Thursday, 30 June 2011

2011 Music Chart - June

New albums for June from Moby and Emmy The Great. Moby is back with yet another extraordinary record, Destroyed, filled with eclectic electro-goth/pop and soaring instrumentals. Rising star Emmy The Great released her second album this month, Virtue, to build on a promising début.
  1. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
  2. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will by Mogwai
  3. Last Night On Earth by Noah And The Whale
  4. Codes and Keys by Death Cab For Cutie
  5. Collapse Into Now by R.E.M.
  6. Belong by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
  7. The Big Roar by The Joy Formidable
  8. Destroyed by Moby
  9. John Wesley Harding by Thea Gilmore
  10. Build A Rocket Boys! by Elbow
  11. Virtue by Emmy The Great
  12. Ritual by White Lies
  13. Fishin' For Woos by Bowling For Soup
  14. The Fool by Warpaint
  15. Buffalo by The Phoenix Foundation
  16. Wasting Light by Foo Fighters
  17. The King Of Limbs by Radiohead

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir (June 2011)

A really interesting song this month, recorded by Thea while on her way to Glastonbury...

I will let Thea introduce the song:

"We're travelling to Glastonbury festival to play John Wesley Harding on the acoustic stage.. I have very deliberately avoided all TV footage of the festival so far because its been raining solidly for three days and I don't want to know the quagmire that we're about to drive into.

I am at this point, 35 weeks pregnant and the size of a house, literally, a good sized, 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom family home.. it is hot and humid and grey and my fuzzy brain is trying to process everything that I need to think about for the performance that night. We've left all motorways and major roads behind and we're winding our way through English, pastoral, summer greenness.

And then two things happen, the more mundane of them being that I realize I desperately need to use the bathroom..  and the sun comes out..

So here's what we do, we stop.. in a tiny lane. I make myself more.. ahem... comfortable.. and then, just for fun, we get the guitar out and record..."

The song is 'Give Me A Place To Stand', a sad, melancholy ballad that doesn't quite sum up the glorious English summer festival mood but instead adds a sense of perspective on the world.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Glastonbury 2001 - U2 and Coldplay: The Rights and The Wrongs

The big headliners at this year’s Glastonbury festival U2 and Coldplay have now performed and as predicted they have both satisfied and divided audiences. But it was U2 that came out on top in the battle of bands no one likes admitting they like.

Glastonbury is all about the right approach. A Glastonbury set is a greatest hits showcase, the best of the back catalogue and the cream of your musical achievement. This immediately put U2 ahead as they have more to draw upon. So why, in their Friday night headline set, did they pad the end with weak recent-era single like Vertigo, Elevation and worse Get On Your Boots? A festival set has to have momentum and this slowed things to a crawl.

It all started so well with five of the best from Achtung Baby then Where The Streets Have No Name (always good to throw in an obvious ‘encore’ song early on) and I Will Follow. Bono threw in some odd cover snippets which aren’t worth mentioning and finished the main set with Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bad (a personal favourite) and Pride. But the encore was a wasted opportunity just as the set was building momentum again. Blues legend and one-time U2 collaborator B.B. King was at the festival this year and the stage was set for When Love Comes To Town. Alas it never happened. And the encore was a rousing With Or Without You followed by the very dull Moment Of Surrender (another recent song) and a spirited Out of Control from debut album Boy.

So a hits-packed set from U2 with nothing new and only two from the new album. Complete with a live feed from the International Space Station, this was a solid set (in spite of falling flat) from a band trying to hold on to their prime. And just about succeeding). Bono is still an enigmatic showman and The Edge is a supreme guitarist.

Pretenders to the U2 throne, Coldplay, have much more to prove (and judging by the Saturday night set, a lot to learn). Five new songs from Chris Martin and the boys – not new as in from the latest album, but new as in not yet released. He even apologised to the masses as if they had some obligation to plug their new album. “One Day they’ll be your favourites”, Martin declared optimistically. And they opened with a brand new song. Yes most of the crowd had probably heard it before but still, it all comes back to momentum. This was followed by the mighty Yellow and probably the smartest move of the night (again, get your obvious encore song in early – and it doesn’t get much bigger that this). As In My Place started, it looked as if everything was back on track after the opening stumble but the set ambled along littered with new songs, the disjointed early single Shiver and the best from Viva La Vida up against the brilliance of A Rush Of Blood To The Head. X&Y was haplessly neglected; the album is filled with songs that are just made for big crowds so when only include Fix You, for the encore. They had to.

But the final nail in the Coldplay coffin was during Us Against The World – the best of the new songs – Martin messed up. Instead of bimbling on and getting through it (no one would have noticed) he stopped the song and started again. Genuine blunder or misjudged publicity stunt? He then made a joke about the set being an open rehearsal and “let’s forget this is a festival and we’re supposed to be professional headliners”. What happened to respect and taking this seriously? If you can’t get through new songs live then don’t attempt them, especially if you’re top billing on Saturday at Glastonbury. It was embarrassing and disrespectful. Then they closed with new single Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall that is still a terrible song.

This was a night to forget from Coldplay and a fitting Glastonbury swansong for U2.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Clarence Clemons RIP

The legendary saxophonist and E Street Band stalwart Clarence Clemons has died, aged 69.

Bruce Springsteen posted on the band's website:

"His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band."


Saturday, 18 June 2011

New Subways song - It's A Party

Get the new song from The Subways here:

Fountains of Wayne - new album and Rolling Stone interview

Fountains of Wayne talk about the new album Sky Full Of Holes to Rolling Stone.

Read it here.

The National video contest

The National and video games company Valve have launched a new competition: to make a video for Exile Vilify, the song The National provided for the game Portal 2.

You can hear Exile Vilify here:

Thursday, 16 June 2011

R.E.M. ÜBerlin video

The new video for ÜBerlin by R.E.M.

Directed by Sam Taylor-Wood and featuring Aaron Johnson.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Thea Gilmore - John Wesley Harding (Album Review 2011)

Not every musician has the audacity to cover Bob Dylan songs but Thea Gilmore has gone a step further by covering a whole album. And that album is the much-praised John Wesley Harding. The record that brought the world the wonderful All Along The Watchtower (a year after its release this would be covered by Jimi Hendrix in what remains one of the best cover versions of all time) was the start of Dylan’s journey into country from his early folk roots. This crossover of musical styles and influences is perfect material for Gilmore.

Dylan said of John Wesley Harding that he actually wanted to record it with a full band. The reality was that it was almost a solo recording. Much of the original is just Dylan, who provides harmonica, piano and guitar as well as vocals, and a simple drum/bass accompaniment. So the final result was much more stripped down than he wanted. In response to this Gilmore has mostly shied away from the quiet intimate arrangement and approaches the whole project full-blooded and head-on.  In addition to Gilmore’s crisp and direct vocals, the guitar-work from Robbie McIntosh is excellent. The effect is an astonishing tribute through reinvention.

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine is the song that started this all; Thea having recorded it before as part of her Songs From The Gutter covers album. Apparently Bruce Springsteen described it was one of the great Dylan covers. That aside, it doesn’t disappoint. Likewise the magnificent All Along The Watchtower captures the twisted darkness perfectly with Gilmore’s delicate vocals riding the turbulent production. To complete the best trio on the album, The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest is brilliant poetry from start to finish.

Elsewhere the reinvention is more obvious. The simple piano-led Dear Landlord is given a slight jazz treatment within the blues melody. Drifter’s Escape is a great modern ‘soft-rock’ take, all fuzzy guitars and pounding drums. As is the equally frantic harmonica stomp of The Wicked Messenger, also faster and more direct than the original, and As I Went Out One Morning has all of the same vocal arrangement with added guitar injection. But where required, Gilmore is closer to Dylan’s material. I Pity The Poor Immigrant still packs a political punch and Gilmore delivers the message as it was intended. Closer I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight is a lighter note to finish.

With her version of John Wesley Harding Thea Gilmore has managed to achieve two things: retain the spirit of Bob Dylan’s original and smooth out all the rough edges. The strength of the original is the terrifyingly acute song writing and Gilmore goes to great lengths to preserve the essence of the narrative – each song is a story and each story delivers vibrant characters from a long lost age. Naturally there would be many who will say that this is the easy option for Gilmore and that attempting to cover a seminal work is both foolish and divisive, but this was always a double-edged sword. Hopefully people will take this for what it is: to coincide with Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, a celebration of the life of one of the greatest songwriters this world has ever produced.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Kaiser Chiefs 'DIY' new Album

Kaiser Chiefs have come up with an interesting new concept for their latest album: fans can pick 10 songs from 20, design their own artwork and then download the album. The twist is that you can get £1 for each copy of your album that you sell. Ok so this is taking album marketing in a new direction but there is one flaw to this. Fans of the band are going to want all the songs so they will create two albums of 10 songs and download them both. So why would anyone want a 'random' selection of 10 songs, especially in this age of the 'shuffle' mp3 player? The only way this could work is if fans buy an album from another fan and then make their own from the 10 songs that they don't have, and so on. That could work, and the band gives a pound for each one 'passed-on'. Great idea, not sure it will catch on.

The website is really well put together. And if you're a fan, it's worth checking out.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Mark Kermode Midnight Cowboy harmonica session

Great 'behind the scenes' video of Mark practising for his show-piece with the London Philharmonic: the harmonica part of theme from the movie Midnight Cowboy.