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Kele – The Boxer

June 24th, 2010

I’ve long been fascinated by Kele Okereke and his attempts to drag Bloc Party kicking and screaming into the world of electronica. If he’d been allowed to make it, it’s clear this would have been their next album. Although firmly in the electronic camp, The Boxer shows similar progression from Intimacy as that did from A Weekend In The City.

It’s all a far cry from the choppy guitars of Banquet and Helicopter, but the success of Bloc Party has allowed him to make this step – and while far from polished – it does enough to suggest the Bloc Party hiatus could become permanent.

“Walk Tall” is an unusual marker to set down, a laddish electronic stomper over a warped bassline that leaves you concerned, yet intrigued, about what is to come. “On The Lam” feels very Broad Street and is destined for the remix tapes, before big single “Tenderoni” makes an appearance. I’m not sure how to describe Tenderoni, other than, well, I just don’t like it. Being transported back to 2006 with a hook remiscent of Bodyrox and Luciana’s “Yeah Yeah” doesn’t help matters, but leaving that to one side the track never betters average.

You do wonder where the album is going as “The Other Side” and “Everything You Wanted” both seem like old Bloc Party songs with extra beats and bleeps thrown over the top. In some ways that sums up The Boxer – electronic ballads with definite potential, yet unable to shake off the ghosts of the past. This feeling fades towards the end, notably on “Rise”, but there’s an overwhelming feeling that this could have been so much better.

The question mark for me is over who will listen to and buy this record. Later fans of Bloc Party yes, but as an electronic album it’s not good enough to win new followers from that genre. Without his track record, this would get absolutely nowhere. Time will tell of course, and this record does show promise, but you sense Kele needs to swing the axe for good in order to make the album he’s craving.

Kele plays Glastonbury this weekend, followed by a UK tour calling at Birmingham’s O2 Academy 2 on 14th July.

Stars – The Five Ghosts

June 24th, 2010

Canadian intelli-pop rockers Stars return with their long-awaited fifth album The Five Ghosts.

An apt title, as opener “Dead Hearts” has a haunting melodic quality to it, mainly down to the interchanging vocals from front duo Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. If that sounds like Stars take it easy on this disc, far from it. Yes the summer dreaminess and haunting melodies are evident throughout the album, but well balanced with up-tempo beats and synthesized emotions.

The sound of The Five Ghosts lies somewhere between Saint Etienne, Rilo Kiley, early Cranberries and Echobelly’s Great Things. Standout track is single “Fixed”, whose speedy melody catches you by surprise and grips tightly for three and a half minutes.

Considering their long break, it’s not a knockout return. Some might say overproduced. But it’s more than enough to keep the fans happy and might even win some new ones along the way.

If you fancy checking out Stars, they’re playing London’s Heaven on 1st September.

Santa Monica Sunshine – Sweeeet

June 24th, 2010

People often ask me why I love LA so much, when it’s seen by many as the fakest place on the planet. My answer is simple – try it for yourself! It doesn’t take much to scratch the plastic surface. Once you do and open your eyes, you discover an amazing gritty world of music, fashion and alternative lifestyle that hooks you in. I spent many an evening in grimy Hollywood bars watching some incredible bands, unheard of outside the LA circuit but more talented and innovative than what I had seen anywhere else.

As anyone who knows me will agree, I’m the polar opposite to a fashionista, but even I could appreciate the boutique stores and vintage wonderlands of Abbot Kinney Blvd and Melrose. And as for Venice Beach, I can’t imagine a more diverse and exciting mix of art, culture, people and FUN anywhere!

But the thing that really inspires me to return? BREAKFASTS! Whilst the British fry-up retains the crown, there’s no denying the Americans can rustle up some awesome breakfasts. Pancakes! Ommeletes! Sausages! Oatmeal! Coffee! Juice! MY MOUTH IS DROOLING, as yours will be when you check out the menu at Santa Monica’s Bread and Porridge!

To help inspiration for my return trip to California next year, I’ve been catching up with some of my favourite Los Angeles based radio stations.

First of all some crappy news. Due to a decision made by the bigwigs at CBS, you can no longer listen to KROQ online from outside the US. BOOOOO! This really sucks. KROQ is broadly similar to our very own Kerrang, but, well, more entertaining. Thankfully you can access The Kevin and Bean Archive from these shores, which is always a giggle.

Based in Santa Monica, California, KCRW is a great example of community supported radio, a thriving success amidst these consumerist times. And you can listen online from the UK – HURRAH!

Morning Becomes Eclectic is undoubtedly my favourite show. Although designed to ease Angelenos into their day, the globally influenced jazz and latin show is the perfect soundtrack to an early evening here in good ole Blighty.

KCRW also feature tons of live acts, including many smaller acts from the UK such as former Easyworld front man David Ford

So here’s two more videos for you as I say, roll on my return to LA 2011!

It’s My Party

June 18th, 2010

After tonight’s shambolic performance by England, I found myself desperately searching for some other form of entertainment. Quite why I don’t know, but I looked up the number 1 on the day I was born.

If I’d been a few weeks earlier or later, it would have been The Police, Queen featuring David Bowie, or Adam & The Ants. But screw those, I got WAY more cool points!!!

Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks

June 16th, 2010

Ok, hands up who thought Athlete were the undisputed kings of the irritating summertime song? Well my friends, there’s a new kid on the block! Introducing Foster The People with their track Pumped Up Kicks.

Different-sized dollops of Snow Patrol, Eels, Ladyhawke, Doves, Morning Runner, The Postal Service and MGMT make up Foster the People and this track in particular borrows a big chunk of its chorus straight from Empire of the Sun.

It’s “nice”. I wish I had a better word to describe it, but “nice” is exactly right. Whether “nice” is enough when the sun goes down remains to be seen.

Oh Monday Morning 2

June 14th, 2010

It’s Monday morning again. And Monday mornings suck, remember?

So to give you a little lift on this dreary day, we travel back a few years to bring you the mellow psuedo 60s pop perfection of Peter, Bjorn and John’s Young Folks.

I take no responsibility for you whistling this for the rest of the day…

Vuvuzela – The new album from Ducks on Speed?

June 12th, 2010

Forget Wayne Rooney, Kaka or Lionel Messi, the real star of the World Cup is none other than the humble Vuvuzela. Toot toot!

Thus far, the plastic trumpet has proved more memorable than the opening concert and the two opening matches. It may irritate the hell out of me by the time the final comes around, but right now, it’s amusing me greatly.

A word of advice to English fans though. If you bring a vuvuzela back from South Africa, you are likely to get a thump within seconds of blowing it at any English football match next season.

Check out this informative video about the vuvuzela – paying particular attention to 1:06…

Eux Autres – World Cup Fever

June 11th, 2010

England take on the USA in South Africa tomorrow and what better way to prepare than by listening to this cracking World Cup anthem from… California!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the wonderful San Franciscan band Eux Autres with their lo-fi ode to all things football – “World Cup Fever”. And not an oval ball or World Series in sight.

Pretty cool video too.

GaGa Gets the Beers In

June 10th, 2010

Lady GaGa caused a stir recently by going boozing in Brum. According to various gossipy websites (I don’t read such things really… honest) she wrote lyrics on napkins, tweeted from the pub and picked up the tab for everyone.

She’s growing on me, that GaGa.

Oh okay, I’ll admit it, she’s my guilty pleasure. Someone I love to hate, or hate to love? Her videos are interesting, her songs are excruciatingly catchy. I find myself singing Bad Romance in the shower. Far. Too. Often.

She’s a pop star who actually has talent, that’s a rare thing these days. Check out this video and join me, raising a glass of whiskey and diet coke to the GaGa.

Birmingham’s Notorious Choir

June 9th, 2010

Once upon a time in a land far far away (well, Digbeth), I offered to help at Gigbeth. It was there I met Clare Edwards, music entrepreneur, fellow vodka taster and all-round good egg.

One of Clare’s long-term projects is the Notorious Choir, where she is music director. I can best describe the choir as contemporary, with an open and inclusive approach to membership. They also like to experiment with venues, taking the music to the people, rather than the other way around.

Normally, when someone utters the word “flashmob” to me, I run a mile. They’re one of the most cringeworthy inventions known to man. But there are the odd exceptions. Notorious performing Barbara Ann in the Pavilions shopping centre is one of those exceptions:

You can check out Notorious for yourself at their next performance on 20th June. It’s at The Spotted Dog in Digbeth (Warwick Street) and is FREE to all.