Wednesday 31 March 2010

The Golden Filter- Voluspa

This is the New York band’s debut album and after the release of their first single ‘Solid Gold’ well over a year ago, it’s been a long time coming. Named after the poem on the subject of the creation story, this album is scattered with epic electric violin riffs, mouth watering synth riffs and catchy dance beats.

Despite the influx of computer generated music, I’m yet to get bored of this trend, mainly as it fascinates me as I could never have the patience for such technology. This band defies all barriers with this album, its dream-like ambiance captures the imagination, the beats urge dancing, this album’s a production master piece.

Penelope’s warm vocals melt the ear drums and Stephen’s disco handiwork compliments them well, not only is this album pop gold dust but it’s a beautiful piece of art at the same time. The strange computer generated noises add to the enchantment that the unique, overlapped vocal riffs provide. This album is hazy pop at its best.

Voluspa explores the natural elements, the supernatural and relationships, both musically and lyrically. You have to listen to the whole LP to understand what The Golden Filter are all about, given their status for remaining mysterious, this album is the biggest insight into their minds that we have, thank goodness it’s a good one. This album is a box full of magic just bursting to be opened. For me, this is definitely one of the best album’s that’s been released so far this year.


Sunday 28 March 2010

Goldfrapp- Head First

Goldfrapp-Head First Pictures, Images and Photos

Goldfrapp have just released their fifth album ‘Head First’, but after the new wave of electro-pop artists that have been established in the past couple of years, have they still got that same appeal as when they released their first album? Quite possibly not, through no fault of their own, why should they be forced to change their style just because of fellow competitors for the electro-pop throne?
This album is surprising contrast to their 4th album ‘Seventh Tree’ which seemed to nod more to the sixties for inspiration, where as ‘Head First’ has an evident 70s/80s pop inspiration, which, at times seems a bit too much as it conceals the haunting darkness that has always been present in their music. But, this album’s full of contagious vocal hooks and chorus’s and tastefully created cheese, however, the repetition can get irritating from time to time.
Despite its negatives, this album also contains a lot of positive factors, not only in its uplifting style but Alison’s delicious breathy, dream-like vocals are impossible to hate. Many of the songs contain strong dance beats and catchy synth riffs which is another reason why I like this record; Alison seems to be revisiting her roots, this music is similar to the music that you would expect to find on some of their earlier albums.
‘Head First’ contains slick vocals and smooth production, particularly on certain tracks, for example ‘Shiny and Warm.’ Though, some songs are a little too reminiscent of 80’s pop acts like Van Halen, such as ‘Rocket’, the title track ‘Head First’ and ‘I Wanna Life.’ This well polished pop album is easy on the ears and despite its downfalls, is quite an enjoyable album, there’s nothing not to like, yet there’s nothing there to really thrive upon either, I’d say it’s a ‘pleasant’ album. Though, unfortunately for Goldfrapp, given pop’s current climate of producing exciting, fresh new artists continuously, I doubt this album will be winning any awards any time soon.


Friday 26 March 2010

Paloma Faith -gig review 24/03/2010

Paloma has been unwell recently and has hardly any voice, I was meant to be interviewing her earlier but she had to cancel all press to try and preserve the little voice that she has left in order to not have to cancel shows. Despite not having a sore throat this evening, she ploughs on with the show. And what a fine job she did of it too! It was a show littered with her album tracks, jazz covers, a radio 1 live lounge cover, costume changes and jazzy break downs.

La shark are on first, I pre- warn my mother, who attended the gig with me, that she may not like them because they’re quite strange but after a couple of songs she turns to me and says “these are good, these are.” This seems to be the general feeling around me, at first the audience were taken aback by the bizarre mash up of ideas, genres and images that La Shark convey but by half way through the set they are drawn in and start to like them. It seems that La Shark have obvious punk/ska roots but they appear to be influenced by a lot of things, some might describe them as mad heads who’ve somehow managed to obtain musical instruments but others would consider their experimental approach artistic and genius, I’d go with the latter.

la shark Pictures, Images and Photos

After lots of excessive guitar tuning and the revelation of a large, theatre set type mirror (a hint to the opener of the set, Smoke and Mirrors), Paloma’s band take to the stage, followed dramatically of course, by the lady, herself. Paloma works the stage dressed in a multi-coloured cat suit and a head full of fruit, if I hadn’t have known that she wasn’t feeling 100% I would never have guessed it from this entrance! Paloma evidently found it hard to talk at times, which wasn’t helped by the absolute idiots that were shouting obscene things at her from the balcony in between songs but her singing voice remained fairly strong throughout the set. Her mellow jazz covers such as Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Explain’, her Billie Holiday cover and her slant on The Beatles’ ‘You never give me your money’ were sounding beautiful and Paloma’s dancing was still energetic. A particular highlight of her set for me was the ‘remix’ version of her third single ‘Do you want the Truth or something beautiful?’ which was highly refreshing and the band seemed to enjoy playing it a lot. Speaking of her band, I must say how talented they all are! Dom’s piano skills are excellent, this something which I noticed especially, with being a pianist myself, the guitarists were great and I see a bright future ahead for all of her gifted backing singers, particularly ‘Baby Sol’, whom I felt had a particular stage presence/ unique charismatic appeal to her. After a stunning set, the encore songs were her cover of Etta James’ ‘At last’ and the single that really broke her into the world of main stream music ‘New York’. As always after a good gig, there is an air of love and adoration in the room, this reassures me that although there may be a lot of dislike for Paloma, there is a lot of love for her too. I know a lot of people that don’t like her but in the wise words of Mama Wilkinson, “what is there not to like about Paloma? She’s lovely!”


Katie x

Saturday 6 March 2010

The XX Birmingham 5/03/2010

After almost getting beaten up by an alcoholic homeless man on the bus, I was glad to finally get to this gig! Spirits were high, as one often finds at this time of year because it's nearly SPRING! It was nice to finally see The XX on a headline tour as opposed to a festival or a supporting tour, everyone around me was a true XX fan. This fact excited me greatly, it constrasts so much to Leeds Festival this year when I was standing there singing along wearing my free XX T shirt whilst everyone around me was like "Who the fuck are the XX?" Also for some reason when I saw them in Manchester supporting Florence and the Machine they didn't seem to go down too well generally, why this was, I do not understand! But last night at Birmingham Academy 2, was a sell out!

First up were a band called 'Glasser', they were rather like an American version of Fever Ray, but this didn't bother me, I love a good tribal rave! They were mysteriously dressed in white robes with hoods and did not speak the whole time! Nobody even knew their name until after the gig when people asked at the merchandise table! The irritating older gentleman behind me kept saying "I like the costumes, they remind me so much of Spinal Tap" this, of course is absolute bollocks! I think he was saying it to try and impress his date. Anyway, I enjoyed this band a lot, the female singer has a lovely voice!

Next were 'These New Puritans', another experimental band. I don't own the album but I was talking to some boys next to me and they were saying that they are much, much better live than on the record (which was released two years ago), and this seems to be true. They were very good live. Interesting, and for some reason, the singer freaks me out a bit, but I must admit they are a talented gang of people. Like 'Glasser' they did a lot of their performance on laptops but this didn't even decrease the value or quality of thier performance for me. They also had two drummers, one of them played 'the chains' too during their set, you wouldn't think that hitting chains with a drumstick would work so well! They write wonderful dark, experimental music, music that you can completely lose yourself in, intense music, my favourite kind of music.

Here's them at Scala, London, a couple of weeks ago:

And finally, it was time for The XX! I knew that people were even going to remain completely silent throughout their set or be singing along to every lyric, thankfully, it was the latter. As soon as 'Islands' kicked in I felt a rush of adoration, emotion and happiness and this carried on, I believe not only for me but for those around me, throughout the entire set. They pretty much just played the whole album but with 'Stars' as the encore and their cover of 'Teardrops' (originally by Womack and Womack) slotted in there too, which still went down well. This gig was one of those very special gigs where everyone walks away happy and singing the bands songs. The DJ played their version of 'You've got the Love' after their set and everyone hung around and sung and danced around gleefully. Basically this gig made me and everyone around me adore The XX even more than they already did and they made me realise that they are even more beautiful and special than I ever thought they were, despite having the album on repeat since the day it came out. It's nice to see that they have a strong cult following too, they deserve a lot of success, they have such epic and intense talent that deserves to be appreciated by many.

Katie x

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The time when I interviewed Steven from Blood Red a shower


I am sat in a black and white tiled shower cubicle in Bar Academy, Birmingham with my friend, Amy and Steven Ansell for his first ever interview in a shower, the drummer and singer from the Brighton two-piece, Blood Red Shoes. Steven has a bottle of Sambucca under his arm and I have a can of cider that we managed to smuggle into the venue because the drinks in the Academy are such a rip-off! French/cockney band, Underground Railroad have just performed an excellent set which even involved some cello. Blood Red Shoes are on in half an hour, hence, the reason why Laura-Mary isn’t here with us because she’s getting ready. Although, she did peek her head around the door at one point and say hello with a slightly confused look on her face. Here’s what happened during our chat on the day that I discovered that cider mixed with Sambucca actually tastes rather nice.

Katie: So, why the name 'Blood Red Shoes'?

Steven: Well, when we started, we weren’t trying to start a band; Laura just emailed me and said “shall we have a jam?” So we got together and wrote some songs, a guy heard it and asked us whether we wanted to play a show but we were really fucked, we didn’t really know what the fuck we were doing but we said “Yeah, we’ll play” but we didn’t have a name because we’d just had one jam. As we were trying to think of a name we were hanging out with one of our friends and he had this book called ‘Hollywood Babylon’ and in it was a story about Ginger Rogers and in that story, Fred Astaire makes Ginger Rogers keep re-doing a tap scene until eventually he’s like “Cuuuuuuuuuuut” “Why have you changed your shoes?” and she was like “I haven’t” but her shoes are red, she was wearing white shoes but now her shoes are red because he’s re-made her do the scene so many times that her feet have bled, she’s been tap dancing so much. We thought that this sounded really fucked up so we were like “let’s call our band that.”

Katie: Who and what are your main influences?

Steven: A lot of stuff because when you’re a musician everything that you listen to goes to your brain, Laura’s an artist as well so for her even more things go in, and so a lot of things go into our music. “Also, us getting frustrated about having shit jobs before we were in the band full time is also as much as an influence because it gave us that force to really do it.”

Katie: yeah, I know what you mean; I fell asleep at work the other day, it was that boring.

Steven: Yeah, it was just things like that, being fed up with your life and being fed up of the structure of somebody always telling you what to do. And there were musical influences such as Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, The Pixies and a band called ‘Q and Not U’, like nobody has ever listened to this band, they broke up a few years ago, they were the best band that we’ve ever heard, they were an American band and they were so good.

Katie: Yeah, I hate it when that happens, have you heard of The Delgados? They were really great but they split up

Steven: Ah yeah, I used to like The Delgados actually.

Katie: Are there any new bands about at the moment that you really like?

Steven: Yeah, I really like ‘Pulled apart by Horses’

Katie: Ah yeah, they’re good, you love them don’t you Amy?

Amy: Yessss!

Steven: I really like the band that supported us too, Underground Railroad, but they’re not that new, they’re on their third record but they’re still new to me, Laura found them and we were like “yeah, let’s take them on tour with us” and there’s a band from Brighton called ‘Peggy Sue’

Katie: Ah, yeah, I love Peggy Sue! They supported you when I saw you two years ago in Stoke!

Steven: Yeah, and I produced a couple of tracks on their album so I have a deep interest in the band but they’re just about making really diverse records.

Katie: Is Brighton really that boring because Stoke’s shit isn’t it? I imagine Brighton to be a lot better than Stoke!

Steven: It’s not that boring, but it was quite frustrating at the time. Brighton’s very small and you get bored of it because you can get bored of almost anywhere. “You could get bored when you have the most exciting life in the world, anything gets boring if it just keeps repeating itself, Brighton isn’t actually that boring, it’s just that we got to the point where we just felt a bit caged in, especially at the time that we wrote ‘Boring by the Sea’, which is the reason why you’ve asked this question.” It’s because at that time we started out on this really DIY punk scene and it was all about being like super underground all of the time and then we wrote these pop songs and we were always really happy that they were punk and fucked up but also catchy and people really hated us for that, it was kind like that reaction against the fact that we wrote this song and it was really disco, you could really dance to it and it was a bit of a hit.

Katie: Yeah and then there was that amazing remix of it as well that was even more danceable and popular!

Steven: Yeah and we were like this is a really amazing ‘fuck you!’ to all of the people that were like “you’re too pop, you don’t deserve our respect.” It’s so boring! It’s so boring! “Just because a song has a chorus doesn’t mean that the band is a ‘sell-out’ band. It doesn’t mean that it’s ‘not cool’ or ‘not underground enough.’ It just means that people like it for fucks sake!”

Katie: If you had to categorise your music into one genre what would it be?
Steven: Just rock. That’s it.

Katie: Which country do you most prefer to play gigs in?

Steven: Right now? This changes because each tour something else surprises you.

Katie: You play quite a bit in Japan don’t you?

Steven: Yeah Japan is really good. I think my favourites recently were either Belgium or Holland. We’re playing at a festival called ‘Lowlands’ and they did a launch night which was what we played at the other day and everyone who goes to the launch night gets a ticket, you can’t get them any other way.

Katie: How does Fire Like This compare to Box of Secrets? Would you say that you’ve progressed or changed or anything with this album?

Steven: I think it’s just natural evolution really, we didn’t change anything, and there are still just guitars, drums and singing. I think that for us it was about getting better at what we were doing. I see Box of Secrets was a starting point, I see Fire Like This as us figuring out our thing and I think the next record is gonna get much weirder than that because I think that we learnt a lot of stuff whilst making this album. The weirder moments that are found on this record will be a lot weirder on the next but I don’t see it as a change, just a progression. We write better songs I think, like, they don’t go on as long because we’ve figure out that every song doesn’t have to be really fast all of the time because this just gets really boring. I think it’s a slightly sadder record than the first one; the first one was a bit more optimistic. “I think that Fire Like This is more ‘us’, with the first record we were just kind of finding our feet, this record is more the real me and Laura-Mary and expressing more of who we really are than on the first album.”

Amy: At least you have turned to electro-pop like most other bands have.

Steven: You know what, we’d never do that! I mean we like to dance and stuff but no we’d never do that. If people said that to us “so, change your style”, we’d be like “what, really?” It’s like the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s made a dance/electro record and I’m like “yeah, that’s shit”. I would much rather listen to Date with the Night than I would their new shit record, its rubbish! Why would you change your sound? “People would think that it’s a bad thing that we haven’t completely changed our sound but we don’t fucking want to change our sound.” There are two things in a record, there are the lyrics to the songs and the way that you record them and just because you recorded it differently, doesn’t mean that it sounds any better so the way it seems to me is that if you write the same sentence in a different colour ink , one in red, one in blue, one in green and one in black, have you said anything different? No, you haven’t, you’ve just written it in red so that you trick people into thinking that it looks different when they first say it but when you really pay attention, you realise that you’ve just written the same sentence, that’s why if you write the same song but record it with a keyboard, it’s basically the same shit, you’ve just tricked people into thinking that it’s different. “We just thought “right, let’s write better songs”, you should make the way that you sing it more powerful by trying to really sing it like you mean it and don’t fucking worry about being electro or whatever by changing your sound because for me that’s a short term way into tricking people into thinking that it’s exciting.” I also just don’t really like keyboard that much. I love the sound of a loud, distorted guitar.

Katie: After the tour is finished, what’s next for Blood Red Shoes? Do you plan on playing any festivals?

Steven: We finish this tour and then in May we actually have a load of shows that we haven’t officially announced yet and then we’re doing all of those festivals like ‘The Great Escape’, ‘Dot-to-Dot’ and ‘Liverpool Sound City’ and I think that we’re playing a show in Moscow with The Horrors apparently and then in between the shows in May we’re gonna try and write some new stuff and try and release a new EP after the summer.

Steven: The album was released yesterday so tonight we are celebrating; this is why I have this bottle of Sambucca.

Katie Wilkinson