Tuesday, June 30

Sleep Now In The Winter

I probably first heard of Wintersleep a couple years back, but just never paid much attention to their existence. Then Zane played one of their tracks a couple months ago, and again, nothing about it karate chopped my mind or anything. And then Edith - who FYI grates on me like an uncomfortable ulcer - played the same song about two weeks back, however again it never got hold of my breath. But last week, rather dumbfounded at how quickly I grew bored of La Roux's prominent debut, I decided to search their name on Spotify.

Which was weird. Cause like I say, they weren't forefronting my mind by any means. So I decided listen to their latest album, 'Welcome to the Night Sky', in full. And fuck me. I am not convinced by the holy trinity but I cannot help but think I was meant to listen to that record. Like, I can't imagine my life without it. It's so good. Sure there are a few frail minutes or so, but generally, it's bloody awesome. My favourite track 'Dead Letter & The Infinite Yes' (below) is one of the best things I've heard all year.

Not even Edith Bowman can stop me loving Wintersleep.

Wintersleep 'Dead Letter & The Infinite Yes'

Friday, June 26

The 10 Greatest Things From The First 10 Years Of The 21st Century

The close of this year not only marks the cessation of another annum, but also the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Now, it's pretty arduous to brief up 9/11, reality TV and the rise of the internet in half a sentence. So what I've done is sift out what I deem are the best records, the best TV shows, the best movies, the best brands, the best things, the best people - essentially telling why pop culture has been rather majestic this past tensome or so...

10. Big Brother - Find one human being in the UK that hasn't seen Big Brother. Unconditionally treasure it or abhor it with your every power - it's impact on our culture, our technology, our media, is inimitable. Really, this is a point for the mount of 'reality' TV in general, but BB has made by far the biggest significance, and in my book, some dazzling entertainment and actual 7-million-people-voting-for-gay-winner-type significance.

9. Death Cab For Cutie ‘Transatlanticism’ - I'm not certain Death Cab For Cutie will ever make a better record than this. Wallowing in the screaming sun on Santa Monica beach or ducking down amid Hamas rockets in the Mid East, this album's every sweet soar of inspiration, staggering keys-coated rapture and devilishly heart-rending lines will forever make me feel all warm inside.

8. Bloc Party ‘Silent Alarm’ - How can you tell when an album is great? You go back and listen to it some years after its release, and if it still sends those same ol' blissful shivers through your spine, then it's great. Such goes for this - Bloc Party's debut. They've arguably bettered themselves with 'Intimacy', but the callowness and vivacity swamped within 'Silent Alarm' means more to me than any other.

7. Original Penguin - Sometimes when I see a fellow human lolling around, just so completely unconcerned by society and its trendy, sticklerist conventions, sporting somin' no-one would ever deem happening, I sorta... respect them. Like they're brave or something. But then I think, 'Wait, how can they not care?' I mean, if you've figured yourself out and whatever, then you know what works. You're proud to show yourself off and your garb says everything. 'S'all about relation, hence my lust for Original Penguin.

6. Little Miss Sunshine - There's been some killer pictures out this past decade, most of which were directed by the legendary pissed-off Clint Eastwood, but this has got to be my dearest. 'Everyone pretend to be normal' struts its tagline, flapping disfunction right in the mug of downtrodden suppression. And I usually hate to watch people sing and dance - which FYI made up the dramedy's most prolific scene - yet I was more than happy to demur at myself for it. Seen it? Great. Love it? Even greater. Hated it? That much better. Or just go fuck yourself.

5. The Office - See, growing up on Saved By The Bell followed by Sister Sister then Home Improvement proceeding Friends etcetera, I sort of developed a real hatred for British telly. Partially because we call it 'telly' but chiefly cause it sucks. Obviously I made an exception for Only Fools, but that was about it. Then came Ricky. And don't get me wrong, I was well disappointed with Extras. But The Office? It really is the best thing this country has ever, ever, ever produced - barring what else is to come on this list and is from Britain. It's so real, so funny, so perfect it hurts.

4. Sacha Baron Cohen - I don't love Ali G, Borat and Bruno because they're funny. Which they are. In fact, they're very funny. Three of the funniest characters known to mythical man. But I love them, well, Cohen, because he's the most important comedian out there. In case you didn't get the drift, the whole point is to shed light on the absurdity of homophobia, racism and gosh-darn ignorance. He is a genius. So there.

3. The Internet - I vaguely remember life without it. Or at least getting excited by the prospect of going to my dad's work because he had it there, as I printed off the homepages of countless Friends fansites just because I could. But now? Now I get pissed off at the fact that my street isn't wireless. Or aeroplanes, for that matter. Ooo, can I bung the iPod in this number and all? Course I can. It's my blog.

2. Home Box Office - Reiterating my embarrassment for 99.9% of British TV, HBO is mine and every other perspicacious spirit's shining light. The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under, Entourage, The Wire, Da Ali G Show, True Blood, Little Britain USA, Flight Of The Conchords, The Comeback and Big Love. Case and point.

1. Coldplay ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’ - Well, here we are. This is it. Number one. The champion. The best. The most greatest thing that I think has occurred in the last ten years. I could easily and quite self-centredly spend the next few hundred words pounding on about why, but nothing I say will do it justice. Well, I will say this though. It was the first record I ever truly fell in love with. It was the first record that brought me in to the whimsical abundance of good music. It was the first record that made me happy. Every living soul has an all-time favourite, and though I've got the rest of my life to find another, I just don't see it changing.

Monday, June 22

Taking Back Monday

'Bout time I started jawing 'bout music again. And I cannot think of a better way to do so than this. Yes, they're back. The well-deserved champions of my Albums Of 2008 list, Noah And The Whale, have a new single to swank from their second LP 'The First Days Of Spring'. Wanna hear it? Me too.

And that's why I'll be tuning into Zane Lowe on BBC Radio 1 tonight from 7.28pm in order to do so. Can't wait? Me neither.

Really can't wait? Download the live version from their gig earlier this year at Shepherds Bush Empire then. It's below.

'Blue Skies Are Calling'
'The First Days Of Spring'

Sunday, June 14

The Top 5 Seinfeld Scenes Ever

Picking out my favourite Seinfeld episode is like coercing Angelina Jolie to choose her next toddler. Well-nigh impossible. What I have done though, purely outta the goodness of gosh-darn fun, is settle on the very best scenes - those all-important moments of utter genius that merely stand for the greatest of the great.

5. "Shut up and pack!" - Though this clip is taken only from the show's second season, I think it's Julia Lewis Dreyfus's best ever moment. Her outright anger and zeal to rid away her boyfriend just beams through her sheer tireless doggedness. All she yens for is to get him out of her life, and by throwing absolutely everything into it, it mirrors the out-and-out strength yet instability of the wonderful Elaine Benes.

4. "Shut up you old bag!" - See, as one from a certain ethnological background, the significance held on certain edible delights from a certain bakery is pretty darn high. All of which shimmers though this ep - as Schnitzer's marble rye - like the best thing since sliced bread. The whole Costanzas-Rosses intrigue is categorical brilliance, though for me, Jerry himself stole it all with this little ditty. Just look at him sprint!

3. "Tippy-toe, lemen tree!" - Only a downright neurotic, twitchy, phobic gent would actually go to the trouble of changing another's answer machine tape - after leaving a series of as-maladjusted phone messages, of course. Right outta the mind of Larry David and straight into the measures of George, it means everything this show is about. That over-analysis in Jerry and George's planning, the psychopathy that led to it all in the first place. Exquisite.

2. "You just need a nose job." - Kramer, Kramer, Kramer. Much like the above exemplifies the series, this scene conveys all of which Cosmo is about. That lack of sensitivity for humans juxtaposed with a care others'd be lucky to possess, "You're as pretty as any of them," he comforts George's girlfriend re NYC's prettiest of ladies, "You just need a nose job". So perfect, so funny it hurts.

1. "I'm not even gonna ask you." - And this is my all-time favourite Seinfeld scene. Georgey Boy being my favourite character and all, maybe it's not as desired as those few above, but it represents his dementia like no-other. Best. Scene. Ever.

Saturday, June 13

Ize Of The World

This is first and foremost a music blog. In fact, it is entirely a music blog. Only sometimes the odd globe-shattering story will break, making for just a short yet polite intrusion...

I still don't think it's sunk in yet. Literally the whole planet has been banging on about it, but the thought that Cristiano Ronaldo will never play for my team, Manchester United, ever again seems so unreal. Even if it was always going to happen. Ever since he uttered the words, "In the future, you never know", to some Sky Sports journo merely days before the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow, I knew that my favourite footballer wouldn't be a United player forever.

See, aside from music, I think football is the greatest thing in the world. And I've followed United since the age of 5 - now 17 years ago. Though I grew up in north London, I can't stand glory-hunters as much as the next guy. I think fans should support their local side, and though I don't believe in the Almighty, something serendipity happened to me that day in that Golders Green sports shop, as my guileless eyes were drawn to the firey red of some 1991 Sharp-sponsored, Adidas-manufactured jersey.

Anyway, I digress. I've never felt an affiliation with a player quite like CR7. I couldn't give a toss about what he's like as a person, or whether he dived every other skim of the ball in his first few years in Manchester. For me, it's his battle on the field. Not Tevez-run-around-like-where's-me-pinky-type-battle, but his fighting psychology to be the absolute greatest he can be. Yes, Cantona was a legend. Keane was authoritative. And Ruud was pretty much a goal mechanism. But Ronaldo was my first real actual bona fide favourite. I enjoyed the game that bit more because he was playing.

After months of bawling over the loss of DB7, I was there when He came on as a sub against Bolton on August 16 2003. You could sense even then that there was something truly remarkable about him. I actually bought all the tabloids (something I never do) the day after so I could spread his magnificent debut all over my bedroom wall. Though it was his performance in the 2006 World Cup where he really started to flower. I, like every sane United follower, stood by him after the Wayne Rooney winking incident.

Following that came Oxford United in a pre-season friendly, which I was also at. The boos started there. And it was through his complete and utter duel against this which led to his success of recent years. He had something to bear out and the heckling only made him tougher. First in the league came Fulham, and after three years without our rightful Premiership title, so did a 4-0 lead merely 20 minutes in. Most of which was down to Ronaldo's flair.

I think he played his best football for us that season - before he scored The 42 Goals. There was this sense that he was taking us somewhere, on an expedition to achieve the greatest of things. Now we've won the league for the last three seasons, took home the Champions League, forgot to show up the next final, and won everything else bar the FA Cup in between. And for me, Ronaldo is the chief reason for that. His combat, his goals, his genius - he did what was needed when it really mattered.

What? You need proof? 06/07 - He scored more goals than any, the most vital of which came in the 87th minute away to Fulham, all but engraving our name on the trophy. 07-08 - The 42 Goals, his opener in the Champions League final, that header v Roma away. 08-09 - He came back later than most but was still our top scorer, securing our place in the Champions League final again by pushing aside FC Porto and Arsenal.

Cantona never attained all of that. Neither Charlton, Law or Best. Giggs has now, but not at Ronaldo's age.

Will his statue ever stand erect a pavement away from Sir Matt's? No, probably not.

But arrogance, decline in fan adoration and 4-year-old dreams for a Manzanares boat-house all aside - Is he the greatest Manchester United player ever? I think so.

Friday, June 5

First Wave Intact

Mosey through the belt of present-day Liverpool and you’ll happen on a lusty medley of Wombats-whetted powerpop, seemingly boundless droning infected by The Rascals, and an alarming number of Cavern Club karaokists who’re straight up convinced they channel the sweet spirit of John Lennon. And then there’s Wave Machines.
“One of the things I like about being from Liverpool is that we don’t sound like we are,” admits co-singer/guitarist/keys-minder Timothy Bruzon, sat to the right of me in the upstairs of some voguish city pub, proudly sporting his own band’s t-shirt. To the left is other co-singer/guitarist/keys-minder Carl Brown, dressed in the same Mr Benn-branded suit he models onstage, keeping to Wave Machines’ mystifying aura. Bassist/clarinettist James Walsh and drummer/sometime co-singer Vidar Norheim are off duty.
“It’s important for us not to sound like the traditional Liverpool band. Otherwise if we couldn’t, than we probably would,” states Tim. See, there’s very little amiss with Miles Kane’s fervent infatuation with 60s Merseybeat-plotters Gerry & the Pacemakers, but their township’s crying out for a shower like the planet hankers for Jack Bauer to rub out financial devastation. And Wave Machines’ moxie to fashion a debut album of synth-laden psych pop is utterly refreshing.
“If there is a scene we’re part of, it’s with the group of people that’ve worked on our gigs,” says Carl. “It’s a collective of illustrators, performers, musicians, poets, writers. We spend equally as much time speaking to visual artists as we do a band member. I feel really honoured to be apart of that creative aspect of Liverpool.”
This is the kind of band Wave Machines are. Heck, not even a band. More a collaboration. A unified team of visionary minds with something to say, of which said-album ‘Wave If You’re Really There’ is the result. If the thought of yet another Wii-possessed electro clique fills you with more venom than Alice Glass devoid of her morning blood-shot espresso, this is the record to save your soul. A rich farrago of Hot Chip-mannered throbs, superhuman euphoria and darn-meaty messages, bringing about one of the finest debut efforts this year. “We worked it and worked it and worked it as if it was the best new idea in the world, and we’re really excited about what it suggests. It’s the very first thing, so it’s not the ultimate reflection of Wave Machines. We’re already talking about taking it forward and doing the second one,” reveals Carl.
The album was recorded over the better part of the last twelve months inside what has become their lair of imagination, otherwise the loft of Liverpool’s St Brides Church. “We’re not born again Christians,” notes Tim. “It’s an unusual space to hang about in, but we used to rehearse above this mechanic place. Yet none of us were mechanics, it was just a good rehearsal space.”
They‘ve fleshed out the Albert Dock’s Tate Gallery, etched prior Chess Club-released vinyls with drawings of stricken animals, and all four members don masks of their own faces onstage. Sure it all seems about as la-di-da as Kanye West poring over the merits of Auto-Tune. But observing their live spectacle is like gawking at Alfred Hitchcock soar from his grave solely to rework Disney’s ‘Fantasia’. Only, you know, in a good way.
“The visual stuff is as important as the music. You can’t dedicate all your time to the music. We’re visual first, and auditory second. Eyes first, ears follow,” asserts Carl. And the masks? “It’s just us trying to look a bit weird. It’s a visual gag really, and we feel like it’s got enough about it to make it worth playing with,” says Tim, to which Carl adds, “If I was offstage watching this weird dark presence, I’d really enjoy that. It’s not all just bright, primary colours. Menacing is good.”
This DIY factor that peps their pop via art MO is reflected by their decision to evade the tripe of the industry and form their own record label. Bring forth Neapolitan Recordings. “We needed a vehicle to put our music out there,” tells Tim. “We needed to get the album out there as soon it was made, really. It’s quite tempting to jump at anything you get offered but this seemed like the best way for the record.”
I think ‘WIYRT’ broaches the good thoughts and the bad thoughts, all for the sake of a groove-charged happy ending. ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ on disc, essentially. Take ‘Punk Spirit’, a killer few minutes midway through the album where Tim intones, “And later when you left the room, I whispered ‘You could fucking die’. And everytime your back was turned, I put a finger in the air. And everytime you turn around, I hide it because I know it hurts”; alluding to society’s tendency to throw on a fake gown and keep schtum of its true feelings. Er, right? “It’s a remarkable thing about the English. The fact that we apologise when other people step on our toes is ridiculous,” Tim contends. “There’s a reason why it’s healthy to express what you really think… There is quite a lot of negativity in the lyrics, some quite dark stuff. But we have a fondness for poppy sensibility, so it tempers the dark lyrical angle. It’s a nice balance.”
Carl adds, “I’ve been working alongside those words for quite some time. But I’ve not thought, ‘Oh it’s all oppressive, dark and down’. Though there have been moments when I’ve wondered what the fuck going’s on inside Tim’s head.”
The disco-funk of ‘Keep The Lights On’ is as tuneful as Alice’s Wonderland. ‘I Joined A Union’ does a bang-up job of pumping life into the late Beta Band. Then there’s album-closer ‘Dead Houses’, which hauntingly casts back to Liverpool’s forsaken buildings and boulevards.
“Vidar wrote that one, it’s about arriving here from Norway. Everyone can identify with the visuals in the song. Yeah it’s about the boarded-up houses, but it can relate to anything. It’s about life that’s moved on elsewhere. The memory of a life, really. It’s got a real nice meditative mood to it too, and it’s nice having a voice on the album from a different part of the world,” tells Carl.
Okay, a cursory look at the clock opposite tells us it’s almost time to wrap up. Wave Machines, what does this all mean? Where is this all going? Is this album about to rescue popular culture as we know it? “This is where you do your Miss World speech now, Tim!” jokes Carl. Tim? “We’re certainly not on any mission to try and mean something. It’s quite egotistical actually, that’s what drives it. Not some desire to save popular culture. That would be a dreadfully misguided thing to try and do! But if by some happy coincidence there’s a small area where we can fit in, than that would be great.”
I've heard the album. It’ll be bigger than small.

Thursday, June 4

Just Enough Education To Perform. No, Really

I hate lad rock. Yes, Oasis are national treasures. Yes, I love the new Kasabian record. And yes, I actually think Tom Clarke could make a decent MP. But generally, all-in-all, day's end, I pretty much hate it.

This though, Stoke-on-Trent's New Education's 'Today' is actually not shit at all. It's good, like really, really good. King-size choruses, affirmative wordplay, Courteeners-before-the-shit-album-got-released-type effortlessness - the lot. And they don't look like they'll chastise you up if you refuse a shot of Johnnie Walker.

Monday, June 1

Album Of Last Month

The Maccabees 'Wall Of Arms' (Fiction)

Markus Dravs. Hmm. Markus Dravs worked with Arcade Fire. Markus Dravs worked with Coldplay. Markus Dravs worked with Wave Machines. Marcus Dravs is working with Mumford & Sons. Just who is this Markus Dravs and why is he escorting the latest productions from my dearest of bands? Well, whatever wondrous voodoo he's brandished on 'Neon', 'Viva', and 'Wave', 'Wall Of Arms' seems to be blessed with it too. You've still the squally guitars and Orlando warbling like he's about to cry (in a good way), but this sophomore endeavour also puffs a whole lot more than (albeit rather absorbing) tales of a Clapham swimming pool. Now they're slicker, there're pensive touches on the deceased, and it picks itself up and drops itself down just when it feels right. Whereas 'Colour...' felt in some ways like a band in discovery, throwing together all they had, this is an album. An album that really, in a time of never-ending electro posses vying with each other for some clunky sampler on eBay, completely stands on its own. The equally resplendent 'Love You Better' and 'No Kind Words' aside, 'Can You Give It' has an as-one roar to knock the stuffing outta Bunk Moreland. 'William Powers' mounts on a Herculean strain of munching strings just yearning for a run of sell-out stints at Brixton Academy. And 'Bag Of Bones' is 'Toothpaste Kisses' mark two, only even more divine. Yes, they've grown up. Yes, they've matured. And yes, this'll be one of the year's finest.