Friday, October 30, 2009

New Britney Spears' video: 3

In which Jive harness the computing technology of ILM to automatically generate a Britney Spears video without any need for user input or creative thought.

So, we get the bit where Britney plays with her hair, the bit where Britney shows a bit of side-boob, and the bit where Britney looks coyly up at the camera with those big brown puppy dog eyes.

It's entirely possible they have a similar programme for writing the song, too.

(If the embedded video doesn't work, you can see the whole thing on Britters' official webthing)

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Ellie Goulding - still very good

We've been writing about Ellie Goulding's new single, Under The Sheets, once a week for the past three weeks, so this post feels like the continuation of some mystic ancient tradition - like Harvest or Hanukkah, only with better music and fewer grown men in frocks.

Now, last week, we inadvertently annoyed Ellie by comparing her video favourably to the new one from Little Boots. We'd forgotten Ellie was supporting Victoria on tour. It was a political nightmare. And then Ellie sent us a Twitter message that simply said :( and we felt guilty for a whole hour.

But she managed to pick herself up and recover from the cruel mental torture. Indeed, just four short days later, she turned up at the BBC and put on this amazing performance for Jools Holland:

Ellie Goulding - Under The Sheets

If you liked that, we suggest tuning in to the full, hour-long Jools Holland show tonight at 11:35pm for further Goulding goodness.

Or, if you have a life, it'll be on the BBC iPlayer on Saturday.

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New music: Middle East - Blood

When work has been a long, hard slog, it's always nice to shut the world outside, dim the lights, and curl up on the sofa with one of those records that makes your shoulders relax with a contented "aaaaaahhhhh". (It also helps to have a mug of cocoa, a toasted teacake, a crackling fire, and a friend to snuggle up to*.)

Middle East - from Australia via Bon Iver's cabin and the Fleet Foxes' local whimsy shop - have made a record that's perfect for this sort of self-indulgent musical therapy.

Middle East - Blood

* But no scented candles, do you hear? And no fucking joss sticks. You'll only end up smelling like an old carpet that's been thrown out of a branch of Lush and left to go soggy with cat's piss in a skip, and nobody wants that.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pixie Lott: Cry Me Out video

Cry Me Out is quite clearly the standout track on Pixie Lott's debut album.

Played live by Pixie's pin-sharp soul band, it sounds like the greatest lost torch song of all time (if the greatest lost torch song of all time ripped off Alicia Keys' You Don't Know My Name). The recorded version doesn't quite live up to that promise - the arrangement is a bit too synthetic to allow the melody to soar - but it's a solid 8/10, nonetheless.

The ballad is coming out as a single on 30th November with one beady eye on the Christmas countdown. To help it on it's way, Mercury Records (for whom money seems to be no object when it comes to this project) have splashed out on hiring Jake Nava of Single Ladies fame to direct a Hollywood-style song'n'dance epic.

It isn't going to inspire as many copycat "virals" as Beyoncé's rump-wiggling dance-off, but we'd be over the moon if it sparked a massive surge in synchronised swimming sequences.

Especially if they "accidentally" drown Tinchy Stryder in a paddling pool.

Pixie Lott - Cry Me Out

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Norah Jones sets sail

I know what you're thinking: "Norah Jones? She's AVAST bore and a complete ANCHOR. It's about mariTIME she buggered off. Her music makes me really (skull and) CROSS (bones). Although I admit I'd like to JOLLY ROGER her."

Yes, Norah Jones has made a music song called Chasing Pirates. And the time she's spent hanging out with Outkast, Q-Tip and the Foo Fighters has paid off because it's not some soporific easy listening Katie Melua travesty, but a sultry little shuffle that brushes shoulders with "da fonk", then apologises profusely for getting in the way like that.

The video was directed by Rich Lee, who did the visual effects on the Pirates Of The Caribbean films. It sees Norah hoisting sails on her apartment building and steering it through the crosstown traffic in search of some buried treasure. It's much better than that description makes it sound.

Shiver me timbers, etc, etc.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New music: Kid Sister - Right Hand Hi

We last checked in with Chi-town rapper Kid Sister back in May 2005, when her day-glo debut Pro Nails popped up on Kanye West's Can't Tell Me Nothin' mixtape.

Since then, she's been working on her debut album, Ultraviolet, and working part time in a children's clothing store. We're not saying the two are connected, but the schizophonic soundclash of her new single Right Hand Hi suggests she's having a tartrazine-induced musical tantrum.

That's a good thing, though. The record grabs your attention, then dunks its head in the toilet, puts electrodes on its nipples, wraps it in fariy lights and takes a polaroid to send to your boss. Which is just a fancy way of saying we like it.

Another way of saying that is: "It's the noise you'd get if Missy Elliot belched Lady GaGa's Poker Face on a kazoo"

Oh, forget it, here's a clip:

If you like it, it's probably coming out on a CD at some point this year, but why wait for that old technology when there's a free, legal download at RCRDLBL today?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Amazing but useless talent corner pt 267

And today's amazing, but useless, talent is... Playing songs on cups.

The girls in the clip are a real band called Lulu And The Lampshades. They have a single out this week. It's not as good as the one in the video, though :(

More info on their Myspace page:

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New music: Timbaland - Morning After Dark

This one has been floating around the internet for ages, but that doesn't make it any less brilliant. As usual, Timbaland has set the controls for sci-fi and created a deep space club track that sounds like nothing else in the charts. The lyrics are comfortably dumb: Timbo thinks a girl is "dope" (do people still use that word in 2009?) and that girl is astonishingly gracious for the attention of a portly multi-millionaire record producer.

In this track, the girl role is played by French-Argentinian-Italian-Russian-American artiste SoShy. If you're wondering why the lead track from Timbaland's much-anticipated Shock Value II, which features Rihanna, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake, has guest vocals from a relative novice, here's her picture:

Nelly Furtado also contributes a verse which, in a genuine musical first, she performs entirely through her nose.

Timbaland - Morning After Dark

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Friday, October 23, 2009

"Interesting" Cheryl Cole factoid

The stand-out track on Cheryl Cole's forthcoming debut album is Parachute, a quirky pop timebomb full of stuttering hooks and a riveting military drum beat. According to Cheryl herself, it was originally slated to be the first single.

A lot of reviews have called this song a "true find", as it was composed by two previously unknown writers. But, says the enigmatic "Q" on the Popjustice Forums, the chief brain behind the track was Ingrid Michaelson.

Now wait just a cotton-picking minute: We know exactly who Ingrid Michaelson is - and we LOVE her!! Her 2007 single The Way I Am is one of the best love songs of the last decade. Her album, Girls And Boys, was the record Sara Bareilles and Gabriella Climi could have released if they'd remembered to write a decent song after the first single. What Ingrid has is the rare and beautiful ability to write happy songs that don't make you want to throw up in the sink.

Have a listen to The Way I Am, then tell us you wouldn't have liked to hear her write Cheryl's entire album.

Ingrid Michaelson - The Way I Am

PS: If you like this, and you like Parachute, promise to buy Ingrid's album for us. It's awesome.

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Little Boots & Ellie Goulding's pop challenge


Today, you are invited to compare and contrast two pop videos with similar propositions, but wildly different different outcomes.

They are both by waifish blonde electropop vocalists, and both feature quirky special effects that mess with your mind. Both performers have their mouths gaping open gormlessly in the "key frame" YouTube has selected as the pre-roll image. And both singers seems slightly uncomfortable in front of the camera. One overcomes this and makes a decent stab at portraying charisma, conviction and attitude while the other looks awkward and lost.

But which is which?

Little Boots - Earthquake

Ellie Goulding - Under The Sheets

Answers on a postcard, e-card, birthday card, house of cards, or cardigan to the usual address.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Now, this is how you make a video

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rihanna - what were you thinking?

Today, Rihanna unveiled her new single. It is called Russian Roulette, and that's exactly what it's about. Rihanna's man wants to point a gun at her head and pull the trigger. Unbelievably, she acquiesces, saying: "I know that I must pass this test".

I'm sure everyone at Universal is busy patting themselves on the back over this "clever" and "shocking" lyric - but given that Rihanna suffered a brutal beating at the hands of her former boyfriend just nine months ago, it's in pretty poor taste. Even if she hadn't, the lyrics are morally questionable. The character she's playing (and let's assume it's a character for now) is willingly submitting to a lover's chilling, violent fantasy. The song ends abruptly with a single gunshot.

It's a strong, dramatic narrative - and would be superb as part of a bigger story on film or in a musical. But presented as it is, shorn of any context, it's all rather unpleasant - because the only context we have is Rihanna being hit in the face with a pistol earlier this year.

According to the BBC, one in four women suffer domestic violence in their lifetime. Two women are murdered by their partner every week in the UK. Many of those who come through such abuse say that friends and family didn't take their cries for help seriously. Russian Roulette will not help this situation.

Rihanna is, like it or not, a role model. Her strength in standing up to Chris Brown after his vicious assault, and her courage in appearing at his trial, were undoubtedly an inspiration to other women who were going through a similar situation. This song singlehandedly undoes all of that good work.

Plus, it is a terrible piece of music.

Hear it on Rihanna's website if you must

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Holy smoke, Alicia

In Alicia Keys' new video, Doesn't Mean Anything, everything the singer touches is mysteriously vapourised, making her some kind of anti-matter King Midas.

The clip starts off in Alicia's loft apartment (furnished with an amazing crystal piano that I would like for Christmas), but slowly everything around her evaporates in a puff of smoke.

Alicia seems unphased by this. Her only reaction is a fleeting look of confusion when a photograph disappears in her hand. Do you remember what Marty McFly did when that happened to him? Yes, he totally freaked out and snogged his mum and set fire to a car with lightning. Alicia Keys does none of those things. Even when the entire planet is reduced to rubble and dust, she just mopes around singing about her ex-boyfriend. And then, for no good reason, she goes rock climbing.

It is probably the best video this year.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Cheryl effing Cole

Against most people's expectations, Cheryl Cole's performance on last night's X Factor was pretty damn good. The vocals seemed to be live - unless she'd done Janet Jackson's trick of pre-recording a rough "as live" vocal and miming over the top - but all in all it was a clean, charismatic debut.

It's clear that the song is going to go to number one this week, which is good as Cheryl has the makings of a proper pop superstar, but bad because it vindicates the decision to launch her career with a bunch of dreary r&b knock-offs.

Speaking of knock-offs, did you spot the following "influences" in Cheryl's act?

Any other insights or observations? Let me know.

Update: ITV have stopped letting Youtube users embedding the video, as is their absolute right as the copyright holders. You can still watch by Clicking here.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Create your own Alesha Dixon review

Simply cut out the following words and rearrange into a paragraph reflecting your own opinions and thoughts on Alesha Dixon's new, Gary Barlow-penned, single To Love Again.

Here is the video if you need some help in finding a point of view.

Alesha Dixon - To Love Again

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Guns, maps and goo

Back in pre-histoy, when men rode dinosaurs to work and Simon Cowell was still a teenager, this blog was born. I often wrote about games and games culture, particularly around the birth of the Wii - when the possibilities afforded by waggling a thingy in the air (fnar) seemed endlessly exciting.

These days, however, I'm struggling to care about my consoles. I spend a lot of time on Rock Band and Guitar Hero - but they're just another way of listening to music (even if some of that music is by Tool).

Then there are those "open world sandbox games" that promise a million solutions to each task. They always sound promising, but they can't hide the fact that the task in question is, without fail, killing someone. Your choices ultimately boil down to this question: "Which noun would you like to use in committing a brutal murder?" As someone whose favourite game moments came in the cartoony, imaginative brain-teasers of the Super Mario and Banjo Kazooie series, the endless parade of headshots and body armour and healthpacks and "melee assaults" is horribly uninspiring.

Furthermore, thanks to Grand Theft Auto, every game now seems to be set in the middle a huge, sprawling city. Even Burnout has adopted this format - leading to the ridiculous situation of a racing game where you can take a wrong turn. Do you remember the last time you went the wrong way in your car? Was your reaction either (a) to say "hey, this is a really exciting, unpredictable driving experience" or (b) to bite a huge chunk out of your steering wheel and shout "you fucking imbecile" into the rearview mirror? If you answered (a) then congratulations, you have won a job at Microsoft Games Studios.

The obvious conclusion is this: Games need rules. It's as true of Monopoly as it is of kiss chase. I’d rather that designers concentrated on giving me focussed, structured gameplay than sending me on aimless quests around endless maps telling me I should enjoy the freedom. Wandering around unsure of what you're supposed to be doing is what you do when you've got Alzheimer's or a seat in the European Parliament. If it not fun, it's not a game.

But enough grumbling, let me tell you about the best game I've played this year. It's called World Of Goo and it's a taut little puzzler, full of charm and character. All you have to do is stack little blobs of gloop together to reach a big pipe in the sky - but the designers have taken the care to create a quirky, satirical story around the tiny goo-balls' predicament. It's utterly compelling, and frequently hilarious.

This weekend, you can get it for the bargain price of $0.01 (or whatever sum you decide to pay, Radiohead-style). I heartily recommend that you do.

In the meantime, here's a lovely little video from Adam and Joe's Radio 6 show that perfectly encapsulates my formative gameplaying experiences.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

New music: The Soft Pack

Here's a thing - a US band who sound like The Strokes covering The Velvet Underground. Or the other way round, I can't decide. The important thing is that they are CREDIBLE and have been INFLUENCED by PROPER MUSIC.

So far, so NME. But what The Soft Pack (for that is their name) have done to arouse my interest is inject melodies into their songs. It's a crazy idea - and one you might have trouble believing since all their other ideas are so boring and derivative - but it just about works.

If you read about this band in the mainstream press, the one thing they will always mention is that they used to be called The Muslims, but chickened out of being called The Muslims because of all the "racism" they faced. (Islam is a religion, not a race, fact fans). After changing their name to the nondescript and safe The Soft Pack they put out a statement denying they were "fucking gay, corporate sell outs".

Today, the fucking gay corporate sell-outs are giving away a free song on the trendy, vowel-averse blog RCRDLBL. The song is a cover of Fences, by Phoenix - another group you will not have heard of unless you are "cool" (ie hopelessly boring). It is literally quite good, and you may like it if you like that sort of thing.

The link to the download is underneath your mouse button if you are hovering over this text.

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Would you like to swing on a star?

Well, would you? Then sorry, because budgetary constraints meant we could only afford a crescent moon.

Florence and the Machine - You Got The Love

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"A very polished demo"

That's what we're saying about the "new" Michael Jackson single, This Is It, that premiered around the world yesterday (always first with the news, etc, etc).

A few other observations

:: Michael's voice sounds pure and melodic, like it used to in the pre-Jordy Chandler days, lending credence to the rumours that it's an outtake from the Dangerous sessions.

:: It's a pure and heartfelt love song, which makes it simultaneously surprising, heartbreaking and a bit creepy. How many other songs can say that?

:: The melody is very sweet but you can see why Jacko left it unfinished - it just repeats itself three or four times then fades out, whereas he liked his ballads to have a bowel-loosening crescendo (cf Earth Song, Man In The Mirror).

:: Is anyone else freaked out that there just happened to be a Jackson demo lying in the vaults with the same name as the tour he was going to put on just before he died, that was of sufficient quality to be scrubbed up and given a full release? It's not like 2Pac prophesying his death in song but I'm just saying it's weird.

:: The Jackson brothers have largely resisted the temptation to smother the piano'n'vocal demo with "meaningful" strings and gospel choirs. Nonetheless, listening to the entire song feels like jumping into a swimming pool of golden syrup and trying to swim to the other side.

:: Let's face it, we'd all rather have heard a barnstorming, whip-cracking Jacko popfest than this pish.

EXCEPT!!!!! It turns out the song was recorded previously by moderately successful Puerto Rican singer Sa-Fire in a new-jack-swing style in 1991. It was credited to Michael Jackson and Paul Anka on the sleevenotes. Even she had the wisdom to leave it as an album track. On an album that flopped. E-gads!

Sa-Fire - I Never Heard

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Monday, October 12, 2009

An open letter to Robbie Williams

Dear Elvis,

Next time you appear on The X Factor, could you please refrain from flirting with the audience and jerking around like a drunken ferret pissing on an electricity pylon? Just sing your frickin' song and go home.

Nice shoes, though.

The World

:: Video: Robbie Williams - Bodies (live on X Factor)

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An open letter to Alexandra Burke

Dear Aaliyah,

RE: Your X Factor performance. Congratulations on employing every male dancer in the UK during this time of financial upheaval. It is exactly this sort of frivolous expenditure that will get the economy back on its feet (or doing an amazing headspin like that guy in Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo).

However, it would be good if your next single didn't sound quite so much like Sinitta.

Sergeant Simon T Whistlebone (Mrs)

:: Video: Alexandra Burke - Bad Boys (live on X Factor)

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Cheryl Cole: 3 Words album review

In a blur of technology, I have just listened to Cheryl Cole's new album and posted my instant ("rubbish and hastily-formed") opinions on Twitter. If you missed this thrilling track-by-track nail-biter, allow me to recreate it for you here:

Looking back over those comments, I don't think it comes across that I genuinely liked the record, which is a proper, coherent work of modern pop. Cheryl's personality comes across in a way it never has on Girls Aloud's records - and while that personality is just the soppy, stroppy, clothes-shoppy girl we see on The X Factor, it's nice that some thought has been put into the lyrics.

It is also worth bearing in mind that it took a couple of weeks for me to "get" Fight For This Love, so Cole's album could be 100% brilliant (although that seems unlikely given the involvement of Taio Cruz and one of the Bedingfields). But, as Victoria Beckham can attest, it could all have been much, much worse.

For now: 6/10. I'll let you know if that changes.

See also: This review on

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New music you might like: Ellie Goulding

Remember in secondary school when all the girls were taken away for a mysterious "talk"? It was supposed to be about periods and sex and contraception - but, as we now know, it was really a course in how to win arguments in Ikea.

I would like to know if these talks still happen. And, if they do, are the schoolgirls all given a Bontempi organ to take home at the end? Because I can't think of any other legitimate explanation for the sudden avalanche of female pop singers with wonky synths, banging on about the merits of the "Billy bookcase" (it is possible that I have misunderstood the lyrics to In For The Kill here).

The latest young pretender is called Eliie Goulding - not to be confused with genial character actor Elliott Gould, who was Monica's dad in Friends. Although that would be awesome, obviously.

Ellie hails from Wales and was once described as "Kate Nash meets Hot Chip". This may have been meant as a compliment, but it sounds like the most satanic combination of pure evil since R Kelly recorded a duet with Celine Dion - or Louis Walsh met "John" and "Edward" (if indeed those are their real names).

In reality, Ellie is sprightly and fun and distinctly un-irritating. She's been working with exciting electro overlords like Basement Jaxx and Starship; She sings with a Florence-esque trill and a stuffed nose that makes her sound like Cerys Matthews; She writes concise pop songs with proper melodies and moving'n'meaningful lyrics. In short: she is a good thing.

Ellie's properly amazing new single, Under The Sheets, is all about the disintegration of a relationship, and the realisation that you shouldn't define yourself by your boyfriend.

Which is exactly the sort of thing they would tell you in one of those school talks, isn't it? ISN'T IT?!

Ellie Goulding - Under The Sheets

If you love the song, you'll be pleased to hear that top drawer music blog / boutique record label NEON GOLD is both releasing the single and offering it as a free download.

There's a business model that’s sure to succeed.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ida Maria gets Iggy with it

Ida Maria has re-recorded Oh My God with rock's most shirt-averse car insurance salesman, Mr Iggy of Pop.

I'm not the collaboration works, to be honest. Iggy's melodramatic baritone gives the record a welcome sinister twist but somehow the punky fireworks of the original have been snuffed out in the process. What do you think?

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Break out your rave whistles

Is the whole 80s pop revival is too much like ancient history for you? Do you crave something a bit more up-to-date in your retro dance tuneage? Do you still own glowsticks and a t-shirt with a smiley face on it? Then cop a listen to DJ Fresh, whose rave-o-tronic new single can be "neatly" summed up like this:

It's entirely possible that I will detest this song by Friday, but I've listened to it five times this morning - and on each occasion I involuntarily threw my hands into the air around the 2:06 mark.

You know how Pavlov trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell? I think I'm like one of those dogs, only my trigger is a "whooosh" noise, and I have been conditioned to dance like an epileptic windmill.

There are worse ways to live, I suppose.

DJ Fresh Ft Stamina MC and Koko - Hypercaine

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Q-Tip pays tribute

The latest single from Q-Tip's incredible The Renaissance album is the Norah Jones-featuring Life Is Better. You will not be surprised to hear that it's a jazzy space odyssey with a laid back lyric from the Donald Duck-voiced rapper (seen right, in front of some tasty curtains).

Among the song's many highlights is a sublime potted history of hip-hop in verse two:

Playlist setting: Cold Crush, Furious Five, and the Master Fon
Cosmic Force, Bammbaataa, Jazzy 5
Lovebug Starski, Junebug, Busy Bee
Run, D, Jay, LL, Kane, Biz Markie
Doug E., Will, Barry B., Spoonie, Schooly D.
Rakim, BDP, Dana Dane, Ricky D.
Leaders of the New School, Snoop Dogg, Monie Love
B.I.G. and Pac are up above, Eazy-E and Bone Thugz
Fat and Skinny Boys, Cash Money and the rapper Nas
Large Professor, Lauryn, Wyclef, and Pras
Brand Nubian, Diamond D, Ludacris, and Jay
R.I.P. Pimp C, Common, Lil Wayne, and 'Ye
Primo, OutKast, where my nigga Dilla at?
S.V. - uh uh, where my nigga Dilla at?

In keeping with the song's romantic nostalgia, the video is shot in the style of a scratchy black and white home movie, embellished with hand-drawn doodles of puppies and feathers and stars.

It's the most charming, anti-rap-cliché rap video of the year.

Q-Tip ft Norah Jones - Life Is Better

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hooray - it is a "viral"

I don't normally post stuff like this but (a) this is by a friend and (b) it is awesome. How many of the films / TV shows / audio clips can you identify?

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Surprise success

Emiliana Torrini recently had an unexpected number one smash with the cheerily demented Jungle Drum. Granted, this chart feat happened in Germany, but when the gods of music smile on you, something, something, something, etc...

To capitalise on her success, the Icelandic söngvari has reswizzled the title track to her (excellent) album, Me and Armini. The song's gentle reggae lilt has been augmented with a jingly jangly funkatronic guitar "lick" and there is a drum machine that treads the line between jaunty and violently irritating.

The overall effect is not displeasing. Have a listen.

Emiliana Torrini - Me and Armini

And here, for good measure, is the original.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Breaking news: Kylie is short

I don't know why, but this photo of Kylie meeting fans on her US tour makes me laugh.

Okay, I do know why. It's because Kylie is so teensy tiny, wee and small that her fans have had to squeeze onto the focal plane of a microscope to have the picture taken. Also, it is because the guy on the left has a one way sign pointing into his ear.

This is almost as good as LOLCats.

The photo comes from the otherwise dull-as-dishwater Kylie tour photo stream on Flickr. If you're desperately interested in exterior shots of hotels Ms Minogue has visited, make it your homepage.

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Hey, you, what's that sound?

Eighteen years ago this month, I noticed something very strange as I went to sleeep. As a 17-year-old, discovering weird new sensations in bed was not uncommon, but this was something rather more disturbing. As the CD I was listening to faded out, I could hear a constant, high-pitched hum.

The buzzing noise sounded like the TV had been left on with the sound turned down. There was no picture on the little set I used to play my Sega Megadrive, but I checked it anyway. It was unplugged at the wall. I turned the stereo off, too. That didn't make any difference. I could have searched the bedroom for a stray electronic toothbrush, but that would just have been silly.

Eventually, I decided to ignore the noise and slowly wrestled myself to sleep. When I woke, it was still there. Eighteen years later, it is still there.

You've probably guessed by now: I had developed tinnitus. The trigger was most likely my beloved drum kit - apparently the volume and pitch of the cymbals, positioned handily at ear level, had irrevocably damaged my hearing. The condition probably started on Children In Need day, 1991, when I played at three concerts in one day.

When you tell people you've got tinnitus, they immediately seem very concerned and occasionally START TALKING VERY LOUDLY, as if you've secretly been blocking them out for the last two decades (in some cases, I admit, this would be a benefit). Luckily, I am not badly afflicted. The ringing in my ears is no louder than the hum of a computer fan. It's blocked out by general office noise, low-level chatter and even the general background thrum of living in London.

Going to sleep, I can ignore the noise with a bit of music - which, as long-time readers of this blog will realise, is more of a burden to my wife than it is to me.

Nonetheless, I miss silence. That disorientating absence of sound you get at nighttime in the countryside; how the movement of your clothes is suddenly amplified by the vacuum; the way that dead air wraps you up like a baby in a blanket. To have those sensations unspoilt by the aggravating squeal of tinnitus would be bliss.

The past couple of days have seen two breakthroughs in tinnitus research. In Ireland, researchers believe they may have found a way to repair the damage to tiny hairs in your ear, which is believed to trigger the condition. More disturbingly, doctors in the US think they might be able to cure it by putting chips which generate electronic noise directly into the brain. I think I know which option I'll try first.

Like I say, my tinnitus has been manageable. But a lot of people have it worse. The ringing in their ears can sound like a permanent dawn chorus, with thousands of birds chattering away inside their head. Others experience a rushing noise, lose the ability to hear certain parts of speech and experience nausea and loss of balance. 2.5 million people in the UK have it - and music fans are, sadly, amongst the most at risk.

I don't advocate wearing earplugs at gigs unless you're out every night* - because I think it ruins the experience. Nor do I think people should stop wearing headphones (although I would recommend getting noise cancelling ones if you're on public transport - the Tube in London is already 80-90dB, so anything extra exposes you to noise levels similar to a pneumatic drill). But I tend to agree with the EU when it calls for tougher volume limits on MP3 players.

Take it from me, if you damage your lugholes you'll regret it for the rest of your life.

* If you are a heavy gig-goer or you're worried about your hearing, this site is very useful: Don't Lose The Music

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Don't fight the feeling

The moves, the clothes, the haircuts: This is what I plan to do with my weekend.

Graham Central Station - Release Yourself (Soul Train line dance)


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Tinchy Stryder: A massive rant

Poor old Tinchy Stryder. He was robbed at the Mobos, wasn't he? Maybe the organisers just couldn't see him (he's only 2ft tall) and decided to give his award to JLS or some other abomination that parades for urban music now that black artists in the UK have finally gotten the message that labels will only sign them if they rap over half-assed eurotrance knock-offs instead of anything approaching actual hip-hop.

But - and here's a crazy thought - what if the Mobos overlooked Tinchy because they realised he's actually a bit shit? I mean, this man knowingly wrote the line "I'm sorry I misleaded you" in a song.


Tinchy's songs are upsettingly bad. They are all based around a simple synth hook, relentlessly looped for three minutes in ProTools with no consideration for musical progression, development or subtlety. The synth itself is locked on a setting that exactly recreates the sound of a beserk parrot. The final product is as cheap, loud and plastic as the mobile phones it'll be played on.

On the plus side, Tinchy's last three hits have all been love songs - which is almost unheard of for a rap artist. But can you imagine being his girlfriend, lying next to him as he whispers sweet nothings like "I need you back in my zone" or "babe, it's you I'm fully rating"? You’d drop his tiny hand and drive him straight to remedial English class. Either that or laugh directly into his face.

Anyway, he's got a new single out. It's a rip-off loving tribute to Olive's dancefloor classic You're Not Alone. Inspired by the melancholy, minor key atmospherics, Tinchy has dug deep, deep into his emotions (and his rhyming dictionary) to express these touching sentiments:

We're here to stay
I'm standing here today
By your side is where I'll stay
Until we're old and grey
Standing strong
Holding tight
Don't stop giving out red lights

Those rhymes aren't sick - they are fatally ill with a fever.

Still, I'm clearly missing something. Tinchy sells records by the bucketload - or whatever big container records are shipped in these days. He's had two number ones this year. Kids rave about him. But his chewed-up consonants and gross illiteracy just make my blood boil. So it's me and the Mobos against the rest of the world.

And that is the scariest sentence I have ever typed.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ladyhawke is Magic

When Ladyhawke's record label suggested releasing yet another single frmo her (magnificent) Ladyhawke album, we can imagine the conversation went like this.

Label: Hey, Pip, we want to put out Magic as the next single.
Ladyhawke (for it is she): The next single? Haven't we released everything off the album twice already?
Label: Yes, but we have to capitalise on your summer festival performances. This could be the track to finally push you into the mainstream. So will you do it?
Ladyhawke: Erm... I suppose. But only if we can have a video.
Label: A video. Oh. Let me just consult with Brad [whispers furiously]. Yes, Brad says we can have a video.
Ladyhawke: Okay, but I want to have a forest, and loads of bats and an African man playing a drum.
Label: Yes, I think we can do that.
Ladyhawke: Really?
Label: Uh-huh
Ladyhawke: Ah... Well in that case, I also want to have a pirate and a man with one eye and a bit where I'm flying on a carpet.
Label: That would probably be do-able within the budget.
Ladyhawke: And A DONKEY!
Label: ... *click*
Ladyhawke: Hello? Are you still there?
Label: Sorry, yes. I was just calling the horse wrangler. He can do it as long as we provide the hay and a carrot.
Ladyhawke: Did I mention the bit where I land my flying carpet on a pirate ship in the middle of a stormy foreboding ocean?
Label: No, but we'll get onto the effects guys asap. This single is going to be massive.
Ladyhawke: Oh dear. What have I done?

Ladyhawke - Magic

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Madonna on David Letterman

They have a history of awkward interviews, but Madonna appeared relaxed, warm and witty on last night's David Letterman show. Granted, she barely makes eye contact with the star, and she's a little bit nervous, but it's the most "natural" Madonna has looked in a long time.

CBS have posted the highlights on Youtube - how very 21st Century - so without any further ado, I have cut and pasted the embed code. It's a hard life, this blogging thing.

By the way - the car-crash 1994 interview they refer to ("I think it may have had something to do with the joint I smoked") is one of the best / worst bits of television you will ever see. Imagine watching a train derail in super slow motion, with David Letterman at the controls desperately trying stop it from toppling over. Or, alternatively, watch these videos.

Part One

Part Two

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Kylie premieres new song in SF

Kylie opened her first-ever US tour last night with a show in San Francisco. According to the star's twitter feed it was "amazing, unforgettable!!! :) yayYYYYYYY!!!!" (Kylie is 41).

Anyway, tucked away among The Locomotion and Slow was a new song, co-written by Nerina Pallot, called Better Than Today. It has already "leaked" online, filmed on a suspiciously steady camera with very good sound reproduction.

I'm not saying it's deliberate, it just seems that way.

Kylie - Better Than Today

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