Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Born To Die - why the fuss actually matters.

The best thing about Lana Del Rey and the album 'Born To Die' is that she has finally got many more people to bury their fears concerning on-line comment and share what they really feel about it. That is good work in anyone's book.

I don't actually care about the detail of what they feel or say, because everybody is entitled to their own opinion on a whole host of issues concerning this release... it is this virtual-audience participation that matters more than anything else. This is what music is supposed to do.
I'm not sitting on the fence as concerns the album: I like it a great deal and, some admission, I admire the decision of (major label, Universal) Polydor to take a gamble on the somewhat controversial. Whether it will stand the test of time as an album in its own right is anyone's guess. Some that don't, at least in their time and place, are later realized to have defined a moment.  Maybe it will, maybe it won't...  but that is never a reason not to try.  
History is nothing but all of tomorrow's yesterdays and much of it happens accidentally. Should she choose to quit the major-label hotchpotch, or should Interscope decide to let her go, I can imagine several truly independent labels that might be willing to take her on and probably be quite amenable to the way she wants to portray herself through her music. That is when things might become really very interesting indeed.

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 9 - The Graphite Set

It is something of a return to Thoughts on Festivals 2011 but for a good reason I believe. This band, a rarity in featuring a trumpet player as a key member, is here seen playing an opening set on the Tipi Stage at End Of The Road 2011 (EOTR 2011).

They were, back then, known as 'Lily and The Hackabouts' and they were very good.  A recent name change has seen them become 'The Graphite Set'. The songs are dependably good - the most recent ones particularly so.  Check out Genova, Chelsea Boots and (most recently revealed) Golden Ship.
Influences? Indie and arty, yes, but never to excess. I could write a list, but not one that would be a criticism of what they do, therefore I won't waste my time doing it. 
And they are very good live too, they gig regularly in North London in particular, but deserve a wider audience.
The Graphite Set is a band to watch in 2012 - and a priority to go-see live.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 8 - Anxiety, Ladyhawke

Well I just had to mention 'Anxiety', the very welcome follow up to her self-titled début album from 2008; not simply because I heard the first stuff from it today and I think it sounds good but also because I saw her live at Latitude 2009 and that was very good indeed.

It is currently slated for release in the UK (Island/Universal) on March 19, 2012.
More to follow including, with any luck, some UK festival dates.
I could, and intend to, add quite a few more acts that have that same potential and given enough on one festival bill I could still be tempted to venture out to another. Anxiety is also very much a part of life for festival organizers just at the moment:
There is no shortage of worthy acts and artists seeking bookings, far from it indeed but that is a double-edged sword.  Selling festival tickets in 2012 is going to be tough, there is no doubt about that and the 2012 Olympiad is not going to help as much as it hinders. Booking the acts of the moment will be more important than ever but that will only come at a cost - one many festivals can barely afford, let alone risk and that they are extremely unlikely to be able to pass this on in ticket prices, 'up-front costs', or indeed 'on-site costs' such as catering (the latter would surely come back to haunt them in 2013).
If, and it is a big if, the general economic situation were to show real signs of even a modest revival, particularly towards the end of 2012, then 2013 (including the return of Glastonbury that is absent in 2012) might actually turn out to be tougher still.
The focus will be firmly on festivals that provide quality in all aspects;  great entertainment, good facilities, and also value for money. There may be some disappointments, some festivals that vanish, but I think that the sector will rebound from this and quite possibly in ruder health.
Note added March 30, 2012:
The current, revised date for the release of 'Anxiety' in the UK is May 28, 2012.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 7 - No Direction Home

No, nothing to do with One Direction at all, this is a new festival. No Direction Home comes with an impeccable pedigree and the tickets are available now. If you have ever wondered about End Of The Road Festival but thought that North Dorset is just a little too far to travel then this is for you. Same team, same ethos (and even the Somerset Cider Bus for us wurzels gone Midland!). The location is Welbeck Abbey and the dates 8-10 June 2012.

End Of The Road 2012 returns, of course, to Larmer Tree Gardens in North Dorset, for a seventh gig on 31 August - 2 September 2012 but it would be unwise to wait until June to buy your ticket for this.
Some acts have been confirmed for both the above-mentioned (see links for details) and I'm sure to comment before long.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Music 2012 - Things to look forward to...

I've got a list, several in fact. I have always had lists in so far as I can remember. The question that matters is not so much the items on them but their very existence and what I choose to do with them.
I have been inspired to mention this facet of my life by the following blog, which I highly recommend:
It is, almost by definition, in a list all of its own. For some reason I currently can't add to my side-bar 'link list' but these things happen. I can, if you are reading this, still update and add posts.  I'm wondering if I've broken it in some way or that, by accumulation it has simply become a list-too-long (it saves the no-longer displayed entries). If it disappears for a short while then fear not. I'm not interested in its long-invisible content and I am pretty sure that you are not either as it is supposed to be my recent listening list.  To that general end, and if it is not otherwise working normally by some currently unspecified time tomorrow, I shall abolish the existing one and attempt to start a new one.
*** the listening list in the side-bar is operational again, starting from scratch with an artist from Bristol who has just this afternoon come to my attention - Rebecca Cant.***

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The death of music (is actually a myth).

The good news is that after the pre-Christmas hiatus, which seems to have become less prominent and lengthy over the five or six years that I have been taking more careful note, is ending and with a vengeance. I could suggest several reasons, all rather more significant than my paying attention, for this. It led me to look at some of the posts that I had written over the last two years in particular and, to be honest, I'm quite pleased with what I chose to include and why.  One strange thing that has occurred to me is that sometimes a perceived lack of interest, at others quite the opposite, makes me want to write something and I'm not really sure why that might be.
[Eeek!!!...  this is Radio 1 at 19:54 on a Monday evening and this is new trip-hop with a dub-step edge  - but it is still all ship-shape and Bristol fashion. I don't recognize it - and it might very well actually be Scandinavian, which says a lot about several trends.]
On the other hand never bet against Canada. Kathleen Edwards' - Voyageur LP is released in the UK this coming Monday - I'm now (21:24) listening to it, and quite legally so, while writing this.

Therein lies a conundrum - some would say that the last decade has seen the death of new music - what with the decline of, and therefore ever more risk-averse, major labels - but the majors have vested interests and therefore don't want [the music-buying public] to know the whole extent and context of the story.
I'm not joking here and this is just a start: If I wanted to find three or four hours of worthwhile new music (new to me or just plain new) to listen to each week - totally legally and free - that would actually be no problem at all, even given my sundry likes and dislikes, and all that is without really trying.  I probably already do so and piracy is not involved in any way. I have no problem with paying the going rate for new music and if that is primarily channelled via independent artists, labels and music stores then that is absolutely fine by me and a goal that is becoming ever more realistic.
Then again there is the balance to be found with time listening to my existing collection and not least because many of these serve as reference and comparisons to all the new things.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Just the silly season... but more seriously.

I didn't intend to add anything until Friday but something, and in this case people who came here searching, was to pique my curiosity. I've been looking through the photos that I have taken at festivals over the last few years - and I'm still open to suggestions for ones I need to go to, preferably in late June, July or early August 2012.
I'm going to state some of my recent opinions here but please feel free to disagree. Weather aside (of course it didn't help but it is beyond anyone's control) I was faintly underwhelmed by Latitude 2011. I have always gone there for the music and, in 2011, I think that the emphasis had moved too far away from that. There was much good music, no doubt about it, but not the same attention to detail. The Lake Stage is a good indicator: in 2008 it was amazing, in 2009 mostly unused, while in 2010 it was stunning again but in 2011 little thought had apparently been put in to it. Some of the acts were good, if you could find out when they were on.
The other music stages were pretty good but, as the competition in both UK and abroad improves, things are going to get tougher still. Micheal Eavis has hinted at this and, surely, he is one with the least to worry about. I can see his line of thought however; Coachella 2012 is to be a 2 x three-day festival over successive weekends at the same location and with the same acts at both. Imagine this: you go to both and, unless you chose to do so, see nothing twice. And that is not to mention that the Coachella 2012 line-up is to die for!
UK festivals might have to learn from this and fast - while there is nothing that we can do about the weather (and we are not alone as the extreme horror of Pukklepop 2011 and Indiana State Fair 2011, both caused by extreme weather that could not have reasonably been predicted showed) except to take better steps to mitigate at least the reasonably foreseeable downsides of it withoute stifling the whole scene. Everything is dangerous - its just a matter of degree.
I'm not wishing to sound too serious here, indeed I think that being over serious (about the content) is actually part of the problem.  
This was the Obelisk Stage at Latitude 2007 and not half as silly as the performance became... unforgettable for all the right reasons, just as festivals should be.

CSS Roxxx!
Pulling the trick off, year after year, has often eluded both bands and festivals.

Monday, January 09, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 6 - totally acoustic.

This is another post that starts with an act that I have seen live at a festival, in this case EOTR 2010. This is Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell and I doubt that you can imagine any much more rustic than this at a festival. This one wasn't muddy at all but when travelling light it is best to fear the worst and go accordingly booted.  It certainly isn't some clever get-up and the music will, if I have failed to so, soon dispel that impression.
Kite - Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell is already released (Rabble Rouser Records, 2011).
I'd love to think that they will be back at the nicest of festivals in 2012, for they are the nicest of people. If I had to put a bet on it (which I'm in no position to do) it would be either of 'No Direction Home 1' (8-10 June 2012) or 'End Of The Road 7' (31 August - 2 September 2012). Be that as it may you need to check out the artists and acts already announced...
The next acoustic artist you might already have heard of, but probably not for the reasons that she took a year off for music before going to university - and that was over three years ago. Then things happened and she has only just this week started to do what she intended to start then, which is to record her first album [no release date, no title].
A whole lot of writing, for that is what she originally intended to do and also did, will stand her in good stead and I think it not unlikely that she will appear at one or the other of the above-mentioned festivals.
An ingenué she certainly is not, neither is she an attention seeker, and so while it was not her intention when she moved to London to then spend two years recording and touring with Bombay Bicycle Club, it is quite some achievement. Her solo vision is however undiminished - probably much enhanced by the experiences - and it remains her original aim.  Various comparisons have been drawn but in most ways they are unwarranted as neither she, nor indeed they, seem willing to become enemies over any perceived musical territory. There is quite enough space for them all.  If Lucy Rose is at a venue near you in 2012 then that is somewhere you need to be. 

Sunday, January 08, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 5 - Something, Chairlift

It seems a long time since the début album - Does You Inspire You? - was released and then I had the pleasure of seeing the band perform live. It has in fact been a long time; the album was released in 2008 and I saw them at Latitude 2009 but it is still an album that I listen to quite often.  I had become aware that there had been certain 'band issues' and just before Christmas I was wondering when and indeed if we would hear more but never got around to searching, so thanks to Addi and the blog Listologies for letting me know.

The result, from a reconfigured band and a reinvented Caroline Polachek on vocal duties, is 'Something'. The US release date appears to be January 24 (Columbia) but from what I have read the UK release will be through Young Turks on January 23.
Any which way I'm looking forward to this release. I liked much of the electronic-based indie music that was coming out of Brooklyn in the period 2008-10 but, at least to me, it doesn't seem to have been as prominent in the last eighteen months or so. Perhaps I have just been distracted by other things, but that could be about to change.
You can stream the track 'Sidewalk Safari' here.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 4 - Europe, Cyrk and things

Two more sophopmore albums, as it happens I said it might be like this, both of which are by acts/artists I have also already seen live and this makes me more confident about saying that they are unlikely to disappoint.
The first is London-based Allo Darlin', although singer and ukelele player Elizabeth Morris is Australian. Here they are (she has a band too) playing the 'Big Top Tent' at EOTR 2011 and I don't think I've used any pictures from this set before.

At the start of the gig there were a couple of hundred in the audience, by mid-way it was something else and prompted the comment that, "If we look nervous it's because we are. We've never played to an audience this size." It didn't show but before the end and the result of a much-passed bit of paper she read out a request from Joe to his girlfriend, both somewhere mid-way back in the crowd as it now was, and she said "yes".
The new album, 'Europe' will be out soon, released by Slumberland Recordings and distributed by FORTUNA pop in, erm, Europe.  You could call the music twee-core, but only at your peril. Who cares what it is "labelled" anyway?
In some ways you could say much the same sorts of things about this artist too. One who as it happens performed on the Garden Stage at EOTR 2010 in support of her début album 'Me Oh My', so here she is doing exactly that.

The new album, released on January 17 in the US by The Control Group, is Cyrk.
Note added January 10, 2012:
If you want to hear the above-mentioned 'Cyrk' on free, legal stream try this:

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Discuss: "Warpaint is an Electrelane rip-off."

I have just remembered why I still love blogging so much. The title of this post is the enquiry, to a 'well known search engine', that led an unsuspecting reader to 'Thoughts on Music' barely ten minutes ago.
Good on you, anonymous reader, and I can see your line of thought. I have, rather luckily, mentioned both the aforementioned acts several times. We could all use much more of this kind of provocation and then some reasoned comments: be they in agreement with the motion of the debate or not does not matter one bit. Neither is it the time for me to lay down my thoughts on the matter - I have never considered it in these terms until just now.
Over to you, dear readers! You start and I'll reply.

Monday, January 02, 2012

New Music 2012 - welcome to the New Year...

Just a few things to think about...

New music will come from somewhere. Americana will, almost certainly, not let you down. This, Aunt Martha - Norway, ME is well worth a listen.
Furthermore, if you like Dylan LeBlanc's first album Pauper's Field (2010) his soon to be released sophomore album might actually be even better and there is no more apposite time than early January to dig out some new pictures of live music in the English summer.
Dylan LeBlanc -  Garden Stage, End Of The Road 2010.