter ego of DJ Hojo Hits and that last year we formed a fancy dress DJ collective under the name the Sunday Best Forum All Stars and opened the festival with an incendiary set in the Big Top which got the early birds through the gates dancing in the daylight (see here).

In 2011 we’re bringing the Sunday Best Forum All Stars to Camp Bestival – Djing three early evening sets one each day in the legendary Bollywood Tent, a regular and much loved area of every single Bestival and Camp Bestival. But here’s the important bit – you could be with us DJing.

If you’re thinking of going to Camp Bestival (winner of the Best Family Festival at the 2010 UK Festival Awards) then this is your chance to not just be a punter but a performer. The Sunday Best Forum All Stars take their name from where they are created – on the Bestival and Camp Bestival forums. So, if you’re making the trip to Dorset in late July and want to be part of our DJ crew, simply sign up to the forum and follow the instructions using the link here. We’ll be picking 4 or 5 forum members to accompany us on stage for what will surely be a weekend to remember. No DJ skills are required, just an ability to pick a good tune, be prepared to wear fancy dress and to understand and embrace the eclectic, fun spirit of Camp Bestival.

If you’re the sort who likes the spittle-soaked moshpit, cheap lager and unmerciful rock n roll behaviour of the likes of Reading Festival, Camp Bestival will not be for you. However if the idea of a weekend spent in a world of good-natured fairytale utopia with eclectic music, an abundance of clean toilets, great food and entertainment for all ages appeals, then why not come to Camp Bestival ? It really is a garden of delights. Watch the film captured on Super 8 camera below by Tactful Cactus and you’ll see what we mean plus enjoy the music of a couple of the acts playing this year.

See you in a field this summer.

Wretch 32 - Traktor (Radio Edit) by Ministry of Sound

Clare Maguire - The Last Dance (Danny Byrd Remix) by Radar Maker

Music That Made Me #8 - Please Forgive Me - David Gray

Most people bond with their socially analogous peer group. I should therefore be having beers and deliberating the complexities of work-life balance with other professional thirty and forty something male fathers. Yet in the vast majority of cases (but not all) I find have very little in common with these people. It often seems that I find it easier to relate to those that when looking at the cover many in my position wouldn’t read the book.

In the early 90’s, whilst training as a Surveyor in the bureaucratic, clay-coloured walls of a local authority office I made a judgement based on peer group similarity – and if it hadn’t been for the other persons open hearted brazenness my life would have been significantly less rich than it is.

She was dressed in white stilettos, a short skirt and sported a blonde bob haircut when I first saw her. My then egotistical and haughty nature had already passed judgement. I would have nothing in common with this girl who worked on reception – she was most probably a dim-witted floozy who simply wasn’t at my level.

That was wrong. So wrong that twenty years on, with her living in New Zealand, me in the UK and a possibly a number of years passing before we see each other in the flesh again, we have enough memories and enough love to know that we will probably always be friends. It almost feels like we are brother and sister – especially as she has very little immediate family outside of her marriage and children, her parents being killed tragically when she was just a baby.

Long term relationships are built as much on memories created and shared as the here and nows, and those memories are vivid, exciting and often hilarious. Intoxicating and intoxicated holidays in Eastern Europe together, wayward London nights, skinny dipping after trips to the seaside, her bad fashions, wrong boyfriends and girlfriends, but most of all always being there for each other – never passing those snobbish judgements, but accepting each other for who we are and taking pleasure in that.

I guess that’s some sort of maturity for you – when you stop judging others different to you in a negative manner and find acceptance that we’re all unique with different views, styles and personalities. It's like music - how often do we refer to someone as having 'good taste' when what we actually mean is taste similar to our own ? By making judgements about how similar someone or something is to our own world view we put barriers up, safe in our own inward looking nest, never challenging ourselves. As we get older those who are not open to the new or the different become stagnant - like my peer group who often argue that music these days isn't as good as when they were young. I'm so glad that this friend, this wonderful and incredible friend, taught me the lesson that just because someone isn't the same as you doesn't mean you can't build a relationship.

Music provided a background to some of our memories – car journeys to the south coast, nightclubs (more her than me), gigs (more me than her), but ultimately it was about true friendship rather than just someone to hang around with. It wouldn't matter what we did or where we were. It was just about us.

In a recent email from New Zealand, my friend wrote “I am just listening to David Gray’s White Ladder and I still remember that night when we saw him with a crowd of around fifty. I will always love the song Please Forgive Me and the way you bounce to music. Don’t ever lose the bounce.” With friends like her, I don’t think I ever will.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Icona Pop - New Waves

Let’s play a game. Let’s call it ‘Good Pop Bad Pop.’ Good pop is intelligent, it’s stylish, it’s cool, it’s about fantasy, but it’s still real and it’s not just sexy but actually one hundred per cent makes you want to have sex. Right now. With anyone. Good pop is more than just about good songs – it’s a concept, a lifestyle and it’s something that no matter how much it is derided by the arty / indie / hipsters will fill many more people’s lives with joy than the typical lo-fi blog band.

Good pop is Kylie Minogue, The Pet Shop Boys, Hurts, Robyn and Girls Aloud. Bad pop is Westlife, Justin Bieber and Joe McElderry.

The UK is pretty damn good at producing good pop. We have a history that stretches back to The Beatles. But there’s another country that gives the UK a run for its money – Sweden. From Abba to the aforementioned Robyn, from The Cardigans to Lykke Li, Sweden is the pop princess waiting to usurp the queen – particularly when it comes to female vocal pop. Now here’s another example of good pop and the word is even in their name – Icona Pop.

Icona Pop is Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo from Stockholm, Sweden. Things we know about Icona Pop: Their favourite Catherine Deneuve movie is Dancer in the Dark (a good choice – the second best Lars Von Trier film after the brilliantly named Breaking the Waves), their favourite writer is Prince and they are addicted to Mozzarella sticks.

Previously touched by Kitsune this girl-girl duo are very much doing good pop. They’ve got girlish chanted choir choruses, bubbly computerised sounds and rhythmic elements that crash, wallop and jive in all sorts of directions. It’s inventive, colourful and very accessible. Listen to Still Don’t Know - a melee between The Go Team, Cults and Lykke Li with the hookiest schoolyard chorus you will hear this year and the squelchier, rubbery bubble-gum electronica of Manners and you’ll understand why right now there’s only one thing we want to do.

And that’s have sex.

Icona Pop: Still Don't Know

Icona Pop: Manners

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Kid Kasio - The Reason

Take a visual reference from Talking Heads videos, a funky synth-disco sound reminiscent of Deniece William’s 1984 hit Let’s Hear It For The Boy, a hooky day-glo chorus straight out of the Smash Hits (r.i.p) songbook and with Peter Powell on introduction duties out of Top of the Pops (r.i.p) and boom, you’ve got the new song from ex-Modern man Nathan Cooper aka Kid Kasio entitled The Reason.

The video went up on You Tube yesterday the same day as Radiohead posted the Lotus Flower video and bagged over a million hits in under 24 hours. Kid Kasio may have only picked up a couple of hundred in that time, but there is a similarity in both artists work – each are evidently doing exactly what they want to do and having a lot of fun with it. If you like this, take a listen to Living My Life and Not For Turning which we blogged previously here – synthtopian retro joy.

The Reason by kidkasio

Friday, 18 February 2011

Alpines - Drive (Youth Kills Remix)

As we predicted just over a week or so ago, the online presence of Alpines epic doom-pop is beginning to grow, with a number of blogs including We Like It Indie, The Recommender, Kick Kick Snare and The Mahogany Blog all featuring the London duo in the last few days – and quite rightly so. For their single Drive (which is now available on I-Tunes) is a heavily spacious and powerful piece of work all contained within a freeze frame of three minutes and fifty three seconds.

Now we’d like to present to you this rather majestic remix by Youth Kills. It retains the key ingredients of the song but morphs it into something bigger, bolder and more strip-off-and-dance-in-the-storm-naked-and-tribal, conjuring up images of being swept off your feet by Florence & the Machine, Zola Jesus and a circle of one thousand computerised Burundi drummers. This is what we want.

The name Youth Kills may be familiar to you, having previously created a superb mix of Young Blood by The Naked and Famous (which you can hear here), which received a fair amount of love late last year. If you haven’t heard the name until now you may remember a pop duo named Lite N Dark who we got pretty excited about (here and here). There’s a link because Youth Kills is Tim from Lite N Dark’s new project. We’re big fans of his work, we’re big fans of Alpines, put the two together and it becomes utterly fantastic.

Drive (YOUTH KILLS Remix) - Alpines by YOUTHKILLS

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Let's Buy Happiness - Fast Fast (Video)

It was one year ago that we first featured Let’s Buy Happiness on Breaking More Waves, instantly declaring our love. In 2011 the heady fizz of romance hasn’t been diluted at all, how could it do so when the band continues to construct such perfect vignettes of woven guitar loveliness?

We’ve often read (and have probably used ourselves) the word icy to describe the music of Let's Buy Happiness, yet we’re not convinced that this is fully accurate – there’s a definite warmth and organic feel to what these fascinating Geordies do. However there’s no doubt that it could be used to explain this video for their new single Fast Fast due out 28 February through Ghost Arc Records (which we first featured on the blog at the start of January here). With the group dressed in parkas and hoodies, things look particularly chilly. The cold isolated hilltop scenes could also be the perfect metaphor for the band’s music – a complex and beautiful landscape.

Let’s Buy Happiness are going out on their longest UK tour to date in late February / March (check the Myspace for details) and we highly recommend you put a date in your diary to be in attendance. Warm clothing shouldn't be required. Here's the video.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Queen of Hearts - Freestyle

“We shall watch with interest,” were our words last week when we first introduced a trailer video for Queen of Hearts. What we should have said of course was that we would listen with interest, because that’s what we’ve been doing today; listening, but with each listen more than just interest. If the truth be told we’ve been salivating at this debut song – Freestyle - with the kind of gormless grin on our face that is normally only achieved by vast quantities of illegal drugs. Not that in any way are we endorsing illegal drugs, remember kids they melt your brain.

Freestyle by Queen of Hearts is the mating call of space-disco electropop. It’s Giorgio Moroder, it’s Goldfrapp, it’s Blondie, it’s Donna Summer, this pulses in the sort of places that get the pulses racing in the sort of places where the pulses don’t normally race.

Freestyle is a prowling, breathy, sensuous beast of a tune and we’re happy to be ravished by it. Growl.

Freestyle (Produced by DREAMTRAK) by Queen Of Hearts

Alessi's Ark - Wire

The gentle and wondrous tones of Alessi Laurent-Marke have been missing from this blog for some time, but in April Alessi’s Ark will release the follow up to Notes From The Treehouse through Bella Union with a new record called Time Travel. The twelve-track LP was recorded in Brighton's Electric Studios with Wilkommen Collective's Marcus Hamblett, and at Bryn Derwen in Wales with David Wrench who has previously recorded with Beth Orton and Bat For Lashes. As far as we are aware a Tardis was not involved. The record, like many second albums, is one that has grown from travelling and touring, often away from family and friends.

The first release from the new album is the pretty and reflective song Wire, which streams and is available for free download below. It finds Alessi a little older, a little wiser and ruminating on the nature of friendship, loneliness and how she realises that not all of her friends know her like she thought they did. As with everything Alessi does it’s tender and intimate and this time comes with the addition of a muffled brass interlude. It’s quite lovely to have her back.

Alessi's Ark - Wire by Bella Union

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Bright Light Bright Light - How To Make A Heart

Taken from his forthcoming album Make Me Believe In Hope ( a rather wonderfully positive sentiment) here’s a new song from Bright Light Bright Light - a bowling lane smooth piece of electronic pop called How To Make A Heart. Retaining his very 90’s dance influence, this is more like slow motion Bright Light Bright Light – nothing is too rushed, the song gradually evolving from its slow fluent electronic beginning towards an elevated chorus punctuated toward the end with glossy keyboard stabs.

A number of the songs on the Bright Light Bright Light album have been co-written with Andy Chatterley who has previously produced and written for the likes of Kylie and the Pussycat Dolls, so it doesn’t take a significant amount of brainpower to deduce that it's going to be a pop-punch full of gigantically hooky classic synth-dance pop songs. If we could drink the tunes of Bright Light Bright Light they'd be a cocktail of smoothies and champagne - shiny, unruffled and yet full of bubbles. We’re looking forward to taking a big gulp.

How To Make A Heart by brightlightx2

Monday, 14 February 2011

Spark - Crave (Video)

Last week we brought you the first ‘major’ single by SparkCrave. Now here’s the video.

Now this is how things work. Pop singer produces pop video. Music blogger watches several times. Music blogger writes comments on the video possibly diverting into other commentary that may or may not centre around the pop singer. Music blogger doesn’t feel the need to comment about the music, because that’s already been done in the previous post. If the pop singer doesn’t like the analysis of their pop video then really they shouldn’t have let the public watch it. We will all inevitably make our own judgements from bad to good to amazing.

For this video Spark sends us a visual message that she’s just a little gritty, a little self-assured, a little street (that’s as in streetwise street, not actually a little tarmac construction with pavement either side) and a little unaware that someone seems to have left the lights and lasers on from (we assume) some sort of house party that occurred earlier. This we think you will agree is not very good for Spark’s carbon footprint.

In terms of other commentary, in relation particularly to blogs, we’d like to add that despite Spark being initially marketed through ‘trendy’ boutique singles on Pure Groove and Neon Gold this major label single has not picked up much headwind yet with the types of blog who normally fawn over the releases from these labels, although Crave has received decent coverage so far from pure pop websites and blogs. But blogs aside (which may or may not have much influence), as we said before in our previous blog, the most important thing Spark needs with this single for pop success is probably strong radio playlisting. Time will tell if she gets that.

And our judgement on the video? Quite good, but not amazing. But you will of course make your own mind up. So in that respect this commentary is pointless.

Jessie Ware + Sampha - Valentine (Video)

Happy Valentine’s day. Remember love is for 356 days a year not just 1 and other such wise words. Blah, blah, blah. And don’t worry if you didn’t receive any Valentine’s cards – it just means that nobody loves you.

We brought you the stream of this song over the weekend, now Jessie Ware and Sampha have released this neat little video for the tune, which suits the minimal music perfectly. Make this your Valentine, there’s no bad romance here.

Music That Made Me #7 - Reviens - Herve Vilard

During the late 70’s and the early 80’s my childhood summer holidays were often spent camping in France. My mum and dad didn’t have much money so we would often end up pitching our heavy orange and blue canvas frame tent, complete with flower patterned curtains in a farmer’s field with little or no facilities, sneaking into a proper campsite to use their showers and amenities.

To get to our holiday destination we would spend many hours navigating our way across the French countryside in my dad’s blue Mark 1 Ford Cortina. It had no seat belts, no child seat, no air bags and yet I always felt safe cocooned amongst the sleeping bags, camping stoves, old pots and pans and jumbles of camping equipment that surrounded me on the back seat. As we travelled we listened to French pop radio. I remember very few of the songs we heard, most were unremarkable, but there was one that seemed to be on constant rotation – a cheesy easy listening number called Reviens. Sounding somewhere between Neil Diamond (who you will hear of later in this series) and Sacha Distel, it became my song of that summer. Investigation in a French record shop found the source and soon we were in possession of the 7-inch single by the singer – Herve Vilard.

I’m not sure if Reviens has fully influenced my tastes in music, look back over this blog and you probably won’t find anything that similar to it, but it was one of my first experiences of hearing a song on the radio and wanting physical ownership of it – a philosophy which despite our new age of streaming and downloads I still keep now. For this reason, Reviens by Herve Vilard is, for better or for worse, music that made me.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Jessie Ware + Sampha - Valentine

“If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it,” seems to be the most appropriate quote to use around this time, because in case you’ve forgotten Monday is Valentine’s day. Not sure what to do for your loved one this year ? Then why not treat them to something different from chocolates, flowers or a romantic candlelit dinner ? Instead kiss their ears with this piece of delicate spacey adoration by Jessie Ware (not Jessie J) who you may have heard providing guest vocals on Nervous by SBTRKT. This time she's working with cool dude Sampha. It’s called (quite simply) Valentine and we must have played it at least fifteen times over on repeat since we first heard it. Simple electronic ballerina backing and perfect vocals, it’s certainly not full of excess, but is still feeds us with love.

It’s out on Young Turks on heart shaped vinyl (see picture here) and you can purchase it to buy now (here). If like us you're going to see Glasser on her UK tour soon, you can catch Sampha there. But for now enjoy this moment of tranquil perfection. Smoochy.

JESSIE WARE + SAMPHA / Valentine by Young Turks

Friday, 11 February 2011

League - New Waves

League are a London based group consisting of a couple of architecture and journalism degree drop outs who sound like the cousins of the Klaxons without the huge full-on belters, adding keyboards to guitars or guitars to keyboards, depending on your perspective. They are a band who in some quarters would be defined as indie, but this is very much the 2011 version of indie – a blurred vision of a genre that doesn’t actually mean anything anymore. Bands like The Pastels and Half Man Half Biscuit would probably turn in their graves if they heard these songs described as such.

But forget genre definitions and let’s focus on the music. You can hear catchy synth hooks, vocals out of the school of Simon Le Bon, live drums and guitar flicks that create some half decent tunes. League may be a little derivative for some and almost certainly would have fitted in better in 2007 than 2011 but a couple of listens to Golden Maps (no not Golden Skans) with its swirling electronic hooks and mellow drop-downs suggest that if you found Surfing The Void a little disappointing, League may be your decent budget replacement.

Golden Maps by League

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Queen of Hearts - New Waves

Now this looks interesting…..

Which we guess is the point of these teaser / trailer videos.

Hopefully when the full reveal happens Queen of Hearts will actually be interesting rather than just pretending to be for fifty seconds. Here’s some ‘stuff’ about her, stolen directly from her MySpace:

Queen of Hearts likes impossibly high shoes, cocktails, cats and French accents.

Queen of Hearts writes songs about the important things in life - love, loss, heartbreak, betrayal - and thinks that the best pop songs should make you dance and shed a tear or two.

Queen of Hearts writes songs that have one foot in the future and one in the past.

Queen of Hearts thinks pop shouldn't be a dirty word.

We fully endorse Queen of Hearts last statement. In fact we said exactly the same in 2008 here.

Queen of Hearts has been recording with Fear of Tigers and is apparently also doing something in a studio with Richard X. We assume that that something is producing music rather than eating yoghurt or juggling plates for example.

That for now is all we know of Queen of Hearts. We shall watch with interest.

Leigh Mary Stokes - New Waves

Here’s a question for you. Can you name 5 bands or artists from Portsmouth, UK who have had national or international commercial success or critical acclaim? No? Thought not. Unless you actually live there it’s probably even difficult to name a single band that has hailed from the south-central coastal city where Breaking More Waves is based. The Strange Death of Liberal England and The Cranes are probably two of the better known bands from the area, but compared with similar sized cities Portsmouth doesn’t seem to do particularly well outside of its own boundaries.

It’s probably why as much as we love our own home town, Breaking More Waves often casts its musical eye towards neighbours Brighton, a city that seems in all ways to be blessed with a far richer level of musical success and diversity. The Maccabees, Bat For Lashes, The Go Team, Blood Red Shoes, Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Fatboy Slim and Esben and the Witch are just some Brighton inhabitants that have found national and international recognition and there are plenty more bubbling under such as Rizzle Kicks, Mirrors and Kinema. The reasons for the two south-coast cities differing outputs and success levels are too complex for analysis in a short blog post but today for once we’re pleased to present some music from our home city.

Leigh Mary Stokes is a twenty year old Portsmouth based singer songwriter who has been around for a number of years now, having released her first EP back in 2009. Describing her influences as cheese on toast and a cup of tea on the balcony in the sunshine, Stokes plays jubilant sounding indie guitar pop that effervesces with a warm charm and just enough cuteness to be engaging without ever being twee. Imagine Amy MacDonald, 10,000 Maniacs, Kirtsy Macoll (R.I.P) and Kate Nash forming some sort of indie super group with a bunch of musicians who are (possibly) influenced by early noughties version 2.0 britpop / landfill indie and you’ll be reasonably close to the mark. Don’t let the references here to landfill indie put you off though – we’re not talking a female fronted Razorlight.

What sets Leigh Mary Stokes apart from many of her Portsmouth contemporaries is the ability to pen an instantly hooky and accessible pop tune that grabs you on first listen plus the obvious fact that she is female – the Portsmouth scene being over consumed by boys with beards and some of the worst haircuts in rock. It’s possibly the only city in the UK where is seems that check shirts and skinny jeans never go out of fashion.

Whatever haircut Stokes has though, and even if she had a beard, her delightful songs would always leave us feeling cheery, as they’re blessed with opulent breeziness. When It All Goes Wrong delights with melodic stomp, Day Come Day Go starts dangerously close to The Libertines Up The Bracket but restrains itself from falling into a druggy shambles and best of all, the reason why we’re finally featuring Stokes on Breaking More Waves, is her new single Your Smile. “I smoke when I drink and I drink all the time, but nothing seems to get you off my mind,” she sings, not ready to let go of her previous relationship. It’s full of youthful spirit, chirpy sincerity, girl-next-door-likeability and indie-pop melody, showing that whilst Portsmouth may not yet be ready to recast music and deliver a truly ground breaking band, there is talent there waiting to be discovered.

YOUR SMILE - Leigh Mary Stokes by Manilla PR - Denise

Leigh Mary Stokes -When It All Goes Wrong by leighmarystokes

Neon Hitch - Get Over U

The virtual impossibility of creating anything truly new in any genre of music these days is something we’ve often written about. History has a habit of repeating itself, especially with only so many notes and so many instruments to make them with. So when we first heard the new single from former street performer and trapeze artist Neon HitchGet Over U - and immediately proclaimed that it must be the new Robyn single you can excuse us for getting it wrong.

But irrespective of sonic similarities to the mighty Swedish one (who inexplicably we have never featured on the blog – and this is wrong) Get Over U is a great song. Written by Sia, lyrically it conforms to the Great Rules of Pop by following rule number 26 – every pop star must sing at least one song about ending a relationship and breaking free. Even more fantastic is the fact that Neon Hitch is actually Neon’s real name from birth – the product of hippy parents. With a name like that she could have so easily been a dream pop / chillwave / post-progressive / shoegaze band of her own, the type of act so loved by much of the blogosphere but not by the mainstream, but we’re very glad that Get Over U is 100% pop. Get Over U touches, no, punches a huge amount of Breaking More Waves electronic female pop buttons. More than splendid. Call it splendid plus size. With an extra sprinkle of gold dust.

Neon Hitch - Get Over U by NeonHitch

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Alpines - Drive

One word we particularly like, besides the word amazing is straddle or straddling. It can sound sexy (she straddled herself over him), risky (a straddle bet in poker) or warlike (firing successive artillery shots in front of and behind a target). All these versions of the word imply an element of excitement. However today we use the word in a musical sense to define a sound itself; because Alpines are genre straddling – mixing electronic sounds with the structural dynamic of more leftfield rock and pop.

At the moment there has been very little new music blog activity surrounding Alpines – if you look on Hype Machine it seems that only ourselves and the excellent long serving UK film and music blog Faded Glamour have been supporting them, although a few other non-listed blogs have now joined in. We expect that to fully change pretty soon as the bands profile slowly grows. It starts here with this mysteriously icy and slightly creepy video for Drive. It has an evocatively strong visual aesthetic, which is only to be expected from a group that seem to have huge dollops of artistic vision – for the evidence have a look at singer Catherine's blog and enjoy the beauty there. We first featured a clip of Drive back in October 2010 when we first discovered a Rankin Film for designer Hannah Marshall's catwalk show that the London duo had soundtracked. Since then Alpines have been given the Guardian New Band of the Day treatment in December and today the NME finally got in on the act, so it’s onwards and upwards from here.

For fans of the likes of Fever Ray, Portishead, Zola Jesus, Bat For Lashes and the Breakage Remix of Clare Maguire this is the desolate sound of Alpines and Drive. Enjoy the chilly, ghostly blue-white film and remember who told you about them you first.

Drive (Demo) by Alpines

James Vincent McMorrow - New Waves

Some time ago the dreaded internet red mist led to us posting some pretty harsh comments on a Portsmouth (our home town) based website The Dirty South (see here). In hindsight the words we chose were rather severe - impressively winding up the original author of the piece, but the basis of our comment was simply that we believe there have been some superb musicians emanating from Ireland over the last few years and the author’s dismissal of it caught us fuming.

Looking down the Choice Music Prize nominations for 2011, our beliefs are fully reaffirmed. The Irish scene is as healthy and as brilliant as it has ever been and today’s new wave is just one example of that.

Dublin’s James Vincent McMorrow carries on the tradition of male singer songwriters with an acoustic guitar on their arm and a song in their lungs. He may not be as The Dirty South suggested ‘mind-alteringly’ great but we’d say his songs were exquisite enough to at least fall in love with a little – and isn’t falling in love (even if just a little bit) a mind-alteringly great feeling ?

The reference points roll of the tongue fairly easily; Sufjan Stevens, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Jeff Buckley and Damien Rice, and rather like Bon Iver he has a back story that involves making a record in an isolated location, but this time a house by the Irish Sea rather than a cabin in the wood. Whilst the artists mentioned above give you a sense of the style of music James Vincent McMorrow plays, his influences are more literary ones. He suggests John Steinbeck, F Scott Fitzgerald and Roald Dahl; writers who explored, in McMorrow’s words, “the darker, less spoken about aspects of life - solitude and disillusionment.”

McMorrow is already well known in Ireland having scored a number 1 there,but in the UK his name is only gradually starting to be known having received good support from the likes of Huw Stephens and Zane Lowe on Radio 1. In March he will play shows in Manchester, London, Leeds, Birmingham and Edinburgh and if you’re lucky enough to be in attendance we’re pretty damn sure you’ll be at least a little bit caressed by his soft, soulful, atmospheric and bewitching songs. Maybe you’ll even have your mind-altered?

The song below If I Had A Boat is available for free download together with a new video for his song This Old Dark Machine.

James Vincent McMorrow - If I Had A Boat by partisanpr

James Vincent McMorrow - This Old Dark Machine from Vagrant Records on Vimeo.

Spark - Crave

There’s a certain irony that as many of the UK’s Councils make difficult choices about their reduced funding from central government and announce proposed closures of many libraries, that two regularly featured artists on this blog are about to go on a tour entitled Get It Loud In Libraries. We only hope that the two raven haired lasses involved – Spark and The Good Natured still have venues to play in by the time the tour gets underway in March. It’s also our hope that some of the artists who do these tours have the bravery to make some statements about what is happening to the UK’s libraries and on a wider scale our public services – the future doesn’t look particularly bright and it seems at the moment that there are very few pop stars who are prepared to make any sort of comment – too concerned for any backlash effect it could have on their careers perhaps, or maybe they don't think it's their role - but pop stars can influence people - there's proof through history.

Political comment out of the way, here is the brand new single from one of those two artists we spoke of. It’s called Crave and it’s by Spark. Of Spark, Popjustice recently said. ‘We have a vision of the next nine months for Spark and it's going to be hard work, but the tough slog will be a little easier with more tunes like bombastic first proper single Crave.’ It seems a good assessment of both Spark, the world of pop right now and this song. With its traditional Indian influences, ‘Oh-way-oh’ vocal hook and epic chorus that isn’t that far removed from Rihanna this is a song that could certainly be a hit, but radio play will of course be essential. If we were on a radio show, we’d give it a spin. Oh hold on…. What’s this? Did someone shout The Guestlist? Yes that’s our involvement in a bit of radio magic. We’re on bi-weekly every Wednesday from 8-10pm and you can listen online here, the next show being 16 February.

Crave by Spark (sparkthemusic)