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Monthly Archives: July 2014

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My blog looks like it is on the verge of dying, so I thought I would cheekily post up some reviews of new tracks I originally wrote for the wonderful tn2 Magazine on here to keep things fresh.  I will get back to gushing sycophancy about bands I love soon:

Jamie T – Don’t You Find

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The name Jamie T is one that conjures up the cheeky-chappy minstrel behind the likes of the glorious, jangling sounds of previous singles, Sheila and Stick & Stones. Which is why this new track — his first solo release since 2010 — is something of a surprise. With a perfectly languid, almost reggae-style daydream beat, and beautifully, uncharacteristically gentle vocals singing the simple, melancholy refrain of “Don’t you find, some of the time / there is always someone on your mind / that shouldn’t be there at all”, it’s kind of brilliant. It all feels somewhat restrained compared to the brash nature of his previous releases, but it’s in a way that really works; as though, in holding back, Jamie T is able to get a bit more introspective in his observations. Put short: this is gorgeous.

Jeremih & Shlohmo ft. Chance The Rapper – The End

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Last year, with the release of Bo Peep (Do U Right), smooth as caramel Chicago R&B singer Jeremih and exquisite LA producer Shlohmo proved that their sounds married were a match made in heaven. Fast forward to 2014 and, after some scheduling difficulties with their record labels, a few days ago the pair decided to put out their long-awaited collaboration, the No More EP, for free (in celebration of Jeremih’s birthday). The EP overall is arguably not as sublime as it had the potential to be, but it’s certainly enjoyable, with this track featuring hip-hop’s rising star Chance perhaps being the stand-out.  With the kind of understated, urban beats that the fantastic Shlomho serves up best, and some enticingly sultry, melodic rapping from Jeremih, The End gets tastier and more intriguing with every listen.  It gets increasingly gritty too, with Chance’s somewhat in-your-face verse tailing in at the finish, but it makes for a fairly satisfying coda. The song is good and fresh, just – with the talents involved – it’s not as mind-blowing as you might have hoped. Free download available here.

Azealia Banks, Heavy Metal And Reflective

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You would be forgiven for feeling surprised at a new song from Azealia Banks, given that the years since her 2011 breakthrough 212 have been filled with little in the way of releases, yet much in the way of starting dubious, petulant Twitter beefs with a striking number of artists.  Banks’ brash personality aside, though, there is no denying that this track is promising, and it marks what is seemingly a new era now that the artist has broken free of her record deal at Interscope. There is something excitingly feral about Heavy Metal And Reflective, with Banks’ characteristic fast-paced, nonchalant flow over snarling, thumping urban beats which owe a lot to trap. It is not by any means a masterpiece — a comeback hype track, but arguably not a song with real longevity — but it is a pleasant enough reminder as to why we were all so excited about the controversial Harlem girl in the first place.

Karen O, Rapt

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A short, wonderfully sweet insight into Karen O’s forthcoming solo album Crush Songs, Rapt showcases the intimate, raw side of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ singer. Written back in 2006 in the midst of an all-consuming heartbreak which left the singer feeling as though she would never fall in love again, the track is stunningly tender and brilliantly caustic all at once. Gentle laments like the refrain of “Love is soft / love’s a fucking bitch” hint perfectly at that absorbing inner-turmoil of falling out of love, along with moments of wryly observed questioning and self-delusion: “Do I really need another habit like you? / …do you need me too?”. A lo-fi number with a dreamy, bedroom fuzziness, Rapt gets the perfect balance of sad and beautiful.

Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, Bang Bang

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A song featuring three of pop’s biggest current names, produced by the same team as Ariana Grande’s summer smash Problem, and which samples Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go was always going to have a lot of pulling power. And indeed, there’s a brazen euphoria to the song, with a sugary, upbeat anthem of a chorus — though at times it feels like there is a little too much going on, and the whole thing is perhaps a bit overproduced and abrasive. The lyrics are bold and flirtatious (if somewhat questionable), with moments like, “She got a booty like a Cadillac / But I can send you into overdrive”. With that said, lyrical analysis and debate are perhaps unnecessary — pop is by nature frivolous and fun, and this is certainly that

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“Wait – you’re writing a piece about us? Oh god, please don’t include any of this…what are you even gonna call it? ‘Meltybrains? are dix’?”

The five boys of Meltybrains? are running amok in a small square in Dalston after their first ever show in London (this latter point being a fact which leads to several wry comments about their songs all being “UK exclusives” during the performance).  Rather than their jokey post-gig brawling and bizarre conversations appearing in anyway as damning as band-member Brian seems to fear, though, there is something quite endearing and charming about their tangible enthusiasm that night.  Indeed, much as I am always open to title suggestions that involve edgy misspellings, it would be entirely unfair to label this Dublin band as being “dix”, or anything of the sort – which I think is a particularly noteworthy claim given that the band dress entirely in white for their show, and have a proclivity to wearing “meltymasks”: all things which one might associate with the band in question being a little bit pretentious.

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For a lot of people, writing is a form of catharsis.  Putting everything out there in a way that is painful, but ultimately somehow cleansing.  I was going to write a post about Arcade Fire, because this week I am living my 2007 dream of seeing them live (for £2.50: hello), but every now and again I end up introspectively contemplating the purpose and nature of music-writing.  I think it is fair to say that, amongst my friends at least, the main reason to read Don’t Watch Me Dancing is to find something to mock me about – which is pretty fair given that I’m pretentious enough to put my gushing, sycophantic views on music on the internet.  So here, in the spirit of catharsis, is my unedited, undeniably cheesy 2010 review of ‘The Suburbs’ and, for all I am embarrassed reading it now, in fairness it is not really that far removed from how I write four years later (if with significantly less lyrical discussion than is my current norm), and pretty accurately surmises my love of Arcade Fire.  Still cringe-y though:

“It sounds a bit weird maybe, but I’ve always felt a closeness with Arcade Fire – I say ‘always’; I actually got onto them circa the release of second album ‘Neon Bible’, and even then entirely randomly. I bought the album having heard absolutely nothing from the band before; I was ordering another album – I think it may have been the latest Modest Mouse – and the website I was on recommended some random group called Arcade Fire’s then-new album. I took a chance – why, I’m really not sure – and it’s something I’ve been immensely grateful for ever since.

‘Neon Bible’ was an epic; swirling cacophonous noise pouring out of a church organ brought you down to depressing depths, contrasting with the majestic uplifting power of orchestral melodies – you have to understand, I’m a flute player, and finding a band that can make your geeky woodwind instrument seem credible is quite something. And it wasn’t all intricate yet distorted baroque grandeur either, as you’d suddenly find yourself in the stripped-down company of merely acoustic guitars and vocals, a beautiful juxtaposition to the fullness of the sound on other tracks. Truth be told, I barely listened to the Modest Mouse album, such was my newfound rapture with Arcade Fire, this wonderful band who made music unlike anything I’d ever heard.
I eagerly sought out their debut ‘Funeral’ next, and was not disappointed – the woeful charm of the album was undeniable, and I found I loved it just as much as ‘Neon Bible’, if for different reasons – musically at least, it was certainly a less weighty affair than their second album. The band have described their musical aspiration as wanting to bring medieval music to the Pixies, and crazy as that might seem if you’re trying to imagine what that might sound like, that really does just sum them up; they have mastered that epic fusion of new and old, and have managed it incredibly.

So, two wonderful – somber now and then, yes, but wonderful nonetheless – albums in, and here we are now with their third offering, ‘The Suburbs’; I’m not going to lie, I thought I would be disappointed, but once again this band who, for me, came out of nowhere, have left me pleasantly surprised. Once again we find ourselves greeted by darkness, but as ever with Arcade Fire, there is a crack of light – perhaps even more so than on either of their previous albums – that diffuses through the album and somehow makes listening to an album about suburban doom and gloom a relatively enjoyable experience. As well as the expected incredible mix of guitar rock and classical music, the album sees forays into weird and wonderful M83-style dazzling synths, as well as creepy and dissonant distortion. Amazing.
Time and more listening will tell if the album will achieve for me the heights of bittersweet beauty, ‘Funeral’, or the abundant allure of ‘Neon Bible’, but having listened to it as a whole a couple times now, it is thus far an amazing follow-up. Even disregarding their previous efforts this album is something to be proud of, a fantastic listen in it’s own right. Arcade Fire seem to be one of the few bands out there who know exactly how best to exploit their sound, and it seems that album after album they will continue to achieve something that sounds fresh and new, yet somehow just as sublime as before.”
I suspect finally seeing one of my favourite contemporary bands live will give some affirmation as regards music-writing, anyway.  I am very, very excited, and I guess that enthusiasm is probably about as much purpose as I need for writing all my overblown gushing about music.