Sunday, 25 October 2009

Freelance Whales - Generator First Floor

I've been spending huge amounts of time with the Hype Machine 'popular' list over the last couple of months. It's very rare that there are fewer than 10 songs in the top 20 that I think 'this is good' about - I listen to it more than the radio, Spotify and iTunes now. Because a song can only make the list if it's been blogged about in the preceding 48 hours, 80% of the music I listen to I only hear only a couple of times, and I am more likely to get a second or third listen to a song somewhere like the Custard Factory or the Rainbow when it is played on a night out.

Does this mean music has become a disposable utility? An endless stream of newness replacing meaningful relationships with collections of songs such as those I had with 'The Best of the Lightning Seeds', The Eels' 'Dasies of the Galaxy' and The Futureheads debut? These were relationships that meant I knew every single word and every little drum part, and could speak with authority on the relative merits of each track. I fear that this could just be another one of those subtle, unexplained aspects of encroaching adulthood, like feeling the cold more, worsening hangovers and a career.

Anyway, as I was listening to Hype and thinking this, a track by New York band Freelance Whales came on. 'Generator First Floor' is a shivering bit of Autumnal brilliance, mixing electronic swirls and beeps with, well... a banjo. A bit like if Holy Fuck collaborated with Stars, or, as my brother put it "like a hick version of Time to Pretend." Listening to the rest of the tracks available online, in the state of mind that I began this post with, I thought maybe here's a band I can love in the same way as those from my late teens; maybe this is a case of following the advice of Ferris Bueller and stopping to look round - and maybe cutting down on electronica that has replaced its soul with a repeated order to dance. There's nothing not to love in the music music Freelance Whales make; I'll get back in touch when I know every word and every little drum part.

Absurdly, not signed and so not on Spotify.

Here they are on Hype though.

And on Myspace.

And gosh - here's a bit of a live performance in a Brooklyn subway stop. Time to move to New York, then.

Generator First Floor, live in Brooklyn

p.s. the only downside that I can see at the moment is that in 'Location' they pronounce beret as beh-rett. The exact opposite to Jack Straw's wonderful pronunciation of papyrus as pappy-russ on Question Time this week, and so cancels it out. The world is a tiny amount less magnificent, and only some quality innovative punctuation from another government minister can make up for it.

*edit* Thanks to some helpful commenting, I now know that it is a barrett, not beret. The world of pronunciation swings back into 'outstanding' and I learn a little more about American words for girls' hair accessories. Good.

Freelance Whales Generator 1st Floor

Monday, 28 September 2009

Well done, Jamie T

Sometimes I wonder if I would know when I was listening to a recently released album set to become a classic, something that will be listened to for years to come - a Desert Island Disc choice for Dizzee Rascal's daughter in 2040, perhaps. Would I know, listening to Abbey Road in 1969, that it was really special? Maybe you can only firmly stamp the 'ACTUALLY AMAZING FOREVER' label after a few decades have slipped by, when a generation of people who weren't even born when it was released - cut off from its immediate context - pick it up. Something that will never happen for an album so deeply rooted in it's contemporaneity as, say, Burial's Burial or Basshunter's Now You're Gone - The Album.

Maybe. But surely there are attributes that can be recognised at the time: just the right variety in the style of the tracks; a collection of well-drawn sentiments; a spark that means you're torn between listening to it on repeat forever and ringing all of your friends to tell them to put it on IMMEDIATELY. Jamie T's new release 'Kings and Queens' nails each of these.

A real step forward from the lovely mess of Panic Prevention, the record strolls through some recognisable posturing in 'Sticks 'n' Stones' and 'Chaka Demus', stripped down beauty in 'Spider's Web', and ends with an incredible suite of three songs that show a maturity unimaginable in its predecessor. A brilliant piece of work that is at least a contender for album of the year, and potentially the source of future discussion with a geriatric Kirsty Young.

On Spotify.

Jamie T - Spiders Web .mp3

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Miike Snow - "Like a not-shit Sam Sparro"

The seasons are changing, it's raining a bit and it was dark at 8 o'clock yesterday. It's time for buying jumpers and 'the sound of the Autumn.' Here it is! Two Swedish people with Swedish names like Pontus and Christian, and an American man (who to keep up with the 'names that are definitely from the country of your birth' theme of the group should be called 'Brett' or 'Brad', but is disappointingly only an 'Andrew'.)

They know a lot about dusk in Sweden, and here they seem to have pulled a bit of it from between the trees and hanging over motorways and put it on to a record.

On Spotify.

Especially all of it. But especially especially Black and Blue.

Really. Black and Blue is 'very good'.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Pop Polaroids: Noah & The Whale at Pure Groove

N&TW have always sounded like they are on the cusp of becoming a parody of themselves, like a folk version of The Darkness. Their first album was just on the shamelessly beautiful side of the barrier separating them from a place in the ukelele-filled rubbish-folk area of hell, and it was one of their debut's stand out tracks, the hymnal 'Give a Little Love', that they chose to open with in the intimate* setting of the Pure Groove record shop in East London.

The band seemed to have decided that the hymnal, introspective side of their music was perfect for the venue, as the new material they chose to showcase fitted into this mold. The worst of these was 'I Have Nothing', with 6th Form lyrics including 'I have nothing, I have no one... I love nothing, I love no one'. Fact: It doesn't matter if you're being clever about the freedom of oblivion and the emotional power of rebirth if your song is really boring.

On the other hand, 'Love of an Orchestra' is like the theme tune you would want to hear to a childrens' programme about adventures at a car boot sale. It's only short (you can find it at their MySpace) but is utterly, utterly perfect. Hopefully the new 'album and film' will be more focused on this than devastating nothingness.

* i.e. small and sweaty

Monday, 24 August 2009

This week's best song ever: Bloody Beetroots - House N° 84

Ticking the boxes on the summer hit '09 checklist:

Euphoric rising strings? CHECK.
90's dance revival female wailing? CHECK.
Filtery breakdown bit? CHECK.
Potential to be used on a T4 'highlights of the summer' ident? CHECK, CHECK and TRIPLE CHECK.

Well done chaps.

Friday, 21 August 2009

"Are you... Portugese?" Calvin Harris Album Launch Party

After he announced it on Twitter at 3:26pm, it seemed like most of East London might be ready to celebrate the launch of 'Ready for the Weekend' five-and-a-half hours later. Because of the impromptu nature of the gig, the East Village Club venue, packed by 8:30, initially seemed a little overwhelmed, but the vibe was good and via some shameless loitering we squeezed like the world's best informed toothpaste through the door to the basement club.

Deadmau5 was phenomenal. A huge set of thumpingly modern electro-house, then a really down-tempo moment, causing a few people around us to suggest that this meant it was 'time for Calvin', before a brief 'Knights of Cydonia' singalong and an unbelievably teasing mix of 'I Remember' (well, teasing to anyone over familiar with the colossal drop on the Caspa remix). There were a few in the crowd wearing Deadmau5 t-shirts, clearly drawn by the rodent-monikered Torontan rather than Mr Harris, pouring out enough reverence to encourage a lap of honour from the DJ in a massive red Deadmau5 head during Calvin's set. Well done Deadmau5.

At this stage, apparently, JLS were there. Too busy 'cutting some rug' to notice. Does this mean we were 'too cool for JLS'? If we had arrived in the public consciousness via some kind of blogging reality show there would, no doubt, be headlines like 'Life in Flashback in JLS Snub - Aston Speaks Out' on the front of Heat next week.

Calvin stepped up to the standard set by Deadmau5, dropping a series of crowd-pleasers including 'You're Not Alone' (his one, not the Olive one from the 90s. Although 'You're not Alone '96' vs. 'You're Not Alone '09' has clear mashup potential. GET 2MANYDJ'S ON THE PHONE PLEASE.), both 'Bonkers' and 'Dance Wiv Me', plus the inspired choice of 'The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)'.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

This week's best song ever: Black Moth Super Rainbow

mp3: Black Moth Super Rainbow - Born on a Day the Sun Didn't Rise

Some comparisons you could make to how this song sounds:
  • Like someone's peered into the summer music bargain bin in THE BEST SHOP IN THE WORLD and pulled out Liar Liar by the Castaways, then decided that they could do better.
  • Like walking out of school in your very own 80's coming-of-age movie and suddenly realising that, inexplicably, you're being directed by Sophia Coppola. Cue montage.
  • Like the sky has melted until it's become the consistency of golden syrup, then fallen to softly surround you, like a massive blue lava lamp.
Or, as my friend Sarah said yesterday, like a favourite song you've known forever and have just rediscovered. An old friend back for the summer holidays.

Born on a day the sun didn't rise - Black Moth Super Rainbow

Saturday, 30 May 2009

This week's best song ever: Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks

Like taking a ride through the Californian desert in an open-topped Cadillac only to come across a town of entirely identical houses, like the one from Edward Scissorhands, populated by eerie Brian Wilson devotees calling out sweet harmonies. Except also like a perfect summer pop song. Wonderful.

Here's the video, by Patrick Daughters of Feist - '1-2-3-4' fame, coming on like Jonze meets Cunningham:


Plus for anyone else like my flatmate Colin, here's some more information on actually grizzly bears. It includes the phrase "Over time, it seems the grizzly bears have benefited from the presence of the grey wolf," which alone makes reading the article worthwhile.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Urban Evolution

Some new paste ups have appeared just round the corner, straying from their usual territory of the Digbeth end of the Chinese Quarter (at least that's where I've seen them. And on Moseley Road - but by the looks of this Flickr group they're all over the shop).

Strangely enough some of the tentacles you can see on Flickr started to appear during my second year at York. Nationwide movement or a lone tentacle paster? Keep your eyes open for Urban Evolution.