Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jackson Breit: Genius or heretic?

In the list of "things I would not touch", Bill Withers' back catalogue is up there with spider nests and Madonna's forearms. But Jackson Breit is a braver man than I am.

For his new single, Breit has literally sung over the top of Withers' 1972 soul classic, Use Me. It's not a cover, and it's not karaoke - he just weaves his vocals in and around the original, adding an Ed Sheeran-style sing-speak section and even a guitar solo (!) to Withers' track.

"Sacrilege!" you might cry "burn him at the stake!". But hold your horses because Breit, along with collaborator Carneyval, manages to pull it off, thanks to some perfectly-judged jazz phrasing and a certain amount of swagger.

Have a listen. I promise you won't be upset.

Like it? Then you're in luck - Breit's version of Use Me is a free download on his Soundcloud page.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Eleven things Google tells us about Rae Morris

Frizzy of hair and breathy of vocal, Rae Morris is being tipped as one of pop music's NEXT BIG THINGS. So, before the Brits unveil their Critic's Choice shortlist (Thursday) and the BBC reveal their Sound of 2015 longlist (Monday), here are 11 exciting facts about the singer, which I have Googled for you.

You're welcome.

1) Rachel Anne Morris was born in Blackpool in 1992. [Wikipedia]

2) Rae is short for Raymond, which was her grandfather's name. [Leadmill]

3) Atlantic Records signed her in 2011, when she was just 18, then gave her space to "grow as an artist", whatever that means. [Line of Best Fit]

4) You may have heard her voice on Bombay Bicycle Club's rather lovely single Luna earlier this year.

5) Her piano teacher is called Darren [GoldFlakePaint]

6) She realised she could be a proper songwriter when she saw fellow Blackpool singer Karima Francis on Jools Holland. She later got to sing with Clean Bandit on the very same programme, which she described as "the scariest thing I've ever done". [DIY mag]

7) If she had a million pounds, she would probably buy some books. [For Folk's Sake]

8) She is quite the Kate Bush fan.[Twitter]

9) Her debut album, Unguarded, has been recorded with Ariel Rechtschaid, of Haim and Charli XCX "fame". It's out next year. [When the Gramophone Rings]

10) The most famous person she's met is Barry Chuckle. [London In Stereo]

11) She is not trying to be cool. "I'm not trying to be cool," she says, "because, well, I'm not cool. I'm just really not cool." [Teen Vogue]

So now you can impress all of your Facebook friends with your insightful and encyclopaedic knowledge of current pop trends.

You can also tell them you've heard Rae's new single, Under The Shadows. Be sure to use words like "haunting", "dramatic" and "supple" so you can sound totally up your own arse.

Rae Morris - Under The Shadows

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Update: Here's Lorde on the AMAs

When I wrote my AMA super-post yesterday, there was no way to watch Lorde's super-creepy performance of Yellow Flicker Beat. Now there is, thanks to the star's official Vevo channel. If only every artist was so enlightened.

Watch below, and try not to have nightmares.

Lorde - Yellow Flicker Beat (live at the AMAs)

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Arcade Fire's Will Butler goes solo

Will Butler - aka the insane one out of Arcade Fire - has broken ranks and recorded a solo record, called Policy.

The first single, Take My Side, is a stomping rock'n'roll tune in the vein of White Stripes or even The Stooges. Butler sounds like he's having a punch-up with his guitar, while screaming gleefully abrasive lyrics like: "If I could fly, you know I'd beat the shit out of some birds".

It's loud and scratchy and a world apart from the post-millenial angst of his usual band.

Take My Side will be the opening track on Butler's new album, Policy, which is out in March. According to a press release, the album was recorded in Jimi Hendrix's old living room at Electric Lady Studios in New York.

Butler has created an album trailer that's clearly inspired by dangerous quantities of "special wine". And it's all the better for it.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Songs you may have missed: AMA special

A semi-regular round-up of songs I should have blogged about, but didn't.

This week, I've spiced things up with a few performances from the American Music Awards, which will probably have been whisked off YouTube before this sentence ends. Take your chances below...

1) Sam Smith ft A$AP Rocky - Stay With Me
Vocal chops, he's got 'em.

2) Ariana Grande - Break Free / Love Me Harder
Vocal chops, she's got 'em.

3) Fergie - LA Love
Vocal chops, she's got 'em on a backing tape.

4) Beyonce - 7/11
The best thing about this home-made video is discovering Beyoncé's bedrom is just as messy as mine.

5) Taylor Swift - Blank Space (AMA performance)
Magic tricks, homicide and another outing for Taylor's crazy eyes acting face. Superb.

6) Take That - If You Want It
I do not want it.

7) Gwen Stefani - Spark The Fire
After the lacklustre response to Gwen's comeback single, Baby Don't Lie, this Pharrell-produced club has a lot of heavy lifting to do. Thankfully, it's a cheerleader earworm in the vein of Hollaback Girl.

8) Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk (Live on SNL)
I just checked and this song is still amazing.

9) Clean Bandit - Show Me Love
Sounds exactly like you'd expect a Clean Bandit cover of a 1990s house classic to sound. It's like Hooked on Classics all over again.

10) MNEK - The Rhythm
MNEK's Wrote A Song About You was one of this year's best singles - smart lyrical conceit, indelible melody and insane vocals. The fact that it stalled at no. 66 is a genuine travesty.

His follow-up isn't half as adventurous, but it'll probably sell a bucketload.

11) Paul Oakenfold ft Azealia Banks - Venus
After years of delays, Azealia Banks's Broke With Expensive Taste turned out to be quite good after all. And this collaboration with Paul Oakenfold (who must be about 75 now?) is an Ibiza sunset delight.

The career rehabilitation starts here.

12) Years & Years - Desire
There's an argument that the UK electro-house scene is starting to become saturated, from Disclosure downwards. But I reckon Years & Years might squeeze in a few hits before the door slams on the scene forever.

Desire, their latest single, is getting a few spins on Radio 1 and they've just made it onto MTV's "Brand New for 2015" list. Ones to watch.

13) Labrinth - Jealous
Not sure how I missed this when it came out last month, but after last night's X Factor performance, it's leapt into my consciousness (and, more importantly, the iTunes top 10). A terrifically heartfelt piece of songwriting.

An exhaustive list, I'm sure you'll agree... And there are plenty more AMA performances (Lorde, Charli XCX, Selena Gomez) that are worth checking out if you can find a valid link.

Back to business as normal tomorrow.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New discovery: Jones

Jessie Ware, Banks, Tinashe, FKA Twigs: 2014 has been a great year for avant garde R&B.

But if you haven't had enough yet, check out impossible-to-Google London newcomer Jones, whose new single, You, is so experimental it should be housed in CERN.

"I'm only in it for you," she sings over a soothing electric piano, while a producer throws shopping trolleys at her head. Then Peter Gabriel's 1980s backing band drops by and "lays down" a fretless bass guitar line. Then a spaceship lands quietly in her garden.

To Jones's credit, the competing textures enhance the song's sense of smoky mystery. As it fades away, you feel like you've just heard the soundtrack to someone else's dream.

Highly recommended.

Jones - You

If you liked that, check out Jones's earlier single, Deep, which is a little more straightforward but no less seductive.

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