Friday, October 31, 2008

Everybody listen to Usher

Given that 12% of Americans still believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, I applaud anyone who challenges the citizens of the USA to pay more attention to the world around them.

So, in theory, I should be fully supportive of Usher's new song. It's called Hush and it sees the R&B star chastising his fans for ignoring "the issues" - which Usher has, of course, been studying during his part-time masters degree in social studies [can someone check this, please - ed]

Let's take a quick look at verse one:

Every day he wakes up
In his million dollar home
His life is like a video...
The only reality he knows

He jumps inside
His $100,000 car
Cruisin' up the boulevard...
Drivin' past people living hard

Complains about the gas prices
But still supports the war
He complains about his six-figure salary
That's taxed to feed the poor

He doesn't understand the homeless
Doesn't think its genocide
That millions die completely from letters
So he does shit to make it better

If you don't quite understand that last bit, Usher is saying HIV is genocide. In other words, he subscribes to the not-at-all-discredited theory that Aids was created by the CIA to kill off African Americans.

He's not the first urban star to publicly endorse this idea - Kanye West apparently believes it, even though (or perhaps because) his grandmother died of the disease.

But that doesn't stop it being completely preposterous.

And, while it's deliciously ironic that Usher exposes his staggeringly moronic ignorance in a song which challenges that very thing, there's something hugely distasteful about the fact that his statements have gone unchallenged by the radio stations and TV channels that are playing the song. Not to mention his record company, LaFace, which is owned by Sony - one of the world's most powerful media conglomerates with a global annual turnover in excess of $80bn.

I had been going to put the video for Hush at the bottom of this post but, on reflection, I don't really see why I should play even the smallest of small parts in perpetuating this idiocy.

Instead, here's Phil Collins' Another Day In Paradise which, by comparison, deserves some sort of Nobel prize for erudite musical commentary on the problems faced by contemporary society.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Look at Christina Aguilera's new video

When we look back at the first decade of the 21st Century, history (and by history, I mean journalists) will record that Amy Winehouse spearheaded the whole "sounding a bit like your song was recorded in the 1960s at a not-quite-Motown recording studio" craze.

This must make Christina Aguilera mad. The platinum blonde pop princess was about six months ahead of the pack with Back To Basics. She even put in a bit off effort to update the retro sound with a bit of modern glamour, rather than relying on mere pastiche á la Winehouse. What's more, she had Mark Ronson producing bits of it, and managed to stop him putting bloody horns all over the top like some kind of freakish brass fetishist.

Where Aguilera fell down, however, was that she released a double "concept" album, confusing punters who would have preferred a single disc with 10 good tracks, and less of Aguilera pretending to be Vera Lynn's slutty grand-daughter.

So, tail between her legs, the starlet has ditched the whole '60s vibe and reverted to sounding like Britney with a good singing voice for her new single, Keeps Getting Better. It trails a greatest hits album on which, for some reason, Aguilera has re-recorded the vocals to Beautiful.

All of which is a shame because, unlike most of Mickey Mouse Club graduates, Aguilera always seemed to be the one with an artistic "bent" and a clear idea of what she wanted to do... Post-Back To Basics, it seems she's trying to recapture her former glories. And that never works.

Keeps Gettin' Better (Official Video)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

50 Cent, Q-Tip catch bus out of dumper

Rap music isn't a genre where people make spectacular returns to form. I'm sure I could think of a thousand reasons why - maybe it's the shallow, self-aggrandising lyrics; the restrictive musical straitjacket of "hardcore" rap; or the fact that so many stars retire before they burn out.

But there are a few exceptions. Jay-Z has been pronounced dead in the past (by himself, more often than not) and come back bigger and better than ever. LL Cool J's had the occasional resurgence, too, although it's never been successfully sustained.

Now we can add to that list former Tribe Called Quest frontman Q-Tip and - believe it or not - cartoon gangsta waste of space 50 Cent, both of whom have come up with new material that, quite frankly, rocks.

Fiddy (was there ever a more ridiculous nickname?) has teamed up with Christina Aguilera's tunesmith Scott Storch for a slamming club anthem, Get Up, which is easily the equal of his awe-inspiring In Da Club. Q-Tip is, true to form, more funky, more humorous and more full of cod spiritual bollocks on the slinky Manwomanboogie.

Check out these clips.

50 Cent - Get Up

Q-Tip - Manwomanboogie

Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are.

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Is Master Shortie the new Dizzee Rascal?

Earlier this year, Dizzee Rascal said his amazing pop-rap crossover Dance Wiv Me was a one-off, and that he wanted to go back to yelping like a broken dog over the sound of a drum kit being thrown down the stairs.

So step forward Master Shortie, a 19-year-old Brit School graduate who's not afraid of phrases like "commercially viable" and "actually selling records".

The skinny Londoner with an was all over MTV Base this summer Rope Chain, a tongue-in-cheek calling card with a hilarious cardboard cut-out video.

His first proper single comes out on 10 November. It's called Dead End and, unusually for a a rap song, it's about commitment and fidelity. Shortie likes the look of a girl he sees on the tube - but doesn't approach her because of his young lady friend.

"She can cook much better than… She looks much better than… She does it better than… you," he croons over a choppy Duran Duran guitar lick.

How sweet.

Master Shortie - Dead Set

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Take That: Greatest Day video

In which Take That's new song is so amazing, they cause a rift in the space-time continuum and explode.

Hubris, there. In spades.

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New Ladyhawke: My Delirium

Friday, October 24, 2008

Random collection of links (aka: It's Friday)

:: The website for Pixar's next film, Up, gives nothing away but manages to make me laugh heartitly. []

:: The more Starbucks a country has, the more likely it is to be facing economic downturn []

:: I love Davey's Dance Blog []

:: CSS remix Keane's Lovers Are Losing, making it sound even more like Nik Kershaw, as if such a thing were humanly possible [Free download on Popjustice]

:: A new biography of Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz reveals "his one regret was that he never once let Charlie Brown kick the football held out for him by Lucy". [Times]

:: Janet Jackson thanks fans for their support during her illness with a cringeworthy Youtube (youtube) video. The best bit is where she and Jermaine Dupri discuss being sick on each other. [Youtube]

:: Fed up with Scientology? Then why not "Say Hebbo!" to Taarvu-ism. It's so easy to join. []

:: What is going on with Duffy's lips in her new video?? [Youtube]
(By the way, is there anyone out there who actually believes that Duffy is 24?)

:: Common's Kraftwerk-inspired new single has singing robots, reference to Technotronic. Slammin' [Youtube]

Hope all y'all have a great weekend!

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Will Ferrell back on SNL

"Four months ago I declared the Oval Office a bummer-free zone"

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Here's Lily Allen's comeback single

It's called Everyone's At It and - oh joy - it's an anti-drug "anthem". Let's see what Lily has to say about this horrific scourge that is destroying our country (TM The Daily Mail)

Why can't we all, all just be honest?
Admit to ourselves that everyone's on it?
From grown politicians to young adolescents
Prescribing themselves anti-depressants
How can we start to tackle the problem
If you don't put your hand up and admit that you're on them?
The kids are in danger, they're all getting harassed
Cos from what I can see, Everyone's At It

But wait - hypocrisy alert!!! Didn't Lily once say she'd celebrate her first number one by taking cocaine? And didn't she also admit to dealing drugs in Ibiza as a teenager?

Luckily, she's remembered all that, too. Before we get all preachy and judgey and high-moral-groundy, she explains: "I'm not trying to say that I'm smelling of roses, but when will we tire of putting shit up our noses?".

The correct answer here is: "Who gives a flying fuck, Lily? Now, stop whining and write us a decent song."

Not that I'd deny anyone the right to change their opinions as they grow older - and kudos to Lily for not going on a massive Amy Winehouse-style bender in the wake of her success. But the lyrics - which, let's be honest, are exactly the sort of self-obsessed rubbish you write when you are strung out on drugs - do pose another, more serious problem for the starlet.

When we fell in love with Lily, it was because of her her cheeky, round-the-way girl demeanour. Now she's just another celeb, writing about her agonisingly vacuous hangers-on, who fill the empty void in their souls with a noseful of "Ghandi's baking powder" or a quick injection of "Class A gravy granules".

But they're not going to be the ones buying the records, are they?

[You can listen to this little gem on Lily Allen's Myspace page]

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lady GaGa = Boney M

There is a sample of Boney M's Ma Baker running through Lady GaGa's new single, Poker Face, or my name is not Tarquil Knobcheese.

The video is amazing. Probably a little bit more amazing than the song, to be honest.

Poker Face - Lady Gaga

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Circles & Circles & Circles again

The usual routine at Discopop Towers is to spend Saturday and Sunday curled up on the sofa (leather) drinking wine (red) and watching tv (trash). But, this weekend, we ventured out into the real world of nightclubs, pubs and concerts.

It wasn't pretty.

It still hurts.

As a rsult, we've only just caught up with the reality TV behemoths that are X Factor (Diana to win) and Strictly Come Dancing (tee hee, isn't John Sergeant silly?). As luck would have it, two of our favourite Xenomaniac pop acts were performing on the shows - Girls Aloud supporting our Cheryl on ITV, and Alesha Dixon revisiting the scene of her strictly vict'ry at Television Centre.

Both performances were good, but there were subtle differences which can only be explained via the medium of the venn diagram. Here are three examples.

Fig 1: Sparkly dresses

Fig 2: Not enough time in "hair and make-up"

Fig 3: The Simon Cowell factor

Here are those performances "in full".

Alesha Dixon - The Boy Does Nothing

Girls Aloud - The Promise

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hear a new Dragonette song

Canadian electro-glam group Dragonette have just relased their amazing / flop album, Galore, in the US, where it comes with a fantastic gender-twisting cover of Calvin Harris's The Boys - which we all downloaded twelve months ago - as a "bonus" track.

So no new material, then :(

EXCEPT! They have previewed a new song, Gone Too Far, in a live set at Red's Kitchen.

The band say the following clip is "as close as we get to an acoustic version of this song - the studio version is the closest we've come to a 'banger'". I presume they mean a four-to-the-floor foot-stomping dance anthem. But they could also mean it is the musical equivalent of a sausage. Canadians are weird like that.

Here it is:

Dragonette - Gone Too Soon

Now, is it just me, or is the Dragonette song vaguely reminiscent of this 1990s 'club anthem' (crime against all humanity)?

The Grid - Swamp Thing

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This is getting silly now...

Here is the 3,892,876,964,263,825,111th Robyn video this month:

Robyn and Christian Falk - Dream On

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Emiliana Torrini - Big Jumps video

Emiliana Torrini is from Iceland, so 'people' (journalists) keep saying she is like Bjork.

She is not like Bjork at all.

Emiliana Torrini - Big Jumps

But she is good, no?

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Gig review: Camille in Camden

A Capella is a much maligned art. It's only real proponents these days are boy bands desperate to prove they can "cut it" live and Bjork's Medulla album - the sound of forty people hiccuping over a click track.

So French singer Camille Dalmais' show at Camden's Roundhouse is a revelation. There may be eight musicians and one instrument (a lone grand piano) but it's unexpectedly, utterly brilliant.

Every other noise in the two-hour show is produced either vocally or by rubbing one part of the body against another. Harmonies dive, weave and float in and out of the ether; Chests are thumped in lieu of drums; and two of the backing band tear up the stage in a thrilling improvised beatbox battle.

The audience, awed into reverent silence during Camille's solo opening, are soon employed as part of the extended band - providing foot-stamping percussion on Katie's Tea and canine backing vocals during the hilarious Cats and Dogs.

Camille herself is a force of nature. Or several of them. She growls like thunder, snaps like lightning and whispers like the wind, but always in service of the melody - unlike the ridiculous warbling of Whitney and Mariah, whose 42-notes-where-one-would-do "technique" Camille lampoons in the wicked and funky Money Note.

Yet, for all the vocal acrobatics, the night's most affecting number is it's simplest. For her first encore, Camille sits at the piano and delivers an impassioned version of Winter's Child, every inch the tortured torch-song Chanteuse.

If there's a dud note in the two-hour show, it's all Jamie Cullum's fault. The perma-grinning jazz twat is invited onstage for a faltering, improvised duet which tests the very definition of the phrase "fucking awful". Luckily, it's over quickly and Camille has the crowd back on their feet and barking like lunatics all the way home.

Or was that just me?

PS: Words don't really do this amazing concert any justice. Here's a few videos to show you just how awesome Camille really is...

Camille - Gospel With No Lord (live)

Camille - Home Is Where The Hurt Is

Camille - The Monk (now with added spaniel)

[Pictures courtesy of Phoemail on Flickr]

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Someone is shooting at Keane

Six months ago, this freeze-frame from Keane's latest video would have been met with a wildly enthusiastic round of applause. But now the trio have gone and got da fonk, and everyone loves them again, so please don't fire your guns at Tom Chaplin and his ickle baby face, you naughty masked men on motorcycles.

Incidentally, the Keane album is neither the stupendous revelation the "music monthlies" would have you believe, nor the two-out-of-ten bag of shit vilified in this week's NME. It's simply a collection of ten songs that starts out incredibly well - Spiralling and Lovers Are Losing are amazing power pop anthems - but tails off quite rapidly after track five. Get it when it's £5 in the sales.

I have no idea what's going on in this video, by the way. If anyone can shed any light on why a busload of dead cheerleaders suddenly starts doing gymnastics, speak up.

Keane - Lovers Are Losing

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Most ridiculous Madonna headline of the week

Still, if you think that is in bad taste, wait til you see the first picture in The Sun's "slideshow of Madonna and Guy":

Fucking unbelievable.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beyoncé videos appear in pairs

Black and white music videos are great, aren't they? They're so much more serious and earnest than those attention-seeking colour ones. When I watch a black and white music video, I can relax, confident in the knowledge that I'm being culturally enriched by a weighty, considered piece of film like Schindler's List or Citizen Kane.

Luckily for me, Beyoncé has filmed both of her new videos in black and white. One is for a slow song and is sad :( One is for a fast song and really just Beyoncé dancing - but in monochrome, so it can't just be a glorified shampoo commercial, can it?

Here are they both:

Beyoncé - If I Were A Boy

Beyoncé - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)

Of course, Laurel and Hardy made movies in black and white, too.

EDIT: According to this website Beyoncé's new album is a double. The first disc, I Am Beyoncé, is all ballads; the second, I Am Sasha, is uptempo dance "numbers". This is either genius or the sort of unhinged lunacy we'd expect from R Kelly (or secret option c: it's completely made up).

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Britney's Womanizer video

Stating the obvious

Good gracious, Mrs audacious, Take That's single is really rather lovely:

Take That - Greatest Day

By the way, which marketing genius decided to give Take That's album the exact same name and release date as Britney's new offering. Durrrr.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gig review: Elbow in a Roundhouse

It may have taken 18 years, but Elbow have finally made it: A top five album, a Mercury Music Prize, and a three-night stint at Camden's Roundhouse. "We've never done a residency before," says Guy Garvey as the gig gets underway, "I could get used to it... We could open a little bar in Spain and call it El Bow."

I'd rather they stayed put in Camden. The intimate atmosphere and perfect acoustics at the Roundhouse (formerly a shed used to turn around steam trains, fact fans) provided the perfect setting for Elbow's delicate, heartfelt ballads. And the atmosphere on Saturday night was simply beautiful - with the entire audience seemingly there to celebrate and share in the group's belated success.

"It's just occurred to me that this gig sold out before the Mercury," noted Garvey with obvious glee.

The set focused on the new material, which was brought to life with a powerful, yet understated, sincerity. It was one of those gigs where you don't want to watch the band at all, just close your eyes and be swept away by the tidal highs and lows of the music. The wistful Some Riot and majestic Mirrorball stood out as highlights, as did the rousing sing-along of Grounds For Divorce - one of the few moments where the band really let rip.

Garvey was a genial host throughout, introducing the crowd to his mother and continually inquiring after the audience's wellbeing. A minor technical fault led to an impromptu Q&A session, with the singer fielding questions on the world's largest land mammal and the temperature on stage [there's a clip on youtube (youtube)]

The show's climax came with One Day Like This, probably the most criminally underplayed single of the year. The song's rousing, extended crescendo - "Throw those curtains wide / one day like this a year would see me right" - rang on and on after the band left the stage, providing the best alternative to shouting "more" or "encore" I've ever heard.

All in all, it was a magical evening. One that provided a real sense of northern community in a town known for its stand-offishness. If Elbow can translate that warmth and humanity to their arena gigs next year, they'll deservedly become one of Britain's best-loved bands.

Elbow - The Loneliness Of The Tower Crane Driver (live)

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Yet another Robyn video

If ever there was a time to use the phrase "milking it", that time would be now.

Robyn - Cobrastyle

Cobrastyle, a cover of a song by Swedish alt-rock group the Teddybears, used to be an extra track on Robyn's Konichiwa Bitches EP. Now it's apparently good enough to be a single. Which means there have been, like, ninety singles released from the Robyn album now.

And it's only got 15 tracks on it...

Amazingly, they're even planning to put out a new version of the record for Christmas - the fourth time it's been repackaged. And, yes, it'll have a bonus track (a rejigged version of Dream On) which is also coming out as a single.

As much as I love Robyn, and as fantastic as all these records are, I'd dearly love to hear some new material. It's been three years, for goodness sake!

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Sugababes album launch / live lounge

The Sugababes had a launch party for their ridiculously-titled Catfights and Spotlights album in central London last night. It was well weird.

For one thing, they didn't actually play the album. For another, there was a random fashion show element to the evening. This, apparently, is what we'll all be wearing next spring:

Hmmm, yes...

The girls themselves were on great form, happily mingling with the crazies and the hangers-on (I kept my distance through a combination of shyness and sanity). Here is a picture of them in their finery:

This happy-go-lucky social ease is not something you associate with the formerly surly Sugatrio. True, they're a bit older and wiser (and less hormonal) than the pre-millennial Sugababes v1.0. But I have a theory they were still on a high from their better-than-sex* acoustic set at Radio One's Live Lounge earlier in the day.

First up was the single, Girls, where the guitarist took heroic measures to ensure the intro didn't sound like Radiohead's Just. Then they did a cover of Keane's Spiralling, which was simply fantastic. Indeed, it featured the finest two seconds of the Sugababes' career to date...

Brilliant, eh? Full MP3s of the performance are available at the following locations:

:: Sugababes - Girls (live lounge) [MP3]
:: Sugababes - Spiralling (live lounge) [MP3]

* Better than sex with Peter Stringfellow or Pat Butcher. Other sexual encounters may improve on the whole 'listening to the Sugababes' experience.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's the Alesha Dixon video!!!!!

It's a 10/10 song and dance extravaganza... But what do the Strictly Come Dancing judges make of it all??

Craig Revel Horwood: I thought Alesha was beautiful but she needs to eat a few more sausages. What I could see of the footwork was distinctly average. Bah, humbug, grumble, moan, gripe.


Len Goodman: I've afraid I've had a bit of a sherry and I have no idea what's going on. Is this on the telly? Can I have my bed now, please? Nurse?!

Bruno Tonioli: Darling, you have more wriggles than a wriggly worm. A fabulous wriggly worm shimmying in a smouldering dress. Hot and passionate like a Mexican chilli pepper in a sexy heatwave (**explodes**)


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Gig review: Ting Tings in London

The audience wants the shouty ones.

When the Ting Tings' Katie White (that is actually her name) does her screechy war cry and Jules De Martino pounds away on his drums, everyone at the Shepherd's Bush Empire is happy.

But when the band attempt a stripped back version of Traffic Light - the closest thing they have to a ballad - the crowd's enthusiasm drops with the tempo.

It all ends in a heart-stoppingly awful moment when, during a "dramatic" pause, the band discover that the audience are just talking amongst themselves. For those of us paying attention, there was the pitiful sight of Jules and Katie standing uselessly at opposite ends of the stage, looking for all the world like the unwanted chess club nerds at a teenage house party.

And this is wrong, because the Ting Tings are cool; the acceptable face of pop. We know this because the NME told us so.

The problem here is that the holier-than-thou NME crowd have now turned up for the gig, all black denim and feigned ennui. They're determined not to be impressed, no matter how much effort the Ting Tings put in.

But the band only have themselves to blame as long as they try to be pop's answer to the White Stripes. Katie, clad in disastrous forest green Robin Hood leggings, should be jumping around the stage like a mad bag of eels, not proving her indie credibility with a neverending parade of expensive guitars she can barely play.

When the singer stops posing and lets rip on Shut Up And Let Me Go - clambering on top of the monitors; spanking her microphone stand; thumping a big bass drum - she has the crowd in the palm of her hand, momentarily forgetting they're supposed to be above this sort of thing. The fulsome cry of "hey!" that ends the song shakes the tiny venue's rafters.

Other highlights include a strident We Walk (no pun intended), the always-rousing Great DJ and a surprisingly ballsy rendition of current single Be The One.

But then, suddenly, it's all over. The Ting Tings have played all 10 songs from their debut album and scarpered - after less than an hour on stage. Which is a bit of a rip-off for £16.50. Even more so when we know they have a few cracking cover versions up their sleeves (Altered Images' Happy Birthday and the SOS Band's Just Be Good To Me to name just two).

The band have just announced they're recording new material next year. Let's hope that, next time they head out on the road, they ditch the lo-fi indie aesthetic, hire a proper band and play a few more songs.

The shouty ones go down best, apparently.

[Photos from various gigs, taken from Flickr courtesy of (1&2) Shirlaine, (3) RedMar and (4) Tractor Boy. Thank you!]

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Sing what you see

Do you ever wish that the lyrics of a song reflected exactly what was happening in the video?

Well now you can stop wishing and watch this video, which does the thing that you were asking Jesus for in your wish, instead! That's right: No more wishing! Except for when you want to wish for something other than a song where the lyrics reflect exactly what's happening in a video, as I am probably unable to fulfil that wish by posting a link to Youtube, thusly:

A-ha - Take On Me (literal version)

You're welcome.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Beyoncé becomes Boyoncé

According to her new single, Beyoncé's dearest wish in the whole wide world is to become a stinky, smelly boy.

Not that she wants to break down gender inequality, like Kate Bush in Running Up That Hill. She simply thinks she'd make a better boyfriend than a regular guy, because she is all sensitive and . Here's the chorus:

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I'd be a better man
I'd listen to her
'Cos I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
Cos he's taken you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

It's a load of old balls, of course. If Beyoncé - a restless and ruthlessly ambitious young woman - was given regular testosterone shots, she'd become dangerously sexual and aggressive... Essentially, she would be a prettier version of Mike Tyson, and nobody wants to see that.

But there's a more pressing issue here. Trans-sexuals usually change their name to reflect their new gender - Harry becomes Harriet, or Simone becomes Simon. But what's the male equivalent of Beyoncé? Is it Benny? Or Bertrand? Beowulf??! Answers in the comments box, please.

Songwise, If I Were A Boy is not what quite what you'd expect, the cosy harmonies and lilting guitar lines recalling nothing other than Joan Osborne's One Of Us. But not in a bad way.

The full track has premiered on the website of NY radio "personality" Elvis Duran. Have a listen to the clip below and tell me what you make of all this gender realignment business.

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Kanye West goes tribal

It seems Kanye West is persisting in plugging new single Love Lockdown, despite the public's overwhelming reaction to the song being "eh?"

The newly-released video is a Jacko-style expensefest, featuring a huge tribe of African warriors and a pointless CGI spaceship in an attempt to distract from West's horribly weak vocals.

It fails.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Gig review: CSS in London

"Everything we write is the truth," announces Lovefoxxx halfway through CSS's set at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. "So this next song is based on a true story."

The track she's introducing is Music Is My Hot Hot Sex - which details how the singer is rather fond of music.

It is hardly the sort of narrative that will make a "compelling" late-night drama on Channel Five. But it is, I confess, the story of my life.

It also explains why CSS are amazing: They are completely consumed by their hedonistic passion for pop and rock and dance and indie and grunge and acid and electro and pop (again). What's more, they spare no energy in communicating that feeling to their audience.

Last night's concert was a case in point. I was this close (indicates something very close, like a pen or a fingernail) to skipping the show, after a gruelling seven-hour drive down to London from Newcastle the night before. And yet, by the second verse of the opening song, Jager Joga, I was jumping up and down like a tigger on a trampoline.

This was largely due to Lovefoxxx, who frequently threatened to vapourise with excitement. Never the most tuneful of singers, her greatest asset is her voluptuous mane of raven black hair, which she tossed around like she was the star of a Pantene commercial on fast forward. Her bonkers barnet also acted as a conduit for the band's ebullient party vibe, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as much as their dopey, upbeat singalongs.

Musically, the Brazilian six-piece were ten times stronger than when I saw them at last year's Wireless festival, attacking songs like Alcohol and Rage with tremendous gusto and (thankfully) roughing up the smooth edges of this year's over-polished Donkey album.

By the final one-two sucker punch of Let's Make Love and Alala, the entire crowd was sweaty, exhausted and happy.

Lovefoxxx, stripped down to her trademark technicolour catsuit, finally flipped, screaming "Where's my bitches at" at the top of her voice, before the gig climaxed with with a euphoric group hug and a squall of feedback.

True story.

[Pictures from Flickr, by crazybobbles (band) and machartu (setlist)]

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Monday, October 6, 2008

New Vampire Weekend song - Ottoman

Here's a new track from those cheeky New York rascals Vampire Weekend - who picked up a Q Award for best video earlier today.

It's called Ottoman, and it features on the soundtrack to forthcoming Michael Cera film Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The song has been tucked away in the Vamps' live repertoire for quite a while - and in fact predates a lot of the material on their eponymous debut album.

You will also be "interested" to find out that it is the original source of Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa's brilliant / inexplicable lyric, "Feels so unnatural, Peter Gabriel too". Here it is:

And, in case you haven't seen it already, here is that afroementioned best video of the year - directed by the Hammer & Tongs team, who did the animated milk carton for Blur's Coffee and TV, and the not-quite-as-good-as-it-should-have-been Hitch-Hikers' Guide film.

Vampire Weekend - A Punk

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More SNL Tina Fey goodness - now with added Queen Latifah! And some guy!


Friday, October 3, 2008

Link me all over

Some distractions to last you the weekend...

:: Tina Fey lampoons Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live… And while it's brilliant, it's neither as funny nor as terrifying as the real thing

:: Here's a free download of Annie's superfantastic cover of Stacey Q's Two Hearts - Click here. Annie's album, Don't Stop, is due out this week, next week, sometime or never.

:: How popular is your name? Check out this site that tracks the popularity of first names (in the US) since 1880.

:: "When you hear a rhythm that is being played by an instrument you can’t identify but wish you owned, you are hearing Timbaland". A great profile of the super-producer, courtesy of the New Yorker

:: I was recently on a plane that was struck by lightning, and I'd have felt just a little bit safer if I'd had this guide to how land a jumbo jet handy.

:: Brad Walsh has remixified Britney's Womanizer and made it available for download. It takes a song that sounds like it was written by a computer program and makes it sound like the computer has had a psychological "episode". Full marks all round, particularly for (muso alert) "breaking it down in the middle 8" .

:: 10 People From Your Past Who Will Haunt You On Facebook.

:: The video for Alicia Keys and Jack White's Bond theme misses out on the one thing that would make it tolerable - footage from Quantum Of Solace.

:: Fans of Ferris Beuller are planning to recreate the film's iconic carnival scene at New York's Hallowe'en Parade on 31st October. If you're going along, get in touch - I'd love to get your photos on the blog at the end of the month!

:: Amazon's computers have begun phase two of their plan for global domination.

[via Photobasement]

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Stop press: Star struck by spot

The Western world is on the verge of economic collapse, Peter Mandelson is back in the UK cabinet and the USA is about to elect an air stewardess as vice-president - but what's on the front page of London's newpapers this morning? The revelation that Catherine Zeta Jones has acne.

According to the Sun, the following shots of the movie star's "odd complexion" have "caused a major stir" and her "make-up artist might need to go into hiding". Look at the evidence:

And, in case you missed them, here are those zits "in full":

Ignoring the fact that the first picture has some of the world's most unflattering lighting (just look at that enormous shadow), is this really, really the most important news event of the last 24 hours. And, even if it is, wouldn't the more approproate headline be "Actress Zeta Jones has functioning immune system"?

As Swiss author Mme de Stael said: "The more I see of man, the more I like dogs".

And I really, really dislike dogs.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Attention Ladyhawke, Keane, et al

This is where your uncritical revival of the 1980s will inevitably lead:

You have been warned!

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Stop, cogitate and listen

The latest in Stephen Fry's series of excellent, but all-too-irregular podcasts has got me thinking about the content of this website.

He's having a rant about journalism - and makes the very valid point that "the problem with a daily or weekly column is that emotion is so much more easily accessed than reason" when trying to construct a narrative against a deadline.

It's a concern that's been plaguing me for a while. In the rush to publish a story (or, let's be honest, to avoid being caught writing a story at work) it's all too easy to fall into the trap of making a snap judgment about typing it up as SOLID FACT.

I've been guilty of this a couple of times recently - I slagged off Pink's So What weeks before it became lodged in my head and was upgraded from "utter shit" to "basically tolerable". On the opposite end of the scale, I waxed lyrical about Los Campesinos! before it occurred to me that shouting teenagers hitting a glockenspiel with a hammer is actually the noise they play you in hell's waiting room.

I'm not alone, of course. Music blogs are full of posts that basically declare "OMG HERE IZ TEH FIRST SONG I HEARD THIS MORNING AND IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE". How many times have you read someone bang on about a paradigm-shifting Radiohead remix, or the totally amazing new EP by Botson cryo-funk combo TitBishop, and thought to yourself "have they even heard this bilge?"

Because, I admit, there are occasions when I get 30 seconds into a song and think "this is so good, I have to write something about it" - without noticing that the rest of the song is a turgid droning dirge.

Not that an immediate emotional response is a bad thing. Pop music should be in-your-face, upfront, instantaneous, accessible and obvious. But, at the same time, some of my favourite records have revealed themselves over many, many plays. Indeed, The Cardigans' Long Gone Before Daylight - probably one of my top 10 albums of all time - only really displayed its ethereal beauty after two years in my CD collection.

So I have resolved to try to mention more of those slow-burning masterpieces on the website, starting today with Laura Marling - the 18-year-old singer-songwriter who was nominated for a Mercury Prize earlier this year for the dark folk of her debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim.

It's usually the sort of music that'd make me run a mile - lilting acoustic ballads with added Irish fiddle - but I was given a copy back in July and it has slowly assimilated itself into my weekly "most listened to" playlist. There is something captivating about Marling's gutsy vocals - so full of youthful tenderness, yet haunted and troubled beyond their years.

Here's her latest video, Night Terror. Give it a couple of goes before you dismiss it. It's what Stephen Fry would have wanted.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

As if by magic...

...The real video for Katy Perry's Hot N' Cold has appeared

Things to watch out for:
1) Man in bridesmaid dress!
2) Blatant product placement (Diesel! Nokia!)

3) Betty Boo*
4) Camp dancing vicar!
5) A zebra! A fucking zebra!

*Not really

Katy Perry - Hot N' Cold

PS: Don't be fooled by the likeability of this song and I Kissed A Girl - Katy Perry's album is mostly awful.

PPS: Best pop fact ever: Katy Perry has a cat called Kitty Purry.

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Katy Perry in a computer game

Like Natasha Bedingfield and Lily Allen before her, Katy Perry has recorded a "simlish" version of her new single for hit PC game The Sims 2.

If you ask me, the nonsense lyrics are an improvement.

Katy Perry - Hot N' Cold (simlish)

PS: I usually can't stand video game sequels, but The Sims 3 looks stunning.

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