Gig review: Charlotte Church, Sound Control, 10/08/2012

The act: Charlotte Church

The venue: Sound Control, Manchester

Why? : Charlotte Church is back. Yes, again. Since leaving the world of Classical-crossover to the likes of Katherine Jenkins it’s been an interesting ride for the former “voice of an angel”. Her Pop effort Tissues and Issues was solid, although you sometimes felt that her heart wasn’t quite in it. Back to Scratch, her 2010 release was an absolutely stunning Folk-Pop record that the likes of Nerina Pallot would’ve been proud of, but didn’t get the large-scale release her comeback deserved. This time around she’s keeping it more low-key with lots of touring at small venues which complements the “band” feel of the material from her upcoming 5 EPS.

The music:  All new. No ‘Crazy Chick’ and certainly no bloody ‘Pie Jesu’. While it would’ve been nice to hear some of the songs from Back to Scratch they wouldn’t have worked with her newer, noisier material. Opening with recent free download ‘The Rise’, it took a few minutes to adjust to such a clear and powerful voice. That’s not to say on angrier songs like ‘Judge from Afar’, directed as a response to faceless poisonous comments at her from the Daily Mail website she lacked the necessary emotional punch. The best performance had to be the wonderfully-titled ‘How Not To Be Surprised When You’re a Ghost’ (see below).

The banter:  As a woman who used to have her own chat show, Charlotte’s crowd-natter was predictably witty, playful and self-deprecating. Nobody else could get away with ladling spoons of honey throughout a gig to keep her voice going quite as funnily as her.

The crowd: An interesting mix of indie singer-songwriter act fans that Charl’s trying to convert and Classical afficionados trying to fulfill some morbid curiosity of seeing what’s happened to their former-idol; “The venues keep getting smaller”, sniffed an imperious old lady. The Prize Twat award however goes to the hyperactive boy-girl duo wearing merchandise tshirts who waved their hands and wooped loudly throughout, killing the atmosphere of at least two songs.

Any surprises? ‘Mr. The News’, a funky little number about Rupert Murdoch which she wrote around the time that she gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. It was dedicated to Rebekah Brooks with a vengeful smile.

The question you all want to ask: Where does all this leave Charlotte Church as a musician?

The answer: The answer is a lot more simple than you might think; she’s writing and releasing her own material, not financially dependent on a big record label and having a thoroughly fun time of it. Musicians DREAM of this.

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Return of an old Love Affair

The line-up of Hercules and Love Affair may have changed, but that didn’t stop former member Antony Hegarty singing ‘Blind’ live for the first time ever at Meltdown with founder Andy Butler and the rest of the original gang:

Marvelous.

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So this is what JULY 2012 gave you…

As if last year’s double helping of Kate Bush wasn’t enough, she may well be up to something for release THIS YEAR.  Rumours are swirling that Kate has been filming a video with Jude Law for a remix of of ‘Running Up That Hill’. Could a new Greatest Hits be in the works?

Graeme Thomson, her biographer tweeted “So, a 2-CD Kate Bush Greatest Hits + video collection on DVD on the way. About time ” although the link he then referred to no longer lists such a release. Apparently the photo below is one of Law leaked from the video’s shoot. Until we hear an official announcement it’ll have to remain a hopeful possibility…

Destiny’s Child are returning! Sort of. To dampen you spirits, Matthew Knowles has had a dig around in his basement and is releasing two new albums in November of previously unheard material. He remains hopeful that an actual reunion tour will happen “Within the next 5 years” but while Michelle is doing Gospel and theatre, Kelendria still the Dannii Minogue of R&B and Beyoncé QUEEN OF THE WORLD (and a mother) it’s not looking like an immediate likelihood.

Mika has come out. As gay. WHO KNEW?

Cher’s ever-moving 26th album is starting to look like more than just a distant mirage. Asides from being one of the most amusing things on Twitter, she’s managed to ramble on it that she’s written two songs with P!nk and a track with Timbaland, along with her much-hyped Gaga duet ‘The Greatest Thing’. It’ll hopefully be out in time for Christmas *adds to wishlist*.

PSB are still effortlessly awesome:

THAT’S YER LOT.

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New music videos (Bodyswapping)

For her latest video Lana Del Rey goes a little bit gay. Shot in her usual Super-8 style, this song of predictable love and misery doesn’t end too well for Lana’s scissoring partner, played by Jaimie King. Speaking of which what the hell HAPPENED to Jaime King? – or is that one of those mysteries like “What happened to Salem after Sabrina the Teenage Witch got cancelled?” that the FBI probably has a whole file on.

Meanwhile, one of the most well-known homosexual musicians has taken Lana’s most famous single, the dirge anthem ‘Video Games’ and turned it into a Johnny Cash-style ballad. The lovely Goth-Punk couple look so inappropriately happy that you spend 90% of the video on edge waiting for something horrible to happen to them. George’s voice however, sounds beautiful.

Have a lovely weekend

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A chat with: HandS

All it takes is just one idea, or two from a pair of capable HandS and BANG – before you know it you’ve got the makings of some gorgeous music.  Hakon & Sofie have, with the help of rising star producer Pete Hofmann crafted some of the most subtlety elaborate dream-pop you’ll probably hear all year. They deserve to be the dinner party music for everyone who bought the XX album and more. Here’s as good a place as any to get started…

Both of you hail from Bergen, which is where the amazing Annie and Royksopp are also from. Do you reckon there’s something in the town’s water supply or something?

Hakon: Well Norway is really small, and the music scene even smaller. We work together and support each other which is why music from Bergen makes it big, and the little cold city is making its way in the massive international music market. Perhaps when it’s from a little strange town in Norway people listen for the contrast. Maybe it’s exotic?!

How did you first end up making music together?

We met and got quite drunk when Sofie had just turned eighteen and FINALLY could drink beer legally. We had one or two or three or you know…seventeen together, and found out we both shared a huge love of Pop music. Quite different tastes but at the same time so similar. We’ve ended up spending every day together from the day we met.

You’ve swapped Norway for the UK – what was your main reason for moving?

The reason we went abroad is because we know the music industry in Norway and Bergen, its very indie and based on local music. Although we make everything from our beats to lyrics ourselves, our sound is so Pop, it sounded like we had to go to bigger cities to get accepted for what we wanted to do. It feel right to try something bigger and more challenging than what other Norwegian artists do and to reach for the stars!
A big influence on your upcoming album has been producer Pete Hofmann. What’s it been like working with him?
We LOVE working with Pete as it’s easy to go into this little world we sometimes go into, where we think only we know what’s best. All off a sudden a super-talented person from the outside can say “Hey, this and that could be different and more like this”, and so on. So  far all his ideas and talent have made the material better and us even more engaged.
Would you say that ‘Wake Up’ is an accurate reflection of the rest the music you’ve been making?
‘Wake Up’ is our first single and we’re very proud of it. We’ve kept it to ourselves for so long and couldn’t wait to show you guys what we’ve done. At the same time it might not be exactly the sound of our future releases, it’s just going to turn more dancey and darker as we move along. We’re fascinated by the mix of heartbreaking lyrics, dark beats and the “happy” pop sound that tops it all and makes it all surreal and different.
What’s the plan for the rest of the year in terms of releases?
We want to play lots of live shows, to demonstrate to you all what we’ve working so hard on. Our aim is to be shamelessly engaged in what we do and try to reach the goals we’ve been longing for and ultimately share our love of Pop and great performance with you all!
Check out HandS’ SoundCloud page for more brilliant material and keep up to date with their latest releases and performances by following them on Facebook and The Twitter.
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Amy: One year on

It’s still seems unbelievable that we’ll never hear this beautiful voice perform live again:

You can visit the website for the Amy Winehouse Foundation, set up in her memory to support young people in need through ill health, disability, financial disadvantage or addiction here.

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Artwork win (Nobody squats quite like P!nk)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that P!nk is back with another smashing grump-anthem, written by Greg Kurstin. Perfectly designed for anyone who’s had a shit day at work  to chant “I’VE HAD A SHIT DAY, YOU HAD A SHIT DAY, WE’VE HAD A SHIT DAY”  on their way home, she’s doing what she does best.

Unlike other artists who dip their toes in different genres in an effort to keep things fresh, I can’t think of anything I’d hate more if P!nk did something like a dance record, something she’s recently made clear she has *no* intention of doing.

And as far as her latest album artwork’s concerned it’s a typically bold affair :

And here’s the tracklisting for what’s actually going to be on it:

1. Are We All We Are 

2. Blow Me (One Last Kiss) 

3. Try 

4. Just Give Me a Reason 

5. True Love 

6. How Come You’re Not Here 

7. Slut Like You 

8. The Truth About Love 

9. Beam Me Up 

10. Walk of Shame 

11. Here Comes the Weekend 

12. Where Did the Beat Go? 

13. The Great Escape

One of the above tracks is going to be a duet with none other than fellow-Kurstin collaborator and recent mother, Lily Allen. Here’s hoping for something typically snarky that we’ve come to expect from both. If that wasn’t enough, you’re getting a proper b-side with ‘Blow Me (One Last Kiss)’, the fabulously titled ‘The King Is Dead But The Queen Is Alive’ to tide you over until The Truth about Love is released on September 17th.

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New music videos (the battle of the blondes)

Probably the best thing about the return of No Doubt is that it doesn’t feel like a comeback. Gwen and co haven’t altered their lazy ska/reggae sound and there’s no attempt to sound current e.g. “REDONE…Stefani!” etc. Because of this it actually stands out from everything else processed and vocodered within an inch of its life in the charts – and that might be the secret to this reunion’s success. Look out for Harajuku girl lurking in the back of Gwen’s truck (apparently it’s Love – Angel, Music and Baby were either indisposed or superfluous) in the equally laid back video:

For a woman whose album scuttled off the charts faster than Bionic by Christina, Madonna really isn’t in a position to be lazy. A video involving carefree driving around Florence with dancers and hookers just isn’t going to cut it. As for the song – it should’ve remained with Sunday Girl who it was originally recorded with. Nothing about this single has personality..

Have a lovely weekend.

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A chat with: Erik Hassle

In Pop music few have managed to feat of not singing about sunshine and kittens, but genuine heartbreak and emotion without coming across as mopey or depressive. Think a ginge, one-man version of Hurts and you’re not a million miles off with Erik Hassle. While not a heart-throb in the traditional Eric Saade/Danny Saucedo model it’s not hard to find equally feverish fans of the 23 year old Swede. With the experience of surviving a brush with a major record label under his belt he’s recently released his new album We Dance, which promises to make you throw some shapes as much as it’ll make you cry:

Pieces was one of the most underrated and overlooked albums of 2010. Looking back, how do you feel about the whole experience of being launched by a major record label in the UK?

First of all, thank you. 2009 to 2011 was a hell of a ride for me, getting such a good spot on a classic label like Island was for me, 18 years old and straight out of school, a bit hard to grasp.  I couldn’t get a better opportunity to reach out to so many people and it gave me an incredible bunch of fans that I’m very happy about today. I’m coming back for them!

You’re famous for your distinctive hair. Have you ever dared dye it a different colour?

There was a period when I was about 10-12 years old when I always dyed my hair black. I was not happy about having both curly and red hair. That was until a girl I liked boosted my self confidence, telling me she liked both the curls and my African sunset colour. It quickly turned back into a red afro!

While we’re on the whole hair subject – apparently in Sweden and most of Europe having red hair isn’t a big deal while in the UK kids get bullied at school for it. Why do you think there’s such a weird cultural difference?

I think it is because it stands out in a quite distinctive way. Everything that is different is easy to pick on as kid. I get that. But I agree that it is a mystery that being red haired is such a big deal in England, where it seems to be a very common pigment compared to other countries.

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve written a song about which you then decided not to record?

I wrote a song for this album called ‘I’m in love with your daughter’. The lyrics are aimed against this overprotective father who, no matter how long it takes, will be waiting for a wealthy Prince to ask for his daughter’s hand and who will not hide his dislike for you. The twist in the chorus was “I’m in love with your daughter, like you. Guess I’m more than a little like you” When I played it up for English-speaking friends they thought it was a bit of a weird line. They wondered what kind of father this was. They thought it was a bit inappropriate. The lyrics make perfect sense in Swedish though!

‘Back Under Water’ is surprisingly uptempo compared to your earlier material and the new album is called We Dance. Does this mean that you’re feeling less down-in-the-dumps musically?

In a way it does or at least did while writing this album. We  had a lot of fun writing the songs and the mood in it came quite naturally from when we first wrote a song on the album called ‘We Dance’. Me and my producer felt that ” We gotta do this album all the same way” and decided to fulfill a dream of recording an album live. I have a very loyal and fantastic band and I asked them if they wanted to help me record it. We rented a classic studio in Stockholm called Atlantis for 12 days and nailed one song before lunch every day. I think recording the songs in “takes”  automatically made us pretty much friends with a snare being played a bit out of the groove or a melody slightly out of tune and so on and so forth. We felt positive recording the album and I think the end result listening to it is feeling positive as well.

Do you have any good luck rituals before performing live?

I have a lot of “warming up” rituals that I won’t reveal!

Would you ever enter Melodifestivalen?

No

Your duet of ‘If I Could Build My Whole World Around You’ with Agnes was amazing. Anyone else you’d desperately like to perform with?

Since on of my heroes Bobby Womack is back in the game, I could die happy having done something with him.

The album We Dance is out now. For more information visit Erik’s Facebook page or follow him on The Twitter.

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