GIITTV: Bicep – Bicep (Ninja Tune)

Time to grapple with that bicep. If it was good enough for Purple Aki, it’s good enough for you. Custodial sentence and rubbish puns notwithstanding, this debut album from the Belfast-born duo, Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson, is a pretty arresting record if one that, perhaps, doesn’t create anything hugely new. Instead, it distils a whole load of dance music influences that have clearly taken the fancy of the creators. Very apt considering the hugely successful Feel My Bicep blog by the twosome.

Whether by accident, instrument or design, Bicep harks back to a time when the inspiration for the duo’s name and marauding muscle-admirer, Akinwale Arobieke, was becoming, shall we say, most active. The nods across the album to ’90s progressive house of the Orbital-type flavour are explicit but, for a somewhat maligned genre, actually quite welcome. Quite welcome. Ethereal sweeps abound with rough and powerful percussion shoving things along. Nostalgia may not be what it used to but it’s a reminder that that most British of mutations was a hoot. Some electro beats and a slight rave atmosphere toughen things up even more at points and several tracks would fit in fine enough into a techno set.

Fine enough is perhaps not what music-makers want to hear, however. It is the inescapable case here though. Tracks like ‘Glue‘ are just that. Warm, little bit ambient and epic. Decent beats and that’s it. That really is the case too often across the 12 tracks. The exception to this would be the closer, ‘Aura‘, which has been floating around unreleased for a while. Sounding a little like an early track by Slam – yet another ’90s reference – it’s a far more powerful affair with guts and an intimidating growl; the clear highlight. Still a crowd-pleaser with jaunty plinks and plonks and that ever-present epic vibe but it has muscle. Aki would be proud.

Ayr‘ is another standout. Downtempo but actually has a whole lot more power than some others here. A more accessible Boards Of Canada perhaps. Even as one of the best tracks on the album though, one can’t help but think that being a less accessible Boards Of Canada would be more fulfilling for both creators and listeners.

If all this sounds a little half-hearted, in a sense, it is. Not that the album isn’t pleasurable, but the production and construction is so good you suspect the twosome really could have pushed things further. They sure as hell know how to make a record but Bicep as a whole is quite safe. If anything, the tracks have been overworked and overproduced. A collection of tunes that would keep a night rattling along but, you suspect, will not linger in the memory as long as they could or should.

In some ways, that was what did for prog-house as a genre. At the arse-end of proceedings in the ’90s, the avalanche of perfectly serviceable but somewhat unremarkable tracks was overwhelming. Whilst Bicep does have other influences as noted, it doesn’t do complete justice to the duo. It’s good, it could be considerably better. This is too often festival dance music, with all that entails.

 

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Owen Jones: Please, Theresa, sack Boris Johnson. Britain need leaders not clowns | Owen Jones

Brexit is the most important point in our postwar history, and our foreign secretary commands no respect in Europe. Enough is enough

Please, Theresa May, for the sake of our country’s future, sack Boris Johnson. His continued presence as foreign secretary is a national humiliation. The influence of a leftwing Guardian columnist over the prime minister is, to put it mildly, rather limited. It is up to Conservative members and supporters to come the conclusion that Johnson’s continued tenure as Britain’s representative to the wider world is a risk to the future of this country.

Political journalist Rachel Sylvester has a piece in the Times today which is as devastating as it is frightening. It languishes behind the paywall, so let me offer some choice highlights. Even Donald Trump’s officials regard Johnson as a joke. “Not a single foreign minister” in Europe takes him seriously. He leaks information given to him confidentially by other governments. He is variously considered by EU states as “totally unreliable”, a “liar” and “dangerous”. He is “ramshackle” and so lacking in concentration span that civil servants have to bypass him and consult his deputy, Alan Duncan, instead.

May only appointed him to manage the internal schism of her chronically divided party

Related: Why did Boris Johnson blow £940m? Because the system let him | Hugh Muir

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Digital Inspiration Technology Blog The Best SMS App for Android is made by Microsoft

Looking for good SMS app for Android? The Google Play Store lists a gazillion texting apps that can do SMS, MMS, and so much more. The most popular options include Facebook Messenger that has texting as a side feature, TrueCaller that can identify senders and then there’s Android Messages, Google’s own SMS app that also includes audio chats, emojis and location sharing.

I prefer minimal apps that do one thing and do it really well. After testing all the popular texting apps for Android, the one I absolutely love is SMS Organizer from Microsoft. It is a pure SMS app, simple and efficient but with no extra bells and whistles.

Here’s a list of useful features that make SMS Organizer a must-have app for Android.

1. OTP Detection

When you log into a website that requires 2-factor authentication, your bank for example, they send a one-time-password (OTP) to your mobile phone in a text message. You open the message, copy the digits and paste into the login screen.

SMS organizer makes this process a lot easier for you. It detects if a text contains an OTP and give you an option to copy the code directly from the notification menu. No need to even open the message.

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2. Google Drive Integration

Microsoft SMS Organizer can automatically backup SMS messages to your Google Drive. You can perform the backup manually and let the app do it for every day or every week. If you move to a new phone later, you can easily restore your text chats from the cloud.

3. Intelligent Message Sorting

The SMS app automatically sorts your text messages as they arrive into categories like transactions, promotional, and blocked.  So all text messages from your bank or your mobile service provider go in one folder while the bulk message goes into promotions.

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4. Email Like Filters

This is my favorite feature of SMS organizer. You can long-press a text message and it will let you define a filter for the sender of that message. All future messages from that particular sender will be moved to the designated folder automatically.

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5. Smart Reminders

If any of your text messages have a due date, SMS organizer will show you a notification when the due date is approaching. For instance, if your credit card bill is due, you’ll be automatically reminded via a notification.

SMS organizer can send reminders for due bills, travel dates, upcoming appointments and more. You can also setup your own customer reminders inside the app and the text of the selected message will show up at the specified date and time.

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6. Send Free SMS

You can use SMS organizer to send up to 30 text messages for free every month to any mobile number in India. These messages are sent via the Internet so even if you do not have cellular connectivity, the texts would still go out.

Microsoft’s SMS app is free, doesn’t include any in-app purchases, contains no advertising and all the data resides locally on your mobile device.

You can use the IFTTT app to save your text messages in a Google Sheet or for receiving texts as an email message. PushBullet and AirDroid can be used for viewing and responding to text notifications from your desktop computer.

The VPME VPME Recommends – Spotify Playlist July/August 2017

Here’s our latest monthly playlist for July and August. You’ll note the slight flaw in our plan when doing these monthly playlists namely we completely forgot to do last months.

So it’s a double helping and there’s some fabulous music here be it the haunting ragged beauty of EMA, Samantha Urbani’s perfect pop comeback, Juanita Stein’s country tinged take on the dark heart of the American dream, Dream Wife proving why they are one of the most exciting young bands around and the welcome return of Bully. Tired Lion give the grunge genre a right good kicking whilst Swimming Girls anthemic pop marks them out as ones to watch for 2018.  There’s even (*gasp*) The Horrors surprising us with a rather beautiful undulating pop tune that sounds not unlike an undiscovered 80’s cult classic.

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GIITTV: Ian Felice – Kingdom Of Dreams (Loose Music)

One of the most distinctive voices of our generation, and a peerless lyricist to boot, this is perhaps surprisingly Ian Felice‘s debut solo album away from his ‘brothers’. But then again, it isn’t, for it features his brother (and former bandmate) Simone Felice on production duties, also taking his seat behind the drums here, while founding members James Felice and Josh Rawson make up the remaining musicians. So it seems it is a Felice Brothers record in all but name.

It starts with the shimmering banjo of the title track and juxtaposes that with the typically macabre “I don’t wanna be hanged from a gold ash tree” and “I don’t wanna fall for a courtesy call with the mice in the wall, or wander around this make believe town in a hospital gown“, perhaps painting the environment of being that of a mental institution, the patient reaching a kind of nirvanic catharsis with the chorus “Oh but if I were a king, all of the bells would ring.” It’s an impressive opener and sets the tone perfectly for what’s to come.

The barren landscape of the gorgeous ‘Will I Ever Reach Laredo‘ brings with it a feeling of mournful solitude, and by the end of it, we are left to wonder whether this is going to be an altogether less playful release than those he has recorded with The Felice Brothers. But then if we were starting to have concerns for the New Yorker’s well-being, ‘21st Century‘ tickles us with its opening gambit: “Well the aliens landed on election day, and they stole your mother’s lingerie.” Musically it sounds surprisingly like something that Conor Oberst might have written.

Mostly though, it’s a downbeat affair, albeit often one with a kind of spiritual lift. There is a brief respite from the pensivity though, in the shape of ‘Road To America‘, an almost Bert Jansch like guitar jangle accompanying a persistent stomping rhythm and lyrics such as “Paintings of Smokey The Bear, or Washington crossing the Delaware / Politicians and businessmen, placing bids, high as the pyramids“, but even this breaks down midway, into a dreamlike trance, punctuated by the chiming of church bells, “all alone in a gold Cadillac…to the empire of Donald Duck….”

And though this may sound confusing, it is this seeming regression into childhood which is at the heart of In The Kingdom Of Dreams. As Ian himself puts it, “many were based on memories of my past but not necessarily all literal or in a logical sequence. I became interested in the pull between reality and unreality and also in how time affects memory.”

All in all, this is simply a truly lovely record, and in ‘Ten To One‘, we have probably the best use of a countdown in a song since ‘Space Oddity’, as well as the most poignant album closer you’ll hear all year, so much so that you actually end up feeling a little unsettled by it. The world is certainly a better place with Ian Felice in it. Long may he continue

In The Kingdom Of Dreams is out now on Loose Music.

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GIITTV: Track Of The Day #1071: Chew Magna – Learning How To Swim

Chew Magna are the latest project from members of Songs For WalterYoung British Artists, and Hot Shorts. They’ve been threatening to get together for a while and it’s now come to fruition. ‘Learning How To Swim’ is the product of a single night’s recording and it certainly whets the appetite for a forthcoming album, reportedly to be put together in November from an impressive 20 songs. If this debut single is anything to go on, expect the purest of ’90s indie rock fuzzy fun, the beef of Dinosaur Jr and lean songwriting chops of Pavement. Lots of fun, basically.

If you missed them at their first gig at Sounds From the Other City festival earlier in the year, they play the cosy surrounds of the Eagle Inn in Salford on 16 September. ‘Learning How To Swim’ is out the day before.

 

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GIITTV: The Main Grains – The Soundhouse, Leicester, 26/08/2017

God Is In The Tv lensman Paul Reno and I have known each other a very long time, and tonight’s venue holds fond memories, for it used to be a pub called the Queen Vic (no, not that one), and we used to attend their Monday night karaoke most weeks, challenging one another to the ‘extreme’ version, which entails selecting each others’ songs so you have no idea what you’ll be attempting to sing until it appears on the screen.

That was back in the late 1990s and, if we’re perfectly honest here, the set up of the Soundhouse has hardly laid the ghosts of the Vic to rest. It is, in fact, practically identical.

Not that this fazes either of tonight’s bands too much, in an energy packed evening that is kicked off by Leicester’s very own powerhouse combo The Midnight Dogs. True, nobody could accuse the band of being pioneers of their art, but who cares? They perform an exciting, gritty brand of rootsy rock and roll, and despite the fact that onstage they deliver every cliche in the book (frontman Cass even unwittingly – or perhaps wittingly, if that’s even a word – mimicking the sleeve of Born To Run at one point), it somehow serves only to endear them even more to the sparse but vocal group of punters who have made their way into the city centre on this hot late summer’s evening. They really do have some belting tunes. Well worth checking out.

Onto the main event: “It could be worse“, jokes Danny McCormack, “I could have only had one leg.”

The former Wildhearts‘ bass supremo, and now frontman for his splendid new band The Main Grains, lost the lower half of his right leg as the result of an aneurysm that nearly killed him less than two years ago, hence the quip. You have to admire his spirit, which, I should imagine, suggests that he simply feels grateful and lucky just to even be here, so much so that you can all but FEEL the love in the room between artist and audience tonight.

The Main Grains themselves are quite wonderful, with one two and a half minute pop gem followed by another throughout a set that positively whizzes by. I always think you can judge how good a gig is by how often you find yourself checking what time it is, and tonight, I don’t even look once. From the sublime ‘Unscrewed‘ through last year’s storming anthem ‘I’d Rather Be In California‘ and a rousing version of ‘Teenage Kicks‘, right up to the brilliant finale of ‘Anthem‘, the focus is on that band/audience bond and the determination of the performers that everyone goes home feeling like they’ve had a bloody marvellous time. And we did.

Photo credit: Paul Reno

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GIITTV: The Verve – Urban Hymns (Deluxe 20th Anniversary Edition) (Virgin/UMC)

Taken as the final part of a trilogy of albums, while Storm In Heaven is an overlooked gem and A Northern Soul the ‘difficult’ second album, Urban Hymns is the most accessible of the three without drifting into the MOR of subsequent releases and solo projects, and draws a line under a remarkable early career trajectory which saw The Verve go from ‘Mad Richard’ space jams to late-Britpop pioneers in four short years.

The ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ saga is well documented and many argued at the time the album wouldn’t have suffered if they had instead left it as a standalone single but the sonics on the remastered version are the essence of a remarkable album and a link to what came before. The introduction of an acoustic guitar on ‘Sonnet’ may have surprised some but the more introspective nature of some of the lyrics allows for that while the breakdown on ‘Rolling People’ is the nearest thing we get to pre-‘The’ Verve.

Harshly considered by some to be the first Ashcroft solo work, Nick McCabe’s incredible guitar work throughout and clipped band jams on ‘Rolling People’ and ‘Come On’ are more coherent and thematic than anything the band had already released. Urban Hymns is an album of huge highs while the gentler segments, such as ‘Catching The Butterfly’ and ‘One Day’ enable the incredible percussion and Simon Jones’ amazing basslines, and are less of a polaric comedown and more of an apposite accompaniment they had previously only hinted at. For an album that came out just a few short months after OK Computer it is equally as dynamic.

Arguably only ‘Neon Wilderness’ could have been dropped but on the second half of the album ‘Space And Time’ remains utterly absorbing while ‘Weeping Willow’ in particular, sees the band bring all of the aforementioned elements together in a feat of Britpop alchemy. Read as a deathbed-confessional or spiritual handover that, alongside ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’, it touches on the loss of Ashcroft’s biological father when he was just 11 and his fractious relationship with his deeply religious stepfather. And the, perhaps subconscious, Spiritualized influence on ‘This Time’ and ‘Velvet Morning
’ highlight the other great conflict in the singer’s life at this time as he was dating (his now wife but ex-squeeze of Jason Pierce) Kate Radley and make this album so much more than the coke-fuelled histrionics of some of its peers.

Of the bonus material, the Deluxe CD version paradoxically begins to document the band’s slide towards the banal fashions of the time. The coveted but underwhelming James Lavelle remix, funk and soul experiments, and forced jams that don’t come anywhere near the gold standard of the album but for completists are an essential addendum and musical insight into a band who were seemingly always on the brink of imploding. However, having already split up once by this time they can be forgiven for perhaps being less focused when it came to B-sides and the live material included here including a DVD of the band’s seminal Haigh Hall show is a timely reminder of what a formidable live act they were.

These anniversary reissues aren’t always necessary but in the case of Urban Hymns a timely reminder of an unmissable chapter in the 1990s story.

Urban Hymns 20th anniversary edition is released on 1st September through Virgin/UMC.

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GIITTV: Kirk Brandon aKoustiK Tour – Duffy’s, Leicester, 24/08/2017

After being still amazed by the grandiose power of Brandon’s Theatre of Hate back in March. I ventured into Leicester to watch another side of his talents. This time we get Kirk and a couple of shiny black acoustic guitars, his striking voice and the charming accompaniment of talented, affable cellist Sam Sansbury.

Tonight we get some new songs including a reaction to the recent atrocities in Manchester and London – “A song that wrote itself” declared the charismatic 61 year old. We also get acoustic versions of songs which have bejewelled his rich back catalogue since the days of the aforementioned Theatre of Hate and the more commercially successful Spear of Destiny. Westworld and Never Take Me Alive really work acoustically amongst newer songs such as Medievilist. Some people call Brandon an underrated talent, but who? I’ve always rated him highly, and tonight, clearly, so do many others.

If you like small intimate venues where you can really engage with the performers and the artists, then this is one of them, a superb little gem in the heart of Leicester. I was very impressed by the sound and ambience, and I get the impression the performers enjoyed it as much as we did. Kirk bounced off the audience with some good natured banter and plenty of smiles; I really would recommend that if you can attend this little mini tour somewhere , then please do so. I would also recommend that you attend an evening at this superb little venue when in town.

Support for the evening were Leicester’s Midnight Dogs, also unplugging for the night, I’d never heard of this outfit until tonight, but now that I have, I will investigate further, as I really enjoyed them. They usually play a full on electric set, but on tonight’s evidence it wouldn’t be a bad idea if they could repeat their new album acoustically too. An excellent evening’s entertainment.

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GIITTV: Track Of The Day #1070: Tulipomania – On The Outside [PREMIERE]

Philadelphia outfit Tulipomania‘s new single ‘On The Outside’ is a dark, mournful number with a sinuous percussion and strings that stab, rumble, and guitars and synth scald; it sounds like a more muscular Tindersticks fronted by Mark Lanegan. It’s laced with a sinister foreboding of Tom Murray’s vocals, ‘It’s always better when the news is wrong,‘ he sings like he’s looking from the outside in bewilderment at the nightmarish shadowy fake news agenda peddled by sociopathic orange man-child President Trump.

We have the premiere of the video for ‘On the Outside’ which presents intricate torn paper and tape collages of live performance, melded frame-by-frame with interior and exterior images, and additional objects in the band’s examination of shifting mental states of focus.

Tulipomania, whose name was inspired by the 1637 Dutch tulip market collapse, consist of Tom Murray (lead vocals, bass, drums, guitar-organ) and Cheryl Gelover (synthesiser, background vocals) were joined by Mitch Smith (guitar, glockenspiel), who also contributed to the band’s eponymous first album, Richard Hartline (piano, percussion, engineering and mastering), and Howard Thompson (executive producer). Gelover and Murray first met in Art school and found themselves collaborating on projects for their Experimental Film and Animation classes.

The new three-track single will be available via Sursumcorda Recordings on 15th September. It is already available for pre-order from Tulipomania’s Bandcamp page.

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