Friendly Fires

Glastonbury Day One

I would apologise for my long absence (again) but frankly I have a pretty good reason this time – I was at Glastonbury, and then spent a few days recovering from the pure psychic shock of how unbelievably awesome it was (or just moving house, whatever you prefer). So without further ado, here’s my review of the best festival in the world.

I could start with what happened on Thursday, but not a lot did to be honest. After a gruelling drive, followed by a gruelling walk, followed by a gruelling tent building session, we were ready to rock on Thursday. Unfortunately, it was rather late and we were all very tired, so we caught the end of the brilliant Metronomy and went to bed. The End.

So, determined to be far more productive, we awoke on Friday and got to work. I started with Regina Spektor on the Pyramid stage, who, armed with a grand piano (which I kept wondering how she got into a field in Somerset unscathed), a violinist and a cellist managed to wake everyone up with her own brand of beautiful music. Whilst maybe not suited to such a big stage, she got a great reception from the crowd, and songs like “That Time” and “Laughing With” were positively lovely.

Making our way to The Other Stage, we saw The Maccabees next. I’ve never failed to be impressed by the band, and this time was no exception, their show is just so tight, so joyful and so brilliant time after time. Playing a perfect mix of their brilliant new material (new single “Can You Give It” seemingly brought out the sun over a cheering crowd) and their brilliant older material (“First Love” as always got the biggest cheer of the set, and rightly so) they charmed the crowd into dancing, smiling and admiring continuously.

Running back to the Pyramid to catch Fleet Foxes, we caught the end of N.E.R.D., one of the special guests who were, frankly, a little poor. In fairness, they were faced with technical difficulties and a shorter set, but apart from their singles, which I do like, their album tracks all seemed a little samey. So thank god for the timely appearance of Fleet Foxes who weaved their harmony-drenched folky goodness all around us, and soothed the atmosphere of the whole field. I thought throughout, “this is the music Glastonbury was made for”.

Friendly Fires came next, and presented me with something of a conundrum. On the one hand, their live show is bloody amazing, and I’ll always be a little biased because it’s nice to see people from my school playing Glasto. On the other hand, the singer, Ed Macfarlane seems like a self-righteous, self-aggrandising cock who dances like an arse. After announcing, seemingly without humour, that the sunshine was down to him alone, followed by not smiling during the entire set, not in a cool Will Self miserablist style, but an almost uncaring way, I felt a little like I was meant to be impressed. In fact, I was  impressed by the rest of the band and their amazing musical skills. Ho-hum.

My final musical act of the night was the best of Friday, hands down. The newly-reformed Specials walked onstage to an absolute explosion of noise, and proceeded to play a set that matched the crowd’s expectations and then some. Never shying away from their hits, and with Terry Hall and Neville Staple whipping the crowd into a frenzy in their own ways, they lit up the Pyramid stage and immediately turned me from a casual fan into someone who wants to listen to everything they’ve produced. It was an absolute revelation, and if you get the chance to see them I urge you to do so.

Now, it may seem a little like evil, but I then missed watching Neil Young to go and see some comedy. But honestly, the difference Glastonbury (and therefore an abundance of drugs) makes to comedians is hilarious. Some, like Matt Kirshen and Tom Stade, become incredibly good, others, like Glenn Wool, essentially have breakdowns on stage and don’t stop talking about their divorce. Still more, like Andrew Maxwell, take their shirts off and shout at breakdancers to go faster. It’s really very interesting. Anyway, that’s Friday done, and I’ll post up the second part of the review tomorrow, for now, enjoy some choice tracks from the day:

Regina Spektor – That Time (YSI)

The Maccabees – William Powers (YSI)

Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal (YSI)

Friendly Fires – Skeleton Boy (Single Version) (YSI)

The Specials – A Message To You Rudy (YSI)

Apologies homies, I’m currently in the midst of university exams, thus my absence. However, the Glastonbury lineup was announced today, and I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about a festival. Here are some choice cuts from that juicy lineup:

Blur – There’s No Other Way (YSI)

Cold War Kids – Hospital Beds (YSI)

The Specials – Ghost Town (YSI)

Friendly Fires – Photobooth (YSI)

Roots Manuva – Join The Dots (YSI)

It’s the end of the year, and sure as eggs is eggs there are music lists, polls and debates galore. I’m a sucker for a good end-of-year list, so I’m sure as hell gonna contribute my own. So without further ado, here are my top ten albums of the year:

10. Does It Offend You, Yeah? – You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into

A triumph of genre crossovers, from Daft Punk to ’80s pop, there was hardly a dud track on here.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Weird Science

9. Ida Maria – Fortress Around My Heart

Explosive, effervescent pop-punk from the amazing Miss Maria, her live show is just as good.

Ida Maria – Stella


8. Lightspeed Champion – Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

Dev Hynes truly manages to shake off the Test Icicles tag to mould himself as a brilliant, twisted folk troubador.

Lightspeed Champion – Galaxy Of The Lost


7. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

I know comedy records shouldn’t count, but this is such a well-formed album, the fact that it’s funny doesn’t even matter that much.

Flight of the Conchords – The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)


6. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires

The perfect blend of house, indie, funk and any other genre you want to name, this album manages the seemingly impossible task of making a hugely coherent album without ever becoming samey.

Friendly Fires – Photobooth


5. Mumford and Sons – Lend Me Your Eyes EP

Alright, it’s an EP not an album, but all four tracks are just so beautiful, so unbelievably heart-wrenching and glorious that I can’t not include it.

Mumford and Sons – Awake My Soul


4. Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim

New-folk’s true pioneer, this album delivered exactly what everyone wanted, the old demos produced beautifully, as well as some wonderful new tracks.

Laura Marling – Night Terror


3. Johnny Flynn – A Larum

Three new-folk albums in a row eh? I’d been waiting for an album from Johnny Flynn since his first demo of Tickle Me Pink, and the album was everything I’d wanted and more.

Johnny Flynn – Leftovers


2. Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Angles

Hip-hop doesn’t have to be corporate, gangstafied shite, it can be poetry, it can be dance music, it can be funny or tragically sad. In short, this album’s brilliant.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – The Beat That My Heart Skipped

1. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

To be honest, I don’t think there was ever a doubt in my mind that this would be first place. When it came out it was just so different. Totally summery, totally African and totally incredible.

Vampire Weekend – Bryn

There comes a time in every blogger’s life when you have no inspiration whatsoever. And that’s what the shuffle function was created for. Here’s another three random cuts of my iTunes library for you to mull over.

Pull Tiger Tail – Mary Jane
As much as I loved their older stuff (see here for example), I never quite took to PTT’s newer singles, before they fell apart due to label tyranny. This was their last (and possibly last ever) release, and sums up, for me, what went wrong for them. Unlike their earliest stuff, it just lacks the punch, the energy, that made them special. The vocals seem a little laboured, and everything seems a little Athlete-y in places (not to say I don’t like Athlete, I think their first album was awesome, it just isn’t right for PTT). That being said, this is an enjoyable song, just not their best work.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Wet Sand
Ah the Chilis. The first band I ever saw live. Of course, this wasn’t actually released at the time, the whole Stadium Arcadium period was the beginning of my slight loss of faith in them (along with the colossal damp squib that was their 2007 Reading set). I mean, a double album? Really? Not only is it lazy, it’s just too long and full of filler. However, I do like this song. Antony Kiedis’ vocals start off all “Under The Bridge” and then grow with the music to a funky crescendo of an anthem ending, and John Frusciante’s solos never fail to bring a warmth into my soul, remembering all those times I idolised them.

Friendly Fires – Photobooth
I know it’s nothing new, and it’s all been said before, but Friendly Fires really are brilliant aren’t they? I haven’t heard their album yet (annoyingly), but I just haven’t heard a song they’ve done that I haven’t liked yet. This early single is a prime example. Straddling the lines between pop, dance and indie effortlessly, it’s just perfect. There are enough lyrics for it to interest me, but there’s enough repetition and a prominent bass line to make it perfect for dancing to. Just amazing.