Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mercury Music Prize 2009

The last year has been interesting for British music. There has been so many great albums that past under the radar of the public and were seemingly ignored by the media whereas there has been tons of bland, boring and uninspiring releases that have been lauded, praised, hyped and bought by the public, who I sometimes think don't like music at all.
I've been asked by the BBC, as have many music blogs/sites, who I would nominate for this year's Mercury Music Prize. Now, I never really agree with the winner, or the most of the nominees, of the prize and I feel that the majority of British talent isn't highlighted. Let's take last year for example. I can't really see how the judges thought that The Seldom Seen Kid was better than In Rainbows or Untrue. I was and I still am shocked.
Also I find that most of the best British and Irish music released throughout the year are put out by labels that can't afford the £200 registration fee and to send 25 copies of the album to the judges so many of the best albums are undemocratically subbed.

Anyway, I stop my rant. Here's my choice of nominations:

We Were Promised Jetpacks - These Four Walls (FatCat)
I reviewed These Four Walls for the next issue of Drunken Werewolf magazine and I praised it quite highly but since then, I given the album more listens and... its even better. Tense, agitated and epic in places. Best British debut of the year.

We Were Promised Jetpacks - Ships With Holes In Will Sink

Michachu & The Shapes - Jewellery (Rough Trade)
Oddball production and quirky instrumentation but Michachu has create a collection of misfit pop tunes thats experimental and catchy simultaneously.

Michachu & The Shapes - Calculator

Sky Larkin - The Golden Spike (Wichita)
Clever and spacious indie rock from Leeds' finest trio. Full of intelligent lyrics, crunching guitars and ace melodies.

Sky Larkin - Molten

Blue Roses - Blue Roses (XL)
Folk music at it's most devastatingly beautiful. Laura Groves' voice is so pure and untouched and the content is dark, a bit edgy and utterly compelling.

Blue Roses - I Am Leaving

Dananananaykroyd - Hey Everyone! (Best Before)
The most fun you'll have with a record all year. Shout along, flail around your bedroom and play totally awesome air drums with the 6 headed Glaswegian beast of a band.

Dananananaykroyd - Chrome Rainbow

Alessi's Ark - Notes From The Treehouse (EMI UK)
Doing her best Joanna Newsom impression, Alessi's debut album pulls Ms Newsom fantastical lyricism and mixes it with Mike Mogis' production to build a slab of English Americana.

Alessi's Ark - The Horse

Toddla T - Skanky Skanky (1965)
My album of the Summer and maybe, but probably not, the dance choice for this year's Prize. Full of dancehall enthusiasm, jungle energy and some body-bending beats, it will get you through hot days and long, sweaty nights.

Toddla T - Shake It

The Wave Pictures - If You Leave It Alone (Moshi Moshi)
They missed out on nominations last year for the, ultimately better, Instant Coffee Baby, so it's only right that they get shortlisted with the latest effort. Though it's not as good as last year's release, it contains all the elements that made ICB such a bloody good release. One of the most consistent, and best, British bands of the past 10 years.

The Wave Pictures - If You Leave It Alone

Rolo Tomassi - Hysterics (Hassle)
The Mercury Music Prize never give heavy music the recognition that it deserves. The UK's punk/metal/rock scene is as thriving as ever and I think Rolo Tomassi are the most inventive and exciting out of all on offer. Hysterics is a bruising, challenging and aggressive album that blasts and sprawls in every direction possible but maybe it's a bit too uncompromising for the Mercury audience...although I'd love to see them perform live on the night and watch Jools Holland's face as it melts from the awesome mayhem that would ensue.

Rolo Tomassi - Abraxas

To be honest, none of these albums will be nominated. The panel will go for crap like Doves, Franz Ferdinand, The Horrors, Little Boots, La Roux and the public will be none the wiser about all the good music this country produces. Ah well...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I've been trying to stay out of the mayhem that has been the media reaction to Michael Jackson's death but it seems like I can't. Too much hyperbole and exaggeration has meant the man's legacy has been slightly distorted. In the next few minutes, on pretty much every TV channel, MJ's memorial will be screened live. Even in death, he couldn't escaped the cameras.
I've only seen two pieces of journalism that I feel do Michael's legacy proud. Firstly there's Smash Hits. The once, fortnightly pop magazine has resurrected itself for a MJ special and its a fascinating read which delves deep into the publication's archives and comes up with MJ's last ever UK interview and an article about Michael's first ever solo tour.
But the most poignent and beautifully written tribute to the star is over at Said The Gramophone. Sean has written a poem that describes Jackson's life and death with humanity, eloquence and wit and I implore you to give it a read.

Michael Jackson - Don't Stop Til You Get Enough (demo)

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Blur @ Hyde Park

I think it was sometime during Foals' set that it dawned on me. I was just about to see Blur. I mean Blur, the band that started my whole obsession with music, the band that create Parklife, the soundtrack to my life aged 10, the band that I've wanted to see live since then. They were going to take to the stage in matter of minutes. I was excited to say the least.
This was the first of two nights at a full capacity Hyde Park and after hours of sitting/standing in the scorching sun, watching uninspiring bands, it was a relief for the 55,000 slightly drunken, eager fans when the sounds of Lot 105 rang across the park.
The band strolled on from stage right, looking so casual you'd swear they do this every night, and went straight into their first single She's So High. The crowd erupted. Every lyric that Damon Albarn sang was resonated right back at him. The four-piece seemed overwhelmed by the reaction and as they began the Parklife one-two of Girls & Boys and Tracy Jacks, the crowd and the band bounced and flailed to every beat.

They ran through song after song, hit after hit, anthem after anthem at top speed, only breaking now and again for gasping intros and slightly awkward banter but each song made me realise how good Blur were/are. Alex James just grooved on his bass like no one else while mounted his monitor, Dave Rowntree's kept an insistent rhythm while adding playful fills, Damon is a mix between Suggs, Ray Davis and Mick Jagger, full of the vigour and energy of a twenty-year-old, especially when armed with a megaphone. But its Graham Coxon, the coolest man alive, that steals the show for me. His chunky, squealing guitar sound soared through the evening air on Beetlebum and This Is A Low. At one point he flung himself through the end and landed on his knees while planning some serious mean guitar. It was one of the most rocknroll things I've ever seen. And although he's always been my favourite member of Blur, after that performance he may just be my favourite musician ever.

The big stage was perfect for Blur. It may not have been obvious when they were released but near every song they played tonight is an anthem. Song 2. Anthem. There's No Other Way. Anthem. Popscene. Anthem. Even the novelty that is Country House sounds like an anthem when 55,000 people are hollering it out. That's what this gig was great for. Arms in the air, head point to the sky and just belting out the words to songs that haven't meant that for years.
It's the slow numbers that work better for this. While Jubilee, Trimm Trabb, Parklife(feat. Phil Daniels) were great, it was Out Of Time; End Of A Century; Tender, who's refrain continues to be sang long after the song had finished, and the utterly incredible closer The Universal that blew the crowd away, everyone with their arms around everyone else. An Everest-sized high.

It wasn't until we were trudging back to the train station that I realised they didn't play Charmless Man, one of my favourite Blur tracks, but that goes to show that they still had albums worth of material that is comparable to it and for two hours in Central London, I was 12 again, Blur had never been away and I didn't have a care in the world. Bliss.

Blur - The Universal (live)
Blur - Song 2 (live)
Blur - This Is A Low (live)

Photos taken from and Jellybeanz

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Blur Week: More b-sides

More b-sides for you lovely people. This time round the secondary songs are taken from singles off Blur's eponymous album, Blur (obviously).
All Your Life and A Spell For Money were the b-sides to Beetlebum and they really show off the direction that the band took on Blur. All Your Life begins like a Pavement track with its scuzzy, off-kilter guitar that doesn't sound quite right but totally is. Saying that, the chorus is classic Blur with Damon's lyric all cheeky and bursting with charm. The odd synth notes behind the chorus gives it a crazed-robot kookiness. Spell For Money is a less intense affair with a glitchy, effects-ridden guitar lead and a plucky but subdued beat. For an instrumental, not much happens in it but I like it for it's minimalist nature. It just sort of bounces along, blinkers on the finish line.
Song 2 is a tough track to follow. Its a short, sharp burst of righteous energy and Blur have followed it with a 6 and a half minute rock-out epic. Bustin' + Dronin' does exactly what it says on the CD case. It busts and it drones in a haze of buzzing, fuzzed up guitars and enveloped vocals. It just goes on and on in this buzzy wasp like way. I'm not sure how people reacted to it at the time, being so different from Song 2 or anything Blur, but listening to it now, it sounds amazing.

Blur - All Your Life
Blur - A Spell For Money
Blur - Bustin' + Dronin'

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