Sunday, 28 February 2010

2010 Music Chart - February

New albums from Eels and Laura Veirs. Always a good month :)
  1. The Betrayed by LostProphets.
  2. Acolyte by Delphic.
  3. End Times by Eels.
  4. July Flame by Laura Veirs.
  5. Graceful Bow (EP) by Jason Ward.
  6. Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

NME Awards 2010

A bit late I know, but here are this year's NME awards nominees.

Muse, Kasabian, Oasis (for some reason) and Arctic Monkeys all feature. Them Crooked Vultures is up for best live act but not any of the best band or album awards. Neither is The Dead Weather. Shameful...

The Shockwaves NME Awards 2010 nominations are:

Best British Band (sponsored by Shockwaves)
Arctic Monkeys
Biffy Clyro

Best International Band (sponsored by 4music/T4)
Green Day
Kings Of Leon
Vampire Weekend
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Best Solo Artist
Dizzee Rascal
Florence And The Machine
Jamie T
Julian Casablancas
Lady Gaga

Best New Band (sponsored by USC)
The Big Pink
Bombay Bicycle Club
Mumford & Sons
The xx
La Roux

Best Live Band (sponsored by Tuborg)
Arctic Monkeys
Them Crooked Vultures

Best Album (sponsored by HMV)
Arctic Monkeys – 'Humbug'
Kasabian – 'West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum'
Muse – 'The Resistance'
The Cribs – 'Ignore The Ignorant'
The Horrors – 'Primary Colours'

Best Track (sponsored by NME Radio)
Animal Collective – 'My Girls'
Arctic Monkeys – 'Crying Lightning'
Florence And The Machine – 'Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)'
Jamie T – 'Sticks N' Stones'
The Big Pink – 'Dominos'

Best Video (sponsored by NME TV)
Arctic Monkeys – 'Cornerstone '
Biffy Clyro – 'The Captain'
Kasabian – 'Fire'
The Maccabees – 'Can You Give It'
Oasis – 'Falling Down'

Best Live Event
Blur at Hyde Park
Jay-Z at Alexandra Palace
Muse at Teignmouth
Oasis at Heaton Park
The Dead Weather at Shoreditch Church

Best Festival
Reading And Leeds Festivals
T In The Park
V Festival

Best Dancefloor Filler
Dizzee Rascal And Armand Van Helden – 'Bonkers'
Florence And The Machine – 'You've Got The Love'
La Roux – 'In For The Kill' (Skream Remix)
Lady Gaga – 'Poker Face'
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – 'Zero'

Best TV Show
The Inbetweeners
Never Mind The Buzzcocks
Peep Show
True Blood

Best Film
(500) Days Of Summer
In The Loop
Inglourious Basterds
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Where The Wild Things Are

Best DVD
Kings Of Leon – Live At The The O2 Arena
Flight Of The Conchords – Complete HBO Second Season
The Killers – Live From The Royal Albert Hall
The Mighty Boosh – Future Sailors
Nirvana – Live At Reading

Giving It Back Fan Award
Kasabian and Noel Fielding for free 'Vlad The Impaler' video
Danger Mouse for leaking 'Dark Night Of The Soul'
Lily Allen for her Twitter ticket treasure hunt
Arctic Monkeys for their Oxfam golden tickets
Vampire Weekend for giving away 'Horchata' from the album 'Contra'

Hero Of The Year
Beyoncé Knowles
Noel Gallagher
Rage Against The Machine
Matt Bellamy
Alex Turner

Villain Of The Year
Noel Gallagher
Liam Gallagher
Simon Cowell
Kanye West
Lady Gaga

Best Dressed
Lady Gaga
Liam Gallagher
Noel Fielding
Florence Welch
Karen O

Worst Dressed
Lady Gaga
Matt Bellamy
Katy Perry
Liam Gallagher
Elly Jackson, La Roux

Worst Album
Green Day – '21st Century Breakdown'
Lady Gaga – 'The Fame'
The Jonas Brothers – 'Lines Vines Trying Times'
U2 – 'No Line On The Horizon'
Arctic Monkeys – 'Humbug'

Worst Band
Green Day
Jonas Brothers

Hottest Man
Head to NME.COM now to rate possibles including Alex Turner, Liam Gallagher, Peter Doherty, Matt Bellamy, Brandon Flowers and Julian Casablancas

Hottest Woman
Head to NME.COM now to rate possibles including Lily Allen, Alison Mosshart, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Florence Welch and Karen O

Best Website (excluding NME.COM)

Best Album Artwork
Muse – 'The Resistance'
Green Day – '21st Century Breakdown'
Kasabian – 'West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum'
The Cribs – 'Ignore The Ignorant'
Manic Street Preachers – 'Journal For Plague Lovers '

Best Band Blog
Muse ( and
Radiohead (
Noel Gallagher (
Los Campesinos! (
Paramore (

Monday, 22 February 2010

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir Update (February 2010)

February's exclusive Angels track from Thea is a song that was destined for Harpo's Ghost but never made the cut. It's a another beautiful melancholy 'waltz' with a beguiling vocal from Thea and not at all predictable. Starting slow and quiet, then joined by big rolling drums and static, this could be more of a rejection from Avalanche - the soaring guitar solo would definitely suggest so.

Not spectacular but something a bit different, yet familiar, and perfectly good. I am just waiting for something really great - new and not just revisited.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Garfunkel & Oates - Worst Song Medley!

Garfunkel & Oates, AKA Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, are the female Flight Of The Conchords. The beautiful and talented duo has made a YouTube video featuring a medley of the worst songs ever made.

New Laura Marling album - I Speak Because I Can

There is a great new Laura Marling feature on the Sunday Times website. Read it here.

Marling's new album I Speak Because I Can is out on 22nd March.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Laura Veirs - July Flame Album Review (2010)

There has always been something organic about the music of Laura Veirs (she studied geology at university) and her seventh album July Flame, a celebration of summer and the great outdoors, is no different. The album, produced by long-time collaborator Tucker Martine, is the antithesis of Veirs’ wonderful Carbon Glacier, a record as cold as reading Ice Station Zebra while watching The Thing in a refrigerator. In contrast July Flame (a type of peach) epitomises long hot days and warm campfire nights and sees a return to the more solitary folk sound of Veirs’ early days.

As with much of Laura Veirs’ music, it is best when it’s not over-thought. That is the problem with previous album Saltbreakers, a much bigger album arranged for a much bigger cast - often brilliant but sometimes lacking in consistency. Year of Meteors strikes a perfect balance (as does the aforementioned Carbon Glacier), letting the vocals take centre stage - striking, unique, and very much self-taught. As you might expect, July Flame takes the same approach.

Opener I Can See Your Tracks floats along with a wistful melody and some gorgeous old-time backing vocals. The title track is an undoubted highlight, with a wonderful weird chorus of musical accompaniment climaxing in an odd orchestral arrangement. If the album was produced by Jónsi from Sigur Rós all songs would sound like this. This is followed by the sun kissed country vibes of Sun King, the soft edges immediately highlighting Veirs’ hard, often flat voice. Musically the song is perfect and gorgeous guitars adorn the last minute.

Where Are You Driving? opens with a brief organ solo, followed by light guitars and a vocal that tries to achieve the same airiness, instead lapsing into a dark cold chorus. Better paced is Life Is Good Blues - another highlight, and a great piece of ironic song writing that is over too quickly. The subtle drama of Silo Song is oddly familiar but beautifully arranged as Veirs asks “Have I gone up in smoke?”. Another darker song Little Deschutes juxtaposes two vocal sounds, as if Veirs is having a conversation with her past self via an old tinny radio. More great instrumentation includes a Stranglers-esque flash of organ, delicate piano and muddy electric guitars. Atmospheric and engaging.

Summer Is The Champion (predictably) continues the theme as the most ‘full’ song on the album. Unfolding like a band trying to get into a flow, more great piano and guitar work drive it forward. Veirs gives another solid vocal and actually sounds like she’s having fun. Another upbeat highlight, even finding time to throw in a horn section for the finale. When You Give Your Heart is much more stripped-down and poetic filled with great lines: “And my stampeding buffalo stops in her tracks and watches the snow…” and after some wordless musing, “This is my song of love, gathered from stuff above…”.

Into the last quartet, Sleeper In The Valley is another brilliantly crafted song, the complexity of the music hidden by a central guitar melody. The strings build in the mesmerising second half and the sampled crow calls add to the atmosphere. Wide-Eyed, Legless is much more strange and playful, like an old folk song given a modern sound, before another great song and tribute to a fellow musician and inspiration: Carol Kaye. Namedropping Good Vibrations and Homeward Bound in the opening verse (on which Kaye plays), Veirs’ lament is simple and direct. July Flame closes with Make Something Good, a realistic attempt to sum up the album. It is startlingly honest and almost the perfect way to end any album. The musical outro is the only moment of obvious self-indulgence to bring things to a downbeat, reflective end.

Laura Veirs has made no secret of how July Flame was conceived. She was trying to find inspiration and the album came from “a searching soulful place” and a spontaneity driven from a quest for new ideas and sounds. And even though it is business as usual, it works. At the heart of this is still Veirs’ vocal ability, which is basic and straight-forward. It is also very ‘real’ - something unique and rare these days. But the songs can suffer because of it, usually relying on heavy production. And for an album that is supposed to convey warmth and embrace, July Flame is at times cold and distant; something that makes Carbon Glacier such a great piece of work pulls these songs into the world of morning after weak dawn sunlight and embers. And that is the very point: that ever summer brings a winter and fighting is futile. In the same way that fighting your own musical soul also drags you back. The search for something new has brought Veirs full circle, only now she is in a much warmer, lighter and ultimately safer place.
-- CS

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Men At Work 'plagarism' - Colin Hay response

Colin Hay, (former) lead-singer of Australian band Men At Work, has given his response to the court ruling that the band's biggest hit Down Under took it's famous flute riff from a children's song.

Read the BBC report here.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Eels - End Times Album Review (2010)

Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is a life’s work for Mark Everett. It is an extraordinary collection of thirty three songs inspired by a much-publicised troubled family, a tortured soul and a furtive mind. But even with the 2008 ‘best of’ collection (tagging on ‘volume I’ is a neat trick), Everett’s autobiography and film about his father’s life, there is more to come from Eels. Getting into character for the sequel to Souljacker, Hombre Lobo is the first of two albums in six months, as Everett throws aside the projects that drew him away from the daytime job of making music and continues with End Times.

Unlike many Eels albums, End Times has a spontaneity last heard on 1998’s Electro-Shock Blues. Neither album feels like it has been ‘thrown together’ but there is immediacy about the music - it is very much in the moment and firmly in the present. At times, Everett does recall the past but only to drag it forward to give it modern context - call it reminiscence, call it nostalgic therapy, he can recall without reliving and craft it into something new. And the future plays a big part as he looks at himself growing old (and more miserable - if that is possible). Mainly End Times benefits from recent events, namely a break-up. And this is Everett’s break-up album.

The Beginning opens End Times, all distant and echoing vocals, recalling the calm before the storm. Even through the uneasiness that surrounds much of Eels music these days, there is tearful hope that if things had been different, the relationship would have taken a different turn. Gone Man quickly mixes things up, a honky-tonk blues guitar-led, upbeat song. Borrowing from the Rolling Stones It’s all over now, this races through three minutes. My Younger Days sees Everett in the future, as an old man trying to work out what his actions would be if he was still in his youth: “Now I’m a statistic, but I’m not fatalistic. Not yet resigned to fate, I‘m not gonna be ruled by hate” is a wonderful line that flips the whole notion that it’s better to be an impetuous youth than a grumpy old man. Musically, space-aged electronics fill in the more acoustic approach. More great song writing with “…But I’ve had enough. Been through some stuff. I don’t need any more misery to teach me what I should be”. Then a pause before, “I just need you back”. Simple. Direct. Powerful.

Mansions of Los Feliz (in Los Angeles) is bitter-sweet Eels (both in music and lyrics) but is one of the songs on End Times that is out of place. It’s as much about alienation, agoraphobia as it is about ignorance and capitalism. A Line In The Dirt throws us right back into the present. Opening with the line “She locked herself in the bathroom again, so I am pissing in the yard”, this is brilliant and heart-breaking, with a controlled vocal from Everett, from gravel-throated verses to falsetto chorus. One of the best Eels songs, from arrangement to execution; the perfect anti-love song. Into the title track and another delicate guitar melody frames Everett’s journey home around a bleak, confusing world without love.

Apple Trees is forty seconds that revisits (briefly) the idea behind Susan’s House. But it is just an empty interlude. To bring in Paradise Blues. It’s hard to know where to start with this song. Obviously embedded in the current social and political tensions and the ‘crazy’ notion that religious extremism will bring ultimate reward, this is not so much tongue in cheek as fist in mouth. Everett screams and hollers like a madman about embracing love. Getting passed a strange vocal start, Nowadays introduced a calmer man with a stark blast of harmonica. With lines like “Trouble is a friend of mine I’d like to leave behind. I like my friends more refined” this is more great song writing and another effortless performance. Into Unhinged and another faster guitar and organ fest, this is one of the weaker songs due to being oddly tuneless, lacking imagination and too obvious. A rare moment of poor judgement.

High and Lonesome is another strange interlude; this time of rain, thunder and church bells. A knock on a door begins I Need A Mother and more self-examination, elements of confused relationships, and needing love back when you give so much. Another highlight is Little Bird, the kind of song no one else would get away with. “God damn. I miss that girl” is genuinely beautiful with equally poignant guitar-work. Way too short is the only problem. End Time closes with the brilliant On My Feet, again with Everett as an older man reflecting on the effects of what has come before. “I pushed the bed against the window today, so there’ll only be one side. Well it’s a little less lonely that way, but I’m still dying inside…”. Time after time he draws you into his heartbreak. It’s never forced, and it’s never a sad loser winging. He is saying it as it is: “When it’s time to look back on my life. Most of it won’t seem too important. The shit that matters, and what I really miss, is falling asleep with your arms around me…”.

The danger was (and still is to a point) that Eels was becoming all about Everett and his own despair. The rest of Eels might be comfortable with this but it’s getting to the stage now that bows are running out of strings. Not that the music is now one-dimensional; far from it. Everett makes exquisitely beautiful music, tackling huge world-enveloping concepts with as much ease as tiny observations and single ideas. Such is the breadth and depth of one man’s imagination, his life, and his persona. He thrives from misery and tragedy, is open and honest about his emotions, feelings and actions, choosing to shout when he needs to and quietly intimate when he doesn’t. Pain and loss has never sounded so good. End Times is another great Eels album.
- CS