Wednesday 20 July 2011

Just How HOT (Ba Dum...) Are The 2011 MERCURY Prize Nominees (...Tisch)?

Ooh, look, Elbow got a nomi-- SUDDEN URGE
As anyone with a passing interest in music or a twitter account will likely have noted, yesterday saw not only Rupert Murdoch get a cream pie in the face, but also the announcement of the nominees for this year's Mercury Prize. As ever, from the second they were announced, much discussion (i.e. bitching and whining) was sparked - so here's my by-no-means-definitive two cents:

OK, first off I have a big confession to make, which might shock most of you. As out of the loop as it makes me feel, I have to admit that I have no bloody idea who Gwilym Simcock is. All jokes aside, this is obviously the 'token' out-there classical/world/jazz entry and has very little chance of winning, but check out the snippet of 'These Are The Good Days' on the Mercury website and - well, it sounds quite nice doesn't it?

Adele - turning up out of  the blue,
uninvited as usual
From the complete unknown to the completely-flipping-obvious, Adele is here to shock absolutely no-one - the 21 juggernaut shows absolutely no signs of stopping. It really would have been more surprising if Adele wasn't given a nod, and there's a high chance she'll nab the award on the night - admittedly, all of the singles from the album have been really strong (despite overplaying), but it would be somewhat of a shame for an artist who doesn't particularly need the exposure or the considerable cash prize take the award. However, it just goes to show that 2011 really is the year that Adele simply cannot be ignored.

  Adele - Rolling In The Deep (Radio Edit) by MMMusic

Anna Calvi is another one I confess I know little about - her debut garnered split opinions, with many favouring her skew on the female singer/songwriter genre, but not everyone was taken in by the hype (yes, I'm talking about Drowned In Sound's write-up). However, it's an album I'm certainly intrigued to check out - if it really grabs me, you're likely to hear about it here on Quiff Pro 'Fro.

Elbow - the right choice
for a nomination?
Moving on, then, to an album I've actually listened to. And not just a fleeting, half-arsed listen either (I know, impressive right?) - Elbow's latest capslock-free offering build a rocket boys! Now, I would certainly never begrudge an Elbow Mercury nomination - not only is barb! an excellent album, but they're such lovely guys who imbue their music with a gigantic heart and soul without being mawkish or cloying, and a pure honesty rarely seen elsewhere. However, this acclaim does feel a little redundant overall - having won the Mercury in 2008 (and deservedly so) for their previous album, the simply fantastic Seldom Seen Kid, when it comes down to it, build a rocket boys! honestly just isn't as good. Yet, where SSK was their biggest, most sumptuously love-steeped release yet, barb! is kind of the intimate comedown, with a more stripped-back sound and a gentler tone - see, for instance, the beautiful strummed acoustic 'Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl' or the hair-raising hummed backing vocals on 'The River'. Overall, it's not exactly a sub-par Elbow album; 'Lippy Kids' is still in my top 3 songs of the year (very possibly at number one), and there's little here you'd skip. Even if it were a sub-par Elbow album, it would still be steps ahead of most of the year's releases - however, in the grand scheme of things, build a rocket boys! isn't going to win, and this choice for a nomination doesn't quite feel right - still chuffed for you though, lads!

  Elbow - Lippy Kids by ListenBeforeYouBuy

Sunday 17 July 2011

Some Unrelated Music Recommendations

So, er, I'm going to blame the lack of blogging around here on the hangover resulting from our week-long birthday celebrations. To kick things back off for our second year, here's a few awesome songs and albums I've been enjoying recently.

Computer Magic has been putting out lots of free music over the last year or so, and they've been tasty little slices of Casio keyboard synth-pop. But for her first physical record, Danz has teamed up with producer Lewis Pesacov to re-record a few of her older songs with acoustic drums and and real guitars. To describe this as an 'HD update' would be inaccurate: the songs truly come alive with fuller arrangements, with the rougher parts of Danz's distinctive voice ironed out.

The only weird bit is the choice of tunes: why these over the brilliant 'Hiding From Our Time or 'Grand Central'? Regardless, it's still definitely worth the £2.76 are charging for it - or if you like vinyl (and international shipping costs) there's a white 12" version too.

Another blonde electronica singer-songwriter - and one you're more likely to have heard of - is Ellie Goulding, who seems to have hidden herself in a bunker deep beneath the Earth's surface since selling out in that John Lewis advert last Christmas. Regardless of what you think of her Elton John cover, there's no denying the appeal of some of her own tracks: in particular, this foot-stomping live version of 'Lights' from last year.

I've never listened to the Dresden Dolls, but after being exposed to a bit of lead singer Amanda Palmer's solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer I felt compelled to download it in full - particularly since it's available for pay-what-you-like on her website. Performed mostly on piano, the album is as packed full of feminist themes and oddball characters as you'd expect from one half of the self-labelled "Brechtian punk cabaret" duo. The album's highlight is 'Leeds United', an ode to singletons with a brilliantly crescendoing brass section.

A music blogger favourite here - in fact, I found it while browsing the Hype Machine's most-blogged tracks. The Glitch Mob deal in funky, distorted, atmospheric anti-dance music with an epic sound. Their tracks are all essentially the same, yes, but they're still plenty of fun.

We've already written extensively about Radiohead's latest album, but this live session - broadcast on a Spanish TV station and quickly spread around the net - is the first chance to hear high-quality live recordings of their latest work. Additionally, there are a couple of as-yet-unreleased songs: 'Staircase', which the band released officially onto YouTube a few back, and 'The Daily Mail', which builds to a thrilling 'You And Whose Army?'-style creschendo. There's bootlegs - both video and audio - popping up and down all over the web at the moment, but here's the standout tracks from the session.

And last but not least: whenever the weather gets unbearably hot (not so common here in London), I get a weird craving for Sonic Youth. No idea why. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we had a very humid weekend - but instead of putting on Daydream Nation again, I felt like listening to something new. On the recommendation of a friend I checked out the brilliantly-titled Washing Machine. Unlike the aggressive and semi-commercial thrashings of their better-known tracks, Washing Machine is calm, meditative, almost sleepy; perfect for hot, lazy summer days. The title track may be almost ten minutes long, but definitely worth it.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Gig Review - Death Cab For Cutie @ Nottingham Rock City, 5/7/11

Photo by Dom Henry

After three years, Seattle indie-rock quartet Death Cab For Cutie returned to Rock City on the back of their surprisingly brilliant latest album Codes And Keys. With a career-spanning setlist, Death Cab delivered a 2-hour hits-packed show sure to have left casual fans and die-hards equally satisfied.

The band played a significant amount of the new material which slotted in well alongside the well-established classics. Recent single ‘You Are A Tourist’, with its squealing guitar riff, made a strong impression, as did the soaring title track and the gorgeous ‘Stay Young, Go Dancing’.

Yet, predictably, it was the older tunes which gained the best reaction from the initially-subdued crowd. ‘The New Year’, from breakthrough album Transatlanticism, made a powerful live presence, as did ‘Expo ’86’. Whilst ‘The Sound Of Settling’, Death Cab’s biggest commercial hit, got the most hands in the air, it was the beautiful acoustic ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ which created the biggest singalong, the crowd belting out the poignant lyrics word-for-word.

‘I Will Possess Your Heart’ was another obvious highlight in a gig full of them, building up over the course of an epic eight minutes, anchored by its brilliant grooving bassline, as well as the fantastically melodic ‘Cath…’. Best of all, however, was ‘Transatlanticism’ itself, a stunning, hugely emotional climax that left nary a dry eye in the house. Death Cab For Cutie proved once again on Tuesday that, despite their moniker, they’re still a band with a big, beating, life-affirming heart.
Originally publish in the Nottingham Post.

Codes And Keys is out now, and is really rather brilliant - get it from Amazon here.

Saturday 2 July 2011

You Are Cordially Invited To: Quiff Pro 'Fro's First Birthday Party! -- More Prizes Added!

So, here we are - we’ve been posting cryptic tweets, random images and dropping not-so-subtle hints for the past few days. You might have wondered, what’s all this about? Chances are you didn’t, but the important part is the reason why we’ve been doing it - well, it’s because today is the first ‘birthday’ of Quiff Pro ‘Fro!

Yes, 365.25 days ago, the ‘Fro sat down on Facebook chat, and proposed to his be-Quiffed pal that perhaps a music blog might be a fun waste of time venture; a pun was formed, a website was hastily constructed, and our first article was posted: this piece on Victoria & Jacob.

Overall, it’s been a brilliant year and we’ve learnt a lot about running our own blog (often the hard way!). As a big thanks to all of our readers, followers and supporters over the year, we’d like to celebrate by inviting all of you to our FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY!*

And what’s the best part of parties? Well, it’s got to be the cake and the party games, right? So for our first ever birthday party, having put on our brand new outfit (what do you think?), we’ll be giving away a special mixcake (you must be used to our terrible puns by now) full of some of our favourite tunes, as well as holding a competition where you can win these INCREDIBLE prizes:

Pulled Apart By Horses - Pulled Apart By Horses Vinyl LP

One of last year’s best albums, the debut from Leeds’ exceptional Pulled Apart By Horses is a collection of 11 intensely fun, destructively energetic slices of lion-punching, swan-diving ULTIMATE POWER! It’s awesome! Radical! Awesome! Totally bodacious!


Dananananaykroyd - There Is A Way CD
    Yes, you could win the new album from the incredible Dananananaykroyd! This is one of Quiff’s favourite records of 2011 so far, building on 2009’s mind-blowing debut Hey Everyone!
    Heavy, catchy, silly, intense: amazing.

    Thomas Tantrum - Mad By Moonlight CD

    A perfect summer album, the second release from four-piece indie-poppers Thomas Tantrum is full of tunes that’ll sound at their best in the car on a hot day with the sunroof rolled back.

    Bachelorette - Bachelorette CD
      We have the latest album from Bachelorette, a great chilled-out blend of electronics and folky influences from New Zealand-based Annabel Alpers.

      The Like - Release Me CD
        American four-piece The Like moved towards a ‘60s soul/pop sound with their second album Release Me - with some great vocal harmonies, you can see producer Mark Ronson’s influence all over this.

        Badly Drawn Boy - Is There Nothing We Could Do? CD
          He might not have ever bettered his exceptional Mercury-nominated debut album, but Badly Drawn Boy is still one of the UK’s most accomplished song-writers. His soundtrack to the Fattest Man In Britain is full of his trademark lush arrangements and beautiful melodies.

          Thought that was it? Think again! We have loads more prizes to add to our massive giveaway! As well as those fine albums above, check these beauties out:

          Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm CD (Limited Promo Edition)

          Oh yes we did! We've got a copy of Benjamin Francis Leftwich's brand new debut album Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm to give away to one of you lucky entrants! We've champion Ben for ages now (see this live review and interview), and since then he's become one of the few acts to get regular airplay on Radio 1 that isn't mind-bogglingly terrible.

          The Attika State 'Celebration' T-Shirt

          Yep, one of you lucky entrants could be getting a snazzy new addition to your wardrobe with this EXTREMELY LIMITED Attika State t-shirt! If you've not heard of these guys, I order you to check this out. Their debut album Measures is a beaut, mixing loads of styles of rock music and infusing them with insane amounts of catchy melody. You'd struggle to get this t-shirt (which, by the way, is the design as shown, but a blue shirt with white design) anywhere else!

          Stars And Sons - In The Ocean 7" Single

          Another prize for you turntable-lovers here, with this ace little vinyl single. Chances are you might not have heard this song before, but due to the wonders of the internet you don't have to just take our word for it that it's an amazingly catchy single of punchy indie-pop: check out the video here, and then realise how much you want this pretty limited vinyl!

          Wolf Am I - Lead The Way CD

          The debut album from Wolf Am I is the perfect prize for our readers who prefer their rock music darker and more brooding, but still decidedly catchy! Expect big things from these guys on the basis of this album.

          The Candle Thieves - The Sunshine EP CD

          Acquant yourself with the cute folk-pop of The Candle Thieves with this four-track EP - just as sunny as you'd expect from the title, this would make a nice soundtrack for the summer months. 

          Sam Isaac - Sticker, Star & Tape EP CD

          'Sam Isaac' may no longer be an ongoing musical project for singer-songwriter Sam Isaac Roberts, but it's not too late to discover his Get Cape-ish blend of guitars and electronics.

          The Family Machine - You Are The Family Machine CD

          Another dose of indie-pop here, with the debut album from The Family Machine. There's a bunch of catchy tunes on here, definitely worth a look for fans of acts such as Supergrass, Badly Drawn Boy and The Thrills.

          Exciting, right? And all you need to do for a chance to win all this is either:

          a) Find us on Twitter, and give us a retweet on one of our birthday competition tweets and then tweet us a mention at @QuiffProFro with a nice birthday message (i.e. “@QuiffProFro - Happy birthday, you’re the best blog ever!”)

          b) Go to our Facebook page and write a happy birthday message on our wall!

          Yep, that’s all it takes! Just a few terms and conditions - each entrant will be entered into the competition only once from Facebook and once from Twitter. Also, for P&P reasons, this is a UK-only competition - sorry international readers! Closing date: midnight on Saturday 9th July - if you’ve won, we’ll contact you on either Facebook or Twitter!

          Let the fun begin! Also, feel free to grab a hefty slice of our First Birthday Party Mixcake:

          Click the image to download the full mixtape as a .zip file!
          Quiff Pro 'Fro First Birthday Party Mixcake:
          1. Sonic Youth - Dirty Boots
          2. Pixies - Subbacultcha
          3. Battles - Sweetie & Shag (Feat. Kazu Makino)
          4. Fang Island - Daisy
          5. Tegan & Sara - The Cure
          6. Metronomy - The Bay
          7. Something Beginning With L - Mean
          8. Weezer - Holiday
          9. Fugazi - Cashout
          10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Pin
          11. Lush - De-Luxe
          12. LCD Soundsystem - Us v Them
          So there we go, welcome to Quiff Pro 'Fro's First Birthday Party! Help yourself to some tunes, give the competition a go, thanks for reading, and have a great time!

          *Party hats/hooters/non-musical-cake must be self-provided.