Digging Dagny is becoming a thing at last

Dagny | Richard Saker | The Guardian

Dagny out shopping in London | Richard Saker / The Guardian

I’ve been following Dagny’s fledgling career for a little more than year now, and I’m so thrilled she’s finally getting some solid recognition in her native Norway as we settle into a new year.

 

Last year saw the release of a debut EP, Ultrviolet, which featured five absolutely cracking pop tunes, each with their own aesthetic but perfectly poised as a collection. It appears, though, we’re lucky to hear them at all, given she almost gave up her music dream the previous year.

Thankfully her parents — both musicians, which isn’t unusual in her hometown of Trømso — talked her into persevering, and now here we are in 2017 with many musical columnists and bloggers listing Dagny their “ones to watch” lists.

The song many of you may have heard is Backbeat, which essentially gave her a boost after Zane Lowe premiered it on Beats 1 — Apple Music’s radio station — before it had even been mastered. From there it was soon in demand, and racking up the plays on Spotify. It’s closing in on 25 million plays at the time of writing, and sounds pretty magnificent in this live discvr session for Vevo.

In a sense, this is a pop tune from the old school, devoid of overly produced synthetic elements and comprised of real instruments played by real musicians and produced faithfully. But the EP does contain more traditional pop tunes, Too Young the most obvious of these with a pulsing chorus that hints at early Katy Perry in parts, only 10 million times better. Even beneath the heavy synth pads, though, there remains those subtle guitar parts and bombastic rhythms that truly characterise Dagny’s sound, and paint a classy indie varnish on her already sparkling songs.

As a drummer, I’m obsessed with some of the parts on the EP, not least the track Fool’s Gold, my personal favourite. Here’s a live cut of it from NRK’s P3 Gull music show, featuring a nice little cameo from Kristian Kristensen — BØRNS does the recorded version — and drummer Harry Mead doing the business on the skins.

Man, I wish we had shows like this in Australia, but I digress.

Dagny has been through a lot for her young years. She’ll turn 27 this year, but has already had to deal with her older brother being diagnosed with cancer when he was 15 and she was just nine. It’s tough life experiences like this that are often the inspiration for many of the best artists, and I hope Dagny is on her way to being one.

Vocally she’s certainly got something unique. She speaks in somewhat crackled, husky tones, and that comes through in her singing, but she holds exceptional clarity in the higher registers, and finds some seriously catchy melodies to carry her often melancholic storylines.

With flawless Norwegian good looks to boot, you could call Dagny the perfect package. It remains to be seen if the often narrow-minded talent spotters outside Norway realise it and give her the big break she truly deserves.

A million reasons why Lady Gaga is my hero

So what did you think of Lady Gaga’s half-time show at Superbowl LI? Personally, I thought it was magnificent.

Predictably I got some smart-arse comments on the post, a couple of laughs, but that’s OK. After all, we all have different tastes, and one of the many things Gaga encourages us to celebrate is our diversity. So laugh it up. I couldn’t care less.

Here’s what I posted.

“Anyone that thinks Lady Gaga’s half-time show wasn’t political has either got their head stuck up their arse, or simply doesn’t understand her genius.”

I wasn’t looking for likes or laughs, to be honest. My sentiment was largely in response to a tweet a old colleague of mine had shared on Twitter — presumably in its support — which suggested Gaga had no message in 2017, and that Beyonce’s less subtle effort of 2016 was braver and more meaningful.

I took issue with this. To me, Gaga’s performance packed with political rhetoric, and was flawless in its execution. Here’s why.

The opening
Atop the NRG Stadium, and backed by 300 drones that lit up and hovered miraculously to create the United States’ flag, Gaga sang excerpts from two of America’s most patriotic songs, starting with God Bless America before rolling seamlessly into This Land Is Your Land. She then quoted from the The Pledge Of Allegiance before theatrically diving into the packed arena. What’s so cool about that? Well, it’s no secret that America is more divided than ever right now. What brings Americans together more than anything? Usually patriotic tunes and the star-spangled banner, and a reminder that despite what some people might say, there is a lot to celebrate about the country. It just needs to be focused on a little more.

The first songs
After belting out a small segment of Poker Face — pausing after the first-line reference to Texas as a nod of respect to the Houston location — Gaga moved into her anthem for those on the peripheral, Born This Way. If that wasn’t a middle finger to all the bigots, racists, homophobes and so on that have crawled out of their holes to celebrate the more extreme messages being bandied about by Donald Trump and others, I don’t know what is.

“No matter gay, straight, or bi / Lesbian, transgendered life / I’m on the right track baby/ I was born to survive,” she roared.

“No matter black, white or beige / Chola or orient made / I’m on the right track baby / I was born to be brave.”

Magnificent.

From middle to end
After Telephone, which didn’t feature an appearance from Beyonce as some had predicted, Gaga went into positivity mode with Just Dance. “We’re here to make you feel good,” she said after that one. “You wanna feel good with us?”

Looks like the pundits who said she’d been warned off politics were also brilliantly mis-informed.

Million Reasons was the penultimate number, a song all about searching out the best in everything and of course featuring the line “If you say something that you might even mean, it’s hard to even fathom which parts I should believe.” Fake news, anyone? Just superb.

Now I can’t be sure that Gaga’s chosen closer, Bad Romance, was in any way a reference to Trump and his wife Melania’s relationship — I like to think it maybe was — but by this point she was decked out in gridiron shoulder-pads, ready to do battle with any shit the world can throw at her, or any of her little monsters — the term she uses lovingly for her millions of fans.

I’m lucky enough to have seen Lady Gaga live, and I maintain it was one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed. If you were to look at my musical tastes generally, she is not someone you’d expect me to pay money to see, but it’s her ability to bring social issues to the forefront without aggression or animosity that I admire most.

I remember that night in Sydney, before playing Gypsy, she delivered an impassioned speech to the many LGBTQ members of the audience, showering them with love and the belief that they matter. It was as touching a moment as I’ve ever seen at a musical performance, and trust me, grown adults were crying by the time she finished, and I wasn’t far off it myself. She then massively uplifted us all with the joy of the song Gypsy, which celebrates a world in union. That was the one big track I felt she could have also thrown in at the Superbowl.

But I’m being picky now. My love for Gaga has only grown more as a result of her half-time heroics, and I’m more than happy to put my paws up and scream it from the rooftop of any stadium you want to place me on. Gaga rules, end of story.

Starting 2017 with a bang

Hello again! Yes, it’s been a while, and we’ve got a lot to catch up on. I’ve been a bit busy with work, establishing myself as a freelancer, and it’s all been going well. But not, with the year turned over, I’m ready to get back into posting my musical discoveries here, so I hope you’ll stay for the ride, and apologies to those of you that do follow me for being so quiet these past few months.

So I thought I’d start with a bang — a big one — and share this show by British post-rock outfit Maybeshewill.

Those of you that have been here before will know I’ve got a bit of an obsession with post-rock, and these guys have been at the forefront of that for about a decade. Sadly 2016 was the band’s last after it announced it would disband in 2015. I’m particularly gutted about this as I never managed to see the boys live, but this last show — played at London’s terrific Koko venue — is as good a substitute as I’ll get. It’s brilliant, and be sure to play it loud.

If you’d like to download it and watch it over and over again — and there is no maybe about whether or not I will do so — you can grab it from this link.

I’ll be back with more soon, and will commit to post at least once a week. Don’t forget to follow the Light + Shade Facebook page here, as all our posts go there, along with a few other random things.

Happy New Year!

Get high with Highasakite’s Golden Ticket

Norwegian indie band Highasakite are getting set to release their new album, Camp Echo, which is due out on 20 May. This weekend, they played a track from it, Golden Ticket, live for the first time on local chat show Lindmo.

It’s a slight departure musically from what we’ve been used to from these guys, with some pretty heavy and poppy synths in the chorus. But the subject matter is, as ever, a little melancholy.

Expect to hear a few more snippets from the new record over the next fortnight before its release. It should be a belter.

Biffy Clyro explodes back to life

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro, but thankfully, they’re back with a bang.

The raucous trio hit the BBC studios in Maida Vale, London, to play some of the new material from their upcoming seventh album, Ellipsis — set for release on 8 July — as well as a few old favourites. Here’s a taste of one of those tracks, Wolves.

I’ve seen The Biff a few times, and can confirm that they are one of the best live rocks acts going around. The power and energy they generate on stage is remarkable, and all sorts of fun. It looks like the new album won’t disappoint in terms of keeping that tradition alive.

To sample the rest of the set from Maida Vale, one YouTuber has kindly uploaded it here:

Enjoy!!

Cigars Of The Pharaoh: my musical first love

Disclaimer: This is a self-indulgent post.

For the past several months, I’ve been part of a great little rock band in Sydney called Cigars Of The Pharaoh. We’ve been playing lots of shows in Sydney and Melbourne — and we head to Brisbane in April for more — recorded an EP, released a single and garnered the interest of The A&R Department, which looks out for local bands and helps with getting radio airplay and a number of other things.

Last night, we played one of our favourite venues — Frankie’s Pizza — and this is a clip of the last song we played, Mystery Highway, which was the single we released at the back end of 2015.

I hope you like it, and don’t mind me posting it here, but I figured it was a great way to publicise us and I’d love your feedback wherever you are in the world, because ideally we’d like to take this project out of Australia for all to hear and enjoy.

You can listen to the single on Spotify, purchase it on iTunes, too, so please do and spread the word. We’d love to be able to see you and thank you in person for all the support.

 

 

Freddie Mercury’s isolated vocals are mind-blowing

We all know the late Freddie Mercury was an exceptional singer. He made Queen one of the most incredible bands to ever record music in any era. But you realise just how amazing his talent was when you hear his vocals isolated with no music around them. Here’s an example of that from We Are The Champions, which Queen recored in 1977, and also released in October of the same year.

How much do we miss Freddie? Enormously.

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.

Madonna sings John Lennon’s Imagine on the streets of Paris

In between playing sold out shows in Paris, Madonna took time out to hit the streets to lead a little busk of John Lennon’s Imagine.

It’s been less than a month since the city was hit by terror attacks, with many people dying while enjoying music at the Bataclan Music Hall, where Madge’s fellow American musicians Eagles Of Death Metal were playing a show.

The message here, of course, is no amount of terror will ever break the resolve of most right-thinking people to live in peace and harmony. There is arguably no better piece of music than Lennon’s Imagine to communicate that, and this is all as we also remembered it was 35 years ago this week the Beatles legend was shot dead in the streets of New York.