Friday, 29 February 2008

2008 Music Chart - February 2008

Three new albums this month from I Was A Cub Scout, Laura Marling and The Duke Spirit. The current chart is:
  1. I Want You To Know That There Is Always Hope - I Was A Cub Scout
  2. Do You Like Rock Music - British Sea Power
  3. In Rainbows - Radiohead
  4. Alas, I Cannot Swim - Laura Marling
  5. Neptune - The Duke Spirit
  6. This Gift - Sons & Daughters

NME Awards 2008

I only pay slightly more attention to the NME awards than I do to the Brits but the event is still worth a mention. The Arctic Monkeys again scooped Best British Band and Kate Nash got Solo Artist. The Killers won Best International over White Stripes.

Justice was done when Muse were given Best Live Band - I suppose Take That aren’t a band as such and NME readers would never vote for them anyway so not a great surprise.

Klaxons picked up Best Album for Myths Of The Near Future but the Arctics got Best Track and Best Video.

The Nirvana Unplugged In New York DVD beat more recent offerings from Babyshambles and Winehouse.

The domination of Radio 1 continues with Zane Lowe yet again winning the Best Radio Show.
No surprise that the music oriented film Control, based on the life of Ian Curtis and Joy Division got the Best Film award.

The Manic Street Preachers were given the appallingly named Godlike Genius Award and performed a live set at the event. Unfortunately half of the venue was empty (or full depending on your disposition) as everyone started to leave.

A few interesting awards: Best Music Blog went to The Modern Age, a US based blog. Radiohead won Best Band Blog and the John Peel Award for Musical Innovation - I suppose with Foals, Lily Allen and The Streets as competition it was always a forgone conclusion.

The Philip Hall Radar Award for new artists tipped to do well this year went to Glasvegas.

Monday, 25 February 2008

LATER...with Jools Holland (22/02/08 - Show 4)

Later…is back on track this week with a very strong line-up, including Duffy who stands in at the last minute for Alicia Keys. The set list this week is:
  • Duffy - Mercy
  • We Are Scientists - After Hours
  • Martina Topley Bird - Carnies
  • Duffy (Chat with JH)
  • Steve Earle - Satellite Radio
  • MGMT - Time To Pretend
  • Duffy - Rockferry
  • Martina Topley Bird - Poison
  • Steve Earle (with wife Allison, chat with JH)
  • Asa - Fire On The Mountain
  • MGMT - Pieces Of What
  • Steve Earle - City Of Immigrants
  • We Are Scientists - Impatience
  • Duffy - Stepping Stone

An interesting set this week with only replacement Duffy getting three songs. The sudden cancellation of Alicia Keys is her loss and our gain, musically of course as Duffy was amazing. Starting with the rousing recent number 1 Mercy, then soulful favourite Rockferry and closing with Stepping Stone it was a stateswomanlike performance, her voice in particular on Rockferry the best I’ve heard in a very long time. And her supporting band are great. At the piano with Jools, she showed that as a ’star’ she still has a great deal to learn, recommending whisky and cigarettes as a flu cure if honey and lemon is nowhere to be found. Ironic humour or misjudged naivety? Not sure.

The support was again divided between two young indie bands, We Are Scientists and MGMT with the slightly overshadowed Martina Topley Bird, and the mighty Steve Earle.

Praise is split equally to all except Topley Bird who sounded weak and lacklustre up against Duffy and even the unknown French Jamaican singer Asa sounded more fresh. It’s a shame because she would have added some breathy soul against the absent Keys.

We Are Scientists gave us a great rendition of After Hours, the guitars vibrant compared to the ironic indie rock of MGMT’s Time To Pretend - the vocal mix was drowned by a swathe of messy guitars. Thankfully they gave the performance of the night with the dark brooding Pieces Of What compared to the ‘music by numbers’ Impatience from We Are Scientists. From only two turns, you never get a great view of new bands but it’s just enough.

Steve Earle with steel guitar and backed with DJ complete with mixing desk effortlessly swaggered through Satellite Radio and then brought in wife Allison for City of Immigrants. The vocals on the mid-point duet didn’t work at all but it all came together when Allison hit the backing vocals for the close. In the chat, JH showed 1980’s footage from the guitar town days, complete with General Lee flag abashedly displayed on the wall of the backwater diner. So I suppose the anti-racism intention of City Of Immigrants was an appropriate choice to make up for past discretions.

So it was a good show but again lacking in variety and depth. But then that was tried last week and it was a bit of a mess. This is much more like it.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Brit Awards 2008

Last night was the 2008 Brit awards and in an awards ceremony that ‘celebrated’ the best of pop and rock, it was indie kids Arctic Monkeys who scooped Best British Group and Best British Album. They also won big last year and easily shrugged off the ‘boring’ label handed to them by NME recently.

Richard Hawley was denied Best British Male to Mark “Crimes Against Brass Sections” Ronson but Kate Nash gave Leona Lewis a huge reality check (nominated for four awards but won nothing - proving that she still have the X-Factor tag over her head no matter how hard you work) and got Best British Female ahead of PJ Harvey, KT Tunstall and Bat For Lashes, who should have won.

Radio 1 listeners (Gold bless ‘em) voted Mika Best British Breakthrough Act, again ignoring Bat For Lashes. This made up for the Mark Ronson award but was a slap in the face for Kate Nash - how can the Best British Female miss out on the Breakthrough Act award?

Take That took best live act over the Arctics, Muse and Kaiser Chiefs. This time it was down to Radio 2 to vote, so that explains that one. The newly formed group minus Robbie also won Best British Single for Shine.

Best International Group and Album went to Foo Fighters, who followed up their Grammy success and Bruce Springsteen was again denied by Kanye West as Best International Male. Kylie got the Best International Female ahead of Alicia Keys, Rihanna and more importantly Feist.

Adele took the Critics Choice Award, whatever that means.

The whole event was topped off with the Outstanding Contribution for Sir Paul McCartney.
So Bat For Lashes, Arcade Fire and White Stripes came away with nothing. Thankfully so did Amy Winehouse, Kings Of Leon, Hoosiers and Girls Aloud showing that there is some hope yet.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Gutter Twins (Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli)

I heard the song Idle Hands on the radio this morning and went to find out more about the new collaboration of Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli named Gutter Twins. The debut album Saturnalia (Sub Pop) is out next work and is getting a lot of attention. The sound is very Lanegan as you would expect, mixed with electronics and soaked in strings and dark melody. All good.

MySpace link:

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

I Was A Cub Scout - I Want You To Know That There Is Always Hope Album Review (2008)

I Was A Cub Scout is a young male duo from Nottingham in the UK comprising singer Todd Marriot and drummer William Bowerman. Between them they create a sound which is alien on this side of the Atlantic - a kind of electro-emo-indie. The band has quoted Jimmy Eat World as an influence and has been compared to Postal Service but they are more like their inspiration Death Cab For Cutie with an English indie twist. And as England doesn’t really do emo and when it does it‘s all with a child-like punk edge (shudder at the thought of Busted and early McFly), the hype and expectations surrounding the debut I Want You To Know That There Is Always Hope are high.

The deceptively cute opening raindrop-esque keyboards of Save Your Wishes open into a swathe of keyboards and pounding drums. Soon we are introduced to TM’s voice - a wistful Conner Oberst. It is a pleasant soaring electro-pop anthem. Echoes begins with a slightly comical drum solo, complete with solitary cymbal ping. What happens next to much more imaginative as the song unfolds into one of the more complex on the album. The instrumentation under the opening vocals is light and melodic, rising slowly into mid point with rather embarrassed stadium chanting filling the gaps. Lucean could be mistaken for a rework of Brothers On A Hotel Bed as covered by Wombats. The use of trumpet is effective and inspired and the duo deliver a wonderful love song which slows to a crawl in all the right places. As the song begins to close TM is at his most passionate: ‘You are young and unafraid, but you are loved all the same. You can glow and not gloat, you can not do wrong boy…’.

The big single Pink Squares is simply brilliant. From the opening lyrics: ‘Don't the clocks turn back this evening? Another hour for you to try and forget, to try and correct your mistakes..’ which instantly grab your attention to the gloriously bouncy electronic arrangement, it is amazing that it the work of just two people. Two people who haven’t reached the age of 20 yet. Unlike Lucean this is a more direct song of lost love for the modern Arctic Monkeys world: ‘Oh oh oh am I in trouble? Darling I apologise. I need you more than anything. Please come back with me tonight’.

The album continues the high standard with the darker moody Pt. III. Again there are many songs in one here: from the opening vocals into the soft delicate anti-hook build-up then a faster chorus. ‘My shoulder’s pretty chipped and you’re well aware of it’ is a great line. And all through the song is WB’s drums which take on a life of their own in the closing section - a signature military march pierces through the stark electronic battlefield before TM comes back in…

…This glides into opening of We Were Made To Love complete with ’my first keyboard demo loop’ and handclaps. What emerges is another great if slightly wobbly pop song - TM’s rambling ill-fitting vocals wash over and then through everything. The toy keyboards come back in before he takes the reigns back: ’So you keep trying and you keep doing what you do best. We were made to love but we’re not the best at it‘. Wonderful. Our Smallest Adventures has a more heavy feel with driving guitars and drums. But TM sounds a bit too desperate here. The last 30 seconds which sounds as if half the sound has been switched off is great.

Recommendations is something of a stumbling block, again with uneasy vocals and fragmented arrangement. TM is aggressive one minute and then upbeat the next as the music juxtaposes accordingly. In contrast, the same principles adopted in The Hunter’s Daughter work magnificently. If there is a down side it’s that it’s the most English sounding song on the album - a bit too ’lad culture’. The ending is almost identical to the end of Pt. III with signature rolling drums and trumpet, with added soaring empty vocals.

The last two songs on the album initially make you think IWACS has run out of ideas. Far from it - P’s & Q’s is all about the side open spaces and delicate music. Inside is another great song of longing and compromise, the opening lines: ’I put the pain in your neck and you put the beat in my heart’ sums it all up. The song has come of the best ideas on the album, full of little twists and turns. The empty backing vocals are a sublime touch. When the song slows down and TM sings: ‘And time may have pulled us down, but it won’t pull us apart’ it feels like a summit has been reached. If anything the outro is weak and unnecessary.

Album closer A Step Too Far Behind is stretched out over five minutes and given what has come before, it feels like the dilution of a formula. But a great sound deserves a good song and the album needs a good closing track. So rather predictably we get a fantastic conclusion in the form of a sweeping outro, which doesn’t quite reach anthemia proportions.

I Was A Cub Scout has created a near perfect album, combining a distinctive sound with enough strength and variation to make it interesting. The fact that WB is a drummer at heart gives much to the arrangements and his consistent energy drives forward the faster songs. What influence producer Hugh Padgham has had over the entire album is debatable but he certainly gives the duo enough space to fill. The lyrical content of the songs may not be the most prolific song writing in the world but it is strong and effective, sometimes obscure, mostly up front. And TM delivers the words with passion and conviction, giving just the right amount of emotion. I Want You To Know That There Is Always Hope is a great album if you are in love with the emo sound that has been perfected in the US. This is by no means perfect, but it’s damn close.

-- CS

Monday, 18 February 2008

LATER...with Jools Holland (15/02/08 - Show 3)

Another week, another Later...with Jools which is very dissapointing in so many ways, especially as the big names fail to deliver. But those who did not make the pre-show headlines really steal the show. The set list this week is:
  • Hot Chip - Ready For The Floor
  • Sheryl Crow - Love Is Free
  • Sugarush Beat Company - L.O.V.E.
  • Liza Minnelli (Chat with JH)
  • The Imagined Village - Cold Haily Rainy Night
  • Liza Minnelli and JH - God Bless The Child
  • Hot Chip - Made In The Dark
  • Sheryl Crow - Out Of Our Heads
  • Jacob Golden - Out Come The Wolves
  • Sheryl Crow (Chat with JH)
  • Sugarush Beat Company - They Said I Said
  • Sheryl Crow - Everyday Is A Winding Road
  • Hot Chip - Hold On

Every so often Later… throws up some real gems that leave the star acts wondering why they turned up at all. But before we get to the good stuff, we need to talk about the headliners.

Hot Chip are an enigma, a kind of geeky electro-indie band with far too many people doing too many things. What was strange about the opener Ready For The Floor was the production - we seemed to dive out of the studio and cut to some older video cut of the performance, which was a ropey version of an ok song. Showcase for the new album, Made In The Dark was dull and uninspired and Hold On was even worse. Maybe the vocal mix was wrong or their live shows are always muffled and incomprehensible. The band fail to capture the polish of the studio.

The real ’star’ of the show is Sheryl Crow despite taking second billing to Hot Chip. Now, before I start let it be known that I am a huge fan but unfortunately she is one of these artists who has made a name and never really followed up initial success. Her set proves that she has run out of songs and ideas, and her live shows just plod through the motions. New single Love Is Free is ok but nothing special but Out Of Our Heads is a real honest attempt at a return to credibility. The song, in the style of Neil Young or Bob Dylan, quickly becomes a hippie anthem which is both empty and soulless. For some reason there are a plethora of whoops and hollers from the band which adds nothing. Even more embarrassing is the VT of a past live performance shown to us at one of the ’piano’ chats with JH. It shows Crow young and dynamic and she can actually sing, unlike now. Without anything else to promote her new album, she resorts to a woeful rendition of Everyday Is A Winding Road.

The third act is a strange combination of Scandinavian indie band and two soul-funk singers. Their first song L.O.V.E. was like two songs sung as the same time but They Said I Said was much better, showing real style and substance. This was again another good reason to tune in every week and shows the skills of the researchers.

Now to the best bits…Martin and Eliza Carthy with Chris Wood, The Copper Family and Johney Kalsi all brought together by Simon Emmerson have created a wonderful English folk Bangra fusion band. Starting with Kalsi’s drumming and blending in Martin Carthy’s guitar playing, complete with Eliza’s energy and spark, it is a joy from start to finish - a band of musicians who are comfortable on any stage making music and having fun. This alone would have made me watch but again got no pre-show billing. They can even be seen sitting and bopping along to the Sugarush Beat Company, thoroughly enjoying themselves and basking in their glory.

Another great find is Jacob Golden, who sadly only gets one song Out Come The Wolves. It is a beguiling performance starting quiet and nervous and ending Conner Oberst style in a crescendo of guitar and vocal. As the song ends, the camera pulls out to reveal Sheryl Crow watching on thinking why she even got up in the morning. I hope she finds her mojo soon and starts to deliver again.

Jools’ special guest this week is Liza Minnelli who after arriving fashionably late, treats us to God Bless The Child accompanied by Jools. Like her or loathe her she certainly delivers, looking close to collapse at the end of the stage-worthy performance.

So to sum up, a weak show with only three or four decent songs and two very disappointing ‘stars’. The BBC missed an opportunity to show more of The Imagined Village who took their turn in the spotlight and their chance to impress and succeeded completely.

Friday, 15 February 2008

BBC Sound and Paramore links!

In an attempt to reach a different audience than Later... the BBC has an alternative: Sound. It's more of a clips show, with features and interviews, than pure live performances featuring such wonders as The Feeling, The Coral and The Hoosiers. The hosts Annie Mac and Nick Grimshaw are the most irritating of presenters and the whole thing is tailor-made for the Radio 1 audience.

But what caught my eye was a few nuggets in the latest show - a Paramore interview and live acoustic performance (sadly not all of it) of Love’s Not A Competition by Kaiser Chiefs. So it's worth keeping track of who is on, even if most of it is complete dross.

Links: Series 1 - Show 14, Paramore Interview from

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Laura Marling - Alas, I Cannot Swim Review (2008)

It is so easy to confine musicians to specific genre boxes and all the while ignoring what they have to say. Thankfully people have quickly realised that 18 year old Laura Marling is not only wise beyond her years but also not in the same clique as Kate Nash, Duffy and Adele. The frighteningly mature song writer is also not completely ‘folk’, delivering more in the style of the brilliant Kathryn Williams and Thea Gilmore. Her debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim is an intriguing mix of, after the first few listens appears to be, school poetry and some impressive musical arrangements.

It is clear from the album opener Ghosts, first single and most distinctive song, that Alas, I Cannot Swim will be an engaging collection. The delicate guitar loop makes way for Marling’s delicate vocals, slightly frantic at first then slowing to more control. The vocal arrangement is incredibly effective, as is the cold piano and drums. As the song gathers momentum again, the effect is more country than folk, not quite pop and too ordinary to be alternative. Putting this teenager into an aforementioned box is proving to be a challenge. And starting an album with the lines: ‘He walked down a busy street staring solely at his feet clutching pictures of past lovers at his side’ certainly grabs your attention. The catchy chorus also sums up Marling’s not so out of place view of life: ‘Lover, please do not fall to your knees. It’s not like I believe in everlasting love’. At the risk of being patronising, her voice is incredibly strong and vibrant in spite of being dour and melancholic.

Old Stone is much more sparse and open, like her influence Joni Mitchell playing a jaded youth. The song reveals not only a great voice but a harder edge. Again the opening lyrics begin a story: ’He chased me through the rain, “Honey, I'm going your way”. I don't think so’ with a running theme of lost love, isolation and loss. It could be worse, this could be Avril Lavigne territory, all stropy and angst-ridden instead of deep and reflective. Tap At My Window is full of delicious melody and an underlying string arrangement. Given the subject matter you would be forgiven for thinking that all this bottled-up frustration and disillusionment comes from a fractured childhood. Far from it as Marling played the song to her parents and told them it is nothing to do with them. Blame Philip Larkin apparently. The song even ends abruptly with an adolescent giggle.

Failure seems to be lifted from the Beth Orton catalogue and rolls along with a bitter-sweet rhythm. The line: ‘Don’t cry child, you've got something I would die for and if it comes to the rain, just be glad you'll smile again. So many don’t’ is truly brilliant. You’re No God has another pseudo-country folk tempo, smartly arranged like a fragment of a much bigger song. As seems to be the winning formula, a fragile opening makes way for a full dramatic finish.

Cross Your Fingers continues the short songs and gets a bit too simplistic and lines like the nursery rhyme-esque: ‘Cross your fingers hold your toes, we're all going to die when the building blows’ isn’t going to win her any fans. By it’s own admission (Interlude) Crawled Out Of The Sea is a brief moment of indulgence. It does have a wonderful trumpet solo.

My Manic And I gets things back on track and probably the best song on the album. Marling sings as if she has lived every word and the vocals drive every note. Another love song disguised as a metaphor for split personality: ‘I’m sorry young man, I cannot be your friend. I don’t believe in a fairytale end. I don’t keep my head up all of the time. I find it dull when my heart meets my mind’ and ‘I hardly know you, I think I can tell. These are the reasons I think that we’re ill’. The song is darker and more sinister so it stands out. The album slides into the equally scary Night Terror with Marling’s voice magnificent. The violin break is pure genius. Again it’s about as good as it gets for three minutes.

The Captain And The Hourglass has a real country feel and could be from any aspiring Nashville hopeful. Marling yet again proves that al those years listening to Dylan and Neil Young paid off as she delivers: ’The captain’s got his boots on and he’s heading out the door, leaving his lady along thinking he don’t love me no more. He’s done with all this bullshit; he’s going back to war. If heaven is as heaven does then this is hell for sure’. Sublime.

Shine is a real surprise and there is genuine vulnerability and strength in the vocals. This is linked to the finale Your Only Doll (Dora) with birdsong which continues throughout the song. It is another tale of sexual promiscuity delivered with all the deftness of Patti Smith impersonating Rufus Wainwright. Over a minute of birdsong reveals a song that could be the album track - why it is tagged on the end like some strange b-side masquerading as a ’bonus’ is anyone’s guest. It would have worked in place of Cross Your Fingers and Crawled Out Of The Sea. The slightly comedic ending suggests that it doesn’t really fit.

Marling’s songs are undoubtedly 90% inspiration and 10% experience, weaving new stories rather than old memories. It sounds as if she has lived a lifetime. Alas, I Cannot Swim is an album really worth listening to. It’s not just background music but a compelling and absorbing collection of songs rather than sounds and styles. The production is subtle and controlled, letting the musician make the statement. Ok so it’s dour and at times a bit creepy, as Marling’s insecurity and inner demons surface all too often but it shows a real strength and maturity to get it all down on paper and turn it into art.
-- CS

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus Dig! Video

Great song with a shoddy video featuring Cave as a Daniel Day Lewis style villian sporting dodgy 'tash and receeding long hair. You can't fault his energy even if he can't lipsynch.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The Duke Spirit - Neptune Album Review (2008)

As with many young bands these days, The Duke Spirit has a great deal of hype to live up to. Their debut album Cuts Across The Land showed a distinct sound but failed to impress musically especially given all the build-up. But such is life in this NME style-over-substance music world. The band is fronted by the striking Liela Moss whose vocal delivery is strong yet breathy and definitively leads their gothic garage-indie sound. After an extensive US tour in 2006 and the Ex-Voto EP, work started on the ’difficult’ (always a cliché) second album Neptune. Written in England but recorded in Joshua Tree, California with QOTSA producer Chris Goss, the expectations are huge.

Moving swiftly through the 30 second opener I Do Believe, a kind of vocal warm-up, the album starts with the mighty Send A Little Love Token, a fusion of guitars, thumping piano, and Moss’s delicious vocals. The Step And The Walk is arguably better, lazy bass leading the ghostly vocals before Moss is back - more soulful and sultry. The chorus ’Without joy, joy, joy and the rain, I could feel forever the same’ is exquisite and the band seem to find new energy into the second verse. The drums crash in after the second chorus, more empty vocals, then guitars leading into the finale.

In contrast the first track from the Ex-Voto EP Dog Roses is a bit laboured, as if the band are trying to finding inspiration performing an old song. Even the stark cold piano sounds forced. The stabbing guitar opening of Into The Fold sounds more energetic even if the chorus doesn’t quite fit, and the hook is lifted from Stereolab doing Dr. Feelgood (maybe deliberate as the lyrics indicate). This Ship Was Built To Last slows things down again, but unlike Dog Roses, there is a commitment. Moss again weaves cryptic poems through a heavy darkness topped with a rasping brass section which reaches a chaotic Spiritualized-esque crescendo. Great stuff.

Wooden Heart is another revelation, a slow moody ballad ’I would understand your heart if I could feel it’, sings Moss sounding more soulful than ever. The melody of the verse vocals compliment the rising guitars in the chorus perfectly. As the trumpets emerge again, the song builds up to a less dramatic climax than the previous track with an odd false ending.

You Really Wake Up The Love In Me sounds like the flip-side of The Step And The Walk, with the same ideas but a weaker song. A great chorus is marred by disjointed verses and uninspired grating guitars. My Sunken Treasure also feels like it should benefit from darker production and less woo-hoo backing vocals. ’Yeah you have your own heart and I can’t be rid of mine. Still you walk this one path and I can’t driven from mine’ speaks of stubbornness killing a relationship. It’s a surprising highlight.

The second track from Ex-Voto and previous single Lassoo is a great 3 minute pop song. Moss sings of a longing for home. ’This is the first day I want the rolling hills again. Where I can make plans with pictures too…’. The use of brass accompaniment rising from the background is another stroke of genius. Penultimate song Neptune’s Call is a bit too crafted, possibly more the influence of Goss who adds a darker edge. It has proved a difficult thing to balance. The lyrics are strange and beguiling: ’I tasted the salt on you, now I have a tongue tattoo…’. It’s the album’s unofficial title track and themed likewise. The guitar ending could be a lot longer to add a bit of needed self-indulgence. The album closes with the low-key Sovereign which sounds like a reworking of Inspiral Carpets’ This Is How It Feels by Mazzy Starr.

Ultimately The Duke Spirit have delivered when so much was expected of them. Many new bands create albums full of singles and tracks from EPs which differ in production and sound. This is not so much the case here as there is a consistent atmosphere throughout thanks to guidance and rerecording. But even though Neptune does feel at times like more packaging than substance, there are ideas and depth, and a huge improvement on the directionless debut.
-- CS

Monday, 11 February 2008

Goldfrapp - A&E YouTube Video

LATER...with Jools Holland (08/02/08 - Show 2)

A much more packed show this week with more guests than show 1. Here is the line-up:

  • Morrissey - That's How People Grow Up
  • British Sea Power - Waving Flags
  • Nate James - Back To You
  • Joe Brown (Chat with JH and Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On duet)
  • Ida Maria - Oh My God
  • Morrissey - Something Is Squeezing My Skull
  • Joe Brown - I'll See You In My Dreams
  • British Sea Power - Canvey Island
  • Mayra Andrade - Mana
  • British Sea Power (Chat with JH)
  • Nate James - Choke
  • Joe Brown (and The Brothers) - Long Gone
  • Ida Maria - Queen Of The World
  • British Sea Power - No Lucifer
  • Morrissey - All You Need Is Me
  • Morrissey - The Last Of The International Playboys

A show with Morrissey as the star performer, it was varied and interesting, but with fewer songs for the other artists. The exception to this was British Sea Power who ran through the usual three songs, kicking off with a nervous and statesmanlike Waving Flags. The band were supported by the magnificent London Bulgarian woman’s choir. The second, Canvey Island was better, as was No Lucifer which saw Yan and Hamilton swap roles. The performance was complete with a display from Cambrian wrestlers. They even found time to chat (briefly) with JH but unfortunately had to share the privilege with comedian Alan Carr, for some reason.

Morrissey is an icon and like him or loathe him post-Smiths, he performed with professionalism and decorum. His demeanour suggests that he is just doing a job, such is the man’s presence on stage. But after That’s How People Grow Up was out of the way and the world TV exclusive of Something Is Squeezing My Skull, he seemed to loosen up and seem more interested. Maybe he was inspired by Norway’s Ida Maria. With all the bands around him, you can’t help feeling that he would much rather be back in those young vibrant days. Morrissey, like Radiohead before him, opened and closed the show and after All You Need Is Me JH revealed, in an oh so obvious staged but desperately trying to be improvised moment, that there was time for an encore. So he treated us to a much more relaxed rendition of The Last Of The Famous International Playboys. Being a fan of older Morrissey, this was a really great way to end the show.

The supporting act this week was split between London soul singer Nate James and Norwegian indie-rock band Ida Maria. The most interesting was definitely Ida Maria who started with the vibrant shouty and ultimately brilliant Oh My God. The performance began tentatively and ended with Maria throwing herself over the forward amps after throwing her hat across the studio. Second performance The Queen Of The World was equally determined but much more controlled.

It is a shame that the BBC seem to back away from ‘world music’ so much. A special guest this week was Mayra Andrade from Cape Verde who only got one song. It is probably better to get a range of music on Later…than the same styles each week but it feels like a missed opportunity to really showcase an ‘unknown’ artist. It was certainly quality or quantity and a rousing version of Mana, complete with a multi-tasking percussionist and a dexterous guitarist.

A real treat this week was the mighty Joe Brown, a Later… favourite and good friend of JH. A duet of Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On finally gave us a bit of boogie-woogie piano from Jules and some great guitar work from Brown. He had two other stage songs: George Formby’s I’ll See You In My Dreams and the Texas swing of Long Gone. JB played violin on the latter and was accompanied by his band. In a great old-time performance they shared a microphone.
Much more music this week which is a good thing but the show still needs a lot more variety. There is still a heavy leaning toward UK rock and pop which reflects the mature mainstream preference but a few more young vibrant bands, more folk and few sub-genres would be great.

Links: Ida Maria, Mayra Andrade

Grammy Awards 2008

I'm not one to make a big deal out of the Grammy Awards, as it's usually honouring mainstream stereotypes, but there were a few winners worth mentioning...

Foo Fighters picked up best rock album for Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace beating Springsteen’s Magic. Bruce did get best song, and solo rock vocal for Radio Nowhere.

The White Stripes got best alternative album and rock group vocal performance for the great Icky Thump.

The Chemical Brothers beat LCD Soundsystem for We Are The Night.

Feist missed out, mainly to Amy Winehouse, who won five awards. She appeared by video link to accept. In a ceremony heavy with R&B, Kanye West was the most successful male artist winning four awards. But the big winner was Herbie Hancock who took the prestigious record of the year.

BBC NEWS Entertainment Grammy Awards: Main winners

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Death Cab For Cutie - New Album May 2008

Death Cab For Cutie - New Album May 2008

As the title of this post suggests, Death Cab For Cutie is working on a new album for release in May 2008 - so that's only a few months away! The album, titled Narrow Stairs, is DCFC's 2005 masterpiece Plans. No lead single as yet and only a teaser video of the band in the studio are the website.

Also out this week in the UK is Chris Walla's solo debut Field Music (on Barsuk) so at least one of the band has been busy recently. More info here. A song from the album Sing Again sounds very DCFC which is no bad thing.

Monday, 4 February 2008

LATER...with Jools Holland (01/02/08 - Show 1)

As the only music TV show outside of the dedicated music channels, I felt it an obligation to review LATER... and talk about some of the performances and artists on each show. So we start with the 200th (ish) edition. The set line-up is as-follows:

  • Radiohead - Bodysnatchers
  • Mary J. Blige - Just Fine
  • Feist - My Moon, My Man
  • Dionne Warwick (Chat with JH at the piano)
  • Cat Power - New York
  • Radiohead - Weird Fishes / Arpeggi
  • Robyn Hitchcock - Sounds Great When You're Dead
  • Mary J. Blige - Feel Like A Woman
  • Feist - 1234
  • Mary J. Blige (Chat with JH at the piano)
  • Cat Power - Lost Someone
  • Happy Birthday - Everyone
  • Mary J. Blige - Work That
  • Feist - Sealion
  • Radiohead - 15 Step

In a show heavy with 'talented female artists' it was a shame that Cat Power only performed two songs. The first of these taken from her new Jukebox covers album was a rearranged version of New York. The second performance Lost Someone was, sadly, a bit lacking.

Feist, on the other hand was very good. A stately rendition of My Moon, My Moon, then a wonderful semi-acoustic 1234 complete with a varied and interesting orchestra of instruments from her talented band. The finale Sealion was very Radiohead-esque, oozing energy and control. Feist's voice is amazingly strong while remaining delicate and soft.

Speaking of Radiohead, the band started and closed the show. All three songs: Bodysnatchers, Weird Fishes / Arpeggi and 15 Step sounded lifted from In Rainbows, such is the perfectionism of the band. Only opener Bodysnatchers with Yorke's wavering slack vocals was a bit too 'live'. The rest was incredible, even seeing instrument changes mid-song and guitarist Greenwood playing, changing programs with his feet and fingertip mouse controlling on his laptop.

Mary J. Blige, albeit not exactly my cup-o-chi, showed why and how she is so successful with three slick performances complete with funk-filled band. Her set closed with Work That and proved she can rap with the best of them.

The odd-ball, in so many ways, was Robyn Hitchcock who only had one song but he really made the most of it. Looking like a young and insane Peter Cook, he played a dexterous guitar lick on Sounds Great When You're Dead accompanied by Terry Edwards on the piano. The effect was very strange but there was clear dynamics between the two musicians who seemed to be playing on completely different songs.

JH took time out to chat with legend Dionne Warwick, who didn't perform which was a shame, and Mary J. about her new found happiness and CD. And everyone sung Happy Birthday to the show. After the chaos of the last Hootenanny, pre-recorded or not (see here for a very funny blog entry), this was much more straightforward. And JH resisted the temptation to soak everything in his R&B sound or 'help out' on his piano. Don't get me wrong, he is brilliant but we want to hear the artists untainted.

Radiohead - Nude (Scotch Mist) Video

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Radiohead - Jigsaw Falling Into Place Video

This video for Jigsaw Falling Into Place, the first single from In Rainbows was created by Adam Buxton and Garth Jennings. A link to Adam's blog is here.