January 2009

I’ve just written a piece about why Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip are important to the modern music industry over at the far-more-brilliant-than-here Sweeping The Nation.

Check it out, and then read some proper music blogging as opposed to my semi-intelligible ramblings.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Tommy C

I haven’t noticed a really great band from Newcastle in quite some time. Maximo Park are probably the last group from the cruel, biting cold of the North-East (*GENERALISATION*) to really make me prick up my ears. This is all a very obvious precursor to me talking about an awesome new Newcastle band, so I’ll cut to the chase.

Little Comets are a bristling bundle of joy who have just released their debut single, “One Night In October”. They sound like the English answer to Vampire Weekend, all “Graceland” guitars but set to a very English indie structure. The song itself, despite its name and release date, is a summer-filled burst of sunny guitar riffs and yelped vocals, easy to sing along to and even easier to dance to, and neither of which I’ve been able to stop doing since I first heard this. After an instore at HMV in Newcastle, they’re embarking on a nation-wide tour which I urge you to go see as I’ve heard they’re simply wonderful live. You can buy the single on iTunes right now (please do, they deserve it), and check out their Myspace for other songs and tour dates.

Little Comets – One Night In October

Sometimes songs will reappear in your head for no reason. You’ll start humming a tune, and only recognise what that song is a minute later. I love it when this happens, it’s a true affirmation of loving a song, that it’s buried almost subconsciously into you. For me, today, it was “Midnight Surprise” by Lightspeed Champion.

To create an epic folk song is no mean feat, but Dev Hynes managed it and then some, the minutes fly by without warning. The amount of times I’ve listened to it and suddenly found myself on the next track, 10 minutes later, is astonishing. By using country and Western slide guitar, traditional acoustic guitar, strains of violin, classical piano and judicious sprinklings of background Hammond organ he’s created a tapestry of a song, flowing like a story from one verse to another. The addition of Emmy The Great’s vocals in the mid-section accompanied by pizzicatto violin plucks is just lovely too. There’s almost too much to talk about within it, and yet it holds together so well. Would it be impetuous to say that this is the folk “Paranoid Android”? Probably, but I will anyway. And that’s two Radiohead comparisons in two posts, I really have to tone that down…

Lightspeed Champion – Midnight Surprise

I’m always behind the current trend of the blogosphere. I didn’t hear “Paper Planes” until 2 months ago, I didn’t like MGMT for a long time and I never got into Bon Iver. So it should come as no surprise that I’ve only just fallen in love with Meursault. The Edinburgh-based four piece made it onto many a discerning blogger’s end of year list, and excited the esteemed Matthew from Song, By Toad so much that he started a record label to distribute their first album, “Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues”.

It’s not exactly a puzzle as to why this happened either. From the off, this album is something special. Every song sounds simple but on closer listening the complexities of the instrumentation, the flourishes of synths and even the production reveal themselves to be crafted perfectly to create exactly the mood the band wanted. For a band that combines electronic sounds and traditional folk instruments, it was always going to be an ambitious style, but I can’t emphasise just how right they’ve got it. Neil Pennycook’s vocals are incredibly forceful, soaring and keening throughout, and yet are always kept slightly muffled behind the melodies. Synths are par for the course this year, as any “ones to watch” list will tell you at the moment, but there’s something very different in Meursault’s usage of them, dare I say it almost Kid A-like (Yes, I just compared them to Radiohead). They skip and jump over each other, constantly taking left turns, suddenly introducing a fuzzy distortion before moving into clean 8-bit beeps.

The album itself is beautifully put together, never seeming samey with songs like The Furnace combining a synth backdrop with a banjo melody, A Few Kind Words relying completely on the synths to drive it and A Small Stretch Of Land a gently strummed acoustic number. I cannot overstate how much you should listen to this album, if you, like me, haven’t already been made aware of it by the countless numbers of other writers who have already sung its praises. It’s simply an almost overwhelming joy to listen to.

Meursault – Salt Part 1
Meursault – A Few Kind Words

Jamie T was always a favourite of mine, Panic Prevention was an absolutely wonderful debut from him, improving and expanding on the demos I’d got to know and love whilst I followed his rise to prominence, the gobby wordsmith of Wimbledon really couldn’t put a foot wrong in my books. Today, Jamie T released a new song, “Fire Fire” for free, along with a music video that can be watched on Youtube.

This seemed like great news to me, especially with Jamie himself telling NME that, “It’s proper, I’m really fucking proud of it, [that’s why] I’m making a video for it. It’s not just like a little ‘La la whatever’, it’s like a big deal for us.” Annoyingly, music video or not, it’s a rubbish song. There are intermittent periods of Jamie spitting out his usual drawl over a fast paced backing, which would be really rather nice if it wasn’t completely overtaken bya whole heap of completely incomprehensible shouting. And the mp3 they’ve released is actually worse quality than the Youtube video.

I think we’ll wait for the next record thanks, Jamie.

Jamie T – Fire Fire

Why yes, I am out of things to meaningfully talk about, so I return to my habit of shuffling three songs on my iTunes and talking about them. Enjoy!

Franz Ferdinand – Eleanor Put Your Boots On
This probably the most understated and sedated song from Franz Ferdinand’s underrated (unintentional rhyming overload!) second album, and also one of my favourites. Alex Kapranos’ straining voice lilts over tripping piano and gently strummed guitar. I don’t know what it reminds me of (quality music journalism there), but there’s something almost nostalgic about this song.

The Streets – Your Song
I had a lot of trouble understanding who decided that Mike Skinner should cover this Elton John classic when I first heard it. It’s immediately obvious why he approaches his lyrics in a spoken word style. He can’t sing. At all. But for some reason, after a couple of listens it became apparent that that’s almost why this song is so beautiful, it sounds like an everyman just making up a song for his love, it almost makes the message of the song more real.

The Cribs – Our Bovine Public
A definite difference in style here from the last two. This is an onslaught by the boys from Wakefield, an earthquake of guitar and drum action whilst Ryan Jarman explodes with vitriolic lyrics over the top. I’m not sure he breathes for this entire song. Simply awesome.

When I moved to Newcastle from the little village I lived in before I expected a new world of musical possibilities, gigs every night and a general involvement in something bigger than going out to a show once a month or less. Turns out I was just a little naive. Because it seems as though, despite the big Carling Academy and a few other great music venues, no bands seem to come here.

Future of the Left were due to play here last month, but cancelled, and then when I found out that Bear Hands and Hockey, two brilliant new American acts were going on a UK tour (with Passion Pit, who I like a lot less and so will spite by not mentioning them. Except for now.), I was disappointed (read: severely pissed off) to find out they weren’t coming anywhere near the North-East. What is it that makes Newcastle an undesirable city to come to? (No nasty jokes please)

Ah well, if you get the chance and they come near you, I urge you to go and see the two afore-mentioned bands, I’ve blogged about Bear Hands before, their post-punk buildups leading to huge choruses are just wonderful, and Hockey have been described as a synth version of The Strokes, something I totally agree with. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them. But I might have to hate you if you do see them.

Bear Hands – Bad Blood
Hockey – Too Fake

I bloody love mash ups. I think there’s a certain amount of artistry in finding that perfect combination of two songs that shouldn’t work together. From Shaggy and the Beatles to Motorhead and Gorillaz, I’ll always appreciate a good combination. Now, if you don’t know, I adore Radiohead. They’re my favourite band, and I love everything they’ve ever done. Hell, the sound of Jonny Greenwood licking his guitar whilst Thom wails in a corner would be received well by me.

So today I found out there’s an ENTIRE ALBUM of Radiohead mash ups with Jay Z. I think the group behind this are called Minty Fresh Beats (who I immediately love), and frankly it’s incredible. It’s all so perfect, and a whole album is just the greatest late Christmas gift I could’ve got. I’ll put up a couple of tracks here, but you can get the whole album from jaydiohead.com (and I’d suggest doing it quickly before legal proceedings ensue, a la The Grey Album). Go!

Jaydiohead – 99 Anthems
Jaydiohead – Dirt Off Your Android