Monthly Archives: August 2009

Reading 2009

Tweets from the festival: @MisspeakMusic

Time for another festival, then. This time it’s Reading, a much shorter hop from my East London bunker and a slightly less prestigious festival than Glastonbury. Reading is geared towards the younger end of the festival spectrum with a focus on Kerrang buzz bands, rather than NME or Q ones; rather than the Guardian brigade that overwhelms Glastonbury, you can expect a fair amount of teeny boppers celebrating GCSE and A level results, excited at the prospect of seeing ‘essential’ bands like Lost Prophets and Enter Shikari and getting absolutely ‘smashed’.

Despite that, they do have Radiohead headlining on the Sunday, which should be genuinely essential. Hopefully they’ll be a strong contingent of enthusiastic fans rather than the painfully laid back ‘Greatest Hits’ bunch that slightly marred their appearance at Victoria Park last year. I’ll make sure I’m at the front with the kind of Radiohead fans who can mosh to Just and appreciate the off-kilter Techno of Idioteque equally, and won’t constantly be watching their watches waiting for Creep.

Of course, even I wouldn’t suggest it’s all about Radiohead. There are a fair few gems I missed at Glastonbury who I’ll be able to catch this time around.

The Homme, Grohl, Jones supergroup, Them Crooked Vultures, are a strong shout to make an appearance in the mysterious gap between Patrick Wolf and You Me At Six on the NME/Radio 1 stage on Saturday – at least it’s a stronger rumour than my slightly wishful Muse on the Park Stage suggestion before Glastonbury. They played Lowlands last week, a festival that has a near identical line-up to Reading, and have just come off stage at the Brixton Academy in support of The Arctic Monkeys who will be headlining on the Saturday.

Baring the inevitable clashes, I’ll be trying my best to check out…

Arctic Monkeys
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Vampire Weekend
Bloc Party
Friendly Fires
The Horrors
Little Boots

The full lineup can be viewed here

The main stage streak of Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bloc Party and Radiohead should be pretty epic by most standards.

Obviously there won’t be any blog updates for the next days, though I do promise to get started up more quickly after the festival, there won’t be any two week hibernations this time. I am prepared. But perhaps more importantly, I will be tweeting live from the site – Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity willing – so add me on Twitter to hear the latest events from the Reading site:

Gasp! As I lose my belongings!

Laugh! At my entertaining tent related anecdotes!

And Shudder! At my pictures of the toilets on the last day!

It will almost like being there yourself!

Add me: @MisspeakMusic

MP3: Radiohead – Like Spinning Plates
MP3: Arctic Monkeys – Dangerous Animals
MP3: Friendly Fires – Jump In The Pool


Review: The xx – xx

In a fine tradition that runs from Pink Floyd’s DSotM all the way to the optical psychedelica of Merriweather Post Pavilion, xx’s album art goes some way towards communicating a precise idea of what the album is about. Like the music contained within it’s minimal and strongly defined formally, but elusive in terms of significance. Is it a white cross on a black background or a cross-shaped hole filled by a white background? By the time you’ve decided one way or the other you might just begin to see the argument for the opposite. Similarly, whilst the record’s sound can be defined as running a narrow spectrum from sober, stripped down R&B to clear-headed, abstinent electro-pop – precise guitars interlock, sparse programmed drums skitter and negative space is employed in abundance – what they’re trying to say with these formal qualities is harder to define.

The music is a blank canvas, a Rorschach splatter. There are oceans of notes that aren’t being played, a universe of silent space between the meticulously trimmed guitar notes. Whilst the intimate conversations that play out between Croft and Sim’s vocals on Basic Space – typical of the whole album – could be declarations of undying love (I think I’m losing where you end and I begin) or pleas born from a seedier lust (Hot wax has left me with a shine), it almost seems improper to say even that. There’s a multitude of interpretations to be drawn from the same reflective vocals. Blatancy doesn’t seem to reside in the group’s vocabulary and the album’s vocals generate a sense of thrilling voyeurism – more of a daring burlesque than a cheap lapdance. Like the teary couple of the last bus home (and it would be the last bus, given xx’s nocturnal quality) you can’t be entirely sure if the intent of the half-grasped words is one of violence or intimacy, but that doesn’t stop you filling in the gaps and creating a back-story for your own satisfaction.

What could be summed up as a definite attempt at sounding indefinite sounds like the faintest of praise, and it would be downright frustrating with most other bands, but the XX perform it ably and with much more conviction and ability. The Rear Window voyeurism of the lovelorn conversations seems intentional when complimented with the loosely sketched nature of the music. Desperately undeveloped compositions that stop and start, build momentum from the slightest cues (such as the insistent rhythm guitar charge that ebbs and flows on Crystalised and the spidery lead guitar it gives way to) and ride out on long sections where the melody and rhythm is intensified by what isn’t written as well as what is seems like the perfect way to compliment a lover’s quiet desperation and the brief windows of insight into it.

The production has its own tricks besides complimenting the central drama at the heart of the xx, too. The influences are obvious, but the sound is genuinely fresh-sounding – falling somewhere that could be partially described as the lovechild of a laconic Interpol and a less nervy Idioteque. Working tirelessly on the mantra that less is more, Wicked Game, reverb-drenched guitars linger in the generous gaps whilst crisp, post-garage drums that generate a surprising amount of movement and head-nodding groove without compromising the light, airy construction by employing too much force. There’s almost something Gilmouresque (without the Prog) in how the band seem to know which notes not to play and how to wrangle as much moody atmosphere out of the one’s they do decide to pick.

With such a wrought out and considered tendency towards the minimal, it’s hard to imagine where the band could go next without transforming their sound completely or over burdening it to the point of collapse. The tease works for now because you only suspect you saw something. Made any more blatant and it’ll lose that winking tease and fall into the realm of blatant, unimaginative R&B tribute; made any slighter, it’ll disappear into the air. Remixes of Florence and the Machine and the formless, post-apocalyptic Fantasy hint towards dancier, dubbier or more ambient influences for their sophomore effort; if it’s as well thought out and executed as this, that shift in sound is in an able pair of hands.


Karen O And The Kids – “All Is Love”

Sorry I haven’t been updating much lately. My PC is going through its final throes and it’s been difficult keeping it running for a long enough time to do anything really productive with it; worse still, iTunes seems to be at the heart of my problems. There’s been lots of reinstalling, tiresome moving of my 60gb music collective and much cursing.

Anyway…I think I was a little too young to have Where The Wild Things Are read to me, or perhaps I’m just a little too forgetful of my childhood but regardless the movie is bringing us some new Karen O related music so I’ve made it my business to follow this.

The first track from said movie’s soundtrack is up on Myspace, check it out…

MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Gold Lion

Radiohead perform “These Are My Twisted Words”, Phil Selway unveils solo material

So it was confirmed as a Radiohead song at the start of the week, and now they’ve performed it live. No ‘Wall of Ice’ EP yet, though. Still not much of a fan of it. It has an Airbag EP era feel to it, the instrumental two minutes or so is quite enjoyable, nice to hear some reverb drenched guitars coil around each other again, but the song doesn’t have the drive to carry on for the five plus minutes it does. Like the Harry Patch tribute, there’s a lack of dynamism and Thom’s lyrics do feel phoned in. Maybe now his muse in the Whitehouse is gone he can’t really pen those venomous and nihilistic lyrics like he used to.

Not that he really has to worry about any competition in the lyric penning, or songwriting, department as footage of Phil Selway’s first trepid steps into a career as a solo artiste reveals itself.

Bit harsh, perhaps, but it is quite a mundane song with quite typical singer-songwriter lyrics. Definitely doesn’t touch the transcendal heights of Yorke’s and Greenwood’s solo work, but maybe you like his hurt everyman with a guitar quality.

And if that’s not enough, there’s another Selway track, ‘The Ties That Bind Us’, from the same show…

MP3: Radiohead – These Are My Twisted Words

P2K: Pitchfork tackles the decade of the MP3

Love them or loathe them, as we approach the end of the 00s Pitchfork are the driving force behind the North American Indie scene, and a lot more besides that. They can make bands, they can break bands, and, for a lot of people, they are the ultimate arbiters of what is good music and what is not. A ‘Best New Music’ stamp can send sales of a previously unheard of artists flying through the roof, whereas an indifferent or derisive review can leave them languishing in that obscurity for the rest of their careers.

Such cultural influence means they have a lot of haters, people don’t always appreciate the slightly self satisfied, pretentious writing style (orthat Kid A review) or the slightly blinkered range of music the site chooses to cover, but I wouldn’t consider myself amongst them. They’re not flawless, granted, but they’re always amongst the first sites I’ll check out of a morning and I usually find myself enjoying the album’s they lavish praise upon. They’re not the last word in music journalism, but they’re definitely the first stop if you want to know what’s ‘happening’.

The ‘noughties’ aren’t all about Pitchfork though, even Pitchfork knows that. With that in mind they’ve set about trying to deconstruct and assign some meaning to this most eventful of decades that we’re still hurtling out of.

One of the ways they’ve decided to do this is by making lists, lots of lists. Currently they’re trying to reduce 10 years of pop music to 500 tracks; it’s not an easy task, and it does seem a little pointless when you first think about it, but browsing through the list you release that it’s probably a worthwhile endeavor if only for the unabated nostalgia the list brings your way, not to mention how old you’ll feel, no matter how old you are, when you realise that Madonna’s brief pre-leotard, pre-Ritchie, pre-Earth Mother adopting, cowgirl Music period was nearly 10 years ago. Ten!

So far it’s a pretty strong list, there’s a criminal lack of metal or any other music of a hard variety, but if you know Pitchfork you probably knew that would be the case anyway; despite this there is a strong variety of music represented in nearly every other genre, including a very strong pop contingent, much to the horror of their hipper readers I imagine, but it is good pop music. It could just be a ploy to convince everyone that they’re not really that pretentious or art-school, but regardless, it’s good to see a few Milkshakes, Toxics and Irreplaceables littered amongst the more willfully obscure indie curios.

If you’re a user of that great inventions of the 00s, Spotify, then you can peruse (most) of the list so far by adding this playlist dedicatedly compiled by bph from Rllmuk forums. It makes for great listening and you can get all bleary eyed as the sounds and memories of past 10 years caress your ears – or maybe you’ll just end up commenting how bananas this shit is, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Spotify Link: Pitchfork Top 500 tracks of the 00s
MP3: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – Daft Punk
MP3: Trill – Clipse
MP3: We Are Your Friends (Reprise) – Justice vs Simian (A Cross The Universe version)

Wolfmother sound and look exactly how you expect them to

Judging by their track record of appropriating 70s rock music, when I saw the headline for the unveiling of Wolfmother’s new album art I immediately imagined abstract, Brobdingnagian objects floating amongst some grand, fantasy landscape; basically some less than subtle Floyd and Thorgerson references, a field full of beds, light reflecting through a prism or maybe just a giant cobra wrestling with a wolf on a ominous, full moon-lit landscape.

Well, I wasn’t far off.

Rainbow, big egg, huge fantasy landscape, ominous crows. Not quite as good a piece of album art as giant, inter-species fight to the death would have been, but still.

If you know Wolfmother well enough to know that that album art would look something like that, then you probably already know what the lead single off Cosmic Egg, ‘New Moon Rising’, sounds like. Despite a huge line-up change since their debut four years ago (!) it’s still the same old Wolfmother who don’t as much wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, but rather create a whole outfit out of them .

As Stereogum put it:

The fluffy Australian quartet’s about to release their second album Cosmic Egg, which comes packaged in very literal album art (some poor little kid stuck taking in the egg by his lonesome). Wolfmother’s sporting a different lineup — only Andrew Stockdale remains from the original pack — so the collection’s puffed-up and psyched-out first single “New Moon Rising” also feels kind of literal. (And that main guitar riff kind of feels like it belongs to Lenny Kravitz, if he’s ever actually owned anything, natch.)

It’s ok, I guess, if you don’t mind the bare faced pilfering or the fact that it sounds like a Aldi value imitation of Black Sabbath.

Cosmic Egg is out 10/13 via Interscope.

MP3: Wolfmother – Woman

New Radiohead??? – These Are My Twisted Words

I was going to bed, but this is big. Pitchfork have ordered someone into their offices after hours, Atease, the premiere fan forums for Radiohead and the origin of this mysterious leak, is crashing, Twitter trending topics are emerging, and everywhere seems buzzing about this in a way that hasn’t been seen since, well, since In Rainbows popped up out of nowhere.

Is it Radiohead? That does sound like Thom, and it’s not like there isn’t a precedent for new material appearing out of nowhere, but there’s something about this. It doesn’t quite fit.

The little turning on sound at the start sounds quite gimmicky, almost something they would do in The Bends era, I know it’s a minor thing, but still. In fact, everything about it sounds like a B-side from that Bends – Ok Computer era – only not as good.

Without what does seem to be Thom’s vocals, I would dismiss this as some obsessive on atease forums, of which there are many, simply trying his hard at aping Radiohead and then trying a little mischief on the internets.

I’ve spun it 4 times so far and I can’t really pick one thing I like about it. It’s very languid, it locks into that groove from the off and doesn’t really break or change up like Radiohead songs tend to do. The lyrics are a little uninspired and workman like, perhaps moreso than the Harry Patch. The echoing guitar appreggios seem like Greenwood in auto-pilot, in general it just seems like an imitation. There’s quite a few Radiohead songs that I dislike, but usually I can appreciate they tried something with it, it has that Radiohead spirit, this song doesn’t have that. It just doesn’t feel like Radiohead. I feel like I’m being duped.

Maybe I’m just too tired.


MP3: Radiohead – These Are My Twisted Words