Friday, 28 February 2014

-Music Videos on my Mind- Little Dragon’s “Klapp Klapp”

Eighteen years. That’s how long Sweden’s Little Dragon has been going. Back then it was too easy to label them as a Scandinavian act trying to ape the success of trip-hop music coming out of the south west of England; but whereas artists associated with that scene have largely faded away, Little Dragon is probably more popular now than at any time. Much of its popularity is down to Ritual Union, a track released three years ago that set the world on fire. It has become the defining Little Dragon song, its excellence unsurpassed and will be forever more. Ritual Union is simply one of the greatest tracks in the history of recorded music, and for Little Dragon to top it is nigh on impossible.
Little Dragon, however undeterred, is back with a new number called Klapp Klapp taken from an album titled Nabuma Rubberband which will release summer 2014. The group says its new music is inspired by Janet Jackson’s slow jams, though it’s hard to think of any of her songs having this kind of meticulous production. The sounds and details on this record are breathtakingly detailed, not to mention maddeningly groovy. The music video’s rather unnerving, though.

Monday, 24 February 2014

-Music Videos on my Mind- Metronomy’s “Love Letters”

The mooting of numerous British music aficionados suggests that Metronomy will become massive with the release of next month’s third album Love Letters. The band is on a world tour currently that will conclude in key American territories this summer, timed no doubt to capitalise on the adoration for the band that that country will hopefully be aware of by then.
The first two singles released so far from the album really do indicate that Metronomy are seriously shifting things up several gears. Prolific British music journalists like Marc Riley, who have already heard the new album, are convinced that world domination beckons, though the rest of us will only be able to find out for sure in a few weeks time.
The music video for Love Letters is arguably the most effective pastiche of a 1960s television variety show since OutKast’s Hey Ya!. Directed by the legendary Michel Gondry, the video features his typically innovative, one-take set-pieces that cause one to delight and admire in equal measure. Like the best of Gondry’s work, Love Letters is both playful and dazzlingly intricate, showing him to be a master technician as well as an iconic artist. It also exhibits the great sense of humour Metronomy can tap into which may be a key asset in getting the world to fall in love with them.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

-Music Videos on my Mind- The Bohicas’ “XXX & Swarm”

My word! What’s this? Two black men in a British rock ‘n’ roll band who’ve recorded what may just be the most rocking songs I’ve heard in aeons? How did this happen? God is great, people.
The Bohicas are actually a very modern multicultural unit, which means that if proper rock music is to actually make a revolutionary comeback in Britain, methinks it’ll have to look something like this. Having signed to Domino Records, you know these guys have the right label and management to do some real damage out there. One wishes them luck because if this is anything to go by then British rock music is on to a true winner.
The Bohicas are very new, which means they have to get your attention. Rather than just putting out a straight up music video, the lads have made a sort of short film that features two tracks from their new album. The video understandably incorporates sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll motifs, meaning it won’t be to all tastes. However, it’s the music that prevails in the end. A more family-friendly clip is available here, but music as gloriously intense and angst-ridden as this deserves a provocative video. This is the direction one hopes that mainstream British music is headed at long last.

Friday, 21 February 2014

-Music Videos on my Mind- Malachai’s “I Deserve to No”

Indie artists have incorporated Bollywood influences in their music before. It was used to marvellous effect by Björk with Venus as a Boy some twenty-one years ago, and was used to lesser results by Bombay Bicycle Club last month in Feel. The swirling violins and dreamy strings of Hindi music has inspired Western artists for fifty years now in seriously intriguing ways, but I’ve never heard it done like this before.
Malachai hail from Bristol, England, and have a knack for mixing beats and samples from sources most wouldn’t dare consider meshing. Being protégés of the legendary Geoff Barrows of Portishead, Malachai have enough big name supporters (Lily Allen for one) to get the ball rolling for their third album titled Beyond Ugly.
There’s a lot going on in this video: the psychedelic images and political impositions indicating that Malachai is a duo with a much bigger purpose. The raspy and raw sounds signify rock music, but this song is really a hip-hop track, though you’d never think of classifying it as such. I Deserve to No is wonderfully odd in composition, but weirdly non-melodious. Whatever it is, it is startlingly original.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

-Music Videos on my Mind- Fat White Family’s “Touch the Leather”

By the end of last year, south London’s six-piece Fat White Family was beginning to get attention for being trouble. Their loutish and yobbish attitude, especially onstage, was making the music press pay attention. And then people who saw them performing in concert were leaving comments on the internet saying things like “Best group in England. No-one can touch 'em” and “They were brilliant. Best band I've seen in ages. Original, threatening and great fun”. The hype is already in overdrive.
Now none of this will matter if Fat White Family couldn’t write good songs, which it seems they can. Their lyrics are clever and bolshie, yet there’s a devil-may-care obnoxiousness to what they’ve put out so far. Songs like Bomb Disneyland and Is it Raining in your Mouth have become fan favourites, but it’s their new track Touch the Leather that’s about to make them radio-friendly in ways they don’t seem happy about.
With that in mind, the band has made a music video that is pretty much guaranteed to get banned by mainstream broadcasters. Using the type of video aesthetics that were used by punk and ska bands in the early 1980s, Fat White Family has produced something that will make most people immediately dislike them, especially if they don’t get the provocative British irony the group is going for.

The song most certainly stands on its own, however. Therefore, one suggests listening to it and then perhaps looking at the video afterwards if it’s still to your liking. It’s distasteful but somehow dementedly laughable in its silliness; though it is shamefully rude.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Rock Music in Britain calls for Revolution

Today’s headline that the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has published data indicating rock music to have for the first time in two years usurped pop’s dominance, is heartening news. The BPI states that 40% of the bestselling 10,000 albums in the UK were classified as rock, though, the top five positions were still occupied by pop acts like Emile Sande, One Direction and three Now compilations.
Yet to say rock ’n’ roll is kicking arse again in the UK is comparable to the Government insisting the British economy is growing at its fastest pace, even though most average Britons will argue they’re not feeling such optimism being reflected in their pockets.
You see, there’s something blatantly odd when Bastille, Rod Stewart and OneRepublic are included in one’s definition of rock music, as they are by the BPI. The truth is that proper connoisseurs of rock are not feeling the allegedly robust standing of such music in their everyday environments. Rock music still feels massively undervalued in Britain. While the focus of audiences remains committed to television talent shows specialising in karaoke covers, or media markets that continue to promote hideous American pop stars, proper British rock music is little more than a niche market. If rock music is thriving in Britain then why can we not feel it? Is rock music the dirty, edgy, piss and vinegar material we love, or is it now a bunch of posh boys who dress like elegant farmers and play with banjos? One thinks that the bench mark for what qualifies as rock music has been badly deflated.

British rock music was arguably the best in the world. It changed popular culture forever. Cinema, literature, fashion and journalism was altered after the British Invasion of the 1960s, as was the world’s perception of what qualifies as cool. Rock ’n’ roll was at the centre of this change, and its devaluing is nothing short of a national embarrassment.
Drowned in Sound reviewed Canadian band Mode Moderne’s new album Occult Delight last month and remarked on the perennial endurance of Britain’s post-punk movement that came about thirty-odd years ago, and was spearheaded by supremely erudite lads from depressed English industrial towns in the north who wrote achingly sombre songs about the irrepressible bleakness of young life. The British post-punk bands of the 1980s were nihilistic yet gorgeously romantic, emanating the same attraction that made poets like Byron and Shelly belong to the ages. The post-punk legacy of British music was perhaps the last rock movement that endures, still inspiring young artists in a way that Britpop isn’t.
You see, without tragic British post-punk rock gods like Ian Curtis making seminal songs like this:

America would never have The National or Interpol; France’s Jenny Beth wouldn’t be the lead singer of Savages; and Vancouver’s Mode Moderne could never write songs as good as this:

Whether rock music is becoming more popular in Britain has become more to do with statistics than anything authentic. British rock music has traditionally been an artistic medium for disenfranchised youngsters to convey how they feel about life’s difficulties, kind of like the way rap music is a comparable channel for marginalised American kids. (Rock ’n’ roll’s origins stem from African-American Delta blues music, but most Americans aren’t exactly brilliant at their history or geography, which means that many black kids stateside refuse to acknowledge guitar music as something that actually belongs to them.) Until rock music in Britain actually stands for something and evokes wider socio-political connotations then the BPI’s meanderings are meaningless and misleading.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Real Girls Making Swell Retro Songs

Girls are dominating pop music like crazy right now. Female acts have absolute dominion of the charts and seem to hold the most swagger in the music industry. It’s a mad state of affairs because it has usually been blokes (most notably white guys with guitars) that have ruled the roost, but right now, it’s girls who are calling the shots.
One is sure that when the pop music historians examine and scrutinise this era they will distil the people with real power are actually middle-aged male executives. These executives, for example, have whitewashed Beyoncé’s ethnicity in order to make her a more exportable property (they did a similar thing with Whitney Huston in the ‘80s by making her don a blonde wig), and have seriously manipulated Adele’s style choices as to make her more palatable for image-conscience consumers uncomfortable with her larger female formation. It seems women are not allowed to be themselves if they want to succeed in the pop music game.

Therefore, It’s best to catch talented girls that can sing before the highly-paid stylists and image-makers turn them into something they’re not. All the songs featured in this post sound pleasantly retro, but are totally new. Luckily, they also haven’t got any misinformed music videos either that can skew our interpretations of what these women are all about.
Emily King’s Distance
A song given away as a free download can alter our judgement principally on the basis that we may give it an easy pass because it didn’t cost us anything. However, Emily King’s Distance is a classy number that echoes the spirit of Minnie Riperton’s 1970s Perfect Angel phase, and because of that, it sounds splendid. King was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album and is a protégé of Clive Davis, which means she’s probably not quite the neophyte I’m making her out to be.

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’ Making Up and Breaking Up
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings are another of Daptone Records’ funk/ soul revivalist acts that make hipsters feel hipper than they actually are. The inclusion of Jones’ cover of Goldfinger in Martin Scorsese’s god-awful movie The Wolf of Wall Street tells you a lot about just how much hipsters like this group. In fact, Sharon Jones actually features in a wedding scene of the film and said in an interview with the BBC that Leonardo DiCaprio wouldn’t talk to her on set because he didn’t want to break character. That’s a shame as she could’ve talked him into optioning this song because at least that may have given the audience something to appreciate.

Tennis’ Mean Streets
Ironically, Martin Scorsese’s breakout movie was called Mean Streets and began with The Ronettes’ Be my Baby playing over the opening titles. One suspects that Denver-based husband and wife team, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley (aka: Tennis), kind of were going for the whole 1970s cinematic retro thing when they recorded this track. The Wolf of Wall Street may have benefitted by including this song in its bloated soundtrack because it may have provided a glimmer of respite from the numbingly overbearing song choices they opted for. Oh, well.