Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Little Boots

Jumping on the bandwagon is never cool. Luckily I've been listening to Lil' Boots (Lil' Wayne's sister) since she got her first Casio keyboard in Year 4.

Mathematics was released last year, and takes pop-hook-ability and extended metaphors to the next level

N.B. Relationships = Complex Maths Equations.

The relationship graph of Cool vs Popularity dictates that Lil' Boots (Lil' Wayne's sister) will become less cool over the course of the next few months. But who cares!? Little Boots is everything that intelligent mainstream British pop music should be.


Little Boots - Mathematics


Barney's Picks for 2009 Part1

As is customary with this time of year it's time we see what we'll all be listening to in 2009. However due to the impending destruction of western civilisation this year will be slightly different and the only way we will be able to hear these great bands will be on wind up radios huddled together in skips eating suspect meats out of lable-less tins So here's some bands i think will or should make waves in 2009. (this will be updated over the next week or so)

The Gaslight Anthem

My first tip is the one i have the most faith in because essentially the job is already half done. The Gaslight Anthem dropped my album of the year last with The '59Sound and they keep winning fans and critical acclaim wherever they go. Led by the impossibly charming Brian Fallon, who even made the NME cool list, they have the potential to follow The Hold Steady into the hearts of a lot of devoted fans and '09 can only see them get bigger and better.

Polar Bear Club

Second pick is a band that are coming over to the UK this Feb to support Gaslight Anthem. Hailing from Rochester, NY this a band that fans of anyone from Black Flag to Snow Patrol can take something from. They're everything i look for in a band; anthemic, inventive, sincere and engaging with one of the best vocalists i've heard in a long long time. On first listen their gruff melodic punk rock is all Hot Water Music this and Small Brown Bike that but on repeat listens you can hear a grander ambition, that while nodding to their past seem focused on breaking out of the confines of punk rock and making something defining. Start with their The Redder The Better E.P. and move on to their debut album Sometimes Things Just Disappear trust me you won't look back.


Friday, 19 December 2008

Aled's 7 Memories of 2008

7. The Last Shadow Puppets

Because Shirley Bassey is a classy lady.

6. Noel Gallagher Gets Aggressively Pushed

Because Liam Gallagher looks like a Peacock in fight situations.

5. Fucked Up Ruin MTV Canada

Because it's so quintessentially punk (sic), and because MTV Canada has music on it.

4. Future of the Left Live Album - Last Night I Saved Her From Vampires

Because they really hate Reverend and the Makers.

3. The Return of Phil Spector

Because being musically influential is better than a life sentence.

2. Coldplay steal music from Joe Satriani!

Because why wouldn't a world famous pop band steal their ideas from a balding, uninteresting, and unpopular Guitar-wank-Superstar!?

1. Johnny Foreigner

Because they are universally loved by all.


Thursday, 18 December 2008

X Factor is over! Hallelujah?

So that happy time of the year has come about at last. Simon Cowell and his smarmy panel of cronies have successfully whittled down nearly two hundred thousand hopefuls to one contestant deemed to have the holy grail of commercial pop music – the X factor. Winner Alexandra Burke can now look forward to a record contract with Cowell’s record company Syco, no doubt with modest percentage of record sales going to the artist, given that those who win the X factor rarely have time for song writing/contract negotiating. No, that time is dedicated to rounding off square edges, to fit into the round holes of commercial accessibility and musical mediocrity.

Maybe I am being a little cynical. It is undeniable that Alexandra Burke has raw talent and could well become the next Leona Lewis, who has become a world-wide pop sensation in the last year. In fact, if I closed my eyes and listened to Burke’s voice, I could easily mistakenly identify it as Lewis. And perhaps that will be the downfall of Alexandra Burke, entering into a pop market where there is no obvious niche for her to fill. It is more than likely that she will take her token Christmas number one with all its hype and hysteria and then stutter to obscurity (a la Gareth Gates – sorry had to be said.)

Another problem which I envisage is the choice of song for her first single. I think that Alexandra has been handed a poison chalice in Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I cringed as I watched both Alexandra and JLS power through rousing, gospel choir backed versions of the classic only to break down with the emotion of it all afterwards. The renditions were wholly inappropriate, discarding Cohen’s enchanting mix of biblical and overtly sexual lyrics in order to project their pop warbling more fully in the faces of their besotted phone number dialling fans. It was yet more sad proof that lyrics mean nothing in today’s commercial pop scene.

Furthermore I fail to see how Alexandra Burke could possibly produce a cover of Cohen’s song as beautiful or as poignant as Jeff Buckley’s, which has become the definitive version of the song. Buckley’s cover has turned the song into a pop classic, which is presumably why Cowell selected the song as the launching pad for his new star. Yes, people love the song but I feel that inevitably Burke’s cover will be forever compared to Buckley’s version, which I cannot see her topping, not this year, not ever.

So enjoy your stint in the lime light, Ms Burke, which I can only envisage being brief. It maybe a year or two before your pop credentials are severely challenged or more inevitably the fickle hysteria of the British public will turn to brutal apathy with sold out stadium tours turning to desperate pantomime performances. Alexandra may well prove me wrong, but I just don’t see it having considered the evidence presented to me by Gareth Gates, Shayne Ward, Leon Jackson, Hear’say and Steve Brookstein, to name but a few of the reality pop show winner casualty list. What a truly sad prospect for those with the X factor. Merry Xmas one and all!

Tim Cox

P.S. Aled - There have been more versions of this song than Leonard Cohen has had hot dinners (he is old, and loves a roast) Here are some of the most interesting...

Leonard Cohen

John Cale

Rufus Wainwright (SHREK)

Kermit the Frog


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Barney's Top 10 Albums of 2008

10 The Night Marchers-See You In Magic (Vagrant)

Jon Reiss, He of Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu fame, does not make bad albums. When he surrounds himself with former members of Hot Snakes and CPC Gangbangers he is not going to make a bad album. See You In Magic is not a bad album, it's a great album. Bred from four guys who just know what they like and know how to write dirty, hooky, swaggering tunes.

9. I Was A Cubscout-I Want You To Know There Is Always Hope (XL)

This album didn't really do much for me upon its release. There was a couple of good singles but the rest was spoiled with what i thought were pointless build-ups excessive use of glockenspiel and nothing really to grab hold of. Then i put it on for one of my longer flyering walks and it all worked. The gorgeous layers of synths, the subtly intricate drumming all topped off with todd marriots captivating and utterly unique vocals. Tragically inner tensions forced the band split up. Todd went on to form Omes and drummer William is now playing in Brontide

8. The Bronx-III (White Drugs/Witchita)

I love The Bronx but this album isn't their best by a long way. However that still in my eyes puts them head and shoulders above the majority of other bands of there. It's a bit more rock and a bit less punk but it hasn't dulled their ability to write music that transcends genre boundaries and makes you feel like you can crush cars for half an hour

7. Failsafe-The Truth Is... (Smalltown)

A new a label gave this Preston five piece a new lease of life and The Truth Is... does not disappoint. Removing all traces of their earlier ska sound they have morphed fully into a post-hardcore powerhouse that marry the energy of hardcore with sky-scraping melodies and huge harmonies. Incredible live as well

6.Cancer Bats-Hail Destroyer (Hassle)

Every year i need my fix of heavy music and this year Cancer Bats were that fix. This, their second album proper, is a melting pot of big riffs and pure visceral energy. Liam's vocals really control the songs and i cant wait to finally catch 'em live.

5. Tegan & Sara-The Con (Sire)

Paddy got away with an 'actually released in the states in 2007 but released in 2008 in the UK' so i'm gonna have one too. This is simply a great pop record. Produced by Chris Walla of Death Cab fame and featuring members of AFI, the Rentals, and Death Cab they'll have a new record out in the new year but you can do a lot worse than check out this as well as there back catalogue.

4.Murder By Death-Red Of Tooth and Claw (Vagrant)

Big discovery for me was this band, i'd always heard the name but not really the music. Like a cross between Johnny Cash and Nick Cave given a punk twist and cracking instrumentalisation.

3.Fucked Up-The Chemistry Of Common Life (Matador)

Like Poison Idea covering Pink Floyds dark side of the moon this album was both forward thinking yet packed full of energy. Amazing live

2.Rolo Tomassi-Hysterics (Hassle)

An absolute mindfuck of an album bonkers, tight and heavy as anything and played by the most talented musicians who aren't yet able to rent a van.

1. The Gaslight Anthem-The '59 Sound (SideOneDummy)

I know this is on Paddy's list but this is simply and incredible album. Gut-wrenching at points uplifting at others there is not much that needs to be said otter than buy this record as soon as you can.

Near Misses: Paddy already had Johnny Foreigner and Attack In Black but they're both amazing. The new Slipknot record is amazing. I couldn't have two albums released in the states in 2007 but in the UK in 2008 so Say Anything's 'In Defence of The Genre' couldn't go in even though its ace. The new Rise Against is solid

Best Album 'From 2007 Which I Only Heard in 2008 But Is One Of My Most Listened To Albums Of The Year"-Polar Bear Club-Sometimes Things Just Disappear

Best Live Album: Future Of The Left-Last Night I Saved Her From Vampires

Best Gig: The Gaslight Anthem @ ULU

Best E.P's:
Blakfish-See You In Another City (Big Scary Monsters)
Ok Pilot-S/T (Freakscene)
The Computers-You Can't Hide From The Computers (Fierce Panda)
Danananakroyd-Sissy Hits (Holy Roar)
Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man-The Lay Of The Land, The Turn Of The Tide (Transgressive)

Best Singles
Haunts-Live Fast, Die Young
Johnny Foreigner-Salt, Peppa and Spinderella
The Gaslight Anthem-The '59 Sound
The Holdsteady-Sequestered in Memphis
Friendly Fires-Paris
Sigur Rós-Gobbledigook
Weezer-Pork and Beans
Biffy Clyro-Mountains


Paddy's Top 10 Albums of 2008

10. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

Death Cab are a band who go from strength to strength, and had achieved cult sensation status with their last album, Plans. The follow-up was therefore going to be difficult, but is a commendable effort; although not as melodic and powerful as ‘Transatlanticism’, it is a rich and vibrant album with a very individual sound, and has one of the best songs ever written on it, ‘Cath…’, a song which reminds us why Ben Gibbard is one of the greatest songwriters alive today.

9. Johnny Foreigner – Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light

2008 has been a big year for Johnny Foreigner, who released their debut album proper over the summer in the midst of a lengthy tour which included Reading, Leeds and Latitude, among other festivals, at all of which they gave sterling performances. With intelligent lyrics, distinctive guitar tone and the boy/girl vocal harmonies down to a tee, this is an excellent album – surely the first of many from these bright young things.

8. Sam Isaac – Sticker, Star and Tape EP

Despite being based around already released singles and re-recordings, this EP chronicles some of Sam Isaac’s best work to date. His sound is augmented by slick production and instrumentation, which combine to make his songs emotional and powerful, in particular ‘Annie, Why Are You So Angry?’. This EP is only a taste of what’s to come when Sam releases his debut album proper next year, so keep him on the radar.

7. The All New Adventures of Us – Best Loved Goodnight Tales

TANAOU originally released this album on vinyl only. They have since relented and released it on CD, but the initial charm surrounding the vinyl is indicative of what it is that makes them a very special band indeed – their craft for enchanting and exciting folk-pop. Everything about them is beautiful and elegant, right down to the record sleeve, which resembles an old and cherished book. It is the kind of music which never fails to raise a smile.

6. Attack In Black – Marriage

A real breakthrough for Canada’s Attack In Black, this album was released there last year but only made its way to the UK in 2008 after a tour with City and Colour (Dallas Green of Alexisonfire) brought them some well-deserved attention. They manage to make a coherent and rousing sound of a fusion of punk and country music, which is no mean feat, as well as having honest and intelligent lyrics. A fantastic album from start to finish which takes the listener on a real journey.

5. Slow Club – Let’s Fall Back In Love EP

One of many bands I’ve simply fallen in love with this year after seeing them at the Latitude Festival. Their simple, stripped-down sound is brave, but idiosyncratic; it does not feel like turgid, acoustic singer-songwriter whining, but is stirring and harmonious. The two voices complement each other very well, and their songs are carefully crafted to show this fact but not overdo it. A thoroughly commendable effort from a band who’ve not been around all that long and don’t have a full length album to their name yet.

4. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound

An album which makes its own hype seem like an understatement, The ’59 Sound is an album full of grand songs, by turns crushing and stirring, and always brimming with raw emotion. The influence of Springsteen practically bleeds from the speakers, but somehow you don’t begrudge them it; they’ve taken Bruce’s best aspects and made them their own, with endearing, plaintive vocals and narrative lyrics. Definitely a band to watch in 2009.

3. Hot Club de Paris – Live at Dead Lake

Not actually a live album but a polished yet still raw studio album from Liverpool’s finest, whose debut album Drop It ‘Til It Pops was filled with neat vocal harmonies and affirming vocal lines, which helped to forge Hot Club’s extremely distinctive sound. On Live At Dead Lake they have taken this a step further, with even more melodic and intelligent indie-pop songs, which manage to sound tuneful while still angular and mathematical. One of the best bands in the UK at the moment.

2. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

The Hold Steady have grown quite steadily in popularity with each album they’ve released. With their fourth, Stay Positive, they really hit their stride, their idiosyncratic take on classic rock becoming an entirely new and surprisingly modern sound. I’ve deliberately not made a ‘best gigs of 2008’ list yet because I’m seeing them next week and am sure it’ll be incredible, because of this album, which is life-affirming but gloriously nihilistic in parts.

1. The Age of Rockets – Hannah

I wanted to put this album at number one because The Age of Rockets have had little to no press in the UK, and they really deserve it. This is an album which delivers from start to finish with a sound unlike any other; the closest comparison would be the Postal Service, but The Age of Rockets take their beautiful electronica to another level with strings, vocal harmonies and elegant orchestral arrangements. This album is only available on US import, but I would recommend it wholeheartedly.

Near Misses

Hollie Rogers – Let Me Be The Shadow of Your Dog

A beautiful, soulful album of acoustic folk from the best thing to come out of Cornwall since the Cornish Pasty.

Ben Folds – Way To Normal

Strange but intriguing album from the piano-pop genius, which was clearly therapeutic for him – a commendable and brave thing to do.

Weezer – The Red Album

Not as classic as their earlier work, but still contains some fine examples of why Weezer always deliver when pop-rock is needed.

Tim and Sam’s Tim and The Sam Band With Tim and Sam – Put Your Slippers on EP

Magical instrumental music which has been described as ‘post-folk’; definitely great for enjoying with a cup of tea.

Top 10 Singles

10. Twin Atlantic - What Is Light? Where Is Laughter?
9. Ben Folds ft. Regina Spektor - You Don't Know Me
8. Tubelord - Feed Me A Box of Words
7. Such Great Heights - Would I Still Have Friends If I Believed I Was A Wizard?
6. James Yuill - No Pins Allowed
5. Scholars - Recovery Monday
4. Rod Thomas - Same Old Lines
3. Slow Club - Christmas TV
2. Luke Leighfield - 60,000 Miles/Have You Got Heart?
1. Emmy the Great - We Almost Had a Baby


Thursday, 27 November 2008

'Love gone cold in the shades of doubt ' - Pete Doherty and Carl Barat

Since the Libertines split in 2004, rumours have been rife about a reunion in the music press and every year fans yearn for Pete Doherty and Carl Barat to get back together. We’ve been teased by Carl’s appearance at Pete’s solo show in 2007 but the reunion has never been fully or officially consummated. To be honest, I think it’s probably for the best

The genius of the Libertines was the combination of Pete’s poetic shambolic approach to song writing fused with Carl’s more hard driven and well versed musicianship and lyricism. Undoubtedly they wrote two great albums in Up the Bracket and The Libertines. However those albums were written in an atmosphere of great love/tension between Carl and Pete and I think they may find that depressingly hard to recreate without forcing songs. Both Libertines have moved on musically, to varying degrees of success. Pete’s riotous poetry has gone from strength to strength, working with a number of song writing partners during his time with Babyshambles. Sure his work isn’t greatly consistent but works such as Killamanjiro, Fuck Forever, Back from the Dead, Albion, You Talk and The Lost Art of Murder confirm Doherty as one of the standout songwriters of the last decade. I can only hope as he fades from the media spotlight as a figure of public hate, his undoubted ability can shine through more consistently so that he or Babyshambles deliver a great album in the near future.

Post-Libertines life has exposed the mediocrity of Carl Barat. Sure he can write an accessible driving indie song like Bang Bang Your Dead or The Gentry Cove but such songwriters are ten-a-penny at the moment in the British music industry. Other bands have done it better since the formation of Barat’s, Dirty Pretty Things in 2005, such as The Arctic Monkeys, Babyshambles and Bloc Party (circa Silent Alarm era). Dirty Pretty Things have paled and broken up in the face of superior competition. It seems that ‘Waterloo to Anywhere’ was treated kindly in an atmosphere of Libertine nostalgia but that wave had been ridden by the time that ‘Romance at Short Notice’ was released. The album has been greeted with apathy and the group have broken up, it seems that Barat has some self-reinventing to do before he can be considered in the same light as Doherty.

I am aware that my view on this issue may well get a lot of people’s backs up. I’m just trying to point out to all Libertines fans that a reunion between Carl and Pete may well prove underwhelming, charring memories of them at their best and it will almost certainly be a hindrance to Pete’s future song writing potential.

Tim Cox