Thursday, July 28, 2011

Covered up: Billie Jean & Coldplay

Just a quick post today with a couple of superlative cover versions I've stumbled across this this week.

First up, Aloe Blacc, who might not be the one-hit wonder I'd assumed. His string quartet rendition of Billie Jean is oh so classy, if a little down in the dumps.

Aloe Blacc - Billie Jean

Next, we have pop newcomer Neon Hitch. She's a British singer/rapper, formerly signed to Mike Skinner's label and, unvbelievably, Neon Hitch is her actual name. She's been popping up as a background vocalist on songs by Ke$ha and 3OH!3, and this cover of Wiz Khalifa's On My Level is an attention-grabbing calling card for her forthcoming solo material.

Neon Hitch - On My Level

Finally, and on the most shaky ground, is Robyn - who has unforgiveably chosen to cover Coldplay's Every Teradrop Is A Precious Resource So Please Save Them In A Jar And End The Minor Drought In East Anglia.

The Swedish starlet improves on the original, by virtue of a trickling synth line that builds to an arms aloft robo-tronic climax. Robyn also has the decency to mumble the year's most awful lyric: "I'd rather be a comma than a full stop" (if we're expressing punctuation preferences, I'd rather have a colon than a semi-colon).

Here it is, in all its Live Lounge glory.

Robyn - Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall (Live Lounge)

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jessie J version 2.0

When I first came across Jessie J - or Jessica Cornish, as she was then known, she seemed raw and exciting. A diamond in the rough. Her early YouTube efforts, filmed candidly in her bedroom revealed a humungous voice and, on occasion, a hoover. Here's Big White Room.

Jessie J - Big White Room

When Do It Like A Dude came out it was, quite rightly, given a huge amount of coverage. The Labrinth remix was spectacular, and Jessie rode the wave of hype right to the top of the Sound Of 2011 poll.

Then, well... I don't know. Her album, and the subsequent singles were all a little bland. The Essex girl with the detachable jaw was overwhelmed by her super-slick producers and their production line material. In March, her third single Nobody's Perfect limped to number 9 in the charts. About 21 places higher than it deserved.

Jessie J - Nobody's Pefect

You can't argue that Jessie's career is floundering, though. If thousands people gather to see a pop artist perform, immobile with a broken foot, at Glastonbury, they've got to be connecting on some level. The album, Who You Are, has hardly disgraced itself by dipping in and out of the Top 10 for the last couple of months, either.

Yet I'm not surprised to find out that Island is already lining up new material for Jessie. Dr Luke - who previously co-wrote and produced Price Tag - posted a new snippet, called Domino, on Soundcloud yesterday.

So, if this is the launch of the second stage of project J, what do you reckon? Admittedly, the track sounds great - but can you distinguish it from Katy Perry, or Ke$ha, or any one of Dr Luke's other protegés? Will Domino give Jessie's career a well-deserved fillip? Or does it steer her further away from megastar motorway and straight into also-ran alley?

These questions are of almost no importance or consequence.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Laura Marling beckons in the autumn

There is no point in watching Laura Marling at a festival. Her music is not made for huge audiences on sunny days or muddy fields. It is precision-targetted at headphone listeners on autumnal evenings, as the browning leaves congregate on the windowsill and the dust of the summer is scorched by the central heating.

Her new single Sophia premiered online today. It's pretty good. But when it's released in September, it will sound 100 times better.

Laura Marling - Sophia

Labels: ,

Yacht to like this*

I have a sneaking suspicion that Yacht, an electropunk duo from New York, might be insufferable idiotbags.

Their name stands for “Young Americans Challenging High Technology". Their official biography contains such passages as:
"Strictly speaking, YACHT does not 'perform music'. YACHT provides inspiring Teachings of constantly changing elements: PowerPoint presentations, immersive audio, live audience audits, and shamanistic video environments"

They have press photos that look like this.

So, hands up. Who wants to punch the teeth out of Yacht's stupid art student faces?

Well, hold on a moment... because hidden amidst the Niagra Falls of bullshit is a tiny nugget of golden electropop. Dystopia is its name, and it is catchier than the measles.

Typically, Yacht have hidden this gem at the end of another track. That one's called Utopia, and it's the sort of thing Hot Chip would make if Hot Chip were (a) flamboyantly homosexual, like Chris Tucker in Fifth Element and (b) really, really bad. Someone described it to me earlier as "the wrong end of La Roux" which is an image I will never be able to shake.

I think I've managed to gerrymander the YouTube code so you can jump straight to the good part. If not, fast forward to 3'04". You'll regret it if you don't.

Yacht - Dystopia

* You ought to like this. "You ought" to like this. YOU OUGHT. YACHT. YOU OUGHT. 
Oh, never mind.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Michael Kiwanuka - simply lovely

Adele's support act Michael Kiwanuka had me drawing wild comparisons to Marvin Gaye and Al Green with his last single Tell Me A Tale. For once, the hyperbole was justified - the song has been on permanent rotation in Discopop Towers for three months. Better still, Michael's next single is equally sublime.

Here's I'm Getting Ready, out in September on Communion Records. Its finger-plucked beauty will ease any pain you feel with no harmful side effects.

Michael Kiwanuka - I'm Getting Ready

Labels: , ,

Love Is A Losing Game

It's been a long, shocking, emotionally draining weekend. I've already said everything I wanted (and could bring myself) to say about Amy Winehouse's untimely death on the BBC both on air and online.

Now, as Popjustice commented, I just want to hear the music. I certainly don't want to redefine her work as a shallow eulogy to drugs, which is what some of my newsgathering colleagues seem to be determined to do. Amy's lyrics were informed by romance and heartbreak above anything else. As her father appositely commented this morning: "Amy was about one thing and that was love."

So here's a song that I love, from a time when Amy's live vocals could still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Just listen to her range and phrasing. Unforgettable.

Amy Winehouse - Tears Dry On Their Own (live)

Out of all the articles I've read this weekend, the following ones stand out as being the least sensational and most insightful pieces of writing:

:: Alexis Petridis' superlative tribute in The Guardian [link]
:: Russell Brand reminiscing about "that twerp dithering up Chalk Farm Road" [link]
:: Guy Interrupted on the nature of addiction [link]
:: And it's worth re-reading Claire Hoffman's article from Rolling Stone three years ago, which exposed the fragile humanity behind Amy's tabloid notoriety [link]

Finally, here's Prince's tribute - a scratchy, acoustic cover version of Love Is A Losing Game, sung beautifully with NPG band member Andy Allo. It sounds like it was recorded on the fly - but just the change in tense ("love was a losing game") is enough to bring a lump to your throat.

The track was posted on Andy Allo's Facebook page, as was thisdownload link.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, July 22, 2011

What if The Saturdays made a great single?

Suspend your disbelief for two minutes and try to visualise a world where The Saturdays weren't a mediocre photocopy of Girls Aloud with the personality of a sock drawer. Suppose they had made a single with Brian Higgins and Xenomania. One that fit right into Radio 1's playlist, but didn't come across as a slavish and vulgar attempt to duplicate the latest motifs in UK pop music.

Then, conjure up a picture of a board room Universal Records. You should make sure this room has a big grey table, a stereo that's been screwed to the wall and, in the corner, a gold disc from Taylor Swift that no-one wants. Put some people round the table to have a meeting, and imagine them agreeing to release a ravehorn radio remix of the new Saturdays single in place of the actual song.

In short: Imagine a Saturdays single that didn't leave you feeling hollow.

Would it sound like this?

The Saturdays - All Fired Up

Yes, it would.

Labels: , ,

Five great things about Emeli Sandé's Heaven

1) Heaven contains the best, and most restrained, use of a gospel choir since Blur's Tender. 

2) When people sneer "this sounds just like Massive Attack's Unifinished Sympathy", Emeli will arch her eyebrow and say, "of course it sounds just like Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy. Unfinished Sympathy is fucking brilliant. I love it so much, I even copied the bit in the video where Shara Nelson walks down the street in a black overcoat. I am not mucking about here."

3) The unconventional chord change on the line "the day it always lasts too long". It lifts the melody and adds an unexpected air of optimism.

4) Angel wing tattoos.

5) The fact that Emeli Sandé has dozens of other equally amazing songs.

In summary: I like this song a lot.

Emeli Sandé - Heaven

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Clean-cut kid without a razor for the moustache"

You get the feeling Ed Sheeran was struggling for a rhyme when he paired "some fella filmed me" with "[I'm] a singer-writer like Gabriella Cilmi". Still, You Need Me, I Don't Need You has long been a highlight of his live show - and the studio mix is a massive improvement.

Ed's rap sputters and sparks like a misfiring engine. Unaccompanied, it gives the track a much-needed percussive spine. Set free by a shuffling drum beat, his delivery starts to sound like Plan B - urgent and eloquent. The multi-tracked backing vocals bring colour and contrast, and suddenly Ed stops looking like a poster boy for hormonal girls in Peppa Pig back packs, and blossoms into something altogether more interesting.

For a track that's all about what it's like to be Ed Sheeran, the video bravely elects to feature zero footage of Ed Sheeran being Ed Sheeran. Instead, we get the entire track delivered in sign language. I don't know why, but it works.

Ed Sheeran - You Need Me, I Don't Need You

For reference, here's a live performance of the song for SB.TV, whatever that is.

Oh, and let's not forget the brilliance of the lyric: "Coming up like I'm in a fucking elevator". Fantasmajesticles.

Labels: , ,

Justin Timberlake's History Of Hip-Hop pts 1 & 2

You may recall that Justin Timberlake turned up on Jimmy Fallon's chat show last September to give us a potted history of hip-hop. Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, Sugarhill Gang, Missy, Eminem, Digital Underground... It was all there.

Last night, Timberlake was back on Fallon, and they broke out a Part Two. Oh, and did I mention that the backing band is the motherflippin' Roots? Yeaaaah, boyeee.

(In the likely event that spoilsport legal teams remove these videos, you can find Part 2 in its entirety on the NBC website - but only for thirty days or something ridiculous.)

Labels: , , , ,

Now that's what I call Heavy Soul

Nigerian-German soul singer and rapper Nneka made a splash last year with Heartbeats, a stuttering soul stomp with a chart-friendly Chase & Status remix . It got to number 20 in the UK, justifying MOBO's decision to award Nneka their "Best African Artist" prize 12 months earlier.

The single fared well over in the US, too, thanks to a reggaeton remix with Nas. Consequently, the 31-year-old is getting a major stateside push for her new album, Soul Is Heavy.

Most artists looking to break North America would play it safe - calling up or Dr Luke for an easy hit to ease them into the public conciousness. Not this lady.

Her new single, and the title track of her album, is a rallying cry for Nigeria. Nneka protests against Shell's exploitation of Nigeria's oil reserves, while namechecking civil war hero Issac Adaka Boro and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. The lyrics castigate "filth America", while the video depicts demonic drilling rigs against a barbed wire blood-stained skyline...

If that all sounds a bit too worthy then (a) shame on you and (b) you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Nneka knows how to make her message palatable - blending hip-hop beats with plaintive soul vocals and bouncy Afro-pop. Why bother waiting another 13 years for a new Lauryn Hill album, when Nneka is every bit her equal?

Nneka - Soul Is Heavy

Soul Is Heavy (the album) is out on 23rd September, with guest appearances from ?uestlove and Ms Dynamite. I can't wait...

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sacrilege corner

  • If you're a Nick Drake fan, close your browser window now. 
  • If you're a more open-minded sort, why not stick around and see what happens? 
  • If you think Nick Drake is the guy that did What's My Name with Rihanna and then maybe probably absolutely touched her lady parts, I'm afraid this blog isn't for you (except it also kind of is).

Right, enough waffle. I have been sent a cover version of Nick Drake's Pink Moon, a touchstone of the British Folk scene of the late 60s / early 70s - perhaps even the key recording of the period. Tender, haunting, exquisite, it was recorded at two consecutive midnight sessions in October 1971, shortly before Drake died of an overdose of prescribed anti-depressants.

Pink Moon, and the album named after it, is a major influence on the loosely-plucked playing style of someone like REM's Peter Buck; and the lyrical imagery of artists such as Beth Orton and Laura Marling.

Here's what it sounds like.

Nick Drake - Pink Moon

The cover is by AIVA (all caps - how modern), a new solo female artist from Washington DC. She's been signed to Dirty Hit*, the label that brought you the winsome acoustic stylings of Benjamin Francis-Leftwich. And that is literally all I've been told or can find out.

Her version of Pink Moon is actually very respectful. Despite the phasing synth lines and skittering drum patterns, it maintains the original's other-worldly beauty. AIVA's tenderly-layered harmonies are 100% swoonsome.

You can listen below - and claim a free MP3 by clicking through to the Dirty Hit Soundcloud page.

AIVA - Pink Moon (Nick Drake cover)

* Although her Myspace claims she's on Island Records, which suggests they're doing one of those "put out a low-key release in the summer to build up online buzz before launching her as a major-label act just in time for the Sound Of 2012 poll" campaigns. YAWN.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Foster The People go feral

Foster The People are, according to one of my colleagues, "officially hot". The drummer (left) is hottest, then the guy on bass (middle). But the lead singer (right) hasn't exactly been hit in the face with an ugly stick, either.

Those are actual facts from a journalist.

Anyway, the LA band were bundled into 6 Music Towers today for an acoustic session on Lauren Laverne's show - drawing a crowd of mainly women to see them play tracks from their terrific debut album, Torches. The sanctity of my contract of employment prevents me from posting a video of the event, but luckily they did the exact same set for Sirius XM in the States two months ago. Here's Pumped Up Kicks.

Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks (acoustic)

But that song's old news. We want the new single.

Luckily Flopster The Peephole, as no-one is calling them, have complied by uploading Helena Beat, to YouTube. If the insanely catchy chorus to Pumped Up Kicks drove you... well, insane, you'll be pleased to hear this is slightly more subtle. The melody, stuffed with gratuitous yeah yeah's, is perfectly memorable - it's just that you won't wake up at three in the morning singing it at full volume into your pillow.

Video director Ace Norton (LCD Soundsystem, Santigold) picks up on the song's vaguely sinister lyrics ("I tie my hands up to a chair") with an equally disturbing video. "It's post-apocalyptic," Marcus Foster told MTV. "Lord of the Flies meets Mad Max. So, it's a bunch of kids, and they kidnap us and take us into this warehouse, and there's a really crazy twist at the end...."

WARNING: Contains shots of saggy old man breasts.

Foster The People - Helena Beat

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 15, 2011

Leona Lewis's banging hard one

Reaction to the new Leona Lewis single has been broadly split between two camps:


I don't see the appeal of either.

Collide is supposed to rescue Leona from the anodyne anonymity of her last album - but is it really such a radical departure? Mute the drum beat (which has clearly been cut and pasted from an old Chicane record) and all you have left is a bog-standard Leona enormo-ballad. Not only that, it's a Leona enormo-ballad with a complete absence of melody in the verses. On the plus side, she hasn't "gone dubstep". And it has an amazing climax. Stop sniggering at the back.

Secondly, Leona is one of the most genuine, warm-hearted and humble pop stars you could ever meet. But being asked to accept 'sexy Leona'? Err... Well, look. The thing is I'm not really ready for a serious relationship right now. It's just that my job is so busy and I'm this close to breaking my record on Wii Tennis. But we could still be really, really good friends.

Oh God, please don't cry.

Leona Lewis - Collide


Labels: ,

Roundup: A ragtag collection of videos and songs from the last seven days

As often happens, Friday has come around and there's a ton of new music that didn't quite warrant its own blog post this week, but which doesn't deserve being consigned to the dumper either.

So here, basically, are six tracks I don't hate.

This is mind-boggling. French DJ Madeon creates an entirely new song out of bits of 39 other songs. Oh, and he does it live, playing the samples in off a 64-button Novation Sample Pad. There are bits of Kylie, Jacko, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Daft Punk in there... Astonishing work.

Multimedia teen brand Pixie Lott is back with a new single All About Tonight, which roughly translates as *yawn* All About Going To The Club. (I keep meaning to ask - why is there only one club?). This isn't the barnstorming comeback Pixie needed to reinvigorate her see-saw chart career... but it's better than, say, anything Jason Derulo has ever written. And by 'written', I of course mean 'stolen'.

The video is mainly notable for the hilarious legs akimbo dance routine (see above). Pixie Lott has long legs, in case wall-to-wall tabloid coverage had failed to make you aware of this fact.

*6 Music face* Sufjan Stevens is a hugely talented artist given to massive bouts of creativity and self-indulgence. His new album, The Age Of Adz, contains delicate moments of ephemeral beauty and a bunch of songs that waffle on for 10 minutes about absolutely fuck all. This is one of the former - and it comes with a mesmerising stop-motion video, which Sufjan directed all on his own, despite previously suffering a nervous breakdown during Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr Fox.

Another one of DJ Earworm's semi-annual mash-ups for Capital FM. He's kind of hamstrung by the alarming lack of decent pop music this year, but the juxtaposition of LMFAO and Katy B is sublime.

5) Niki And The Dove - Gentle Roar
Unbelievably, people are still persisting with the whole "[female name] and the [noun]" concept. Latest off the block are Niki And The Dove, a Swedish duo signed to the ultra-hip Subpop label. Subverting the "Alice And The Cheese Grater" subgenre, they make earthy, pagan click-pop, which sounds like Florence Welch swallowing Radiohead. Very classy.

Gentle Roar by subpop

As discovered by the incomparable Robot Pigeon blog, here is Nicola Roberts being hit on the head with a beach ball (scroll through to 2'40"). Nice work, everyone.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Teddybears' triptych

You may remember me giving a huge double thumbs up to Cho Cha , a duet between Cee-Lo Green and The B52s, masterminded by Robyn's songwriting team The Teddybears (here's the link). The song has now been given the video treatment - and what was a lighthearted ode to Cee-Lo's pet cat has suddenly become a macabre stalker's fantasy.

The video "stars" Jeff Turner, a 53-year-old Californian man with asperger's syndrome, who has been served multiple restraining orders for pestering 80s pop princess Tiffany with a samurai sword and breaking into the home of TV star Alyssa Milano.

Turner, who made a cult film about his obsession with Tiffany, is a good sport, playing up to his jolly-but-creepy image -- but you have to wonder what his victims would make of all this?

Teddybears ft Cee-Lo Green and The B52s - Cho Cha

Labels: , , , , ,

Calvin Harris has the summer anthem of 2011

It's not just me saying that. Lots of people are saying it on Twitter, too. And Calvin Harris is busy re-tweeting them all, one by one.*throws computer out the window*

On balance, re-tweeting positive reviews of a song you spent days of your life writing is a step up from those DJs who constantly read out texts praising their playlists, as if owning a CD was some sort of towering achievement of humanity... And it helps that Calvin's song, Feel So Close, is such a big-hearted bundle of positivity. The sentimental Scotsman sings: "Your love pours down on me, surrounds me like a waterfall". Then, as the laws of summer romance stipulate, he goes for a drive with his sweetheart while blasting out A MASSIVE HAIR METAL RIFF.

The video is also very good.

Calvin Harris - Feel So Close

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cover Drive are coming to steal your Top 40

Never stand next to the 1980s when they're about to explode...

The improbably good-looking quartet pictured above are Cover Drive (left-right Andi Peters, Leona Lewis, either Milli or Vanilli, Bruno Mars). They hail from the Caribbean and they're named after a cricketing term, of all things.

Cover Drive have been working on their debut album for the last 12 months, roping in pop's top female songwriters for a helping hand. That means Linda Perry (Pink), Karen Poole (Kylie), Autumn Rowe (Alexis Jordan) and Ina Wroldsen (Britney), amongst others.

The band describe their sound as Carib-Pop, and we can judge what that means for ourselves with their first single. It's called Lick Ya Down (almost certainly a tribute to the mighty postage stamp) and it's chock-full of choruses, chants and unusual vocal ticks.

With singer Amanda Reifer hailing from Barbados, there's also an unshakeable similarity to Rihanna... It's almost as if they've taken Rude Boy and shaken it up with Do It Like A Dude and, er, Aqua's Barbie Girl to create a cheeky R&B cocktail.

*SERIOUSFACE* Always remember to drink your pop music responsibly.

Cover Drive - Lick Ya Down

Lick Ya Down is out on 28th August via Geffen / Polydor. You're either going to love it or hate it. My verdict can basically be summed up as follows....

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wretch 32 makes a song about a song

I've been wondering - what is a Wretch 32?

The dictionary definition for wretch is "a person of despicable or base character," which is more suited to a hardcore underground rapper than a chippy purveyor of chart-bound grime. On the other hand, when Fearne Cotton announces "here's a bit of Wretch 32", I immediately think of retching (and not just because Fearne Cotton's voice triggers an instinctive gag reflex). I'm pretty sure no-one would deliberately set out to call themselves "Dry Heave 47", so that can't be the explanation either...

A bit of Googling reveals that Wretch 32 is in fact Mr Jermaine Sinclair, and that Wretch refers to his old stage name Wretchro (as in 'retro'). The 32 refers to the number of bars in a verse. So there you go. Mystery solved.

All of this is a pointless preamble to the video for Wretch 32's new single Don't Go. It sounds like a love song, but on closer inspection it's a tribute to the redemptive power of music: "Whenever I'm in doubt, you forever calm me down." Basically, it's Abba's Thank You For The Music, but without the girl or the golden hair.

Still, no matter how you choose to interpret the subject matter, some of the lyrics are questionable. EG: "Phone in my hand while I listen to you moaning, everybody in the car wants to try and get involved".

Children, cover your ears.

Wretch 32 - Don't Go

The featured vocalist on Don't Go is Josh Kumra, who's got a nice line in sleepy acoustic ballads, in the style of Ray LaMontagne and Damien Rice. Check out his Facebook page for more.

Labels: , , ,

Jack White goes hip-hop

Trying to keep up with Jack White's side-projects is as pointless as trying to count all the pages on the internet. But it is always worth dipping into his latest projects because, even at his worst (that Bond theme), Jack White is one of the most bewitching, individual musicians of our generation.

This year, he's already delivered a stunning Laura Marling EP and the supple Rome project with Danger Mouse & Danielle Luppi.

Next up, he's produced a handful of hip-hop tracks with Detroit rapper Black Milk (who has already released five albums to almost universal disinterest). Typically, the tracks don't quite fit the slick, homogenous template of modern rap... The rambunctious live drums and multiple tempos "keep bringing the unexpected", as Black Milk correctly observes in his lyrics.

Here's the b-side, Brain. The EP is out today on 7" and iTunes, via White's Third Man Records label.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Pierces have a new video

Allison and Catherine Pierce have visted the magical woodlands to film a video for It Will Not Be Forgotten.

The song isn't the finest moment on their top five album, You & I, but there's always room for a keening soft rock ballad in my iTunes library. You never know - it might come in handy when I finally get asked to curate the soundtrack to a major US drama series. One day, I would whip out this song for the montage where the doctor and the lady want to be together but they can't, and the other lady and the handsome man take their son to rehab, and the sad lonely woman hugs her doggy, and everyone would think I was the best person at choosing music for montgaes there has ever been, including the genius who first used Snow Patrol on Grey's Anatomy, and I would win an Emmy and buy a mansion in Palm Springs and live on Krispy Kremes and strawberry milk for eternity.

So thank you, The Pierces, for this mediocre song.

The Pierces - It Will Not Be Forgotten

Labels: , ,

Will Young is jealous of your pen*

:: Will Young has a new song.

:: Will Young's new song is called Jealousy.

:: The key lyric is "And it feee-eels like jealousy".

:: It is important to note that the feeling in question is not, therefore, actual jealousy.

:: Things that feel like jealousy include envy, longing and fish burps.

:: Jealousy is produced by Richard X, "famed" for writing that one good Rachel Stevens song in 2004.

:: The chorus verges on the anthemic. It also verges on Joe McElderry's version of Ambitions.

:: Stalker lyrics alert: "Watching you walk / I followed you there / Standing too close / It's hurting."

:: Maybe you shouldn't stand so close then, you dolt.

:: Jealousy will be released on 21st August, the 10th anniversary of Will's first Pop Idol audition.

:: But it premiered this morning on Ridings FM - bringing the best music mix to Wakefield, Castleford, Pontefract, Featherstone, Knottingley and Normanton!

:: Listen below.

Will Young - Jealousy

* I wrote this headline before discovering this video. Will Young need never be jealous of anyone's pen, because his pen is the best.

Labels: ,

Singing with The Strokes

What would Julian Casablancas' voice sound like if he didn't insist on being recorded down a phone line? The Strokes' frontman must possess a bass register. At the very least, his vocals will have sub-harmonics (the discrete notes that resonate below the root whenever you sing) - but they're consistently, mercilessy EQ-d out of his performance.

I like to imagine that outside the recording studio Julian's voice is wildly erratic. Maybe he produces a rumbling subsonic tone every time he opens his mouth. It is disconcerting and uncomfortable for anyone who hears it. A few unfortunate victims bleed out of their eyes and urinate involuntarily. This is why The Strokes cannot bear to be in the same room as each other. Nick Valensi, in particular, has a weak bladder and has on occasion short-circuited an amp by facing the wrong way during the chorus to Last Nite.

Sadly the real explanation for Casablancas' reedy, thin vocals is a lot more pedestrian. Have you ever noticed that "cool" bands always sing through a megaphone? They like to think it makes them look innovative and edgy, but really they come across as incredibly fey gym instructors with appalling personal hygeine. That's The Strokes in a nutshell.

Here's the New Yorkers' latest single, Taken For A Fool - one of the big highlights on their (surprisingly vivacious) new album Angles. Sounds a bit like the Chili Peppers in the verses, but I'm ok with that...

The Strokes - Taken For A Fool

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 8, 2011

The new JLS video explained

Remember how a couple of weeks ago, I was spouting off about Jennifer Lopez's inability to distinguish cities from countries and countries from continents? Well now JLS are at it as well. Their new single, She Makes Me Wanna, contains the lyric "London to Jamaica. LA to Africa.". We need to start some sort of emergency pop star geography lesson.

To be fair to JLS, they're only copying J-Lo's successful formula... In the same way that they copied the song's title from Usher and its hook from Britney Spears' Til The World Ends. What's the old phrase - "plagiarists steal, geniuses aggregate"? Something like that anyway.

Predictably enough, the video features Aston, JB, Oritse and Marvin dancing on a platform in front of some ladies. Only this time they are not in "da club", they are at "da seaside". Here are the key moments in screengrab format.

Sound the Peter Andre klaxon!!!

The name of this song is "She Makes Me Wanna".

Oritsé visualises the "L" and "A" of "LA" using his manfingers.

Oritsé visualises Africa with a necklace in the shape of Africa.
(Oristé's new range of teaching aids will be available from August).

I don't know about you, but when I get splashed with sea water, I don't look excited and happy. I spend the next five minutes blowing sand out of my nose.


Phew. Thank Christ for that.

Even Dev appears bored with her atrocious attempt at a "rap".

This shot of a lady with a hula hoop appears three times in the video.
Three times! There's got to be a story behind that...

Who the heck is Colin Tiley?

So there you go... She Makes Me Wanna is out on 24th July, and trails the as-yet-untitled third JLS album. Here's the video in its full glory.

JLS feat Dev - She Makes Me Wanna

Labels: , ,

Lingerie alert: Beyoncé in her pants

Here's the wedding-themed video for Beyoncé's current top ten chart smash, Best Thing I Never Had.

The lingering shots of Ms Knowles in her undercrackers make awkward viewing at work, but it's worth sticking around for the "home video footage" of a teenage Beyoncé at a prom. Very cute.

Beyoncé - Best Thing I Never Had

At least we now have some much-needed context for the awful "you showed your ass and I saw the real you" lyric.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Listen: Disco, Blisters and a Comedown

Here it is: The heavily-trailed b-side to Nicola Roberts' still-not-out-yet Beat Of My Drum. You only get your hands on it if you buy the CD single, a marketing technique which now seems as antiquated as calling the second track on a CD "the b-side".

While Beat Of My Drum is a sonically-adventurous journey into Nicola's fragile psyche, Disco, Blisters And A Comedown stays closer to the Girls Aloud template - whizzy electropop, brutal chorus, lyrics about getting plastered and snogging a minger.

It's a fantastic three minutes of pop, staggering from one lyrical highlight: "2am I think I am Gaga, maybe I've gone too far, I'm dancing on the bar" to another "Why do the lights in the kebab shop make this guy look less hot? He's looking like John Prescott." (*applause*)

Nonetheless, you can see why the song's been demoted to supporting status. Given the avant-garde experimentalism of Nicola's new material, putting this out as a single (as some of the more "vocal" Girls Aloud fans are claiming she should have done) would have raised false expectations for the album. Worse, Nicola would have looked stuck in the past, desperately clinging to the memories of meeting Terry Wogan on Children In Need and Nadine's adorable habit of not turning up to major awards ceremonies.

Nicola Roberts - Disco, Blisters And A Comedown

PS: If you don't want to fork out five quid for the CD single, you'll be relieved to know that Disco, Blisters And A Comedown will be the bonus track on Nicola's debut album, Cinderella's Eyes, out on 3rd October.

Here's the tracklist:
Beat Of My Drum
Dance In The Rain
Pretty Persuasion
Sticks & Stones
Porcelain Heart
Take A Bite
Yo Yo
Cinderella’s Eyes
Lucky Day
Been There, Done That
Want You (So Bad)
Wanna Dance
Disco, Blisters & A Comedown (UK Bonus Track)

Labels: , ,

Jim Jiminy, Jim Jiminy, Jim Jim Jerroo...

Now that pop music has penetrated every sphere of human existence, from supermarkets to call centres, it's not unusual to make new discoveries in strange places.

For example, I Shazam-ed this awesome Michael Jackson cover in a Norwegian branch of Ikea. And the first time I heard Girls Aloud's The Promise was on holiday in Nice, via a mobile phone, after Discopop Directory reader Lisa kindly emailed it to me.

One of my most regular sources of new music in recent years has been video games. Not just Guitar Hero, which fed a particularly nasty Pat Benatar obsession, but more obscure gems like Da Blob and the delightfully bonkers Katamari Damacy. Check out a sample of the latter:

Katamari On The Rocks

Yes, I actually bought the soundtrack for that game. I wouldn't advise listening to it in the car. Or on drugs. Or on drugs in a car. Or at all.

But it doesn't end there... I set off on an ill-advised skater punk spending spree after completing snowboarding classic SSX3; while Grand Theft Auto: Vice City nurtured a distressing attachment to 1980s synth-rock twatfest Owner Of A Lonely Heart.

I suspect that, when you take 20 hours to complete a full-price title, you end up beaten into submission the soundtrack. I'm not proud to admit I've found myself jumping over bollards, humming the Mario theme song when I thought no-one was looking. I've heard it so many times over the last 25 years, it's just part of the personal soundtrack to my life.

To get to the point, the game currently lodged inside my PS3 is platforming gem Little Big Planet and its imaginatively titled sequel, Little Big Planet 2. The game uses a mixture of original score and off-kilter dance tracks by the likes of The Go Team and Battles.

The biggest earworm of the lot is a bowler-hatted bone shaker by the name of My Patch. It's one of several charming tracks to emerge from Manchester musician Jim Noir over the last couple of years... Radio 4 listeners might also recognise it as the theme for panel game The Unbelievable Truth.

Jim Noir - My Patch

Jim's recorded a whole bunch of bananas new music since LBP came out - and he's releasing it independently, via a subscription-based website. Basically, you give him £2.99 a month and he sends you a clutch of exclusive tracks, new material and anything else he has handy. Think of it as a porn site - only there are no nudey bottoms and you won't feel guilty about it.

To reinforce the porn model, Jim is offering a free track to entice you through his paywall. Called One Note World, it has touches of the Super Furry Animals' stoner-rock with luscious Beach Boys' harmonies and a shouty bit with a megaphone. At a push, I'd sum it up as "a voodoo Monkees" (which is coincidentally a great name for a band).

Here's the song - click through to SoundCloud to claim your free MP3.

Jim Noir - One Note World by mrdiscopop

If you want more of that sort of thing, Jim's website / porn domain is

Don't let your mum see what you're up to.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kyla La Grange: Complicated name, complicated lady

Today's new music discovery comes from spooky British femme fatale Kyla La Grange. Her single, Been Better, is going to be compared to Stevie Nicks - because she has a deep, wavery voice. And it is going to be compared to Florence and The Machine - because she is a bit mad and gothic.

Here is what else we know about Kyla La Grange...

Kyla La Grange studied philosophy at Cambridge University. She knows the colour of your soul and the shape of existence.

Kyla's interviews are full of phrases like "epic sadness" and she writes lyrics like "Why is my heart never mine?" Maybe she just needs a cuddle.


Kyla La Grange is managed by ATC, who look after Radiohead (incredible), Faithless (legendary), Eliza Doolittle (hmmm...) and Kate Nash (shit the bed).

Kyla may have quite her part-time job as a secretary, but her bassist still does shifts at Tesco, her drummer works in a gym and all her bandmates teach music for spare cash. Their chickens remain remain unquantified.

"Some people just have a default mode," she told Amelia's Magazine. "They wake up and feel a bit black inside."

"Being an explorer would be pretty fantastic," Kyla reckons. "I would still like to think that I will end up living in the jungle one day."


Kyla La Grange - Been Better

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 4, 2011

Prince - everything he does gon' be funky

Over the years, I've seen Prince in concert more than any other artist. It's never a bad night out - this is a man who preens, purrs, perspires, prays, plucks, postures, primps and pirouettes like no other. But just as you and I have good and bad days in the office, some Prince gigs are better than others.

When I saw 1993's Symbol Tour in Edinburgh, it felt a little workaday - just another run-through of the hits for an anonymous stadium crowd. Two years later in Dublin's Point Theatre he seemed rejuvenated - excitedly playing new material, most of which ended up on the Gold Experience album. There were dozens of blistering guitar solos and, at the end of the show, Prince ditched all the sampled loops he was using and launched into a ridiculously exciting 20-minute jam, based around the NPG single Get Wild.

My dad came to that gig, and we ended up in the moshpit for the entire encore. A few years later, he had to have surgery on his knees...

So, waiting to see Mr Rogers Nelson play his first ever UK festival at Hop Farm last night, I was intrigued to see how he'd approach the show. The fear was that he'd take the money and run - a couple of bars of Purple Rain, a quick sing-along to Raspberry Beret and back on the big purple funbus. But, as it turned out, it's the most electrifying show I've seen Prince play since the night I got engaged (and that's a whole other story).

What struck me most of all was how much fun he was having... Wiggling his bottom at the crowd, dancing on top of his piano, and flirting with the ladies of the NPG, a stupid grin plastered all over his age-defying face.

He even dragged out an hour's worth of encores, including a funkdafied version of The Beatles' Come Together, and a cheesy-but-nonetheless-amazing rendition of If I Was Your Girlfriend. Not a single person left that field without feeling ecstatic, I guarantee you.

I've written a rather matter-of-fact account of the set for the BBC, which you can find by clicking this link. But I have to admit I was totally outclassed by Tom Horan, whose review in The Telegraph captures the spirit of the show perfectly.

As I said, we all have good days and bad days at the office.

We Live 2 Get Funky / Soundcheck
Let's Go Crazy
Let's Go Crazy (reprise)
Little Red Corvette
Nothing Compares 2 U (feat Shelby J.)
Take Me With U
Raspberry Beret
Cool / Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
Let's Work
U Got The Look
Purple Rain

Encore One
Play That Funky Music
Controversy (reprise, inc. Housequake chant)

Encore Two - with Larry Graham
Everyday People
Come Together
I Want To Take You Higher

Encore Three
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Dance (Disco Heat)
Baby I'm A Star

[images and setlist courtesy of]

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 1, 2011

My alsatian can build a nation*

I haven't had the chance to watch this yet, but what could possibly be wrong with half-an-hour of home video footage shot by Beyoncé on her gap year? Nothing, that's what.

Beyoncé - Year Of 4

The documentary, called Year Of 4, had its premiere on US MTV last night. Presumably it'll be on telly over here at some point, too, if you prefer to savour Beyoncé in the comfort of your living room (and who doesn't?)

* I can't be the only one who sings this during Run The World (Girls), can I?

Labels: ,

Tinie Tempah hedges his bets in the US

Launching your US career with a platinum-selling single isn't a bad look. And that's exactly what Tinie Tempah has done with Written In The Stars. His US debut peaked at number 12, setting up Plumstead's second-finest export (after Shampoo) for a big year Stateside.

However, rather than follow up Written In The Stars with proven hits like Pass Out or Frisky, Tinie has recorded an entirely new song with Wiz Khalifa. "I respect his hustle," he told Rolling Stone, somewhat mystifyingly. "I feel like we're in the same kind of situation, but in reverse. He's really huge out here now and I have a lot of presence in the Europe and UK, and vice versa, so if there was ever a time to collaborate, now would be the time."

The song is called Till I'm Gone and it's produced by Rihanna cohorts Stargate. Built around a single ascending synth riff, it's a little formulaic - playing it safe for US radio's notoriously risk-averse radio programmers - but Tinie still squeezes in a few deft lyrical touches. My personal favourite is: "I shook hands with royalty / I make songs that monarchs know" (it's all in the delivery).

Here's the promo, which employs rap video template 4(b). look out for the random shot of a blonde extra who the director has taken a shine to at 2'03".

Tinie Tempah - Till I'm Gone

Tinie supports Prince at the Hop Farm festival on Sunday... I can't wait!

Labels: , , ,

Janet live: A tale of two halves

When you label your tour "Up Close And Personal", you're creating certain expectations. When you're the notoriously guarded Janet Jackson, there's an added frisson. We know next to nothing about her divorces, her dalliances with lesbianism, her relationship with Michael, the fall-out of her Superbowl... erm, fallout.

Is this tour the point where she finally bares her soul?

In a word: No.

What we get is a fairly standard Janet Jackson show on a miniscule budget. The latter point isn't necessarily a criticism. In an era where Madonna, Gaga and Britney have turned pop concerts into million dollar circus shows, it's refreshing to see an artist of Janet's stature concentrate on the songs. There are no expensive video interludes, no pyrotechnics, no props to distract you from the performance. At times, Janet even sings live.

Where it starts to unravel is the decision to play each and every one of Janet's "35 number one hits*". This means one thing: Medleys.

Oh God, I hate medleys. They would expose a lack of stylistic variety in David Bowie's back-catalogue, never mind an artist so one-note as Janet. And, in aiming to please everyone, medleys manage to disappoint on every level. I'd rather not hear Control at all than a brisk, dismissive 30 seconds that miss out the best bit.

So a seven-track megamix is not an auspicious beginning to the show. Janet fast-forwards through hits like What Have You Done for Me Lately and The Pleasure Principle as if they were an irritating "you wouldn't steal a handbag" advert at the start of a DVD.

Things settle down for Miss You Much - a stone-cold future funk classic from the Rhythm Nation era. Janet manages to stick with the song right through to the bitter end, even breaking out the original dance routine, looking every bit as powerful as she did 22 years ago.

Nasty folllows, the song's jagged punch diminished slightly by the fact the concert opened with a full-length screening of the video, which Janet had "dedicated to London" (London was visibly moved by this gesture, especially because the video had been squeezed onto a 16:9 screen, cutting off everyone's head in the process).

But just as the party gets going, we are forced to sit through an inexplicable five-minute showreel of Janet's "acting highlights". This includes, I kid you not, a scene where an 11-year-old Jackson is threatened with a red hot electric iron. It doesn't exactly create a party atmosphere.

When the interval rolls around, a mere 40 minutes into the show, I seriously consider leaving on the next bus. Janet seems disconnected, mechanical, inattentive. But a quick tally of the songs she has left to perform convince me to stick it out... And, boy, am I glad that I do.

Bounding back on to the stage like a kangaroo, Janet has apparently downed two pints of stimulating caffeine beverage. Dressed down in black jeans and a vest top, she giggles at her dancers' antics, improvises around the choreography and throws smouldering looks into the (wildly diverse) crowd.

As predicted, the best tunes have been held back for this segment. It's often overlooked in the UK, but songs like Rhythm Nation and That's The Way Love Goes defined modern R&B. Without them, there'd have been no Destiny's Child, no TLC, no Rihanna. And, judging by the endearingly terrible dancing in the aisles, age has not diminished their irresistible appeal.

By the time the encore comes around, the promise of getting "up close and personal" is finally fulfilled. During Together Again, a series of still images flash up on the video screens. Moving chronologically from black and white polaroids to expensive studio shots, each is a photo of Janet sat next to her older brother Michael. As they appear, Janet stretches out her arms and sings under her breath: "What I'd give just to hold you close... As on earth, in heaven we will be together". It's a moment so unexpectedly loaded with emotion that it knocks a few of us back into our seats.

Janet plays the Royal Albert Hall again on Saturday and Sunday. Despite my reservations about the first half, I'd recommend getting a ticket, if only to see a member of pop royalty stripped of the production values that mask other performers' inadequacies. Janet has enough charisma, athleticism and experience to pull it off... And some of the best tunes in the catalogue to boot.


Act One
The Pleasure Principle
What Have You Done for Me Lately?
You Want This
Miss You Much
Come Back to Me
Let's Wait Awhile

Video Interlude
Rope Burn
Any Time, Any Place
Got 'Til It's Gone
Go Deep (Missy remix)
What's It Gonna Be? (with Busta Rhymes)

Act Two
Doesn't Really Matter
Love Will Never Do (Without You)
When I Think of You
All for You
That's the Way Love Goes
Rhythm Nation

Together Again

* There is some creative accounting at work here - Feedback, for example, reached number one in the esoteric realms of the 'Billboard hot dance 100'

Labels: ,

Newer Posts ::: Older Posts

© 2014 Discopop Directory | Contact | Go to the homepage