Archive | November, 2012

The Weeknd and Palma Violets on Jools

29 Nov

Two of my favourite new acts were on Jools Holland this week, Palma Violets and The Weeknd. Check out the videos below.

Review Roundup

24 Nov

Willis Earl Beal – ‘Acousmatic Socery’

Willis Earl Beal promised so much when his demos started doing the rounds late last year, but for every potential classic that leaked there was a potential disaster to go along with it, and this is a line Beal seemed to delight in treading. When Beal gets it right he gets it stunningly right, but when he gets it wrong the results can be almost unlistenable. Sometimes it’s not as simple as that though – sometimes the material is excellent but the production is appalling. ‘Evening Kiss’, for example, is a beautiful tune, as anyone who saw Beal’s jaw-dropping appearance on Jools Holland will attest to. The version on the album is completely subdued in comparison; it dispenses with the melodic flair and emotional wailing, instead Beal sounds disinterested and unaffected.

As a live performer, Beal has proven himself to be a classic soul singer in the mould of Marvin Gaye but on record he sounds closer to a bargin bin Daniel Johnson. He’s consciously (maybe deliberately) out of tempo and off key on some of these songs, and they have all been recorded on a cheap cassette recorder which does Beal’s luxurious voice absolutely no favours whatsoever. ‘Acousmatic Sorcery’ is something of a damp squib then, a missed opportunity from a great (and greatly misguided) talent.


Odd Future ‘The Odd Future Tape Vol 2’

The new Odd Future album is the first they’ve released as a collective since they exploded into public consciousness early last year. It’s also the first release since Earl was finally ‘freed’ (he makes a brief and slightly anticlimactic appearance on album closer ‘Oldie’). To date Odd Future have been successful in brief snatches – singles, TV appearances, album art, music videos etc- but they have yet to truly be successful where it counts, with an album. Tyler’s ‘Goblin’ was very good but it wasn’t good enough to justify the hyperbole, and neither is ‘OF2’ – although it certainly doesn’t do them any harm. It’s less inflammatory, less chaotic, less indulgent, but also, perhaps, less exciting as a result.

It’s not a surprise that the most interesting material comes from the collective’s two main stars, Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator. Ocean’s smooth and slithery ‘White’ is, at 2 minutes, both the shortest and the most enjoyable song on here. ‘Sam Is Dead’ is Tyler’s finest contribution and he saves the day when he pops up on the otherwise forgettable ‘P’ and ‘NY’.  Hodgy Beats bring out the usual solid material and Domo Genisis is as lazy as ever. Overall it’s a pretty predictable Odd Future release, which may be the first time I’ve used that word to describe an OF product. Now the hype and hyperbole have faded away, they need to do better than this.


The Soft Pack – ‘Strapped’

If the fact that at one point The Soft Pack were called the saviours of guitar music seemed ridiculous once you actually heard their album, it seems even more ridiculous now, three years on. They are a solid, tight-knit garage band, nothing more, nothing less. They’re so unspectacular it’s hard to believe they originally called themselves The Muslims, and it was no surprise that they changed their name to the much more conservative (And boring) Soft Pack.

I’d almost forgotten about the band until I saw this second album featured on Mexican Summer’s release schedule, and in true fashion it’s another solid but unspectacular release. Their debut succeeded because it was so simple and catchy, now they’re adding synths and horns into the mix(not to mention slower tempos) so the results are a lot more hit and miss. It’s adventurous, possibly, but we never listened to this band for adventure. Still, there are moments that remind you the hype wasn’t all wishful thinking on NME’s part. ‘Saratoga’ is a thrilling introduction to the record, and ‘Bobby Brown’ is a melodic 80’s throwback that really works well. ‘Tall Boy’ and ‘Chinatown’ also have great hooks. This is a good album from a good band but if they disaster for another three years before coming back with the next record then they may find people have forgotten about them completely.


Some great new tunes

10 Nov

Jake Bugg ‘Jake Bugg’ – Review

6 Nov

What’s the worth of listening to something without an ounce of originality? I think your answer to that question will determine exactly how you respond to Jake Bugg’s debut album. You may think there is great worth in listening to something that sounds almost exactly like some of your favourite records, or you may think there’s no point at all. From the sepia toned portrait that adorns the cover, to the recording style, that on some tracks mimics the crackles and pops of an old record player, almost everything about ‘Jake Bugg’ is borrowed (some would say stolen) from another age.

This week Bugg said ‘I’m keeping that X Facror shit off the top spot’, which I suppose is a factual statement seeing as he’s number one in the charts and Leona Lewis is number 3. His music is clearly a reaction to the over-processed pop that clogs daytime radio playlists. It’s always been like this, a battle between the authentic and the supposedly inauthentic, rock and pop, but it seems unusual that Bugg and his band of admires (such as Noel Gallagher and NME) should be banging on about his authenticity when he’s mining a genre popularised in the USA at least four decades ago. I guess what they mean is he’s genuine, as in, he means. He’s an authentic kind of guy.

It helps that the songs are raw and honest. Most are acoustic, with minimal arrangements; they are usually impressively restrained, if occasionally a little too restrained (As on ‘Two Fingers’, an enjoyable single that feels slightly limp and lifeless). Bugg’s guitar work is impressive; he’s an 18 year old lad who plays like someone far older and wiser, whether he’s chugging away in the skiffle style or finger pickin like his idols Donovan and Don Mclean. Sometimes this elder statesmen charade is a little tiresome though, as when he says ‘I’ve seen it all, nothing shocks me anymore’. There are a few moments like this where you wonder if Bugg really means what he’s singing or if he’s just repeating what he’s heard on older records like a impressionable parrot.

Guitar music isn’t in vogue at the moment, that’s no seceret, but Jake Bugg is sitting pretty in the number one position. He’s succeed for the same reason that Adele succeeded – he’s very good at what he does, even if what he does isn’t particularly fashionable or innovative. There’s still a sizable audience for this type of music and Jake Bugg is here for that audience, so what’s wrong with that? The ballads (‘Slide’, ‘Broken’, ‘Someplace’) are bigger and the opening trio of songs (‘Lightning Bolt’, ‘Two Fingers’, ‘Taste It’) are more passionate than just about anything you will hear all year. He may not be as authentic as he likes to think he is but Bugg is still walking talking proof that talent will out.