Category Archives: UK

Emeli Sandé

Weeks back now, I was watching the Graham Norton Show because my idol, Madonna, was a guest (and I had had the sublime pleasure that week of realizing my cable includes BBC America!). The musical guest was Emeli Sandé who was releasing her debut album the next week. When I heard her perform “Next to Me” I fell instantly in love with her and could not wait for the album to drop! During her brief segment on the show with Graham, he had noted that her first name is actually Adele and she replied that she could not very well use that as her stage name after the wild success of fellow her fellow Brit artist. Her first single, “Heaven”, was released in August 2011 and was a huge hit. The album, Our Version of Events, was released in February 2012. She took the 2012 Brit Awards’ award for Critic’s Choice.

 

Our Version of Eventswas number 1 on the UK (where the album went platinum) and Scottish album charts, and made top 10 on Belgian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, and Irish charts.  In the UK, the album sold 113,319 copies in its first week, becoming the second fastest-selling album of 2012. It also marks the best first week sales for a debut album by a British female solo artist since Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed a Dream debuted at number one in December 2009 with sales of 411,820 copies.

 

Sandé’s  album is a great soul/R&B album. Her voice is something incredible. That was what instantly drew me to hear. It is so clear and powerful. I absolutely love it. “Heaven” is an incredible singe, and the video is pretty spectacular. “Next to Me” is without a doubt my favourite track off the album, and a single I cannot listen to enough! There is a real quality to her songs, filled with a raw kind of emotions. “Clown” is an example of one of these raw ballad-y songs off the album. It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s beautiful. “Daddy” is another example of her raw power. I can’t sing the praises of this album enough!

Check out her website: Emeli Sandé

 


Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow

I can’t even begin to talk about my love affair with Kate Bush. When I first heard her music I was immediately yearning for more! “Running Up That Hill” is undoubtedly one of my favourite songs of ALL TIME. I have loved all of Kate’s albums and was again pleasantly surprised to find via Facebook that there was a new album this year. Earlier in the year she had released Director’s Cut, which was an album of re-recorded and reconstructed songs from 2 previous albums: The Sensual World and The Red Shoes. I’m not too intimately acquainted with these albums but the reconstruction of her older material didn’t satisfy my lust for new Kate material. I was completely ecstatic to read about 50 Words for Snow.

50 Words for Snow is the second album to be released on Kate’s own record label, “Fish People” and the first all new album since 2008’s Aerial (too long!) The album received great acclaim for music critics. November 27th marked history for Kate, as the album reached #5 on the UK charts, making her the first female artist to have an album of all new material in the top five during each of the last 5 decades (go Kate!!!)

On 14 November 2011, NPR played the album in its entirety for the first time. In her accompanying review of the album, NPR music critic Ann Powers writes: “Each song on Snow grows as if from magic beans from the lush ground of the singer-songwriter’s keyboard parts. The music is immersive but spacious, jazz-tinged and lushly electronic – the 53-year-old Bush, a prime inspiration for tech-savvy young auteurs ranging from St. Vincent to hip-hop’s Big Boi, pioneered the use of digital samplers in the 1980s and is still an avid aural manipulator. This time around, drummer Steve Gadd is her most important interlocutor – the veteran studio player’s gentle but firm touch draws the frame around each of her expanding landscapes. But Bush won’t be restricted. Like Mitchell on Don Juan’s Restless Daughter [sic], she takes her time and lets her characters lead.” Powers chose 50 words for the new album, describing it as “Powdery fantasia. Contemplative. Winter matins. Playful. Opium reverie. Grounded. Ghost story. Sensual. Artistic recalibration. Unhurried. Drummer’s holiday. Quiet. Ode to the white keys. Imaginative. Exploration of the lower register. Floating. Mother-son duet. Solitary. Snowed-in erotica. Collaborative. Joni Mitchell answer record. Inimitable. Supernatural space odyssey. What we’d expect from Kate Bush.”

What else can you say?? I’ve only heard it once so far (last night!) but am definitely planning on listening to it again as soon as possible. “Misty” and the title track, “50 Words for Snow”, were among my favourite tracks. Do yourself a favour and listen to this album (and if you’ve had the horrible misfortune of not hearing her earlier albums, for the love of all that is good do so immediately!!!!!!)


Sneaker Pimps

Sneaker Pimps were a British trip-hop band formed in 1994. There first album, Becoming X, is a trip-hop classic. By far there most popular single (and my personal favourite) is “Six Underground”. It is definitely one of my favourite trip-hop tracks and would be on any trip-hop mix I make. I really like Kelli Dayton’s vocals on the album, which is why I was so sad when she was asked to leave the band after this album. Only recently have I listened to their other two albums: Splinter, and Bloodsport, and while the music is still great I really can’t get into the vocals. I think this is in part because it is a male vocal, which I find very rarely works in trip-hop.

Another one of my favourite tracks from the album is “How Do”, which I just learned is a cover of “Willow’s Song” from the original Wicker Man movie (a great movie! And I thought that song sounded terribly familiar!). Apparently the band took their name from an article the Beastie Boys published in their Grand Royal magazine about a man they hired to track down classic sneakers.


Jem

Jem is a Welsh singer-songwriter whose first album, Finally Woken, had a lot of amazing songs in the trip-hop genre. A friend of mine bought the album when it first came out and we listened to it for the first time together. I remember immediately loving it. I recently rediscovered Jem and was just asking if she had ever released a second album, which I just discovered she had in 2008. “They”, and “Come On Closer” are definitely my two favourite tracks on the album. I also love “Just A Ride” which I had totally forgotten was a Jem song until I released to the album only a couple of days ago.

I also forgot how diverse Finally Woken is. The first several tracks are darker, more electronic/trip-hop, but as the album progresses we get more acoustical sounding/”folktronica”. I just listened to her second album, Down to Earth, for the first time the other night. I need to give it another listen for sure, but it had some great tracks. Nothing compares to the singles from the first album though. It seemed much lighter, although there were some tracks which were more like her earlier style.

A lot of Jem’s music has been in all sorts of media, which is why some of the songs I had forgotten were hers until relistening to the albums. Her music has been featured on numerous T.V.  show such as Damages, The O.C., Desperate Housewives, Wonderfalls, 90210, Six Feet Under, Crossing Jordan, Grey’s Anatomy, Medium, and “Wish I” was used as the theme tune to the ITV show, Celebrity Love Island. According to her website: Jem is working on a new album that is supposed to be released the summer of this year (and it already being August this weekend, should be soon!) Fun fact: Jem (along with Guy Sigsworth) wrote the song “Nothing Fails” which was eventually reworked for Madonna’s American Life album! (Madonna is my all time, absolute, hands-down, favourite artist of all time!!!)


Lamb

One of my all time favourite genres of music is trip-hop, and one of my favourite bands in that genre is Lamb. The duo is made up of producer Andy Barlow and singer-songwriter Lou Rhodes. Their music is mostly trip-hop, particularly the Bristol brand of the genre, but they also use many elements of jazz, dub, and drum and bass. The duo has had 4 albums to date, and I am most familiar with the compilation Best Kept Secrets.

One of their most famous tracks is “Górecki”, which is inspired by Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, which is an absolutely amazing symphony. It is heart-wrenchingly sorrowful and Polish so you know I love it! Their song ” Górecki” starts off with simple beats and a beautiful melody, and about a third of the way through the beat really picks up and it is an incredible moment.  “Gabriel” is another of their big singles, and it is one of my all time favourite trip-hop songs. The way the music builds is incredible, the lyrics are beautiful, and the sounds completely captivate me.

“Angelica” is definitely one of my favourite Lamb tracks. It uses part of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” and you know how much I love the fusion of electronica and classical!  I could go on and on about so many of their tracks so definitely check them out! Lamb


Noisettes

Noisettes are an indie-rock group from London. My friend Monique first turned me on them not too long ago and we both looove them! The band originally formed in 1996 when the guitarist – Dan Smith – and singer – Shingai Soniwa were attending the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology in Croydon, both of whom had previously been in the band Sonarfly. The drummer – Jamie Morrison – was recruited by Smith after a performance on the UK TV show “Later…with Jools Holland”. Apparently the band quickly got quite the reputation as one London’s rowdiest acts.

Feedback about the band was largely positive right from the beginning. Entertainment Weekly placed the band on its November 2005 list of “Six Indie Brit Bands on the Cusp,” and said the band “sound[s] like high-drama, heavily syncopated swagger-and-sway rock, spearheaded by incandescent frontwoman Shingai Shoniwa.”

2 albums have been released so far: What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf? in 2007 and Wild Young Heart in 2009. I only have the latter and it is a CD that Monique and I constantly are listening to in the car when we adventure! It’s single “Don’t Upset the Rhythm” peaked #2 on the UK charts, and the album itself at #7. Essence magazine remarked that the album “has a 1960’s-tinged soulful rock sound that stays firmly etched in your mind.” I absolutely adore Shoniwa’s vocals! She is soulful, sassy, and powerful! And the energy on the entire album is just incredible. I don’t even think I could tell you which tracks are my favourite because the whole thing is so great!

They are currently working on a new album that is supposed to be released some time this year and I am super excited!!! Right now there are on tour (so wish I could see them!!!!) Check out their site: Noisettes I think “Never Forget You” is definitely one of Monique’s and my favourite tracks. “What you drinking? Rum or whiskey???”


Disintegration

The Cure’s Disintegration is another on my list of absolute top-5 favourite albums. I cannot even begin to express the profound affect this album has had on me. I remember one time I told one of my best friends Kelsey that she needed to hear this album. I put it on in her kitchen (we were eating something) and the CD player was on repeat. The next thing I knew we had gone through the album 3 and a half times. We didn’t speak to each other, we didn’t move. While I have a lot of CDs that I absolutely loooove, Disintigration is the only one to have such an affect on me physically. If ever I listen to this in the car (as I was today) I seem to get to my destination without really remember all of the journey. I just become completely absorbed in the music. It sounds completely stupid but I feel like I feel feelings I didn’t know I had when I listen to this album!!! (I feel so angsty!)


I don’t know exactly what it is. The music itself creates a very unique sound world, filled with vibrant sounds from the 80s and just perfect percussion. Robert Smith’s voice is incredibly haunting and trance inducing. And it may sound a little ridiculous but sometimes when I listen to Disintegration I feel like I never want to hear another album aside from it.

It was the 8th studio album of The Cure, and the band’s best selling to date. It marked a return for the group to a gloomy gothic rock they had established earlier on in the decade. The album was number 326 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (although for me it is much higher!!!)

Wikipedia describes the music on the album perfectly: “Disintegration is epitomised by a significant usage of synthesizers and keyboards, slow, “droning” guitar progressions and Smith’s introspective vocals. “Plainsong”, the album’s opener, “set the mood for Disintegration perfectly,” according to journalist Jeff Apter, by “unravelling ever so slowly in a shower of synths and guitars, before Smith steps up to the mic, uttering snatches of lyrics (‘I’m so cold’) as if he were reading from something as sacred as the Dead Sea Scroll.” Smith felt the song was a perfect opener for the record, describing it as “very lush, very orchestral”. The album’s third track, “Closedown”, contains layers of keyboard texture complemented with a slow, gloomy guitar line. The track was written by Smith as a means to list his physical and artistic shortcomings. Despite the dark mood present throughout Disintegration, “Lovesong” was an upbeat track that became a hit in the United States. Ned Raggett of Allmusic noted the difference from other songs: “the Simon Gallup/ Boris Williams rhythm section create a tight, serviceable dance groove, while Smith and Porl Thompson add further guitar fills and filigrees as well, adding just enough extra bite to the song. Smith himself delivers the lyric softly, with gentle passion.”

The lyrics are incredible, the music is other worldly and I just can’t describe how into this album I get as I’m listening to it. I love every second of this album and songs like “Pictures of You”, “Lovesong”, and “Disintigration” are just unreal.

And who doesn’t adore “Friday I’m In Love”? It comes on almost every night on the radio when I go to sleep and I get so happy everytime I hear it. I was in Bed Bath & Beyond a few weeks ago with two of my best friends when it came on the radio and we were all like, “wow, I really love this song.”


The Sound of Dubstep

The Ministry of Sound London (MoS) is a nightclub in London and an associated record company. In 2010 it was ranked 6th in DJ Magazine top 100 clubs poll. There is also a club based in Malaysia and in Egypt. The London club was an idea that came from DJ Justin Berkmann who wanted a club that was devoted to the American House Music scene of New York City and Detroit. Sound first, lights second, design third. The club held the UK’s first 24-hour dance license.

The record label has released many dance collections of music, and I first happened to grab one of these, Chilled 1991-2008 when I was stuck in Heathrow airport in London overnight on my way back from Barcelona. I’ve recently been delving deep into dubstep again and I happened upon the Ministry’s 2 2-disc collections of The Sound of Dubstep. They are absolutely great collections. Most of the songs are good dubstep remixes of popular songs, though I often prefer dubstep that is a little dirtier. But I highly recommend listening to these collections if you are one who is into dubstep!

Here’s a dubstep remix of Audio Bullys’  “Only Man” from the collection.


Audio Bullys

Audio Bullys is a London electronic group comprised of Simon Franks and Tom Dinsdale. They have released three albums to date, of which I only have the latest two. Their first album Ego War, released in 2003 received great reviews and helped to establish them as one of the best new artists on the dance/house scene. Their second, Generation, received less favourable reviews, and the duo attributed it much to the concessions they made to their record label at the time.

Generation definitely has a darker sound to it, but I really like it. It’s definitely more hip-hop based too and most tracks are much slower and downbeat. It’s first single “Shot You Down” sampling Nancy Sinatra’s cover of Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) is a good one and “Take You There” and “If You Want My Love” are other tracks I really like.

Higher Than the Eiffel is their latest album, and the one which I am most familiar with. One of my absolute favourite tracks is Dynamite. I think there is something super sexy about it. The album has a lot of diversity which I really appreciate. There are a lot of amazing beats and sounds. It has much more energy than their second album and is more (so I’ve read) energized like their debut album.

Their website has a great section about the duo which is definitely worth the read: Audio Bullys


Frankmusik

Frankmusik is an electro-pop musician from Britain. Frankmusik started out as a beat-boxer under the name Mr. Mouth. He released his first EP Frankisum in 2007. In January and February of 2009 he was the support act for Keane on their Perfect Symmetry tour in the UK, and in June he was the opening act for Pet Shop Boys in London, Manchester, and Liverpool. His first album, Complete Me was released in August 2009 and had several  singles including: 3 Little Words (an amazing track!), Confusion Girl, and Better Off As Two which is my favourite track on the album. The album peaked at 13 on the UK pop charts.

The music on the album is unabashedly electro-pop and I love it! Its catchy, dance-ready, and just fun! Frankmusik has also remixed many popular artists’ songs, like Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Pet Shop Boys, and Alphabeats. I definitely recommend Frankmusik to anyone who likes Euro-Electro-pop! Check out his website: Frankmusik

And the video for 3 Little Words is great! Love the light up piano dancing! Woot woot!