Sunday, 31 July 2011

Grimes - Geidi Primes (Re-Release)

This year has brought fresh talent and well deserved hype from the country that is Canada. Although popular trash electronic duo Crystal Castles have taken somewhat of a hiatus after headlining the NME Awards Tour show earlier this year, there has been an increase of promising artists from a great country. From soulful r’n’b crooner The Weeknd to hazy art pop quartet Braids, Canada proves itself a diverse and cultural country when it comes to music as this year’s Polaris Prize (Canadian equivalent to the Mercury Prize) nominations prove. Unfortunately, this re-release of Grimes’ 2010 debut album Geidi Primes doesn’t live up to the high standards.

Sounding like a Cocteau Twins record left in a cupboard for years, covered in dust and scratches from too many listens, Geidi Primes sounds like a washed up version of Cocteau Twins’ popular 80s record Treasure. Maybe this is one of those things that people will complain ‘You just don’t understand it’ but I’m not sure what’s not to be understood about the fact that Claire Boucher is whining like Veruca Salt and accompanied by an instrumental that is far from imaginative. After opener ‘Avi’, the rest of the album manages to slide into the background and if you’re looking for background music then this could be perfect for you.

Although this sounds like a weak imitation of Zola Jesus, the faded haunting vocal seems to be appealing as Rachel Zeffira adopted a whisper-y voice instead of using her classically trained vocals, for Faris Badwan’s side project Cat’s Eyes. Throughout each song, the chord progressions stay the same and after 11 songs, listening just feels like a monotonous chore. On ‘Shadout Maps’, Boucher creates harmonies with herself, possibly aiming to create a layered texture to her music but instead it just sounds like seagulls cawing relentlessly in the background.

My biggest concern though is that she has re-released an album despite releasing her sophomore effort Halfaxa earlier this year in February. If an album needs to be re-released, they’re probably just interested in the money side of it or there was something wrong with it in the first place. Being described as ‘post witch-house’, I’m just not sure Grimes is relevant anymore and her eccentric offerings fail to make a lasting impact.

By Aurora Mitchell

SBTRKT - Pharaohs

Following the announcement of the Mercury Prize last week, many felt cheated that certain bands were not included in the prestigious list. Cries for more established acts The Horrors, Wild Beasts and Radiohead were made very vocal, but another name kept cropping up of an artist relatively new to the scene, SBTRKT. The elusive masked producer had all the right framework in place, being signed to young turks like previous winners the XX, a wide range of critical and public acclaim and most importantly a damn good record. The record in question, his self-titled debut incorporates a wide range of influences from more modern bass-culture (Wildfire) soulful crooning (Hold on, Trials of the Past) and even fast paced dance tunes almost bordering on drum'n'bass (Sanctuary). This new single and album stand out 'Pharaohs' showcases a completely different set of influences and nuances from the aforementioned. Vocal duties are delegated to Roses Gabor, who in contrast to Sampha who features regularly on the album, is a lot more soft and slightly sexy, think Kelis at her chilled out best. This combined with SBTRKT's 90s house influenced beats makes  a ludicrously infectious song no doubt aimed for dancing, and even though 90s dance and house are not the most well respected genres to namedrop, even the biggest music snob would have a hard time not tapping their feet.

By Toby McCarron

Summer Camp - Better Off Without You

Summer Camp are back with another new song and nothing says 80s film soundtrack more than 'Better Off Without You'. Elizabeth Sankey sings 'Stop calling me/You gotta stop calling' like a fiesty independent teenage girl with deep rooted problems, the bitchy side of Claire Standish alongside the devil may care attitude of Veronica Sawyer. Her sweet sickly vocals disguise the harsh nature of the lyrics, which portray the height of pessimism about relationships and love. 'Better Off Without You' is an empowering anthem that is reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper's 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' in that they both encourage life without men getting in the way. Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley keep outdoing themselves and if this is similar to the material that will be on the album, we can expect one of the best records this year.  

By Aurora Mitchell

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Blood Orange - Coastal Grooves

Being a former Test Icicle, it's great that both Dev and Rory Atwell are bringing out records around the same time for their new projects. Ditching his last moniker Lightspeed Champion which encapsulated teen angst, Blood Orange sees a more upbeat side to Dev Hynes with catchy guitar riffs that sometimes sound funky and other times eastern influenced with softer vocals to compliment. He has a condition called synesthesia which means he has the ability to see sounds and this is the first time he has incorporated this into his music.  This is one of those records that wears its influences on its sleeve, 80s pop runs throughout the album and leaps onto the album artwork. 

'Coastal Grooves' essentially sounds like stumbling into a New York party in the 80s. At the start, you're slightly tipsy and dancing around like an idiot but by the end you just want to pass out in somebody else's bed. On parts of the album, you could almost confuse Dev's vocals for female vocals due to the falsetto nature. Single 'Sutphin Boulevard' sounds smouldering as well as playful, bringing a sexy nature that hasn't been showcased often before in Dev's musical projects. It feels as if 'Sutphin Boulevard' is the early climax of a party and then everything starts to awkwardly mellow out. On 'Champagne Coast', Dev whines 'come to my bedroom, come to my bedroom', sounding like a desperate plea for someone to keep him warm at night. Dev Hynes can do no wrong, 'Coastal Grooves' carries on the theme of nostalgic records this year, a tribute to the past but with a futuristic twist.

By Aurora Mitchell

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Underage Festival - Preview

For those in London and under 18, this is the summer festival choice for you. Packed full of tipped off bands and optimistic teenagers, Underage Festival has always been a hit amongst young people since it started in 2007. Aimed at 14 - 18 year olds, the festival has changed its age limit this year to 13-17, which seems fitting as The Midnight Beast attract a certain following of young teenage girls, almost like a cult version of Beliebers. This year's line up includes headliners Bombay Bicycle Club, the well loved North London boys who have been welcomed towards a more mainstream audience after the release of their acoustic album 'Flaws'.

This year the line up is even more varied, from Underage regulars Rizzle Kicks who've recently had airplay on Capital for their interesting brand of British rap with 'Down With The Trumpets' to 80s new romantic inspired Romance. There's an artist for nearly every genre (and some sub-genres too) that could take your fancy so we've compiled a list of 5 different artists you shouldn't miss at this year's fest:

1. Bombay Bicycle Club
Easily the most musically progressed on the bill, Bombay Bicycle Club had their Underage Festival debut in 2008 where they evoked an energetic crowd reaction. With two critically acclaimed albums under their belts and the humbleness of a newly starting band, it'll be interesting to see what setlist they will decide to play, whether it be old stuff or new. They've recently released their lead single 'Shuffle' from new album 'A Different Kind Of Fix' which has shown a new, slightly more odd pop direction to the quartet. Expect soothing harmonies from Lucy Rose and Jack Steadman and a milestone performance from the band.

2. Janelle Monae 
Janelle Monae has only recently started to come into her element, thanks to her festival slots at this year's festivals. Her performance at Glastonbury saw her trending on Twitter and getting people talking about her suited catchy funk pop. Her concept album, 'The ArchAndroid' about robots is bizarre while bordering on genius. Her enthusiastic approach and genuine positivity is something that you don't seem to see often in music nowadays. Chances are, if she plays Tightrope or Cold War, the crowd will probably go mental for it. Watch this space.

3. Viva Brother
You might be wondering whether this is a joke or not, well you're half right. These arrogant Britpop wannabies have elbowed their way into the music industry on a mix of testosterone and deluded self confidence. If not only to just go along and laugh at them, they're probably going to be big some day so you can say 'I saw Viva Brother before they were big!' to all your less musically knowledgeable friends. They've commented on people throwing bottles at them and they seem to enjoy it so I wouldn't advise you that, we can't have them thinking they've got our attention. 

4. Rizzle Kicks
These guys have been around for ages now it seems, although they haven't been receiving the attention that they deserve. They're no strangers to Underage Festival but due to being the first act in the morning last year, they had basically no crowd which was disappointing because people should get to hear their music. You could quibble whether these guys are going to be the next biggest thing for British rap or not or you could just enjoy the music and appreciate this hard working duo. Single 'Down With The Trumpets' bound to evoke a big reaction.

5. Ghost Eyes
It feels like Ghost Eyes have popped up from nowhere, before checking them out from the Underage line up, I had not heard about them and I'm not sure many people had either. They've brought out a single, 'Phantom Mountain', with distorted voices, ooh's and buzzing synths, it falls somewhere in between oOoOO and Christian Aids. With a witch house vibe about the track, this somehow manages to hold itself up despite the scene moving on. Creepy stuff but in a really good way.

By Aurora Mitchell

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Interview

Musical project of vocalist and guitarist Ruban, Unknown Mortal Orchestra was originally a home recording project. This snowballed and as label interest grew, there was suddenly the prosperity for this project to translate to a live band. He formed a live band with Jake Portrait on bass and Julien Ehrlich on drums which saw Unknown Mortal Orchestra touring the USA with the likes of Smith Westerns, Portugal the Man and Yuck. Having released the debut album and recently selling out a London show at The Lexington, the band have received critical acclaim for their feel good funk tunes. We talk to the man behind it all, Ruban Nielson.

How does it feel to have received so much attention for your music?

Often I think that in reality I'm in a coma and this is all just a weird dream.

What gave you the inspiration to start touring?

Just the label interest. I was thinking about how many modern bands would have a cool record and then be really disappointing live and I wanted to avoid that. I wanted this band to be really legit as a live band straight away and skip that whole awkward phase.

How did it feel to play a sold out show in London?

It was one of those moments where I thought about my coma theory.

After being in a punk band, how did you decide to create Unknown Moral Orchestra?

It was just this process of mucking around with recording. There were a lot of things I didn't get to try in the past and I tried them all when I started UMO.

Do you think that nostalgic music is the way forward?

That's a really funny question. I don't think UMO is any kind of blueprint for anything. It's just the way I thought a record should sound at the time I made it. You can be nostalgic for an age yet to come as well.

Was it important that your record had a distinctively lo-fi quality to it?

I wanted the record to sound like the things that influenced it. A lot of things that influenced it were old records and I wanted that feeling of discovering an old record. A lot of my favourite records I discovered in my dad's collection and played them until they wore out and then re-purchased them on cd only to discover I hated the sound on cd. I would rather have recorded them off the vinyl. When the movie the watchmen came out I downloaded a cam version and watched it on my laptop. It was really grainy and looked bad but in this strange and beautiful way. When I saw the proper version I was so disappointed at how cheesy it looked compared to the version filmed off the screen at a theatre.

What/who would you consider your biggest influence to make music?

My dad.

Are there any plans to start recording again straight away or are you going to take a break?

I'm so busy touring at the moment I havent had time to record yet so I'm just writing songs on my phone and waiting for some time to work on the next thing.

Gardens & Villa - Interview

It seems that new music is regaining credibility. With the likes of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Gross Magic bringing a more nostalgic scene, this five piece from Santa Barbara bring a unique sound, combining several sub genres to make great music. Think Grizzly Bear, Metronomy and Neon Indian mixed into a blender and this would be the outcome. Their self titled debut is out now on Secretly Canadian. We talk to frontman Chris Lynch;

How does it feel being signed to Secretly Canadian?
We love SC! From the moment we began talks with them, we felt at home. They have a great vision for what a 21st century indie label should be and they treat their artists very fairly. Usually it doesn't even feel like they are our record label.. It feels more like they are family.

Which do you prefer, gardens or villa?
Gardens.. especially in the summer time.. Villas are great too.. But if you have a nice garden.. You can eat it!

What's the best live band you've seen this year?
The best band I have seen this year... Probably either "Youth Lagoon" (from Boise.. Our good friend who is coming out on tour with us in the fall!), "Hosannas" Our good friends in Portland.. Or  "Crimson Scarlet" (A local Goth-New Wave band from Santa Barbara) These are all up-and-coming bands that we have played with and love dearly.

How would you describe your sound?
I guess it is kind of groovy, psych-pop with heavy new-wave leanings.. Some have said we even have 90's Brit-pop sound.. Not sure about that one but it's kinda cool.. I like Blur.. hehe.

Can we expect a visit to the UK any time soon? 
YES!! We are crossing the Atlantic in October.. Very excited as we have never played in the UK or Europe.

Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics?
Reflections on nature.. Flashbacks from our childhoods in the late 80s, early 90s.. Night dreams and day dreams. Mystical revelations., romantic encounters.. Life experiences and adventures.

Your song names have connotations with nature, do you enjoy nature when you're not touring?
Yes!! One of our favorite things in the world while were on tour is exploring the local hiking trails and swimming holes.. When we have time.. We are big camping/backpacking fans. Hanging out in the wilderness can totally recharge your batteries and re-connect yourself to your animal roots. It's great. 

You've recently supported Foster The People on tour, how was it?
The tour with Foster The People was amazing. Although our music styles are not exactly that similar.. It seemed like they complimented each other well and the crowds seemed very into it. The whole tour was sold out and we got to play venues like the "El Rey" in Hollywood.. Places that we have fantasized about playing since we were little boys. It was kind of a dream. Not to mention the dudes in FTP are really nice and fun to hang out with. We were sad to say goodbye last week.. Can't wait to hang with them again in Europe later this year..

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Horrors - Skying

Change. It's peculiar how a new direction can provoke such a varied reaction these days. I'm the first and not the last to admit I was disappointed with Skying's lead single 'Still Life'. Expecting piercing synths and a hard hitting exterior to the single, I was faced with a dream pop esque slow burner. Maintaining the gruff but polished trademark vocals that Faris Badwan has become known for, stealing the show, he strains his vocal chords while exercising a romantic side, 'When you wake up/you will find me'.

Although it was not originally an album track, opener 'Changing The Rain' sets the tone for a decidedly epic sounding album. The title of the track is the perfect sign of the change The Horrors have gone through to write and produce this also, along with the help of Joshua Hayward building their home made studio. 'You Said' has a powerful 80s ballad nature with oscillating synths and Faris' lazy vocals stumbling from one lyric to the next. The pace picks up with a clearer Horrors sound on 'I Can See Through You', the closest this album comes to reliving Primary Colours and carrying on the 80s theme. 

The Horrors, intentionally or not, have encompassed a nostalgic sound with late 80s/early 90s influences. Stand out track 'Moving Further Away' resembles Sea Within A Sea, including a synth  that wouldn't sound out of place on a Factory Floor track. There are hints within the song to being isolated and possibly the repercussions of becoming a successful band, especially lyric 'But they're all strangers now and the silver doesn't shine'. This Essex based five piece have come a long way since their formation in 2006 and they're musically progressing faster than all those around them.


By Aurora Mitchell

Monday, 4 July 2011

Wireless Festival Sunday - Review

Wireless festival returned in 2011 with a bang, Friday saw the Black Eyed Peas headlining in a day dominated by current chart conquerors and pop hopefulls such as the painfully polished Bruno Mars and the acceptable face of mainstream British rap music Tinie Tempah. While Saturday marked the token dance day with a wide range of acts from the ever-energetic Janelle Monae, recently critically acclaimed Battles playing material from new album 'Gloss Drop', and masters of middle-aged rave The Chemical Brothers fresh off of a triumphant visual extravaganza at Glastonbury.

While both of these days have their certain charms, the Sunday of wireless this year is undoubtedly the main focus for fans of all things vaguely alternative. Not forgetting to mention the much anticipated headline set from recently reformed Pulp, but more on that later. The day kicks off in style as the Pepsi Max tent fills up to watch London dream pop duo Summer Camp. Singer Elizabeth Sankey bellows out songs with infectious charm from their debut EP 'Young' and new material from their forthcoming fan-funded album. Set highlight and fan favourite 'Ghost Train' goes down particularly sweetly, Sankey's soft chants of "you you you you you" accompanied by a backdrop of slide show pictures of the duos youth give a warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia. Set closer 'I Want You' is also executed brilliantly, as a repeating synth plays under Sankey crying out in true 80s style about bordering on obsessive love "If i could I'd kiss your lips so tight your entire face would bruise, write your name in blood on every wall it would make the evening news" instantly disproves any labels of the duo being cutesy.

Following on the Pepsi Max stage are Yuck, who today firmly establish themselves as one of the best new bands around. Yuck today have a new found confidence (as opposed to earlier more awkward gigs) and waste no time blaring out their scuzzy pop to the masses. Opener 'Get Away' is now all too familiar, but gains a new string to it's bow live as their younger fan base lose the plot over the infectious chorus. Similarly crowd pleasing are 'Holing Out' and 'The Wall' as they blast out of the speakers and have the words chanted back almost religiously, not bad for such a new band. Although the grungy energetic songs get the biggest crowd reactions, there's no question that Yuck are at their most poignant when singer Daniel Blumberg really bares his soul, 'Suicide Policeman' is excellent and still just as deep as it was when it first surfaced on their blog in 2010. While Yuck are unlikely to ever gain widespread chart success, their popularity is growing significantly if subtly, and this is surely no bad thing.

Making the transitions from tents to big outdoor stages this year are Metronomy who perform a mix of old and new favourites. It's encouraging to see new songs such as the 'The Look' and 'Corinne' going down as well old hits 'A Thing For Me' and 'Heatbreaker' although it's hard not to be on board when a band play with as much fun as Metronomy. Next on are The Horrors, who release their much anticipated third album 'Skying' in July. Unlike Metronomy, the transition from tent to main stage is not quite so seamless and a lot of the sheer noise that encapsulates The Horrors' sound is completely lost into the air. 'Sea within a sea' one of the best songs of the last decade, falls completely flat and sounds too blurred and hazy. New material 'Moving further away' and 'Still life' are more synth based dance affairs and are standouts amongst an otherwise disappointing set, although it is unclear whether this is due to The Horrors or simply the sound system.

Heading into the evening, and another one of the big tips for 2011's best new band take the stage, The Naked & Famous. Opener 'All Of This' is fast, abrasive and full of quirks and immediately grabs attention, which followed by the anthemic 'Punching In a Dream' quickly wins over the crowd. The Naked & Famous are a lot more powerful live than on record where they are more withdrawn and timid, singer Alisa Xayalith  belts out songs  like 'Spank' and Frayed' with the fury of a thousand suns alongside heavy strangling guitars and pounding drums. The already euphoric crowd, then explode as the band power into signature hit 'Young Blood', a former number one single in their native New Zealand and for good reason. Alisa shrieking "YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH" at the crowd who reciprocate all too gladly, is surely one of the best moments of the festival.
After The Naked & Famous, The Pretty Reckless feature on the Pepsi max stage, peddling their middle of the road, trying to be rebellious idea of rock music rather unsuccessfully. Not that it matters, as teenage girls and boys alike go completely ape shit for lead singer and American tween icon Taylor Momsen. Oh well at least they're better than the woeful Neon Trees and their one song.

As evening draws in, and as Grace Jones ends her set, The buzz for Pulp is evergrowing. Fans young and old flock to the main stage to await one of the most anticipated UK headline slots of the year. The set began with Pulp lyrics being projected onto the back of the stage, before the band come onto stage and are met by a flurry of cheers and whooping. Jarvis Cocker sporting his usual geography teacher influenced attire begins the nostalgic trip back to the 90s with the rather appropriate 'Remember The First Time' to which the crowd go absolutely nuts, women jump up and down frantically while their husbands dance like dads at a wedding. Pulp's core fanbase may have aged, but their dedication remains ever-present. Pulp then proceed to play somewhat of a greatest hits set, very much pleasing their adoring fans with timeless anthems including singalong favourite 'Disco 2000', ode to the grotty 'Mile End' and the playful 'Underwear'. It's an absolute joy to see Jarvis bounding about the stage, and even reacting with the crowd during the brilliantly sexy ' I Spy' plus his class on stage banter, with quips ranging from the celebration of Tom Cruise's birthday to how important it is to get behind the student protests over Tuition fees. The set finishes with 'Common People' as you'd expect, uniting the whole crowd in a singalong, followed by a rather peculiar remark from Jarvis about returning in 15 years time. Although judging by the crowd's reaction today, the memories of this performance will stick around at least 15 years if not for a lifetime.

By Toby McCarron

Friday, 1 July 2011

Two Wounded Birds - Interview

Ironically named Two Wounded Birds, this Margate four piece have encapsulated the sound of the summer both in their music and their image. With pictures of them happily stood by the sea accompanying the surf pop influences in their music, TWB have charmed people with their clich├ęd but likeable persona. Recently playing the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury, they're starting to receive the attention that they deserve. We talk to frontman Johnny Danger;

Obvious first question choice, how would you describe your relationship with The Drums?
We are friends and we enjoy each others music. We enjoyed a great tour with them.

Can we expect an album and will the sound be more similar to your EP 'Keep Dreaming Baby' or newer single 'Midnight Wave'?
We have all the tracks we want on the album and the sound is probably encompassing both those things. I'd say it would be more similar to the EP sound i think. 

Coming from Margate, what is your favourite thing to do while at the seaside?
Go to the beach and eat Ice Cream! Its great when the sun is out.

Are you excited about playing 1234 Festival and can we expect new songs from your set?
We are all really excited about 1234 and our sets becoming quite long now, and yes, we will be playing some new songs for it. Its always fun to play new songs and see how it works.

Your music has a distinct summer vibe, is summer your favourite season?
Of course! its the best feeling.

Do you have any future plans in terms of touring abroad?
We would love to tour again in Europe and the UK, and we will be doing some of that towards the end of this year. Think we would all really love to tour the USA though!