Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The most supple woman on the planet

I dropped into the Jools Holland studios to see Shakira (or Shakira Shakira, to give her full name) perform three tracks from her new album and one oldie-but-goodie.

I swear that the woman is genetically related to Elastigirl from The Incredibles. She is stretchy beyond belief. Watch the bit in She-Wolf where she sings the bridge while executing a perfect crab bend - around 0:58 into the video. It's not normal.

Shakira - She Wolf (live)

The best bit about Jools Holland is watching how the stars off-duty. Before the show, there was a huge kerfuffle over Shakira's necklace, which appeared to be caught in her hair. This demanded an instant jewellery swap, leading to the not-a-joke query "How many people does it take to change Shakira's necklace?"

The answer is three: One to hold the spare chain, one to lift up Shakira's hair, and one to operate the clasp. Plus Shakira, obviously.

Shakira - Hips Don't Lie (live)

On Friday's extended edition of the show, you'll get to see two more tracks from She-Wolf - Why Wait and Gypsy, which both have a big Middle Eastern influence. The latter has another moment of lyrical genius from the daft-as-a-brush department.

I'm a gypsy
Are you coming with me?
I might steal your clothes
And wear them if they fit me

I guess all that bending must restrict the flow of blood to the brain.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Warning: This post may result in you listening to a Miley Cyrus song uncritically

Here's something I never thought I'd be writing - the new Miley Cyrus single is almost tolerable.

I mean, you have to let a lot of things slide: The auto-tuned vocals; the way it shamelessy name-checks Jay-Z in an attempt to pretend Miley has what people call "The Cool"; the video's unmistakable debt to (urgh) Grease; the false laughter in the final chorus; and the lyric about how the world's highest-earning teenager ($26m last year) is really just a loveable country bumpkin who's totally out-of-place amid all the fake tits and bouffant hairdos of Hollywood.

And yet... AND YET! You would have to be a stone-hearted grouchy sourpuss to hate it. The whole thing is so breezy and effortless, even though it's clearly the product of eight years' sweat, tears and potion-mixing in a top secret pop laboratory. Listen to that slinky guitar lick. Note the expert deployment of the handclap machinery. Bask in the glory of the chorus's amazing "zrrrp-wrrp" noise.

Also, the tune is pretty catchy.

Inevitably, the song will remain a guilty pleasure for most pop fans because of the inescapable fact that it is performed by Miley frickin' Cyrus, with her annoying perky voice and stupid gormless permagrin. But the fact is, if this was by Kylie, the "popular" music press would have collectively wet their knickers by now.

Miley Cyrus - Party in the USA

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If it weren't for the X-rated lyrics, this would be a perfect soundtrack to the "winner's montage" on X Factor or American Idol. In many ways, it would still be a great candidate - given the obvious metaphorical implications about X Factor and the music industry. I'm not going to spell it out for you. Just watch.

Not safe for work, clearly.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Veronicas discuss their next album

The Veronica's excellent single 4Ever is finally released in the UK today. It's a bargain 59p on iTunes and Amazon, but if you need an added incentive, Lisa has promised on her Twitter feed that anyone who buys £10-worth of the song will be entered into a prize draw to win "a necklace made out of Hickeys, from jessica, lisa and all 3 members of the band! Thats right... a NECKLACE OF HICKEYS!"

If that doesn't send the record to number one, I don't know what will.

Anyway, I caught up with the Origliasso twins last week to talk about this record, their upcoming album, and the one after that, too. Here's what they had to say.

Your last single, Untouched, was two years old. 4Ever is four years old. Are you going back in time?

Jessica: We are absolutely going back in time, you are absolutely correct.

It's the song that the record company picked for the next single, so we’re excited about that. It shows the longevity of the music, I guess.

Tell me about the album.

Jessica: Hook Me Up is out October 12th. It's got electro undertones with a pop rock influence.

Lisa: It is a more personal record to us, lyrically. We write about life, our life experiences, our feelings and thoughts and situations we’ve been in and out of.

It sounds so much like other electro-pop records that have come out in the last 12 months - Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, for example. But when you recorded it three years ago, that wasn't the dominant sound...

Lisa: It wasn’t. That’s the thing. It was so new that people were freaking out. Record label people. We were being told that radio was too scared to play it but we were thinking: "Good! That's the whole point. We don’t want to sound like anyone else."

What other artists were you listening to at the time?

Lisa: The Sounds, Under The Influence of Giants, Shiny Toy Guns, CSS, Sneaky Sound System - bands that were kind of big but not on the mian charts.

They're all quite cool, tastemaker bands. Would you like to be seen as a more credible act?

Jessica: Absolutely. Our third record, which we’re writing this year, is going to show even more of that side of us. It's going to be a lot more grown up and we’re going to take time to really experiment and discover a more specific sound.

You hinted that you've clashed with the record label in the past. Will that be a problem if you change direction again?

Jessica: We're going to be able to obtain even more creative control this time. It's just one of those things about being signed to a major record label – you start off having to compromise a fair amount of control.

Lisa: And there’s a big learning process. As songwriters, as artists. You become smarter businesswomen, and how the industry works and marketing. We’re only becoming aware of how much people judge you on your image before they even hear your music. So you become very – you wise up pretty quickly to the way it works.

Speaking of image, you're constantly putting up pictures of yourselves on Twitter. Most girls of your age hate looking at themselves - so how come you're so confident?

Lisa: On Twitter, we have nearly 100,000 followers who are primarily fans. So they’re our biggest supporters and they’re people we want to keep in the know about what’s going on with us. In the past, we haven’t always been in control of what’s being put out there. Now that we have the opportunity, it is nice to be able to put out things that we are proud of – and things that are fun.

Unlike a lot of people, you’re clearly writing those posts yourself and you’re being honest. Sometimes too honest.

Jessica: Yeah. Sometimes gets us in trouble a little bit. We’re not going to change.

The Veronicas - 4Ever

The Veronicas - 4Ever (Radio One Live Lounge)

4Ever is out now. Hook Me Up follows on 12th October. The other bits of our interview (aka 'the good bits') will appear on the BBC News website at some point in the next couple of weeks...

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Friday, September 25, 2009

"Cities aflame in the summer time"

Today's essay question:

1) First, watch this amazing performance by The Temptations.

Temptations - Ball Of Confusion

2) Now watch the new video from "hot" British boyband JLS.

JLS - Everybody In Love

3) Using what you have seen as a reference, describe the similarities and differences between JLS and The Temptations. You may wish to consider topics such as the social relevance of the lyrics, style of music, choreography and haircuts.

4) Describe in no more than 400 words why JLS should be allowed to continue releasing records.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Journalism in action

Popjustice posted a link to this two-week-old Nerina Pallot video on Twitter this morning.
I had a look at the video. It is a good video. I like this video.

Nerina Pallot - Real Late Starter (8 bit remix)

After those four enjoyable minutes, I clicked on a link that took me to the video of the original version of the song. I liked that one, too.

Nerina Pallot - Real Late Starter

I think this post has been "a win" - not just for blogging, but for music in general.

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We are not a-muse-d

About a million (three) people have sent me this clip of Muse playing their Uprising single on Italian TV. It is hilarious, they all tell me, because the band rebelled when they were forced to lipsync - lead singer Matt faked playing the drums in a comedically exagerrated manner, while the actual drummer pretended to sing the song!

But I wonder if it's really that simple. There must have been a producer in Italy who liked Muse enough to book them for the show. They would have had to propose the idea to their boss, put it forward at a programme planning meeting, and then take on the responsibility of booking transport, dressing rooms and hospitality for the band and their crew.

At this stage, the producer would have raised the issue of lip syncing with the band's PR team. "We're not a rich show," the conversation would have run. "We can't afford to pay thousands of euros to half-a-dozen sound mixers and engineers - so we can't guarantee the mix will be as crisp and detailed as the band would like. Would they mind miming to a backing track instead?" The band's representatives clearly accepted this argument.

But Muse turn up on the day of the show and suddenly decide they're not happy. "We're a real band," they complain. "We don't do miming. This is so unfair". They spit out their dummies, call their mum to whine about the injustice and refuse to get off the tour bus until someone sorts it out. The frantic producer runs between the production office and the megastars' coach trying to reach a compromise. Eventually, the band grumpily agree to do the show.

Broadcast time rolls around. The producer has butterflies in their stomach, hoping Muse don't pull out at the last minute. What if the backing track skips? Will the presenter stick to the carefully-researched questions?

As the segment approaches, the singer is sitting in the drummer's chair. That's a bit strange, but it'll be alright, won't it?

No. Muse make a mockery of the show. The drummer takes the interview questions meant for the lead singer - and the presenter doesn't realise he's not who he says he is. The performance is a disaster. Muse fans write in to jeer and laugh. The producer is hauled in front of the TV station's boss to explain why the channel has been made a laughing stock by this English band.

With that (fictionalised but probably represenative) story in mind, doesn't their behaviour seem petulant and pathetic?

Imagine if you worked in a bakery and your boss said you'd have to whisk the cake batter by hand because the food mixer was broken. If you decided to stick it to the man by switching the sugar for salt, would that be an amusing prank or a sackable offence?

It's not a perfect analogy, but it amuses me to think of Matt Bellamy in a chef's hat.

:: Here's the actual video for Uprising, in which Muse take their job seriously

:: Here's the Veronicas covering the song on Radio One proving (a) they can cut it live, and (b) the song is a bit monotonous when you strip away all the whizz-bang production and sound effects.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"We are the spoons!"

Marina and the Diamonds (whose I Am Not A Robot is my favourite single of the year to date) have finally announced her first "official" single.

It's called Mowgli's Road and, as the name suggests, it has got a jungle "vibe". That's jungle in the sense of chimps and tigers, rather than Roni Bloody Size, or Toto Coelo.

Journalists: Words that could be used to describe this song include quirky, distinctive, exciting, hypnotic, immense, deranged, barking, energetic, plinky-plonky, and utterly fucking brilliant.

Here is the song being performed for the BBC earlier this year.

Marina and the Diamonds - Mowgli's Road

PS - We asked Marina to describe her sound earlier this year and she said, "Alternative pop – but exciting. Not like wingo wango weird stuff". So now you know.

PPS - If anyone, anyone, compares this to Florence and the Machine, I will bite their ears off.

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Best red carpet ever*

It's the Flight Of The Conchords crew at the Emmys. Hooray!

* Apart from the time Brangelina blanked Ryan Seacrest, who was running after them windmill-style, shouting "Brad! Angelina! Brad! Angelina! Brad!" like a broken Hollywood alarm clock.

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We have listened to the new Alicia Keys single and this is what we think about it

It's hard to think of an artist as self-conciously inoffensive as Alicia Keys. Her records are about as dangerous as a sandwich. Unless it’s a peanut butter jelly sandwich and you suffer from a serious nut allergy, in which case Alicia Keys records are actually less dangerous than a sandwich. Amazing, but true.

Yet I've always had a soft spot for her. If I Ain't Got You, for example, is a power ballad so potent that it is directly responsible for more than six million pregnancies per day.

More excitingly / less disturbingly, there is a secret ghetto gangsta princess lurking within Ms Keys. I Need You, from As I Am, has the most exciting drum pattern this side of Stevie Wonder's Supersition. The Timbaland-produced Heartburn, from The Secret Diary of Alicia Keys, is funkier than a mosquito's tweeter.

Keys two most recent releases showcase both sides of her songwriting. Empire State Of Mind, her duet with Jay-Z, is a defiant, gargantuan love letter to New York. Keys belts out the chorus with the demented exuberance of Tigger on catnip. It is so brilliant that it entered the UK top 40 on Sunday on the strength of its availabilty on Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 album.

But Keys new solo track, Doesn't Mean Anything, is the polar opposite. A slightly anonymous "my-life-isn't-the-same-since-you-said-goodbye" relationship drama, it sounds like a neutered version of her gospelly powerhouse, No-One. A crowdpleaser, no doubt, but one we'll file under the heading "wake me up when this one ends".

Both are below for your delectation.

[if the above video doesn't work, here's the official "embedding disabled by request" version]

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Karen O's farmyard impression hour

In the first video from The Flaming Lips (excellent) double album, Embryonic, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs delivers a series of animal impressions while an enthusiastic young lady in a bikini performs interpretive dance.

The Flaming Lips - I Can Be A Frog

Is it me, or is this just a musical version of the following?

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hang on...

Look, ignore everything I've just written and read this instead. It's the BBC Chart Blog's tribute to the Sugababes, and it is wonderful.

Sugababey Love - BBC Chart Blog

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Sugababes: A handy guide

Here is the official Sugababes' statement in full:

The current line-up of the Sugababes has disbanded.

Heidi Range and Amelle Berrabah will continue as the Sugababes and will be joined by new member Jade Ewen. They release their album ‘Sweet 7’ on November 23rd through Island Records.

Keisha Buchanan will continue to record for Island Records as a solo artist.

And here's Keisha's Twitter outpouring:

Dear Friends, I'm sad to say that I am no longer apart of the Sugababes. Although it was not my choice to leave, it's time to enter a new chapter in my life I've had a great time and have achieved more then I ever thought I would.

I would like to state that there were no arguments, bullying or anything of the sort that lead to this. I have nothing but positive things to say about the girls and I wish them the best of luck. Sometimes a break down in communication and lack of trust can result in many different things.

Remember my drunk pictures out with Amelle, supporting her on her success with Tinchy Stryder... Oh the shame... But what a fun night we had I would also like to point out that I have always supported the girls and they have also supported me.

Now I'm going to take some time to focus on me. I've been in this band for 11 years and I have achieved so much. Although im nervous... I'm still very excited on what lies ahead. :-) I have a great family and friends who are behind me 100% and at the age of 24, I'm now going out into this world on my own...

The feisty, funny, professional, fearless, motor mouth... lol I want to thank the Sugababes fans and my fans for all your support and all who have never judged me, but excepted me for who I am...

This is not the end... but the beginning!!!!

It is quite a sad thing that has happened, but in some ways a very positive one. Keisha has been the ringleader, spokesperson and general bossyboots of the Sugababes since 1998. If she can bring that focus and determination to a solo career, then pop is the winner.

What happens to the lets-not-call-them-the-Sugababes-any-more is anyone's guess. Amelle could believably take charge (and the suggestion that she forced out the band's founding member out indicates that she's got the big, brass balls of a showbiz survivor). If the last couple of months is anything to go by, she'll hitch a lift on the grimepop express with Tinchy and Taio, but whether that's a good long-term strategy is another matter.

What’s more interesting is the idea of the Sugababes as a brand. That's something Keisha always resisted - and something I suspect the girls' management were very keen to exploit. I wonder whether we'll see Sugababes lip gloss, fashion lines and low calorie sweetners by the end of the year? There's also a great line in cooking appliances to consider: The Heidi Range Oven; an Amelle Berrahbah-b-q; and a Jade Ewen Spoon (Wooden Spoon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

And if it all falls apart like a leper in a car wash, at least we'll have songs like this to remember:

Sugababes - Caught In A Moment (live on TOTP)

Sugababes - Overload

Sugababes - About You Now

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Monday, September 21, 2009

The Sugababes 1998-2009

The salient points

* Keisha has left
* None of the original three Sugababes are left in the Sugababes
* Amelle and Heidi are continuing with Jade Ewen
* Please stop laughing at the back

A more comprehensive analysis will follow when I summon the will to care.

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Late breaking news: A Cheryl Cole video

In which Cheryl ditches the whole "rolling my eyes because this is pop lark is just a bit of fleeting fun" schtick she's been doing in Girls Aloud videos since 2002 and presents a proper music video. Some of it is cringeworthy (the bit with the hoodie, the embarassed dancing) and some of it is ace (the bit with the military uniform, the hair, the less embarassed dancing).

Cheryl Cole - Fight For This Love - Official Music Video

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Jo Whiley's last daytime show

About three hours ago, Jo Whiley wrapped up her last daytime show on Radio One. I know a lot of people couldn't stand her, or her taste in music, but I always found her a disarmingly warm and human presence in the middle of Radio One's never-ending parade of shouty bastards.

The fact that this talented broadcaster is being replaced by a girl whose vocabulary consists of 22 words, eight of which are "amazing", only makes her demotion all the more depressing.

The case against Jo seemed to be that she championed a great deal of indie drivel - from Badly Drawn Boy to The Wombats - but she also introduced me to The Killers and Gnarls Barkley and Lupe Fiasco, so it all evens out in the end.

In the end, her last show wasn't exactly the rousing valedictory I'd expected, partly because of the bizarre decision to play an hour-long Coldplay concert in the middle of it, but the presence of Jay-Z - who played basketball on Jo's driveway - was radio gold.

I've put together a two-minute highlights package in case you missed it.

Oh, and there were a couple of great new Live Lounge tracks for the last show. The Jay-Z ones in particular are worth 10 minutes of your time. Links below:

:: Jay-Z - Encore (acoustic live lounge)
:: Jay-Z - Roc Boys (acoustic live lounge)
:: Dizzee Rascal - Holiday (flamenco version)
:: Coldplay - Shiver (live lounge)

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

A big hand for the Flaming Lips

I've spent the last couple of days trapped in some sort of 1970s prog rock nightmare, as I absorb the new "opus" from Muse and a double album of freaky wig-out nonsense by The Flaming Lips. I now refuse to listen to any song that doesn't last more than seven minutes and feature a zither.

The Muse record the campest thing you will ever hear, even if you are Kylie Minogue drinking a white wine spritzer at a Doris Day retrospective in Graceland.

Embryonic, meanwhile, is the result of (dear God, no) a six-month-long jam session in the Flaming Lips' studio. "We got kind of caught up in and kind of inspired and energized by these weird jams that we were doing," Wayne Coyne told Rolling Stone earlier this year. "A lot of them turned out better and stranger and more interesting than some of the songs that we had written."

The thing is: He's absolutely right. This is the best Flaming Lips album since The Soft Bulletin. It's chock full of spooky electric buzzing, scaling guitar loops, hypnotic bass lines and a dolorous, other-worldly tone. Special guests include MGMT (aka the Flaming Lips Lite) and Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who provides yelps and squeals on a couple of tracks. Yes, really.

The ideal way to listen to the album is on a pair of chunky headphones in a darkened bedsit while burning six joss sticks, two candles and a "funny" cigarette. You may also want to wear a paisley neckscarf and tie beads in your hair.

Or, like I did, you can experience it while putting together a new table you've just bought from John Lewis. Either option is fine.

Here are the band previewing Convinced Of The Hex on US TV last night. It's pretty representative of the rest of the album, so if you're mesmerised by its dark, loping groove, you could do worse than checking out the album when its released on 12th October.

Flaming Lips - Convinced Of The Hex [live on the Colbert Report]

Apparently, you can stream the whole Flaming Lips album on the Colbert Report website until 21st September, but I can't find the darn thing anywhere.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Janet Jackson song. Cost: £0.00p

Fresh from her rather good MTV appearance at the weekend, Janet Jackson has put a new song up on her website. It's called Make Me and, astonishingly, it is not about humping, frotting or knocking one off. In fact, the track is a cute'n'bouncy pop number that bears more than a passing resemblance to former Janet classics Together Again and Come On Get Up. Here is a clip:

To hear the whole thing, you have to agree to be data farmed for Janet's mailing list. It's probably worth it.

If you are interested in Janet, you should also read her recent interview with Harper's Bazaar, in which she discusses her brother's death, the Super-Bowl fallout and being a tomboy. For the time-pressured, here are the best bits:

"Mike was very simple."
"People can have rhinoceros skin."
"Huge holes in the bottom."
"Mostly pants."

Some people might say I have taken these quotes out of context, but who are they to judge?

UPDATE: Make Me is apparently from a new greatest hits album, out in the US on 17th November. These banner adverts from say so.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MTV Awards - they were on telly

I can't abide watching these things in real time, so I only caught up with the MTV Awards this morning, making liberal use of the >>FF button. They were notable for three things:

1) Janet Jackson dancing with her dead brother - the sort of video concept he would no doubt have loved and spent $13m filming, were he not the one who was dead.

2) Watching the public turn on Kanye West live on television.

3) Beyoncé

Ah, Beyoncé. She really can do no wrong. From the moment during Jimmy Fallon's Boyz II Men skit when the camera cut to Beyoncé cutely lip-syncing along, to her magnanimous decision to give her acceptance speech time to Taylor Swift - whose own prize-giving was ruined by Kanye West being a dick.

And, amid all the attention-seeking, overblown, badly sung performances (we're looking at you, GaGa) Beyoncé took to the stage with a simple, old school song-and-dance number that blew everything else out of the water like an asteroid landing in Loch Ness. Here it is:

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Monday, September 14, 2009

In your face, the Beatles!

You will no doubt be aware that the Beatles reissued their albums last week, all tidied up and polished for the 21st Century. Although, as they were at pains to point out, the records weren't tidied up or polished very much, because they were already so bloody brilliant. Yes, even the early ones that they recorded in a day.

So, with all the hype and fuss, how did they do? Actually, erm... not that well.

All of the albums returned to the chart - which is, to be fair, a record - but the highest placing the Fab Four managed was number five (Sgt Pepper). Dame Vera Lynn beat them to number one - while David Guetta, Arctic Monkeys and Jamie T all sold better.

The much-vaunted box sets debuted at 24 and 57, for the stereo and mono versions respectively. Oh, and the computer game? That went in at number four - three places below Guitar Hero 5.

Over at HMV, PR guru Genarro Castaldo had the following excuse explanation:

"We've seen huge demand for the remastered Beatles albums since Wednesday, but sales have been spread across all the releases, especially the box sets.

"The fact they were only out for four days also seems to have counted against their prospects of a number one."

Well, excuse my French, but what a load of bollocks. Are there really legions of Beatles fans who can only make it to HMV on Monday or Tuesday? Are we expected to believe that the demand for the box sets (number 24 and 57, let's not forget) cannibalised the sales of the individual records? I don't think so.

I have a few theories to explain this sales "anomaly"

1) The albums were too expensive. Individually, they cost £11 despite being 40 years old. The mono box set was a rip-off-tastic £200 - or £15 per disc.

2) There were no bonus tracks or additional content to entice fans.

3) The differences between the old CDs and the new, remastered ones were practically inaudible to everyone but audiophiles and Beatles geeks. Don't believe me? There's a great side-by-side comparison on NPR's All Songs Considered podcast. With the exception of the mono version of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, none of the featured tracks sound appreciably better. Anyone who says otherwise is being fooled by the fact that they're paying proper attention to the recordings for the first time in years.

4) Who wants better audio quality anyway? The popularity of MP3s and ear bud headphones suggests that people aren't really that fussed.

5) The overall effect of "Beatles Week" on the BBC and a million other media outlets was to make people think "do you know what? I've heard these songs enough to last me a lifetime, I'm not buying them".

6) The albums are still not available on iTunes - which is where any normal person wants to buy them.

7) Nor were the new mixed available on vinyl - which is where any abnormal person wants to buy them.

8) That cow Heather Mills sabotaged it all.

I'd be interested to hear what you think, too...

In the meantime, here's a proper outtake (and something I'd consider buying if it was released officially) from the White Album.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Ke-listen to this

First, some facts.

Kelis = amazing
Basement Jaxx = amazing
Chipmunk = not so amazing
Kelis + Basement Jaxx - Chipmunk = still pretty amazing

Second, some music:

That's Scars, the serpentine title track from Basement Jaxx's forthcoming album. Jaxx may no longer be the sound of the future, but they're still more current than George Alagiah frenching the Greenwich Time Signal.

As you may have guessed, the lead vocalist is Kelis, one of the great unsung heroes of modern pop. Despite a limited vocal range, she can slip believably into any character - whether it be scary, sweet or slutty - and deliver a performance that's as individual as a Kraft cheese slice. We love her and you should too.

The full Jaxx song can be found on their MySpace page, with the album available to buy on 21st September. Ta-ra.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Sufjan Stevens video

Sufjan Stevens, the mercurial musician who's attempting to write an album for each of the 50 US states, is an odd fish.

His records veer from captivating brilliance (Chicago is so ludicrously beautiful it should be listed as one of the new wonders of the world) to treacherous self-indulgence (the outtakes album with three pointless versions of Chicago completely dilutes the song's delicate magic).

Anyway, he's back with another crazy idea: An orchestral symphony about a motorway - The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, to be precise. A distressingly ugly, 11-mile elevated expressway that cuts through New York like a rusting hacksaw.

Stevens has made a pointless "arty" film of the road (and some shots of people hula hooping for no good reason). This gets played in the background while the musician plays his sumptuous, swelling suite on stage.

The first performance came in November 2007, and won the singer-songwriter the prestigious Brendan Gill Prize for a work of art that successfully captures the sprit of New York City.

A DVD / CD of the show is coming out next month, and a trailer video featuring one of the symphony's interludes has just been posted on Vimeo. The music's interlocking polyrhythms create a hypnotic lullaby that slowly builds into a cacophony of brass. A bit like a rush hour traffic jam.

With hula hoops.

Interlude I — Dream Sequence in Subi Circumnavigation

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Pervs pay attention

Natalie Imbruglia's new video is no Justify My Love but by crikey it's steamy.

You can watch the whole thing on the Mirror website, assuming your sweaty palms can grip the mouse long enough to click on this link.

This will be the last Natalie Imbruglia post this week.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good Natalie Imbruglia remix is good

Oh no! All of Natalie Imbruglia's leg bones have dropped out.

Maybe this (excellent) remix of her (average) new single, Want, will help her back onto her feet. We can also recommend milk and vitamin C. Failing that, orthapedic calipers.

An mp3 of the whole eight-and-a-half-minutes trancegasm is available at the following link.


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Awards - what are they good for?

So, last night was the Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize. It was held in the sweltering heat of a dingy public house, where judges debated the merits of pop stars wearing coloured tights and decided which of the shortlisted songs to eliminate through the medium of dance. I bet they don't do this at the Oscars...

Unsurprisingly / disappointingly Girls Aloud won again. Don't get us wrong, we will enter a prolonged period of mourning when the band go on hiatus (next week - arrrgh) but The Promise simply isn't the best British pop single of the last 12 months. However, the criminal absence of Marina and the Diamonds from the shortlist made the girls a good second choice.

And, as someone pointed out, if they had changed the lyrics from "Here I am, walking Primrose" to "Here I am, legs akimbo" the song would have won without any argument.

The ceremony was made all the better by the arrival of an actual, real life Girl Aloud. Nicola Roberts is certainly a brave woman, given the "enthusiastic" nature of the Popjustice panel. But she got stuck right into the melee, declaring that The Saturdays were undeserving winners becaue "they stole our stylist" and putting her own song in the running for worst single of the year.

When one brave soul brought up the subject of the following, disatrous GMTV performance of The Loving Kind, Nicola screeched "that was Sarah's fault!"

How true.

In other prize ceremony news, Monie Love won the Mercury Prize [Ed - please check]

Speech Debelle - The Key

The end.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Don't look now - it's La Roux

The video for La Roux's new single, I'm Not Your Toy, is full of people looking askance, askew and sideways. It's got to mean something - but what?

The song's lyrics deal with mistrust (and lack of self-confidence) in a relationship. Elly doesn't trust her partner when he says he loves her. "You don't like me, you just want the attention," she warbles.

So could the "wandering eyes" of the video represent Elly's lover, a man who is constantly on the lookout for the fireworks of his next big romance? Or were they simply trying to avoid this guy?

Decide for yourselves. The video is here:

La Roux - I'm Not Your Toy

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Ropey pop metaphor time

If a river runs through planet pop, then Leona Lewis and Cheryl Cole are camped on opposite banks.

While Cheryl's Fight For This Love is shyly understated, Leona's new single Happy is a giant, shouting "look at me everyone, I can fucking sing!! from the top of an erupting volcano.

There are no prizes for guessing that this song was written by Ryan "Halo" Tedder.

Leona Lewis - Happy

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Cheryl Cole's debut single, then

National institutionTM Cheryl "yis are brilliant" Cole unleashed her debut solo single Fight For This Love on an unsuspecting world this morning, via the medium of radio. Aside from the fact that she's clearly hurt her right leg very badly in the promo shot, what do need to know about this momentous record?

The Good:
  • It sounds nothing like Girls Aloud (v important)
  • It sounds nothing like Victoria Beckham (which we were worried about)
  • It sounds nothing like a sparrow chirping into a plastic bottle (ditto)
  • It actually sounds a little like Toni Braxton (amazing)
  • The structure is: Intro, verse, bridge, chorus a, chorus b, verse, bridge, chorus a, chorus b, middle 8, breakdown with handclaps(!), chorus a, chorus b "to fade".
  • The Glockenspiel.

    The Bad:
  • "Too much of anything can make you sick" is not the classiest opening line of all time.
  • Although, when she sings "love ain't no walk in the park", it actually sounds like Cheryl is being a little bit sick in her mouth.
  • It’s a slow-burner, so lots of people will instantly dismiss it as "rubbish" and "not good enough", then miraculously decide it is "bloody brilliant" the week after she performs it on X-Factor
  • If Tesco had an own-brand range of R&B pop songs, they would sound like this :(

    The Ugly:
  • Let's face it, until a cartoon cat smashes in those cheekbones with a hot iron, Cheryl Cole is never going to be considered ugly.

    The video was only filmed on Saturday, so there's nothing but this radio recording to enjoy for the time being...

    Cheryl Cole - Fight For This Love

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  • Friday, September 4, 2009

    This song is what you imagined Little Boots would sound like, only better

    It is Annie's Songs Remind Me Of You, and it has been around for donkey's years. You may have heard it last summer, when Island toyed about with the idea of putting out Annie's album, then decided not to, in case it outsold the new U2 record and nobody could look Larry Mullen Jr in the eye when he popped in for a cup of lemonade.

    The appearance of a video means that, yes, the album is finally coming out this year. Of course, the fact that Annie has prised herself from the clammy grasp of a major multi-national corporation and run into the arms of a small boutique record label in Norway means that this video has none of the whizz-bang attention-grabbing special effects you may have come to expect on your "MTV" or "VH1" (in fact, the Youtube page says its been cobbled together during the photoshoot for her album cover). But the song - full of sumptuous harmonies and 80s throwback orchestra hits - speaks for itself.

    Annie - Songs Remind Me Of You

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    Cripes, it's a new Robbie Williams single

    And it is literally quite good (apart from the jarring, awkward transition to the chorus).

    "Your Jesus really died for me" is a great line.

    Robbie Williams - Bodies

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    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    Rock Band: Radiohead

    A note for the gullible: This is a sketch from MTV's new animated show, Popzilla, and not a real advertisement

    Excitingly, got to play the new Beatles: Rock Band game today. I would write a review but all I saw was a stream of dots racing towards me in quick succession, just like in the previous iterations of the game. The visuals in the background could have been a new high watermark for computer graphics in the 21st Century, but I wasn't really paying attention. Someone swore they saw a giant spunking donkey cock up on the flatscreen at one point, but that was probably just a glitch.

    Anyway... I don't want to boast (I do) but I scored 99% playing the drums on my very first go, which finally proves I'm as good as Ringo Starr and could have replaced him in the Beatles if I had a time machine and a pudding bowl haircut.

    Yes, I realise Ringo Starr was an actual genius who had to invent those drum patterns from scratch, but creative thinking is completely overrated these days. I am his equal, and nobody can prove otherwise without arranging a live drum-off at the Royal Albert Hall.

    Go on, I dare you.

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    The world's most apposite review

    Sandyrabbit has a very valid point: What all pop lyrics need is a healthy dose of realism. That way, we could stop fantasising about unattainable goals of physical perfection and concentrate on the things that really matter, such as global warming, human trafficking and telling people on the internet when they have GOT THINGS WRONG.

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    Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    New video frenzy

    There are so many new videos floating around today that you could be forgiven for thinking everyone had come back from their summer holidays and remembered that they make music for a living. But it's probably just a coincidence, right? Right?

    In descending order of brilliance, then.

    1) Eels - The Look You Give That Guy
    In which Mark Oliver Everett is jealous of his dog because it is getting lots of attention from Salman Rushdie's wife. The final scene is one of the most digusting things you will ever see.

    2) Radiohead at the Reading Festival
    They do a (practically unrecognisable) cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Maps, sollowed by a stunning version of Everything In Its Right Place. I will never tire of this song.

    Radiohead - Everything In Its Right Place

    3) Madonna - Celebration
    The weird dance remix suggests this won't be the last video we see for this song, but the bit where Lourdes is dressed up like her mum in the Like A Virgin days made us do an "awwww", followed by a "ewwww".

    4) The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition
    Essentially a cool, indie version of I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper.

    Like Passion Pit, the Temper Trap have used the formula "emotion + hole in the ground" to invent a band name. We're looking forward to their forthcoming world tour woth Rage Chasm, Exasperated Trench and Happy Shaft. The t-shirts will be awesome.

    The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition

    5) Basement Jaxx & Sam Sparro - Feelings Gone
    As the guys Hard Candy pointed out, this looks like an episode of 80s children's TV classic Button Moon, only with worse music.

    Basement Jaxx - Feelings Gone

    6) Kylie - Chiggy Wiggy
    This one is just weird. Really, really weird.

    Kylie - Chiggy Wiggy (from the Bollywood movie Blue)

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