Monthly Archives: June 2012

New music videos (Puddings over and under-egged)

Dear Lana, in the best possible way STOP YOUR ALBUM CAMPAIGN NOW. Nothing you could possibly do for the rest of it will manage to surpass this:

Florrie on the other hand is three EPs into her sonically brilliant career and still hasn’t managed to get the hang of what the point of a music video is.  It’s a visual narrative accompanying the song, love. Not something that looks at best like some cheap tour visuals and at worst a Rimmel advert. If only she could make her videos a tenth as good as her songs, we’d have a superstar on our hands:

Have a lovely weekend

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A chat with: Apollo

This is Apollo. Asides from dressing up in nautical themed outfits and brightening up my Twitterstream with a constant deluge of rage and joy, he’s quietly formidably talented. It’s not going to happen overnight, but you’re going to wake up one day to find he’s taken over the world
When did you first start being obsessed with sailor iconography?

I’ve always been vaguely obsessed with the nautical. When I was about 16 or 17 (I’m terrible at remembering at what age things happened) I wrote a song called ‘O Sailor’ about being dumped for the first time. I wasn’t particularly into sailor iconography back then, I just liked the idea that a romantic interest can be like a sailor: in your life for a short period of time before abandoning you for their own adventures. Later a good friend introduced me to a lot of old early 20th century sailor erotica and I started to get into work by Pierre et Gilles, too.

What do you think that says about you?

It gave me a visual identity and my whole logo and image was centred around sailor schtick for a while. A lot of my songs utilise sea, ocean or water-related imagery so it fit pretty snugly. To be totally honest with you, I’ve calmed down on it recently. It’s still a passion of mine (although some people assume it’s also a fetish) but I didn’t want it to completely define me. It can border on camp sometimes, which misrepresents my work, I think. I’ve matured a lot since those days and like to be more visually diverse. It’s still a key influence and interest just not as all-consuming as before.

What’ve you been mostly been listening to since ‘Rope’ was first released last year?

I’ll listen to pretty much anything with a female vocalist so: a lot. Recently I was really impressed with Grimes’ album, but that’s the only thing that’s blown me away so far in 2012. Last year I was really into PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Björk and Kate Bush’s ‘comeback’ albums. Stonking stuff considering how long they’ve all been working. I think Camille, Feist, tUnE-yArDs and Julianna Barwick released excellent (underrated) albums last year too. I think women still get a tough time from music journalists. Their stuff is judged by a different standard and given a harder time, but that’s a different conversation.

Did you have much of an idea of how you wanted the video to look like before you started?

Oh totally. I’ve been imagining it since I wrote the song, about 2 years ago. It’s been through various incarnations but I always knew where I wanted it to be shot and getting to actually see that through made me tingly with joy. I basically had every set-up worked out in my head which made the process a lot easier. I’m a complete control freak artistically, mostly because so far I’ve had to do everything – producing, arranging, mixing, styling etc. – all myself. But my collaborators were key. The genius Jamie Brett especially. Couldn’t have done it without his expertise and abundance of ideas. But it mostly came from my twisted and gnarled brain.

How does that compare with the finished product?

I am so proud of it. The entire thing was funded and organised by me and was my first video project ever, but even without considering that, I think we did a great job. It’s not exactly what I had in mind – perhaps better actually – but you can’t control weather or outside forces (dead fish floating perilously close to me in the water, roses being blown to the other side of the lake by the wind, faulty smoke bombs etc.), obviously.

Asides from the two tracks on your Soundcloud, what would you say your unreleased musical tinkerings sound like?

I usually say ‘baroque pop’, but that doesn’t always mean anything to everybody. There’s a variety of ‘sounds’ but I’m a classically trained musician so there’s always some element of the electronic colliding with the arch, orchestral and melodramatic. That makes it sound like cheesey fusion, which it’s not. Hopefully you get the gist.

Any plans to gift us with them anytime soon?

Sure. I’m uploading stuff slowly. I want to upload a song called ‘The Tempest’ that I’ve been working on for a while but it contains the single most complicated vocal take I’ve ever had to do so it’s got a way to go before it’s done. I’ll upload it in the next month, god willing.

If you had to choose between having a best-selling, era-defining pop record or a worldwide tour, which would you pick and why?

The former because surely it would produce the means to do the latter? I like to make my cake from scratch, have it and eat it.

‘Rope’ is available to buy from here. Meanwhile you can check out more of Apollo’s songs here, read his blog here and if you fancy witnessing some Grade-A rants, follow him on The Twitter here.

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Pop Post-Mortem: Samantha Fox

This post was all conveniently timed and planned to tie-in with the reissue of Sam Fox’s first four albums this week, but as luck would have it the release has been postponed for a few weeks due to “manufacturing delays”.  Hmph. Regardless, it’s about time the Fantastic Ms Fox was given the recognition she deserves for a peerless pop career.

Firstly what’s unique about her is that unlike many starlets who end up doing softcore nudity once their hits have dried up, it’s how Sam kicked off her music career. By the time she was only 20 she had already formally “retired” as a Page 3 girl with £200,000 insured breasts, although she would make occasional forays back to keep her pervier fans happy. Katie Price would kill for her easy transition from dirty old man’s pleasure to national pop treasure.

While her first single ‘Touch Me’ remains her most well-known hit in the UK (out of three domestic top 10’s), it’s hard to believe that this is a woman who has managed to sell 30 million records. How? Through consistent moderate hits across Europe and the US throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties. What she lacked in smash No.1’s, Sam made up for in decent chart placings, such as ‘Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)’ which despite being the fifth single for her self titled second album temporarily brought her profile back in the UK.  The different tastes between her European audiences who fell over each other for her Stock Aitken and Waterman collaborations and US fans whom she worked with hip hop producers Full Force for can also be attributed to her lack of global dominance – she had a foothold on either side of the Atlantic, but not firmly.

The Nineties, after her fourth album Just One Night failed to resurrect things, were a bit of a wilderness for Foxy. In 1995 she unsuccessfully attempted to represent the UK in Eurovision with a nice enough song called ‘Go For the Heart’ which might’ve fared quite well had it been selected. In 1998 she released her masterpiece, 21st Century Fox on the wave of some new interest which might have had something to do with this the year before:

A big fat Nineties dance hit was just what the Doctor had ordered and should’ve been enough to put 21st Century Fox on every kid’s Christmas wishlist along with the Spice Girls dolls. Unfortunately as she was by this stage with a miniscule US-based hip hop label, distributing costs meant that the album had to be stagger-released, killing off any momentum. At least ‘Let Me Be Free’ was a club hit of sorts across Europe, just like the old days.

Angel with an Attitude, her most recent album in 2005 suffered from more business woe with the label going bankrupt and Sam having to go independent and release it herself. It’s a solid effort, sounding much less cheap than it actually was with lyrics referencing personal experiences such as suing her Father for embezzling £1 million from her, giving us a rare glimpse behind the woman with the big knockers.  These days Samantha seems to be spending her days very slowly writing her autobiography and appearing on intermittent reality shows with her girlfriend while a new album is apparently in the pipeline for release this year. Her involvement with the reissuing of her first four albums also shows that she never saw music as just a passport to fame – she also wrote ‘Dreams’ for All Saints who rudely demanded she change her name to “Karen Wilkin” on the credits. With random singles such as ‘The Secret’  last year or the amazing ‘Midnight Lover’ (see below) appearing on UK iTunes without any announcement, you can never be certain when The Fox will emerge from her den. Probably your best bet is to follow her on Twitter and tolerate her enthusiastic commitment to animal rights. When the four reissues are eventually released I’m going to be getting my hands on I’m Wanna Have Some Fun as it contains a brilliant SAW cover of Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’ for starters. Forget about Kylie’s K25 celebrations, 2012 is officially the year of S26.

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Dragonette are taking off with ‘Rocket Ship’

While everyone’s favourite fun, filthy pop group the Scissor Sisters let us all down slightly with their commercial flirtation-fest Magic Hour, their Canadian equals have been slowly dropping hints of what new material we can expect. Dragonette’s most recent single ‘Let It Go’ suggested a return to the synthier sound of their 2007 debut and masterpiece Galore. Well they’ve just given this gem away for free:

PANPIPES. Sexy panpipes. And there I was thinking only Shakira circa 2002 could pull that shit off. What’s good to remember about Martina and co is that they’re still very much just a small, criminally underrated independent band – even back in their native Canada where their last album peaked at No.63. That moment last year when everyone from your Mum to even Radio 1 were hammering ‘Hello’ will’ve done their career more good than their collaborator Solveig’s jaunt at working with Madonna. Fortunately this success hasn’t caused them to combust with fame – they’ve been quietly ploughing ahead with album no.3, the title of which has been announced as Bodyparts and will be released on September 24th.

5,4,3,2,1 – WE HAVE LIFT-OFF…

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Gig review: Marina and the Diamonds, Manchester Cathedral, 22/06/2012

The act: Marina and the Diamonds

The venue: Manchester Cathedral

Why? : Marina Diamantis has only gone and released the best pop album of 2012 (at time of writing) Electra Heart, and its songs *demand* to be heard live.

The music: As Electra Heart and its predecessor, The Family Jewels are just so different it was always going to be interesting to see whether the meeting of alt-pop and synthy torch songs would work…and it did.  By bunching together ‘Oh No!’ and ‘Mowgli’s Road’ Marina managed to placate older fans (like me) who’d missed seeing her before. Occasionally the echoey acoustics didn’t do some of the more overproduced songs like ‘Primadonna’ justice.  There was however an inevitable mass sing-along for everyone’s favourite Bupa anthem ‘I am Not a Robot’. The best thing of all was the inclusion of so many of Electra Heart ballads – especially her favourite ‘Teen Idle’ which despite its youthful nostalgia seemed to fit perfectly sung in a bloody cathedral.

The banter:  This concert was supposed to happen back in May, but due to illness Marina hadn’t been able to perform.  Recovered and rescheduled she was raring to get the show going in this most unique of venues, kicking things off by only going and wearing a WEDDING DRESS . Her original philosophy of “I’m Marina, you guys are the Diamonds” remained. There was also something deeply surreal about standing in a house of the Lord while a woman with a sash reading ‘Miss Shellfish Beach’ excused herself with “I’m going to do a bit of housekeeping, my stage is a mess!”

The crowd: To be honest I didn’t pay much attention. Many gays I know from Twitter were present – does that count?

Any surprises?  Asides from that wedding dress and some visuals shown from a tiny old fashioned television, she did introduce a song via a plush toy poodle called Marilyn. As you do.

The question you all want to ask: What did she drink to keep her voice going?

The answer: An unidentifiable liquid from a giant Martini glass.

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New music videos (from women who know how to WERK it)

I still haven’t been able to figure out the relevance of dressing up as a cowgirl for a song called ‘Liquorice’ but frankly who cares? Azealia has apparently gone back on her strop that saw her denouncing rap and walking out on her own career before it had even taken off. A wise decision.

Words cannot do the video for this single by ex-Danity Kane member Dawn Richard justice. Her Armor On EP has already been one of the best R&B releases of the year and the video for ‘Automatic’ shows exactly why this woman should be bigger than Rihanna. Check out that pussy-poppin’ choreography. Now learn it, it’s going to come in handy on Saturday night at 2am, trust me.

Have a lovely weekend

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A chat with: I am a Camera

H & Claire aside, there have been some brilliant male-female partnerships in the history of pop music; Stewart/Lennox, Gregory/Goldfrapp to name but a few. That’s not to say there’s not room for some more. I am a Camera have thrown their hat into the ring as a worthy baton-carriers of the damnably good duos tradition with three immensely impressive singles so far. If you haven’t heard of them before, you’ll soon wish you had…

You were formed in Manchester which obviously has a rather weighty musical heritage of its own. Did any of what inspired that inspire you, or was it more about the meeting of minds in the right place?

Frankie: I’m from Manchester, I love Manchester so I’m definitely inspired & influenced by the place. I spent years out most nights in different clubs listening to Manchester music, & these nights also introduced me to electronic music. We share a love of bands like New Order and The Smiths, we discussed this when we met but I think our meeting would have sparked the idea of I Am A Camera wherever in the world it might have been.

Ian: Actually we formed in both Manchester and London – Frankie was in Manchester, I was in London and we gradually merged. It was meant to happen – and did.

There are a couple of reasons why you would choose “I am Camera” as a band name – there’s the song by the Buggles or a ’50s Broadway play inspired by Isherwood’s brilliant “Goodbye to Berlin”. Or you might just really like photography…..any of the above?

Frankie: Well, we do really like photography but the idea came from Christopher Isherwood’s ‘Goodbye to Berlin’. The quote “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” is so relevant now when we literally can’t do anything without it being captured somehow, and ending up on Facebook the day after. We live in a CCTV nation.

Ian: I’m a big fan of Trevor Horn and I love the track but it was really down to the Christoper Isherwood stories.

Your last single was called ‘Commuter Love’. What would be your suggested action to someone if they really fancy someone they see on the way to work?

Frankie: I would say take a photo and get it posted on Tube Crush.

Ian: Flip your hair, flirt outrageously and if that doesn’t work maybe do a lil’ sexy dance. If you don’t do it, you’ll only hate yourself after the opportunity has passed.

Meanwhile, your new single is called ‘Factory Boys’. Do you think we’re due another Warhol or was he a one-of-a-kind speck in time?

Frankie: Warhol was one of a kind. I don’t think there could be another. He challenged the world to see art differently, and I think he succeeded. It wasn’t just his art, he made incredible films & music and was part of one of the most exciting times in history – New York in the 70’s, The Factory, Studio 54. I don’t think any of that could be recreated. I wish it could. Send me back there!

Ian: There will only ever be one Andy Warhol, he was an utter genius but I think there’s always room for someone new and exciting.

How did you feel about performing at Lovebox? Did you try and hang out with the indomitable Grace Jones?

Frankie: Of course we tried, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Grace Jones?

Ian: Being on the same stage as Grace, Lana Del Rey and Chic was incredible, we were so excited about it. Attempting to hang out with Grace was top of our list. I wonder what she smells like? Lavender and stardust?

Do either of you have any major phobias?

Ian: Snakes terrify me! I can’t even look at a television screen if they’re on it. Obviously Snakes on a Plane is not one of my favourite films…

Asides from the next single (which is TERRIFIC) what does the plan for the rest of the year look like?

Frankie: The rest of the year will be busy for us. We’ll be finishing the album, releasing more singles, making our videos, and aiming to play live a lot more too

Ian: The rest of the year will be gigs and finishing our album. We’re locked away in deepest, darkest North London cooking up a storm in the studio as we speak. We can’t wait for folks to hear it!

And if if it all goes utterly tits up, is there a back-up plan?

Frankie: Absolutely not!

Ian: There is nothing else.

‘Factory Boys’, the new single by I am a Camera is out now. The single ‘Commuter Love’ is also available to download. Visit their Facebook page or follow them on The Twitter for further information.

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Lyrics: Saying “no” to the n-word

Recently I found myself sympathising with of all people, Queen of Goop Gwyneth Paltrow. Gwynnie found herself in the eye of a Twitter storm after posting a picture of herself on stage at a Watch the Throne concert with The-Dream, Ty Ty and B-High with the caption “Ni**as in paris for real.” – a reference to a Watch the Throne song. The fact that said picture was taken in Paris didn’t do her any favours and she was forced to then quickly post; “Hold up. It’s the title of the song!” which did little to quell the temporary hate barrage against her. The context it seemed was irrelevant, it just wasn’t acceptable for a white person to use the n-word.

As a white music fan this has had me thinking about the word and my own discomfort with it. I was raised to NEVER to use it under any circumstances so it feels unnatural to be listening to a song (take ‘Man Down’ by Rihanna for instance) with whatever lyrical message it contains before having to suddenly go “Lalalalalala, not this bit”. When Katy Perry covered the aforementioned Watch the Throne song she replaced “ni**as” with “ninjas”, had she not I get the feeling she would’ve been forced into hiding somewhere dark and impenetrable – like Russell Brand’s beard.

While the word “ni**a” , used in rap, hip-hop, r&b and other music genres is different to “ni**er” – the derivative term originating from the age of slavery and segregation, it is impossible to use one without there being connotations of the other. Reclaiming a word from its original term of of abuse may seem like a noble reinvention, but it keeps the old one lingering in human vocabularies.

If you’re still not convinced try and think of it this way; would you be happy with a song called ‘F****ts in Fuerteventura’ (by the Scissor Sisters) or ‘K**es in Kalingrad’ (Regina Spektor perhaps)? Hopefully your answer would be no. While it’s easy to write this off as “political correctness gone mad”, when you can’t put your hand on your heart and be 100% comfortable with a particular group using a word, that speaks volumes. So until such terms become as forgotten as “glaikit” (“thicko” in Scottish) try using an equivalent. ‘Nougat in Paris’ sounds much nicer, don’t you think?

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Artwork win (and not a bad song either) from Jessie Ware

She’s a sneaky one, that Jessie Ware, in the way she’s managed to quietly creep up on me from being “that lass who worked with Sbtrkt”  to the most exciting new female artist of the year.

She first grabbed my attention with her haunting single ‘Running’….

Then she kept me wanting more with her follow-up ‘110%’, a gorgeously chilled-out track that deserves a decent summer to be  the soundtrack of. Oh well, you don’t get everything. You do however get this artwork for her latest single:

Simple, but gorgeously affecting – much like her distinct brand of dance-tinged spook-pop. Asides from taking notes from Sade, Dido and a touch of Lisa Stansfield it’s almost as though someone decided to encapsulate everything that Hurts managed to get right into a sweet girl from Brixton who used to work for the Jewish Chronicle.  ‘Wildest Moments’ is a percussion-heavy ballad that probably won’t dent the Top 40 but is the classiest thing you’ve heard – since her last release.

While it’s obvious that in the post-Adele landscape “basic” is in – you only have to look at Lana Del Rey’s timely appearance, Jessie isn’t just some puppet catapulted onto a bandwagon by a hopeful label. She cut her teeth on Katy B’s breakthrough passport, underground radio station Rinse FM and since then has been quietly finding a sound of her own – recent releases owe more to soul than earlier demos with a hint of derivative dubstep. Her album Devotion (which you can order here) is out in August and with a bit of luck should drum up enough sales for a tour after her well-received festival appearances. Spread the word; when it comes to Jessies – forget the J and be aware of The Ware.

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Remember what I said about Mika?

Rewind back a couple of weeks when I was having a contemplative grump/post-mortem about Eurovision, and who the Dickens we should send next year. One of the names I threw into the ring was Mika on the grounds that with the right producer he could come up with something different to his usual “mice in a blender” sound.  Well look what he’s just thrown into the ether of cyberspace:

The right length (just about 3 minutes), the right sound (dancey goodness) and above all – different. It’s enough to make you wish you had a time machine to travel to before the decision was made to send Grumpybert Angeldick.

Mika’s new album, The Origin of Love hits shelves on September 16th. Aside from possibly being influenced by Hedwig and the Angry Inch it features a wealth of unlikely collaborators including William Orbit, Benny Benassi, Greg Wells (Katy Perry, Adele) and Klas Ahlund (Body Talk by Robyn), as well as underrated indie-electro artist FrYars. Could this be the moment likeable, non-shrill Mika is unleashed or will it result in bland, chart-aping desperation? You’ll have to wait and see.

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