Thursday, 19 July 2012

Watch: Dan Deacon - True Thrush

From an amazing title to an even more amazing video, this latest visual offering from Dan Deacon does not disappoint. The video for "True Thrush" was co-directed by Ben O'Brien and Dan himself, and features the use of a video-making variation on the childhood game 'telephone'. The ensuing results are hilarious and also a worrying sign of just how unobservant most of us are to the fine details we see.

The video features the TEETH band logo, members of Future Islands, a host of Baltimore creative types and other members of the Dan Deacon Ensemble: by the three-minute mark I love how things just get totally ridiculous.

Song of the Day: "Total Carnage" - Sweet Valley

Yesterday Fool's Gold Records unveiled a tasty little treat for all fans of Nathan Williams' fuzz-pop outfit Wavves: his Sweet Valley side-project, made in collaboration with his brother Kynan (that is a great name, by the way). The sibling duo have taken the Wavves signature summer stoner sound and slowed it down, lathered it in a bubbly layer of tape hiss and conjured up what just might be the slacker soundtrack for the sticky warmth that oozes in when August heats up.

Though we've only got a two minute track as a teaser here it'll be interesting to see what the rest of the Stay Calm mixtape has in store, especially in terms of hearing the Williams Bros play with synthesisers and old cut-and-pasted samples. The mixtape comes out on August 7th, so keep an eye on the label's site and the band's new Facebook page for more info.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Danny Brown and araabMUZIK Collaborate on "Molly Ringwald"

Last Tuesday the folks at Yours Truly shared a behind-the-scenes video documenting the in-studio chemistry of rapper Danny Brown and weird-ass producer araabMUZIK making a track together. Filmed as part of their 'Songs From Scratch' series, both Danny and araab let viewers into the sacred space occupied by on-the-spot songwriting and production.

The result is embedded above, and is a two minute rip-roaring tirade of the sort Danny has made his staple. Something about his gap-toothed, crazy-haired look encasing a total 'shucks, I'm just a nice guy who wants to rap' persona is just endearing. Check out the full Yours Truly video below, and head to their label imprint Love Letters Ink for info on when this single will drop.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

#LongReads: Buzz Bands RIP

I haven't done any free-form writing on the blog for a while, but now that I've said bye bye to Don't Panic I feel I have the time to do so again. And the topic that's been cropping up in conversation with fellow music-loving friends time and time again over the last few weeks has been that of disappointing gigs played by buzz bands. Specifically, these tend to be those with blog-hyped bands scraping together thirty minute sets, sounding little like the mp3s that initially showed promise and performing with either a hint of arrogance spawned by said hype, or a quivering nervousness.

Needless to say, these shows are rarely fun. The last one I went to was headlined by a young Nordic act whose shimmering swells of synths, samples and sighing vocals have left me hitting repeat on my iPod for months. I'm not going to name names, but they burst their way into my top 50 tracks of 2011 last December based on their keen ear for a pop melody and are also signed to one of my favourite labels.

Regardless, when I found myself shoulder to shoulder with other eager fans packed into the room the spreading disappointment was palpable by approximately the third song. And mind you, most people there were baffled that the entire set only stretched to another three songs or so on top of that: I couldn't shake the feeling that this band just weren't ready for the platform they'd been given. It seemed like a combination of nerves and lack of live experience were going to swiftly turn a dream gig into a patchy affair that, while still lukewarm, did little to ignite an impassioned performance from the band or rapturous reception from the crowd.

But online, their track record is still so strong. So should their inability to deliver the goods in one London showcase negate all the previous praise thrown their way? And, leading on from there, are we now living in a world where capable and talented bedroom musicians should be allowed to call themselves performers? Has the very hype machine that sets out to propel them away from anonymity cursed them into a rushed burn-out career?

One bold case that goes against this concept of bands who can't live up to the hype and should stick to GarageBand is Brooklyn's Friends. This four-piece, fronted by the devastatingly sexy and undeniably charismatic Samantha Urbani have only been making music together for a couple of years but showed their flair for performance (and then some) on their first-ever string of UK dates last autumn. They demonstrated the tight-knit cohesion of a band that use live instruments and don't rely on pre-recorded samples or the booming bass of drum machines to lend their songs gravity in a live setting.

Both Friends and the average Nordics played the same London venue on different nights, but had the crowd feeding off their energy and skill in ways that lean dangerously close to polar opposites. In the case of Urbani's band, they sat below the radar for a good year or so before the blogosphere took note of them, and in that time hashed out rehearsals and DIY recording sessions together - the fruits of their labour can be seen now, in harsh contrast to the watered-down vocals and timid show I stood through earlier this year.

As hype acts get snapped up faster and faster by PR representation, record deals and international management teams, more pressure is placed on new artists to get straight out on the road and play those much right-click-saved songs to baying crowds. This new model is spinning faster than it seems anyone can control. That includes the bands, the press spin doctors, the avid music news sites always keen to know about The Next Big Thing first and the bemused gig-goers. I worry the industry is compromising on quality in a bid to stay up to speed. And every time I watch another nervous new act stumble their way through a few songs onstage, that worry grows.

It'll be interesting to see how the new music industry, which is increasingly based online and becoming a self-congratulating exclusive club of writers, publicists and tastemakers, keeps up its quality control. A balance needs to be struck between having faith in new acts when they're still finding their feet, and jumping on the hype bandwagon of a song or two before the band responsible has actually become a band. An act that's never played live is not a band. It's that simple. And while a really good set on Soundcloud is still something to be proud of, those songs automatically lose staying power if they haven't been torn apart in hours of rehearsal and tested on a few audiences first.

It's a cliché, but practise makes (the closest thing to) perfect.

Song of the Day: "Ridin'" - ASAP Rocky feat. Lana Del Rey

Even though I know this version of "Ridin" was leaked a good few weeks ago without A$AP's consent (and inspired a barrage of all-caps rage tweets and retweets), I am still totally into the production and hook that hold this track together. From Lana's saccharine sweet coos of "pick me up after school, you can be my baby" to that insatiable bassline, this is one nice slice of funk-influenced hip-hop. 

This was originally dropped from the Kickdrums mixtape earlier this year, so I look forward to hearing whether it makes it onto any of A$AP's solo material this summer after being leaked so hilariously. For now, enjoy body-rolling to this while fanning the coals beneath some barbeque chicken/steak/veggie burgers or whatever: it's what this song was pretty much made for.

Reviewed: Twin Shadow - Confess

For one reason or another, I managed to fall out of love with this album in a record-breaking number of days. I partially blame the brilliance of "Five Seconds" for blinding me with its beauty and convincing me the rest of the record was as good; I partially blame my own often irrational love for Twin Shadow (there, I said it).

Most of all, I blame the songwriting on this collection of tracks. Somehow it just comes off sounding like a cobbled-together tangle of clichés and a world apart from the heartfelt sense of lovesick confusion that made Forget so awesome. While I enjoy the ton-up biker branding that George Lewis Jr's gone through great lengths to stamp Confess with, beyond some well-choreographed music videos and an effing beautiful leather jacket, the album's concept doesn't actually show up from song to song.

I reviewed the album for Addict Music, so go check out an extended version of this resigned sadness there.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Watch: Nite Jewel - Clive

West coast moody synth songstress Nite Jewel (born Ramona Gonzalez) has just shared her new minimal video for single "Clive". The track wraps up her beautifully-produced and polished record One Second Of Love, released earlier this year on Secretly Canadian.

She's on UK shores now for a set of dates, and I'm looking forward to catching her London show next Wednesday the 18th at XOYO. Check out my interview with her for Don't Panic from March, and scroll below the video for details on the UK leg of her tour.

Thursday 12 - Erics, Liverpool

Wednesday 18 - XOYO, London

FREE SHIT Part 37: Azealia Banks - Fantasea Mixtape

Miss Banks unleashed her Fantasea mixtape in the early hours of this morning (London time), after a couple of upload glitches and delays. It features tracks you'll have likely already heard if you're already a fan, from "Runnin'" featuring Lunice to Diplo-produced "Fuck Up The Fun" and smack-talk extravaganza "Us". Given the slew of UK dates she cancelled over the summer and her ups and downs with management, the mixtape is dropping at a good time to keep listeners interested and maintain that tricky balance between staying relevant in the lead-up to an album release and avoiding irritating over-exposure.

Head here to download the 19-track mixtape for yourself to get a much-anticipated longer play version of that Azealia flavour. 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Bloc 2012 Flops: What's Next?

In its first year at London's Pleasure Gardens, Bloc Festival has crumbled and had its organisers pull the plug (amidst a shower of angry and somewhat witty puns on major social netoworking sites) before the first night had neared its planned closing time of 6am. As you've doubtless already seen, if you've been anywhere near Twitter or Bloc's Facebook page today, the PR and press team at Baselogic cancelled the festival last night "due to crowd safety concerns". According to the email circulated to the press this morning and offical statement on the Bloc site, both the ticket vending company Crowdsurge and Baselogic are "absolutely devastated that this has happened" but failed to initially release an apology or details on refunds for those with Saturday and weekend tickets. 

In short, Bloc started off with the best intentions (coming from the team behind Glastonbury's Shangri-La area) but turned into a bit of a PR disaster for the organisers and worryingly for the Pleasure Gardens as a whole. From my own experience at the festival last night, it was a mixed bag. On the one hand, I got in early at about 6pm and had no problem getting into shows and aboard the MS Stubnitz (where some of the biggest crowd crushes and security control problems later emerged) with my press wristband. However, even as running onto the site to catch Steve Reich's mindblowing set at the Resident Advisor Hub I passed a queue that was already snaking out of the only entrance that seemed to be processing standard day passes. Within hours punters were subjected to two-hour waits to get in, and when I spoke to a friend of mine with a weekend pass later it seemed she'd been rushed in without having her ticket scanned and hadn't received a wristband. 

I'm still waiting on a statement from one of the sound technician's working on the RA Hub and moving from one stage to the next, but it seemed that all venues had reached capacity by about 10:30pm, and two soundsytems blown by 11pm. For what it's worth, Amon Tobin's lightshow installation was awesome and Nicolas Jaar put on a pretty good show, but those were pretty much the only acts we were able to see before the relatively confused security became unable to handle the amount of people trying to push into each arena. 

The Metropolitan police were called in because of the threat of a riot breaking out, not because one in fact did. Once they arrived, the officers I encountered were calm and easy to talk to: they simply said they'd been called by the organisers because the private security onsite could no longer handle the amount of people needing to be moved off the site (after a huge surge allegedly jumped the barriers and streamed onto the festival site when they'd had enough of standing in line for hours). 

I'll be most interested to see what happens to Baselogic, Crowdsurge and the festival logistical organisers in the wake of this glaring capacity oversight, and whether Bloc will be able to recover and attempt a return in the summer of 2013. For now at least, venues like XOYO, Rhythm Factory and The Bussey Building (in association with the lovely people at Plex London) are pulling together for a string of #notbloc parties around the city. With the exception of XOYO, most look like they'll be free for Bloc wristband- and ticket-holders, so find out more about that on Twitter here and here. There's also a Google map being updated here with info on other parties going on in the city. 

Fingers crossed people get their money back and that everyone who'd set tonight aside for the festival still has a great one.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Album Stream: Twin Shadow - Confess

With less than a week to go until Twin Shadow release sophomore album Confess (4AD Recordings), here's a full stream for your listening pleasure. Having seen George Lewis Jr and co almost two years ago at The Lexington, obsessively written about just about every video or single release since they first crossed onto my radar and rage-tweeted about wanting the album NOW it looks like the music-streaming gods have been listening (the key is to feed them with your desperation: it gives them strength).

After debuting the beautiful video for catchy-as-hell single "Five Seconds" in Times Square last month, the band will be heading out on a monster North American tour from the end of July til about the end of September (!). Click here for more on those dates, and enjoy the record above. If you like it, please buy it and/or grab a ticket to one of their shows in a town near you: these dudes gotta eat too, after all.

Album Stream: The Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

Well, what can I say: here's the chance to sink your teeth into the latest offering from the Brooklyn freak-pop avant-garders. If single "Gun Has No Trigger" is anything to go by, this will be a strong one. Have a listen and make up your mind for yourself though.

The album's out next Monday the 9th on Domino, and you can pre-order it in the UK here.
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