Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Pierces

To tide me over until The Pierces album actually arrives, here is their video for Boring.

As you can see, it's far from "boring".

They're basically very good. And not exactly unpleasant to look at, dare I say it.

But believe me, the music is very good.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Traffic & Weather - Fountains Of Wayne

Image Hosted by

I've always (well not ALWAYS, but you get my drift) thought that Fountains Of Wayne were a vastly underrated proposition. 2003's Welcome Interstate Managers was wonderful in a way that their one UK "hit" Stacy's Mom could only hint at. If anything that painted them, over here anyway, as some kind of novelty act, a "fact" which can gain some credence if you toss in their I Want An Alien For Christmas single (one of only two other Wayne singles to hit the UK top 40) and the fact that they provided the music for the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do (which I suppose would technically make another top 40 UK hit for them as well, even if it was released under another name).

And all this is a shame as they craft some of the finest pop songs you're likely to hear. This is a band who could toss out a 30 track B-sides and rarities compilation which packed more top notch radio-friendly pop tunes than most bands A-sides compilations would muster.

But anyway, you get my drift. They're really rather good and nearly 4 years after (the rather excellent) Welcome Interstate Managers they're back with a brand new studio album.

And as you might expect, Traffic & Weather continues that. Ok, so it's not as good as their last album (Hackensack off that album would be one of my 10 "Desert Island Discs) but it's still very good.

We get a whole new cast of memorable characters (even if a correlation between them and ones from previous albums can be easily made in some cases) and the tunes are as catchy as ever. Particular highlights include Someone To Love, with it's neat little twist at the end, title track Traffic And Weather, with TV news anchors lusting after each other and the Beatles-esque Revolving Dora.

It's not going to win them any new fans, as anyone who doesn't like them won't see much deviation from the usual formula. Even some fans may come away with a distinct "we've heard it all before" vibe. But most will find this is another enjoyable and welcome collection which does contain some of their best songs to date. One can only hope we don't have to wait 4 years for the next album.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Deep Blue - Charlotte Hatherley

Image Hosted by

Keen readers of my blog, and yes there are a couple of you out there, will remember that my recent Charlotte Hatherley concert review wasn't entirely positive. It wasn't a bad night out, but neither did it fill me with excitement for the upcoming album. The fact that this record got shunted to the back of the "to review" pile might therefore be some cause for concern.

Well it is, and it isn't. Whilst not as instantly accessible as Grey Will Fade (and if we're being honest, that was accessible mostly due to two or three killer tracks) this is definitely an album with a certain charm.

Lead single Behave was quite brilliant in it's own way and it's not the only great track on here. Be Thankful is another highlight, as is the swooping Again (which surprised me as I was distinctly underwhelmed when I heard it live).

My problem is that very little of it actually grabs me. It's mildly diverting to tick off the list of influences as you go through, and it's all respectfully done. But whilst I enjoy the album to some degree as I listen to it, I never really get the urge to make sure that I stick around for a repeat listen.

In the final analysis its a worthy and interesting album, but also a slightly dull one. And not one that really takes my fancy all that much.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kate Nash LIVE

Image Hosted by

Ok, so the traffic wasn't that bad. It was still bad, but not as bad as you might expect. Which gave us plenty of time for a traditional Chinese banquet and still have the time to watch the first half of the football in Bar Rogue. Nearly sent me to sleep mind you.

Got to the venue halfway through the support act Peggy Sue & The Pirates. They seemed alright. I wasn't really paying all that much attention. Sorry.

Mind you, I didn't spend their entire set talking very loudly and generally being quite irritating. Although at a push you can forgive it during the support act, especially at the back of the venue (although really a bit of respect for people who want to listen isn't an impossible task really is it?) but to then proceed to attempt to drown out the act that everyone has paid to see really is taking the biscuit.

So anyway, much as I don't like pushing my way forward once a concert has started, this time we had no choice. So we moved a little forward and, wouldn't you know it, managed to stand near another bunch of idiots intent on talking as much as possible. And yes, I was giving you "funny looks" and yes it was me who said "well that will be their cue to f**king start talking" as Kate Nash introduced a "quiet song, so stop talking"...


Onto the concert.

I can be quite an emotional man at times, but I don't think I've ever felt like crying at a concert before. Well on this occasion I did. And that's not "cry" in a "that's bloody awful, why have I wasted my money on this shite" way; that's "cry" in an "oh my gosh, she's actually absolutely brilliant and her sad songs make me well up" kind of way.

Seriously. I downloaded her single Birds, but it was only on hearing it live that I started to get all emotional. I don't particularly know why, other than it is a rather lovely song, but it affects me. And not a lot of music has that power these days. She also achieved that on the, also rather lovely, The Nicest Things. I know it's obviously written from a girl's point of view but surely we can all relate to it.

But alternatively as well as making me cry, Kate Nash can also make me laugh. Witness The Shit Song, or Dickhead ("What you gotta be a dickhead for?/Stop being such a dickhead").

There was also a rather funky version of Caroline Is A Victim, completely removed from the lo-fi single version, which I enjoyed a lot as well. Also a winner was the "probable 2nd single" Foundations.

She ended things with Merry Happy, which saw her joined by Peggy Sue & The Pirates on backing vocal duties; it was a thrilling end to a thrilling show.

It would be easy to dismiss Nash as some sort of comedy songwriter; it would also be easy to dismiss her as the "new" Lily Allen (and yes Gee, I'm aware I sold the concert to you on that basis ;-D, but needs must). It would also be easy to suggest that her training as an actress suggests that her cynicism may not be all it seems. But all this would miss the point.

I mean I've already pointed out that not only does she have the ability to make me laugh, but also the ability to make me cry. And as much as I like Lily Allen, and I do, she can't hold a candle to Kate Nash in any respect. I know, half of you are thinking "he's off again" but I really cannot praise this woman enough. Chart super-stardom may well elude her, although really if there is any justice it won't, but I don't care. Kate Nash is the shit. And I mean that in a good way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dignity - Hilary Duff

Image Hosted by

I don't mind Hilary Duff. Granted, I would never want to go as far as sit through one of her films but as a bubblegum pop princess (and yes, I nicked that description from the Guardian) she had her merits. Granted those merits had never gone as far as producing, or perhaps the right word should be "fronting", a knock out album but her best moments were ripe for a "collection".

So it was with some trepidation that I heard tales of her going "electro". It sounds like it should be my kind of thing (being the electro pop tart that I am) but is it really a wise move? As it turns out, artistically at least, it is. Not least because the over-sentimental and cloying ballads that spoiled great swathes of her previous albums are absolutely nowhere to be seen.

Things start off decently enough with Stranger, but things really kick into life with the title track. A thinly-veiled attack on the Hollywood party girls ("you'd show up to the opening of an envelope"..."it's not news you've got a new bag") it may be, but it manages the task a whole lot more successfully that Pink's Stupid Girls ever did. It's also a killer tune to boot. You can make up your own mind about who are the targets (for my money you have to look no further than Nicole Ritchie - who's knocking off that Good Charlotte fella now I think- and Duff's long-term rival Lindsay Lohan).

Gypsy Woman is much easier to pin down as a knock on Nicole Ritchie and is just as fantastic as the title track. Other essential, and I do mean essential, cuts include No Work, No Play, with its positively addictive drum beat, and Danger, which seems to address her stalker problems (we're talking "people have been sent to jail" levels here) to another addictive beat.

Of course it's not all as good, but a lot of it is surprisingly, and nagglingly, memorable. Quite what it will do for her is another matter indeed. There comes a time when every teen star has to strike out and there is no doubt that the time had come for Duff to take that step. She's certainly come up with something fresh and, more importantly, something quite good indeed. Whether fans of the old stuff will follow her on the journey is uncertain, but it would be their loss if they didn't.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Single releases 26/03/07

I do apologise in advance for the brevity of this post.

Thing is there's just not a whole hell of a lot that excites me this week, and I haven't the time for my ususal in-depth trawl through the singles that will never chart.

I mean take Melanie C. She's quite popular in Europe apparently. She should stay there if I Want Candy is anything to go by. And why on Earth did she get Carol Vorderman to stand in for her in the video?


That is Mel C? Dear me.


Just as bad is Candyman by Christina Aguilera. IT IS NO LONGER THE 1940'S CHRISTINA!!!! I wouldn't mind but the song is awful. Don't be fooled into thinking it's "catchy". It's not. It's rubbish.

And despite the backing of Popjustice, which is usually in tune somewhat with my tastes, I can't warm to Konichiwa Bitches by Robyn. It's ok, that's about it.

Not keen on the Kings Of Leon at all.

Ditto for Patrick Wolf. I just don't "get" him.

Look I know I say this every week these days, but I'll make more of an effort next week. I promise.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Serebro - Song #1

This is class. I didn't really want to copy Popjustice, but this is too good not to post.

Ok, it can take quite a while to load and, quite frankly, I could do without the J-Lo style dance interlude that clocks in with about 45 seconds to go, but I repeat, this is class.

We need more popstars with their hands in their pocket.

In due course I'll be doing a big Eurovision piece, but this should tide you over for now.

I mean just imagine if that Shakira/Beyonce track was even half as good as this!


composed by Maxim Fadeev, lyrics by Daniil Babichev

It’s a dirty money track, Yeah,
Girls kick the flow!

Listen to me
All my girls get ready
We’ll make it easy

When I catch you picking me
You better get a chill
Boy you wanna take on me
Cuz I’m your killing pill

Can’t you see the way I move
My dress my flashy skin
Listen up you know I got
The place you’ve never been

Slow down
Boy you don’t wanna let me down
You better stop you know what!

Oh! Don’t call me funny bunny
I’ll blow your money money
I’ll get you to my bad ass
Spinning for you
Oh! I’ll make it easy honey
I’ll take your money yummy
I’ve got my bitches
Standing up next to me

So come and check it
So come and check it
So come and check it
My bad ass spinning for you (2x)

Watch out!

Keep on taking over you
It’s kinda getting free
Baby boy you know I still
Got sexy freak in me

Gotta tease you nasty guy
So take it don’t be shy
Put your cherry on my cake
And taste my cherry pie

Maybe I’ll take you
With me tonight
Maybe you’ll show me another way
And find a reason for me to stay
But something I must tell you!

Feel my vibration
Get it!

If that's not worthy of praise, I don't know what is.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Good Morning Revival - Good Charlotte

Image Hosted by

Never let it be said that my mind is closed. I mean lets face it, Good Charlotte aren't very good are they?

They rarely do a single that I don't detest (I Just Wanna Live is the one main exception - Girls and Boys was catchy but was ruined forever when my boss started singing along to it) and what makes it worse is that for all their Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous rhetoric, they seem to be able to piss and moan with the best of them these days.

But, credit where credit is due and all that, recent single Keep Your Hands Off My Girl was pretty bloody good. In fact, no, it was excellent. In fact it was so good that it made me almost look forward to the album. I say almost because I knew deep down that it probably wouldn't be very good and that the single would prove to be a one-off; still, you have to give the young whippersnappers the chance don't you?

Sadly, as I expected, Good Morning Revival isn't very good and Keep Your Hands Off My Girl is indeed the best thing on it by a country mile. Indeed there are times when you even wonder if the album is some kind of elaborate joke. Firstly for all the angst-rock bluster, this is as "pop" as anything that Mr Madden's ex-squeeze Hillary Duff would come up with; this is exacerbated by the almost pointless attempts to incorporate more "electro" sounds into their repertoire. Hell you could almost argue that some tracks see them attempt a "dance" sound. The results are as bad as you might expect.

Not every track is completely awful, but if I'm being honest the only song off it I have any inclination to listen to again is the aforementioned Keep Your Hands Off My Girl. Which should sum up just what a turgid experience this album is.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Stay - Simply Red

Image Hosted by

It's easy to knock Mick Hucknall but at times the fella does himself no favours. The man has talent, that is beyond question in my eyes, but recently has been more than happy to phone it in and sit within himself. Everytime a new album comes on the horizon I find that I start to hope that this might be the time; this might be the one where he snaps out of his malaise and produces something along the lines of what I know he's capable of.

Sadly, once again, Stay doesn't quite hit the mark.

I say "quite" because in parts this is actually very good indeed. Title track Stay, one of the more out and out "chart pop" moments on the collection harks back to the glory days. The album is also bookended by great moments; The World And You Tonight starts the album off on a high note, with it's catchy guitar riffs whilst Little Englander sees Hucknall, gasp, experiment a little bit and shows that the ambition still lurks within his soul. Sure, the whistles, orchestration and children's choir shouldn't work, but somehow they do.

There are other decent moments too, such as Money TV and The Death Of The Cool, even though their attacks on consumerism and reality television shows don't entirely convince.

On the other hand, So Not Over You is the usual generic ballad drivel that has hampered him in recent times, They Don't Know is a clumsy Mowtown pastiche that never really gets going and Oh! What A Girls shows that Hucknall isn't the funky kind anymore.

So really this is a lot like his previous two self-financed efforts, albeit with a bit more vigour than those. There's a couple of great songs joined by a smattering of decent ones and finished off with some poor songs. Fans, though, will surely find enough on here to make this not a completely unworthwhile purchase.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Beverley Mitchell - Beverley Mitchell

Image Hosted by

As in Beverley Mitchell, star of TV series Seventh Heaven (and the film Saw II). Don't you just love these multi-talented stars?

Anyway this is about as far away from Jennifer Lopez as you could get. For a start she can actually act and secondly she's unleashing a Country 'n' Western album on us. What can I say? I'm still in that country mood.

Of course if you've heard one country album you've heard them all, or at least that is what some people think. This hardly goes out of it's way to prove them wrong. Indeed it's as if the last 20 years haven't happened, lyrically at least. This is Tanya Tucker and 1970's simplicity all over again. (Although it should be pointed out that in the US this is being marketed as both a Country album and a "Christian" one).

Which isn't to say that its without merit. Mitchell can sing, although you have to admit that she's hasn't the greatest voice ever, and there are certain cuts, such as Walkin, Black Is Black or Nothin' 'Bout Nothin' which will get your toes tapping. Similarly, if you're in the mood some of the slower, more reflective moments work as well, the prime example being Dream Like We're Gonna Live Forever.

There is also the sense that Mitchell means what she's singing, which is a sincerity that can be hard to find to any great degree these days.

All in all it's not a brilliant album, but it does have it's charms. Whether it's something that will come out of hibernation off the shelf all that often is a different matter.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Eurovision 2007

The less said about Scooch the better .

But hear me now...

Serebro (they've replaced Girls Aloud as my pic) have got the Russian entry. And their "Song #1" is rather good.

They will win.

Or probably not. But it's great anyway. I just hope that they don't turn out to be men or something. (I have my doubts about the one on the right of the picture ;-D)

The Other Side - Lucie Silvas

Image Hosted by

I can take or leave Lucie Silvas if I'm being honest. I wasn't exactly thrilled by her debut album but did find that live she was an nice, if slightly dull, evening's entertainment.

And that last comment just about sums up the new offering from her, The Other Side.

Record company shenanigans, and a complete lack of success for a single release, meant that this album sat on the shelf until this month when at one point it was scheduled to hit the stores well before the end of 2006. What makes this even more baffling is that the delayed release was met with little, or no, fanfare and pretty quietly made it's way into shops.

It's by no means a dreadful album. Silvas has the voice, and she has genuine song-writing skills and there are few tracks that you would willfully skip over as you listened to the album. That said, there are just as few tracks that would instantly have you grabbing for the repeat button.

If you've heard anything by Silvas you'll know what you're getting on this collection. And if you liked her debut offering you will probably find much to enjoy here. My favourites were Already Gone, which highlights Silvas' best features...namely her voice and her piano playing, and Something About You.

Like I said though, too little of the rest stands out, although its never less than listenable. Having heard the album though I can understand why Silvas may well get lost in the shuffle. Whilst competent she somewhat lags behind the likes of Nerina Pallot and KT Tunstall. You could do worse than listen to this album, but you could also do a hell of a lot better.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Saltbreakers - Laura Veirs

Image Hosted by

Well wouldn't you believe it. No sooner do I review the single, the album appears before me. Magically. ;-D

Laura Veirs was up to 5 albums, the wonderful Year Of Meteors, before I discovered her, but I soon found out that she had a wonderful back catalogue and she quickly became one of my quiet favourites. Her name is met by blank stares by most people I talk to but few can resist her charms given a gentle prodding.

For this new album the Tortured Souls are no-more, although it seems to be merely cosmetic. The line-up for new backing band The Saltbreakers seems largely the same, including that Bjorn Borg look-a-like Karl Blau.

Obstentiously about the break-up of a long-term relationship, Saltbreakers is nonetheless steeped in the kind of dreamy imagery contained within Year Of Meteors and this time, as the title would suggest, there is a distinct focus on the ocean (and the cosmos) which is not entirely unexpected from Veirs.

Of course the danger so far is that it all sounds a little too like her last album for comfort, but that is not a worry. Whilst there are definite stylistic similarities, and indeed the album isn't as entirely successful as it's predecessor, its still a great piece of work in it's own right.

Don't Lose Yourself (with it's "debt" to the written prose of Jose Saramago) could well be a Meteors outtake but actually convinces as more than that. Light synth drums are joined by piano's and strings and the song slowly build into layers upon layers of sublime imagery. Pink Light uses its atmospheric and hypnotic guitars to great effect and turns up the "rock" friendly approach just a notch.

Cast A Hook is another great track, which again slowly builds from a mellow start into something very memorable indeed.

If there is to be one criticism it is that the album as a whole does sound a little similar throughout, both in comparison to Year Of Meteors and within itself as well. And ultimately any comparisons to it's predecessor will only highlight that this doesn't quite match up.

Still it's a very good record in it's own right and goes a good way to cementing Veirs' reputation as one of the brightest and most intriguing songwriters of her day.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Single Releases 19/03/07

Let's get this out of the way right at the beginning. I don't mind the new Razorlight single. Yes, I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got isn't very good, but it's not bad. Not bad at all. I still wouldn't buy it.

Surprisingly I also quite like the new Maximo Park single. Indeed since I heard it for the first time I've been known to randomly burst out "my velocity" at various times of the day. Whether all this will transfer to me actually liking them as a whole, only time will tell.

Is Jamelia running out of ideas. No More is just Beware Of The Dog again but with a different legendary sample. It's not half the tune that Dog was either.

I still don't see what Fergie is up to. How can someone who is in the Black Eyed Peas, who let's face it despite what your opinion on them may be can come up with some pretty catchy pop melodies, lose all sense of tune and melody in her solo outings?

The Bomb by New York Pony Club is pretty good. There does seem to have been an outburst of "she's fit" though recently about the various women in the band. Not that that makes any difference of course. I just think it's a bit strange how many people recently have been raving about them in that sense.

I don't mind Hilary Duff. But With Love is not very good. I like the "rock" Duff better than the "r'n'b" Duff.

Laura Veirs comes back this week with a new single, Don't Lose Yourself, and a new backing band (The Saltbreakers), although to be honest it looks like the same backing band with a new name. The single's good, if a little more "funky" than you might expect from Veirs. It certainly sets the pulse racing for the new album, which is job done really isn't it?

Sadly once again, I can't really summon the energy this week to review any more singles.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Neon Bible - Arcade Fire

Image Hosted by

It's one thing making a critically acclaimed debut album, it's another thing entirely to follow it up with something as good yet something that doesn't merely mine the same territory as what preceded it.

Arcade Fire may well have fallen just short of the heights of Funeral, and only just I might add, but it's certain to say that they've come up with something that sounds both familiar (in comparison with Funeral) and something that is totally fresh at the same time.

If the Killers were threatening to go "Springsteen" then the Arcade Fire have actually gone and done it. It's not so much that the sound like him as such, although (Antichrist Television Blues) could easily be a long-lost Springsteen classic, more that they channel his restless spirit and anti-authority air.

Top tracks for me would be Intervention and No Cars Go. The former is perhaps the track most likely to please avid fans of Funeral with its church organ intro, Orchestral strings and big harmonies. The latter is probably the most overtly commercial moment on the album, and may well be the one track which really opens up the mainstream for them.

The album does lack the instant gratification of, say, Rebellion (Lies) or Power Out but then again Arcade Fire are by no means what you would term a "singles" band. Indeed there are few tracks you could imagine impacting on the charts in those terms but as a collective whole this is one amazing piece of work.

Yes, I still think that I prefer Funeral but for me that was one of the best albums of the 21st Century so far. If Neon Bible falls a little short of those great heights it should come as no great surprise, nor should it detract one iota from what is a fantastic album in its own right.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sound Of Silver - LCD Soundsystem

Image Hosted by

I liked LCD Soundsystem, aka James Murphy, before it was "cool" to like them/him. Their debut album (5th in my 2005 "Best Of" list) was a superb effort (with or without the bonus disc) and whilst I suppose I should be quite sad that Murphy seems to have decided not to work with Britney Spears you could forgive him almost everything after this "almost-as-superb-as-the-first-album" effort.

Yes, I said ALMOST.

The main "problem" I have with Sound Of Silver is that it lacks the absolute killer track that would set it apart. It's got nothing that matches the majesty of old LCD singles Losing My Edge or Yeah, or even Tribulations.

On the plus side, almost everything on the album is very good indeed. As ever it's nigh on impossible to pin down a definition of their sound from track to track, never mind over a full album.

Recent single North American Scum would perhaps best be described as punk-funk; All My Friends sounds very "New Order"; Get Innocuous channels the spirit of Talking Heads...Hell Murphy even delves into ballad territory for album closer New York I Love You.

Of course some will label the genre-hopping as desperate and will suggest that all it shows is that James Murphy has a large record collection from which to gain "inspiration." To me though, listening for the influences is as much fun in itself as listening to the record in it's own right. And if it doesn't quite match up to the visceral power of the debut, it's not far off it and is still a fantastic album in it's own right.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Small Town Girl - Kellie Pickler

Image Hosted by

What is up with me? Two American Idol album contestant reviews in one week? If only I had some credibility to lose in the first place hey?

Anyway, whilst Katharine "the future Mrs Roberts" McPhee is in many ways your typical R'n'B pop princess, Kellie Pickler is much more your hoe-down kinda girl. Yes, this is the second country review in a week as well. What can I say? Once I get in a musical mood it sticks with me for a while.

Of course just because it's a different genre from McPhee, it doesn't mean that it doesn't suffer from the same problems. Not that this is a bad record by any stretch of the imagination just that its obviously led by someone other than the artist herself.

She has the personality but it's as if somebody somewhere has decided that she's the ideal "girl next door" and is best off singing about those modern Country issues such as female empowerment (Gotta Keep Moving), getting over a breakup (lead single Red High Heels) and pure unadulterated schmaltz (Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You).

Still, to Pickler's credit these are all tasks which she can carry off with something approaching aplomb and if it never quite catches fire it is all very personable.

My particular favourites are the aforementioned Red High Heels, which surely has that kind of Radio 2 crossover potential, and Things That Never Cross A Man's Mind which is catchy AND funny at the same time.

So all in all it's a likeable album and Pickler comes across as likeable to boot. It's just not a very vital album. If Country music is your kind of thing you could do worse than check this out, everyone else may as well steer clear.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Introducing Joss Stone.

Image Hosted by

You could forgive an artist's 3rd album being called "Introducing" if what was delivered was something special.

You could forgive an artist from making a fool of herself at the Brits if her new album proved to be something worth listening to.

You could forgive the "this is who I am as an artist" advertisements if the subsequent album showed any real signs of originality.

You could even, at a push, forgive the laughable, lamentable Vinnie Jones spoken word intro, as pathetically embarrassing as it is, if what followed it was anything even approaching decent.

As you might have guessed though, I'm not in a forgiving mood.

Let's be clear about one thing; Joss Stone can sing. That's not in doubt. And there is also no doubt that she's a good enough singer to save this album from being the absolute disaster it would be in less capable hands. But not even her superb voice can save songs as dull and as identikit as these.

And lyrically the situation is as bad. Much has been made (by the lady herself I might add) that this marks the first time that Stone has written most of her own lyrics and if we're being unfair you can tell. Yes she's still only 19 and there is nothing wrong with her writing from that level as such, but she's merely full of cliche's that would have been better off left unsaid.

Rapheal Saadiq is the main collaborator on the album and at times it seems like a shrewd move. Put Your Hands On Me is probably the highlight of the album, mixing, as it does, modern beats with a decidedly retro sound. Sadly most of his other production on the album seems intent on watering Miss Stone down to the lowest common denominator.

Which is a shame. There are enough numbers to get your toes dancing, but little that will stick in the memory once the CD is taken out of the machine and put back on the shelf. And that in itself is a huge sense of disappointment. Whilst her first two albums were hardly all-time-classics they showcased a great singer who would surely improve with age. Introducing seems to suggest that she's actually getting worse with age.

Joss Stone seems to be coming in for quite a bit of stick these days, at least some of which is undeserved. Sadly I can't see this dog of an album helping matters any. Perhaps that "classic" album which I once felt confident she could deliver isn't coming after all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Everlife - Everlife

Image Hosted by

From time to time you come across an album that is so cynically put together with the bottom-line in mind that it is all you can do not to throw your hands up in despair.

This is one of those occasions.

As a three-sister pop-rock act with a Christian rock background, Everlife at one point could have made an extremely interesting pop-act. Sadly with the music industry as it is, and with the backing of Disney what they actually make is a mildly diverting act for people who find Avril Lavigne too challenging.

There is the nominal co-writing, but that is backed up by the thousands of "proper" hit-making writers who, by the sounds of this, merely passed on the tunes that other more high-profile acts they write for passed on. Things reach a nadir on the pointless cover of Lillix's What I Like About You and a, frankly, embarrassing cover of Real Wild Child. And let's face it, even that was done by Josie And The Pussycats for that (actually very entertaining) film a good few years back. All this goes to prove that there isn't an original idea on this album at all.

To be honest, this is so far from "essential" that it's more or less pointless. I don't mind "manufactured" per se, but this is just nothing at all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Katharine McPhee - Katharine McPhee

Image Hosted by

The thing with not watching American Idol (or indeed any programme of that ilk) is that when the slew of albums reach the shops, because let's face it the programmes long ago ceased to be about the winner of a particular contest, I don't have any built in bias. I've not been there when a contestant has charmed and/or annoyed the viewing public and I've no preconceptions as to what the album should sound like.

I should of course point out that is was slightly familiar with McPhee thanks to her version of Black Horse & Cherry Tree (which, lets face it - despite how unpopular this view may be - helped the American public at large catch the Tunstall bug) but that was as far as my knowledge went.

Anyway, McPhee didn't win American Idol, but that didn't stop an outbreak of "McPheever" (see, I'm down with the lingo) and the anticipation for her debut album offering.

The album seems a mixed bunch of slower, Mariah Carey moments and more up-beat, R'n'B pop moments, a move which seems calculated to both capitalise on her Idol popularity and take steps to create a new identity for herself at the same time. It's telling as well that there are undoubted highlights from both sides of that equation.

Particularly effective from the ballad side of things are Home and Ordinary World. Both display that McPhee has a voice worth listening to and are genuinely affecting songs. On the other side of things Open Toes, as cheesy as it is, is as good as anything Beyonce could come up with (and is the kind of thing Britney's new album is calling out for) and if Joss Stone did something as souful as Love Story perhaps I wouldn't hate her as much. Then there is even a track like Neglected, which falls somewhere between the two stools but still manages to be a catchy tune, and has that all-important McPhee co-writing credit.

Of course she can't quite deliver a full album of great quality. There are too many by-the-manual numbers, such as Dangerous, which fail to spark and there is that nagging feeling that as of yet, McPhee hasn't got a "sound" to call her own. Still, as a debut album from a reality TV star goes, this is an enjoyable experience and proof that with the right breaks, Katherine McPhee might just be in it for the long-term.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Single Releases 12/03/07

Well we're back to normal this week I fear. Although there is a modicum of great stuff and I might as well deal with that first.

Prescilla by Bat For Lashes is awesome, and is a different version to the album one. Natasha Khan is a talent for sure.

I also quite like the new Good Charlotte tune. Stop sniggering.

Acceptable In The 80's by Calvin Harris is a pretty good tune too. It gets me dancing, and not a lot does that.

Walk This Way by Girls Aloud Vs The Sugababes is pretty rubbish isn't it?

Chris DeBurgh is still alive? Well blow me.

Is it just me or have Faithless been on auto-pilot for years?

James Morrison and Paulo Nutini both release singles this week. Will I be able to contain my excitement?

And to be honest, I just flat out don't like the Fratellis.

I think we better stop right there. The inspiration just isn't there this week.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tracey Thorn - Tracey Thorn

Image Hosted by

It's 25 years since Tracey Thorn's last solo album. In fact it's 8 years since Everything But The Girl last graced us with their formidable presence.

Lead single It's All True certainly was a good one, sounding as it did like something straight out the 80's (to me it brings to mind an Actually out-take - which is all the more relevant with the hidden Kings Cross cover on the album; not that I have that - damn this modern age) and it's as if the last, well, 20 years hadn't happened.

Which would be of no real concern if the rest of the album constantly lived up to the level of that single. Sadly it doesn't.

The voice is as good as ever but it's wrapped around some of the most anonymous and repetitive "dance" arrangements you could imagine. Get Around It is a case in point. It's six minutes long and it's a good four and a half minutes before things ever start to look like they might get interesting. Falling Off A Log is half the length but crucially never sounds as if it might get interesting at all.

That's not to say that there aren't highlights worth a listen, but most of them are the slower, more mellow and experimental moments. The piano-driven Easy is one such track which does bring to mind the Massive Attack collaborations. Another winner is Here It Comes Again which eschews the dance template to draw you into it's cacophony of strings.

Sadly by the time things come to a close with Raise The Roof, raising the roof is the last thing that you feel like doing. It's another stodgy and disappointing number that fails to enchant.

So really despite the odd moments of brilliance this has to go down as an opportunity missed, for whatever reason. It's far too patchy to enchant as a whole but the best tracks do show what could have been. A far from essential purchase in my opinion.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lily Allen LIVE

Image Hosted by

Things were looking bleak when fish and chips were followed by the pub we were planning on going to being shut (perhaps they'd heard we were coming) but for once that little pub by the Apollo wasn't ram-packed to buggery so we were able to have a few quiet drinks whilst watching the legend that is Ray Stubbs do that Fame Academy thing.

We also found ourselves sat with a table-full of lesbians. But that's another story for another time (and for a less family-friendly blog).

We had quite a good view (despite only arriving 10 minutes before Lily was due on) and whilst the crowd being full of young girls made me feel very old it did also mean that I had a brilliant view throughout the entire concert. Which makes a nice change.

Lily was her usual wonderful self, despite her claiming problems with her voice. Truth be told you wouldn't have noticed if she hadn't mentioned it, she was that good.

She rattled through most of Alright, Still and threw in a few choice B-sides (although she rather confusingly kept telling us that they were "unreleased" songs). She also treated us to some new cover versions.

Blondie's Heart Of Glass was given an acoustic reggae twinge, there was a respectful (and close to the original) version of the Specials' Blank Expression and, best of all, there was a delightful version of the Kaiser Chiefs' Oh My God.

There was also an absolutely hilarious impression of Joss Stone ("big love to Amy Winehouse") that is still making me chuckle as I write this.

So basically this was another winning night with Lily Allen. Those who have labelled her nothing more than a flash in the pan must had better be gettin ready to eat their words.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Taylor Swift - Taylor Swift

Image Hosted by

I may have told this story before but there was a time around the mid 90's when CMT was my favourite music channel on the TV. Sure the trendies at school thought I was a bit weird (because as ever I took a perverse delight in telling everyone about my less than "cool" musical tastes) but I didn't care.

But anyway, I shed a metaphorical tear when the channel disappeared from the listings, although it probably saved me a hell of a lot of money in the long run. The point is though that every now and then I have a flight of fancy and decide to track down some contemporary country that isn't The Dixie Chicks or the 347th Shania Twain hits compilation.

This search led me to Taylor Swift. And although the reasoning was a bit random, I ended up with the album. And I listened to it and was blown away, and that was before I found out she was a mere 16 years of age when she "cut" this record. Precocious is not the word really is it!

Of course it's so far, so "Nashville dream" but from the opening track Tim McGraw this proves to be something quite above the factory-line output that exists in Nashville in the 21st Century. Of course the lyrical trick is nothing new, least of all in Country music, but Swift manages to make it sound fresh and original.

That said there are occasions when a little too much producer sheen is added to some of the tracks, but the fact that you notice this actually proves that she's not really in need of it.

Equally adept on the slow stuff (Cold As You, Stay Beautiful) as she is on the more uptempo songs (Picture To Burn, The Outside) there is hardly a dull moment to digest. And even the songs that don't quite work aren't dreadful by any means, with the only one real disappointing moment being the rather plodding Tied Together With A Smile, which is perhaps the one track which could have done with some "producer" touches to liven it up.

By the time the album closes, however, with Our Song the overall feeling is one of stunned excitement. It's not a perfect album by any means but if she's this good at 16, just how good is she going to be with a little more time behind her? Country music may have found itself a new superstar in the making.

Now all I need is a bootleg copy of her Eminem cover!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dying To Say This To You - The Sounds

Image Hosted by

Well I tipped them as stars of 2007, and we all know that won't happen. But that shouldn't stop me reviewing the album. It's been out in Europe for ages, but will soon get a UK release so why not, hey?

They certainly have the tunes to make an impact. In fact the majority of songs clock in at about 3 minutes and have that radio friendly air about them. There are many reference points but to me they're kind of like Blondie doing The Killers (which is not all that surprising considering Jeff Saltzman, of Hot Fuss fame, is at the production helm here).

They no doubt aim for disco, but rough it up with just enough of a punk edge to stop it grating. Song With A Mission, Painted By Numbers and Tony The Beat are the best examples. All are catchy and give you something to dance to but also add some rough guitars which elevate the songs into something special.

Of course it's difficult to argue with those that say that it's all a bit "samey"; they'd have a point. But given that the entire album clocks in at about 35 minutes the point is never over-done. And it's perhaps telling that the one "non-template" moment on the album, Night After Night, is the dullest thing on there. (Although if you pick up certain editions of the album there is an alternative version of this track which is a damn sight better). The pared down sound also highlights the fact that the lyrics are not exactly top-drawer; but then again that doesn't need to be a criticism given the the album so obviously appeals to the feet rather than the brain.

It never quite lives up to the potential the great songs on this collection suggest but it is a good album nevertheless for those who fancy a bit of a boogie with an indie twist. It does occasionally feel like everything is blurring into one but that needn't put you off.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Single Releases 05/03/07

What a fine week it is for singles this week. No, seriously. I know that most weeks I seem to rage against virutally anything, but this week WILL be different. Sure, I've no doubt I'll find something to hate, but there is some cracking stuff out this week.

To wit;

Chelsea by Stefy finally gets its UK release this week (I reviewed the album back in September). It's bloody fantastic. And it should be a HUGE hit. It probably won't be, because lets face it, it's me predicting big things here, but don't let that put you off.

Alfie is probably the video of the year already and it's amazing how many people who don't really like Lily Allen have told me how much they love the tune. Hell even my Dad, who normally turns his nose up at anything I listen to that was recorded after 1980, told me he liked it. It's brilliant (and it's nominal Double A-side Shame For You isn't bad either).

Robbie Williams has had some of the worst reviews of his career for the Rudebox album, which I think is totally unfair. She's Madonna sees him teaming up with the Pet Shop Boys for a classic slice of Robbie pop. Shame about the video though.

I'll apologise for this one in advance, but I think Get Your Hands Off My Girl by Good Charlotte is actually very good indeed . I know, it's Good Charlotte, but it would be churlish to hate it just because it's them wouldn't it?

Of course I can be totally churlish at times. Like not really liking the new Biffy Clyro single Saturday Superhouse. The fact that Edith Bowman spent ages championing it has nothing to do with my opinion whatsoever.

I'm assuming Example is the latest attempt by Mike Skinner to become the Timberland of the UK but never mind that. I Can't Rap is both funny and very very catchy. It's all very "UK Eminem" but has a sense of self-depreciating humour that Mr Mathers could well do with. I love it, for sure.

In what may be a complete one off, Regina Spektor's new video has actually made The Box playlist. Fidelity is just as good as long-time fans would suspect. Another great track.

The Sounds were one of my tips for 2007 and this week sees the release of Tony The Beat (Push It) and it's another fantastic slice of pop that sits somewhere between Cansei de ser Sexy and Franz Ferdinand. Plus there's women with no clothes on in the video.

Kubicheck were another of my tips for 2007 and Nightjoy confirms to me I was right. It's a catchy, indie-driven number with a sing-a-long chorus. It's a lot better than a lot of the shite that gets pushed in the name of indie these days.

It must be at least an hour since Timberland was in a video so along he pops on the new Nelly Furtado single, Say It Right. It's good, but not as good as Maneater or Promiscuous. It is better than that last one where she whistled a lot though.

Pieces Of The People We Love by The Rapture is a strange one. It's good but never quite catches fire like you hope. You sit there waiting for something never comes.

Having heard great things about The Sunshine Underground I was looking forward to checking out Borders, their new single. Sadly it fails to live up to the hype. It's just your typical tune, with little to lift it from the indie pack.

I don't like Lemar. Don't get me wrong, he can sing. But that's about it. His songs appeal to that lowest common denominator, the Radio 2 houswife audience. However, Tick Tock sees him delve to even lower depths than I imagined. I'm sure he's trying to make a point, but hearing him complain about his busy lifestyle whilst loads of gorgeous women dance around him somewhat loses the message. What a terrible fucking life he must lead.

Ben Mills was from X-Factor apparently. I never watch that programme. Beside You is by no means the worst song ever recorded but it's pretty bland and I can only hope he can make enough money in his brief moment in the spotlight to support him when it all goes tits up. Which it will.

I'm not sure about Enter Shikari, although they do seem to be heading in that "nu-rave" direction that the Klaxons were so eager to avoid. Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour doesn't really make my mind up for me either. It's ok, but we'll have to see what else they can come up with.

If you're the result of Carly Simon and James Taylor you're bound to have some talent...and something to live up to. Ben Taylor certainly lives up to the billing with Nothing I Can Do. Sometimes, the simple approach can work wonders. If there is any justice it will be him, rather than the likes of James Morrison, who have the ultimate last laugh.

Acoustic Ladyland have been getting some good press and Cuts and Lies suggests that they may be onto something indeed. Check it out.

I still don't get Jet. They're crap if we're being honest.

I also hate Joss Stone. She's responsible for one of the worst concerts I've ever seen in my life and now she tells me she didn't even like the songs that were "chosen" for her on the first two albums. Now she's striking out on her own. Well if Tell Me 'Bout It is any indication then you should have stuck to letting people choose your songs for you. Mind you, her last album was pitiful anyway, so maybe no approach at all is going to help her.

I don't particularly like Lucie Silvas either, but her concert quite charmed me. Strange that she would comeback with an upbeat number like Sinking In considering her big success came from ballads. It's not bad, but it's not exactly the killer comeback I would imagine she needs. And it is just me, or is she starting to look more and more like Claire Sweeney?

Gregory Darling is supporting Bryan Adams on tour. And that's all you really need to know about his new single Shell.

She's My Man is Scissor Sisters on autopilot. Yes, I'm still not happy with Ta Dah.

Justin Timberlake's What Goes Around is more notable for Scarlet Johannson being in the video than the actual tune, mainly because it seems to have been done entirely to have a go at Cameron Diaz. Still even that's not as "on-the-button" as his baiting of Britney in the Cry Me A River Video.

Madness should have stuck to the lucrative "reunion" tours and stopped trying to make new songs. Sorry? You bloody well should be.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Yours Truly, Angry Mob - Kaiser Chiefs

Image Hosted by

The immediate thing that springs to mind when getting this CD is how serious all the band look on the front cover. You also get the feeling that this is no idle gesture; if there is one thing that may have soured the boys from Leeds rise to the top its that some people just refuse to take them seriously - and that is something that really pisses them off.

Now I might be just one of those people who has that effect on them. I was never really all that fussed with Employment (even less so when my mate PJ spent an hour telling me how great the album was before finally admitting that he hadn't yet listened to it). Singles wise it was alright, but there was pretty much nothing else to recommend. It was listenable, for sure, but burn me Oh My God and Everyday I Love You Less & Less onto a CD and I could quite happily never hear the rest again. (No, I'm not a fan of I Predict A Riot).

But despite all that (and an NME tour that saw me preferring support act Maximo Park) I would say that I actually quite like the Kaiser's. At the very least they were a welcome distraction from the all-to-worthy and dull acts that take up most of the airwaves.

Stephen Street is back at the producing helm and it shows. In fact my first thoughts upon listening to this CD were it's stylistic similarities to The Great Escape, that much lamented Blur album that I actually thought was one of their best.

Indeed we start off on a high point, the extremely catchy lead single Ruby and this is followed by the terrific Angry Mob which, despite the band's insistence that it won't be, surely will be the single that lights up the summer. Things arguably get even better on the third track, Heat Dies Down which pulls off the Parklife-Great Escape trick of wrapping more cynical lyrics in the same catchy melodies that set the Kaiser's on their way to chart stardom.

Sadly this is then followed by the lamentable Highroyds and then we're onto a patchy album indeed. Love's Not A Competition (But I'm Winning) may be a funny title, but its not a very great song, My Kind Of Guy sounds like a Blur out-take that deservedly never saw the light of the day, and Everything Is Average Now feels like the band on auto-pilot as if they decided they needed a song like something off Employment.

There are highlights beyond the opening three tracks though. I Can Do Without You proves that there is more to the band than Employment might have suggested and Thank You Very Much just about survives the opening that sounds a lot like I Predict A Riot to become a classic "shout-a-long" tune.

Once again the Kaiser Chiefs have delivered a somewhat frustrating album. There are flashes of brilliance but there's also a fair bit of filler. Still that didn't stop the huge success of their debut and I suspect that there are enough killer singles to be farmed from Yours Truly, Angry Mob to ensure that this will be an even bigger commercial success. I just hope that next time around, the absolutely killer album that seems to be within the Chief's grasp can be well and truly unleashed.