Spotify Discover Weekly: a review

Spotify launched Discover Weekly at the end of July, making Mondays a little less terrible with specially curated playlists and keeping its customers out of the clutches of Apple Music. I wasn’t initially convinced that the service would be of any use to me…like most people, I just Shazam all the alt-rock I hear at Starbucks and call that music discovery. Plus, I listen to a pretty eclectic selection, from Elliott Smith (for contemplative strolls) to the gangsta rap I play at predrinks and parties for a smidgen of cool. In short, how could it make any sense of it all?! Would it suggest experimental Latvian hip hop or white noise? The Longpigs or JoJo? Oh, and it had divided opinion online…

I was surprised, then, that my first Discover Weekly experience induced an existential crisis of French New Wave proportions. I was bombarded with bands I hadn’t encountered in ages and desperately wanted to explore further: Mercury Rev, Sonic Youth, a few Scottish bands from the 80s like The Vaselines and Josef K, Les Savy Fav. There was an element of rediscovery, too, with big Velvet Underground and Stones tracks, and a couple of songs that I hadn’t heard since the days when I exclusively wore 500% polyester clothes from Camden, like Whitechapel by S.C.U.M.

This week offered some strong suggestions, too. FIDLAR’s skate punk vibes made for an exciting new discovery; The Fall’s extremely off-kilter cover of Lost In Music by Sister Sledge (complete with garbled Franglais intro) made me giggle; I stopped and paid more attention to stirring folk of The Staves. Minimal Britpop revivalists Superfood made a decidedly Blur-shaped impression and I starred about twenty songs by The Modern Lovers, a 70s/80s pre-punk band from the US I’d only heard of in passing.

Overall, however, this week’s playlist didn’t totally deliver. Sure, the big rocky choruses and guitar music from snivelling indie upstarts of the previous playlist remained intact, but it wasn’t as disquietingly Orwellian as I would have liked. An ancient Killers single took me back to vomit-flavoured houseparties circa 2008. The most ubiquitous Stone Roses, Smiths and Pulp B-sides jostled for attention, just in case I’d been in a coma for my entire life. And what to make of The Liquidator, much-loved reggae instrumental and, erm, UK football coverage staple. Inexplicably, there were no less than three ska/reggae songs in this week’s playlist, as jarring as peach and aubergine emojis permeating polite conversation. As I only listen to Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits once every ten years or so, I may well have had my account hacked by the Jamaican Julian Assange.

Spotify might not be able to cook me pancakes on a Sunday morning, but its playlists often touch on the music I really, really like (think “38 year old’s severely weathered iPod classic”). Nevertheless, a human touch will always trump top secret algorithms. That, and a little less reggae.

Spotify, will you take a walk on the wild side?

A bad musical feminist?

*Whilst I’ve had releases from Sleater-Kinney and Girlpool on repeat of late, I’ve been teetering between riot grrrl and girly girl for as long as I can remember. The top comment on a new SK track on Youtube (“welcome back ladies… save us from beyonce, j-lo, nicki minaj, taylor swift, and the rest of these pop ho-bags.”) got me thinking about whether it’s possible to embrace seemingly opposing cultural output. (Clue: it is) This is also the question at the centre of Roxane Gay’s half-memoir/essay collection ‘Bad Feminist’, which I highly recommend.

Am I a bad musical feminist? A little bit of context: at 11, I had convinced myself that I was a half-decent songwriter. Every echoey middle eight, however, betrayed a love of the bubblegum pop of Britney, Xtina et al. Even when I was ploughing through visceral chords – stripy rayon tie and twelve Claire’s Accessories crucifixes around my neck – my lyrics were all based on my maths class crush, the Aaron Samuels to my Cady Heron (minus the Lohan looks and plus a little caustic acne). I was effectively a one-woman Xenomania.

Somewhere between 13 and 14, I started listening to the kind of XFM-endorsed Noughties indie which makes me highly nostalgic nowadays. I had a nu rave phase along with half of the free world, followed by the obligatory Converse-and-Nirvana era, followed by a few months spent lurking around Camden Market chowing down lukewarm curry. Somewhere along the way I even got into Joan Jett. I had a guitar, an amp…and neighbours who probably wanted me dead.

(I looked like a bit of a wee rebel didn’t I?)

And YET, I couldn’t quite shake off my frivolous, whimsical, girly self, nor my acute awareness of my love/hate relationship with my gender. My MySpace page was a homage to Donnie Darko and Oscar Wilde (cool) but also featured copious paragraphs on my love for miniature Japanese toys (not so cool). And then it happened: I stumbled upon (via MTV2 maybe?) the duality of the riot grrrl sound, the not-so-latent anger that came with a side order of heartbreaking harmonies. Plus, ripping to iTunes was all the rage, so you could pick up a lot of quality cast offs at charity shops and the second hand section of HMV.

I wanted to be like the L7 girls, Veruca Salt, Bikini Kill, Sleater Kinney, even Courtney Love (my first blog was, of course, written anonymously by a Miss Love-Cobain), but even when I saw the subversive femininity of these artists at work, I struggled to reconcile this with the part of my being that unironically owned a dance mat.

In the end, I grew up, started writing this blog, listened to everything going and somehow avoided making a proper decision about it all. Oh, and the great postmodern vortex that is the internet continued to mess with the idea of “high” and “low” culture. Latter obsessions with Elliott Smith, Suede and Aztec Camera coincided with an interest in following every two-bit talent contest going, obvs.

I do sometimes still look at myself in the mirror, however – head-to-toe Topshop, a couple of unrebellious piercings – and feel as though I could have made a choice. I could’ve got better at the guitar instead of spending my late teenage years listening to Pitbull remixes in sweaty West End clubs. I could’ve embraced the “unnatural” hair.

But hey. “DO I REALLY GIVE A FLYING FUCK???”, I think, downloading the new Taylor Swift album, and giving female peace a chance. Being a full time Riot Grrrl would be too contrived and maybe a little exhausting. You’ll find the real me reading books with titles like ‘Bad Feminist’, teetering precariously between Joanna Gruesome and Little Mix, and having occasional existential crises on the internet. I wouldn’t – and probably won’t ever – have it any other way.

…parce que je ne sais pas mes chers

*

photo (1)

 I am now in NW Spain to get better at Spanish and breaking my selfie ban. The skirt cost five euros on sale at Zara which – aside from surviving absinthe – is my biggest achievement of the year so far.

photo (4)

Here’s the first bit of graffiti I found in Spain, on the back of the toilet door in the bus station. After no sleep for a full twenty four hours it seemed intensely poetic. “We’re the Eiffel Tower lit up on the 14th of February”. Oh, it was a little piece of Paris, I thought, as I finally got to have a wee after my near three-hour coach journey. Alas, it turned out to be a lyric from a song by some sub-Jonas Brothers Spanish boyband called Melocos (and here I was thinking it was a 17th century poet). Will be interesting to see what other musical offerings I can find out here, preferably not scrawled in the bog.

Anyhow, here’s what I did in the latter part of 2013 whilst living in Montmartre/Pigalle and finding out about life under various guises (student, journo, translator , professional hide and seek champion, actual twenty-one year old human being etc).

 Rock En Seine Festival. SEEN TRENT REZNOR LIVE ☑

Phoenix were amazing, although on home turf in France I suppose the crazy reaction was no surprise. They are France’s great indie hope and Bankrupt was amongst the best releases of the year. Likewise Laura Mvula, although she didn’t draw a large crowd 😦

 MaMa Apero soiree

 Made In Chelsea s6 preview among other telly bits for The Guardian

 SPECTOR live review and Le Trianon venue guide (coming soon) for my friends at Gigs In Paris

 Benjamin Clementine  singles and new one from Sivu x Marika Hackman for The Line of Best Fit. Also contributed to the Best Fit end of the year rundown. 

 Bought my fave albums of the year (Shulamith by Poliça and Kurt Vile’s Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze) from a great record store called Balades Sonores in Paris’ 9th arrondissement – will 2014 be the year I properly get into vinyl?! Started shopping in a little vintage store with great music which made me appreciate the Stones more.

 Gained an obsession with bullet points and Boursin, and went to Disneyland where I realised that the golden age of Disney is definitely over.

– GIGS:

 

 Jake Bugg at L’Olympia, Paris, 21/11/13

I walk past an Elton John poster on our way into the Olympia. Now there’s an artist you can rely on to still be standing! (shitty pun very much intended) As for Jake Bugg…in ten years time will he just morph into a morose version of Frank Turner? Or will he age backwards, headlining Glastonbury 2024 as a five year old child? Whilst I jest, so much of THE BUGG FACTOR comes from his age (19). Weirdly, the French promoters have decided to almost fetishise this – three days after the release of his second album they’ve billed him as a “British Justin Bieber”, which as well as being hilariously inaccurate is quite offensive to pauvre Jake who is rather established in his own right. Once he starts playing, however, his age just isn’t relevant. A few things get a little loss with a French crowd, notably new track “Two Fingers”, which historically wasn’t really the Gaellic insult of choice. The crowd here flick their peace signs at Jake like wannabe harijuku girls in accidentally benign fashion.

Shangri La, that aforementioned second album, means lots of new material, with lead single “Lightening Bolt” getting a great reaction. Ultimately though it’s tracks from his debut album like “I Can Taste It” that get the best reception. Has he already peaked? Unlikely, but if he wants to hang onto fans the media and PR machine which surrounds him should start focusing on his pitch-perfect voice and quality songwriting, not the fact that he would definitely get ID-ed buying vodka at Sainsbury’s.

 Suede at La Cigale, Paris, 11/11/13 (part of Les Inrockuptibles Fest).

Ever drunk slightly warm Heineken in a room full of people double your age? When the room in question is La Cigale and Paris-loving Britpop pioneers Suede are playing and the cups have Debbie Harry’s face on them it’s quite enjoyable. Temples are support, not that their Seventies-inspired look/sound is given much attention. (Toy, moody band du jour and recently hyped on BBC 6 music by Brett Anderson himself, would have possibly been a better choice).

Suede kick off with Still Life from Dog Star Man – it’s weird hearing it without the strings but poignant nonetheless. Next up are two tracks from 2013 ‘comeback’  Bloodsports: Barriers and It Starts and Ends with You. Still unmistakably Suede, but nicely matured like good cheese or wine or Brett himself, who has the same magnetic quality but a little more wisened. Trash, from my favourite Suede album – Coming Up – is riotous as ever, the crowd joining a sweaty Bretty for anthemic chanting on the chorus. Animal Nitrate is next. This song encapsulates Suede – the band, the brand – at that crucial moment where everything grew from in 1993. It’s as dark and ambiguous as it must have been at time (I’m not too sure however, being in the new wave of Suede fans and having been born in 1992).

They dash from the old – We Are The Pigs – straight back to the new, but nothing ever feels jarring or outdated. The Drowners – one of my favourite Suede songs from their debut feels so powerful and hopeless, with Brett ensconced by fans in a rather surreal scene (see below) yet also detached from everything around him.

Back to the future for more Bloodsports before a few classics that no quality Suede set would be without: So Young and Beautiful Ones. The latter is my all-time Suede fave track and singing along, wildly off key, was the highlight of the night. A little encore ending in acoustic mode rounds off an amazing set from a band who somehow are both effortlessly nostalgic and always, erm, In Fashion.

*

HJD

December 2012 playlist

AHsgjegfjhkeahenbaf! my first ever blog as a twenty year old.

Extremely scary/exciting times. I can’t post on time so apologies about that…my hands are usually red and freezing since I lost yet another pair of gloves.

Mundanity aside, since my last blog I’ve been listening to SO much music, ungodly amounts for someone who doesn’t even carry an iPod around anymore…and written a few cultural bits and bobs (this for The Guardian on Cuckoo, this on Womens Hour (radio show, not the band), again for The Guardian and also live music reviews for The Fly (Frank Turner at the O2 Academy in Newcastle) and Hooded Fang at The Cluny in Newcastle for NME!! (should scan this in soon)). Now all I need to do is write a list of my top tracks of 2012 …but before then…

I’ve stopped writing essays/reading Rookie for five minutes and opened my diary. This is my diary…I made it myself:

 

Inside you’ll find: workyperky, a list of potential train times for going home to London (picking.the.trains.that.don’t.stop.too.lazy.to.move), the spanish word for bruise, some pictures of slugs I drew in a café with the worst service ever (40 minutes for a coffee…jog on…no wait I’ll just stay and draw slugs in a passive-agressive fashion) and some notes on the new + nearly new music I’ve been listening to lately. If you want more new music I recommend the newly-launched new music blog http://thisbandthatband.tumblr.com/, Robbie over at  http://theflashpod.tumblr.com/ and of course BBC 6 Music on the radio… anyhow, here are the bits I’ve copied out of my diary:

Turnpike Glow – why.isn’t.it.summer.2013.already.

China Rats – this safe but punchy (yeah, I’m not sure how that works either)  foursome sound like they drink K Cider out of Cath Kidston mugs. In other words, incredible. Fellow Leeds boys The Sunshine Underground seem an obvious reference point.

PINS- another fourpiece. They like strobes. They like fringes. They like pillow fights. They shop at River Island for checked pants and ask boys on street corners for filters. PINS are the sort of band I’ve been waiting for an invitation to join since I found myself watching Girls and eating chinese takeaways on a regular basis. Building up an underground following, 2012 saw the release of the Manchester girls’ first EP – ‘LUVU4LYF’ – on Bella Union. A dark and rousing mix of abstract noise and punk riffs, its perfect for moments of emotional crisis or, erm, long bus journeys. File besides: The Kills, Siouxie and The Banshees circa Israel.

Cassius – This is the noughtie-tens. The noughtie-teens. The noughteens. A legendary French electro duo bring minimal house, electro house, tech house, deep house and probably some other varieties of house to this Boiler Room session at cool Parisian hotel W Opera. See http://www.theswitch.fr/ for more or just hop on a Eurostar, preferably juxtaposing Carven with Primark. Just don’t bob up and down like the kids in the vid.

Allah Las – The high production values and excessive ‘ahs’ are self aware nods to  ritual reinterpretation and their self-titled debut is a pleasure to listen to…but will enough listeners persevere with three minute chunks of the 70s that sound like they should be on your dad’s iTunes wishlist? If you can deal with Alabama Shakes and have a Magic Numbers CD hiding in a drawer somewhere then you’ll probably find yourself whistling rather than gritting your teeth.

OLD REVIEWS

‘cos everyone loves an old review that’s been sitting in the extension of my diary (read: Gmail drafts folder) for a few months. Plus Alunageorge are finally getting exposure if the BBC Sound Of polls still have any relevance…

Alunageorge – Put Up Your Hands (released Jul 2012)
Welcome to 2040. A cryogenic Bird and The Bee have been defrosted in Blighty, and pumped full of Pro Plus, Serato and Janet Jackson’s Number Ones. Oh wait, it’s just the new one from Alunageorge. Wholesome r’n’b grooves from George. Sugar-sweet vocals courtesy of Aluna. Even though the most salient point of the song is raising your hands à la Fedde Le Grand, Fat Man Scoop and, erm, S Club, this futureproof slice of garage-pop is achingly cool. For fans of Disclosure, (ironic) snapbacks and Nandos.
Cheatahs – The Swan Track Review Oct 2012
Two parts painfully constructed nineties vibe to one part sub-Pavement bassline equals something catchy…but unfortunately for Cheatahs the familiar quickly becomes the predictable. Why frontman Nathan Hewitt ignored his calling as an Elliott Smith-influenced strummer (Cheatahs started off as a lo-fi one-man project) to make such mediocre music is anyone’s guess, but now that he’s touring the UK with The Cribs  I hope he enjoys eating Skips with the Jarmans in a layby off the M4.
Ellie Goulding – Halcyon Album Review Oct 2012
The electronica has been turned up to 11, but even a romance with Skrillex didn’t jumpstart Ellie G’s career as a full-on dubstep artist. She reprises the folksy approach she took on “Your Song” for the title track amongst others, but for the most part this is rejected in favour of a polite brand of bassy, dark and tumultuous electropop. Her timorous lyricism about love spreading like fire through her veins is drowned out by complex synths on “Don’t Say a Word”. Likewise “Figure 8” is ruined by prosaic production…yet it seems that juxtaposing overdone and half-baked was the idea here. For every overly nasal forte into clubland there’s another forgettable chart-orientated Goulding classic, destined for a BBC 1 Christmas ident. Even appearances from Tinie Tempah and Calvin Harris can’t make this album into something special…it lacks definable soul for the most part, and pointless vocal meandering gets repetitive. Unfortunately, this messy mix makes occasionally profound ballads (“JOY”, “Dead In The Water”) feel turgid, and perfect pop gems (“Ritual”) calculatingly formulaic. Perhaps a dubstep career would help Goulding re-focus and work out exactly what message she’s conveying to her fans…”Anything Could Happen” she sings on the track of the same name…but, erm, does anything actually happen at all?
*
H
xx

Post under construction…

Eg im writing it now. Warning: may contain copious amounts of info on the Isle of MTV in Malta, where I along with my friends at Cornetto, had an incredible time…the very muddy Brainchild fest which I wrote about for The Guardian’s student blog *struggles to paste link on phone*… and last night’s Gaggle gig which was more than a little bit crazy.
Hj x

Massive blog recluse/”radio presenter”

…and that’s what my business cards will eventually read. I am a blog recluse in the sense that I hardly ever blog but I will shortly be resuming my normal end-of-the-month service 🙂

edit: the title is hugely misleading and makes little to no grammatical sense but whatever, I always write them first. Technically I’m an anti-recluse. Rant over.

I haven’t reviewed anything in a little while (although I have The Drums coming up in a few weeks, gah!) so here are some links to my reviews for a gig which I went to recently in my uni town…

Sam Brookes w/ George O’Brien & Anna Costello 

Purple Radio review

The Fly review 

How to be better than Fearne Cotton with a cherry on top* –  myths about student radio plus my first three late night playlists

...I really don't take myself very seriously...promise...

*it’s fairly easy tbh

So, you may well ask, what have I been doing with myself? I’m a recent convert to student radio since coming to uni, having previously thought of it in fairly pejorative terms. Some myths to clear up on that one…

Myth number 1 – you don’t have to say anything relevant because hardly anyone is listening, and if they are then they won’t be relying on you as a major news outlet.

Mythbusting – yes and no. It’s true that audience figures probably won’t be anything higher than the number of hot dinners you’ve had this week divided by the number of drunk Dominos orders you wish you hadn’t. That said, there is still a sense of responsibility to the listener, so aimlessly rambling on about your week probably isn’t going to get you that Sony award. Conversely, sounding like a self-important LBC compere is just as pointless. So I’m straddling somewhere in the middle, and trying to convey how  passionate I actually am about music.

Myth number 2 – you have to play commercial music all of the time. 

Mythbusting – if you’re in a daytime slot then perhaps it may be the case that you are asked to play a specific amount of tracks from A/B/C lists, but that means that there is still some room to manoeuvre. I applied for, and was given, a late night slot which fits my night owl personality as well as allowing me to play whatever I want, e.g.: an eclectic mix of 70s, 80s and 90s gems, new indie music and electronic bits and bobs.

Myth number 3 – student radio isn’t professional standard.

MythbustingObviously the training provided by student stations won’t be the same depth as commercial training or accredited certificates, however it is often hugely relevant and high quality. Learning about how to use a mixing desk and operate programmes, even if they’re inferior/different to those which you may find in a work environment, is always going to provide you with transferable knowledge anyway… As for the standard of output, that depends on the presenter and their own knowledge and commitment I suppose. No pressure for a self-titled teen freelance music journalist then…

Now for my first three playlists…

Week one’s Spotify playlist 

Norgaard - The Vaccines 
My Everything - The Thirst 
Video Games - Lana Del Rey 
Come As You Are - Little Roy 
7th Date - Spectrals 
Punching In a Dream - The Naked and Famous 
Avenging Angels - Space 
So Far So Long - BB Brunes 
Ain't Nobody - Clare Maguire 
Lipgloss - Pulp 
Either / Or - Elliott Smith 
Don't Rush - Tegan and Sara
Lullaby - The Cure 
 

Week two’s Spotify playlist 

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me - U2	

Wake Up	- O. Chapman	

Follaton Wood	- Ben Howard	

Dna - The Kills	

Hotel California - The Cat Empire	

Hounds Of Love	- Kate Bush	

Bad Feeling - Veronica Falls	

You Do Something To Me	- The Kinks	

Duck Egg Blue	- The Kabeedies	

Somewhere In My Heart	- Aztec Camera	

Shady Lane - Pavement	

Once Around the Block - Badly Drawn Boy
 

Week three ‘s Spotify playlist 

Cavern	- Liquid Liquid	

Road to Recovery - Midnight Juggernauts	

Breathe Me In - Sam Brookes	

Heart Cooks Brain - Modest Mouse	

Sentinal Bloom	- SCUM 

Phantom Limb - The Shins	

Forget You All the Time	- Cloud Nothings	

Get Lost - Tom Waits	

You Make My Dreams - Hall & Oates

Bottle Up and Explode! - Elliott Smith	

So Light Is Her Footfall - AIR	

69 Fanny Street - The Peth	

This Is the Day	- The The
 
Recommendations are welcome for my show, which is on purpleradio.co.uk on Thursdays from 11pm to midnight 🙂 
 

Vice mag gets geeky *guffaw*

That looks like it says gruffalo doesn’t it? Anyhow… it’s been a while since I tuned into Vice’s vids, but here’s something which caught my eye, probably because I’m a huge anime nerd at heart…

A Dragon Con Odyssey – now on Motherboard 

Do you know what Dragon Con is? Nor me. But Vice do. Cosplayers are usually more likely to fit into a “Don’t” page in the mag, but on their shiny Motherboard video site you can find out about the intriguing traditions and heartwarming stories behind the ridiculous masks, silly wigs and awe-inspiring accessories courtesy of Vice’s comics editor Nick Gazin, who visited Atlanta’s annual comic convention. As with all Vice documentaries, there are the usual suspects (strange paedos and socially inept obsessives do feature) which are offset by oddities such as a goth band with an obvious Depeche Mode influence and a run in with Carrie Fisher which is more than a little Borat-esque. A must watch for nerds and jocks alike, which can be seen here. 

HJ

x

This month I’ve been…
Watching: Top Boy (as was half of the free world I’m sure)
Reading: The Sealed Letter – Emma Donoghue 
Eating: too much, all of the time 

Catching Up

If you’ve just discovered the magical ramblings and professional articles then hello, I’ m Hannah and I’m a wordaholic. Welcome back if you’re one of those who has commented, critiqued (or just laughed at me) over the past 12 months.

So, its been almost a year since I kicked things off; using this site in part as a way to share my truly random findings, my best music, fashion and lifestyle pearls and also to link to my work elsewhere. It has been met with complimets and confusion, so much so that I think it might be time to reorganize things a bit, and redefine… something I’m not going to start now, because I have two months worth of material to just offload here…

So here we are, catching up with the calamity.

I’ve been told to write in black from now on by a load of very valued readers, but my green font and pink background are part of what makes me the ‘Schindler’s List girl’ of music websites. Yes, I know that film was about the Nazis. Maybe I should’ve just stuck with a comment about my Daria-like cynicism.


Anyways, I haven’t enirely been slacking off from writing in recent months. Firstly, I did another truly fantastic work placement at NME  which meant listening to lots of new music and helping out in the most beautiful building in London* where anything can happen! (*my view entirely).

Inevitably, there are mundane, everyday goings on (stalkerish post, terrible demos, arguments over deadlines), but not many work experience girls can say that they’ve got to swoon over The Drums in person, who popped by to record a session for NME Radio. The Kink(s)y pair were a Stroke(s) away from me (those were much better in my head)..I digress: I was three metres away from the sparkly Speakeasy-city charm of the polished-and-deconstrcted duo. They are a dream of 1950s/60s surf soul and self-conscious noughties prose and repition. Choirs and restless brass accompaniment courtesy of these beach boys put me at a night spent in passionate conversation on a Brooklyn fire escape in swirls of iced (latte) rain. I hate on the bougeousie far too much for my own good, but The Drums are romantic and possess – for fear of tarring them with the same brush as CSS, The Shins, Fleet Foxes – a future-forward cult cool on tracks such as Instruct Me which is usurped by mixtape grainy licks of grunge rhyme”Submarine”, which seems to cite The Polyphonic Spree and Placebo.

Oh yes, and they look like they should be working at A&F.

Proper highlight material there, as well as the fact that I got to present an opening for a Roland Eye Session (a new performance venture from the guys at Roland Amps/Keyboards) and attend an unforgettable session with hardcore sweethearts Failsafe.

© Kerrang/Bauer Group

Here are some pics from the Eye session:

The boys performed their Kerrang anthem ‘Only If We Learn’ as we glided over London in our spacious pod. Not only did they give a stunning, intimate rendition, they were also some of the nicest guys I’ve yet to meet. It was easy to cast aside the Metalhammer image of a 2000s metal band being a masked gang of animal-sacrificing Viking warriors, greasy-haired axe-wielders or a pre-pubescent suicide forum with fringes…and feel what I call ‘soulcore. Metal music, courtsesy of the soul. Fellow worky Anna and I couldn’t believe our luck, and typically we spent most of the journey snapping panoramic shots on our BlackBerrys and getting soundbites about the band’s next gig which was the following evening in Newport.

And our express tickets meant absolutely no queuing. Haa.

Check Failsafe out here, and keep your eyes peeled for the video of the session which will hopefully be up here very soon!

I haven’t been totally slacking from the writing side of things, however, and I reviewed the BBC Emerging proms for my friends over at Converse Music last month – you can find that review here !

By sheer coincidence, the gig I was reviewing (which, I unfortunately didn’t enjoy at all, see above!) was at the Roundhouse on the same night Failsafe supported Bowling For Soup. Would’ve rather been with the latter bands.

I also wrote a little piece on my favourite fanzine, The Pix, run by the incredible journalist, DJ, fashion goddess of i-D Hanna Hanra. Yes, I would love to meet her, and not just because we have the same name bar one letter.

This picture pretty much confirms her status as like, SUPERCOOL…like. Anyhow, here is what I wrote – flippantly and sans title – for her fabulous website.

Here’s a review of a single I did whilst at NME. Be warned…its not too pretty:

The Duke and the King

Summer Morning Rain (Loose Music/Universal)

What exactly does ergonomic mean in relation to keyboard design? That is a question I pondered as I struggled to capture a sense of creation behind the faceless and self-indulgent mundanity that is ‘Summer Morning Rain’. Optimistically billing themselves as glam, folk and soul, these Later alumni deliver no more than unremarkable join-the-dots guitar which borrows more than slightly from Tom Petty’s ‘Free Falling’. Cliché seeps from every apparently cultish Brooklynite pore via sweet but ultimately dry observations. If there is one noble thing about The Duke and the King, it is their ability to endow the masses with genuinely comforting, uncontroversial blues. However, they seem to be swaying in the middle of the same dead-end dirt track inhabited by tributes, buskars and other imitators…and for this they will never be the raconteurs an original fairytale of New York.

Don’t think I’ve ever written a positive single review.

I went on a journalism course this month, run by the brilliant Debate Chamber, which confirmed for me that I definitely want to keep slagging people off writing and commenting and thinking, and ultimately that I WANT TO BE A JOURNALIST! Very useful course either way, would really recommend it to anyone thinking of joining the media.

Anyways, I’m going to have to get some sleep, feeling pretty vile and in need of these

those:


(yeah, they’re limited edition Snoopy tissues I went crazy for aged 12, ok?!)

and this

(the beautiful Converse/heel combo I’ve seen about London town, possibly an asian copy of a catwalk style but they are buff…even if they smell of pvc and polystyrene, and the heels might break at an awkward moment resuling in severe injury/loss of feeling in your toes).

Merry Christmas .. I’ll be back to give a cynical overview of the world very soon.

Yours,

x x x x

Currently watching: The Thick Of It, Sat, 10:40, BBC 2. Hilarious, sharp, culture-rich, punchy even after the commercial success of cinematic spin-off In The Loop…if it were a person, I would marry it, if only for the witty banter and eventual inheritance.

Currently reading: Hippo Eats Dwarf by Alex Bosse…a detailed look at Urban Legends through the ages. Well-written, if not slightly alarmist with its gruesome tales of the link between human hair and soy sauce. Pass the bento bucket!

I’ll leave you with a image from my favvvvvvvvvourite website of the year, thisiswhyyourefat.com. Hot Apple Bacon Turnover With Icing is wrong, dirty and makes me so very hungry.

Grands bisous.

Kill the musical mockingbird?

Yoooo. Shit that is even more 2004 when written than in my vacuous little head.

I’m toying with the idea of giving my entries lyrically-inspired names again. Yes, I used to do that a lot…then I got bored and decided to stick with these random titles. Like when they tried to give Neighbours episodes names for a while back in about 2003. Needless to say, it didnt work…after all, if something isn’t broken, why fix it with poor wordplay.

Not much continuity there, really. I’m rambling incoherently like a Clay Aiken song now. God, he used to scare me… like Elton John if he had been raised on a diet of maize and corn in Africa, malnutritioned suitably and then dumped in the Deep Sawwwth to push corn and meatloaf around his plate and experiment with MAC on the weekends. Praise Jesus! I DIGRESS, this month has been one massive load of change for me, probably because I’m in a different school and because my best friend has moved away from London. So here I am – alone – wondering whether a drag queen has ever innocently emptied some of MAC’s Crystal Avalanche eyeshadow into a small bag and been arrested for possession of crack.

I’ve also been thinking about music…surprising eh? My current hang-up is how much people are TOTAALLY in lurrrve with the oh-so-folsky, uninspired class of today rather than enjoying the masters of yesteryear. Ok, so its plain stupid to say that everyone around nowadays is ripping off what was popular 10 or 20 or even 30 years ago. But to prove a point…

CASE IN POINT NUMERO UN im too lazy to write a proper caption: DEVENDRA BANHART

Let’s start with the random, relaxing imagery. ZEN BABES. GOOD FUNG SHUI…

ⓒ Life Magazine
ⓒ Life Magazine

I’m not gonna lie, I have literally wasted yearss listening to Little Yellow Spider by this guy since it was on an Orange advert about three years ago. I have recurring dreams about daisies, salads with pickles, banjos…and this ditty whirring out of an anologue radio like the Mad Men picnic scene from last season. The cutesy if slightly retarded intonation (“shpider”, “munn-key”) and the fucking repetitive guitar strumming of three strings challenged me to think of greater things like ABCDEFG. And to check under the bed for little yellow spiders, such was my OCD. Anyhow, so Devendra is a MAN, just fyi, and if you know your stuff about the uberhip, underweight Californian classes then the idea of giving your child a Hindu name and a Star Wars inspired middle moniker is nothing new. As Gwyneth ‘Goop’ Paltrow said, its like yoga, Blackberry, colon cleanser, Pinkberry, yoga, (little yellow) spider diagram of potential names.  Devendra is a talented performer, and reeks of nonchalant South American charm like a child called Pepe running without shoes across a field shaking a maraca…dispell any images of them running away from a militant attack on their delightful, colourful village and you have Brand Banhart. It’s haut culture for a generation who know that the West Coast means programmes from The CW and red string Kaballah bracelets blocking up the gutter.

Just for good measure, watch this smugfest gastroporn. Deboning chickens is soo much less exciting than she’d wish us to think. Champagne vinegar and maple syrup weren’t made to mix.

My major hang-up is THE OLD MEDITERRANEAN MAN DRAWL. It might not be too obvious what I mean, but check out ‘Will Is My Friend’ by Banhart, and ‘Candy’ by Paolo Nutini for examples of this truly annoying tendency to sound like Herbert from Family Guy / Manuel from Faulty Towers. Paolo especially. God, I have tried so hard to enjoy his music, but something about his known skirt-chasing behaviour versus his elderly voice at only 22 years makes me want to chuck my head down the toilet and spell out Crimewatch Update with my puke.

Devendra’s main problem is that he has focused so hard on being the cool, vaguely foreign bearded guy who also shops at MAC – the sort whose lift you politely decline, clutching at rape alarm as you back away from the hemp-scented car with the Magic Tree and Eric Clapton slowly drifting in the breeze – that he has almost forgotten that he is an artiste. On first listen, ‘Bad Girl’ seemed the antidote to his love of playing some kind of Richard Gere/Anansie figure. Letting his voice melt down somewhat into an almost modern, Julian Casablancas-style with minimal animal sounds and not a ‘cultured’ Spanish word in sight, it seemed that ‘Bad Girl’ was a slightly more mainstream Devendra – moving his style along slightly to accomodate our need to feel included rather than left behind in a stream of confusion. ‘You know I taste Great’ on ‘At The Hop’ from an earlier album only ever evokes Tony The Tiger’ unfortunately, rather than moody soulfulness or even sexiness.  ANYHOW, ‘Bad Girl’ is a pretty song, but a quick Youtube confirmed my suspicions that he had been not only lifting the mood but the content. The M&S song – Albertross by Fleetwood Mac – may not have just been a point of reference here.

Dev: Count Dracula fanboii?
Dev: tender Count Dracula fanboii, moi?

And so, my slightly renewed faith in the artists of today lulled again. Plus, he starts miaowing halfway through the song which is enough to bring visions of a stool and rope into close view. I have been told before that I am a true 80s child, and often feel upset that I was born too late to be a true fan of the bands I really adore, like Tears For Fears. BUT, maybe there is something advantageous about being born in this join-the-dots age I guess. Sure, Florence isn’t Kate Bush, Winehouse is not going to go down as one of the greats and Pixie Lott is consistently cheesy, flat and smug, but at least this seeming lull is allowing me to explore what I might’ve missed in the time BC (Before Cynicism) whilst pretending to care about the crap floating out of Capital Punishment FM.

PS: I’m just bitter because my dream of becoming LA Reid’s bitch never happened. I wasn’t talent spotted (errr…why?!) and I don’t own a car, a house or even a wig like Miley Cyrus’.

But what I do have is the hope that one day we might actually get some people who play instruments, don’t mime when ‘live’ or demand shit like Blue Smarties and ten lines of coke just to do substandard sets and let people down.  Devendra, if you were British, I might salute you – not for your talent but for your strength of character. Pixie’s fellow Italia Conti alumni Newton Faulkner take note. Playing your only hit on an advert for your NEW ALBUM is even worse than your ginger dreadlocks.

After all, there’s copying other people, and then there’s copying yourself.

May CLAY watch over you and possibly infect your dreams into a nightmare of Disney and Deep Truth Highly Pigmented Eyeshadow Powder by MAC. He is a true American Idol. I haven’t been paid to sponsor any products but I am open to whoring out my writing space for blatant adverts.

LOVE THE JOBS YOU HATE,

YOURS,

hannahsig1

x      x     x    x


Reading 09: Hannah J Davies is waste…

Hannah J Davies was too busy living it up at Reading festival to prepare a blog this month. In actual fact, she almost came to a terrible end during Bloc Party, who obviously don’t understand the meaning of party. Their demeanours are most like Bloc Funeral.

D

I

n g    2009 MMIX.

Radiohead were amazing of course…in that offbeat, half-caring, underdone, overdone, thoughtful way that only they and a few other bands can lay claim to. It was an amazing experience, nonetheless: Hannah J Davies’ first Reading festival…breathing in dusty air and smoke, breathing out awe and idolatry as she watched her dream headline act. Thom Yorke’s Kermit-style croak of “wassup” did little to question his place as the awkward but ultimately genius Master of The Universe.

Anyways, enough about her, she is waste and didn’t prepare a blog for her readership. Let’s turn our attention to 3OH!3 instead, whose straggly swagger was current. “I’m Not Your Boyfriend Baby” separated the men from the boys, although ironically there was some plenty of couple action during the tune.

Master Shortie infected our minds with his subliminal Demon Headmaster promotion of – in no particular order – his tour, album and trainer line. Phew! His cover of Prince Charming by Adam and the Ants is standout, and rather memorable if not ironic.

Amateur H had an amazing day, even though she was almost crushed and owes her life to three gentlemen who aided her in crowdsurfing out of aforementioned Bloc Mortuary. She sustained a twisted ankle and a few bruises, and lost a friend who she has consequently not seen since but who got out of the lion’s den alive.

Reading was eyeopening – a small, self-sufficient world just beyond a motorway and a McDonalds where anyone – from former teachers to friends of friends of friends could be found. Communities were formed, but alas Amateur H was not part of any particular one, going only for one day, and – primarily – to see T Yorke and co. deliver classics such as Karma Police alongside …wait for it… two new songs, one of which had never been heard before! So much so that I now don’t remember what it was called, but boy was it good to be involved in that tenuous make-or-break moment.

It was a success, and lame claims to fame include seeing Edith Bowman’s hair and shoulder pads sans neck, floating through a glass window, and standing 10ft from Vampire Weekend’s drummer at Radiohead. That is lame, based on a VP set which was a happily mediocre crashcourse in mediocrity. Although Ezra has to be in the top 10 musical Jewish hotties…way above Simon & Garfunkel at any rate.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs are given a resounding Yeah Yeah Yes by this writer after an amazing set…and Karen O’s pointlessly yet highly important costumery. A true, crazy legend.

So home we went, with the search for our missing friend over and a train which featured artbitches snorting cocaine (literally) and a bunch of perving wideboys. I’m sure the french people would’ve been of no help whatsoever had the rapey atmosphere exceeded its 12/10 mark.

So, alls well that ends well…and I’ve had enough music to last me a good few weeks.


hannahsig1

x x x x




The Lady Is a Tramp

…sang Lily Allen back in December when she appeared with other ‘celebs’ to see the new year in with Jools Holland. Was she singing about a certain ‘Lady’, or simply reciting a song chosen by her mangagement, is the baffling question which I would now love to disect, whether or not you actually care 🙂

A TALE OF TWO CITIES (AND THEIR DAHLINGS):


In the blue corner, LDN’s Tesco-Alfresco Finest, Lily Allen

The obligatory fairytale: Once upon a time, an unconvincing indie ‘grimesterrrrr’ turned into an unconvincing LA dahling. First propelled to fame by daddy dearest after enjoying a supposedly awful unbringing, said ‘grimesterrrrr’ turned being a brat into her career.

Likes to… : Cringeworthily cry about how fat, ugly and talentless she is via MySpace like a 13 year old emo, cuss down other female celebrities, play dress up at boutiques, complain about ‘old men’ stalking her with ‘long-lens cameras’. Firstly, zoom is usually not a good thing (see Now’s ‘Circle of Shame’ etc…you know…VPLs, sweat patches, cellulite, etc). Secondly, not all paparazzi are old. In fact, some are young and date celebrities (admittedly only sleazy ones like Britney’s ex Adnan Ghalib…)

Most likely to say: I’m just a normal lundun gal, honest…ooh but Chanel shoes are amazing!!


In the red corner, LA-LA land fruit-loop Lady GaGa (1)…see also GaGa – (2) – noun, a liar or an impersonator, i.e.: Lily Allen pulled a GaGa last week…

The obligatory fairytale: There was once a singer who seemed to be the poster girl for post op success. In fact, she was a woman, but besides that she was totally fake, so much so that everything from her long ‘platinum’ hair (read: ‘peroxide and hair extension partayy’) to her KKK-at-Christmas costume (see right) may have made people assume she was once Little Mr Riding hood… Or in a No Doubt tribute band…

Likes to… : Party, presumably? She went to school with Paris Hilton, which seems to say a lot about this Lady’s attitude. ‘Just Dance’ definitely doesn’t ask to be followed with the words ‘but it’s 3am and I’m too tired!!’ I imagine that she practices her moves whilst doing ordinary stuff like say…walking over men wearing stilletos and busting into random houses (this didn’t take much of the video to said song to asscertain..)

Most likely to say: “Just Dance”, “Just Drink…Probably No Rohypnol In There”, “Just Get In The Kiddies’ Paddling Pool And Ride Shamu With Me”, “Just Rent Some Friends For The Night”…

HERE WE GO…

Hannahjdavies.com takes an indepth look at the two high-living ‘heirheads’…:

It’s always been okay to have multiple occupations. Unless your name really is Martine McCutcheon, then you can be a singer moonlighting as an actress and vice versa; a reality TV star turned perfumer turned writer; you can even be famous just for the size of your assets, whether they’re paper, bricks or simply silicone. However, projecting an image of classiness and professional standard is always advised, first and foremost. How can one talk about money in the press let alone brag about a bank balance which makes Miley Cyrus’ paycheque look like child abuse?

1. Ange's pouty lips and hot hair scream smouldering screen siren, rather than just screaming like a siren

The trick is not to go in for all out P-O-S-H, whether you were born so or have recently acquired your squillions (the idea being that one obviously didn’t go to finishing school in Switzerland if one feels the need to prefix her name with a word with makes the real aristocracy cringe, (right Vickaaaay Beckham?) and if one did, then one obviously didn’t take much away from their education other than a Blackberry crammed full of viscounts and heiresses Pins…)

2. Paris shows that showing off isnt always necessary, in a £30 dress from Brit store Dorothy Perkins...
2. Paris shows that showing off isn't always necessary, in a £30 dress from Brit store Dorothy Perkins...

Anyhow, I digress. The idea is to hint to a life well lived rather then advertise it, neon sign and all. The Cuban cigars in the ashtray and the red soles of your Louboutins will tell your illustrious story without the ‘umms’, ‘likes’ and references to that ‘thing’ you had with Russell Brand.


(Not unless that actually IS the story…take note 2008’s Georgina Bailie (aka Andrew Sach’s granddaughter)).

Basically, it’s all about “keeping it real”…or giving the illusion that you’ve kept it real. Nouveau riche is a brassy and un-classy look, and, having heaped a title onto herself, I expected so much more from one such madame.

US export Lady GaGa – real name Joanne Stefani Germanotta – not only went to school with and dresses like Donatella Versace but also sings, quite repetitively, of her obsession with money (see “Money Honey”), fame (not just on title track “The Fame”), the paparazzi (eponymous ditty “Paparazzi” says it all), men (“Boys, Boys, Boys”), champagne (name checked a fair few times) and Hollywood (I just couldn’t listen to anymore of this pretentious twaddle by then, sorry).

Hearing her repeat “we’re beautiful and dirty rich” over and over again without a hint of sarcasm or irony or modesty or gratitude is quite depressing, honestly. In times of economic struggle, GaGa’s material obsession seems to amount to little substance. In fact, I think if you left this Stefani in a petri dish overnight, then maybe she would dissolve into a perfectly formed mountain of glitter.

I say this simply because she is glamourous, shiny and overtly sexual, yet totally and utterly boring. There’s less lyrical depth than the previously mentioned paddling pool on “The Fame”, and the title was annoyingly etched into her fly-eye glasses on the cover (because rich people do stupid things like that, surely?)

A true child of the mid-80s, she unfortunately still appears to erk back to a time when stress meant glamour, glamour meant money and money meant financial security and happiness in the bottom of an expensive bottle.

= modern day slavery...
= modern day slavery...

Oddly enough, the next single to hit (and consequently inflict GB onto) my ears after “Just Dance” (translation: Christina Aguliera rip-off writhes around and commands us to follow her in doing so for a tiring 4:10), was Lily’s latest, “The Fear”, from her new album “It’s Not Me, It’s You”. It is catchier than anything from the GaGa stable, yet annoyingly it is just another song about flashing the cash (and I mean this literally – in the video Lily parades around with dancing hotel staff à la Rick Astley). As for the astronomical amount of swearing which fag-ash Lil manages to pack into this 3:45 homage to money (and Gordon Ramsay?), I was totally appalled. That and her moronic, hopefully ironic, lyrics about learning that people die whilst mining diamonds. Did she bunk all of her Citizenship lessons, one has to wonder?

Being two girls who enjoyed privileged upbringings to say the least, both Lady GaGa and Lily Allen are doing a fantastically unconvincing job of sounding like the aforementioned grimy, dirty gold diggers, and are identical in every way, from their blunt eye-skimming fringes and hair extensions to their piss-poor lyrics.

I’d rather have real chavs turned princesses any day.

In fact, here’s the real winner:

hannahsig1

x x x x

Watching: Mad Men…I sense an upcoming feature about this amazing show…

Activity of the week month: Tweeting about various things, which is totally not egocentric whatsoever.

Listening to: the sound of my own voice. N*Sync (no lie).