Tuesday, July 30, 2013



I'm on holiday in Hay-On-Wye this week - but I couldn't let the release of Haim's new single pass unmentioned. 

The Wire [insert Stringer Bell reference here] is instantly recognisable as a Haim sisters' track, from Danielle's syncopated vocals to the Alana's honking stabs at the keyboard. Add in a glam rock stomp and a tasty guitar lick, and you've got a winner. 

Last week, I heard a bunch of music industry dimwits sneering "huh, haven't Haim finished their album yet?" - but surely it's better to get the all-important debut right? It's only 12 months since their first single and, taking The Wire into account, they haven't put a musical foot wrong since. Yes, it might have been better to get something out there before Gaga and Arcade Fire and Katy Perry. But then we'd have been robbed of Este's Glastonbury bassface. 

The Wire is out on 23rd September. An album presumably follows in the run-up to Crimbo. Hallelujah. 

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sound the amazing tune klaxon for A*M*E

Saucer-eyed songstress A*M*E has teamed up with Francophone DJ type Monsieur Adi to make a song called What's Going On.

Lyrically, the song's no match for its Marvin Gaye namesake. "Don't punish me with brutality" kind of shits all over "Steady are you ready what's going on". (On the other hand, it's a quintillion times better than "hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey I said hey what's going on").

Anyway, the song is an orchestrally-scored disco monster, incorporating elements of Soul II Soul's Back To Life and generally being incredible. There's no information on when you can buy it, but you can just set this soundcloud player on repeat until that day arrives.

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Sam Smith goes solo on Safe With Me

Here's some good news: Sam Smith, the vocalist behind Naughty Boy's La La La and Disclosure's Latch, has gone solo and he's not rubbish.

Safe With Me is the lead track from his debut EP (we seem to be glossing over the smoky ballad Lay Me Down that came out earlier this year). It's a lot less frantic than his featured-artist tracks, but proves to be a gorgeous showcase for his keening soul vocals.

There's something of a Daniel Merriweather vibe to the solo tracks we've heard from Sam so far, but don't hold that against him. The tape-loop soundwash and disembodied backing vocals on Safe With Me (courtesy of R&B cut-and-slash merchants Two Inch Punch) make it a strangely affecting track.

The track has been "blowing up" on Twitter today. Here's my favourite response.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fiona Apple gets her knives out

Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel Is A Wheel Of Steel And A Banana Split Will Give You Indegestion Faster Than A Hare On A Jetpack Can Eat A Patch Of Carrots Do You Know My Brother He Is Batman Wango Mango Oblong Trousers (commonly abbreviated to The Idler Wheel...) is more than a year old, but she’s only just got round to releasing the best song off it as a single.

That song is Hot Knife – a flirtatious double entendre (“If I’m butter, then he’s a hot knife”) sung in the round, with multiple Apples chanting over a rumbling kettle drum. Rolling Stone ranked it 12th in their top 50 songs of 2012. They had a point.

Fiona Apple - Hot Knife

Interesting fact: The video was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson - whose credits include Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood. He was briefly Fiona's own hot knife in the 1990s. Nice to see that exes can be all grown up and mature and work together without pulling each other's hair out.

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Daft Punk don't do music videos, so here are some Daft Punk music videos

Daft Punk's first two music videos - the one with the dog-man and the one with the dancers on a staircase - were incredible. Since then, though, they seem to have gone off the idea. All the songs for Discovery were accompanied by scenes from an anime called Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, which looked like a dodgy pirate copy of cartoon Battle Of The Planets.

They started making a video for Get Lucky but lost interest after 90 seconds, and there's no sign of any other footage for the Random Access Memories album.

But stepping bravely into the breach comes American Vogue magazine, who have turned their photoshoot with the robots into a pseudo-video for Give Life Back To Music. It features the duo and supermodel Karlie Kloss catching a New York cab. AS IF THEY DON'T HAVE THEIR OWN SPACESHIP.

Elsewhere, a clearly drunk Florence "+ the machine" Welch has been filmed performing Get Lucky with professional wedding band Sourberry. While drinking tequila shots.

But my favourite (apart from the nine-minute loop of Ron Swanson dancing to Get Lucky) is still this groovalicious fan video for Lose Yourself To Dance. Dig those flares.

Maybe Lady Gaga should take note - there's no need to deplete your bank balance creating ambitious mini movies about the struggle between art and commerce and sexuality and haircuts. All you need to do is create the most talked-about album of the year and sit back while everyone else does the work for you. Easy.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Here is a brand new song from The Naked And Famous

That song is called Hearts Like Ours and it is, in common parlance, a cracking tune. It wouldn't be such a cracking tune if it weren't for the unexpected chord change right after the chorus, but that's the sort of thing that sets great pop songs apart from Olly Murs' pop songs. Well, that and the smug, punchable face.

Hearts Like Ours is from The Naked And Famous's second album, which is out in two months time.

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They danced all night to the best song ever

Now, look. I’m not a Onesie or whatever it is One Direction fans call themselves these days, but the video for Best Song Ever is rather smashing.

Not the song – which is serviceable but uninspired – but the prelude. It’s an SM:TV-style sketch, penned by James Corden, in which the band meet a team of Hollywood “creatives”, played by themselves. In particular, Liam’s turn as deranged movie exec Les Grossman (Tom Cruise’s character from Tropic Thunder) is magnificent.

The rest of the video is standard boyband stuff: Oooh, look at us being naughty and boisterous. But there’s a nice moment towards the end when the “pop group who don’t do choreography” begrudgingly do some awful choreography.

Best Song Ever is out now, etc, etc.

One Direction - Best Song Ever

PS: Zayn makes a very convincing woman, doesn’t he?

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Video: Lissie - Further Away (Romance Police)

"Does anyone love anyone any more?"

Wow. There are sad songs and there are bleak songs, and then there's this, the latest single from Lissie, which is the sound your soul makes when it's punctured by a rusty nail of betrayal and slowly deflates.

Seriously, is there a more desolate lyric than that? Does anyone love anyone any more? How disillusioned with humanity do you have to be to write something like that? It can only mean one thing: Lissie just watched an Adam Sandler film.

But there's a fine and noble tradition in pop of disguising really sad words with really happy tunes; and this is no exception. There's a bunch of wide open guitar chords and sing-song backing vocals that balance out Lissie's hoarsely-delivered anguish.

Then, right at the end, she breaks out a screeching guitar solo that makes you want to stand, legs spread, on the top of a mountain, fighting off ninjas and tossing your hair like Beyonce.

Because there's still no better way to get over your boyfriend snogging someone else than a massive musical STUFF YOU.

Lissie - Further Away (Romance Police)

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Oh Lorde, trouble so hard

Say hello to Lorde, a 17-year-old songsmith from the wild and windswept terrains of New Zealand. Here she is in a black room with a dog.

Lorde’s proper name is Ella Yelich O'Connor, and she was discovered "after I sang in my school talent show" in Auckland. "It got video’d, and it got to a guy at Universal," she continued, as if this was how everyone in the world got signed to a major international record label.

The label tried to set her up with a bunch of (unnamed) songwriters and producers but it all went a bit wrong, so she was encouraged to write for herself. That led to an EP called The Love Club, which went to number one in New Zealand last November. Here is the best bit.

The Love Club hasn’t been released yet in the UK but, as luck would have it, a very good remix has just been made available as a free download.

Meanwhile, follow-up single Royals got spotted by Buzzfeed – propelling it into the US iTunes chart. And there’s a sort-of-current song (released in June) called Tennis Court, which is all floaty and gauzy like a Sofia Coppola film. Except Lorde lampoons Coppola’s studied ennui with a lyric that insists teenagers should stop pretending to be cool and just get on with it. It is very good.

Lorde – Tennis Court

And that brings us up-to-date. Lorde is just back from playing a bunch of gigs in the US and is studying to finish her international baccalaureate, all the while adding to her collection of “more than 1,000 temporary tattoos”.

I suspect that once the album’s finished, there’ll be a proper assault on the UK charts. Consider your self warned.

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Icona Pop have a new video

You wait a year for Icona Pop to release a single, then two come along at once. Hot on the heels of I Love It, here's the video for Girlfriend - a sort of shouty EDM Thelma and Louise.

I spoke to Aino last month about the song's Tupac reference. Here's what she had to say:

"We are huge Tupac fans. We made a fun twist: He was singing about his gun, and we're singing about our friendship.

"We actually had to write a letter to Tupac's mum to ask if we could use that part. We sent her the song and she liked it. We're very honoured to be able to use it."

You can read the full interview here.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

The first music video recorded with Google Glass and other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of songs that didn't fit elsewhere on the blog. Oddities, scraps, previews and noteworthy new bands all end up here. It's like the dumper, but with a higher quality threshold.

1) Wallpaper - Last Call
California's Ricky Reed is no stranger to gimmicks: For a start, he's really called Eric Frederic. Then there are his deliberately irritating song titles - #STUPiDFACEDD; BEST FUCKING SONG EVERRR, etc.

For his new single, he's nabbed a pair of Google Glasses and filmed a live performance from a festival show in Phoenix, Arizona. If you avoid motion sickness, it's fascinating to see "through the performer's eyes". I suspect this will become a regular feature of live videos for a year or so, before the Google headset goes the way of the Sinclair C5.

2) Kings Of Leon - Super Soaker
Just ahead of their V Festival headline slot, Kings Of Leon unleash the first single from their sixth album. Muscular and melodic, it's a return to form after 2010's perplexing Come Around Sundown. NB: Contains bass solo.

3) Mutya Keisha Siobhan - Flatline (lyric video)
And so it continues... MKS's promo campaign has all the momentum of a sloth on rohypnol. This week, they announced their new album won't be out until 2014. Why? What's left to do? How long are the sleeve notes going to be? Are they playing a weird musical game of chicken with Beyonce?

WHO KNOWS but Flatline is still incredible. And now it has a lyric video to tide you over until the actual video, which will in turn tide you over for the single release, the second single, the X Factor performance, the album poster campaign, the glossy magazine cover, the iTunes album stream, the YouTube teaser video and, maybe, the eventual album release.

By which time, MKS will be in cryogenic storage,

4) Pond - Xanman
Aussie band Pond are signed to the same label as Tame Impala and, on this evidence, you can see why. Xanman is kaleidoscopic psychedelia with riffs that crunch like celery. It's throwback without being derivative. And, yes, the video is supposed to look this crappy.

5) Demi Lovato - Made In The USA
This doesn't scale the heights of Demi's all-conquering Heart Attack but as follow-up singles go, it's not bad. Aside from the lyrics. They're fucking awful. "When I'm cold you're there like a sweater". Sheesh.

6) Dornik - Something About You
Dornik Leigh is Jessie J's drummer. If you've seen her live, he generally comes to the front of the stage once a night to duet with her on Valentine - at which points all the girls go all swoonsome and weak at the knees.

Dornik's debut solo track shares some of Jessie's late-night DNA, with a splash of water from Frank' Ocean. Due out on PMR Records (home to Jessie and Disclosure) next month, it's quite the thing.

7) Karmin - Acapella
US duo Karmin became notorious for the YouTube covers - especially their version of Chris Brown's Look At Me Now, which got them noticed by Ellen DeGeneres and Ryan Seacrest. If you haven't seen it, it's great fun, as 27-year-old Amy Heidmann buzzes through Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes' rapid-fire raps. Here's the link.

Long story short - they're signed to Epic, they've had a big hit in the US with a Katy Perry-esque "banger" called Brokenhearted, and A Capella is their new single, featuring the sage advice: "Never ever go dutch at the buffet".

If you've seen their old YouTube videos, this is hugely rewarding and full of charm. If you haven't you're going to think they're like The Ting Tings, only more annoying.

That's this week's selection... Keep coming back for more.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

A new tune from Summer Camp

"Glorious", "Shimmering", "Refreshing", "Ridiculously Awesome", "Dancehall Portishead": That's what people said about the debut album from Summer Camp, Welcome To Condale.

I never managed to buy a copy, so I'll have to take their word for it. But I have listened to their new single, Fresh, and it is terrific. Glorious, Shimmering and Refreshing, in fact. It sounds nothing like Portishead, though. More like a dreamy 1950s girlband remixed by The Avalanches.

Judge for yourself below.

Summer Camp - Fresh

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Marina reveals Lies video & new album

Marina And The Diamonds promised to make a video for every song on her Electra Heart album come hell, high water, or bankruptcy. So here's video number 10, for one of the album's best tracks, Lies - a heartbreak ballad that shudders so hard, it's like the keyboards themselves are wracked with tears.

"You only want to touch me in the dark," sings Marina. "Only when you're drinking can you see my spark". These aren't lyrics, they're scars.

Marina once described Lies as "very personal" and "completely honest". Fittingly, then, she's scrubbed off all her make-up, bar the (Electra) heart-shaped beauty spot. And she looks even more gorgeous than ever.

Marina and the Diamonds - Lies

In other good news, Marina is releasing a new(-ish) album later this year. She's only just announced the title - 11 Diamonds - and the artwork, but the idea seems to be that it will feature previously unreleased tracks, recorded between 2008-2010. It's being compiled by her first record label, Neon Gold, which released the single Obsessions in 2008 and the Crown Jewels EP in 2009, before handing Ms Diamandis over to the lovely people at Atlantic.

More details forthcoming on www.elevendiamonds.co - which looks like an incomplete URL, but isn't.


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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Listen - Emiliana Torrini: Speed Of Dark

Unless you're reading this in Iceland, you probably won't know Emiliana Torrini. For the rest of you she is an Icelandic woman of the female variety, who gives "good eyes" in photographic reproductions of her face.

If you live in the UK, you will be aware of one song she has written. It was sung by Kylie Minogue - another artist who's adept at the smouldering eye thing.

Coincidence? I think not.

Elsewhere in the world, Emiliana is known for Big Jumps, a single released almost as an afterthought from her third album.

It went to number one in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Germany but was denied the top spot in Finland by this masterpiece.

Stupid Finland.

But Emiliana is no one-hit-wonder. She has one bona fide classic album, 2005's Fisherman's Woman, and about a dozen other brilliant pop songs. Like this one.

She's been off for a couple of years, having a baby, suffering writer's block and almost dying in an aeroplane... But thankfully she survived all of that, and has just premiered her new single - an insidiously catchy indie-dance track called Speed Of Dark.

"After you have a baby there comes a time where you need to go out with your girlfriends and dance," she explains of the song. "I went to the studio and did a dance track... From that the sound of the [album] was born, it was a challenge bringing it all together."

It's available to download now, as long as you promise to pre-order Emiliana's new album. You won't be disappointed if you do.

Emiliana Torrini - Speed Of Dark

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Goldfrapp return in mellow mode

How nice to have Alison Goldfrapp back, whispering gossamer melodies into our ears like a curly blonde sprite of pop.

The first taster from Goldfrapp's sixth album, Tales Of Us, is called Drew - and it sees the band go back to the pastoral pop of 2008's Seventh Tree album.

In fact, Drew is a very close cousin to that album's opening track, Clowns (except it's not about boob jobs). Opening with a distant piano and barely-there vocal, it coasts along like a hot air balloon, swept gently over the hills by the currents of a sumptuous string quartet. What I'm trying to say is: it's beautiful.

Looking at the track listing for Tales Of Us, it appears that all of the songs are pen portraits of (female?) fictional characters - Jo, Annabel, Thea and Clay nestle up alongside Drew. You might find out more concrete information if you head over to their gig at Somerset House on Saturday. Maybe I'll see you there.

Goldfrapp - Drew

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: Justin Timberlake at Wireless 2013

"I'm sorta drunk," says Justin Timberlake, adopting a cor blimey 'ave a gander at them luverly cockles London accent. "I'm a sloight bit pissed".

If we ever needed conclusive proof that he should give up acting, this was it... Except he'd already destroyed any memories of his cruelly-overlooked performances in "Black Snake Moan" and "Yogi Bear: The Movie" with a non-stop, solid gold, rump-shaking 2-hour spectacular.

He hit the ground running with Like I Love You, My Love, Cry Me A River - a trio of hits most artists would reserve for an encore. "Are we there yet?" he asked, as he finally paused for breath. "I think we're there".

Translation: "Have I played enough of the good ones that you'd excuse some of the tedious crap off my new album?"

Only that wasn't it at all. Justin had de-crapped the crap ones. Pusher Love Girl shed its 92-minute b-section; Tunnel Vision gained a chaotic climax that veered thrillingly into drum and bass; He didn't play the one about the Spaceship Coupe at all.


Accents aside, he's a versatile performer, playing electric piano on a salsafied Señorita and twanging his acoustic guitar for What Goes Around / Comes Around. But it was the footwork, not the fretwork, that really impressed.

Justin's feet, as we know, are fitted with steam jets and hummingbird wings that enable him to glide across the stage on a cushion of air. He dances with such effortless panache that you think "oh yeah, I totally see how he does that" until you try it out and collapse in a bitter twist of leg parts, elbones and underpants.

The audience only kept up with him once, during a cover of The Jacksons' Shake Your Body Down (To The Ground). "I wanna shovel the floor," Justin grinned, as he mimed clearing a snowdrift off his drive... In the middle of summer. In a car park covered with astroturf.

The Jacksons song, the obvious inspiration for his "brand, baby-spanking new" single Take Back The Night, wasn't the only cover in a set targeted firmly at a festival audience. We also got INXS's Need You Tonight and Jay-Z's I Just Want To Love You (Give It To Me), before the real Jay-Z appeared during the encore for Suit And Tie.

"I'm stunned," said Justin as he surveyed the Olympic Park audience. "I won't leave it this long again next time." Then he promised "a few more surprises" over the weekend. Jay-Z headlines the festival on Saturday, and the two superstars play a joint set on Sunday. Given that Justin had earlier teased a verse from N****s In Paris, it might be worth snapping up the few remaining tickets tonight.


Like I Love You
My Love
Cry Me A River - incorporating N****s In Paris
Pusher Love Girl
Summer Love
That Girl
Tunnel Vision
Let The Groove Get In
FutureSex / Lovesound
Need You Tonight
Lovestoned / I Think She Knows
Until The End Of Time
Take Back The Night
Rock Your Body - incorporating I Just Want To Love You (Give It To Me)
Shake Your Body Down (To The Ground)
What Goes Around... / ...Comes Around (acoustic)

Suit And Tie

And a final word from JT...

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Britney Spears is surprised by a smurf and other songs you may havemissed

It's time for the semi-regular round-up of songs that appeared on the internet this week, but didn't warrant a blog post of their own because I am lazy.

1) Britney Spears - Ooh La La
A not-particularly-good video for a not-particularly-good song from the Smurfs 2 Soundtrack. Britney's kids are cute, though, and her "surprised face" is priceless.

2) Justin Timberlake - Take Back The Night
Earlier this week, Justin's 20/20 Experience broke 2m sales in the US - so now it's time to launch phase II.  Take Back The Night is the first single from 20/20 Volume 2, which is due in September. Sounding like an Off The Wall bonus track, it's light on it's feet and heavy on the brass. 

3) Miguel ft Jessie Ware - Adorn (Remix)
Miguel's Adorn is the slow jam of the year. And now it has added Jessie Ware. What's not to love?

4) The xx - Sunset (Jamie xx edit)
Jamie xx's remix of his own single is a masterpiece in (you guessed it) pared-down sadtronica. The video's cheap but lovely, syncing the song to an old French TV show. Anyone know who the artist in the original video is?

5) Regina Spektor - You've Got Time
Regina has recorded the theme song for the TV show Orange Is The New Black, which is the latest series from the team behind Weeds. Based on Piper Kerman's prison memoirs, the first 13-episode season was dumped onto Netflix yesterday. Creator Jenji Kohan says she "listened to Regina's albums obsessively while writing the series" and asked her to compose the theme tune. She did, and here it is.

6) Mr Hudson - Fred Astaire
After his Big Kids project failed to take off, Mr Hudson is back as a solo act, and his voice is as captivating as ever. Fred Astaire is a classic, stylish soul groove but, irritatingly, video director Rankin keeps interrupting it for snatches of dialogue. NB: Contains bottoms.

7) Rhye - The Fall (live on Jimmy Kimmel)
This is simply beautiful.

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Lady Gaga's ArtPop press release decoded

Good news: Lady Gaga has confirmed she'll have a new single out in five weeks, on 19th August. It'll be followed in November by an album - the long-awaited ArtPop. That's the artwork above. It's good, isn't it? She looks like a sexy welder.

Bad news: The whole project is wrapped up in a "high concept", which includes an app (God help us) and a whole load of mumbo jumbo about Gaga's "cultural interface".

There is a press release, which is written in that impenetrable language they use in art gallery catalogues. It is insufferable bollocks. But let's try to decode at least some of it.

"Built by TechHAUS, the technological branch of HAUS OF GAGA, the app itself is a musical and visual engineering system"

Great - the app gets top billing. Interestingly, it will combine music AND pictures. Imagine that.

"...that combines art, fashion, and technology with a new interactive worldwide community 'the auras'."

Lady Gaga already has her own social network at littlemonsters.com. This looks like an app version of that project. Interestingly, she pulled back from her Twitter account on Monday. Gaga's bio on the site now reads "This interface has been shutdown temporarily. Please check back for updates."

"Altering the human experience with social media"


"...we bring ARTculture into POP in a reverse Warholian expedition."

Andy Warhol was fascinated by the cult of celebrity, so what is "reverse Warhol"? Is Gaga, the self-proclaimed Fame Monster, dispensing with stardom?

Maybe she will endure a forced return to anonymity - obscuring her face, declining interviews, rejecting photoshoots - to explore whether music can exist in a cultural vacuum. In doing so, she poses the ultimate question: Can there be pop without a pop star?

"Exploring Gaga's existence as a cultural interface"

Or maybe not.

"The user will share in the 'adrenaline of fame'"

The user will post messages like "@ladygaga ¡Hola! from Spain PLEASE FOLLOW ME I LOVE YOU SO MUCH" .

"As they build and share their own projects, chat with one another, and watch in real-time on a virtual globe as ARTPOP explodes onto the physical and virtual universe at once on November 11, our 'BIG BANG!'"

The user will talk about Lady Gaga's album, and then listen to Lady Gaga's album. On a "virtual globe" - also known as "a circle".

"On this day, HAUS OF GAGA venges with forte to bring the music industry into a new age"

"Venges with forte"

"An age where art drives pop, and the artist once again is in control of the 'icon'."

Sorry, I'm still stuck on "venges with forte".

"In turn, the album ARTPOP musically mirrors Gaga's creative process"

HOORAY! Finally, we get something about the music.

But what does this tell us? Surely every album ever released is a mirror of the artist's creative process. You know, because it is the end product of that creative process.

It's like toast. Toast is a mirror of the toasting process.

"As she passes through the medium of each artist she collaborates with, scoring a blueprint of her journey."

Lady Gaga has collaborated with people on this album. The songs that she has written reflect both Lady Gaga's style, but also that of her collaborators.

"The result a "rage of electronic passion and fury, defining each artistic process from beginning to end."

It sounds like Nine Inch Nails.

"ARTPOP could mean anything."

Or, like this press release, it could mean nothing.

"But, for her, this is a celebration of obsession."

[whispers] By Calvin Klein.

"And on November 10, she will host an evening of artRave exhibiting House of Gaga's projects as well as collaborations with Inez and Vinoodh; Robert Wilson, Marina Abramovic, Jeff Koons."

This last bit is actually quite interesting... Gaga is a genius at curating artists (look at her stage designs, costumes and videos). The people she mentions are all high-profile, important visual artists - including photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who took this incredible portrait of Mila Kunis, amongst others.

Robert Wilson is an avant-garde theatre director, famous for his "silent opera" Deafman Glance and collaborations with other artistically-inclined musicians such as Lou Reed and Philip Glass.

Marina Abramovic is a renowned Serbian performance artist. She once sat for 736 hours in the atrium of the Museum Of Modern Art in New York, becoming a real-life exhibit. Her performance inspired Jay-Z's video shoot for Picasso Baby, which took place over six hours (the wimp) at MoMA this week. Abramovic was present for the filming - an event onlookers captured on their phones.

Finally, Jeff Koons is incredible - a master of the surreal, working mostly with large-scale sculptures. His most tabloid-friendly work was a gold-plated porcelain statue of Michael Jackson cuddling his chimpanzee, Bubbles. But I've always been partial to his massive, stainless steel sculptures of balloon animals.

So, in summary: The Art side looks promising. Let's just hope the Pop isn't a massive letdown - because at the minute it seems like a bit of an afterthought.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

She She She Shine On

Laura Mvula produced the first proper "Glastonbury moment" of 2013 when she segued from her album track I Can't Make You Love Me into a sun-drenched cover of Bob Marley's One Love.

"That’s the clever idea of my musical director Troy Miler," she told me afterwards, "whose last appearance here at Glastonbury was with Amy Winehouse, so he knows what he’s talking about."

Mvula clearly surrounds herself with talented people - her manager is the man who discovered Shola Ama on a train platform in Hammersmith, and she co-wrote her album with Steve Brown, who's played with and produced music for Elton John, The Sex Pistols and George Michael. YouTube doesn't say who directed the video for the singer's latest single, She, but they're obviously pretty accomplished, too.

Laura Mvula - She

That's not to take anything away from Mvula herself - her music is singularly original, incorporating elements of soul, spirituals, R&B, pop and chamber music to produce something instantly familiar, but totally unrecognisable. Not for nothing did NPR describe her album as "songs that sound like the whole world at once". I'd say she's a shoo-in for the Mercury shortlist later this year.

PS: Is it just me, or did you come away from that video singing The Circle Of Life?

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Elliphant in the room

It's not an earth-shattering musical innovation, but mixing dancehall reggae and Swedish pop is at the very least "quite interesting". And that makes producer/MC Elliphant (Ellinor Olovsdotter to her gran) "quite interesting" because that is what she has done.

Before you close this page and listen to the MKS single again, I should point out that Elliphant comes from the same production stable as Icona Pop - and that her new single has the same gleeful air-punching vibrancy as I Love It.

Music Is Life is one of those "only when I'm dancing can I feel this free" odes to popular song. "You may be poor but music is free," says Elliphant, while Jamaican reggae artist Ras Fraser Jr, rhymes "Sweden and France" with "jump and prance".

I defy you to sit still while listening to it.

Elliphant - Music Is Life

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Music from the Harkive

I am being harvested for science. Or rather, my music habits are being collected for an academic study. And yours can be too.

Harkive is the brainchild of Craig Hamilton, who's doing an MA in Music Industry Studies at the City of Birmingham University. For the next 24 hours he wants you to tell him "the story of how, where and why you listen to music".

Why? Well, it's not particularly clear. But think of it as a census of music consumption. And imagine how different the same study would have been just 100 years ago: where every entry would essentially read "Went to church, heard some hymns".

You can contribute on email, Twitter (#harkive), Facebook or a myriad of other routes. Details are here and my diary will be updated throughout the day after this full stop.

00:00 In bed, listening to Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Mosquito album, via iPod plugged into HiFi system. I started listening before midnight, so all the best tracks are finished. I fall asleep to music most nights due to tinnitus. 
08:42 BBC Breakfast is doing a "bit" about the Proms as I eat my Shreddies. There's a montage of Nigel Kennedy; the Last Night; Maverick Sabre (Imagine! A rapper at the Proms!); and some truly off-putting opera. They also show a clip of the Doctor Who Prom, which looks like "fun".
09:30  Headphones on for the commute. I've asked my iPhone for a genius playlist, triggered by Michael Jackson. It imaginatively selects subsequent tracks by the Jackson Five and Janet Jackson, who smoulders her way through That's The Way Love Goes. A stone-cold classic. 
13:45 I'm on jury service this week, so I'm not as plugged in as normal. Still, it's lunchtime and I've taken the opportunity to have a look at other people's Harkive diaries. Talia Kraines from Heat radio just posted this mash-up of Solange's Losing You and Say My Name by Destiny's Child. Not quite as mindblowing as I'd hoped, but a welcome distraction from my limp, wet tuna sandwich.

17:05 Court has finished and the sun is out. I need something peaceful and mellow, and my current band crush is The Staves. I cue up In The Long Run on the iPhone and listen to it twice on repeat. Then I decide to embed it on the blog and end up listening to a live version on Soundcloud, too. I love the finger-picked arpeggio that underpins the melody and make a mental note to look up the fingering online. I make a further mental note to buy a guitar.

17:25 Hit shuffle. Get Demi Lovato's Heart Attack. RESULT!
17:38 Back at home. I'm going to start trawling through my inbox for submissions to the blog. This might not be pretty.

17:40 "My name is Sam Dickinson and I am a soul singer based in Newcastle and will also be going on a small UK Tour this summer. [My] album is currently available for pre order on iTunes and immediately went into the iTunes top 200 on pre orders, higher than Alicia Keys' pre order for her new record".

Hmmm... I'll ignore the fact that Sam should have hyphenated "pre-order" and listen to his new single, the "soul-infused" Learn To Wait.

17:41 It's fair to say Sam can sing. It's just a shame he had to sing this.

17:46 Next up, it's Lady Lykez - a very exciting female rapper (it says here) from London. Her song is called I Love My Butt and, awful title aside, it's got a slinky groove that's reminiscent of Missy Elliot's She's A Bitch.

"Arse so fat it's like a tank engine," she notes. "No vegetarian, I got a lot of meat". Funny and refreshing. You can hear it here.

17:54 "FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT BEN CARON" screams the next email. At least one of those things should be the name of his new single, and where to hear it. But no, apparently it's more useful to know whether he prefers Vodka or Gin.

17:56 Instead, here's Cleo Sol, a British soul singer who's been hovering on the edges of greatness for a while now. She's been called "the UK's brightest star" by Tinie Tempah, and her new single is a sexalicious swing that incorporates elements of Aaliyah's More Than A Woman, The Fugees' Ready or Not and Kendrick Lamar's The Recipe. I listened to it twice in a row, then downloaded it.

18:05 This is the last one. The band is called SPC ECO but you pronounce it Space Echo, which instantly makes you think "Oh, please fuck off".

Spack Echo are a new project from Dean Garcia, who was the main impetus behind 90s indie-goths Curve. For Spook-E=cow he's teamed up with Rose Berlin who, the press release reveals, "recently completed a BA Sculpture (with first class honours!)"

Delusional Waste is wispy, dreamy, dronepop with vocals thinner than water vapour. It passed through me like a double espresso.

18:20 To be honest, those were better than the usual rubbish that gets filtered into my inbox. But it's back to my own choices again. And it's MKS O'Clock (other times that are MKS O'Clock include 09:00, 10:00, 14:25, 17:33, 23:07, 11:11, 11:12, 11:13, 11:14, 11:18, 11:16, 11:16.5, 11:16.55, 11:15.551, 01:23, 11:17, 11:16.01, nighttime, daytime, hammer time).

18:52 Playing The Last Of Us on the PS3. It has a soundtrack by the majestically-named Gustavo Santaolallo, who won an Oscar for his Brokeback Mountain score. 

20:00 - 22:30 We are out with friends in a local pub. The local pub is playing "Anonymous Pub Background Ambient Classics" by "Various Artists" over a PA that is hidden in a tree. I Shazamed some of the tracks. They included I'm Easy by Jazzy Lee - an entirely shit version of The Commodores' classic; and Zombie by Elena - a cover of the Cranberries' IRA protest song, as delivered by an automated telephone banking system voice-over artist.

23:48 Bedtime. Tonight's soundtrack is Stevie Wonder's Innervisions. Plenty of records capture a cool Californian breeze - but only Living For The City clings to you like a night gummed up with oppressive urban heat.

And that's 24 hours in the life of my auditory-cognitive nervous system. It was interesting to write it all down - I hope it was at least partially interesting to read.

PS: Thanks to everyone who looked at this page before 22:00 and didn't point out that my iPhone had auto-corrected the phrase "most nights" to "moist nighters".

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Rizzle Kicks do a single

Summer and Rizzle Kicks go together like two hands clapping. So what better time that the middle of a heatwave to unveil the band's latest single, Lost Generation? Picking up where Down With The Trumpets left off, this is a big old jazz hands hoedown, with a typically mellow chorus from Harley.

The boys premiered the single on Rrrradio One this morning, and admitted they'd been sitting on new material for nearly a year while they waited for the fuss over Mama Do The Hump to die down.

"Mother is an animal," said Jordan, "so it's been ages..."

"I just find it really frustrating, waiting around to release music" added Harley. "A year-and-a-half of Mama being played is quite frustrating."

"No it's not, the song is brilliant!" his partner disagreed. "It's one of these dilemmas you face as an artist, playing your own song loads.

"But I realised that when I watch artists perform live, I'm waiting for that big moment and they're probably like 'urgh, I have to play this again.'"

He described the new single as "an important move", adding: "Ultimately, people are listening to music we made when we were 19. Now we're 21 and it's a big jump."

"The second album is really good, actually," he added, with no perceivable hint of bias or shame. "I just hope we're still relevant."

To be honest, Lost Generation is striving so hard for relevancy it disappears up its own internet hole ("hashtag trend" is probably the most cringeworthy lyric of the year) but it's all delivered with such carefree joy that you forgive them. Just.

Rizzle Kicks - Lost Generation

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Rudimental + Tigers + Foxes = A great video

They might be a dynamite live act, but Rudimental have shied away from appearing in their own videos. Every single so far has had it's own international mini-movie - following slum kids, BMX bandits and and an urban horse community (yes, really).

For fifth single Right Here, we're off to Thailand's Tiger Temple. The video is an unusual, but exceptional, mixture of martial arts and nature documentary, revolving around the illegal international tiger trade. Sounds very worthy, but it's beautifully shot and totally kick-ass.

Rudimental ft Foxes - Right Here

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Now that's what I call a time paradox

This morning, as I was flipping through my Now Music collection, I noticed something odd about Now 5 - aka the one with the pig.

Can you see it? Right there in the middle, where it used to say Howard "frightwig" Jones, it now says Ronika.

I guess I'm not surprised. Ronika's singles to date - including the excellent Automatic, Forget Yourself and Rough N Soothe - have all been masterclasses in 80s Discopop. So it only stands to reason that she's bought a DeLorean, built a time machine, stolen weapons-grade plutonium from a bunch of Libyan terrorists and nipped back to 1985 to get a recording contract.

The song that appeared on my Now album (and, yes, I am persisting with this ridiculous conceit) is called Search Siren. Perfect for side three, track four, it's a sultry slice of Eurodisco melodrama. "Please don't let this be over too soon," pleads Ronika over bubbling Moroder synths and a paper thin snare drum. The backing vocals frequently threaten to slip into Abba's Voulez Vous - but this heartbreaker is much more "morning-after-the-night-before" than the Swedes' disco classic.

Ronika says the track was "inspired by reading Asimov, guided by an Italian moustache and finally assembled together at night by the tears of an automaton worker". So now you know.

Listen / Download below.

Ronika's debut album is on it's way later this year. I think it'd be fair to say I can't wait...

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

MKS get around to releasing Flatline


This just popped up on the official MKS Soundcloud page. It's a new-old-Sugababes moment of musical brilliance. Here's everything you need to know.

:: It is mid-tempo but it is not a ballad.

:: It has been described as "stadium-sized".

:: In other words: Tons of reverb.
:: Key dying-relationship lyric: "I can feel a flatline that ought to be a wave".

:: Flatline was produced by Devonté "Dev" Hynes - who did Solange's teriffic True EP.

:: There are backing vocals from indie also-rans Spector.

:: In marketing speak, it's a "first-look" single.

:: In normal language, it's the first taster of the album, but there'll be another single soon.

:: Although "soon" is a relative concept in the crazy world of MKS.

:: Basically, if we hear another song before the end of 2015, it'll be a miracle.

:: Tracks on the mythical debut album (or second album, depending on how you look at it) may or may not include
Drum and Love Me Hard (!)

:: The album will not have "huge hits" on it, according to Keisha.

:: Well, what she said was: "We turned down big songs that would be huge hits because they weren't right for the album", but "no hits" is the basic gist.

:: Flatline is very good indeed.

Get your chops around this. It's smashing.

PS: MKS will reveal more details of this long-gestating musical project in a Google Hangout at 6pm BST today. Sounds awful.

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Justin Timberlake: An open letter to the ladies

Hi, I'm Justin Timberlake: Renowned actor, celebrity golfer and part-time musican. Lately, I've been thinking about you, ladies. Specifically, why do you wear clothes? Because, after many long, sleepless nights in my round circular bed, I have come to the conclusion that ladies do not need clothes at all.

Think about it. Clothes are expensive. And I have noticed that lady clothes are even more expensive than man clothes. Girls, you could be spending that money on more important things: Silk bedsheets, succulent lobster, and novelty erotic toys.

In addition, I once read in Playboy magazine that brassieres are a symbol of male oppression. You just have to say the word and I will assist you in removing those brassieres.

Although I might need some help with the clasp.

And once you are free from the shackles of the misogynist patriarchy, would you dance for me in a music video? In the buff? I will, of course, remain fully-clothed throughout.

Then I will freak you doggy-style.

Justin Timberlake - Tunnel Vision (EXPLICIT)

On a more serious note: Why have all these artists suddenly decided to fill their videos with gratuitous nudity? First John Legend, then Robin Thicke, now this. It's like US R&B has just discovered Nuts magazine. And, as with the readers of that "gentleman's publication", they all just come across as creeps. Give it a rest.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New Tinie Tempah: Trampoline

Just as I was about to log off and spend the day doing proper grown-up things, up popped the new video from Tinie Tempah.

Trampoline is produced by Diplo and features lyrics about having high tea at Claridges and Vogueing "like Agyness Deyn". It's stripped-back and brutal - so probably more of am "I'm back" scene-setter than a first single, but to be honest I can't work out what's a proper release and what isn't any more.

Video below. Make of it what you will.

Tinie Tempah - Trampoline

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Songs you may have missed: Glastonbury edition

So, a few new tunes cropped up during Glastonbury - which means that at least two music industry PRs weren't in Somerset over the weekend. Or maybe that the interns got left in charge of the YouTube password for a couple of days. Either way, here's what we missed.

1) Franz Ferdinand - Right Action
Franz Ferdinand are a band who seem chronically incapable of finding a new sound. Right Action has the same scratchy riffs and laconic lyrics of Holiday from the band's first album. But, after four years away, it sounds fresh again. Expect to see them relegated from Radio 1 to 6 Music, though.

2) Robin Thicke - Give It 2 U
Hey, ladies, here's the follow-up to the sex pest anthem of the summer. Robin is no more enlightened than last time round. "Girl, I got a big dick for you," he sings. What a charmer.

3) AlunaGeorge - Bad Idea
At the end of this radio rip, Lauren Laverne says of AlunaGeorge: "I remember we had them in for a session after just releasing one single. I was like, 'how hard can it be? Just do that 10 times and then you've got your album'. I said it ironically, but they sort of have just done that".

Well, that's massively uncharitable, given how adventurous the band have been with their R&B template. This song, a b-side to the re-released I Know You Like It, ups the tempo and goes for a more frothy vibe than the band have pursued in the past. I really like it.

4) Britney Spears - Ooh La La
A song from the Smurfs 2 soundtrack. Every bit as terrible as you'd imagine.

5) The Staves - Icarus
Look, I'm not going to stop droning on about how brilliant The Staves are until you all agree with me. So why not just submit to their charms now and get it over with? Icarus is taken from the special edition of their album Dead And Born And Grown, which comes out on 15th July. And this video finds the Stavely-Taylor sisters traipsing around the world with an acoustic guitar and a lot of hair, doing singing and stuff. Gorgeous.

6) Duke Dumont ft MNEK - Hold On
The follow-up to chart-bothering club classic 100% is an altogether darker affair. Guest vocalist MNEK drowns in echo as he pleads "don't let go of what we had" over a late-night house groove with spooky "WooOOOooOOooh it's a ghost" backing vocals. It's absolutely gorgeous.

7) Gallant - If It Hurts
NYC Newcomer Gallant has the sugar-sweet vocals of D'Angelo, but backs them up with muted indie guitars and scrunched up drum loops. He's been working with William Orbit and Felix Snow - who handles production duties on his new single, If It Hurts. If you like this, you should also check out his magnificent cover of Ke$ha's Die Young on Youtube.

Phew! That's quite the run-down. Stay tuned for more.

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New Janelle Monae: Dance Apocalyptic

Album playbacks usually involve being shoved into a darkened room and force-fed a CD at bowel-rupturing volumes. Not so with Janelle Monae. The playback of her forthcoming album The Electric Lady last month saw the irrepressible R&B diva jumping on tables, singing along and generally gyrating with the enthusiasm of a happy spaniel.

It's not hard to see why. First single Q.U.E.E.N. was a slow-burning funk masterpiece, and the newest release Dance Apocalyptic is a quickstep boogie-woogie masterpiece (with a polite nod to Prince's Dance Electric). This is guaranteed to get you shimmying in your slinkies. Sha-lang-a-lang-a-lang.

Janelle Monae - Dance Apocalyptic

The Electric Lady is out in September - but if you pre-order the album now, you get Dance Apocalyptic today. Is that an incentive? Who knows.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Glastonbury 2013: A top 10 from behind the scenes

Let's face it, there are worse jobs in the world than reporting on Glastonbury. Saturday may have been a 22-hour slog that combined mud, blisters and sunburn with a 4:30am start and 11 interviews - but I had an absolute blast.

So, here are my top 10 (and a half) moments from a busy weekend. I even got to watch some music.

10) Liam Gallagher liked my t-shirt.
Thanks, Liam, but Beady Eye are still shit.

9) A never-ending supply of Haribo.
Seriously, they were everywhere: Scattered in the dressing rooms, littering the production offices, propping up the catering tents. On Saturday, when the sun came out, they all started to melt and coalesce into one giant mecha-Haribo. I have come to the conclusion that the festival is secretly run by Gummy Bears.

8) Catching Aluna "AlunaGeorge" Francis scoffing a bag of crisps just before the band's inaugural Glastonbury set (but after she'd joined Dizzee Rascal - aka "the grime Black Lace" - on Friday evening).

7) Rudimental, whose tiggerish levels of bounciness led to one of the best shows of the festival. Imagine a Basement Jaxx gig played by James Brown's band. They're that good.

6.5) This slurry tank.

6) Hastily applying sun cream and running out the door to speak to Two Door Cinema Club. As the interview progressed, the cream started to melt and run into my eyes. Ever the professional, I kept the recording going for 10 minutes as my face streamed with tears. "Are you ok?" asked Alex Trimble after we finished. "Sorry," I replied, wiping my eyes. "It's just that I'm your biggest fan."

5) Watching Bruce Forsyth take over the Avalon field ("if you're good I'll play for two hours. If you're bad, I'll do four-and-a-half") then recording the best vox pop of all time.

Actually, I'm lying. That's only the second-best vox pop of all time. On Saturday afternoon, Colin Paterson was interviewing people on 5 Live when a woman walked past with the lyrics to Wild Horses tattooed on her arm.

"You must be going to see the Rolling Stones," he said.
"No, I'm gonna see Chase and Status."
"But you have their lyrics tattooed on your arm?"
"No, mate, that's the Susan Boyle version".

4) Speaking of The Strolling Bones - I've never been a big fan, and I would never have paid real money to see them, but they totally won me over. Music aside, the most amazing thing about their set was that almost everyone put their cameraphone away.

It also became clear why the band were reluctant to let the BBC broadcast their performance: The Stones' live show is designed for a stadium audience, low on subtlety and high on arm-waving, gurny-faced aerobics. Shrunk down to TV size, they were ridiculous and camp. In person they were spectacular.

3) The inestimable Lizo Mzimba, BBC Entertainment Reporter, former Newsround anchor, all-round gentleman and semi-professional Howard-from-the-Halifax-adverts impersonator. As the Rolling Stones took to the stage, he was broadcasting to News 24 from a platform overlooking the Pyramid Stage. 10 minutes later, the final chord to Paint It Black rang out and the audience erupted. But not for the Stones. No, they were chanting "Li-zo, Li-zo, Li-zo".

Lizo's notoriety produced another incredible moment later that night, when a slightly "refreshed" Dan from Bastille came across him interviewing the Stones' fans.

2) The Staves. Not only do they have the voices of angels, but they are bloody lovely people. My task for the weekend (self-imposed) was to follow them band around and document their Glastonbury experience for the BBC website.

It wasn't a difficult job - they're funny and friendly and supremely talented. Crouching next to them, holding a microphone to Jess's guitar as they performed In The Long Run in perfect three-part harmony for Radio 4 was literally breath-taking.

The sisters were originally at Glastonbury for three low-key shows across three days - but then they got a call from Ben Mumford, who wanted them to do this.

Watching that from the crowd, I felt like a proud uncle at the biggest nativity play of all time. They were justifiably over-the-moon afterwards - and it couldn't have happened to three nicer people.



There were plenty of other memorable moments: Jessie Ware threatening to climb the rafters; meeting Kenny Rogers in his dressing room; Haim being mobbed everywhere they went; Chris O'Dowd actually running away when I approached him with a microphone; and the shower in my caravan running out of water, which left me with no choice but to rinse off the soap suds with a bottle of mineral water straight from the fridge.

There's nowhere on earth like it, and nowhere I would rather have been.

Next year, we've worked out the headliners will be Kanye West, Fleetwood Mac and Prince, with Billy Joel doing the Sunday Afternoon "legend" slot. See you there.

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