There are a few things you should know before you commit.
You’ll notice the dancing, the tapping of feet, the wiggling of the head to a beat out of reach of human ears. You’ll be looking around and straining to find the source of the sound.
It’s just the soundtrack in my head playing constantly. Every day, all day.
Many times, so many times, I’ve thought my iPod or radio was playing only to find it wasn’t. It’s the radio station broadcasting in my brain. Sometimes it plays fragments of songs, sometimes whole tracks, once or twice a whole album.
If you find it difficult to get my attention it’s because the music is too loud. To be honest it gets pretty noisy. It makes it difficult to concentrate on occasion.
The only way to block it out is to hold my full attention (you know what that means)… or to put some music on.
But hey, it could be worse, at least I don’t hear screaming voices…plus there’s always something to dance to.
Santigold is a rediscovery. First heard a few, maybe five, years ago and re-entering my life via an unusual medium; the Gossip Girl soundtrack. It seems I have a weakness, not just for quality tunes, lagers and ladies, but also for trashy teen TV. (I WAS ILL OK! I was one step from Jeremy Fucking Kyle!)
Regardless, my earholes are grateful for the return of Santi and her shimmering electro-ness. She remains above genre, not quite hip hop, not quite dance, not quite pop. Santigold is on the edge of punk influenced electronic music, the kind that sits comfortably in any playlist which doesn’t include Mumford & Sons or Rumer. By that I mean, my mother would hate it. I love it. There’s hard edged half-rap vocals which manage remaining melodic and a slightly sleazy rhythm guitar. It’s kinda sexy.
So here is your opening Santigold number, “L.E.S. Artistes”. I would have included “Disparate Youth” but I don’t want you all running out to buy insurance you don’t need. Yeah, thanks for ruining that track Direct Line.
It was one of those, “How the hell did I miss this one?”, moments.
After several hours of internet-based musical perambulation, hopping from one YouTube channel to another Soundcloud profile via the wonders of The Quietus and CoS, I tripped over Shura’s new track, Touch. A chilled electronic track with a mainstream appeal; it’s fringing on pop with very well placed Janet Jackson-esque production elements. Love the lyrics, love the video.
Following further perambulation, I found Shura had been doing the vocal duties on a few DJ Hiatus tracks too.
They are beautiful together.
Hiatus’ tracks deliver an emotionally dark tone contrasting perfectly with Shura’s breathy, delicate voice. The beats aren’t heavy and there’s enough piano, guitar and strings to counteract any potential synth fatigue. Hiatus’ album Parkland is quite lovely. It has a movie soundtrack quality to it in the same way that Massive Attack do. And like them, listening to an entire album might be OD-ing on a good thing but a few select tracks really stand out, single-worthy. One of them is River and another is Fortune’s Fool both featuring vocals by Shura. Both cut through with a seam of achingly bittersweet lyrics, like a layer of 80% cocoa dark chocolate. Both delicious. Here they are:
Death from Above first assaulted my ears back in 2005 with Romantic Rights. Dirty distorted bass suited the mood, which was decidedly unromantic. Many happy times were spent jumping around to that track and screaming the lyrics. This was of course prior to their hiatus from my playlists and prior to a reformation and slight name change. I’m not sure that adding your year of birth on the end of the band name really qualifies as a name change but hey…Who cares they are back and this sweet sweet sound was released last month.
It’s throbbing with dirty bass and rough hewn vocals backed with sugary oooo-ing at the chorus. It was never going to be profoundly poetic and it’s not meant to be – uncomplicated works best. The track barrels along like a fucking freight train, taking out everything that strays into its path.
Yes, Sebastien, I want it all, I can’t get enough…
And I’m jealous of the impressive button badge collection displayed in the video, obviously.
I like a clever band name as much as the next music addict but I have my limits.
One of those limits is when a band decides on a title so prosaic and prolific in the English language that they become un-Googleable. Oh the frustration! Fine examples of this are Real Estate and Traveller. Their hope, clearly, to become bigger than the original meaning and sometimes this happens. Search for Prince or Pulp and you will quickly find their musical web presence.
Jenn Ghetto has, however, taken the biscuit. The former member of Carissa’s Wierd goes by the name of “S”. These are trying times for tinterweb music lovers…
That said, I still have a tiny crush and her latest offerings are rather enjoyable. Take the song Vampires from her new album Cool Choices (out September 2014 on Hardly Art). It still has the same Ghetto light, breathy vocals, the quietness contrasting with the solidness of the rhythms that underpin every track. Vampires does have a echo of something else which perhaps invites comparisons to Tegan and Sara’s 2007 album The Con. That something else is Chris Walla, from Death Cab for Cutie, who produced that album and this song. Despite the alt-pop injection making it decidedly more cheery than usual, it is definitely Ghetto behind the sad lyrics. She skillfully treads the path between pensively miserable and damn catchy, and I love it.
I confess I’m not sure why I love this track.
Perhaps it’s the retro feel to the chord sequences and the backing vocals; even the lyrics are bordering on late 90’s pastiche. Or perhaps it is because for some bizarre reason the lead singer reminds me of Justin Hawkins from The Darkness, except without the nuts-in-a-mangle high notes and the rehab. If their forthcoming album has a song about STDs then it will definitely make my summer…
Regardless, The Struts don’t seem to take themselves too seriously and that can only be a good thing. Come on…I dare you not to sing along to that ‘Oh yeah!’.
Chantelle Pike and Hannah Dean, AKA Eyes for Gertrude, use folky vocal harmonies, waltzing piano and accordian to deliver their particular brand of songwriting. It could indeed be classified as folk pop. The duo from South West England craft catchy hooks and verse laced with humour to illuminate the everyday. And it just sounds good.
They are due to release a full length album this year and if you can catch them live, I’d highly recommend it. This is their most recent single, Messing Around.
Waxahatchee, perfect for days when you need your aching sadness accompanied by indie folk and a comforting drawl. Stripped down to the basics of six strings and a single heartbreaking, cracked vocal, Catfish is the saddest song I’ve heard in a long while. This is singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield at her most raw. Other musical offerings from Waxahatchee are more cheerful and I’d recommend checking out both LP’s Cerulean Salt and American Weekend. For now though, here’s Catfish.
“You’re a ghost and I can’t breathe”
In honour of her appearance at Glastonbury this weekend (a full live set in The Rum Shack), here’s the brilliant Kate Tempest.
Tempest first made her name as a spoken word artist and poet, though according to her label she would describe herself as a rapper who writes. She’s pretty big in the poetry world, winning the prestigious Ted Hughes Prize for her play, Brand New Ancients, and generally being the poster girl for young British poetry. She’s released a single on Greco-Roman and been featured on numerous tracks with people like Bastille and Sinead O’Connor. After a few years of treading the edges of the mainstream, Tempest cemented her cross-over by signing to hip hop label Big Dada and releasing a full length album, Everybody Down, in May this year.
And it’s bloody good.
Blunt, witty lines race over hip hop beats as her stories of everyday people and London lives unfold. There’s little in the way of melodic vocal hooks, this is rap…with a lot of bass. Each of the twelve tracks on the album is a chapter, another story, with a mosaic of fully grown characters and rich drama.
Here’s your gateway track – The Beigeness.
This one came via The Editor who suggested Van Etten’s music would be a sweet balm for my woes. He was right.
The indie rock singer-songwriter manages to imbue almost every line and riff with intense emotion. Her four album back catalogue is filled with stark stories of relationships and wonderfully drawling yet velvety vocals. This is one of my favourite tracks.
Oh and she’s doing a UK mini tour in November 2014, tickets went on sale today. Road trip anyone?