Emilie Nicolas returns with new single Sky

When I first discovered Emilie Nicolas, I was blown away. That was almost three years ago now, and I can’t believe where the time has gone. The good news is she’s back with a new single, Sky, and it’s every bit as wonderful as her previous work.

Nicolas has one of those ethereal Norwegian voices that I just can’t live without. The work she put in on her debut album, Like I’m A Warrior, was superb. I was only able to get hold of it through a friend in Oslo, who sent me the CD. I just wish her managers would expose her to a wider audience, because she’s got such a wonderful talent, it deserves to be heard far and wide. Very little is available to listen to in Australia, which sucks big time for those without contacts in Norway.

However, 2016 sounds like it was a rough one for the young songstress. After the success of that debut album, driven in part by her brilliant cover of Pstereo, she was forced to go into hiding somewhat and cancel a bunch of shows because of illness.

According to her Facebook page, she’s slowly getting better and can’t wait to get back into the swing of things in 2017. We wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing her back on stage fitter and stronger and with new material to obsess over.

 

OK Go sets the video clip bar even higher

OK Go is an American band arguably known more for its music videos than its music, and the group’s latest effort on the video clip front will do nothing to change that.

The single Upside Down And Inside Out inspired the guys to physically act out the tune’s title by taking parabolic flights to produce weightlessness. Visually, it’s pretty amazing. Watch it here.

There are times when the band members don’t look entirely comfortable, but that’s understandable when you realise what’s involved in parabolic flight — essentially climbing steeply before diving towards the earth at breakneck speeds. When astronauts trained in this way, they nicknamed  the plane the Vomit Comet.

OK Go has been spending the past week on YouTube teasing the clip, but chose to debut it in full on Facebook, for whatever reasons. With a little more than 1 million views per hour roughly since it was posted (10.2 million at time of writing), that seems to have been a sound decision.

But the question remains: is OK Go a music band, or is it a music-video band? It doesn’t really matter, and it’s become a huge success by, in my view, being the latter. But why have no other artists followed its example?

Maybe it’s because they want people to remember them for their music, and not their videos.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the music video was the chief way artists sold their songs. Michael Jackson’s clip for Thriller was a watershed moment, and that spawned a plethora of other elaborately choreographed clips from his own siblings, and Paula Abdul made her career by conceptualising most of them. Peter Gabriel’s video for Sledgehammer was similarly critically acclaimed, but more recently, such creativity in the music video space is harder to find.

Beyonce’s latest Formation clip has been equally praised and criticised for its political rhetoric,  but as a complex piece of visual art, it hardly compares to what OK Go has been capable of over the years. And she’s of course not the first to bring politics into her videos.

The question any band creating a video clip has to ask itself, you’d have to assume, is what am I making this for? Is it to sell the record, or is it to rack up views and rake in advertising revenue? Is it to promote my band so people come and see us play live? Or, is it just for fun?

RJ Mitte stars in emotional Nothing But Thieves clip

It’s a tear-jerking song, and now Nothing But Thieves had added an equally emotional clip to accompany If I Get High, starring Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte.

Watch it here.

Mitte’s part in the clip is not dissimilar to that of the one he played in Breaking Bad as Walter Jr, opposite the magnificent Bryan Cranston as his father, Walter White. It’s a father/son fracture piece, but it should be noted the father in the Nothing But Thieves clip seems a lot less loving than Mr White, even if he isn’t dealing meth.

If I Get High is the latest single of Nothing But Thieves’ self-titled debut album. If you haven’t bought it yet, go fetch your wallet. It’s one of the best records you’ll ever own.

Formidable new tune carries an important message

A lot of new music is starting to pop up from some artists I love. Some of it I’m excited about, some of it not so much, but some of it is making me wet my pants and smile more broadly thank I thought possible.

When an email from The Joy Formidable dropped in my inbox this week declaring the band had uploaded a new track, I clicked without hesitation. This is where I ended up.

Just for an extra kick, check out the version posted on SoundCloud, because it has slightly bigger balls.

There have been some great rock bands to come out of Wales in the past — Stereophonics always got a good run on my sound system, and of course there is Feeder, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals and many other — but I always feel The Joy Formidable is a little underrated among not only Welsh bands, but British bands.

I guess it’s a relatively new group in terms of a band’s lifespan, but this this trio is already responsible for one of my favourite alt-rock songs of all time — the magnificent Whirring. If you haven’t heard it, please seek it out. You won’t regret it.

The Last Thing On My Mind, the first taste of The Joy Formidable’s new album Hitch, is a real bopper, and I’m sure you noticed the video is slightly saucy. Well, that’s all part of the message it carries — an important message in the context of the society we currently live in.

Lead singer Ritzy Bryan explains.

The Last Thing on My Mind was written and recorded in the summer of 2014 at our North Walian studio the Red Brick, just outside of Mold in Clwyd. It has the feel and sentiment of a lot of the tracks from our new album, it talks about feeling alive, being free and this track in particular touches upon sexual liberation; specifically about a woman’s carnal imagination.”

She continues, and this is where it gets good.

“We’re big on making our own music videos, so last month we started collecting footage and finishing the treatment to this song. The video follows a voyeuristic heterosexual female gaze (like my own) watching men in all forms, free, relaxed, sexy and objectified . It’s beautiful, provocative, occasionally pervy , sometimes just admiring the prowess of Hendrix and his guitar or Iggy’s gorgeous lack of inhibitions.

“The intent behind this video was formed as a group, with both my male band members. I think that’s important to mention because what fuelled this treatment was something that we’d all been feeling; that there just isn’t enough diversity in music videos when it comes to sexual representation.

“The male gaze is well represented, we see plenty of female nudity, statistically more than men, we see men in positions of power with scantily clad women, and we see female protagonists mirroring that power dynamic with overt sexual aggression.

“This obsession with who is sexually in control is negative for both sexes. The implication that all men are aggressive and that women need to compete in the same way isn’t the road to equality.
In music videos what we don’t see very often is men and women equal in their nudity and sensual without a power struggle.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been reading a lot about equality in all sorts of fields recently, and Ritzy and the gang have nailed the issue with it here.

She also reveals that finding footage of males in such objectified situations wasn’t easy. Funny that. All the men are too busy objectifying women to have time to be objectified themselves.

“The point here is, when the media representation is imbalanced,if we’re mostly seeing women sexualised or objectified, from a male perspective or otherwise, it’s limited, it’s damaging and frankly; it’s boring too,” she adds

“I’d like to see even more diversity please, in music videos and the way that sex is represented in general. Censorship is changing with the Internet and the way that music videos are reaching people, we’re socially becoming more accustomed to explicit material. If that’s what society has decided let’s see more bulges, more condoms, labia, different body types, pubic hair, even the long vilified erection is fine by me , everything presented equally with less taboo so that diversity is accepted.”

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this sentiment. Almost as much as I love the new track.

Hitch, which is The Joy Formidable’s third album, is set for release on 26 March.

Nothing But Thieves release beautiful clip of Lover, Please Stay

This is stunning. You have been warned.

Nothing But Thieves has been one of my favourite bands for more than a year now, and I was shattered to hear their planned tour to Australia was cancelled this week as a result of the collapse of Soundwave Festival, of which they were to be a part. I had tickets to their sideshow, but no festival means no sideshows. Bummer.

They’ve stated they’ll try to get out here sometime later in 2016. I just hope their popularity hasn’t soared still further and they still book the small venue they were set to play at in Sydney — Oxford Arts Factory. Seeing them in such an intimate setting would be amazing, as this clip proves.

Alanis Morissette updates Ironic for the new millennium

It’s been almost 20 years since Alanis Morissette released Ironic, and thanks to James Corden, she’s updated it for the next generation with some pretty funny lyrics that might appeal to new millenniums.

With lines like “It’s like swiping left on your future soulmate”, it hits all the right notes. I particularly liked “A no smoking sign, when you brought your vape”. One line that perhaps could do with a little more attention, though, was “It’s like 10,000 male late night hosts when all you want is just one woman, seriously”. She’s got a point there.

Corden, to his credit, is one of the better male late night hosts, has a habit of bringing the best out of his musical celebrities, as we saw with his fabulous Carpool Karaoke episode with Stevie Wonder. All credit to Alanis for playing along here, too. It’s always great to see well-grounded celebrities who are willing to have a laugh at themselves — “It’s singing Ironic but there are no ironies”, they warble in one section. It just makes you like them even more.

Speaking of Alanis, if you’re on Spotify and want to hear more about how Jagged Little Pill came to be — that’s the album Ironic was on, of course — there is a great edition of Spotify Landmark available that features her discussing the recording 20 years on with producer and co-writer Glen Ballard, who starts with the story of that song.

Is Coldplay’s cool factor slowly returning?

Some time ago, I wrote a blog about Coldplay, and how much I’d grown to dislike the musical direction Chris Martin and his pals had taken since the release of their first albums. It’s one of the most read blogs on this side, and certainly divided opinion.

I standby what I wrote, and if new single Adventure Of A Lifetime is anything to go by, things haven’t improved since I wrote that post more than three years ago.

Well, that’s half true. The thing is, Coldplay remains one of the most talented bands of its generation. It’s no fluke it is one of the world’s biggest bands. A few things I’ve seen over the years since asking “WTF” happened have given me heart. As humans, they appear to have remain grounded and awesome, even if their music —at least to my old ears — doesn’t reflect similar characteristics.

Martin has been undertaking more inspiring philanthropic work, most recently as part of the Global Citizen Festival, where he announced he would dedicate the next 15 years to doing whatever he could to help Global Citizen reach its goal of ending extreme poverty in the world by 2030.

And this week, as part of what is likely to be a long round of promotional appearances for the band’s upcoming seventh album, A Head Full Of Dreams, he and his band-mates appeared on BBC Radio 1 to partake in an hilarious segment which saw Martin compose, on the spot, songs written from boring lyrics sent in by listeners.  Check it out here.

It’s great to see that the guys remain grounded, and that Martin has lost none of his cheeky charm. He’s clearly in a happy place.

But they say the best music comes from heartbreak. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, and it’s perhaps why Coldplay’s tunes have taken such an upbeat turn over the past few years. Take 2014’s smash hit A Sky Full Of Stars, taken from the album of that same year, Ghost Stories. You could not imagine a more cheerful track if you tried. It’s been a super live anthem, for sure, and I guess that’s something. It always gets a crowd bouncing and smiling, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. It’s really only the studio version that is a touch lame.

There were hints, however, of Coldplay’s former glories on that record, not least in Midnight, which provided a beautiful and mystical midway point on an album of otherwise reasonably chirpy tunes. Midnight is a more modern take on Coldplay’s former signature sound, but it’s got all the superbly simplistic qualities of what I used to love so much about their old sound.

Let’s hope a little more of that aesthetic has crept into this new album. It’s set for release on 4 December, so we don’t have to wait too long to find out.