Santi White, aka Santogold, has been one of the biggest discoveries of 2008. Not only does she have the songs, she also has the look, coming on like a drunk in a fancy dress shop. Much has also been made of her friendship with fellow sartorial experimenter M.I.A, with many dismissing Santogold as a mere copycat. These people are idiots. Despite the presence of producers Diplo and Switch (both of whom have worked with M.I.A), Santogold is its own beast, an album brimming with pop hooks that uses genres in a way most would call cavalier. Everything from dub, to new wave, to punk, to aggressive-electro-pop-type-stuff is thrown into the mix. Debut single ‘L.E.S. Artistes’ is one of the best songs of the year, a brilliant example of effortless cool mixed with an almighty chorus, whilst the likes of ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Say Aha’ are proof this was no fluke. Unlike M.I.A, Santogold isn’t afraid to let the melodies shine, creating songs that are innovative yet immediate and in doing so has made an album that sounds as fresh the fiftieth time as it did the first.
If the last two Beck albums have seen Mr Hansen at his most meandering, then Modern Guilt shows what can happen when he keeps things tight. At just over half an hour long Modern Guilt never outstays it’s welcome, with producer Danger Mouse keeping a tight lid on any funk solos or jazz interludes. That’s not to say it’s not an inventive record; ‘Gamma Ray’ is his best single in years, a dirty, swampy jam that makes you dance while contemplating nuclear holocaust. In fact most of Modern Guilt is wracked with…er…well, guilt, but guilt that makes you shake your moneymaker. You’re never quite sure what it is Beck is trying to communicate, but each song is imbued with a palatable fear, be it in the psych-freak-out ‘Chemtrails’ or the funky ‘Youthless’. He may not be at the tip of the cultural zeitgeist anymore, but he’s settled into a rhythm of consistency that few can match.
Cut Copy could easily have been dismissed as too cool for school; signed to Modular records, produced by one half of DFA Records, loved by Pitchfork. Luckily, in the shape of In Ghost Colours, they’ve made one of the best dance records in recent years. Despite being Australian, their sound has a certain je ne c’est pas, reminiscent of the French electro sound loved by the likes of Daft Punk and Justice, but unlike their gallic counterparts there’s no hint of irony, everything is played with a straight face and with a relaxed mood. Songs unfurl slowly but purposefully, opener ‘Feel The Love’ morphing from acoustic strum to trippin’ off your tits ending complete with a gorgeous electronic coda. Elsewhere, ‘Hearts On Fire’ and ‘Far Away’ are two of the best singles never to chart. The album closes with the gorgeous ‘Eternity One Night Only’, a loping, repetitive mantra that sends the listener to sleep…in a good way.
Whether you’ll like Youth Novels or not depends greatly on your reaction to what I’m about to write; ‘coochy coo’. That phrase perhaps best describes Lykke Li’s vocal style and if the thought of that makes you want to repeatedly bash your own face in then this album probably isn’t for you. Produced by Bjorn Yttling (from Peter, Bjorn and John), Youth Novels sidesteps the electropop sheen of Li’s Swedish contemporaries for a simpler, more organic feel. The economy of the songs are their main strengths, with the bare bones of vocals and bass fleshed out beautifully with lashings of piano, percussion, muted electronic beats and on highlight ‘Little Bit’, what sounds like steel drums. Elsewhere, ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’ ditches any arty pretence and goes directly for the pop jugular, whilst the delicate ‘Time Flies’ sounds like it might break at any time. She might be a bit too knowingly cute for some, but as an album Youth Novels works wonders.
Lie Down In The Light? That’s a bit of a cheery title for a Bonnie “Prince” Billy album isn’t it? Well, yes, it is. On songs like ‘I’ll Be Glad’ and ‘For Every Field There’s A Mole’, you get a genuine sense of joy from hearing Will Oldham (for it is he!) wrap that creaking, croaking voice of his round lyrics such as “There’s a lap for resting head/ There’s the only nesting bed”. But don’t get too comfortable, in the same song he ends with this cheery couplet; “…hand to hold your throat/ To stifle that crying choke”. A rare talent, one that seems to flourish the more prolific he becomes and with a new album due next March, expect to see him on this list in 2009. His best, most consistent album since I See A Darkness.
Key track: 'Easy Does It'
* I know there's a formatting issue with the Bonnie "Prince" Billy bit. I can only apologise. Blame the tools, not the craftsmen.
Interesting pop fact here, my Mum's dog is called Hudson, right, and this here band are called Mr Hudson & The Library...coincidence? Yes, probably. Anyways, confession time, when I first saw a picture of this band I thought "do I not like that".
They look like they've all been given some Burtons vouchers for Xmas and decided to buy almost identical clothes (minus points for wearing a sleeveless cardigan you on the right). Unless you're in JLS, you can't get away with this sort of thing. No, wait, EVEN if you're in JLS you can't get away with this sort of thing.
But anyway, I digress, Mr Hudson & The Library are about to release a brand new single, 'There Will Be Tears', produced by none other than current auto-tune addict Kanye West. And guess what? It's got auto-tune all over it! Now, I'm not knocking Mr West's production skills but once he gets hold of a good idea (or bad idea for that matter) he likes to run with it until the only place left to go is a musical cul-de-sac. Luckily, 'There Will Be Tears' works rather well. Mr Hudson (who also appears on the brilliant 808s & Heartbreak album) and friends have created a delicate, lovelorn ditty complete with mournful piano, weird hissing sounds and some (just about) bearable cockney talk.
It’s been a bumper last few years for Cat Power (or Chan Marshall to her parents). She got rid of those pesky demons – drugs and drink and all that malarkey – and Jukebox was the first album she recorded clean. Her new found sobriety makes for an enthralling collection of ten cover versions, plus one original and a re-imagining of an old Cat Power song (the epic ‘Metal Heart’). ‘New York’ is unrecognisable from the Sinatra standard, with backing band Dirty Delta Blues creating a dramatic blues swamp, whilst the fantastic ‘Aretha, Sing One For Me’ keeps the soul of George Jackson’s original firmly in tact. Those yearning for the desolate sound of old will find solace in James Brown’s ‘Lost Someone’ and Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’. With a new album of original songs due next year, Jukebox acts as the perfect stop-gap between the Cat Power of old and the Chan Marshall of the future.
For the uninitiated Neon Neon are Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals and producer Boom Bip. Stainless Style - their debut and perhaps final album - is a concept album loosely based on the life of John De Lorean, founder of the De Lorean Motor Company (if you’ve seen Back To The Future you’ll know what the cars look like). As with all concept albums it’s best not to get too hung up on the finer details and instead just listen to the music, and luckily Stainless Style allows you to do just that. ‘Raquel’ is a delicious electro lament, all sharp shoulder-pads and bouncing synths, whilst ‘I Lust U’ is robot love with a heart. Featuring Spank Rock, Har Mar Superstar, Yo Majesty, The Magic Numbers and one of The Strokes, it’s an album that shouldn’t work, but is somehow close to perfection.
I know, Girls Aloud! But they’re women! They don’t play any instruments! OK, so they don’t actually write too many of the songs and mainly it’s down to the genius of Brian Higgins and Xenomania, but hey, who cares? Are you honestly telling me you’d rather listen to Razorlight or Snow Patrol then this? Maybe you think the arty posturing of Crystal Castles is better then something you can actually hum? Damning with faint praise aside, Out Of Control contains one of the songs of the year in the shape of ‘Untouchable’, an electropop behemoth that wastes none of it’s near seven minute duration and includes a heart-stoppingly brilliant middle eight/bridge type thing. Other highlights include the Pet Shop Boys-penned ‘The Loving Kind’, the harmonica-driven ‘Love Is The Key’ and the bonkers ‘Live In The Country’. Perfect.
There’s much to dislike about Late Of The Pier. Firstly, they utilize some of the same ‘arty’ tropes of forebears Klaxons; their lyrics are usually nonsense, they make bad videos, their artwork is amateurish but probably cost a fair bit and despite your best efforts you end up really liking the music they make. Curse them! Produced by Erol Alkan, Fantasy Black Channel is a brilliantly restless amalgam of electro, glam rock, punk, grime, R&B and Gregorian chanting. Usually this happens in just one song, for example the seven-minute ‘The Enemy Are The Future’, but they can keep it concise too as on highlight ‘VW’.
Joan As Policewoman, aka Joan Wasser, is someone that has always had pain and sadness projected onto her work by those seeking to feed off the fact Wasser was Jeff Buckley’s girlfriend. Yet, melancholia seems to suit her, with the majority of To Survive dealing with the loss of love and hope. Elsewhere, ‘To Be Lonely’ addresses a new relationship in a touchingly cynical way (“This is the one I will try to be lonely with”), whilst ‘Furious’ and the Rufus Wainwright assisted ‘To America’ deal with the frustration of politics.
There was a time, in the not so distant musical past, when every guitar band hailing from New York was contractually obliged to wear a suit jacket, battered jeans and converse. The music they made was of no real consequence. The Walkmen, thankfully, never cared for fashion and have seemingly never cared for chart success either. You & Me, their fourth album, is littered with wonky, brilliantly skewed tales of love and loss, careening guitars clashing with drunken keyboard riffs (‘In The New Year’ a perfect example). A brilliant mess in other words.
Leila is perhaps best known - if known at all - for appearing in Bjork’s backing band on her recent tour (she also supplied the support, but was usually booed and generally ignored). Blood, Looms and Blooms is her third album and continues the trend for mixing the minimal (‘Lush Dolphins’) with the aggressive (‘Mollie’, ‘Mettle’). Elsewhere, ‘Time To Blow’ and ‘Little Acorns’ are Leila at her most accessible (with help from Terry Hall on the former) and the Martina Topley-Bird assisted ‘Deflect’ is oddly uplifting and naggingly infectious (“I’ll understand you like a baby”).
Who remembers Franz Ferdinand? Come on, it's only been about three years since their last album. What do you mean, they're kind of irrelevant now? I know we all got a bit caught up in the hype and the clothes, but they had some good tunes. 'Take Me Out'...that other one...the one called 'Michael' that was a little bit gay...the last one. Well, they're back after what's felt like an age, with the first single from their third album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.
(I'd just like to make it clear I didn't make the above on photoshop. It's the actual album cover).
The single is entitled 'Ulysses' and it isn't a huge departure from what we've heard from them in the past. Having said that it's definitely an improvement on anything from their second album, and is fairly catchy from the off. In fact, I have to admit to quite liking it, which for a band I've never been a huge fan of is saying something. It certainly has 'Radio 1 Smash' written all over it. I very much like the squelchy keyboard sounds and Alex Kapranos' voice sounds brilliant...for a forty year old (come on Alex, we all know you lied).
Jenny Lewis is many things - former child actor, current front woman of indie darlings Rilo Kiley, solo star, incredibly hot. What she is not, however, is short of friends as the roll call of talent on Acid Tongue suggests; Elvis Costello, M. Ward, Zooey Deschanel, Jonathan Rice, Chris Robinson, etc, etc. Ironically, it’s the least adorned tracks that work best, not least the gorgeous sing-around-the-campfire title track and the delicate ‘Trying My Best To Love You’.
Saint Dymphna is the kind of album that at first can seem purposefully difficult and obtuse, as if the band decided to take some pretty straight sounding songs and put them in a food blender, mix without the lid on and then scrape the results off the ceiling in no particular order. So on ‘Princes’ you get UK grime MC Tinchy Stryder waxing lyrical over plinky plonk piano and tumbling drums, like two different songs glued together. They can’t hide the tunes for long though, with ‘House Jam’ and ‘First Communion’ definite highlights.
Nebraska’s Tilly & The Wall have been accused by some of being a bit of a gimmick, namely because their drummer literally taps out the rhythms, but on third album O, the songs are finally strong enough to do all the talking. First single, the bitchy ‘Pot Kettle Black’, even appeared on a recent episode of Beverly Hills 90210, like, how rad is that? Elsewhere, ‘Falling Without Knowing’ marries an unforgettable chorus with brilliant no-wave keyboards, whilst ‘Beat Control’ was nearly an actual hit single. Madness.
Och, no, I'm too shy and awkward to look at the camera. I'd rather be out in a park drawing pictures of birds in my notebook and fiddling distractedly with the end of my coat sleeve. But here I am, in sepia, sat in a studio giggling constantly at Marcus whose wearing his duffel coat indoors and going on about some beat poet or other. Sometimes I want to just angrily ruffle his hair and stomp about in my childlike pumps, barely concealing my sexual frustration. But, I can't because I'm sensible and repressed and brown is my favourite colour and sex is something that only happens behind dirty net curtains and other such kitchen-sink imagery. The best thing is I'm sat in a kid's paddling pool, because the unkept hair and shapeless dress weren't enough to anchor the fact that I'm childlike and innocent and they bring back wonderful memories of a time where we could leave our doors unlocked and reading books instead of talking to other people was the same as interacting. The pool hasn't got any water in it because it's only a prop and really it's hiding all the cocaine and sex toys that litter the studio floor. If it did have water in it I would have drowned by now because I never did swimming at school, I always had a verruca or my sinuses were playing up. Plus, I was never sure if I liked girls or boys until recently, so it would have been too embarrassing. I used to just write in my journal and dream about corduroy. Now I'm on the front of a Belle and Sebastian album and I'm not looking at the camera because I'm sharing an in-joke with someone and you're not invited. I might look like a child but really I'm a complete bitch. Magnetic Fields forever, x
Kanye West's new songs aren't so much leaking as hemorrhaging all over the internet. If you look hard enough you can probably hear his new album, 808s & Heartbreak, in its entirety, over a week before it's official release. I prefer not to listen to songs from an album I will probably buy (I mean, receive for free because I'm that important) on crappy speakers so I will wait, but if you are so inclined then I suggest youtube as a good place to start. Also, The Guardian have a blog about how he's the new Phil Collins or something.
An official video for second single 'Heartless' has appeared and it's very good. Directed by famed Hip Hop video director Hype Williams, it looks like a cartoon but is probably more sophisticated then that. Kanye was probably filmed doing all that stuff and then someone coloured it all in, taking great care to stay within the lines. Well done them.
Here it is:
Is it just me or was anyone else really surprised to see the cartoon version of Kanye smoking? It just looks odd.
Leona Lewis has covered Snow Patrol's 'Run' on the new version of her debut album, Spirit. This album came out less than a year ago and is now being repackaged as a 'Deluxe Edition', complete with a soft velvet cover, the warm scent of autumn and a free After Eight mint.
Here's 'our Leona' getting her vocal chords around one of the most over-played songs in recent memory.
WARNING: Do NOT have this on full volume or play it near any young children, small pets or elderly relatives. They will literally explode from the sheer force of it all. Oh and there's a choir, obviously.
Who wants music that's immediate and easy to digest? No, you want difficult, complex sounds that are hard to decipher and sound really odd to the people sat next to you on the tube. Leila first came to Musick's attention as part of Bjork's backing band and has since released three gorgeous solo albums. Her latest, Blood, Looms and Blooms, is her best yet, all crunching beats, delicate melodies and vocals from the likes of Terry Hall and Martina Topley Bird.
This is what the album looks like:
Some audio examples too (aren't we good to you):
If you don't like the songs it just means you don't understand them.
As you may or may not be aware a huge injustice was carried out on Saturday night in front of an audience of millions.
Who remembers eight years ago when George W. Bush was elected President despite not winning enough votes and some dodgy recounts went in his favour? Yeah, well it's bigger then that. MP's have been discussing it, the 'mouth piece for today's youth' aka Lily Allen has blogged about it (she was "a little shocked", "quite upset" and referred to Daniel as "the pool man") and The Daily Mirror have set up an online petition that so far 12,000 people have signed. So what actually happened I hear the uninitiated cry? Well, basically, The X Factor uses a pretty radical system of democratic voting wherein people can ring certain numbers to vote for certain people and those with the fewest votes are then asked to sing again before one final vote. That's right, there's two levels of voting. Obviously, certain elements of propaganda are used (things like dead relatives, 'illness' and reverse psychology) and somehow this turns formerly sensible people into blithering idiots.
The 'victim' of all this was Laura White, one of the favourites to win this years show. She found herself in the bottom two on Saturday against the Spanish senorita (I'm contractually obliged to refer to her as such) Ruth, who was saved whilst Laura was booted out. IT'S A TRAVESTY cried the same people who protested when Deirdre Rasheed was 'jailed' in Corrie. People are very upset, some have called for Louis Walsh to be garroted on next weeks show whilst Dannii and Cheryl cheer passively.
Here at Musick, we like to get to the heart of the matter. We had an exclusive chat with Laura earlier today over a blueberry muffin. This is what she had to say:
"I'm just so lucky that I even had the chance to appear on such an amazing show. I'm blessed to have been a part of it really. I have nothing bad to say about it, because before this I was just a nobody from Bolton and now I'll always be remembered as the girl who didn't make it but caused a minor kerfuffle that the public will somehow blame on me once the novelty wears off. Also, Louis Walsh is gay" *
I know, pretty aggressive stuff. Let's hope we can all move on and enjoy next week's show, which sees the contestants singing the songs of Slipknot. Backed by an orchestra.
Here's what all the fuss was about (this is one of Laura's own songs, recorded before the show):
* Laura's comments were voiced by an actress and in no way can we confirm or deny Louis' sexuality. Leave him alone, you homophobes.
Here at Musick we feel a bit sorry for Craig David. It's difficult to remember now just how big he once was, what with all that Bo' Selecta nonsense and the sneaking suspicion that he was being Americanified. As with Joss Stone, it seems that UK pop fans can immediately go off someone who appears to have lost their roots and started using lingo that sits uncomfortably with their Southampton upbringing (his second album was called Slicker Than Your Average for example).
David's record company would obviously like to remind people of those early hits, songs like 'Seven Days' and 'Rewind', songs that were hits on both sides of the Atlantic. As with Daniel Bedingfield - who also scored huge hits in America back in the day - Craig David suffered a second album slump that he never really recovered from (i.e. 'What's Your Flava?' was dog shit). If you need reminding of his hits (and the other songs), here's the track listing for the simply titled, Greatest Hits:
1. Fill Me In 2. 7 Days 3. Rise & Fall (featuring Sting) 4. Insomnia 5. What's Your Flava? 6. Walking Away 7. Where's Your Love (feat Tinchy Stryder) 8. You Don't Miss Your Water ('Til The Well Runs Dry) 9. Rendezvous 10. Spanish 11. All The Way 12. Just My Imagination 13. World Filled With Love 14. Don't Love You No More (I'm Sorry) 15. 6 of 1 Thing 16. Hidden Agenda 17. This Is The Girl 18. Rewind 19. Hot Stuff
Nineteen songs!!! Nineteen!!!?? Prizes for anyone who can hum '6 of 1 Thing' or 'Spanish'.
As with all hits packages there are some new songs on there. 'Insomnia' is the new single and it's actually pretty good. It would have been better if Ne-Yo hadn't made it already and called it 'Closer', which this song shares more then a passing similarity to.
People who describe themselves as 'kooky' or 'zany' are possibly the most annoying people you're ever likely to meet. Fact. It usually means they're incredibly dull but in order to make themselves more interesting they draw on their faces and wear clothes made of hemp. Devendra Banhart doesn't describe himself as kooky, but will forever be labelled as such and this is a real shame. He's clearly very talented and though he seems to have a problem when it comes to self-editing (his last album was about half an hour too long), he's never afraid to expand his sound or collaborate.
We previously mentioned here that Devendra's formed a new group, the lovingly titled Megapuss. Along with Devendra, Megapuss includes Greg Rogove of some band called Priestbird and a certain Fabrizio Moretti from The Strokes. 'Adam & Steve' is their first single and they've made a brilliant video to accompany it. Highlights are numerous, not least the opening salvo which is mainly the band trying to work what to do in the video (note the way Devendra looks like a mix between cleaning-lady-style Amy Winehouse and Spiderman) before settling on a mixture of 'Faith' by George Michael and 'I'm Too Sexy' by Right Said Fred (I never thought they'd get a mention on this blog!). Look out for an appearance by The Strokes' Nick Valensi playing a guitar solo suspiciously similar to the sax riff from 'Careless Whisper', and a suggestively placed rubber chicken.
It seems Mr Banhart is a bit of a hit with the ladies, having recently dated Hollywood's very own Natalie Portman. If you are a woman who enjoys hirsute men, or perhaps a man with a pube fetish, then why not click here to see the rather rude artwork for Megapuss' debut album, Surfing.
Recently boring men with guitars have taken over the charts with plodding, depressing, imagination-free dirge that has been lapped up by an audience of morons. I'm thinking The Fratellis. I'm thinking Razorlight. I'm thinking Kaiser Chiefs. Recently, however, there seems to have been a slight shift back towards pop, with Pink, Girls Aloud, Katy Perry and Sugababes all scoring huge hits on the singles chart and more surprisingly on the album charts too, usually the domain of the Tesco CD buying brigade - "Oh, the new Keane album, that can play in the background at the dinner party whilst Christian and Tara talk bonds and dental plans".
Girls Aloud have just released their sixth (!) album, Out Of Control. The album features a song written for them by none other than pop uber-lords the Pet Shop Boys. Here's a picture of them in case you happen to be younger then fifteen:
Yes, they are homosexuals.
The song is called 'The Loving Kind' and is due to be the second single from the album. You may think you've heard it before and that's probably because it's not a million musical miles away from their best single, 'Call The Shots'. As with that single it's got rather sad lyrics about separation and lost love, but musically it's quite upbeat. It means there's a good chance you'll see people at weddings literally crying on the dancefloor, with small children running around and skidding on their knees in the wet patches. If for some reason you're not able to listen to it then simply imagine Girls Aloud singing a Pet Shop Boys song and you're pretty much there. Not a bad thing at all.
I was somewhat surprised to see my name missing from NME's Cool list this year. I write a music blog, said blog is read by 5 people a day, those 5 people keep coming back for more, they think to themselves "who is this mythical man behind Musick? He sure is cool", ergo I should be on the cool list. But I'm not and I will live with it. I have, however, decided to launch the inaugural Musick Cool List, in which we scour the internet looking for someone who epitomises everything that is now, that is current, that is cutting edge, someone who lives music, who breathes it in, sucks it down into his stomach and releases it in the form of musical greatness. I'm talking about a man with the ability to heal people. I'm talking Chris de Burgh...
We've written about Emmy The Great before, but we're incredibly lazy and sometimes it's just easier to stick to what you know, OK? Plus, she has a new single out called 'We Almost Had a Baby', and it's got a baby in the video wearing a really nice knitted hat. It's always nice to see that I think. So here it is:
The song's about how someone nearly made the decision to have a child with someone who, judging by the video at least, isn't really ready for it. It's about feckless men essentially, so in that sense it's not too dissimilar to the work of Beyonce. That's right, Emmy The Great and Beyonce are pretty much singing from the same hymn sheet here, just with wildly different video budgets and one song (i.e. this one) is lovely whilst one is manipulative yet strangely affecting in a I've-eaten-lots-of-chocolate-and-had-some-wine-and-now-my-boyfriend's-dumped-me kind of way.
Emmy The Great (probably not her real name, so I could perhaps drop the latter bit) has a small cameo in the video where she pretends to be a lesbian, which Beyonce has probably done many times before. Not least when Jay-Z wants some jigga love or something.
When reading said music magazine I like to ignore the bits about falling album sales and the demise of the CD single and instead just look at the bit where they recommend new artists or songs. I must also confess to not actually buying this magazine as it costs about £5 but instead just nabbing the one at work (apologies Owen).
Anywho, someone who caught my eye goes by the name of Janelle Monae! I know, I know, that '!' looks ridiculous and is all a bit too "look at me, look at me, everything's exaggerated", but we'll let her off. Actually, the exclamation mark isn't the only extracurricular annoyance, she's also made not a video, but a short film, for her new single 'Many Moons'. Ever since Michael Jackson started spunking all his money on 'long videos', serious artists have always wanted to emulate him, with varying results ('Honey' by Mariah Carey, anyone?)
Many have pointed out the similarities to Andre 3000, not in terms of genitalia naturally, but in terms of the fashion and the jerky dancing. The connection isn't entirely without merit, Monae appeared on Outkast's last album, Idlewild. Still, who is original nowadays? Plus, we can't help but notice a slight whiff of VV Brown, but that may well be a coincidence.
Here's another track, 'Sincerely Jane', complete with some pretty amazing horn blasts.