Thursday, 31 July 2008

What's Wrong With The Mainstream July '08

Five Years Time - Noah and the Whale

I've been dying to post this track, in fact I uploaded it and wrote this part of the blog on the 13th! It's a great, fun, summer track and just try to stop yourself whistling after you've listened to this.

MP3: Five Years Time - Noah and the Whale

I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked - Ida Maria

6Music have been playing Ida maria's music for a while but it's taken this great pop tune for her to break through on to big sister station Radio 1. What a great track, you can't help but shout along in your car.

MP3: I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked - Ida Maria

Acid Jazz Singer - The Fratellis

The Fratellis, gents who are never short of confidence but why should they be? We all secretly like a bit of arrogance when it comes to our lead singers and they don't disappoint. The track's nothing new for The Fratellis but enjoyable none the less. Thanks to Q Shoes for this one.

MP3: Acid Jazz Singer - The Fratellis

Cath - Death Cab For Cutie

Now I've known of Death Cab For Cutie for ages but never really listened to their music but Zane Lowe has been caning this song for ages. He has said their album will be in his top five albums of the year and has had this song in his top ten songs podcast for six weeks straight. Now I think it's an alright track but I'm not sure it's worth all that fuss. Let me know if I'm missing something.

MP3: Cath - Death Cab For Cutie

Can't Go Back - Primal Scream

Is it just me or have Primal Scream been messing around for years since Screamadelica and then finally got their act together with their last album. This song caries on the good work and leaves you wanting more. Sorry it's only a radio rip.

MP3: Can't Go Back - Primal Scream

GWB (F*** You Very Much) - Lilly Allen

Good old Lilly Allen, the happy go lucky lass has written another pop gem although I'm not sure how they'll release this without missing out the whole chorus. It's certainly not one for Jamelia's kids, she once asked Lilly Allen if she could have a version of her first album without the swearing on, Lilly told her to f*** off (that last bit might not be word for word what she said). Anyway the songs quite good. OK, actually it's really catchy, best not to listen to it just before you go to work, school, uni, prison...

MP3: Lilly Allen - GWB (F*** You Very Much)

Constructive Summer - The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady have been quite a while and the singer's voice certainly sounds like it, in fact he sounds a bit like Nick Cave. To say they've been around for a while I've never really listened to them but this songs not bad.

MP3: Constructive Summer - The Hold Steady

I Love You - Esser

Esser is from London and that's all I know about him (?). Anyway, it's something new, try it, you might like it.

Mp3: I Love You - Esser

Hideaway - The Ryes

Not usually my kind of song but it kept coming round on my iTunes as I played most recently added and now I quite like it. It's quite summer-y and catchy so why don't you give it a chance too. I think they're a British.

MP3: Hideaway - The Ryes

The Arm - Islands

OK, I've been on holiday and I can't remember what I read about this band before I went away. As always let me know what you think.

MP3: The Arm - Islands

Can't Stop - The Dirty Secrets

Big in Australia, big enough for iTunes to bother selling their music anyway. You can get their latest album now. It's not bad, I've been listening to it regularly, they sound a bit like The Killers but don't expect a Mr Brightside.

MP3: Can't Stop - The Dirty Secrets

Crawl - Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon and Cold War Kids are back, both with free downloads. If you like that genre you must be wetting yourself.

MP3: Crawl - Kings of Leon

Something Is Not Right With Me - Cold War Kids

Not bad, a tad repetitive but overall pretty good. (I'm getting good at this whole blogging thing aren't I?!)

MP3: Something Is Not Right With Me - Cold War Kids

Danny Callahan - Conor Oberst

The man behind Bright Eyes (Conor) goes it alone - I never really knew he had anyone else in the first place. Not as good as some of my Bright Eyes favourites but I'm interested to see where he's going with this project.

MP3: Danny Callahan - Conor Oberst

My Alarm - New Faces

A tip off from my friend Nick SM.

MP3: My Alarm - New Faces

I Wasn't Made For Fighting - Woodhands

Synth powered dance pop, from the eighties or from the future? It's a good disco track, I especially like the added robot voice touch.

MP3: I Wasn't Made For Fighting - Woodhands

Braindead - The Vines

Heavy return on this track but the album appears to be the usual mix of grungy rock and Beatles-esq tracks.

MP3: Braindead - The Vines

Paris - Friendly Fires

As I arrived back to England from Paris I downloaded my usual podcasts and Huw Stephens tells me this is favourite track of last year. Well it's not that good but they have the right idea, one day they will live in Paris. It's reeeyght good. Oh and they have a new track out at the moment.

MP3: Paris - Friendly Fires

Sigur Ros - Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

I'm going to have to buy the Sigur Ros album now as I really like this track and I like the last one. It sounds like Acrade Fire with beating drums and piano. OK so I find the lyrics totally offensive but you lot probably don't understand Icelandic and don't care about games played with kittens and lawn mowers but I do. Let me know if I've somehow translated it incorrectly. Thanks to The World Forgot for this, they've also posted about a band called Flipsyde who you may want to check out if you like OPM (Heaven Is A Half Pipe) and the Iglu and Hartly track I posted last month.

MP3: Sigur Ros - Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

The Way We Were - XX Teens

XX Teens or Xerox Teens as they were called have been around for a while and their lineup has changed a bit since they first burst on to the scenes their sound still stays strong (not bad alliteration). Previous song Darlin' made it in to the NME top 50 in 2007. This is a free download from their debut album.

MP3: The Way We Were - XX Teens

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Album Review: Strength In Numbers by Sillsy

Ah, the first guest album review for What's Wrong With The Mainstream. Welcome on board Sillsy, over to you:

Somewhere during their lives, Robert Harvey & co. missed their calling. In fact, this moment could probably be pinpointed to 2002, when the zombie-filled yet human-empty ’28 Days Later’ hit cinema screens across the country. At some point that year, the directors offered John Murphy the chance to produce the soundtrack, and he went on to create one of the most memorable Film scores in modern times.

How does this help me review ‘Strength in Numbers’ the 3rd studio album from the Kippax-born quartet The Music, I hear you cry with impatience? Quite simply, several tracks from this LP could be lifted out and placed in any number of the summer blockbusters, as an audio delight to accompany a thrilling car chase, a race against time, or even Rocky-esqe victory against all odds.

The album opens with the title track, and first released single, which reminds you what The Music are all about. Demonstrating ‘Disco-Indie’ as I call it, the track is fast with heavy air-guitar capability, whilst maintaining a booming percussion beat throughout. Think ‘The Sunshine Underground’, but with two more albums under their skinny-fitting belts.

However, whilst I was preparing to sit back and take in more of the same, it became apparent the choice of this track as No. 1 was simply to ease in the old fans, those eager to hear the familiar sounds of Adam Nutter’s Synths after four years in the musical wilderness. Track 3, ‘Drugs’, demonstrates the group’s softer side, offering a song that you find yourself toe tapping to, at an increasing pace, but without the heart-thumping violence we’re used to. Harvey may be a brilliant lyricist, but as usual we don’t get to find out, with the words morphing into one long cascade of noise, the advantages and disadvantages of which are perfectly encapsulated between this track and the next. Whilst ‘Drugs’ keeps your interest, ‘Idle’ passes you by, with all the presence and spirit of a decent instrumental.

The album seems to really kick in with ‘The Left Side’, possible the most soundtrack-worthy number on the album, but sadly this is a pseudo pregnancy, with the following four songs passing me by, and leaving me in a state of general apathy. These are my thoughts on each:
5 –
6 –
7 –
8 –
See? Apathy incarnate. It may be that these tracks are individually golden; it may be that at the right time, in the right place, they would resonate in my mind; but by being grouped together, the familiar mono-tone voice over a thumping beat loses its charm and effect, and makes you wish the album was 15 minutes shorter.

Luckily, the record (and potentially the band’s career) does not just fade away, as it threatened to do. The final three tracks are a vast improvement, with ‘No Weapon Sharper Than Will’ being markedly different to what had preceded it, combining a catchy tune, strong (and understandable!) lyrics, and a great use of a vast array of instruments to produce one of the highlights. The ’28 Days Later’ worthy ‘Cold Blooded’ follows it, slowing the pace down and showing a more purposeful side to the group, leading into the final track, ‘Inconceivable Odds’. For the first time since ‘What’s It For’, a B-side in 2003, The Music demonstrate the range of compositions that they are capable of, dropping the fast beats and crescendo finishes to provide an absolute contrast to the opening of ‘Strength in Numbers’, with this perfect come down track.

One disappointment is the secret track on the album: not because it isn’t good (it definitely is), but because you have to choose between this, or the ‘Special Edition’, which has two more tracks on it, but not the secret track that is on the normal version. Annoying...
In summary, they don’t have the catchy choruses of the Kaiser Chiefs, they don’t have the recognisable Guitar-Hero riffs of Franz Ferdinand, and they don’t have the powerful lyrical genius of Brandon Flowers and The Killers. But they do have something, and to best demonstrate it, put this on your iPod next time you’re going out running, or cycling, or on the way to a big football match, and I guarantee that by the end of the album, you’ll have started to understand what it is that makes The Music a must-have band in your CD collection...

MP3: Drugs - The Music

MP3: The Left Side - The Music

MP3: No Weapon Sharper Than Will - The Music

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Album Review: Black Kids - Partie Traumatic

An album full of songs about Reggie Youngbloods (lead singer) attempts at harassing the opposite sex is how the band describe the album and they're not far off. With a synth sound that Zane Lowe describes as "modern disco" it's certainly got a pop feel to it. However, it's the lyrics that really give it a disco and pop feel with the main theme being chasing girls and dancing. "It's Friday night and I ain't got nobody, so what's the use of pulling a shape?" they sing on the great single Hurricane Jane. The great lines don't stop there with the great line in I've Underestimated My Charm (Again) "Like many a Mael, I get angst in my pants. And goddamn it to hell, it don't help if I dance" I've looked up that spelling of Mael and there was a character in The Vampire Chronicles but I'm not sure they're referring to him.

As an album I don't think I would normally be in to Black Kids but the EP they released before (Wizard of Ahhhs) was packed with all the good songs off the album and they were too good to ignore. The album opener Hit The Heartbrakes will surely be the next single and by then they will be BIG. They are touring like mad and have always said that Britain has jumped on to them before anywhere else, even the states are only just getting on to them (mainstream wise anyway). I don't know how much of that is true and how much is just saying what we want to hear but they are certainly getting a lot of radio play here.

As a live band they are very similar to how they interview, their sense of humour is very dry and sometimes you don't know whether they are being serious or not. Recently when asked why they were called the Black Kids, Reggie replied "my Dad was one of the original Black Panthers and he told us black people invented music". The Black Panther Party were a 60's/70's civil rights party, only half the band are black by the way, Reggie and his sister Ali Youngblood (she seems to smile so much as if she's trying to make up for the rest of the band).

Have a listen to the songs below and see what you think, these songs were originally made available free to download on the Wizard of Ahhs EP on their web site around the time I went to see them so I don't feel bad at all making the singles available...

MP3: Hurricane Jane - Black Kids

MP3: I'm not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you - Black Kids

MP3: Hit The Heartbrakes - Black Kids

Monday, 7 July 2008

Album Openers

Ok, the challenge set by friend of the blog, Schönberg, was to come up with your top five album openers that weren't singles. This was then sent also to two other people (Q Shoes and The Boy Carso) so that between the four of us we had a twenty track playlist. Should there be any clashes the last one back with the list had to resubmit.

Schönberg's Five

Wow, that was a lot harder than I expected. There are, quite literally, hundreds of fantastic first songs on albums in my collection, but it's not until you have to do an exercise like this that you realise that 99% were released as singles. It seems that bands tend to bleed dry their great songs on albums and end up releasing four, sometimes five singles, and inevitably the opener gets the fourth or fifth slot, just when you thought it would be left just for the real fans of the band to keep as their own.

The second problem I had with this list was the fact that some really great starts to albums occur through a short intro track followed by a belter (usually released as a single). I'm thinking Foo Fighters (Doll/Monkey Wrench), Public Enemy (Countdown to Armaggeddon/Don't Believe the Hype), The Alarm (Declaration/Marching On). Anyway, my first track is one that follows this pattern of intro followed by belter.

Senser - State of Mind (from 'Stacked Up')

The song starts quietly with some street noise which then breaks into a bit of hip hop instrumental (lots of peow pow). This goes on for a few minutes until it fades away to an absolutely massive industrial rock guitar riff, it's rock meets rap after that (always a fantastic genre-cross for me).

MP3: Senser - State of Mind

U2 - A Sort of Homecoming (from 'The Unforgettable Fire')

If 'Where The Streets Have No Name' had never been released as a single then it would occupy this spot, however this is a very good alternative, but don't take my word for it, ask Chris Martin... "The first song on The Unforgettable Fire, "A Sort of Homecoming", I know backward and forward -- it's so rousing, brilliant and beautiful. It's one of the first songs I played to my unborn baby."

MP3: A Sort Of Homecoming - U2

Oasis - Rock 'n' Roll Star (from 'Definitely Maybe')

It's 1994. A typical Friday night. 6.30 pm. You've just stepped out of the shower before your night down town and while you're putting on your Lynx deodorant and your best lash you reach across to hit play on the CD player. This is what you hear.

MP3: Rock 'n' Roll Star - Oasis

The Smiths - The Queen is Dead (from 'The Queen is Dead')

Starts with an excerpt from 'The L Shaped Room' where homesick Britons sing "take me back to dear old blighty" before Mike Joyce bangs his drums and The Smith's greatest album (possibly) starts. As always, Morrissey's lyrics are the highlight of this song, with his rhyming of 'spanner' and 'piano' the pinnacle!

MP3: The Queen is Dead - The Smiths

AC/DC - Hells Bells (from 'Back in Black')

This song opens AC/DC's first album after the tragic death of their influential front man Bon Scott, who died in the back of a friend's car in London from acute alcohol poisoning. The album heralded a new start for AC/DC - proclaiming they were 'back in black'. The song starts with the tolling of church bells, Angus Young's slow guitar riff joins in before being joined by the rest of the band, and they're back! This song was covered by The Dandy Warhols on the b-side of Bohemian like You.

MP3: AC/DC - Hells Bells

The Boy Carso's Five

Blimey, I've had some trouble getting this down to 5 from my original list of 21!

Here we go then:

(Number 1 was Oasis - Rock 'n' Roll Star - Jal)

2) Starlings - Elbow (Seldom Seen Kid, 2008). I'm a massive Elbow fan, and seeing this track performed live earlier this year has the album in general in my mind constantly. The horns come as a surprise, but it really is a belting tune.

MP3: Starlings - Elbow

3) Knocked Up - Kings Of Leon (Because Of The Times, 2007). From one of the best albums of 2007, this is 7 minutes and 10 seconds of wallowing genius - a slow start that sets the whole album up perfectly.

MP3: Knocked Up - Kings Of Leon

4) Triumphant - Royksopp (The Understanding, 2005). I didn't realise how much I loved this album until I listened to it again recently; a very apt title for such an upbeat tune.

MP3: Triumphant - Royksopp

5) The Fear - Pulp (This Is Hardcore, 1998). I remember this album not being very well liked at the time of release (people liked the poppy-world of Different Class, and pop this was not); however, I loved the seedy, dirty undertones of this whole album & no track more so than this opening.

MP3: The Fear - Pulp

Right, number 6 on my list is:

6) Don't Panic - Coldplay (Parachutes, 2000). The summer of 2000 sticks in my mind as particularly great, and Parachutes reminds me of that. I think you were 'allowed' to like Coldplay back then (I still do!) and this was a great track to start one of my favourite albums.

MP3: Don't Panic - Coldplay

Q Shoes' Five

So are you going to put them on your blog? That could be a problem cos mine aren't exactly what you'd call contemporary, just songs i like. And they're not exactly insightful reviews either. Sorry if I got the wrong end of the stick. Anyway.... here's my first effort.

Title: One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces
Album: Whatever And Ever Amen
Artiste: Ben Folds Five
Reason: Dwarves are a greatly under-represented minority within popular music culture.

MP3: One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solem Faces - Ben Folds Five

Title: La Femme D'Argent
Album: Moon Safari
Artiste: Air
Reason: It sets up the album beautifully and lets you know exactly what you're going to get from just 25 seconds in.

MP3: La Femme D'Argent - Air

Title: Once
Album: Ten
Artiste: Pearl Jam
Reason: Guitars, drums, snarling... and that's before the intro's finished.

MP3: Once - Pearl Jam

Title: Is There A Ghost
Album: Cease To Begin
Artiste: Band Of Horses
Reason: It's lovely.

MP3: Is There A Ghost - Cease To Begin

Title: Back To The World
Album: Back To The World
Artiste: Curtis Mayfield
Reason: If you have to ask, I'm not telling you! It's soulful genius.

MP3: Back To The World - Curtis Mayfield

Jal 's Five

Take A Bow – Muse – Black Holes & Revelations

Album openers not only set the scene for the whole album but often they are like an intro in to the next song. Some bands take to even having an “Intro” song, often only 20-30 seconds long. Muse open Black Holes and Revelations with this epic track, telling us we will “burn in hell for our sins” as they provide us with another apocalyptic musing album. The track is such an epic track that you feel like you should applaud before it kicks in to Starlight.

MP3: Take A Bow - Muse

Start Again – Electric Soft Parade – Holes In The Wall

The first track on an album is so important never more so when it’s the first album you’ve bought from that artist. It doesn’t take our fickle nature to decide whether we will like the song, album and even the band. This is why bands often pack the start of their album with singles, so for a band to put only an album track at the start of their debut album is now seen as brave. Electric Soft Parade did just that and got me hooked straight away.

MP3: Start Again - Electric Soft Parade

In It For The Money – Supergrass – In It For The Money

Supergrass used the title track as the album opener on In It For The Money. It’s a great song that builds up and up until it abruptly stops and Richard III crashes in.

MP3: In It For The Money - Supergrass

The State of Things – Reverend and the Makers – The State of Things

Reverend and the Makers are sometimes compared to the Arctic Monkeys as they are friends with the band (Alex Turner co-wrote and performs on track The Machine and the brother of Jon McClure, c0-writer and lead singer of the band, is the guy on the front cover of the Arctic Monkeys first album. While the music of the two bands is quite different the ability to story tell is there for all to see. In the opener John McClure tells us about the State of Things and proceeds to fill us in for the next eleven tracks.

MP3: The State of Things - Reverend and the Makers

At The Bottom Of Everything - Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

The track starts with Bright Eyes lead man Conor Orberst describing a conversation between two strangers on an aeroplane as there is a mechanical failure. The man then hums this tune to the lady, ending with the great line "I'm happy just because, I found out I am really no one".

MP3: At The Bottom Of Everything - Bright Eyes