Thursday, June 27, 2013

Beyonce brings out the summer

Just a quickie, as Beyonce has dropped her new single Standing On The Sun, just as I head out the door to Glastonbury. It's as if she's saying: "Ahem... I still own that".

Standing On The Sun is the same song that briefly appeared on her Jonas Akerlund-directed H&M advert. And if you like your summer songs scorching, this is one for you: "When you touch me I feel the flames licking at my feet," trills Mrs Carter over a frenzy of clapping hands and an insistent piano thrum.

If the rest of her long-gestating album is this good, it'll have been worth the wait.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Prince remixes Janelle Monae

The very first time I came across Janelle Monae, she was performing a tribute to Prince, who was just about to get a lifetime achievement award from BET. As I noted back then, he visibly detested the entire event (and, to be fair, Alicia Keys' performance of Adore was about as exciting as a slumber party at Ed Sheeran's house). Except, that is, for Janelle's loop-de-loop "somebody should really me in a straight jacket" rendition of Let's Go Crazy, which raised a brief but genuine Paisley smile.

Clearly, The Purple Prince recognised a kindred spirit, and he's been keeping tabs on Monae ever since. She was the support act for his Welcome 2 Chicago dates last year, and he reportedly returned the favour by duetting on her album. We won't get to hear that until September - but in the meantime, Prince has remixed Janelle's recent single Q.U.E.E.N. - and he's made a pretty good job of it, too. Sure, it's the same turgid drum beat he's been using since Emancipation, but the rump-shaking booty-quaking head-gyrating funk-making groove is solid Minneapolis gold.

Pinboard says it was first played during Prince's 3rdeye TV stream a few days back. They've isolated it and bunged it up on Soundcloud (hence the rapid fade-out at the end). Expect it to last about 24 hours before Prince's legal team rip it down like bad wallpaper.

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New band alert: Echosmith

Warning: The following information might make you feel sick. Every member in today's featured band was born in the 1990s. Their drummer, aged 14, is not old enough to remember the Spice Girls first time around. Combine their ages and the total is still four years younger than Mick Jagger.

They cannot buy beer, they cannot rent a car, they have never lived in a world without Playstation. But you'd better get used to it, because there's a very high possibility that Echosmith are going to be inescapable.

Formed in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles, they are a real-life Partridge Family: Four clean-living siblings who just happen to be incredibly musically gifted. They are Jamie Sierota (19, guitar), Noah Sierota (17, bass), Graham Sierota (14, drums) and Sydney Sierota (15, vocals).

"We can be really straightforward with each other," says Sydney of being in a band with her brothers. "We let each other know if we really hate an idea. Nobody's being too sensitive here."

Of course, being teenagers, their entire life has been documented in exhaustive detail on Facebook. Here's their story so far, plucked directly from their timeline:

1) "Hey guys, let's start the band right here"

2) The early, brattish era (aka The Hanson era).
At this point, Echosmith were called Ready Set Go.

3) Early lesson: Never have a press shot taken on a moving escalator.

4) The awkward teenage years.

5) The moody teenage years.

6) Signing a deal with Warner Bros.

7) Becoming quite good at concerts now.

8) Styled, coiffed and ready for world domination.

Aw, bless their little cotton socks.

The band have just put a free EP up on their website - inspired, they say, by the likes of The Smiths, New Order, Fleetwood Mac and The Killers. To me, it sounds like super-polished indie pop: Somewhat polite but exceptionally catchy, like Foster The People.

The lead track is called Cool Kids which, says Jamie, is "about a boy and girl who want to be like the cool kids that they see around them." He adds, sagely: "It may seem hard to believe when you don't fit in, but the truth is nobody is really cooler than anybody else."

So now you know.

Echosmith - Cool Kids

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Amelle of 'The Real Sugababes' fame has put her vocals on a useless European dance track

Actually, the headline pretty much tells the whole story. The song is called Love Is All We Need, and the official credited artists are Adam J feat. Amelle & Nightcrashers. It's formulaic, juvenile and pointless - but, on the plus side, it contains the best lyric LOL of the day.

You can listen to it below, if you are so inclined.

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The Vaccines are feeling mellow

Last time we heard from The Vaccines, young Justin was in a right old strop. "I get angrier with age," he snarled on the searing Bad Mood - sounding every bit as taciturn as Andy Murray looks when he's doing his special frowny face.

So what's going on with the band's new single? Because Melody Calling is a washed-out, windswept California dream. Justin sounds like he's on mood stabilisers, singing sotto voce about... well, I'm not quite sure what, but he rhymes ocean with motion, so it's probably best not to delve too deeply.

A cross between The Smiths and REM, by way of The Eagles, this is sure to sound perfect on the Pyramid stage this Friday, where The Vaccines are sandwiched between Professor Green and Dizzee Rascal, for some reason.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Congratulations, the record-buying public

Well done, everyone. By the looks of this afternoon's iTunes chart, it looks like the inexplicable 14-month delay has done nothing to harm the chances of Icona Pop's shouty pop monster, I Love It.

(We'll just ignore that the sex-pest anthem of the summer is still number one, shall we?)

But now that we've got that out of our system, we need a new cause célèbre. To which end, allow me to nominate Icona Pop's countrymen NONONO. Fronted by Stina Wäppling (amazing name) and backed by Astma and Rockwell (whose credits include Icona Pop, natch) they describe themselves as urban-indie, which essentially means they make pop music for bloggists.

It is also worth noting that Stina has not exactly been hit with the ugly stick.

In the normal course of things, NONONO would make it onto the B-list at 6 Music and sell about 34 records. But if we can make Icona Pop proper chart stars, we can do anything. ANYTHING! (maniacal laugh)

Their latest single is called Pumping Blood - but you could take your pick from any of the songs they've uploaded to Soundcloud.

NONONO - Pumping Blood

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Friday, June 21, 2013

An explosion in a wig factory, and five other songs you may have missed

*MUTED FANFARE* This week's new music round-up is a bit of a mixed bag - which presumably means we're heading headfirst into the summer song drought. Nonetheless, there are a few sparkling gems knocking about if you're prepared to look hard enough. And these are they.

1) Breach - Jack
The most bonkers video of the week is this wig-tastic clip from Breach, aka UK house music producer Ben Westbeech. Everything in the video is made out of hair, from the furniture to the dancer who looks like, but probably isn't, Lady Gaga. The song's not bad either - a minimalist, repetitive, but exceedingly catchy, club track.

2) Liz - U Over Them
This is my favourite new track of the week. Liz is an singer from Tarzana, California, whose style harks back to the late 90s robo-R&B of Brandy and Aaliyah. In fact, she sounds so much like Aaliyah, I had to pinch myself. As if to reinforce those millennial reference points, her biggest social media presence is on MySpace. One to watch.

3) Chvrches - The Mother We Share (live)
If Chvrches were suffering nerves on their US television debut they certainly didn't show. This is more down to Lauren's awesome vocals than the band's Chris Lowe double act (note to accountants: one Chris Lowe is usually enough). NB: Spot the radio edit - "fucks up" becomes "stuffs up". Controversial.

4) M.I.A. - Bring The Noize
Never has a song title been more appropriate. This is what happens when you load up a sampler with 82 random noises and push it down the stairs. Invigorating and rubbish all at once.

5) Foals - Bad Habit
I interviewed Yannis Philippakis yesterday for a BBC Glastonbury thing. "Do you get a rider," I asked. "OF COURSE I get a rider," he replied, indignantly. And what's on it? "Oh, just scotch. Lots and lots of scotch".

I have sneaking suspicion Foals' set is going to be one of the festival's unexpected highlights. The band have just come back from a four-month tour of the US, leaner, hungrier, and ready for a home crowd. Their new single is bound to be on the setlist - but it'll be the almighty Inhaler that really sets things off...

6) Alex Metric & Jacques Lu Cont feat Malin off Niki & The Dove – Safe With You
That band name needs a bit of work, but this is a gorgeous and surprisingly soulful slab of Euro House music. A word of warning, though: No matter how great the singer's boyfriend is, I'm not sure it's wise to promise "I'd break my back for you". Just a thought.

That's your lot for now... As ever, send any more tips and suggestions to Cheers!

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A decade of the Arctic Monkeys

Last week marked the 10th anniversary of the Arctic Monkeys' first gig at the Grapes in Sheffield (pictured above). They got paid a measly £27 and mostly played cover versions. One notable exception included a scrappy proto-punk number called, magnificently, Ravey Ravey Ravey Club.

Arctic Monkeys - Ravey Ravey Ravey Club

You know the rest: First single goes straight to number one; First album is the fastest-selling debut in history; Band increasingly surly in interviews; Band boycott the Brits; Dressing up as characters from The Wizard Of Oz; Teaming up with Queens of the Stone Age; Going bowling with P Diddy; Playing at the Olympics Opening Ceremony; and, most importantly, getting covered by the Sugababes.

Next Friday, they'll headline the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury and tradition demands a new single so there's a lull in the set where everyone can go and get a beer. The thing is, the new single is too good to miss... It's out today, it's called Do I Wanna Know? and it comes with an unusual animated video with shades of Pink Floyd's The Wall. Approved.

Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know?

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Angry women video bonanza

Why is everyone so flaming angry all of a sudden? Is it the E numbers in your milkshake? Is it the lack of E numbers in your milkshake? Is it people who keep going on about milkshakes for no discernible reason?

Whatever the cause, the result is some corking pop music. First up is Chvrches' new single Gun, which is basically a four-minute threat over a synth riff. "You had better run from me with everything you own," snarls Lauren Mayberry. "Cause I am going to come for you with all that I have."


Chvrches - Gun

Next up is Chlöe Howl, whose furious No Strings, is finally getting a proper release in August. "You're so immature," she berates some poor schmuck. "You don't even know if I'm the right sex, do ya?"

Again, yikes.

Chlöe Howl - No Strings

Now, can everyone please have a milkshake and calm down?

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Bruno Mars: Not from the archives

He's the Instagram of pop: Bruno Mars keeps putting retro filters over his videos. Treasure, the fourth single from Unorthodox Jukebox, takes me back to Kool & The Gang on Soul Train in 1977. Look at the way the spotlights burn out the camera, and that hopeless strobing effect at 1'15". It's all done with such loving attention to detail, you've got to admire it. And the song's not bad either.

Bruno Mars - Treasure

Update: IndieGoPop just tweeted to ask the question "wouldn't it be better if Bruno synced up his track to proper Soul Train archive footage?" I'm paraphrasing - but it's a valid point. Especially when you see the Daft Punk video they attached.


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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Aluna George continue to drive you insane

Once she's caught that huge inflatable ball, Aluna out of AlunaGeorge is going to serenade you with one of the classics.

You Know You Like It is a song the duo first released in August 2011. Two years has done nothing to diminish its awesomeness - so their label has wisely decided to re-release ahead of the band's debut album, Body Music, in July.

Even better, they've stumped up £80 for a brand new video in a swimming pool and made Aluna dress up as one of Five Star. Bloody brilliant.

AlunaGeorge - You Know You Like It

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(Almost) the return of Mutya Keisha Siobhan

After announcing they were reforming in October 2011, Mutya, Keisha, Siobhan have had a mere 600 days to put together their new single, Flatline. Apparently, that wasn't long enough. The clip they've plonked online today is just 1'11" long and, unusually, it's the last section of the song -- so we hear all of the warbly vocal gymnastics, but precious little of the actual melody. Maybe they haven't finished it yet.

Here's what the snippet tells us.

:: It is mid-tempo.

:: They have deployed the "meaningful" Coldplay snare drum.

:: They have deployed the "meaningful" Coldplay woah-oh backing vocals.

:: Mutya doesn't "want to be in love".

:: The chorus goes: "I can feel the flatline / There oughta be a way / Something, something, something. / Darling I will hang on."

:: Their harmonies are still smack-your-tits-off amazing.


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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nina Nesbitt poetry contest

"I'm working in a retail store
It's not what I'm cut out for."

These are the opening lines of Nina Nesbitt's very good new single Way In The World - a song that captures a teenager's dogged desire to get on with being a proper adult with no curfews and a fridge of their very own.

It's a good couplet, but I wonder if it could be improved with a little more detail? Here are a few alternatives, provided free of copyright for Nina to use in her forthcoming concerts and televisual appearances.

"I'm working in a retail store.
The biscuits are in aisle four."

"A job in telesales have I,
Were you ever mis-sold PPI?"

"I'm working in a laundromat,
Some guy just tried to wash his cat."

"I'm glad to have a job today.
The economy's in disarray."

"My job is in a branch of Homebase.
I have a disdain for customers that borders on the psychopathic and my knowledge of our stock could be rivalled by that of a two-year-old. Do you have a Nectar card?"

Fair play, Nina, it's harder than it seems. If you think yo can do better, leave your effort in the comments (or on Twitter) and I'll send a personalised mix CD or something to the best one.

Way In The World is out on 22 July. The video is full of jolly seaside-based antics, as you can clearly see.

Nina Nesbitt - Way In The World

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Polica: More than a mere tiff

"A portrait of a woman as her own worst enemy," is how Polica introduce the video for their latest single, Tiff.

It's a horrifying, disturbing piece of work: Stephen King's Misery played out as a Freudian psychodrama (actually, Karen Horney is a more apt psychological touchstone than Freud, but if I called the video a Horney psychodrama you'd only get the wrong impression).

If you can stomach the brutal violence, it's a powerful piece of work - and one that really draws you into Channy Leaneagh's sinister lyrics.

Polica - Tiff (ft Justin Vernon of Bon Iver)

Fact corner: Tiff is out now. Polica's second album Shola Ama Shulamith follows in "The Fall". You can also catch them live in the UK with The xx and Solange (yippee!) at the Night And Day festival in Hertfordshire next weekend.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Disclosure - can we have a bonus disc, please?

Disclosure's debut album Settle is currently sitting pretty at number one and, even though I found it slightly underwhelming, I'd still be up for a deluxe edition later this year. The band have been out on the promotional trail over the last week, building up a catalogue of potential bonus tracks that could eventually overshadow the album itself. FOR EXAMPLE:

1) An incredible live performance with Jessie Ware

2) A wobblesome remix by Australian boy genius Flume

3) The Ria Ritchie song they "accidentally" left off the album

4) A relatively faithful cover of Duke Dumont's 100%

5) This Artful Dodger remix that's been knocking about for months but I only just discovered on Sunday when I idly typed 'Disclosure' into the Soundcloud search page.

6) This b-side from their first EP that sounds like James Blake suddenly discovered he has a pulse.

That should be enough to be getting on with. If we could have this bonus disc by "close of play" on 30 October, I'd be very grateful. It should be called Unsettled and have a picture of a giraffe on the front. Thanks.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

A*M*E and the fine art of "video face"

One of the most important weapons in a pop star's arsenal is the ability to pull stupid faces in music videos. Here are my top 10 all-time favourites.

10) David Bowie and Mick Jagger

"...Bet you can't catch this Malteser in your mouth."

9) The Edge

"For the last time, Bono, I am certain you don't have verrucas."

8) Britney Spears

"Does anyone remember how to take this coat off?"

7) Dave Grohl

"I don't want to freak you out, but I think I'm beginning to lactate."

6) Elton John

"I feel awesome. I look awesome. I am awesome."

5) Erica Mena

"Honestly, I'm as surprised as you are that my shirt popped open when I lay down in this bath."

4) George Michael

"I wonder if she knows I borrowed her hair spray?"

3) Prince

"OK, guys, who farted?"

2) Nicki Minaj

"Seriously, though, who farted?"

1) Timbaland

"Er... Sorry, everyone."

It would appear that A*M*E has been paying close attention to this aspect of her burgeoning musical career, because the video for her new single Heartless has approximately 17 "Rita Hayworth gave good face" moments.

She hasn't quite settled on her signature look yet, but I reckon it's only a matter of time before she elbows her way into that top 10.

A*M*E - Heartless

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Honey, I shrunk the Taylor Swift & Ed Sheeran

It's an old trope - get little kids to dress up like adult pop stars and put them in a music video. Everyone wins because (a) it's supercute and (b) the pop stars don't have to turn up for the video shoot.

Clearly, the trick still works on me, because the promo for Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran's duet Everything Has Changed is something of a triumph. Beautifully shot and edited, it'll give your heartstrings a delicate little tug. *ping*

I'm no fan of the song, though. In fact, I'd rather hear that school band that pops up at 1'15". They clearly ROCK.

Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran - Everything Has Changed

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A new song comes out of Ria Ritchie

Who the heck is Ria Ritchie?
She's a tiny lady with a big voice and even bigger hair.
Here she is wearing a lemon tea cosy on her head.

Wait. Haven't I seen her somewhere before?
Yes, she sang on Disclosure's breakout hit Control last summer.

I've just checked, and that song isn't on their album.
No, which is a shame because it's a dozen times better than some of the rubbish that did make the final cut.

Oh, come on. The reviews been brilliant? It's the dance album of the summer for people who don't think the Daft Punk album is the dance album of the summer.
This reviewer wasn't so keen. Admittedly, one star is too harsh, but a lot of the time Disclosure seem to run out of ideas and press the "wobble" button until the song ends.

So Ria Ritchie, then?
Yes, sorry. Ria comes from Lowestoft and has been self-releasing VERY GOOD singles like Only One and Something About You over the last year.

That last one sounds like Katy B.
I know.

Do all of her songs sound like Katy B?
No. Ria is an "accomplished songwriter" and can do all sorts of things. For example, her new EP is a collection of acoustic numbers.

Oh God, no.
Don't worry, it's not a total borefest. The lead track, Wrong Side Of Paradise, has a bassline that's twistier than a slinky. And the final one, Peculiar, was written with Plan B "over a bottle of JD".

Isn't that how all songs are written?
No, Dave Grohl writes all of his songs over a bottle of plum juice. Rihanna prefers a weak lime cordial. Ed Sheeran can only absorb liquids by osmosis.

Is this particular song any good, then?
The acoustic version is very pleasant in a Natalie Imbruglia sort of way. But the final mix, with clattering drums and apocalyptic strings is basically indestructible.

Oooh, good. When is that coming out?
Who knows? Ria is still unsigned - but I suspect that situation is about to change.

Where can I find out more?
Ria Ritchie is on Facebook and Twitter. And here is an interview she did with some bloke at the BBC last year. And, of course, you can buy her EP on the iTunes.

Ria Ritchie - Wrong Side Of Paradise

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hot Chip make a surprise return

I was watching an episode of BBC quiz show Pointless this morning. You know the one - it's basically a poshed-up version of Family Fortunes, where the contestants try to guess the least popular answers to taxing questions like "What are the names of some Tom Cruise films?"

The topic for the final round was Top 40 singles by Prince. The contestants were flummoxed.

"I don't like Prince," complained a gurning cretin called Ciaran. "Nobody like Prince."

In the end, he and his partner came up with three possible answers: Purple Rain, 1999 and Get In My Car. That last one, by the way, is by David Hasselhoff.

Do you know who would have aced that round? Hot Chip. They never stop banging on about Prince. In fact, there's even a Hot Chip album track called Down With Prince, featuring the immortal refrain: "Gettin' down with your royal badness". So Alexis and Joe and the rest would surely have guessed some of those pointless answers: Batdance, Anotherloverholenyohead, 7, Controversy. There were quite a few.

Now, despite their rabid fandom, Hot Chip have never really captured the prowling sexuality of Prince's best work. But as they said in this Guardian interview, the point of inspiration isn't copying your idols, but being led by their example. So the band apply Prince's patented formula of sonic experimentation in a pop template, to come up with intriguingly twisted singles like Dark & Stormy, a wholly unexpected new single that pounced on the internet earlier this week.

With the band currently pursuing a range of solo projects, it's not clear whether this is a one-off or the first volley from a new album. Either way, it's one of the best things they've done in ages.

Hot Chip - Dark and Stormy

The single is out on iTunes now. Or, if you're achingly hip (and prepared to wait for a bit) you can pre-order it on 10" vinyl for 22nd July.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Alert: There is new music from TLC!

As if to atone for the debacle that was Stooshe's Waterfalls, the song's original vocalists TLC have dragged themselves out of retirement to appear on J Cole's new single.

For those of you who don't remember, TLC were briefly the most successful all-female act in the history of recorded music, before they went bankrupt and mental. They were called exotic things like T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye (RIP). They won four Grammys and wore condoms on their faces. And they made this song.

And they made this song.

And they made this song.

And they made this song (which is responsible for a million other tedious girlband "anthems" about loving the way you look and not taking any nonsense from anyone, least of all "your man").

In case you don't get how awesome and groundbreaking TLC were at the height of their powers, here is a list of things TLC are better than:

:: En Vogue
:: Destiny's Child
:: The Supremes
:: The Spice Girls
:: B*Witched
:: The Beatles
:: Any other band whose name is a mnemonic for the members' names
:: Yes, that includes ABBA
:: Tigers

So, it's decided, then: TLC rule.

This new song is called Crooked Smile and it has the band's gorgeous, croaky harmonies all over it, supplemented by a Benny-and-the-Jets piano and (hooray!) a fulsome gospel choir. It's from a new J Cole album or something but, let's face it, this post isn't about him at all.

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Vampire Weekend pay loving tribute to Bohemian Rhapsody

At least, I think that's what they're doing.

The image comes from the video for Diane Young - the pitch-shift-tastic lead single from Vampire Weekend's (terriffic) new album, Modern Vampires of the Night. As you can probably tell, it's a little odd. But that drum riff is still as exciting as hell.

Vampire Weekend - Diane Young

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The return of Rizzle Kicks

Hooray! Everyone's favourite humpers are back with a brand new song that heralds their "sophomore" (second) album. The album is called The Roaring 20s, which is play on words, because the 1920s are commonly known as the Roaring 20s; and Rizzle Kicks have been having a lot of fun since they turned 20. As you can see, it works on several (two) levels.

The first single is similarly puntastic. Harvey and Jordan are rapping about the kerrrrazy antics they get up to when they're not busy being pop stars - noting after every one "that was classic". But - and this is the clever bit - they are rapping over a sample of ye olde jazz worlde muzick, which is also a "classic". Hilarious.

It's such a good joke, in fact, that Adam And Joe did it as a jingle on their 6 Music show in 2008.

Still, you can't be curmudgeonly about a Rizzle Kicks single. They're just so smashing and lovable, and this song is going to sound great in the sun.


Rizzle Kicks - That's Classic

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