Monday, 30 November 2009

Top ten singles of 2009: Part Deux

Just when you thought it was safe to listen to those feeble Nick Drake records, along comes London Liked to say, "NO!" You must NOT flop down on the sofa and pine for weak tea and chiming acoustic melancholy. You must not moan unless you've got some brutal hangover bustin' up-side your head like some workman drilling the bastard road at 7am. You must... just... ROCK OUT to the other five (a bit like The Other Two only three louder).

You may ask yourself, where is my beautiful wife, where is my... OK, that's a joke more feeble than an entire chorus of Belle & Sebastians.

And typo-watchers, I mean a LOT of B & S, not belonging to them, so the punctuation is correct, OK.

You may ask yourself, why put numbers 6-10 AFTER 1-5? Surely, it's better if you reveal your fave singles of the year in descending order, to create some semblance of normality and a smidgen of anticipation, perhaps?

It would, but that's what THEY would expect and just like cackling old Freddie Sykes in The Wild Bunch, I've nothing but contempt for THEY.

6 Nothing To Worry About - Peter, Bjorn and John

Those ropey Swedish mo' fos who soundtrack adverts for third-rate DIY chains - pah, as if any real life Young Folks want to do DIY*, anyway. If you're young you should just pay someone else to do it or go without - are actually pretty tasty when they get children and handclaps involved.

In fact, this is the best use of kids in music since Josef Fritzl ran that choir. I mean, best use of kids in music since Gorillaz's exemplary Dirty Harry.

*I've spent enough of my life in DIY stores already...

7 Holiday - Dizzee Rascal

For reasons too dire to comprehend many sun-loving heads found themselves stuck at home getting meaner this year, instead of going off to large it on the Med'. One thing that did make The Big Smoke a little more bearable was this brilliant single from Dylan Mills. No wonder the Bow chap dropped the real name, though, eh? Sounds like he should be in Kula Shaker with that moniker.

I'm only joking, though, Dizzle, please don't kill me.

Some say the Raskit was better when he stuck to bangers like Pussyole (Old Skool), but Dizzee has a neat way of articulating simple ideas as well as any British lyricist right now. Even at the start of the grim London winter, a quick blast of this tune is as life-affirming as Madonna's hit of the same name.

8 Thou Shalt Always Kill - Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip (De La edit) feat Posdnous (Pos Plug Won)

The original was an instant classic and a rare occasion of comedy and music actually working together and not sucking like a cheap brass on his/her last trick of the night. Unlike, say Flight Of The Conchords.

This is not necessarily better than the 2007 version, but features Plug Won from De La Soul. Let's face i - and I don't mean the inescapable pointlessness of modern life - Plug Won could rap over the fuck-awful Go Compare advert and it would still sound like Brahms or something.

9 This Must Be It - Röyksopp

Everyone's favourite Norwegian chill-out/dance monkeys get busy with awesome Swedish ice queen Karin Dreijer Andersson (aka Fever Ray/one half of The Knife) and the result can only be the most heartstopping tranced-up podium-stomping moment on Junior, itself one of the albums of the year. On a record of great vocal moments, Karin's is the most scary but vital. The trio smacked it down the Royal Festival Hall in April, too. [Note: "Mark" - see link - was actually right about the badger hat, but wrong about Karin/Anneli.]

10 She Wolf - Shakira

Far better than anything else the Colombian crooner has turned out, this funky, sweaty number is worth hearing just for the jangly guitar and panting noises alone.

More fun than seeing how many five pees you can fit in your lover's belly button.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Top ten singles of 2009: Part One

The big Top 100 albums and singles of the decade chart is a work in progress, but here are the first five of my top ten singles of the year...

1 Fot i Hose - Casio Kids

There are no vocals in this short, sharp housey number from Norwegian indie-dance crew Casio Kids, but it's been the London Liked anthem of the year since the first listen back in January and a ringtone staple around these parts for most of the year.

Artists are often at their best when pushing themselves in new directions and here CK drop the New Order references in favour of a straight-up dancefloor sound. There's not much to Fot i Hose but supple bass, satisfying high-hats and a ridiculous synth riff, but every component part is essential.

It may be a wonder the bootlegging/mash-up crowd haven't thrown a few acapellas over the song but a much more interesting idea would be to get a top-flight MC to spit a few new bars over the top. Commercial success might beckon with a re-issue...

2 Tonight's Today - Jack Peñate

While not being utterly inauspicious, Jack Peñate's debut album Matinée suggested a future of rockabilly-tinged indie mediocrity. When Tonight's Today dropped ahead of Peñate's second album Everything Is New, jaws dropped. Was this the same fella with the check shirts and pleasant but unremarkable tunes, suddenly transformed into a shimmering tropical/Balearic love god? Had he been overdosing on the El Guincho records? Whatever the excuse, Tonight's Today is one of the best songs about partying too hard to be released in this or any other year.

3 Lost My Heart In Tokyo - Mini Viva

How could a song performed by two fun-loving girls named Frankee (Connolly) and Britt (Love) and written by Annie, Xenomania and Fred Falke ever fail? It couldn't.

4 Dem Na Like Me - The Qemists featuring Wiley

Killer Mcing, snatches of reggae, hardcore drums, spacey effects, all wrapped in a surprisingly listenable, poppy tune which troubled the singles chart about as much as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music troubled the album chart.

5 The Reeling - Passion Pit

Manners was certainly one of the best debut albums to be released in 2009. PP also proved themselves repeatedly in the live arena. Especially when they invariably finished their set with this, perhaps the happiest song released in what has been a miserable year for many.

Watch out for Part Two here soon.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Pretty Successful Broadcasting

Based on the above image, it's clearly time to experiment with the flash settings (and practice taking decent photos) on the tidy new camera, but at least it came out. Greyscale looks better than the original, hence my rudimentary Photoshop messing.

To The Enterprise in Camden, then for Flashforward, (see what he did there? No website, though...) an evening of up and coming acts organised by Sean Redmond.

Sean's an acoustic guitar-wielding troubadour who saw fit to kick off the evening with some touching heart-on-sleeve ditties.

Next up was one J. willgoose, esq, or if you're an interested listener or better yet, a cool alternative record label looking for a new act, Public Service Broadcasting.

J is a sound engineer by trade, so he's obviously adept at making recorded sound burst through speakers with punch, clarity and subtlety where necessary, but is also clearly a master at wiring up confusing, even bewildering, lengths of cable to complex chunks of electronic equipment.

The fact that J had a couple of technical difficulties (dealt with in amusing fashion, with a sampled public service announcement played on a loop) early in the set suggested his combination of gear was a little more complicated than a mere mic and amp. And so it proved.

A laptop, guitar, banjo, keyboard, sampler and theramin were all utilised during his set, often during the same song - pretty impressive going. Far too early to be suggesting the Tooting man is an alt/esoteric Prince, but so much instrument swapping can only impress. Especially on only his third gig.

It doesn't matter how many instruments you play or how savvy you are at recording if your tunes blow like a Dyson Airblade, but none did.

Mixergames in particular was a snappy alt-breakbeat number one could imagine Krafty Kuts dropping early doors at a party populated by cool people in Hawaiian shirts. New Dimensions In Sound, meanwhile, purred along cheerfully, a bit like Plaid and Groove Armada at their most relaxed, skipping hand in hand along a quiet coast. At least until about halfway through, where some OK Computer-era Radiohead guitar makes a welcome, if unexpected entrance. Theme from PSB was arguably the most immediate tune on offer and perhaps epitomised the PSB sound best (as you'd expect with such a title). Brief spoken word samples, nimble beats and flirtatious banjo riffs worked keenly with lightly trancey synths in a way Lemon Jelly would surely envy.

Intricate music can often be pompous and far too cool for its own good, a bit like the people who make it. PSB tunes are far from simple, but are great, unpretentious fun and work as both cheerful Sunday afternoon soundtrack and potential party starters. If and when there's a PSB album knocking about in 2010, it'll feature on the London Liked stereo...

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Raving about Leigh Righton

Inspiration comes from everywhere, but for the open-minded it's always a pleasure to have your curiosity piqued by an art form, theory or event outside of your usual area of interest or knowledge.

With this in mind, discovering the stellar photography of Leigh Righton was the highlight of my week.

One decent shot can do much more than tell a thousand words: It can confuse, amuse and excite. It is with this in mind that I post her vivid snap of Japandroids.

Japandroids are a scuzzy garage rock band from Vancouver, who make an envigorating, if slightly shambling racket, judging by their MySpace (linked above and I'm not repeating it like some sort of html Groundhog Day weirdo) but this is almost a moot point.

It's all about that image.

For a start, any juxtaposition or, better still, combination of fire and drums must be applauded. Both can be tremendously exciting, scary and out of control individually, but as a combination?

As ideas go setting drums on fire is almost as good the one Mars had when they first put peanuts together with chocolate in 1930.

The grimey white wall is a suggestive backdrop, too. Is it out the back of an abattoir or somewhere more mundane? Either way, one can imagine sinister goings-on just of shot.

Christ poses can look silly, but guitarist Brian King manages to look neutral and nonchalant in a steady, unconcerned, waiting-at-the-bus-stop way, almost as if he's saying, "Yeah, I always stand like this. And what?"

Drummer David Prowse's look has a touch of pugnacity and mischief to it. This is helped by his garb. There hasn't been a person born who don't look cool in a hood and he's clearly got the right brand of trainers on.

It's not fashionable to big up massive corporate companies, but if was good enough for Run DMC, it's good enough for a man sitting in south London with a laptop.

Meanwhile, whether it was intentional or not, there's also a nod to Jimi Hendrix's iconic '67 performance at Monterey Pop Festival, particularly in Prowse's pose. And why not? Destruction can be act of creation, too.

In conclusion, I'll be looking out for more pics from Righton.

Digging around on her website and clocking the top-rate work there made me want to start a band just so she could take our picture.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Top Old Skool tunes for maximum realness

There are loads of serious and frivolous topics worth writing about today. The Guardian's story about birth defects in Falluja evokes some truly appalling images that would seem to be more at home in the body horror sub-genre of sci-fi.

A baby being born with two heads?

Aside from the unbearable moral and social strain this would cause on the parents, it's just massively sad, especially when considering how hard is for many couples to actually conceive in the first place.

The X Factor no-marks Jedward are still a pop culture obsession for many in the UK. Most sensible punters have spotted the regrettable Irish pair for what they are: a huge waste of a sperm and egg.

One could even muse on why old people clutter up the supermarkets, pavements and roads on Saturdays when they've been sitting at home DOING FUCK ALL during the week.

But when there's an Old Skool rave on at SE1, it's just best to bang down ten songs I hope to hear most tonight and get into the spirit of things...

In no particular order...

What Have You Done - One Tribe

If this tune only comprised that awesome clattering beat and ominous synth reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks music sampled so memorably on Moby's G, it would still be mint. But the sorrow in Gem's mournful vocal and MC Nuts line, "I wanted your love not your blood, I'm not Dracula," make this One Tribe track essential.

Who Is The Bad Man? - Dee Patten

For a start, any song that samples Jimmy Cliff in the brilliant Jamaican gangster flick The Harder They Come should be given a thorough hearing. Excluding said spoken snippet, the beauty in Dee Patten's 1992 classic is its simplicity, aside from that skittery, slippery beat, it's all about a bassline so heavy it has to get in a lift on its own. There's no wonder this can still be heard on many of London's better pirate radio stations.

Sueno Latino - Sueno Latino

Big tunes in Ibiza (and by extension pretty much every other Mediterranean clubbing resort) often lose something when they eventually make their back to Blighty, partly because most of the time its so damn grim living in a state where the sun barely shines and we have to keep our flesh wrapped up all damn year. This classic from 1989 was based on Manuel Göttsching's E2-E4, an album of ambient wonder and then some.

Papua New Guinea - The Future Sound Of London

Ten out of ten for the name of the crew who made this 1991 banger, even if they do hail from Manchester. In latter years Hybrid and Welsh liquid d 'n' b star High Contrast have turned in staggering remixes that have brought the tune to new audiences, but the original rocks dancefloors with its wordless ethereal female vocal and mysterious two-note keyboard motif. And, yes, like most tunes on this list, the bass is frighteningly obese.

Chime - Orbital

Another class tune from 1989, Chime was recorded by Phi and Paul Hartnoll (Aka Orbital) on their dad's cassette recorder. Stick that in ya Cubase and smoke it, class of '09.

The Sound Of Eden - Shades Of Rhythm

Alas, the truncated version of this uplifting 1990 piano anthem embedded below is here as an indication only. The original gives the separate vocal sections room to breath and is structurally beyond many tunes of this era. Breathless, euphoric female crooning is just the start, there's still a smart bit of MC-ing to come and of course, that chorus. Heartbreaking but simultaneously comforting and knowing, there has probably not been a better couplet about a man's perspective of love in the history of dance music: "It's every time I see her / It's every time I see the girl."

Voodoo Ray - A Guy Called Gerald

Hacienda anthem, one of the first acid house tunes to take the UK, the sound of '88. Nuff said.

Pacific State - 808 State

Yes, yes, another Manc crew (including Gerald Simpson, aka A Guy Called Gerald). But this 1989 song is ineffably gorgeous. There's a funky d 'n'b Grooverider version, but the original is the one. Just an edit below, but you get the jist.

You Got The Love - The Source feat Candi Staton

Yes, it's just Frankie Knuckles' Your Love with a new vocal. Yes, it made No 4 upon its release in 1991 and is as well known by your mum and dad as by your mates. Yes, the Now Voyager remix was used at the end of the final Sex In The City. But. Just how damn uplifting is the Candi Staton vocal? The way she sings "Occasionally," is enough to make this solid gold tuneage.

Big Fun - Inner City

Pop techno genius from Detroit legend Kevin Sanderson. Good Life is perhaps more immediate, but this 1988 stormer is so damn cool it should have a picture of Johnny Depp on the record sleeve.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Why Halloween is the best day of the year

Unlike the embarrassing, false and sickly Christmas season Halloween can be enjoyed by people of all religions, ages and both sexes. Although many would claim the birth of Jesus has far greater significance than an event which fundamentally is about people wearing costumes and scaring each other, there are many other reasons why Halloween rocks.

As is fitting for an evening intrinsically linked with mystery, the night itself has murky and mystic origins. It has roots in Celtic, Roman and Christian traditions but also shares characteristics with festivals of the dead that occur in global destinations from Peru to Australia to Japan.

In terms of colours, symbolism and iconography Halloween can’t be touched by any other time of year. Pumpkin orange, vampire bat black, zombie white and severed head red are all out in force inside homes and businesses. Monsters, zombies, witches and deranged killers walk the streets. Goths and emo heads show no fear as they go about their routines looking more understated than usual. Who cares about a dour man in a trench coat listening to My Chemical Romance when there’s a man dressed as death, complete with robe and scythe, walking ominously alone along the northbound Northern line platform at Moorgate tube?

Pop culture would be a duller place without Halloween. Although relatively few movies are specific to the actual date, it’s quite reasonable to claim the whole of the horror canon for October 31. Two extraordinary films where the date figures centrally are the eponymous John Carpenter masterpiece and Donnie Darko, even if the latter movie’s narrative stops on October 30.

More broadly, Scream, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm St, Friday The 13th and countless others are perfect for a spooky night in and should be watched without much or preferably any lighting. A hollowed-out pumpkin with a lit candle inside is acceptable. For the real Halloween experience, the house should be creaky and empty except for the film viewers.

Since 1990 The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episodes have been something to look forward to, generally being more twisted and violent than usual Simpsons episodes. The three-part structure grates on occasion but the content is usually as faultless as can be expected from Springfield’s fluorescent family.

Musically, Nick Cave, Bauhaus, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen are all great Halloween fodder, while pop would be a duller place without Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s Monster Mash or of course, Thriller.

Halloween. Dark, scary, naughty, kinky, murderous, violent, bloody, vicious, evil, filthy and painful. What’s not to love?