Friday, December 31, 2010

Essential MP3 for your New Year party

DJ Earworm's mash-up of Billboard's Top 25 singles of the year has become an annual staple. This year's edition, featuring Lady Gaga, Eminem and Usher eeps the quality threshold ridiculously high... even if there's a little too much Ke$ha for my liking.

DJ Earworm - United State Of Pop 2010

You can download the MP3 from DJ Earworm's official website for tonight's festivities. And if you like that, you should also check out the mix he did for Capital FM's Summer Ball in June which, if anything, is even better.

DJ Earworm - Like OMG, Baby

Those of you looking for something a bit more "credible" could also check out Magnetic Man's excellent Essential Mix on Radio 1's iPlayer page [link here] or Gilles Peterson and Thom Yorke's spiffing 120 minutes of politics'n'chat'n'music, which the Beeb repeated earlier this week. [link here]

And with that, I bade farewell to 2010 and look forward to seeing you all in 2011. Hope you have a great night! Mrdiscopop

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in crap lyrics

Next week's rundown of my top 10 singles and albums of 2010 (why do it before the year ends?) will confirm what a great year this has been for music. From Robyn's rat-a-tat pop attack on the nation's hearts and dancefloors, to Gil Scott Heron's thoughtful, composed reflections on heritage and death, there's been a lot to celebrate.

Lyrically, though, it's been a rough 12 months. We don't need pop music to win Pulitzer Prizes, or even aspire to being educational, but it would be nice if people could adhere to the basic rules of English. And so I present to you the Discopop Directory year in crap lyrics. Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride (unless you're not in a car, in which case just don't make any sudden movements. You might knock over that coffee mug).
WORST GRAMMAR: Take That - The Flood
"There was more of them than us / now they'll never dance again."

Oh, Gary. "Was" is the singular variant of the past participle of the verb "to be". You must know that the correct word in this context was "were"? The clue is in the fact that there was more than one person not dancing again (a line I'm pretty sure you've stolen from George Michael without really understanding what it meant).

THE PERSISTENT SEX PEST AWARD: Taio Cruz ft Ke$ha - Dirty Picture
"Take a dirty picture for me / Take a dirty picture / Just take a dirty picture for me / Take a dirty picture."

Dear Taio Cruz, if she still hasn't sent you a picture by now, it's probably safe to assume she's not interested.

"On day four and five and six I don’t know what you did."
"Day five you spent it with me."

I suppose the only way these two lines could make sense is if the girl had been seeing all four members of JLS separately, without any of them ever finding out, even after they'd recorded the song. Which makes them a very special kind of stupid.

"It's a terrible love and I'm walking with spiders."
"I was afraid I'd eat your brains / cos I am evil"

This is perhaps a little unfair - as The National's Matt Berninger does provide one of the year's best topical choruses in Bloodbuzz Ohio: "I still owe money/ To the money/ To the money I owe". But High Violet contains too many other examples of a lyricist striving for twisted, gothic melodrama and coming up with schoolboy ghost story nonsense. My favourite is probably: "I defend my family with my orange umbrella". This is what the NME considers to be "a goldmine of pithy insight".

THE TRUTH SERUM AWARD: Sugababes - Wear My Kiss
"I'm just a pretty little thing that'll make you wanna sing."

AKA The "beautiful robots standing alone prize", this is the moment when The Sugababes finally shed the last veneer of credibility and admitted that they were mere pop puppets, gyrating mirthlessly for your pleasure. A sad end.

"Boom, boom, boom / Even brighter than the moon, moon moon."

The moon is a solid lump of rock, weighing an impressive 7.3477 × 1022 kg. It is not a source of light, merely reflecting rays from the sun. So it can't be bright. That's why there's an eclipse when it passes between the earth and the sun. Like, duh.

"It's just a song, in real life this would never happen to me / I am a pimp. Women chase me, I do not chase women!"

The conceit of Need You Tonight - man pines after girl who treats him like dirt - is the one saving grace of a record that rhymes "stereotypical man" with "stereotypical man". But Pro Green wastes all the sympathy we may have had for him with the clumsy, delusional pay-off.

Over on the BBC's peerless ChartBlog, Fraser McAlpine imagined how the rap continued after the fade out: "...and not just ugly women either! Really hot women! Like I can go into a club, right, and all the hot women will be all over me and all the munters and the boyfriends will all disappear suddenly like magic. It's amazing, I've even seen CCTV footage of it happening..."

LAMEST ATTEMPT AT COURTING CONTROVERSY: Enrique Iglesias - Tonight (I'm Fucking You)
"You know my motivation, given my reputation / Please excuse me, I don't mean to be rude / But tonight I'm fucking you."

Taking what Cee-Lo did with the tongue-in-cheek profanities of F**k You and using it for evil. A foetus would consider this song immature.

THE 'OH PLEASE JUST FUCK OFF' AWARD: Travie McCoy - Billionaire
"I’d probably pull an Angelina and Brad Pitt / And adopt a bunch of babies that ain’t never had shit."

This song could have been cheerful and optimistic. A dreamer's anthem for the times your paycheque doesn't quite stretch to the end of the month. But Travie trips up on his own guilty conscience and tries to justify why he, as a wealthy man, dreams of earning more. So he promises to sort out the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, end the recession and adopt some needy babies. It's so insanely crass and irksome, it makes me splutter with indignation. And don't even get me started on the fact that he changed his name from Travis to Travie...

"Have you ever had sex with a Pharoah? / I put the pussy in a sarcophagus / now she claiming I bruised her oesophagus."

Do I need to say any more on this one? Actually, yes, because a few of you got in touch to protest. First up, I concede it's a great rhyme. But it feels like Kanye has accepted a dare, like when we used to dare classmates to use words like 'plinth' or 'bumhole' in an exam paper. And that's why it earns its place in the list... If you've got any more suggestions, stick 'em in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Anticipation builds for James and James

They may not be able to afford a decent photographer, but these two men are being tipped for big things in 2011.

On the left we have Mr James Blake. I've written about him a couple of times (here and here) and yesterday, his forthcoming, self-titled debut album leaked online. Polydor instantly issued a "we will hunt you down and beat you with a cricket ball in a sock" warning to everyone who'd received a watermarked copy of the record. And also to some people who hadn't, just in case.

Still, leaks are a sure sign of feverish anticipation - and not without reason, because James Blake is officially "a good thing". His roots are in dubstep, but he has much broader horizons. Incorporating soulful vocals, twisted samples, and bowel-tickling bass, his songs are at once abstract and full of emotion.

I haven't downloaded the leaked record because I am an honest person (and also because my PC has gone nuts). But here's a video of him performing album track The Wilhelm Scream at the Royal Northern College of Music last week. It's sublime.

James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream

The man on the right is another dubstep-but-not-dubstep artist called James... He is 27-year-old Jamie Woon, a Brit-school graduate whose mum used to sing backing vocals for Stock Aitken and Waterman.

His oeuvre is dusky, sepia-toned electronica, and his current single is the gorgeously sedative Night Air.

Jamie Woon - Night Air

Isn't it nice to see the return of intelligent, emotional dance music?

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's a hip-hop Christmas, yo

Ahh, Christmas. The snow is on the ground, the trees are festooned with decorations and little orphan children are pressing their noses up against my window, watching hungrily as I scoff yet another mince pie. Go away, orphan children! These mince pies are not for you. Scram! Skidaddle! And try to find yourselves a precocious ginger friend. She will be adopted by a bald millionaire who'll take pity on the orpanage and save you from your lives of grime and penury. Just like in that movie.

Anyway, one thing Christmas is definitely not associated with is hip-hop. Yet, here is Snoop Dogg, trading Gin And Juice for Mulled Wine and Figgy Pudding. He's reading the classic Clement Clark Moore poem, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, for reasons that I have yet to fathom.

Snoop Dogg - A Christmas Story

It doesn't end there, either. Without any real explanation, someone has forced their grandmother to read out 50 Cent's vile, offensive tweets to a backing track of Christmas music (it would have been better if they'd hired some Ho Ho Ho's - crap joke ed). This one is not safe for work.

Grandma reads 50 Cent's tweets

Let's round this off with a honest, clean Christmas tune from the old skool. There aren't many good festive raps, but this 1980 classic is one of them...

"People let me tell you about last year, when that dude came flying over here". You gots to love Kurtis Blow.

Kurtis Blow - Christmas Rapping

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kelly Clarkson - please don't spoil this song

When I hear new Kelly Clarkson material, it's always with a sense of trepidation. Although her voice is always supple and powerful, she's too often let down by mediocre material and tinny, blustering production.

However, this new song - You Still Won't Know What It's Like - sounds like it could be a good'un. First mentioned on her twitter account in October, Clarkson wrote it with her long-time musical director Jason Halbert - someone who should surely know his way around a Clarkson vocal by now.

As performed last week at the A Night For Hope Benefit Concert in the States, it's a low-key, acoustic ballad. Over brushed drums and a mournful muted trumpet, Clarkson recounts an unspecified, life-changing trauma that she needed "a year to recover" from. The opening lines are typically cheery: "When you hit the bottom, when you're left with nothing, when you can't tell the difference, you still won't know what it's like." It's relentlessy, remorselessly downbeat.

If the finished track retains this arrangement, it could be her Everybody Hurts. The danger is that it'll suddenly gain a thudding RAWK guitar line that tears Clarkson's nuanced, tender performance to shreds.

Let's cross our fingers for a bit of restraint, then, eh?

Kelly Clarkson - You Still Don't Know What It's Like

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 20, 2010

"People throwing dinars at the belly dancers"

So goes the tremulous opening line of PJ Harvey's Written On The Forehead, which appeared online a few weeks ago to herald the mercurial singer-songwriter's return.

It's a lovely track - Harvey's haunted vocals drifting past an obscure reggae sample (Niney The Observer's excellent Blood And Fire) like a ghostly, abandoned rowing boat.

However, there are more direct songs on her new album, Let England Shake.

Next out the gates is The Last Living Rose, a straightfoward electric guitar strum with an ambling, drunken drumbeat. Harvey paints a picture of England in decay - "a filthy mess of ages and battered books" - but makes it clear she thinks of it as a place of refuge and comfort. It almost feels like a love song.

The video has been shot by photographer Seamus Murphy, combining performance footage, still images and video from a 5,000-mile road trip he took around England. Apparently, he's made short films for all 12 tracks on Let England Shake. On this evidence, they'll come together to form an understated, hypnotic companion piece to the album when it comes out on 14th February.

I can't wait.

PJ Harvey - The Last Living Rose

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 17, 2010

And the award for best choreography in a music video goes to...

Twin Sister for All Around And Away We Go!!!
[**cue spontaneous, rapturous applause**]

Twin Sister - All Around And Away We Go

Who are Twin Sister? Well, they're just another indie band from Brooklyn making fashionable kids' music with a vaguely poppy twist. They've released a handful of free EPs online over the last couple of years, then compiled them on a double CD and asked people to hand over money for it. It's like Robyn's Body Talk project without the broadsheet hyperbole and misfiring business plan.

Because they're all bohemian and louche and trendy, Twin Sister have actually managed to sell a few of these CDs to people who, like, totally dig their vibe. But then, it's a good vibe. Sort of disco, sort of funk, sort of DIY, sort of Cocteau Twins, sort of Lee Ryan*. Basically, you will look cool if you put it on at a party. Unless it's the birthday party of a 13-year-old JLS fan, in which case you'll look like a dick.

You can find out more about Twin Sister on their official website where, yes, all of those songs are still available for free. How do they eat?

* Okay, maybe not.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vampire Weekend cover Cheryl Cole

By which I mean "Vampire Weekend have played one of Cheryl Cole's songs in their own unique style" rather than "Vampire Weekend have gently placed a blanket over Cheryl Cole's legs after she fell asleep on the driveway". Although, who knows? Maybe that has happened, too (it hasn't).

Vampire Weekend - Fight For This Love

It's all available in a legally non-dodgy way on the Radio One website.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Introducing Yasmin, who is a singer

It seems weird to me that record labels all try to push their new acts in the first four weeks of the year. Why create a bottleneck of talent in the middle of January, when music TV schedules are up the junction and the entertainment news pages are dominated by the Grammys, Brits, Baftas and Oscars?

Still, that has become the accepted pattern, much in the same way that all the celebrity autobiographies come out on the same day in October, and you can't see a decent 2D film between July and September. The mind boggles.

Fighting her way through the throng this January will be surname-deficient soulstress Yasmin. She got a crafty head start on the others when she guested on Devlin's single Runaway back in October, and now she's got her very own recording contract with Ministry Of Sound.

Her debut single, On My Own, is extremely listenable in a retro 1990s trip-hop kind of way. Produced by sometime Dizzee Rascal collaborator Shy FX, it brings to mind Shara Nelson-era Massive Attack, or the Sneaker Pimps when they were good.

Yasmin describes the song as a real-life riches-to-rags tale, about how she "left University in Scotland, much to my parents dismay," and moved to London to become a DJ.

"The record really reflects on many a late night," she says, "when I would finish dj-ing and go sit in Kings Cross St Pancras train station waiting for the first train home. It was pretty easy to feel kind of isolated, but this was the only thing I wanted to do so I just got on with it."

I'm not quite sure yet whether I love the song, or just the choppy drum loop that powers it along. But I'm going to keep listening until I'm 100% sure. This process will not be made any more arduous by the fact that Yasmin is easier on the eye than a vat of Optrex.

In case you're interested, I have embedded a video of the radio edit (polished, funky) and a 1Xtra session (ragged, sexy) below.

Yasmin - On My Own

Yasmin - On My Own (live from Maida Vale)

Yasmin has a website, enitrely written in an indecipherable bold italic font. If you are a fan of punishing eyestrain, click here.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Scissor Sisters' Invisible Light video (NSFW)

Nudity, vampirism, unicorns, drugs, paraphilia, cold cuts of meat. It can only be a video by the Scissor Sisters.

Not one to watch in the office, perhaps, but Invisible Light remains one of the best tracks from one of the best albums of 2010. A sinister cut of twisted disco, featuring a voice-over from Sir Ian McKellen, it sounds as fresh today as it did in April, when it was posted on the band's website to herald their (unexpected) musical rebirth.

Scissor Sisters - Invisible Light

Fans of amazing nights out will be pleased to learn that Scissor Sisters are supporting Lady Gaga on the final US leg of her Monsters' Ball tour next year.

Labels: , ,

Gig review: Lissie does funny things to my stomach in Shepherd's Bush

No-one is supposed to be this good this early in their career.

This time last year, Elisabeth "Lissie" Maurus was playing her sun-bleached roots'n'rock to small clubs of 60 people. Tonight she's in the 3,000-capacity Shepherd's Bush Empire. It should have been Wembley.

Why? Stage presence, for one thing. For such a slight young singer, Lissie attacks her songs with an almost reckless vitality, her wispy blonde locks thrashing around in the spotlight. She could teach Willow Smith a thing or two, that's for sure.

Then there's her voice. A raw, unpolished powerhouse, two parts Southern drawl to one part Californian dreamer. When she sings, "run, ragged and wrecked," on Bully, you feel all that exhaustion and panic. The ad libs on When I'm Alone are pure, unbridled passion.

Third, there's heart. Not for Lissie the efficient, soulless stage patter of "Hello [insert name of town], here are my hits and thank you, goodnight". She downs tequila, shares her most intimate songwriting secrets and reveals a bewildered gratitude at the last 12 months. "Just having 2 guitars is a new stage for me," she grins as a roadie (namechecked, naturally) straps a Gibson Les Paul over her shoulder. "This is just mighty special, thank you guys."

She shouldn't thank us. She's the one doing all the hard work. The room soars with music and movement. And the audience are clearly enraptured by this lithesome, charismatic oddball. When she exits the stage, they keep singing the coda to Little Lovin' until she bounds back out, grinning ear to ear.

Having practically run out material, the encore features her gnarly, grungy take on Kid Cudi's Pursuit Of Happiness (here's a video - it's aweseome), an untitled lament introduced as the "first song I wrote after moving to California" and a Christmassy cover of The Pretenders' 2000 Miles which "we worked out in our hotel room last night".

Writing this on the cold, dark commute to work, it's hard to believe the gig actually took place last night. Warm of heart and sunny of disposition, Lissie was a focussed beam of California sunshine aimed directly at the big winter chill. It was a shock to see frost, not palm trees, when we ventured outside.

No-one is supposed to be this good this early in their career.

:: Photos from Flickr, courtesy of Wheelzwheeler (top image) and Alessio Micheleni (other concert images). Setlist picture "artist's own".

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Band photos: What can we learn?

Here is a new band from Manchester. They are called Run Toto Run. Let's have a look at their early press photos and see if they hold any clues to what sort of band they might be.

Message: Between us, we own up to three musical instruments.
Meaning: We are the sort of people who take music very seriously, even when it is pop music.

Message: Oh no, our heads have turned into animals. How can this be?
Meaning: We have taken note of the unique visual stylings of Goldfrapp.

Message: We continue to grasp several electronic instruments in our hands.
Meaning: Crime is rife in "the North".

Message: We are spooky and other-worldly and ethereal.
Meaning: We ran out of money for Christmas decorations this year.

Message: But we are also happy-go-lucky and carefree.
Meaning: On Sundays, I like to take my keyboard for a walk in the park.

So what have we gleaned? Run Toto Run are a band who take themselves less seriously than their music, who play electronic instruments, are a tiny bit "arty" and most probably have a lady vocalist.

Well, their campaign manager can pat himself heartily on the back, because that is entirely correct.

Run Toto Run are Rachael (vocals), Mike (synths) and Matt (electronics). Musically, they describe themselves as "uber DIY" and "the embodiment of musical Homebase". With influences including Sufjan Stevens, Bat For Lashes and Metronomy, they totally slot into that artpop pigeonhole, with the result that XFM has chosen them as one of its bands to watch in 2011.

The band's early material could kindly be described as "experimental twee" - full of glockenspiels and double bass and gossamer-thin vocals. Now that they've beefed up their sound with a kilogram of beef healthy dose of electronica, it's a revelation. Imagine if St Etienne had woken up this morning and realised their job was still making music, rather than endlessly re-releasing the songs they recorded last millennium. This is what it might sound like.

Run Toto Run - Catch My Breath

Run Toto Run - This Is A Lull

That last track, This Is A Lull, is the band's current single. The generally brilliant music blog Arjan Writes is offering you a guilt-free, 100% legitimiate, record label-approved download. How's about that?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adele or no deal

The video for Adele's Rolling In The Deep makes about as much sense as nipples on a butterfly. In many ways, it's like Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse Of The Heart - in that it takes a simple, powerfully-rendered tale of heartbreak and decorates it with broken crockery, a vat of talcum powder, a man playing drums in a power cut and an idiot dancing with a sword. Don't try this at home, etc, etc.

For some reason, though, it totally works. This may be because the song is such a towering powerhouse that it scatters all obstacles in its path like a runaway soultrain.

They should use it to clear the roads in Scotland.

Adele -Rolling In The Deep

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Old song, new video: Tinie Tempah

Hello, do you want to buy my album? It is not a brand new record but it did come out this year and I am worried you might have forgotten about it because of all of that X Factor hullaballoo, and also the mince pies.

In the interests of jogging your memory, I have recorded a "music video" for one of the songs on my album. It is not as good as the songs you have already heard - examples of which include Frisky and Written In The Stars - but it has Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child and Kelly Rowland fame singing the chorus.

My album is called Disc-Overy and it is available at a supermarket near you in the "music" section.

Festive wishes,
Tinie Tempah

Tinie Tempah - Invincible

Labels: , ,

Old song, new video: Cee-Lo Green

Hello, do you want to buy my album? It is not a brand new record but it did come out this year and I am worried you might have forgotten about it because I am not in that band you like.

In the interests of jogging your memory, I have recorded a "music video" for one of the songs on my album. It is not as good as the one where I say 'fuck', but I asked the director to put the lyrics on the screen so you would remember the video for the song where I said 'fuck' and think to yourself "maybe I will buy his album so I can hear the song with the word 'fuck' in it".

Words you can see in this video include legendary, love and thinking. There is also a woman taking a bath with her undergarments on. I mean, who does that? Seriously.

My album is called The Lady Killer and it is available at a supermarket near you in the "music" section.

Happy fucking Christmas (haha),
Cee-Lo Green

Cee-Lo Green - It's OK

Labels: , ,

Old song, new video: Gorillaz

Hello, do you want to buy my album? It is not a brand new record but it did come out this year and I am worried you might have forgotten about it because of tuition fees and the party you are no doubt organising to celebrate the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

To jog your memory, I have recorded a "music video" for one of the songs on my album. Although it is not really a music video in the commonly understand format. It is in fact a tour visual featuring my good friend and former bete-noire of the so-called establishment, Snoop Dogg.

My album is called Plastic Beach and it is basically a Damon Albarn solo record about the environment, but with some rap bits tacked on at the last minute because I realised I always sell more records when I pretend that I am a cartoon, even though I have not been a cartoon since the early days of Blur (satire).

Plastic Beach is available at a supermarket near you, but I urge you to boycott the Tescos and Asdas of this world and buy it from your local grocer instead.

Power to the people,
Damon Alba... I mean Murdoc

Gorillaz - Welcome To The World Of Plastic Beach

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nero channel Tron in the Me & You video

This must be why Nero's single has been delayed - they've been busy rendering expensive CGI sequences for the video on a Commodore Amiga. Fans of waggling joysticks will be pleased.

Streets Of Rage!

Nero ft Alana - Me & You

The above is presumably what people wanted Daft Punk's Tron soundtrack to sound like. Instead, the Tron soundtrack is an electro reinterpretation of Vangelis' Blade Runner score. There are lots of strings going "wheee" and "squaaaaw" over the top of sustained droning synth notes. Beats, by and large, do not drop. When they do, they're all "portentous drama", rather than the preferred "spilling lager down your bra in an arms-akimbo rush to the dancefloor" variety.

This is not a bad thing. If Daft Punk had gone all songy, then Tron would have turned into a very expensive, two-hour version of the upsettingly bad club sequence in Matrix Reloaded. And nobody wants that.

Daft Punk - The Game Has Changed

Nero remixing Daft Punk's Tron soundtrack, on the other hand, would be insane.

Labels: , , ,

Ingrid Michaelson takes Parachute back from Cheryl Cole

Earlier this year, New York musician Ingrid Michaelson reflected on the fact that Cheryl Cole had scored a top five hit with a song she wrote.

"I knew that song would be a smash," she told the BBC in April. "I just didn't think I could pull it off.

"I'm so happy that Ms Cole is having success with it."

Fast forward to December and Michaelson has had a change of heart and released her own version of Parachute. Keeping true to her indie roots, its a more idiosyncratic take than Cheryl's, crammed full of percussive backing vocals and flanged harmonium chords. The result is more upbeat than the version you're used to - but I kind of miss the military drumbeats and mopey vocals.

Ingrid Michaelson - Parachute

If you're a regular watcher of American Idol, you might also be familiar with Michaelson's signature song, The Way I Am. It was performed at several stages of last year's competition, despite being relatively unknown. I've championed it several times on the blog, and I'm certainly not going to pass up the opportunity to ebmed it again...

Ingrid Michaelson - The Way I Am

There's plenty more Ingrid info on her official website.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Sound Of 2011 ...Today!

This is the first time in five years I've not been directly involved with the BBC's Sound Of list, but it's nice to see how a little project started (and run) by one lone journalist at his desk has blossomed into a full-on media beast with a swanky logo.

Some people - usually music writers at other publications - gripe that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, but they're wrong. There are plenty of example of artists who failed to deliver on their promise, most notably 2005 winners The Bravery, who you'd struggle to identify in a line-up of bands called The Bravery.

Last year's list (you can't call it a poll, for a set of obscure reasons that I find very difficult to articulate) was also a bit hit-and-miss. On the basis of Adele and Florence and Lily, the critics were expecting Ellie Goulding and Marina Diamandis to be mega-massive globe conquering pop stars. Their sales haven't exactly been a disaster - but the nation apparently changed its mind about quirky solo female artists in late December 2009 without telling anyone.

Maybe its a delayed response, but this year's poll skews towards dance and indie. My favourites are The Naked And Famous - mentioned around here several times over the past year. Their new video has just hit the web - it's like a low-budget version of Michel Gondry's tower block promo for Massive Attack's Protection.

The Naked & Famous - Girls Like You

Dubstep collective Nero also get a look in... Heralded as "classically trained musicians writing fucking horrible music", they may have had an inkling they were likely to be included on the list, because their terriffic single Me & You - which I wrote about in October - has been mysteriously delayed until early 2011.

Nero ft Alana - Me And You

New to me is Anna Caalvi. She definitely fits into the pigeonhole marked "screechy drumvixen" - but with more of an indie sensibility than Florence and her ilk. Anna's current single, Jezebel, brings to mind The White Stripes Conquest. Mind your ears.

Anna Caalvi - Jezebel

The nomination for indie darlings Warpaint is a bit more puzzling. The Los Angeles quartet have already had secured an NME cover story and a clutch of five star reviews for their self-titled debut album. It's a subtle, shimmering collection of jangling guitars, brushed drums and spooky harmonies - but I don't necessarily see it finding its way onto Tesco's shelves like the band they're most often compared to, The XX.

Warpaint- Undertow

Despite the shift away from solo female pop stars, my money's on Jessie J, whose Price Tag single comes out mysteriously close to the big reveal, and Clare Maguire - because what the world needs right now is an emo Amy McDonald.

The full longlist looks like this:
James Blake
Anna Calvi
Esben & the Witch
Jessie J
Clare Maguire
The Naked & Famous
Jai Paul
The Vaccines
Jamie Woon
Wretch 32

The top five of the Sound Of 2011 will be announced in reverse order from 3rd - 8th January on Radio One and the BBC News Website. There's more information on all the longlisted acts on the official Sound Of 2011 website.

Labels: , , , , ,

The girl bands keep on coming

When I said last week that the golden age of girl groups was gone, I may have been a bit presumptuous.

After mentioning Soundgirl on Thursday, musical demigod Steve Anderson (Kylie, Take That, Britney) sent me a note on Twitter. "What you really need in your life," he advised, "is @TheUltraGirls".

The band don't actually use the apenstaartje symbol* at the front of their name but how achingly current would that be? Answer: So achingly current that @TheUltraGirls would be hired to sing the pips on Radio 4. About ten seconds later, the nomenclature would seem dated and passé but then that is just the nature of pop music.

Currently it is difficult to decide whether @TheUltraGirls will be any good, because we only have one track to judge. Girls Will Be Girls is a fairly typical "we are outrageous but unthreatening" dance-pop number á la Spice Girls. It contains one great breathless pop moment, when the girls describe themselves as "dangerously heartbreaking, wrecklessly trash-talking, drama-making, red blooded, boy-loving girls". And there is one absolute clanger, where they claim to be "trouble with a capital 'T'", making them sound like a less threatening Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

I wonder which side to the Ultra Girls persona will turn out to be the real one? They hail from Leeds - which is home to both Scary Spice and Corrine Bailey Rae, so it could go either way.

You can hear Girls Will Be Girls over on their MySpace page, or sample this quite acceptable cover of The Wanted's Lose My Mind right here:

The Ultra Girls - Lose My Mind

* That's what the @ symbol is called in Holland. It means "little monkey tail".

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not rubbish girl band alert

Pop fans have to face it, with Nadine Coyle walking as far away from Girls Aloud as her spindly legs will take her, the mid-2000s' purple patch of amazing girl bands has disappeared over the horizon.

We are now doomed to weak facsimilies of The Sugababes (*cough* The Saturdays *cough*) while we wait for the cogs of the big music industry wheel to spin through the rock-indie-rap-R&B cycle before it's our turn again.

In the meantime, this is the best we'll get. New ladygroup SoundGirl may have a rubbish name, but they have a promising pedigree - their first single, I'm A Fool, has been written by Miranda 'Girls Aloud' Cooper - and there's something about their style and attitude that brings a young Neneh Cherry to mind.

Plus, they're not exactly difficult to look at.

Soundgirl - I'm A Fool

I'm not crazy about the song, I have to admit, but I'm led to believe it's just the opening salvo in a much bigger and more impressive campaign. Plus, it's not out til April, so there's plenty of time for it to grow on me.

They have some other songs available on their website that hint at a more R&B-led direction, in the style of SWV or Jade, which is probably a good place to look for inspiration, given radio's attitude to pure pop right now.

So, could SoundGirl be the new Destiny's Child or are they merely the 21st Century Mis-Teeq? It's quite literally up to you.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A quick chat with Robyn!

It can't have escaped your attention that I'm quite a big fan of Robyn's Body Talk project. Well, the third part is out this week and I beseech you to buy it.

If you're not convinced... well, what's wrong with you? But here's a rather fantastic A-Trak remix of the single, Indestructible, to whet your appetite.

Indestructible (A-Trak radio edit) by robyn

I managed to catch up with Robyn last week as part of my "proper job" at the BBC. As I'm out of the country, I can't be certain when the interview goes live, but I'll put up a link once I get back. In the meantime, here's an excerpt of our chat that was cut from the final piece.

On the new tracks, you seem more upbeat than the heartbroken Robyn of Body Talk pts 1&2. What inspired that?

I think this last part of the project became very straightforward. It’s the big pop finale. Time Machine is pop pop pop! It’s like an exercise in how far you can go in that world.

I wanted not to play it safe and go back into the credible world with this last part. I wanted to take it all the way and tie it all together with real pop songs.

Lyrically, you have two personas – the melancholy, unlucky in love teenager, versus this kick-ass woman with towering confidence. Is that split personality present in real life, too?

Maybe. Life is dynamic and complicated – so it can be hard for me to look at myself and tell you who I am. I’m a lot of things, and I try to use that in my music.

Have you managed to avoid leaks by releasing material as soon as its ready?

No, the first album leaked, and the second album leaked, and then the last album leaked! But we’ve managed to close the gap between the leak and the release with the second two albums. It usually happens when we start sending out albums to journalists.

It wasn’t me, I promise!

No, we know who it is because they’re watermarked. You can usually trace the source. But I think it’s got to the point now where journalists don’t really care. And I understand... When it’s that close to a release, I don’t know if it makes that big of a difference.

But if you don’t sell any records, then you don't make any money, and the record companies collapse and suddenly the journalists have no artists to speak to. So they’re essentially making themselves redundant.

You’re right – but I guess when it’s closer to the release, it becomes harder to say how much of an effect it has on sales. And I think the music industry feels more alive nowadays because of blogs and websites like Pitchfork than through the old-school media and MTV.

How important has the visual side of this project been?

It’s been really important. The way the albums were recorded was more natural – and that simple way of looking at things influenced the visuals, as well. Number one, there’s less money to be spent on videos and record covers, so you have to be creative with that. But it’s also about doing something that felt real, and organic and not too complicated.

Are you saying the songs were also less produced than perhaps they were in the past?

I guess you could say that. I don’t know if it’s less complicated – because the way of getting to a simple solution can sometimes be quite difficult, or take a lot of effort. But the music is stripped down. It’s deliberately produced in a simple way – and that’s something we started on the last record [Robyn]. Sparse production, focusing on the melody of the song.

Labels: , , , ,

Newer Posts ::: Older Posts

© 2014 Discopop Directory | Contact | Go to the homepage