Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Arcade Fire @ St John's - day two

Just so I can keep up with the happenings across the week of Arcade Fire gigs in London, I’ve got a few more posts lined up by friends and others I’ve tapped for reviews. So here’s one from sometime Daily Growl contributor Reverend War Character, who took his 13-year old son Evan to the gig last night. It wasn’t intended to be a 'proper review', he just sent me an email this morning about the gig, but I’ve just used it, with a couple of edits.

“Arcade Fire were wonderful last night. The only downer was waiting for 40 minutes in queue outside then another hour and 15 minutes inside. Must have been thousands of starving singer songwriters who'd have happily supported them for free. Chris Martin was there - even a quick chorus of Yellow would have broken the tedium.

Then at 8.30 the lights dimmed slightly and there was a buzz from the back of the hall. AF trooped en masse into the aisle between the two main blocks of seating and did the acoustic version of Wake Up with the megaphone. I guess it's the encore on the steps from the previous night. Evan and I were almost at the back of the front block so we had a great view - you could see the whites of their eyes.

The rest of the set ran thru most of Neon Bible - Black Mirror made a lot more sense live although highlight of the new stuff for me at moment is Antichrist Television Blues - Cashesque shuffle. Much swapping of instruments, Win storming the audience and climbing across the seats of the front block for Rebellion, plus a complaint that they'd had trouble on Monday evening since folks thought they were in church! (I think this refers to the ‘quietness’ of the crowd on the first night, but I reckon I know why that was - DG) Evan was suitably blown away by them. Good night out except for lack of support.”

Sounds mighty fine. Enjoy the gig tonight, anyone who’s going!

Download: Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

There are some very good photos of Tuesday’s gig at 2kiwis (from where I took the top photo). seabadger has some of the band playing Wake Up in the middle of the church (from where I took the other one).

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Arcade Fire @ St John's Smith Square, 29 January 2007

After the Joanna Newsom gig the other week, I felt like I had reached the pinnacle of live music and just didn’t need any more for a while. I even didn’t mind when I had to flog my tickets for Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanagan last week. But what better to drag me out of my short-lived live music retirement than the most hotly-anticipated gig of the last few years.

Arcade Fire’s five-night London residency has been the subject of so much expectation, so much hype and so much inflated ticket prices. Mind you, as we queued to get in last night, it looked like slim pickings for the touts who were there. Everyone already had their tickets, bought at normal price or otherwise.

The venue is lovely. St John’s Smith Square is usually used for classical concerts, though last night it had the imported speaker stacks and the piles or Arcade Fire equipment on the stage. The excitement in the air was palpable as we waited for a whole hour and a half (no support) for the lights to darken, the band to troop up from the basement, along the church and onto the stage. Surely a cue for mass hysteria.

But not quite. Not for me anyway. A combination of dodgy sound and Black Mirror, hardly the best of the Neon Bible tracks on display here tonight, got the show off to an inauspicious start. But it did get a whole lot better. The sound improved and just when I was wondering if they were going to play the whole of the new album right through, they hit us with Haiti – a wonderful pirouetting performance from Regine, who really was on top form all evening and looking like she was totally loving every minute.

The majority of the songs played were from The Neon Bible, and given that they seem at first to be less immediate than the Funeral tunes, meant that the really ecstatic crowd reactions were reserved for the old stuff. As much as I was keen to hear the new material, and as good as it sounded (it just needs more time I think), I’m sure I wasn’t alone in hankering after the ‘hits’. At one point Win seemed surprised that we were all so ‘polite’, but I guess it was the unfamiliarity of the setlist, coupled with the fact that we were standing in seated rows with not much room to move!

But so much was the Arcade Fire we know and love. The energy, intensity and passion. The swapping of instruments to demonstrate even further what talented people they are, the odd instruments (loud hailers, with police sirens on), the mad onstage actions (a bit of crazy drum-throwing was happening). And the great songs.

During the encore Win thanked us for bearing with the new stuff, and said that they should be playing “the fuckin’ hits”. Yep Win, you should. Then they hit us with The Power Out. In the end, I was more than satisfied. The Neon Bible is shaping up to be the most vital release of 2007, it was amazing to be among the first in the country to witness it live, and if I had any doubts about the performance, they were blown away when the band finished The Power Out, grabbed instruments, paraded out of the church, and treated us to an acoustic rendition of Wake Up on the steps outside. A wonderful end to a fine show.

Will they do it tomorrow though? We’ll see…

Download: Arcade Fire – Haiti
Download: Arcade Fire – Black Wave / Bad Vibrations

Pre-order The Neon Bible limited edition for the same price as the normal one!

My Flickr pictures are here! More to be added soon...

More reviews and photos from my companions for the evening - Three Pink Monkeys and The Wirewool.

Check this video of Wake Up outside to get an idea of the fun that we had:

Arcade Fire tonight


Not just the gig, but busking on the steps afterwards too!

Here's the set list. More tomorrow, after I get some sleep.

Black Mirror'
'Keep the Car Running'
'No Cars Go'
'Black Wave/Bad Vibrations'
'My Body Is A Cage'
'Ocean Of Noise'
'Rebellion (Lies)'
'Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)'
'The Well And The Lighthouse'

'Antichrist Television Blues'
'Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)'
'Wake Up' (outside)

Update: while I work on my review of the gig, have a look at some more of my photos.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The mysterious seven

A quick one this morning then. But I couldn't elaborate even if I wanted to. It's pretty hard to find any information about the mysterious duo that call themselves Various (or Various Productions). But the important info is that they've sneaked out another 7 inch. This one's on their own label and not XL which released their blisteringly good album The World is Gone last summer. It's a bit of a departure from their excusions into dubby folk on that album - Bruk is a thrilling mix of distorted electronica, broken beats and some south London MC spitting out his rough rhymes over the top.

Flip side Home, is a re-edit of their classic track from last year. It's more familiar territory, but since it wasn't on The World is Gone, now there's a chance to snap it up. Though like the 7 inch that Home was originally released on, this record probably won't be around for long. It looks like Rough Trade and Phonica still have copies. Get 'em while they're hot.

Download: Various - Bruk.

Photo from corporate athlete's photostream. This was the only one I could find when searching Flickr for 'various productions'. Not even a clear shot of their faces. They really are that mysterious then...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Learn to sing like a star

I wonder what Simon Cowell would make of Kristin Hersh? It’s not a question that’s coming to come up a lot, but I just wondered, because the title for Kristin’s new album is related to American Idol. More specifically, to a regular piece of email spam she got, offering her (and thousands more) the chance to pursue their singing dreams and ‘Learn to Sing Like a Star’. So she chose not to ignore the phrase and used it to title her album (or so she said on Pitchfork).

I guess the answer to the question is that Cowell would hate Hersh. He wouldn’t like her voice anyway, I’m sure. But who cares what he might think? Hers is a voice which is as rugged, soulful and warm as can only be from a female singer-songwriter who’s spent many years at the frontline of indie rock. It’s one that’s distinctive and familiar to her many fans – whether fans of Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave or her solo stuff. Or most likely all three.

I’m more of a casual Kristin fan myself. I was mildly disparaging about the last time I saw her play, but I’m fully back on board now, and loving her latest record. Learn to Sing Like a Star doesn’t really have any surprises, but it’s chock-full of decent, heartfelt, soaring, even beautiful tunes, that seem to draw on her past, but present it in a fresh and appealing way. As ever, she avoids light singer-songwriter fayre by not being afraid to rock out. But at the same time, the addition of strings in just the right places works a treat. Of course, the long-term fans will lap all this up, but it would be a shame for others to miss out, because this is as good an introduction to Kristin’s rough-edged charms as any of her previous solo outings. Maybe the best introduction of them all.

Download: Kristin Hersh – Nerve Endings
Download: Kristin Hersh – Ice

Order Learn to Sing Like a Star.

Check out more tracks and the In Shock video at 4AD’s special player.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Happy Burns Night

Tonight is Burns Night, when Scots the world over (especially the ex-pats) gather to remember our national poet Robert Burns by means of a Burns Supper. I’ve not sure why he’s so famous, but it’s the closest thing we’ve got to a national day and it’s always a good celebration. And he, for better or worse, gave the world Auld Lang Syne.

Me? I’m neither eating haggis nor drinking whisky tonight, but I will be on Saturday when I introduce some Sassenachs and other foreigners to the cultural delights of Scottish cuisine, poetry and alcohol. Like I do every year.

In the meantime, here are some Robert Burns songs. A version of I Love My Jean from Camera Obscura's 2005 single of the same name, and couple of Burns' songs done by Eddi Reader from whole album of his songs she recorded few years ago on Rough Trade - gorgeous renditions of Ae Fond Kiss and My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose (also done by Camera Obscura).

And what I wouldn’t give for a recording of Joanna Newsom doing Ca’ the Yowes to the Knowes like she did so heart-stoppingly beautifully at the Barbican last week! However, I have come across a video her doing it somewhere else. It’s dark and shaky, but the sound is alright. It’ll do for now.

Much more Burns stuff here, for the curious or aficionados.

Download: Camera Obscura - I Love My Jean
Download: Eddi Reader – Ae Fond Kiss
Download: Eddi Reader – My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose

Buy Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Emmy the Great / Laura Groves / Noah and the Whale @ Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, 18 Jan 07

Last Thursay night in East London was a bit chaotic. Liverpool Street Station and the street outside was closed off and the traffic was backing right up Shoreditch High Street. The absence of buses going to Hackney meant that the streets were full of disgruntled communters trudging north. I was in that crowd, but I had more of a spring in my step as I headed to Hoxton Square to see Emmy the Great. I knew it was going to be a good show. In addition to Noah and the Whale, an email from Emmy a few days before had announced that Laura Groves had been added to the bill. Even more to look forward to! And I wasn't disappointed.

Noah and the Whale were great. Their sometimes beautifully fagile, sometimes downright rollocking folky indie pop is a real pleasure that increases as the listens do. They exist in that funny place where they're Emmy the Great's backing band, but are also a band in their own right, featuring Emmy the Great among their number. I guess they're effectively the same band, except sometimes Emmy sings her songs and the rest play them, and other times Charlie sings (his songs - is he the songwriter?) and the rest play them. Given that Emmy is going to be big (if there's any sense in the world), does that mean that Noah and the Whale are going to be big too? Who knows what'll happen then. Anyway, did I say they were great? Maybe they should record some songs and release a record. I'd buy it for sure.

Download: Noah and the Whale - Rocks and Daggers
Download: Noah and the Whale - 5 Years Time
Download: Noah and the Whale - Death By Numbers

By the time Laura Groves took to the stage on her own, there were more people in the venue, and that meant more ignorant idiots talking. All the way through Laura's set. One day when she's big (if there's any sense in the world), they'll say "Oh I saw her way back in January 07 in Hoxton". They didn't really see her. They were too busy talking loudly to their mates about their new skinny jeans or some other inconsequential nonsense. Anyway, Laura was great too. Those of us down the front got a bit of a treat as she sang her lovely, simple songs, in her lovely clear Northern voice. Is it her high-pitched vocals, as well as her alternation between acoustic guitar and keyboards that illicit the Joni Mitchell references some have made? That may be one comparison too far, and a bit of an albatross round young Laura's neck, but give her time to come into her own, and you never know.

Download: Laura Groves - Bridges

More Laura downloads at my previous post.

For the headline act, the one that everyone had come to see, there was a deserved hush. As well as all the songs that we've grown to love dearly throughout last year, there were new songs aired tonight. I don't know all their names, but one of them - Two Steps Forward - is on her myspace now. They all sounded fantastic. Emmy's gorgeous voice soars and tinges a good few spines. Given my past Emmy-enthusing on this blog, of course I'm going to say that I loved it, but my friends who hadn't seen her before were impressed as well. I think everyone was.

It feels like little by little things are going in the right directions for Emmy the Great. A few new songs. The band working out well, and the all the songs sounding great fleshed out by a few more instruments. The Secret Circus 7 inch finally all sold out. A packed out show for only her second headline gig, in a venue a good bit bigger than the first headline show in December. A mooted single for Moshi Moshi sometime soon. Like I said, 2007 should be hers for the taking. If there's any sense in the world, that is.

Download: Emmy the Great - Big Water
Download: Emmy the Great - Aiko (live)

More Emmy downloads at a previous post.

Check the rest of my photos at my Flickr photostream.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

These are some Serious Times

Despite being a big reggae fan, my listening is mostly restricted to stuff from the past. The Soul Jazz Studio 1 comps and the Dynamite! CDs are piling up in my collection, but I rarely touch modern stuff. Why not? Well I guess I haven’t liked what I heard that much. On one hand there’s the more famous artists like Beenie Man and Sean Paul who seem to be doing a Jamaican version of watery American R’n’B, and on the other there are people who are doing more interesting things musically, but I don’t care much for their lyrics, which seem to be full of sexism, homophobia and violence.

However in ignoring a few dullards and idiots, I’ve missed a rich seam of fine Jamaican music. And if, like me, you’re not up to speed with some of the really great current stuff, there’s no better place to start than this excellent new compilation from XL records.

It’s a new sound of Kingston from the last few years, and though there’s a distinct rootsy vibe throughout, that doesn’t mean it’s dated or worthy. It’s all thrillingly contemporary. And there’s an impressive range of styles too. The barnstorming opener – Turbulence’s Notorious – is all sizzling modern dancehall production, and the title track from Gyptian is reflective acoustic roots, but these, and all the other tunes which take in Lovers Rock, rocksteady and dub, fit together wonderfully into a truly exciting whole.

There are some well known artists like Sizzla and Morgan Heritage, but most are relatively unknown (one of them – QQ – is only 10 years old!), but their place on this compilation should surely mean some sort of deserved breakthrough for their music. The themes on the album take in traditional roots concerns like social injustice and political corruption, but there are also love songs and the inevitable paeans to the herb – three in a row in fact – Marajuana and two (different) songs called Rolling.

There’s a Brooklyn connection to Kingston here. The album was produced by Knox Robinson from the NYC borough, and fellow Brooklynite Max Glazer of Federation Sound has done an hour-long mix of the album, complete with air horns, rewinds and a selection of this own custom dubplates to give it that proper dancehall vibe. In Rolling, Tony Curtis (that’s his name – honest) isn’t just singing about skinning up, he’s also rollin’ round Flatbush on a Friday night.

Across these two CDs, there’s not a duff moment to be heard. It’s all a thrilling, vital presentation of some of the best stuff coming out of Jamaica now. It’s still January and we probably have the compilation of the year already. Forget that, one of the albums of the year – period.

Now that I’m well and truly warmed up with this stuff, I’m ready to receive your recommendations for other good current reggae. Hit me with them!

Download: Gyptian – Serious Times
Download: Perfect – Handcart Boy

Pre-order Serious Times.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Joanna Newsom & The LSO @ The Barbican, 19 Jan 07

Going to see Joanna Newsom at the Barbican was a bit of a step up for me. Firstly quite literally, as we had to make our way up to the gods to look down at Joanna, faraway on the stage below. But also because the last time I saw her live, it was at the 12 Bar Club for her first UK gig, along with about 50-odd other people. Although tonight was quite different, what both gigs shared is me being blown away. The first time, because I had literally not seen anything like her. This time, because, well, there's still nothing quite like her. I mean, can you imagine in another time and place a crowd of 2000 indie kids being drawn to a classical concert hall to watch a harp player with a medieval fixation playing with an orchestra? You know something unique's going on here.

Tonight Joanna is playing with the renowned London Symphony Orchestra, who are filling out the Van Dyke Parks score on her current album Ys. The fact that she's playing Ys though in its entirety tonight, in the correct order might at first seem to be a bit unimaginative. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Now, I haven't previously been as convinced as many other bloggers by the genius of Ys, but tonight it really hit me. Right from "The meadowlark and the chim-choo-ree" at the start of Emily and onwards. But it was midway though Only Skin that something clicked into place and I became a true believer. She really is amazing.

And impressive though the performance with the LSO was, her return after a short interval to play songs from The Milk-Eyed Mender, an old Scottish folk song and a new song was nothing short of rapturous. I mean the orchestral stuff was great, brilliant even, but there's nothing like just Joanna and her harp, unencumbered by arrangements, and her utterly compelling songs. I wanted this bit to last forever. When she played Crab, Clam, Cockle Cowrie, I almost cried, it was so good.

She couldn't top that of course, but her encore of Sadie was spine-tingline and rapturously received. As she skipped quickly off the Barbican stage at the end, you got the impression that she was even slightly wary of the mass adulation from the vast auditorium before her. But if she continues to dazzle like this, she better get used to it.

It's just gone midway though January, and already we may have gig of the year.

Download: Joanna Newsom - Crab, Clam, Cockle, Cowrie
Download: Joanna Newsom - Sadie

Buy Ys and The Milk Eyed-Mender. Yes, both of them! (my friend did on Saturday, after the gig)

Joanna Barbican closer-up shot from inkognitoh's Flickr photostream. The faraway one at the top is mine of course.

A smattering of jazz funk greats

I've been listening to a bit of 4Hero lately. Mostly because I had to review it for The Downloader, but it wasn't a chore. I quite liked it, with the emphasis on 'quite'. There are some good songs on there, and it's worth seeking them out amongst the less good ones. Here are a couple of them.

To find out more about what I thought of the album Play With The Changes, have a read of the review.

Download: 4Hero - Awakening (feat. Ursula Rucker)
Download: 4Hero - Bed of Roses (feat Jody Watley)

Pre-order Play With The Changes.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Good new electronica: Drone

Today, it's time for some good new electronica. You may not have heard of Drone yet, but you may be hearing more very soon. And not just here. Drone is known to his mother as Cassidy Phillips, he's from West Wales, and he's just delivered up a little gem of an album, full of polished blips, bleeps, noise and some 'real' instruments. I could go on about it more, but no need - I've done a review of it over at The Downloader.

What you can't do at my Downloader review is listen or download (though you can download a heap of other tracks), but thankfully you can here. Check these two out.

Then head over to The Dude's Abode to order the album Colourformoney.

If you've not browsed around The Downloader before, you should. In addition to the many fine reviews, you'll find some from me - listening to and writing about the good (Husky Rescue), the bad (Ying Yang Twins, The Answer, Bromheads Jacket and more...) and the indifferent (Little Man Tate).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Frightened Rabbit

Admittedly, I have Pitchfork to thank for this one. I had heard of Frightened Rabbit before (another band that I failed to check out at the End of the Road festival last year, but I mean, there’s only so many bands you can see), but had never got round to checking them out. They’re from Glasgow, and I’ve got a natural bias for any band from my home city. Not that Glasgow hasn’t been responsible for a fair amount of musical crud in it’s time, but you know, I’ll always give artists from there more chance than others. Usually.

Anyway, Frightened Rabbit. They are mysterious brothers Scott (guitar) and Grant (drums). Their myspace suggests there may be another two band members called Billy and Flesh. And it seems like the US might be catching on to them quicker than their fellow-countrypeople. Who knows, they could ‘break’ the States and return to the UK as conquering heroes. Just like Dido.

They’re quite good really. Indie guitar music done pretty well. I guess that sounds like I’m damning them with faint praise, but I can’t be bothered doing the whole “they sound like X band” thing today. Suffice to sat that their album Sings the Greys is full of that lovely warm guitar sound and melodies that Glasgow bands seem to do so uncannily well. Just have a listen to these tracks and see what you think.

Download: Frightened Rabbit – Be Less Rude
Download: Frightened Rabbit - Behave

Buy their album Sings the Greys from their very own online shop.

Julie Feeney

I’ve heard a few good mutterings about Irish singer-songwriter Julie Feeney recently. Can’t remember where exactly, but Time Out certainly seems to be on her case. And there’s a big spread about her in today’s Independent arts section which I read at lunchtime. It’s probably because her album 13 songs has just come out in the UK, after being around in her native Ireland for a while, where it won a Choice Music Prize award (which I think is kinda the Irish Mercury prize) for her last year.

What’s more, to call Feeney merely a singer-songwriter would be doing her a bit of a disservice. She’s a one-woman producing, promoting and financing machine. That means that she wrote arranged, performed all parts, produced, and promoted her album, all at her own expense. Initially at least. Looks like it’s paid off though.

So it’s with some acclaim that she comes to these shores. Not with a box of CDs in her hands though – she’s now bagged a record deal with Sony BMG and now she’s even gone as far as getting a manager and someone to book her gigs.

My first chance to hear her properly came last night when she was a guest on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 Music show. She performed three songs live in the studio, and they’re pretty good. On the evidence of these at least, she’s not your average singer with guitar strapped on. She uses keyboard sounds to fine effect on Aching (which apparently features her holding a note for 30 seconds. Don’t know if she did this on the live version (I didn’t time it), but there is a cough from Tom about halfway though. Wastin’ is a more standard piano and voice number, but nice all the same. My favourite is Wind Out of My Sails, which Julie sings with an accordion, one of the many instruments she can play. I always had a soft spot for accordions.

Download: Julie Feeney – Aching (live on 6 Music)
Download: Julie Feeney – Wastin' (live on 6 Music)
Download: Julie Feeney – Wind Out Of My Sails (live on 6 Music)

Buy Julie's album 13 Songs.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Findlay Brown

Findlay Brown is the latest singer-songwriter to potentially benefit from having his song on a TV ad. You’ve probably seen it – it’s the cheesy one for Mastercard that was on over Christmas, with the families being reunited at airports for the festive season. His song, appropriately titled Come Home, was that gently strummed and sung acoustic number in the background.

I missed the chance to see Findlay last year – at least at the End of the Road festival in September but probably also in some other support slot somewhere. His name’s familiar. But I guess I didn’t give him much more thought until a couple of tracks popped into my inbox last week. As with all of these things, I took a while to get round to listen to them, but I’m glad I did. They’re very good – in particular the lovely country-tinged Tonight Won’t Wait.

Come Home was on a 5-track EP released last December called I Don’t Know I Love You. His new album Separated by the Sea is out ‘soon’ I hear. This may not be the last time you hear about Findlay on this blog.

Download: Findlay Brown – Separated by the Sea
Download: Findlay Brown – Tonight Won’t Wait

Download the rest of I Don't Know I Love You from Rough Trade Digital.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Beirut and Calexico

After all that looking forward, time to cast our minds back, even if only briefly, to the end of last year, and to the Calexico tour that brought Beirut to the UK for the first time. If you've seen Beirut in this country it will no doubt have been in this support slot, as Zach Condon and Co's only headline show was cancelled because the main man was ill.

Anyway, there was a split 7 inch single released by City Slang to coincide with the tour. It was super-limited and is available pretty much nowhere, but thanks to the lovely people at Rough Trade, I got me a copy. It contains a song from each band, which to my knowledge, aren't available anywhere else at the moment. So because you'll have difficultly getting one, here are the songs.

Beirut's isn't their best tune, but has their trademark sound and is still well worth a listen. Calexico's is a bit of an nice oddity - covering The Clash's Guns of Brixton in their classic dusty country mariachi style.

Download: Beirut - Interior of a Dutch House
Download: Calexico - Guns of Brixton

Beirut and Calexico make a fine pairing really, even if the former used up all my excitement at the Roundhouse gig, leaving me unusually unimpressed by the headliners. I even left early, which meant I missed Beirut coming back on to join Calexico for a rousing encore of Crystal Frontier. Luckily, someone managed to film a bit of it. Maybe they should collaborate more.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Big in 2007: The Baby Growl

The very last post in the Big in 2007 series is not really music-related, but it is the biggest thing for me that – all being well – will take place this year. That's because the most obvious big thing for me at the moment is the rapidly increasing size of Mrs Growl’s belly, growing to accommodate the developing Baby Growl inside. He/she will hopefully be launched into the world sometime around 8 June. Then my life will be changed forever.

So although the Daily Growl will continue with the usual stuff after then, you may notice that the posts are slightly less frequent (for the first few weeks at least), and there will be definitely be less gig reviews. But there will certainly still be lots of good music. After all, I do want to bring up my child properly, don’t I? And part of that is surely a decent soundtrack.

This year, you may have to put up with the odd baby-related post. However, being a child of the 21st century, The Baby Growl already has a myspace and most of its own blogging action will happen over there. Remarkable I know, but technology these days can do amazing things.

And of course, a couple of inevitable baby/children-related tracks.

Download: Pulp - Babies
Download: Brian Wilson - Song for the Children

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Big in 2007? The ragged round-up

Time to draw the Big in 2007? short series to a close, I think. There’s so much potentially good new music going to hit us this year and I could go on and on, but since I’ll be featuring decent new music regularly anyway, it all doesn’t have to be under a 2007 tips banner.

Before I leave this then, there are a few artists who released albums in 2006 who I think are deserving of greater things this coming year. Maybe not enough people caught onto them at the time. Maybe the albums were released too close to year end to make a sufficient impact. Whatever, I’ll be hoping to see the names of Jeremy Warmsley, The Early Years and Absentee in lights more this year. We’ll see. Maybe some high profile support slots or having their songs on adverts will do it for them.

Of course, there have been others doing the 2007 predictions thing, often at greater length and possibly with greater authority. Drowned in Sound’s two-part feature for sure. Collective have begun to do it. And a few other bloggers have been doing it too.

And there’s the annual BBC critics poll that they do every year. As I guessed on New Year’s Day, Mika was there – right at the top. But due to their rules, The Good The Bad and the Queen was excluded (already well known individually) and Jamie T didn’t make the cut (has he had a top 20 single? If he has, that would have excluded him). Some of the other artists I hadn’t heard of (Sadie Ama, Ghosts), or have little interest in (The Twang, Enter Shikara). However I was surprised to see The Rumble Strips there at number 10. Maybe it will be their year after all.

Of course, as well as all of these new acts, there are also albums to look forward to from more established artists. Along with many others, I’m particularly looking forward to new stuff from The Arcade Fire, Air, LCD Soundsystem and Gruff Rhys (I’ve just got this one, but not had much of a chance to listen properly). I may also be inclined to listen to the upcoming releases from The Shins, Bloc Party and Idlewild. It’s going to be a good year.

Finally, here’s a couple of tracks from a two of the artists mentioned above. From Jeremy Warmsley’s recent gorgeously-packaged Dirty Blue Jeans 7 inch, is the b-side Photograph of a Hospital (based on a competition-winning short story submitted to Jeremy), and another b-side, from The Early Years. I’m re-posting this one, simply because this sprawling Krautrock instrumental is one of the best things they’ve done to date.

Download: Jeremy Warmsley – Photograph of a Hospital
Download: The Early Years – I Heard Voices

Monday, January 08, 2007

Big in 2007? Second time lucky?

Just because your debut album didn't make it to the top of the charts doesn’t always mean that you’re doomed to a career of being largely ignored and playing indie toilet venues. I mean, look at the likes of Travis and Snow Patrol. They slogged around in the foothills for a while before someone took notice of them. Now I’m not wishing that the two bands featured in this post follow the path of the above outfits into mainstream blandness, but I am hoping that this year, they can build on the critical success of their first albums, and attract a load more record-buying fans to launch them, at least to mid-table if not right to the top.

The Shortwave Set

I first stumbled across The Shortwave Set's debut album The Debt Collection in a second hand record shop in their home borough of Greenwich as I made my slow, painstaking way home after the London bombings on 7 July 2005. I immediately fell in love with its whimsical charms, and particularly the forgotten classic that is Is it any Wonder? It helps that I’m a fan of Saint Etienne and 60s pop music, but I reckon there’s something there for most pop-loving music fans. They style themselves as ‘Victorian funk’ which doesn’t mean very much, and probably tells you more about their thrift shop DIY analogue type aesthetic rather than their music. Certainly, their Pawn Shop gigs last year tapped into that slightly arcane vein. Their new album, due this year should hopefully see their sweet pop music on the nation's airwaves and in their iPods to a much greater extent than before. The limited edition 7 inch they released as a taster at the end of last year is a good sign of what’s to come.

Download: The Shortwave Set – Casual Use
Download: The Shortwave Set – Is it any Wonder?

Watch: Can it really be true that there are no Shortwave Set videos on YouTube?
Buy: The Debt Collection, Casual Use/ Billy 7"
See them live: Nothing planned yet. Come on folks!

The Earlies

Another band who’ve started to sneak out limited edition tasters of their new album is The Earlies, who in having a couple of Texans in their line-up, give the only transatlantic flavour to my tips for 2007. The part US, part Manchester band brought some critics to their knees in 2004 with their debut album, These Were The Earlies. As I said recently, their follow-up has been delayed, but it’s almost here. What I’ve heard so far hasn’t marked a radical departure from their previous sound, but given that their sound falls somewhere between dub, psychedelia, country and 60s pop, they don’t have very many peers they could be accused of imitating. Or being imitated by. So more of the same is good for me. I just hope that they can convince some others of their greatness. Their gig with Micah P Hinson at The Scala in October 2004 was one of my favourites of recent years, and at the time I predicted that their next shows would be in much bigger venues, but it hasn’t been the case. They’re actually back at The Scala on 6 March. Hopefully if I make the same prediction in my review of that one, it will come true.

Download: The Earlies – No Love in Your Heart
Download: The Earlies – Breaking Point

Watch: Clip of Morning Wonder at Bestival 2005
Buy: These Were The Earlies, EPs, Pre-order The Enemy Chorus
See them live: The Scala on 6 March, and a heap of other UK and European dates (see their myspace)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Big in 2007? The bands

There are a whole bunch of bands I could have featured here, but I’ll keep it as brief as I can for now. Here are some. There are many more. Which will no doubt be featured over the course of the next month or so.

Lucky Soul

I first heard of these guys back in March got their ace single My Brittle Heart/Give Me Love, and saw them at the Old Blue Last. Then I mostly ignored them for the rest of the year, stopping only briefly to download their second single Lips Are Unhappy. I’m not really sure why, because their brand of indie pop, with a sparkly 60s girl group twist, is quite wonderful. And they’re good live too, with lovely chanteuse Ali Howard very much in the spotlight. Anyway, I hope to rectify that this year. They’ve been recording, so there should be an album on its way, and there will hopefully be plenty of opportunities to see them over the next few months.

Download: Lucky Soul - My Brittle Heart
Download: Lucky Soul - Lips Are Unhappy

Read More: Lucky Soul interview at The Torture Garden
Watch: Meet Lucky Soul round their Greenwich 'hood, My Brittle Heart live at their NYE gig
Buy: Their new EP, Ain’t Ever Been Cool, out on 16 January
See them live: 24 February at the Luminaire

The Aliens

The Aliens are more than half of the original Beta Band line-up, back together exploring familiar territories to those left when the Betas split, albeit with a slightly spacier, more psychedelic thing going on. In former Lone Pigeon Gordon Anderson, they’ve got an energetic frontman, and songs that are poppy enough to maybe see them achieve something which always eluded their former band – mainstream success. ITheir debut album Astronomy for Dogs is out in March. Ironically, they’re back on old label Regal, which they blamed in the past for many of their troubles. Let’s hope it works out well this time.

Download: The Aliens – Happy Song
Download: The Aliens - Only Waiting

Read more: I saw them in September.
Watch: Happy Song video (East London-tastic!)
Buy: Alienoid Starmonica and Happy Song
See them live: 8 February at The Scala. Maybe a warm-up show in Scotland before this.


The release of their debut album this year should see Fields building on their singles and cracking live shows last year. Some have called them shoegazers, which is sort of right, but they’re basically just good old-fashioned noisy indie guitar pop, with lovely melodies and girl-boy vocal harmonies. With the likes of Songs for the Fields and Brittle Sticks they have solid gold indie-pop anthems, and the bonus is - they're even better live. Catch them in the small venues while you can.

Download: Fields - Brittle Sticks
Download: Fields - Heretic

Read more: A previous gig review of mine, Blog Party writes a bit about them
Watch: Song for the Fields video, Brittle Sticks video
Buy: Fields records from Rough Trade
See them live: Nothing on the old myspace at the moment. Hopefully soon.


iLiKETRAiNS are a Leeds band that’s bound to annoy a lot of music writers in 2007 with that typography. But they should also excite a lot more people with their brand of dark and moody atmospheric moody atmospheric rock, full of swirling guitars and lyrics addressing arcane subjects such as Captain Scott's Antarctic expeditions, former chess champion Bobby Fischer and cutbacks to the British Rail network in the 1960s. Another band with a uniform of their own, their vintage British Rail jackets seem to be not just a reference to their name, but a dedication to certain specialist interests in the band. Their live show comes with old-school projections and other oddities. But it's not just gimmicks. The music can stand up for itself, and hopefully signing to Beggars Banquet can see them introduced to a wider audience.

Download: iLiKETRAiNS - Terra Nova
Download: iLiKETRAiNS - The Beeching Report

Read more: I saw them a couple of times last year
Watch: The Beeching Report video, Terra Nova video
Buy: debut EP Progress Reform
See them live: Leeds Cockpit 28 March, Camden Dingwalls 29 March

Los Campesinos!

It’s time for me to join the Los Campesinos! bandwagon. There have been a few other UK bloggers giving props to this Cardiff band over the past year, and I can’t believe I only got round to listening to them earlier this week. All it took was to listen to You! Me! Dancing! And I was instently hooked. Just like AFoR says, it's "just sheer joy from start to finish, it’s six and a half minute runtime actually feeling like half that." It's so true. And it’s not just the bloggers who have been taking notice. They’ve been signed by Wichita records, with new stuff due this year. Looking forward to hearing what’s in store.

Download: Los Campesinos! - You! Me! Dancing!
Download: Los Campesinos! - Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks

Read more: Nothing But Green Lights gets in ahead of the pack
Watch: Short live clip
Buy: No releases yet, but download tunes from their myspace
See them live: The Spitz on 5 March (and 4 other dates before then across the country)

I Was a Cub Scout

IWACS consists of two Nottingham 17-year-olds William Bowerman and Todd Marriot who put out a cracking single Pink Squares / Teenage Skin in November, and if this is anything to go by, they're definitely two guys to look out for this year. Steve Lamaq digs them apparently, but so do about 5000 other people on their myspace, no doubt impressed by their keyboard-tastic melodic electronic indie music.

Download: I Was a Cub Scout - Pink Squares
Download: I Was a Cub Scout - Teenage Skin

Read more: Feature on Nothing But Green Lights
Watch: Pink Squares video
Buy: Pink Squares single
See them live: Just about anywhere in the UK during March

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Big in 2007? Rivals: The Popstars?

A shorter one today. Two bands. Who used to be one. Sort of.

Anyway, the story centres round two blokes. Vincent Vincent (who I think is really called Mark) and Charlie Waller. They used to both play together in East London band Vincent Vincent and the Villains (above), who are often described as rockabilly, but are really more of indie band with a particular interest in 50s rock ‘n’ roll. Not just the sound either, which they do very well. They look quite the part too.

VV&TV have been going for quite a few years now, and my interest in them has been as intermittent as their record releases. They released the great 7 inch single On Your Own on Smoking Gun Records, back in 2004. That was my introduction. The next year I heard that they had split up. But what seems to have happened is that Charlie left the Villains to go full-time with his other band, which became known as The Rumble Strips (left). Vincent and the rest of the boys continued on without him. But the split wasn’t entirely amicable. There was some real acrimony between the two bands. So much so that Vincent wrote a song called Johnny Two Bands about Charlie, who before the split was unsuccessfully dividing his time between the two bands. It was a single for them a few months ago.

I don’t know if Charlie and Vincent have patched things up, but I guess their loss is a gain for fans of retro rock ‘n’ roll. We now have two bands. The Rumble Strips differ from the Villains by augmenting their rock ‘n’ roll sound with horns, which has brought along the inevitable Dexy’s Midnight Runners comparisons.

The other thing the two bands now have in common is that they’ve both landed major label deals – the 'Strips on Island and the Villains on EMI. Maybe that will mean that both of them will get a major push this year which will land them firmly in the mainstream. Maybe both at the same time. Who knows, maybe then the whole history will be dragged out again.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this story. You may be hearing it again soon somewhere else. And I hope you enjoy listening to these tracks.

Download: The Rumble Strips – Hate Me You Do
Download: The Rumble Strips – Motorcycle
Download: Vincent Vincent & the Villains – On My Own
Download: Vincent Vincent & the Villains – Johnny Two Bands (demo)

Read more: Music Like Dirt was watching The Rumble Strips way back in 2005. And again almost exactly a year ago. The Villains have their own Wiki page.

Rumble Strips - Oh Creole! video. Villains - Johnny Two Bands video.

Vincent Vincent records at Rough Trade, and Rumble Strips records at Pure Groove

See them live:
No gig dates for the Villains at the moment - look out for them - they're good live. I've not seen the Rumble Strips yet, but may get my chance at The Scala on 20 January.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Big in 2007? The singer-songwriters

I’ve just realised that all the bands and artists in my long list of tips for 2007 are British (or at least British-based). But maybe that’s not a surprise. After all, that’s where I’m from, and I can leave the North American-based tips to my blogging brethren across the Atlantic. Looking forward to hearing theirs. In the meantime I’ll press ahead with my next instalment – today, singer-songwriters. All young, solo people with good songs and a lot to offer in 2007.


All I’ve heard from Adele is a three tracks, but there’s quite a buzz about her already. So much so that she’s been signed to XL records (though she hasn’t appeared on their website yet). I’m not sure when she’s got anything coming out (maybe summer-ish?) but I expect great things from her. She’s got an impressive vocal range, and though you could probably describe her as ‘acoustic soul’, that probably does her a dis-service. However her listing of influences such as Jill Scott and Erkyah Badu alongside more expected singer-songwriter greats such as Billy Bragg and Karen Dalton sounds about right. Daydreamer is a lovely song, and what are the bets on it being her first single? It could be a smash.

Download: Adele – Daydreamer
Download: Adele - My Same

Read more: Music Like Dirt discusses Adele with Scroobius Pip, then goes and sees her live
Watch: Adele singing Daydreamer (though the sound and picture quality are pretty crap)
Buy: Nothing as yet, but I’ll definitely keep you posted
See her live: supporting Mr Hudson and the Library in February

Laura Groves

I first came across Laura on a Queens of Noize folk compilation, and her song I am Leaving became an instant favourite of mine. She’s 19 (a whole year older than Adele) and from Shipley in West Yorkshire. She plays guitar and piano, and already comparisons have been made to Regina Spektor and Joanna Newsom, and even better to Joni Mitchell. Her songs are simple and beautiful, and her voice, pure and clear, carries the tunes perfectly. So far, her performances in London have been few and far between, which may have added to the buzz, but as far as I can see, she remains unsigned. I’m sure she won’t stay that way for long.

Download: Laura Groves – I am Leaving
Download: Laura Groves - Can't Sleep (live)

Read more: on Cross the Pond podcast, The White Noise Revisited gets excited by Coast
Watch: Laura performing Bridges in Bradford
Buy: Nothing yet, but again, I’ll keep you posted
See her live: at Madame Jo-Jos supporting Piney Gir on 17 January

Kate Nash

I only posted about Kate Nash a few days ago, and I think she’s definitely worth a bet for 2007. Another 19-year old singer-songwriter, she’s been getting some rave reviews, and she’s signed up to Moshi Moshi for one of their singles club 7 inch releases which is out in early February. She used to be an aspiring actor till early last year, when rejection for a part, and breaking her foot made her launch herself into music. She’s obviously made a bit of an impact in the short time since then, in a way that’s sure to make many more singer-songwriters more than a bit jealous. But such attention does seem to be deserved. Like Adele, she’s a definitely London-accented singer, with a less soulful but still hugely attractive sound.

Download: 3 Kate Nash live tracks on my previous post

Read more: Her artist page at Moshi Moshi, Another Form of Relief likes The Nicest Thing
Watch: Kate performing Birds in Brighton
Buy: Pre-order Caroline’s a Victim from Rough Trade
See her live: Supporting Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly in January, at her single launch at The Foundry on Old Street – 31 January and 1 February

Emmy the Great

The Daily Growl has shown a lot of love for Emmy the Great throughout 2007, from the moment I first saw her supporting Tilly and the Wall back in February. She’s been consistently played on all every musical format in the Growl house since then, and she’s the artist I saw live most in 2006. So I’m expecting that more people are going to be taking interest in her in 2007, once they realise how good her songs are. Hopefully her Scott Matthews support tour will introduce her to much wider audiences, and maybe secure her a record deal beyond the mooted Moshi Moshi singles club 7 inch release.

Download: Emmy the Great – Absentee (live on Xfm)
Download: Emmy the Great – Edward is Dedward (live on Xfm)

Read more: Sweeping the Nation has a chat with Emmy
Watch: Emmy making her New York debut last month
Buy: Secret Circus 7 inch from Pure Groove, or Rough Trade Digital
See her live: Full band headline show at Hoxton Bar and Grill on 18 January, supporting Scott Matthews at the end of January

Jack Penate

Onto the boys now. Like Kate Nash, I’ve also recently posted an Xfm session by Jack Penate. As I said then, I’ve had to reconsider my opinion of Jack because the first time I saw him (supporting Lily Allen last July) I wasn’t that impressed, but then came his 7 inch single Second, Minute and Hour / Got My Favourite which I really liked. If he’s got more of that sort of perky, scratchy funkiness stuff up his sleeve, he’s definitely going places in 2007. He’s also signed to XL, via their Abeano / Young Turks imprint, so more will be forthcoming soon, which will hopefully keep my mind changed to the positive.

Download: Jack Penate – Second, Minute and Hour
Download: 3 more live tracks on my previous post

Read more: small feature on BBC London (not a lot else out there)
Watch: Jack Penate Spit at Stars / CafĂ© de Paris footage (anyone else think this track sounds like Kenicke’s Punka?)
Buy: Looks like the Second, Minute and Hour 7 inch is all sold out, so download the lead track and wait for the next release (maybe March)
See him live: supporting Amy Winehouse at the Astoria on 19 February

Ali Love

Ali Love at a mere 25 years is the old man (by at least a couple of years) of this bunch of bright new hopes. He’s the one responsible for last year’s decadent anthem of London nightlife, K-Hole, all east London drugs and West End sleaze. I’m no fan of the NME, but their inclusion of K-Hole at no. 30 in their tracks of the year may well give Ali a leg up. He’s released a couple of 7 inches – K-hole and Camera on a Pole EP to some acclaim. No news of further releases or live dates on the horizon, but he’d be a fool not to make a push of it this year. Strike while the iron’s hot, man.

Download: Ali Love – Lost in the K-Hole (live on Xfm)
Download: Ali Love – Camera on a Pole (live on Xfm)

Read more: interview with Disorder
Watch: Ropey footage of Video Dream Girl from Brighton
Buy: K-Hole and Camera on a Pole from Rough Trade

Monday, January 01, 2007

Big in 2007? The obvious ones

Happy New Year to you all!

A new year, which always brings with it the promise of more exciting new music. For the first time I'm joining in with the annual who's-going-to-be-big-this-year predictions. The answer to the question "who's going to make it big this year" always has the same answer. It's "the artist that has a major label with a huge pile of money behind them to promote them endlessly, book them into the highest profile TV and radio slots and put ads on TV". Sure, there are indie bands that break through each year, some of them seemingly from nowhere, but being big in the blogosphere doesn't exactly equal mainstram success, does it? I mean, have your work colleagues even heard of Beirut and TV on the Radio?

With that in mind, many of the predictions we'll see over the next week or so across the music mags and the internet, are dead certs for success. For instance, the music industry insiders who contribute to the BBC's annual top 10 tips for the year must have known about the massive push that Corrine Bailey Rae was going to get last year. Having her in no. 1 slot was an easy bet for success.

So for my first Big in 2007? post, I'm sticking with the easy ones. I'd expect all of these to be in the BBC's top 10 tips for 2007 when it's all finally unveiled on Friday.

The Good, The Bad and The Queen

You wouldn't expect the new project from Damon Albarn to be anything other than big, would you? Especially since he's assembled an impressive supergroup consisting of Paul Simenon, Tony Allen and erm, Simon Tong. I like the fact that they're so self-consciously a London band - right down to the record sleeves, but I've still to be fully impressed by their music yet. Less pop than Gorrilaz and less rock than Blur, I'm not quite sure where to place them. I may yet 'get them' properly.

Download: The Good, the Bad and the Queen - History Song

Read more:
interview with Time Out
Watch: Herculean live at The Roundhouse
Album out: 22 January. Pre-order.

Jamie T

This is one I'll be pleased about, since I think the kid's great. I've been following his progress from a distance ever since seeing him at Summer Sundae in August, and playing his Sheila and If You Got The Money to death. His crammed-to-capacity show at the 12 Bar last week gave me a taste of what the Jamie T phenomenon might become once his album is unleased on the public at the end of the month.

Download: Jamie T - Sheila

Read more:
Drowned in Sound interview
Watch: live acoustic tracks and interview at Collective, Sheila live at the 12 Bar
Album out: 29 January. Pre-order.


This is one of these artists that I deliberately paid little attention to, mainly because I didn't like the way he was getting hyped. But only the other day I checked out some of his tunes, and what do you know? They're pretty good! I can see why a record company would want to pump a lot of cash into this guy. His Queen-meets-the-Scissor-Sisters schtick must surely mean paydirt for his label. People will no doubt go wild for him. That falsetto. These tousled good looks. Oh yes. He'll go far. And I don't really mind.

Download: Mika - Grace Kelly

Read more:
interview with contact music, Londonist profile
Watch: Mika playing Grace Kelly on Jools Holland
Album out: February sometime I think