If I wasn’t boring I’d be at the Camden Crawl blogging with Vice, enjoying fringe events such as the Nightjar (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, Cumberbitches take note) and the film festival curated by Guillemots, as well as obviously listening to music from the likes of Tom Williams and The Boat, Little Comets and Beth Jeans Houghton. Except I’m cripplingly boring and my A Levels (officially) start this week.
Instead I’ll just churn out five of these babies:
“You never review new singles!” “Done” (Apr/May)
The Shoes – Cover Your Eyes (Crack My Bones LP released March, single TBC on Southern Fried)
Late night French radio is good for two things as far as I’m concerned. Besides the super-detailed meteo, sometimes a gem slips through the wireless with all the ease of a Parisian breeze. They’ve mixed for a menagerie of indie bands and had their music featured on Gossip Girl but that’s where the comparisons with serial remixers Justice, samplers Daft Punk and advert song duo Air respectively should end. As brilliant and French as those acts are, Cover Your Eyes is a brooding, dramatic slice of indie which leans more towards the pop than the electro. Seemingly taking its lead from Gaelic influences as well as British indie, its main hook and lyrics (e.g.: the “mathematics of a heart laid bare”) could have been plucked from 80s new romanticism…but how fresh it sounds. I think the whole album could be a winner, as long as I don’t hear “Cliche” on a cliche-d Toyota advert before 2016.
For fans of: Delphic, Zach Hill, Sebastien Tellier.
Japanese Voyeurs – Get Hole (was released 18th April on Fiction)
It’s not very often that I get ridiculously excited about a band who were formed before about 1997, or a band like Japanese Voyeurs who are possibly all talk. Question: is it possible to be a grunge band in 2011? Question: is it possible to have a pain-inducing riot grrrrl wail when the only Veruca Salt of your childhood probably courtesy of Roald Dahl? I’m going to stop asking questions because its ruining the crazy contrast between Exorcist-girl vocals and irregular Pantera-esque chords. Japanese Voyeurs aren’t Japanese but they’ve definitely been doing some voyeurism into Courtney Love’s back catalogue (is “Get Hole” actually a ridiculously obvious ref?!) … and, coupled with even more angry postmodernism, it works. Question: is this for real? Answer: I stopped caring after the first 30 seconds. Memo to Taylor Momsen: watch and learn from Romily Alice, Little J.
For fans of: the 90s, Rolo Tomassi.
The Sound of Arrows – Nova (was released 25th April on Geffen)
Winner of the most self-indulgent video ever award (they made it themselves), this is most certainly a guilty pleasure from the Swedish pair. This is Basshunter and MGMT collaborating at a party hosted by a porn baron, and it fails to conjure up the 80s vibe of Hurts because its a join-the-dots attempt at mainstream electronica with a homoerotic vid I think was intended to go viral. Controversial its really not, however it is strangely compulsive thanks to their Scandinavian pronunciation and predictable themes of stalking (“I’ll never stop following you”). The Top comments on the video sum it up…at the tenth play, I think I have Stockholm Syndrome.
For fans of: Saint Etienne, Pet Shop Boys, The Teenagers
Barbara Panther – Empire (Album to be released 16th May on City Slang)
Barbara Panther is a Rwandan singer from Brussels via Berlin, mixing potent electronic beats with poetically gothic lyrics, however because she is black she will ultimately draw superficial comparisons with that other black electronic pop singer, Santigold. I personally think any such comparisons would be a waste of time…Barbara Panther sounds like she’d be far more at home among the 70s and 80s artists on my favourite leftfield compilation ever, Disco Not Disco from Strut (which I’m lucky enough to own in physical form). She is vintage and trance-like without wearing her influences too obviously. The Lom remix of Empire deconstructs and reassembles this colonialist anthem (just kidding) with ease, and it is possibly better than the (utterly crazy) original.
For fans of: Flykkiller, Bjork, Summer Camp
Frankmusik – Do It In The AM (released May 3rd on Cherrytree/Interscope)
Club 18-30 choon which is the wrong side of electronic. Frankmusik’s polished-up vocals plus an appearance from Far East Movement (“who?” I hear you cry) can’t save this turgid cross between an X Factor winner’s third single and the theme tune of a BBC3 documentary on safe sex. Do it the morning kids, in the AM, before your parents find out or you fail your GCSEs! Oh, how the (relatively) mighty have fallen. On the subject of this vacuous piece of Americana, Mr Frank told some kind of Far East Movement fansite that “this new record has got a bit more finesse to it”, which I’m assuming he thinks is the French word for overproduced. “I’ve finessed the songwriting, the songs are a lot more punchy”, he continued, before defensively adding that his critics could “suck a dick”. FYI that would be in the PM because the AM is far too jam packed with bitches and hoes and Facetime with the lads back in East London. Pitbull circa 2009 he ain’t.
Watch!! There are royalists and republicans alike in VBS’ latest production Rule Britannia: Royal Wedding. I loved the wedding myself (softy at heart), as well as tat like this , but this vid shows the crazy extremism of some and the anger at what is seemingly a symbol of conspicuous consumption by the firm during crazy austerity era 101, as well as the view from the Kings Road and the set of a porn film which really does have the crown jewels. Another great doc which explores the politically sensitive relationship from the point of view of the great unwashed and beyond – some royalists, others ready to burn the palace.
*For what its worth, I love them, and genuinely wouldn’t have had any objection to them shredding quantitively-eased money into beautiful confetti and endless rainbows.
Happy new year. I mean it. At the beginning of last decade we were all too busy wondering whether all of our computers would crash and chaos would ensue. Ooh, and it was the beginning of a new century, a new millennium, how extremely novel. 2010, by comparison, snuck up on us like an itchy throat leading to a flu. Yes, I have been bed-ridden due to a horrific flu for the past few weeks, which is when I saw the year ticking away with extreme alacrity. Christmas was pretty good – Mad Men and 30 Rock box-sets of course – but something about 2010 was strangely scary. I started listening to Blur’s ‘End of the Century’ everyday in pensive anticipation before realising that it wasn’t the end of a century at all. It wasn’t even the end of a decade with a particular scent. I thought about all of the cool stuff that has happened since 2000, and none of it really jumped out at me as original. In the 2000s we recycled music, films and books. We remade really good things into not so good things, like Psycho. Even the top 30 films of the decade featured just two originals . Anyways, I digress. I have loved the past 10 years so here is my review:
The year when giants of mainstream metal Metallica sued poor little college boys Napster (future millionaires cough cough). Also the year when Madonna brought out the electronic smash ‘Music’. I’m not sure if I knew what the bourgeoisie was when I was 8, but hell did this tune sound fresh. It still does a little. Madge helped the anti-piracy ship by getting pretty damn angry when this song was leaked on the internet four months early. Can’t mention rebellion in a song and then get angry over errrm rebellion, can you? But still she can do no wrong in my eyes.
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: ‘Beautiful Day’ by U2. Yes, it’s the ‘football song’ thanks to our ITV. Yes, it wears pretty thin, pretty quickly…but Bono and co’s ability to create arena anthems full of optimism and pretension is second to none. Philosophical father of music, Michael ‘Losing My Religion, Everybody Hurts’ Stipe stepped off the moral high ground for a second to declare that he wished he’d written the song himself. Bono returned the favour by praising REM’s ‘Reveal’ the following year, but REM haven’t made a record so full of gritty personality and optimism since Shiny Happy People. In 1991. Carpe diem, Mike.
The iPod launched in 2001 to much Daily Mail hype. I was still in primary school, so I wasn’t in the first batch of white-headphone-wearers who were mugged for their £200 jukeboxes. ‘A glorified Walkman’ according to my mum…but did a Walkman have Music Quiz, Brickbreaker and a cool b&w screen? Thought not. Too cool, even though there are four ugly control buttons on iPod snr (later removed and integrated into the click wheel). Little did we know that everyone would have an iPod a couple of years later, and prices would drop as a result.
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: A huge loss was felt in the world of R&B when soulful sweetheart Aaliyah died aged just 22. I remember being on the motorway as a little un and hearing a news bulletin about her death in a plane crash and feeling really, properly sad despite my geographical location (somewhere in the South of a little island called England). A massive talent had passed away before reaching her prime, and the world mourned her to the sound of ‘More Than A Woman’ from her eponymous, posthumous album which topped the charts in this year. Passion, Instant…a timeless tale of sexy suggestion and no submission from La Haughton.
September 11th 2001 was a tragic moment for the whole of the world, and it led comic-book clerk Gerard Way – who at the time couldn’t sing and play guitar at the same time – to form a foetus which later became the phenomenal, global emo spawn ‘My Chemical Romance’. I know I just said ‘carpe diem’ but carpe-ing by starting a band aged 22 with little experience? They were signed in record time and, from 2002 onwards, alt-kids worldwide from Philadelphia to the Philippines clung onto the new breed of dark heroism… and the rest is history.
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavinge. I don’t care if you’re laughing, Sk8er Boi pretty much summed up every clichéd ‘she’s out of my league’ love story ever and delivered it to us complete with a backing track that sounded suspiciously like one of those ‘play along’ ones from a Guitar magazine tape. She half-talked, half-sung her way through what I thought was the antithesis to a bubblegum pop song with its narrative of kiss-chaste between a ballet-dancing girl (read: tease) with friends who ‘stuck up their (presumably collective) nose’ at a sk8er boi (yes, we had just discovered texting too). As it turns out, the black-clad, three-chord-playing Avril was actually a blonde in disguise, but we wouldn’t find that out for a few years so let’s just remember the way things were.
It was Mrs Robinson Revisited when Simon and Garfunkel embarked on a reunion tour in 2003. Also returning, albeit after a shorter hiatus of two years in 2003 was our Britney with ‘In The Zone’. It was not her best, but shall surely be remembered if only for the graphic ode to Britters’ solo bedroom exploits ‘Touch of My Hand’. Of course, its nothing in comparison to 3 – released sex, sorry, six years later – but it caused a stir at the time, as did squeaky-clean Spears’ VMA kiss with Madonna and Christina Aguilera. The transformation, which had started with the relatively tame wannabe-subjugation of ‘I’m A Slave 4U’ was complete, and set the tone for the decade when Britney would become a bride, mother, mother and bride again, not to mention a shadow of her wholesome 90s persona.
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: Delta Goodrem first bounced onto my radar as Nina Tucker on Neighbours. Sadly, I didn’t even need to Wikipedia that fact. The Down Under Diva was destined for stardom like plenty of Ramsay Street residents before her, and in a strange twist from other actress-turned-singer alumni she actually played a singer in the programme whilst signed to Sony (a trick later reused to launch Caitlin ‘Rachel’ Stasey from schoolgirl to star in 2008/9). Unfortunately Delta had to leave the soap when she was diagnosed with a rare cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but she recovered and rose to popularity with ‘Born To Try’, a song debuted on the soap. The saccharine-sweet piano and nasal tones gained Delta a UK number 3, which can surely only mean she was robbed. In a strange twist of fate, she ended up with a pop idol from across the globe, Westlife’s Brian ‘Kerry Katona’s leftovers’ McFadden and the pair are currently engaged.
– NME’s top song of the decade, can you believe it.
The year I went to high school. It makes me feel nervous even now..all of those people, the noise, the crowded spaces, the canteen queues that seemed to stretch for miles in the baking sunshine and the possibility of getting lost on my way to the toilets. Pantera guitarist ‘Dimebag’ Darrell was shot dead in this year by a mentally ill fan, although it would take me a few more years to discover the genius of 1992’s ‘Vulgar Display of Power’. It was also the year when No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani hit the mainstream with her reggae-rockstar status invigorated with new-found R&B/Harajuku funk fusion to create Love.Angel.Music.Baby, kicking off a L.A.M.B franchise which continues to grow today with a clothes line and (pretty good) perfume.
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: Mormon rockgod Brandon Flowers was an 80s dream as he characterised a jealous boyfriend in ‘Mr Brightside’, and when The Killers debuted on Saturday morning kids tv I resented the goody-two-shoes aesthetic of this whiney, shy little man. Who on earth was Brandon Flowers and would he be all over cool lists and future charts with his bashful eau de anti-fame like an American Chris Martin? ‘Mr Brightside’ answered my perplexities with a simple YES with its perfect composition and background-music capabilities. We could choose to listen to this swirl of deliciously repetitive electronic guitar and bass or simply stick it on in the background whilst playing The Sims. And I quite liked that.
Kanye West warned us about Golddiggers who don’t mess with no ‘broke niggers’ in 2005 with help from a cast of (deceased) musical legends, a tiny Sheffield band exploded with their odds-on bet that we’d look good on the dancefloor and a cast led by a flower-print catsuit wearing Brazilian ordered us to “make love and listen to death from above”. But there was also a Maroon 5 obsession on my part, probably started due to my obsession with another A Lavinge.
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: I first heard ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’ by Fall Out Boy whilst watching an MTV2 chart show, something I used to do pretty often once I had my iPod, iTunes and wanted to waste my iNheritance in advance. One of the first songs I downloaded was this slice of American alternative culture. I hadn’t listened to The Shins or Brand New yet (forgive me, Jesus) but I really liked Fall Out Boy and this schoolboy heartache in a strangely high key for a pop-rock song was comforting. I downloaded a few remixes. I ordered a t-shirt…from America. If only I’d had a premonition – by the end of the 2000s FOB would be trying the R&B route too, and I’d be sleeping in that fetching yellow top. A couple of years later I’d understand those John Hughes refs.
My best friend and I used to convene at my house on a Monday after school, and this changed to Friday sometime around 2006. One day – either Monday or Friday, but I will put my bets on Monday because hours of sorting out press releases at NME taught me that most albums are released on a Monday – we raced home. No time for Ritter Sport or gossiping by the funeral directors, no we actually ran home. At home there was a brown package with that familiar black writing – Amazon.com, Amazon.fr, etc etc. We quickly gleaned that it was from Amazon. Even though I had recently bought an iPod, nothing could’ve compared to my excitement as I unwrapped Red Hot Chili Pepper’s first offering in four years, ‘Stadium Arcadium’ – the first album I had pre-ordered from the internet and the most eagerly anticipated one I have ever wanted. Oh, the disappointment as we discovered the 2 disc mess. Since year 5 I had been ridiculously into the Peppers, probably egged on by a favourite Kiwi teacher who rolled into school wearing a moth-eaten ‘By The Way’ t-shirt and chatted ‘Californication’ and calculators with us. The biggest hit was ‘Dani California’ as I could’ve predicted from this menagerie of sci-fi influences and country casuals, although ‘Storm In A Teacup’ sounded like a haka at a zoo (apologies to the Kiwi teacher).
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: Naive – The Kooks. Oh, gosh it’s embarrassing now but for a little while we all loved Luke Pritchard. He was a pale, curly-haired little Lothario from Brighton who patronized a girl beyond belief with this ode to youthful nonchalance and could’ve been the face of a blood transfusion campaign. His pain showed through as he spoke of his adoration giving way to enlightenment: the girl (*cough*Katie Melua*cough) was naive despite her pretty face. Grossly overplayed, it wore thin after a while, once they – along with ‘rivals’ The View had bitten the dust (the busker trend didn’t really continue to top the charts after this point). Little did I know that I’d be jamming away to tales of ‘Wasted Little DJs at a little music festival called Reading in 2009.
There were – in my mind – some amazingly hot hits in this year. I discovered DANCE by Justice by way of MySpace (remember those days?) and one of my best friends came to school with Klaxons inked all over her hands. Such a shame that the aforementioned catsuit-wearer got her hands on one of the ‘Golden Skans’ boys but still. My love affair with late-night radio from about 2000 onwards meant I usually just got the best tunes from XFM, and LCD Soundsystem’s ‘North American Scum’ (ahhh haaa haaa) was glamourous, hip-shaking and more 80s than Brandon Flowers et al. One of NMEs picks of the decade, MIAs ‘Paper Planes’ was released for the first time, but we didn’t know it would go on to feature on the biggest film of the following year.
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: Radiohead laid it bare with ‘Nude’ from their revolutionarily-released ‘In Rainbows’. Creeps all over the world paid whatever they wanted to get their hands on the album, which included this unforgettable story with a haunting pessimistic quality. Sound familiar? Possibly, but Thom cut down on the lyrics and focused on the slow-burning instrumentals which made his band famous. The organic, tumultuous yet structured sound which is created warms like a fire at a campsite whilst remaining strangely frigid to the touch. It’s no soulful Karma Police and one interpretation could be that it is about altogether more dark matters, but it holds a link to the past through Yorke’s irreplaceable, fragile vocal.
The year where Katy Perry kissed a girl, liked it and hoped her boyfriend didn’t mind it. One of my opening posts for this very website, which you can find using the Archives on the right was all about how very annoying this song had become, but it was still hugely successful and helped to launch a career which has been all about fun, flirting and press coverage. Beyoncé was also turning the tables by wishing she was a boy, and X Factor songstress Leona Lewis surprised the musical world by covering..wait for it..Snow Patrol’s Run. A strange choice, but it was a hit here and in the US, pushing Lewis from Hackney to Hollywood.
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: Lollipop certified Lil Wayne as an ODB and also publicised that dreaded Auto Tune which has unfortunately become commonplace in all kinds of music over the past decade. However, it was so catchy that we didn’t care about the misogyny or magic behind this candy-sweet club tune. It was also a posthumous hit for rapper Static Major who produced tracks for artists, including – ironically – the also famed-in-death Aaliyah (see 2001). Explicit, ringtone-material fare but its popularity showed that Tha Carter could straddle between genres better than 2008’s rap/rock flop ‘Scream’, an album produced by Timbaland for Chris Cornell (a UK number 70).
So many brilliant albums were released in 2009. Blur reformed. Springsteen did Glasto (see my archives). Jacko died (see my archives). Lady Gaga burst onto the scene (see my archives). Somewhere in there Kanye (see 2005) even managed to hurt the feelings of a poor little country girl named Taylor Swift. Ok, so a lot of things happened and I wrote about a few of them, so I shall not just be lazy and recycle all of that here. I’ll just cut to the chase: my song of 2009.
hannahjdavies.com’s song of the year: Tik Tok by Ke$ha was essentially ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ on speed and Auto Tune. Someone stone me?
Oh Ke$ha, how misplaced my adoration might be. Vacuous ode to hedonism “Tik Tok” stuck two very manicured fingers up to frugality in a year which saw culls at independents and even some previously untouchable artists such as Marilyn Manson getting the boot from the majors. Along came a brazen blonde who didn’t have “a care in the world” but did have, in her own words, “plenty of beer”. She encouraged us to go to parties and get “a little bit tipsy”, and although this French (kiss) Revolution was a definite step backwards, some of us started to feel empowered by this sweet antichrist for modern feminism. Yes, she references P ‘sugar daddy’ Diddy and her concept of time is slightly awry…but Ke$ha, your poor oral hygiene (anyone for brushing their teeth with a bottle of Jack?) and Dixie overpronounication made 2009 a little bit more frivolous…like.
HAVE A HAPPY DECADE EVERYONE. GRANDS BISOUS AND CHEERS IF YOU READ THE LIST,
x x x x
PS: Thanks to all my readers for helping me get a crazy 2,000-3,000 people a day onto my site a few exciting times in 2009! Cheers to all of the people who’ve helped me get published in 2008-9, and all of those I’ve bugged for directions, phone numbers or press passes. It’s really appreciated, and I hope to work with even more great people and organizations this decade.