Saturday, September 29, 2007

Somewhere High - Stalingrad Cowgirls

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If only for the headline on their myspace page ("SAVE A HORSE - RIDE A COWGIRL!") I'd love the Stalingrad Cowgirls. Even the fact that they make me feel old, with the three Finish girls all being under 20, doesn't change my opinion.

Somewhere High might not be the most original album you'll hear all year, with its guitar, bass and drum punk-pop set up, but it's another one that is pure fun from start to finish.

Catchy tunes such as Rainmaker and Love To Make You Cry successfully merge some heavy metal chops with a pop sensibility to great effect.

The only criticism would be the one-paced nature of the album; indeed there is a relentless pace that has it's charms but does leave the album starting to sound very familiar once you get into the second half. Still, as a debut album this is great stuff and could lead to them gaining a good fan-base, with the promise of more to follow.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Echoes Silence Patience And Grace - Foo Fighters

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It must be nice being Dave Grohl. He's pretty much the lauded gentry of modern rock, feted everywhere he goes as a great musician and a great bloke. Indeed he's in such good grace that most people have ignored the fact that the Foo's last studio album, 2005's In Your Honor, was, frankly, rubbish. The rock disc was turgid, the acoustic disc was limp and whilst Grohl called it a "fitting" tribute to the Foo's 10th anniversary, I thought it was pretty much an admission that the Foo's had done all they could.

Still, rapturously received live dates and the reappearance of Gil "The Color & The Shape" Norton at the production helm meant that there were reasons for me to look forward to the album. And whilst it never comes close to matching the majesty of The Color... (which is their finest album by far) it happily never threatens to sink to the depths that Honor did.

Lead single The Pretender is exactly what you'd expect from the Foo's - hard hitting, punchy rock - and as such effectively highlights where this whole experience is heading. In many ways it reminds me of One By One, in that it's definitely a top-heavy disk.

Let It Die shows that the idea of an "acoustic" Foo Fighters need not always be a desperate thing, the use of strings on Erase/Rewind adds a wonderful edge to the Foo's traditional sound and Long Road To Ruin highlights Grohl and his band at their very best.

Once you get over halfway through though, it begins to disappoint and the realisation hits me that despite their best efforts, the Foo Fighters seem unlikely to ever better The Color And The Shape. Sure, occasionally they can reach the same kind of heights for a couple of songs, but never for a whole album.

So this is solid, rather than spectacular, but that in itself is a reason for elation after the disaster that was In Your Honor. And no doubt, there's enough here to ensure that it sells by the bucket load.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

New Young Pony Club LIVE

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Back at the Manchester Ritz. And this time I could see the stage! Woo, and indeed, hoo.

A nice Chinese banquet to kick off the proceedings (although really it was far too much for a pre-concert shindig - I was stuffed after the starters!) and it was indeed onto the Ritz. Which may or may not be famous for something to do with The Smiths.

The support act was playing as we went in. Tings Tings or something. They seemed relatively good. Plus there was a good chance that the singer was fit. The two songs I heard where almost enough to make me regret not getting there earlier.

Scanning the venue two things became clear. I am not trendy enough to be a fan of the NYPC. Nor am I gay enough. I didn't feel out of place because I just don't care about these things, but if I were the kind of guy to feel out of place at concerts I doubt I would ever have felt as out of place as I would have done at this. And that includes that coach trip to Sheffield to see the Spice Girls.

At least fellow attendee Mike Pickering has the gravitas to back up his out of place vibe.

Anyway onto the concert itself. It was a good one, although not a particularly great one. My immediate thought whilst listening was that live, at least, NYPC are little more than the credible version of Rogue Traders. Sadly the vitality that comes across on record wasn't quite there.

Lead singer Tahita Bulmer was certainly exuberant enough, but the rest of the band added little to the visual flow of the show. I have to admit mind you to being entranced by keyboard player Lou Hayter's hips. She can wiggle that's for sure.

It's perhaps telling that the biggest crowd reaction of the night came for a cover version, Technotronic's Pump Up The Jam. Indeed the bloke in front of me, who had been fairly still all evening, whirred into action for that one and became somewhat of a blur.

So all in all it was a decent night out, but failed to live up to the album, which is fantastic. And to top if off, the only song they didn't do was Jerk Me. Which just happens to be my favourite. What a bunch of bastards ;-D

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Necessary Evil - Deborah Harry

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She's 62, it's fourteen years since her last solo album and Blondie are doing great business on the revival circuit. So the question is, is there any real need for a new Deborah Harry solo record in 2007?

Maybe not, but if she uses the opportunity to come up with something as willfully odd and undeniably brilliant as You're Too Hot then I'll forgive her anything. I swear to god, if Beyonce did this song it would be at number one for weeks. It sparkles with a wit and invention that is increasingly missing from the pop charts these days.

Of course it goes without saying that a whole album of this is too much to ask for but there are enough sparks to make this a worthwhile purchase for any existing fan. Dirty & Deep is the best song Madonna has never done, Paradise slows things down a touch to great effect and the title track is another winner.

To be fair there is a fair share of stuff I won't really listen to again, but you can't have everything can you? Patchy it may be, but at it's best it reminds you just how vital Deborah Harry has been...and still is.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Family - Leann Rimes

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Well at least she's jettisoned the attempt to become a "pop" star. (I don't care what you say Mercy, Don't Fight The Moonlight was awful).

Well, no, she hasn't actually done that, but has at least realised that commercial Country might be her best bet of crossover success.

Lead single Nothing Better To Do is one of her strongest songs yet (ah, not difficult I hear you say) and is really rather good. You could even say it's far better than anything Leann Rimes does has any right to be.

Sadly it is by far the best song on Family, apparently her TWELFTH studio album, with only a couple of others, Upper Hand and Something I Feel (with it's Pretty Woman esque drum intro) coming close.

It's not awful - Rimes can sing and there are a number of ballads which are just screaming out for Radio 2 airplay - but it's just not memorable enough in the final analysis. Still, it's better than Whatever We Wanna, which surely is a step in the right direction.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Single Releases 24/09/07

I can't find my usual list of singles, so this might be a short one.

That new Katie Melua one, If I Were A Sailboat, is a bit saucy for her isn't it? It's crap of course, but you have to give a modicum of respect where it's due.

It's miles better than Shayne Ward's new one mind you. But then he is useless, so really you don't expect anything from him do you?

Spooky by the Puppini Sisters is ok. Maybe the joke is wearing thin now though. Enjoy it whilst it lasts Sisters.

Annie Lennox really does annoy me. But then I have a thing against rock/pop stars telling me how I should lead my life, so it's nothing that personal love.

I was surprised to see the Stereophonics are still plugging away...ok I kid. I know they're successful, I just don't see why they are! It Means Nothing is another in that long of line of Stereophonics songs that are alright but don't exactly rock my world.

The problem with Duke Special and Ed Harcourt is that I don't think they're as quite as good as a lot of people tell me. Thus it is the same with their new singles. Good, but not great.

Colbie Caillat's Bubbly hits the singles market this week. It's nice and pleasant but nothing that will be staying with you for that long.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Under The Influence - Terra Naomi

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I know. You're sat there thinking not another female singer-songwriter to digest...and another one who has taken the "overnight" route to success via the Internet, this time with Say It's possible causing quite a stir late last year. Of course that would be unkind, given that she's been releasing unheralded albums independently for quite some time and that's before we've even got to question what exactly is wrong with using all the tools available to make a name for yourself.

Under The Influence may well strike some as an ironic title; one presumes that it's a reference to strong substances (Naomi not having been shy about previous dependencies) but one might also see that title and immediately come up with a list of influences the length of your arm. And indeed whilst it may not be anything we've not heard before (I'm thinking Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Alanis Morrisette) that's not to say that it isn't without merit.

Naomi has a strong and inviting voice and has a knack for creating very catchy choruses the problem seems to be one of record company pressure. Like a lot of artists these days, Naomi seems a little too intent on chasing the pop single (and I'm not blaming her for that by the way) when if somebody somewhere had the gumption to let her strike out completely then we could have ended up with something very special indeed.

So in the end we've an album that is half suited to sound tracking the next American teen drama and earning airplay from Terry Wogan on Radio 2 (evident on the likes of Million Ways) and one that hints at something a little more expressive and special (such as on New Song or Flesh For Bones). Here's hoping that someone lets her concentrate on the latter next time out.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bitchin - The Donnas

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Have I woken up in a Life On Mars style world or did someone take me out in a Delorean, because it's as if the 1990's never happened on Bitchin, the new album from the Donnas. It's certainly as if their last album Gold Medal never happened. Indeed this new album is released on their own label largely because Atlantic wanted to take their sound in a different direction again.

This is, for all intents and purposes, 80's hair metal spiked with a Noughties attitude...and it ROCKS!

It's not their best album (I'm partial to Turn 21 and Skintight myself) but it is the crispest and makes the best use of the big studio production that was, presumably, beyond their budget earlier in their career.

I've long ago given up on the girls making a real breakthrough, but if there was any justice the likes of Girl Talk, What Do I Have To Do and Here For The Party would make at least a small dent in the charts.

The real star of the show seems to be guitarist Alison Robertson, who's licks and riffs transform this from a decent album to a good one. It's one that Donna's fans should love, as should anyone with more than a little liking for 80's rock (and for once that's not to disparage it). It's not subtle, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Updated 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 - POSTPONED
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
1st November - The Donnas - Club Academy, Manchester
5th November - Kate Nash - Manchester Academy 3
18th November - Rilo Kiley - Stanley Theatre, Liverpool
25th November - Scouting For Girls - Liverpool Academy

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Graduation - Kanye West

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I can't believes I's only got seven minutes to write this review.

Anyway, my take on Kanye West is pretty well known. He can usually be relied upon to give us a handful of genuinely brilliant moments on an album, but will also back it up with a lot of filler. He's also not a very good rapper. Competent he may be, but purely on rapping he's not going to be top of the list.

Does Graduation change any of this in my eyes? Hell, no.

Lead single Stronger was/is fantastic and the Daft Punk nod was a welcome one for sure. The Glory sneaks in a bit of Laura Nyro to great effect whilst Flashing Lights is another winner, pitching it's self as something between a Bond theme and Bernard Herrmann produced soundtrack. Having said that though, I really could have done without the proclamation on that track the paparazzi are worse than the Nazi's. Nice one Kanye.

And that really points to another weakness on the album; West's self-importance came across as surprisingly tongue in cheek on his recent Friday Night Project presenter stint (hell he came across as extremely likable) but on Can't Tell Me Nothing, where the "impact" of his blast at George W. Bush's supposed ineptitude in respect of Hurricane Katrina is deemed more important than the aftermath of the disaster itself.

So lyrically there are many moments to cringe to, in one way or another, and there is a fair share of interesting, but misfiring, attempts to do something different (really, Chris Martin's appearance on Homecoming does neither man any favours whatsoever - although that won't matter to those who will see Martin's singing slot here as some kind of rallying call for real musicians).

Still the moments of genuine class just about drag this into thumbs up territory. But much like his previous two albums, in the months to come I'll be very selective over which tunes make it onto my playlist.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pop Life - David Guetta

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Everyone will be aware of Love Don't Let Me Go after it was in some car advert (forgive me, but cars in general interest me so little that I've no idea what particular car it was) but the question remains, does anyone particularly need a whole album of David Guetta? If you're immediately thinking no, then you might be surprised to hear that this is his 3rd album.

Of course as with, what seems like, every dance album these days you're pretty much going to like it or not. There is precious little ground. If it's your kind of thing you'll be jumping in the air, if it's not then you might as well switch off now.

Looking at it with a critics eye, it's not bad but not brilliant. When it hits the spot, such as Delirious its poptastic. When it's bad, chief criminal being the Public Image Limited cover This Is Not A Love Song, it's pretty dispiriting.

Unfortunately for Guetta, there's more tracks like the latter than there is the former.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Donna Marie

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A bit of a change of pace from my usual rantings and ravings, although this is actually the first in an, occasional, series where I hope to spread the word about some artists you may not have heard of.

First in line for this is Donna Marie, a Warrington based singer-songwriter who is already a favorite with radio/internet DJs from as far as Guatemala to the USA with her self produced debut EP Paint The Sky.

One quote alone from her website is enough for me to reccommend Donna Marie;

"I think lots of people see the word POP MUSIC as a dirty word, but not me....I love to write pop. I don't see the point in writing 10 minute long songs that don't really have a hook to it."

and therein is her appeal. She has a soaring voice and specialises in catchy pop songs which immediately lodge in your brain.

It was seeing the likes of KT Tunstall and Nerina Pallot live that gave her back her passion for music and it's not too much of a stretch to compare her to those two. Top quality, pop songs that achieve their melodic aims without any compromise on quality.

With an album scheduled for later in the year and artists like Amy MacDonald asking her to support at concerts, Donna Marie is not going to remain off the radar for long. Now's your chance to impress your friends by getting in there first.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Single Releases - 17/09/07

Jack "The Gay Lumberjack" Penate comes back this week with Second Minute Or Hour. It's dreadful, but then everything this fella does is dreadful. So what else can you expect?

As a rule, Leann Rimes is also dreadful. So it IS a surprise that Nothing Else To Do is quite good. Thankfully she's also jettisoned the attempt to be a pop star and stuck to something a little bit Country.

Oh Kate Nash, what are we to do with you? Mouthwash is undeniably catchy but I'm still reeling with the relatively disappointing album. The video is absolute tosh too.

Ashely Tisdale attempts another breakthrough in the UK market. He Said She Said is certainly a decent enough slice of pop, but nowhere near the big hit that would give her a name over here.

WigWam died a death didn't it, but it hasn't put Betty Boo off trying to re-make a name for herself and Jack Rocka enlists her help for Take Off. What can I say, because it's Betty Boo and is therefore automatically awesome.

Mutya Beuna has got past the two, sorry ONE, decent song on her album so really there is no need for you to listen to Just A Little Bit.

I'm getting sick of hearing that bloody Peter Bjorn & John song. Young Folks is a good tune but I'm suffering from over exposure to it.

Still, they're doing better than Will.I.Am It only took one listen of his new song I Got It From My Momma to get sick of it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Glorious: The Singles 1997-2007 - Natalie Imbruglia

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Yes, she really has been going for 10 years, but no with only 10 singles in that time (including title track Glorious, which was one of the customary new tracks on such an album) and only three albums is there really a clamour for a Natalie Imbruglia singles collection?

Way back in 1998, thanks to my erstwhile flatmate of the time Duncan, Natalie Imbruglia was quite the "in" thing. Indeed rare was the night playing Doom on the Playstation that Left On The Middle didn't get a spin on the CD player. Since that time though, I've had no real interest in the former Beth Brennan. Sure there would be the occasional moment when a new single came out and I alternated between "oh is she still carrying on" and "that's alright but not something I'd want to buy."

At least Imbruglia had the sense, on a recent appearance with Graham Norton, to admit that this wasn't a "greatest hits" but rather a "singles collection". Not that success hasn't been achieved in the UK with 5 top 10 hits but with Imbruglia I've often got the feeling that success, in itself, isn't what it's about for her. She wants respect and to be seen as a real musician.

Which kind of went tits up when the hit that introduced her to the world, Torn, was revealed to not even be an original song. Imbruglia claimed that she'd never said it was, but by the same token she was quite happy to let people think that.

Even now, almost a decade on, Torn is still a fantastic single though. And in fact it's probably too good for her to ever match; it certainly is the best thing on here by a fair distance. It's not the most interesting thing mind you, that honour would go to Smoke which for a brief moment suggested that there may have been more to Imbruglia that the ex-soap pop princess hype machine would suggest.

Sadly the other tracks from Left Of The Middle haven't aged as well. Wishing I Was There is so formulaic that it could have been done by anyone from Meredith Brooks to Alisha's Attic whilst Big Mistake makes you wonder if Kurt Cobain's revolution was all for nothing.

Follow up album White Lilies Island bombed if we're being honest and That Day and Beauty On The Fire show you why. They're not terrible but not tracks that I had any real memory of and "pleasant but forgettable" must be one of the harshest things you can say about a record. Wrong Impression isn't much better, but I at least remembered it so that counts for something.

Third album Counting Down The Days quite inexplicably reached number one in the UK charts, although Shiver, it's lead single, is definitely the best thing that isn't Torn on this collection. We return to averageness with the title track from that album.

Recent single Glorious is one of 5 new tracks and again follows the nice enough, but not memorable trajectory that most of Imbruglia's career has followed. But as Be With You, another of the new tracks, shows occasionally she can create something truly special. It's just a pity she doesn't do it more often and as a result, she's never likely to get the respect as a serious artist that she so obviously desires.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Set Me Free - Marion Raven

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If Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson were Norwegian and were putting together an album of potential Eurovision Song Contest entries, Set Me Free by Marion Raven would probably be the sort of thing that would result.

And now I've got rid of three quarters of the readers of this blog, we can continue.

The salient points to get out of the way are that 22 year old Raven wrote (or co-wrote) every track on the album, she can actually play the guitar and piano and rather messily extricated herself from a major Atlantic Records deal so she could released the album she wanted to. Fact fiends will also be aware that she was the woman who accompanied Meatloaf on his terrible version of the terrible Celine Dion's terrible song It's All Coming Back To Me from Bat Out Of Hell III.

She's brought along a whole host of fantastic songwriters for the ride, including Max Martin and Chantal Kreviazuk and has also co-written with Nikki Sixx, who's called her "the most talented new artist I’ve worked with since I’ve been making music." Which probably says more about him than it does her.

The sheer weight of collaborators on this album means that anyone looking for a cohesive piece of work might as well go home. It does also mean though that whilst there are definite duff moments, there are also some sparkling ones too, with the pick of the bunch probably being the piano-driven 13 Days.

Far too often though the album is a little too predictable and unoriginal. There's nothing that's particularly offensive and if this all sounds like your kind of thing then you'll not be too disappointed with the album. Those who want a bit more might find themselves hoping that next time around someone might get Marion Raven to show a bit of restraint and focus on her strengths.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Poison Kiss - The Last Goodnight

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I am a mind reader. I bet when you were drifting to sleep last night you were thinking just how the musical world needs a "new Maroon 5". And lo and behold, here they are...The Last Goodnight.

It's the same upbeat 80's pop style fast songs mixed with the same mellow and boring ballads that you might expect from Adam Levine and the boys with some laborious Darren Hayes style vocals tossed in.

The fact that they make copious use of the piano is a plus point and I would have to admit that this album, if only by default is better than Maroon 5's It Won't Be Soon Before Long. But then again that is one of the most soulless albums of 2007; this isn't far behind but does at least have the advantage of not being quite so nauseous.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ten New Messages - The Rakes

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Well if KT Tunstall has gone "pop", then the 2007 version of The Rakes have followed a similar
trajectory. But, for my money, it's been a good move. Much like Maximo Park earlier this year, the Rakes have followed a critically acclaimed album that underwhelmed me with a second album that may not get the same fevered response from a lot of critics but is a record that I prefer.

The brashness and punk ethic that encapsulated the likes of 22 Grand Job has pretty much disappeared, to be replaced by reflective, but utterly melodic, tunes.

At it's best it's brilliant. The likes of Down With Moonlight are sublime and there are a few tracks, like We Danced Together, that get better every time you hear them again.

The only real places when it gets a little too misplaced is on the likes of Suspicious Eyes, a game attempt to write a song relevant for these terrorist influenced times but one that falls flat. It's neither sharp enough lyrically, or memorable enough musically to convince. Similarly When Tom Cruise Cries is a game effort, but just not a very memorable song (seemingly exactly the same all the way through it's near five minute running time) and whilst the idea of song largely concerned with mobile phone signals being crap may sound interesting, Mike Skinner has already given us much wittier examples of how to do it properly.

So it's not a perfect record, and I can well imagine fans of their first album being very suspicious when they first hear it. Still, it is a good record which does improve with repeat listens.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's All A Bit Complicated - Art Brut

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In a world where every British rock star seems at pains to paint themselves as "serious" (for one, witness the new Kaiser Chiefs record) it's a bit of a bonus to have Art Brut. Because their second album, It's All A Bit Complicated, directly follows the witty, crazy and catchy template that their debut, Bang Bang Rock 'N' Roll, brought us.

The one thing they have cranked up though this time around, are the tunes. Indeed, even at their most obtuse, Art Brut have always been about the tune and It's A Bit Complicated is one of the catchiest pop records you'll hear all year.

Direct Hit, if there was any justice, would send them into the Chart stratosphere with its catchy, and instantly singable, chorus and genuinely funny lyrics (based around tongue-tied night clubbers dancing rather than talking to their crush). There's plenty of other tracks that could provide a similar success, such as People In Love and Nag Nag Nag Nag, but there's also a couple of more reflective tracks, such as Sounds Of The Summer with it's narrative of compiling a "mix-tape", that work as well.

Art Brut have often been accused of being one trick ponies and favouring style over substance. This album should prove the doubters wrong on both counts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

LP1 - Plastiscines

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Looking for something to tide me over until the new Donna's album, I found myself grabbing this, the debut album from Plastiscines, a quartet of French nubile's (all under 20, or so I believe) who specialise in catchy pop/punk tunes.

Subtle it isn't; half in French, half in broken-English it could be summed by saying it's three chords on distorted guitars, drums and bass thudding away and never outstaying its welcome. All the songs are less than three minutes (some not reaching two) and the entire album is over in less than half an hour.

If it's all sounding a bit daft then don't worry; it's actually really rather good.

It's packed with memorable and catchy tunes and half the fun is ticking off the list of influences (Blondie, The Kinks, The Ramones, Patti Smith, The B52's to name but a few) that the band's own press release homes in on.

It also has a sense of mischief and humour that is missing from a lot of records like this, and a Gaelic charm all of it's own. If you can resist the likes of Pop In Pop Out, (Zazie fait de la) Bicyclette and Loser I'd suggest finding yourself a little joie de vivre.

I can't think of a more enjoyable way of passing 28 minutes of your day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Single Releases 10/09/07

With all apologies to anyone else releasing a single this week, in protest against The Sheilas and (I'm So) Happy Happy (You're Mine) I refuse to review properly this week.

This is one of the worst records ever, and I hate it. So there.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Drastic Fantastic - KT Tunstall

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This album was second only to Rilo Kiley in terms of my most anticipated album of 2007. Yes this was more important than Kate Nash mainly because Eye To The Telescope was one of my most loved albums of the past few years. Indeed I remember with a fondness having to change my top albums list of 2004 list about 3 seconds before I was due to unveil it to the world because even though ETTT had only been out for about 2 weeks before the end of the year I had to include it.

Of course all this ignores the fact that Acoustic Extravaganza was a complete waste of my time, but as that's not a "proper" album I'll continue to treat that as an aberration that I need not bother with. But in many ways it signifies the problem that Tunstall faces. Eager to stay true to her roots she may be, but when your debut album sells 4 million copies your record company want something similar next time out.

And indeed we get two KT Tunstall's for the price of one here. We get the glamour pop princess on the one hand (one only needs to look at the cover picture), whilst the old folk KT still wants it's time in the spotlight. You cannot deny that on certain tracks, radio-friendly pop mega sellers were certainly in mind.

In might come as little surprise to anyone who's had more than a passing conversation with me that the pop side of things is very much to my liking. The likes of Little Favours, If Only and Hold On are instantly memorable. Indeed, despite it's lack of a decent chorus, I was singing Hold On for about three days after first hearing the album in it's entirety - a feat all the more remarkable considering it's playing in isolation never moved me all that much as a single.

I Don't Want You Now and next single Saving My Face aren't quite up to those levels but are both good songs as well.

I have to admit that it all gets a bit too pedestrian for me in parts. Paper Aeroplane and White Bird are not terrible songs, but can't really hold a candle to the slower songs from ETTT and without being too unkind, Beauty Of Uncertainty might well prove to be my cue for a toilet break at the upcoming tour. Slim it down to 3 minutes instead of 5 and it might have kept me interested for it's duration.

Still all is not lost on this side of the coin. Someday Soon just enchants me. Its simple, but wonderfully heartfelt and is the song that most grabs me like Heal Over did on its predecessor.

It's hard to say that it's better than Eye To The Telescope, and I have to admit to not really believing the "you have to be drastic to be fantastic" line that Tunstall has been spinning, but that doesn't make this a bad album.

It has enough shiny pop hits to captivate the casual fan who loves her on the basis of Black Horse & Cherry Tree or Suddenly I See and also, despite my ambivalence to some of the tracks, enough of the softer/acoustic side of KT that drew in other people as well.

The only "negative" I can really come up with is that at times it seems as if KT is trying to be all things to all people and as such it doesn't have the cohesive brilliance of Telescope and it's not the great leap that it might have been. Still, whilst it may not be convincingly "Drastic", at least it's a lot closer to being "Fantastic".

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Kala - M.I.A

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The one thing you can say with certainty about this record is that you can definitely tell that it was recorded in America, India, Japan, Trinidad, Australia, and Jamaica. This is not your standard "mono sound" album filled with identical tracks, this is a sonic melting pot to an insane degree. The question is, does that mean it's any good?

Well for the most part it does.

Be it the Indian drums pervading Bird Flu, the Clash sample on Paper Planes or the appearance of Afrikan Boy on Hussel there is always something bombarding your senses.

The only real problem is that those of you looking for a classic "tune" might find yourselves with a task on your hand. And when you consider that one of the few songs that does have a catchy tune, Jimmy, sounds exactly like something you'd expect from Boney M you might be put off already. (For the record, for all the "who sung what" nonsense, Boney M were awesome).

But whilst this album may in some ways be purposefully alienating you there is no doubting the power of it. It may not get it right every time, but you'll not hear anything remotely like this anywhere else this year...and that has to count for something.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hey Venus - Super Furry Animals

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I've seen them live quite a few times (including that awful year at Leeds when they attempted to alienate 95% of the audience with a largely Welsh-Language set) but I would never call myself an avid fan. It's the tendency to, well, go off on one and lose track of what constitutes a tune that has never quite meant that I get too enamoured.

Thankfully, for me at least, their eighth studio album Hey Venus sees them firmly in the effervescent pop mode.

Yes it has all the usual off-beat genius you would expect, but it consistently wraps them up in gorgeous and memorable melodies.

Be it the Wall Of Sound, erm... sounding, Run Away, the almost glam rock posturing of Neo Consumer or the straight up rock of Baby Ate My Eight Ball the album is an almost constant delight.

Sure the supposed concept story of the album (a young woman moving from a small town to a big city with tragic consequences) will probably pass you by but since when has there been anything wrong with a rag-bag series of great songs one after another.

It's unlikely to win the Furry's any new fans but anyone with any previous liking for their unique brand of pop will find an awful lot to enjoy on here.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sweet Danger - Suzy Bogguss

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Suzy Bogguss hasn't had a quantifiable Country hit this century but this might actually have been a good thing as far as this listener is concerned. No longer recording to have "hits" has freed up Bogguss to really show her musical chops. This is proved again with Sweet Danger, an album you could just as much call jazz as you could country.

The cynical amongst us could label the "change" of sound a calculated gamble given the fact that A) Bogguss wasn't selling many records as a Country artist and B) the likes of Norah Jones have made this kind of coffee table lounge sound very "of the moment". But that would be to do Bogguss a dis-service.

The clear reference point for me in many ways was Suzanne Vega; whilst never threatening to come anywhere near to the excellence that Vega has made her trademark it has the gentle but vital heart-beat that makes her records such as absorbing treat.

No Good Way To Go is a case in point, and is perhaps the closest thing to a "rap" song you'll find a 50 year old Country artist doing, but it's not the only highlight.
Her cover of Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” is a pleasant surprise and In Heaven, the closest thing to traditional country you'll find shows that whatever Nashville may say to the contrary, there is a place for "old country" in the modern marketplace.

Of course it's difficult to see this appealing to Bogguss' long standing country fans, although for the most part it's them who are missing out. Bogguss has the voice to carry this "new direction" off very well and this is well worth a listen.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mercury Music Award

"This album is not very good. It's three or four good songs, surrounded by fairly poor tracks."

So said your esteemed blogger about the Klaxons chances of winning the Mercury Music Award for their album. Shows what I know doesn't it?

Anyway, in my defence I'm sure it was just the prospect of what Amy Winehouse may have spent £20,000 on if she'd won that cost her the prize. (Incidentally it was nice to see her piss off all of 30 seconds after not winning - mind you with the cringeworthy acceptance speech by the Klaxons - think grown men drunk, crying and swearing - you can't blame her).

Forget for a moment that Bat For Lashses should have won (and I put my money where my mouth was with a tenner at 7/1 for them - in the days before Fur & Gold became one of the favourites) and lets examine Myths of the Near Future. Months down the line I'm only the more convinced that the album is a handful of cracking singles surounded by filler.

And as for the statement that the Klaxons have "taken music forward" with the album...a cover version of Not Over Yet really is cutting edge for 2007 isn't it?

Still my friends it could have been worse; The View could have won.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Coolest Album Cover. Ever

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Ok, so it'a slow news week...

But it is a pretty cool cover isn't it?

This US version comes with two new tracks, Dance and Boogie and Baby, Just Be Yourself. Neither are particularly my favourite Pipettes songs ever but I do have a sneaky liking for Dance and Boogie especially.

Some proper reviews of other stuff will follow soon.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Single Releases 03/08/07

Ok so first an apology. Yes, I did totally forget to review KT Tunstall's comeback single Hold On.
So better late than never...

It's good. I can't quite see why she keeps insisting it's got an "R'n'B" vibe to it, but maybe that's just me. My only criticism of it would be that it could do with a catchier chorus. It's not a bad chorus by any means but it drags the song down slightly. As for the "you've got to be drastic to be fantastic" thing, I'll hold judgement on that until the album.

Onto this week's stuff.

Girls Aloud slam back on the scene with Sexy! No No No. I'd prefer a question mark instead of an exclamation mark. But anyhoo, it's a decent effort. Not as catchy as their best stuff but it does have that tinge of maniacal genius that all their best stuff has. The opening is brilliant; the rest of the song doesn't quite match it. The "duh-duh-dirty mind" bit though is perfection.

Rhianna may be boring as a pop star, but she comes up with some cracking pop singles. Ok, so she's "presented" with them, but Shut Up & Drive is very good, although it's New Order recreation isn't as good as the Soft Cell driven SOS. But as I've said before; in pop terms what else is these days?

Bring out the Roast Chicken because James Blunt is back. 1973 is pretty awful though. And I'm speaking as someone who hasn't got sick of his album. He's come back with the kind of song the record company wanted him to come back with. It just doesn't have that soaring quality that his best singles have had. Ok, that High had.

Candie Payne's record company have finally decided that my tipping her for success in 2007 needn't mean the end of her career by getting Mark Ronson in to remix One More Chance. A good job he's done too. Now all I need is people to actually start buying her records.

Isn't this a "big name" single's week?

The Editors return with that one song they always do. Fair's fair though, they do do the one song very well. I'm growing less and less enamoured with his voice though every time I hear it. Watching them live may be a painful experience...only joking Gee man.

Is there a worse single this year knocking about than Plain White T's Hey There Delilah? There may be, but this is definitely on the short list. I particularly love how this song's success somehow is supposed to signify a good thing. It's not. They're rubbish, the song is rubbish and, in effect, this is naught but a novelty record.

Speaking of awful novelty records, we come to Beautiful Girls by Sean Kingston. It's a close run thing over whether this is worse than even Plain White T.

Of course both of those will sell thousands more copies than Lucky Soul's One Kiss Don't Make a Summer but then life isn't fair. Why it's been released now, instead of the height of the summer is beyond me, but then I don't run a record company do I?

Paramore's Hallelujah is a nice little track. Nothing earth shattering, but good all the same.

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip are seemingly awesome. The Beat That My Heart Skipped is another winner.

As mentioned before, Bonde do RolĂȘ don't quite have the killer single that would see them doing a "CSS" but Solta o Frango is a typically good track from them all the same.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Don't Look Away - Kate Voegele

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One review of this album I read said that listening to Kate Voegele's debut album Don't Look Away was a lot like reading your big sister's diary; mostly boring but every once in a while there was something juicy to grab your attention.

Listening to this album I knew exactly what they meant.

It's would be easy to dismiss Voegele as your typical young empowered female singer-songwriter and given that this is released on Myspace Records you wouldn't be far wrong if you lumped this in with the likes of Colbie Caillat. Yes we're firmly in the "pleasant but we've heard it all before territory".

Of course because she writes her own songs and has, you know, guitars and stuff on her records many will give her the benefit of the doubt and it is fair to say that there are occasional signs on this record that Voegele has potential. A particular favourite of mine was I Won't Disagree. a lovely bluesy number with a real kick to it.

In the end though it falls between two stools; it's clear that we're supposed to think that Voegele has genuine "singer-songwriter" credentials, but then a lot of the time this is presented to us in the form of tunes that Kelly Clarkson might reject as unsubtle.

As ever, or so it seems with these things, what we have in the end with this is an artist with potential, but nothing really on this debut album that really sets her apart from the chasing pack.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

This Record Is About Cars - The Debut

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As far as I can tell, this isn't about cars, but don't let that put you off.

What it is, is a straight up rock 'n' roll record with a distinctly pop edge. Lyrically it's your usual "love and loss" theme but there is no denying that it is certainly catchy.

Indeed tracks like Hey!, So Far Away and Last Chance would sit comfortably on your modern radio stations, and could, in the right circumstances, provide decent hits for the band.

Occasionally it all drifts apart amidst clumsy songs titles (Calm Objective Opinion anyone?) but if the idea of "Weezer meets a less shit Maroon 5" appeals to you, you'll find plenty to enjoy on this, ahem, debut album.