“I get angry when I hear that word “empire”; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised” Benjamin Zephaniah 2003
As anachronistic as the idea of an Empire is, it’s hard to begrudge Kate Bush her CBE for services to music. It’s also as good as excuse as any to share a couple of remixes of her classic “Running Up That Hill” single, and a 1979 Nationwide documentary featuring a transfixing Kate on her first tour.
The Blog Sound Poll is in no way meant as a criticism of the well established (and in my eyes well loved) BBC Sound Of list but rather as an alternative and complimentary selection. It is after all, all about shining a spotlight on exciting new music.
Over 170 acts were nominated, from major labels, indies, and the completely unsigned – with a huge number picking up just 1 or 2 votes – perhaps proving that music blogs are nothing if not independent.
Of my selections only MØ (live review) made the final 15 but sour grapes aside it offers a fascinating musical snapshot, with many acts I’d never heard before, some I love, some I’m totally indifferent to, and some (AlunaGeorge & Daughter) that I “tipped” last year so slightly daftly didn’t consider for this. For the record my five were Fabiana Palladino, Benin City, SOAK, James Mathe, and MØ.
To mark their third birthday, Ja Ja Ja, purveyors of the finest music from Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark brought one of this years most tipped acts from Copenhagen to their adopted home, The Lexington.
Karen Marie Ørsted, better known as MØ was hailed as “the new Grimes“ by The Guardian, Grimes having previously been fated as “the new Bjork”, who in turn was “the new Kate Bush”. If you follow the hype trail back far enough there was probably a virtuoso Lute player in a 17th century English hamlet heralded as “the new Tobias the troubadour”.
MØ has a relaxed but focused look about her as she stands at the centre of a very stark stage, DJ on one side, Guitarist the other, a solitary burst of colour offered by her bumblebee striped top and blonde locks. There’s a slight pause before the surprisingly full sounding music kicks in, including a whole lot of MØ’s vocals…a thought briefly crosses my mind. Could someone raved about as much for her voice as her songs be about to mime? The answer thankfully is, if you make music consisting of artfully slicing up vocal samples and multi layered harmonies, then unless you were fortunate enough to be born with four larynxes, you’re gonna need a little backing.
Ørsted treats the beat like a sprinter does a gun and immediately throws her body and long legs into a dance thats half B-Boy and half Babushka era Kate Bush. If you’ve ever seen a breakdancer building momentum before launching into a windmill, thats what it reminds me of, the only shame being she didn’t end the show with a headspin.
The staccato rhythmed “Pilgrim” (video below) is MØ’s best known tune to date and it doesn’t disappoint, getting the crowd holla holla hollaring with its slow hand claps and those infectious bursts of filtered horns. Floating above the slick production is a fine voice, Ørsted occasionally stands still long enough to deliver a nuanced vocal, at times soft and gentle but properly letting rip at others.
For the last 20 years, music has primarily entered my lugholes via tinny computers,”i” prefixed devices and a pair of speakers salvaged from a £200 Aiwa midi hi-fi system that was already 10 years old when the Tricky stickers that adorn them were put on.
This week Richer Sounds seduced me into a new decent-ish pair of speakers and my god, it’s like I grew a new pair of ears!
The only trouble is, everything sounds so good, if you put Morris Minor & The Majors “Stutter Rap” on right now, the chances are I’d proclaim it the future of hip-hop.
Thankfully, with perfect timing a promo of DJ WrongTom & Ed Zed’s “Spiky Dread: Issue 1” compilation popped into my inbox to christen my new purchase in more fitting style.
Following his acclaimed Roots Manuva collaboration “Duppy Writer“, WrongTom teamed up with Deemas for “In East London“, described by Wire Magazine as “the strongest modern reggae set to emerge from the UK in years”. At the same time, Tom and friend Ed Zed set themselves up as the “Time Team” of Punky Funky Reggae unearthing lost gems of the genre on a weekly basis via their Skank Blog Bologna website.
After tracking down the owners of the finest of their finds, “Spiky Dread Issue 1” was born featuring a smattering of cuts by well-known bands like The Slits but more importantly a feast of – to me at least – totally unheard of tracks by acts plundering the rich seam between punk and reggae.
“Cool Down” by ‘America’s greatest unknown band’, The Offs is a glorious opener to a compilation that will hopefully find its way into the Christmas stocking of anyone who ever loved Punk, Reggae, Funk or a SoulJazz compilation. I’ll be buying it for Vivian Goldman & Ed Zed’s eight pages of liner notes alone (but that’s just me).
The video for Keaton Henson’s new single is the perfect visual representation of his music, its stark, beautiful, with muted colours and at the end someone cries.
It might just be the most effective on screen blub since Sinead O’Conner covered Prince, but like Sinead it’s moving because you don’t doubt it sincerity.
Londoner Heaton rarely plays live, didn’t originally intend to release his music publicly and on occasional interactions with the press responds to questions by quoting from poets or illustrations.
Many of his rawest songs appear to be inspired by the fallout from a relationship with French singer Soko. Posting a live video of the unreleased “Gard De Nord” on Facebook, Soko commented “THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SONG ANYONE HAS EVER WROTE ME.. My heart is aching, bleeding.. Miss him..”
To record their album ‘La Ferme De Fontenaille‘, husband and wife duo “Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou packed guitars, a few mics and a 4-track cassette recorder into their long suffering British Leyland campervan, and headed for northern France.
“I was born in the North West of England Where Industrial shells like monuments stand” (lyrics)
“A Proud Surrender” from their free to download taster EP sounds like a protest song that’s been passed down through generations and forged in the struggle of the working man. It is however entirely original and like the rest of the album was largely forged in a barn in the Pay De La Loire region.
The EP also contains the perhaps more straight-forward but none the less beguiling folk love song “For A Minute There“.
From English folk recorded in France to Hip-Hop direct from Paris. Nicky Lars describes “Rock Rock On” as “Just a lil’ track…made the beat quickly and recorded the voice in one take” but it’s got a wonderfully retro A Tribe Called Quest feel to it.
JAH WOBBLE & KEITH LEVENE – ‘YIN & YANG’ Facebook
Just as PiL reform and release new material, two of the key players from their most revered album “Metal Box” make their own return. The unmistakable sound of Jah Wobble’s bass first reunited with Keith Levene’s guitar after the latter kicked smack and fancied recording some music again.
“Yin & Yang” finds Wobble in abrasive but ebullient mood as he rasps “Fuckin’ Yin & Fuckin Yang” to a backing of fierce drums, distorted guitars and manic laughter. Never one to mince his words he ends with the rhyming couplet… “Like a bolt out of the blue, I’m a cunt and so are you“.
Continuing a fine tradition of not just missing the boat but walking straight off the jetty I’ve come across this burst of reggae sunshine that almost single-handedly rewinds the clock to the glorious summer we didn’t actually have.
Created by Jahtari trailblazer Disrupt and Anglo-Indian Glaswegian MC Soom T, “Summer Days” bounces along with more of a spring in its step than Inspector Gadget.
Released on Soom T’s Renegade Masters label, there’s a dub version on the flip that unfolds the wonderful Nintendo Dub beeps and throbs and sends them echoing off into the distance.
But then The Ice Caps distracted me by releasing a cover of that most covered of songs “My Way” as a little apéritif to both their album “Permissible Permutations” and the gig.
That got me thinking, “What’s the definitive version of My Way“?
No one makes other peoples compositions their own quite like Nina who transformed many a tune with radical rearrangements and a searing emotion that made the lyrics seem autobiographical. My Baby Just Cared For Me, Sinnerman, Mr Bojangles, See Line Woman, and Black Is The Colour Of My True Loves Hair to name but a few Simone covers that outstrip the originals.
Her astonishing “My Way” is similarly hands down THE version, turning a karaoke standard into “an outspoken feminist anthem“. As a famously strong willed woman whose life was not exactly straightforward she makes you believe she means every word. The arrangement is also stunning with soaring backing vocals, Leopoldo Fleming’s bongos driving the track forward with increasing intensity before the listener is overwhelmed by a final swell of strings bringing to mind the bit in Rocky where Balboa charges up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Nina Simone – “My Way”
On the 18th of December 1971 she performed “My Way” for French TV Antenne 2.
OTHER OPINIONS ARE AVAILABLE (BUT WRONG)
Sid Vicious peppered the song with expletives, and having not learnt the lyrics, made them up as he went along (“To think I did all that” turned into “To think I killed a cat”).
After a brief siesta the weekly roundup returns with a dozen or so musical diamonds, albeit not particularly brand spanking new. I’m not sure if long posts like this are the best way to highlight acts or if those lower down the post miss out on listens and loves?
As ever check Spotify for an ever-growing playlist (of tracks available through Spotify) or Why’d.com for the full-fat playlist of all the tunes. You can also listen to all the selections with Whyd’s fancy new widget below.
JUNIOR KIMBROUGH (DAFT PUNK EDIT)
With Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers both said to have a hand in the long-awaited Daft Punk album (7 years since Human After All) we need a little from the robots to tide us over while we impatiently wait.
One such morsel arrived courtesy of an exclusive edit produced for fashion house Saint Laurent. While at Dior, Hedi Slimane collaborated with the DP boys on robot toys, photographs and leather suits and Daft Punk returned the favour by soundtracking his first show as creative director of YSL.
They’ve put together a 15 minute edit of Hill country bluesman Junior Kimbrough, “I Gotta Try You Babe“. Along with fellow North Missisipian R.L. Burnside with whom he shared a late blossoming recording deal on Fat Possum records, Kimbrough had an influence far greater than his relatively small recorded output. In later years The Stones, Chilli Peppers, Sonic Youth and others made pilgrimages to his Holly Springs club to hear him play.
It’s incredible to think he was 62 when he finally recorded his first album in 1992, and although he passed away just five years later he managed two more albums in that time (along with another two posthumous releases). He also claimed to have fathered 36 children (not between 92 and 98)!
Joshua Idehen has popped up on Music Like Dirt in many guises, most recently as part of Benin City, but also on his own, with LV, Dan Le Sac and as part of the PIP (A Poem inbetween People) collective.
Now he’s teamed up with producer Andy Highmore and vocalist Holly Bestic to create Maze Hill, who’ve signed to the ever dependable Wah Wah 45. I can imagine first single “Long Hall” being introduced by a chunky knitwear clad Casey Kasem on “America’s Top 10” in the days when the US devoured radio friendly soul like Janet, SOS Band and The Family Stand.
Good though that is its ‘I Can Be Your Light‘ that shines for me, a tender, beautiful duet between Idehen & Bestic with delicate piano backing from Andy Highmore.
Maze Hill will be doing a stripped down live set as part of “Wah Wah at The Scala” on November 10th and the debut album should arrive early next year.
Given the moniker “Power” by the impresario Larry Parnes who also gave Billy his Fury, Duffy Power has been described as the ‘Zelig’ of British music. He was present at the birth of skiffle, rock’n’roll, blues, underground folk, jazz rock fusion, the Summer of Love, Prog-rock and in the heyday of Northern Soul. Then in 1973, silence.
Whether it was ill health, lack of sales or general disillusionment only Duffy himself knows but nothing was heard of him until the late ’90s and in 2003 he recorded “Sweet Again” for a compilation CD. Now that track features on “Tigers”, the first new album for 39 years from one of Britain’s hidden blues singers (well, blues, rocknroll, rock…).
In 2011 Aaron Sayer’s “Change” was one of the picks from the 200! songs I listened to as part of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition. Since then he’s finished a music production course at Huddersfield University and has moved to London to manage singer/songwriter and occasional rapper Owen Penrice.
“Have No Fear” appears on both Aaron and Owen’s Soundcloud page’s so I’m not entirely sure if it’s a co-production but it’s certainly more evidence of a burgeoning talent. On his cover of Chase and Status’s Blind Faith, Penrice sounds very Jamie T-esque, but on “Have No Fear” the vocals recall Walthamstow’s finest, Brian Harvey who i’ll always defend as a fine r&b/soul vocalist. The rapper (Aaron?) compliments this perfectly as he rhymes over a skittering dubstep meets trip hop backing with a repeated hook of “Romance was killed by nightclubs“.
Sayer has also uploaded a demo “Funky Music” featuring the unmistakable riff of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”.
The Finders Keepers label has a ridiculous gift for unearthing unheard or unappreciated gems from the darkest recesses of basically the entire planet. Indian Prog rock, Ukrainian avant-garde, if you dream up and unlikely combination the chances are they’ve released a jaw dropping compilation of it.
Their latest “MAN CHEST HAIR!” features outbursts of unreleased testosterone from the 1970s Mancunian rock underground. Aside from the wonderful music contained within there’s a limited edition version that includes a tshirt and a bottle of MAN CHEST HAIR Musk aftershave!
Welcome to another musical smörgåsbord of tunes, freshly stumbled across this very week. As ever there’s a lovely WHYD.COM Playlist enabling you to listen or indeed swiftly click next on any track without having to scroll through loads of words, or visit MLD’s Whyd page to sample selections from previous weeks.
The huge ever-growing SPOTIFY Playlist continues to do just that but this week our Swedish friends only had five of the tunes.
While weeding out the seemingly random collection of numbers and words collected in the notes of my old mobile I came across one from six months ago saying “PSB Spitfire“. I almost deleted it, safe in the knowledge that I’d heard enough late era Pet Shop Boys for one lifetime but thankfully a google later and up popped, Public Service Broadcasting.
The London duo of J. Willgoose Esq & Wrigglesworth build tracks around samples of old public information or propaganda films, with “Spitfire” being a fantastic collaboration with the BFI who gave the pair permission to extensively plunder 1942 war flick “The First Of The Few”(YouTube). “Spitfire” is taken from The War Room EP, the cover of which features an amazing picture of Holland House library with Londoners still browsing the books as if untroubled by the destruction.
“The sign of a great fighter in the ring is… can he get up from the fall after being knocked down… London does this every morning”
“London Can Take It“(Youtube) is an inspiring Blitz themed tribute to the capital and if anything out guns Spitfire. Imagine the KLF meeting Kraftwerk and duelling on banjo’s whilst sampling an American journalist intoning about our mighty city, it might sound like this. The film of the same name was shown to American audience to bolster support for Britain and its allies.
New single “Everest” (video above) sees them broadening the concept out a little to include the 1953 film ‘The Conquest of Everest‘, which told the story of Hillary, Tensing et al’s successful ascent of the worlds tallest mountain. It ends with the most famous four word answer in mountaineering history, when asked why “should a man climb Everest“, George Mallory who died trying replied simply “because it is there“.
THE PSYCHEDELIC SINGH – ‘GHARA WAJDA KING WAJDI (Feat. SAIN MUSHTAQ HUSSAIN)’ Soundcloud
Several months have passed since Bradford’s Amarik Singh, aka Psychedelic Singh last featured on the site so “Ghara Wajda King Wajdi” is well overdue. As is his trademark and very much unique style Singh has taken Saain Mushtaq Hussain’s Punjabi folk song and turned it into a 60’s style Psych-rock stormer. Listening to the original Im not sure Sain Mushtaqcould ever have imagined his voice leading a chorus of wah-wah guitars, beats and samples.
Brooklyn based ‘City Brat’ are Alex Fippinger on drums and Jason Grad on vocals, guitar, keyboards, video direction, and PR. If people still sent out physical promos, I’m sure Jason would deliver them by hand. With such a DIY attitude you can forgive slight hiccups like forgetting to blind CC the 400 music blogs you send your promo to, or somehow sending the mail meant for me to my dad at Music Like Dirt Publishing (yes I have no originality).
The Song By Toad blog has a regular PR Hall Of Fail feature focussing on the failings of people actually paid to do pr. It’s so entertaining it could be spun off as a separate entity (think of it as Frasier to the main site’s Cheers).
Luckily my dad particularly enjoyed lead single “Yeah Its There” and forwarded it on with the suggestion that i’d appreciate its David Byrne/Talking Heads-esque sound. He was right, and you can add Vampire Weekend and The Strokes to Talking Heads as a list of obvious influences. It’s a very slick sound with jangling guitars, an infectious bassline and multi part harmonies which is impressive given its all (bar the drums) the work of one man.
Such is the songs maddeningly catchy nature I’m amazed it hasn’t featured on more of the 400 or so blogs they mailed. Perhaps music bloggers should listen to their inbox more often?
Download “Yeah It’s There” for FREE below, if you’re in NYC catch them at a CMJ showcase soon or watch their first music video “Savage Friends” which features Jason “playing multiple instruments and throwing down epic jungle dance moves“.
All bets are off, the crown for best album cover of 2012 goes to “East London” the latest in the “WrongTom meets” series, with artwork by legendary Greensleeves illustrator Tony McDermott. Feast your eyes on some more of Tony’s work and read an interview with the man himself here
WrongTom meets Deemas is “brimming over with vintage dancehall, grubby old dub and even a Monkees cover version” and available to purchase from Tru Thoughts. Nab the free Edit of “Riot Ting” covering the ‘disturbances’ in East London where the album was recorded.
Lovers of 80’s dancehall should probably head to LargeUp.com who’ve got a mix from Wrongtom featuring vintage gems from Horace Andy, Courtney Melody, Sanchez, Ninjaman and a slew of lesser names, too.
Another week, another dozen or so musical highlights from a blog so bleedin’ edge that one selection was on Pitchfork two months ago, while another was tracked down via the musical behemoth that is the Andrew Marr show.
If that hasn’t put you off you can stream the songs in handy playlist form via Whyd.com or with about 30% of the tracks missing on Spotify:
LISTEN: WHYD.COM playlist / SPOTIFY playlist
First up, the Brooklyn all girl, all sister (bar one) psych-pop rock quartet of Teeny, Katherine and Lizzie Lieberson plus Jane Herships, better know as TEEN. Lead single “Electric” mixes dreamy female harmonies, air drum inducing rhythm, classically rumbling indie bass, and all that before an absolute killer guitar line comes in at the minute mark.
Played at the proper volume you can appreciate the production nous and textured sound of chief knob twiddler, Peter Kembler aka Sonic Boom of Spaceman 3. Listening back to the chemically enhanced glorious wail of Spaceman 3’s 1988 “Revolution” it’s clear what a perfect foil Mr Boom is to the TEEN sound.
An old student housemate first introduced me to the “taking drugs to make music” sound, broadening my musical horizons until an argument with his girlfriend over whether the purchase of a Toilet Duck equated to the wholesale slaughter of dolphins soured our friendship.
Billy’s got a brand new bass, and according to his Soundcloud page “Tell Me Why” is the sound of him having “some fun learning to play”. If you’ve ever had a neighbour learning an instrument or tried yourself then you know the results are best kept within the confines of a soundproof room, heaven forbid you’d record your noodling for the wider world.
However Palmier’s “practising” sounds like an unreleased DāM-FunK cut or an unheard offering from Paisley Park.
Previous Palmier tunes have received airplay from Benji B at 1Xtra and i’ll certainly be keeping an ear out for future releases from the Citywurl studio’s in Schaerbeek, Brussels. Twitter / Soundcloud
“My life in London is really magnificent I have every comfort and every sport And my residence is that Hampton Court”
60 plus years later Jamaican born but London bred Mr. Williamz picks up the theme but not content with Hampton Court Williamz heads straight for Buckingham Palace to take over as head of state.
I would’ve featured this last week but the only version I could find online had Heatwave DJ’s excitedly bellowing Rewwwinnnnddd and generally babbling over the top about its brilliance. And brilliant it is, playful, genuinely funny and most important of all musically dynamite too.
“The next ting is who rush me now Prince Charles Ah talk about how say him want me sign autograph Me look pon him and just say, “Bredrin ease off” Like you no see me and your mudda deh ya a so we talk After dis she going to gi’ me a foot massage You shoulda know, is we run England”
It’s the first track to use the new “More Spiritual” riddim brewed up by US producers Green Lion with inspiration from the melody of Henry “Junjo” Lawes Ganja Smuggling. Green Lion travelled to Jamaica to add a horn section led by veteran horn players Nambo Robinson (trombone) and Everton Gayle (saxophone). Million Stylez, Kabaka Pyramid and YT have also recorded the riddim but I don’t envy them having to match the majesty of Mr Williamz tune.
You’ll have it stuck in your head so enough… “We run England… Buda bye bye bye… We run England“!
Last week saw the long overdue return of the Music Like Dirt sessions with all six members of Benin City proving the music business isn’t all glamour by cramming into the smallest, sweatiest rehearsal room in Walthamstow.
Thankfully they were as charming as they are talented, running through a sneak preview of single number three “Crush” which superbly combines Star Wars Sith references with deft trombone and sax lines.
The session will hopefully be on the site in the next month or so and thanks again to Benin City for heading East.
Their jaw dropping debut “Baby” got 10,000 plays in a week after featuring in my “BBC 6Music best of the year so far” post, a needless brag which should guarantee a swift crash to earth and 6 plays for the OUT THIS WEEK 2nd single “Accelerate” (listen below)
As ever you can skip the words and listen to this week’s selection as a playlist via the all new Whyd.com or on Spotify which has an ever growing playlist of each weeks tunes (minus the ones not available on spotify).
Jackamo Brown – “LayyyLow (Feat. Worgie & FlamesYall)“
Does “pondering life over music” count as a tiny sub-genre of spoken word? I’ll have to think of a better tag but its responsible for some of the most goosebump inducing moments in musical history, from James Yorkston’s “Woozy With Cider”, Dexy’s “Reminisce Part 2” or James Brown’s “King Heroin”.
To that list you can now add the FlamesYall remix of Jackamo Brown’s “Lay Low“. You don’t need to be a parent to appreciate the wonder in Warren Borg’s (Worgie) voice as he reflects on how his life has changed from carefree hung-over afternoons of monster munch and cola with his girlfriend to waking to the crystal blue eyes of his child.
As co-producer and co-writer of Scroobius Pip’s “Distraction Pieces” Borg proposed to his girlfriend live on stage at the Secret Garden Party.
Producer FlamesYall chips in with his own parental advice and best wishes before summing up that it’s the most beautiful thing you can ever do.
Does it have to end? The Olympic and Paralympic flame is currently buying duty free at Terminal 5 on its way to Rio, leaving a nation searching for a new reason to smile at each other. Even the slightly odd decision to end it all with a four day long Coldplay concert featuring an American rapping about money and bitches cant take the shine off.
Newsagentprovocateur tweeted a picture of himself enjoying the concert although I have to declare that if you play me “Everything’s Not Lost” I may get teary. In fact play me most Coldplay songs and ill happily hum along but anymore than three and ill nod off.
Anyway putting the closing ceremony on mute did enable me to put together a montage of this weeks musical highlights.
Edinburgh based label The Bonjour Branch is co-owned by Randan Discotheque’s Craig Coulthard and as such I try to keep half an eye on their infrequent but usually essential releases.
The debut album from Snide Rhythms isn’t available until November but you can sample its post-punk, bass driven sneer over on Soundcloud now. “Instralude” (below) gives a good flavour but “I Can’t Keep Up” is the highlight particularly the C-Biscuit & Neil Landstrumm remix.
Coming on like a post punk version of LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge“, only with Mark E Smith, not James Murphy railing against the ever increasing distance from vibrant youth.
Peter Broderick – “I’ve Tried”
Peter Broderick is one of the more idiosyncratic artists, always happy to cross genre’s and experiment with different ways of making music. I was lucky enough to see him play within the beautiful 18th century splendour of St Giles church in Soho a few years back and was transfixed as he wandered down the aisle singing without amplification.