Monthly Archives: April 2009

Vendredi à Hyde Park

According to the king of music news exclusive scoops, the NME, Blur have at last announced the full line-ups for their Hyde Park gigs this July. Excitingly, I’ve managed to secure a ticket for the Friday date, where I will be treated to the delightful strains of Vampire Weekend, Amadou & Mariam, Florence And The Machine, and Deerhoof. This news mostly makes me extremely happy, though it does mean I’ll be obliged to get to Hyde Park insanely early on the day. But, happily, it’s the final day of my university term, so a short hop to the other side of London shouldn’t be too taxing.

Vampire Weekend: I absolutely adore their eponymous debut. It’s a glorious celebration of life as a young person (albeit a highly privileged young person) in America; a witty and musically enchanting depiction of campus life. Almost a year into my degree, I can safely confirm that this album most sums up what university is about. As a live act, I’m slightly intrigued by the band. They’ve overcome the limitations of the a four-piece taking on compositions full of polyrhythm and counterpoint and string arrangements reasonably well, bouncing off the irrepressible energy of frontman Ezra Koenig (owner of the coolest first name ever invented) and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij (owner of the most unwieldy name ever considered fit for usage). I think they will fit in pretty well with the audience, particularly since they’ve wooed numerous crowds on the festival circuit last year.

Amadou & Mariam: A very good friend saw the Malian couple up in Scotland earlier on in the year, and, having closely observed Amadou’s dextrous guitar playing through many years of watching Jools Holland, I think they will be pretty special. It only helps matters that their latest album, Welcome To Mali, is currently one of the highest scoring albums of all time on Metacritic, and that this accolade is entirely deserved. Of course, it’s not that surprising to see them here – as with Vampire Weekend, they channel the spirit of African music into a pop setting, and they’ve worked with Damon Albarn through the Afrika Express coalition. He even produced bits of Welcome To Mali.

Florence And The Machine: The one band on the whole list of support acts about whom I know very little. Then again, she came out pretty highly on the BBC’s Sound of 2009 industry poll… which is probably a mixed blessing. I would guess that this was Coxon’s choice – she’s a vivacious solo artist with a bit of a soul vibe, apparently.

Deerhoof: Famous in blogosphere circles, no? They’ve been around for a number of years, with a huge back catalogue to choose from; their frontwoman is a very excitable Japanese lady; their music destroys genres and is generally great fun.

I think this probably makes this gig a better value day’s entertainment than most British festivals. Possibly even better value than cocaine?

Only kidding on the last comparison; poor taste.

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Easter Surprise!

This morning I dropped into my local Tesco to pick up some hummus and a copy of the newspaper. While queuing up, I couldn’t help but notice a selection of floral arrangements that had been laid out for Easter, one of which, priced at a reasonable £5.99, had been given the rather ridiculous name of “Easter Surprise”. Not much of a surprise, considering the bouquet’s contents were fully on display for all to see.

I felt a similar sentiment when approaching “Vulture”, the new single from Patrick Wolf, taken from his forthcoming The Bachelor album. All the hype and suspense surrounding it had taken on a perpetually surprised tone, as if no reviewer could possibly foresee that Wolf’s instrumental virtuosity might lead to a change in sound on this album. Anyone who has been paying attention to his previous releases will know that each album has pursued quite a different musical route, from the melancholy of his early work to the starry-eyed romance of The Magic Position. All this considered, I was fully expectant of quite a shock and, upon listening to “Vulture”, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Wolf could possibly have spent longer than a ten minute coffee break writing the song, but that’s not to detract from the enjoyment of it. “Vulture” is three and a half minutes of gothic, ultra camp electro pop, filled with continually smile-inducing sonic intricacies. Lyrically, Wolf seems to be comparing some kind of haunting journey through a supernatural forest with the equally horror-inducing situation of “losing my head to Hollywood / My liver to London / My youth to Tokyo.” It’s surprisingly celebrity-baiting, but he takes care not to get carried away with the earnest observations, subsequently launching into a series of delightfully theatrical groans. There’s even a hint of The Kills’ “Now Wow”, with Wolf stammering and stuttering his way through the line “d-d-d-d-d-d-dead meat” in much the same way as Alison Mosshart tackled “Drip drip drip drip drip kinda like / Loosened at the end of the night”. The two songs even share a similar sense of instrumental minimalism, though “Vulture” gets considerably more expansive towards the end, with arch organs and glacial synths adding colour to the skittish bass and percussion.

“Vulture” isn’t rocket science. It’s more simplistic even than “The Magic Position”, but I doubt the rest of The Bachelor will be nearly so accessible. For all its obvious electro-pop posturing, it’s hard not to hold a soft spot for it, much like one must eventually placate an eager puppy tugging at your clothes. An entertaining effort, then, which bodes well for the forthcoming album.

Private revision rave

I seem to be starting every post nowadays with “Just a quick update to say…” so here comes another one.

My hands are somewhat tied, musically, at present, owing to an overload/guilt trip about actually getting down to some revision. Predictably, I’ve spent the entire year slavishly scribbling down notes without really understanding what was going on. Consequently, I should now have my face firmly held to the grindstone.

While I revise, I do however like to listen to music. Usually I favour stuff with a strong rhythmic element – LCD Soundsystem, Hercules & Love Affair, Prinzhorn Dance School, Portishead, Massive Attack – but I also find myself working more productively with instrumental post rock, which has the effect of letting me “leave the phenomenal world, and enter into the sublime.” Albums like Explosions In The Sky’s Those Who Tell The Truth Will Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Will Live Forever and Tortoise’s landmark TNT are ideal for this purpose, as are most of M83’s albums.

When I’m not revising, I’ve also been exploring the depths of Spotify, and have had the following albums of frequent rotation:

The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!

Konono No. 1 – Congotronics

Amadou & Mariam – Welcome To Mali

Antibalas – Talkatif

John Rutter – Gloria

Various – Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump

Antony & The Johnsons – The Crying Light

Beck – Sea Change

Doves – Kingdom Of Rust

Robert Wyatt – Comicopera

Hockey Night – Keep Guessin’

All of which I can heartily endorse. Certainly if you’re in the UK, you’ve no excuse not to get swallowed up by Spotify, because anyone can sign up.

Enjoy!