Thursday, October 29, 2009

Take Me To The Queen Of Hearts

The fantastic Wolf Gang have already caught our attention with their brilliant debut earlier this year and now return with the devastatingly catchy The King & All Of His Men. The video is fantastic, a weird Alice In Wonderland style affair that is sure to propel the single to greater heights than it's predecessor. We've also been promised some fantastic remixes for this, including a sure-to-be-awesome Egyptian Hip Hop mix.

[MP3] Wolf Gang - The King & All Of His Men
[INTERVIEW] Check out an interview I did with Max from Wolf Gang over at Platform.
[MYSPACE] Check out more from Wolf Gang at their myspace.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tales From The Malian Sahara

Words by Theodora Wakeley. Tinariwen played Koko, London on 25/10/09.

"World music" is seemingly a dirty couple of words at my university campus judging by the sheer difficulty I had in persuading anyone to come with me to see Tinariwen at Koko. I ventured alone though on a wild London night (I like to think) and saw what could possibly be my favourite gig of the year so far in terms of atmosphere, uninhibited enjoyment, and pure organic music-making.

Tinariwen cannot be fully explained without their comprehensive back-story. However it is a long and complicated one so look up Andy Morgan’s brilliant biography for that. I will merely say they are a group of former African rebels, from the far-flung reaches of the Malian Sahara, who decided to portray their anguishes and the beauty of their desert home through the power of music. Despite the language barrier the emotion is truly felt as they sing songs from their latest album Companions, mixing it up with a traditional Touareg folk-song and ending on the truly stunning Cler Achel, the highest point on their defining album Aman Iman.

The most remarkable thing about these guys though is their stage presence. They dance constantly, interact with the audience, and I swear the performer on the left, all in white with only his eyes on show, is laughing and smiling the whole way through. The lead vocalist and guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, looking almost god-like, has to also be up there with the greatest rock front-men. He only arrives half-way through the set yet the cheers that greet him prove his stature.

Tinariwen are hardly undiscovered. They’ve been around for years and are extremely popular, yet a younger student generation has yet to embrace them. It’s not actually world music, its rock music of the highest quality.

[MYSPACE] Check out Tinariwen on myspace.
[WEB] Find out more about Tinariwen on their site.
[SPOTIFY] Tinariwen - Amassakoul

In Our House Made Of Paper

Our adoration for the delicious Ellie Goulding is well documented, and it's clearly no coincidence she's finally back with her first proper single on the inimitable Neon Gold Records. Under The Sheets takes the soaring vocals and electronic backing showcased so well in previous demo Starry Eyed and combines them with a melody to die for. Ellie and her songwriting partner/producer Starsmith clearly have an ear for something special, the fantastic production and standout vocals combining into a hazy blast of sure-fire pop. They're currently out on tour supporting Little Boots, but took time out last night to perform Under The Sheets on Later Live... With Jools Holland. Link at the bottom of the post or catch it on iPlayer. The true visual representation of the song though comes from the dazzling video you see below. Multiple iterations of Ellie stomping through heartfelt line after line, smashing glitter covered drums and breaking hearts. Enjoy.

[MP3] Ellie Goulding - Under The Sheets - Via Neon Gold
[YOUTUBE] Ellie Goulding - Under The Sheets (Live on Later..)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Was Applying Pressure

Photo by Josh Wilson, words by Darryl Marsden. The XX played Bodega, Nottingham on 7/10/09.

London indie darlings The XX have had quite a year. After garnering glowing reviews of their self-titled debut released earlier this year the 4-piece decided to embark on their first ever UK headlining tour, culminating at a packed out Bodega Social. Once the crowd had gathered around the small stage there is one thing strikingly noticeable, the age of audience members. For every hipster in a plaid-shirt there is a middle aged man and wife with premium lagers and screwdrivers. Certainly not the type of crowd I had expected.

After technical difficulties with the drum machine The XX appeared all dressed in black, looking like some kind of odd gang. With only one album to date it was obvious where the material was going to come from, a glance at the setlist confirmed this. From the opening notes of first track and album opener Intro you could tell from the atmosphere in the room that people felt they were watching a band who are really going places. The guitar lines are beautifully crafted and sound magical against the beats produced by the drum machine. The vocals in Islands resonate chillingly and the hooks send tingles. Singles Crystalised and Basic Space get the best reception of the night. It is rare in a gig with such quiet music and few people that you get total silence between songs. There is normally some kind of chatter, but tonight there is nothing. This silence speaks more than any noise could do, it's exciting to see where The XX are going to go next. One thing is for sure, it’s not likely they are going to play venues this small for much longer.

[MP3] The XX - Basic Space (Sampha Remix)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dance To The Sound Of Sirens

Image by James Arnold, words by Liam Haynes. Bloc Party played Engine Shed, Lincoln on 12/10/09.

To me, Bloc Party are both deliciously timeless and achingly current. Remaining exciting and taut while their post-punk revival brethren, from The Rakes through to Franz Ferdinand, rapidly descended into repetition and old tricks. Now, they've finally come to my doorstep in Lincoln, three albums behind them and mid-way through a month of touring.

But first, the support act. Grammatics have been stellar the last few times I've seen them, and this is no exception. While perhaps not being the perfect support act for Bloc Party's crowd, they showcase how vibrant the Leeds music scene is and their standout tracks such as Murderer and D.I.L.E.M.M.A are as brilliant in a large venue like Engine Shed as they are on record.

Predictably, Bloc Party blow the roof off Engine Shed. From classics such as Helicopter through to the controversial Mercury, they undeniably prove why they're still at the top of their game. Back in a venue of this size they seem perfectly at home, Silent Alarm era material sitting perfectly well alongside newer singles and album tracks. Alas the night would eventually be cut short by the sound of sirens, leaving Flux and who knows what else left to be played another day.

[MP3] Bloc Party - Call The Shots (Girls Aloud cover)
[MP3] Grammatics - Inkjet Lakes (Alt Link)
[MYSPACE] Visit Bloc Party or Grammatics on myspace.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Like Spinning Discs #3: Local Natives

In this, the thrid edition of Like Spinning Discs, we got Darryl Marsden to have a quick chat with Local Natives while they were taking a break from their current run on the NME Radar Tour to ask them about their most treasured LPs.

If you could only take 5 LP's or EP's into a nuclear bunker to listen to as we all slowly blow each other up, which would you choose and why?

Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
This is my favorite album of all time. I can remember listening to it for the first time driving home from the record shop. It was raining and I sat in the driveway letting it play all the way through. There's just something mystical about the recording, the live energy of the musicians, the improvisation the arrangements, and the plaintive and passionate vocal performances. I've listened to it innumerable times since high school and every time I do, I'm brought back to that time I first heard it. (Ryan Hahn)

The Zombies - Odessey & Oracle
Like most people, I’d heard “Time of the Season” plenty of times growing up, mostly thanks to oldies radio stations. One day in high school I remember hearing it suddenly as if for the first time. The iconic bass line, the handclap “ahh”, the unique vocal arrangement, that ridiculously great organ solo – all of it struck me like some big epiphany. I was at the time going through that phase everyone has with the Beatles, obsessing over their entire catalog. But now here was this band, the Zombies, who just under my nose my whole life, had quietly created an album as brilliant as any by the Beatles; Odessey & Oracle The Zombies’ use of vocal harmony has had an enormous impact on our band’s sound. Theirs is dynamic and layered, beautiful and orchestral but never cheesy sounding. The Zombies broke up before the album was even released, and while in my mind it sits duly next to Sgt. Pepper’s, it saddens me that this masterpiece album will remain tragically underappreciated on a wider scale. (Ryan Hahn)

Andrew Bird- Armchair Apocrypha
This album totally killed me. Andrew Bird is talented enough to bring any aspiring musician immediately to tears. Armchair Apocrypha cemented my love for string arrangements and eccentricity in pop music. Soaring violin leads and Bird’s signature hummingbird fast warble of a whistle fill the gaps between his effortlessly flowing vocal melodies. If you ever see Andrew Bird perform live, you’ll notice that he almost never sings the same melody as what is on his record. He just sings, it would seem, whatever comes into his head at the moment. The remarkable thing is that each melody seems as elegant and wonderfully conceived as the next. That Bird may be the type of musical genius constrained by his ability to write too many good melodies is supported by rumors that he is fanatically fickle about the final version of his studio recordings. He reportedly recorded up to seven different versions of certain tracks while recording Armchair Apocrypha. Whatever his process, the result is that the record is full of enough amazing melodies that its kept me busy listening for a couple years now. (Taylor Rice)

Sufjan Stevens- Illinios
Sufjan’s orchestral composition, quirky story-teller lyrics, and fluttery vocals grabbed me immediately as something innovative and unique. I had listened to Michigan and the more stripped down Seven Swans, but I regard Illinois as the crown jewel of Sufjan’s recording efforts. What I love so much about the songwriting is Sufjan Stevens’ complex layering of improvised and thematic lines over a very simple structure. Illinois helped me determine that I view good songwriting as making a song simple and relatable also moving and unique. (Taylor Rice)

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
I was listening to KCRW in Los Angeles and this song played that floored me. The production was so diverse and the song had so many emotional layers; it really grabbed me. I waited for three more tracks until the song-set was over and he said the song was called "Poor Places" by Wilco. I looked it up online and saw it was off of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. After getting the album it took me a bit to really understand the genius and magic behind it all. The songs, the tones, the parts, everything is just so pleasing to the ear. The production is raw and natural, as true and honest as the words that are accompanying it. Melodies and song-structures have always come fairly easy to me, but I have a lot of trouble getting the right words together to say what I want. That's what got me the most about this album; I think YHF was the first album that I really invested an interest into what was being said. "Ashes Of American Flags" has one of the greatest lines I've ever heard: "All my lies are always wishes/ I know I would die if I could come back new". It just speaks volumes. A man so desperate to start again he would endure death to do it. It's as honest as it gets; these songs have no bull-shit whatsoever. I have to believe that's why the album did so well and why it is so perfect to me. You just don't find records like that everyday, and maybe that's why they rise to the surface and demand to be heard. (Kelcey Ayer)

[SPOTIFY] Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
[SPOTIFY] The Zombies - Odessey & Oracle
[SPOTIFY] Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise
[SPOTIFY] Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

To Write Love On Her Arms

Image from Flickr.

You know that girl from Breakfast Club? The one who makes sandwiches with sugar? She'd love To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit organisation to help people who aren't 100% happy with things. I don't really understand you see, it's a chronic lack of empathy I think. However Annabelle Moore one of our writers really does which is why she's putting on a special acoustic night tonight to raise money for a pretty fantastic cause. There'll be a bundle of Lincoln College acts playing alongside the brilliant Elliot Morris, and it's only £3!

[FACEBOOK] View facebook event here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

In December Drinking Horchata

Photo by Christianne Young, words by Darryl Marsden.

Horchata by Vampire Weekend is the first song to be heard from their upcoming second LP release Contra, due January 11th on XL. After a mysterious countdown on their website the resulting prize was this track, available for free download. Vampire Weekend have become synonymous with summer, but this track goes someway to showing they’ve changed. There is a wide array of instruments on show, so many you can’t even tell what is what a lot of the time, but it keeps with the tribal sound VW went for on their debut album.

Ezra Koenig’s vocals have an effect on them which gives them more of a chill to them than on previous songs, giving the track a cold yet chirpy atmosphere. The main hook, “In December/drinking horchata” sticks in your head like a migraine and it has the bounciness that lets you know this is a Vampire Weekend track. If the rest of Contra is like this, it could be the soundtrack of your winter.

[MP3] Vampire Weekend - Horchata
[WEB] More from Vampire Weekend here.