Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Have a listen to Jack White's debut solo record

Look at that picture. Jack White is contemplating a razor. He's probably thinking "I could form a band with this razor". Jack White likes forming bands. He's already been in three - The White Stripes, Dead Weather and The Raconteurs. Last week, he formed a band with a jam sandwich, and called it The Defibrilators. They're headlining the NME tent at Reading in August.

Amazingly, however, Jack is also preparing for the release of his first solo album. It's called Blunderbuss and it's due out in April. Love Interruption is the first single and, if you will indulge an incredibly pretentious anaolgy, it continues the razor theme.

The razor I'm talking about is Occam's Razor - the principle that "simpler explanations are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones." That neatly sums up Jack White's approach to music: The simpler his songs are, the better they turn out. And Love Interruption sounds like it was dashed off in an hour.

Appropriately for a recent divorcee, the lyrics aren't especially positive about relationships. The refrain " I won't let this love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me any more" is bad enough, but Jack also claims: "I want love to murder my own mother, and take her off to somehwere like hell or up above."

Hmmm... Maybe someone should take that razor off him. Not the metaphorical one, the other one.

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Lana Del Rey interview off-cuts

So, last week I met up with Lana Del Rey, who was coughing and spluttering after cancelling her gig at London's Koko venue the night before. Demure and softly-spoken, she was absolutely charming. More homebody than homewrecker, despite whatever impression you may have received from her lyrics.

Our chat formed the basis for a BBC profile piece, which was published over the weekend. But I thought you might like to see a fuller transcript.

Can you remember the first time you thought "I can write a song?"
I didn't really start writing until I was 18 and my uncle sort-of taught me six basic chords on the guitar. I realised I could probably write a million songs with those six chords - so I moved to New York and I took a couple of years to just write whatever I wanted.

That's quite a late start.
It's really late.

Had you been creative in other ways before that?
Yes, in some ways. I don’t know if I'd say it was my focus. I never really thought about writing my own music but I did like to sing.

Do you remember the chords your uncle taught you?
It was G, C, A. It was D minor, A minor and some diminished chord as well. Some trick, some shortcut. When I learned F, which I assumed would be easy, I was like "fuck". F was just never going to happen. Four fingers? Never going to happen. It's too hard.

There isn't much guitar on the album. When did you switch to piano?
I didn't switch because I don't really play piano – unless it's a Wurlitzer and I'm sort of just holding sustained chords. On my first record, I played guitar throughout most of it. With this one, I started working with this guy Justin Parker who's never really done anything in pop music. I just started freestyling over his sustained, melancholic chords. And that was how, really, the second evolution of my style began.

You said you were always a singer... Where did that start? Do you remember singing with your family when you were young?
I remember singing with my mom and with my dad. There were musical children's movies, like Mr World and Raffi.

In my house, my sisters loved Grease.
We loved Grease, me and my sister. [Sings Summer nights] They're really beautiful, those songs.

... Click here to read the rest of the interview

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Monday, January 30, 2012

An open letter to Labrinth

Dear Labrinth,

I wish to bring to your attention a minor error in the lyrical content of your (otherwise excellent) new single, Last Time.

In verse one, you state: "I ain't leaving Paris until I get a French kiss". However, in France the French Kiss is not called a French Kiss. It is instead called "baiser avec la langue", which literally means, "kiss with the tongue". If you spend a lot of time in Paris asking for a French Kiss, the response will largely be "je ne sais pas ce dont tu parle" accompanied by a haughty shrug of the shoulders.

Please amend your song accordingly.

Thanks and goodbye,

Labrinth - Last Time

If, by any chance, you felt there wasn't enough vocoder in that song, Labrinth has made all the vocoder parts available as a "stem" so you can enjoy them in splendid isolation. Knock yourself out.

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M.I.A. and the arms aloft quandary

One of these days, rappers will discover that putting your hands up in the air isn't as difficult or amazing as they think. Look, I just did it now. And again. My hands go up and down at will. And I'm not alone. I was in a school classroom recently (18 years ago) and the kids were putting their hands up all the time. In the supermarket this weekend, I even saw a woman of very advanced years put her hand up, in order to reach a packet of Bourbon biscuits that had been placed on a high shelf.

Eventually, I went onto Wikipedia and checked up on this phenomenon. Apparently, the ability to raise your hand above shoulder height is common to all primates. It's no big deal. Chimps can do it less than half an hour after they're born.

So come on, rappers, let's have some REAL challenges in your music. I have some suggestions:

  • Fold your legs over your shoulders like you just don't care
  • Pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time for Detroit
  • Throw your hands up (having previously cooked them into a warming casserole, then tried to swallow them prompting an involuntary gag reflex) in the air

While this message filters through to the hip-hop community, here is M.I.A., whose supremely slinky new single Bad Girls contains several "hands up" moments.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Bon Jovi + Bon Iver = Bon Joviver

Is it me, or has the new music tap started to run dry? It's probably just a temporary thing. At this very moment, the music industry is evacuating all its staff to an underground bunker in preparation for the hailstorm of hate that will greet next week's triple whammy of new releases from Lana Del Rey, MIA and Madonna.

In the meantime, here is a lovely thing: Bon Jovi, sung in the style of Bon Iver, by musical miscreants Miracles Of Modern Science.

Bon Joviver - You Give Love A Bad Name

More like this, please.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sleigh Bells: Comeback Kid video

In the video for Comeback Kid, seen below, Sleigh Bells frontwoman Alexis Krauss bounces on a mattress while clumsily grasping a rifle. We do not recommend bouncing on a mattress while clumsily grasping a rifle. Bouncy castles are more fun.

Sleigh Bells - Comeback Kid

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ladyhawke's new single: What happens when?

00:00 Static, hiss and crackle from a "vinyl record" (ask your dad).
00:01 A Vibraphone.
00:04 A cowbell. Some sticks that go clickety-clack.
00:08 "Time is never easy when you’re alone"
00:13 "Uh, oh, oh".
00:15 Amazing drum fill.
00:25 The bridge.
00:38 The chorus.
00:40 Fans of Abba's On And On may find themselves in familiar territory here.
01:22 "Your slow descent to madness has just begun"
01:27 "Uh, oh, oh".
01:44 Open hi-hat heralds the arrival of the second chorus.
02:27 Flamenco guitars - this must be the middle 8.
02:56 It's the freakin' axe solo, yo.
03:14 Final appearance of the chorus.
03:45 Digital watch has nervous breakdown.
03:50 The end.

Ladyhawke - Black, White & Blue

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Lana Del Rey proves the haters wrong

Rhubarb, rhubarb, can't sing live, rhubarb, blah, waffle, no charisma, nonsense, huff.

That is basically a summary of the entire internet's hysterical response to Lana Del Rey when she made her US TV debut on Saturday Night Live the other week.

At the time, I strongly suspected her awkward appearance and kinda wobbly vocals had something to do with stage fight. Lana isn't the world's most seasoned performer, after all, and SNL is one of the most high pressure gigs there is.

After hearing her play the exact same set on BBC 6 Music this morning, I'm even more convinced that crippling shyness had something to do with the SNL debacle. Put at her ease by the ridiculously affable Huey Morgan (to the extent that she did a - gasp - accidental swear) and safe from the denuding gaze of TV cameras, the sultry melancholy of Video Games was fully restored.

Afterwards, Huey's team said it beautifully on Twitter:

Or, to put it another way:

If you're visiting this page between 27 January and 26 February, 2012, you can listen to the interview and performance below. After that, the BBC will press a huge self-destruct button and the audio will be removed from the internet FOREVER.

You have been warned.

PS: If you haven't already read Popjustice's backlash against the Lana Del Rey backlash, then get over to their website forthwith.

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This is not a new track by Daft Punk

Today's blog post is about 17-year-old French dance producer Madeon who burst into our consciousness last year with a breathtaking, 39 song mash-up performed live on a sampler. The appropriately-named Pop Culture incorporated bits of tracks by Buggles, Kylie, Girls Aloud, The Killers and ELO - comme ça:

Madeon - Pop Culture

An astonishing display - and one that has rightly seen him booked for a ton of DJ sets around the continent.

He's also been working hard on his debut album, and the first single - Icarus - got a preview on Pete Tong's radio show a couple of weeks back. Clearly, Madeon has had to borrow all of his equipment from Justice, who bought it second-hand from Cassius, who had it on loan from Daft Punk after they won it in a bet from Stardust.

Seriously, all French house music sounds like this, doesn't it? Not that I'm complaining.

Icarus - Madeon

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Have Radiohead killed rock music?

Earlier this week, it was revealed that sales of rock albums were in decline, having been overtaken by pop music for the first time in seven years.

The Jessie J-ification of the album charts has caused a lot of hand-wringing in the "serious" music press. Gigwise even printed a story headlined: How Can We Save Music?, thereby displaying more misplaced snobbery than a box set of Downton Abbey.

I reckon it's all Thom Yorke's fault. Practically every British guitar band is in thrall to Radiohead - holding them up as an example of a commercially viable rock group who've maintained their creative credibility.

As a result, there are hundreds of artists that try to emulate their heroes by noodling about with indistinct vocals and skipping drum tracks. The likes of Foals, Everything Everything and The Maccabees are lauded for their avant-garde compositions - but ultimately their records sound like the musical expression of a maths lesson.

Even Kasabian have stated their intent to make more textured, intellectual albums. Bless their hearts.

When did we all forget that Radiohead had two big, dumb albums full of bigger, dumber melodies? The Bends didn't just win the band a loyal audience, it bankrolls the experimental stuff (you may notice that The King Of Limbs doesn't feature in last year's Top 10 best-selling rock albums).

Or maybe Radiohead aren't to blame at all. Musicians are loathe to admit it, but it's really hard to write a proper rock anthem - a straightforward, power chord barnstormer that connects with people on a fundamental, emotional level. It's much safer to show off how great you are by playing obscure scales through an echo pedal. Perhaps the current crop of guitar bands just aren't good enough to write a High & Dry or a Creep.

So while we wait for a decent rock writer to come along, we'd better just buckle down and try to enjoy the math rock. And what better way to start than with Django Django (they drink it in the Congo).

They're a new band who met in Art School, live in Dalston and named themselves after a Belgian jazz guitar legend (please try to suppress your gag reflex). Their latest single is called Default and it's actually quite catchy - IE they remembered to include a hook. The video is an arresting watch, too, featuring a stop-motion collage, hand painted by the band themselves.

[end of rant]

Django Django - Default

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

New artist alert: EJ

Yes, I know it can be a struggle to listen to new music. All that effort and so little reward. But stick with me here, because EJ, a Swedish-born, London-raised R&B singer only asks for two minutes of your time. Her debut single is Mama, I'm Going To Sing and if you were to visualise its influences as a mathematical formula, it would look like this.

Have a watch and take a listen.

EJ - Mama I'm Going To Sing

There's more information (but not much more) on EJ's Facebook Page.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Oh, hello there new Santigold MP3

Get ready to say "hooray", because barmy old Santigold has returned to scream a load of old nonsense into your skullholes.

This is her new single, Big Mouth, which is a thinly-veiled attack on Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. At least, I'm 99 per cent sure it is. The lyrics are almost completely indecipherable - but the subtext is pretty obvious from the cartoon segments of this psychedelic, Neneh Cherry-indebted video.

Santigold - Big Mouth

If you like what you hear (and why wouldn't you?) the song is available for zero pennies* at Santigold's website. It's taken from her new album, Master of My Make-Believe, which is due later this year.

* Well, whatever it costs you to download an mp3 on your current provider's broadband service plan

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R.I.P. Jimmy Castor

Funk legend Jimmy Castor - a cornerstone of hip-hop - has died at the age of 64. But, although he's one of the most-sampled recording artists of all time (after James Brown), you might not know much about him.

His most influential song was It's Just Begun, recorded 16 years into his career. The opening trill of the saxophone and the intricate, hi-hat heavy groove have been pilfered by everyone from Grandmaster Flash to The Spice Girls (the sax riff appears on If You Can't Dance, fact fans).

But there were more strings to his bow than writing an iconic breakbeat. Castor penned the million-selling doo-wop classic I Promise To Love You for Frankie Lymon when he was still at high school. That led to his first recording session, in New York's Bel-Tone studios in 1956, after which he worked for almost all of the major labels - including Decca, RCA, Atlantic and Mercury.

Castor's career spanned rock, funk, soul, latin and pop. Like Prince, he produced his own records and played many of the instruments himself - earning him the nickname "The E-Man", short for The Everything Man. If you're seeking him out on Spotify today, the key tracks are Troglodyte (Cave Man), The Bertha Butt Boogie and King Kong.

Yet, despite his lingering popularity with hip-hop producers (Kanye West, Ice Cube and Mos Def are all fans), his biggest hits are largely absent from the airwaves. In fact, Compare My Radio shows that he's only been played on UK Radio once in the last month.

He called it "a curse".

"MTV, VH1 they kind of shunned me and my group," he once said. "Some of these guys have been with me for 30 years and I feel bad for them because they don't get the recognition they deserve. It's been a total insult."

A sad state of affairs, maybe, but Castor didn't let it get him down. He continued to record, write and play to big audiences until late last year, when he suffered a heart attack. Although he recovered from that and had bypass surgery, he sadly died on Monday in Nevada.

As a tribute, here is a blistering live performance of It's Just Begun from what looks like a 1972 episode of Soul Train. In Castor's own, frequently re-appropriated, words: "What we're gonna do right here is go back".

The Jimmy Castor Bunch - It's Just Begun

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A tiny note about Emeli Sandé

It's a small thing, but the moment when drums drop out on the second chorus of Next To Me's new single is a proper pop moment, and one of the reasons why Emeli Sandé is just a little bit more exciting than her contemporaries.

That is all.

Emeli Sande - Next To Me

If you are keen to hear more of this sort of thing, there is an album sampler available on YouTube. For a "deep" and "insightful" interview with Emeli, click on this link.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sleighing 'em in the aisles

There are three things you need to know about the new single from Brooklyn noiseniks Sleigh Bells.

1) Comeback Kid is basically about having to make more of an effort on your second album. Seemingly simple advice, but look at what happened to The Ting Tings.

2) There is a guitar solo that goes "squiggle" followed by "squeee" and then repeats.

3) As of this moment in time, only one person has left a YouTube comment about this song, but that comment is entirely accurate: THIS SHIT IS THE FUTURE.

Listen below, etc.

Sleigh Bells - Comeback Kid

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Monday, January 16, 2012

She's a lady who A*M*E's to please

Sound the trumpets. Popjustice has just posted a video from spanking new pop act and one woman Googlewhack A*M*E.

As you can see above, A*M*E loves Stockholm, but that's one of the few things we actually know about her. Even her real name is a mystery. Luckily, our completely-made-up facts department has informed us that A*M*E stands for Anne-Marie Ectoplasm.

You can see why she went with the acronym.

Born in Sierra Leone and raised in London, 17-year-old A*M*E is influenced by the grime scene, but has a chart-friendly pop sensibility "to boot". Think of her as a less offensive Azealia Banks, or a less broken-up Mis-Teeq. In other words, she is bloody good.

That video I mentioned in the first paragraph? Here it is.

A*M*E - City Lights

Now, if you pop over to A*M*E's website, you will see the following quote: "Some people call me a singer, others a songwriter. I see myself as a composer."

Once you've stopped going "ooh, get her" and put down your handbag, you may wish to investigate this claim further. Luckily, A*M*E has written a fanzine which contains some of her top songwriting tips, including the essential advice: "draw a spider diagram" and "write your lyrics".

The fanzine also includes an eye-opening journalistic investigation of the 1990s when "you had pop legends like Debbi Harry [sic] and Bob Marley". Here is what A*M*E has to say about those artists and the music they created. In the 1990s, in case you forgot.

"The music of the 90s had structures… Versus, a mid eight, you knew one section from the other, melodies were on point. It was good honest mysic. We cheat a lot now… Special effects, auto tune. A lot of songs are like one big chorus lately. Whereas pop used to be lyrically hard hitting - not in a depressing way - it was pop music with meaning. It's not just about stepping into a rave, throwing your hands up and moving to a chick."

Wait a minute, wasn't all music in the 1990s about stepping into a rave and throwing your hands up? (except for the music by Jon Secada and The "Smashing" Pumpkins, obviously). Oh dear.

Luckily, we do not have to rely on A*M*E to teach us valuable lessons about the music of yore. We only rely on her to write catchy pop tunes and to rap a bit, and she does both of these things excellently. Here is the conclusive proof.

A*M*E - Play The Game Boy

A*M*E - Hold Me Back

Find out more
:: Official website - http://www.ameofficial.com
:: Twitter - @theofficialame

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Strictly Come Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol, aka the Coldplay it's ok to like, have produced some great videos for their current album, Fallen Empires. Effortlessly likeable first single Called Out In The Dark was accompanied by a cheeky clip that saw lead singer Gary Lightbody thrown off his own set for being a useless pop star.

For their latest release, In The End, the band took over the LA Theatre for a spot of ballroom dancing. Stick around to the end to see some truly spectacular lifts.

And, er, that's it.

Snow Patrol - In The End

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Janelle Monae: Now endorsed by the President

Uncategorisable musical phenomenon Janelle Monae just popped up on the internet to tweet a link to the following video - which contains a glowing seal of approval from US President Barack Obama. Somehow, this doesn't feel as grubby as David Cameron claiming he listens to Lana Del Rey on his iPod.

If you have no idea what the leader of the free world is on about, here is a video of Janelle's flawless Glastonbury set last summer. It'll blow your mind like a force 10 gale.

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Things to do this weekend: Re-watch (500) Days Of Summer

That new Mark Ronson track (see below) put me in such a good mood, I went straight back to YouTube to watch this: The dance sequence from self-consciously kooky but otherwise excellent indie movie (500) Days Of Summer. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face - and not just because the soundtrack is Hall & Oates.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt - You Make My Dreams Come True

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Mark Ronson & pals: A La Modeliste

How about this for Friday afternoon - Mark Ronson produces, The Dap Kings give it some horns, Erykah Badu sings, Mos Def raps. What could be better?

Mark Ronson - A La Modeliste

This is all part of a project called Re:Generation, which is ostensibly a documentary about hip-hop producers investigating other genres of music (DJ Premier delves into classical, Skrillex remixes 60s rock with The Doors, etc). Of course, it all turns out to be a huge advert for a car but that is the nature of things these days, I suppose.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

We're off on a Grimes spree

Here is the sum total of what we know about much-hyped electronic musician Grimes.

:: She is really called Clare Boucher.

:: Clare comes from Montreal. Montreal's most famous resident is currently Peter "voice of Optimus Prime" Cullen.

:: She describes her sound as "post-internet" which is a fancy way of saying "a bit weird".

:: Grimes also admits that the soundtrack to Disney's Pocahontas was a big influence on her songwriting.

Just Around The River Bend from Pocahontas

:: She has signed a deal with record label 4AD which, since her music has certain sonic similarities to the Cocteau Twins, is very fitting.

:: Her debut album Visions is due out this year. She says it is "the best work I've ever done. The only work I'm actually proud of and not embarrassed to show people".

:: Before all of that, there is the matter of a new single, which she has called Genesis in a probably-not-really tribute to Phil Collins.

:: When you hear this song, you will think, "this is one of those broody, loopy electronic tracks that passes the time quite nicely but is otherwise totally forgettable".

:: By the time it finishes, you will have changed your mind.

Grimes - Genesis

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Something you may have missed

M'learned colleague Sir Ian of Youngsford has written a piece about the artists who were shamefully ignored by you - yes, YOU, the record-buying public - in 2011.

It's a cracking read, and it had me dashing off to YouTube to check out a young Liverpudlian singer called Marsha Ambrosius (try saying that in a Sean Connery voice). She's signed to Clive Davis' label J Records, has been nominated for two Grammys and sounds like the musical lovechild of Mary J Blige and Stevie Wonder - IE very good indeed.

While you're listening to the following songs, all luscious melody and soothing strings, remember how many times you were subjected to Price Tag in 2011, then write a sternly-worded letter to everyone in the music industry.

Marsha Ambrosius - Far Away

Marsha Ambrosius - Late Nights and Early Mornings

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When bad songs get good remixes, pt 473

20-year-old singer Jodie Marie is one of the newest signings to Decca. Legend has it she was discovered in a small B&B in West Wales - presumably in a wardrobe - and chosen to relaunch the iconic Verve label.

Her recording career is being masterminded by Simon Gavin, who launched Duffy on an unsuspecting world four years ago. Demonstrating a remarkable capacity for creative thinking, Simon has employed Bernard Butler to produce Jodie's debut album.

The results, as displayed in her new single I Got You, are as original and innovative as a sandwich.

Jodie Marie - I Got You

Luckily, someone has asked ace remix team Shook to fiddle about with the song's tickly bits. The result is a slinky, 80s-indebted slice of disco funk. Check out the evidence below.

Jodie Marie - I Got You [Shook Remix]

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Darkness descends on the edge of town

I know I must be getting old because I just listened to Darkness, the new song from Leonard Cohen, and didn't flinch at his croaky old "singing" style. However, I have yet to be convinced that the performer on this record isn't an over-amplified tortoise.

The guitar motif in the intro, on the other hand, is sublime.

Now, in case anyone thinks I'm losing it, here is the new Nicola Roberts b-side.

Nicola Roberts - Memory Of You

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I have seen the future of music television, and it stars one of the kids from Outnumbered

Ever since Top Of The Pops went tits up six (six!) years ago, there's been a lot of hand-wringing about TV's attitude to music. Jools Holland is too exclusive, X Factor is too vulgar, MTV doesn't show any music videos, and the Album Chart Show audience consists solely of people who fell asleep during 8 Out Of 10 Cats.

Music TV is broken and no-one knows how to fix it. The generally-accepted point of view is that TOTP peaked in the 1970s, when families watched programmes together. Now, I spend more time tweeting stupid things my wife says to me about what's on TV than actually watching the TV.

So what can music shows do? The obvious answer is "find a niche". That's why Jools Holland thrives, despite his astonishing inability to conduct a halfway competent interview: His programme appeals to the sort of music fan who likes to be in-the-know. But these are the sort of people who spend hours debating which of the 42 guitar solos David Gilmour recorded for Comfortably Numb should be considered the definitive take. What about mainstream music fans?

Well, I think I might have discovered the answer. Flicking through the channels at the weekend, I stumbled across a programme called Friday Download. It's not exactly cutting edge (one of the presenters is Tyger Drew-Honey from Outnumbered) but it's made a genuine attempt to reflect how the kids consume pop music.

Produced by CBBC, it's free from the crippling need to be "authentic" or "edgy". Each week, there'll be a performance by a Wanted or a One Direction in front of a couple of dozen braying, hysterical girls. But the similarities to pop shows of the past ends there.

In the most impressive segment, the audience are asked to film themselves lip-syncing to a current chart hit. Then a professional BBC editor cuts that footage together with the original video to make a sort of "You've Been Framed Goes Pop" montage. Here's an example from last summer, featuring Martin Solveig and Dragonette's Hello.

In another regular feature, Dionne "I'm Amy Winehouse's goddaughter but I don't like to mention it" Bromfield performs a top 40 hit with the studio audience. As she warbles, the words pop up along the bottom of the screen, SingStar-style, to encourage participation at home.

And then there's the old music show standby of reviewing the week's new videos. It doesn't have the bitchy frisson of Mel C and Louis Walsh's bust-ups on CD:UK (last week's review of Noah And The Whale contained the baffling observation: "I think they are going to be even bigger than they actually were") but it gets the job done.

The show, which also has segments on fashion, film and video games, may not be perfect but, by embracing fan participation, it reflects children's relationship with and excitement about pop music without the increasingly-irrelevant prop of a Top 40 countdown. Best of all, the tone is genuine enthusiasm, rather than the sneering disdain that's become Channel 4's default position.

Now, if someone could raise the pyrotechnics budget, throw in a song or two "for the dads" and schedule it on BBC One at teatime, I reckon we could have a genuine hit on our hands.

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Jay-Z records song with two-day-old daughter

This is just too cute not to post... With echoes of Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely, Jay-Z has recorded a song that practically bursts with joy of becoming a father.

Uploaded to his Life And Times website last night - just two days after Beyoncé gave birth to Blue Ivy Carter - it's likely that the rap was at least partially freestyled, which only makes it all the more impressive. Jay-Z reveals that the baby was conceived in Paris, the day before Beyoncé shot the cover shoot for her latest album, and says it'll be "hard not to spoil you rotten, looking like a little me".

On a sadder note, he mentions that Beyoncé suffered a miscarriage the first time they tried for a baby (this is surprisingly common - something like a third of first pregnancies end in miscarriage).

The song's called Glory and it even contains a few guest vocals from Jay-Z's "child of a child from Destiny's Child". Which makes her the real Lady Gaga, right? RIGHT? Right. [you're fired - ed].

Jay-Z feat B.I.C - Glory

You can listen / download the song by clicking on this link to Jay-Z's website.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Is this the first great party record of 2012?

Chiddy Bang are best known around Discopop Towers because of their amazing remix of Ellie Goulding's Under The Sheets in 2010 and the MGMT-sampling Opposite Of Adults, which followed a few months later.

The Philadelphia duo have been in the studio "working hard" (eating a lot of KFC bargain buckets) ever since. Their debut album is called Breakfast and it is due out on the very last day of February. Promoting the release of the album is a single, named after rhythm-and-blue giant Ray Charles.

It's not exactly a sensitive tribute. In fact, Ray's name seems to have been harnessed as an excuse for a series of bizarre comments about the inability to see. "I'm a blind man, yeah, like Three Blind Mice," they boast illogically. "I don't need no walking stick."

If you can set the concerns about the lyrical content aside, this is a great party tune powered by a chunky piano stomp. It's an acceptable alternative to LMFAO, if you will.

The video contains a fantastic tribute to The Blue Brothers, too.

Chiddy Bang - Ray Charles

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Michael Kiwanuka wins the Sound of 2012

I'm am thrilled to bits that Michael Kiwanuka has picked up the BBC's Sound Of 2012 accolade. Long-time readers will know the blog has been supporting his music since last May, when his debut EP Tell Me A Tale came out.

The Guardian are probably going to sneer that Michael is part of the "new boring" phenomenon they keep trying to make happen. And yes, Michael does wear an interesting selection of chunky knitwear, but he's also one of the most affecting, soulful artists the UK has produced in a decade.

If you haven't heard his music yet, I've posted a handful of videos below. Just listening to them should make all the tension drop out of your shoulders and brighten up your day immeasurably.

Michael Kiwanuka - I'm Getting Ready (acoustic)

Michael Kiwanuka - Tell Me A Tale

Michael Kiwanuka - I'll Get Along (live)

Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again

Wasn't that marvellous? All of those songs, with the exception of I'll Get Along, are available on iTunes. Home Again is the new single, which you can buy via this link.

If you want to know more, here's my interview with Michael on the BBC News site.

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Something lovely for Friday morning

The ever-serene Jill Scott has put her weight behind the Campaign For Random Acts of Kindness and Volunteerism, which encourages us all to be excellent to one another, like in that sappy Kevin Costner movie. It's something one of my friends has experienced for real recently. Here's how he described it:

To aid the campaign along, Jill has recorded a cover of a genuinely timeless classic - Bill Withers' Lovely Day - as their theme song. If she was performing it on X Factor, the judges would undoubtedly say she'd "made it her own". As ever, that means "thank you for adding a pleasant but otherwise unnecessary torrent of extra notes to this song." Still, it's hard to grumble when the original is so good and Jill's voice is so beautiful.

Watch the video, then go out and give a stranger a kiss on the nipples.

Jill Scott - Lovely Day

Take that, cynicism!

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fun with a full stop


That's not a statement, it's a band name. Or maybe it's both. It's still early, ok?

Anyway, Funfullstop are a three-piece power pop outfit from the US, where they've been off on tour with the likes of Paramore, Panic! At The Disco and Janelle Monae. But they make their living from syncs (that's getting your song played on TV, not the thing you wash your hands in) - having featured on adverts for Expedia and TV shows like Chuck and Glee.

In fact, the cast of Glee covered the band's latest single last year, long before they intended to release it. Called We Are Young, it's a track from Funfullstop's forthcoming second album, Some Nights, and it features the awesome Janelle Monae on co-lead vocals.

Speaking to music website The Blue Indian, singer Nate Reuss explained that the collaboration came about before the two acts ever laid eyes on each other:

"Unfortunately we didn’t meet Janelle until the first day of tour - and she’s awesome! But fortunately technology allowed her to hear the song, decide she wanted to be a part of it, and record it in some foreign country (Germany?) while we were in LA making the album. We are all so flattered that someone as incredible as she is, liked the song enough to sing on it."

We Are Young has the definite whiff of a beginning-of-the-year one hit wonder - like Owl City's Fireflies in 2010 - but it's still a jaunty little pop song. The video has just been released and it ends with everyone having a gigantic scrap in a pub.

Fun. ft Janelle Monae - We Are Young

Did you have trouble spotting exactly where Janelle's bits came in that song? This acoustic performance should clear matters up.

Fun. ft Janelle Monae - We Are Young (acoustic)

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A band with a misleading name, part 439

Imagine if Clock Opera really made music that sounded like a timepiece aria: A tinny cacophony of ticks, tocks, buzzes, bells and the occasional cuckoo.

Luckily, Clock Opera don't do that. Instead, the London-based quartet record the sound of an Apple Mac having hiccups onto a piano. Then they get Guy Connelly to croon all over it with his haunting tenor.

Their new single is in fact their old single, Once And For All, with a bit of spit and polish for 2012. Appropriately for the New Year, the lyrics are an exhortation to pursue your dreams: "Get up, get out. Stand up and shout your name / Don't be afraid to get in the way again."

The video stars veteran character actor Dudley Sutton, who became a cult star in the 1960s after playing a gay biker in taboo-busting British drama The Leather Boys. His character pays heed to the song's central message and, after years of hesitating, plucks up the courage to talk to the object of his affections.

It will break your heart.

Clock Opera - Once And For All

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas catch-up: Scissor Sisters

Hello! Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year. I thought I'd kick off 2012 with a few videos and premieres you may have missed over the festive season, not least of which is the brand new track from Scissor Sisters and Krystal Pepsy (that's Azealia Banks to you and me).

Shady Love - a classic Scissor Sisters song title if ever there was one - is from the New Yorkers' as-yet-untitled fourth album. It's definitely one for the dancefloor, with a dancehall-inspired drum beat, a few Hanna-Barbera sound effects and a bassline that wobbles like a fat man on a trampoline.

In the video, a series of child actors lip-sync the song as part of a school play. Yes, that's the same plot as the Noah And The Whale video. No, it is not as good.

Scissor Sisters - Shady Love

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Christmas catch-up: Rihanna

Rihanna reckons she's going to duet with Chris Martin at the Brit Awards next month. Given that neither of them are the most reliable live vocalists, that could be an interesting spectacle. And by interesting, I mean "unwatchable".

In the meantime, here is the video for You Da One, the most straightforward pop track on Rihanna's Talk That Talk album. This has already had 14 million views on YouTube since it went up on 23rd December, so you hardly need me to flag it up... but for the sake of completeness, here's four minutes of Rihanna shoving her hand down her pants. Perhaps she has crabs?

Rihanna - You Da One

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Christmas catch-up: Tinie Tempah

Tinie Tempah put out a free, nine-track mixtape just before the holidays. It's called Happy Birthday but, according to reliable internet information source "Wikipedia", Tinie was born in November - so the EP was either delayed for a few weeks, or it was intended to be an early birthday present for Jesus. Either way, you can download it (legally) from the DJ Booth website.

According to one of the tracks, appropriately entitled Leak A Mixtape, the collection was written and recorded in just six days. Consequently, it's more raw and stripped-back than his multi-platinum debut album, but still worth a listen. There are guest spots for J Cole, Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean. Tinie even liked one of the tracks enough to make a video, which went live on New Year's Day:

Tinie Tempah - You Know What

I have to say, I'm not a fan of Tinie's new lyrics, which have an unnerving degree of arrogance and misogyny. Time to stop hanging out with those US rappers, perhaps.

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Christmas catch-up: Lower Than Atlantis

Punk outfit Lower Than Atlantis have been an intriguing prospect since they chainsawed their way onto the scene two years ago with their hardcore, riff-tastic debut album Far Q.

Last year's follow-up, World Record, saw their vocal harmonies pushed higher in the mix... and now they seem to have completed their transformation into the English Biffy Clyro. If The World Was To End is the first single from their latest long-player, and it comes complete with a ridiculously catchy na-na-na section that's destined to propel the Watford four-piece into the major league.

Lower Than Atlantis - If The World Was To End

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Christmas catch-up: Nelly Furtado

The worst part of any interview is when you're obliged to ask an artist about the recording of their new album, because they always say something bollocks like this: "I feel like this is me as an artist, as a woman, maturing and growing as an artist" (this is a real quote).

Obviously, this is the first bit you cut out when you start writing the story. And this is also why artists constantly whinge that the media mis-represents them - because they GENUINELY BELIEVE THIS STUFF MATTERS.

Luckily the internet has cut out the middle-man, and now artists can share these sorts of insights with their fans, at nauseating length.

Nelly Furtado has a new album out this year (yay!) and the recording process is being catalogued in detail on Nelly's YouTube channel. Here are the first three instalments - they are in black and white to emphasise how "real" and "important" everything is.

If you sit through those videos, what you discover is that Nelly is recording with Salaam Remi (yay!) Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins (yay!) and DJ Genius (who's that?)

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Christmas catch-up: Skrillex

US dubstep artist and interesting hairdo owner Skrillex has just placed fourth in the BBC's Sound Of 2012 poll. He sounds like a novelty doorbell having a nervous breakdown in a trash compactor - but, you know, in a good way.

His latest single is project with the remaining members of The Doors, called Breakn' A Sweat but, when Radio One announced his Sound Of position this morning, they wisely plumped for the more memorable First Of The Year. A huuuge tune on the blogs last year, the track starts off with a jaunty little piano riff, before being eaten by a giant hairy Doctor Who monster.

If you have children, you might want to turn the bass on your speakers down before listening to this...

Skrillex - First Of The Year (Equinox)

NB: This is the how the BBC's World Service covered Skrillex when he was added to the Sound Of 2012 longlist in December... Best radio moment of 2011.

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Christmas catch-up: Saint Saviour

Former Groove Armada vocalist and general electropop goddess Saint Saviour just posted this free download on Twitter as a New Year's gift to her fans. It's an acoustic, cover of Neil Young's sublime Old Man. Heavy on the finger snaps, this is an absolute joy.

Old Man (Neil Young Cover) by Saint Saviour

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Christmas catch-up: B.O.B.

This one is all about the André 3000 guest spot in the second verse. Fast forward to 1'25" for his bit, which addresses internet rumours about his superpowers: "I put my pants on one leg at a time".

B.O.B. ft André 3000 - Play The Guitar

Can we have a new Outkast album in 2012? Thanks.

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