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20/2/13 – NME Tour, Bournemouth – Review


nme tour

So yesterday a well organised trip down (up?) to Bournemouth took place to go and see our nearest branch of the NME’s tour, the four bands on offer being Peace, Palma Violets, Miles Kane and Django Django. Having already seen the first two at The Joiners, I felt confident they would put on a good show and so it was with a generally optimistic air that I left my house. Of Miles Kane, however, I am more skeptical. None of his songs have ever grabbed me at all, and much of his style and attitude makes me think he’s just a poor man’s Paul Weller. So discovering that he had fallen ill and would not be playing didn’t really affect me too much. Although I was disappointed he wouldn’t have the chance to prove me wrong, I expect he knew I was coming and feared my judgemental scorn so chickened out, a reasonable move for anyone in that situation.

Peace

So after a minor race for the loo we arrived in time to enter the crowd as Peace took to the stage. They made an odd choice in opening with three songs from their soon to be released debut album, rather than any of their known singles or EP tracks. What made it even weirder is that these songs seemed to tone down a lot of the psychadelic/afrobeat influences that made tracks like ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘1998’ so brilliant. I definitely noticed an unexpected Brit Pop influence on these new songs – 90s revival anyone? However, they were far from bad songs, and Peace are a group that remind me of bands of old, a group of akward, slacker, tech-heads staying inside to make music, and then donning a leather jacket and using their music to become cool. They are also a group that I trust to make the right call with their album, even if they eschewed their known, respected hits for it, I do believe the songs replacing them will be just as good. Once they’d gotten these album tracks out of the way, though, the show really started to kick off. A launch into epic fan-favourite ‘1998’ (only playable thanks to Miles Kane’s illness) brought out the moshing, the dancing and the jumping. They then romped through ‘Wraith’, ‘California Daze’, ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘Follow Baby’, a group of quality songs, all of which were played with fierce energy and a responsive crowd. A tactical bit of mosh-jumping posited co-writer Billy, friend Fahad, and me right on the second row in time to gather our breath for Palma Violets to come on next.

chilli-jesson-and-sam-fryer-of-palma-violets-8735

When Palma Violets did come on, they had their own special walk-on music, the only band of the night to do so (it sounded like an old punk single, probably The Clash or The Damned), and this activated the cynic in me. Palma’s are built up, mainly by the NME as the ‘Best British Guitar Band In Years’ and they do put on a hell of a show. But here’s my main problem with them: they only have one cracking song, ‘Best of Friends’, While I do like ‘Tom the Drum’ and ‘Step Up for the Cool Cats’, they aren’t anywhere near as good. As a live band, Palma Violets are phenomenal, and having Harry Violent join our little crew for a few songs was brilliant. A stagedive, singalong, crazy dancing, and charismatic frontmen were all integral to their show, which went off brilliantly, but I can’t help returning to the fact that they do not have enough great songs. The album tracks they played all had some fantastic moments in each of them, but felt more like rough sketches than crafted pop, which leaves me feeling incredibly negative about how their album will be next monday. I also felt the NME has screwed up by not having Palma’s open, giving the band with more, better, and better known songs, Peace, take the second slot. By all means if you want to see an incredible gig, go see Palma Violets, and the smaller the venue, the better, but they just cannot get away with live power alone. I wish the NME and the sodding British Music Industry had chilled out a bit, let them do the same tour they did, but give them longer and much more guidance when it came to making their debut, rather than rush to make money off the same-old Libertines narrative. Now we will have to have to face a barrage of hype-destroying press in the next few months that will ruin the career of a decent band, that could have become an incredible band, with time and guidance.django

Hmmm, that’s a very depressing paragraph. Sorry. I am a fan of Palma Violets, I feel I should make that very clear, they know how to rock out and have fun on stage like no one else at the moment. but on to the last band of the day, and band that I wasn’t sure what to expect of – Django Django. While I admired their jangly guitar bopping, nothing aside from hit ‘Default’ had impressed me much, especially when at the time it was competing against Alt-J, so I’d never got the album. So when the first notes rang out of an overdriven guitar riff I was a bit shocked and a bit impressed that they had made their sound heavier and work so well in the arena venue. Their light show was also interesting, using shutters and lights to effectively make the large stage seem much less imposing and put them at the centre of the show. But after a bit more listening I realised that I was completely wrong about Django Django. Yes, they had imposed well with overdrive and power but once their sound filled out (which it did magnificently I should add) it became clear that they are not a rock band. In fact with the way each song is centred on the drums and percussion (they are the leaders in modern tambourine skills) they are far better described as a dance band. Suddenly the choice to make them headliners made perfect sense, after the raucous rock’n’roll, how about a proper dance band to bop to without having some cunt without his shirt come and elbow you in the face in your favourite bit of the song. Django Django also took a dance act’s approach to song structure with EDM’s central theme of lots of small changes taking you somewhere around a central groove as well as a concerted effort to merge their tracks like a DJ mix. This worked really well, particularly on the now stunning ‘Default’ whose stammered chorus I cannot remove from my head. (I should add my companions were not as pleased with my co-writer teasingly saying ‘it’s like Alt-J got even more dull’). I would love to see Django Django in a club, and I can’t help feeling they have far more in common with a group like SBTRKT than with their touring pals of Peace and Palma Violets, especially if you compare what I saw last night to SBTRKT’s Reading Festival set, the use of percussion and massive sound in particular. The set closed, with no encore, despite our urge to boogie.

So, duly impressed by Django Django I picked up their record on vinyl on the way out and we left. A very good value for money gig, even if (or especially if) Miles Kane never showed, with each act putting on a great show.

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Who Will Make The Album Of 2013


So having just finished my end of year list way too late to have anyone care, I thought I’d get ahead of the game for once, and have a go at guessing which artist will make what would be the album of 2013. It’s clearly ridiculous, but it’s just a bit of fun, and also a way for me to bag some proper ‘I told you so’ rights in the coming year.

The Indie Rock Debut Contenders

Here we have the bands, championed by the NME and the odd critic out there for Indie Rock crown. The best of the bunch seem to be the following: Peace, Palma Violets, Savages and Haim. The latter just won the BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll/list/whatnot, which should make them major players, but they don’t do anything for me. The songs are good and fun (their rendition of The Chanukah Song was a highlight of 6music’s Christmas playlist), but they sound too much like what my head thinks the 80s sound like. They are undoubtedly good, but not fresh enough to make an album that would stun. Palma Violets on the other hand are exactly that. Their lead single ‘Best of Friends’ was the NME’s song of 2012, they deftly signed to Rough Trade after never releasing any songs and having seen them live, the phrase ‘Fucking Amazing’ does spring to mind. But my main worry, is that they haven’t got enough songs of ‘Best of Friends’ caliber. ’14‘ and ‘Tom the Drum’ are songs that I do think rock, but don’t quite have the catchy power of BoF. Ultimately though, their secretism about releasing tracks will work in their favour, as it makes guessing this much harder, they could still come out and stun us.

Savages are in a tight bind. While probably my personal favourite of all four (how can you not love a post-punk band of Siouxsie meets Joy Division), they have one stonking track in ‘Husbands’ and a great sound. But I can’t help feeling they’ve rushed into the making of their album, especially as they have remained independent, on their own ‘Pop Noire’ label. They need to take the time, tour even more than they already have so that when they have a full album out, it will be packed with tight and infectious intense songs like ‘Husbands’, a poor record here could kill them early on.

So, my pick for the Indie Rock album of 2013 folks is Peace. Why, because unlike Palma Violets I know their other songs are awesome, I saw them live and know that they rule, and genuinly, every single track this band have put out, (all 8), is golden and that’s more songs than on a Springsteen album. All it takes is one more cheeky single that does something different around when release day for the album hits and they will have nailed it. Peace 4 2013. Rumours of a Rock Revolution are abounding, and are as stupid as they were the first time some hack journalist propagated them… Indie won’t be the place the music revolution will happen, it will be in POP…

The Pop Debut Contenders

Music is changing, and it’s not the way you think it will be. Rather than Indie wiping out stupid boring pop music for big men with guitars who sing about girls and drugs and leather jackets, it’s the Pop that will go Indie. Over the last couple years it’s become increasingly more acceptable for the #cool #indie #types to admit to being fans of pop music, or even hideously uncool pop acts, but 2012 is the first year where artists are properly combining Indie nous with Pop Power, giving a crossover power that will destroy all in their wake. The two new bands leading the charge are both British, one from Glasgow, and one from London. I talk of course, of two nominated for BBC’s poll as well, AlunaGeorge and Chvrches.

AlunaGeorge I’ve been aware of since early on in 2012, when they made me break my unwritten rule of not buying singles when I bought ‘You Know You Like It’ after hearing it on the radio. Something about its awesome production and catchy as hell chorus made me have to grab it. In other words, it worked exactly like pop singles are supposed to, except on twee indie types like myself. The follow-up single ‘You Know You Like It’ was even better, and again, I bought it. The band have nailed making interesting, arty music that can get the pop factor essentials absolutely right, and it’s why they really should have won Sound of 2013. Now with these 2 perfect singles, and a teaser clip for a new song that sounds great, and a sneaky chilled out one that sounds supercool, their album should be a shoe-in for a record that combines pop sales with Indie coolness.

I can’t really split between them and Chvrches for who is better. While AlunaGeorge are more slinky, more post-dubstep, Chvrches are full on synth-pop. The heavy, heavy tones of the synths allow vocalist Lauren Mayberry to plant sugary sweet melodies in your brain with a fantastic scottish accent that makes them especially shine out. Singles ‘The Mother We Share’ and ‘Lies’ are both impossible to forget, but also rewarding on repeated listens. Their album should devastate if they can even put out one more song as good as the previous two, and from interviews they all seem to have cool heads on their shoulders so it should be no problem. These two bands are just as likely as Peace to make the record of 2013, but so far all I’ve looked at is new bands…

Established Band Contenders

Leading the pack of bands that have already put out albums in Foals. The main single ‘Inhaler’ sounds like someone took their ambient selves from previous album Total Life Forever and trapped them in a room with 1993 era Soundgarden until they were prepared to RAWK. Mighty riffs and screaming vocals make it a breath of fresh air in dainty indie land. Being still the darlings of the press, they have enough about them to make an album that can surprise and twist even if other single ‘My Number’ is just a bit ok.

They will probably be trumped though, if current biggest Alt band in the world besides Radiohead, Arcade Fire, manage to beat the turn of the new year with their as yet unconfirmed but being worked on fourth album. It’s estimated for late 2013, or early 2014, and considering they have put out 3 records of era defining quality, it should seem an easy game for them to take album of the year, especially with James Murphy at the helm of production. But Yorke and pals could have revenge with Atoms for Peace‘s debut album Amok. Only single ‘Default’ was pretty awesome and live footage keeps emerging that finally makes sense of how someone as physical as Flea fits into a sound as odd as the one Yorke creates. Arguably this could even sound better than Radiohead’s last LP which left a lot of people very cold with its Caribou stylings.

A group of assorted older bands will be making ventures into 2013, among them Mudhoney, Eels, Pearl Jam, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but most asonishingly My Bloody Valentine, who have claimed the new album is actually finally mastered, only 22 years after their last was released! Some of Indie’s less hype-intensive small groups are also due to be making 2013 inroads, Everything Everything hope to follow fantastic single ‘Cough Cough’ with a quality album, Local Natives have been gathering a cult following throughout 2012, and thi smight be their breakthrough year, while band-that-I-just-heard-on-the-radio Villagers have a very nice single out in leiu of their album due out in 4 days. Good for them.

But in all honesty, if I know myself, if won’t be Peace, AlunaGeorge, Atoms for Peace or Chvrches that turn out album of the year. It will be some weird act that I’d never heard of until mid-July who emerge from nowhere with a completely different sound. And that’s not a bad thing, the internet and the disfigured shape of the music industry mean that any odd record can wind its way into your hands, and it means that taste doesn’t have to be so tribal, we can like what we like. That said, I’m still humming ‘Lies’ by Chvrches, so you can probably count them as favourites.

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The 5 Best EPs of 2012


With the impeding approach of the all-important Album of 2012 list, and still a bit knackered from dealing with the behemoth Top 50 Songs of 2012, I thought I’d take a bit of time to celebrate the craft of the Extended Play. It’s a format that is becoming ever more important in the way that modern music functions. For starters it’s a great way for people to see if the bands are any good beyond one initial tune, it’s also vital for the bands themselves, so that they don’t rush headfirst into a 12-track album, but are still able to build a high profile. Their bargain price also means that I actually bought all of these releases, without the worry of forking out a tenner for something that could be crap.

Competition was incredibly high, and it’s worth saying that the order of the top 3 could be debated, but I had to pick one, and I absolutely stand by my decision. Commiserations to Haim, whose Forever EP nearly made it in, but I could never shake the vibe of the 80s off it. Pale Seas also had a release I liked in The Devil Waltz but it just didn’t have the power that these ones did.

5 – Twigs – Twigs

Twigs - Twigs

Twigs will win no awards for best cover art of the year, but this EP is a thing of unnatural beauty. Originally mysteriously anonymous and with only two intense songs and videos on youtube, this artist rose to prominence after being tipped by Grimes on Twitter. One of those two tracks was in my Top 50 of 2012, so when this EP was released only last week I was delighted. The Grimes comparisons only run so far, with opener ‘Weak Spot’ taking more from Massive Attack. Skittery drums and off-kilter beats give Twigs a very singular sound, intensely rhythmical without ever settling. ‘Ache’ is a masterpiece of dark beauty, with a genius video, while ‘Breathe’ is delicate twisted pop, and the closer, ‘Hide’, is a prorof of the minimalist music genius herein. This is edgy, dark and creepy music, and a sign that we might have a UK Grimes on our hands if the promise of these tracks can be fulfilled with the next release. The album is probably best experienced via her tumblr and watching all four songs through their very arty videos.

4 – Savages – I Am Here

Savages - I Am Here

I don’t need to reiterate why I think Savages are one of the best new bands around to any people unfortunate enough to talk to me about music in real life. Simply enough, Savages are a band that plunder one of the golden eras of music, the early punk/post-punk scene, specifically bands like Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees. By moving from being more influenced by the latter than the former with this EP Savages pushed further ahead with dips into quieter moments while never letting the tension up. This EP was taken from recording of the band life and the ferocity, aggression and, yes, savagery of their playing really comes across. Saving their defining song, ‘Husbands’ (again, one of my Top 50) till last ensures that when this record ends, the only thing you want to do is get to a Savages show, that’s if you can resist throwing yourself around the room with the pure, unadultarated energy of this insane track.

3 – TNGHT – TNGHT

TNGHT EP

TNGHT were a revelation. I was fully prepared to be annoyed at them for nicking SBTRKT’s little name trick. That is, until I saw them supporting SBTRKT at Manchester’s Warehouse project. After checking up on them once home I continue to be impressed by this music. The 5 songs here are intense enough to be highlights of any night out, especially the track ‘Higher Ground’ which I cannot resist, but they are all also short enough to prevent getting tired of them, or having to worry about not being sustainable. The genre ‘Trap’ is getting increasingly bandied around, along with the phrase ‘the new dubstep’, and it seems TNGHT may have accidentally placed themselves (renowned producer Hudson Mohawke (Scottish) and Lunice (Canadian)), at the apex of this style, with it’s half time beats and 808 intensiveness, being a strong feature of this EP. The fact this is being taken up by fans of all sorts of music, as well as regularly getting actual club plays proves how good this EP is, with it’s surreal samples and massive beats.

2 – Peace – Delicious

Peace - Delicious

“WHAT! NOT NUMBER ONE!” I hear you yell impotently at your screens. “But, but… it’s so perfect. These four songs, each bringing something unique to the EP, the intro of ‘Ocean’s Eye’, the better-than-Foals-funk-pop of ‘Bloodshake’, the best ballad of the year in ‘California Daze’ and the genius rising, falling waves of the 10 min long trance cover ‘1998 (Delicious)’.” Yes, yes, all of that. This EP is definitely perfect. It put Peace on the map as one of the finest bands in Britain around. The level of musicianship these guys have is ridiculous. I am eternally in awe of the outro to ‘Bloodshake’ where the guitars and drums make impossible rhythms seem effortless, and they way they converted trance into psychadelic rock is worthy of worship, making a massive song so easy to listen to. Their album is recorded and ready to be released next year, and seeing as I also love earlier single Follow Baby it’s one of the most anticipated records to come. But this EP is not number 1. Then what is?…

1 – Burial – Kindred

Burial - Kindred

They’ll be two reactions to this news. The first “Who the fuck is Burial and why is this better than Peace”, and the other “Yeh this was an easy guarantee”. Burial is a producer from London who has come to make some of the most important and influential electronic music around. And while I knew this last year, and was familiar with his seminal release Untrue, it wasn’t until I got this EP that Burial unraveled and I could appreciate the genius within. In simple terms these three songs are all longer than a usual Burial track, and it allows each song to fully unravel in a way that cannot fail to blow your mind. Opener ‘Kindred’ takes the trademark choppy garage drumbeat but expands it with this heavy bass, that is immensely unsettling. Multiple times the song seems to just disintegrate completely into this ambient rain-soaked calm before returning with more of the trademark spliced vocal hooks. What instantly makes this release so much more different and so much more special than his other work is the sense of unease and depression that soaks through this track. Electronica music should not be able to be so emotionally affecting, that’s supposed to be the clarion call of the indie-punk guitar bands, the Jake Bugg Tru-Music clan. But somehow this release pulls it off.

And then the EP gets to ‘Loner’ with it’s sampled intro. It moves out of the what we would expect, applying House drums to this consistent aura of darkness. As the vocals slide in and out and the distant bass rolls across arping synths, I am struck yet again by how incredibly powerful this music is. It takes everything that made Kindred so outstanding and keeps applying it to make the single saddest song that can still get your feet dancing. Finally, almost 20 minutes after pressing play we reach track 3, ‘Ashtray Wasp’. Somehow this manages to build the two previous songs into one insane, super-long track that jitters and whirls, fading and returning, shifting and changing.

11 minutes later, after a half hour of music, for only £2.50, we emerge. The oppressive darkness and depression is lifted, and we can reflect on the experience. Thirty minutes of awe-inspiring music, the most intensely affecting electronic music you’re likely ever to hear. While Peace’s EP was perfect and built the anticipation for next years release, this release doesn’t need anything else around it, it is completely fulfilling. The best albums are musical journeys that leave you a slightly different person once they’re finished, like The Suburbs, or It’s A Wonderful Life. Burial is able to accomplish this in only three tracks. For £2.50 you can get a record as good as anything on the upcoming album of 2012 list. So now you’ve read this, what’s stopping you?

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