Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Celebrate Celebration!

It’s time to return to Celebration. I didn’t talk about them much when I wrote about the TV on the Radio gig a couple of weeks ago. That’s because I figured that they deserve their own post. So here it is.

When I saw Celebration supporting TVOTR, I hadn’t heard any of their music before. Granted, this is a fairly unusual position these days, what with every band having a myspace and all that, but I just never checked them out. But as my recent experience proves, this kind of ignorance can be a good thing.

Catching Celebration live is an essential part of appreciating their music. I watched, increasingly captivated as their set unfurled before me. There was singer Katrina Ford, doing her charismatic flailing at the front of the stage. There was Sean Antanaitis knocking out impressive soundscapes on the ‘guitorgan’ a strange hybrid between organ and guitar, which also seems to act as a bass as well. David Bergander was providing the tight, funky drumming. David Sitek from TVOTR joined them for a substantial part of their set, adding layers of guitar and additional percussion. We even had an appearance from Tunde Adebimpe (TVOTR vocalist) on one song.

As you can probably tell, the two bands are mates from Brooklyn, and have a lot to do with each other, not just on stage. Sitek was the producer of their debut, self-titled album, which also features vocal appearances from Adebimpe and Kyp Malone. In return, Ford has sung on some TVOTR tracks, including Staring at the Sun. It’s a big Brooklyn love-in!

As with their mates, Celebration’s music may take a while to appreciate properly, which is why their mesmerising performance was the best place to start, before trying out the album. I’ve seen some lazy, negative comparisons to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but although they’re both 3-pieces from Brooklyn with charismatic female singers, that’s about where it ends. Katina doesn’t quite clamber the walls like Karen O, and her voice has a greater depth and strength that her more famous compatriot doesn’t have (though she can yelp too!). They also don’t have the YYY’s pop sensibilities – their music is more dense, intense and complex and may take a while to unravel to find all the gems hidden within.

Live, like on the record, Celebration’s sound is dominated by the swooping and soaring of the sounds of the guitorgan. Towards the end of the set, the beats get tighter and funkier, inviting the indie kids to dance (and I mean properly dance, not jumping around, rock-style). And then they’re off, only to return later to provide extra vox and percussion for their mates. That’s what friends are for.

For your listening pleasure, here are a couple of my favourite tracks from Celebration. At the moment, I just can’t get enough of Diamonds – it’s a dark, theatrical funeral waltz, maybe best performed in an abandoned music hall. Stars is a pulsing, atmospheric gem, and a fine album closer. Listen and explore further…

Download: Celebration – Diamonds

Download: Celebration – Stars

Buy Celebration.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The class of '91

Yesterday, to accompany me getting round to the last hurdle in my kitchen refit (for those of you who care, this was the first hurdle), I had BBC 6 Music’s nostalgia-fest that was The Class of ’91 (unsurprisingly featuring loads if music from that year). Now I don’t always go for nostalgia-fests, but this one was the business.

You see, 1991 was a big year for me and music. I had previously begun to get into Madchester and acid house, but I was always following my mates’ taste. In ’91 I felt like I was striking it out alone, what with my avid reading of the Melody Maker and NME to discover this brave new world of indie music. And in retrospect, it was a good year, as 6 Music no doubt also thought.

For me, there were albums from Throwing Muses (The Real Ramona), My Bloody Valentine (Loveless) and REM (Out of Time). I still remember the week that Screamadelica and Trompe le Monde came out. I also remember the Scream’s 10/10 review in NME. In the same issue's reviews, the Pixies also fared well, as did a lesser-known Seattle grunge band called Nirvana.

And of course, there was Teenage Fanclub. Starsign was the soundtrack to my summer, along with shoegazing favourites from Moose, The Pale Saints, Chapterhouse and Lush. And then there was the excitement on the day in October Bandwagonesque was released, skipping lectures to go to Fopp and buy my copy! Ah, nostalgia.

Anyway, here are some tunes. In addition to the above indie stuff, there's also a couple of albums from '91 that I came to appreciate later - Massive Attack's Blue Lines and the Young Disciples' Road to Freedom.

Download: Throwing Muses - Two Step (Buy)
Download: My Bloody Valentine - When You Sleep (Buy)
Download: REM - Country Feedback (Buy)
Download: Primal Scream - Loaded (Buy)
Download: Pixies - Motorway to Rosswell (Buy)
Download: Teenage Fanclub: Alcoholiday (Buy)
Download: Massive Attack - Safe From Harm (Buy)
Download: Young Disciples - Apparently Nothin' (Buy)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Sunday service

I don't usually post on Sundays. It's not a rule, I'm just usually doing something else. So since it's a Sunday, here are a couple of old hymns. Both Sufjan-related. The first is from one of Stevens' legendary Christmas albums, though it's not a Christmas song, it's just a regular hymn. The second is from The Welcome Wagon, which is former Sufjan band member Vito Aiuto, who records as the Welcome Wagon with his wife, as well as being the minister of a church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This one's from the first Asthmatic Kitty Mews compilation. Welcome Wagon have another track on the second Mews comp, but I've not got around to getting that one yet.

Download: Sufjan Stevens - Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Download: The Welcome Wagon - There is a Fountain Filled with Blood

Friday, May 26, 2006

You are the Music

After heralding the arrival back on the music scene of M Craft back in March, it’s great to finally have his album come out. And it’s been worth the wait. Mind you, there’s a good few familiar tracks there. The three songs from 2004 that I had on my last post are all on the new album (Sweets and Dragonfly from his mini-album I can see it all Tonight, and Emily Snow which came out on 7 inch only).

There’s so much to enjoy on this album, and it has such mainstream appeal that it would be a crime if he didn’t cross over big time. I know there’s a bit of a crowded market for singer-songwriters these days, but I reckon Martin Craft has got the edge over most of them.

Take the range of his music. There’s the lovely, intricate, subtle melodies of the likes of Silver and Fire, Teardrop Tattoo and Dragonfly. But what’s this? A funky bassline wobbles into earshot on You Are The Music, and it ends up almost inviting us to dance. He even does his own take on the ever-popular ‘epic indie’ style on Love Knows How To Fight, surely a Brixton Academy lighters-out moment, possibly only scuppered by his use of the eff word. Maybe someone can fix that – they did for Radiohead.

There’s more funky drumming on Sweets, and he even attempts Springsteen style stadium riffing on the start of Lucille. Surely this man has ambitions beyond the 40 or so people reported seeing him in Manchester the other night. And if there’s any justice in the world, his ambitions will be realised.

Download: M. Craft - Silver and Fire
Download: M. Craft - You are the Music

Buy Silver and Fire at Amazon.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Micah P. Hinson

I love Micah P Hinson. But lately my love had grown cold.

I remember when I heard my first Micah song – the gorgeous, downbeat country gospel of The Day Texas Sank Into The Sea, a couple of years ago on Sean Rowley’s old late night show on BBC London. It made me want to find out more about this mysterious, Biblically-named character. That summer I was pleased to find him supporting Joanna Newsom at the 12-Bar Club, though surprisingly he seemed nervous. He also looked quite young, and not the grizzled old man his voice suggested. I later found out he was only 22.

Later in 2004, I saw Micah again, this time supporting his pals The Earlies at the Scala. Although supporting is a funny word to use, as most of The Earlies were his backing band. It was revelatory. He had been transformed into a country rock star, even if a reluctant one. It’s still one of my top gigs of recent years.

That year his Earlies-produced album Micah P Hinson and the Gospel of Progress was released and it was (and still is) a classic of beautiful, broken ballads, tough waltzes and acoustic rock-outs . It’s not only his vocals that bely his years, his lyrics do too. How to cram such a lifetime’s experience of love, loss, pain and adventure into such a short life? It was one of my albums of the year, and a few others’ too (No.5 in the Rough Trade 2004 chart).

Then last year it seemed to go a bit quiet. Sure, I picked up a copy of his re-recorded and re-released debut album The Baby and the Satellite, which is a more lo-fi affair. Pretty good, but not as glorious as ...the Gospel of Progress. There may have been gigs, but either I wasn’t looking or there weren’t very many.

So I was delighted to see he was supporting Richard Hawley at his Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig last week. And he didn’t disappoint. It’s the most stripped down I’ve seen him – just Micah, a guitar and a guy providing sound effects and harmonica. He sang songs from his two albums – gutsy, heartfelt and soulful. All beautiful. In the end it was too short. The other support (dull, meat and potatoes indie rockers Palace Fires) seemed to have over-run, and Micah couldn’t. Still, we got treated to some new songs, which bode well for the new album, which according to his record company will be out in September. I can’t wait. It’s time to fall in love again…

From The Baby and the Satellite (Buy it)

Download: Micah P Hinson - For Your Eyes

From Micah P Hinson and the Gospel of Progress (Buy it)

Download: Micah P Hinson - Don't You (part 1 & 2)
Download: Micah P Hinson - The Day Texas Sank to the Bottom of the Sea

A couple more photos on my Flickr page

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Disco Pogo For Punks in Pumps - Vol 3.

Time, I think, to return to the next instalment of the Jockey Slut CD series. This week, it’s volume 3, from February 2003.

In the magazine, there was a big feature on Massive Attack, and their fourth album 100th Window was album of the month. Elsewhere, we found out that Nas and Kelis were an item, discovered the Scissor Sisters had lost their record company to release Comfortably Numb (City Rockers folded, others were interested in putting it out – now we all know where that led to), were introduced to Electric Six, saw Erlend Oye’s well-dodgy moustache and saw the records on the walls of Erol Alkan’s bedroom.

The tracks? Again a fine mixture of goodies from rock to house. For your delectation or discovery, my picks are tunes from the aforementioned Kings of Convenience singer, Rob Gallagher/ Earl Zinger side project Red Egyptians (where is he now?), Avalanches-inspired (surely) fun from Headland, Midlands oddballs Bent, a very weird homage to Highway to Hell, DFA reworking Radio 4 and some fine techno from Agoria (whoever he/she/they may be),

Download: The Red Egyptians – The Red Egyptians
Download: Bent – Exercise 3
Download: Headland – Let’s Hear it for God
Download: Erlend Oye – Ghost Trains
Download: Mile & Mr Hirsche – Highway to Hell
Download: Radio 4 – Dance to the Underground (DFA Version)
Download: Agoria – La 11eme Marche

Other Jockey Slut-related news: apparently new music mag Dummy is a quarterly from the founders of Jockey Slut. I’ve heard of Dummy, but never seen a copy for sale anywhere. According to Nicole on Popscene, you can get them in Borders. The word ‘quarterly’ makes me suspicious though. That’s what they said about the last edition of the Slut. We’ll see then…

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tilly and the Wall / Semifinalists / Emmy the Great @ The Luminaire

Last Friday at the Luminaire...

Ever have a gig ruined by bad sound? I often complain about sound being not quite right, but rarely does it really spoil a gig. However, on Friday, the excitement that I had about seeing Tilly and the Wall at the Luminaire was almost dissipated by a complete failure to get the levels right throughout their whole set.

I should have seen it coming. Even during Emmy the Great’s opening set there were signs. Now, there was a lot less to get wrong there – she uses mostly just an acoustic guitar, though unlike the previous times I’ve seen her, she was accompanied on stage by a couple of people, including Johnny Flynn on violin (a decent artist in his own right). I’ve already said plenty about Emmy on this blog before, and I won’t add to it, except to say “record companies: SOMEBODY GIVE THIS GIRL A RECORD DEAL NOW! Are you mad?” She’s brilliant. And she gets better every time I hear her.

In retrospect, I can’t make up mind whether Semifinalists are actually rubbish, or if they too were hampered by bad sound. It probably doesn’t help that they seem to have fragments of good songs tucked away in general messing around, and sometimes when they got a good thing going, it stopped abruptly. Who knows? Towards the end of their set, when they begin to turn into more of a power pop trio, and got out the classic hand-held Casio keyboard, things began to look up. I’d probably have to reserve further judgement until I hear their album, and maybe see them live again. What I can’t fault though, is their enthusiasm. They’re an odd band. All of them sing. Drummer Chris Steele-Nicholson with his high pitched vocals. Ferry Guow with his yelps, and not to mention his pink baseball cap, huge white glasses and 80s throwback jumper, flinging himself around stage. They’re fun to watch at least.

Tilly and the Wall abandoned their pre-gig group huddle in favour of coming onto the stage with a cheerleader-style chant, but as soon as they launched into Fell Down the Stairs, we know something was amiss. Instead of between song banter, it was all about asking the sound man to turn various things up or down. For most of the set the girls’ vocals were way too low in the mix (and if you know their music, that’s a definitely a problem). Towards the end things began to balance out a bit but by then the sound was high enough to be showing signs of strain. However, Omaha’s finest soldiered on – what else could they do? They’ve got enough charm, enthusiasm and downright loveable-ness to see them through, and the crowd were all still rooting for them. Particular highlights for me were the raucous flamenco moves of Bad Education, Shake it Out, and set closer The Ice Storm, Big Gust and You, which still gives me tingles every time I hear it. And the lyrics are especially apt for this evening.

We will sing pretty songs about love
And we will fight if that's what it takes
And we won't back down
No we won't shut our eyes and go to sleep
We will write all over your walls
[maybe they did – I didn’t check the loos before I left]
And we will dance to no music at all
We will do what it takes to get through to you

At the end of the encore, when the band had given up sounding right, they invited everyone on stage to join in their rabble-rousing outsider anthem Nights of the Living Dead. It’s an appropriate end to the set, especially the chant of “ I wanna fuck it up” which is precisely what the sound man did. However Tilly and the Wall, in my eyes, can still do no wrong. Their Buffalo Bar gig in February will live long in my memory.

Today the new album Bottom of Barrels finally arrived at my house! Great to hear it all the way through, rather than the random mp3s I've picked up lately. Not a vast departure from their classic indie-pop style, but why would they want to? And this should be one album where the words 'bottoms' and barrels' are not used in conjection with 'scraping'.

It comes with a special limited 7 inch if you buy it from Saddle Creek (UK kids – if you want it, you need to buy it on import – it’s not officially out in the UK yet. Don’t pay £11.99 on Amazon for it when you can get it far cheaper direct from the label – including postage!)

Download: Tilly and the Wall - The Freest Man
Download: Tilly and the Wall - Love Song

Download: Emmy the Great - Aiko (live)
Download: Emmy the Great - Edward is Deadward (live XFM session)

(thanks to swishblog for the XFM one)

Buy Tilly and the Wall's previous album Wild Like Children

You can download Emmy the Great's lovely single Secret Circus from Tunetribe.

Update: Looks like the man from The Independent had a similar experience at this gig.

Richard Hawley @ Shepherds Bush Empire

I’m still struggling to keep up with my week of gigs. So on Sunday, I’m casting my mind back to Thursday night at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the Richard Hawley gig. Support was from Micah P Hinson, who’ll have to wait for another time…

I’m surprised it’s taken so long for Richard Hawley to step out of the shadows. For way too long, he’s provided guitar for other people’s records, or been a player in someone else’s band (like Britpop also-rans The Longpigs, and latterly in Pulp). Somewhere along the line he must have decided that it might be a good idea to be a frontman in his own right, and what a good idea that was.

However, it’s also taken quite a long time for people to catch up with Hawley and his wonderful late night smoky bar-room crooner-with-guitars music. As a Time Out journalist amusingly confessed this week “had Richard Hawley been a party, his lights would long since have been turned up and his stereo unplugged” by the time she arrived. But she’s not the only one. His latest album Coles Corner has been his highest profile one to date, and this is easily his biggest London gig (maybe his biggest ever headline show?). So there are clearly quite a few people who have only recently discovered his charms. But one of the good things about being in that position is that you’ve got three delicious previous albums to discover as well.

Hawley is doing something quite unique in modern music. Whilst the youngsters are spiking up their guitars and bringing out the retro synths, Richard’s slicking back his hair, putting on a suit and revelling in his heroes of a bygone age – Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Scott Walker, Sinatra and Hank Williams no doubt among them. His voice is rich and melancholic, and his songs are infused with Americana, but passed through the filter of his Sheffield home, which means that they evoke a Northern working men’s club, more than a Southern honky tonk. And I need to mention his band too. Virtuoso musicianship isn’t always what pop music needs, but here it’s just right. They’re all so tight and so good, and it works quite marvellously. Contributions like an ancient slide guitar and a classic stand up bass add nicely to the set-up.

Hawley’s showmanship isn’t just confined to his singing and musicianship. He also treats us to his foul-mouthed acerbic northern wit, telling dodgy jokes, amusing stories from Sheffield, and giving withering put-downs to any fool who dares to heckle (sample: to someone who shouts that they don’t like country music – “I don’t know what makes you tick pal, but I hope it’s a bomb”). And more seriously, he dedicates the lovely You Don’t Miss Your Water… to the late Grant McLennan.

There’s so much to enjoy here. Lush ballads, late night pop, extended rock-outs (betraying his indie rock roots a little), rockabilly, an impromptu cover of Long Black Veil, and to end it all a brilliant knees-up rendition of It’s Alright Mama which gets the whole place on their feet (with a little encouragement from the man himself, mind). He certainly rose to the big occasion. It’s probably the best I’ve seen him – a gig to put a tingle in the spine, and a swoon in the step. And you know, it’s still not too late to turn up to his party.

Discover Richard Hawley here...

From Coles Corner (2005)
Download: Richard Hawley - Coles Corner
Download: Richard Hawley - Hotel Room

Buy Coles Corner

From Lowedges (2003)
Download: Richard Hawley - You Don’t Miss Your Water (Till Your River Runs Dry)

Buy Lowedges

From Late Night Final (2001)
Download: Richard Hawley - Baby You’re My Light

Buy Late Night Final

From Richard Hawley (2001)
Download: Richard Hawley – Happy Families

Buy Richard Hawley

More Richard Hawley gig photos on my Flickr...

Friday, May 19, 2006

More TV on the Radio

Blogger is playing silly buggers with me. Wouldn't let me upload any more pics to the gig post below, so here's one more. Dig that megaphone! I can't be arsed doing a new post for every photo, so check them all out on my Flickr page.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

TV on the Radio @ ULU

David Sitek’s guitar has wind chimes hanging from the end. In a way, it’s an apt metaphor for TV on the Radio’s music. Rock, but with bells on. Sometimes it’s even real bells (of the small and hand-held variety) that they shake during some numbers.

TVOTR have just popped in to the UK for a couple of dates around their appearance at the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s day at ATP. I’m lucky enough to get to see them tonight. I haven’t seen them before, but have heard good things. And I’m not disappointed.

It took me a while to get into their debut album Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes. Maybe on the first listen I was looking for more tunes or something, but as I’ve discovered, that’s not really what they’re about. Their music is dense, complex and beautiful, but not particularly immediate. Give them time, and they will slowly creep up on you. Then you’ll realise you’re hooked.

Live, they take it to another level. There’s more energy, even more urgency in their performance, which really rubs off on the crowd. But they’re intense without being po-faced. Singer Tunde Adebimpe throws himself around the stage in a very focused way, but he also flashes us a lovely smile occasionally. They’re not too cool for school. They look like they really love what they’re doing.

The jazzy elements of Desperate Youth... is missing tonight, but there’s plenty else thrown into the mix. The beautifully blended harmonised and looped vocals. The swathes of layered guitar. The deep, pounding bass. The fantastic beats, which threaten to become just plain funky. Even more percussion, some added by members of support band Celebration coming onstage to help out. Heck, Tunde even pulls out a megaphone for one song. Aside from that, his voice has a fantastic range, going from silky gospel to rock roar and back.

The majority of their set seemed to be taken from their forthcoming album, Return to Cookie Mountain. That meant that most of the crowd won't have heard the songs, but that didn't seem to matter. They still sounded amazing. Of course most enthusiam was shown for known and loved numbers like Dreams and Staring at the Sun, but they even managed to top the lot by a spellbinding rendition of Ambulance as the final song in the encore. No guitars, just vocals, percussion and a bit of beatboxing from Sitek.

I so can't wait for Cookie Mountain. And their return to London.

From Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes...

Download: TVOTR - Dreams
Download: TVOTR - Ambulance

From The Return to Cookie Mountain...

Download: TVOTR - Snakes & Martyrs
Download: TVOTR - Playhouses

Buy Desperate Youth... and pre-order ...Cookie Mountain

More Rogers Sisters

The folks at Beggars have asked me (very nicely, mind) to take down the Rogers Sisters mp3s that I posted on my review of their ULU gig a few weeks back. That's OK, and I have, but fear not RS fans, they've pointed me in the direction of a player which lets you listen to Never Learn to Cry, Why Won't You and Sooner or Later. Check it out - there are a couple of videos on there too.

The album's out on 11 Sept in the UK, and you can pre-order it here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

It's Schmotime!

I’m playing catch-up this week, so all talk of Monday’s brilliant TV on the Radio / Celebration show will have to wait till tomorrow, as I cast my mind back to Sunday afternoon in the Rough Trade shop in Neal’s Yard.

I’ve been meaning to catch Absentee since I missed them supporting the Magic Numbers last year, but with so much other music to listen to, I just never got round to it. Sunday afternoon’s instore set was meant to rectify that. Absentee were not unlike what I expected, but an enjoyable half hour or so it certainly was.

As they played through songs from their new album, their scuzzy pop, boy/girl vocals and lovely warm guitar riffs gave me a big whiff of nostalgia, and almost transported me back to the Glasgow scene in the early nineties, as I was cutting my musical teeth, with Teenage Fanclub and all their merry mates. They reminded me of a more ramshackle Fanclub (if only they hadn’t become so clean and middle of the road lately), maybe crossed with Grandaddy. It’s also easy to see why The Magic Numbers like them, but again the comparison would be a more low budget, rougher version of Ealing’s finest – which is a good thing.

Despite the ropey sound in the Rough Trade shop, I was impressed enough to buy a copy of Schmotime, and it was later, as I was finishing some long-overdue repairs on my kitchen, that I realised how good their songs are, and the full effect of singer Dan Michaelson’s deep, grizzled vocals. The lyrics too – gloriously shot through with an earthy pessimism and grubbiness are well worth listening out for. There’s a recommendation that two ugly people shouldn’t have children (We should never have children), a lament to drunkenness and beer goggles (You try sober), complaints about being a red-blooded man (Something to Bang) and drinking to escape loneliness (Duck Train). And you’ve got to love a song called There’s a body in a car somewhere.

So a good little find then. It’s well worth embracing the rough charm of Schotime. It won’t change your life, but it should put a smile on your face and might even give you a slight warm glow inside.

And given better circumstances, I reckon they could be a fine live band. I’ve just missed their Bush Hall gig, but no doubt I’ll be making a beeline for them at Summer Sundae.

Download: Absentee - Getaway
Download: Absentee - Weasel
Download: Absentee - Duck Train

Buy Schmotime.

Sorry about the dodgy photo with the back of the bass player's head. But then again, it's quite similar to their album cover!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cannes do

It’s been a while since I did any film posts. I did originally intend this blog to be as much about film as music, but that’s kinda fallen by the wayside as it’s become primarily an mp3 blog. Oh well.

Because of my lack on film activity, you’ve missed (or been spared from?) reviews of three excellent French language films I’ve seen lately. These were the Dardennes Brothers' bleak but brilliant L'Enfant, Dominik Moll’s odd thriller Lemming, and Danis Tanovic’s Kieslowski-scripted L’Enfer (Hell). All of which are highly recommended. In the case of the last, I could have waxed lyrical about a well played, substantial and thought-provoking drama, but it wouldn’t have mattered. You might even have wanted to see it, but you probably wouldn’t have been able to. It only came out in about three cinemas in London (so who knows what chance the rest of the country would have?) and only lasted about a week. What a shame. Seems like the Guardian was right, in this article, that good or bad reviews really make the difference for foreign or art-house movies. L’Enfer got lukewarm to poor reviews, with only the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw being willing to give it a firm thumbs up. Hooray for Pete. Boo to the rest. And I recommend catching it on DVD.

Anyway, away from short-run foreign and art-house movies to the opposite end of the spectrum. The Cannes Film Festival starts tomorrow. There may be obscure films at Cannes, but there’s also a helluva lot of glitz and glamour. This year, as you may know, (Daily Growl favourite) Wong Kar-Wai is heading up the jury for the main feature film prize, the Palme D’Or. Joining him are Monica Bellucci, Helena Bonham Carter, Lucrecia Martel (director of last year’s fine La Nina Santa), Zhang Ziyi, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrice Leconte (French director – L’Homme du Train etc), Tim Roth, and Elia Suleiman (Palestinian director).

As always, I’m looking forward to it. With WKW in charge, it’s bound to be interesting. There’s a load of films I’m really looking forward to hearing more about, and seeing soon (although sometimes they can take ages to get to the UK) – particularly the new Ken Loach film The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Cillian Murphy as a young IRA soldier in the Irish uprising), the new Almodovar, Volver (he’s always worth a watch), and Nani Moretti’s new Il Caimano, which has a go at Berlusconi just a little too late, I suppose.

Keep up to date on a whole host of film sites, though I’m probably going to go with the Guardian’s one, unless someone can recommend another high quality site or blog…

Friday, May 12, 2006

Big up the Transgressive Records massive!

I occasionally enter competitions on John Kennedy’s excellent Xposure show on Xfm. Occasionally I win something. The other week I won a compilation from Transgressive Records, an indie label that’s fast becoming another Fierce Panda, what with their habit of grooming tomorrow’s indie stars.

The CD is basically a collection of all the tracks on the first five singles they put out on the label, some of which are by bands who have since gone on to bigger things, such as The Subways and Mystery Jets. It’s not all famous people though – there’s Ladyfuzz, who have yet to break through, and a band called burningpilot who I’d never heard of before.

Not all the acts on the CD I’m terribly convinced about though. I’ve never really liked The Subways that much, and though this hasn’t changed, I know they’re liked by many peeps out there in blogland, so I’ve posted one of their rarer tracks.

And Mystery Jets I’ve never really got into, though lately the Justice remix of Can’t Fool Me Dennis has begun to work its way under my skin. Of the tracks on the comp, Zootime is particularly good, but Lizzy’s Lion is less well known, so is posted for your disovery.

I’m not that impressed by Ladyfuzz, but you can see what you think. However, burningpilot were a pleasant surprise. Two decent spiky guitar and keyboard/synth tracks that whilst not entirely original, are very pleasurable.

The best though, has to be The Pipettes. Before they signed to fellow indie Memphis Industries, Transgressive put out their first single ABC. It’s a cracker, but the lead track is trumped (in my opinion) by b-side Judy. We’re all expecting great things from the polka-dotted ones this year. I’ve yet to hear a duff song. Go girls!

Despite my lukewarm attitude much of the music on this comp, I have nice warm feelings for the people who run the label. Maybe it’s to do with the handwritten note that accompanied the CD congratulating me on winning it, and thanking me for "keeping it Transgressive". And some free badges. Very indie, but they seem like lovely guys. So they’re surely worth some of your time. It’s almost worth buying the album just for the Pippettes songs, and it’s worth keeping an eye out on their other artists – currently including The Young Knives, Jeremy Warmsley and Regina Spektor. They could go far. You never know…

Download: The Subways - You Got Me
Download: Mystery Jets - Lizzy's Lion
Donwload: Ladyfuzz - What's it Worth?
Download: burningpilot - Can't Kid a Kidder
Download: The Pipettes - Judy

The Daily Growl World Cup Special

This post goes way against my better judgements, for a number of reasons. Mainly because it involves football, a metal band called Fuckshovel, and an England World Cup song. I don’t do football or metal at the best of times, no matter how ironic it is (metal that is – football is never ironic, people take it way too seriously). And I’m Scottish for goodness sake!

However, I’m going to run with it because I heard about this from a reliable source of good music, because the World Cup is almost upon us, and because the official England World Cup song (by Embrace) is… well… have you heard it? Uurrrggh.

As I said, I don’t do football, but I do love the World Cup. Every four years I get interested in the game for three weeks. ‘Real football fans’ must get pissed off by people like me who jump on the bandwagon just for big international tournaments. But then again, I bet some of them think Christmas is the time to buy CDs, or the summer is the time to watch Hollywood blockbusters. So there.

Anyway, there are a lot of contenders for England’s unofficial world cup song, no doubt most of them utter crap, but one of the silliest of which has to be by the aforementioned F-Shovel (as they’re calling themselves for ‘commercial’ purposes). My problem with it is that although I appreciate the irony, will the more Neanderthal England fan? It does take the piss out of them, but I can still see the tattooed skinheads singing along with "Attack Attack" as they smash up another German bierkellar. But then again, maybe not.

Head over to their special myspace site for the song, and see what you think…

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Daily Growl myspace music special

I’ve haven’t really put a lot of effort into the whole myspace thing yet. But since setting up my own myspace site to link with this blog, I’ve had quite a few bands either requesting to be my friend, or letting me know about their myspace pages. I’m not that desperate for friends, so I'll give them all a listen before approving them or not. The upshot is I’ve discovered some decent artists who I’d probably never heard about otherwise.

So here’s the first instalment (well, there may be another, who knows?) of some of my new myspace friends. Nothing really groundbreaking here, but definitely worth a listen. See what you think.

From Brooklyn, there’s Little Victories (seemingly no relation to the past and present UK bands Small Victories, I assume), who are doing a decent bit of instrumental post rock. Does this mean that Mogwai is in their friends? I can’t be bothered looking through all 1426.

Download: Little Victories - Opus

From Cincinnati, there’s TMU, who is doing some nice downbeat electronica, which fits nicely alongside some of the other electronica I’ve been listening to lately, like Nathan Fake, Battles, Posthuman, and oddly (though not quite electronica) Animal Collective.

Download: TMU - In the Back

From Glasgow, The Yellow Bentines. It’s basically indie pop, but highly likeable, with real mainstream appeal. Will they be big? Maybe there’s too much of this kind of stuff out there…?

Download: Yellow Bentines - Francesca

From London, Dogsend Squash Club. “What a racket” their myspace declares. That’s kinda right, really. A good racket too (for our American friends, squash in the UK is what you call racket ball). No live dates though.

Download: Dogsend Squash Club - Lights Out (demo)

And finally, from LA, The Minor Canon emailed me to say that I might ‘dig' them. I go to their myspace and what’s this? No songs for downloading! But fear not, fellow bloggers mp3hugger, and Who Need Radio? are hosting them. Get ‘em quick. They’re quite good.

And despite what I said above, I really wouldn't mind if you became my friend.

Disco Pogo for Punks in Pumps volume 2

After starting on my quest to work through Jockey Slut magazine's free CD series Disco Pogo For Punks in Pumps, I should continue, as a tribute the the great lost mag and some fine music. So here's volume 2, from the December 2002 issue. In this one JS was celebrating its 10th birthday. Shame it only saw another 15 months after this.

Anyway, as it was a 10-year special, for the comp they had picked some of their favourite tunes from the previous decade. There must have been a lot to chose from, and in my opinion they did a fine job. Board's of Canada's exotic electronica, Lambchop's reworked downbeat gospel classic (and the finest thing Zero 7 have turned their hands to), Annie's Greatest Hit that never was, Roots Manuva doing one of the greatest hip hop tracks - ever, some old skool drum'n' bass from scene pioneer LTJ Bukem. I could go on, but I won't. Just listen...

Download: Boards of Canada - Happy Cycling
Download: Lambchop - Up With People (Zero 7 Remix)
Download: Roots Manuva - Witness
Download: Faze Action - In the Trees
Download: Annie - The Greatest Hit
Download: Bushwacka! - Healer
Download: LTJ Bukem - Horizons

In the magazine, there was a guest editor slot with The Streets. Funnily enough, whilst musing on his new found fame after the success of Original Pirate Material, he said "I don't think I'll ever become famous... You're only a celebrity if you want to be. Maybe I'll get used to it and start shagging one of the All Saints... I might, you never know, but I've got no interest in anything more than what I've got now"

OK, maybe the All Saints bit didn't come true, but it's interesting now in the light of his new 'fame confessional' album The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Everybody loves the elephant

They really do. After Friday's show, we went back into the West End yesterday to see the Sultan's Elephant again. And despite the crappy weather, so did thousands of other people. The really great thing about the elephant is its ability to appeal to the broadest range of people possible. We were all there. Tourists and Londoners. Old and young. Black and white. Straight and gay. R'nB and indie. Chavs and well-to-do Jermyn Street shoppers. All with big happy smiles as we ran around central London after the giant elephant. Maybe someone should tell the UN Security Council about the elephant, the girl and the rocket.

The whole thing follows a story, apparently based on Jules Verne, which is in a free 'Elephant Echo' newspaper you can pick up around the place. I'm not too sure of the details, but yesterday's installment that we saw involved the girl being carried on the elephant's trunk from Trafalgar Square, round Piccadilly and back to Horseguards Parade. There the girl did some dancing, and went to sleep, closely followed by the elephant. They're back out and about again today.

And this being primarily a music blog, there's a musical link too. On its travels, the elephant is followed by a truck carrying a band playing the musical accompaniment to the journey. And unusually for these big public events, it's really not bad. At the start the trip from the National Gallery yesterday, they reminded me a bit of Death in Vegas. And then they went a bit more eastern. Then from somewhere in the depths of her memory, Mrs Growl pulled out the name of Indian Ropeman, a Brighton big beat combo from the late 90s. When we got home I dug out the CD, and you know what, it's not a million miles away from the elephant music (particularly the track 66 Meters). And you know what else? The album's called Elephant Sounds! This one goes out to all elephant fans and big beat nostalgists everywhere.

Download: Indian Ropeman - Sunshine of Your Love
Download: Indian Ropeman - 66 Meters
Download: Indian Ropeman - Stand Clear

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Sultan's Elephant comes to London

Yesterday the Sultan's Elephant came to London. It's an amazing beast - forty feet high and 42 tonnes, and superbly crafted. Mrs Growl is especially excited, as she's a very big elephant fan (we have elephants all over our house, but nothing like this one), so naturally we're going back to see it again today.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tilly Tour

A quick one today, just to celebrate the return of Tilly and the Wall to the UK. They’re back! And this time they’re getting out beyond London. Not that it matters to me, but it’s good that the rest of the good people in England and Scotland get to experience the joy that is a Tilly and the Wall gig. So if you’re reading this, and you live near any of these cities, do yourself a favour and get down there.

3rd - Soultree, Cambridge
4th - Nambucca, London
6th - Hanbury Ballroom, Brighton
14th - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
15th - Night & Day, Manchester
16th - Bar Academy, Birmingham
17th - Fibbers, York
18th - Leadmill, Sheffield
19th - Luminaire, London
20th - King Tut's, Glasgow
21st - Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
22nd - Cockpit, Leeds

Gutted I can’t be at the Nambucca gig tonight, but I’ll be there at the Luminaire on the 19th. Can't wait for the new album too!

Download: Tilly and the Wall - Rainbows in the Dark

And if you are going to any of these shows, do yourself a double favour and get in early enough to see the wonderful Emmy the Great (look – she’s on the front page of Drowned in Sound today!)

In between Emmy and Tilly is Semifinalists. I’ve heard they’re good too, but you’ll have to take that second-hand.

In other US-invasion related news, any watchers of Tapes ‘n Tapes on these shores will have noted that they’ve signed to XL records. They’re also around for their first UK tour in May – London dates are 18 and 22 May. And guess what? I’ve got gigs on both these nights! Looks like they’ve sold out anyway. Hype?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Disco Pogo For Punks in Pumps - Volume 1

Remember Jockey Slut? For those outside the UK, it was a music magazine which covered mainly electronic music, techno, leftfield and other assorted 'dance' stuff. It started its days back in the early nineties as a Manchester-based acid house fanzine, moving to Shoreditch in London in the late 90s and going glossy. It was latterly produced by Swinstead Publishing, along with their style mag Sleazenation. Unfortunately sometime in 2003, things went a bit wrong. Sleaze went belly-up, closely followed by Jockey Slut in early 2004. In the March issue, they said they were going 'quarterly' but that was the only quarter that ever came out (the over-optimism of this press release has still to be realised). Which reminds me - they must still owe me some subscription money!

Starting in November 2002, and running till almost its sad demise, JS gave away a whole series of free CDs, each under the name Disco Pogo For Punks in Pumps. They were pretty good, and introduced me to some fine new tunes. I'm going to work my way through these CDs over the next few weeks, bringing you what in my humble opinion are the best tracks from each. Let's start with the first one then, shall we?

Download: Simian - The Swarm
Download: Lucky Pierre - Angels on Your Body
Download: Underworld - Mo Move
Download: RJD2 - Ghostwriter
Download: Roots Manuva - Bashment Boogie (Shadowless Tomz Remix)
Download: Danny C - The Mexican (Jockey Slut Edit)

The best of April

Gosh, is it that time already? Oh well, late as usual, here are my picks of April.

Album of the month

Calexico – Garden Ruin

Download: Calexico - Cruel

I don’t seem to have bought that many albums this month, so I’m going for Calexico’s cracking latest. Their brilliant gig at the 100 Club no doubt helps this into first place.

Songs of the month

1. Primal Scream – Country Girl

Like I said, a stunning return to form

2. Camera Obscura – Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken

Great title, and another great return from another fine Scottish band

3. Black Mountain – No Satisfaction

Not all the tunes on my ‘best ofs’ are new. This is from last year, but I’ve just discovered them. Black Mountain - what an album! Why did I not get wise to them before?

4. The Flaming Lips – The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song

By far the catchiest tune on At War With The Mystics, so that’s why it’s been going round in my head all month, while I’m working on the rest of the album

5. Rogers Sisters – Your Littlest World

Dark, brooding and very lovely

By the way, this is my 100th post! Does that make me an old-timer? Should I celebrate?

By the way, the above Drury Lane pic and more by me and other people are at The Way We See It.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Love Music Hate Racism

I went down to see Belle and Sebastian headlining the Love Music Hate Racism event in Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon. The square was packed for a whole afternoon’s worth of short sets from a wide range of artists from indie to grime. We got there in time to have the dubious pleasure of hearing some average indie rock from Boy Kill Boy (though the small children on the edge of the fountain in the ‘Fuck the BNP’ t-shirts seemed to be quite into it) and Roll Deep (I thought grime was meant to be pushing new musical boundaries – this was just four guys shouting over some breakbeats).

It was good to see Belle and Sebastian again. It’s been a while – December 2003 - since I last saw them play. They did a short set which comprised of:

Sleep The Clock Around
Another Sunny Day
Funny Little Frog
I’m a Cuckoo
The Wrong Girl
White Collar Boy
What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding (an impromptu cover of the Elvis Costello song, sung by Stevie whilst the rest of the band moved their gear around)
The Boy With The Arab Strap

[click on the highlighted tracks to download]

All good stuff, despite the dodgy sound, and a nice taster for their headline appearance at Summer Sundae in August.

LMHR is a worthy cause, though anyone who was there all afternoon may have got a bit bored with the constant repetition of the same theme in the speeches between bands. The message wasn’t subtle, but if it helps at all to prevent the BNP (for those of you not in the UK, it’s a nationalist, racist political party) getting elected at any of the seats they’re targeting in this week’s local council elections, it’ll be worthwhile. The BNP aren’t trying that hard round my way (not much point in a borough where almost half the population is from ethnic minorities), but are heavily targeting areas (mainly in the north of England) where there have been racial tensions in the recent past, and often running campaigns based on lies and misinformation. If you live in any of these areas – find out if you do by checking the Stop the BNP website run by the anti-fascist group Searchlight – get out and vote and stop them!