The VPME The VPME – 10th Anniversary !

Today the VPME celebrates 10 years at the musical coal face. Yes, on 31st July 2007 we posted ‘ The Burning Ambition Of The Early Diuretics” by Brighton uber-pop band The Pipettes. Listening back it’s still a great pop song and the idea of giving the Phil Spector girl group sound a reboot with a modern post feminist twist was certainly something that resonated in the mid -noughties monochrome world of landfill indie and whey faced mutton fingered lad rock. A bleak world which saw the NME in the thrall of fucking Razorlight and Johnny Bovril.

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So I guess ten years is some sort of an achievement in the fast moving disposable world of pop culture. Or perhaps a cautionary tale and an object lesson in the futility of perseverance? Like watching a man pushing at a door marked pull for ten years? On a personal level, it’s been a challenging decade ill health, stress, unemployment, bereavement, the relentless grind of austerity under an uncaring out of touch government have all taken their toll. Conversely, it’s also been a decade rich with amazing experiences and opportunities and as ever much of the good stuff relates to music. As laugh-a-minute life and soul of the party Friedrich N once said: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

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It’s also been interesting to see how blogging has evolved over the last decade. Some blogs have grown to such an extent that they aren’t really blogs anymore and somewhat ironically have morphed into that what they once sought to replace. A few have remained true to their original ethos whilst many others have chased hits churning out vacuous daily content that adds zero to the sum total of human knowledge. Indeed there are some which induce a strong urge to pluck out my eyeballs and pickle them in vinegar rather than ever read their incoherent arrant fucking nonsense -“Top Ten Trainers The La’s might have worn” “Singers Who Look Like Pasta” “What We Learnt From What We learnt Articles” (that’ll be fuck all mate) As a fan of the written word this constant churn for hits, the spewing out of any old shite, the one listen album review, lists about lists,  .. it fucking depresses me and I wonder rather than help new music, does it perhaps not hinder it ? Add to the dispensability? There’s also a view that a writer, who thinks everything is BRILLIANT is simply a PR Fluffer, an unctuous ingratiator. It’s one thing to play the game, quite another to contrive to make Uriah Heep appear somewhat insouciant! They offer an opinion that has no cultural value other than to hoover up freebies, photo passes and a nice little pat on the head. Drowned In Sound Founder Sean Adams has often highlighted that the churn – the endless quest for content conceived simply for hits does little to help new music. He once suggested he’d love to see a music blog that posted one song a year. That might be an option.

Of course, there’s no hankering back to the so-called “golden – age of music journalism”, y’know the one that actually never existed? much of it was misogynist, vitriolic show boating and more about the journalist proving how clever he was than the actual music.

So did blogging really bring about the death of quality music journalism? Nah, but the internet, social media and streaming has certainly made the landscape more challenging. It’s hard to mention the NME these days without typing LOL, but there is still some magnificent writing on line once you wade through the selfie “Look it’s ME at a festival ” shite – The Quietus is probably the gold standard when it comes to great writing and no matter how, dark, cacophonous and impenetrable the music is, the articles are more often than not, a joy to read. DIY and new publications like DORK are vibrant and fresh and have their fingers firmly on the pulse and have an aesthetic that shows they actually give a shit. Dom Gourley at DIS often writes about the sort of music I love in an engaging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable way. I might not always agree with him on the merits of a number of bands, or Len McCluskey’s moral veracity, but he’s always worth reading. Laura Barton of the Guardian who was very supportive of this blog in the early days (even writing a few articles for us) remains one of the most beautifully eloquent and poetic writers around and in terms of being able to convey exactly how music feels, there is nobody better. How it hits you on an emotional level and becomes part of you. She manages to convey all of this with fluidity, grace candour and genuine emotion and is somebody who connects with music on a deep and personal level. Exactly the sort of person who should write about music. As much as I miss her ‘Hail Hail Rock and Roll’ features in The Guardian her ‘Notes From A Musical Island’ series on Radio 4 is a gift that keeps on giving. Some people just have it.

The era of the music blog as a primary source for musical discovery has shifted, this is partly due to the natural way things evolve, the emergence of streaming services and the domination of Spotify with its clever algorithms which has made new music discovery accessible to even the most technically challenged.

Once it was Myspace which was all about music but now we have Facebook where we live in our own social media bubble in which we surround ourselves with people whose opinions match our own world view. See something we don’t agree with? That’s fake news, see someone whose music or art we love getting castigated on twitter? That’s a witchhunt. Call a band shit? That’s fighting talk. And thus we never really engage with or consider opposing views, indeed even a mild rebuke of Saint Jeremy Of Corbyn can produce some pretty vitriolic abuse and accusations that you’re a red Tory or worse … a Blairite!

So do we need blogs or music journalists? Probably – if only to help filter the sheer volume of music out there. Some people will always be interested to hear the views of a writer they trust. Personally, I tend to follow writers more than blogs, or zines per se. Writers who are passionate and can communicate, I don’t expect a mixture of Shakespeare and Zola, just the ability to convey an atmosphere or emotion. Not what bus you got on the way to the gig, or if your mate Biffo was pissed. When a new music blog springs up and immediately has a “donate button” my first reaction is … Ok, what are your server costs? how many contributors do you have? do you intend to pay your writers? what are your views on photographers and the licence/copyright of their images? Will you run it like Sports Direct in the unlikely event you turn a profit? Why should I donate? Or is this just for shits and giggles and a free pass to a 6 quid gig? If it’s the latter and the blog is simply churning out endless top tens, lots of filler, lists, contrived ‘controversial’ Clarkson-lite opinion pieces about nothing and copy and pasting press releases my second reaction is often ‘ you can take that donate button and fuck right off. ” Similarly blogs that make huge claims about their influence and have an endless list of rules and submission requirements an artist MUST adhere to are also on my own personal shit list. Seriously ? Can you not manage to filter your mail boxes? Some even require artists to follow them on social media to be considered. Oh, do fuck off you entitled bellends.

Perhaps we have reached ‘peak blog’, (I mean at times Liverpool seems to have more blogs than actual music fans .)Perhaps a blog will arrive with a radically new approach and change everything, who knows? It’s still great to see blogs who started out around the time of the VPME still at it and seemingly still as passionate about the discovery of new music as ever. In terms of the one person blog, Breaking More Waves has always been a favourite. I often don’t quite get the more poptastic tunes but admire the enthusiasm and wit. I get what music gives even if I don’t get the music, y’know?

Over the ten years, we’ve championed a huge variety of bands from Marina And The Diamonds, back in the day when she was randomly uploading MySpace demos to Sissy and the Blisters, Havana Guns and Monkey Swallows The Universe (who?) Howling Bells through to Wolf Alice, Public Service Broadcasting, Black Honey and this year the amazing Dream Wife. Many artists have disappeared without a trace and a few have become some of the biggest names in music and being the arrant narcissist I clearly am, I take full credit. It’s all about ME! Ultimately nobody can predict who is gonna be the next big thing, even Ed Sheerin didn’t predict he’d become Ed bloody Sheerin. Anybody who claims otherwise is talking through their hoop.

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So back to ME, it’s my blog birthday so indulge me … Over the last 10 years I’ve had some amazing experiences, been given air time on BBC 6 Music, been part of the BBC Sound of panel, been interviewed by The Guardian, written for Music Week, been nominated for awards and staggered into a Stevie Wonder press conference backstage at Glastonbury only to be told, ‘You shouldn’t be here – for Christ sake don’t let him see you’ – I was like , “wow … Can miracles really happen??” And of course, I met the MARY CHAIN!! More than once. Ok so I was hiding under their tour bus ala Max Cady but hey, needs must! And when one of your fave artists says “ Thanks again for all your support over the years – you were a big influence for me personally having the confidence to even contemplate performing with Lush again” you feel perhaps you may be getting some things right. I’ve written for some great publications, had my own radio shows and rediscovered my love of photography which has somewhat taken over. I remember seeing the excitement my daughter experienced backstage as a guest of Paloma Faith who never forgot the early support the VPME showed. And I now can even almost laugh at having my drink spiked at Glastonbury during Pulp’s set.  But of the many highlights it ultimately comes down to the people – and I’ve felt privileged to meet some incredibly talented creative like minded people who have shared the same passion.

So perhaps after ten years, I should stop. Go with some dignity. Don’t be the drunk who is initially amusing but eventually outstays his welcome and ultimately shits his pants before the night is through? To be honest the last year has been a struggle to keep on blogging and writing etc ( health … bereavement .. life … trying to write a screenplay (seriously, and I need a writing partner – any offers – get in touch) )……. but music has always been there, a soundtrack to the ups and the downs and the numerous curve balls that life throws at you, it’s not a cure all , but it’s certainly always there ready to help to soothe the soul … to console and make sense of your emotions and ultimately uplift. And to draw you back in all it takes is one great gig or one great song to give you that rush, that feeling of vitality and connection with the world …. and then boom! You’re back in the game.

When I think of how music makes me feel, it’s rather like an awakening of the senses, in fact, I’m often drawn to a quote from the movie Awakenings when I try to make sense of what music does for me – “Read the newspaper. What does it say? All bad. It’s all bad. People have forgotten what life is all about. They’ve forgotten what it is to be alive. They need to be reminded. They need to be reminded of what they have and what they can lose. What I feel is the joy of life, the gift of life, the freedom of life, the wonderment of life!” – That is how music makes me feel.

So I might stagger on a little bit longer yet. Sorry.

The post The VPME – 10th Anniversary ! appeared first on The VPME.

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GIITTV: MIF17: Stealing Sheep

In what locals will know as Albert Square is what has temporarily been re-named as Festival Square.  Inside you’ll find a Theatre (known throughout the festival as the Pavillion Theatre), a large marquee housing a very nice bar, more than one place to eat, the festival’s ticket office, and a covered stage.  For most of the day, there are musicians and artists on stage, and the Square is packed with people the entire time.  The theatre is like those magical tents from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the Quidditch World Cup; things look ordinary from the outside, but inside is another story altogether – much larger than it seems, and impressively equipped with a bar, and air conditioning.

There’s been some hype surrounding Stealing Sheep – some of it even provided by myself, actually – so the crowd is at first a little disappointing.  The band arrive on stage, all wearing silver lamé unitards and sunglasses, and the drummer doesn’t sit behind a massive kit; it’s a nice, refreshing change.  What is disappointing about them – and something I have never noticed up until now – is that they’re doing that super-trendy-but-bizarre thing of singing from their throats.

The crowd are mostly very still, although there are a few people giving dancing a try.  Stealing Sheep live kind of reminds me of a slightly more mature Shampoo.  The sunglasses are removed in sync, of course.  Pips and boops from the laptop and dancers appear in brightly coloured unitards, and now the stage looks completely cramped.  Vocals are mostly provided by the keyboardist, and they’re reminiscent of Stina Nordenstam or Robyn, perhaps.  Gradually, the audience has shifted forwards but still very few people are actually dancing.  A wise man and fellow writer once told me that the crowd are a great indicator of whether or not a band is good live.  Sure, sometimes the crowd don’t quite ‘get it’, but on the whole, the advice rings true.

The dancers reappear, this time in blacks, and carrying neon images drawn on what looks like cardboard, while blue boxes flash on and off on stage to a frenetic rhythm and an upbeat, cheery melody coupled with high-speed vocals and lyrics about feelings.  It’s good, but if they dropped the gimmicks, it’d be less distracting.  At least a larger chunk of the crowd is dancing now, albeit somewhat reserved.

It sounds exactly like it does on record, though.  For some, that’s enough; for some people, that’s what they want – for it to be reproduced exactly.  In that case, then, simply pop on a CD or Spotify or whatever, grab a fistful of glow-sticks and host your own gig in your own house in your pyjamas, the effect would be the same.  Bonus if you tuned out the lights.  For others though, it needs that something more; a chance to do something a little different with a slightly different vibe, for example.

Actually, I think I’ve figured them out.  The gimmicks and the dancing is an attempt to inject ‘something’ into their performances since – besides the music – they have very little to offer.  They don’t need to play live, really.  A DJ could do the job, and probably with their eyes closed.

It’s really good, but it’s not much else; radio-friendly electro-pop.  And by radio-friendly, I mean Radio 1 and Radio X (possibly).  This is essentially a performance for hipsters.  Musically, I’d go as far as to say it’s bloody brilliant.  Live, however, it’s a bit boring.  While some of the audience are trying to dance along, the vast majority aren’t.  Either they’re not into it, or they’re outright refusing to – and I don’t know which it is.  I don’t suppose it really matters.  It’s almost like they’re trying to outdo Lady Gaga, Sia and Bjork at the same time, but they fail at all of them simultaneously.  I can, however, given the above references to Bjork, Gaga, and Sia, see why Stealing Sheep are becoming so popular with the youth.  I can also appreciate what the band are trying to do – but perhaps they should at least consider scaling it back to what’s really important.

The encore sees a minor costume change in the form of the silver foil/streamers worn by the dancers previously.  Musically, Stealing Sheep are faultless, but it could (and should) be incredible.  It falls far too short of this, which is a real pity.  They don’t even need their instruments – they could put it all on a computer – and then focus on the dancing and theatre of it instead.  Respect to them for trying to do it all, but I just don’t feel as though it’s working as well as it could.  The encore track contains the words “It’s real/so real.”  I’m not sure it is, but I guess the point is that they believe it.

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Digital Inspiration Technology Blog How to Search Videos within a YouTube Channel on your Mobile Phone

YouTube, the second largest search engine after Google, offers extremely powerful search commands but there’s one important search functionality that YouTube is yet to include in its mobile app for both Android & iPhone.

You cannot search for videos within a specific YouTube channel while using YouTube on a mobile phone or tablet. For instance, if you would like to search for Tesla videos that were uploaded on the MKBHD channel, you simply can’t do that from your mobile phone.

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This search-within-channel feature has been available for long on YouTube’s desktop website – see screenshot – but none of the YouTube apps have it yet. This is surprising considering the fact that more than half of video views on YouTube now come from mobile devices.

That’s where our mini YouTube search engine can help. Sign-in with your YouTube account, enter a search query, select any YouTube channel that you are subscribed to and it will show a list of all matching videos within the selected channel.

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The app builds a list of all channels that you are currently subscribed to and prepares a nice drop-down with the channels sorted by name. The drop-down also features the channel icons so it is easier for you to find the channel you are looking for.

Also, if you have multiple YouTube accounts, you can click the “Logout” link to sign-out from the current account and log in to any other account. The app requests read-only access to your YouTube account and does not store any of your data anywhere.

If you are a desktop uses, you’ll probably never need this site but for mobile users, our mini YouTube search engine could be worth bookmarking until YouTube incorporates this missing feature to their native apps.

Related: How to Copy YouTube Playlists

GIITTV: Madonnatron – Madonnatron (Trashmouth Records)

Madonnatron manage to combine elements of all of my favourite London bands of recent years on a debut album that could well be the injection of pure feminist (in their own words) ‘witch prog’ the south London experimental punk scene has been so far missing. On ‘Headless Children’ they are more reminiscent of Lola Colt than labelmates Fat White Family. But whereas Lola Colt’s, at times nomadic noodlings become ever widening circles of hell, Madonnatron is more a short sharp therapy. Fat White Family’s acute sense of the absurd is present but served with home-made lemonade instead of jet fuel and Shame’s political angst is present on riot grrrl-esque ‘Mother’s Funeral’ and particularly on ‘Bad Woman’’s glorious change of speed as it suddenly, somehow becomes a punk staple. And that’s Madonnatron’s attraction. Stylistically they are all over the place, like a radge Go Team or garage girl Beta Band. And that album cover is an instant classic.

It’s a debut that is raw, loose and risque but as these things tend to be half-baked anyway, that is their lo-fi appeal, too much of it drifts towards totally forgettable wailing as they seemingly forget when, or how to wrap it up or add a double chorus. It’s one thing to be under-rehearsed but another to be, on occasion, entirely unlistenable (‘Be My Bitch’) or just plain boring (‘Wedding Song’). ‘Glenn Closer’, apart from the incredible name that promises so much, is Fat White-lite, topical psyche about (something, something “Twitter”), and on (something, something “coke”), who really knows what, while elsewhere lead single ‘Tron’ is seemingly lacking much of a chorus even on repeat listens.

But that’s a touch unfair on Madonnatron because the good moments outweigh the less well thought through ones. On their more refined and poppier tracks such as The Go Gos/C86-like ‘Violent Denial’ and the sleazy and dangerous ‘Sangue Nuef’, with its great fuzzy bassline and Moroccan pipes, they cement their position on one of the UK’s most fiercely indie labels, Trashmouth Records, by offering glimpses of wonderful originality. They have kept it short at ten tracks, the danger to spew out any old guff towards the end mercifully avoided, and on closer ‘Cat Lady’ Madonnatron even hint at an intriguing alternative direction with some lovely harmonies, tighter production and, basically more song-shaped cavorting. It’s not quite Haim, mind, as it bobs along increasingly channelling the golden gutters of a Hollywood bad trip circa 1969 and the trademark underlying unpleasantness is never far away.

Overall, a promising though not great debut and hopefully not the last we will hear of Madonnatron.

Madonnatron is out now on Trashmouth Records.

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GIITTV: MIF17: Party Skills For The End Of The World

Going by the blurb in the handy, pocket-sized programme, Party Skills For The End Of The World could be awesome, or it could be something akin to a horror movie, but instead of watching it – you’re in it.  No thanks to “industrial action” affecting trains, a grumpy shuttle bus driver to another station, the ridiculous layout of said station, a missed train, and rude station staff, pretty much nothing is going to plan and I’m already thinking of ways to escape to the cinema and screw this, yeah?  Add to that the fact that Salford basically wants you to guess at street names, I arrived over half an hour late, fed up, and my God, could this day get any hotter?  Thankfully, I’m not the only one and soon a nice, cheery young woman appears to take us inside.

The event is in what I’m assuming is one of the university’s buildings – The Adelphi Building, as it’s called – and I have to admit to being somewhat sceptical about the whole thing.  I mean, I’m not exactly in the mood for a party, so to speak.  But what exactly are Party Skills For The End Of The World?  And why would there be a party?  Surely there are more important things to consider if the world as we know it has ended?

As it would turn out, the organisers etc, have anticipated my questions and provided Party goers with a number of survival skills.  To the far left of the entrance, is one almighty mess of orange peel (so that explains the slightly overbearing scent of orange…) and discarded paper party hats. Nearby is a mini bar which extends to alcohol and tiny bottles of water for quite frankly extortionate prices, sold from what is essentially an adult-sized pull-along cart and two crates.

Further down the corridor is a small workshop on how to make an arrowhead from a teaspoon.  On the opposite side is a room with an array of critters and animals made from food – lemon mice and aubergine penguins are on display in the window  Back up the corridor is a small space dedicated to the learning of magic tricks.  In one tiny room, is a chap, a table, and various lengths of rope.  I’m invited in to tie some knots – something I haven’t done since my brief time with the Brownies as a child.  It’s amazing how much I forgot, how much I forgot I remembered, and just how much I know nothing about tying knots whatsoever.

Wandering from room to room over two out of three floors of ‘skills’ it’s clear that not only are we taught how to survive should the worst happen and the world ends, but also how to have fun in the face of such a terrible future – folding napkins (just in case you feel like having a dinner party), how to make pepper spray (because if the worst happens and the world is overrun by either zombies or bad people/being in general, it can buy you some time to escape), how to punch, how to pick a lock, how to write a speech, and how to make balloon animals.

While watching a lesson on how to make a dog from a balloon, the power cuts out and everyone is directed down several flights of stairs – and then I’m sent to a rickety old lift that takes two people and several attempts to close the door to move – down to a large, dark space where I find two drummers, loud dance music and computer generated images.  Out of nowhere, a man takes to stage and silently instructs people to sit down.  He begins a speech/strange monologue about fear and about what people fear: that the world is run by thieves and liars; that when we die, we either die quickly and never getting the chance to say goodbye, or we die slowly and therefore painfully; that we don’t have children; that we don’t marry; that we do marry someone but they’re not the right person and we know it…  None of this is encouraging and the atmosphere around me is heavy, like everyone else is pondering the same thing at the same time.  If this is the future – the real end of the world – well, we’re all doomed, I’m afraid.

And then there’s silence again.  A screen towards the back catches my eye as it reads the words How To Dance.  Cue loud dance music and everyone everywhere dances along.  A countdown from 10 begins after a short while and then there’s a complete blackout.  Torches made from plastic milk bottles shine and a young lady playing the trumpet slowly leads everyone towards the back of the space where mysteriously, there’s yet another small space.  A speech is given – made by everyone in the skills bit upstairs – and a joke is told about a magic dog.  Confusion is sensed all around and then out of nowhere, lights go up and Beyonce‘s ‘Crazy In Love’ booms out from speakers around the DJ booth.  There’s an actual bar too, and suddenly the crushing despair that followed the speech/poem is gone and everyone is happy and in the mood for a party.

There are various small rooms around this space, and each one has something different: a games room that features board games from years gone by (Battleship, Mousetrap, dominoes, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, et al), darts, and skittles made from empty bottles; a quieter space lit by lamps with bulbs that mimic candle flames; a silent film and piano where you’re invited to provide the soundtrack to the movie – if that’s not a metaphor for life – right now, and in the imagined post-apocalyptic future – what is?  Another room looks like a place to relax at first.  On the chest/box in the middle of the room is a pair of scissors and sheets of paper.  The ceiling, however, is covered in hundreds of tissue-paper pom poms.  Seriously, it’s like something straight 0ff of Pinterest.  In yet another room is a small lounge area with the majority of the floor space taken up with a Scalextric and cars.  The lampshades are made from biros and actually, the effect is really pretty.

If this is what the world looks like after the apocalypse, it’s not so bad after all.  And now I know how to make pepper spray and fold a napkin, the world had better look out.

Photo: Joel Fildes

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GIITTV: The Neutron Music Prize 2017 – Shortlist

So the nominations for the Mercury Music Prize 2017 were released last week, and whilst it contained some good records, we were left with a feeling of slight disappointment at the obvious and corporate nature of the list. Maybe it’s down to how much you have to pay to even enter the Mercury Prize these days? Or maybe the point of the prize has become somewhat confused? When you consider it was once a prize that claimed to champion diversity, difference and the lesser known, Ed Sheeran’s inclusion is particularly baffling.

We decided to do our own alternative list, so here we present this year’s Neutron Music Prize shortlist, by no means definitive; indeed I am sure there are many other worthy contenders from various genres this year. But it’s a collection of super albums that were overlooked by the Mercury panel, which we feel deserve some acclaim and are worthy of your attention. We have taken the same criteria to select them: albums released between the end of July last year to the end of July this, by British artists. The winner will be announced the day after the Mercury prize is handed out. Here is our list:

Blanck Mass – World Eater

World Eater is an exercise in building something expansive, lyrical and emotional from a deliberately limited palette. It’s a testament to realising that less can be more, that pointed restraint can open up fertile creative avenues. Power describes the album as a reaction to “recent global events [proving that] the human race is consuming itself”, while also maintaining that this is the closest he’s ever come to writing “actual love songs”. Personally, my heart beats in a clatteringly chunky, mechanical way, so if these beefy slabs of electronica are the love songs of the end of the world, bring on the apocalypse.(Andy Vine)

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Counterfeit- Together We Are Stronger

If ever there was an album more vital for the times we live in now, this would be the one. This isn’t anger for the sake of being angry, this is frustration at the injustices of the world we know right now; this is the beginning of the fight back to restore things to how they should be, but we, they, whoever can only do it if we’re in it together. Actually, that seems to be a recurring theme throughout the album, with not-so-gentle nods to something personal, or at least potentially personal here and there; if anything, it only adds to the poignancy of the record.(Toni Spencer)

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Desperate Journalist – Grow Up

Maybe it’s just the rare sensation of having all my sad old 80s indie fan buttons pushed at the same time, but as the Gothtastic ‘Hollow’ storms out of the traps, sounding like no less a landmark than The Cure’s ‘A Hundred Years’, to be followed by ten more songs of equal brilliance, I feel like I did when I heard Doolittle, Bummed or Isn’t Anything for the first time – in the presence of genuine, tangible, indisputable greatness.(Tim Russell)

Gallops – Bronze Mystic

The album is packed with energy and ideas, the slow build of ‘Meta’ a highlight of an album full of them. Placid moments of Blade Runner-style soundscapes are intercut with jagged sparks of synth and thumping bass. There’s a lot to admire here, but just as importantly, a lot that you can dance to as well. And live they can deliver in spades, so don’t miss them. You’ll be hearing a lot more from Gallops if their newfound enthusiasm is anything to go on.(Andy Vine)

 

 

IDLES-Brutalism

Once in a while a band form and completely reaffirm one’s love of music by making the point of making music, earnest and worthwhile. IDLES did just this with their album Brutalism. From the LP’s name, the cover, to the opening scream of “No surrender!!” you knew you were in for an absolute treat. The visceral ‘Mother’, the stop start of ‘Date night’, the clever (and hilarious) ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ and the honest and tender ‘Slow Savage’. IDLES do not take themselves seriously, yet their message is still one of anger, hope and a passion for change. This album is absolute bliss. (Ioan Humphreys)

Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens

Welsh artist, Kelly Lee Owens crafts evocative soundscapes with subtle beats and deft handed use of layered synthase and samples, each one contains a intriguing sense of space like small caverns being carved into your subconsciousness of your soul, modern, innovative and bold. Sure the ghosts of the early trip hop of Massive Attack or the more bass heavy trembles of Grimes may swirl through these tracks, but its Owens’ imagination and affecting voice that meditates and explores inner depths, that sets this album apart as rather special. Haunting, hypnotic and endlessly exciting, it’s one of this year’s most affecting sleeper hits. (Bill Cummings)

The Moonlandingz – Interplanetary Class Classics

Initially masquerading as a ‘fictional’ entity, on their debut album The Moonlandingz proved that they are actually as real a band as you could ever wish for. Aping the B-52s on the likes of ‘The Rabies Are Back’ and channelling both Spiritualised and The Jesus And Mary Chain on the impeccable ‘The Strangle Of Anna’, the delightfully varied Interplanetary Class Classics is both gloriously trashy and intelligently crafted pop nirvana. Perhaps best of all is finale ‘This Cities Undone’ (sic), to which a certain Yoko Ono lends her not inconsiderable vocal talents. Staggeringly good from start to finish. (Loz Etheridge)

Profusion-Where Do I Begin?

Profusion is a collaboration between K15, or Kieron Ifil, and Emeson. A collaboration in the sense that both men have great pedigrees and achievements already before this record came into being. K15 has a track record of working in different forms such as house, jazz, soul, hip-hop and techno. Even if you’ve never heard these projects, they have all rubbed off on this album. Emeson has also worked across a multitude of genres and is also a successful actor, having appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and various Marvel comic adaptations to name but a few projects.

Here is an album that melds all manner of music – from jazz to hip-hop to drum’n’bass and electronica, ultimately coming up with an album that is, above all, soulful. It feels utterly contemporary, whilst drawing on a range of influences that might loosely be termed ‘urban.’

This is a record which is for the heart and feet, to chill to on summer days (good luck with that for our UK readers!) or snuggle up with on winter nights. It feels like it is a continuing lineage of a number of classic records – Massive Attack’s Blue Lines and The StreetsOriginal Pirate Material, certainly, with nods to both Burial and Zero 7.Utter bloody brilliance.(Ed Jupp)

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Richard Dawson – Peasant

Geordie folk troubadour Richard Dawson has already been snagged of a Mercury nomination. Back in 2015 his acclaimed four-track oddity, Nothing Important failed to make the cut. So, the exclusion of his latest experimental masterpiece Peasant is even more perplexing. It’s an album that shows off Dawson’s distinct knack of pushing the listener into dank, dark, strange territories that can often feel uncomfortable or even enlightening. Tracks like ‘Begger’, ‘Weaver’ and ‘Scientist’ recount the lives of people in early North East England through a twanging, spiritual and wonderfully complex soundtrack dictated by Dawson’s howling, off-kilter vocals. It’s an absolute triumph of thoughtful British songwriting basically. (Nad Khan)

Ronika – Lose My Cool

Ronika has developed something very special on Lose My Cool. The song writing is deceptively simple and the production is so rich and textured that it could be peak Neptunes or The-Dream. She draws inspiration from the past whilst pushing her sound forward. She’s a pop-obsessive who has made a record ideal for pop-obsessives. When talking about making this record Ronika said, “I’ve been drawn not just to newer sounds but those classics who’ll be eternally cool, and each generation will revisit.” She’s done just that, and Lose My Cool is an absolute triumph.(Jonathan Wright)

Siobhan Wilson – There Are No Saints

Siohan Wilson produces the kind of heart-on-sleeve stuff that will see her performing on successively larger stages over the next few years. Songs like ‘Disaster and Grace’ offer simmering hymnals to both the former and the latter, attempting a discourse at what might be found at the intersection of the two. Because what is grace, if not the ability to navigate and refashion one’s own disasters in a more elegant form? ‘Fake it till you make it’ is the popular expression, though I’m no longer convinced there’s much distance between those two either. And if we’re all faking it – putting on our best smiles and acting like grown-ups till the day we finally die of embarrassment – we can at least aspire to the transformative grace of Siobhan Wilson.(Matthew Neale)

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Zervas and Pepper-Wilderland

One suspects that, had this record been made in 1976, people would still be talking about it in hallowed tones even now. Spectacular harmonies, masterly musicianship and a blissful warmth are omnipresent here and the arrangements, oh the arrangements, well, just listen to the magnificent retelling of the legend of ‘Mazeppa And The Wild Horse‘ or the soaring beauty of ‘I Leave No Traces‘ and that should leave you in no doubt about this band’s potential to be giants.

Some say love’s a crime / I say love won’t be denied” sings Pepper on the Carpenters-like finale ‘Universe To Find‘ and quite frankly, it sums the whole thing up so neatly that I don’t have to. Bloody hippies…(Loz Etheridge)

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GIITTV: Arcade Fire- Everything Now (Columbia)

“I think the internet was co-opted pretty early on by corporations. I don’t think anybody knew when we were signing up for Gmail accounts that we would be getting direct marketing of things we write in our private emails”, observes Win Butler in an interview with website Stereogum in June. Cynicism of the digital age and its hidden consumer-exploitation abilities is what’s on Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire minds at the moment and it seems as if their latest mission is to get audiences to wear the greed-revealing glasses from John Carpenter’s sci-fi They Live and think twice before they log in.

Even before the release of their fifth album Everything Now, the continually-ambitious group created a marketing campaign that includes bogus stories and facts about themselves that satire on the cyber problem of fake news, a premature critical music review that pokes fun at fickle fans, a stereotypical corporate logo and and a website drowned with so much suffocating pop-up information (a reference to click bait) that it’s reminiscent of MIA’s album cover for Maya.

The socially-reflective Arcade Fire have utilised marketing campaigns before (such as the mysterious imagery and calling service for religious themed Neon Bible) to stir up hype for a record’s concept but this time it’s an incredibly topical commentary about modern society that’s thought-provoking, relevant and has the potential to be powerful. But how well is this strong message projected on the 13 tracks on Everything Now and are the songs themselves any good?

Well, even from its name alone, the title track is very transparent.Everything Now’ examines the immediacy and availability of media. But as beneficial as the system is, it’s also so overwhelming that it can replace any room for independent thought (“Every inch of space in your head is filled up with the things that you read”) and also can encourage an impatient Veruca Salt syndrome: “I need it, I want it. Can’t live without it.”

Arcade Fire also cleverly and comically uses the structure of the album to their advantage when presenting the theory of the internet’s monetary and engaging powers in two consecutive tracks called ‘Infinite Content’. Both with the same repetitive lyrics that play on the two meanings of content: 1) happy and satisfied 2) a large amount of information. While Win Butler sneakily admits that “all of your money is spent” on an album that includes two identical tracks that only switch in pace (from bashing rock to lonesome country).

The first and last track of the album are also replicas of each other. They remix the title track ‘Everything Now’ into an ambient hypnotic spin. As those tracks can seamlessly connect to each other, if the album is played on a repeat loop it’s like it never ends. A cycle metaphor for streaming services and a playful twist on the album format.

‘Creature Comfort’ is also an important observation on how the internet has deformed the modern mindset. A Creature comfort used to be something necessary such as food and a relaxing home but thanks to YouTube’s instant fame machine, for an increasing number of Generation Z see being famous as an essential ingredient of life and will do stupid things for it. If they don’t achieve it, they feel they are abnormal and contemplate suicide. “Saying God, make me famous. If you can’t just make it painless.” With the recent documented suicides of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, this discussion is strangely apt.

The rest of the album is not as strong in its concept and can be quite lyrically lazy but demonstrate Arcade Fire’s recent chapter into the grooves of dance rock and embrace of eclecticism that started with the James Murphy produced Reflektor and has now moved on with the helping hand of Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter.

None are classics but they show diverse influences. There’s the reggae-meets-Daft Punk’s ‘Robot Rock’ on ‘Chemistry’, the neon-lit disco of Régine Chassange-lead ‘Electric Blue’, odd funk-rap of ‘Signs of Life’ and mellow soul of ‘Good God Damn’, one of many tracks where Will Butler attempts to alter his voice to fit the mood but is perhaps best to sticking to his normal tone.

The choral baroque-pop of their beginnings may be long gone but the character of Arcade Fire: ambition, epic power and an empathetic consideration for society are still present.

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