Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Video: Dizzee Rascal - Bonkers

In which Dizzee Rascal goes straight to the loony bin, with a little help from Armand Van Helden.

The video was shot using a special 360-degree camera that uses 6 lenses - a first, we're told.

I'm more impressed with the shark costume, though.

Dizzee Rascal - Bonkers

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Test page

I'm experiencing some "technical difficulties". If this page publishes, the Gremlins have been vanquished. Pass the message on to Phoebe Cates.


Video: Katy Perry - Waking Up In Vegas

Wow. EMI apparently believes that Katy Perry's One Of The Boys is up there with Thriller and Born In The USA, because they keep churning out the singles*.

This time round, it's Waking Up In Vegas, which is notably bereft of melody in both verse and chorus. Still, Katy gets to try out some new wigs, meet Penn and Teller, and fulfil one of my all-time ambitions: sliding down a bowling lane on my stomach.

Katy Perry - Waking Up In Vegas

*Of course, Shania Twain's Come On Over had about 11 singles off it, too.

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Prince breaks 33-year silence!

Fans know that Prince is notoriously media-shy, almost entirely withdrawing from interviews after a couple of early, awkward encounters with journalists at the start of his career.

Those of us who saw his hilariously bizarre appearance on BBC Two's The Sunday Show (Prince wore a scarf over his face and refused to speak, whispering his answers into his then-wife Mayte's ear) formed a sort of understanding that he'd never give away much to anyone with a TV camera.

The media freeze has thawed in recent years - coinciding both with his becoming a Jehovah's Witness and a decline in record sales. He's done a few Oprah-type interviews, which were predictably self-congratulatory and unprobing, and gave an interesting insight into his creative process to Guitar Player Magazine in 2000.

But those of us looking for back-story and biography were resigned to gleaning what we could from the pop icon's former collaborators and friends (this interview with Wendy & Lisa is fascinating on Prince's work ethic and prolificacy, for example).

So imagine my surprise when the dimunitive superstar popped up for a two-part, in-depth interview on Tavis Smiley's PBS show this week. He delves into his troubled childhood, his musical inspirations and his decision not to vote in the last election. He also confirms that he had epilepsy as a child, something he first alluded to in the lyrics to The Sacrifice Of Victor on 1992's "Love Symbol" album.

Less pleasingly, he reinforces the idea that he's completely batshit mental by preaching about his belief in Chemtrails - the conspiracy theory that says emissions from commercial airliners are purposely laced with chemical agents for secret purposes. Oh dear.

Amazingly, the full video is up on the PBS website, but here's a taster to whet your appetite:

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Round and around and around

I just can't get this song out of my head today.

Tragically, this includes the slide guitar solo.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Video: Green Day - Know Your Enemy

Hello, we're Green Day and we'd like to bring you some corporate-sponsored rebellion.

Green Day - Know Your Enemy

Do you like the colour palette? We hired a Hollywood cinematographer to achieve the atmospheric lighting and the beautifully rich skin tones.

Power to the people!!

PS: Sorry the song's not much cop. The album's amazing, though.

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Pixie Lott: Loads of new "content"

We mentioned hotly-tipped teen sensation Pixie Lott a couple of weeks ago and, while not exactly slating her, suggested that perhaps her Duffy-lite pop ditties were a touch opportunistic.

We were instantly inundated with (two) comments, protesting that Pixie has an amazing voice and a catchy single. These statements are hard to deny, but they also applied to Joss Stone two years ago, and look how that turned out.

Anyway, I actually managed to see the young hopeful record a Radio 2 session a couple of weeks ago and, to be completely honest, she's very good. And very tall.

Her debut single, Mama Do, is a surefire top 10 hit and the follow-up Gravity is a cracking ballad, even if it does crib from Bleeding Love a bit. But I was most impressed by Cry Me Out, a huge, string-drenched Philly soul groove which bears a slight resemblance to Alicia Keys' You Don't Know My Name and, creditably, does not suffer by that comparison.

Videos of the session, which featured the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, are up on the Radio 2 website until the end of the week, and audio versions are available on Pixie's official Youtube channel.

The video for Mama Do was also released last week (this train is really building up steam, isn't it?). Unlike Little Boots, Pixie at least has a go at the choreography…

Pixie Lott - Mama Do (Uh Oh)

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Little Boots - New In Town video

The video for Little Bootses first "proper" single has leaked - and it's a good old fashioned romp through 80s video cliché land: Lots of choreography, lots of colour, lots of daft vignettes where tough gang members suddenly start dancing.

In many ways, it's a recreation of Janet Jackson's Nasty video - only where Janet can't dance and just walks through the streets lip-syncing. This is the Leona Lewis "single threat" school of pop stardom.

It's bound to be yanked off Youtube (youtube) as soon as the lawyers get in tomorrow morning, so here are some screenshots to tide you over 'til it premieres exclusively on Channel 4 at two in the morning, or whatever.

Little Boots - New In Town

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New music: Hockey - Song Away

When there are only four record labels left in the world and none of them have any money, talk of a "bidding war" is pretty redundant. Nonetheless, this term will be bandied about in press releases and broadsheet articles for the next couple of months in relation to Hockey.

The four-piece outfit - who are shaping up to be this year's MGMT - recorded one measly EP, were pursued by countless A&R "men" and signed to Capitol Records, who sent them off to work with big important music world people like Jerry Harrison out of Talking Heads.

They've been compared to everyone from Bob Dylan to LCD Soundsystem to MGMT (by me, in that paragraph up there). But if that all sounds a bit muso and chin-stroky, don't worry, because they have a knack for conjuring up big, meaty dance basslines in a fashion totally at odds with their professed veganism.

As proof, here they are kicking some ass on this week's Jools Holland:

Hockey - Song Away

PS: Thanks to my colleague Ian, who first spotted the band's raggedy rock charms... He'll have an interview with them up on the BBC website sometime soon, which I'll flag up on the blog.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is it just me...

...or is this Brit-centric spoof of Eminem's We Made You better than the real thing?

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lovely Ingrid Michaelson is lovely

Amidst all the terrible editing and self-concious pieces to camera, this video contains two very sweet acoustic performances by the perennially lovely Ingrid Michaelson.

Ingrid Michaelson - Unplugged on Hitradio Ö3

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Royksopp & Robyn on Norwegian TV

Robyn is the guest vocalist on the new Royksopp single, The Girl And The Robot, and made a surprise appearance on Norwegian telly over the weekend to help them promote it.

I'm sure there's something more interesting to say about this, but I can't think what it might be. Can you help?

Royksopp live at Senkveld - The Girl and the Robot

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Little Boots vs... herself

Little Boots released two videos yesterday: One was a home demo of her new single, New In Town, the other was a cover of Sugababes' debut single, Overload.

But which is best?

Little Boots - New In Town

Little Boots - Overload

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100 single ladies

God knows why, but Beyonce has teamed up with chewing gum brand Trident, who are giving away all 13,000 tickets for one of her gigs at the O2 later this year.

According to PR trade publication Talking Retail, parent company Cadbury is investing £2.5m to raise awareness of the promotion. That's rouchly four times as much as Beyonce makes from ticket sales at the venue (13,000 x £50 = £650,000).

Part of that campaign is a so-called "viral" video, where 100 women recreate the rapidly-becoming-iconic Single Ladies choreography in Picadilly Circus. It's not a particularly groundbreaking idea, but the execution is completely on the money.

Still, I wonder whether all this hilarity will be of any comfort to all the Cadbury staff who are losing their jobs when the company closes one of its main UK factory next year?

Maybe Beyoncé could help them out by buying a fuckload of Creme Eggs.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Nice hat - shame about the song

It's every performer's worst nightmare: Lady GaGa lost her place and fell apart in the middle of a live radio session - possibly as divine punishment for stealing the old Top Of The Pops logo and wearing it as a hat.

Here is that hilarious terrifying moment "in full":

If you would like to hear all of GaGa's live lounge appearance it's up on the Radio One website.

Disclaimer: It may be possible to save time by bypassing this link and running a rusty cheese grater over your earholes.

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Gig review: Bat For Lashes

The Shepherd's Bush Empire is one of those venues where the audience prefers the sound of their own voices to the singer they've paid £20 to see, so it's a tribute to Bat For Lashes' Natasha Khan that she is greeted with reverent silence by a sell-out crowd.

She prances onto the stage like a pixie... A pixie with the innocent brown eyes of a deer, dressed in cream pantaloons and a Victorian ruff. It's all very Alison Goldfrapp; and completely at odds with her bombastic, percussion-heavy set.

The action kicks off with a muscular version of Glass, the stunning opening track from her top five album, Two Suns, during which all eyes are fixed on the female drummer and her cartoonish blur of flailing limbs.

Khan steals the spotlight back, though, largely thanks to her vocals, which (bizarrely) are stronger on stage than on CD. A stripped-back interpretation of Daniel is an early highlight, and tons better than the full band encore version.

The singer recently told me (via a complex metaphor about crop rotation) that she prefers writing and recording to the promotional schedule, and she does indeed seem happier with a musical prop to steady her nerves. The best moments of the night come when she's sat behind a keyboard for the soaring Moon and Moon, or Horse & I. Later, when she dances around with a string of tiny silver bells, it all seems less assured.

If there's a complaint to be made, it's that the drums occasionally pummel all the subtlety out of Khan's delicate, folksy arrangements. But, just as frequently, they propel a mediocre album track into the pop stratosphere.

There are moments of hushed beauty, too. Prescilla, which Khan plays solo on a plucked dulcimer, is a finely spun piece of heaven.

"Thanks for being such a great audience," she says as she floats off the stage. "And for being so quiet".

Setlist via Preamble on Flickr

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Whooop! Sound the new music klaxon.

There I was complaining about the lack of decent new tunes and *poof* as if by magic, Popjustice posted a song by Kristinia DeBarge. It is a completely amazing 6/10 "effort".

Kristinia DeBarge - Goodbye

Some things to know about Kristinia:
1) Her name is pronounced Kris-ti-neé-a
2) She is the secret lovechild of James DeBarge and Janet Jackson
3) Not really
4) Although she is the "spawn" of James DeBarge
5) DeBarge made one of the 1980s most awesomest Jackson 5 rip-offs
6) Here it is

Rhythm Of The Night

Very informative, I am sure you'll agree.

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Fifth(!) trailer for latest Harry Potter

Yes, there is still no new music worth mentioning.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter slowdown

Is it just me or is there no new music around at the moment?

While we wait for normal service to be resumed, here are the Noisettes live on Jools Holland from t'other night. Mighty impressive, I reckon.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The best place to download music?

One of the best-written music blogs on the web, No Rock and Roll Fun, spent the weekend comparing the various music download / music streaming sites available in the UK to see which was bestest, in terms of the music they had available.

They had most success on Amazon's MP3 store, but decided not to give them a prize because of a completely unrelated gripe about the company removing sales rank data for "erotic books" - by which they mean anything slightly homosexualised (John Barrowman's autobiography, for example). Those crazy Americans and their puritanical hatred of the gays, eh?

Depending on how you see it, the main strength / flaw of No Rock And Roll Fun's experiment was that it deliberately sought out obscure indie tracks like MoHoBishOpi's Names For Nameless Things or the bizarre Steptoe and Son novelty record, Second Hand.

So I thought I'd conduct my own version of the experiment, with the cunning twist of trying to find songs you might have heard of, or actually want to listen to. Also, rather than making 12 seperate posts about it, I've drawn a table for handy instant reference.

Always thinking of you, I am.

To make it "fair", I've randomly selected five UK number ones, using the excellent Everyhit website; two songs from Gary Mulholland's superlative critique of the 500 best singles since punk This Is Uncool; and three from Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs list from 2004.

Here are the results (click to see a larger version):

The main conclusions:
  • iTunes was the only service to stock all 10 tracks, but Amazon was cheaper every time.
  • Who in their right minds is going to pay £1.49 for Abba's Knowing Me, Knowing You?!?! You can get the album it comes from for £5.00 in HMV.
  • iTunes, Amazon and Spotify were the only sites to have implemented search properly. Unbelievably, 7 Digital and Rhapsody can't find a song if you type in the artist's name and song title at the same time.
  • 7 Digital, We7 and Rhapsody also expect you to magically know which album a particular song comes from. This is great if you're the editor of Mojo magazine, but less helpful if you're my mum.
  • The idea that music has disappeared from YouTube because its having a big old scrap with PRS is patently untrue.
  • We7 allows you to stream entire tracks before you buy, which is fantastic, but its availabilty is all over the place and the pricing is similarly erratic. It's actually easier to use the magnificent Spotify to find music, and a separate download service when you want to purchase it.
  • Why does no-one except iTunes have Genius Of Love for sale?? That song is a masterpiece!! Cretins.


  • Thursday, April 9, 2009

    Alesha Dixon's new video is a smasher

    Here is a prime example of how fantastic choreography can raise a 6/10 song all the way up to 8/10. Doesn't it make you want to just pull on your dancing shoes and storm the dancefloor / wobble uncertainly to the beat (delete according to ability)?

    Alesha Dixon - Let's Get Excited

    Out on 11th May, fact fans.

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    Eminem vs Prodigy: Who wins?

    There must be a lot of hat-eating going on today in all those University departments who claimed kids would one day study the lyrics of Eminem alongside Yeats and Wordsworth.

    The main lyrical thrust of his new single argues that Lindsay Lohan and Portia Di Rossi are (oh dear) "too pretty" to be gay. The song also includes fart sound effects. There are eight-year-olds with more satirical sophistication.

    Eminem also interrupts your current programming to newsflash that Jessica Simpson once had weight issues, Amy Winehouse has used illegal substances, Sarah Palin is sorta-kinda hot and Kim Kardishian is sorta-kinda not (like, duh). It's clearly an attempt to revisit those old zeitgeisty Slim Shady slapdowns... But those oh-so-2008 reference points just make him seem a bit out-of-touch and, well, crap.

    What's next? A lyric about Moses parting the Red Sea? A withering putdown of Emperor Nero's virtuosity on the fiddle?

    Maybe Mr Mathers should have taken a leaf out of The Prodigy's big boy handbook of writing a comeback. I wasn't bowled over by Omen when it came out at the beginning of the year but a few plays (and blanket coverage on Radio One) brought out the old arms-aloft-rave-glowstick side of me. A side that I thought had died along with the upper ranges of my hearing and the ability to hold a drink in about 2001.

    Their new single builds on that ballbusting breakbeat 'n' buzzsaw bassline template by adding a shrieky anonymous acid house diva, beamed straight into your MP3 player from an old Deep Heat compilation.

    There is also a rather classy stop-motion video, which slyly references Firestarter without resorting to self-parody. Very nice indeed.

    Warrior's Dance - uncut from The Prodigy

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    Tiga - Shoes video

    We mentioned this single like a bajillion years ago, but it's still a corker. Produced by Soulwax and maybe featuring Madonna (but maybe not -- oooh, a mystery) it's the lead single from Tiga's sophomore album, Ciao!

    The video is simply great.

    Tiga - Shoes

    If, like me, you know nothing about Tiga, here is a superb little interview which tells you everything you need to know (he's a filthy perv, basically).

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    Disney conspiracy!

    This video, entitled "Disney only ever made one movie, and they've been tracing it ever since", has been doing the rounds in animation circles for years, but I hadn't seen it online til now:

    It's an interesting piece of video - and if you know your Disney, you can see that the practice of reusing animation sequences seems to have become more common during the lean financial years after "Uncle" Walt died.

    That's not to say it's all a big conspiracy, however... At least a few of those scenes are deliberate copies - animators paying tribute to their forebears. What's more, in the days before motion capture, Disney artists used a technique called Rotoscoping - tracing over live-action film, frame-by-frame, to capture movement. With limited resources, they likely reused the same pieces of footage as reference points from time to time.

    Some people have commented that this "spoils" and "devalues" Disney's old movies. I can't really see how it changes anything about them - the stories, songs and characters are as good (or bad) as they ever were. And there's a certain value in these old skills and techniques having been passed down through the years.

    What do you think?

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    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    A peek into No Doubt's recording studio

    GWEN STEFANI: Hey, No Doubt guys, I'm so contractually obliged happy to see you all again.

    NO DOUBT GUYS: Er, hi Gwen.

    GWEN: So have you written any new songs in the last six years?

    NDG: Not as such, no…

    GWEN: Excellent, because I have this great idea. We could do a cover of Stand And Deliver!

    NDG: Adam Ant's Stand And Deliver??

    GWEN: Yes, it's my all-new favourite song. Have you seen the costumes in the video? We can totally dress up as highwaymen!

    NDG: Oh God. Not this again.

    GWEN: What's your beef? You were happy when I asked you to dress up as Japanese prostitutes.

    NDG: That was your solo record, Gwen. Those were dancers. They weren't even men.

    GWEN: But they were toally awesome and cute. Can't you guys do it for me? Pleasy-weasy-lemon-squeezy?

    NDG: Well, I suppose we could do with the money…

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    Wash your mouth out

    Fuck is a marvellous word. It's like bleach for the English language. Used correctly, it cuts through any amount of bullshit and unclogs the lines of communication. Used badly, it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth (being fucked in the mouth is another matter, and one that is not currently up for discussion, thank you).

    Since Goodfellas broke the Hollywood swearometer, the f-word has become commonplace in cinema, but screenwriters constantly mistake vulgarity for maturity.

    The swearing in Goodfellas ("Fuck 'em in the ear. Fuck 'em in the other ear") was used to convey character. Joe Pesci's torrent of uncontrollably violent language prepared the audience for his character's pivotal, catastrophic loss of control halfway through the movie.

    In contrast, when they reshot Snakes On A Plane to insert the line "I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!", the filmmakers fundamentally misunderstood what made Samuel L Jackson cool in Pulp Fiction (it was his curiously philosophical view on the world of the contract killer, not his potty mouth).

    Anyway, to get to the point... There's a film coming out next week called In The Loop, which contains some of the most inventive invective ever committed to celluloid. It mostly comes from actor Peter Capaldi (pictured), who plays Malcolm Tucker - a frighteningly aggressive spin doctor whose job it is to keep hapless government ministers on message in the build-up to a war.

    As with Goodfellas, the filthy language serves a purpose - displaying the ruthless venom with which Tucker dispatches his victims, and providing context for his eventual hubristic downfall.

    I urge you to see it when it comes out on 17 April. It is perhaps the most quotable film since Spinal Tap (or Wayne's World if you're that way inclined). In fact, I double dare you to use any of the lines in your next boardroom meeting...

    Here's a trailer:

    And here's a quick example of a perfectly pitched swearathon:

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    Tuesday, April 7, 2009

    Comedy records - oh joy!

    I was under the impression that comedy records had died out with Mr Blobby and that no-one, not even Simon Cowell, could resurrect their decaying corpse.

    But no.

    With the record industry profits in a free-fall shitstorm, executives are signing up anything and everything that's had a glimmer of television exposure or "viral" fame. How else can you explain the fact that Universal are releasing an entire album by the Saturday Night Live team that brought us the (admittedly excellent) Natalie Portman rap and Justin Timberlake's Dick In A Box?

    Predictably, the law of diminishing returns applies here - especially given that The Lonely Island (for that is their name) base their sketches on a single joke repeated over and over and over again. In a way, I suppose, that makes it an effective parody of 50 Cent's career, only with added musical integrity.

    Their latest, Like A Boss, features Knocked Up's Seth Rogen and clocks in at a mercifully short 1'30". There's no doubting it'll make you laugh once. But do you need to own it?

    Therefore, in contravention of our usual policy, have a look at the video then don't buy the album.

    Lonely Island - Like A Boss

    PS: Flight Of The Conchords don't count as a comedy band.
    PPS: Here's Calvin Harris's take on the state of the record industry, via Twitter:

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    Monday, April 6, 2009

    I used to do this when I was 16...

    ...but I've grown out of it now.

    Kid Cudi, Common and Kanye West have done a rap over the top of Lady GaGa's Poker Face and (snigger) made it about oral sex. Because, you see, "she loves it when I poke her face." These are grown men, by the way.

    Whoever said rap was misogynist? As if.

    The sample, by the way, comes from this live acoustic version of Poker Face, which is staggeringly fantastic.

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    Is Keri Hilson just Timbaland's tax write-off?

    Say you're a


    Forget GaGa's pervtards and Britney's single entendres, the last 30 seconds of Beyoncé's Halo video are the sexiest moment pop music will produce in 2009.

    Beyoncé - Halo

    I got sent the remixes of this track last week. Sadly, they're all bobbins. Where are the Freemasons when you need them?

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    Friday, April 3, 2009

    Bruno trailer "comes out"

    The trailer for Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s eagerly-awaited follow-up to Borat, has been "gone live" and it particularly NSFW. I never really liked the character - an Austrian homosexual fashionista - when he was on Da Ali G show, but this looks like it'll keep up the laughter quotient of Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

    Sorry about the hopeless "age restriction" form, which doesn't scale down very well from the original, fullscreen video player. If you can't be bothered with trying to make it work, the trailer is still up on the Empire website.

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    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    Which genius approved this?

    This is a genuine advert uploaded to Rihanna's MySpace yesterday.


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    New music roundup

    It's been a while since I've trawled the blogs to bring you some new music that other people have stolen and uploaded. Let me correct the error forthwith.

    :: Little Boots - New In Town (Fred Falke Remix). Little Victoria Hesketh has been unusually quiet since she was named the "Sound of 2009" back in January (although the Guardian's interactive graph of new bands suggests she's still outperforming her rivals), but here is her first proper single of the year in slammin' remix form.

    :: Fiona Apple - Why Try To Change Me Now? . Exquisite jazzy cover version of the old Cy Coleman track. Delicious.

    :: Eels - Fresh Blood. Werewolf-themed potboiler from Mark Oliver Everett's first new album in four years.

    :: Coldplay - Viva La Vida (DiscoTech Mix). Terrible indie bollocks rescued by ridonculous acid house synths.

    :: Fischerspooner - Supply & Demand. Moody electronic noodling direct from a 1980s Pet Shop Boys b-side. Not entirely unpleasant.

    :: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Zero (NASA remix). Completely inessential compared to the original, yet oddly compelling when cycling into work.

    :: Peter Bjorn & John - Nothing To Worry About. A hybrid of Royksopp and Go Team this will frighten fans of Young Folks but delight people who like Lykke Li.

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    Wednesday, April 1, 2009

    Just Jack - Embers (acoustic)

    Just Jack has been over at Maida Vale studios this morning doing the whole "here's my new single and a cover version we knocked together at the last minute" thing.

    It's easy to be cynical about Radio One's Live Lounge concept now that it's been copied by every radio station under the sun - but those BBC engineers are the best in the business, which lifts these session tracks above the ordinary.

    In this instance, Jack makes a decent fist of recreating Embers, his multi-tracked overdub symphony, in a live setting (they cheated a bit with a sequencer for the handclaps, though). The cover, of TI's Live Your Life, is also acceptable.

    :: Just Jack - Embers (mp3)
    :: Just Jack - Live Your Life (mp3)

    The videos will no doubt be available on Radio One's Live Lounge page later today.

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