Friday, 31 December 2010

Albums of 2010: #1: The ArchAndroid

#1: 'The ArchAndroid' by Janelle Monae

I have always been a soul kid at heart, so it's no surprise that a form of modern soul (fused with R&B, funk and indie) has taken the top spot on my personal countdown for 2010. Janelle Monae has been creeping her way into the industry for a few years now, collaborating with the likes of Outkast and signing to Bad Boy Records in 2006. She released a mini-album, 'Metropolis: Suite One', in 2007 which set the basis for her unique blend of genre conventions, the soul burning at the heart of her sound and the sci-fi themes that make me absolutely, positively want to marry her.

Sci-fi and music often make me go slightly gaga and may explain my obsession with all things Bowie, so when this album appeared in my life, I knew it would settle into my heart and never leave. 'The ArchAndroid' is a concept album about an android named Cindi Mayweather, sent back in time to free the citizens of a city called Metropolis, looking to bring back love to the suppressed people minority. Overtures are seldom used in modern music but Miss Monae opens the album with a dramatic orchestral flourish, bringing in cinematic, historical and visual ties alongside everything else on offer. Janelle is a master of crafting a tale and presenting it with a hundred other influences at the back of your mind, whilst producing something wholly unique, original and outstanding.

Outkast style hip-hop bursts into life on the likes of 'Dance or Die' with Big Boi himself even appearing on breakout single 'Tightrope' (the video of which showcases the jawdropping movement and grace in the choreography of our titular innovator). R&B that showcases a voice with the breadth and depth of Mary J Blige is a recurring tone, with 90s beats and nu-soul soundbites on the likes of 'Locked Inside' and 'Neon Valley Street'. Even indie rock pushes its way through the fold with Of Montreal (who Janelle supported on tour) cracking their way into the funk-laden 'Make The Bus'. Superbly strange sound manipulation is used with a deft hand in the backmasking of 'Neon Gumbo' and the echoing spiralling rock of 'Mushrooms and Roses'.

'Cold War' is the most incisive and personal track on offer, providing a profound and thrilling journey into her mind, taking on the issues surrounding roles of minoritiesm, specifically females, in society and in the music world. The music video (watch it below) is a stunning depiction of individual emotion with the camera focusing on the beautiful face of Miss Monae as she sings her heart out, recalling the famed Sinead O Connor video, especially as a tear streaks down her face at the line 'I was made to believe there's something wrong with me...'

One of the last tracks on the album, 'Say You'll Go' is a slow and steady electronic-tinged melody with Janelle's carefully controlled vocals lamenting drifting alongside, reminiscient of a Stevie Wonder ballad from his peak in the 70s. To top it all of, the track breaks down into my favourite piece of classical music, 'Clair De Lune' from the 3rd movement of Suite Bergamasque by Claude Debussy, cementing her as the love of my life and 'The ArchAndroid' as the most beautiful, beguiling and groundbreaking records of 2010.

Albums of 2010: #2: Hadestown: A Folk Opera

#2: 'Hadestown: A Folk Opera' by Anais Mitchell (& guests...)


Time for something understated, underrepresented and underappreciated, yet a record I have been obsessed with, on and off, for almost the whole of 2010. Anais Mitchell is a little known folk singer-songwriter from Vermont who happens to be a bit damn clever, having created a record based around the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, set around the time of the Great Depression, using a host of guest artists as each character, creating an actual bloody folk opera. Anais plays Eurydice, Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver fame) plays Orpheus, Greg Brown plays Hades, Ani Di Franco plays Persephone, Ben Knox Miller plays Hermes and the Haden Triplets as the mysterious fates.

Nothing is underplayed here, with each chapter of the fable getting it's own vibe and sentiment, from the ballad-like 'Wedding Song' to the upbeat jazz of 'Way Down In Hadeston', taking the listener on a journey through the story, from beginning to end. It is an album that requires at least one full listen through (if not a billion) although it holds a handful of tracks that can be picked out as inventive, wondrous folk tracks individually.

Each player's voice is absolutely perfect for their respective roles; just listen to Greg Brown's growling, snarling tone on the likes of 'Hey Little Songbird' and imagine the fiery headed God of the Underworld towering over, powerful doom and gloom accompanying his rasping voice. Justin Vernon's falsetto soars and sweeps along, depicting the absolute icon of a loving, grieving, aching Orpheus; 'Wait For Me' showcases the absolute depths of human despair (alongside a wonderfuly whispering Ben Knox Miller advising our heroic but doomed character) whilst 'If It's True' is absolute loss, bemoaning the entire world for the death of love.

Our story plays out exactly as the myth, which I won't spoil for any unaware of the tale (but go get on it losers...), with melancholy mired in beauty weaving its way from start to finish. Anais Mitchell, and Michael Chorney who scored the record, have crafted a modern masterpiece of storytelling, fusing music and literature, and (hopefully) setting the basis for a host of amazing future folk operas....




Albums of 2010: #3: I'm New Here

#3: 'I'm New Here' by Gil Scott-Heron


Poetry is the progenitor of hip-hop, the use of spoken words to convey something artistic or emotional, so it is beautiful to see Gil Scott-Heron back after a long absence, bringing back the personal depth, honesty and beauty of the spoken word (along with some pounding rhythms to keep everything humming, ticking and bopping along). In the 70s, he spoke out for the black community, and for America in general, about the harsh political truths tearing the country apart. With 'I'm New Here', he has decided to look within (albeit speaking out about certain truths in the world simultaneously), exploring his life, loves and relationship with the world.

The record opens with the first part of 'On Coming From A Broken Home', where Gil Scott-Heron tells the listener a pulsating tale of his upbringing, and how he came to be the man he is today. This is all set to the backing track of 'Flashing Lights', a perfect nod to the iconic hip-hop star of today, another man with the same mindset of insight and self-awareness. Kanye had previously used a sample of 'Home is where the Hatred Is' on 'My Way Home', and used 'Comment No 1' to close out his most recent masterpiece (No 10 on this very countdown). Robert Johnson's 'Me and the Devil' and 'Your Soul and Mine' plough through the emotional self-worry and sense of worry deep down in the heart of Mr Scott-Heron, whilst numerous interludes give us wonderful little snippets of poetry and thought.

Massive Attack beats and soulful growls and scowls give the record an enormous sense of age, gravitas and levity, rumbling along like a slow but steady freight train, forcing its way into your mind. Unexpectedly, but absolutely amazingly, a Smog cover provides the title track with 'I'm New Here', a track that is perfect for the return of our titular poet with lines such as “No matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around”, sung with a perfectly-pitched low tumbling vocal strain. If Gil Scott-Heron stays on the so called straight and narrow and keeps on digging into his own mind, heart and soul, we will hopefully get another record that defines depth; and a record that overthrows the tired old hip-hop stereotypes, cliches and content, in favour of something altogether more meaningful, personal and, ultimately, powerful.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Albums of 2010: #4: The Fool

#4: 'The Fool' by Warpaint


Warpaint have been around, in altered forms, since around 2004 and an EP released last year ignited the blogosphere with ravings of the supernatural stylings offered forth by the LA girl gang. And now an album exists, titled ‘The Fool’, with over half of the tracks spread out idly over five minutes yet this extensively straining sound is barely noticeable, such is the subdued ferocity that the album emits. The whole thing seeps by, filtered through layers and layers of archaic mysticism. Backing vocals embed themselves as an extra instrument, recalling choral command via spiritual rituals of old. The band drift between a Siouxsie-style gloom and a Sonic Youth growl with each passing refrain, two comparisons that still ring far from the peculiar display of euphonic whisperings on offer.

Each song title remains a short, sharp jab of similarity to the sound, in contrast to the winding, weaving, unwrapping five minute wanderings behind the name. ‘Shadows’ spins into life with the resonance of a warped record, crawling in the shade of a thick woodland cover beneath a starless eve. Opener ‘Warpaint’ strums a Joy Division throb with an unfathomably sultry vocal stride. ‘Undertow’ is a power play, with hints of seventies stoner rock and dashes of melodic indie pop combining to form an painstakingly sublime six minute ode to bitterness, where Warpaint drag you with them the whole way down.

The record treads the line between winter and autumn, full of frosty detachment and chilly uncertainty. ‘The Fool’ is an album to curl up with in the witching hour, with a fire burning and something hallucinogenic in the air. Warpaint are four females who have pursued a sound that unites melancholy and magic, beautifully haunting and enchanting in equal measure. In doing so, they have devised one of the albums of 2010, taking some sound supposedly sensual and slicing out all of the romantic lust until you’re left with an animalistic iciness.



Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Albums of 2010: #5: Shut Up, Dude/Sit Down, Man

#5: 'Shut Up, Dude' & 'Sit Down, Man' by Das Racist


Yeah yeah I know, two records shouldn't be allowed; ALBUM OF THE YEAR, NOT ALBUMS YOU PRAT! But shut up, that's why. Two albums in the same year from three of the greatest hip-hop minds of 2010, namely Das Racist, three Brooklyn boys whose minds must consist of piles and piles of pop culture, literary references, philosophical musings and constant, incessant, jawdropping rhymes. If you shake out a few of the duds that hide themselves between the 38 songs over these two records, you have the greatest and most innovative hip-hop record of the last few years.

Sounding like a richly rhythmic Cool Kids, Das Racist first released 'Shut Up, Dude' showcasing three bright eyed, upbeat, party animals at the heart of the creation; shimmying along with head-bopping samples and sound effects amidst a clutch of rapid-fire, endlessly repeatable phrases that fire off here, there and everywhere. For example, 'You Oughta Know' speeds up a Billy Joel lyrical line whilst words spits forth references to Lionel Richie, the nature-nurture argument and Twitter. 'Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell' is a heart pounding ode to fast-food and 'Nutmeg' oozes 90s hip-hop summery vibes. Das Racist explore the world of the hipster through hip-hop, taking trips through explorations of racial stereotypes and almost-comedic observations of the world around them.

The whole process continues on 'Sit Down, Man', a release for the Autumnal months as everything slows down and seems to mature, drifting along with a more serious tone, albeit with all of the pop-culture inanities and high-speed hipster-hop that the trio of Himanshu, Victor and Ashok emanate. Celebrity cameos creep into the record, a sign of the meteoric rise and stature of the group, from Lakutis to Teengirl Fantasy but this overwhelming show of support does little to plug the flow of ferociously fabulous beats and rhymes. 'Hahahahaha jk?' highlights the smarts on offer, steeped in self irony thanks to a soap opera base and more references to both the most mainstream and the most obscure cultural symbols. Throughout this second attempt, the trio utilise and reference the likes of The Doors, the world of advertising, Garfield, Paris Hilton, Christmas, Kraftwerk and, of course, racial stereotypes, leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of rhymes, rhythm and revolutionary hip-hop.

It is worth a mention that both of these records were free releases online and that Das Racist have utilised the net with flair, creating an 8-bit video game and running an amusing Twitter account to keep their legions of growing fans happy. They have been labelled as weedrap, nerdrap, posthip-hop and yet all that matters is that Das Racist are three artists with overflowing brains set atop their heads, full of all sorts of wisdom and words that will hopefully fill a hell of a lot more mixtapes with what they describe as "'deconstructionalist': sawing the legs out from under hip-hop as they celebrate it."

Albums of 2010: #6: This Is Happening

#6: 'This Is Happening' by LCD Soundsystem


A trilogy either consists of a gradual but definite decline, plummeting from the exciting, original first attempt right through to the turgid, tired, downcast finale, or an action packed, ever-exuberant expression that only strengthens and adapts with each successive release. In music, this is usually in the former camp as groups burst into existence with a phenomenal debut and then fail to ignite the same fuses with each subsequent album. James Murphy was a Brooklynite before Brooklyn really got big, taking his electronic music and merging it with a whole realm of pop from the last five decades, bringing something labeled 'Dance Punk' to the attention of the world, and absolutely positively crafting the most wondrous kind of trilogy. This was music that indie kids could really get down and dirty to...

And, with both a heavy heart and a sigh of relief, 'This Is Happening' is LCD Soundsystem's last hurrah, an Eno-inspired blast of intelligent, mature backlash against an industry that is fast outgrowing the 40 year old hipster at the helm. 'Dance Yrself Clean' shuffles into a muffled introduction to disguise the horn-like synth that stabs into the track and shakes the speaker, and your dancing feet, across the room. 'Drunk Girls' is a lesson in all-out, 'White Light/White Heat' dance rock from a wise master whilst 'All I Want' reveals a bitter somberness amidst the 70s guitar swoons.

We get to see a glimpse at the reasoning behind the sudden retirement of LCD on 'You Wanted A Hit', with Murphy and co spending nine minutes giving the most beautiful and twitchy 'fuck you' to the music industry. 'I Can Change' is a moody Human League ballad, jerking with the resonance of regret as Murphy croons out those words we have all thought (and realised we really, really, really shouldn't have) 'I can change, if it helps you fall in love'.

James Murphy has accepted his status as an icon of cool, saying "I understand that if someone's going to make me his idea of cool I can't control that." although you can feel the indie kid inside him squirming at the thought. Well, I am sorry Mr Murphy but this record, and the entire LCD legacy, will have you cited and listed as the benchmark for 'cool' for a few years to come yet (until you decide to come back under a pseudonym and blow everything away, of course).

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Albums of 2010: #7: I Speak Because I Can

#7: 'I Speak Because I Can' by Laura Marling

I recall first seeing Laura Marling in 2007 at my first Camden Crawl, having found her through my regular, geeky online trawls through blogs and the world of Myspace music, and managed to fall in love with her somewhere between the time she started and the time she finished her first song. I blogged about her here wayyy back on April 9th that year (PROOF!). A jaw-droppingly beautiful first album that ached with a wealth of knowledge years beyond her young age appeared in 2008 and it took another couple of years for Miss Marling to return with 'I Speak Because I Can', another release that oozes a melancholy folk ethos that yet again evokes the wisdom of a much more mature folk mistress.

The tracks here haunt the recesses of the mind, embedding themselves via a simple array of classical instruments, cutting through the heart and soul with a preposterous precision thanks to the crystal clear clarity in the tone and lyrics tumbling from the mouth of Marling. 'Devil's Spoke' rumbles into existence to mark her return, dipping into a dark blues territory thanks to a subtely rollicking riff. She soon settles down with the melancholy-tinged 'Blackberry Stone', dropping into innately personal mutterings of 'You never did learn to let the little things go', almost whispering into your ear as if stretched out beside you (which I would love very very very much).

There is a sophistication on offer that puts the recent cutesy indie folk scene dominant in Britain (Mumford and Noah etc) to shame (however much she was a part of it), taking her cues from the likes of Joni Mitchell and Nick Cave to take heartfelt tales and transform them into soaring melodies and deeply intimate lyrical reflection. Nick Drake-like storytelling is at the heart of Marling's approach, settled so softly and yet oh so powerfully in 'Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)', a wintery wilderness of self-awareness. Each new release and appearance from Marling has my heart racing and my mind melting, such is the fragility and beauty on offer, poised in an alluring delicacy that seems both so personal and yet so distant.


Albums of 2010: #8: The Suburbs

#8: 'The Suburbs' by Arcade Fire


I often drift into High Fidelity mode and ponder my ever-shifting top albums of all time which generally consists of records of days-gone-by; Bowie, Stevie, Joy Division et al. A smattering of contenders post-2000 appear every once in a while but none more consistently than Arcade Fire and, more specifically, their mind blowing debut 'Funeral'. Easily my most revisited album of the decade about to pass, Arcade Fire came together as several odd Canadians to change indie pop into something more meaningful, creating concept albums that defy the logic of concept albums.

2010 bought their third offering, an album full of the heartbreak and heartwarmth of adolescence, catching that ethos of youth so precisely, it's almost impossible to see Win, Regine and friends as fully grown adults. 'The Suburbs' veers from chipper piano to sweepingly somber orchestral fluttering, taking the listener on a teenage dream of a journey from start to finish. The concept floats from the enclosed entrapment of the so called suburbs, dreaming of escape and excitement, to the trials and tribulations of a career driven lifestyle dicated within 'We Used To Wait', where a longing for a more secure and restless time is pumped out via new wave chords and a subdued piano piece.

Arcade Fire manage to weave between genre landmarks, from the 'Heroes' sound-a-like of 'Half Light II (No Celebration)' to the laidback Americana musings of 'Wasted Hours', whilst some form of indie electro dances about on 'Sprawl II', ending up with a style and sound echoing a pot-head Blondie. Here lies the ultimate success of 'The Suburbs', with 16 tracks somehow managing to sound brisk, fresh and breezy whilst summing up every youthful triumph, mistake, opportunity and experience, using a veritable smorgasbord of sounds, instruments and ideas in order to reach the widest range of recipients, diving headfirst into their brain and yanking on all of the musical memories until something hurts.

Arcade Fire are a group with their wits about them, crafting three modern and intelligent albums that hark back whilst evoking utter emotion with an unexplainable ease. And on top of all this, they work with numerous charities, gig incessantly and manage to create videos that interact with your location and push the boundaries of what is possible with technology, music and visuals. Arcade Fire have ruled the noughties with a soft and gentle touch; it is difficult to see where else they can go, but it will be damned exciting to watch them wander.


Monday, 27 December 2010

Albums of 2010: #9: Crazy For You

#9: 'Crazy For You' by Best Coast

This year I have had an inner battle over whether I would prefer the musical life of the West Coast Californian Haze or the Inner City New York Brooklyn lifestyle (more on this later in the countdown), but Best Coast, with a big dollop of lead singer Bethany Cosentino, gave me a giant push towards the Beach Boys notion of living. Lead singer Bethany has a cat famous on Twitter and was previously in the wondrous but odd Pocahaunted...so things were bound to get interesting with a debut record from the beach rock trio known as Best Coast.

They crafted a sound that went back in time and invented 1950s grunge, taking elements of surf rock and fusing them with modern indie pop and lo-fi recording techniques. 'Crazy For You' is a record that combines simple and proven ideas and stirs them in a bucket of sunshine and sentiment. Opening track 'Boyfriend' bursts into life with a surf rock drumbeat before a tale of distant attraction pines forth, setting a sensitive sensibility for the rest of the record. Everything rattles with raw passion and power, from the one-two punch of 'Summer Mood' right on through to the manic bop and pop of 'Each & Everyday'.

The majority of the content in the depths and doorways of Best Coast's musical mind consists of melancholy memories and lustful longing, aching, pining and clawing its way towards 'When I'm With You', a closing track that crawls through droning guitars and melodious musings on some kind of joyful unification, AT LAST. Best Coast is a blender full of intelligent easy listening, meandering along in a brisk half an hour, like the cool kid in sunglasses that shuffles around on their own time. It's effortless yet exciting and here's hoping it all back just in time for the sunshiny, shimmering summer of 2011...



Albums of 2010: #10 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'

#10: 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' by Kanye West


Kanye jumped from crazy to disgusting to egotistical to genius in a matter of months in 2010, releasing a ridiculously anticipated fourth record with the correct amount of bombast at the tail end of November. 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' is a record full of superb samples, spot-on guest spots, heavyweight hooks and a whole host of lyrical rumination, telling the tale of Kanye and his Beautiful Dark Twisted mind...

Nicki Minaj kicks off 'Dark Fantasy' with a British accent introduction before Kanye's (possible) magnum opus kicks into gear. Nicki makes a monstrous turn on 'Monster' later in the record, almost upstaging Kanye in the process. But Mr West's ego charges his way through the heart of the record, even with a number of guests making their voices, beats and presence known, balancing themselves precariously within an album teetering dangerously close to the brink of implosion.

A 35 minute video, 'Runaway', cemented Kanye as the man of the musical moment, taking hip-hop into artistic territory with the addition of ballet and cinematography. And said track, 'Runaway', turns a simple piano plink into a weaving, diving epic 9 minute musing on fame, ego and the self. 'Blame Game' features the silken-voiced John Legend and a riffing Chris Rock take on the end of a relationship, and Kanye manages to turn Bon Iver into masterfully headbopping hip-hop on 'Lost in the Woods'. Poet and spoken word artist extraordinaire Gil Scott-Heron finishes the main bulk of the record, turning Kanye from an egotistical monster into the peerless and paramount producer and artist of 2010.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Ho-Ho-Ho Christmas: Sufjan Stevens (& The National)


Christmas comes but once a year but music is FOREVER, and Sufjan Stevens is an artist with a prolific ability to pump out song after song (the majority of which is insanely good, only increasing my jealousy and lust for the melody maestro).

He has already created and released a bumper record chock full of Festive tracks in 2006 and now he is back with a cracker ready to burst with old and new Christmas songs, recorded with half of The National, namely the Dessner brothers. It takes us on folky, indie pop wanderings through jingle bells and, at one point, odd laser synth sounds that somehow sound as if you are shooting to the North Pole.
'No-one Can Save You From Christmasses Past' is the most melodious of melancholy, mired in that holiday gloom that somehow sounds sprightly (just see the likes of 'Blue Christmas' et al). And 'Barcarola' is the kind of rambling indie pop that Sufjan does best, fiddling along with the vocal saccharine that only Mr Stevens can spin and spurn.

Check out all of the tracks via Soundcloud below, drink some mulled wine and imagine a White Christmas (oh...never mind...)

Sufjan Stevens - Gloria! Songs for Christmas, Vol. 6 by rawkblog

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Artist of the Day #7: Breathe Owl Breathe

Artist of the Day #7:
Breathe Owl Breathe

I really do suck at this whole band a day thing BUT I like to think of myself as weeding out the terrible and horrible by only putting up bands that reveal themselves as wondrous (rather than simply drinking too much, wasting too much time on Football Manager and/or FIFA, getting to excited about Santa's imminent arrival and catching up on US television via the interweb).

All the way from over the big ol' pond (why do people call it a pond, it is quite definitely not a pond), from Michigan in the US of A, Breathe Owl Breathe are a trio who take the Bon Iver schtick and saunter down a winding road of pop, into an altogether more pretty place. The music here forms a gentle delicacy, fragile and untouchable, held together by a smorgasboard of oddity, from sweeping strings, to base computer blips.

'Own Stunts' is a track that starts to drift upwards and outwards when the choral chorus comes into play, maintaining a solid grounding in the gruffly sweet vocals of Micah Middaugh. 'Dogwalkers of the New Age' starts a little Postal Service, then trips over into indie pop before ending with a hauntingly classical note, and shows that Breathe Owl Breathe have some tricks up their charming sleeves.

A free Daytrotter recording session is available here and check out their suitable lo-fi, low key video for 'Lake Light'.

Breathe Owl Breathe - Lake Light from Miscellany on Vimeo.



Ho-Ho-Holidays are Coming: Kanye West


It's a Kanye Christmas Cacophany!

Not content with crafting one of the albums of the year in
'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy', Kanye keeps on keeping on, releasing another track that combines superb samples, a smattering of guests and a smooth and luscious hook.

AND IT'S A CHRISTMAS SONG!

The man, however insane and egotistical, can do no musical wrong in my eyes;
'Christmas In Harlem' samples some Motown shuffle, throws in a sultry R&B chorus and then Kanye pumps out a series of words festooned in festivity. Thank you Santa....

Kanye West (feat Teyana Taylor & CyHi Da Prynce) - Christmas In Harlem by DJRADIO718

Monday, 13 December 2010

Ho-Ho-Holidays Are Coming: Los Campesinos!

On the 13th of December,
New Narcotics gives to you...
Los Campesinos!

Deck the halls with boughs of blah blah, as it is that time of year again and a smattering of alternative holiday songs begin to arrive down the musical chimney. Upbeat indie popstars Los Campesinos! have created a merry kind of melancholy with 'Kindle A Flame In Her Heart', free online and due to be released on a 7" with the band's own fanzine, Heat Rash.

Kindle A Flame In Her Heart by Los Campesinos!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Ho-Ho-Holidays Are Coming: The Forest & The Trees

Tis' the season to be merry (both in the drunken and jolly sense) and I am bloody madly merry at the moment. SO, without a doubt New Narcotics will be devoting some time each day to allow your ears some holiday happiness via some musical merriment!

I may not be Santa (despite my best attempts) but I can give the gift of spirited sounds of the most wonderful time of the year!!!!!!!!!

On the 12th of December,
New Narcotics gives to you...

The Forest & The Trees

Joel and Linnea Edin are a married Swedish couple who decided to make some music for their friends one holiday season, before realising the two of them sounded pretty darn pretty on record. So, they became The Forest & The Trees and branched out into more general tales of heartbreak and love, set to a jaunty indie pop soundtrack, fleshed out with a wonderful hook or two along the way.

Here is one of those first Christmas presents, originally for close friends and families, and now for the whole wide world! 'Santa Claus is Coming' bops along through a wilderness of bells and percussion and a gorgeously entwined vocal duet, with the striving vocals of Joel and the harmonious tones of Linnea, wrap the whole thing in a beautifully sonic ribbon. AND ALL FOR FREE!


Saturday, 4 December 2010

#6: Foxx Bandits

Artist of the Day #6:
Foxx Bandits

It is always a tricky question of allegiance when a friend, or even close acquaintance, forms a musical making group and then invites you to a show, or to listen to their newly recorded work. God forbid, what happens if you happen to hate the sounds pouring out of your friends mind and mouths? WHAT DO YOU SAY?!

Thank GOD that a friend of mine has formed a band with their pulse on the music scene, alongside a trio of talented and musically minded individuals, who know how to manipulate instruments and words to squeeze pure emotional ethos into a track. Foxx Bandits are a foursome based out of London who have gone all over the place in one year of existence, from folk pop to shoegaze to lo-fi, all the whilst notching up a selection of surprisingly successful gigs at the likes of Koko and the Barfly.

An EP is long overdue but they are releasing 'Gold Dresses' this upcoming Monday the 6th December at the Social. This may seem like one big advertisment for the gig, which it sort of is, but HELL, when you give the likes of 'Kafka' a listen, I defy you not to get down on your knees and thank me (in a pleading rather than dirty way). 'Kafka' oozes sincerity and sentiment with the sweetest melodic mix of xylophone and softly sung vocals before dropping into an overbearing wall of sound in the final third, which rattles your heart when heard live. Similarly 'Youth' starts off with a hark back to indie rock riffdom before charging its way to an adolescent sing-along chorus that churns up shared collective memories of youth and young love, evocative of a much more upbeat (and fuzzy) version of The Smiths or a much more calm version of The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Nothing more can be said, except CHECK THEM OUT, give this wondrous cover a listen, and come to the Social on Monday FOR FREE (where I shall also be spinning some records inbetween musical acts)....

Friday, 3 December 2010

#5: Rumour Cubes

I apologise for the delay in a NEW BAND but I blame the following things; weather, work, drinks, friends, pubs, shops, transport and family.....

And NOW, excuses out of the way, and some tuneful treats!!

Artist of the Day #5:
Rumour Cubes


Post rock was originally a musical genre beyond me, sprawling out for what seemed like hours in dreamy, far-off visions of wonderment. I was a youngster wrapped up in blares of soul, R&B and the swathes of indie rock that dominated adolescent stereos from the start of the new millennium. Then Sigur Ros came into view, approachable and sumptuous, a gateway into the world of dawdling instrumental meanders into melody and ambiance.

Thankfully my mind and ears have opened in harmony to billion different genres and supposed styles of songwriting, and now I offer forth Rumour Cubes as my band of the day. Consisting of six like-minded musicians centred around London town, they blend delicacy and power within the space of the same track, towering above the world and suddenly burrowing headfirst into the dirt.

Mucky guitars stand alongside sauntering violin and relentless percussion, eking out an altogether uplifting sound that scatters patches of disconsolate despair amidst the soaring string sections. 'The University is a Factory' seeps into life with a cinematic sentiment, before setting off into madness, rising and rising before the beautifully orchestrated decline into riotous fuzz, buzz and scuzz.

You can download their EP for FREE here at Bandcamp, titled 'We Have Sound Houses Also', and then check their soundscaping potential out live at the Workshop on December 8th (where you can come and buy me a drink for introducing you to such a wondrous act).

Monday, 29 November 2010

#4: First Rate People

Artist of the Day #4:
First Rate People

I have discussed this band before, back in the bewilderingly sporadic and schizophrenic days of New Narcotics, and will continue to do so until every last man, woman and child (who drift by this blog) fall in love with them. They are a band from Toronto (the Canadian musical scene manages to churn out such effortless melody makers from time to time- Arcade Fire, Feist, New Pornographers, Bryan Adams(!)) who have spawned a musical free-for-all that churns up beautifully bop-along pop and heartfelt soul, then occasionally lobs in a grenade of electronica or folk. And yet still manage to maintain a consistently delicious sound that transcends genre.





First Rate people produce a range of songs that stretch from heartbreaking acoustic pluckings through to soul-sampling indie R&B. 'Orion' samples a snatch of 'Betcha By Golly Wow' by the Delfonics which manages to sidle up so gorgeously alongside the vocals and synth blares, it sounds like the two were recorded side by side, arm in arm (the fact that this is one of my favourite soul songs may influence my LOVE for this song and band).

But the likes of the dancefloor ditty 'Girl's Night', the electropop pulse of 'Gentleman's Club' and the deliriously weepworthy 'It's Never Not Happening' all add up to make these Canadians possibly my favourite band of the year. And all this without a proper release. I ache and screech for something to be crafted and pushed into my face at high speed from this group, and WISH AND DREAM AND HOPE that they find their way to London, hopefully to my house, to play me some of their music on our British shores.

For now, download a bunch of their tracks from Last FM here and simply fall in lust, love and longing for First Rate People.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

#3: Yamon Yamon

Artist of the Day #3:
Yamon Yamon


A math rock sensibility feels very much part of an outdated fashion, from a mid 2000's scene that flourished and faded as quickly. The likes of Foals have gone on to develop their sound into something with longer, less noodly abstractions, garnering acclaim and new fans in the process. But, and it's a big but, in music (as in all art) consider no form, genre or style dead. A fresh approach, process or even just a slice of something damn good can bring back whatever you assumed lost.

Which brings me to Yamon Yamon, a Swedish band who peddle a relaxed math rock, resembling a stoner parallel of Minus the Bear. They tread the line between pop and post rock, managing to evoke the memory of a handful of bands from your adolescence whilst maintaining a distance up and away from those teenage addictions. The smoothly nonchalant pace feels like a mature act honing their musical talent after years of practice, evident in the subtle overdrive, fingertapping percussion and sparky guitar riffs, jabbing and poking in when suddenly required.


Vocally, lead singer Jon Lennblad possesses an aural quality that sedates and subdues in equal fashion, effortless underneath the delicious array of chords and hooks. 'Alonso' opens the new album This Wilderlessness and lays bare the sheer expression, understated emotional punch and drifting peacefulness that make Yamon Yamon utterly listenable at any point of the day. Album highlights include the ridiculously rhythmic 'Fast Walker' and the impeccably restrained 'No Depression'.

Check out the new album This Wilderlessness HERE and, if you like what you hear (and why shouldn't you!) it is only five English pounds.


Saturday, 27 November 2010

#2: Matthew and the Atlas

Artist of the Day #2:
Matthew and the Atlas


Americana folk should be seen as the bigger, bolder and brasher brother to the recent surge of British Mumford and Marling folk. For some reason, the home nation of Bob Dylan manages to evoke a stronger sense of true heritage when it comes to bedraggled vocals, steadily cautious guitar pickings and an array of traditional percussion.

So, to see a London band, with a vocalist from Aldershot, swell with folk stylings that so vividly recall dusty, backwater Wyoming wilderness, the split between Americana and British folk begins to shake and shatter in the wake of growling vocals about life and love. Matthew & the Atlas are fronted by Mathew Hegarty, a singer who expels a voice so mired in husk and whiskey, managing to resonate an American accent without the usual nasal schtick.

It is difficult to understand how such experience in terms of lyrical content, vocal strain and melodic meandering can spurn from such a young group of British musicians, but it is simply wonderful to listen to regardless. The Nick Drake-like purr of 'Come Out of the Woods' is singed with a slow burning flicker of soul and sadness, whilst 'Beneath The Sea' feels like Tom Waits with a taste for world music.

Give them a listen and maybe pop along to see them at the Luminaire on the 16th December, I shall see thee there.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Carpe Diem!

Artist of the Day #1:
Heinali and Matt Finney

Every now and again, two artists come together to form something spectacular. A great duo can produce something that digs into the musical soul of a listener and wrench or raise the spirit. Heinali is a Ukrainian composer whilst Matt Finney is a poet from Alabama, and the power of technology allows them to construct a sound that blurs the lines between poetry, spoken word, ambience, classical and cinematic cacophanies.

Heinali crafts a resonance that echoes the likes of Vangelis, Clint Mansell and Explosions in the Sky, but twists everything into a skewered sonic perspective of audible distress and emotion. The power lies in an intelligent minimalism, such as taking a simple, rapid piano line on the likes of 'Lemonade', the title track from the 'Lemonade EP', and overlaying it with an aura of distortion and some hushed unexplainable booming.

Matt Finney uses words with wanton precision, creating deep chasms of thought and deliberation with mere mutterings. And these chasms are dark, dank places that dig deep into the twilight of the mind, wrenching at the heart and tormenting anyone with a sense of empathy. This doesn't stop them reaching out to you though, beauteous and powerful in form and stripped of all shields.

Go ahead and sit in silence with nothing but Heinali & Matt Finney for company, and go ahead and purchase the two records on offer, including the bold, bleak fuzz of new release 'Conjoined'. It is a pay as you wish plan but a few quid thrown their way is much, much, much deserved, and I hope you music lovers agree.

Friday, 19 November 2010

A Sprinkling of Sounds...

2 FREAKING MONTHS! 2 gosh darn tooting months without the net thanks to the terrible bureaucracy behind the phone lines at Virgin.

BUT onwards and upwards and forever forward into music and melody; I AM IN LONDON and finally able to listen to new bands at the touch of a button so here is a quick, crammed catchup of bands I can highly recommend to anyone who bothers to read this again....

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Previously known as Wap Wap Wow, now known as Rhosyn, whatever name they go by these Oxfordians (Oxfordites?) concoct a heady mix of archaic melody and choral ditty. The strings that braid the music together form the crux of a wonderfully quixotic sound, stitched into place with a meld of vocals perfectly poised to melt together.


Rhosyn


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Aimee Bea sounds like what I imagine Kate Nash would sound like if she could really sing (no disrespect to either artist named, I super mega promise...). Such a sweet melancholy that recalls a Joni Mitchell ethos with a distinctly adolescent British vibe. Sometimes the simple is simply effective, evident in the delightful strum and effortless strain of 'June'.


Aimee Bea



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Another singer-songwriter up to bat now, straight out of Brighton and with a surprisingly alluring voice that nestles in the recesses of the mind rather snugly. A creative approach to rhythym and cadence as well as an arty eye really shines with the work of Jade Hopcroft. The obsessively simple hook and video for 'Would If You Could' follows you around for days.


Jade Hopcroft



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Aulos are a twopiece from Hereford who churn out cosmically aware geek rock with pounding drums and insane little guitar riffs, hurtling along with breaknerd speed. Simply having a song called 'Nicholas Rage' resonates highly within the pleasure synapses of my mind but these guys manage to maintain that such pleasure throttles back and forth as spiralling symphonies hammer their way through your skull.


Aulos


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Shoes and Socks Off is simply stripped down, melodic, wonderfully lyrical modern alt pop and consists of a lone singer songwriter, Tobias Hayes who was formerly the frontman of Meet Me In St Louis. Nowadays, he takes an unconventional approach to the singer-songwriter schtick and throws together rather rudimentary sounds to form something altogether wholesome in it's musical approach yet manages to burn with a lyrical and vocal delicacy and intensity.


Shoes and Socks Off

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Time for some indie technicality with Rooftops, a Washington based group who do the whole indie tech rock thing with some finess and flourish, brandishing beats and riffs with the precision of a mad musical scientist. Add a dash of suitably comforting vocals and you have the perfect recipe for any Winter blues in the form of a wonderfully uplifting bit of instrumental exploration.


Rooftops

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ENOUGH for noooow...expect more over the weekend...KEEP your ears peeled...

x


Monday, 6 September 2010

Whispers From The Web

Crawling through cyberspace, battling blog by blog and listening to the unlistenable so you don't have to......
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To Brooklyn! I know, I know, Brooklyn this, Brooklyn that. But I simply can't help it if so many damn good bands are piledriving around the place. Come on England, step your game up!

Night Manager are a fourpiece who churn out some lo-fi, unfathomable slacker indie. The vocals of Caitlin Seager are distant and harmonious, sent through a phantom zone and zapped back to our ears, aligning in a spooky coalition with grunge-tinged guitars and pulsing percussion.

'Blackout Sex' in particular is so laid back, it falls over into a scuzzy no-mans land full of wonder.

Night Manager's Myspace

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And well done England I suppose for such a quick retort (in my MIND) with South London foursome Beaty Heart. Beaty Heart are another band who have taken the spirit of African triblahblah to heart but manage to do it without sounding like a knock off copycat. They throw together a pile of rhythmic drumbeat into one big cooking pot and it all comes out sounding so very primal, allowing it to melt in your mouth (or ear).

Add in yelps for a bit of vocalisation and some electronic trimmings, and you have Beaty Heart, a true art band who know how to mix the spiritual with the musical. 'Cola' descends into mad cries and warped melody by the end of the track, echoing primitive rituals, whilst 'Get The Girls' utilises a handclap beat not too dissimilar from the world of Gospel. Go get washed away...

Beaty Hearts' Myspace

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Back over to the US, to Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia! This is where Reading Rainbow reside. Reading Rainbow are a duo who soak their music in reverb and a jolly gruffness. The vocals sound like sweet indie pop whilst the guitars rush along on some splendid amphetamine, rough and tumble the whole way.

'Restless' is a sweet pop song caked in grit and grumble, and therefore well worth a listen. They flirt with post-punk sensibility in 'Underground', then wail over the top and chant their way to a fitting finish.



Reading Rainbow's Myspace

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Finally, for now, a band I know very little about except for the fact they make soundtracks to your life. Cabaret Scene are based around London and is a project between a group of friends, started by a guitarist called Charlie Prest. They utilise a range of sounds, styles and instruments to swell everything via math rock, dreamgaze and progressive pop, adding affected vocals where necessary.
'Namaste' starts slowly but surely, steadily gaining a following of new instrumentation until 70s style riffs and electric blotches meet. 'Blueprints' resembles a desert island ditty for the insane man, careening to a crescendo of electro proportions before crashing against the shore in waves of shattered eardrums.

Cabaret Scene's Myspace

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More music arriving shortly....

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Cover Me Slowly

This one's rather high profile compared to previous bursts of musical release showcased on New Narcotics but I love it so much, why not share it with the WORLD (or at least someone else).

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The Raveonettes are a well established duo from Denmark who peddle a true garage rock sound via the realms of shoegaze and surf rock. They have four well received albums out, have worked with the likes of Maureen Tucker and Ronnie Spector and releasing a string of fantastic singles, including my personal favourite 'Love In A Trashcan'.

Meeeeanwhile, Dr. Martens are a shoewear brand (who do dabble in other clothing items) who manufacture a particularly heavy-looking and militaristic style which grew in popularity thanks to swathes of young scenes taking them as part of their fashion uniforms. Skinheads, new wavers and, most prominently, punks decked themselves out in the brand and, ever since, the company has remained linked to the alternative music world.

And this year of 2010 is also the 50th anniversary of the fabled footwear, so the clever people in the PR room have encouraged a bunch of bands to cover their version of a cult classic. The Noisettes and BRMC, amongst others, have put forth something (all listenable HERE and downloadable for FREE HERE) but The Raveonettes, as usual, stand out amongst the deck.

They cover The Stone Roses 1991 hit 'I Wanna Be Adored', a moody, needy sulk of a song. The Raveonettes take all of the emotion and snarl of the original but throw in some extra growling and some wailing guitar lines over the familiar riff. Add in Sharon's breathy vocals which drift up and away so breezily by the end of the track, and you've got one beautiful cover.