Friday, February 27, 2015

Must listen: Purity Ring

Canadian electro duo Purity Ring are achingly modern. They didn't even meet up during the recording of their debut album, 2012's Shrines. Singer Megan James and producer Corin Roddick were separated by 1,000km, recording their respective parts in Montreal and Halifax, where they were living at the time, and emailing the tracks back and forth.

They managed to get together for the follow-up, although it actually raised more problems than it solved.

"It was kind of like starting a new band," Megan told DIY Magazine. "It didn't work immediately," Corin added. "It took some time for us to actually learn how to write songs together."

Still, the results are pretty special. Another Eternity - which is streaming in its entirety on NPR - is exactly what you would get if Chvrches produced the next Taylor Swift album.

Imagine that. Or, if you'd rather, just listen to the results. Here's the latest single is, Bodyache and, below that, is Push Pull, which has been around since December.

Purity Ring - Bodyache

Purity Ring - Push Pull

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Oldtown Funk

Just when you thought you'd had enough of Uptown Funk, here comes an invigorating cover by Nigerian singer Alex Boye.

Apart from the fantastic vocal harmony arrangement, the video is a shot-by-shot parody of the original - with dancing pensioners playing the part of Bruno Mars's backing band The Smeezingtons.

Boye posted on Facebook the cast of his "oldtown cover" were all grandparents who "did their own stunts". A strict Mormon, he's also sanitised the lyrics - so "put some liquor in it" has been amended to "put some Kool-Aid in it", and "hot damn" has become "hot dang".

Thank goodness he didn't hear my five-year-old's interpretation of the lyrics. Last week, I caught her spinning around the kitchen gleefully singing: "Up, down, fuck you up".

Alex Boye - Oldtown Funk

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Wolf Alice and the Giant Peach

Headbanging rock outfit Wolf Alice are gearing up for the release of their debut album, My Love Is Cool - and to celebrate finishing the record, they've bunged a new track up online.

Giant Peach is very, very clearly an album track - but what a magnificent racket it makes. Full-throated screaming and door-slamming riffs abound and, while it's not my normal cup of tea, the blend is superlative.

To paraphrase C+C Music Factory: "Everybody mosh now."

The band's larynx-shredding frontwoman Ellie Roswell gave me one of my favourite Glastonbury interviews of 2014. Here's the best bit.

What's on your rider?

Hummus. That's it. We're a modest band. We just want hummus and we're happy.

Not even some bread to mop it up?

No, we just use our fingers.

Doesn't that make the instruments sticky?

No. It just means that when you get hungry on stage you can just lick your strings.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Songs you may have missed: Making up for lost time edition

Hello, and apologies for the temporary hiatus - which was mostly self-enforced due to half term and the Oscars, and partly actually enforced by nasty bout of Norovirus.


1) Rihanna - Towards The Sun
Nice to hear a more optimistic Rihanna on this track - taken from the soundtrack to the DreamWorks animation Home (which seems like it might be Jim Parson's Aladdin).

Turn your face towards the sun," she sings. "Let the shadows fall behind you." It's a midtempo banger that's crying out for a dreamy Penguin Prison remix.

2) Ed Sheeran - Dirrrty (live lounge cover)
I will personally give Ed Sheeran £500 if he plays this at tomorrow night's Brits wearing Christina Aguilera's ass chaps.

3) George The Poet - Cat D
George The Poet has noticed something. Certain people are damaged - but you don't notice because they project an aura of confidence.

He's noticed something else, too. Some second hand cars aren't as good as they're made out to be. AND THAT'S A BIT LIKE PEOPLE, ISN'T IT?

At first, you think he's going to stretch this tortured metaphor to breaking point. Then he goes way beyond that. And then, somehow, it comes full circle and becomes rather touching. Odd, but brilliant.

4) Calvin Harris ft Haim - Pray To God
I am firmly of the belief that Haim can do no wrong.

5) Clare Maguire - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
I naturally recoil from anything recorded "especially for Burberry" - but, oh hell, Clare's voice on this could melt the icecaps. Astonishing work on the Carole King / Gerry Goffin classic.

And note that this is a live vocal. Fucking hell.

6) Blur - Go Out
Oh, I do wish Damon Albarn would stop singing in that "won't someone please just give me a hug" whine. But, hey, it's nice to hear his increasingly polite melodies being scuzzed up by Graham Coxon's deliberately atonal guitar lines, even if it's just for old times' sake.

This is from the band's first new album in 12 years, The Magic Whip, which is a great title.

7) Kanye West - Wolves (ft Sia and Vic Mensa)
Imagine if Kanye just turned up at the Brits, played this, then dropped a new album on iTunes. It won't happen. But imagine if it did. (It won't).

(But imagine).

8) Jess Glynne - Hold My Hand
I'm as much a fan of the handbag house revival as the next man, but it's nice to hear Jess Glynne drawing inspiration from Shanice's I Love Your Smile, too.

9) U2 - Every Breaking Wave
The one Noel Gallagher called "a fucking tune". The one you shouldn't have deleted from iTunes in a fit of pique because Bono is a twerp. The one that's about "the troubles".

The video is awesome, too: Shot by Belfast-born director Aoife McArdle, it video depicts a Catholic boy who falls in love with a Protestant girl at a punk show in 1980s Northern Ireland until (you guessed it) their burgeoning romance is torn apart by the realities of the troubles.

10) Hozier - Problem (Ariana Grande cover)
It's a cover that makes you realise how astonishing Ariana Grande's tonsils are... Nice switch into Warren G's Regulate at the end, too.

11) Lennon and Maisy - Boom Clap
Lennon and Maisy are the singing siblings who play Maddie and Daphne in country music soap opera Nashville. Their Charli XCX cover was uploaded to YouTube just before the show returned from a mid-season hiatus in the US - and the lush, folky harmonies give the song new life.

12) Ariana Grande - One Last Time
We're definitely in fourth single from a hit album territory here, but the apocalyptic video is something of a surprise.

13) Chvrches - Cry Me A River (live lounge cover)
Taking a break from recording their second album, Chvrches popped into Radio 1's Live Lounge to play their Drive: Rescored track "Get Away" and this masterful take on Justin Timberlake's breakout ballad. It somehow manages to be vulnerable and menacing at the same time - like one of those terrifying dolls in Toy Story.

Incidentally, an album of Chvrches cover versions would be a welcome thing. Remember this version of The Arctics' Do I Wanna Know last year?

Phew! Well done if you stuck around to the end (the Chvrches thing was your reward for not closing the tab as soon as I mentioned U2).

Normal service should return to the blog in the next couple of days once awards season dies down. I've missed you guys. All eight of you.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Video: Taylor Swift - Style

Lots of fans have complained that Style should have been the second single from Taylor Swift’s smash hit album 1989. I’d argue that the verses in Blank Space are stronger, melodically and thematically, but I agree it’s a close call.

I mean, imagine being a songwriter and hearing the chorus to this record. By the time Taylor Swift had sung “you’ve got that James Dean, daydream, look in your eyes” you’d have deleted your hard drive and sworn a vow of silence. It’s that good. It’s that catchy. It’s almost unfair of Taylor Swift to release it into the wild.

Still, here it is, as the third single from an album that needs no further promotion (it’s outsold Red, her previous record, in just 14 weeks). Supposedly about Harold Styles off of One Direction, it's got a non-Harold-Styles-themed video that continues the polaroid aesthetic of 1989's artwork. And while it looks incredibly chic, very little happens.


Taylor Swift - Style

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The Staves rock Hackney Empire (gently)

Ah, The Staves. Dreamy and uplifting and heavenly and yada yada yada. We all know the music's beautiful. What no-one ever mentions is that they're fucking funny.

On stage, the Watford sisters bicker wonderfully between songs. Emily and Camilla tease their sister Jessica for wearing a gown that looks like "Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat... if you were watching him on a black and white TV". Jessica responds by breaking into Coat of Many Colours, after which Camilla drily announces: "Ladies and gentlemen, my sister. The bell-end."

"Joke's on you, cos you're stuck in a band with me," her sister replies. "I'm an inescapable bell-end."

At which, Camilla leans into the mic and whispers: "Inescapable bell-end: The new fragrance from Jessica Stavely-Taylor."

But don't worry, there's no Kinks-style brouhaha here. This is all good-natured banter, and one of the main reasons to catch The Staves live.

The other is the music. Did I mention it was dreamy and uplifting and heavenly? Well, those caressive harmonies are as sublime as ever. And the material from the band's new album, If I Was, gives the band an excuse strut their inner rock chick, too.

Spit-flecked single Black and White is strident and sonorous; while the Beatles-y Teeth White carouses around a choppy guitar groove. Jessica even gives it some windmill as she leans back into those power chords.

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon (who produced the new album) makes a surprise appearance to harmonise on the hymnal Make It Holy, wearing a fetching denim shirt. "Literally words can't express what that guy means to us," says Emily as he takes his bow.

The set is peppered with older material too ("all the megahits," Camilla calls them). Mexico, Winter Trees and Wisely and Slow are met with roars of approval. But it's the new stuff that shows how far The Staves have come. Multi-layered and structurally complex it's a genuine evolution from a band with talent to spare.

"So we made a new album," Camilla deadpans. "Pre-order the shit out of that. It's important, apparently."

Blood I Bled
Black and White
No Me, No You, No More
Let Me Down
Pay Us No Mind
Eagle Song
Damn It All
Make It Holy
Teeth White
Winter Trees

-- Encore --
Facing West
Wisely and slow

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Watch: Florence + The Machine - What Kind Of Man

Cover your eardrums, here comes Florence + The Machine - and she's not happy.

The singer's just unveiled What Kind Of Man, the first single from her third album, and it's a big, furious ball-grabber. Guitars slash, drums thunder and Florence goes total banshee.

But while its big on bluster, there's not much melody. Things only get going, tune-wise, in the dying moments, as the singer repeats the refrain with increasing intensity.

The video is below but don't watch it at work unless you've got a particularly permissive boss.

Florence + The Machine - What Kind Of Man

Footnote: Announcing her new album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful earlier tonight, Florence had this to say: "Ceremonials was so fixated on death and water, and the idea of escape or transcendence through death, but the new album became about trying to learn how live, and how to love in the world rather than trying to escape from it. Which is frightening because I’m not hiding behind anything but it felt like something I had to do."

You do wonder whether the video director ever got that memo.

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Video: Jessie Ware - Champagne Kisses

Jessie Ware's second album topped my year-end poll in 2014, and for good reason: It's brilliant.

Sultry and smoldering, it's a divine collection of electro-soul - which makes its poor sales particularly disappointing (it hasn't even gone silver in the UK yet).

Still, if any song is going to turn Ware's fortunes around, it's Champagne Kisses. The blissed out ballad is one of the sexiest songs she's ever recorded - although, as she's keen to point, out it's not about "expensive blowies".

The abstract, surerealist video is one of Ware's best, too, suggesting that better-informed people than me think it's a potential smash.

I do hope so.

Jessie Ware - Champagne Kisses

PS - If you ever fancy one of those "press here for champagne" buttons that's featured in the video, there's a London restaurant called Bob Bob Ricard that provides them. It's expensive - but good for lunches if you're prepared to splash out.

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Ed Sheeran + Rudimental = Sheermental

Rudimental have literally put a donk on Ed Sheeran's album track Blood Stream, and it is great.

Ed told MTV it was "sort of" the first single off Rudimental's second album - which seems like a daft idea, but what do I know?

Rudimental, on the other hand, told The Sun: "The song is so sick, so insane. We can't wait to show it to people."

Sadly, you can't see it yet. But here is a handy audio stream.

Ed Sheeran / Rudimental - Blood Stream

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Haim play Jungle Love with The Time

There is no explanation for why this happened, but it happened, and it was awesome.

The Time ft Haim - Jungle Love

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Florence + The Machine return

Here we go, then. Florence + The Machine are back for their (her?) third album, which traditionally involves searching for a new angle.

Judging by How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, they (she?) have been drawing inspiration from Brassed Off, as it's rammed full of tubas.

Slow and sombre, it's a little musical hallucination, with Florence intoning the title over and over and over. And, despite the impeccable orchestration, you have to assume it's a scene-setter or album intro, rather than a single.

Having said that, it does have it's own video, directed by Tabitha Denholm and Vincent Haycock, in which Florence dances with a doppelganger in a deserted amphitheatre.

Whatever the song turns out to be, it's nice to have them (her?) back.

Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

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Charli XCX shakes it off, punk-style

Bless you, Charli XCX. This is barrels of fun in a scrappy school concert kind of way.

Charli XCX - Shake It Off

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Video: Ciara - I Bet

Monoymous R&B hitmaker Ciara is at her best when she's pulling off pant-splitting dance moves.

Or sexing up Justin Timberlake.

Or simply standing next to a ruddy great truck.

So it's a little disappointing to report that her latest video looks like this.

But don't lose hope, because the video is perfectly in keeping with the lusciously low-key ballad it accompanies. Putting Ciara's careworn vocals at the forefront, I Bet finds the "Like A Surgeon" hitmaker expose her true feelings about her ex-fiancé, Future.

"I bet you start loving me/ As soon as I start loving someone else," she sings. "And I know that it hurts / You know that it hurts your pride / But you thought the grass was greener on the other side."

Presented here as a live acoustic performance, it is really quite something.

Ciara - I Bet

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10 must-see moments from the Grammys

Rihanna killed it vocally, Katy Perry brought the tears and AC/DC were about the only band who didn't bore everyone off with a ballad.

These are the Grammy highlights, and the tweets that best explain them.

Get them while they're hot. And by hot I mean still available.

1) Rihanna, Kanye and Macca - FourFiveSeconds

2) Sia - Chandelier (with Kristen Wiig and Maddy Ziegler)

3) Madonna - Living For Love

4) AC/DC - Rock or Bust / Highway To Hell

5) Katy Perry - By The Grace of God
Katy Perry's performance was preceded by a speech about domestic abuse by Brooke Axtell, from Austin, Texas (sadly clipped out of this video).

She spoke about her "romance with a handsome, charismatic man".

"I was stunned when he began to abuse me," she continued. "Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame or abuse."

6) Kanye invades the stage

7) While Jay-Z and Beyonce watch

8) ELO and Ed Sheeran - Evil Woman / Mr. Blue Sky

9) Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud (with John Mayer)

10) Pharrell - Happy (with Hans Zimmer and Lang Lang)

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Video: Madonna - Living For Love

Hands up who downloaded Snapchat last night? Those of you who did will have found the new Madonna video, assuming you were capable of following the sort of instructions you'd normally find in an Ikea leaflet.

Perseverance was rewarded, however, with one of Madonna's most stylish, striking videos in a long time. Choreographed by Megan Lawson (Misst Elliot, Nicki Minaj), Living For Love finds the singer dressed as a matador, wrestling with diamond-encrusted minotaurs (as you do).

It's a powerful visual metaphor for the track, in which Madonna declares: "I picked up my crown, put it back on my head". And, for once, the music lives up to the bragging: This is a proper return to form. (I mean, post-2000 Confessions on a Dancefloor form. I'm not mad enough to suggest it lives up to Ray of Light or Like A Prayer.)

In keeping with Snapchat ettiquette, the video will be deleted today and so - hey presto - it has popped on YouTube this evening. And here it is in all it's electrodisco glory.

Madonna - Living For Love

Footnote: Shortly after the premiere, Madonna tweeted a screengrab of her sucking her thumb, saying "bad habits die hard". I hadn't got a clue this was a thing but, lo and behold, there's a really creepy website devoted to pictures of the star with her digitus primus lodged firmly in her mouth. Whatever turns you on, eh?

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Watch Royal Blood's crazy new video

Royal Blood certainly live up their name (well, the latter half) in this grand guignol video for their new single Out Of The Black.

A pulpy, ultra-violent story of a heist gone wrong, it's the result of a collaboration between Christy Karacas (creator of Adult Swim cartoon Superjail!) and illustrator / director David Wilson (Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, Metronomy).

A mixture of live action and animation, it's a feast for the eyes that matches the band's frenetic energy riff for riff.

Royal Blood - Out of the Black

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Must listen: Kwabs - Perfect Ruin

Bermondsey boy Kwabs has been bubbling under for a year or two now but, if there's any justice in the world, his new single should see him instantly promoted to music's a-list.

Perfect Ruin marries a glowing gospel melody to the stark arrangement of a James Blake b-side, and it's a song to reckon with - largely thanks to Kwabs' stunning, from-the-pit-of-his stomach vocal.

Originally released in 2013, it's been remastered for the singer's debut album, Love + War (due in May) and given an appropriately icy video, filmed in Scandinavia.

Watch below. Then watch again.

Kwabs - Perfect Ruin

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Video: Cheryl - Only Human

Let's face it, Only Human is as close as we're ever going get to Call The Shots Part II. Minor of key and mid of tempo, it's an uplifting "everything's gonna be alright" ballad that really suits Cheryl's voice (yes, I know there's some vocoder in there, but that's clearly a stylistic choice).

After the scrappy Crazy, Stupid Love and the joyless I Don't Care, this is a real step up. And it seems like Cheryl agrees.

The video, which came out overnight, also echoes Call The Shots with its star-kissed skies and muted colour palate. Cheryl looks stunning in her Pocahontas get-up, too.

Watch below.

Cheryl - Only Human

(Obviously, for all of its merits Only Human is nowhere near as good as Call The Shots - but what song would be?)

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Marina ruined (but in a good way)

Marina and the Diamonds' rather spiffing new song I'm A Ruin is nestled happily in America's iTunes Top 10, despite some pretty stiff competition from Missy Elliot, who's seen a 1,000% sales increase for Work It, Get Ur Freak On and Lose Control since that Super Bowl performance.

It's a testament to the song's juicy "uh-huh, oh yeah" hook which, unconventionally, is positioned after the chorus. It's probably testament to the rest of the song. And probably to the singer's totally rabid (but in a nice way) fanbase.

I'm A Ruin now has a video, which sees Marina prancing around near a volcano in a billowy dressing gown. There is also a jellyfish.

Marina and the Diamonds - I'm A Ruin

Marina recently took part in a YouTube Q&A thing which I have watched so you don't have to.

Among the highlights were.

:: Marina responding to a correspondent who asked "why are your boobs so big?". Her answer: "I am half-Greek and half-Welsh and Mediterran women are quite often very curvy, so it is a genetic reason and nothing else. Both sides of the family have boobs."

:: The shocking revelation that her new album, Froot, is definitely her best. "The first two albums were... very much me still learning about songwriting. Everything feels effortless this time."

:: The equally shocking revelation that Marina plans to promote her new album by playing some of the songs in a public arena. "I will be doing a world tour from October," she says.

:: "I have written this entire record alone," she reveals, "which is incredibly rare in our current musical landscape. That's been an incredible experience, not answering to anyone."

:: The strategy of pre-releasing half the album to fans was a deliberate reaction against the commercialism of Electra Heart, which left her "fucking burnt out".

:: Marina does not own a vibrator.

:: Her musical idols are Fiona Apple, Shirley Manson, Brody Dalle and PJ Harvey. And Madonna.

:: She's interested in collaborating with Royksopp (this would be amazing, incidentally).

:: If she could sum up her career in one word, that word would be "messy".

:: Marina buys her toilet roll in Sainsbury's. No brand was identified, but I'm saying it's the quilted Andrex.

So now you know.

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Here's the new video from Paurihanye

Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye West - or Paurihanye, as literally no-one is calling them, have just unveiled the video for their acoustibanger FourFiveSeconds.

It has been shot in black and white so that we know what a SERIOUS ARTISTIC ENTERPRISE this is. You can also tell this because no-one smiles or looks at each other because they are LOST in the MUSE.

Rihanna has also forgotten her underwear again. It's a bit of a mess, frankly, but the song is great so all is forgiven.

Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye West - FourFiveSeconds

Fans of never-ending music ceremony telethons will be pleased to hear that Paurihanye will be performing this song at the Grammys on Sunday.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Katy Perry's Super Bowl performance in full

Here it is, then, Katy Perry's ball-busting Super Bowl show in all of its 12-minute glory.

Key points for those of you who want to scroll through the boring bits:

  • 0'20" Katy arrives on a tiger (Roar)
  • 1'47" Definitely looks like she's going to fall off here
  • 1'53" Giant game of cosmic chess (Dark Horse)
  • 2'51" Caught in a cyclone
  • 3'20" Non-shit Lenny Kravitz duet (I Kissed A Girl)

  • 4'30" Ahoy there, dancing sharks! (Teenage Dream)
  • 5'52" Left shark forgets dance moves, sparks instant Twitter parody
  • 7'10" Synchronised sunbathing (California Gurls)
  • 7'15" Missy Elliot does Get Ur Freak On (Get Ur Freak On)
  • 7'25" Katy Perry stops being pop star, becomes Missy Elliot's stalker

  • 8'20" Missy Elliot is still here (Work It)
  • 9'04" Missy Elliot is still here (Lose Control)
  • 10'00" Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?
  • 10'38" Would you like to shoot on a star? (Firework)
  • 11'30" This is pretty fucking amazing
  • 12'10" Let's all punch a volcano
Basically, there are no boring bits. Sit back and watch it below.

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