Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rant Of The Day: When Bands Go 'Mainstream'

It was quite a normal day. Just lazing around in the kitchen, wondering what to eat, the music playing on the laptop, and the atmosphere oh, quite so jolly. Then my housemate, Angela, suddenly asked me an unsettling question. Do I have a dislike towards mainstream musicians?

Now I've always found that anyone saying they don't like anything mainstream is prejudging commercial success to be negatively correlated with quality. And while the likes of 30 Seconds To Mars, The X-Factor and Lady Gaga might be a testament to that (at least for me), it certainly doesn't justify essentially begrudging someone success to bands who've garnered a massive following amongst people who get their daily fix of music from Radio 1, with the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The xx and Vampire Weekend very much in the public consciousness now.

The most persistent, annoying accusation when one band suddenly breaks through to the masses, is that they're selling out i.e. they've sold their soul to the music devil for a slice of the corporate pie. In fact, when Yeah Yeah Yeahs came out with their incredible “It's Blitz” record, everyone hailed it as one of the best albums of the year, yet when many who have never heard of Yeah Yeah Yeahs before suddenly listened in to find out what the hype is about, the indie kids cried foul. Yeah Yeah Yeahs have apparently sold out.

That's the dilemma of the indie band. Much like DIY-punk, they're expected to make enough money to get by and make CDs and tour, but as soon as they spend on nice car or get a nice house with an HD TV, the band has become into what is wrong in all of the music industry. Greedy fuckers, these musicians, they say.

Not these punks

Indie/hipster kids blog about and champion their band every way they can, ruing the fact that many will never appreciate their musical taste, and wish everyone would love their favourite band as much as them. Oh why can't Band X be appreciated more for their musical talents? Why are the talentless hacks on MTV being worshipped instead of Band Y, who I've discovered in a pub venue before everyone else?

Oh, but when Band X does indeed become famous and perform on The Late Night Show With Larry Z, these kids cry in unison, “oh but we found them first! We are the ones with the only rights to listen to them on stage in front of 30 people!”

Which brings me to another major gripe I have with some of these so-called fans. The issue of downloading music.

I honestly don't believe that “one stolen song is one lost sale.” That's complete bullshit. And I do believe that many people who download music buy more music as well. But it does not apply to everyone. In fact, many of my friends do nothing to support the bands. There are people who leech on musicians, stealing their work, not going to any of their shows, or buy any merchandise from them and are clearly financially able to These people should never be given the privilege to listen to music at all.

Yes, many musicians are millionaires. But most are not. That band you found on that obscure music blog nobody ever reads (like this one)? They're probably loading their own equipment into a rundown rental van to get to their next pub venue a hundred miles away. They need your money. You don't get to fucking download their whole discography from a torrent just because you ignorantly think all musicians live in a fucking mansion with a garage full of Rolls-Royces. Most musicians are just normal people like you and me. Many are broke, just like you and me. It just happens that they're more well-known than most people like you and me. And like you and me, they work hard to earn a living.

Not every musician

I'll admit, I download some songs. So maybe it's hypocritical of me to claim the moral high ground. But I'm aiming that rant to people who download music and doing nothing to support the very musicians they claim to “love.” To ask musicians not to do it for the money and only do it for the love of music is a bit selfish of us. What do they live on then? Admiration? Adulation? Fame? Yes, those things might be good, but you know what's better than just those things? Having your music pay for that dinner you're having and the place you're staying for the night.

I can at least claim to buy quite a number of vinyl records, quite a lot of CDs (originals, mind you), go to shows frequently and some merchandise from bands that I love. I try and support these bands as best as I can, considering my financial situation as a student.

Signing out

Over and out
Now playing: Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. - Postcards From Catalunya
via FoxyTunes

Element Acoustica

After watching the countless Youtube covers of people with acoustic guitars, I can only conclude one thing: most people do acoustic covers because it makes them look artsy and cool with minimal guitar skills. Armed with a few chords and a mediocre voice, you could probably get a few hundred to a few thousand views per video on some crappy Lady Gaga cover you devised using only four chords.

Saying that, acoustic versions of songs CAN be quite beautiful things. Here are five that I really, really like:

Band of Skulls - Fires

Sam Isaac - Come Back Home Tonight (with Tellison)

Tellison - Edith Wharton

Tubelord - A Thing For Me (Metronomy cover)

Fran & Josh - Better Left Alone (Alice Deejay cover)

Signing out

Over and out


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When Actors/Actresses Become Musicians

The title is a bit self-explanatory. But if you are really that thick, let me spell it out for you. You know, when actors and actresses become famous through their acting, some feel like they need to diversify. Into other arts. Like music. Sometimes this works unexpectedly great, like Milla Jovovich, and sometimes it's just plain horrible to listen to, like listening to Jared Leto screech with his band, 30 Seconds To Mars.

I'm not going to cover the obvious ones (like, again, Jared Leto, and Jack Black in Tenacious D). Those guys are famous both as actors and musicians already. But here are some surprises:

Zooey Deschanel in She & Him

She & Him - Why Do You Let Me Stay Here

Remember the quirky, deadpan girl-woman you see in every comedy where the lead heroine is a quirky, deadpan girl-woman? Yes, that's the lovely Zooey Deschanel. In fact, the reason I made this list in the first place is because I have a massive crush on her. This started when I first saw The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, which suited her immensely, as did (500) Days of Summer, Yes Man, Elf and The Happening (well...). She & Him is a collaboration between Zooey and established musician M. Ward. And it's the exact type of music you expect Zooey to be making. And it's very lovely.

Milla Jovovich as Milla

Milla Jovovich - The Gentlemen Who Fell

This doesn't count, really, since she started making music even before she became big (circa The Fifth Element). And unlike Zooey, Milla makes music you wouldn't expect a blockbuster-starring, catwalk-strutting beauty who kills zombies for a living to be making in her spare time. It's all the more remarkable that she wrote her quite frankly beautiful album when she was 18.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson - Falling Down

Is there a correlation between being amazingly beautiful (as opposed to being hot) and having a singing voice like Bjork, Regina Spektor and Tori Amos combined? While I'm certainly not saying that Scarlett Johansson (or Milla Jovovich) is a better singer than the legendary three, I'm also saying that Scarlett is actually pretty good. The thing is, she's already such a big celebrity, her singing career was labelled cynically by some as an attempt to cash on her fame and make a music career. You know, like Paris Hilton. Which is sad, because Scarlett actually sings beautifully, without any help from auto-tune or horrible songwriting.

Billy Bob Thornton in The Boxmasters

The Boxmasters - Poor House

Billy Bob Thornton, other than having starred in films such as Armageddon, Love Actually and Monster's Ball, is quite famous for being Angelina Jolie's ex-husband. What you might not know about is that he is also in a band called The Boxmasters. Which is fine with me, because it is absolutely shit. Of course, I'm slightly biased because I think he's a douchebag for acting out like he did on this interview because he was pissed off the DJ actually mentioned his filming career *gasps* instead of his music. Boo hoo.

The Boxmasters on Qtv

Jada Pinkett Smith in Wicked Wisdom

Wicked Wisdom - Something Inside Of Me

Now we all know Will Smith is a rapper. But his wife, who is a movie star on her own right, comes from a different musical spectrum altogether. More well-known for her roles in The Matrix trilogy, as the voice of Gloria in Madagascar, and in The Nutty Professor, she also fronts the nu-metal band, Wicked Wisdom. The band were put on on the second stage for the Ozzfest tour in 2005, prompting anger amongst Ozzfest fans, who doubted Wicked Wisdom's metal credibility. The band is rumoured to be currently working on a new album, many years after 90% of the people have grown out of nu metal, even the nu metal bands.

Russell Crowe in The Ordinary Fear Of God

The Ordinary Fear Of God - Mission Beat

Just watch the video. It's too awesome/bad/shitty/incredible for words.

(Dis-)Honorary mentions:

Keanu Reeves in Dogstar (shit)
Steven Seagal in Thunderbox (shit)
Juliette Lewis in Juliette & The Licks (pretty good)
Bruce Willis as Bruno (fuck no)
Jennifer Love Hewitt (between mediocre and painfully shit)
Jennifer Lopez (actually, people forget she was an actress first, but still, she's mediocre at best)
David Hasselhoff (well, at least he's big in Germany)

I bet there're loads more.

Signing out

Over and out

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mixtape Number Six


Wow. My last was in late November. Quite a while ago. Anyway, click on the cassette tape for the mixtape. Pretty clever, eh?

The tracklist, as it happens, is:
01] Two Door Cinema Club - I Can Talk
02] Abi Lanigan - Hold Out Tonight
03] Scholars - Recovering Monday
04] The xx - Crystalised
05] We Vs. Death - The Sun
06] Swanton Bombs - Vanishing Point
07] Foals - Two Step Twice
08] Bombay Bicycle Club - Always Like This
09] Ellie Goulding - Under The Sheets
10] The Drums - Let's Go Surfing

There's a bit of a mix between the well-known, the familiar, and the relatively-unknowns, so you're bound to discover something new. It's quite a mix in terms of genre as well, from the dance-punk-pop-indie of Two Door Cinema Club to the post-punk of The Drums via the math rock of Foals, from the groovy indie of Bombay Bicycle Club to the retro-electro-pop of Ellie Goulding via the drums/guitar rawness of Swanton Bombs.


Signing out

Over and out

Now playing: Swanton Bombs - Vanishing Point
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Giggity: February

For the rest of this month, I don't think I'll be going to any gigs anymore. But February that's another story. It's a busy, busy month.

Here are some of the bands I'll be seeing:

Vampire Weekend

If I had to explain who Vampire Weekend are, you've probably been living under a rock for the past couple of years. After a week short of two years without any releases - except for 'Ottoman' on the excellent soundtrack for Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - Vampire Weekend has come back with a record that they describe as more Vampire Weekend-sounding than their critically acclaimed self-titled debut album, and more importantly, captures the uniqueness that is the New York quartet. With crackers such as 'Cousins,' 'Horchata' and 'White Sky,' Contra is an album not to be missed.

The Drums

The Drums have come out of nowhere to suddenly become one of the most hyped bands in the indie world. Their brand of infectious post-punk have caught the eye of Moshi Moshi Music, who has, in their lineup, the likes of Florence & The Machine, Late Of The Pier, James Yuill, Friendly Fires and Dananananaykroyd, just to say a few. Shortlisted by BBC as the 15 acts to look out for in 2010 and considered by NME *scoff* to be the top tip for the year, everyone is going gaga for The Drums.

Bombay Bicycle Club

Bombay Bicycle Club is a young band. And when I say young, I don't mean they've only been around for a few months. No, I mean the band members look like they should still be doing their A' Levels and sneaking out of the window to go to their own gigs. But ho, their album 'I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose' came out to a glowing reception. Their single 'Always Like This' was considered by many to be one of last year's best. The songwriting is heartfelt and honest, the melodies are wonderful. For me, personally, is just their ability to subtly hammer their songs into your subconscious. It's been countless of times that I find myself humming or singing the chorus to 'Always Like This' without even realising it. Now that for me, is high praise.

Band of Skulls

I remember seeing them the first time, it was Southsea Fest '09. It was Pill's idea to catch their set, and though we only caught one song ('Fires') from them, it was enough to get you hooked. 'Fires' is an incredible tune, and it is incredible when performed live. Their album 'Baby Darling Doll Face Honey' is an album that seems to have multiple personalities - though most, if not all, of these personalities are wonderful, a result of all the members significantly contributing to their songwriting.

Alessi's Ark

If you are a fan of Laura Marling, then young Alessi Laurent-Marke will probably appeal to you. Her songs are lush, beautifully written and wonderfully sung. Named after the Italian design company, it was her mother's idea that she call herself Alessi's Ark, as to avoid confusion with the Alessi Brothers. Now I don't know who the Alessi Brothers are, nor do I care, and I don't care what Alessi decides to call herself, as long as her music remains as beautiful as ever.

And some more others:

I have not heard a full track from these guys. Yet the mystery that comes from not having any internet presence is deeply intriguing. I am checking them out solely for curiousity.

Los Campesinos!
As funny as it sounds, I fell in love with their album titled 'Romance Is Boring.' Their second (or third, if you count We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed) album is a masterpiece of indie alt.pop.

These Monsters
This band sound ferocious yet restrained, like Jason Voorhees sneaking up on you from behind. Check out their video 'Call Me Dragon.'

Possibly the most talked about band in this blog, ever. "Pop songs for rock kids," anyone?

Rolo Tomassi
Synth-driven, jazz-influenced, punk-heavy, experimental mathcore, did you ask? Well, here you go. Eva Spence is an amazing vocalist, switching from a monster to a siren in a split second.

Some more are on the list, and inevitably, I will miss some of them. But if I can catch Los Campesinos! and Tubelord, along with the already confirmed trips to see The Drums, Vampire Weekend and Bombay Bicycle Club, I'll be happy.

Signing out

Over and out

Now playing: Alessi's Ark - Hummingbird
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Check List

Hi there,

I am writing to tell you that in this year, year 2010, I urge you to check out these fine musicians, because they either have come out with brilliant records or will do in the coming 12 months.

They are in no particular order. Except of course, the order that they occur in my head. Yes, this list will be on the top of my head.

1) Tubelord

With their Biffy Clyro-ish, fight pop-like sound that eschews conventional time changes for unpredictable song structures, Tubelord has always been a band that don't quite fit in sonically, even in their own 'scene.' After last year's release of their debut album 'Our First American Friends' (a reference to Hassle Records), Tubelord are now in the process for recording a new EP. The inclusion of James Elliot Field in live shows will help Tubelord in trying to replicate the sound of the album in a live setting. They will also come out with a new single pretty soon, and they are about to go on a two-month tour.

Tubelord - Propeller

2) Los Campesinos!

After the leak of their upcoming album 'Romance Is Boring' was uploaded with a text file simply saying 'FUCK YOU, GARETH. X," Gareth, the lead singer for the band went on a Twitter rage. It seemed to be that, all in Camp Campesinos was not rosy. But then when you listen to the new album (the band afterwards decided to stream the full album on their myspace), one thing is clear: Los Campesinos! have created a masterpiece. Incorporating a completely new sound, while still staying loyal to what made their previous releases so loved, this is a band who loves what they do. And no fucking leak will ever ruin that.

Los Campesinos! - The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future

3) Delphic

Shame on me. Giving in to the hype. But keep in mind, the last time I gave in to the hype, it was The xx. So clearly there are rare cases when the hype is well-deserved. As is the case here with Delphic. This is Bloc Party's Intimacy if it had heart. When you think of indie rock fused with dance and electronica, let Delphic be the first thing that comes to your mind, not some nu rave, glow-stick, let's-get-smashed brats.

Delphic - Doubt

4) These Monsters

Come March 1st, and These Monsters will be unleashed. Or to be exact, their debut album 'Call Me Dragon.' Embodying the ferocity of what made Gallows and Pulled Apart By Horses known as the best live bands in Britain, These Monsters truly sound monstrous. In a good way. If you are a fan of devastating sounds with an experimental tinge of monstrosity, go ahead, satiate your cravings on These Monsters.

These Monsters - Call Me Dragon

5) Lost From Atlas

With their recently released self-titled debut album, Lost From Atlas certainly is a band that will go places. The band members are still young (they've just finished with their UCAS applications), but their music smacks of maturity. This is the soundtrack of a controlled demolition of conventional song structures and orthodoxed performance arrangements. With only one line of lyrics in the whole of their arsenal of songs, they are a band not to sing along to, but to be enjoyed in all its intricacies, complexities and insanities.

Lost From Atlas @ Fibbers

Signing out

Over and out

Now playing: Lost From Atlas - Man Is The Warmest Place To Hide
via FoxyTunes

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010. Technically Still The 00's

Sorry to burst your bubbles, but technically we're still in the decade known as the 00's. Yes, decades start at ___1. The 90's started on January 1st 1991. The 00's started on January 1st 2001. Heck, the millenium started on January 1st 2001.

So, this is not the beginning of the tensies (10's), this is the beginning of the end for the noughties (00's). And it has been a great decade, at least for me. Of course I've only experienced two decades so far, and the first half of the first decade was spent with diapers, babble and drool.

We're two years away from doomsday, if Rolland Emmerich is to be believed. And to clear up, the Mayans did not actually believe 2012 is the end of the world. It was, basically, just the end of their calendar. After which the calendar will just be re-set.

So what has 2010 brought me so far?

Well, I've been to a couple of gigs so far and is looking forward to some brilliant ones. Here are the gigs I went to in short:

Base Camp Rocks had their second semi-final in a place called The Monto Water Rats in London, and it featured one of my favourite duos, namely Fran & Josh. They're absolutely amazing when armed with two acoustic guitars. Absolutely mesmerising. Taking in influences as varied from Rodrigo Y Gabriela to Alice Deejay (of whom they did a cover), they come out with these lovely numbers that showcase their incredible musical talent and songwriting skills.

Fran & Josh - Days Like These

Also check out the rest of the other performances from Fran & Josh, and other bands that night, including Carrelle Mowatt, Late Clarity, Union of Glass Soldiers and Prince Charming. The two acts that got through the final were Fran & Josh (unsurprisingly) and Union of Glass Soldiers.

Base Camp Rocks Semi-Final 2: The Playlist
(click on the side-arrows to view other videos)

About a week ago, I also went to the long-awaited launch of Lost From Atlas's self-titled debut album. Supported by friend Tom Welbrock, one-off reunited Swimwear Juniors and genre-fusing Littlemores, Lost From Atlas really delivered the goods, metaphorically and literally. And when I say literally, I refer to how the album was supposed to come out last December but due to a manufacturing problem, it just didn't.

Lost From Atlas's album launch at Fibbers: The Playlist
(click on the side-arrows to view other videos)

So what do I think of their debut album?

It's quite simply ace. From the first track "The Horse You Rode In On" to the simply-titled "Fin," the whole record just oozes with quality riffs, chords, beats and groove that mesmerise and captivate and leave you completely mind-fucked. It's a complex beast, but it never gets too complicated and bogged down by unnecessary showboating. Everything works like clockwork. From the immaculate guitar skills of Danny Gallagher to the insane drumming of Liam Ledgeway via the groovy bass lines of Orlando Lloyd, the whole thing sounds like the most perfect jam session ever.

Yes, go get their album. Get their album here (yes, go on, click it) or from iTunes, all for a recession-conscious 6 pounds. I'm holding my copy right here.

If you've noticed, my videos have also gone a lot clearer than the previous 3gp-quality ones. Thanks, Flip Mino HD!

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The Drums - Let's Go Surfing

Yay, it's The Drums. They're from New York, and as you can see (and hear), they play catchy post-punk tuneage. And what's more, we're going to see them with Bombay Bicycle Club, The Maccabees and advert-darlings, The Big Pink. Some of you will recognise this as the line up for the NME 2010 Awards tour, and yes, it is.

My feelings towards NME are mixed, to say the least. Probably between 5% amicable, 20% tolerance and 75% contempt. But those feelings won't stop me from going to see the band that wrote one of my favourite songs ever (Bombay Bicycle Club's "Always Like This"), the band that had an album cover with papier mache models of themselves and one of them looked like a friend, the band that had an xBox 360 ad, and the band that made me sing "I wanna go surfing" for the past week.

Another band from New York who I'm going to see are the people I mistakenly thought were from Oxford just because they had a song called Oxford's Comma. Yes, it's Vampire Weekend. Weey. Tickets are sold out, but I'm proud to say I got them a day before general release. Thanks, O2!

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Blog over.

Signing out

Over and out