Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Galore - Dragonette

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For all my liking of the Popjustice website, I don't always tend to see eye to eye with their "next big thing" proclamations. Dragonette are a case in point. None of the singles and/or songs I'd heard prior to picking up this album particularly horrified me, but neither did they particularly leap out, smack me on the head and proclaim their pop genius loudly.

And in the final analysis the album hits me in pretty much the same vein.

At times you'll find yourself thinking this would make a good, if not especially great Britney Spears single (Marvellous) or that this is a good No Doubt out-take (Black Limousine) but more often you'll be thinking what on earth Dragonette's reputation was based on.

There are a couple of moments of genius I must admit, the outright highlight being Jesus Doesn't Love Me, which comes across as exactly what would happen if Depeche Mode wrote for Girls Aloud. Sadly moments like this are outweighed by the sheer mediocrity of most of the album.

Much like the Kaiser Chiefs, in that it's a "pop" album for people who don't want to admit to liking "pop" music it actually makes me a little sad that this might well be a huge smash hit. I think I'll stick to my Girls Aloud records if it's all the same to you.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Single Releases 30/07

Gotta Work by Amerie and Pussy'Ole by Dizzee Rascal are both choice cuts off choice albums. I know I keep getting raised eyebrows when I say Dizzee's album is very good, but honestly, it is.

Green Light by Beyonce is not as good as those two, but is still the kind of song that she does best.

Gym Class Heroes do not sound at all like I expected them to given the people who were attending their concert in Manchester the other week. That isn't a compliment by the way.

Laura Veirs releases Saltbreakers this week. It was one of the highlights of the same titled album and although I realise it isn't going to be a "hit" it is a fantastic song.

Similarly, Carla Bruni isn't going to have a hit with Lady Weeping At The Crossroads, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a great track.

I still can't quite "get" Kate Walsh. Don't Break My Heart is alright, but that's about it.

I don't care that it's quite good, that new Nelly Furtado one is still the 37th single off the Loose album so I want something new.

Finally, in a shocker to end all shockers, I "quite like" the new The Coral single. Ok, so that might seem like damning it with faint praise, but it's an amazing thing for me to even contemplate....

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Seastories - Minnie Driver

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Quite randomly, I've never liked Minnie Driver as an actress. Don't ask me to explain as I wouldn't really know how to. And whilst her first album Everything I've Got In My Pocket didn't exactly reinvent the wheel it was shockingly competent in terms of an actress branching out into a musical career.

And that vein continues with Seastories.

Once again I doubt it is going to sonically astound most listeners, and indeed the gentle lilting alt-country vibe (it is not for nothing that Ryan Adams' Cardinals pop up on a handful of songs) is nothing new; there is however the sense that Driver is good at what she chooses to do.

Mockingbird ramps up the bluesy kind of rock that KT Tunstall could do very well, whilst the more gentle, piano driven ballad How To Be Good shows that Driver is just as adept at that side of things as well.

Granted, lyrically Driver's efforts are a little weak, but this isn't necessarily a death knell for the album as a whole. There is a kind of earnest simplicity on this collection that works really well. Go on, give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Latest 2007 Concert List

27th January - Ben Folds - Manchester Apollo
29th January - Nerina Pallot - Manchester Academy 2
30th January - The Hedrons - Night & Day, Manchester
11th February - Sandi Thom - The Lowry, Salford
18th February - The Long Blondes, Manchester Academy
222nd February - Bat For Lashes - RNCM, Manchester
10th March - Lily Allen, Manchester Apollo
28th March - Kate Nash - Night & Day, Manchester
17th April - The Pipettes - Ritz, Manchester
20th April - Lucy Porter (comedy gig) - The Lowry, Salford
20th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester
3rd June - Kate Nash - Late Room, Manchester
30th June - Suzanne Vega - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
12th July - Bat For Lashes - Manchester Academy 3
19th July - Feist - Manchester Academy 3
16th August - Sophie Ellis Bextor - Parr Hall, Warrington
21st August - Rilo Kiley - Manchester Academy 3
9th September - Natasha Bedingfield - Manchester Apollo
27th September - New Young Pony Club - Ritz, Manchester
7th October - Frank Skinner (Comedy) - Lowry, Manchester
14th October - Editors - Manchester Apollo
19th October - KT Tunstall - Manchester Apollo
23rd October - Amy Macdonald - Barfly, Liverpool
5th November - Kate Nash - Manchester Academy 3

Friday, July 27, 2007

Teenager - The Thrills

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I know I've said this in respect of a few artists lately, but really, in 2007 is anyone actually eagerly anticipating a new Thrills album? No, thought not.

Don't get me wrong; I consider Big Sur and One Horse Town to be minor classics, but to be honest, if you've heard those two songs you've prety much heard all that you really need to hear from The Thrills.

Connor Deasy's voice hasn't got any better with age by the sounds of it, and there's only so much faux-Californian melodies that this reviewer can bear. (Incidentally, the band apparently crafted this album in a Vancouver, in a conscious effort to avoid the sunny LA vibe which personified their first two albums - well all I can say is you'd be hard pressed to notice any change).

To put in into perspective, it's not a bad album and indeed it has its moments whilst you are listening to it, but 10 minutes later, when the CD is safely back in the rack I defy you to remember any of the tunes. If this is the last I ever hear of them, on this form I can't say I'll be particularly upset.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Whatever Happened To Romance? - Victoria Hart

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You know how it goes; one minute you're singing at a private party in Cannes and then the next minute you're releasing your debut album. Of course it didn't really happen quite like that (the private party was three years ago and it was only a repeat performance recently that the record label interest kicked in) but it's still quite the story for Victoria Hart.

What might be even more amazing is that this sassy and exciting collection has only the one cover version (Sunny Afternoon - and what a corker it is too) meaning that thought has actually been put into this beyond her having a great voice and, I have to say it, a cracking pair of tits (that one's for you Gee!).

But all of you fearing that the "jazz" part of her oeuvre discounts you, then you should think again. There is a clear sense that she's positioning herself, or being positioned, as much more than that.

Her playful, sultry vocals are part of the allure, no question, but she carries a tune and comes up with some blinders. If you can resist the likes of A Girl Like Me, Je M’Oublie or Smooth Talker then you might want to check if your heart is still beating.

I don't think we'll be seeing her waitressing at the Naked Turtle for £7 an hour again any time soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Absolute Garbage - Garbage

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There was a brief moment in time, right about the moment they performed I'm Only Happy When It Rains on Top Of The Pops, that Garbage were officially the hottest thing in music in my young mind. As you might expect, the feeling didn't last. But that's not to say that an overview of Garbage's musical output is an unwelcome thing.

At their best they were very good indeed; at their worst they were below even Republica. Well ok, maybe not THAT bad, but you get the picture.

So therefore for every Stupid Girl there's a Bleed Like Me, for every Queer there's a When I Grow Up and for every #1 Crush there's a The World Is Not Enough. Indeed, if I'm being honest, the only track past their first album I have any real interest in (#1 Crush aside, although that was from the same time, just not on that album) is the catchy Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go). That's not to say that everything past the first album is worthless, just that for me, having the debut album and that song is more than enough to satisfy my Garbage craving. Throw in a distinctly underwhelming new song and this is a collection I can well do without.

But if you liked their singles, and haven't yet got a Garbage CD in your collection, this might be a pleasant trip down memory lane.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sexy! No No No

So the new Girls Aloud single is "out there", and trust me to be away when it's all kicking off.

Anyway, it's good.

But not as good as the introduction suggests it's going to be. Still, it's early days and no doubt I'll start loving it soon.

Whatever, it's a brave choice as a first single and proof that they're still going to absoultely amazing.

And it's a nice excuse to post a picture of my Daisy...

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Single Releases 23/07

Mutya Vs Groove Amarda is brilliant. Song 4 Mutya is the best thing by a country mile on Mutya's new album and really has very little to do with her anyway. So what we are really saying is that Mutya's solo venture is a bit crap, but this song is a bloody blinder.

On the other hand, Mika is just very, very crap. Big Girls (You Are Beautiful) is so obviously channeled from Big Bottomed Girls, but someone really should point out to the cheeky chappy that he is most certainly not Freddie Mercury. In fact this song is so offensive that it may even be worse than Grace Kelly and that other god-damn awful single he released a while back.

Thankfully, Amy Winehouse was sober for a few days last year so her single releases aren't on the same "will she, won't she" level as her concerts. Mind you at least if you buy the CD of Tears Dry On Their Own she won't spit on you, forget her lyrics or have a domestic with the hubby in your living room.

At one point I thought it might just have been the "Edith Bowman" and "Jo Wiley" thing that made me not like Newton Faulkner, but upon closer inspection of his new single Dream Catch Me I think it's fair to say that's just an ironic side product.

BWO are still rubbish.

Oh sod it, I've had enough.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Popjustice £20 Prize Shortlist

Sod the Mercury's, this is the one that counts...my witticisms won't be as funny as Popjustice's but here are my opinions anwway;

'Acceptable In The 80s'
Calvin Harris
Yes, this is good. I hated it at first, but quick as a flash it grew on me.

Amy Winehouse
Now if it was the Girls Aloud version....

'Beware Of The Dog'
The best number one single never to have got anywhere near number one. But Jamelia doesn't like it now, which has nothing to do with her being dropped from her record label.

'Catch You'
Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Well it's better than her follow up single, but not as good as some of the album tracks.

'Don't Give It Up'
Siobhan Donaghy
The days where something can be good purely because it's "that ginger one who used to be in the Sugababes" are long gone I'm afraid. As a "pop" single this is fairly pointless.

Kate Nash
I love Kate Nash. That is all.

Roisin Murphy
See this is the good version of the Donaghy "classic" above.

'She's Madonna'
Robbie Williams
Well I liked it, even if most people didn't. MEMO TO THE PUBLIC - Rudebox (the album, that is) was not that bad.

Booty Luv
I detest this song. This winning would be akin to The View winning the Mercury.

'Something Kinda Oooh'
Girls Aloud
Their best single since, well, erm...Biology at least.

'Stop Me'
Mark Ronson
Bringing out the not-so-latent gayness of Morrissey turned out to be inspired.

'Yeah Yeah'
Bodyrox feat Luciana
Daft, but one of the few "dance" things I've enjoyed over the past year.

So yeah, it's Calvin Harris or Kate Nash for me. Probably Nash. Because she's lovely.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Planet Earth - Prince

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Does anybody really need Prince's 24th Studio Album (or indeed his 46th career album)? Or perhaps more pertinently is there anyone else left who really cares? "Releasing" this free with the Mail On Sunday in the UK was a smart move if for no other reason than the fact that his last album sold 80,000 copies in the UK, whereas the Mail On Sunday has a circulation in the region of 2 million.

But all questions of whether its a good business move for himself, or for the industry at large, is not the concern here. The concern is simply, is the album any good?

And the answer is, well, yes and no.

It had been hailed as a return to form but to be honest, I don't think it's as good as his last effort 3121. And to be honest it's much like most of his recent output; there are flashes of the old brilliance but most of it sounds, at best, distinctly ordinary.

As a freebie it has a certain curiosity value, and there are moments that any Prince fan will love but on the whole there's far too much that is simply boring for it to have any real worth.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Lily For The Spectre - Stephanie Dosen

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According to the blurb at least, Stephanie Dosen's musical talent was first brought to bear when she wrote lullabies for swans and foxes on the peacock farm where she was raised (and that's before we've got to the "Stephanie composed songs for boys at school and now mostly writes for ghosts gone astray"section of the blurb...).

So far, so "kooky" then for the folk songstress. Of course it wasn't the said animals that signed her up to some George Orwell influenced record label, but former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde, who not only signed her up but was heavily involved in creating the musical backdrops for this album.

And it really is something quite special indeed.

Dosen has a positively enchanting voice, both beautiful and poetic, which immediately takes this out of the ordinary scheme of things.

The album isn't without faults; by the time you get to the last, and title track, you're aware that there's nothing too dissimilar to the brilliant opener This Joy and also that there's nothing that quite matches up to the magic of it either. You might also find yourself thinking that Dosen is a little too impossibly sweet and that you can't wait for that third album when she's goes for a darker sound. But the fact that I'm sat here already thinking about what her third album sounds like should tell you all you need to know.

Stephanie Dosen is quite the talent and I hope she's around for many years to come. Even with it's "faults" this is an enchanting album.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Feist LIVE

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Compared to last week's Bat For Lashes pre-concert fun, this week was relatively dull, unless you count my mate Alan pulling some bird in the Oxford and the domestic squabble we witnessed in the Pizza place.

Luckily we turned up to the venue around about 9 o'clock. Luckily I say because Feist was due on at quarter past. The venue was apparently sold out (although I've been in Academy 3 when it's seemed busier) and, the few trendy bores aside who just wouldn't stop talking, most were ready for a great night.

And a great night it was too. Occasionally, and this is not necessarily a criticism, Feist can come across as a bit of a "Jazz-Lite" proposition on record but that is most certainly not the case in the live arena. The girl can rock out with the best of them.

It does create a slightly jarring effect on stage, as does the tendency to lump the more up-tempo numbers together at various points in the evening but there is no doubt that Leslie Feist it quite the talent. She's disarmingly funny as well.

The highlights of the evening include stunning versions of 1,2,3,4, My Moon My Man and a rollicking version of Sealion. She also managed to "out Tunstall" KT Tunstall at stages of the evening, using a loop to create waves upon waves of sublime harmonies.

All in all a great night with a great talent. And if her tendency to cross genre's sometimes makes for a slightly uneven evening, in the end it's just proof of how talented she really is.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mercury Music Prize 2007 - My Thoughts...

Well the nominations are out.

I am pleased simply becuase Bat For Lashes got nominated (as I said they should be back in January when I reviewed the album) but that aside it was a pretty uninspiring list in many ways. Still I have seven of the albums, and there's only one artist I hadn't heard of, or had some musical contact with, prior to the list being announced.

I shall proffer some thoughts, in an alphabetical stylee, complete will William Hill odds (as of today's date).

Amy Winehouse (5/2) - The favourite with the bookies now (started off joint favourite with the Monkeys); it's five years since a woman won it (Miss Dynamite) so it may well be the year for Winehouse. No doubt they're taking bets on how drunk she'll be at the finals night too.

Arctic Monkeys (5/1) - It would be unprecedented if they were to win it twice in a row, and it would be undeserved too. Not that I didn't enjoy Favourite Worst Nightmare but surely it lacks the innovation compared to the debut that would heighten it's chances.

Basquiat Strings (12/1) - The token "out there" nomination. It's a stretch, given the lack of variety in the list, that it would win, but stranger things have happened.

Bat for Lashes (10/1) - My personal choice, both from the list of 12 and in general. It's now neck and neck for "most famous musician" I've met given this nomination and Nerina Pallot's Ivor Novello nomination. That aside, it's an album that, at least in my opinion, would be a deserving winner.

Dizzee Rascal (10/1) - This is another fantastic album, and I don't care what you might think of me saying that!

Fionn Regan (12/1) - I don't mean this to offend any of his fans out there, but I think this would be too much of a "middle of the road" choice for the Mercury panel. He's not got the huge success that would make him a winner, neither is his music fantastically different.

Jamie T (6/1) - This guy does nothing for me at all.

Klaxons (8/1) - This album is not very good. It's three or four good songs, surrounded by fairly poor tracks.

Maps (12/1) - Wouldn't be my choice at all, but if the judges want a surprising winner, he may be in with a chance.

New Young Pony Club (12/1) - A very good album indeed. Stands an outside chance but I can't see it winning.

The View (10/1) - Pah. I really hope this one doesn't win. I kind of liked it at the time of release, but I am now of the conclusion that it's all a bit rubbish.

The Young Knives (12/1) - The idea of this getting nominated completely passed me by when I was thinking what might get the call up, but for all that, it is a wonderful album.

So basically I want Bat For Lashes to win, (not only because they are my favourites from the list but that I genuinely think its the best British album of the year), but think that in all probability 2007 will be Amy Winehouse's year for the prize.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Now Listen - Shakin Stevens

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Look, we all have our "blind spots" and Shaky is one of mine. I've loved the guy since I was two years old (as an aside I once wrote to Jim'll Fix It to get to meet Shaky - I didn't, but was sent a signed photograph AND Shaky once sent me a get well card when I was in hospital). Here we are over 25 years later and his new album Now Listen hits the shelves.

Not that anyone in the UK would have noticed, given that despite the fact its "non-releases" (this has been on the schedules at least two previous times) got plenty of publicity, this actually release doesn't appear to have been a priority.

It probably goes without saying that if you like Shaky, and his brand of Rock 'n' Roll then you'll find plenty to enjoy here. Similarly, if you don't like Shaky, this is hardly going to change your mind.

Standout tracks include the Elvis Vegas era-esque Fire Down Below (which songwriter Jerry Scheff wrote for Elvis, but who never got around to laying down vocals - which is ironic given Shaky's music career beginnings), It's A Shame, a soothing ballad, and his riotous version of Pink's Trouble.

Yes, it's like we never had the 1990's (or hell, the 2000's either) in terms of sound and attitude but as the unmistakable sound of Shaky signing what he does best it's certainly a pleasant forty minutes of good old fashioned rock 'n' roll.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Single Releases 16/07/07

Despite the fact that I'm' falling out of love with Lily Allen to some degree, I do enjoy her collaboration with Mark Ronson on Oh My God. Horns maketh the music, that's what I say. It's joyous in a way that the Kaiser Cheifs are no longer.

If you want my opinion on Joss Stone's new single, I think that my album review said all that needs to be said.

Well Thought Out Twinkles by the Silversun Pickups is quite the hidden gem. Check it out.

Jarvis Cocker is as relevant as ever on Fat Children. It's quite the song too. Not destined to see him top the charts of course, but in some cases chart positions can take a back seat.

Someone please explain the point of Biffy Clyro.

Nothing Changes Around Here say The Thrills. Well that just about sums it up. The Thrills are the sort of band that everyone sort of likes without ever really being able to say why. They're not bad, but in the final analysis they're not that good either.

I like the Victorian English Gentlemens Club, and their new single La Mer / Stupid As Wood is the kind of thrash noise stuff you'd expect from them. Not the best thing they've ever released but still something I enjoy.

In one of those regular "drunk on a Saturday night" moments I caught the video to XX Teen's Darling on MTV. Very funny video, but the song just seemed to be sub-par Young Knives to me.

Elvis Perkins is quite the talent. While You Were Sleeping is quite the tune. Ace, is how I would describe it.

Amy MacDonald is getting a lot of hype at the moment in certain places. Given the sheer ordinariness of Mr Rock And Roll, I fail to see quite why.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Icky Thump - White Stripes

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I'm pretty easy going as far as the White Stripes go. I like some of their stuff and there are bits of their canon I don't care for. And whilst the pedestal on which most music critics seem to hold them on seems bizarre to me, neither would I wholly castigate them either.

The temptation is of course to subscribe to the "it's the White Stripes so automatically it must be great" thesis but first impressions are that this album is a regression after the daring Get Behind Me Satan. Indeed those that thought the last album wasn't White Stripes enough will be pleased with what they get here.

But the intriguing thing about the Stripes for me has always been that feeling that they are always searching for new ground and this album has the other effect. When it hits the spot, it's great but the overriding feeling is that they've stuck on the safe ground for this effort.

A definite backwards step then, but not one without its moments.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

We Are The Night - Chemical Brothers

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The Chemical Brothers have had a remarkably consistent career for a dance act, singles wise at least. Like the statistic that we're never more than 20 feet from a Rat, it seems like we're never more than a couple of months away from a great Chemical Brothers single in the charts. (Of course, before anyone starts, I'm aware that's not strictly true, but you get my meaning).

Lead singles from We Are The Night was no different. Whilst Do It Again may not have been the most outright catchy single they've ever done it was one of those that slowly but surely got under your skin, before lodging itself in your brain.

And in a sense, this consistency has applied to their albums; in an ever changing world you at least know exactly what you are going to get from a Chemical Brothers album, right down to the guest appearances.

This time around we get the likes of The Klaxons, Willy Mason and Midlake. Ironically it's the two collaborations that you would perhaps be the most wary of (Mason and Midlake) that really hit the spot and the one that everyone would have been excited about (Klaxons) that falls flat. Indeed All Rights Reserved merely sounds like the Klaxons, and not one of their better songs at that.

Mason on the other hand steps up to the plate with aplomb for Battle Scars, whilst The Pills Won't Help You Know is perhaps the perfect "come-down" track.

Ironically it's the more straightforward "dance" moments that fall most flat although the absolute nadir has to be The Salmon Dance which wouldn't sound out of place on some CBeebies under 5's show, (if one ignores the lyrics) and as such will probably be a number one hit for weeks.

So all in all it's exactly what you'd expect. Some decent songs, some dreadful ones and a couple of stormers.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Our Love To Admire - Interpol

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It's tempting, given the proximity of their release, to immediately compare Interpol's new album to that of Editors. Indeed, on this very site, I compared their recent singles (The Heinrich Maneuver to Smokers Outside the Hospital Door) and I could only come to one conclusion...Interpol's superior effort almost consigned the Editors' to becoming an irrelevance.

This feeling is heightened during the opening of the album; Pioneer To The Falls is everything you'd want Interpol to be and then they throw a curve ball ( in the form of a song not being unremitting doom) in the shape of No I In Threesome. Daft title aside, for once there is actually the sense that Interpol might actually be having, you know, fun.

But despite the very promising start there's just something that is a little too hard to like about this album. It might be the lyrical clich├ęs, or the continually transparent attempt to ape Joy Division but its more than likely to be the constant "harbinger of doom" attitude that hangs over the album.

More infuriatingly, when they lay off the daft imagery and overwrought misery, on the likes of Rest My Chemistry and The Lighthouse (even if the latter's lyrics would put it firmly in the camp of misery), they can sound very impressive indeed. Still, the sad thing is, I doubt anybody will be buying this record to hear that side of Interpol's repertoire.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bat For Lashes LIVE

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In an event not entirely unconnected to me being told off for leaving work early last Friday, it was gone half past five when I set off down Poolstock. It wasn't as bad as normal so maybe I've cracked it. I mean although I arrived later than I would have done if I'd left at five as usual, the journey itself didn't take as long...

Enough of that though because what happened when we got to the Oxford was much more interesting...we met Superman. Yes, that's right. THE Superman. Ok, so it wasn't THE Superman but it was someone who thought he was and he was surprisingly well up on his Superman life-story. The killer was when he took off his coat to reveal his Superman Cape. That was AWESOME.

As we got to the venue, some Spanish kid accused my mate Alan of dressing like a "hardcore" whatever that is. "Sneakers and combats" must have other connotations in Spain .

We had further "celeb" moments in the Manchester Academy 3 as we found ourselves stood behind "Amy Winehouse" (without the hair thankfully). Mind you this young girl in question made Winehouse look like a sober individual and I must admit that sniffing Nail Varnish Remover is a new one on me. Kids, hey?

Anyway, enough of the waffle and onto the concert. We caught some of the support act Kid Harpoon. Best described as a comedy James Blunt he ripped through his songs proficiently enough, but really just made me laugh so I can't really say much more about him.

Bat For Lashes, on the other hand, were great as ever. There isn't much I can add to my previous concert review from February. There is just a raw power about Natasha Khan and her crew that makes a great record (and still my hope/tip for the Mercury Music Prize this year) into a spellbinding live concert.

The highlights are too many to mention, but I'll always have a soft spot for What's A Girl To Do and once again Khan's solo version of Sad Eyes was hauntingly beautiful.

Second time around they were just as good and I'll definitely be there for a third time when the chance arises.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Zeitgeist - Smashing Pumpkins

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My "history" with the Smashing Pumpkins is a strange one. Prior to 1998's Adore I ignored them. After 1998's Adore, I also ignored them (save for buying their greatest hits album and never listening to it). Quite why I don't know. Even back at High School people were recommending them to me, but I never bit. Neither do I know why I "bit" in 1998 but the fact I did (and it coincided with my university years) means that I have an inexplicable soft-spot for them.

Of course Zeitgeist (a naff title, and which the album itself points to Billy Corgan not being anywhere near the Zeitgeist) is hardly a Smashing Pumpkins album. The feeling from the off (their being only one other former member of the group on this record) is that this is merely a Smashing Pumpkins album because no-one would care in the slightest if it were a Billy Corgan solo album or even, god forbid, a Zwan one.

I'm sure long term Pumpkins fans will find something to enjoy here (I particularly liked Bring The Light and Tarantula) but most people will just let it pass them by. It's not particularly awful, but neither is it likely to propel Corgan back to the heights he once was at.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fantastic Playground - New Young Pony Club

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With the recent success of Cansei De Ser Sexy (I refuse to call them merely "CSS"), The Klaxons and The Gossip (as rancid as I find their music) you could argue that the New Young Pony Club have certainly picked the right time to unleash their particular form of "Disco" music onto the general public.

Indeed, the album is reminiscent of Cansei De Ser Sexy but with one major difference; on Fantastic Playground, the New Young Pony Club offer up a much more consistently fantastic album.

The highlights cover virtually everything. In fact it would be pointless trying to summarize the three or four best songs because I could never limit it to that. Quite simply, any of these songs would deserve to top the charts if they were released as singles.

There are some who criticise the album for merely being 10 fantastic hit singles on one smart package. I would say, what in the hell is wrong with that? As for the critics who suggest that they're trying too hard to be "trendy", the fact they've arguably come up with the pop album of the summer means they should be given more than the benefit of the doubt on that score.

Monday, July 09, 2007

UK Single Release 09/07/07

Well it's nice to see Bat For Lashes' What's A Girl To Do get another release. Probably the best track off the album and lets hope we get some nice success for it this time around (not that I'm holding my breath sadly).

I'm not too keen on that new Arctic Monkeys one. It's not bad, but not one of the better tracks off the album.

Wouldn't you believe it. Mere days after playing Live Earth, Razorlight are cashing in with a single release. Never in a million years will you find me saying anything other than that being a totally random coincidence.

Nerina Pallot keeps the wolves from the door this week with a cover of Steeley Dan's Peg...with Richard X at the production helm nonetheless! It's a good effort. I could of course compare this to not wanting "pop" remixes of songs of a certain other album but that would be me being churlish. And anyway folks, it's not selling out. There is nothing wrong with selling records.

Sarah Nixey releases her Human League cover The Black Hit Of Space this week as well. I like this, as readers of my album review will already be aware,

Am I the only one who doesn't see the point of Bloc Party anymore?

And Travis? Yet another dull single in Selfish Jean...thanks boys.

My Chemical Romance seem to keep getting worse as well. I know you might not have thought that possible, but The Teenagers certainly seems to point to that fact.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Keren Ann - Keren Ann

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Israeli-born, French-raised and New York-based...Keren Ann has quite the varied background and it shows in her somewhat schizophrenic sound. Indeed, the thing that may most come to mind upon listening to her 5th album is a French version of the Velvet Underground, not something you would have labelled her previous efforts.

The problem is that whilst the ideas, in of themselves, are interesting and it is clear that Keren has ambition and talent, few are the times that the album really grabs your attention.

There are certainly the odd moments of genuine brilliance; Lay Your Head Down, with it's strings and handclaps, might be the best composition of the lot, whilst In Your Back, the track most like her previous work, is perhaps the best song.

But all too often the album passes by in a largely unmemorable state. If you take the time to listen you will find things to enjoy, but in the competitive world of the female singer-songwriter, Keren Ann may find that most won't have the time to listen more than once.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

New Rilo Kiley Video

Hmm. I love Jenny Lewis. This new video on the other hand...well it's a little weird. If I could I wouldn't link to the twelve minute version (it's for the over 18's only shall we say) but the three minute version is worth a viewing.

Jenny Lewis is lovely isn't she?

Friday, July 06, 2007

From Paris To Berlin - Infernal

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There is a moment in the track A To The B that is so laughable that you have no option but to admit to yourself that you're actually having a good time listening to this somewhat dreadful album. If the lyrics themselves ("You see, it seems to me that all us strong, independent women make men lazy. All of a sudden they think they don't have to court us properly. But boys let me tell you something: there's nothing like a man who knows how to treat a lady") aren't enough to have you giggling then the transvestite looking (although I'm sure some of you still would) singer's horribly faux posh British accent as she says it sure will floor you.

It gets better. My absolute favourite has to be "When you nibble my ear, the bass is softly pumping when caressing my rear". Crucially it proves that whilst they appear to be serious about their "art", they're not too serious.

And therein lies the rub. I am not in any way suggesting that this album is in any way good, but neither can I deny it's entertainment factor. It's cheese, for sure, but it's enjoyable cheese and a guilty pleasure if you're the kind of person who, back in the day, bought something by Aqua or The Real McCoy or Maxx but would never admit it. Not that I'm making any comment on that myself.

And anyway, to put it into perspective its a hell of a lot better than the likes of Cascada.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tim's House - Kate Walsh

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It's tempting to think that this is another one of those occasions where the hype has overtaken the actual product (naming no names...OK, I mean you Sandi Thom) but whilst I can be accused of burying my head in the sand on occasions, it was only after this album shot to the top of the I-Tunes download chart that I heard of it. Which in the long-term would appear to bode well for Walsh - it won't be a case of everyone being bored by her almost in the same instant that she's topping the charts.

So, whether or not it was helped along by an unseen hand, we're talking word of mouth here. So you would expect something spectacular wouldn't you, given that we were assured that downloads would bring respectability back to the charts.

So it's a little disappointing that whilst this is a pleasant enough album, and indeed a likable one, it's one paced and not exactly earth-shattering. Don't mistake me, Walsh has a gorgeous voice and one that you'll certainly fall in love with, but whilst in the short term this helps you to avoid the fact that the songs are all the same, mellow vibe repeated over and over again. I personally got to the stage when listening to the album for the first time of hoping that at any moment now she was going to really kick off with something different...alas that moment never came.

There is the odd moment of genuinely affecting emotion, one prime example would be Don't Break My Heart - I defy you not to moved by that one, but for the most part the album just drifts along, rarely causing you to stop what you are doing and think "wow". Of course that won't stop the critics who love this kind of thing trumpeting this album, and it's success, as another kick in the teeth for the genre's of music they don't like, but that's just life.

I've definitely heard a lot worse and there's just enough of intrigue to make me curious about what comes next, but on it's own there's not enough to entice me back for repeated spins.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sing, Memory - Sarah Nixey

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"This is Sarah Nixey talking" is hardly the most exciting of opening gambits to an album on paper, but within ten seconds of putting the CD into your player it immediately draws you in her crisp, English diction proving to be a strength, not a novelty gimmick. (Incidentally the vocals remind me a lot of Natasha "Bat For Lashes" Khan).

What is clear is that for all the "art" that Nixey brings to any project (erstwhile of Black Box Recorder) she's acutely aware that in pop music its the tunes that matter.

Strangelove and The Collector are two great singles but are only the tip of the iceberg. The likes of Nothing On Earth, Hotel Room and Masquerade (the latter of which may be the standout track) are also sublime and leave a lasting impression. Nixey even manages a winner with her cover of the Human League's The Black Hit Of Space.

If I'm being critical, at 15 tracks (albeit with two spoken interludes) it is perhaps a tad too long and could well have benefited from a couple of omissions. Having said that, that is a minor criticism at worst.

Those of you who canonise Sophie Ellis Bextor as the arch queen of detached disco pop should listen to this to find out just how wrong you really are. Those who see Siobhan Donaghy as the shining light of proper pop music should listen to this and see how "commercial" concerns can be married successfully with catchy tunes. Quite simply, this is sublime.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ten Feet High - Andrea Corr

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For a brief period in 1997/98, The Corrs were one of my favourite bands (probably helped by that time in Birmingham when Caroline Corr blew me a kiss). It helped that I'd "discovered" them before they got really huge, around the time of their debut album, but of course that also meant that even as Talk On Corners was propelling them to worldwide success I was beginning to get bored of them (and the lamentable In Blue killed me off).

The first question that springs to mind is that in 2007 do we really need to hear any more from The Corrs, never mind a solo album from Andrea? Perhaps not but whilst it's clear from only the most cursory of glances that this is a far from essential project, it is considerably better than the three previous Corrs albums which has to count for something does it not?

At times, such as Anybody There, Hello Boys or Champagne Through A Straw you find yourself impressed. They are catchy numbers and whilst they may not be anything exceptionally new would you, for instance, have ever thought you'd heard Andrea Corr attempting to ape Goldfrapp (Hello Boys) or incorporating a catchy latin rhythm to great effect (Champagne...)?

The problem is that for most of the rest of the album, the effect is less pleasing. Rather than really going for it, Corr and producer Nelee Hooper have gone so far and then receded back to what you would expect to hear. So whilst some of the album is good, there's more of it that's distinctly mediocre. In a lot of ways its better than I thought it had any right to be, but also not as good as it's best tracks suggest it might have been.

One thing I can't decide on mind you is the merits of the Squeeze cover. Genius reworking or pointless novelty? Hmm...

Monday, July 02, 2007

UK Single Releases 02/07/07

So this time around Avril Lavigne has gone back to the miserable version of herself, lest we actually think she might enjoy her profession. Well done love; When You're Gone isn't awful of course, but neither is it particularly good.

Soulmate by Natasha Bedingfield makes certain people cry. I just think it's another of those decent but ultimately dull songs that she tends to turn out every so often.

Beverley Knight keeps plugging away god bless her.

I do like that new Fall Out Boy one. One of my favourites from the surprisingly good album.

The Heinrich Maneuver by Interpol is a good indication of what Editors should be doing instead of going all Coldplay on us.

That's about as far as I get, but at least it's a less cursory glance at the weeks singles than my last couple of efforts.

In closing I would just like to say how happy I am that Kate Nash is at number two in the new charts. It's astounding on so many levels, not least that by the very fact of me liking her prior to this I should currently be ecstatic that she's reached number 74 in the charts or something. In fact her presence in the top 10 makes up for the fact that The Enemy, The Hoosiers, Jack Penate (aka The Gay Lumberjack *) and Kelly Rowland are also in this weeks top 10.

* Please note the term "Gay Lumberjack" when used in reference to Jack Penate is the copyright of EG Enterprises

Sunday, July 01, 2007

An End Has A Start - Editors

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I never had much truck with Editors the first time around. Well no, that's not strictly true. I didn't have at the beginning, but actually quite warmed to their debut album over time (and saw them live twice). So whilst I wasn't exactly frothing at the mouth at the prospect of a follow up, I was intrigued to the point that I was quite looking forward to it.

In the space of five minutes, lead single Smokers At The Hospital Door completely turned me off. Tom Smith's strangled cat vocals sounded worse than ever, the song was dull and the attempts at meaning, never really an Editors strong point, were laughable to say the least.

But what of the album as a whole? Sad to say, I don't find it particularly exciting or thrilling.

There are certain points, Bones and the title track, that echo at the possibility of future glory, but ironically they are also perhaps the two tracks that most resemble their best work from The Back Room. At other time the monotony is startling, as is the unremitting gloom. You've heard one Editors song, you've pretty much heard them all.

After the initial buzz dies down, I'd be very surprised if this has anywhere near the same impact as their debut.