Sunday, December 12, 2010

Festive and Depress-tive

Picture is awesome, but unrelated

Everyone has their favourite Christmas song. Normally these Christmas songs are classed as "guilty pleasures" (let's not get into how that's a nonsense term) because it is the general rule that the Christmas single is reserved only for silly, opportunistic novelty bands- and while it would be difficult to argue that the majority of recent Christmas songs boil down to simple marketing ploys, there are some recent offerings that have, to me, become yuletide classics.

The first- and possibly best- of these festive tunes comes from Frightened Rabbit. Some may find it odd for a band so normally buried in songs of everyday troubles, strife and heartbreak to come out with a song celebrating this, the yearly time of coming together and loving your fellow man.
Well... In a WAY they have? "It's Christmas So We'll Stop" is essentially about celebrating Christmas by not being as terrible, depressed and cruel as you are the rest of the year, certainly the saddest way of describing a seasonal get together.
However, as this is Frightened Rabbit, they handle bitterness and resentment in the most achingly beautiful way. When singer, Scott Hutchinson, yearningly asks to "let the rot stop for today, let the rot stop just for one day" you get the impression that, as sad as it may be, that really is the best Christmas present he could receive. I would kill to hear this song live.

Frightened Rabbit- It's Christmas So We'll Stop

The next, is a song that has achieved legendary status in the world of novelty Christmas hits: Last Christmas. Now as much as I embrace pop music, the original Wham version has- I think it's safe to say- aged terribly since its release (and Cascada's recent, horrific, screechy murdering of the song hasn't done much to resurrect it) and with all the song's perceived cheesiness, it's easy to forget that it is, underneath it all, a heartbreak song.
Dumped over the holidays? Being blanked by an ex? Seeing said ex with someone else? Georgie M is dealing with some depressing stuff in this song.
That's why the song needed someone like iLikeTrains to come along. The Leeds-based post rock adventurers have managed to rein in both their penchant for towering soundscapes and the song's tendency to spin into ironic-cover-version territory and deliver it how it should be. Quiet, resigned and teary-eyed. Maybe not one to get you rocking around the Christmas tree, but a truly heroic take on a yuletide classic that has fallen on hard times.

iLikeTrains- Last Christmas

No doubt I shall think of more modern Christmas classics in the run up to December 25th, and promptly post them, but I thought these two suited each other well (ie. They're both down-in-the-mouth songs about loneliness at Christmastime) so would make a nice little co-blog.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

British Sea Power to the People

It isn't a secret that British Sea Power are one of the best bands of the decade, having produced two of the finest albums of the noughties- as well as providing audiences with the best gigs imaginable. From wrestling matches with bears to cannons showering crowds with fake snow by way of parading on unwilling bouncer's shoulders, anything could happen at a Sea Power gig.

With this amazing unpredictability in the live arena, BSP, in my eyes, suffered slightly with the release of their last 'proper' album "Do You Like Rock Music?". Whilst the album was praised by many for being more focused and refined, to me it presented the challenge of how the band intended to trash the stage and throw each other around during whilst playing a sophisticated indie pop song.

Well, with new single, "Living is So Easy" (quite an upbeat title from the makers of "The Lonely" and "Fear of Drowning") it seems that the band have done something very unexpected indeed, by incorporating some synth-pop touches. However, this isn't a Dandy Warhols style "Oh, we wanted to make electro pop music like Duran Duran all along" needless change of genre, as the sound is still very much in the British Sea Power mould, just with an electronic shimmer that indicates the sound of a band trying new things, as opposed to a band abandoning one style for another.

You can download the new song in exchange for your e-mail address using this fancy new widget thing. I recommend that you do.

Also, as a purely geeky point, the widget features a three-legged horse. Presumably this is a reference to the quite poetic inscription on BSP's second album "Open Season" which reads "To spend our days betting on three legged horses with beautiful names". Could the band be returning to the sound of that, their cheeriest and most accessible album?


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Get your VEG(C)

The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club are one of the most fun bands around, but then again you should already know this from their very enjoyable album "Love On An Oil Rig". You SHOULD do, though frankly, I don't think that album got the attention it deserved despite managing to combine all the fierce, edge of your seat insanity of the Pixies whilst also having a groove to it, akin to those old Wall of Sound girl groups.

The highlight of Love On an Oil Rig, for me, was the single "Parrot", which started with one of the most ominous clunking bass intros, before bursting into life as a twisted dance classic. It also featured a rather brilliant video:

The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - Parrot from This Is Fake DIY Records on Vimeo.

Well now, despite it only being a bit over a year since "Love On an Oil Rig" came out, the VEGC seem raring to go once again with new material, having put up a song for free download on This Is Fake DIY's soundcloud. The new song is the MAGNIFICENTLY titled "A Biting Wind Followed By An Occasional Drift of Snow (Was No Way To Cure A Hangover)". It's a bit more out there than the to-the-point grooves of Parrot but it's fascinating, and has just the right amount of catchiness to make you go back for repeat listens.

A Biting Wind Followed By An Occasional Drift Of Snow (Was No Way To Cure A Hangover) by thisisfakediy

(There you go!)

And you know what, as a bonus, have the bedroom version of Parrot. In all honesty, I thought the original couldn't be improved on, but then again, I didn't think of having the song played acoustically, in a bed, with vocals sung through an old phone.

For the record, I think it's only fair that every single released from now on should have a "bed-a-phone" version. Watch!

Parrot (3-in-a-bed version) from This Is Fake DIY Records on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Carry On Bandcamp-ing

Sorry, folks. I haven't done a blog for nearly a week. It's that whole "working" thing which has apparently become the fashion of today.

To make up for it, this blog's basically going to be a massive dump of all the ace stuff that you can find on bandcamp- one of the most prominent places on the internet for free music that isn't, y'know, "dodgy".

First, a recap of bands who have stuff on Bandcamp who I've already told you to check out.

Firstly, the ever-great Borland (I blogged bout em here) who have new EPs to download on their bandcamp (I think Quantum Woman's my favourite, though Radio Waves is perfect evening ambient music)

Then I linked to Starslinger's bandcamp. He's been interviewed by Pitchfork so that explains why he's the most popular thing on Bandcamp from Manchester- fill your face with downloads here.

Now! Some downloads I've been enjoying lately:

Mi Amo Simmy- Bandcamp

Three tracks of lovely acoustic-ness, all done on a laptop by one guy. Bear in mind that the "one guy" in question is in Day For Airstrikes (a band i adore with a fiery passion) and Pooch (which is basically Day For Popstrikes) and you can realise this is a higher class of bedroom singer/songwriter.
The songs are simple, summery and soothing, not to mention free so get on them.

Boy Genius- Bandcamp

Boy Genius deal with the simple, no-frills rock that I must admit, I don't tend to go for. Normally, if a band aren't pushing limits on hideous-sounding distortion, or providing a fey sentimentality to their rocking, then I'm not usually interested. Boy genius however, temper their butch rock ways with a likeable catchiness. And, the opening title track on the DragonKick EP contains the superbly fun singalong chorus of "I FEEL JUST LIKE AN ANIMAL DOES!"
One for fans of straight forward rocking in a Foo Fighters or late-period Ash style.

DJ A-Trak- Bandcamp

A-Trak is a pretty big deal. He DJ-ed for Kanye on his "Graduation" tour and is currently one half of the very fun Duck Sauce (they did these two party jams) and has recently embraced bandcamp as a way to circulate his latest mixtape, Dirty South Dance 2.
As one might guess, DSD2 is the sequel to 2007's Dirty South Dance. Which I still stick on on my iPod for some ace strutting music. It essentially takes rap vocals and lays them over "body-jacking" electro remixes. A very good match.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


(I'm just going to point out that this is officially one of my favourite images currently in existence)

Chromeo are a special band for me. I first discovered them on Modular's Leave Them All Behind compilation- a disc that, to me, was a revelation. I was a bit shocked at how well indie and electronic music went together. To my mind, there were indie bands and then dance producers and never the two shall meet, but this CD put Tom Vek and Fiery Furnaces songs next to remixes (the 2005 me had hardly heard a remix up until this point) and would you know it worked?

The next time I came across Chromeo was hearing some live tracks they did for the sadly missed "And This Is Our Disco" podcast, the first podcast I subscribed to that wasn't based on the premise of "DJs play indie songs you can dance to" but "DJs play electronic music, alright?" To say they were instrumental in my discovery of electronic music might be a bit much (and would leave out bands like The Knife, Clor, Ratatat and of course, Daft Punk) but they were definitely an important stepping stone out of my comfort zone.

The best thing about Chromeo is, without a doubt, the shiny, retro-futuristic keyboard sounds- complete with talkboxes- and it's obvious that, despite their albums being roughly 1000% fun, a lot of hard work and technical know how goes into making that sound.

Here's a video showing a bit more of that side of Chromeo, though it still seems like a hell of a lot of fun ("I'm much more arrrr-tic-u-laaate"). It's basically a nerdy studio tour that shows how they get those pristine synth sounds. Enjoy!

ps. Anybody fancy seeing Chromeo in Manchester? It's gonna be mecha-awesome.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Embryonic, Embryonic, put your hands all over my body

I have been told many times in my life that I'm a music snob. I disagree (read about why I'm not a music snob, actually, here) but The Flaming Lips are one band that my entire opinion of you hinges on. Put simply, if you don't enjoy any aspect of the Flaming Lips' music- and they've been through many, many line-ups and sounds to choose from- then there are fundamental things that you and I will never agree on, and it's best you leave right now.

However, it's apparently not as simple as that, what with the Lips releasing the dense, wilfully weird album, 'Embryonic' last year. It seems even those who liked the Lips found it difficult to get their heads round the repetitive, blisteringly distorted grooves of "Convinced of the Hex" and "Silver Trembling Hands", though I personally found them thrilling.

One criticism often levelled at the album, is simply that it's less pop minded than "At War With The Mystics" or "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots", and the Guardian even called it "career killing". Christ...

So what makes a band release that kind of album? Well you can find out in a very good documentary called "Blastula" that has interviews with the band about the recording process and how the songwriting went. Plus there's juicy studio footage.

You can watch a making of Embryonic, for one week only here on Pitchfork TV. You blatantly should.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Return of the Mac

"Rumours" by Fleetwood Mac....

I can't recommend this album enough, because as far as I'm concerned, every one of the eleven songs on it (twelve if you have the CD reissue) is excellent, and the majority of them are perfect.

It's an album that does have great memories for me. Memories of finding my parents' vinyl copy and sitting on the floor in the loft, listening to the opening of "Second Hand News" and looking at the old, yellowing images of the band in the record's sleeve. Despite not having a sound that is overly fashionable these days, and Mick Fleetwood and John McVie's penchant for tiny shorts and daft poses, these people seemed cool to me. A gang of friends- and unbeknownst to me, lovers- who made great songs and took silly photos, who doesn't want that?

Though I do distinctly remember talking to my Dad about how Lindsey Buckingham was the finest female guitarist ever and how I wanted to get one of Stevie Nicks' solo albums because "he was a great songwriter". It does seem odd that now, when bands tweet, facebook and photograph everything they do, a cluelessness about which member's which- and what their gender is- is almost sweet.

But yes, this blog post isn't about great new stuff and links to new downloads like most of my others. I just thought I'd talk about my memories of this great album, as inspired by a documentary "The Story of Rumours" on iPlayer.

Listen to it here, and then go out and buy a copy of Rumours. And then listen to that.

Seriously, it is such a good album that will never, ever get old for me. It's like a hug carved into black wax.

Kong of Kongs

Kong are one of the most curious bands currently on planet earth. Matching outfits, masks and relentless noise make any band worth exploring to me, and these are the three main ingredients in Kong.

Well actually no, that places too much importance on the appearance, the real three ingredients in Kong are drums, bass and guitar, all being bashed, thrashed and eventually smashed to produce a distorted, gnarled monolith of sound. Kong's use of distortion is amazing in itself, even without the fact that the riffs are hypnotic yet at no times funky or predictable. The bass alternately rumbles and squawks but never devolve into simple fuzz. All sounds at all times have teeth in a Kong song.

That might well be the most pretentious way I've described a band's sound so far here at Nice Try... but Kong are quite the oddity. But like oddities there's a perverse thrill in checking them out. Which you can do now for free.

Kong have put "Count To Nine" for free download here. What makes the song extra special, is the guest vocals from the Bronx's Matt Caughtran- who I once hugged at a gig- which adds a powerful growl to the already frighteningly heavy riffs. Delicious stuff that might make you sick.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stream Awesome Stuff: ATP gets Internet-ional

ATP- or All Tomorrow's Parties if you want to get long-winded and acknowledge the Velvet Underground Reference- have, for some years, been the best promoters around. It's them I have to thank for two of the most awesome spectacles of live music I've ever seen (this and this) as well as the most impressive festival line-ups imaginable- Pavement's only UK festival date, need I say more?

The trouble is, because ATP concerts and festivals are so good, they get the crowds they deserve and therefore sell out. And fast. So imagine if you could hear the bands online somehow?

NPR apparently has you covered, with entire sets from ATP NY- which was on in New York earlier this month- being on their website, free to stream and download.
This is good news because, well, look at this line-up (click to enlarge).

I've been listening to Explosions in the Sky's set all morning and the audio quality is amazing. There's also sets from Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile and Girls- and I imagine many more to come (I'm praying Raekwon's set is added).

Go here to view all the sets available, then click on the artist you want to hear. Enjoy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Punk Floyd! New These Monsters Demos

These Monsters are pretty great. They've been going since 2005, and this year released one of the most outrageous, confident and enjoyable debut albums imaginable with "Call Me Dragon" (the title track of which is damn high on my list of songs of the year).

The album manages to be luxurious and spacey whilst still having a hard, sinister rock edge, like it's being played by a prog band having their strings pulled by Black Sabbath. It was the prog aspect of their sound that really attracted me to them, so when I saw them live a few months ago on the Manchester leg of the WOLVES festival tour I was a little shocked at how primitive, raw and punchy the band's new material was.

Though, after talking to the band after their performance, it became clear that- as the songs on Call Me Dragon were written a few years ago- the band's progression wasn't as sudden or unexpected as I had thought.

But now the new sound is official, now that new demos have been premiered on the band's soundcloud page.

band practice recordings by TheseMonsters

Here they are. The fact they're demos just emphasises the grittier sound they've gone for. But now it grabs your throat rather than expands your mind. Obviously both of these are good things. Enjoy

DOOM to Maneuver

"If all else fails, inhale an ale"

That line is just one reason why DOOM is one of the best rappers alive. Another reason is the fact that- unlike a depressingly large amount of rappers- he can produce beats just as well as anybody who produces for him. It was because of this, he had the ability to be crazy productive and release over twenty albums under loads of psuedonyms in the ten years and amongst all those releases are at least five stone cold classics (Operation: Doomsday, Madvillainy, Take Me To Your Leader, MM Food and any of the Special Herbs series in case you were wondering).

Oh, and another reason why he's one of the best rappers is his awesome mask.

Though if there's one thing that has stopped him being the world's most well known hip hop star- as he rightfully should be- it's DOOM's live reputation. In 2007, Doom did a kind of stupid thing. He sent a bunch of DOOM-posters, skinny fakes in DOOM masks, to perform at his gig while he presumably sat at home not doing much.

So now, with that reputation, it takes balls as steely as his Metal Face to make his next release a live album.

Well it has arrived and I personally am impressed. DOOM's normally whispery and slurred delivery is still there but he seems invigorated, roaring out lyrics and punchlines that, on record, require a keen ear to catch.

He even breaks his image of being serious (though it's amazing he still has that reputation. I mean have you HEARD the DangerDoom album?) by pretending to be sick during "VomitSpit" and cheerily encouraging the crowd to shout "SUPER!" during the, by all accounts, amazing opener of "Hoe Cakes".

So yes, hopefully this performance isn't a one off- and not just cause I'm seeing him when DOOMSDAY comes to Manchester- because, if DOOM gets a reputation as a live heavyweight, on a par with his on-record performances, then he should by rights be given a spot with his friends Mos Def and Ghostface Killah in the holy trinity of alternative hip hop.

Here is his new album (Spotify link, you ain't getting no downloads, boy)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Surreal Pop Post

Veering even further away from my comfort zone, here's a post about one of the most surreal musical curiosities I've come across recently. Will Smith's daughter, WHO IS NINE YEARS OLD (!!!) is releasing a single.

Take a moment to process your first reaction to that. What kind of song do you expect her to come out with? A weak pop number? An upbeat, Disney Channel-friendly sing song about being yourself and how nice friends are?

You would be hugely wrong, because she has somehow come out with a huge hip hop song, that's less Hannah Montana and more like Rick Ross and Big Boi. I'm not even joking, play the vid.

Hear those MASSIVE drums? And where did you last hear a chorus with a repetitive, pitch altered refrain like that? The Rick Ross classic Hustlin'. In fact Whip My Hair could basically be Hustlin' just sped up.

A nine year old is taking influence from coke-obsessed rappers. Whilst some sensitive parents may be shocked or outraged by that, all I'm saying is Whip My Hair is precisely a million times better than I expected of a child star, so musically speaking it's a very good thing.

Plus the chorus has a little nod to Devo, which I am all in favour of.

ps. Huge "blog shout outs" to Akira the Don for the discovery of the vid.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Zefs Chasing Cara- don't even try to make sense of that name- is, amazingly, the project of just one guy. The reason why this is so surprising will become apparent when you hear him. It's rare for a band to have such complex riffs and not just devolve into pedal stomping, riff worship. Fortunately, by keeping the guitars clean and adding whirring synthesiser parts, it manages to be impressively tangled in its intrumentation but still keep a simple pop sound.

It should come as no surprise that This Town Needs Guns have come out in praise of the new ZCC EP "Kneel And You Will Lose", with both bands doing the kind of widdly riffery that math-rock dreams are made of. Zefs Chasing Cars however is a bit more relaxed than This Town... which does mean less dancefloor urges- but then again, when it comes to math-rock, there's hardly any way to dance to it without ending up twitching to awkward time signatures and basically looking demented.

You can download Kneel And You Will Lose here and I thoroughly recommend you do. Especially good for those who are dipping their toes into the world of mathy music. treat yourself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two Becoming One?

Just a quick post combining two things I've mentioned before. Just as I was getting excited about Starslinger and also telling you to check out the new Deerhunter video you'll never guess what has happened.


What are the odds, eh?

Enjoy, because this is a very classy remix indeed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Leave It To Beats

My knowledge of beats and beatmakers is like Richard Villalobos' music. Minimal.

That's not only a terrible joke that few, if any, people will enjoy, but it's also true. Whilst I can get by when talking about hip hop, I only have a small selection of favourite producers in the genre. Predictably these are mainly Stone's Throw artists (an amazing label you should check out right now) J Dilla, Madlib and (MF) DOOM with the important inclusion of Flying Lotus.

What's the point in blogging on a topic you know little about, you may ask. Well one, because I would like to know more about the genre- I'm seeing DOOM next month and hate gigs where you can't hold your own when it comes to discussing the band/artists in question. And two, because I recently found a great beats tape from a Manchester producer called Starslinger.

Starslinger wears his Dilla influence quite proudly- and why shouldn't he? Dilla's amazing- sharing J's love for sliced up samples and loose, occasionally arrhythmic drums lead by stuttering hi-hats. Though Starslinger has less futuristic synths whirring and wailing than Dilla, preferring to let the samples lead the composition.

It's all very good stuff, and if only the northern rap scene wasn't fuelled by MCs raised on speed garage, the beats would be the perfect for a local rapper to make his name with.

Anyway, you can download the album here. Enjoy, and please comment letting me know about other good producers working locally- or of any that I need in my life.

And apologies for the terrible joke at the start.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Sufjan came

I doubt there as many singer songwriters working today, who are held as close to their fans' hearts as Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan's fans (SufFans?) have even remained devoted despite a lack of bona fide new material since 2005's Illinois. Though that may be because Illinois is one of the greatest and most touching albums of the decade.

And it's fair to say that new stuff from Stevens wouldn't come after a Chinese Democracy style wait. In the interim there was "Run, Rabbit Run", an album consisting of remixes of 2001's Enjoy Your Rabbit, and the instrumental, orchestral and- to some extents- experimental piece, "The BQE".

But now there are two new songs, from a new album, "The Age Of Adz" billed as Stevens' first collection of songs for five years. The songs are called "I walked" and "Too Much", and can be downloaded FOR FREE here.

The songs might take fans expecting "Illinois part 2" by surprise. There is a clear electronic influence and no swooning tempo changes, though Sufjan's trademark choral backing and aching voice are still left intact.

These previews really only tell us what we already knew. That "The Age of Adz" will be a very interesting release, and that it may be difficult as it follows one of the best indie/folk albums in living memory.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Belle and Sebastian. I know, Awesome!

Belle and Sebastian are one of the best bands that Britain has ever birthed. In fact, as I stood on my tip toes near the front, waiting for them to come on stage at this year's Latitude Festival, a merrily drunk Scottish man turned to me and said "You're about to see Glasgow's answer to the Beatles". Needless to say his opinion was shared by almost all the crowd there and what followed was without doubt the best headline set I have ever seen at a festival.

One particularly special moment was when the band's second lead singer Stevie Jackson lead us all in singing along to a new song called "I'm Not Living In The Real World". It was, as expected, a cracking little tune and today B&S have released another new song, the title track to the forthcoming album "Write About Love".

Download: Belle & Sebastian- Write About Love

The song sees them carrying on down the jolly 60s pop route that they've been walking ever since "Legal Man" came out in 2000. Whilst it would be nice to hear a return to the minimal, melancholy of early albums "Tigermilk" and "If You're Feeling Sinister", that is only because we are having so much of a good thing we can afford to be picky.

I hope this band exists forever.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Deers in the Spotlight

Deerhunter are an impressive band and are easily my favourite of the thousands of projects frontman Bradford Cox completes in his average week. Though his blog has been quiet lately, it used to have fresh EPs of all new material thrown up every other day.

It's rare that a talented musician producing less material is a reason to celebrate, but maybe, if Cox can tame his rather erratic sprees of productivity and focus on producing one concise and consistent album, then the forthcoming "Halycon Digest" should be amazing.

And based on the video for new song "Helicopter" here (a grainy black and white study of Bradford's face and, well, little else) it should at the very least be an interesting album.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Arab Strap is Dead

Of course, the news that Arab Strap is dead, is hardly hot off the press. The Scottish duo of Aiden Moffat and Malcolm Middleton- responsible for some of the rawest love songs of our time- split after their 2005 swansong album "The Last Romance" (and a lovely best of called "Ten Years of Tears").

However they are now having a bit of a resurgence, having released a massively comprehensive boxset "Scenes of a Sexual Nature" (details of what was included in the mammoth set can be found here) and- quite likely to attract those less ardent Strap fans not prepared to pay £60 for "Scenes..."- now resissuing the band's first two albums ("The Week Never Starts Round Here" from 1996 and 1998's "Philophobia") with the fancy double disc treatment.

ALSO! What with Aiden Moffat being simply one of the most fun grumps in music he has released the uncomfortably hilarious short film "Arab Strap is Dead". Much like an Arab Strap song, the video makes the viewer feel, not so much like they're watching someone spill their guts, more like they're watching Moffat perform open heart surgery on himself and wax lyrical about everything he finds in there.

So here's the film. If you don't love Aiden Moffat even a little bit by the end of it, you should probably see a doctor.

Friday, August 27, 2010

GAGAPALOOZA: Thoughts on Lady Gaga after seeing her live

For the past month, I've been in the American mid-west and it was lovely. The event that tempted me over there was Lollapalooza,a festival with one of the best line-ups I had ever seen (on the Sunday, I saw Yeasayer, MGMT, The National and Arcade Fire one after the other. Yes, that good a line up). But one of the headliners caused much more of a hubbub than the other bands. Lady Gaga. Gaga played on the first night of the festival, to a crowd so huge, it's doubtful there was anybody left to go see the Strokes headline the other stage and her performance left me pondering her. So I figured, since Pop Justice are trying to mark this Bank Holiday has "Bad Romance Bank Holiday Monday" (or "Bad Romiday") then I figured now was as good a time as any to ponder my thoughts at other people.

Lady Gaga is one of the few recording artists working today who is pretty much unavoidable. She is well known for, well everything. There are just as many people who love her music while hating her image as there are who love her image whilst not caring for her music.

I seem to be in the minority of those who find some of her songs enjoyable, some not so much (though they are always catchy) and her outrageous behaviour to be sometimes righteous, sometimes misguided.

However, few can argue that Gaga hasn't positioned herself brilliantly within the musical sphere. She writes pure pop. In a time where being a "popstar" has only recently become an okay thing to be- not so long ago female singers had to wear t-shirts and be 'kooky' and 'alternative' in order to get a record deal (Nelly Furtardo might want to forget those days, but we shan't)- but she wears it, not like a badge of honour, but like a lobster hat, tilted disdainfully against the boring, as that is one thing she can never be described as.

And seeing her perform live at Lollapalooza certainly was not boring, oh no. There were outrageous sets, a writhing wall of dancers for seemingly every song and outfits that would, until now, have been considered architecturally impossible. Not to mention that with a live band, it became even clearer that Gaga simply does write good songs, and not just good singles, I enjoyed songs that I'd never heard before. And not just me, God knows it kept a very large crowd, very entertained.

However, where Lady Gaga's live show fell down, was when she wasn't performing her music, but was performing the act of being Lady Gaga. Seeing a lady with shoulder pads the size of guitar amps play a keyboard that is under the bonnet of a car, parked onstage is amazing (guitar amp shoulder pads are something she should consider actually. They would be awesome!) but hearing the same person wax lyrical about how she writes songs for people who are having a hard time in High School is not so good. With Lady Gaga's lyrics rarely straying away from the dancefloor or the bedroom, it was bizarre hearing who she aimed these songs at. Are kids seriously playing "Love Game" after a screaming row with their parents?
(Gaga's 2007 Lollapalooza Performance... Presumably featuring less talking, more nudity)

Which is not to say she should shut up. Her comments on the overturning of Proposition 8, were of course timely, and appropriate given Gaga's position as a Gay rights spokesperson of sorts. However, a six minute monologue on how one of her dancers "likes American girls... AND AMERICAN BOYS!" (delivered while she was draped around his waist like a fleshbelt) was too far, and sort of treated a person's sexuality as if it were a titillating and risqué fact. She also added that that was why she liked him. Whilst it does serve the expertly media-savvy purpose of having the audience think she's sleeping with him- which is seemingly all some people care about- it also means that his sexuality is announced as his defining feature.

It also took up lots of time that she could have spent playing "Telephone".

To summarise, Lady Gaga's shortcomings and complexities are the same as pop music as a whole's. Pop music is disposable. Songs are created, packaged with a video, consumed and then supposedly forgotten when a new song, or singer, or band comes along- hence why longevity is so hard to establish. At the same time, a good pop song can define a time in your life. Can become a bond between you and a friend. Can alter the way you feel just as much as higher brow music and art. Yet hearing Lady Gaga give pop music the long, shouty tributes that it arguably deserves between songs just seems pretentious. She was almost acting as if she was changing people's lives. But pop music can do that, and who's to say that she wasn't doing precisely that at Lollapalooza?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Rhythm and News

It's no secret that Cats in Paris are one of my favourite North-West bands. "Courtcase 2000", their 2008 debut, is a rare beast in that for all the unapologetically mental freakouts that burst out in songs like "Cold Products" and "(How To) Harvest Yourself", they never lose a sort of saccharine sweet pop charm- helped by the call and response vocals and delicious synthesisers.

In fact, all of these qualities are in effect in their new single "Chopchopchopchopchop" (except the call and response vocals, Sara has sadly left the band) so have a listen:

Chopchopchopchopchop Music Video: Cats in Paris from Cats In Paris on Vimeo.

But yes, the reason I'm mentioning them, is they're about to embark on a very fun sounding project. The Daily News!

Basically, Michael, Lorien and Ben intend to read the news headlines every day in August, throw them around their music boxy brains and then firing them back out into the world in song form. This is bound to be special. So you should definitely check it out, starting out on Sunday.

(I just hope it works out better than Bumblebeez disappointing 30/30 project)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Here come the Grums

Things that have changed since I last blogged:

We have a Conservative Prime Minister.
Journey have become massively popular.
People are excited to see The A-Team.

All the evidence is there, we are now in the 80s, so there's no better time to enjoy Grum's new single, "Through The Night", an exceptional piece of retro electro.

The video sums up JUST how 80s the song is- it's like Top Gun and Magnum PI finally acted on those feelings they've secretly been having the whole time- but that's only if you weren't already aware from the synth sounds and a Toto sample for the vocals.

Grum is a Leeds-based one man production maestro who, fortunately, is very aware of his nostalgic sound and milks it just the right amount. You can hear that classic Giorgio Moroder sound in the synth washes he puts on nearly all his work (listen to he remixes for more examples).

Not sure how this new single will appeal to the clubbers of today, it's almost too pleasant to dance to, but I know I'll be listening to it a lot.

Blog: Resurrection

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Today is a momentous day, for I think it may well be the first and possibly only time where the writing of someone wearing a t-shirt they got free for taking part in a pub crawl is featured on the Manchester Fashion Network website!

Click here to read my interview with the lovely Travelling Band, whose album "Under The Pavement" is available on spotify and I would recommend it for sunny day listening.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book your face...

The Indelicates (who i have mentioned more on this blog than any other band) have done a very fancy thing. They've released a social single! Essentially, you're free to stream the single as many times as you want, as long as you invite at least 5 facebook friends to listen to it as well. It's genius really, especially at a time when bands keep complaining that the internet is their enemy (DE Bill anyone?)

Here's a link so you can do your thing and listen to their new single "Savages". Needless to say it's very good, tuneful pop music with quotable lyrics that, were teenagers to embrace grumpy indie, would be plastered over a thousand MSN screen names and facebook updates. Superb.


The Indelicates album is now available for as much as you want to pay here

The album is, for my money, better than American Demo (also available at the Corporate Records site) with more folkier numbers but still the perfect amount of guts and bile in the lyrics. "Be Afraid Of Your Parents" is ALREADY a classic in my eyes (and ears).


Hey everyone, I've been a bad blogger lately and I apologise. Here's some music things that I've been paying attention to lately.

Borland (myspace link and new-born twitter page link, you social network dah-lings) came in to Chorley FM (I should use this blog to promote my show more. Wednesdays 8 til 10) and did a very nice session on the Flat Iron Show.
These guys are fast becoming my favourite local band. Not just because they're gents or because interesting electronic music is quite rare in Manchester- most local bands opt for by the numbers dance- but because they are CRAZY productive. Last year they released their Octopop EP (available on iTunes, folks) which might just be my most-played EP since 'Sissy Hits' and then by December they had released House.

According to them, House has mistakes, technical faults and was written and recorded shockingly quickly, though part of me thinks that adds to the charm. When electronica mixes with live instrumentation their should be slight imperfections, it makes what could be faceless robotmusic feel warmer if you ask me.

And now apparently they have a trilogy of EPs AND an album due to come out soon. Not to mention an EP of live material. They have a constant stream of new material that veers from post-rock with glitch touches ("Sunday Sunshines" for examples), to full on synthesiser wailing ("Crystal Handshake") and it's all interesting. What's not to love? Let's hope where they lead, other artists in Manchester electro scene follow.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Snobs and Liars

I frequently get called, by my otherwise lovely girlfriend, a "music snob". Whilst I admit that nothing written on this blog does much to dispel that impression, I'd have to disagree. A music snob is, in my mind, the kind of person who will deride your music taste and then, when asked what they like, offer a very aloof answer like "Oh you won't know the kind of bands I like".
(An answer someone ACTUALLY GAVE once. Which would've been okay, had they not been referring to Mogwai. Y'know, Mogwai, that band that are super obscure, never heard-of, certainly not headlining the Manchester Academy and been critically acclaimed and respected for 15 years.)

I would like to think that rather enjoying being a fan of bands most people don't know, I endeavour to tell people about good bands so that they may become more well known, rather than keeping them to myself and bathing in indie kudos.

However, I found myself guilty of a snobbish blunder last week. I was on a "road trip" with a good uni friend and we were listening to some "tunes". We'd already worn out Thieving by Akira The Don so, in search for more tunes I checked my bag. In there, was Last Exit by Junior Boys- a lovely birthday present- and a new purchase, Sisterworld by Liars.

Here's where my snobbiness reared its undesirable head. My friend asked that I put it on, and I did, but in the back of my mind I was going "Oh dear, I don't think he'd like Liars. They are a bit too weird and experimental".

I know.

How awful.

In my defence, Liars have always been a band that I had ambivalent feelings about. "They Were Wrong, So We Drowned" and "Drum's Not Dead" are both great albums, once you accept that they have no problem with whetting your appetite with a nice drum beat or catchy synth warble and then cut it dead and go into ambient squawks for ages before coming back to the song's 'meat and potatoes'.

But my mind was changed on them after seeing them live (with Deerhunter supporting, great gig). It's there that there blend of delirious drums and guitar squeals 'n' rumbles make perfect sense.

So yes, whilst it was very bad of me to assume my friend wouldn't like them, it was based on my not being to convinced by them on my first listening.

Fortunately I needn't have worried as the new Liars album is amazing Opening track Scissor has eerie high pitched choral backing vocals and pounding out-of-nowhere guitar attacks- which have been Liars trademarks for ages- yet for some reason it is less abrasive and unbelievably more pop-minded and accessible whilst still remaining true to its weird roots. Something Radiohead have always been capable of, clearly Liars were taking note when they supported Thom Yorke's crew on their US tour.

So basically, don't assume that just because a band have an experimental and difficult past, that their new album won't impress your friends. And if a band release an album as good as Sisterworld, don't keep it to yourself, tell people about it.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Disconnect the Dots

Yeah, I quoted Of Montreal.

The music business is apparently dying because of illegal downloaders. Despite evidence showing that downloaders contribute more to the "biz" than those who don't, there is a very sinister final step about to be made against those internet varmits.

Essentially, if you download illegally, the government has the right to disconnect your internet for an undisclosed amount of time. I believe the going rate is if you illegally download 50 things.

What I have trouble with is not necessarily that this will involve MASSIVE MONITORING OF MY ONLINE ACTIVITIES but the fact that an awful lot of downloading could look to the ominous internet monitors to seem illegal when ethically sound (and what are laws if not applied ethics).

I shall give some examples.

I am an attempted/aspiring music writer. One particular thing I write for is Drunken Werewolf. Now as much as you should check out DW for yourself, I'll give you a brief rundown. It is an independent zine that is free. This is on the basis that music is a very important thing and the artists featured within are worthy of your attention (ie. worthy of whatever money you can spare to spend on music) and therefore it would be perverse to ask for money you could be spending on the bands within.

Simply put, the zine is not for profit neither me, a contributor, nor Tiff the editor expect to gain money from it. Because of this the "production costs" need to be kept to a minimum. This means that if we get a promo copy of an album, it is easier and cheaper for the album to be sent over the web and not through the post. But this means, when- as I did recently- I download the new Magnetic Fields album to review for the new issue of Drunken Werewolf, will the government take the time to ascertain that it is all above board? Because, you see, I've written for over 10 issues of Drunken Werewolf reviewing about 2 or 3 albums per issue. That means that, if the new bill was enforced I would be halfway towards getting my internet cut off. Great.

I also have a radio show for local bands. Because of this I ask a lot of local acts to send me mp3s. Recently, I read on Twitter and facebook that local band Well Wisher had recorded their EP (incidentally, it's very good and they were featured in an article in Drowned in Sound which is cool). So I spoke to the band, got myself a juicy link to download the EP to play on the show. worriedaboutsatan have also sent me an EP to use tracks from. And Borland. And The Lovely Eggs. And Fall Fan Dave and the Laptop Dancers. But yes, when I download these albums/EPs, will the government bother to find out that the artists I'm supposedly "stealing" from have SENT ME THE LINK.

And what about albums/mixtapes/bootlegs that are given away free anyway? the classic examples being QuoteUnQuote Records and the ever more relevantly named You Are Not Stealing Records. Will Virgin Media not see that I've been downloading large album sized chunks of data?

Seriously, there are so many holes that can be poked in this bill. However, what with people trying to urge the bill through without it even being put up to debate, it might not even be prodded.

Seriously, I'm a student and I'm actually considering writing to my MP, how's that for motivation. To bastardise a quote from internet legends don't be an apathetic hipster douchbag, learn about the world and find out how they're trying to take away your internet with little to no reason. Do that here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fun & Bass

Here's a song a I came across recently on The Daily Growl but is feeling very appropriate this morning.

Not Squares are an Irish three-piece who play bass, drums and bass (+ occasional synths) between them. Drum and bass bands can conjure up a number of images. From Death From Above's distort-everything-and-do-riffs approach, to Lightning Bolt's distort-everything-and-do-noise approach, to Dianogah's just-play-post-rock-and-people-might-not-notice-we-don't-have-guitars approach. Either way, those are the options and most subsequent bands have coloured firmly in the lines.

This it's why it's nice for Not Squares to show that if you don't have guitars, this doesn't mean you have to be very sweaty and serious (DFA are fun, but they took themselves very seriously). You can be sweaty and silly. Plus the basslines haven't gone through a million distortion pedals, which makes a refreshing change and gives their stuff- especially Asylum- an "Army of Tina Weymouths" feel. And anything that reminds me of Tina Weymouth is automatically great.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Indelicates and the Devil's music

So yes, I saw The Indelicates on Thursday night, and- as predicted- they were superb. Their drummer was apparently out of action, but as Julia Indelicate explained afterwards, their new material has a more lush, cabaret feel to it, meaning that, even without drums, the songs were still propulsive and interesting. In fact, you got the feeling that if there had been drums, you'd have lost the intimate atmosphere and it would have felt too much like a gig, rather than the "Evening of songs with the Indelicates" that it turned into.

I don't know if they'll be playing more gigs around the country, but what with their album Songs for Swinging Lovers being released next months, I'm sure a more complete tour will be on the cards soon. So yes, see them if or when you get the chance.

Now onto another band I've been meaning to blog about for a while. worriedaboutsatan are a very interesting band from Leeds. I first came across them when I saw them supporting at the always great Mad Ferret pub, on a bill with the amazing Spokes and Capulet- two of the best post rock bands in the North of England.

Seeing as post rock isn't a genre known for it's astounding musical variety, there was always a risk that having two classic-sounding post-rock bands on the same night could get samey, so having worriedaboutsatan was a stroke of genius. They take the typical post-rock elements (pretty, sparkling guitars and odd, spoken-word snippets) but layer them over tight, skittering techno "beats". Well, it's impossible to write beats without sounding like an out of touch 46 year old.

Anyway, they were superb when I saw them live, and now they have a rather brilliant single coming out imminently called Heart Monitor. The physical CD is limited to a sparse 100 copies, which is pretty much nothing. I intend to try and make it to their gig in Manchester on the 26th, in order to get one- it comes with a badge, hospital form and very pretty artwork.

The single can be streamed on soundcloud here. I really love it.

So yes, that might be the longest blog I have ever done that didn't turn into a rant. Expect more blogs soon as I have got most of university out of the way.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Tomorrow night, I am going to see the rather amazing Indelicates at the lovely Ruby Lounge in Manchester. I'm pretty excited.

The Indelicates first came to my attention after a music blog, possibly the sadly no-longer-often-updated Stop Me If You Think You Heard This One Before, posted a link to the free mp3 demos on their website. What first attracted me to the band was, without a doubt, their song titles. "Waiting for Pete Doherty to Die"? Pure genius!

Needlessly to say, the mix of cynicism, rage and wit in the lyrics matched the titles and I was hooked. The band released debut album 'American Demo' in 2008 and was very hurriedly forgotten about, which is nigh on criminal. Not only because it contains the anthemic and amazing "New Art For The People" but also some of the best indie-on-indie lyrical commentary of all time with "If Jeff Buckley Had Lived". Now they're back with a new album. I thought you all needed to see the cover because it is GENIUS!

How awesome is that?

Interesting footnote, I interviewed Simon Indelicate in the tiny kitchen down the little Fire Exit corridor on that cover. Oh the life and times of an indie rock shmoozer.

I'll probably review the gig- though I don't expect it to be anything less than "very fun".

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fresh Princes

I've not blogged for a while. I would apologise but truthfully, the reason is because last week consisted almost exclusively of 21st celebrations and university getting heavy.

So what made me take to the internet again? DEVO did!

They may well be the most fun band of all time, in fact in College I made a point of bringing "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!" to all the parties I was invited to, waiting for the CD player to become unmonitored and stick it on at full blast. The amount of parties I was invited to quickly decreased.

But yes, this post isn't intended to wax lyrical about how they are a band that everyone should love, it's intended to point out that they have a new song. And good lord is it good.

Listen to it NOW! You can stream it here, and you totally should.

Why does nobody rip off Devo? I know I'd moan if they did, but seriously, if it weren't for Clor or early Franz Ferdinand you'd think Devo never existed. Enough Joy Division/New Order copyists, Devo is an untapped source of plagiarism.