Monday, 3 August 2009

Review: Frankmusik - Complete Me




Catchy electro pop, complete with a tonne of 8bit computer game-esque stutters and sounds? Great! Frankmusik's previously released singles have all carried this brilliant little charm, all three of which are found on this album. The singles in question being the loop-driven "In Step", the hook-filled "3 Little Words", and of course, recent hit single "Better Off As 2", and they are all brilliant, brilliant upbeat dance pop songs. Fact.
Unfortunately, something slightly sinister seems to have happened at Island Records, as current single "Confusion Girl" has gone from being a brilliant 8-bit-drum-laden pop song, to a bit more of a laid back daytime tv pop song. Possibly almost ballady. Bad times. All in the space of time between the album sampler and album proper being released. (About two months).
This sinister plot to make Frankmusik more like Frankmusak (wit) can also be found with two tracks found nestled in the middle of the album. Namely "Wonder Woman", which sounds like it should be a Mika b-side, and the title track "Complete Me", which is a truly upspectacular ballad. The annoying thing about this "watering-down" of Frankmusik is that his "glitchier" tracks are good enough to get on the radio anyway and has seen him appeal to a fairly wide audience already. Obviously, by removing these 8bit-drums and putting a few more lacklustre ballads on an album, Island are probably hoping to appeal to a lot more people. Good luck to them with that.
It's not all bad though, tracks such as "When You're Around", a glitchy gameboy-esque take on The Stranglers' Golden Brown, and "Gotta Boyfriend" are brilliant examples of what FM does best - upbeat electro pop tracks.
That's not to say that Frankmusik can't do good ballads - "Done Done" is a great album closer, with it's slow tempo stuttering over the chorus proving to be a euphoric way to finish. If only the rest of the downtempo tracks offered this emotional depth, this album would be greatly improved.
Overall, it's by no means a bad debut album, the singles are worth getting this for alone, and even the watered down version of Confusion Girl is still a good pop song, even with it being needlessly watered down. The slower songs are very hit and miss though, and you get the feeling that Frankmusik - already a fairly established remix artist as well - should stick to writing the upbeat electro dance pop that he is so good at.
Rating: B-
(Sidenote: Ok, so far, Little Boots, La Roux, Frankmusik. All electro-pop acts, all of which have been tipped highly by the BBC this year, but none of which have produced a truly amazing album this year. Can anyone recommend a brilliant electropop album this year? Use the terms "electro" and "pop" as loosely as possible, I just want to see if it's possible for there to be an album of such music without half of it being rubbish ballads/unoriginal songs. Something exciting!)

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Preview: fun.



The first band in ages to follow that old adage of "it does what it says on the tin", fun. are a new band formed out of the ashes of fantastic US should-have-been-bigger-than-they-were(-even-though-their-last-album-on-vinyl-regularly-fetches-over-£100-on-ebay)-indie-rock-band, The Format, with an ex-member of the-near-perfect-live-indie-orchestra of Anathallo, and it's the most cheerful indie-pop-rock band you'll hear this year.

Out of the few songs floating about online, "Walking The Dog" is a perfect example of fun.'s toe-tapping calypso-pop, with its cleaner-than-clean guitar lines being accompanied by cute little squealing synth sounds, and singer Nate Ruess's familiar vocals filling the entire song with hooks; Whether it's the "na-na-na"'s, or the middle section borrowing from the old Don Henley classic, "Boys Of Summer", you'll have learnt the words in no time.

"At Least I'm Not As Sad As I Used To Be" starts on more of a somber note, with Ruess asking if we have ever "wondered about our old nu-metal friends, and what became of them" over some understated piano. Of course, things then pick up again straight away because, hey, they aren't as sad as they used to be! Some absolutely lovely female vocals add to the casual upbeat nature of the song, which I'm sure has steel drums in the background, further adding to the happy-go-lucky music.

Comparison wise, if you took the afrobeat styles of last years big hype band Vampire Weekend, but replaced "Vampire" with "Sunshine", and "Weekend" with "Holidays", then you are almost there. It's music to be relaxing on a beach to, or even to be having fun to. (If there is ever a band called "Awesome", I think i'll be doomed when writing about them..!)



fun.'s debut album "Aim and Ignite" can be preordered on vinyl at
http://hellomerch.com/shop/index.php?page=shop.browse&category_id=25&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=57 and you can hear some songs yourself at http://www.myspace.com/fun

Aim and Ignite is released on August 25, 2009.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Review: Dananananaykroyd – Hey Everyone





Hey Everyone is one of the most out-there fun records of 2009. Fact. The Scottish septet sound so upbeat and energetic that you can’t help but get taken in by the all-or-nothing rock music on this CD.

Things start off by building up to the absolutely brilliant “Watch This”, with its introductory group vocals of “Da-na-na-nan-ayk-royd!” leading into a cheeky little “Hiya! WATCH THIS! WATCH THIS” vocal, and that’s it. Hooked. The rest of the song is a brilliant little jagged pop song, and a great starter to the record.

Standout track number two is easily recent single “Black Wax”, which demonstrates the band’s ability to take their collective feet off the gas for a while, and create a slow burning singalong anthem. The energy is still there however, with group “woo”’s and quite lovely guitar work.

Talking of lovely guitar work, enter the brilliant “Infinity Milk”, which we given a preview of as such on previous Ep, “Sissy Hits”, with it’s 1-minute long finale of “Infinity Milk (Outro)”. Basically that one minute? Only the beginning of the ride, with it’s fantastic guitar riff building up to a collective group vocal of “Oh, my, god!” and bam, we’re away again, on another whirling, jagged pop song. Highlight of the entire record comes around 2 minutes in, with the little verse segment about atoms – “She, looks up and quietly says, “are these atoms?” “these are atoms” “I’m holding them” “ that just comes across so full of cheeky Glaswegian spirit. It’s a brilliant song. Fact.

Honourable mentions also go to former singles “Pink Sabbath”, and “Totally Bone” both coming with such awesome group vocal opportunities, that the band outline which lines you should sing along to in the lyrics booklet. Now that’s just lovely.
In total, Dananananaykroyd have delivered a brilliant debut album for jumping around your bedroom to/someone else’s bedroom to/the whole wide world to. You’d be honestly stupid not to give this record a chance. By far the most fun you can have on an indie-rock album this year.

Rating - A

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Review: Discovery - LP

Discovery is the side project from members of indie elite bands Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot, and is a brilliant little mix of pop, r & b and hiphop beats, combined with white-boy indie of course! Musically, it's not a million miles away from the output of mainstream american hiphop artists like Lil Wayne, as opener "Orange Shirt" demonstrates, with it's stuttering synth arpeggios, and almost falsetto processed vocals.

"Osaka Loop Line" continues in much the same way, with the stuttering synths almost competing to see just how stuttery they can get, before a 4/4 beat kicks in with a wonderfully understated chorus, complete with breathy vocals.

Things get amazingly poppy with the female vocals in "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", which is a vocal hook doomed to stay in your head for a long time afterwards. This is followed up with standout track "So Insane", a seemingly disjointed track, with drumbeats seemingly creating themselves up until 56 seconds in, where the chorus goes all half-time, and you find yourself slowdancing on your own, or you know, with whoever's in the room. It's that good.

Things are rounded off with a chilled out electro-pop cover of Jackson 5 classic "I Want You Back" and then brought to a close with the eclectic "Slang Tang", ending a really weirdly good album. The only major complaints are that the tracks can seem a bit same-y, but stick this on loudly on a really nice summer day, and I'm betting that's not something you'll care about.

Rating: B

Review: La Roux - La Roux

The debut album from hotly tipped duo La Roux, aka singer Elly Jackson, and producer Ben Langmaid, is full of bitcrushed drumbeats, synth lines, and amazing vocal hooks from start to finish.

However, after the opening triple-punch of singles "In For The Kill", "Quicksand" and "Bulletproof", there is a feeling of musical deja vu, with highly repetitive choruses, and the odd chord change here and there that has the ability to almost make you think you've accidentally skipped back a few songs.

Standout tracks are easily "I'm Not Your Toy" and the aforementioned singles, but unfortunately the rest of the album tracks don't leave much of an impression, even though they really try to.

Overall, it's a fairly good pop album, but it suffers from the same fate as similarly-tipped Little Boots' debut, "Hands"; Some killer, but mostly filler.

Rating: C-

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Review: Sam Isaac - Bears



I wrote a few words about this album a month or so ago, but I feel like it's worth highlighting again just how amazing "Bears" is.

For the uninitiated, Sam Isaac is a singer-songwriter from Malvern, and writes big buzzy pop songs that manage to be triumphant and uplifting without ever breaching the line of "tweeness", and as summer approaches, his debut album "Bears" might just be the album to have on in the sunshine.

The opening track on the album, "Bears", is a perfect starter, starting little, with acoustic guitar and a little delay-laden synth line, it soon grows to a huge crashing anthem, complete with group vocals, massive guitars and drums, and lyrics that just manage to place you into an entirely earnest storyline. The first half of the album is full of these little anthems, featuring past singles "Sticker Star and Tape", "Fire, Fire", and the song that gained him a tonne of mainstream attention, "Sideways", and all of them sound absolutely huge compared to their previously recorded counterparts. Lead single "Come Back Home Tonight" is also a beautifully triumphant song, with it's chorus bound to stay in your heart for days.

Side 2 of the album (sure its a CD, but a guy can dream) kicks off with the ebbing flow of "Berlin", which grows and grows and grows into a wonderful refrain of "I'll see you in Berlin", highlighted with an uplifting trumpet line. This is followed by possibly the standout track on the CD, "I Traded My Friends For You", which is a brilliant little story of new love, and Sam amazingly manages to keep it from sounding trite. One thing worth pointing out is that everything on this record is there for a reason, and this song basically showcases that, with little occasional piano lines, and group vocal "ahh's", and perfectly understated drums, that all add to the song. Really, REALLY, good stuff.

The album comes to a close with "What Good Did That Do?", a heartfelt song full of romantic strings and acoustic guitar, and big closer "Apple Tree", with it's intricate piano melody holding the whole song together, and everything reaching a huge finale.

It really is worth highlighting just how Sam manages to write a whole album of uplifting pop songs, yet manages to avoid the whole thing becoming too much. "Bears" manages to follow the rules, yet not sound cliché'd, and the underlying romanticism behind all the songs just makes it a rewarding listen everytime. Definitely an album you should listen to.

Bears is released 22/06/09





Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Review: Fightstar - Be Human

A few weeks back, a friend of a friend mentioned the new single by Fightstar, "Mercury Summer", having just been played on Radio 1. I asked him what it was like. He replied "kind've upbeat and positive". I checked it out straight away, and wow. This was a poppier Fightstar for sure, and it got me very interested in the new album.

Kicking off with the dark, cinematic "Calling On All Stations", it's clear to hear that that this record is going to be a big one, and this tone is continued on "The English Way", which features lots of strings, and a wonderfully huge chorus.

Things take a turn for the dark with "War Machine", but then Fightstar do a complete 180, and bring out "Never Change", a Cure-esque upbeat pop song, with additional cowbell. Even the slightly upbeat nature of Mercury Summer couldn't prepare for this, although it is a great song, which a strange contrast to the darkness of the previous track, but it's this wrong-footedness that actually kind of works. Definite single material, and possibly the closest the band have come to frontman Charlie Simpson's previous band.

Things stay upbeat with "Colours Bleed To Red", with its absolutely killer chorus. The only downside to this track are the slightly cringey verses, which are a bit too over-dramatic for the tone of song, with lyrics about "jumping the bridge" sung in a weird half-shouting distorted fashion. This takes something away from the song as a whole, which is a shame, as this song could have been another great single for the band.

"Whisperer" kicks in next, with it's chilled out guitars and harmonica. This track almost, ALMOST, seems like it was influenced by Panic at the Disco's recent record, with the whole track taking a bit of a summery, almost funky, rock direction. It features yet another great chorus, and leads nicely into "Mercury Summer", which slots in beautifully.

Things take a turn for the epic again, with the huge, sweeping "Give Me The Sky", leading into the dark "Chemical Blood", which is a wonderfully epic song, only let down by a brief screaming breakdown, which just isn't required in a track like this. "Tonight We Burn" takes a brief trip into synth-pop territory, with another great upbeat chorus, and then we get back into the orchestral side of things with "Damocles", which features a fantastically heavy breakdown.

The album closes off with the beautiful "Follow Me Into The Darkness", which is very, very Bon Iver-esque, but with it's subtle synths and gentle vocals, it's given just enough character of it's own to close off the album in a gentle way.

Overall, Fightstar has created a cinematic work of art with this record, treading a neat line between poppy and epic, but still keeping their trademark dark sound for the majority of the album. The only real letdown are the occasional heavy screaming breakdowns, and the occasionaly cringeworthy lyric, but for 95% of the time, this album keeps you hooked. It's got the singles to bring in new fans, and the substance to keep the fanbase happy.

As Daniel Mount says, and I quote verbatim, "The new fightstar album is fucking awesome...."

Sorted.

Here's the video for "Mercury Summer"




-------------
Be Human is out now from the Internet Record Shops, the Real Life Record Shops, and the Imaginery Music Shops.


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Stef reviews..a few albums in brief

Over the last few weeks, I've been listening to tonnes of new albums, but alas I've just not been writing about them. Shocking I know! I'm going to rectify that by writing a few paragraphs on some of the best of the last few weeks. A round-up if you will.



First up, Sam Isaac - Bears. After several well-received singles and EPs, Sam Isaac finally releases his first full length album in April, and it's been worth the wait. Kicking off with a newly recorded version of old myspace track "Bears", now with added I-was-a-cub-scout-synths, Sam instantly draws you into a world of hope, naivety, and teenage dreams a little bit more "famous five" than "skins". Previous singles "Fire Fire", "Sideways" and "Sticker, Star and Tape" are all found in the first half of the album, with new single "Come Back Home Tonight" joining them in creating a fantastically upbeat start to an album.

Act 2 of the album is a bit more quiet and contemplative, with tracks like "Calendar" and "Berlin" being a bit more laid back. The pace doesn't completely slow down though, as "Carbon Dating" and "I Traded My Friends For You" make welcome appearances. Overall Bears is a fine indie-pop-rock album, and there is a feeling of pure love emitting from it from start to finish. Perfect for sunny days and adventures. http://www.myspace.com/samisaac

Talking of music for sunny days, Simple Times, the second album from Joshua Radin, is perfect for relaxing with the sun shining on your face. "I'd Rather Be With You" is an absolutely beautiful track that you can't help but mentally playlisting it to put on a mixtape for that girl that you like. No? Just me? Fine. Either way, its a fantastic song that deserves to soundtrack your summer.

Elsewhere, there's the beautifully hopeful "Sky" featuring Meiko on backing vocal duties, the uplifting "Brand New Day" (I dare you not to get uplifted by the refrain of "It's a brand new day/sun is shining...for the first time in such a long, long time i know..../i'll be ok") , and the achingly sad "You Got Growin' Up To Do". The record ends with a track about Radin's adopted mantra of "No Envy, No Fear", and as proceedings come to a close, you actually believe every single word of Radin's laidback trademark hushed vocals. http://www.myspace.com/joshuaradin


Next up,
Grammatics' debut selftitled album, Grammatics. Surprisingly, I think I've yet to even mention this fantastic band on this blog, which is shocking! Take one ex-member of ace york band Colour Of Fire, put him in new band consisting of a bassist, drummer and a cellist, and then give him some intriguing instruments, and then put in a bowl with cursive and shake accordingly.

The result is a record so full of beautiful twists and turns that you don't want to fault a thing. Opener and single "Shadow Committee" features an ending to die for, and the guitar harmonics littering "D.I.L.E.M.M.A" make it a truly ethereal listen.

The chorus of "Murderer" will stick in your head for days if not weeks, the rhythm and call-and--response verses of "The Vague Archive" will have you confused about whether to tap your foot or sing along, and "Broken Wing" will drag you in with it's delicate acoustic guitars before throwing you off the top of a mountain with it's huge ending. It's truly epic stuff, and we haven't even reached "Relentless Fours" yet.

"Relentless Fours" is brilliant. Opening with a gentle loop of guitar harmonics and synths, Owen Brinley's vocals are soft enough to to sing you to sleep, as he sings genius lyrics such as "How can you call yourself an actress/When you cannot get your act together", and takes you up to the first mini-explosion of the song, announcing that "Everyone loves a breakdown". Laura Groves features on backing vocals in this track, and it adds an almost fairytale quality to the track, and the track swells and swells until it explodes into one of the most perfect guitar riffs in recent times. It's worth catching Grammatics live for this one track I swear. Beautiful.

Elsewhere, we get a re-recorded "Polar Swelling", an exhilirating "Rosa Flood" and the album closes on the epic "Swan Song". Probably one of the best alternative-indie albums of this year. Very highly recommended. http://www.myspace.com/grammatics

Lastly in this short round-up, the absolutely storming follow up to "I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child" from Manchester Orchestra, entitled "Mean Everything To Nothing". Opening with "The Only One", and it's almost beach boys-esque backing vocals, MO grab you, and deliver a brilliant rock album, with echoes of pinkerton-era Weezer in lead single "I've Got Friends", In Utero-era Nirvana in "In My Teeth", and of course, Themselves, in tracks like "Break It Out" and "One Hundred Dollars".

Overall this album feels like a natural progression from "I'm Like A Virgin..." and is great both musically and lyrically. This could be the album that gets them a bit further into the mainstream, especially as "I've Got Friends" has a chorus that refuses to leave your head at all. Perfect. http://www.myspace.com/manchesterorchestra


I think that's it for album review round up number one, any thoughts on the bands?

Friday, 6 March 2009

Stef Reviews - Calories - Adventuring

I didn't even know, until coming to write this little review, that Calories were made up of members of former Birmingham band Distophia. And I used to like Distophia. Madness.

Adventuring is a brilliant little album to get excited about. "Off we go, into the sunset," they sing, "off we flee, into the sea" to kick off the record in "A Bear, A Bison", a great upbeat song that gets you in the spirit of things straight away, from each building verse, to each group-laden chorus. It's uplifting stuff.

Songs such as "Caught In The In-between" and "To Encounter A Deer" channel the spirits of Idlewild past (back when they were more punky and awesome, "When I Argue, I See Shapes" anyone?), before "Adventuring" kicks in with it's Futureheads-esque chorus of "Adventuring, is dangerous, but danger can be fun", and is by far the catchiest song on the record, with some inspired instrumental sections, and great guitar lines.

The next few songs take a turn for 90's indie punk again, before "Drugged" ambles in, with it's laid back verse leading into a group vocal lead chorus of "Everything is beautiful, and ends some way, and then it's gone, and then it's not", which I can only imagine creates some amazing live show singalongs.

"Same Ideals" almost sounds like a Johnny Foreigner song for the first 20 seconds, but then turns into a different beast as it merges into next track "(See You On The Expedition)", almost like a hybrid of Biffy Clyro and Jetplane Landing, but without the scottish and irish accents respectively. "See you on the the expedition" sing Calories, continuing the "adventuring" feel that this album carries throughout.

At only 23 minutes long, this album is Calories' self professed "punk album", but it truly is 23 minutes that you'll be listening to again and again; no song outstays it's welcome, and things are kept sounding fresh throughout. As the looped ending to "Forests Of Varg" plays out, you'll be (must avoid obviously reaching for repeat button review cliche) uurm, moving your mouse to click track one of this album in your iTunes again. So you hear it all again.


Calories - Adventuring can be bought from their myspace for £9, and comes with a 26 track bonus CD-R of demos and other tracks. This is what's called value for money! :D


Thursday, 5 March 2009

Stef Reviews... Kevin Devine - Brother's Blood


Kevin Devine, as I've mentioned before, is a fantastic singer songwriter from Brooklyn, New York. He's pretty much best friends with Brand New and Manchester Orchestra (His last album, Put Your Ghost To Rest, was reissued on Brand New's record label, Procrastinate! Music Traitors), and he releases album after album of clever, catchy indie rock songs. New album Brother's Blood follows this trend fantastically, whilst also treading darker, more epic, territories not previously heard.

The record kicks off with "All Of Everything, Erased", a simple sombre number that sets the tone of the record fantastically; dark, but catchy enough to whistle along to. This eventually subsides into "Carnival", an early highlight to the record. If it's possible to channel the spirit of blue album/pinkerton era Weezer into a song, then it's been done here, the song ambles forward in an almost lazy fashion, before all of a sudden, around the four minute, some absolutely genius backing vocals that sound like a party casually speaking the same lyrics that Kevin is singing, suddenly burst into a huge group vocal build up, screaming "you'll clutch your chest, and whisper oh no, what will i do", before the song suddenly lulls you into a false sense of security, before a wonderfully ramshackle ending, that leads fantastically into the second highlight of the record, previous limited edition single "Another Bag Of Bones", renamed here as "Time To Burn".

This song was amazing in it's original form, all insightful lyrics, and withdrawn muted guitars, but this version takes the song to it's limit, adding drums, bass and a brilliantly ethereal ending to affairs to truly create one of Kevin Devine's best songs so far. The song also has a bit of a "Jesus Christ" vibe to it (see: Brand New).

The vibe gets a bit more laid back with "Hand of God", a hand clap laden folkier song, that gives the listener a well deserved break before the absolutely epic "Brother's Blood", a guitar filled song, that features vocals that are absolutely filled to burst with emotion, and culminates in a huge ending, filled with guitar solos to order. "They don't need to know about my brother's blood" Kevin sings, with an almost defeated tone as the song fades away. Brilliant.

Other high points of the album are the wistful "It's Only Your Life", and the fantastically upbeat "I Could Be With Anyone", and the second half of album feels like a much calmer beast than the first half due to these more chilled out songs, which acts as a nice come down after the feel of the first five tracks.

For those of you who like Brand New, this guy is a must-hear. For everyone else...same rules apply.

http://www.myspace.com/kevindevine

You won't regret it!

Brother's Blood is released on April 28th via Favourite Gentleman Records.


Sunday, 1 March 2009

My O.C.

As a sidestep from music, I feel like I have to talk about real life for a bit.

I'm not sure how this entry is to start, I'm not sure how it will end, I'm not sure of a lot of things to do with this. I haven't even decided on whether I'll actually hit "Publish Post" when I've finished it. But let's try and begin this.

When someone effectively holds you in some kind of regard as being a potential start of a potential downfall in their own life, how are you meant to take it? I have always been the type of character that on the offchance that I have wronged someone, then I will apologise accordingly. And it's not often that I wrong someone, it's honestly not who I am 99% of the time. A friend of mine told me recently that apologising is a sign of weakness, and by apologising, you very rarely ever gain someones forgiveness. If anything, it just validates their reasons for feeling negative towards you even more. I can completely understand and sympathise with this theory, but it's not something I think I buy into. I've always been one for saying sorry when I feel it, whether that does me good or bad.

If you can remember back to the last time someone let you down, whether it was a loved one breaking up with you,  someone breaking a promise, someone not keeping a secret, would you let it affect the rest of your life? Of course you would. You'd be a bit more careful in future, you'd take the time to know someone better before trusting them absolute, right? Unfortunately, we live in a society where sleeping around is normal, promises aren't worth as much as they once were, and secrets are loosened from tongues with copious amounts of alcohol. (Disclaimer; I'm not one for sleeping around, I keep promises, and I never let secrets slip, just in case you thought I was talking from experience)

I think what I'm getting at, is that I can't understand the rationale of people sometimes. We all make mistakes, that one thing is for certain, but it's when our past mistakes are held over our heads by others, as some sort of twisted trophy, that I get confused. Recently, I was interrupted from a conversation by someone who felt the need to take the person I was talking to to one side, and warn them that I was an absolute prick of sorts. (back story, it was a friend of an ex-girlfriend, whom I'd never really spoke to before). I totally applaud this in a way; All he was doing was looking out for a friend. But he had never spoken to me before, didn't know anything about me, other than what someone with an incredibly low opinion of me had told him. This had a huge effect on me. It still plays on my mind now, that someone can have such an opinion of someone pushed upon them, and then that's all they know. I feel there are certain conversations I need to have in the near future to hopefully clear things of this nature up. And most importantly; the most useful source of information regarding me? It's me. So don't believe everything you hear? Primary research is better than secondary.

I've always believed that if you are happy in yourself then, well, you're doing alright. If you can be happy spending a day with just yourself as company, and don't end the day feeling miserable or depressed, then that's a good sign. Not to say you shouldn't spend time with friends or loved ones, but I have seen so many people recently in bad relationships just because they don't want to be alone. Is this the right way to be? We're built to be with others, but I'm a firm believer that there's got to be the right "other" out there, right?

I was berated for following my heart recently, and to be absolutely fair, I don't understand why. I listen to what my head tells me, don't get me wrong, but if my heart knows what it wants, I can't stop that. It's why my new EP is going to be titled Butterflies, it's why i've made mistakes in the past, it's why I am where I am now, and it's why I always aim to be a better person.

If i've hurt you in the past, then i'm sorry. None of us are perfect, none of us ever will be.

But i'm going to try and be better. And i'm going to do what my heart tells me. And if my brain is agreeing with my heart, then that's poetry.


(There's every chance I'll reread this in the morning and delete it for being a bit too .. something.  Honest? Not sure. Enjoy it while it's up)

Sincerley,

Stef

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Stef Reviews...Emmy the Great @ Glee Club, Birmingham


Those who read this blog regularly (maybe three of you? haha i kid i kid...two?) will know I have a fondness for Miss the Great, and tonight was the first time I've managed to catch her live, in about 4 years of fandom. With my current obsession of all things female and beautiful voiced, could there be a better act to have seen tonight?

First up were grunge-pop trio Young Husband, comprising of Emmy the Great's live band's guitarist and drummer, and another bassist, playing songs that would fit perfectly onto the 90's indie rock soundtrack of programmes such as Teachers and Asif (remember those?), with their laid back indie rock fitting somewhere in the middle of Blur and Pavement. The only criticism I had with Young Husband was that although they obviously have an ear for a catchy melody, they tend to take the melody, and add a strange chord change at the end so the melody ends on an almost sour note. Except for this occasional self-destructive tendency, they were a great little band to kick off proceedings.

Second to grace the stage were Exlovers, a band i'd recently heard good things about, and I was amazingly impressed with them tonight. Their songs were filled with sparkling guitars, beautiful male/female vocals, and the odd bit of percussion and glockenspiel. Each one of their more slower or midtempo songs were fantastic, lulling me into a lovely little dreamworld until the songs finished. However, the more uptempo songs that they played weren't as special, but held their own as tight little indie pop songs. I can't help but anticipate an LP by these, they had a lot of special moments on the glee club stage.

Finally, the main act, Emmy the Great. Starting off with just herself, a guitar and "The Hypnotist's Son", she had the audience in her hands from the start. Joined by the rest of her band, renditions of "We Almost Had A Baby" and "Dylan" followed soon in all their foot-tapping glory. A definite highlight for me was the mid-set rendition of "First Love", the title track of her recently released album, and a semi-homage to "Hallelujah" ("the original leonard cohen version" sings Emmy), with the song ending with the band playing faster and faster leaving you almost feeling breathless as the song finally comes to a halt. 

Near the end of the set, a rendition of new album track "We Are Safe" brought a song that I had previously overlooked as album filler into it's own special spotlight (listening to it now, i'm noticing how uplifting this song really is). Emmy then finished up proceedings with a solo acoustic rendition of "her first song" "Canopies and Grapes", and even though her guitar strap breaks halfway through the song ("i'll have to do this like they used to," quips the singer, "before string was invented") she continues on almost unphased, and leaves the audience feeling pretty happy I think. What a way to spend the middle of a week.

Emmy the Great's debut album "First Love" is out now. You can hear more of her here, more of Exlovers here, and more of Young Husband here.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Stef Reviews...003) Two Tongues - S/T


Two Tongues is a special little album. The backstory to this involves two amazing bands in their own rights; Say Anything, and Saves The Day, and the mutual appreciation that both bands have developed for each other in the past few years.  Two Tongues is the long-awaited collaboration between both bands, with Max and Coby from Say Anything teaming up with Chris and David from Saves The Day, for 13 tracks of guitar-laden emo-punk-rock (for lack of a better genre description!)

Straightaway the album jumps into the dramatic "Crawl", showcasing straight away how Max's and Chris's unique vocal styles seem to mesh together quite awesomely. The middle eight of this song is also worth mentioning, as it's quite simply fantastic. "If I Could Make You Do Things" follows on from this, and starts off as a fairly calm duet between the two singers, before the drums kick in, bringing the rest of the distorted guitars with them, leading up to a fantastic chorus of "If I could make you, make you (GO AWAY!), If I could make you, (DO IT!)", which makes you want to sing along until the end I swear.

A beautiful little interlude track by Eisley's singer Sherri let's everyone take a bit of a breath, before the record kicks into life once again with the jagged "Tremors", which, with it's start-stop guitars, and Max Bemis's charasmatically downbeat delivery, is possibly the stand-out track of the record, and yet again, builds up to a fantastic chorus. "Silly Game" continues with the jagged guitars, and Max's vocals and words are again on top form, and will have you singing along with the "oh-oh-oh"'s in no time flat.

"Wowee Zowee" brings a bit more ROCK into the mix, as Chris Conley takes main vocal duties, with Max showing up with some gang-vocal style "Hey hey cut it out!"'s, whilst "Try Not To Save Me" brings in a mellow side to the proceedings, acting as a slow, longing confessional, with Chris's vocals almost taking on angelic qualities at times.

The record finishes up with "Even If You Don't", which is almost reminiscent of "Cars and Calories" from Saves The Day's "Stay What You Are", and whereas it sounds like a love song to a female companion, you get the feeling that the two singers might actually be declaring their mutual love of each other.

In conclusion, this is a record made with love, and if you've even heard of Say Anything or Saves The Day, I highly recommend it. Try this video out for size;


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A Lightningheart Records Newsburst



So I thought i'd take this opportunity to talk about Lightningheart Records, my little record label that I set up last year!

So far, we've had 6 releases, 4 of which have been available as free downloads from www.lightningheartrecords.tk, and 3 of which are available to buy as real CD's. Nice! My favourite release so far has definitely been the "Something Old, Something New" compilation, the packaging really worked out how I wanted it :D felt logos for the win.

In the next few months, I think I'm gearing up for 2 main releases. Firstly, my new album as teamABC, which is (still) going under the working title of "Hello Symmetry". It might actually end being called that you know! So far, it's gearing up to be around 11 tracks of alternative pop-indie, with instruments and hooks a plenty. It's going to be the first proper, proper, proper teamABC album, although Hurry Up, Hurricane was fairly proper. However, Hello Symmetry is going to see a proper physical release, and the packaging is going to be amazing. Trust me on that! You'll see concept images and stuff very soon. Good times! The album will also be available via all the usual download sites, iTunes etc etc, and there might be a free download single nearer the time of release. When's it coming out you ask? End of March. We'll say End of March.

It might be later than that. The artwork ideas i'm having at the moment might take a while to come together. Oh and finishing the music too. Haha!

Also on the agenda is the new release from Ben Forrester, formerly known as Testing Testing 123, formerly know as Ben Forrester ;) He will be releasing an amazing new EP around Easter time, and having heard some of the demos, I can say that it's going to sound amazing. More news to come on that as well!

Right, I'm going to have a mess with artwork ideas now... More Lightningheart News coming soon! 

Remember, www.lightningheartrecords.tk for all of your Lightningheart related needs!




Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Stef thinks that if you liked MGMT, you'll love...

Passion Pit - Sleepyhead

This band are incredible. The track showcased here - Sleepyhead (from their 2008 Chunk Of Change EP) - is a brilliant amalgamation of synths, looped vocal samples, and a falsetto vocal that doubles in effectiveness when the bass backs up the chants of "sleepyhead".


This song is like a danceparty for your dreams, and (as said in the title) if you liked MGMT, you'll love this. I bet this is soundtracking an episode of Skins in no time.

Opinions?

Monday, 26 January 2009

BBC Sound Of 2009; An Intervention

This morning, I finally got round to checking out some more of the acts from the BBC's "Sounds Of 2009" picks for this year. Previous winners of their sound of 2009 accolade has been Adele and Mika, so you can bet any amount that whoever they choose will probably get quite big this year.

Anyway, Little Boots and Florence and the Machine both featured quite highly this year, and they are both fine acts; the former a bedroom pop star complete with tenori-on (it's the coolest musical instrument/sampler that you all want, i know i do!) and the latter a kookier-with-every-interview-but-still-less-weird-than-kate-bush Kate Bush for the new millenium. Kinda. Find their myspaces and make your own decisions - key tracks are Little Boots - Meddle, and Florence and the Machine - Dog Days.

Anyway, I digress!

Essentially the BBC Sound of 2009, who those aren't familiar with it, starts off with a shortlist of new acts, and then US - the general public - vote for our favourite. This time around, Little Boots won, and a lot of other acts featured quite highly in the top 10, but one name i'd noticed in the shortlist that didn't seem to be in the most voted was Frankmusik.

Initially, I gotta say, the name put me off a bit. It made me think of Kraftwerk, which is no bad thing, but I couldn't imagine what I thought could be a modern day version of Kraftwerk. (See:Europop)

Anyway! Fairly recently my good pal Corin Bryant send me a link on youtube to some music video which is basically a girl in her underwear hula-hooping.  That video was no less than Frankmusik's In Step. And it's a gloriously glitchy synthy pop track. Nice! Check that video out here:


Coming right up to date, today I saw the video for his new single Three Little Words. And it's absolutely brilliant. It's like if you shoved Alphabeat and Mika together into a blender and then put into a glass full of crushed Crystal Castles, and then Calvin Harris to drink it. Hold on, what the hell am I talking about? Time to go to work. Here's the video!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Stef Reviews...002) Pretty Girls Make Graves - The New Romance


Okay, all you fans of female-fronted rock bands take note. Whether you are a Paramore fan, a No Doubt fan, hell, even a fan of The Saturdays, you are doing it wrong. If we're seriously going to talk about front-women in bands then may I direct you to the fantastic Pretty Girls Make Graves, lead by the spellbinding Andrea Zollo.

I bet you're excited now right? A female lead singer to get excited about? Well sadly, the excitement will have to be slightly posthumous; Pretty Girls Make Graves split up in 2007. However, they did release 3 fantastic albums, and album no. 2 - The New Romance - is the record I want to talk about today.

Title track "The New Romance" acts as an introduction to the record in a way, even though it's all the way down at track 10. As Andrea sings; "It started in a basement, it started in a bedroom...there's a fire inside my head",  and you get an idea of the passion behind this music.

It's definitely worth mentioning that Pretty Girls Make Graves make absolutely brilliant music. Intertwining guitar lines, dancey bass guitar, drumming that continually innovates and improves upon itself. Each song is a little adventure with twists and turns-a-plenty.

The album starts proper with it's longest track, "Something Bigger, Something Better", and kicks off with lullaby-esque vocals and tribal drums and guitars, before it kicks into a synth-laden dance-punk track about a minute and a half in. This sets the pace for the next track too, before proceedings are interupted with a short synthy track "Mr. Club". Even for a short dancey instrumental, it does a good job at preparing you for the fantastic "All Medicated Geniuses".


This track is frantic to say the least. "Our ideas they die so quickly", sings Andrea over frenetically duelling guitars, and this rings true as the song constantly involves and changes, refusing to settle into a standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus end routine. Don't get me wrong, there are verses, there are choruses, but they all have a different flavour, a different rhythm, a different feeling. When it's all stuck together, it makes a brilliantly cohesive song.

"Blue Lights" and "Chemical Chemical" follow on from this, the former being a song split in two; one half an introspective, restrained monologue; one half extrovert confessional, with the trademark jagged guitars fighting each other to the death, and the latter being art-punk by number with hihat laden disco drum patterns playing host to playful guitars.



"This Is Our Emergency" is another big stand out track on this record. Like a more twitchy, energetic version of "This Modern Love" by Bloc Party, it's like an indie-rock call to arms, with Andrea Zollo stating, nay, DEMANDING that "This is Our Emergency", before the song explodes into life. This might be the most standard song in terms of song structure on this album, but that doesn't mean a thing, as it throbs with a determined longing, and has a certain feeling of triumph to it.

The album ends with the downbeat "A Certain Cemetery" featuring soaring vocals, and features a fantastic franz ferdinand-esque breakdown, before the track turns into a mess of fuzzy keyboards and music box, with the vocals taking a turn for the melocholic. The guitars kick in again as the track reaches an anthemic end, with a repetition of "When this is over...., it's  alright, it's alright", letting the listener know that all they have to do is reach for the play button, or turn over the record, and the whole journey can start again.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic record, and really worth your time. I can't recommend them highly enough.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Stef Reviews... The Wrestler

The Wrestler is a film that looks at the grittier side of wrestling. The high-gloss world of WWE this isn't! Mickey Rourke stars as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a formely professional wrestler living in a trailer park, mixing amateur fights with a part time day job. The Wrestler explores Randy's personal relationships as his career starts to be threatened.

Overall the film does a fantastic job of exploring the psyche of a guy who doesn't know anything other than life inside the square circle, and builds up what I can only describe as an absolutely brilliant ending.

It's definitely worth a watch, and the new Springsteen song that plays over the end credits fits proceedings absolutely perfectly.



Saturday, 17 January 2009

First Awesomely Inspiring Song of 2009 - Emmy The Great - First Love




















This song is absolutely brilliant. "First Love" starts off simple, with acoustic guitar and Emmy's bittersweet vocals being slowly accompanied with a skittering snare drum, and then builds into an uplifting chorus that channels Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". It's a subtle lovestory of a song, that builts into an ending that builds pace and takes you along with it until Emmy's final gasp of the title lyric. It borders on exhilerating. Video? Video!



The single "First Love" is released on February 23rd, but the album of the same name is released on February 9th, and is worth checking out. Expect a review of that sometime next week!

http://www.myspace.com/emmythegreat

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Stef Reviews... 001) Copeland - You Are My Sunshine

Copeland are a great little band that, until today, I hadn't heard from since their 2005 album "In Motion", which was an amazing collection of up-tempo, melodic indie rock tracks, with an almost lullaby-esque quality to singer Aaron Marsh's voice highlighted against beautiful soundscapes of chiming guitars and piano.

A few albums later (that I feel I should go back and visit at some point) and they have released "You Are My Sunshine", which is an incredibly amazing album. "Good Morning Fire Eater" is a definite highlight, featuring a slow, lovely build up of vocals, guitars and synths that explode into life via a perfect drum beat.

The dreamy vocals of Aaron Marsh are still a highlight of this record, with every line he sings sounding as perfectly dream-like as the next.

The album is wrapped up by the epic 10 minute closing track "Not So Tough, Found Out" which is a wonderous swirl of electronic bleeps and buzzes, drum machine, electronic piano, and beautifully phrased female vocals.

Overall, I highly recommend this album for the chilled out end of winter months; It complements the weather of the current winter months, plus has the staying power to make the start of spring seem as magical as possible

Stefx

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Stef Reviews... In Bruges


Just saw this tonight and wow, such a great dark comedic film.

Short synopsis - Colin Farrell's character has just begun a career as a hitman, and finds himself and an associate hiding out in Bruges, in Belgium. And finding every single second of it boring. And from here a brilliantly written comedic film unravels itself, culminating in one of the best endings to a film i've seen in recent times.

There are so many quotable lines in this film too, most notable are a particular conversation/fight that happens in a restaurant, and of course, the multitude of "feckin' Bruges" that are littered throughout the film. Beware; There's a tonne of swearing in this film. There's even a feature on the dvd where it just plays every single instance of swearing. 

I'd give this 9 gold stars out of 10. Definitely worth a purchase.