27 Jun 2014

Glastonbury day preview - Saturday (Part 2 of 3)

In the second instalment of our Glastonbury day previews, we're having a look at who's playing tomorrow in a field in Somerset. Unless you're going to put up with a certain must-miss metal band, here are some essentials to see on Saturday.

Top Pick: Pixies (21.00, The Other Stage)

Who else? Boston's legendary alternative rock band Pixies look to play their first Glastonbury show since the Surfer Rosa days, and boy is it something exciting. Although they've got a new, alright, badly-titled album out, Pixies will be the best band on the bill if they stick to the older stuff. I mean, Greens and Blues would be a nice edition, but the one thing that would make Pixies' set special would be the inclusion of lesser-known classics, like Nimrod's Son, Rock Music, and their cover of the Mary Chain's Head On...

RSVP (12.00, The Glade)
Their unique blend of Bhangra and alternative rock has made RSVP a Glastonbury mainstay. Whilst they're not as technically gifted as Jack White, RSVP are the most entertaining band you'll see all weekend, and if you're at a loose end on Saturday morning they're the ones to see.

The Fat White Family (15.00, The John Peel Stage)
Whilst their controversial statements (like that fantastic one where they venomously slagged off AM for a few pages) so frequently get them onto the first few papers of the music press, their music more than does the talking. Whilst they bear similarity to the likes of the Libertines and the Strokes, The Fat Whites also take influence from the more vulgar sounding alternative bands of the last 30 years - and I mean vulgar in the best sense of the word. They should certainly put on a show.

Jack White (19.30, Pyramid Stage)
Although at this time the Pyramid Stage's crowd will probably be packed to the brim with aged 'rockers', who'll tell you that you're too young to like 'real' music, it's just the place to be at 7.30. The godlike genius of Jack White and his new album Lazaretto is set to Blitz the Pyramid Stage with a variety of Bluesy modern classics.

Mogwai (23.00, Park Stage)
Mogwai recently made the news by saying that they weren't worried that Metallica would steal their thunder, because Metallica are not just 'incredibly bad', but 'shite'. But aside from their distaste for Metallica, Mogwai's exceptionally beautiful post-rock is probably the best way to close off Saturday. With Rave Tapes being such a fine album and their discography being so rich, Mogwai can't go wrong.

TOY (21.00, William's Green)
The William's Green is a real hidden gem. On Saturday, it's the pick of the stages, with TOY probably being the pick of the bands. Tom Dougall's five piece that play Loop-come-NEU! style music are one of the finest bands on the scene at the moment, and their album Join the Dots was one of the finest of last year. The rest of the stage's Saturday line-up is just brilliant; the highlights are as follows: at 11.00 in the morning, Dark Bells open the proceedings with their vintage-style pysch, then at 13.00 off of the back of new album Soft Friday Coves take to stage, to then be followed by The Wytches - who seem like some sort of emerging cult band, because everyone who's into them is into them, you know? Then, at 16.00 the legendary psychedelic band the Bevis Frond take to the stage, with the last other notable highlight being Temples, who also played yesterday (Friday) before proceedings are closed by the fresh from KOKO Buttoned Down Disco. The William's Green stage is the place to be for all your psychedelic needs.

Manic Street Preachers (19.30, The Other Stage)
Although it's hard to like a band whose lead songwriter publicly stated "I will always hate Slowdive more than Hitler", The Manics are almost as good as everyone said. Although they've dropped plans to play The Holy Bible in full, a hit-packed Manics set would be fantastic. And you'd be in a good place for Pixies as well, which would probably be my main motif for seeing them.

Royal Blood (14.00, John Peel Stage)
The two piece that give "drum 'n' bass" a new meaning take to Wrothy Farm for the first time. Their set should provide a great pre-Fat Whites atmosphere, and with their debut on the horizon, Royal Blood will be worth watching no matter what.

Courtney Barnett (17.00, John Peel Stage)
I've mentioned her in the last post, and I was debating not putting her in this one, but it's so essential you see Courtney and this is your second chance. The wonderfully voiced Australian singer songwriter looks again to be one of the picks of the day, I couldn't recommend her enough...  I mean if you need any more convincing, look at this video...

(written by Calum Cashin)

Glastonbury day preview - Sunday (Part 3 of 3)

In the third and final instalment of our day previews, I've had a look at Sunday. Sunday is probably the best day in terms of line up, so without further adieu...

Top Pick: The Brain Jonestown Massacre (19.30, The John Peel Stage)

The San Francisco cult band are the pick of the action on the Sunday. Led by the shamanic genius of Anton Newcombe, the BJM look set to play a whole host of great songs, from both Revelation and their expansive discography. The Brian Jonestown Massacre are in the middle of their UK tour, which is probably the most essential tour to catch this summer.

Massive Attack (22.00 The Other Stage)
The legendary Bristol trip-hop group are a much more exciting alternative to the other bands headlining their respective stages. If I'm not mistaken, they played there last in 2009, where they played the brilliant Unfinished Sympathy, from their 1991 masterpiece Blue Lines. It should be perfectly orchestrated, and much more worth watching than the lad-rock of Kasabian on the Sunday night.

FURS (12.00, BBC Introducing)
FURS are a gloomy electronic pop outfit, from London. Normally the BBC Introducing is a bit of a stronghold for bands worth watching; alas, this year it's not so great, but FURS are the pick of the bill for the whole weekend. They have a sound that's been described as 'drama pop' and 'Garbage meets Cults'... but it is much better than it sounds.

Marcus Brigstocke's Policy Unit (11.40, Cabaret Tent)
Whilst I'm not one for stopping to see comedy at festivals, last year at Latitude I took some time out to see Brigstocke and co.'s Policy Unit. Marcus Brigstocke is, for me,  one of the funniest comedians on television and this is worth going to see.

Superfood (14.00, William's Green)
Birmingham's finest four-piece, that are kind of trendy IT Crowd lookalikes step on to the William's Green stage in the afternoon. The band are fresh from touring with Wolf Alice, and have recently released an EP entitled MAM. Superfood look set to be one of Sunday's highlights with their gritty Ash-inspired indie rock.

Public Service Broadcasting (16.00, West Holts)
PSB are one of the more interesting London bands. With sampling from the archives combined with fresh sounding guitar textures, they're also incredibly innovative. 2012's War Room EP and last year's Inform-Educate-Entertain were two of the best releases in their respective years, and any of their fantastic material could excite the crowd. Highlights from the rest of that stage on Sunday include the fantastic Bonobo and the jazzy-world stylings of Melt Yourself Down. It's one of the best places to be...

Lucy Rose (13.30, The Other Stage)
Lucy Rose's angelic vocals, combined with her beautiful little anecdotes between songs make Lucy an enthralling live prospect. She's recording her second album, the follow up to the gorgeous-yet-forlorn Like I Used To, which is something to really look forward to, and with any luck she should air some songs from it on her Sunday Glasto slot.

The Horrors (17.20, The Other Stage)
Southend's garage-goth-come-synth-overlords, The Horrors play an hour-long slot on Sunday. With each and every album a huge variant on the last, a long set by Badwan and co. should be very exciting. Imagine how amazing Sea Within A Sea would sound to a crowd of 30,000, and imagine how cool it'd be to experience Still Life and I Can See Through You at an event like this. The Horrors look to be the most essential pick for Sunday, apart from the obvious BJM.

(written by Calum Cashin)

26 Jun 2014

Glastonbury day preview - Friday (Part 1 of 3)

Glastonbury is well and truly under way, and whilst there are a few bands here and there, tomorrow's when everything really kicks off. Here are some of the most important bands to see on Friday at Worthy Farm,... And most of them are easy enough to stream from the comfort of your sofa, so it may or may not be worth paying attention.

Top pick: The War On Drugs (12.30, Pyramid Stage)

Adam Granduciel's Philadelphia-based War On Drugs are the pick of the day; fresh off the hugely successful Lost in the Dream, they take to the stage to play material from their beautiful, brooding album just after lunch. The frontman's Dylan-esque vocals, and the band's fantastic sprawling songs make The War On Drugs the most essential band to see on Friday. Watch out for performances of the stunning Under the Pressure and An Ocean in Between the Waves in waves entirety.

Parquet Courts (18.30, The Park Stage)
Pirchfork's favourite band are NYC's Parquet Courts. After churning out another great album, Sunbather Animal, they're looking to air it during their Worthy Farm slot; a rare UK appearance. With their blend of The Strokes and Husker Du, they're looking to get the crowd going on The Park stage Friday.

Courtney Barnett (14.30, The Park Stage)
Aussie singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is renowned for her low-key, bleak lyrics and her gorgeous voice. But you have to see her, because she sounds so much heavier live, and so much better. There are a few well-renowned female solo artists on the bill (Lana Del Rey, Blondie (well, sort of)) but Courtney is much more talented than any of them. She's a must see. (but if you miss her she plays the John Peel Stage on Saturday)

Drenge (14.00, John Peel Stage)
Drenge have enjoyed one hell of a year. Their ugly, heavy two piece rock has earned them many fans from all around, and this is the opportune place to exhibit some of the bluesy thrash that saw the Loveless brothers get so many plaudits. They've got a 40 minute slot, so they should probably play between 21 and 23 songs if they get their heads down.

Arcade Fire (22.00, Pyramid Stage)
The thing stopping the all-conquering Canadians from being my top pick is probably their last album. And I mean no disrespect to it, Reflektor was one of last year's high points. But in context, is Here Comes the Night Time really a song that can work to a crowd of 80,000? I imagine not. Mind you, the thought of Black Mirror played to a huge audience is enough to give anyone goosebumps. They're definitely the best headliner of the three.

temples bandTemples (15.00, John Peel Stage)
Kettering's psych-poppers Temples are one of the most talented and most polite bands on the UK indie scene at the moment. Fronted by the glittery James Bagshaw, Temples' Byrds-style psychedelia looks to either beautifully compliment great weather, or offer salvation like a roaring fire to those getting out of the rain. As long as their set is easy to stream, either will do me.

Julian Cope (12.30, The Glastonbury Open University Stage)
For me, Julian Cope is the single most versatile man in music. At the moment he continues his romping career as a solo artist, a member of the noise-rock "stoopergroup" Brain Donor, an archaeologist, and an invaluable cultural commentator. But now he's debuting a novel, One Three One, and it's something I can't wait to read. At Glasto he looks to read a bit from his novel, and it's looking to be one of the most interesting acts of the weekend.

(by Calum Cashin)

24 Jun 2014

Ten bands you need to see at... TRUCK FESTIVAL

Taking place in rural Oxford on the 18th and 19th of July, Truck Festival is shaping up to be one of the better small festivals in the UK. Whilst it's going to be my first time at Truck and I can't give an insight on much more than the photos on a website, here's our preview of ten of the best bands playing Truck this year... there are some obvious 'heavy weights', as well as some of the smaller bands that are playing the Oxfordshire festival.

The 3 best Heavy Weights...

The Cribs
Wakefield's premier 'mid-fi' band headline the festival on the Friday. With a handful of great albums under their belts, The Cribs are one of the British indie scene's most consistent members, and have more than enough credentials to headline the festival. With their last release being a greatest hits, it's probably that they'll exhibit some of their early gems and best known songs. With any luck, some kind of performance of Be Safe will feature, and that could just about make The Cribs the most essential band to see.

Gang of Four
Whilst a little different from the rest of the line up, the seminal four-piece are without a doubt one of the greatest remnants of the post-punk scene of the eighties. In fact, the last time I saw them play, they smashed up a microwave in the name of art. If they exhibit some of their greater material, Gang of Four are absolutely essential to see.

Although they've played high billing Dot-to-Dot shows, Peace's appearance at Truck looks to be the first time they're playing a fairly major festival so high up the bill. This of course means that they should be planning something just as eccentric as the Glastonbury dungarees. Of course, Peace's recent singles have been lacklustre, and a lot of older material could be essential for making Peace's set amongst the best. In other words, they need to play 1998.

7 Bands a Bit Lower Down the Bill...

With their blend of Ash-come-Soup Dragons indie pop, Birmingham's Superfood take to the main stage during the middle parts of the Saturday. Like Peace, they're one of NME's better buzz bands, and they're looking to release an album very soon, so material from that should be on show.

Black Moth
Black Moth, for me, are the most exciting band on the bill. They're a Leeds-based band, that make heavy riff-orientated grunge inspired music. Female fronted, they take influences from the proto-punk of Iggy and the Stooges, The Sonics and The Velvets, as well as the riff-heavy grunge of The Melvins and Mudhoney, and maybe even Julian Cope's Brain Donor side project. They look to be one of the highlights of the weekend, playing before DZ Deathrays on the Friday.

The St. Pierre Snake Invasion
On not long before Black Moth, the first thing you notice about The St. Pierre Snake Invasion is their name. But boy, can they play. Their fuzzy stoner rock, and ominous, sinister lyrics should make for a brilliant show.

Playing the Saturday morning at The Barn, Radstewart are a must see, despite their name. They sound very like Pavement, but also a bit like Stephen Malkmus' solo work, but more towards Pavement. They just sound a lot like Pavement, so they're more than worth checking out.

Circa Waves
Whilst most modern bands take a bit of an influence from The Strokes, Circa Waves sound exactly like them, with a bit of a Beatles-y twist. Whilst they're probably not the most innovative band at all, they should be more than entertaining, and more than good enough at getting a crowd going to their fast-paced songs.

The Dreaming Spires
The Dreaming Spires play Truck twice. And one of them is well after everyone else finishes, so you don't really have much excuse to miss them. They're a local Oxford band, and they make slow, but quite atmospheric indie music. They're certainly worth a look...

Glastonbury Preview..

Glastonbury Festival is the one of the most globally recognised music festivals. Every year, 175,000 teens, adults and families descend onto Worthy Farm for five days of music mayhem. This year marks 44 years since the festival began, and it has one of the most varied and controversial line-ups to date. With a matter of hours until the gates open, we look at the line-up for the legendary festival and make our predictions on who will rock Glastonbury 2014.

1. The Headliners
Whether you are a big fan of the headline acts or not, the atmosphere created within the crowd in the shadow of the majestic Pyramid Stage is one that should be experienced by everyone at least once in their lifetime. 
Friday night at Glasto will be home to a brilliant electric light show paired with the phenomenal band, Arcade Fire. Fresh off of a massive run on sold out shows all around the globe to play latest album Reflektor, Arcade Fire promise to capture their audiences with their extensive discography of catchy both dance and indie rock songs that will make the crowd go mental. 
Saturday night headliners Metallica are probably the most controversial headliners that this festival has ever played host to. The news was met with a variety of responses, some being grateful that this iconic festival finally has a metal headliner, but the majority seeming disappointed that they chose the American band to top the bill on the main night. We will just have to see whether they have what it takes to impress the massive Glasto crowd. 
Sunday night will host one of my current favourite bands -Kasabian. Their new album 48:13 has been greeted with a excellent reception and in a recent interview with NME the band said they "want their Glasto mosh pit to be able to be seen from outer space." They promise funky dance tracks like new single Eez-Eh mixed with classic rock anthems such as Fire. This is the set I am most excited to see, this band are huge at the moment and they have the potential to be the best act of the weekend. 

2.The Rest of the Pyramid Stage
The iconic stage is playing host to a huge range of bands from all ends of the music spectrum this year. From Dolly Parton to Jack White to The 1975 to Lily Allen, nearly every genre of music is covered over the three days. My top three bands that will own the Pyramid Stage are Lana Del Rey, Elbow and The Black Keys. 
Lana Dey Rey is riding on the wave of success that her new album 'Ultraviolence' has created, and rightly so. The second studio album for the American pop-princess, is stylised and sassy with just the right amount of sultry, forming the perfect ever-so-lana mix of excellence. 
Elbow are simply one of the most crowd pleasing bands I have had the pleasure to see live, and I have no doubts at all that the phenomenal feel-good anthem, One Day Like This, will get all 175,000 people crammed into Worthy Farm singing along. 
The Black Keys' new album is a fresh spin on their established genre of indie rock while encorperating the electronic feel that this band do so well. Preparing for a summer full of festivals including a headline slot at Latitude Festival. the new singles Fever and Turn Blue as well as classics such as Lonely Boy are guaranteed to get the crowd on their feet and dancing.

3. The Other Stage
Once again displaying the massive variety of artists performing at Glasto this year, the line-up boasts old classics like Blondie, Pixies and Manic Street Preachers as well as much more recent acts such as Haim, Bombay Bicycle Club, Circa Waves and Jake Bugg. My top three to see are:
The Horrors: Always such a fantastically crowd pleasing act, the band fresh off the success of their newest album 'Luminous' promise the perfect combination of easy listening tracks mixed with super synths and 10 minute jam sessions, all topped off with skinny jeans and good hair. The Horrors are a must see anyway, but put in the phenomenal setting of the Other Stage, they must not be missed.
Blondie: I was lucky enough to see Blondie last year, and at the almost unbelievable age of 67, she strutted on to the opening bars of One Way or Another still as iconic as she has always been. One of the best live performers I have ever seen, Debbie Harry and her band of brilliantly talented individuals are one act I would recommend to anyone of any age. The setlist will be littered with the classics, with the exception of a few of the new tracks including A Rose By Any Name, I would definitely not miss this band.
HAIM: Coming straight from their double support slot with Kings of Leon this weekend, the three sisters are set to make their Other Stage debut. Their debut album 'Days Are Gone' was named as one of the soundtracks to last summer, and they have definitely not let that go. Playing a huge variety of other festivals all around the world, HAIM are a band who I have been lucky enough to see, and are counted as one of the greatest gigs I have ever been to. The energy that these girls bring to the stage will make you want to sing, dance, get onstage and just have the best time ever. The perfect festival band, make sure to get along and see this incredibly talented trio do their thing.

4.The Remaining Acts
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
San Francisco's legendary psychedelic titans, The Brian Jonestown Massacre are one of the most exciting bands on the line up. Fronted by the shamanic genius of Anton Newcombe, the world's premier cult band look to be playing tracks from their fantastic new album Revelation, as well as some more of the greatest songs ever penned.
The sassy electronic atmospherics of FURS is the most exciting thing going on on the BBC introducing stage. Lots of people will remember them, when they supported San Cisco on a few of their UK dates.
Julian Cope
After finding fame with The Teardrop Explodes in the early eighties, Julian Cope went on to forge an awe-inspiring solo career, where he made some of the most innovative pop, psychedic, stoner rock, doom metal and krautrock inspired music of his generation. As the only man on the planet more versatile than David Bowie he then preceded to be an author, a cultural commentator and a critic. Now, on the Glastonbury Open University stage, he reads from his thrilling debut novel. A must.
Whilst he's left his midnight runners at home, Kevin Rowland looks to fly the flag for the better parts of 80's pop.They're playing the acoustic tent and look to whip out such classics as Geno and Come on Eileen.
Billy Bragg
He plays literally every year, on the Leftfield stage. And to the great man's credit, he's always an exciting prospect. Definitely one of the safer singers to see over the weekend.
Courtney Barnett
The John Peel stage without fail is the stage with the best line up, so on a day that MGMT, Royal Blood and the Fat White Family are playing it, it's quite difficult for a solo artist to be objectively the best artist playing. But in camparison to the writer of such masterpieces as Avant Gardener, Courtney Barnett, none of these bands compare remotely, she's a true original that it's almost essential to see. She also plays on the Park Stage, on Friday.

Overall, no matter how controversial or bizarre the line-up is, everybody knows that Glasto is the mother of all festivals, and promises an incredible weekend full of music, arts and everything amazing. I'm painfully jealous of anyone who managed to bag themselves a ticket, and hope you all think of me who shall be crying while watching all the sets from the dull setting of my living room on my tv. Sigh..

-Written by Poppy Marriott (with help from Cal)

22 Jun 2014

A review of the Lazaretto 'Ultra LP'

Jack White's Lazaretto was released a couple of weeks ago, to almost unanimously positive reviews. And of course, being Jack White, these positive reviews were completely warranted by a stunning record - quite possibly the best of the year so far. On top of that, in the USA it smashed the sales record for how many copies a slab of vinyl shifted in a week, beating a 20 year-long record held by Pearl Jam. This wasn't just because Lazaretto is a stunning album, however; it's because Jack White's Third Man Records released Lazaretto as something called an 'Ultra LP'...

What makes the Lazaretto LP is a number of features a number of special features that are unprecedented on a record. White has set out to create the single coolest record ever released, and I can't see anything ever being cooler. No amount of splattery, colourful vinyl can top it, and here's why...

As with anybody, on first play of the Ultra LP, I started Side 1 like any other record. I dropped the needle where you'd normally drop the needle, and I sat down... only to be greeted with the 2 second loop of a screaming blues guitar riff, over and over. At first this confused me, so I set the needle to a different spot - "Ah", I thought, completely amazed that the LP's first side plays backwards. And the screaming two second loop was the end to the blistering instrumental, High Ball Stepper. 

Side 2's a bit more straightforward to play, but it looks different to every record released for 50 or so years; it's finished so it looks like an old 78. Unlike Side 1, you start this side by placing the needle on the edge of the record... simple, eh? Well no, because depending on just WHERE you place the needle, you hear a different version of Side 2's opener Just One Drink. Sometimes you hear the acoustic version, which highlights White's versatile vocals, but of course you want to hear the electric version, because Just One Drink is a pretty great guitar track played by a great guitarist. 

The fun with Lazaretto doesn't end here; apparently if you have the bollocks to peel away the labels on either side (I don't), you'll find a hidden track on each side. One plays at 78rpm, and the other at 45, which also makes Lazaretto the first record EVER to play at three speeds...

And if that wasn't enough, under a spotlight Side 1 shows a whopping great hologram of an angel. Although I don't actually have a very good spotlight type thing to do so with, the Lazaretto angel is one of the coolest parts of the Ultra LP... and that says a lot. 

On his quest to make the coolest LP ever, it's not just the vinyl bits that combine to make Lazaretto as cool as it is... I mean look at the cover art. Jack White looks like a Tim Burton animation of Jesus at the best of times, but in the cover this is amplified by a thousand; he's in a shiny blue suit, with a shiny blue pork pie hat, surrounded unblinking by stone angels, in what seems like a graveyard. It's the best cover art of the year by miles and miles. And, the inside of the record sleeve is black. Whilst this is only a minor touch, it's an important touch. 

And the little touches are just brilliant too. The record's insert is a bit of a lyric sheet. But it opens up with some kind of brief dialogue from "The Admitting of Patience" which is probably a made up play. It's quite confusing stuff, and I don't really get it and the "I see." that 'Person Three' says at the end of it is echoed by anyone reading it. But the rest of the insert is just as cool; it's blue, with a picture of one of the angels from the front cover.  But the most enthralling bit of the insert is the special thanks bit. Whilst Ride's Nowhere's special thanks section might have seemed excessive, Lazaretto's is literally a columnful. Listed among these names and things are "70's movies", "Meg White", "FC Gundlach", "coffee, tea, sugar", and "Mexico". I could go on. It makes for much more enthralling reading than most, if not all, my set texts for A Level literature. There is nothing better than a good insert.

But what makes all of this a special record is overarched by what is a great, great record. It's eccentric, even by Jack White's standards, and without a doubt the highlight of his recent career... and that says a lot. In fact I'd go so far as to say I prefer it not only to Blunderbuss, but to Horehound, Icky Thump and maybe even [whipsers] White Blood Cells

For the album alone: 9/10
For the Ultra LP, with its features and bonus tracks: 10/10

(written by Calum Cashin)

20 Jun 2014

The top 10 songs of 2014... so far

You might remember that I opened the blog with a top 10 of this year's albums so far (HERE)... and of course, that means that a list of songs can't be far away... right? Here are the top ten songs of 2014 so far...

10. Pleasant Heart - Ought
The Canadian art-punk's debut album, More Than Any Other Day just about missed the cut on my albums post, but the album's clunky, riff-fuelled opener is more than worthy of a place on this list. Coming in at just under six minutes, the band's Belle and Sebastian-come-Husker Du stylings and a gorgeous false ending make the riotous Pleasant Heart one of the finest album openers of the year.

9. Vad Hande Med Dem? - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
The opening track on BJM's Revelation is part of a stunning opening double header. Along with What You Isn't, this track (the title means Whatever Happened to Them? in Swedish) is entirely sung in Swedish by Joakim Ã…hlund, the lead singer of BJM's tourmates Les Big Byrd. Vad Hande Med Dem? has echoes of a lot of the garage revival at the start of the 2000's, as it's everything you wish the Strokes sounded like. And whilst Revelation is a truly stunning album, the double header opening it all up is something I stunning, which makes way for the rest of a fantastic thirteenth album.

Brian Jonestown Simpson massacre8. What You Isn't - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
The second song from the San Francisco based band's lateststudio album, Revelation, What You Isn't is one of the greater psych songs released over the past 18 months. Following the fast paced opener, What You Isn't's slow, entwining melody slows the dynamic record down to a dreamy walking pace. The lyrics too, "You gotta wake up and be a man, and make a plan" are simplistic, yet have a certain quality to them that gives the album a self-satisfied, uplifting quality to it.

7. Possessed - Eagulls
The most catchy, obvious single from Eagulls' self-titled debut is Possessed. With less feedback than the rest of the album, and a riff that sounds almost MBV-come-Kasabian, and some shouty vocals that everyone has become very akin to hearing on Eagulls' music, Possessed is much more commercial than the sinister Fester-Blister or the seering Nerve Endings, and is the track that probably gets the best reception live, because even after one listen the chorus is easily repeatable, and enjoyably singable.

6. Under the Pressure - The War on Drugs
Lost in the Dream received tremendous amounts of praise as an album. But the teetering tottering opener Under the Pressure stretches on for 8 minutes that are the product of a barrage of great influences... not only the obvious Dylan allusions can be made, but Under the Pressure sounds much like WU LYF, or ex-member Kurt Vile. Overall, however, the euphoria of the song, and Granduciel's wonderful Zimmerman tones make the almost motorik Fur Immer-esque album opener one of the best of the year.

5. Every Time the Sun Comes Up - Sharon Van Etten
Jagjaguwar's angelic-voiced Van Etten delivered her fourth studio album this May. Van Etten's voice is obviously the most beautiful thing about this song, but the tired-sounding synthesiser drones and the forlorn harmonies are enough to make Every Time the Sun Comes Up the most beautiful possible ending to Van Etten's self-produced Are We There. 

4. Lazaretto - Jack White
The riffiest song on his sophomore album of the same name, Lazaretto is probably the stand out track amongst a great bunch. White's position as one of the world's greatest guitarists is enforced by both the riff, the solo, and the restart after the false ending in the middle of the song. His vocal too, is more punchier than on Blunderbuss, as White delivers with a scintillating pace. The lyrics are catchy as well (My veins are blue and connected/and every single bone in my brain is electric) sound every bit as great as anything he did with the White Stripes or the Raconteurs.

3. Fuckers - Savages
French-born Jehnny Beth is one of the music scene's finest vocalists. On Savages' latest single, Beth sings with soul unparalleled by any of her contemporaries, making the repeated "don't let the fuckers get you down" sounding  just as intense and hypnotic as it would have had she been reciting a Shakespeare soliloquy. But of course, as anyone who bought last year's Silence Yourself will know that the rest of the band are more than talented. On the sprawling nine minutes of Fuckers, the musicianship somewhat resembles a mistier, darker version of London psychedlic-types, TOY, whilst Fay Milton's drumming parallels only Klaus Dinger's of NEU!

2. Rule Number One - Telegram
As one of London's most promising psych bands, Telegram are yet to not strike gold with their releases. Their third song on show, after last October's Follow and it's b-side, Under the Night TimeRule Number One is a fast paced, ferocious psych-punk song. Although it retains some of the same sort of sound, the nods towards 70's psych and the booming voice of Matt Saunders, Rule Number One features a powerful energy akin to MBV's You Made Me Realise. As well as that, Rule Number One is considerably shorter than the rest of the band's material, making it an explosive set opener, and promising a huge debut album.

1. Nerve Endings - Eagulls
My love and excitement for Leeds' Eagulls is well documented over various blog posts, but with good reason. The energy the five-piece exert is something really quite stunning, and the venom with which they immortalise it to record with is just something else. The first track, Nerve Endings, is the stand out song on their self-titled debut, and just the most perfect album opener to a stunning album. The sinister, claustrophobic feel to the controlled feedback, and the viciously barked vocals set the tone fantastically for the rest of the album, and setting the benchmark too high for their contemporaries. 2014 is Eagulls year...

(written by Calum Cashin)

Snap Out Of It: Video Review

Arctic Monkeys. One of my personal favourite bands, fresh from two massive sold out shows at London's Finsbury Park and still riding on the success of their fifth number one album, this band are on fire. 'AM' was released last year and it went went straight to number one and it has been the album that's really propelled the four lads from Sheffield into the spotlight. The first three singles, R U Mine?, Do I Wanna Know and Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High? were just as successful, and the fourth and fifth singles, One For The Road and Arabella followed suit. When Arctic Monkeys announced that a sixth single would be released, it seemed slightly excessive, and all the more disappointing when it was announced to be Snap Out Of It, one of the more mediocre songs from AM. However, as they are one of my favourite bands, I went in with an open mind, hoping that the video would be able to make me slightly more fond of the song.. I was fairly discouraged from the moment the video began.

It seems that the band have decided to steer away from the attention for this video and resort to the age-old motto that "sex sells," as the very first shot is a woman in a fairly skimpy bathing suit exiting a pool. 

As the video goes on, it becomes apparent that this woman (who never manages to get fully dressed I might add) is horrendously infatuated with one Mr Alex Turner.. I mean honestly, this entire video just feels like a huge ego trip for the lead singer. Not only is this video incredibly bizarre (there's multiple shots of this woman cooking steak -why?) but it feels like the band have simply ran out of ideas and resorted to overly sexualising females, much like any other male artist around today. 

When the focus is not on the woman dancing around in her bra, there are clips of the band messing around, making stupid faces at the camera and playing snippets of songs acoustically and I feel as if the music video would have stood on it's own with just these clips, why did they feel the need to put a 'fangirl' in there? I would rather see four minutes of Alex, Matt, Nick and Jamie being idiots than some partially dressed woman 'fangirling' over them and cooking steak. (I still don't understand the significance of the steak, please, somebody enlighten me..)

It also seems as if the monkeys have forgotten their English background, as this video feels full on American, and ok, I understand that they are currently living there and they recorded 'AM' there, but why change so suddenly from a classic English band who just have a great time, to an American group who overly sexualise females and make them seem obsessed with the band? It's not as if Alex needs an ego boost!

You may look back at the monkeys previous video for Arabella and say, "Oh well that sexualised woman as well" but the difference is in the video for that, the females were portrayed as objects of lust as opposed to women who obsess over them because they are in a band. The Arabella video was also not focused around the females, the focus was on the band where as this video is pretty much based around this woman who seems to be incapable of getting dressed, and feels the need to sob and dance around the room to videos of the band.

Altogether, this video just seems rushed, lazy and just very very naff. It's also pretty cringey and hasn't really had a good reception from what I have seen online. This is their sixth single from 'AM' remember, meaning that they have now released half of their album as singles. I don't know whether it's a publicity stunt so that more people will buy the album, but they definitely chose the wrong single to release, and the video only highlights how weak this single is in comparison to the other five released. R U Mine? is my personal favourite, and pretty much the entire video is Alex and Matt in a car miming along to the song.

 Arctic Monkeys aren't your typical clean-cut manufactured pop band, and that's exactly why they have the fantastic and loyal following that they do.. but if they continue to go the way that they are, then there's a chance they could (or already have begun to) sell out and that would be awful. These four lads from Sheffield who started all the way back in 2005 have the absolute potential to be one of the greatest bands on the planet, but not if they release mediocre singles and even worse videos. What happened to the good old days of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor?

Whether it's a piss-take or not, (it honestly wouldn't surprise me if it was) it's still a massive disappointment and certainly a low point for this band who have had such a high-flying year. It's difficult to write negative things about one of my favourite bands, especially after how incredible they were at Finsbury Park last month, but this video is an absolute let down and I really am hoping that whatever they chose to do next will be a step up and away from the corporate shite they seem to be leaning towards.

(Written By Poppy Marriott)

18 Jun 2014

Our top 10 David Bowie albums

David Bowie is possibly the most influential artist of all time. With a career spanning 45 years, he has one of the most varied and phenomenal discographies of all time. Ranging from the fantastically eccentric character of 'Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars' (1972) to the sheer genius of his latest comeback album, 'The Next Day,' (2013) Bowie has continually impressed audiences from every corner of the globe with his phenomenally diverse musical range. It is no surprise that trying to pick ten favourite albums was a difficult task, but and Calum and myself have joined forces and we present to you: The top ten Bowie albums (in our opinion)...

10. Heroes (1977)
Album number two in the Berlin trilogy created with Brian Eno, Heroes is the product of echoing the instrumental and simple style of Low but this time round, Bowie focused on bringing a lot more rock and pop elements to it. Out of this album came one of Bowie's most highly regarded songs, the title track, Heroes. It has been said by many to be his greatest song even though the song was originally a full instrumental with the vocals only being added in in the very last stages of production. Side 1 contains the other single to come out of this album (Beauty And The Beast) as a fantastic opener. It continues on to display diversity and passion for the music, which Bowie said was fully rekindled during the Berlin Era. He beat his addiction to cocaine and began again, getting away from the characterization which in theory, nearly killed him. Side 2 contains two tracks on which Brian Eno features, (Moss Garden/Neukoln) as well as incorporating Puerto Rican guitarist Carlos Alomar in the track The Secret Life Of Arabia. Everything this album represents and involves has true meaning behind it, and really plays on the events that were happening at the time such as the growing controversy of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.  Heroes as a whole is a fully-fledged phenomenon that brings together the strongest elements of Bowie before this point: A truly career defining moment. 

9. Hunky Dory (1971)
The fourth studio album released on RCA records in December 1971 is possibly the most 'intimate' album David Bowie has ever created. The opening track Changes is one of his most critically acclaimed singles and it is a utter classic. The song blends perfectly into the following track Oh! You Pretty Things and contributes to the less-chaotic vibe that this album possesses beautifully. This album was written and recorded before the madness that was glam-rock, before Bowie became copious amounts of characters, before he truly found his style. A lot of people have said this album is the last in a trilogy of experimentation albums for Bowie before the eccentric saga of characterization that came with Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs. Not only does this album have many personal elements such as paying tribute to his influences in songs like Andy Warhol and Song For Bob Dylan,  this album has also been said to be the basic building blocks of David Bowie's career as this album and the excellent success of opening track Changes are what really thrust Bowie into the spotlight. It also contains the legendary track Life On Mars which some consider to be Bowie's best work. 43 year old Hunky Dory is an album with such a legacy that it will continue to be remembered as one of Bowie's finest additions to his discography.

8. Lodger  (1979)
It's rare that a ten track album is comprised entirely of perfect pop songs, but that's exactly what Bowie's Lodger is. Whilst most of Bowie's albums feature 'no weak tracks', Lodger is probably the one album that he could have churned out 10 singles from. Just like a few of his Ziggy albums, Lodger revolves loosely around the lodger, and his forays around the globe, as well as his petty observations about the western world. And that is just how the record is split; Side 1 speaks of travels, from Africa to Turkey to the hinterland, whilst Side 2 takes pop songs that would fit in perfectly on Scary Monsters, with the subjects covered here being doomed relationships, manhood and the perils of being a DJ. 
Side 1's fast paced African Night Flight is a highlight, as Bowie brings in some almost rap music-esque vocals with oriental instrumentation. And the closer to Side 1, Red Sails is absolutely stunning. Carlos Alomar brings some sort of cosmic guitar tone, whilst Bowie's lightning fast vocals give the song a wonderful pace to it.
And Side 2 as well keeps the momentum up, with one of the man's finest ever songs, Look Back in Anger, which is based on a book of the same name. Repetition, the b-side to the album's single is the perfect penultimate track, before the album closes in fine fashion. Red Sails, Track 5 Side 2, is a song that leaves everyone thinking "I've heard this one before.." That's because it's just Sister Midnight by Iggy Pop with different lyrics (which David Bowie wrote for Iggy in 1977). And whilst something from Iggy's Idiot couldn't be bad, it steps up a whole new level at the hands of Bowie. Lodger is, overall, a criminally underrated work of genius.

7. The Man Who Sold The World (1970)
The Man Who Sold the World is probably the first great album that Bowie ever released. Of course, there were great tracks here and there, and 1969's Space Oddity did feature the breathtaking Cygnet Commitee and the career-defining title track, but nothing before Bowie's 1970 effort was great all the way through. The Man Who Sold The World is also the album on which Bowie and Mick Ronson were first united, for the first of five albums that Bowie and the incredibly talented guitarist would make together. 
The classic opener, The Width of A Circle is third in my all time favourite Bowie songs only to Diamond Dogs' Sweet Thing and Amsterdam, the b-side to sorry. Width of A Circle's nine minute duration begins with some flailing Ronno guitar before the man suddenly explodes into some of the best guitarwork on any Bowie work. The lyrical content too, as sung by a raw voiced long-haired Bowie is just a thing of beauty; he tells an ambiguous tale that I think may be about some saucy deity-on-devil action, but I'm not so sure, as the lyrics on the Man Who... are very abstract. After one of the finest album openers of all time, the second track is a ghostly part-accoustic number, All The Madmen. It's the first of many songs David would release about his schizophrenic brother. 
Although the middle section of the album is full of stodgy Zep-rock, the final two tracks are amongst the best in David Bowie's discography... the mythical Supermen was a firm live favourite during Ziggy's early days, but of course the album's penultimate song, the title track, is the one which is renowned as the finest from this era. Whilst famously covered by Nirvana, just as perfectly, The Man Who Sold the World is another ambiguously abstract lyrical triumph for Bowie, that I'm not quite sure of the meaning of. Anyhow, this album was the building block for which Bowie, Ronson, Bolder and Woodmansey created the cosmic character of Ziggy Stardust, and the building blocks for which, with Mike Garson too on board, Bowie and co. went on to achieve great, great things.

6. Station to Station (1976)
David Bowie is an ever evolving man, whose music moves from genre to genre, like a train from Station to Station. Throughout his career are a number of transition albums, where music's great chameleon's music aligns somewhere between his previous and next albums. Lodger slides in between the avant-garde of Low and the pop majesty of Scary Monsters, and Diamond Dogs falls somewhere between the Ziggy Stardust rock 'n' roll of Aladdin and Pin-ups... but the most unlikely transition album came in 1976... between the plastic soul of ninth album Young Americans and the avant-garde symphonies of Low and Heroes. And whilst David Bowie is the king of transition, an album somewhere between avant-garde pop and soul couldn't possibly work, could it?
But after one listen of the 10 minute cocaine-fuelled odyssey that is the title track, you're left certain that David Bowie can do whatever the hell he wants. Station to Station is a jerky, ten minute long window into the narcotic consciousness of the Thin White Duke, which is undoubtedly the highlight ofa notoriously stunning album. The rest of the album is the platform to a number of cold, claustrophobic numbers. Of course, Golden Years, which was originally penned for Elvis Presley, is a highlight for most, and Stay is a fan favourite. 
Side 2's opening track, TVC15 is one of the more futuristic numbers in Bowie's discogrpahic. It's the tale of a man whose girlfriend gets swallowed up by his TV (the TVC15), so he valliantly decides to chase her. It's a bit like that Family Guy episode...
And the album's final song, Wild is the Wind is one of the more sensual tracks, and the sole song that Bowie shows any real emotion. It's a lust-filled closer to one of Bowie's finest.

5. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars (1972)
Possibly noted as one of David Bowie's most iconic albums, the 11-track masterpiece is a display of everything Bowie does best. It shows off his fantastic flamboyancy, his lyrical talents and the simple fact that he really can do anything. Recorded between 1971 and 1972, this stand out album is built around this character, Ziggy Stardust, who plays on the conceptual idea of "definitive rock stars" that were around at the time this was recorded but with a spin on it. The character represented the stereotypical sexually promiscuous drug fueled lifestyle of a "rock star" but with a message of peace and love. The character of Ziggy Stardust was once again present in this album's successor -Aladdin Sane and has gone on to become one of the most historic images of David Bowie.
 Not only does this album have one of the strongest combinations of opening and closing songs ever (Five Years/Rock n Roll Suicide) but the singles that came from this album have gone on to become some of Bowie's most universally recognised songs. (Starman, Rock n Roll Suicide and Suffragette City) This album was not simply the platform for these extraordinary singles, but the album was littered with unprecedented classics such as Moonage Daydream (my personal favourite Bowie song) and the title track, Ziggy Stardust. Cited as one of the most important albums within his extensive discography, this is the album that will go down in history as the album that made people want to be a part of the brilliantly flashy glam-rock era.

4. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (1980)
The first album after the 'Berlin Triptych' this album exhibits a range of genres such as new-wave, post-punk and art-rock, forming a consistently brilliant fourteenth studio album for David Bowie as he began to step away from the excessive flamboyancy of the 1970's. Containing two of Bowie's best singles to come out of the 1980's (Fashion/Ashes To Ashes) Scary Monsters was a way of moving on from the multiple experimental albums that Bowie had been producing and finding a more commercial and definitive sound. It was also his last album produced by RCA Records, so is seen as a milestone for some, with it also being called "Bowie's last great album." I don't agree with this statement because of the simple fact that this album's successor is the ever-so-iconic Lets Dance, but as an album as a whole, I believe that this is definitely the greatest 80's album. Other singles that came from this album are Up The Hill Backwards and the title track Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) which are both fantastically unique and stand out singles from the extensive collection that Bowie has created. This album combined the extensive experimentation Bowie went through in the 1970's with his own unique way of looking at the new era of the 1980's, and what came out of it was this individual masterpiece that went on to inspire countless numbers of artists.

3. Aladdin Sane (1973)
The cover of this album bears the famous lightning strike across the face which is one of, if not, the most iconic photographs of David Bowie ever. The album follows in its path, being remembered as some of his best work. The follow up to the equally important Ziggy Stardust album, it has been said that this is the first album Bowie wrote as a fully established "rock-star." It has a stronger, rockier feel to it than the previous album, which is down to the addition of avant-garde jazz pianist Mike Garson. This is especially apparent on tracks such as the classic Rolling Stones cover Lets Spend The Night Together and Panic in Detroit. Lets Spend The Night Together was released as one of the four singles from this album, the others being Time, Drive-In Saturday and one of the funkiest tracks Bowie ever did - The Jean Genie (which borrows more than just a little from Shadows of Knight's 1966 classic Oh Yeah). A stand out album, not only for the significance of the front cover, but also because this was the second album in the 'extravagant characterization saga' that Bowie continued to experiment with through the majority of the 70's. Fueled by a ever-growing cocaine addiction, the recognizable cover is said to represent a sense of schizophrenia and split identity that he was experiencing at the time of this album. One of my overall favourite records in my collection, Aladdin Sane is, in short, a work of genius.

2. Low (1977)
As far as inspiration, legacy and innovations are concerned Low is the album that will forever be remembered as Bowie's greatest contribution. Whilst the characters of the flamboyant alien Ziggy and the narcotic fueled Thin White Duke are certainly major parts of David Bowie's chameleonic identity, his Berlin-era innovations free of any alias are something else. Alongside the equally semi instrumental Heroes and the pop gem Lodger, Low  established the Berlin triptych as David Bowie's finest period. Side 1 of Low is full of avant-garde pop songs, awash with Eno's influence and glorious textures. The instrumental opener, Speed of Life is arguably the best album opener in the great man's discography, sounding just like an almighty machine starting up. The singles too, Be My Wife and Sound and Vision are essentials for any greatest hits compilation, which says a lot...
But Side 2 is where Low begins to sound unlike any pop album before or since, with an abundance of avant-garde neo-classical numbers that sound absolutely gorgeous. Warszawa, the song from which Joy Division nabbed their first name, is a highlight, being easily in my own top 5 Bowie songs. Of course, mainly because of the instrumentals, Low flopped a bit commercially, as Bowie was selling his records to just about everyone at this point, but those that did get Low were completely blown away by it's innovation... Amongst it's famous fans are Ian Curtis of Joy Division, who named it his favourite album, neo-classical composer Phillip Glass, who composed a symphony based on it, and Lloyd Cole. Low was an album made by Bowie in a time of commercial failure and drug addiction, yet he still managed rise out of the ashes so high that he almost transcended his contemporaries, and left the rest of the world in his wake.

1. Diamond Dogs (1974)
Throughout his career, David Bowie adopted many charismatic, original guises to make handfuls of great albums. Particularly in the seventies, where he played a homesick alien rockstar, a sleek narcotic Thin White Duke, and even a soul brother. But for me, the one that stands above all the rest is an easy decision. More than just a real cool cat, Halloween Jack was one of the few remaining residents in the airstrip-1 style Hunger City, during the year of the Diamond Dogs.

Diamond Dogs was the first proper album after the Spiders from Mars' Aladdin Sane, so quite naturally it had a large amount to live up to. As well as that, Bowie had scrapped the guitarist Mick Ronson, as well as the rest of the Spiders from Mars, leaving only Mike Garson to collaborate with. Diamond Dogs brings a more jazzy influence to the rock 'n' roll of the last albums, as well as the literary influence of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. As well as being notable for spawning a single that, whilst charting number five, because his fifth top 5 single, Diamond Dogs is famed for its songs with an interlinking storyline... making it a bit like JG Ballard does Lou Reed's BerlinAlthough many songs were rewritten for the album, the fact that Diamond Dogs was spawned from the offcuts of a failed Nineteen Eighty Four musical is explicitly apparent all the way through Diamond Dogs..

Side 2 is where the literary references are all present. We Are The Dead, 1984, Big Brother and Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family are all direct links to the novel written by Orwell back in 1949, and the plot that unfolds within. Even though these songs are deemed to be some of Bowie's more popular work, none of the songs on Side 2 were released as singles in the UK. (1984 was released as a single in the US but it did not chart at all) The only singles released from this masterpiece were title track Diamond Dogs and Rebel Rebel, both of which charted in the UK, with Rebel Rebel being the single that reached number 5. The singles are not what make this album our number one Bowie album though, it's the album as a whole. As we said before, this album is famed for the storytelling quality it possesses, and what better way to bid farewell to the Ziggy Stardust-era rock 'n' roll than to create an even stronger album to take its place.

Poppy: The reason this album was my number one is because of the way that all the songs link, you don't want to stop listening to it. It's like being forced to stop reading a book when you are in the middle of the most intense scene, you want to get start to finish un-interrupted. It's such an innovative and clever album in that sense, one of the few albums that doesn't need skip or shuffle, it's perfectly ordered you can listen to it all the way through and still continue to find new things you love about it. Diamond Dogs is my most played record, and definitely my favourite possession, and in my opinion, the greatest thing David Bowie has ever done.

Calum: For starters, Diamond Dogs is my favourite David Bowie album because it features what is probably my favourite Bowie song; Sweet Thing. The sprawling nine minute display of Bowie's best lyrics, and incidently a display of his deepest singing on record. The way each song bleeds wonderfully into the next is really something, and even the end of Sweet Thing into Rebel Rebel is quite wonderful. Another thing that I can't help but love is the themes from 1984 in every single song... from the 'rats the size of cats' to the two minutes of hate at the end of the album, everywhere contains subtle hints to my favourite book of the mid-twentieth century. 

(written by both Calum Cashin & Poppy Marriott)