Vasudeva has a tasty Take Away

I’ve been looking around for some fresh post-rock instrumental music for a while now, but I keep going back to my old favourites. That was until today when I stumbled across a great little Facebook group that helps to point us all in the right direction.

Barely two scrolls into my new favourite page, I came across an absolute gem from Vasudeva, a New Jersey band that this year released new album with an opening song, Take Away, that absolutely blew my mind.

There is so much to love about this tune. It’s cheery opening, bouncy demeanour, and absolutely epic middle section, essentially half the song and featuring some grotesquely fabulous drumming.  And then there’s the charming little audio sample at the very end, which I won’t spoil for you. Just take a listen.

What’s great about Vasudeva — and I don’t know if this has always been the case because I’ve only just got to know them — is the brightness in their music. Post-rock is an emotional experience, and while it’s often triumphant and swells your heart to bursting, it can also take on a very sombre feel at times. This, though, is different. It’s got a definite air of positivity about it, and if you could headbang in your yoga class, this would be the perfect soundtrack.

I’m off to get stuck into the rest of this album, and I reckon you should too. It’s called No Clearance.

Nothing compares to Nikka Costa

If you thought Sinead O’Connor’s cover of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U was the best, think again. Nikka Costa — the ridiculously sexy, soulful and talented American singer — has just put out her version, and it’s pretty spectacular.

You can listen to it on your choice of digital service here. For my fellow Spotifyers, you can listen right here:

The single release is the prelude to the 44-year-old’s new album, which has been recorded with nothing more than a rhythm section, a string quartet and a few backing singers. If this track is anything to go by, the rest of the album will be an outstanding experience.

Upon announcing the project — a partnership with Pledge Music — Nikka said: “I’m switching gears a bit for a new album and am really excited to be recording with a rhythm section and a string quartet. I have some songs I’ve always wanted to record with this line-up and make into a very special album featuring this music I love.”

The album won’t be all covers, though. There will also be “some standards, some unexpected covers and some of my own new material, written especially for this project”.

“I’m so excited,” Nikka said. We are, too.

And get this: she recorded the whole thing in ONE DAY!!

There are many goose-bump moments on this first release. No doubt we’ll look like freshly plucked chickens upon hearing the rest of it.

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.

Goldfrapp’s return couldn’t be Anymore welcome

It’s been close to four years since we heard anything new from Goldfrapp, but they’re back in 2017 with a hot new single, Anymore, and plans to release their first new album since 2013.

That album’s name is Silver Eye, and if you’re keen as a bean to get your hands on it, you can pre-order it via this link. If Anymore is anything to go by, it’ll be equally as awesome as all previous six albums the duo has released. As the new song repeats in its catchy chorus, “I can’t wait anymore”.

About a month ago, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, who make up the duo, posted a pic to a new Instagram account with nothing more than the hashtag #goldfrapp7, alluding to the seventh album, which has since been confirmed. It was thought that pic was a reference to the album artwork, given it followed six previous posts featuring the artwork of their previous six albums.

#goldfrapp7

A post shared by Goldfrapp (@goldfrappmusic) on

There had been rumours the new record might be more organic than the electronically-laden sounds of previous records, based on comments made by Goldfrapp a while back, and also because of what had been produced for the band’s 2013 album Tales Of Us, which is heavy on strings and acoustic guitars. Having said that, so to was the 2000 debut album Felt Machine, but with more trip-hop tendencies that were so de rigueur of the time.

But Anymore appears to put that theory well and truly to bed. While it’s not as rich and heavy on synths as the likes of Ooh La La or Strict Machine, it is a bouncy little electro number that evokes memories of Train from the 2003 album Black Cherry. It’s got a catchy chorus, Goldfrapp’s signature breathy vocals, and the hypnotic beats that are so characteristic of the London pair’s biggest hits.

Expect to hear this one a lot in the coming months as the countdown to the album release ticks down. The first live airing of these new tunes — the album listing is beliw — will be at the end of March when Goldfrapp plays a pre-release show at the London Roundhouse. If you’re lucky enough to be there, it should be a pretty fun night.

Silver Eye Track List

Anymore
Systemagic
Tigerman
Become The One
Faux Suede Drifter
Zodiac Black
Beast That Never Was
Everything Is Never Enough
Moon in Your Mouth
Ocean

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.

 

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.

Maria Mena slays Sam Smith

When it comes to covers, you can either get it hopelessly wrong, or you can get it beautifully right. No prizes for guessing which side of that fence we think Norway’s Maria Mena falls with this version of Sam Smith’s Stay With Me.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mena’s talents, she’s been a thing since the mid-2000s, releasing her first album, Another Phase, in 2002 at the age of 16. A second album, Mellow, followed in 2004 which got her some serious attention across Europe. It was a bit Alanis Morissette, poppy with a slight edge to it, and set her up as an artist capable of hitting the charts and radio on a consistent basis.

Let’s face it, anyone that can sing the words “fuck you” like an angel is worth your attention, and that angel is Mena for sure.

Since then, she’s progressed superbly and recently released a new single called I Don’t Want To See You With Her, maintaining her habit of writing super honest lyrics to go along with some achingly catchy pop melodies.

This one is off a new album Growing Pains, which is set to be released in a few days’ time.

Adele sits up and says Hello with her most breathtaking vocals yet

Adele - Hello

Adele – Hello

Every now and then, I get a pang of jealousy for those lucky enough to have been inside the studio when certain songs were recorded. Sometimes it’s a guitar part, or a drum part like the one Neil Peart nailed in The Spirit Of Radio all those years ago.

More often than not, though, it’s a voice, a vocal take I would have absolutely given any or all of my limbs to hear when it was put to tape — or a digital file these days.

I’ve had two pangs this past month. The first came from Australia’s own Sia in her latest song, Alive, which I waxed slightly lyrically over here. But this past week, Britain’s own power-packed singer Adele absolutely nailed it. Her new track Hello honestly made me sit up and say “hello” as a result of her effort on the song.

I recommend not watching the video on YouTube, because it’s annoying, features underlying audio from the storyline, and some slightly off lip-synching. Instead, listen to it here (assuming you’ve got Spotify), and just close your eyes and marvel at this voice.

If you pay special attention to the way Adele sings — it’s kind of impossible not to — you’ll hear what an exceptional voice this girl has. We kind of all knew that, of course, but she’s gone up a notch with this track, I reckon. There is so much in there; emotion deluxe, insane power through the choruses, gentle story-telling in the verses. But there are a couple of standout points that just covered me in goosebumps, over and over again.

The first is her variation in the chorus around the 2:38 mark. The second time around — at 3:03 — her steadiness on the word “outside” as she pitch switches is utterly extraordinary.  There is another demonstration of her brilliance in the same section of the final chorus around the 4:18 mark, where she drops in some wicked trills that defy belief. If you understand what it takes to actually do that in tune, you’ll know what I’m on about.

Adele has plenty of subtlety too. She is perhaps one of the best singers I’ve heard in recent years, and she’s certainly proved that with this track. It’s astonishing to think that had it not been for a friend posting her demo on MySpace about a decade ago — yes, I said MySpace — and XL Recordings picking it up and signing her, we might never have been treated to this.

I wonder if it can get any better. It’s hard to imagine it being any more spectacular than this.

By the way, I’ve dropped the video here if you want to put yourself through it. Around 85 million (and counting) other people have.

White Sea comes in with a cracking newbie

Never A Woman - White Sea

Never A Woman – White Sea

White Sea, the solo project of M83’s wonderful Morgan Kibby, has emerged from a short hiatus with a cracking new track, Never A Woman.

It’s part of a second album that will arrive sometime in 2016, more than a year since Kibby released her debut album, In Cold Blood. That record certainly held true to the vibe of Anthony Gonzalez and his epic electro-pop aesthetic, and this release makes it clear little has changed in terms of how Kibby wants to express herself.

She also put out another track from the forthcoming album a few weeks ago called Stay Young, Get Stoned — an order we can all happily follow.

Kibby’s voice will be familiar to any M83 fan, and delightful it is, too. The late rush of falsetto and killer harmonies that soar above the driving bassline and synth-laden groove of Never A Woman are right up there with up tempo classics like Teen Angst or Graveyard Girl. It’s absolutely impossible not to move some part of your anatomy as it spills from your speakers.

Go for a swim in this White Sea. Trust me — you’ll feel more refreshed and happy than if you don’t.