Wednesday, 28 November 2007

How's that for sea power, biatch?

Just for future reference, a few things I would not like to take on single-handedly in a battle to the death: a honey badger, the T1000, Michael Jackson's groping hand, a racially-incensed woman of any ethnic minority, the British navy. And there, my friends, is the smoothest link ever made. I should be on tv.

British Sea Power are a band who have grown on me possibly slower than any other artist in my musical life. They are the Huon Pine within my forest of musical love, as opposed to yesterday's featured band, Alphabeat, who are far more like bamboo, I suppose. Why, I hear you ask, is this the case? Well, the band released their debut album in 2003, and having caught the end of their song Carrion on some music channel I rushed out and bought it. I was completely let down. With hindsight I can appreciate 'The Decline Of British Sea Power' better, though it still lies just outside of my heart musically. It had a pure and raw sound that I just wasn't ready for back then. I was only just discovering Coldplay. Uh-huh.

And then they released album number two, and the sound had changed. A little more gentle, a hell of a lot more melodious, but with enough raw passion remaining to keep them interesting. As a whole 'Open Season' has nothing particularly new to offer, but that didn't matter. Because on 'Open Season' was the song Please Stand Up. And my, how that hit me. It was like a revelation. It's a tad bolder than the rest of the album, and always finds itself on my playlists lodged between seventies rockers Lindisfarne and Tim Delaughter's pre-Polyphonic Spree band, Tripping Daisy. In fact, the best mixtape track combo of recent times for me was Please Stand Up followed by the Polyphonic Spree cover of Sonic Bloom. It's exciting, falling from note to note like a waterfall of pure pleasure-pop.

And now we find ourselves on the brink of the new year, and with that, the new album 'Do You Like Rock Music?'. In order to prepare us for the new release, and apparent new sound, BSP released an EP, 'Krankenhaus?' late this summer. Other than a fondness for question marks, what did it tell us? Oh, only that British Sea Power are about to burst into a whole new level of awesomeness. Imagine an English Arcade Fire, or a musically daring Athlete, and you aren't even halfway there. This band is about to break the barriers between them and success, and I'm not sure I'd dare to stand in their way.

mp3: 'Please Stand Up' by British Sea Power
mp3: 'Atom' by British Sea Power

Monday, 26 November 2007

Fascination is the best word for them.

Alphabeat are gonna be huge. Just you wait, and just you see. This is a band who sound like an orgy between Disney, The Go! Team, The New Pornographers and Abba. This is a band who know what fun means, but only because they defined it in the first place. Hailing from Denmark, Alphabeat just go to prove that if you want great pop music then Scandinavia remains your best bet. I think there's really only so far that words will take you with a song as fantastic as this - it's explosive with personality and excitement, and thus far 2007 has not provided a better song. Strong words, I know, especially in late November. Grab it now, and you'll be driving the bandwagon that all your friends will be jumping on soon. Trust me.

mp3: 'Fascination' by Alphabeat

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Giant Drag: little bit awesome.

Once upon a time, somewhere before I was really sure what I was doing on music blogs, I stumbled upon a small duo going by the name of Giant Drag. They were loved by NME (which was still respectable to me back then) and the female lead singer was renowned for having the dirtiest mouth this side of the Osbourne's estate. They did a fantastic song called 'This Isn't It', and possibly the greatest cover of The Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows' to grace my ears. As soon as I find that on my old homemade cds that are piled around my desk like I'm a character in a film noir movie, as soon as I find it, it's yours.

Until then, well, until then you can enjoy this below cover of 'Wicked Game', also by Giant Drag. There's something special they have, and I haven't yet put my finger on it. They're certainly fluid, willing to slip from genre to genre, style to style. This song, for instance, has a terrific guitar, but compare that to their 'God Only Knows', and you'll not have a clue how they suddenly became so twee. Ultimately, it's refreshing to find a nice indie band with the willingness to move accordingly with the song. Giant Drag are a rare treat.

mp3: 'Wicked Game' by Giant Drag

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Great British Films #1

It's hard to describe the joy I experienced whilst watching Atonement in the cinema this summer. There was no logical reason for it to be good. It shared a director and star with Pride & Prejudice, arguably the most boring film ever (since Gosford Park, at least, and I don't suppose I should blame them, so much as that Austen chick). Anyway, it turned out that Atonement is a ruddy great film, and both director and cast do justice to the minor deity of genius that is Ian McEwan. Which was nice, cos Enduring Love really sucked tittyboobs. Yup. I went there.

Anyway, one of the most striking scenes in a five minute tracking shot along Dunkirk's beach, unbroken and unedited. It's stunning, and frankly breathtaking. And, as with all good films, it would lose so much of its emotional toll were the score to be taken away. Listening to this piece of music is an experience in itself. Around a minute in a choir of 'soldiers' seeps into the mix, which marks the greatest piece of cinematic use of music this year for me - a feat not easy to attain when one considers the release of films such as The Painted Veil in the last 11 months.

mp3: 'Elegy For Dunkirk' by Jean-Yves Thibaudet

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Humpday Treats

I thought I'd drop a few humpday treats for you this week - three covers and an original! Ah. Joy. So first up, a fantastic cover by one Natasha Bedingfield. Bedingfield is very high up in my books as one of the three artists (alongside Stereophonics and Lily Allen) who mark themselves out as fantastic cover artists. Sure, all three artists are responsible for fantastic original music, but they also consistently create perfect covers that often surpass the originals. Stereophonics have, amongst many others have performed the definitive version of Handbags & Gladrags. Lily Allen has outdone Keane and The Pretenders, amongst others, and Natasha Bedingfield has perhaps created the greatest miracle outside of theology in making a Madonna track - that I like! Oh my.

So yes, here we have the well-loved hit 'Ray of Light' made, well, good. Bedingfield's voice has more strength than Arnie on steroids, and it works so well you'll forget the torturous pop massacre it originates from. There's a risk that I may fall in love with her. I tell you what though: I have a challenge for her. Can she make Avril Lavigne's first album listenable? What about Busted? Hm.

mp3: 'Ray of Light' by Natasha Bedingfield

How about more 'classic' pop reimagined? The Bird and the Bee are a band I have had very little exposure to. They're LA-based and are fun, but that's as far as I can go with my knowledge of them. Oh, wait. They also make music. Wow. I know everything, no? Here they cover 'How Deep Is Your Love', originally a Beegees hit, and then in the 90s a hit once more, this time for Take That. The Bird and the Bee's version is a sweet, innocent affair, and it ever so slightly outshines the original.

mp3: 'How Deep Is Your Love' by The Bird and the Bee

And finally we reach The Holloways, a band whom I've been a follower of for almost two years now. On the soon-to-be British institution that is BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge, The Holloways recently covered Gwen Stefani in their typical summer styling. Personally, I can't get into Gwen Stefani, who seems to be lost between being Japanese and being a moron, but whilst this cover will never go down as an all-time classic alongside Buckley's 'Hallelujah' and Cash's 'Hurt', there is an undeniable injection of life to the Stefani staple. I'm also chucking in a Holloways b-side for you, in the form of 'One Mad Kiss', a jangly ode to love at first sight, which leaves me smiling every time. Wonderful.

mp3: 'The Sweet Escape' by The Holloways
mp3: 'One Mad Kiss' by The Holloways

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Through sparks and shining dragons...

I've just spent the last half hour watching the Channel 4 broadcast of Keane's Warchild gig on Sky+. The benefit of my belated watching is I've been able to fastforward through the crap and boring (The Magic Numbers, some other bloke I can't remember) and still watch the jolly awesome (Brendan Benson, Lily Allen, Keane covering Queen & David Bowie). One of the most upsetting moments, though, beyond the suffering of children born into war, was seeing Fyfe Dangerfield of Guillemots.

It's not that I don't love Fyfe, or indeed the Guillemots, in fact I love them and their crazy, crazy music. At Glastonbury their set was in my top three. Or five. There were lots of good bands. So it isn't a dislike for them at all. No, what saddened me was that Fyfe had had a haircut.

See, Fyfe's hair was the band of Guillemots personified. Except it wasn't a person. So I guess I'll have to change that. See, Fyfe's hair was a metaphor for Guillemots as a band - crazy, seemingly out of control to the outside world, but ultimately a finely-formed mess that knows exactly what it is doing. It flowed, was thick and full, was beautiful, was an inspiration to young men like me who are learning day-by-day that it's only so long until male pattern baldness kicks in. And he's gone and cut it all off! It's short! FYFE'S HAIR IS SHORT AND PERFECTLY ORGANISED! It's a disgrace!

Still, the band are still fantastic, both on record and live, and this is great news. I've seen Guillemots live twice, and they simply don't let down. You leave a Guillemots gig feeling happy, your thirst for life insiringly unquenched, and the blood in your veins temporarily replaced with pure, liquid joy. Exhibit A in the case for liquid joy vs. Guillemots (whatever that means): 'Made-Up Love Song #42'. Any song featuring the lyric 'I love you through sparks and shining dragons, I do' can do no wrong in my book.

mp3: 'Made-Up Love Song #42' by Guillemots

Monday, 5 November 2007

Mrs. Oh My God That Britney's Shameless

I'm on the fence about Britney Spears. There's no denying that at one point she was very hot. But there's also no denying that shaving her head bald did very little favours, either for her appearance, or for the rumours of a declining mental health. Personally, I reckon the press doesn't help at all. I also reckon it's not my place to judge her for all this that's happening in what should be her private life.

What I do know, however, is that Britney's new music is pretty damn jazzy. Not, of course, in the sense of an actual jazz sound. But we wouldn't expect that, would we? I mean, it's not like she's Christina Aguilera! Ahem. But 'Piece of Me' is amazing, and addictive, and everything that was necessary for a Britney-sceptic such as myself to fall for her once again. Not in the whole 'ain't she hot' thing, but I've fallen for her music, at least. You should too.

mp3: 'Piece Of Me' by Britney Spears

Sunday, 4 November 2007

A nice pat on the bum and a sit down.

Dean Friedman is a man who once had a small following, and now has an even smaller following, perhaps equal to the size of a poodle. Or another small dog. Of course, this doesn't mean he's crap, it just means he never had the marketing, or the support, or perhaps the need for success that tends to define multi-million selling artists today. You can't tell me Monsieur Timberlake doesn't need success. He does. You know it. It's an ego thing.

Anyway, Friedman, for this reason entirely, remains one of the more underrated artists of the 20th Century. He's still active today, but my parents learnt last time they went to a gig of his that the average Dean Friedman performance is viewed by so few people that he gets a chance to say 'hello' to the entire audience. Individually. It's a shame, really, the man is like a light-hearted Billy Joel, or something similar. And I like Billy Joel. In the featured song, below, Friedman sings in a typically silly fashion about the joys of a little spanking. I know. Maybe the theme explains the lack of success. But it doesn't make it any less fun.

mp3: 'S&M' by Dean Friedman

Thursday, 1 November 2007

An open letter to Arcade Fire

Dear Win and friends (for you have many, and I remain unsure of their names even to this day...),
Yesterday I spent my hallowe'en in a lovely but cramped house just off of Lenton Boulevard, in Nottingham. You spent your hallowe'en in a far roomier space, just half a mile or so away, in the city's Arena. I hear it wasn't so lovely though. According to the ever-reliable National Music Enquirer (as NME should probably be known), you were bottled in your own gig. I'm very sorry. I mean, it's bad enough when we British attack crap American bands at our festivals (see Panic! At The Flamin' Ass Disco, My Chemical Romance and 50 Cent), but at a gig where the people have paid to see you specifically? You aren't even American! Everyone knows the British prefers Canadians! With the exception of Avril Lavigne, Sum 41, Celine Dion and Canadian Bacon (it just isn't as good), you've brought us nothing but awesomeness as a nation.

So why you were bottled, I don't know. But I do apologise, and I can tell you, if I had been able to get some of those juicy-juicy sold-out tickets I would have been there. And if I were there, with my juicy-juicy sold-out tickets, I wouldn't have let the little blighter who did it get away so easily. I probably would have found the bottle he/she threw and done something so illicit with it that I shall not write it here, should my mother ever find it (which she may, for she is a highly resourceful woman). Let's just put it this way, the act of sitting down would be somewhere near a meeting with a honey badger on their priority list.

What upsets me most by the whole affair, though, is your initial reaction, to state you won't play Nottingham in the future. Please don't let the actions of one backwards idiot, who enjoys paying £30 or so for the possibility of bottling a band, ruin the fun for the rest of us! Nottingham is a lovely city, really, despite every rumour the rest of the UK can throw at us, and having seen you earlier this year at Glastonbury, I know it would be one of the greater wastes in life to not have you play here again. So, in conclusion: Play here again, and get me some of those juicy-juicy sold-out tickets, and I'll protect you like I would an egg in a gun-fight. Promise.

Yours sincerely,

Woodland Bear

mp3: 'Rebellion (Lies)' by Arcade Fire