Monday, July 30, 2012

Example: Say Nothing - have a listen

By now, we know what to expect from an Example single: A singy bit, a rappity rapping bit, a bit for "da club", a big old chorus and lyrics that really make you think about what you are feeling.

His new single, Say Nothing, ticks all of those boxes, and some other boxes we hadn't associated with Example before, eg the box for people who steal the "woah-oh-ah-oh" bit off Coldplay's Viva La Vida.

This blatant commercialism might ruffle a few feathers but, as Example has said on many occasions, he wants to make dance music that works in stadiums. In that context, cribbing from Chris Martin's Big Fun Scrapbook of Rock Cliches ("Chapter four: Paul McCartney always finishes with Hey Jude for a reason") isn't such a bad idea.

Lyrically, I'm particularly enamoured with the line: "We used to have our eggs sunny side up / But the fun dried up". Because nothing expresses the head-first depth charge of falling in love more accurately than a plate of fried eggs. Nothing.

Example - Say Nothing

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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Killers on a super neon highway and five other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of videos and songs I haven't had the chance to blog about over the last seven days. This week's all-star cast includes.

1) The Killers - Runaway
"Urgh," you will think, "this video is as uninspired and dull as the song". But stick around - what begins as a tedious studio performance slowly goes all sci-fi, with the band perched atop intergalactic floating platforms and zooming down a Tron-inspired highway, all designed by former Lucasfilm employee Warren Fu.

I am particularly jealous of Brandon Flowers glowing red mic stand (not a metaphor).

2) Yeasayer - Longevity
More trippy neon graphics abound in this video from Brooklyn's Yeasayer. "Live in the moment, never count on longevity," intones Chris Keating over a drawling funk beat, apparently inspired by Aaliyah. . The band have always straddled the line between experimental and accessible, and this song is no exception. Much love for the middle eastern strings in the fade out.

3) The Veronicas - Lolita
Australia's most successful twins since Gayle and Gillian are back with their first new material since 2007's Hook Me Up. Apparently its taken so long because the sisters fell out during their last tour. "We couldn't stand being in the same room as one another," Jess told The Music Fix. "I just needed to go and read some books, she [Lisa] needed to go and hang out in Nashville and play some blues music."

As you can hear, there is absolutely no blues influence on Lolita, which sounds like Tatu frenching Marilyn Manson in the bondage club from The Matrix Reloaded.

4) Hot Chip - How Do You Do?
This is just odd.

5) Amelia Lily - You Bring Me Joy (WestFunk Remix)
Basically Amelia Lily's fantastic debut single with added lasers. Put your hands in the air like you just don't etc.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

What happens in Cheryl's new video?

This happens.

  • Curtain rises: We are in a public house. Cheryl is filing her nails. They are blue.

  • Clock: It is midday. Or midnight. Either way, Cheryl is suddenly alert. Her eyes move. There is a sound effect, because Cheryl has bionic eyes.

  • Bottom: A picture of Cheryl's bottom.

  • Jukebox: Cheryl presses some buttons. The music stops (??) A siren can be heard in the distance.

  • DOT COTTEN ALERT: Cheryl looks like she is going to smoke a cigarette. But at the last minute she throws it on the floor. A lucky escape. Nick O'Teen is defeated again.

  • Exterior, day: We are in a street of terraced houses. A man is in a phone box. Cheryl taps on the door to tell the man that no-one uses phone boxes these days, using the gift of mime.

  • First verse: "We all got lonely days," sings Cheryl. A elderly woman looks on disapprovingly. She mainly disapproves of the poor grammar.

  • Thump: Cheryl walks into a man, just like Richard Ashcroft in the Bittersweet Symphony video, if Richard Ashcroft was wearing a lemon bra.

  • Clarification: I mean a yellow bra, not a bra made of lemons. Although that would be amazing, too.

  • Here is the best bit of the song: A half-bar rest between the bridge and the chorus. Subversion of anticipation is an incredibly powerful and under-used songwriting technique. Bravo.

  • Chorus: Some men lift Cheryl onto a car bonnet and we nearly see some under-boob. Can someone tell me why everyone is getting their under-boob out at the moment? Surely it isn't supposed to be sexy? I mean, look - I'm not exactly immune to the allure of boob, but no sane man is aroused by the sweaty crevices on the underside. They are quite literally the armpit of the boob. Bleuch.

  • Verse two: Now much happens here until, all of a sudden, the lights go down and...

  • Bondage: Really? Really??? REALLY???!! Yep, really.

  • Chorus two: At last, some dancing. Reminiscent of Jacko's The Way You Make Me Feel, this is stylish stuff, and the best moment of the video. I hope there's a dance-only edit.

  • Rain: It rains. Cheryl escapes to a diner. Soldiers watch longingly as she dances on the counter. Safety tip: Do not attempt this in real life. The counter can become quite slippery with milkshake.

  • Er, that's it: The song ends and Cheryl walks off. Oh.
Cheryl - Under The Sun

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Four unflattering screen grabs from the new Little Mix video

There's a simple rule for girl band videos: Cut between a master take of the band together, and shots of the members performing solo. The inserts should be filmed against different backgrounds, each designed to show the girl's individual personality "in full effect", etc, etc.

The video for Little Mix's rip-roaring debut single Wings steadfastly adheres to this template. And here's what we learns (with apologies to the girls for the images, it's just that the video is jumps around so frenetically it's difficult to get a picture where one of them isn't pulling a funny face.)

PERRIE: Botanist. Sensitive to smells.

JESY: Failed her audition for Run-DMC.

JADE: Angry bow tie collector.
Back-up plan to become a clown if Little Mix go down the dumper.

LEIGH-ANNE: Shares a stylist with Kermit The Frog.

To be fair, the video does a great job - and you can't deny the brilliance of the song. But the best bits are the group bits, which is as it should be, is it not? Yes it is. Thank you.

Little Mix - Wings

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Shocking news: Aluna from Alunageorge has abandoned George in a car park and recorded a song with Scottish dance demon Rustie.

Luckily, its only a temporary musical tryst - Aluna has just provided the top line for After Light, a stand-out instrumental from Rustie's award-nominated Glass Swords album.

The new lyrics turn the track into a euphoric ode to... well, something. I can't really decipher Aluna's drowsy R&B vocals. Can she really be singing "We are the night bus"???

Nontheless, this is a summer anthem in the making. Seven gold stars.

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A song for a sunrise

There's only two of them, but Alberta Cross are the rock equivalent of Google Earth. Behatted singer / guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee is from Sweden; bassist Terry Wolfers was born in London; the band is based in Brooklyn; and they're named after a province in Canada. How cosmopolitan.

Despite the geographical diversity, the duo's new single, Magnolia, is firmly rooted in the beer-soaked blues of middle America (although it does manage to sneak in a cheeky reference to Radiohead's Airbag via the bassline).

If you've ever had a delicate morning after a night on the rock and roll funbus, then this is a song for you. The first verse finds the band hiding under the duvet and "dragging down the morning sun". But, by the soaring climax, they've roped in a gospel choir to give daybreak a helping hand. It sounds like the gentlest, most blissful hangover of all time.

Sigh. I miss my 20s.

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Are you ready for a new old sensation?

I've just been looking back at all the albums released in 1987... It was a pretty major year, wasn't it? Sign "O" The Times, Appetite For Destruction, The Joshua Tree, Bad, Paid In Full and, sneaking in during the last week of the year, Sinitta's debut album.

But the one that meant most to me at the time was INXS's Kick: A strutting colossus of leather-trussed rock hits. I was just 12 years old, so Michael Hutchence screaming "it's a load of shit" on the anti-war opener Guns In The Sky made me feel incredibly daring and rebellious (it was a more innocent time).

Kick spawned five hit singles in the UK - Need You Tonight, New Sensation, Devil Inside, Mystify and Never Tear Us Apart. Credit is partly due to the vibrant, spacious mixes by Bob Clearmountain, who stripped out all the clutter that makes Def Leppard's Hysteria (also released in 1987) sound so dated these days. Kick has more pop and crackle than a bowl of electric rice krispies.

So apologies if I get a little excited about the four-disc, 25th anniversary re-release, which has just been announced. It comes with an 80 page art book featuring Hutchence's handrwitten lyrics (I'm looking forward to seeing the drafts of Mediate).

There is also a DVD, which promises unseen footage of the band recording and touring in 1987. Amazon's product page spills a few extra secrets about the content.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for the thrilling "chapter five". Unfortunately, the set isn't out until 17 September. Until then, here's a teaser video the band have put together (apparently using the free Windows DVD Maker programme - times must be hard).

INXS - Kick 25th Anniversary

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bat For Lashes: Laura

This is easily the most beautiful thing you will hear all week.

Bat For Lashes - Laura

Natasha, who is the Bat in Bat For Lashes, premiered the song on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show last night. He didn't press her on the mournful song's meaning, which seems to be a lament for a friend - "You're the train that crashed my heart / You're the glitter in the dark". Given the date, I couldn't help thinking of Amy Winehouse, but that's probably unfounded.

Here's how she described the song to Zane:

It's quite emotionally direct and very minimal. I was listening to The Carpenters and Neil Diamond and Elton John – quite 70s piano ballads, when thinking about that song. It's just finding those hooks and simple chord progression.

Laura is the most minimal, direct, sad song on the record. Apart from that, there's a lot more beat programming, a lot more drum machines, a lot more synths. Compared to the last two records, it's probably a lot more direct, a lot more dancey and a more consistent balance between the lighter and darker songs.

Bat For Lashes' third album, The Haunted Man, comes out in October - that's the artwork below. You can download Laura today if you pre-order the album on iTunes.

You say that they've all left you behind
Your heart broken, a part of you died
Drape your arms around me and softly say
Can we dance upon the tables again?

When you smile is so wide
And your heels are so high
You can't cry
Get your glad rags on
And let's sing along
To that lonely song

You're the train that crashed my heart
You're the glitter in the dark
Ooh-oh, Laura, you're more than a superstar
And in this horror show
I've got to tell you so
Ooh-oh, Laura, you’re more than a superstar

You say that you're stuck in a pale blue dream
And your tears feel hard on my bed sheets
Drape your arms around me and softly say
Can we dance upon the tables again?

Your smile is so wide
And your heels are so high
You can't cry
Put your glad rags on
And let's sing along
To that lonely song

You're the train that crashed my heart
You're the glitter in the dark
Ooh-oh, Laura, you’re more than a superstar
You'll be famous for longer than them
Your name is tattooed on every boy's skin
Ooh-oh, Laura, you’re more than a superstar

You're the train that crashed my heart
You're the glitter in the dark
Ooh-oh, Laura, you’re more than a superstar
And in this old horror show
I've got to let you know
Ooh-oh, Laura, you're more than a superstar
You're more than a superstar

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Grrrr, it's Lana Del Rey

We haven't had a new Lana Del Rey video for, oh, it must be two weeks now, so this is long overdue. Starring Jaime King from so-ludicrous-its-brilliant US series Hart Of Dixie, this is Summertime Sadness. Oh. Oh-a-woah-woah.

Lana Del Rey - Summertime Sadness

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The Benga Bus is coming...

Jigga slurp jigga
Erg N-n-ner-n-n-ner

Ah, the mellifluous sounds of dubstep. How little they have evolved. Even after Britney and Madonna appropriated all the good bits, the genre has stubbornly refused to make any changes to its basic template. Wub Wub nyerrrrr.

It seems bizarre. This is exactly what killed garage and 2-step "back in the day". But still the dubsteppers keep plugging away with the same old noises - digga jeeeoowwwrrrgh - unaware that the ship has sailed and they're in the wrong ferry terminal. Probably because their ipod sounds just like a ferry running aground on the shores of hell. Gnrghgnrgh Dububub Splooosh (Meow).

But while the genre dies a protracted, irritating death we're still due a few good singles. Here's one of them: Benga's Pour Your Love, which has a stirring soul vocal from Sweden's Marlene Strand - pictured above.

Benga ft Marlene - Pour Your Love

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Friday, July 20, 2012

First official picture of the reunited Sugababes

I can't deny I'm excited about this. The three original (and best) members of the Sugababes have risen like a phoenix from the girl band bonfire. However, for legal reasons they are now lumbered with the clumsy-but-accurate moniker Mutya Keisha Siobhan. Try saying that with a mouthful of crisps.

According to The Sun they've signed a £1 million recording contract, whatever that means, and have been working with Xenomania and Emeli Sande and Cameron McVey. Cameron McVey is the man behind the band's excellent first album, and Neneh Cherry's excellent first album and Massive Attack's excellent first album. Because Mutya Keisha Siobhan are technically a new band, that means their new album will also be their first album and so it is already guaranteed to be excellent. Phew.

Popjustice, naturally, has the scoop. And an interview. You can read it here. I like how Keisha admits their harmonies were a bit off - "we had to learn to blend with each other again."

New music soon, apparentelloi.

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Ellie Goulding's naked shoulders and four other songs you might have missed

A semi-regular round-up of the videos and songs I didn't get time to write about during in the last seven days. This week's stars are...

1) Ellie Goulding ft Tinie Tempah - Hanging On
Hanging On is a cover of a song by harp-tastic indie band Active Child. Ellie describes it as "the beginning of my new journey" - but she had better put on some clothes before she gets on the bus.

I jest, of course. Ellie is in the buff because her new musical direction represents what she is really like on the inside, DO YOU SEE? The track (available for free here) is genuinely beautiful, though, until Tinie Tempah comes along to ruin it by rapping nonense like: "If there's too much on my plate, then I ain't finishing my Veg". Oh, do fuck off, Tinie.

2) Two Door Cinema Club - Sleep Alone
People seem to like this, and who am I to argue? The chorus soars, the drums rattle, the guitars go 'squeee'. But really its all about the coda, which takes off like a cola bottle rocket. That's some stadium-level songwriting there. (The song is also available as a free download until 19:00 BST tonight)

The lyric video is brilliantly cheap. I mean, end titles of Crossroads cheap. It also features a bum with a light shining through it. I'm sure they had their reasons.

3) Chemical Brothers - Theme For Velodrome
The Muse single stinks - but this piece of Olympic music is utterly fantastic. Like Kraftwerk before them, The Chemical Brothers are avid cyclists and - strange though it may seem - all that syncopated, electronic dance music is a perfect fit for the sport. This will be played before every event at the Velodrome at the summer games - which could make for interesting scenes. They don't drug test the spectators, do they?

4) Nelly Furtado - Spirit Indesctructible
This is the title track of Nelly's currently-delayed new album, which I spoke to her about last month. A testament to human endeavour set to the beat of Planet Rock, it's a delightfully uplifting song. The video also has a special dance to help you learn your vowels. All that's missing now is Elmo.

5) Plan B ft Labrinth - Playing With Fire
I've been listening to the Plan B album a lot this week. Fierce, intelligent and splenetic - it's one of the best records, lyrically-speaking, of this century.

If you've seen the Ill Manors film, you'll already know some of the songs, and the characters that populate them, already - but you don't need to be familiar with the plot to make sense of the album. It has its grisly moments (the sound of someone getting stabbed is brutally graphic) but Plan B hasn't forgotten that a powerful chorus can persuade people to pay attention. Playing With Fire is a perfect example of that.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

He's no Frankie Avalon

I'm really enjoying the new single from The Vaccines - Teenage Icon, a bubblegum burst of indie disco with a mosh pit-friendly chorus.

Lyrically, lead singer Justin Young is having a laugh at his own expense: "Reserved and shy / Your average guy / No piercing stare / Just out of shape, with messy hair". By the chorus, he's comparing himself unfavourably to a procession of teen pin-ups - like Frankie Avalon (see above) and Bobby Steele.

And THANK GOODNESS this is such a good song - because No Hope, the first single from the band's new album, Come Of Age, was totally forgettable.

As it turns out Justin turned to an unlikely (but spectacular) source of inspiration for this turnaround: "Abba are my favourite band," he told Radio 1's Newsbeat last month. "I think they're incredible. That's all I've been listening to recently.

"We're playing rock 'n' roll but, absolutely like the Beatles, we're a pop band. Like the Rolling Stones were a pop band, The Kinks, you know."

The video sees the band step into an elevator which somehow realigns their gender. This would help explain the album cover the band revealed on their website earlier this week.

Based on this evidence, it could be a corker.

The Vaccines - Teenage Idol

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Paloma Faith at Somerset House: Review

"Sing along if you know the words. If you don't, feel free to gently partake in the observation of the whole thing."

A Paloma Faith show is as memorable for the star's stage patter as it is for the songs. She has the same linguistic flourishes as Russell Brand, delivered with the petulant lisp of Violet Elizabeth Bott.

"I'm sorry for the rain," she told the audience at London's Somerset House last night. "I had an arrangement with God to keep it dry, but I guess I pissed him off. Again."

He must have been pleased with her set, though, because the rain dried up after the opening number – When You're Gone - which she performed standing on top of a toy piano.

It was one of the few theatrical touches in a show that seemed strangely stripped-back. I had expected a lavish production, with dancers and lights and a man dressed as a bear – but, as the singer acknowledged: "My record label already think I spend too much: 'She does the show of someone infinitely more successful than what she is."

The 27-year-old more than made up for it with her vocals, which pack in more drama than a box set of The Wire. The melodramatic miseriballads from her new album soared, especially Agony and Picking Up The Pieces, while Stone Cold Sober and Upside Down provided a much-needed tempo boost.

The show concluded with a frock-rocking new song, Cellulite, excluded from Fall To Grace for being "too jolly", and Freedom – which was prefaced by a long speech about BREAKING the RULES and DISOBEYING society’s CONVENTIONS (the effect was curtailed somewhat when members of the audience, who had been invited on stage, were promptly ushered off in case Paloma broke her curfew).

She plays the venue again tonight – and there are tickets available on the door if you feel like gently partaking in the observation of the whole thing.

Paloma Faith - Picking Up The Pieces

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

No Doubt's Settle Down video premieres

It's trucking brilliant! A-ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaa. (passes out).

Genuinely, though, this song is a massive grower, like Percy Thrower. The extended six-minute mix used in the video doesn't even outstay its welcome. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

No Doubt - Settle Down

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Here is the new single by The xx

I'm not going to ruin this with my clumsy words. Just close your eyes and let it wash over you, like a sexy wave of gloom-pop (damn - couldn't resist).

The xx - Angels

This is also a great excuse to roll out the clip of 5 live newsreader Rachel Hodges announcing the winner of the 2009 Mercury Prize. Rachel was handed a script while she was live on air, but hit the abort button when she got to the band's name, thinking it was just a placeholder (ie: "xx have won the Mercury Prize").

As she later explained, it was an easy mistake to make if you don't like "trendy music

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Jack White's saucy new video

Freedom at 21, the new single from Jack White, is a bit of a puzzle. The song is based on a barely-disguised rewrite of the Seven Nation Army riff (a riff on a riff, if you will), while the video finds White gurning like a man who's just downed a pint of bad milk.

It doesn't help that director Hype Williams has desaturated every shot White is in, making him look like Johnny Depp in his Willy Wonka phase (Josh Homme also pops up in a cameo, being all policey).

So, it's all a bit of a mess - but it's a glorious mess. And a serious contender for video of the week.

Jack White - Freedom at 21

(Apologies for the risqué thumbnail on the video. Not my fault, guv.)

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Monday, July 16, 2012

A pictorial guide to Madonna's awful new video

There are a lot of adjectives to describe Madonna but spontaneous and carefree are not two of them. Which explains why the video for Turn Up The Radio is one big long cringe.

The "concept" (Madonna's chauffeur puts one of her songs on the radio, Madonna is happy, Madonna has an impromptu party in the back of her car) requires the pop star to interact with real humans and appear to be comfortable in their company. Given that "believable acting" is another phrase not normally associated with Madonna, this was always going to be hard work. I have provided some illustrations below.

Here is Madonna pretending to be excited to meet her fans.
It looks like she is telling them to fuck off.

Here is Madonna pretending to befriend a street dancer.
She looks like she would rather be stung to death by wasps.

Here is a man pretending to be one of Madonna's legion of fans.
He is clearly a security guard.

Here is Madonna pretending to do a laugh.
She looks like she is about to eat an imaginary burger.

Here is Madonna pretending to be sexually aroused by her own thigh.
She looks like she is trying to remove an imaginary ketchup stain from the imaginary burger she ate earlier.

Here is Madonna pretending to have the cleavage of a woman half her age.
Actually, this bit works quite well.

The full five-minute extravaganza but it's posted below for your edification. Handy hint: It's actually very enjoyable if you close your eyes.

Madonna - Turn Up The Radio

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Settle Down, it's the new No Doubt single

"Get in line and settle down". What is this - a creche?

What we want from a new No Doubt single is a barnstorming call-to-arms, not Listen With Mother.

Luckily, on Settle Down, Gwen Stefani isn't really sending us all to the naughty step, she’s attempting to silence her critics and "the haterzzzzz". She's rough and tough, she explains, and nothing is going to hold her down. Well, thank goodness for that.

Musically, the band are in familiar ska-but-not-really territory. Stefani's pop sensibilities are front and centre, with three or four sub-choruses vying for dominance over the metallic snap of Adrian Young's syncopated drums.

The main thing is that, after a gap of about 10 years, this could have been terrible – but actually, No Doubt have pulled it out of the bag. "It" being a good song, rather than a rabbit, or a potato. Listen to the Ryan Seacrest exclusive below (or, failing that, on his website).

One final point, RE: The lyric, "I’m hella positive for real". Gwen Stefani is 42.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Five tracks you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of the videos and songs I didn't get time to write about during in the last seven days. This week's stars are...

1) Maverick Sabre - These Days
While Plan B is off being "gritty" and "real", Maverick Sabre is your next best bet for blue-eyed British soul. Based around a sample from The Turtles' You Showed Me, These Days is best single so far from his debut album Lonely Are The Brave. Interesting fact: Maverick Sabre writes all of his songs in the dark.

2) Paloma Faith - 30 Minute Love Affair
You know when you get dumped by your boyfriend, and the only thing you can do to ease the pain is go and sing about it in a seedy burlesque club? So does Paloma Faith.

3) Little Boots - Headphones (remix by Ronika)
The whole slowed-down / speeded-up vocal motif in this remix is a little bit disturbing, but I like the idea of Little Boots duetting with a male Little Boots impersonator. Can someone make this happen, please?

4) Josephine - What A Day
I fell head over heels in love with Josephine's single A Freak A two years ago. She's been a bit quiet since then, sorting out a record deal and putting together her debut album. Born to African parents and raised in Manchester, she has the soul of Dusty Springfield and the intricate guitar flicks of Baaba Maal. What A Day is the first single from her forthcoming debut album, due in October.

5) Aiden Grimshaw - Curtain Call
I have literally no idea what's going on here. Nice tune, though.

Oh, and don't forget Azaelia Banks's mixtape came out this week. Patchy but promising, it's a free download via this link.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Great Riff Barrier

Rock and Roll isn't dead, it's just feeling a little sick after drinking bad milk...

The mainstream music press is having conniptions at the moment because their precious guitar music isn't very popular in the charts. The Guardian even ran a boo-hoo readers' piece that contained the magic phrase "It would be great to have a proper movement like Britpop again" (it wouldn't). The overall jist was that Rihanna has single-handedly destroyed rock'n'roll forever and no-one can ever listen to "proper" records again. FYI: This was placed slap bang in the middle of 87 articles about The Stone Roses.

But the solution to rock's big slump is pretty simple: WRITE SOME GODDAMN RIFFS.

Maybe it's Radiohead, maybe it's Coldplay, but everyone's traded screaming solos for glitching electronic borescapes. Here are the most eagerly-received indie singles of the minute. They're both great songs, and the guitar work is fine, but no-one's going to be pumping their fist in the air shouting "DUR DURRR dur dur durrr da-durr-da-durr" like they do when the Keith Richards knocks out the first few bars of Satisfaction.

Alt-J - Tesselate

Bloc Party - Octopus

What's interesting is that dance music has totally appropriated the riff. I went to see Calvin Harris play some CDs in a tent the other week, and when he dropped Avicii's Levels, the entire audience sang the bouncy synth hook back to him.

Calvin Harris plays Levels

But there is hope on the horizon. Rock can reclaim the riff... and The Black Keys are showing everyone the way.

Inspired by the fuzztone squall of T Rex, their excellent El Camino album is rammed full of amped-up riffage. Their new single Run Right Back is a case in point.

The Black Keys - Run Right Back

That’s the ticket: Now, if everyone else could crank out some fretboard fingertwisters, we’d all be sorted.

PS - here's the Top 10 best-selling singles of the year so far. The closest you get to a guitar riff is the intro to David Guetta's Titanium :(

1) Gotye ft Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know
2) Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
3) David Guetta ft Sia – Titanium
4) Nicki Minaj – Starships
5) Fun. ft Janelle Monae – We Are Young
6) Jessie J – Domino
7) Flo Rid aft Sia – Wild Ones
8) Emeli Sande – Next To Me
9) Rizzle Kicks – Mama Do The Hump
10) DJ Fresh ft Rita Ora – Hot Right Now

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Take a good look at this man

That, ladies and gentlemen, is William Orbit, the famed producer behind Nadine Coyle's Unbroken and Ricky Martin's Cuidado Con Mi Corazón.

He may not be instantly recognisable from a photo, but you'd know his music if you stumbled across it: There will be beeps and bloops, there will be synth washes, there will be a tremulous guitar tremulating tremulously.

Perhaps you know this song, or this one, or (best of all) this one. They have been on the radio.

This week, a couple of Orbit's unfinished and unreleased tracks surfaced online. They're rather good, so I thought I'd flag them up for you.

First up we have three (three!) versions of a song called Liquid Love, originally recorded for Madonna's Music album in 2000. It contains a lot of the same psychedelic sonic signatures as the previous year's Beautiful Stranger, which maybe explains why it was dropped.

Bootlegs have been circling the internet for years - but these new versions got Orbit's seal of approval on his Facebook page the other day. My favourite take is the second one...

The second leaked track was also intended for Madonna but it has a much more interesting provenance. Baby was written and demoed by MIA for this year's MDNA album. It's slower and more melodic than the rapper's usual abrasive polemics - partly thanks to Orbit's sticky fingered remix.

MIA is predictably unhappy about her demo being tampered with. "Who ever LEAKED THAT BABY song should know that ive never heard this version B4 it sounds crazy different 2 wht i worte for madonna." she said, semi-illegibly.

Whatever she thinks, I reckon it turned out rather well.

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Extremely advanced notice of a new Marina and the Diamonds single

POING! An email has just landed in my inbox to inform me that Marina And The Diamonds is putting out How To Be A Heartbreaker - an exclusive new track on the US version of her Electra Heart album - as a single in the UK.

"Hooray and hurrah," you might think. "That song is a belter and no mistake". But here's the bad news: You have to wait until 15th October before it comes out.


Sigh. Until then, you will just have to download it illegally make do with this stripped-back performance of the song from Jimmy Kimmel's US chat show.

Marina's appearance on the late-night show (she also played Primadonna) helped push Electra Heart into the US iTunes top 20 this week. Well done, Ms Diamondis.

Marina and the Diamonds - How To Be A Heartbreaker

PS: You can hear a studio version of How To Be A Heartbreaker by clicking this bit of blue text here.

PPS: Marina's got another new single coming out before this one. Power and Control "hits the shelves" next week.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spike Lee's Michael Jackson documentary - watch a clip

What's the biggest number you can think of? Now add 10 to it, and square the result. Then add 24 zeroes. Finally, take the number and multiply it by the number of times Michael Jackson went "Hee hee" on a song between 1982 and 2001.

By now you should have broken your calculator. Well, that's how many spurious, exploitative items of Jacko memorabilia have been produced daily* since his untimely death three years ago.

But here's a new project I'll definitely make some time for: A Spike Lee documentary on the making of Bad - aka the follow-up to the biggest selling album of all time (except it's not really).

According to the blurb, it "features over 40 interviews conducted personally by Spike Lee with Michael's confidants, choreographers, musicians and other collaborators". Also featured are Sheryl Crow (who sang backing vocals on the Bad tour) and fans including Kanye West and Mariah Carey.

Here's a brief preview clip of the section covering the filming of The Way You Make Me Feel. It's a hairs on the back of your neck moment.

The documentary will accompany a 25th anniversary Box Set of Bad, which also includes a previously-unreleased DVD of Jackson's concert at Wembley Stadium on July 16th, 1988.

* NB: "educated" guess

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Some immediate thoughts on Frank Ocean's album

I'm currently listening to Frank Ocean's new album Channel Orange, which was stealth released on iTunes overnight, and which is streaming in full on his official website this morning.

So far, I'm about a quarter of the way through and it's already feeling pretty special. The lazy easy comparison is Prince - not because anything sounds like Raspberry Beret, but because of the dizzying roulette wheel of pop culture references. It's the same trick that made The Beastie Boys or Beck or Outkast sound so fresh - cherry-picking a billion unconnected influences to create a sound that's irrevocably, unmistakably yours, and yours alone.

What's particularly refreshing about Ocean is the way he's constantly set his own agenda. I'm not just talking about the massively over-analysed note posted on his blog last week, in which he talked about his love for another man ("I don't have any secrets I need kept any more"). But also the way he gave away his first, aborted album online for free; the way his name doesn't appear on the cover of Channel Orange; the fact that he's built up a massive buzz without a flashy music video or an all-consuming media blitz.

In other words, people are excited about Frank Ocean's album because they're excited about the music - and that can only be a good thing.

Intrigued? Check out his performance from Jimmy Fallon's chat show last night (his first ever TV appearance) and, if you've got time, have a listen to the album on his website. As he says in the lyrics to Sweet Life, "the best song wasn't the single".

Frank Ocean - Bad Religion

PS: If you're a fan of "physical" CDs, you have to wait til 23rd July for the album.

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New single from The Killers

It's been four years since we last had new material from The Killers. So what can we expect from their new material? A reinvigorated rock group at the peak of their creative powers ? A confusing dubstep side-project? A concept album about László Bíró, inventor of the ball-point pen?

Er... no. The Killers sound exactly the same as they did four years ago.

Exactly. The. Same.

Runaway is the first release from their forthcoming album Battle Born and the only real innovation is that Brandon Flowers has pushed his vocals a little higher in the mix. Otherwise, it's the same old sustained chords, the same old queasy synth line, and the oh-so-familiar military snare drum in the build-up to the last chorus.

It's not a bad song, per se, just a bit disappointing. Have a listen below...

The Killers - Runaways

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Monday, July 9, 2012

First single from X Factor's Amelia Lily

In the vast pantheon of pop, there are a striking number of people with two first names: George Michael, Billy Joel, Les Paul, Cliff Richard, Ray Charles, Bob Marley, Dean Martin, Paul Simon, Carly Simon, Ricky Martin, Toni Basil, Paula Abdul... I could go on.

Thanks to my brilliant mathematical mind (Grade B in AS-Level statistics, suckers) I can conclusively state that having two first names guarantees chart success. How do you account for the bewildering success of Take That? It's not the seductive compositional stylings of Sir Gareth Barlow OBE, it's the full-throttle assault of three double-firsters: Howard Donald, Mark Owen and Robbie William(s).

Given the overwhelming body of evidence, I predict X Factor graduate Amelia Lily will be number one for three months. And if it all goes wrong, she has a hidden trick up her sleeve: A third first name (she was born Amelia Lily Oliver).

Happily for your ears, Ameila's debut single, You Bring Me Joy, isn't an utter crock of shit. Produced by Xenomania, it's an "uptempo dance number" with a repetitive but unshakeable melody.

This is the part where I'd normally say Amelia's come a long way since her TV debut (Tulisa: "You performed like a 30-year-old woman") but, to be honest, her voice was as stunning then as it is now. I really hope this does well. Radio programmers, it's up to you now.

Amelia Lily - You Bring Me Joy

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Florence breaks it down again

Breaking Down is my favourite track on Florence + The Machine's second album, Ceremonials. From the wobbly honky-tonk piano to the tape-slap echo on the drums, it is four minutes of pop perfection - and surprisingly upbeat for a song about depression and paranoia.

The album hasn't exactly set the charts on fire, so I'm pleased to see Breaking Down get a release, because if anything is going to convince people to shell out for Florence's LP at this late stage, it's this song.

The nostalgic, sun-bleached video premiered on Vice Magazine's new YouTube channel (which is very good, by the way) earlier this week. It's one of those cheap and cheerful tour diary efforts, but Florence is always watchable - and it's nice to see some candid, relaxed moments where she's not vamping it up in a wispy gothic fright-dress.

Florence + The Machine - Breaking Down

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Muse's Olympics song now has a video

By now, you will know that Muse have written the official song for the London 2012 Olympic Games. It's called Survival, and here at Discopop Directory, we have been given an EXCLUSIVE look at Matt Bellamy's notebook, where he made all his notes for the lyrics.

Oh, alright, we made that up.

As a number of people have pointed out already, the lyrics are beyond corny. But I have some sympathy: Have you ever tried finding a rhyme for "decathlon"?

In any case, I suspect it'll be the instrumental version that soundtracks the key moments of the summer games. On radio, the thumping bombast and hell's choirs sound more over-inflated than Barclay's Libor rate (BLAM - SATIRE!!!!). But watch the video and suddenly the song makes sense. Cut to a montage of iconic Olympics moments, Survival is as rousing and propulsive as Bellamy and Co must have hoped.

Muse - Survival

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Somebody sound the "summer anthem" klaxon

This new single by Wiley is going to be inescapable this summer. It is also a perfect example of why I will never spend time in Ibiza.

Wiley ft Ms A - Heatwave

So, what do you reckon? It's a great record, isn't it? But in a really hateful way.

I mean, as a pop fan, I'm resigned to the fact that 99% of what I listen to will be shallow. But those lyrics are so unremittingly, punishingly shallow, you couldn't even drown an amoeba in them.

PS: My favourite bit is when Wiley says "When I arrive I'm causing a heatwave" but it sounds like "When I arrive, my balls are caught in a heatwave".

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Charli XCX: A cursory research special

Pop newcomer Charli XCX has made an eye-catching video for her totally excellent song You're The One. We don't know much about Charli XCX, so we typed her name into Google. Here is what Google knows.

  • Charli joined her first band in the school playground when she was seven, and wrote her first album aged 14.

  • The singer hails from Hertfordshire and is now a decrepit old woman, aged 19.

  • Her first gig was in a peanut factory.

  • Her real name is Charlotte Aitchison, but the meaning of her stage name is shrouded in mystery.

  • "Charli XCX sort of means everything," she told Idol magazine, unhelpfully. "It doesn't stand for any word per se. I tried to make it stand for 'Xrated Cunt Xrated' but the label wouldn’t let me."

  • She has been recording with Patrik Berger, who produced Lana Del Rey’s Off To The Races and Robyn’s Dancing On My Own. Which officially makes him a god.

  • "Dark pop is the best way to describe my music, probably," she says. Have confidence in your opinions, Charli, even if they are wrong opinions.

  • She "wishes she could rap" but ends up sounding more like a lady Neil Tenant. A Tenant Lady, if you like.

  • "I think I'm at my strongest when I'm writing about super, crazy love or depressed and how I got fucked over by love," she sensationally revealed to Interview Magazine.

  • One interviewer asked Charli how she gets ready for a gig. She replied: "Sometimes, I'll do a warm up, like some star jumps and shit, but usually I just go for it." We can confirm the importance of clearing your poo passage before a pop performance. Handy hint: A cup of coffee helps relax the muscles.

  • Charli toured the US earlier this year in a Scooby Doo van

  • Geri Halliwell (yes, this Geri Halliwell) once asked Charli what was more important: Making money or being cool. Charli said "I like both." Correct answer.

Thanks, Google.

Charli XCX - You're The One

You're The One is out in the US now and the UK on 19 August. Which seems like an awfully long time away.

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An interview with Dreama, whose new video is very good indeed

Hotly tipped* London rapper Dreama has just released a video for her song CTRL + ALT + DEL, which is a good thing because it is brilliant.

Rather than bang on about the zeitgeisty lyrics, or Dreama's incredible "flow", I thought I'd get her to explain the song herself. Here is what she said:

1) What inspired CTRL + ALT + DEL?
It's inspired by the feeling of being (and having to be) constantly connected to technology, since everything is geared heavily towards the online world. I was abroad recently and had no internet or outside connection on my mobile phone - I felt extremely disconnected, all because the internet was out. That's actually pretty sinister!

2) How many friends is too many friends for an up-and-coming rap "artiste"?
You can never have too many online friends as an up-and-comer. Social networks allow you to reach out an audience you probably wouldn't meet in your day-to-day life. I love that in just a few seconds, a simple post can be sent to someone on the other side of the world. That's awesome.

3) How many social media / email accounts do you have? And what's the most
embarrassing password you've picked?

Too many! Someone's always coming up with the next "must-have" service and you feel like you should at least check it out... That's how they get you! I don't really have an embarrassing password, just the embarrassment that comes with not being able to remember what one I've used for what site. That "forgotten your password" option sure comes in handy... [Editor's note: For the record, at one point my work password was "banjopeculiar", which was funny until someone from IT needed it to install a piece of software on my profile]

4) What more can we expect from Dreama in 2012?
You can expect more music, more gigging and probably more commentary of my love/hate relationship with Eastenders for sure!

5) Recommend another song on your EP for everyone. And one song by someone
else we might not have heard of...

Just one? - Okay, then I choose Opus Opiates - It's definitely a favourite of mine. For the other track, it has to be Skullcrack by Dibia$e. He's a producer from LA & that song is dope! A real head-banger!

CTRL + ALT + DEL is available on Dream's Reifer EP, and the video looks like this.

Dreama - CTRL + ALT + DEL

* By me

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

We will be fine, Jah 9

Every now and again, I like to tune in to Dave Rodigan's reggae show on Radio 2. Informed but informal, Rodigan has a vast knowledge of roots and ska and dancehall, but he wears it lightly. In common with Gilles Peterson on 6 Music or Pete Tong on Radio 1, it's one of those specialist programmes where you can feel the passion seeping through your speakers.

Last night's show ended with a track by a new artist hailing from Kingston, Jamaica - via Falmouth in the south of England. 29-year-old Janine Elizabeth Cunningham goes by the stage name Jah 9, and her nimble, jazz inflections breathe new life into the genre's chukka-chukka rhythms. If Erykah Badu converted to Rastafarianism, she might sound something like this.

Check out the track Brothers below (it's taken from the fantastically-named Silly Walks Discotheque compilation) and keep an eye on Janine's Twitter feed for details of her debut album, due out later this summer.

Jah 9 - Brothers

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Blurred vision

Blur premiered two new songs - Under The Westway and The Puritan - on a Twitter live stream last night. Surprisingly, they're not absolutely horrid.

Under The Westway is the better track, a love letter to London (as seen from the aggressively grey Westway trunk road) that brings to mind the bruised majesty of This Is A Low and The Universal. The Puritan is more uptempo, with Damon sneering a disjointed lyric about the numbing pace of modern life. The tune is rather thin - but Graham Coxon's frantic, squalling guitar line saves the chorus.

Both songs were written for the band's Hyde Park Olympic show, and will feature on the genuinely exciting Blur 21 box set, which comes out in July.

You can hear the two tracks below. Under The Westway's visuals scroll through the song's sheet music, which is the best innovation in lyric videos for about five years. But can we have the guitar tablature next time, please?

Blur - Under The Westway

Blur - The Puritan

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