- John Grant - GMF http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekFWPsXXcg0
- Midlake - Antiphone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyzs9_Oifik
- TV on the Radio - Mercy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0Ji2sxk0Uc
- Arcade Fire - Reflektor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E0fVfectDo
- The Pixies - Bagboy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGdSYPh5_BI
- Jagwar Ma - The Throw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vU6a7Haw78
- Lorde - Royals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFasFq4GJYM
- Chvrches - The Mother We Share http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mTRvJ9fugM
- Hockeysmith - Let's Bang http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxlzlHUFmlI
- Lady Gaga - Applause http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pco91kroVgQ
Saturday, January 04, 2014
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
For that yawning chasm of time, the record books simply noted the lack of a British male taking home any of tennis's biggest prizes. But though the five-set final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic was long, epic even, the result instantly swatted away the many years of nagging doubts, the false hopes, the also-rans, the just falling short, all of that was gone at a stroke. By becoming Britain's first major winner since Fred Perry in 1936, Andy Murray banished the past and erased the need for that statistic to ever matter for the future of his career.
Before the final had even begun, Great Britain had enjoyed an incredible, opulent summer of sport, dominated quite rightly by the achievements of the GB Olympic and Paralympic athletes, with victories and success stories of sporting ability and determination that have led many to laud 2012 as the best year for British sport since 1966 (it is, quite arguably, far greater). The London 2012 heroics overshadow astonishing achievements such as a British Tour-de-France winner and Rory McIlroy's second career major, while there may still be a British Formula One champion before the year is over.
And yet. Has any British sportsperson had quite the 2012 that Andy Murray has?* He reached two Grand Slam finals, winning one, a got to a semi final and a quarter final in the other two Slams. He responded to the gut-wrenching Wimbledon final defeat against Roger Federer by winning an Olympic gold medal just weeks later, against the same opponent upon the very same grass. That medal gave him the confidence to suggest that he could beat the best when it mattered, something which had been hinted at when he had break points to serve for the match in a gladiatorial Australian Open semi-final with Novak Djokovic in January, and again when he took a set off Federer at Wimbledon in June.
But despite the positives, both of those tournaments still ended in heartbreak, a by now familiar sight of the Brit failing just short (Murray having made the semi finals or final of eight of his previous 11 majors). Indeed, this year's Wimbledon showed how close he was to winning a Grand Slam, but as cruel as it was hopeful, with four defeats in four Slam finals, it also gave rise to more doubts: was it simply beyond him, in a time of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, to break the duck, to lay the ghost of Fred Perry to rest, to go where Tim Henman had occasionally threatened to tread, and win a major?
There is no doubt that Federer is one of the greatest three players of all time, and yet in the same era, Nadal and Djokovic are two players who can go toe to toe with him. Murray's increasingly competitive matches against these three titans over the last two years has shown he too was able to win against the highest calibre of opponent - but his performances, while pointing towards potential Grand Slam success, simply added to a weight of expectation so great it was matched only by the sheer awesome magnitude of the obstacles in the way.
But at the US Open, the final Slam of 2012, nurtured carefully and skilfully by Ivan Lendl, and having learned the toughest and most valuable of lessons from his career highs and lows, Andy Murray, the best returner in the game and perhaps, with Nadal's injury problems, the fittest too, finally delivered the result his whole career had been building up to, the result many had predicted but had begun to doubt, something British supporters had dared to dream about, then dared to hope for without belief: a result that makes 1936 an almost meaningless year for British tennis, now that 2012 is the year Andy Murray won his first Grand Slam.
And it is his first - when he broke into the top 10, years ago, the question was: can Murray win a Grand Slam? After reaching his first Slam final in 2010, the question was: when would Murray win a Grand Slam? After losing his fourth Slam final in 2012, the question was: will Murray ever win a Grand Slam? Now, only one question remains. Not if, not when, but: how many?
*Murray, as you've probably guessed by now, would be my choice for BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
(15 December 2010)
Monday, April 30, 2012
Thursday, February 09, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
This is one of those new year's blogs. One of my loose resolutions is to start writing for pleasure (clearly I'm going to have to do it more often if I'm going to get away with phrases like 'loose resolutions'), and while there's barely 150 words here, it's a start at least.
2011 in 12 words
2012 in 12 bands:
The band everyone should love by now - Los Campesinos!
The band you always remember you love - The Shins
The band who said they'd never reform - At The Drive-in
The band you tell people at parties you're into - Django Django
The band you've never heard of - Pengillys
The band who are actually really good at folk music - The Civil Wars
The band whose song drops and you go crazy - Niki and the Dove
The band who are the newest (and best) 'we're a proper band' band - Dry the River
The band where you have to believe the hype (ok, solo artist) - Lana del Rey
The band you JUST WANT to be utterly brilliant again - Bloc Party
The band whose 'good song' really is - Friends
The band who I will properly discover this year - Real Estate
The Spotify playlist
Thursday, December 01, 2011
But when Bombay Bicycle Club approach the end of their euphoric Brixton show, the 16th and final date of their largest ever UK tour and a homecoming of sorts for the four young north Londoners, they have 11 people on stage: the band themselves, who tonight are grown to a six-piece by vocalist (and burgeoning solo artist in her own right) Lucy Rose and multi-instrumentalist Louis Bhose – starring particularly on banjo during ‘Ivy & Gold’ – two brass players and three backing vocalists, courtesy of members of earlier support act Dry The River.
Friday, January 07, 2011
In some ways this is no bad thing; given the lifespan of a new band at the moment is akin to that of a mayfly, that any of the last decade's popular acts are earning considerable recognition now they're further on in their careers offers at least some suggestion that music in the digital era isn't entirely fucked.
After contributing my nominations to GodisintheTV's end of year poll, my much belated annual review of the year's albums goes into a little more depth on the best music 2010 had to offer.
1. Villagers - Becoming A Jackal
12 months ago, Conor O'Brien was the lead singer of the little known, and defunct, Irish indie outfit The Immediate. One breathtaking appearance on Later... Live With Jools Holland last April changed all that overnight. Outshining Paul Weller, Hot Chip and Gogol Bordello was no mean feat, but he did it with just his trusty guitar, his earnest voice and the heartbreaking lyrics to 'The Meaning of the Ritual'. It was that rare thing: a truly spellbinding piece of television.
The experience listening to Becoming A Jackal upon its release a month later was much the same; 11 songs of heartfelt intensity, built on delicate guitar arrangements and often augmented by sumptuous string parts and atmospheric percussion. Always at the fore, however, was O'Brien's keening vocal, flitting between a menacing mutter on 'I Saw the Dead' to the rueful lament on 'The Meaning of the Ritual' and rousing cries of 'That Day'. His distinctive voice dispatched a series of arresting lyrics, tales vivid with imagery and shimmering with poignancy.
In the end, though, there's little that can be written to do absolute justice to the uniquely affecting album Conor O'Brien released this year as his Villagers début. Now having spent six months touring the LP to awestruck reviews, his is a star that is resolutely rising, and 2010 was the year that all who discovered Villagers set sail on his ship of promises.
2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Had it not been for Villagers' unique effort, in fact, ordinarily Arcade Fire's third album could well have been been my number one. With both 2005's Funeral and its magnificent follow up Neon Bible heralded as defining albums of the last decade, their track record was only made more immaculate with the 16 songs of The Suburbs; a quality of music that moved the BBC reviewer to cause something of a stir when he proclaimed it was 'better than OK Computer'.
Whatever it might be better than (or not), it was certainly another paradigm shift from the Canadian crew into territory that, at first, had listeners confounded. Here was a band who, having spent much of their grandiose second album railing against the ills of the modern world, were reverting to the simpler loss of childhood pleasures.
After repeated plays though, it made sense - of course - as each of the songs gave up their individual treasures. The pounding 'Ready to Start' and 'Month of May' were joyously instant single material; 'City With No Children In' and 'Empty Room' were The Suburbs's anthemic calls to arms; while the trio of 'Suburban War', 'Deep Blue' and 'We Used to Wait' towards the album's end saw Arcade Fire at their intense, majestic best. Even the title track's unexpected piano jaunt soon gave way to a haunting, unforgettable chorus.
But it was the group's two-part crescendo 'Sprawl I & II' - half morose waltz, half quite brilliant Abba-ish Europop - that finished The Suburbs in the style it deserved. Worlds apart sonically, 'Sprawl I & II' was nevertheless representative of the album as a whole: where Arcade Fire's outstanding first two records may seem more cohesive units, it's the individual songs, melodies and more immediate arrangements of The Suburbs's wistful, 65 minutes of childhood longing that ultimately made it their strongest, and most necessary, long player yet.
3. Rolo Tomassi - Cosmology
Two years ago, this Sheffield five-piece were barely on my radar when, as teenagers, they released the mind-melting hardcore début album Hysterics. After seeing them tour the album in 2009, however, their difficult screamcore/math-rock/jazz-metal hybrid began to make sense, even though it continued to be an assault on the ears at loud volumes. Another year on, and their sophomore release has racked up more plays on my MP3 player than any other album I own.
Back then, the prodigiously talented band demonstrated a dizzying ability and creative scope that surpassed their years - and peers - to ignite one of the most exciting releases of 2008. Its only real fault was in the way the juxtaposing elements were crammed together over the album's course, suggesting youthful exuberance at the expense of musical direction.
Now, all concerns have been washed away. Rolo Tomassi have retained the unrepentant ferocity that blew Hysterics apart, but in 2010, the quintet have produced an album that utilises this force most effectively: in short, sharp barrages of abrasive noise. Indeed, the first six songs of this 10-song LP clock in at less than 15 minutes; the visceral 'House House Casanova' and 'Unromance' are almost as lightning quick in length as the pummelling guitar riff brilliance of Joe Nicholson - who I can only laud highly enough by quoting the NME review: "...as a young musician his ability as both a player and songwriter is unbelievable".
But it was during Cosmology's second half, when Rolo Tomassi revisit the slower and more readily melodic soundscapes they flirted with on Hysterics (especially 'Fantasia'), that the album turns from a fascinating work into an unforgettable one. The contrapuntal duo of 'Kasia' and 'Sakia', brimming with spiralling guitar work, mixes Eva Spence's angelic singing voice with her brutish screaming to mesmerizing effect - I defy anyone to listen to the latter song and not recall her line "Mirror mirror on the wall/I'm a liability if there ever was one" days later. 'Tongue in Chic' presents the band's most complete five minutes to date, with a frenzied intro not unlike The Mars Volta's Take The Veil, Cerpin Taxt balanced against an almost overwhelming wash of guitars and hypnotic vocal cycle.
When the title track's combination of displaced vocals, off-kilter time signatures, a guitar solo and a crashing instrumental outro of intergalactic proportions brings Cosmology to a close, the full effect of Rolo Tomassi's second album takes a moment to sink in. When it does, the crux of the issue is this: for such a young band, their transition from hardcore aggressors to masterly and innovatively ferocious songwriters in 2010 was little short of astounding. Cosmology was an achievement that wrestled hardcore from its moorings and crossed spectacular new frontiers for the genre.
4. Everything Everything - Man Alive
It was only after a chance meeting - I happened to be visiting HMV in Oxford Street one lunchtime when the band were doing a 1pm in-store live session - that I even gave Everything Everything a second glance this year. It was on the strength of the two and a half songs I heard then that I bought Man Alive - and discovered it to be perhaps the most enjoyable listen of any album this year.
Vocalist Jonathan Higgs's staccato/falsetto may take some patience at first, but it soon mattered little with each song so brilliantly forged. Opener and previous single 'MY KZ, YR BF' (My keys, your boyfriend) is all spangly R'n'B-stealing bombast, ingenuously soundtracking the awkward moment of one relationship ending for another's beginning. Newly re-released single 'Photoshop Handsome' pitched synth stabs, pattering drums and ringing guitars under a video-game eulogy, while 'Schoolin'' warps expectations by being another R'n'B throwback brushed with funked-up art-rock.
The latter song's difficulty to define is indicative of Man Alive as a whole, not least when 'Final Form', the album's glittering, slow-burning mull over life and death happened to contain the best chorus of the record.
Album reviews often talk about 'single material', and Man Alive was one of those rare, and in this age almost unnecessary, albums where the majority of songs were strong enough to be potential singles. But unusually, this made Everything Everything's first album so much more a sum of its parts; a collection of irresistibly exciting and creative songs that simply outshone pretty much every other 'indie' début in 2010.
5. Foals - Total Life Forever
Foals had the unusual success of actually delivering copiously on early hype back in 2008 when their first album Antidotes collected the spiky electro promise of 'Hummer' and 'Balloons' into an album of angular, pulsing tunes that dominated end of year lists.
Expectation this year, then, was high, but musically, Total Life Forever was a very different beast, more out of necessity than anything: Foals' 2010 would have been very disappointing if they had simply made Antidotes pt. 2. True, they employed a similar use of minimal clean guitar lines in sound, but in scope, their follow up was a deeper, more fervent affair, with tracks building over their not inconsiderable lengths into overwhelming waves of sound.
Lead single 'Spanish Sahara' spent seven minutes drawing blood from its whispered beginning, culminating in one of the defining choruses of this year, Yannis intoning, I'm the fury in your head/I'm the fury in your bed', but across the album other highlights gleamed: 'Miami' was Foals' most straightforward indie rock song to date, 'Black Gold' and 'Alabaster' revelled in their rumbling, moody atmospheres, and second single 'This Orient' bounced with a lightness of energy that stood out among the eloquent sonic weight around it.
Total Life Forever was the sound of an artist deliberately turning their back on earlier success and setting about creating an ambitious record that would change people's opinions of the band. That it received so much critical acclaim and further raised Foals' stock in British music in 2010 was merely verification of that ambition being scaled.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I wrote about this for Birddog here. Not only was the journalistic crime obvious and pretty unforgivable yet flippantly denied, but it showed the power of social media and the internet in bringing brands to justice - if that justice now seems in hindsight a little severe.
In the interests of fairness, too, the editor responsible finally broke her silence here. But it's a rather biased woe-is-me tale; which perhaps isn't surprising given how badly the magazine's "apology" that sits on their website does its job.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
They fall first on Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon and her three compadres, who flit around the cramped stage, swapping locations and instruments like good friends exchanging playing cards. Cate Le Bon initially caught the eye as vocalist on Neon Neon’s debut single, ‘I Lust You’, resulting in her year-long tour with the band. Now forging her solo path, Scala sees her deliver a quaint performance, in which Cate’s syrupy but dextrous tones float and soar over her mix of rough-edged guitars and woozy organs, just about winning over a rather cooler-than-thou audience with her bursts of heady folk: warm applause sends the Welsh songwriter on her way.
The real spotlight tonight, though, is all on one man, Conor O’Brien. The face behind the misleading Villagers moniker... more