Music

THE KING RETURNS

New-Michael-Jackson-album

I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan so it was with great excitement that I read on Monday “New Michael Jackson album coming in May”. I could barely hold in a shamon! It’s almost 5 years since his death but the world will be treated to some ‘new’ music from the undisputed King of Pop with the release of XSCAPE on May 13th. Being a big fan means that whilst I’m super excited  I hope it does his legacy justice.

Epic Records Chairman and CEO L.A. Reid has be given unlimited access to the vault of what MJ considered unfinished tracks so surely we can expect something special. Many people have talked about the huge amount of unused material Michael had and the quality of this work left on the studio floor over the years. Some of the music world’s best producers have been brought in to ‘contemporize’ the tracks with Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins and John McClain all part of the project.

This is the second posthumous album, the first ‘MICHAEL’ was released in 2010. I for one, got up early the day of its release to rush down and buy a copy. I’m always a digital music buyer and hadn’t bought a CD in years but this was Michael Jackson! I had to have a hard copy. I liked the album but was it worthy of the King of Pop? The way MJ created his music was extraordinary! Because he couldn’t read or write music he would build every part of the track with his voice; notes, chords, harmony, melody, bass and rhythm. He explained and demonstrated this in a court case concerning his ‘Dangerous’ album (which he won of course). This creative process is somewhat lost when the control goes over to others, however talented they are. And in my opinion this is where ‘MICHAEL’ wasn’t quite up to the quality you’d expect.

No matter what, everyone involved in XSCAPE have some big penny loafers to fill.

.S.

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GIG REVIEW; CHVRCHES

chvrches

Last night I paid a visit to one of my favourite venues in Amsterdam, a converted former church going by the name of Paradiso to watch….well…..Chvrches. Joined by my very good friend and gig buddy Neus, we assumed our usual spot, front left practically on the stage with a huge speaker on top of us. On this occasion our proximity to the speaker and Neus’ keenness to be right in the action caused her a just a slight problem, they were SO loud!

I loved the Chvrches album the minute I heard it but going to see a band live for the first time can be a risk. Will they perform well? will it sound good? will they come across well? The Scottish three-piece answered these questions with an unequivocal YES!! Seeing their electro-pop tracks come to life before your eyes was quite something to behold. The stunning voice of Lauren Mayberry cutting through the rafters and captivating the entire room with ease. This accompanied by talented musicians Iain Cook and Martin Doherty switching one minute from Guitar, next to keyboard, then to a sample pad meant we were in for a musical treat. Doherty provided backing vocals and took center stage for a track two, his energetic bounding about the stage getting the crowd moving even more.

Some bands tend not to have too much interaction with the crowd aside from introducing the songs and perhaps the odd “thank you”. Kings of Leon being one of these bands and funnily enough during one of the many funny interactions with the crowd Lauren took a swipe at KOL for now sounding like U2. Bit of a mixed reaction from the crowd on this but that may have something to do with the international crowd not understanding her through the Scottish accent.

chvrches 2

Chvches will be fully in the festival circuit this year and still have Zurich, Munich and Berlin to come in their European tour. If you get a chance, I urge you to go and experience them live! It’s impossible to choose a particular track as a highlight from this gig when from start to finish we were taken to Chvrch!

.S.

APP YOUR SERVICE

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There’s nothing worse than realising a band or artist you love  has recently visited your city and you knew nothing about it. Or worse still you found out too late and already the gig is sold out. If like me you love live music it’s no mean feat to keep track of everyone you want to see simply by keep checking various websites. Sure you can go to a ticket tout or try eBay but personally I hate paying someone an inflated price for a ticket they don’t even want and bought it only to exploit the genuine fans. Well fear not, there’s a great free app which will make sure you never miss a gig again!

BandsInTown is available on iOS, Android and Facebook. If you don’t have any of these platforms available to you…….come on…..it’s 2014! And furthermore, how are you reading this?? BandInTown takes information from your iTunes and FaceBook likes to populate a list of artists you’ll track and you can manually add to it whenever you wish. First set your search area based on the GPS location on your device and you’re all set. The minute a gig is announced in your area by your beloved musicians “Ping” a message to tell you exactly when and where. Even a link to buy tickets.

bandsintown

Not only is it great for bands and artists you already know, its also brilliant for new music discovery. Another area of the app shows recommendations of who’s coming to town that you might like based on the artists you already follow. Only a couple of weeks ago my friend Neus and I went through this list of recommendations and before we knew it had booked three gigs for the coming month or so. And just last week “ping”…Kings Of Leon coming to Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome on June 2nd. And now I have tickets, having been ready and waiting when they went on sale.

Without BandInTown my live music calendar would look rather depressing.

.S.

THE SHAMMY AWARDS

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Last night I decided to tune in to the televised edit of the 56th annual Grammy awards. An award which at one time was THE most prestigious award for any artist to have on their mantelpiece. An award ceremony which had some of the most ground-breaking performances in the history of music; 1988 – Michael Jackson – Man In The Mirror, 1993 – Eric Clapton – Tears In Heaven, 1994 – Whitney Houston – I will always Love you. Even as recently as Elton John & Eminem in 2001, Amy Whinehouse in 2008 and Adele in 2012 . But whilst watching Robin Thicke strut his pervy uncle-esque stuff to BluRRed Lines it got me thinking about the state of POP music today and how this gathering of music royalty has changed over the years.

The first annual Grammy awards was held in 1958 and consisted of 28 awards. By comparison the 2014 category list comes in at an eye watering 83! Yes music has evolved since the days people used a gramophone as more than just a vintage hipster showpiece. But dishing out these gongs in so many watered down categories takes everything away from how special it is to get one in the first place.

And the winners are/were……

Record Of The Year 

2014 – Get Lucky (Daft Punk & Pharrell)                       1983 – Beat It (Michael Jackson)

Album Of The Year

2014 – Random Access Memory (Daft Punk)              1977 – Rumours (Fleetwood Mac)

Song Of The Year

               2014 – Royals (Lorde)                                1984 – Every Breath You Take (The Police)

Best New Artist  

2014 – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis                       1965 – The Beatles

The brackets really weren’t required for the past winners (if for you they were then stop reading now, you’re totally going to miss my point). Could the same be said for 2014’s collection of golden gramophone holders in 10/20/30 years time?? The way we have access to music in the modern age in one way is brilliant, just a click of the mouse, a swipe of the iPad or flick of the TV channel and it’s all right there in your ears in an instant. But is this having a negative affect on our attention span or the staying power of artist?

An award of any description for your talent should be a shining beacon of success in career. Unfortunately I think the sheen of a Grammy has dimmed slightly over the years but perhaps that’s of our own (or technologies) doing.

.S.

TUNE-THOUSAND AND FOURTEEN

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Here you have it, the first installment of Tune-Thousand And Fourteen. The regular profile of exciting artists you’ll be hearing big things from this year. So without further ado;

Denai Moore

This Jamaican born, Stratford raised 19 year old apparently began experimenting with music at the teeny tiny age of 7. Some of her earliest tracks were so deep and heart-wrenching it was almost impossible to believe they had been composed by a girl who at the time was just 12 years old. Mini Moore took inspiration from things she heard and things she saw. Whether she fully understood the content of these early tracks I’m unsure but a self-confessed obsession with Lauryn Hill had clearly made an impact. When she later moved to the guitar and a folkier element appeared her sound began to take shape. I first heard a track called Flaws and instantly wanted to hear more of Moore because one things for sure, her voice is anything but flawed. The title track from her debut EP “The Lake” shows a beautifully delicate vocal performance, at times sounding close to tears.

 

Childish Gambino

Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino is a man of many talents. Starting his career in comedy and appearing in numerous roles on the big and small screen he’s now focusing on the area we really care about here, MUSIC. His second studio album “Because The Internet” was released on December 10th and has since received rave reviews. The album title came while working with none other than Beck, who asked “Do rappers talk to each other?”. Mr Glover responded “I don’t like starting answer’s with this, but because the internet….”. Beck suggested that be the name of the album and it stuck! When everything we do leaves a digital in-print somewhere online it’s pretty accurate, because the internet is everything. Childish Gambino’s lyrical content is unlike your everyday rapper, there’s a welcome lack of bitches, money and bling which can surely be contributed to his work as a writer. This as well as killer beats and catchy hooks makes “Because The Internet” a must listen. He’ll be performing here in Amsterdam at Melkweg on February 12th.

 

RY X

RY X is an Australian singer songwriter who currently resides in LALA Land began his career back in 2010 under his real name (Ry Cuming) with a self titled album. I discovered RY X thanks to the brilliant Shazam app after hearing a snippet of Berlin on a TV advert for a Sony Bravia television of all things. Now with label mates such as Alt-J and Local Natives, he’s in good company and following the release of the “Berlin EP”  is sure to go onto be known for much more than “that song on that tv ad”. The striped back nature of Berlin makes it a beautifully captivating yet stunningly simple track. Vampires has since followed and is equally brilliant. RY X will be playing at Paradijskerk in Rotterdam on February 22nd.

 

Public Access T.V.

New York three piece Public Access T.V. are the talk of the town although little is known about the indie-punk sounding outfit. With minimal online presence consisting of just one track on Soundcloud, a sparse facebook page, little followed Twitter account and NOTHING on Youtube information is hard to come by. Having played their first publicized gig in New York as recently as January 30th they’ve had their first play on Radio One and interviewers are circling like sharks. In an age where everyone is after their 15 minutes and self publicity is easier than ever because the internet (see what I did there) does this make them brilliant or simply plain arrogant? I’m going with the former. Who knows how, when or where we’ll be hearing more from them but there is certainly no IF about it. Public Access T.V. are ones to keep your ear to the ground for.