Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Ash - 'War With Me' (single review)

Atomic Heart Records


Thus far the third radio single from Ash's phenomenal A-Z Series, 'War With Me' represents the letter M and the halfway point. It also marks the release of a compilation featuring the entirety of the series up until here, along with a handful of bonus tracks. To be honest, the best way of advertising the series to the CD buying public this probably isn't, for although it's a strong track it lacks the punch of either 'Neon' or 'Dionysian Urge', which represent letters I and L respectively.

Nonetheless, 'War With Me' is still a fine single and as a ballad is radio friendly in a way that precedes the current onslaught of young urban stars and auto-tune. Primarily carried on the piano it keeps steady pace and could be criticised for staying too close to the middle of the road. Still, it keeps with the Ash tradition of soundtracking the gazing up at the stars with a chorus lodged in the head and a longing in the heart.

At risk of repeating ourselves here, it must be stated that Ash are a phenomenal band, and even though 'War With Me' doesn't showcase them at their best it's still a cracking little pop song. In releasing singles the band have managed to showcase many facets of themselves in a way that an album format has quiet clearly restricted, and as each single so far has had it's own distinct flavour it can easily be argued that in going back to the simplicity of the single track Ash have harnessed the power of popular music. It's high praise but one that the band has well and truly earned.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Track of the Week 2010: #13

The Pipettes – 'Stop The Music'

Hands up; who expected the forthcoming second record from The Pipettes to be any good. No? Well, me neither. You'll be more than pleasantly surprised then when I tell you that not only is 'Stop The Music' one of the best songs of 2010 so far, but it is so by quite a long way AND is from a cracking album.

Earth Vs The Pipettes
landed on my doorstep over the weekend and any fears or assertions that The Pipettes were going to have lost it after their most talented member made a break for a solo career can be fully dispelled. I won't say too much about the record, because there's a review coming up as soon as I can get my thoughts together, but it's eclectic and epic mix of brilliant pop tunes.

'Stop The Music' then. From first couple of listens this strikes as being the highlight from Earth Vs The Pipettes. It introduces itself with clicking fingers, features bongos and such percussion as you'd not expect from the ex-polka-dot-popsters. The chorus however is still of the sort that most bands would truly give their own mothers up for. Classy, awkward, smart and pretty. It's a Pipettes song through and through.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Track of the Week 2010: #12

This week's Track of the Week is in dedication to a certain branch of pop music which I feel that I've been neglecting of late. To what extent this is down to me, and to what extent it is down to the lack of decent examples is something on which I'm not too sure. One thing's for certain however; you wait a long time for an example of catchy electro-pop made by a pretty blonde lady and then two come along at once. Because I cannot decide which one of these (which handily fall on either side of 'credibility') is the better, or more worthy of being Track of the Week, I am letting YOU decide. Now I don't really mind which one you chose, and I'm not even asking you to tell me (although feel free to, if you so wish) but I am asking you to listen to both and formulate an opinion.

Goldfrapp 'Rocket' / Diana Vickers 'Once'

First thing to mention here is the frustration that these two songs have caused me, due the lack of embeddable videos. Said issue recalls a news story that I came across fairly recently, which you may well have seen. Basically, a coalition is in the process of being set up which should allow artists to upload and gain royalties from videos without the interference of record labels. Said royalties would come from all plays of the video and not just from youtube's main site. In the long run this would mean that hopefully the 'embedding disabled by request' problem should become a thing of the past.

Onto this weeks Track(s) of the Week; and first up there's 'Rocket' by Goldfrapp. 'Rocket' is a resplendent '80s epic; glossy and supremely danceable, it's arguably a bit behind in regards to the electro-pop revival. It features on the new album Head First, which is out today and has been met by mixed reviews. Oddly, and despite having a huge earworm of a chorus, it has been maligned by Radio 1 and as such as failed to chart. Still, it is bloody brilliant.

Secondly there's Diana Vickers. I mentioned a couple of months ago that this track had the potential to be the first non-shit thing to have ever come from The X Factor. The full version of the track has vindicated me in this as 'Once' is a full on modern dancefloor stomper. Where Goldfrapp aruably sounds a lot like Ladyhawke, Diana Vickers is sounding quite like Sophie Ellis-Bextor here and as such is breaking no new ground for pop music. Thankfully, the chorus is plenty huge enough to make this more than a tad enjoyable.

Again, the actual video for the song has embedding disabled. You can see the video to the single (which is due on April 19th) right here. For purposes of having a video on the page, just below is a low quality radio rip set to a picture. You're better off watching the actual video really 'cause the sound quality is so much better, but here you go anyway.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

We Are Scientists

Ah, We Are Scientists. Crafty buggers as far as I'm concerned. They manage to come close to Flight of the Conchords in terms of hilarity whist being an Art Brut franchise (technically they're AB47, if you needed to know). As you can see/guess/have already heard WAS are back, which is I think the main thing that this post should be getting at, but I'm sure I will sidetrack at some point with some gratingly self-referential 'humour'. For instance I feel like pointing out that similarly to The Futureheads 'Heartbeat Song', 'Rules Don't Stop' is getting its own post because it was due to be track of the week before getting gazumped. Still, although never really having posted about them before We Are Scientists are a band that I Really Quite Like.

I'll admit that on first listen to this new single (from forthcoming album Barbara) I found it underwhelming, yet similarly to Alien's face-hugging creature it sets something inside you which nestles down, re-emerging when least expected. That's to say that the chorus is really memorable. Really really memorable. In complete honesty, it's not as good as classic WAS tracks like 'The Great Escape', but when compared to most of the pop music that's currently being released it is killer. Another great factor is hearing a pop track that's mainstream bound which hasn't lost the feel of being created by people, in a room, with instruments.

In true We Are Scientists style they've gone overboard with the multimedia facet that comes part and parcel with being in 'The Music Industry' in this day and age. Unlike the twitters of pop stars however, this again feels like it is actually Keith and Chris that's behind it. No other act have managed to create as strong an identity for themselves using modern media as WAS have. Admittedly this wacky persona can be at odds with the fairly conventional pop rock but get your face around the self-deprecation that comes with the video for the new single:

“With the budget of a 30 Seconds To Mars clip, the raw FX firepower of James Cameron's Avatar, and the intensively rehearsed, flawless timing of an OKGO video, the new music vid from We Are Scientists proves once and for all that rules -- ahem -- truly do not stop these New York City dynamos.”

If this isn't enough then they've got themselves a mini-TV show, that's being broadcast on youtube. It's very sub-Conchords but still pretty humerous. The pilot is here and comes under the banner 'Steve Wants His Money'. It's good to have We Are Scientists back.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Track of the Week 2010: #11

Dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip – 'Get Better'

Critics whipping boys they may be, but I'm a big fan of spoken-word duo Dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip. So much so that I went to see them last night at The Foundry here in Sheffield. Much of what's said about the duo bugs me as it's based around fundamental misunderstandings. Firstly Scroobius Pip is slated is slated for his rapping skills, when a rapper he is not. Secondly, his lyrics are seen as preachy and smug. Of course those who see his stream-of-consciousness monologues in this way are usually those who like to be doing the preaching themselves (yes, I'm looking at you Pitchfork).

What I'm basically trying to get at is that Scroobius Pip (and his electro cohort Dan Le Sac) are actually pretty smart and funny guys. They may be self aware, but they have the good sense not to take themselves too seriously. It's always the way that the first to stick their heads above the parapet from the fortress of a terminally underground or uncool scene are going to be targeted by the arrows of the hip and vocal.

The new single was one of many highlights of last night's set and appears on their album, which is due out today. Normally I'll tell you at this point whether or not said record is any good. But in this case, it was dispatched late and my preorder hasn't arrived yet. Of the new material that I have heard by Le Sac & Pip this seems to be the one most likely to ingrain itself in the skull, and seems for that reason a wise idea for a single.

As you might assume from the title, 'Get Better' is a little bit like a motivational speech, and will probably turn some people off because of this. Still, if you listen to what Mr Pip has to say then there's bound to be something to take on board, even if this is only the simple hook that is the repeated refrain of the title. Let's be honest; no matter what we do, there's always some way in which we could all do with getting better.

As a last quick note, this song is available on a nice pink 7”, from the duo's shows and some record shops.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Track of the Week 2010: #10

The Postmarks – No One Said This Would Be Easy

We've all heard repeatedly about the proposal to axe BBC 6Music in favour of keeping worthless radio channels such as Radio7 and television shows as Hotter Then My Daughter. Personally with the details being leaked so far in advanced of any closure I feel that the whole thing is something of a deliberate attempt to raise the profile of 6Music. If nothing else, then it's working. I used to listen to 6Music when I was in my first year of University and until this past week had failed to tune in again on anything resembling a regular basis.

For the first time in ages after getting home from the pub last week I decided to stick on 6Music (listening online as I don't own a digital radio) and lo-and-behold the first song that I heard was something that I'd never heard before and was also right up my street. That song was 'No One Said It Would Be Easy' by The Postmarks.

According to Wikipedia The Postmarks are from Florida and have recently released their second album proper, Memoirs At The End of The World. This week's Track of the Week is the lead single from it and is indebted to the best in cinematic '60s pop music. Of course I've embedded the track below (as is traditional), and highly recommend it to anyone who has even a passing liking for Camera Obscura or The Last Shadow Puppets.

Because BBC 6Music is great you may want to add your voice to those who want to see it (along with the Asian Network) saved. There is a petition here for that purpose.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Track of the Week 2010: #9

Sir Yes Sir – 'Not Excited'

As I promised, it's Hot New Band Time on Keep Pop Loud. As such I propose that Sir Yes Sir are damn good. The video is below so I need not say much other than to wet your appetite enough that you'll view it.

Basically, as far as I can tell 'Not Excited' is Sir Yes Sir's first single and they're vaguely from the Hot Club de Paris influenced school of fight-pop. As such it seems unlikely that these guys are ever going to hit The Big Time. It's not a bad thing, as from the demos (on their myspace) they sound like they've got bucket loads of promise.

With the noisiest song in their repertoire Sir Yes Sir are hot on the heals of Copy Haho to be the best new band in the country. Look out in the next week or so for a full and proper review of this song from yours truly.