Saturday, August 18, 2007

Emmy The Great - The Bad EP

See a new post about Emmy The Great: January 23, 2009.

Here, for those that like nu-folk and vinyl, is another EP for your collection. Better be quick though as there are only 750 7" available (ch01, Close Harbour/Moshi Moshi - Monday 20th August) but it also available as a digital download with a bonus track. Thanks to the helpful folks at Action Records I'm reviewing the 7" for you...

Emmy The Great has actually been around for several years touring both as support and on her own but one previous very limited 7" aside this is her first release.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

'Want To Listen' Music 2007 - Part 5

The problem is that, much as I like wandering off on excursions into musical byways and backwaters, I can certainly still find and enjoy plenty of releases by artists well known who have recently released new material, or are shortly to do so.

Here is one of each of mine as of now...

Kelly Clarkson - My December

Yes I know; she was the first winner of 'American Idol' and I'm usually pretty unimpressed with such 'reality TV' artists but, amongst all the choss, there has to be a something that shines...

Kelly Clarkson turned out to be less the diamond, more a seam of bright coal, and the further she moves away from her 'Idol' beginnings the better she becomes. My December is another big shift from her 2005 album Breakaway - and one that is taxing her home fans. On the other hand it seems perfectly placed to take Europe, Japan and Australasia by storm - they are already no strangers to her music - because this time it's darker and more confessional.

KT Tunstall - Drastic Fantastic

The 200% girl (she's 100% Scottish, but also 50% Irish and 50% Chinese) returns with a second studio album, the follow up to her multi-platinum 2005 début 'Eye To The Telescope'. It is due for release on 10th September in the UK.
If you feel you might need to hear her play acoustically then that's actually "YOU NEED TO HEAR HER PLAY ACOUSTIC": it is an imperative, not a suggestion! You need 'KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza'; on the face of it this was a stop-gap release after the amazing success of 'Eye To The Telescope' and it consists of some re-workings, some covers (rather interestingly chosen) and various other acoustic odds and ends including hints for the new album... The real point to note is that, while it was recorded live on the island of Skye over a couple of days in 2006, it has a lot to recommend it and it is now available fairly cheaply from It was originally available only on-line through her label and, while the packaging may not be the same, the recordings are apparently identical.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

America 3 - Revenge...

Few artists have had such a 'rock 'n' roll' ride as Vanessa Carlton. Her 2002 début 'Be Not Nobody', which provided the international hit single A Thousand Miles, saw her hailed as one of the greatest US female artists of all time. The follow-up album, also released by A&M, was 'Harmonium' (2004) - which, although it was a critical success and without doubt a huge progression musically, was met with disappointing sales. Indeed it was not even properly released in the UK for at least twelve months after it was released in North America - I bought my copy as soon as it was released and that had to come from Canada.
This unfortunately coincided with the "great panic" that engulfed the major labels when they suddenly realised digital downloads were really here to stay. The label's instincts were wrong - rather than sticking with those artists with the potential to develop careers they ditched their best up-and-coming artists in favour of old-timers.

Vanessa Carlton was a big-time loser here but she' s back
, probably bruised, battered and better than ever, in 2007 and the first single to be taken from her forthcoming third album, 'Heroes & Thieves', is Nolita Fairytale and there is no doubt whatsoever what it is about...

[Click above image to see it full size in this window.]

The signature song 'A Thousand Miles', taken from her first album, also featured prominently in the 2004 film 'White Chicks' and only enhanced her reputation as the definitive white New Yorker (ballet dancer, pianist and more recently singer-songwriter) that she is, or arguably was until she moved to San Francisco.
Nolita Fairytale is about being betrayed by A&M and what happened thereafter.

Fast-forward to 2007 and her third album is to be released by 'The Inc.', formerly 'The Murder Inc.'; the label is run by Irv Gotti and hip-hop is his history
- think Ja Rule and Ashanti both of whom he discovered - so this might just seem a peculiar signing.
It is probably not as strange as it seems and neither is there anything whatsoever to suggest that Vanessa Carlton has undergone a change of musical direction either.

More from America...

Lily Allen has had her US 'O-1 working visa' revoked by US Immigration authorities, apparently because of a contretemps with a press photographer in London earlier this year, as a result of which she was not charged with an offence let alone convicted. It should all be sorted out in time for her to attend the MTV awards in September.

This photo, taken from today, surprised me more than any other however...

Say "hi" to the new, and remarkably dark-skinned, Lily Allen!

Ghosts, Mice & Vagabonds - hard to find music from America...

A few weeks ago I mentioned US artist Stephanie Dosen in this blog and I commented that her first album, Ghosts Mice and Vagabonds has not had a UK release and the only copies available (on Amazon Marketplace) were about £25 (US$ 52) - and were dispatched from the US anyway. I suggested, but with a caveat, a possible alternative in that blog post and that was to order it direct via her website.
I did exactly that and it all worked out perfectly - the CD arriving in about eight days, despite the recent industrial action by Royal Mail in the UK! What is more the $12 I mentioned included shipping to the UK, where it was not subject to customs charges (individual packages valued at less than £18 are not usually subjected to the collection of VAT when imported in to the UK by an individual).

More important is the fact that Ghosts, Mice & Vagabonds is a very fine album in its own right. In many ways she is the perfect modern alt-folk songstress - she doesn't write or sound like an American; neither does she have the traditional lyrical 'hang-ups' that tend to hinder her UK counterparts.
I've been listening to both albums a great deal in the last week. I don't think that I could really choose between it and A Lily For The Spectre if I were asked which I preferred overall; certainly they are subtly different but, as far as I'm concerned, it is more a matter of my mood rather anything particular about the music.
Anyway at $12 delivered it is an utter bargain - if you like A Lily For The Spectre just buy it! Even if
Bella Union should decide to release it in the UK it will probably cost more than it currently does ordered as described above.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Wales, Welsh artists, and the Welsh language...

Just about thirty miles from here as the crow flies lies a country that has produced at least its fair share of well known popular artists of many genres. Here are a few that come to mind, in no particular order: Shirley Bassey, Aled Jones, The Automatic, Lostprophets, Super Furry Animals, Charlotte Church, Catatonia, The Stereophonics, Tom Jones, Goldie Lookin' Chain, The Manic Street Preachers... and so the list goes on.
They all of course hail from Wales but what few of them do is sing in Welsh. [Just in case anyone here is confusing Welsh accents or dialect (of English) I'm referring to the Welsh language here - that which sounds, and if seen written, seems about as familiar as would Finnish for example.] I'm already on record as saying that I have no problem with foreign language music and I've mentioned one Welsh language artist already...

Well, if you are curious to hear what modern Welsh language music sounds like I have two more you might care to listen to!

Cerys Matthews, formerly the lead singer with Catatonia in the late 1990s has released two solo albums - Cock A Hoop (2003) and Never Said Goodbye (2006), on which only the occasional track is sung in Welsh - but she is however well known as a collector of traditional Welsh language songs. I have just learned today of her forthcoming EP, entirely sung in Welsh. I haven't heard it as yet, but I'm working on getting a copy. It is entitled Awyren (Aeroplane) and is due to be released on 15th October 2007 on Cardiff-based label 'Kung Fu Records'.

Then there is Cate Le Bon, who is yet another artist I saw live at Latitude 2007. Like Gwenno Saunders and Cerys Matthews she is a native of South Wales and is bilingual. She is also fine writer of what some reviewers have labelled nu-folk - a term I don't actually particularly like and indie-alt-folk is probably far better if rather clumsy. What sets her apart from most is that she writes and sings pretty much equally in Welsh and English. She was the second act on the 'Lake Stage', promoted by BBC Radio 1, on Sunday with a set consisting of four tracks sung in English followed by another four sung in Welsh and, if truth be told, they were all very good. The relatively small crowd was probably a result of the collective hangover that can come from two full days spent at a festival... I've since read more glowing reports and she's definitely one to watch in 2007/8.

Apart from singing she mostly plays guitar, but sometimes keyboards and it is rumoured, but I never saw it myself, drums. Her début album, Pet Deaths, is due out before too long. Rumour has it that this may actually be preceded by a Welsh-language EP.

She seems to have the support of young fans too...

These three girls spent the whole set utterly absorbed in the music, probably planning their future careers, and as I left for the Obelisk Stage in order to catch The Hoosiers they were busy "interviewing" the camera operator for good measure!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Back in April... a belated review of Robyn

I mentioned this self-titled album - Robyn - in passing in my post on 12th April and as I threatened to do actually bought it there and then. I really should have reviewed it promptly too because, out of all of the electro-pop albums released so far in 2007, it looks to be the one that might actually make the mainstream.

Last Sunday the single 'With Every Heartbeat' entered the UK singles chart at #5 on downloads alone.
For this kind of track and artist that is actually something quite remarkable. On the face of it her album, by an artist who has been around for some ten or so years but until now was rather little known, and that is the first released on her own label (Konichiwa Records) seemingly did not stand a chance in hell.

How quickly things can change! It certainly does now and it is due for a full UK release next Monday (13th August). Most of the tracks seem to be the same as the promo version of the so-called EP release that I have been enjoying since mid-April. The full UK CD has a bonus track - Jack You Off - that does not appear on the version I have and I believe that several other tracks on it have also been remixed for the new release.

What does it sound like?
If you have heard nothing of Robyn, then imagine Annie and Pink were somehow combined as a single Scandamerican singer-songwriting chimera. It might possibly sound as good as
Robyn (who is Swedish, not Dutch as some sites have claimed). Now imagine, improbably, that other stations and sites championed it and then eventually even BBC Radio 1 loved it. The first bit is clearly a flight of fantasy - it is beyond current bioscience - but at least the rest, including the Radio 1 thing, is true.
If the full UK release sounds anything like the version that I already have, and I suspect it does in which case Gwen Stefani's solo material would be another point of reference, then I think it would be well worth giving it a very careful listen...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Always a bridesmaid...

The kind of dogged, and very closely fought, battle for the UK #1 single that has been played out over the last six weeks has not been seen since the mid-1980s so, in other words, it simply hasn't been done by any artist in her lifetime!

Two weeks at #2 in the UK charts, a week at #3, and now another three weeks at #2; last week just sixteen sales kept her from the #1 spot and she missed out again today. It is something of a theme: naturally more at home on keyboards, she started writing songs on guitar when laid-up after she broke her foot on a trip to the cinema, which was to distract from/commiserate the fact that she had just been rejected by the 'Bristol Old Vic' stage school.

One faceless (female) exec. for a major label was heard to say, little more than a month ago, "She is so utterly irrelevant... I just don't see the point." and this was the finalé to a rather incomprehensible diatribe on the rise of new female artists. Clearly she felt threatened in some strange way; I can only hope that a 'P45' will provides her with some kind of closure because she deserves nothing less. On the other hand acting's loss is very much music's gain and these bitchy comments were aimed at someone for whom such petty feuds quite simply don't matter any more.
If she does anything at all it will be to write them into a future song and that is certainly not what the villain, now the victim, would wish to hear!
She's already playing to far larger audiences and on her own terms - her Autumn 2007 headline tour sold out within hours of the tickets being released - and all that in advance of the release of her début album. Maybe that was part of the problem...

In just six weeks Kate Nash has almost single-handedly demolished a key tenet of the modern (for which read 'late 20th century' if you will) recording industry with her first single to be widely released - 'Foundations'!
I'm sure she didn't plan it this way but the lyric "holding on to the cracks in our foundation" has never seemed more apposite and nothing before it has done more to undermine the industry dinosaurs. It's fun, but also quite serious, and it grew to such prominence largely of its own accord - it virtually sold itself - and a did a very good job of it.

Nash is made of stern stuff and her album "Made Of Bricks" is released tomorrow; distributed by Polydor in the UK. It is incredibly good by the way and if anyone knows of a vinyl release of this album - I can't find one - could you please contact me here asap!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Summer at last; with it a new template.

I finally tired of the sage-green theme of the original template that has served me well for nine months, indeed ever since I started this journey into blogging. Summer has finally arrived here and so I decided to make a few changes to the template for a start.
I hope I haven't broken anything else while doing this! If you find that I have indeed broken something, or you simply don't like the new layout, please either post a comment or e-mail me.

August 5: I noticed a few quirks (including one image that had gone AWOL) this afternoon and have hopefully fixed them now. If you spot any errors of fact, then I'm probably responsible. Please just let me know!

Fed Up!

It is not me that is fed up, at least not at the moment!
'Fed Up' is a single by a Latitude 2007 artist that I was unable to get to hear live - Remi Nicole. I have heard a few tracks on the radio and I liked them all.

She has been much lauded and, having got hold of her single Fed Up c/w Go With The Flow today (needless to say on vinyl as such exists), I can see clearly why. By traditional logic she should sing hip-hop or urban grime but she just also happens to be a rather fine acoustic guitarist and songwriter as well. As such she has, probably wisely, decided that her future lies as a solo artist. On the back of this single it is hard to fault that choice...

The next single, Go Mr. Sunshine, is released on 20th August on 2 x 7" variants and even a CD.

The forthcoming album is showing all signs of being yet another much-anticipated release - by me at least. It all makes me wonder what is inspiring the London music scene at the moment. The thing about it is that this new generation of artists and bands is not only committed to live performance; they have often actually built their reputations on the basis of it. Of course not everything important happens in London, Brighton, Leeds, Glasgow and even Canada (for that matter). Way out west there lies a little-loved place called Staines...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The battle is over...

As of today EMI finally has a new owner: private equity group 'Terra Firma' announced shortly before the 1pm August 1st deadline, set by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, that it has secured acceptances from shareholders representing more than 90% of EMI shares, which allows it to now forcibly purchase the outstanding equity. The deal values EMI at approximately £2.4 billion.

This will hopefully put an end to the turbulent times at EMI; although one of the 'big four' it, like the rest to be honest, has been struggling with the fast changing nature of the music market. I have levelled criticisms at all the major players previously in this blog and do not plan to repeat them. What I will add here is that I believe (and indeed hope) that this outcome is far better than had EMI been swallowed up by Warner Music, which looked a distinct possibility a few months ago. Bigger and better together is now looking like a suspect policy in the current situation - and two wrongs certainly don't make a bigger right.
The boss of Terra Firma, Guy Hands, has a reputation for his hands-on approach and hard work. He is also something of a maverick - while still at school he was allowed to choose any rôle to play in 'Macbeth'. Remarkably, he chose to be Lady Macbeth!

For a very brief history of EMI (and thus of HMV too) I suggest the following link: