Friday, 29 November 2013

Happy Record Store Day, everybody!

And also, happy Black Friday to all you Thanksgiving celebrators! As you may or may not know, Record Store Day is a day that has been celebrated internationally ever since 2008 in order to commemorate independent record stores. The "main" Record Store Day actually takes place on the third Saturday or April but starting from 2010, there has also been an additional Black Friday version of the day. It is marked by a myriad of music-related events: concerts, gatherings, and special album releases, such as specific Record Store Day issues etc. I too was supposed to go to my favourite local store but unfortunately, the less-than-spectacular Danish weather got the best of me so I just came straight home to sulk instead. Too bad.

Anyway, I hope you've had a better whatever day it is you're celebrating, or, in case you're not celebrating anything at all, Friday. Here's a song from one of the Black Friday releases for your weekend: it's called "Guilty As Charged" and it's by Tegan and Sara, a Canadian indie pop duo consisting of identical twin sisters.

And in order to create your very own RSD shopping list, here's a list of all the releases, as reported by Spin:

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Went to see MØ yesterday, she was INSANE.

And when I say 'insane', I mean brilliantly insane in the best of ways. Not being overly familiar with her music I didn't really know what to expect but whatever I might had been expecting, she topped it big time. The gig was a blast, and here's my two pennies on it.

The gig was held at Musikhuset Posten in Odense, Denmark, with MØ (I'm not sure about the capitalisation so I'll just stick with the one used on, my holy Bible of music) being supported by Sekuoia, a glitch-hop project of Copenhagen-based Patrick Alexander Bech-Madsen. I kind of missed the warm-up gig due to arriving late, though. I did manage to see the band's last song or two and while the music was interesting, it wasn't necessarily the best possible choice to open up for MØ - whereas the latter was zestful music to dance to, the former plays much calmer stuff, something you'd rather just chill out to. Outside of the context of a concert, however, Sekuoia's music is quite nice and relaxing - you might want to check his music out. "Evenings" is a personal favourite of mine.

But it was of course MØ that we were there for. While waiting for her gig to begin, I couldn't help noticing the huge amount of high ponytails, braids and hair buns in the audience - a probable reference to the singer's trademark hairstyle. Then again, this is Denmark and I'm starting to believe girls are actually born with their hair tied on a high bun as it tends to be the dominant female hairstyle here (as pointed out by Tumblr user Copenhannah in her hilarious post on how to look like a Dane). Another thing that I found particularly lovely was the diversity of the audience: while the majority obviously consisted of twenty-something hip concert-goers, there always seems to be the occasional older attender or two (or as in this case, like a dozen of them). This is a wonderful phenomenon I've noticed on several occasions, for example when going to that Porcelain Raft gig in Copenhagen a while ago. It's always great to see good music blur the lines between different segments and simply bring people together to enjoy it.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Review: 'Aloosh' EP by Aloosh

Would you like some exciting fresh, um, indie music to brighten up your day? Of course you do! And boy do I have a treat for you - here's Aloosh and their eponymous 2010 debut.

Now, the thing is, it's really tricky to try to pigeonhole Aloosh's sound. It's got nice, catchy melodies but it's not pop. It's got guitars too but it's hardly rock either. Some of the songs even have some electronic elements but... yeah, you get the point. One could simply call it 'indie' but as a matter of fact I've come to kind of hate the word. I mean, what does it even mean anymore? Originally it was used to refer to bands who released music on small, independent record labels with a DIY approach. Low budgets forced these bands to be creative, and they prided themselves on their autonomy and independence from the music industry that was mostly concerned with chart positions and album sales instead of artistic expression, creativity etc.

These days, however, almost anything can be called indie. People call even big (and not necessarily always that 'independent') music acts such as Arcade Fire, Muse and Lana Del Rey 'indie'. Hell, I once saw One Direction of all things being billed as indie! In other words, anything that feels different from the very limited idea of mainstream music is arbitrarily labelled as indie, which used to happen to the term 'alternative' as well (there was a time when all the rock acts seemed to play 'alternative rock', even the chart-topping ones, which does feel a bit contradictory). In essence, the problem is that 'indie' is referred to as if it were a genre of its own, which it obviously isn't. If I told you about a new band and only described it as 'indie', it would be kind of impossible for you to guess how the band actually sounds like - it could be anything from overaged garage rockers living in your neighbourhood to an experimental underground ukulele techno collective from Estonia. Subsequently, the word has suffered an atrocious inflation.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

M.I.A. announces a new exclusive song

Yesterday, eccentric music sensation M.I.A. revealed via her Facebook page that she's got a new song coming out next week. The song will apparently be a Spotify-exclusive, but that's about all we know about it so far - not even a song title has been unveiled. Also, it is currently unknown whether the song will be a stand-alone single (highly unlikely, considering her album was released only earlier this month) or perhaps a song recorded for an upcoming movie soundtrack or something, or if it'll appear as a bonus track on an expanded version of her latest LP Matangi. But next week we'll all be a bit wiser regarding this so stay tuned for more M.I.A.-related news and whatnot.

Hopefully it's a bit more in the style of "Bad Girls" and "Exodus"/"Sexodus" and a bit less like, say, "Y.A.L.A."

Monday, 25 November 2013

Siouxsie Sunday: 'Hyæna' by Siouxsie and the Banshees

After releasing the 1982's experimental A Kiss In The Dreamhouse, guitarist John McGeoch's alcoholism became too much of a burden to the band - he even collapsed onstage once - and he was then fired from the Banshees. Replacement was found in The Cure frontman Robert Smith who had previously played in the band in 1979, albeit only temporarily. This time, however, he wanted to document his stay as a Banshee, so after the group got back together (after the previous Banshee tour, Siouxsie and Budgie recorded their first Creatures LP Feast while Severin and Smith wrote a one-off album Blue Sunshine as The Glove) a live album Nocturne was recorded in 1983. But he also stayed onboard for a proper studio album which was released the following year. And this Sunday it's time to dig into that album, titled Hyæna.

Now, the funny thing is that you can actually hear Smith's influence on the album - at least compared to the other Banshee stuff before it. This is most evident on the lead single "Swimming Horses", whose piano riff could easily come from an eighties Cure track. There are also some other songs on the album that remotely bring to mind Smith's own band, such as The Top album, also released in 1984. The organ-led "Take Me Back" for instance is one of the more Cure-ish tunes here. That is not to say that the album would be some kind of a Cure pastiche, though, but rather a blending of two musical directions: that of Robert Smith, and that of The Banshees.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Trailer for Lana Del Rey's 'Tropico' goes online

That's right folks, Lana Del Rey's mysterious short film project thingy Tropico now has a trailer. We're still not exactly sure what it's supposed to be - Lana herself has called it a "farewell project" which could suggest a retirement from the music biz, but on the other hand, there has been a bunch of leaked songs that apparently were supposed to be on a new album. Go figure. Whatever it might be will be revealed on December 5, the release date announced in the trailer which was published today.

According to Vevo's own statement, the film will be "an epic tale based on the biblical story of sin and redemption and features Del Rey starring as Eve." So there you have it. Indeed, it features a lot of Christian imagery such as Lana holding an apple and facing a snake. There are also people firing guns and Lana working as a stripper, quite likely to emphasise the more sinful side of the story. What we do now is that it will feature music from her Paradise EP.

Personally I have a theory, of course. Lana Del Rey is an image, a persona built by Elizabeth Grant, an American singer-songwriter. Musicians often build these alter egos to create something larger than life, something iconic that will last even when the people behind them won't. And what is the best way for a musician to become immortal? Exactly, die young. If possible, join the infamous 27 Club, a group of artists who have died at the age of 27, including the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and more recently, Amy Winehouse. Then we have Tropico, a "farewell project" made by a singer who's - yes, you guessed right - currently 27 years old. I'm calling it: she's going to release the film, frame her own death, get her face operated beyond recognition (mostly by normalising her lips) and move to French Riviera to live a socialite life as "Hélène de la Croix" (or something like that) while being immortalised by the raving media, lamenting the untimely passing of the dramatic singer. Remember, you heard it here first!

Alright, jokes aside, here's the trailer. You might also want to check out the two teasers released earlier this autumn. The first one has Lana praying to John Wayne (?) while in the second one you can see her admiring Elvis, Marilyn and Jesus - or as she's stated before, her father, her mother, and her bestest friend.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Grace Jones has got a memoir in the making

That's right ladies and gentlemen: miss Grace Jones is writing a memoir! The 65-year-old pop icon (who still packs more punch than most of the other artists around) has apparently changed her mind, considering she had previously stated that she'd never write one - her song "Art Groupie" even begins with lines "I'll never write my memoirs / There's nothing in my book". What made her have a change of heart is not clear but the website Hinterland Gazette speculated that she wouldn't want an unauthorised memoir to be released  (which would probably be inevitable with someone with such a great legacy as Grace Jones).

And one could imagine she's got plenty of material to draw from. From a successful international modelling career and her disco years and hanging out at Studio 54 with the likes of Andy Warhol to becoming one of the most iconic pioneers of androgyny in popular culture and even an actress starring opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1984's Conan the Destroyer and Roger Moore in 1985's Bond flick A View to a Kill, she's had quite a colourful life, wouldn't you say. And that's not even all, she made a musical comeback after 19 years of radio silence with the magnificent Hurricane in 2008 and, according to producer Ivor Guest's Tumblr page, is currently working on a follow-up album! So expect even more greatness from the legend that has influenced everyone from Annie Lennox and Róisín Murphy to Santigold and Rihanna.

And while you're waiting for the book (it's scheduled to come out next autumn), you can get a sneak peek (kind of) in the form of "Williams' Blood", the gorgeous gospel pop single from her comeback album with autobiographical lyrics.

You might also want to check out the Aeroplane remix of the song, it's quite nice as well!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

R.I.P. western black rhinos

Due to poaching and lack of conservation efforts, the western black rhino has been declared officially extinct.

According to Daily Mail, the rare subspecies of the black rhino was heavily hunted in the beginning of the 20th century, before actions were fortunately taken, leading to an increase in population. However, by the 1980s there were only hundreds of them left. Twenty years later, in 2000, there were no more than 10 western black rhinos remaining. The last time the species was spotted was in 2006.

Poaching makes a serious threat for other rhino species as well: only 40 to 60 Javan rhinos are left, living in Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia, while the northern white rhino population of the planet totals at mere seven - two females, five males. Not looking very promising, is it. Experts say that unless something radical is done, the two species will follow the western black rhino to the heaven of animals, joining other hunted to death animals such as the dodo bird.

And since this is a music blog, here is a song I'll dedicate to the western black rhino. It's by a Brooklyn-based indie trio called Rhino House Band (can you see how it popped into my mind?). They are conversely only in the beginning of their career (and fortunately very much alive): the band was founded earlier this year and only has two songs out, though they also have an EP on the way. (It's out soon, according to their website where you can actually download those two said songs for free!) Personally I found them when they started following Popheaval's Tumblr page. And what would I not do to promote new music, right? Long live social media; sleep well, western black rhino, now "sleepin' in a dreamworld", to quote the lyrics. While the song has obviously nothing to do with the sad news, you can almost see the now extinct animals joyfully strolling the endless savannahs of Africa. Too bad that's history now.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Now Lily Allen returns PROPERLY to music with a new single!

Well whaddya know, just yesterday I wrote how Lily Allen recorded this year's John Lewis Christmas advert and today she released the - supposedly - lead single of her forthcoming album with a music video to boot! How great is that. The song is a danceable pop tune called "Hard Out Here" and tackles sexism in the music industry. It's got way too many witty lines about the subject to pick examples from, but when a song opens with lines like "I suppose I should tell you what this bitch is thinking / You find me in the studio and not in the kitchen" you know she's not playing around. "Don't need to shake my ass for you 'cause I've got a brain" she declares, before continuing to assault the double standards of the way people regard men and women's sexual behaviour, today's twisted beauty ideals, and what have you.

The music video centers around the same themes with the clip beginning with Allen lying on an operating table, being criticised because of her imperfect looks. Then the video depicts her living a gold-plated life and toying with a variety of sexual imagery - bananas, bottles of Champagne bursting open etc., before stating "and if you can't detect the sarcasm, you've misunderstood".

She also notably bashes the repulsive slimebag that is Robin Thicke in both the lyrics and the video: in the lyrics, there is a reference to one of the lines from "Blurred Lines" ("Have you thought about your butt / Who's gonna tear it in two?) while the video refers to the part of the aforementioned song's clip where Thicke declares owning a sizable reproductive organ.

Yeah, she's got a sharp tongue and she ain't afraid to use it - good ol' sweary Lily's back. Too bad the song is slightly watered down by the auto-tuned chorus but other than that, it's a classically sarcastic Lily Allen pop tune. And here's the music video, hear/see for yourself!

Lily Allen returns to music on John Lewis Christmas advert

So, Lily Allen's back with a cover of Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" in this year's John Lewis Christmas advert "The Bear & The Hare". The song will probably be a contender for the Christmas number one single this year as the songs featured in the department store's Christmas adverts have tended to do well in the charts: English indie singer Gabrielle Aplin's cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s "The Power of Love" topped the UK Singles Chart last year (although not landing the coveted Christmas number one spot), while Ellie Goulding's cover of Elton John's "Your Song" peaked at #2 in 2010. Allen's chart performance remains to be seen (although you can already bet on her chart-topping chances with estimated odds of 7/1, apparently), but do enjoy this lovely ballad nevertheless.

As you might notice, it's not exactly your average Lily Allen song - no swearing, no sharp lyrics, no shade thrown at past boyfriends. Then again, it is a cover of another song. For a Christmas advert. Lily Allen telling people to fuck off and ridiculing their bedroom performance is hardly what you'd want from a festive tune, now is it.

Meanwhile, Allen has revealed she's working on a follow-up to 2009's It's Not Me, It's You. The album, described by Allen herself as "empowering" with "feminist vibes going on", is set for a 2014 release though no specific release date has been announced. Also, it is currently unknown whether "Somewhere Only We Know" will be included on the album and thus serve as the lead single or if it will remain a stand-alone release. Stay tuned for more related news!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Siouxsie Sunday: 'Feast' by The Creatures

The John McGeoch era of the Banshees (Kaleidoscope in 1980, Juju in 1981 and A Kiss In The Dreamhouse in 1982) is seen by many as a golden age for the group. Indeed, the Banshees created some of their most essential work during that time, most notably the Juju album which helped to carve out a whole new genre. However, as Siouxsie herself once said during her Dreamshow concert, nothing lasts forever - and especially the good things. The Banshees had hard luck with guitarists, even with McGeoch, their most celebrated one: he was struggling with alcoholism and once even collapsed onstage during a concert. He was subsequently hospitalised and soon after, fired. Robert Smith of The Cure was re-recruited as a guitarist, something he had done already back in 1979 after the band split up while promoting Join Hands.

After finishing the tour, the band members engaged in separate side projects: Siouxsie and Budgie as The Creatures and Severin and Smith as The Glove, a psychedelic music project. Siouxsie and Budgie decided to select the place where they'd record the first Creatures LP by randomly placing a pin on a world map. They ended up recording the album in Hawaii and absorbed a lot of influences from the local scenery while writing the songs there. The Creatures' debut EP Wild Things proved that the duo was anything but predictable, and the statement was further strengthened by their highly experimental Feast LP.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Review: 'Samson & Delilah' by V V Brown

Things haven't gone exactly smoothly for V V Brown's musical career. After her retro-pop influenced debut album Travelling Like The Light in 2009, she was set to release a follow-up titled Lollipops & Politics in 2012. The concept album which would've dealt with political themes but with a pop-friendly approach (hence the somewhat awkward name) was actually recorded, and a lead single "Children" was released. However, even though the album was apparently finished and even a tracklist was revealed, she then decided to scrap the whole album, not being satisfied with the results and chose to return to the studio, creating another album from scratch. To the disappointment of her fans, the initial second album is likely to remain unreleased.

But the 'new second album' was more than worth the wait. Instead of sounding like Travelling Like The Light 2.0 which seemed rather inevitable with Lollipops & Politics and its lead single "Children", V V Brown takes us to a completely new direction with her brilliant Samson & Delilah. Biblical stories are often used as allegories for something else, and so it is also here: In V V Brown's version of events it is the music industry that is portrayed as the backstabbing, deceitful Delilah who betrays Samson, described by Brown as the exploited artist. That is essentially the concept around which the album was apparently built. Fittingly, the album release was preceded by lead single "Samson" that immediately told us that we were to expect something completely unexpected from her. Gone was the naive playfulness of her previous material. Instead, her music was now electronic-oriented, artistically ambitious and rather solemn.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Review: 'Pure Heroine' by Lorde

Now, if you've been following any music media lately you're already probably familiar with Lorde, the 16-year-old pop sensation from New Zealand and especially her critically acclaimed debut song "Royals" that has topped charts everywhere from UK and Canada to New Zealand and Ireland not to mention various Billboard charts in the US (5, to be precise). Quite an achievement from someone that young - I mean, what were you doing at the age of 16?

We could indeed be witnessing a meteoric rise to fame here: she's already become a bit of an internet phenomenon. However, the pattern isn't exactly unheard of: a promising, somewhat different singer-songwriter who's launched into global spotlight by a catchy, distinctive breakthrough single, then releases a solid album and enjoys the fruits of his or her labour for a while. But after the momentum is over, the descent to oblivion tends to be just as rapid as the rise to fame was. But does Lorde have what it takes to stand out and forge a career out of it?

Monday, 4 November 2013

Review: 'Matangi' by M.I.A.

Now, I'm not going to lie: I've always had a bit of a complicated relationship with M.I.A.'s albums. There are always some songs that are utterly brilliant and then some songs that just make me want to rip my ears off. It's nearly incomprehensible how she can be such a genius and yet so frustrating at the same time. In that sense, no matter how triumphant moments her albums have, they tend to be a bit flawed and unbalanced. And Matangi, one of the most expected albums of the year, is no exception to that.

On the other hand, it is exactly her unorthodoxness and leftfieldness that makes M.I.A. such a spectacular musician in the first place. It is her unconventionality that sets her apart from the rest of her peers, no matter how erratic it makes her output. Once again, Matangi is a perfect example of this. M.I.A. has a very unique way of mixing and matching different kinds of elements and influences in her music. For example, the album kicks off with "Karmageddon" which features a sitar intro before incorporating a wobbly bassline. This infusion of her ethnic roots and urban beats is a recurring theme in her music that continues on Matangi as well. The song then segues to the title track "Matangi" that recalls the exotic beats of her 2007 single "Boyz". In the beginning the song feels like a geography lesson with M.I.A. reciting a list of several countries before turning to dissing imitators and artists that lack originality: "Look-alike, copycat, doppelgänger, fraud / They ain't got nothing on me, now I'm getting bored / If you're gonna be me, you need a manifesto / If you ain't got one you better get one presto". Sharp-tongued, as usual.

Siouxsie Sunday: 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse' by Siouxsie and the Banshees

So, after a little break it's time to continue with the story of Siouxsie and the Banshees. After The Creatures - aka Siouxsie and Budgie - were done with their Wild Things EP, it was time to return to the recording studio with the Banshees. Throughout their early career they kept recording new LPs with quite a pace - from 1978's The Scream up until 1982's A Kiss In The Dreamhouse they released a new album every year. With that in mind, it's astonishing how effortlessly they kept on reinventing themselves, creating records that always were distinctively Banshees, yet simultaneously something new and fresh. But none of these reinventions were quite as radical as what they went through on A Kiss In The Dreamhouse.

While Juju was a return to the more guitar-oriented sound of The Scream and Join Hands, Dreamhouse recalls the experimentality of Kaleidoscope, incorporating a range of new elements, such as loops and string arrangements - a feat first introduced on the fantastic stand-along single "Fireworks" that, for one reason or another, was left out of the album. Indeed, the album has a very, well, kaleidoscopic feel to it, as it is like a journey through glistering colours and ideas, a theme perfectly mirrored in its Gustav Klimt inspired artwork (a personal favourite of mine, as a matter of fact).

Friday, 1 November 2013

Happy J-Day everybody!

"Wait, happy what day?" Well let me explain you.

Every first Friday of November is here a day dedicated to Christmas spirit and more importantly - this being Denmark and all - the launch date of the Tuborg Christmas Brew (or Tuborg Julebryg) of the year. That is basically a Christmas beer that, even though it's available for only ten weeks each year, is actually the fourth best-selling beer in the country, only beaten by three other beers that are available all year round. Quite impressive, innit.

Anyway, the annual launch day marks a nationwide celebration where Carlsberg employees (Tuborg is a part of the Carlsberg company, in case you didn't know) going from bars and cafés to another, singing a traditional Tuborg Christmas Brew song (don't ask) and handing out free beers to the customers to mark the beginning of the festive season. Needless to say, people get massively drunk. I once heard another foreigner describe the way back to home after the night as a 'zombie walk', with people just incontrollably crawling in the gutters, brainless and in slow motion. With that in mind, and with Halloween just behind us, I couldn't think of a more fitting song for the weekend than "Living Dead" by Marina & the Diamonds. Unless, of course, you want to go with the Christmas Beer song. Or both! Anyway, happy J-Day for all ye living dead and have a wonderful weekend!

Live: Porcelain Raft at Beta, Copenhagen 30/10/2013.

You do remember Porcelain Raft, the excellent indie artist whose albums I've previously reviewed and obsessed over? Well, last night the band played a gig in Copenhagen and yes, I attended it. And also yes, I am going to review it as well. How could I not!

The venue was quite a small place but then again, considering the artist is hardly a very hyped-up one it was a very fitting setting for the gig. I went there with a friend of mine and to be honest, we were a bit terrified at first because there were literally like 15 people at the time of our arrival but fortunately more people kept trickling in along the evening, slowly but surely. The event was opened with a supporting band, the London-based indie duo Post Louis who played a handful of songs to warm the crowd up. I must admit I had never heard of them before, but they had an interesting experimental sound and one of their songs, the indie rock number "This Could Be A Bridge" worked really well live. It was their most uptempo song so that might also explain it. They ended their set with a beautiful cover of Lou Reed's "Berlin" which was a lovely nod to the recently passed away pioneer of rock music.

Some time later it was Porcelain Raft's time to take over the stage. After his 2012 debut LP Strange Weekend he used to perform solo, with only vocals and the guitar parts performed live while the rest of the music would come from loops etc. but now he's touring with a four-piece band which was a pleasant surprise as that way you get a more complete 'live' performance. The band opened up with an amped-up version of "Think of the Ocean", one of the most captivating songs from his latest record Permanent Signal that also worked well in this alternative version. It was followed by "Cluster" (just like on the album). Majority of the tracks were indeed from his second album - the one he's currently promoting, after all - but we were soon treated with an older hit (well, 'older' as in 'from last year') "Shapeless & Gone" that got the crowd bopping along.