I wrote something marginally more serious about the Mercury Prize on the BBC Music Blog…

September 7, 2011

It’s over here. Why the Mercury Prize matters. I think it does. It’s not all about the final 12, you know. Everyone and anything can benefit, if they play their cards right. Ultimately, great music will out.


Forgotten Noughties #8: Meet Me in St Louis, Variations on Swing

July 7, 2011

Meet Me in St Louis Variations on Swing

Meet Me in St Louis
Variations on Swing
Big Scary Monsters, 2007

There will be those of you out there who haven’t forgotten this at all – it may even be a favourite to this day. I know that I frequently return to it. But to many Meet Me in St Louis were just a name on a supporting bill, an act that hit its natural ceiling of potential and was never likely to have proceeded further. This album, to these ears, suggests that’s far from the case (and that such observers are/were ignorant dolts). Ostensibly post-hardcore – in so much as its cues can be traced to a handful of turn-of-the-millennium emo bands and the jazz-influenced playfulness of the likes of Spy vs Spy, not to mention the ferocious right-angles riffery of At the Drive-In – it’s an album that dares where so few of its ilk actually did, despite so much hollow boasting. Word was (from the band, at the time) that its producer, Alex Newport, was forced to play catch-up with the band (or simply leave them to it, and nod approvingly), as their chosen timings were too much for the Grammy-nominated fellow to process. And sure enough, at several points this record sounds seconds away from collapse, its players at the very edge of their abilities; cohesion is stretched to near breaking-point, yet somehow the five musicians keep everything under relative control. Ambition is evident from the album’s song titles, most of which refer to films and contain enough twists and turns to fill a dozen Hollywood flicks. There are moments of surprise, touches of tenderness, and everything’s overshadowed by the feeling that this band is giving absolutely fucking everything to the cause. But, like so many bands with the widest horizons before them, relationships within the camp weren’t as perfect as they could be, and vocalist Toby Hayes departed just weeks after this album’s release. The band eventually signed off for good in early 2008. Members have since featured in acts including Colour, Tropics and Shoes and Socks Off.

All We Need Is a Little Energon, and a Lot of Luck

The Torso Has Been Severed In Mid-Thorax

And the best albums of May 2011 are…

June 6, 2011

Beastie Boys Make Some Noise

…on the BBC Music Blog RIGHT HERE.

If the above image doesn’t give away one of my ten picks from the month that was, clearly you’re not someone who could be said to “enjoy music”. Fair enough. I don’t enjoy aubergines. But I don’t read blogs about them – so why are you here?

On a related BBC Music Blog note, I wrote a fairly lengthy piece on the various contenders for this year’s Mercury Prize last month – the shortlist of 12 is issued next month. Read about the latest releases from the likes of Katy B, Wild Beasts (they might just be in that there best of May round-up, too), Ghostpoet, PJ Harvey, Mount Kimbie and Zomby BY CLICKING THESE WORDS.

I’m not sure this new Arctic Monkeys album is making either my best of June or the Mercury shortlist. It’s a bit… tired.

Mercury Prize 2011: albums which are likely to contest it.

May 25, 2011


Lots of Pretty Brilliant British albums have come out since The xx shuffled away with the spoils at the 2010 Mercury bash. I’ve written a fairly comprehensive guide to a spread of them on the BBC Music Blog – including releases by Metronomy (pictured, up there), Katy B, Ghostpoet, PJ Harvey, Adele and loads more. Click these words to go and take a look.

Forgotten Noughties #7: Adam Gnade, Run Hide Retreat Surrender

May 11, 2011

Adam Gnade - Run Hide Retreat Surrender

Adam Gnade
Run Hide Retreat Surrender

Loud + Clear, 2005

Sometimes I can’t write, my fingers frozen by what’s unfolding in my ears, even several spins down the line. That happened here: I struggled to review this record. I did find interviewing its San Diego-born maker easy, though – you can read the piece on Drowned in Sound HERE. Adam’s music – “talking songs”: spoken-word explorations of the heart and all its bruises, set to folk imbued with worn-down soul, wearing spit-shined shoes and drinking from whatever bottle the hand can grasp the quickest and tightest; disaffected, malformed, inspirational – really had no precedent in my head. Of course it did in The Wider World. But let’s not go there when we can sink, instead, into a record that to this day can leave me just a little shaken up. I should be grateful, I suppose. At least I can move now – apt, as Run Hide Retreat Surrender (commas, optional) is a collection inspired by movement, by travel, and all the experiences that one can encounter in the vast unknown of the USA.

Adam Gnade – Dance to the War

Adam Gnade – Shout the Battle Cry for Freedom

My pick of new album releases for April, 2011

May 11, 2011

Dutch Uncles - Cadenza

They’re published on the BBC Music Blog – click HERE to see what they are, listen to clips, watch videos and the like.

Album of the month is from Dutch Uncles – watch the title-track from their second LP (and first for Memphis Industries; pictured above), Cadenza, below.

A close second, the new album from Dark Dark Dark. I’ve been playing Wild Go a lot in the past week or so – it’s enjoying a second wind on my iPod. I’m hoping it’s not going to wear itself out too soon, as beside Wild Beast’s Smother (read about that HERE) it’s one of the most special, beautiful releases of 2011 so far. Watch the video to Wild Go (the title-track from said LP) below.

Just magical, isn’t it? (Yes, very.)