Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Free mixtape - 2014's best cover versions

As you'll know if you're a regular reader, I do love a good cover version. Here's my pick of the five best from this year, with a wide range of acts covered there should be something in here to please you. They're all fairly downbeat and melancholy versions, so if you need a quite moment away from the world then this is the mix for you. Just right click on the cover below to download the mix

  1. Hamilton Leithauser - All Or Nothing At All (Frank Sinatra cover)
  2. Halls - The Greatest (Cat Power cover)
  3. Maxïmo Park - Fade Into You (Mazzy Star cover)
  4. Ásgeir - Heart-Shaped Box (Nirvana cover)
  5. Todd Terje - Johnny and Mary (feat. Bryan Ferry) (Robert Palmer cover)
Here's the link again.

Track of the Day: 'Soft Future' by Wild Beasts

Created to accompany an interactive GIF-novel (whatever that is), this is the first instrumental track that Wild Beasts have put out. It hints at an interesting career path, being the most electronic thing they've ever put out. As much as I like it, I kinda miss the interplay of their amazing voices, but it's still a good track.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New music: 'A Song For Those Who Doubt' by Tülpa

The perfect antidote to the post-Christmas blues, this beautiful piano piece sounds like it might be Scandinavian but in fact comes from Ivan Zhyzhkevych, a Ukrainian now living in Pittsburgh. Curl yourself up in front of the fire with a hot drink and a good book and let yourself drift away...

Track of the Day: 'Youwouldn'tlikemewhenI'mangry' by Thom Yorke

To celebrate the appearance of his album 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' on Bandcamp (I assume he's registered for VAt because of the arcane new tax rules), our pixie-dancing friend Mr Yorke has put out this new track as one of those 'pay what you want' downloads. So basically you can get it for free, or if you're feeling generous you can throw him a few pence to put towards a decent haircut. It's a skittery beast, but the electronic soul is tamed by some harmonium sounds and Yorke doing some of his more gentle warbling. Have a listen below and then head off to Bandcamp to grab it.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

2014 - The Mixtape

A little free gift for you this Christmastime. Here's a 20 track mixtape of songs from this year - some are my favourite tracks and remixes, and others are just great songs that remind me of good times this year.

So if you'd like to get your hands on nearly 2 hours of top tunes then place your pointy end on the most iconic picture of the year - Kim Kardashian's bountiful butt - and right click to download it. here's the list of tracks:
  1. Little Dragon - Klapp Klapp (Swindle Remix)
  2. Flying Lotus - Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
  3. Sinkane - New Name (Busy P Remix)
  4. Nick Mulvey - Nitrous (Ben Gomori Redux)
  5. St. Vincent - Rattlesnake
  6. Metronomy - Love Letters (Soulwax Remix)
  7. SBTRKT - New Dorp New York (feat. Ezra Koenig)
  8. Todd Terje - Inspector Norse
  9. Sam Smith - I'm Not The Only One (Armand Van Helden Remix)
  10. Caribou - Our Love (Daphni Mix)
  11. Coldplay - Midnight (Giorgio Moroder Remix)
  12. Disclosure - F For You (feat. Mary J Blige)
  13. Jessie Ware - Tough Love (Cyril Hahn Remix)
  14. Clark - Superscope
  15. Jacques Greene - Night Tracking
  16. JD Twitch (Optimo) vs William Onyeabor - Why Go To War?
  17. Lemmy Ashton - Breaker Breaker
  18. Peaking Lights - Bad With The Good (Euromix)
  19. Hot Chip vs William Onyeabor - Atomic Bomb
  20. Caribou - Can't Do Without You (Extended Mix)
PS Here's the link again if you can't bear to click on Kim's bare behind - download here

Friday, 19 December 2014

2014's best live performances

I was asked to put this list together for another site, so I thought I'd share it on here as well. It's been a great year for music, both live and recorded, so to go with my selections of best tracks and best albums here are my favourite gigs and festival appearances.

Top Ten gigs:

  1. Marijuana Deathsquads - Black Heart, Camden
  2. Flying Lotus - Roundhouse, Camden
  3. Scott & Charlene's Wedding - The Lexington, Islington
  4. Sinkane - Oslo, Hackney
  5. Clint Mansell - The Barbican, London
  6. Neil Young + Crazy Horse - Hyde Park, London
  7. James Holden - Purcell Room, Southbank
  8. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - the farewell gig - The Forum, Kentish Town
  9. Johnny Marr - Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
  10. UNKLE - Royal Festival, Southbank
Top Ten festival appearances:
  1. Jagwar Ma - William's Green, Glastonbury Festival
  2. Young Fathers - Visions Festival
  3. St. Vincent - The Park, Glastonbury
  4. Songhoy Blues - Visions Festival
  5. Damon Albarn 0 BBC 6 music festival
  6. John Grant - The Park, Glastonbury
  7. Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Victorious Festival
  8. De La Soul - Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury
  9. Dirty Beaches - Visions Festival
  10. Elbow - Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Albums of the Year 2014 - the top 20

As is compulsory for music bloggers (and music fans generally) I've spent the past couple of weeks pulling together the list of what I think are the best albums of this year. It's been tough to get this into any sort of static order, as I think there's been a lot of good stuff around this year, but there comes a time when you just have to press stop and see how they fall. Drum roll please...

1. 'Everyday Robots' by Damon Albarn

Featuring undoubtedly the best, most consistent writing of Albarn's career, this is a heartfelt, confessional album that shows Damon to be at peace with himself and middle age. Produced by Richard Russell, featuring contributions from Brian Eno and Natasha Khan, and with song subjects ranging from drug use to baby elephants, it shows that he needs neither cartoons or real bandmates any more to create brilliant material. Moving and ultimately uplifting. Full review here.

2. 'St. Vincent' by St. Vincent

Whether it was working with David Byrne, or whether she's just 'found herself', this is the sound of the real St. Vincent, free to be herself and say what she wants. Musically it's powerful and spiky, with punchy electronics and roaring guitars, while lyrically it's one of the most subversive records you'll hear all year. This is probably in my all-time top 5 albums by female artists - that's how good it is. And don't get me started on how good her live show is or we'll be here all night.

3. 'Dead' by Young Fathers

First mentioned on this blog back in March 2013, Young Fathers have continued to garner critical acclaim culminating in their Mercury Prize win for 'Dead'. It's hip-hop like you've never heard it before - not surprising as they're the only Scottish /Nigerian / Liberian act I can think of. The music is a melting pot of influences, the lyrics are powerful, and the whole thing is imbued with an amazing energy. Plus they're absolutely incredible live. Full review here.

4. 'Liminal' by The Acid

Atmospheric and moody, with brilliant production and some speaker-rumbling bass, this is the closest thing you'll find to 21st century trip-hop. The trio of Ry X, Steve Nalepa and Adam Freeland have created a real late-night burner of a record. It's sparse but not bleak, fragile but not broken, electronic but not cold, and I absolutely love it. If you've never heard of them I urge you to check it out.

5. 'Our Love' by Caribou
Maybe not quite as great as I was expecting, but a good Caribou album is still well worth having. There are some tracks on here that are gonna sound immense live ('Our Love' and 'Mars' for example), not to mention my favourite track of the year, 'Can't Do Without You'. If only I didn't dislike 'Julia Brightly' so much this would probably have been even higher up the list. There have already been some killer remixes off here and I'm sure there's more to come. You'll be hearing this throughout the festival season next year.

6. 'Shaker Notes' by Paul White

Like Albarn's album, this is a very personal affair from Paul White. He's ditched his previous sample-heavy material and instead plays all the instruments on here and even sings on a few tracks. The music is an eclectic mix, part hip-hop, part film soundtrack, part swamp-blues, but it always retains a sense of intimacy. On top of that the red vinyl copy I've got looks great as it spins on my turntable. Full review here.

7. 'You're Dead' by Flying Lotus

By no means an easy listen, this is surely FlyLo's masterpiece and the record that he's been working towards for all of his career. It's committed, unflinching, uncommercial and the product of a highly creative mind really setting himself free. The guest spot from Kendrick Lamar is a highlight, but there's so much good stuff in here that you could spend a week talking about it. The lavish boxset was beautifully put together too. Full review here.

8. 'Run The Jewels 2' by Run The Jewels
The plaudits for this album are coming in so fast it's hard to keep up with them. It's a rabble-rousing call for social equality masquerading as a knockabout hip-hop record. Hard beats, hard rhymes, maybe one too many vagina references, but overall a fucking powerful record. The fact that I met them on my trip to New York just before they went stratospheric was the icing on the cake. Full review here.

9. 'Close To The Glass' by The Notwist

As far as I'm concerned this is The Notwist's debut album. I know they've had 5 out before but a) this was the first one I've heard and b) it's so chock-full of ideas and energy it's got the same vibe as the 1st album put out by a bunch of 20 year olds. If you're partial to an electronic-indie hybrid with the odd bit of lo-fi acousticness thrown in then give this a spin. The sound of people doing whatt hey do really wellFull review here.

10. 'Total Strife Forever' by East India Youth

This was actually the first album I bought this year, way back at the start of January. It's a great mix of wistful pop songs, euphoric dance moments and atmospheric instrumentals that all combine to show the breadth of Will Doyle's talents. Beautifully crafted and full of class, this is one to savour. Full review here.

11. 'Morning Phase' by Beck. A masterclass in how to make a grown-up, mature record. Hard to believe he once made a track called 'MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack'

12. 'Lazaretto' by Jack White. The perfect summation of all the preceeding part's of White's career, all wrapped up in one (ridiculously over-engineered) piece of vinyl.

13. 'The Light Brigade' by Daedelus. Like the soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist, The only album this year inspired by the 1853-56 Crimean War (!). Full review here.

14. 'LP1' by FKA Twigs. A powerfully strong album from this independent-minded girl. The sort of role model our daughters need.

15. 'New Gods' by Withered Hand. Classic heart-on-your-sleeve singer-songwriting from one of Scotland's finest. Full review here.

16. 'Whelm' by Douglas Dare. Sweeping melodies, a fantastic voice, soaring emotions and moments of calm. Full review here.

17. 'The Take Off and Landing Of Everything' by Elbow. A real return to form for the lads, featuring some of Garvey's best lyrics for years and some really hummable tunes.

18. 'Mean Love' by Sinkane. A brilliantly stylish album that switches effortlessly from Afrobeat to funk to soul and back again. Full review here.

19. 'Black Hours' by Hamilton Leithauser. Like a record that's slipped through a musical wormhole from the late '50s or early '60s. Full review here.

20. 'Built On Glass' by Chet Faker. There seems to have been a lot of what I call 'white boy soul' records out this year. This is by far the best.

Honourable mention: 'The Long Goodbye' by LCD Soundsystem. a lovingly crafted boxset that was a fitting way to mark the end of one of my favourite ever bands.

Ten that nearly made it (in no particular order):

'Familiars' by The Antlers
'Ghosts of Then and Now' by Illum Sphere
'Frozen By Sight' by Paul Smith & Peter Brewis
'The Inevitable End' by Royksopp
'Stateless' by Dirty Beaches
'Annabel Dream Reader' by The Wytches
'Wonder Where We Land' by SBTRKT
'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' by Thom Yorke
'Lese Majesty' by Shabazz Palaces
'Divine Ecstacy' by Supreme Cuts

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Albums of the Year 2014 - top 3 mixtapes

That's mixtapes in the hip-hop, new artist trying to break out sense of the word, rather than a tape you've made for yourself or to give to someone you fancy. Each of these three releases is available to download for free (links are in the full reviews) but each is actually worth paying for. The quality of some of the tracks here is so good I'm convinced that every one of these guys is gonna become a star in 2015 (and if they don't then they bloody well should've done).

1. 'Indigo Child' by Raury


He's only 18, but I reckon Raury is very quickly shaping up to be the new Frank Ocean. He sings, he raps, he covers a whole variety of styles, but one thing's for certain - everything he does is excellent. You've only got to hear his starring role on the new SBTRKT album to get a sense of where he could go with a few major collaborations. A guy with shy-high ambitions but, importantly, talent to match, he'll take on the world in 2015. Click here for full review and download details.

2. 'Grey Skies 3' by Genesis the Greykid

Atmospheric, poetic hip-hop with a soul and a conscience. This is the third mixtape from Genesis the Greykid a.k.a. Russell McGee, over the course of which he's really developed as an artist, to the point where he should now be on the brink of stardom. Owing as much to DJ Shadow as it does Kanye West, this album rewards repeated listening, with great samples, dialogue clips from Christopher Nolan's movie 'The Prestige' and brilliant little hooks and melodies. To my mind the downbeat, more introspective tracks are the most successful, but it's all great. Click here for the full review & download link.

3. 'A Little Late' by Loyle Carner


Quality UK hip-hop can be a hard thing to find, but Loyle is beating his own path, steering clear of imitating gangsta clichés that would just sound daft coming out his mouth, and instead creating intelligent lyrics and upbeat vibes that remind me a bit of Oddisee. He's garnered some good press lately, making a track for the Turner Prize and doing something with Mercury-nominated Kate Tempest, so I'm sure you'll hear more of him in 2015. Click here for the full review & download link.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Your Love Will Set You Free (c2's Set U Free RMX)' by Caribou

One of the best tracks from Caribou's 'Our Love' album gets a remix from the wondrous hands of Mr Carl Craig. The result is a bass-heavy beast of a tune that feels gritty and dangerous - you're never really sure if it's going to ask you to dance or punch you in the face. It's out now on vinyl and download and has instantly become one of my favourite remixes of the year.

Albums of the Year 2014 - top 3 compilations

As a prelude to my full list of albums I've decided to call out some records in a few different categories that might have slipped under your radar. So here's my favourite three compilation / various artist records of the year. Each one of these is really special, and if you bought all three your music collection would have improved immeasurably.

1. What?! - William Onyeabor / various (Luaka Bop)

One of my favourite purchases on Record Store Day this year, which was subsequently given a full release by Luaka Bop. The album features a rang of cover versions, re-interpretations and remixes of tracks from the 'Who is William Onyeabor?' album, With the artists involved as diverse as Hot Chip (who made my favourite track here), Scientist, The Vaccines and Daphni (a,k,a, Caribou) the record manages to expand the sonic frequency of Onyeabor's music while still retaining the essence of who he is and what he does.

2. The Time and Space Machine presents The Way Out Sound From In - Richard Norris / various (Ample Play records)

A collection of some of the best remixes Richard Norris has produced over the past few years in his Time & Space Machine guise. If you don't recognise his name then you might be more familiar with him as being half of both The Grid and Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve, The standout tracks for me here are his mixes of Jagwar Ma and A Mountain of One, but he also does great stuff to Temples, Warpaint and lots more. (full review here)

3. Bleep: 10 - various (Bleep / Warp)

Bleep is the online store originally set up to sell Warp releases, which soon expanded to sell all manner of great music. They celebrated their 10th birthday this year, and as well as having the obligatory birthday bash (which I reviewed here) they also put out this excellent album of tracks from artists who are have been favourites in the store. Featuring exclusives from Autechre, Fuck Buttons, Lone, Modeselektor, Machinedrum and loads more, if you've ever bought anything on the Warp label then you're pretty much guaranteed to like this (full review here).

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Tracks of the Year 2014

It's always a struggle to pick my favourite tracks at the end of the year. What criteria should I use - tracks from my favourite albums? Songs that remind me of good times. This year I've kept it nice and simple - you could subtitle this list as "Songs that I have to turn up when I hear them on the radio". It's as easy as that. Consequently it's quite a mixed bag in terms of styles and genres, but they're all tracks that have had me reaching for the volume button this year. I've sorted the top 10 in order, and give you the next 20 randomly just so you've got some stuff to go and seek out.

1. Caribou - 'Can't Do Without You (Extended Mix)'. When the original version of this song came out there was one single thing wrong with it; it felt a few minutes too short. Three weeks later this version appeared and it was perfect. This is the track that's had me reaching for the rewind button most often this year.

2. Flying Lotus - 'Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)'. Pretty much encapsulates FlyLo's magnum opus album 'You're Dead' in 4 minutes - jazzy piano, frantic bass from Thundercat, and spot-on flow from Mr Lamar. 

3. Kendrick Lamar - 'i'. While we're talking about Kendrick, here's his comeback single which points to the fact that his next album will be immense. One of those classic hip-hop uses of a sample - The Isley Brothers song is exactly the right track used in exactly the right way

4. Jack White - 'Lazaretto'. Almost the perfect Jack White song - a great fuzzed-up riff, a brilliant solo, a change of pace, even the violin gets a chance to let rip. A classic that he'll be playing for years to come.

5. Jenny Lewis - 'She's Not Me'. Really I've got no idea why I love this song so much, it's not normally my sort of thing. I've come to the conclusion that everything in it is just done so well I can't help but love it. Great production, great lyrics, a great hook, a catchy, sing-able chorus and proper old-school guitar solos in the middle and at the end.

6. Johnny Marr - 'Easy Money'. The most effortlessly simple and effective indie pop song you'll hear all year. More reminiscent of Marr's stuff with Electronic than The Smiths with a melody that most professional songwriters would kill for.

7. Little Dragon - 'Klapp Klapp'. Another catchy and upbeat tune, and one that moved the Swedisg band up a league or two in 2014. Totally infectious.

8. Maxïmo Park - 'Leave This Island'. A change in style for Paul Smith & the boys (which sadly wasn't repeated on the rest of the album), I love the moody electronic feel to this, which goes well with the dark lyrics.

9. Jessie Ware - 'Tough Love'. I'm pretty sure my love of this track is entirely due to the fact that it reminds me of 'Raspberry Beret' by Prince every time I hear it. But I don't care, it's a great song.

10. Hot Chip vs William Onyeabor - 'Atomic Bomb'. My favourite track from my second-favourite purchase on Record Store Day this year (the LCD Soundsystem boxset wins of course). This is a brilliant reinterpretation of the song, with a gentle reggae bassline and a hypnotic groove.

The next 20 are in no particular order, but I guarantee you that they're all worth a listen.

Röyksopp - 'Skulls'. Their new album is like a cross between Justice and Jean-Michel Jarre (which is obviously a good thing).

Hudson Mohawke - 'Chimes'. You know, the one off the Apple Macbook advert.

Daedelus - 'Onward'. A hauntingly moving track, from his album about the 1853-56 Crimean War (!).

Francis Lung - 'A Selfish Man'. A brilliant warts and all account of leaving his former band Wu Lyf.

Warpaint - 'Love Is To Die'. Featuring the most surprising key change this year, it really catches you off-guard (in a good way).

Hamilton Leithauser - '11 O'Clock Friday Night'. Great production, and I love the way it builds over the percussive backing.

The Wytches - 'Wire Frame Mattress'. A brilliantly disturbed slice of garage-psyche-rock.

Metronomy - 'Love Letters (Soulwax Remix)'. Great track, even better remix which, with the way the girls' vocals are brought to the fore, reminds me of the Human League.

Jane Weaver - 'Argent'. From her excellent album 'The Silver Globe', here the Liverpudlian lass makes French-sounding Krautrock!

Elbow - 'Fly Boy Blue / Lunette'. A great return to form from Elbow, the 'Lunette' part of this track features some of Guy Garvey's best ever lyrics.

The War on Drugs - 'Red Eyes'. Classic mature guitar-rock that sounds more than a bit like Bryan Adams.

Jungle - Busy Earnin'. In a year which featured an over-abundance of white-boy soul, this track stood out for me above the rest.

Sylvan Esso - 'Hey Mami'. Like one of those old-fashioned round songs they used to make you sing in the school choir, updated for the 21st century.

Mogwai - 'Remurdered'. Proper pounding  classic Mogwai.

St. Vincent - 'Digital Witness'. Working with David Byrne has clearly had an effect on Annie Clarke, and this track kick-started her startling re-birth.

New Build - 'The Sunlight'. Evokes the spirit of every great Balearic blissed-out moment.

Redinho - 'Playing With Fire'. Sleazy electro-funk with Zapp-style vocals.

Wild Beasts - 'Wanderlust'. "Don't confuse me with someone who gives a fuck." Perfect.

Young Fathers - 'LOW'. One of the best tracks from one of the best albums of the year.
Son Lux - 'Easy (Switch Screens)(feat. Lorde). One of my favourite tracks from last year gets a re-boot with one of the ladies of the year.

When I get the chance I'll do a podcast of them all in an order that makes sense for listening and post it on Mixcloud and here (and maybe even give it away if I don't get caught). Enjoy!

PS Just so you know, I very nearly put 'Shake It Out' by Taylor Swift and 'I'm Not The Only One' by Sam Smith in this list...

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Video of the Day: 'Gagarin' by Public Service Broadcasting

The lead track from PSB's new album 'The Race For Space' is a gloriously funky, brass-laden tribute to Yuri Gagarin. It comes with this amazingly enjoyable video, which is a brilliant idea excellently executed. I can't wait to see J. Willgoose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth knocking these moves out of the park on their Spring tour next year.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Recommended music: 'Indigo Child' by Raury


If you've heard of Raury at all then it may well be from his stand out appearance on SNTRKT's 'Wonder Where We Land'. His vocals on 'Higher' really kick that album into orbit, and on this Indigo Child project he shows that he's got even more up his sleeve. The precociously and prodigiously talented teenager (he's only 18 FFS) has put together an abum/mixtape/whatever that you can download for free but which people really should be paying for, such is the brilliance of the songs on here. It's got the style, the ambition, and more importantly the quality of Frank Ocean's releases.

From the straight-up surefire pop hit of 'Superfly' (featuring the equally young and talented Vancouver Sleep Clinic) to the more complex tracks like the massive 'Seven Suns' he shows that he can pretty much own any type of song he takes on. I can't work out whether his use of 80s-style rock guitar on 'Armor' and 'Seven Suns' is supposed to be ironic or a loving tribute to that era of sound and production, but either way it's ablast of fresh air into what has sometimes become a depressingly formulaic genre.

Over the course of 13 tracks he sings, he raps, he struts, and he argues with his mom (although I reckon she comes out on top with her "I'm your fucken mom, I look out for things too" comment).

Have a listen below and then head to the Indigo Child project to find out more.

Track of the Day: 'Medication Meditation (feat. Krayzie Bone)' by Flying Lotus

Taken from the updated version of Grand Theft Auto 5, which features a massive new soundtrack, this is a bit less jazzy than the stuff on FlyLo's recent 'You're Dead', although it follows a similar format to the Kendrick Lamar-featuring 'Never Catch Me', ending with an instrumental portion.

PS I saw a cryptic comment on the internet the other day that implied that the imaginary FlyLo FM from GTA V might actually become a real thing - let's hope so!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Recommended music: 'Stateless' by Dirty Beaches

Stateless cover art

So the last ever album from Alex Hungtai under his Dirty Beaches alias has arrived, and it provides the name with a fitting send off. Over 40 minutes and four instrumental tracks he nails that feeling of being in permanent motion, of constantly travelling but never arriving. At times it's slightly unsettling, at others soothing and calming, but overall it just feels like a really honest piece of work. I'm not sure how he's managed it without words, but a get a sense that he's really baring his soul on this release, that he's opening up and saying "this is what it's like to be me sometimes". And there's also a strong sense of bringing things to a close and moving on, with the final track title - 'Time Washes Away Everything' - in tune with that vibe.

I have a huge respect and admiration for Alex (ok, I'm a bit of a fanboy) and I'm really pleased that I got to see him in the summer in London before he retired the Dirty beaches name. Fortunately he's still going to be releasing music and I'm sure whatever comes from him in 2015 will be worth hearing.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Build Me A World - a new arts collective

A bit of a departure for this blog, but I wanted to write about this arts & media non-profit organisation as I like what they're doing and what they stand for. I love this kind of grass-roots movement, the sort of thing that, although it sounds clichéd, is 'by the people, for the people' - I really think that, whatever your beliefs, you can use your behaviour to make things better for you and those around you. I know the guys are trying to spread the word from their base in Chattanooga, Tennessee, so I asked co-founder Russ McGee (a.k.a. rapper Genesis The Greykid) a few questions about the organisation.

DJC: Who came up with the idea for the project

GTK: Chris Woodhull and I both meshed some ideas together which became the brainchild of Build Me A World; multi-media / fine arts collective developing poets, artists and designers...creating new stories and cultivating a movement of art activism in the black community:

  • Connecting professional poets, film-makers and creatives to our collective
  • Providing opportunities of positive self-expression through art and possible employment
  • Building collaborative spaces for creative encounter
What's been the hardest part of setting it up so far?

Building up the proper awareness of the movement. It's getting some traction, but it really takes's all built on relationships. There's no best practice dealing with culture, there's some great examples, but every community is different.

And what's been the biggest success?

There's a lot of things that are important to our work. So there's not really one big success, it's a bunch of little gears that play a major role in making this work.

Have you found that being involved has helped your own creativity?

Absolutely. We're both artists ourselves...both writers, poets, creatives. Working with the young, the old, the tires, the afflicted, they're all growing. You can't be a part of growth without growing yourself. We grow from the stories around us, the experience, the honest energy that bounces off the walls of the studio.

What would you say is your ultimate goal for the project?

To play a vital role in the narrative of the black's time to create new stories.

How can people get involved / help you out if they want to?

Spread the word, follow us on twitter , facebook and our website Build Me A World 

So you heard him, go check it out and give them your support. And if you're thinking "I live hundreds of miles away, I wish there was something like this in my town" then maybe you should set your own up...

Track of the Day: 'Movement I, II & III' by Lapalux

Movement I, II & III

This has been around a month or so now but that's no reason not to give it the space it deserves on here. The three parts of this 7 minute opus will lift your spirits on this damp and grey afternoon, as the aptly-titled 'Movement' washes you ashore in a new land. Like one of those Venusian, Utopian planets on the old Star Trek programmes, populated with nubile females and never-ending banquets, it will transport you to another reality.

As the only British act on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label you might think there'd be a lot of pressure on Essex boy Stuart Howard, but if there is he certainly hasn't succumbed to it.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Recommended music: 'Run The Jewels 2' by Run The Jewels

"Mix the mind of Brad Jordan and Chuck D and find me / 
I spit with the diction of Malcolm or say a Bun B"
- Killer Mike, 'Jeopardy'

A big step forward from their first album, this release sees Killer Mike and El-P sure to hit the big time. Already being tipped by some as the rap album of the year, it's a rabble-rousing call for social equality masquerading as knockabout hip-hop album. In some ways it's probably too nuanced; I'm sure plenty of misogynists will be singing the "Dick in her mouth all day" chorus of 'Love Again (Akinyele Back)' without grasping its description of mutually respectful relationships. And unless you're a huge fan of the word 'vagina' then Jaime Meline's verses may start to grate after a while (to summarise - he likes vaginas. A lot. Although I guess it makes a change from lazy'pussy' references).

They've followed the same release methodology as last time - you can download the record for free if you want to, or you can stump up the cash for a physical copy on CD or vinyl, along with some natty t-shirts. And you really should, because this kind of quality hip-hop is worth much more of your money than some of the other watered-down shit out there. Seriously, don't be a fuckboy, put your hand in your pocket and spend a few dollars or pounds on this, you won't regret it.

Not for nothing, but I met the boys in the Rough Trade shop in New York a couple of weeks ago and they were two of the most genuine people I've met in the music business, happy to shoot the breeze with everyone.

DJ Cull vs Run The Jewels, Brooklyn 10/29/14
So, listen to the whole thing below and then splash some cash on it.

You can download the album for free here.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Video of the Day: 'Running on a Rainy Day' by Paul White

Taken from 'Shaker Notes', one of my favourite albums of the year (see my review here), this gently haunting track has been given a suitably abstract video. Eschewing the obvious (there's no-one running and no rain), it was shot on one night in Bucharest, Romania and follows the working day of a local taxi driver and the fares he picks up from dusk to dawn.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Soft As Rain (MCFERRDOG Remix)' by Dan Bodan

Another one of those situations where I've never heard the original version, but the remix is so good I don't really need to. I love the '80s-sounding sampled vocals behind Dan's amazing voice, the ticking rhythms and then the deep bass that comes in after three minutes or so. A few minutes later the percussion drops away and it comes a more emotional beast, before a final shuffle on the dancefloor at the end. Even better, you can get it for free courtesy of DFA Records so have a listen and download it below.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Video of the Day: 'Ready Err Not' by Flying Lotus

I'm off to see the man FlyLo at London's Roundhouse in a couple of hours, so to celebrate here's the video for 'Ready Err Not' the appeared at the weekend. Be warned - it's not one for the squeamish!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Remix of the Day: The Throw (Dreems Sounds of the Universe Remix) by Jagwar Ma

So I'm back from my trip to New York (more of that another time maybe) with this massive remix for you, both literally and metaphorically.You'll have noticed from previous posts that I love pretty much everything Jagwar Ma have put out, both their original tracks and the remixes that have been done of them. On this version of 'The Throw'  Dreems works his magic on the already impressive original, turning into something like on of the Amorphous Androgynous psychedelic trips. Over 21 minutes you're gradually lifted up and then brought back down to earth on a heady, whirlwind ride. Apparently this will only be available on vinyl so get in quick if you want to order one from here.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Track of the Day: 'No Better Blues' by Chance The Rapper & The Social Experiment

Think you're having a bad day? Just be grateful you're not Chance The Rapper - he hates everything, everyone hates him, and life's got no better since he found fame. That's the gist of this track, although as he's already had to point out on social media, his message is a satirical one and is delivered with his tongue firmly in his cheek. It's a shame that people have focused on the 'I hate white people' line without recognising that the line before it is 'I hate rascists'.

Anyway, here's the track, it's free to download, and I love its melancholy feel.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

New music: 'David Woodcock' by David Woodcock

"Here lies the end of me, it's all getting dark and hard to see,
Time takes its toll on me, but it couldn't be clearer,
The Evening Echo call it the end of an era"

The début album from Southend's David Woodcock is full of wry observations on life and quiet nods towards his home town. When you come from the same are it almost makes you feel part of an in joke, as you recognise places like The Railway Hotel and Pier Hill. And I've been reading the Evening Echo's local news for local people since I was in short trousers (I've even been in it a few times) so I'm familiar with their hyperbole (and poor spelling).

But you don't have to be an Essex boy or girl to appreciate the warmth of Woodcock's wit. Though it's true that David's music is currently getting a lot of support on BBC 6music from North Essex luminary Steve Lamacq, anyone with even a slight sense of the eccentric or a taste for quirky Englishness will enjoy the cut of his jib. With his voice sounding like Damon Albarn at his most 'mockney' and a talent for shoehorning lyrics into melodies like Ian Dury (especially on 'Same Things') he scampers his way though love and loss. If you'd seen him on a bill singing 'Open Secret' between Squeeze and Madness back in the day he would've fitted right in.

There's a strongly confessional feel to the songwriting here, although they can't all be true. Apart from anything else, one minute he's pleading the fact that just because he's never left the country doesn't mean he's boring (on 'The Adventures of You and Me') and the next he's telling tales of 'Springtime in New York'. But I'm sure a lot of people will identify with his status of being a 'Relatively Single Man' - going nowhere with no back-up plan. By the time you get to album closer 'I Forgot To Miss You (late night at The Railway Hotel) you really do feel like you've spent a night in the pub with him.

So if you fancy a bit of end of the pier revelry, especially if that pier's the longest pleasure pier in the world, then give David Woodcock a try. And maybe buy him a Drambuie next time you see him in The Railway Hotel...

Recommended music: 'Redinho' by Redinho

It's taken me a while to work out if I like this record or not, but now I've decided that I really really do it's time to write about it.

Three years in the making, Redinho's brand of cyber-funk may be a bit too retro for some people's tastes, but there's no denying that he does what he does very well. In this age of trying to disguise the use of auto-tune and hiding vocal tweaking, it's great to hear full-on Zapp-style Roger Troutman talk-box vocals. It's not just restricted to 70s throwbacks either - 'Going Nowhere' seems to have borrowed the major part of the bassline from early 80s smash 'I Found Lovin'' by The Fatback Band. And if you're of a certain age (i.e. mine!) and you can listen to album opener 'Stinger' without thinking of 'Ride Like The Wind' by Christopher Cross I'll be very surprised.

It's not all retro though - 'Say I Want You' could easily be by one of the new breed of electonic artists like Gold Panda or Koreless, and the skittery sounds of 'Searching' would never never have been acceptable in the 70s. Throughout the album there are layers and layers of sounds and harmonised vocals built up on each other that reward repeated listening and ensure that there's always something new here to sink your teeth into.

'Redinho' is out now on Numbers Records.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Recommended music: 'Cosmic Logic' by Peaking Lights

If the music you release is an good indication of how things are going in your life, then all must be pretty good in the Peaking Lights camp right now. Husband and wife team Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis have made an upbeat electro-pop-dub record that's surely designed for sunshine and good times, rather than their previous releases which were more made for late nights, weed and relaxing. I guess having two kids can make your life change like that.

The murky, scratchy, lo-fi dub of old had been replaced with bright and crisp electronics that in places almost veers towards eurobeat. The one constant is Indra's floaty voice, which swoops and wafts over the backing. Album opener 'Infinite Trips' is a bit of a red herring - it's not trippy, and it's also not very much like the rest of the tracks on the album. 'Telephone Call', which is next up, is a much better indication of things to come, in which Indra signs about phone calls from space and seems to be more than a bit influenced by The Space Lady. Later on, 'Everyone and Us' has a bassline that really reminds me of 'Giant' by The The, although it's probably highly unlikely that they (or even you dear reader) will have heard that. 'Eyes To Sea' (I love that title) is built around a hypnotically repetitive electronic loop, and is followed by 'Bad With The Good', which seems to have stolen all of its keyboard and drum settings straight from the 80s - like a lot of the songs on here it's refreshingly simple and uncomplicated.

'New Grrls' is lyrically the best song on the album, telling how Indra tries to balance being a mum and a wife with being in a band, before listing role models like Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, Yoko Ono and Lydia Lunch. Even if it does sound a bit like Ace of Base 'Breakdown' is a brilliantly catchy tune, and 'Tell Me Your Song' then closes the standard version of the album with a whirligig waltz.

I bought the vinyl version which comes with an extra 12" with remixes of 'Breakdown' and 'Bad With The Good', both of which are excellent. Overall this is probably their most consistently good album and one which is well worth your hard earned pounds or dollars.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Recommended music: 'You're Dead' by Flying Lotus

First things first - this is by no means an easy listen. Don't think you can just put it on in the background and do other stuff because if you do it might just sound abrasive. But turn and face the music, give it your full attention, and you'll be rewarded with a fully immersive journey into death and the afterlife. Also, don't be put off if you don't like the start, the first few tracks (side 1 of the double vinyl) are by far my least favourite of what Steven Ellison has served up here. But stick with it, because from the moment you put side 2 on and Kendrick Lamar joins in on 'Never Catch Me' it turns into a magical, wonderful record, full of twists and turns, light and shade, explosive moments and quiet corners.

There's been a lot of talk about this being a 'jazz' album, and if you had to pigeon-hole it then that's probably where it would end up. It's so much more than that though. If it is jazz then it's certainly jazz for the 21st or even 22nd century. There's other styles as well though; 'Coronus, the Terminator' is a hip-hop / soul hybrid, while 'Ready Err Not' recalls his earlier electronic influences. Throughout the album the amazing bass stylings of Thundercat take flight, as he runs up and down the frets and lightning speed. He also adds vocals to some of the tracks, along with the Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg. Elsewhere FlyLo's alter-ego makes a couple of appearances, as does Herbie Hancock on keyboards.

I think it's great that in this day and age people like Flying Lotus are still making committed, unflinching, uncommercial albums like this - sure the Lamar track will draw a few people in, but really this is the sound of Ellison taking all of his culture and heritage and wrapping it up exactly how he wants it to sound.

A word on the packaging - the vinyl boxset is lavishly put together, with a fully-printed gatefold holding the original album, with printed inner sleeves, plus another two slabs of vinyl with instrumental versions of all the track. You also get a full download of both the standard and instrumental tracks.

Inside the Flying Lotus 'You're Dead' gatefold

Friday, 3 October 2014

New music: 'Skulls' by Röyksopp

Like many people, Röyksopp are predicting the end of the album format. Their new release will be called 'The Inevitable End' and they've stressed that it will be their last one - but they're still gonna make music. Which is just as well if this little beast of a tune is anything to go by. Like a combination of all the best bits of Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Daft Punk and Justice, it worms its way into your skull and grips your brain from within. Play it loud for maximum effect - like they say, if you wanna ride with them tonight then this is the best soundtrack...

Track of the Day: 'Teenage Exorcists' by Mogwai

Contrary Scottish buggers Mogwai have got a new EP (Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1) out at the start of December, featuring three new tracks and three remixes of songs from their recent 'Rave Tapes' album. To highlight this they've set the opening track 'Teenage Exorcists' upon us, which turns out to be the last thing you'd expect from them i.e. a 3-minute, fully vocal, upbeat track that's the closest thing they've made to a pop song in possibly forever. This turns out to be extremely disconcerting, but does show that it all goes tits up for them they may have a future writing hits for 5 Seconds of Summer.

Remix of the Day: 'My Song 5 (Movement version) by Haim

It's hard to describe what Movement have done to this, apart from to say that they've made it sound completely and utterly unlike Haim. Seriously, I had to go back and read the description of it again to make sure that it wasn't a cover version rather than a remix. It's a slowed down, toned down, beatdown version which makes the track sound 50 times more menacing and disturbed than it did originally. There's a free download too, so grab it now and stick it on your headphones.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

New music: 'There's No Underground' by Papernut Cambridge

"Don't draw the curtains shut, or make the dark too bright,
You can just put on a record so your head's alright"

The second album from Ian Button's Papernut Cambridge, and it's a slightly shambolic and ramshackle ride through the south-east London of today and yesteryear. The title, you see, work on two levels  as well as there being no underground movement to speak of in popular music today, there's also (literally) no Underground and the train services come to a halt where the postcodes change from London to Kent.

Joined by luminaries and peers such as Darren Hayman, Robert Rotifer, Jack Hayter and more, Button has created a record that's shot through with classic iinfluences from the Small Faces and the Kinks to The Auteurs and Blur. Here you'll find undeniably English melodies with a 21st century edge.

One of my favourites on the record is 'The Day The Government Went On Strike', a (cautionary?) tale about our leaders putting down their pens, walking out into the sunshine and saying "You run the country yourselves and see how you like it". It's two minutes of eccentric whimsy that you'd like to think could maybe someday happen, if only for for a day. 'Nutflake Social', on the other hand, seems to be some sort of reinvented 'Timewarp' for the Papernut alternative universe.

'Rock'n'Roll Sunday Afternoon City Lights' sums up the whole feel of the album to me, it's a bit if s throwback to those rainy afternoons when you were a kid and you'd rifle through your parents' record collection trying to find something that excited you.

At 30 minutes long it's a concise journey through the Papernut psyche. Like a surprisingly quick train ride to another land, let it transport you to a better place, a place that looks to the future but is acutely aware of where it's come from.

The album's out on 13th October on Gare du Nord records, where you'll be able to pick up both a standard version or a deluxe set with extra extended and alternate tracks.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Recommended music: 'The Light Brigade' by Daedelus

"Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred"
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade

An album about the 1853-56 Crimean War might not be top of everyone's to-do list, but when you've already made an EP about the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 (2009's 'Righteous Fists of Harmony') then I guess anything's possible. And so following in the footsteps of Alfred, Lord Tennyson comes Alfred (should we call him Lord?) Darlington a.k.a. Daedelus to create an artistic work based on this very specific battle.

As you might expect from the subject matter this is not a bright, sunny creation but neither is it all doom and gloom. There are enough moments of light and shade to reflect the fact that even in extreme battles moments of calm can descend. It's also interesting that he's chosen to incorporate other elements into the story, with 'Baba Yaga', a supernatural woman or witch from Slavic folklore, getting a mention amongst the paraphernalia of war.

The mostly instrumental tracks are shot through in three places by some ethereal vocals from Young Dad, most noticeably on 'Onward', a devastatingly beautiful and haunting track that pretty much brings tears to my eyes each time I hear it. It's not all electronics either; gently-picked acoustic guitar forms the backbone for 'The Victory of the Echo Over the Voice' and 'Sevastopol', but it's soon overcome by the dark, swampy intro of 'Tsars and Hussars', another of the tracks to feature Young Dad.

In a lot of ways this reminds me of Apparat's soundtrack for War and Peace (Krieg und Frieden), both in the way it's constructed and the mood it puts across. The fact that further conflict has arisen in the area since the record was made adds an undeniable poignancy and currency to it, making it stand as much as a reflection on modern-day warfare as a comment on a specific piece of history.

I absolutely love this record and I'm sure you will too when you immerse yourself in it. It would work really well as a soundtrack to maybe an animated movie about the war, but it also stands on its own as an outstanding piece of music and art.

Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Recommended music: 'Shaker Notes' by Paul White

"I try not to think in genres at all, I think music is music!" - Paul White, 2014

Following on from a spell producing hip-hop records for the likes of Danny Brown and Homeboy Sandman, White's third album (the first for R and S Records) is a very different proposition. Putting the samples to one side, he plays pretty much all of the music on here himself, and sings as well. There are guest appearances from friends and even family (his uncle plays the violin on 'Sitting In Circles') but really this is White opening himself up for all to see.

In keeping with the quote at the top of the page there's an array of styles on display here, from the more hip-hop flavoured tracks like 'All We Know', to the Balearic house stylings of 'Where You Gonna Go?' and on to the swampy electro-blues of 'Honey Cats' (and that's just the first three tracks!). Elsewhere there's a hint of Thom Yorke on 'Wait & See', a drums and sax pairing on 'Fighting To Dance' and a dub feel on 'Is It Up To Us?'. 'Sitting In Circles' sounds like a lost 60s film theme, while 'Numbers of Change' is the most electronic thing on here and in part conjures up the ghost of John Carpenter. Closer 'Shaker Notes' is a suitably eclectic and slightly melancholic way to end the record, which wraps up the musical themes that have been explored before it.

Something about this record feels really intimate and personal, it's almost like in ditching the samples and picking up instruments he's managed to communicate a message from his soul. You can stream the whole album below, and after you've listened to it I urge you to buy it for yourself (you can get it direct from his Bandcamp page here). I'm really looking forward to my red vinyl copy arriving in the post but in the meantime I'll be shaking along to the download!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Recommended music: 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' by Thom Yorke

Another day, another new way of releasing an album...

It's hard not to dwell on the delivery method of this record, when Yorke made such a big thing of it. Dropping it on us all by surprise just over 24 hours ago, he decided to release it via a new version on BitTorrent, which features a pay gate on the front end so that you can charge for files instead of giving them away for free. One of the stated aims of Yorke's experiment was to see if people could get on with the technology - well, at the time of writing 119,000 people have downloaded it, so it seems OK so far (also, at $6 a download, it also means that York is approximately £440k better off than he was this time yesterday).

So the question is - is he coming up with all of these new ideas to distribute his music to hide the fact that there's nothing new in the tunes themselves? Well one of the most noticeable things about this record is that, despite spending a couple of years on the road with his 'Atoms For Peace' band, this is his most electronic album yet. Apart from a (heavily treated) piano you'd be hard pressed to spot any 'real' instruments. Taking 2006's 'The Eraser' as its starting point it develops the musical ideas even further, and becomes more experimental as it progresses. If it wasn't for Yorke's distinctive vocals you'd be hard pushed to know that this was one of his records rather than one of the many electronic artists that he loves. 'A Brain In A Bottle' opens the album sounding very much like Pink Floyd's 'On The Run' when it starts, but once it gets going it could have been on his last album, as could 'Guess Again!'. 'Interference' sounds like Radiohead on downers (yes, it's that happy), but when we get to 'The Mother Lode' things start to get interesting. 6 minutes of skittery beats and looped melodies over which Yorke sings quietly of 'hollow men' who 'can't see their way out of this'.

Side 2 (as it will be on the rather over-priced £30 vinyl copy) starts with the slow-paced 'Truth Ray' - simple and hypnotic, it's the most emotional piece on the record and provides some humanity amongst the electronic heartbeats. 'There Is No Ice (For My Drink)' (which may or may not be a comment on global warming) is a heavily repetitive, mostly instrumental track with just some backward-spun spoken words and a few warbles in the background. It leads into 'Pink Section', all warbled tape loops and distorted piano and the most unsettling thing on the record, which takes us on to 'Nose Grows Some', which could probably have been on 'Amnesiac'.

Overall then, it's a development on from 'The Eraser', rather than a complete reinvention. With Radiohead back in the studio this week, maybe this has got the electronic leaning out of Thom's system and they'll return with an album of Bends-era guitar belters. We'll have to wait and see...

Friday, 26 September 2014

Recommended music: 'Grey Skies 3' by Genesis the Greykid

"Can you hear me, I'm thinking out loud
Painting pictures with the sounds tryin' to help you see clearly"

If Genesis the Greykid is a new name to you (as it was to me until Giles Peterson's radio show last weekend) you should know he was born in Tennessee, he's a poet inspired by TS Eliot, a rapper who's now released three 'Grey Skies' mixtapes, and his real name is the same as mine (Russell).

The mixtape is loosely themed around Christopher Nolan's 2006 film 'The Prestige', lifting dialogue from the movie and stretching its ambitions as high as the magicians in the film.

This is a really atmospheric album, which flows together as one feally good listen. Never resoring to the lowest common denominator rap of bitches'n'hos or guns'n'drive-bys, there's intellectual though on display here, together with some genuine emotional moments, stuff about growing up and goofing around mixed with deep stuff about life and death. Take a track like 'Lab Rats'; slow paced - "I'm sorry you can't dance to this, but just listen" he say's at the end - it's a downbeat tale of a break-up and how that can lead to an uncertain happiness if you can move on. And the first time I heard 'Miles Miles Miles' it genuinely made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up - he might not be the first rapper to sample Bon Iver but he uses it so well here, backing the story of his young mom and what she went through before she had him.

If you're looking for a comparison I think he's right up there with Oddisee for lyrical flow and intelligent discourse, while his choice of samples is equally as good.

You can get this album for free, along wuth the 2 previous mixtapes, from his Bandcamp page using the link below. Ridiculously I almost wish it wasn't free as he really deserves to be paid for something as good as this, but I guess that's how the world works these days.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Track of the Day: 'Playing With Fire' by Redinho

The lead track from Redinho's debut album is a sleazy, funky track with an insistent groove and a Zapp-esque choros. It takes the autotuned vocal to a new level by adding the vocoder effect to creat something that sounds both classic and contemporary. the album is out at the end of the month and having taken three years to come together I'm expecting big things from it.

It says a lot for this record that the two 11 year-old boys who were in the car with me when I first heard this thought the voice was 'freaky' - and therefore loved it!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

New music: 'Songs of Innocence' by U2

So what do you reckon? A stroke of marketing genius, or an invasion of privacy and Orwellian nightmare? Whichever side of the fence you're on, you have to admire the sheer audacity and force if Apple and U2 combining to drop their new album into half a billion users iTunes accounts all at the same time last night. You also have to assume that U2 have either got 1) more money than they're ever going to be able to spend or 2) some sort of massive follow up tour planned, since they're never gonna be able to sell a single track from a record they've spent 4 years working on (although they have confirmed this morning that Apple bought it from them to give to us 'as a gift', so some money has changed hands for it).

On to the record itself then - what does 4 years and 5 producers (Dangermouse, Paul Epworth, Flood, Ryan Tedder & Declan Gaffney) get you? Musically it's fairly simple and uncluttered. The Edge has toned down his guitar effects, the drums and bass are gently insistent rather than bombastic, and overall there's the feel of a band who just wanted to write some engaging, open and uplifting songs. Likewise Bono has notched down the messianic tone of his lyrics, and while there are still a few references to miracles and pilgrims, these are mostly either autobiographical words about how and where the group grew up or straightforward love songs. This does mean that at times they sound more like Coldplay or, dare I say it, The Script, than U2 songs, but maybe that's the price you pay for finally accepting that you're never really gonna change the world when you're 'just a rock'n'roll band'.

Although due to the various producers involved there's not necessarily a cohesive thread or feel throughout the whole album, this probably results in a better listen overall. It really feels more like a collection of singles than an album, and it certainly contains some of the most radio-friendly and straightforward pop songs they've ever recorded. After a few listens my favourite so far is album closer 'The Troubles', which features guest vocals from Lykke Li and is a subtle and enigmatic way to finish the record.

If you're one of the anti-Bono brigade then I doubt very much that this album and its method of delivery are going to change your mind. But if you like the band or you're prepared to give them a fresh start then you might be surprised at what you discover. Ultimately I think that they've finally decided to grow old gracefully rather than attempting to keep up with 'the kids', and as a result have started a new chapter in their career (one which apparently might continue quite quickly with another record called 'Songs of Experience'). Bono might sing on here that "I get so many things I don't deserve" but maybe a fair hearing is something he's entitled to after so many years in the game.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Recommended music: 'Mean Love' by Sinkane

On his fourth full length album (the first for DFA Records) Ahmed Gallab shows that he's finally ready for the big time. With his confidence having been boosted by a starring roles in Luaka Bop's 'Atomic Bomb: Who is William Onyeabor?' live project, he's created a classy and stylish album that's full of brilliant touches. Effortlessly switching genres, from Afrobeat to funk to soul and back again, his voice is smoother than a silk negligee sliding down Kate Moss's freshly shaven legs.

With tracks harking back to the 70s and the 60s, this is still a thoroughly contemporary record that could only exist in the melting pot of today's cultures. Take 'Galley Boys' for example.It's got African rhythms, a reggae bassline, tons of pedal steel and a chorus melody similar too Primal Scream's 'Star'' Topped off with Ahmed's brilliant voice it all sounds so easy, but you know that sounding so laid-back is a hard thing to achieve.

It's the kind of record that you can play at any time of day or night, whatever mood you're in, and emerge feeling like a better person. Basically if you're at all fed up it'll put a smile on your face, and you could as easily dance to it as make love to it (or maybe even do one followed by the other?).

I reckon this album cements him as a major talent who'll not only continue to make his own great records but can have his pick of whichever artists he wants to work with in the future.

Currently on a whistle-stop tour to promote the album, Sinkane are back in the UK later in the year for some more dates, including one at Oslo in Hackney on December 1st which promises to banish the winter blues. I'll see you there!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Track of the Day: 'Hey Mami' by Sylvan Esso

According to Soundcloud this has been around for about a year, so maybe I'm a bit late to the party. But the first time I heard it was when Mary Anne Hobbs played it this morning, and I've been hypnotised by it ever since. I love how it starts out like a simple child's rhyme, one of those things they used to teach you to sing in a round at school, and then the electronics kick and it becomes a totally different animal.

If, like me until 12 hours ago, you've not heard of them before, Sylvan Esso are comprised of Amelia Meath from Mountain Man and Nick Sanborn (Made of Oak / Megafaun). Their album came out earlier this year (I'm off to check it out when I've finished writing this) and they're on tour in Europe in September and early October before heading back to the States at the end of that month).

Things that remind me of other things #2: 'Tough Love' by Jessie Ware & 'Little Red Corvette' by Prince

The very first time I heard this Jessie Ware track I knew I recognised the percussion sound.

It's not just the percussion though, the feel of the track is the same, there's the same sort of sultry vibe to both of them. BTW, it's pretty damm impossible to find 'Little Red Corvette; on the internet - the Purple One is a pretty litigious chap and I imagine he's quick to get them taken down. But I imagine everyone's heard and most people own it or know someone who does, so play the Jessie Ware and then go off and find Prince