Friday, 31 December 2010

theAmp's Singles of 2010

The standout tracks from the best artists of 2010, as chosen by theAmp.

Surfer Blood - Swim//Ok, we're cheating here as it was actually released in 2009 in their native US, however across the pond we didn't get the album till January 2010, whilst it was released on Rough Trade in May. One of the leaders of the rebirth of lo-fi surf rock in 2010, this track from the Floridians is drenched in reverb, while the echoing vocals of John Paul Pitts will leave you singing it for weeks. But what was it about, swimming or suicide?

Vampire Weekend - Diplomat's Son//Based on a song from the Clash and a borrowed M.I.A sample, this was the standout track of Vampire Weekend's excellent sophomore album. The whole song is set around a wild house party, with the song's protagonist coming out. An emotional rollercoaster ride, written by keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij about his struggles with his sexualty, it brought the summer early in January 2010.

Yeasayer - O.N.E//One of the best dancefloor tracks of the year, this odd track from Yeasayer was one of the suprise hits of the year, bringing the trio into the mainstream and even appearing as a track on FIFA 11.

Ce Lo Green - Fuck You//A simple track about a cheating lover, the former Gnarls Barkley frontman had one of the biggest hits of the year with his track, cruelly censored by the Auntie to 'Forget You.'

Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union//Six and a half minutes of epicness is the only way to describe this song. Three interchanging guitar solos from wild frontman Patrick Stickles, epic choruses leading into battle 'Rally around the flag' and an opening epilogue from Abraham Lincoln's Lyceum address, whilst remaining energetic and different throughout. Brilliant.

Fang Island - Daisy//The energy in this song will leave you bouncing around for hours on end, while the song will refuse to leave your head. A great track from one of the great finds of 2010.

The Black Keys - Tighten Up//Another band to find mainstream success in 2010, the Akron, Ohio duo kept their bluesly rock to the backburn, with the groove of hip-hop beats bringing out the hidden cool side to Dan Auerbach.

theAmp's Albums of 2010

It's been another busy year in the music world, but there have been some gems been released and here's theAmp's pick of the bunch.

The National - High Violet//Although you could say it was somewhat an inferior comeback to 2007's excellent 'Boxer', album no.5 was the one to bring The National to escalating heights. The deep emotional lyircs of Matt Berginer, both feel uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. A deserved placing into the mainstream for the hardworking New York quintet.

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor//The probable only way to describe Titus Andronicus is 'Bruce Springsteen brawling with The Pogues in 19th century America' however that will still only get you half-way there! The New Jersey literates once again bring their druken, punk energy to the front of their sound, which mixes from eccentric guitar solos, to slow, moving tracks. They probably recorded the most expansive album of the year, which was based on the American Civil War, featuring the readings of Abraham Lincoln, Walt Witman and even a bagpipe solo.

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs//Although an album with 16 tracks, does look like it would be filler material, Arcade Fire manage to somehow produce an album where every track is great. Unlike 'Funeral' and 'Neon Bible', where there were a few outstanding tracks sublemented with weak tracks, there is no weak track here on The Suburbs. A triumphant year for the Montreal band, with headline appearances at Reading and Leeds and a sold out arena tour, the pressure will be on them to deliver another masterpiece next time around.

Fang Island - Fang Island//"The sound of everyone high-fiving everyone" is how this energetic lo-fi band describe themselves, and with their energy and creativism it's hard to argue otherwise. It's been a year of the lo-fi revival, and while some bands have been bland, Fang Island have been a fresh air amongst the crowded market and certainly stood out.

Vampire Weekend - Contra//Contra seemed to have an adverse effect on Vampire Weekend. While it didn't ooze the same mainstream sound as their self-titled debut, it managed to propel them to new heights and went number one on the billboard charts in the native US of A. They experimented more than the previous with reggae, reverb and harps, but once again they lead the pack of chasers of their peers.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas: The Sleighlist

Celebrate Christmas with some of Indie's finest and their take on the holiday....

The Futureheads - Christmas Was Better In The 80s//Sunderland's finest go all bleak on us with their offering, and despite the impressive christmas guitar jingle, well I still think Christmas was better in the 90s.

The Killers - Boots//Breaking away from his solo project, Brandon Flowers rejoins the Vegas boys for their annual take on Christmas. A hommage to Jimmy Stewart in 'It's A Wonderful Life', the bleak haunting sound gives an uplifting turn to how Christmas brings everyone together to forget their troubles.

The Walkmen - Holiday Road//A cover of Lindsey Cunningham's song from 1981, the boys give it a rockabilly Christmas moakeover. The guitars sound refreshing towards the bleak usual Christmas tune, whilst Hamilton Leithauser's vocals once again soars above everything else. A great tune to get you in the party mood.

Los Campesinos! - Kindle A Flame In Her Heart//Not as uplifting as their usual work, Gareth Campesinos just wants a kiss from someone under the mistletoe to make him feel better inside. Receiving a lump of coal from Santa instead of his favourite present, Graeth must have had it bad.

Best Coast & Wavves - Got Something For You//Bethany Consentino and Nathan Williams go all lovey dovey on us to celebrate the holiday. Soemone pass the sick bucket, I think I'll stick to watching shit TV and a traditional festive booze up.

Summer Camp - Christmas Wrapping/Anyone who thought the duo wouldn't be able to survive the freezing conditions, well they have and they've given us this delightful Waitress' cover. A relaxing take on everyone's feeling of being too busy for Christmas, it oozes of Christmas cheer.

Rage Against The Machine - Killing In The Name//Ok, it's not a Christmas song, however any song that keeps Simon Cowell's money juggernaut from the festive top spot deserves to be annually recgonized. Plus with the recent student protests, and overall hatred towards the Coalition Government, what better song would represent the feeling of 2010's Christmas.

Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Seen It>> Interpol at Brixton Academy - 06.12.2010

The New Yorkers live up to their name, as they walk out in suits that wouldn't look out of place in the FBI. This is their first show in London since November 2007, so it promises to be a good one. It is also their show in London without departed bassist Carlos D, so things will look different at first.

Dengler's touring replacement David Pajo doesn't carry the same authoritive stride as his predessesor, however with Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler on top form it's hard to notice him. It's evident that the fans have turned up to see the classics from years gone by, as opposed to the new self-titled album, with shouts of "Stella" (Stella Was a Diver And She Was Always Down) being heard throughout the show. At times on 'Interpol', it sounds as though Banks is getting bored and some times in the show you can feel the vibe, "Lights" builds up an atmosphere that quickly dissolves to nothing. The new tracks are flatly received in comparison to the older tracks. "Slow Hadns" probably receives the biggest cheer of the night, lifting the tempo of the crowd and atmosphere in the venue, whilst during "Evil" you probably get to the hear the atmospheric surroundings of the Brixton Academy for the first time.

While Interpol suit the darkened room, it's hard to see with the lighting system that's in place, which then affects the atmosphere and tension inside, no doubt. It seems a bit flat and that something is missing, maybe without Carlos D's presence, or maybe just a feebled reaction towards the new material. Anyway, all doesn't seem right, and why it's not Interpol's fault, maybe it will just take time for Interpol as a three piece to be accepted by the crowd.

Say Hello To The Angels
Length of Love
Rest My Chemistry
Slow Hands
The New
Summer Well
Take You On A Cruise
The Heinrich Maneuver
Memory Serves
Not Even Jail

Seen It>> Pulled Apart By Horses at Relentless Garage - 02.12.2010

"Ultimate Power, Maximum Life!" What a year it's been for Leeds rockers Pulled Apart By Horses. A highly-regarded debut album, frequent plays on MTV and Radio One, Two Live Lounge sets, tearing up Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, and now selling out London's Relentless Garage.

It's a day when the large snowfall has affected some people's journey, however the boys aren't affected by the weather and joke around with the crowd about being "Southern softies" and guitarist James Brown tells us we should "go and watch a Boyband, if we can't make the show because it's snowing."

Opener "E=MC Hammer" is a brutal start to proceedings, with the mosh pit already opening up at the front of the crowd and the people at the front already beginning to get crushed. It doesn't take long for Brown to enter the crowd, as he does during "The Crapsons", crowdsurfing whilst still playing the guitar! The band also handed out free foam fingers to advertise the release of Yeah Buddy, and during this song most of the crowd are waving their fingers in the air. During "High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive", singer Tom Hudson requets for the crowd to high five eachother, which they do.

During the sole encore of "I Punched A Lion In The Throat", the band are joined on stage during members of 'Gay For Johnny Depp', however Hudson and Brown are both in the crowd anyway, raving in the mosh pit, whilst Hudson is mobbed by the crowd and ends up on the floor.

Once again PABH show why they are certainly Britain's best live band, continuing from where they left off at Reading and, dare I say it, improved their live shows even more. They can be congratulated for delivering an epic show, without it being dated or gimmicy.

E=MC Hammer
Back To The Fuck Yeah
The Crapsons
Soft Handed Punk
Moonlit Talons
Yeah Buddy
I've Got Guestlist to Rory O'Hara's Suicide
Meat Balloon
Get Off My Ghost Train
High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive
Den Horn
I Punched A Lion In The Throat

Seen It>> Vampire Weekend at Sheffield Academy - 29.11.2010

It’s been quite a year for Vampire Weekend. Their second album, Contra, went to number one in their native US, thus becoming just the second band on British independent label XL, to have a US number one. Now they are embarking on another sell out tour across the UK, their biggest one yet, which includes two nights at London’s Alexandra Palace.

As temperatures dropped below freezing in Sheffield, Vampire Weekend’s blend of summery, afro-pop tunes went some way to warming up the 02 Academy. Opener ‘Holiday’, with its spunky guitar work, and ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ ironically told of sunshine and warmth, however the crowd still raved around like it was a warm summer’s afternoon.

Singer Ezra Koenig asked the crowd to join in with his “woahs” of ‘M79’ and also the chorus to ‘One (Blake’s Got a New Face)’, which they did with noise and joy. Meanwhile Koenig’s microphone spilled extra-terrestrial noises for the whole of ‘California English,’ rather ironically about girls dressing like summer in California, during freezing cold English weather.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest cheer of the night came for ‘A-Punk’, with the entire crowd bouncing around for the 2 minutes and vigorously chanting back the “eh ehs.” However, the majority of crowd where in loud voice throughout the show, chanting back the words to every song. The energy levels dropped down to the slow, sombre reggae beats of ‘Diplomat’s Son’, which brilliantly switched between paces throughout the song. While the lighting system followed the velocity, flashing around during the rapid guitars and eccentric drumming of Chris Tomson, during ‘Cousins’, whilst Koenig was given his own lighting when he sang his lyrics to the crowd, as if he was giving his own monologue. Bassist Chris Baio switched to a double bass, during ‘Taxi Cab,’ and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij regularly switched between guitars and keyboards throughout.

During the encore, Koenig asked fans to put the hands in the air “and wiggle your fingers around, like magic” during the quick and short ‘Mansard Roof.’ Koenig addressed the crowd that the band would be back soon “after the new album” and stated several times how they wanted to come back to Sheffield.

On a bitter cold winter’s night, Vampire Weekend are just what’s needed to bring back the warmth and sunshine of summer time. It’s not that long till summer, is it?

White Sky
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
I Stand Corrected
California English
Taxi Cab
One (Blake’s Got A New Face)
Diplomat’s Son
Giving Up The Gun
Oxford Comma
Mansard Roof

Seen It>> Titus Andronicus at Scala 25.11.2010

Just across from King's Cross train station, lies the Scala venue. It was on a cold Thanksgiving Day's night that a band, whose most recent album was about the concept in the American Civil War, should play a fitting set. Titus Andronicus brought their beer-fuelled drunken epic anthems to London and they didn't dissapoint their reputation for a mad show.

The Scala seems a perfect venue for the New Jersey boys (and girl), as it is small and intimate, with no barrier and is perfect for the evident moshing that will take place. Singer Patrick Stickles' guitar is drapped in the stars and stripes of his home country, whilst there are people in the crowd attempting to copy his wonderful beard, however they don't possess the same cool effect that he pulls off. Opener "A More Perfect Union" is a rip roaring start to proceedings, Stickles' brilliant solos sending the crowd into a moshing frenzy, with many already falling onto the stage beside them. The vocal crowd are already screaming back 'rally around the flag' with the same passion that the song demands.

Things calm down afterwards with "Richard II" and "No Future Part Three", however they still maintained the energy and rawcusness of fist pumping and chanting in union, 'You will always be a loser!' at the end of the latter. During "Titus Andronicus", Stickles ventured into the crowd for the first time, with the crowd climbing on him to chant "Your life is over!"

Towards the end of the set, Dan Treacy, from support band Television Personalities, invited himself and stage and began to play bizarre songs whilst evidently high, however the band went along with it and it looked as though it had been choreographed to happen. Treacy didn't leave without making his mark, swearing at members of the crowd and asking someone to "speak properly English."

The band ended their energetic, sweaty, beer-fuelled set on "Four Score And Seven," bringing to an end one of the best live gigs I've ever seen.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Seen It>> The Black Keys at Rock City - 04.11.2010

Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys

It may have taken eight years and six albums, but the Akron, Ohio duo The Black Keys look to have finally found their place amongst the mainstream rock contingent. Fresh off supporting Kings of Leon at their Hyde Park mega-show in June, and victory at the MTV VMAs ‘Breakthrough Video’ for the excellent ‘Tighten Up‘, they embarked on a series of sold out shows across the country in support of their ‘Brothers’ album.

You could have forgiven them, therefore to stick to their guns and play tracks from the new album, but they surprising played a lot of tracks from the back catalogue.

Opener ‘Thickfreakness’ was a rip-roaring start to affairs, before turning to the slower tempo-d ’Girl Is On My Mind.’ The blistering speed of the opening tracks, which also included ‘10am Automatic,’ left drummer Patrick Carney covered in sweat, whilst the mesmerizing guitar work of Dan Auerbach sent the crowd into a frenzy of head banging and bouncing around the venue. It was hard not to feel spaced out whilst watching and you felt as though you’d been transported to a American Deep South cowboy bar, due to the heavy rawness of their earlier tracks, including ‘Stack Shot Billy’, ‘Act Nice and Gentle’ and ‘Busted.’

However it took the majority of the crowd to rev up once they were joined on stage by a bassist and keyboardist to play tracks from the new album. In the howling chorus of ‘Next Girl’, Auerbach managed to get the whole crowd echoing back the lyrics, whilst in the aforementioned ‘Tighten Up’, his whistling was imitated by several in the crowd, but they did not ooze the same coolness which Auerbach brings to the table.

They also played a few songs from 2008’s ‘Attack & Release’ album, which was produced by Danger Mouse, one half of Gnarls Barkley, ‘Strange Times’ and ‘I Got Mine.’ They returned with an encore of ‘Sinister Kid’ and ‘Your Touch’, the latter got the whole crowd moving jumping around and even a few mosh pits, strangely.

Overall, The Black Keys’ brilliance of their early blues rock efforts combined to blow the crowd and venue away, whilst in light of newer efforts, they showed they had added coolness to their rawness as they seemed to play without too much effort. However, the one disappointment I had, was the lack of interest in the crowd for their older songs, many of whom only seemed to turn up for the newer stuff, as they are now seen as a “cool” band to like.

Setlist:Thickfreakness, Girl is on My Mind, 10am Automatic, The Brakes, Stack Shot Billy, Busted, Act Nice and Gentle, Everlasting Light, Next Girl, Chop and Change, Howlin’ For You, Tighten Up, She’s Long Gone, Ten Cent Pistol, I’ll Be Your Man, Strange Times, I’ve Got Mine.
Encore: Sinister Kid, Your Touch

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Review>>Interpol - Interpol

Interpol - Interpol (Co-op)
In the three years since the release of “Our Love to Admire,” the New York pessimists have suffered a dramatic downward turn in momentum, from what looked like a placing on the world’s main stage, resulting towards a belief that the band are starting again from scratch.

The self-titling of the new record will intensify those beliefs, whilst the loss of key bassist Carlos Dengler is a huge hole to fill. Fortunately, Dengler was around for the recording of the album and despite all the gloom surrounding the release, it means he leaves the band with them heading back to form.

Returning from a solo album under the guise of ‘Julian Plenti,’ front man Paul Banks’ distinctive, cynical vocals are again at the forefront of the band’s sound. This is particularly evident in Try It On, where he yearns for his love’s return, letting his emotions get the better of him through a bundle of expletives. All of the Ways, however, is the opposite; a cold and seething disgust evident in his vocals, as he demands “Tell me you’re mine.” On the album’s standout and most diverse track, The Undoing, Banks shows off his vocal range by breaking-out into Spanish mid-way, further deepening the gloomy outlook of the atmosphere, combining with the Church organs and brass background echo.

Banks isn’t the only standout, with lead guitarist Daniel Kessler producing several riffs that make him the key element in the band’s sound, for the first time in their back catalogue. In the album’s most mainstream sound, Barricade, Kessler’s guitar floats off in its own simultaneous direction, while the stomping drums imprinted in the chorus will make it a live favourite. In pre-album teaser Lights, Kessler’s guitar work once again leads the listener to their impending doom of the song’s brooding darkness; which brings rewards through repeated listens, whilst Safe Without is a classic riff gradually built up alongside a hypnotic emotion.

The synthesizers of Always Malaise (The Man I Am) wouldn’t look out of place in 1980s horror movies, whilst the bleak pianos lurk towards a cold and bitter winter ahead, with the robotic drumming of Samuel Fogarino culminating in a late surge in tempo. Dengler’s work will be missed as heard through the haunting, atmospheric bass of Memory Serves, the calm stroll in Summer Well and Success is Interpol at their menacing best, with the reverb guitar work complimenting the thumping build up of the bass.

On this evidence, Dengler will be a loss to the band; however they clearly have the flair to survive without him, suggesting a guitar-based sound coming to the fore.


Sunday, 19 September 2010

Seen It>>Reading Festival 2010 - Sunday

12:30-13:05 Lights//Canadian singer-songwriter Lights got the last day off to a late than planned start on the Dance Stage, as Japanese Popstars had pulled out. She delighted the small, scene kid crowd playing songs from both of her albums.

13:35-14:15 Thrice//On the Main Stage, the Irvine, Californians played to a somewhat smallish crowd, full off teenage girls awaiting All Time Low and You Me At Six. However, they were entertaining and received a warm reception.

14:35-15:20 All Time Low//The Baltimore pop-punkers entertained the crowd on a rain-soaked Main Stage. Despite expecting a boring set, I was generally suprised, as they put on a good show and looked comfortable on the Main Stage. The crowd, although full of teenagers, were better than some crowds for the bigger bands, especially the reveller who was crowd-surfing in their tent.

15:40-16:25 You Me At Six//Probably the worst band of the weekend would be the best way to describe the Surrey faux-Americanised pop punkers. Lead singer Josh Franceschi must have been the most deluded frontman of the weekend, asking the crowd to have "the biggest circle pit in Reading history." Errr, yes. Thankfully, I missed no decent bands for this rubbish.

16:45-17:35 Limp Bizkit//Yes! Everyone got that chance to be 10 again, through the nostalgia of Limp Bizkit. Mosh pits aplenty for this one, as the rap/rock/metallers livened up the crowd for the final day with a collection of classic hits that would have left the crowd with a 'Fat Lip.'

17:55-18:45 Cypress Hill//Another band for the nostalgists, the rappers filled the Main Stage with a suspicious substance looking rather like a cigarette (hmmm...) Anyway, they delivered another brutal rendition of classics, including 'Insane In the Membrane.'

19:05-20:05 Weezer//Without doubt, the highlight of the sunday. The nerd rockers showed why the should have headlined the festival. Even without playing any of "Pinkerton", they still produced a terrific stetlist, including an ironic cover of Wheatus' 'Teenage Dirtbag.' But, Rivers Cuomo owned the stage and continued to show why nerds around the world can take heart from him. Brilliant. Altogether now, "If you want to destroy my sweater...."

19:55-20:45 Foals//Trying to follow after Weezer wasn't going to be easy, but the Oxford math-rockers showed that they have differently evolved musically, since the release of "Total Life Forever" earlier this year. The electrifying atmosphere in the NME tent plus guitarist Jimmy Smith throwing up half-way through a riff and continuing playing, was probably one of the highlights of the weekend.

21:10-22:00 We Are Scientists//Probably the second geekiest band of the weekend, after Weezer, the Californian duo of Keith Murray and Chris Cain once again pulled off a brilliant show for the pentulmate band of the weekend. They spent less time chatting and delivered a pulsating, frentic show, where I spent the entire time bouncing in the air. One of the most underrated bands on the list, but they continued to show why they have developed a cult following.

22:00-23:30 Blink 182//A chance to relive your childhood again, with the San Diego pop-punkers headlining the final night. Whilst it was enjoyable, sadly the off-putting vocals of Tom DeLonge ruined would should have been an epic night. However Travis Barker's drum solo was mind-numbing, proving he still has got it.

And that concludes Reading 2010, roll on 2011.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Seen It>>Reading Festival 2010 - Saturday

12:00-12:30 The Walkmen//The New Yorkers opened up Saturday on the Main Stage with a look into new album "Lisbon", released in September. They also got the crowd headbanging along to the eccentric drumming of Matt Barrick, through 'The Rat.'

12:45-13:20 The Futureheads//The Sunderland rockers returned with a new album in tow, "The Choas", this year and their return to the festival was treated with a hommage to the new album, 'Heartbeat Song' and 'I Can Do That.' Alongside those tracks, was a greatest hits collection of older classics, 'Skip To The End', 'Decent Days and Nights', 'The Beginning of the Twist' and of course the Kate Bush cover of 'Hounds of Love', with the entire crowd chanting back the 'Oh Ohs.'

13:35-14:05 Band of Skulls//Blues rock from Southampton now, with Band of Skulls. The, err, Band played a host of songs from debut album "Baby Darling Doll Face Honey", including 'I Know What I Am' and 'Death By Diamonds And Pearls', to get all the Jack White wannabees in the crowd headbanging along in the NME tent.

14:35-15:20 The Gaslight Anthem//The New Jersey band brought along their 'American Slang' to the Main Stage. Their energetic afternoon set included songs such as 'The 59 Sound' and the aforementioned 'American Slang.'

15:40-16:20 Modest Mouse //With The Cribs soon to follow on the Main Stage, expectations were aroused over the possibility of Johnny Marr rejoining the band on stage, as he had done for previous album "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank." However even without Marr, Isaac Brock and the boys still livened up the crowd in sunshine, playing songs such as 'Float On', 'Bukowski' and 'Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.' Maybe it's time to stop being so Modest, lads.

16:00-16:40 The Rats//The festival's worst kept secret was that The Rats were in fact Gallows. Everyone in the Lock Up Stage were not expecting anyone else when Frank Carter marched onto stage. During 'In The Belly Of A Shark', he yelled at the crowd to form a 'Wall of Death', before promptly saying, "Leeds were better than you cunts" and arguing with fans. Ah, bless.

16:45-17:35 The Maccabees//The Brighton quintent returned to the festival on the Main Stage, after packing out the NME Tent last year and headlining the Shockwaves NME Tour in February. They brought their tales of sunshine, love and happiness to the teenage audience. They were assisted in their performance from the crowd throughout, making it a nice, blissful late afternoon session.

18:45-19:35 Serj Tankian//Without his ex-System bandmates, but instead joined by a London orchestra, anyone expecting a similar atmosphere to SOAD would be pleasantly suprised, as Serj's solo set is a rather tame outift in comparison. However you wouldn't get his dancing during SOAD, would you?

20:20-21:30 The Libertines//Without a doubt, the biggest story of the festival was the return of the perenial bad-boys of Indie, for the first time in six years. Doubts had surrounded whether they would turn up in the right piece, but they gave a flawless and emotional performance to (probably) the biggest crowd of the weekend. The crowd played had their part too, with the band forced off stage midway through 'Time For Heroes', as they were being far too rowdy. The band ended with 'I Get Along', before the biggest cheer of the night was saved for a Pete/Carl hug and later the band all going to salute the audience. One of the best comebacks Reading will ever see.

21:10-22:00 Enter Shikari//After packing out the Main Stage last year, you had to wonder whether they would be enough space to fit everyone in the NME Tent for the St Albans hardcore band's set. Despite suiting the darkness, the band and audience clearly don't fit into the NME tent, so perhaps next time they should be on the Main Stage. Good atmosphere, though.

22:00-23:30 Arcade Fire//If any band could take the mantle from The Libertines on Saturday, it would have been the Montreal band. The modest outift played to a somewhat mid-sized crowd on their first headline appearance at the Berkshire festival. Playing tracks from all three of their albums, the highlights would have to be the terrific blend of 'Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)' and 'Rebellion (Lies)' and the fantastic awe-inspiring ending on 'Wake Up', with the entire crowd in full voice. A superb set, truely deserving of their headline status, probably just edging out The Libertines' set.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Seen It>>Reading Festival 2010 - Friday

12:00-12:30 Young Guns//High Wycombe alternative rockers opened the Main Stage at this year's festival with tracks from their debut album, "All Our Kings Are Dead", including 'Winter Kiss' and 'Crystal Clear.' They even had time to pay homage to the festivals headliners, combining Arcade Fire's 'Wake Up', Blink 182's 'Stay Together For the Kids' and Guns 'N Roses's 'You Could Be Mine.'

12:45-13:20 Surfer Blood//The West Palm Beach Surf Rockers brought sunshine and warmth to a muddy first day at Reading. They included songs from their high-rated debut "Astro Coast" and debuted new song 'I'm Not Ready.'

13:20-13:50 Harlem//With the Festival Republic stage running half an hour later than scheduled, my hopes of seeing Funeral Party were dashed, if only to the pleasure of instead seeing Harlem. Not from New York, but Tuscon, Arizona, the garage rock band worked up a sweat for the lively crowd, including the switch of guitarist/singer and drummer half-way through their set.

14:05-14:50 Billy Talent//Having last year headlined the Lock Up Stage, the Canadians saw themselves promoted to Main Stage, it being deserved too. Opening with crowd favourite 'Red Flag' got the entire audience rocking all the way to 'Fallen Leaves' at the end. Their set and crowd interaction once again showcasing that they are one of the best live bands on the line up.

15:35-16:05 Summer Camp//The London duo got the young audience excited on the Festival Republic stage by launching Kit Kat Chunkys into the crowd. However they didn't need to take a break (sorry), as they delivered a perfect set, prooving why they were one of the bands of the weekend to watch.

16:20-16:55 Pulled Apart By Horses//The Leeds rockers once again tore up the Festival Republic stage, with frontman Tom Hudson diving into the crowd with guitar in tack, whilst James Brown also launched his into the air like a missile, only to collect it and continue playing. The electric atmosphere in the tent confessed the band to claim that Reading would "kick the shit" out of their hometown's audience. Without doubt, Friday belonged to them.

17:20-18:10 Lostprophets//Pontypridd's finest were also upgraded to Main Stage, after their storming headline set on the NME/Radio One on Sunday in 2009. Featuring both new material from "The Betrayed" and previous classics such as 'Last Train Home' and 'Wake Up', along with a cover of 'Sweet Child O' Mine' from the day's headliners, Guns 'N Roses. However the obvious missing song being live favourite 'Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja.' It's probably safer to say that they are clearly more suited to the darkness.

18:35-19:25 Biffy Clyro//Obvious attention being attatched to Simon Neil's new look of Blond beard and hair, the Scottish rockers delivered a crowd pleasing performance of newer singles such as 'Mountains' and 'The Captain', whilst playing classics such as 'Living Is A Problem...' and 'Who's Got A Match?'

19:45-20:50 Queens Of The Stone Age//The Coolest Man in Rock, Josh Homme, doesn't need to make much effort to control the Main Stage for the Californian Hard Rockers's apperance. Opener 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' shows off their customary swagger, whilst the crowd chant back the riff to 'No One Knows,' once again showing that they indeed are the Kings (or Queens) of the festival.

20:55-21:40 Blood Red Shoes//The Brighton boy/girl duo liven up the Festival Republic stage under the headlights combining classics such as 'It's Getting Boring By The Sea' and new potential classics including 'Heartsink.' The Teenage audience, dripping with sweat and alcopops, are kept bouncing in the air throughout the atmospheric set.

21:30-23:30 Guns 'N Roses//Over an hour late (what a suprise!), Axl Rose 'N Chums are met with a chorus of boos. With their new-line up in tow, it's hard to take it seriously as G'NR. Taking into account, that Rose's voice has firmly been left in 1987, perhaps it's time to put this to bed and move on. Of course, Axl Rose is a man (and ego) who doesn't like being second-best, therefore they manage to out-perform Kings Of Leon from 2009, as one of the worst headliners in recent years.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Top 5>> Bands You Must See at Reading/Leeds

5. Funeral Party (Friday Reading/Sunday Leeds Festival Republic)
Californian trio bring their post-punk dancefloor filling choons to you in the early afternoon. The LA band are one of the tipped bands for 2010 with their Rapture-esque sound, and "NYC Moves to the Sound of LA" will be one of the soundtracks of the festival.

4. LCD Soundsystem (Friday Reading/Sunday Leeds NME/Radio One Tent)
With James Murphy all set to pack it in, following the release of "This Is Happening", this will perhaps be the final chance you will be able to see him at the twin festival. There won't be a dry eye in the house when he plays the final note of the show.

3. Pulled Apart By Horses (Friday Reading/Sunday Leeds Festival Republic)
This brutal and sweaty set by the Leeds awesome foursome should have awoken the entire site from their all-nighter hangovers. Prepare for stage diving, crowd surfing, the lot. It is actually like being pulled apart by horses (groan.)

2. Surfer Blood (Friday Reading/Sunday Leeds NME/Radio One Tent)
West Plam Beach, Florida's Surfer Blood bring their atmospheric, reverbed(reverb-less in a live sense), lo-fi surf pop to the early starters on Friday afternoon. One of the most-hotly tipped bands of the year, the band are said to sound like fellow festivalers Modest Mouse and Weezer, so you can check if they do for yourself.

1. The Libertines (Saturday Reading/Friday Leeds Main Stage)
Of course, no story for the 2010 festival could be complete without the (second) reunion of the bad-boys of Indie. Their last two shows at Reading (2003,2004) didn't feature Pete, so the whole band will be a sight for sore eyes. Don't expect them to return to the festival anytime soon, however.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Top 5>>Worst Reading Headliners

With the news that Guns 'n' Roses are indeed playing Reading and Leeds, claiming Axl Rose's twitter was hijacked - or more likely a publicity stunt, it only seems fair to look at some of the worst headliners in recent years.

2009: Kings of Leon
Rather ironically given that they decided to release radio-heavy songs such as Sex On Fire and Use Somebody, that the band would lay into the crowd for not singing along to their older (and better) songs. However the bands set was so terrible, that they even requested for the BBC to cut out their last few songs, meaning fans at home would have missed highlights including Caleb's rant and Matthew smashing his guitar into pieces.

2007: Razorlight
Errr, surely the title says all.

2004: The Darkness
Sadly, not a joke. They DID actually headline Reading and Leeds.

2007: The Smashing Pumpkins
Akin to Guns 'n' Roses this year, it is not the same Smashing Pumpkins that we all know. No D'Arcy and no James, made it look like a 'Billy Corgan and friends' type gig, with the main focus being solely on their newly released album 'Zeitgeist' at the time and missing some older songs.

1996: The Stone Roses
Their last performance was this shameful and embarrasing headline gig, so much so that they were booed and hit by objects throughout. Ian Brown's vocals were even described as "so off-key it was excrucitating to listen to." Needless to say, they packed it in in October.

2010: The year of the Solo

Paul Banks as solo alter-ego Julian Plenti

With the recent news about Maximo Park's Paul Smith soon to be releasing a solo album, he has become the latest in a long list of indie band members to enter the solo world in 2010.
Obviously the most successful so far being Bloc Party's Kele Okereke, going just by his first name. His debut album 'The Boxer' was released in June, where he opted to follow on from Bloc Party's last album 'Intimacy', in going for a dance sound as opposed to their guitar-based earlier efforts. He has also taken up the bands seemingly-permanent residence at the Reading and Leeds festival. Perhaps he could be one to stay on the solo route?

Whilst we wait in hope that The Strokes' early-anticipated new record will actually be released some time soon, Julian Casablancas decided to step away and release his own stuff through 'Phrazes for the Young.' Although he has been around the globe playing festivals himself, such as the FIB Bennicassim, he has also reunited with his aforementioned band, including playing at Isle of Wight and Rockness here in Blighty.

The Killers' Brandon Flowers has also jumped on the bandwagon, which culminates with the release of his album 'Flamingo' in September. He claimed it felt weird being without his bandmates, reassuring fans that the band will return at some stage.

Julian Plenti, aka Paul Banks, aka him from Interpol, brought out a release called 'Julian Plenti is...Skyscraper' in August 2009. Despite going into the solo world, the band are set to release their new self-titled album, either in late 2010 or early 2011, however this time without bassist Carlos D.

Finally, Razorlight's former drummer Andy Burrows, brought out his own self-written and recorded album 'Sun Comes Up Again' in August, under the name I Am Arrows. Having also recorded with We Are Scientists for their 2010, forth album, 'Barbara', Burrows has certainly showed that there is a hidden talent behind Razorlight.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Seen It>> Kings of Leon at Hyde Park - 30/06/10

Followills Matthew, Caleb, Nathan and Jared rock out to the Hyde Park audience.

Their first trip back across the pond since their embarrasing and disastrous Reading headline performance last year, Kings of Leon seemed determined to put that behind them, opening their biggest ever concert in high tempo.

The 65,000 concert sold out within minutes, when it went on sale, and the Followill clan received a warm reception with opener Crawl, from 2008's Only By The Night. The entire crowd greeted the opening bass riff in hysterics and everyone seemed to yell the lyrics back at the band. However the collosus crowd is somewhat relaxed when Aha Shake Heartbreak's Taper Jean Girl begins playing, perhaps suggesting many of the crowd are unaware of their older guard.

The next biggest cheer comes 7 songs later with Closer, another of superstar-breakthrough album Only By The Night's crowd favourites. However older songs, Wasted Time, Molly's Chambers (both from debut album Youth and Young Manhood), Four Kicks and The Bucket, show off why the band's early efforts gave them their 'Southern Strokes' title.

"We've been away for a while," frontman Caleb tells the crowd, "but since we've last seen you guys, we made another record." The band launch into new album songs, Immortals, Mary, Radioactive and Southband. However it's not long till Caleb tells the crowd, "don't worry the song you're waiting for is coming." Then cousin Matthew begins the two-note riff of Sex On Fire, leaving the entire crowd in raptures, suggesting perhaps some had only come along for this song.

A cover of Pixies' Where Is My Mind and Youth and Young Manhood's Trani, ends the first session. The band returning for their encore with the seven minute rendition of Because of the Times' Knocked Up, greeted by "oh woahs" from the crowd, before the secong biggest cheer of the night comes via Use Somebody. Their set is ended on Because of the Times song Black Thumbnail.

Almost one year on from their last set in the capital, it seems Kings of Leon have learned to accept that their fame and crowd appeal remains with their newer radio-friendly songs from Only By The Night, suggesting why there was a lack of older songs missing from the set.


Seen It>> The Drums at Heaven - 09.06.10

Jacob Graham, Jonathan Pierce and Adam Kessler of The Drums.

"We love you London, you're our second home." Jonathan Pierce, lead singer of The Drums, reitarates his point to the crowd throughout the night. The Drums are at Heaven playing the second of two sell-out nights, on the week of their debut album's release, further cementing their place as one of the bands of the new decade.
Sweeping onto stage some time after his bandmates, Pierce begins his frantic dancemoves, reminiscent of the late Ian Curtis, while his stage presence and swagger is similar to that of a young Morrisey, in The Smiths' heyday of the early eighties.
His late enterance on stage, meant he missed the opening to It Will All End In Tears, whilst the crowd and band begin to get in the groove, through second single Best Friend. Guitarist Jacob Graham joins Pierce in prancing around the stage, complete with tambourine and sporting dancing that looked as if he was a drunken ballerina. This shows they have the arrogance and attitude which suggests they will be more than just a fad and will be selling albums for years to come.
The band are then quick to play out songs from their critically positive debut EP, Summertime!, including the Cure-esque Submarine, upbeat summer hit Saddest Summer, former B-side I Felt Stupid, Make You Mine and the doo-woop liden Down By The Water, where the entire crowd chant the words back, overpowering Pierce's voice. They are later joined on stage by Gregory's Girl Clare Grogan for the lovers' tiff duet, Don't Be A Jerk, Jonny.
Another three songs from their self-titled debut follow, Book of Stories, Me And The Moon and recent single Forever and Ever Amen, before the band head off backstage.
Their encore consists of their biggest hit, and crowd favourite, Lets Go Surfing. At this point, it seems the crowd have fully woken up and break into a dancing frenzy.

On this evidence, it seems The Drums have the ability to be live favourites for years to come, with both their songs and stage authority being the right formula needed to please their growing fanbase.


Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Making Waves - The Rebirth of Surf Rock

Undoubtedly, the sound of 2010 has been the strange - if not welcoming - ressurection of the surf rock genre. The sound of the '60s quickly began creating momentum towards the back end of 2009, with acts such as The Drums, Beach House, Surfer Blood and Best Coast being tipped as the stars of 2010. The sounds of summer, bittersweet romance and rejoice have taken listeners back to the genre's peak, when artists such as The Beach Boys, The Surfaris and The Kingsmen were some of the world's most popular bands.

One of the biggest mainstream hits this year, has been Brooklyn's The Drums. The New York-based hipsters only formed in Florida in late 2008, when childhood friends Jonathan Pierce (vocals) and Jacob Graham (guitar) had grown tired of synathetics of previous bands, Elkland and Horse Shoes, instead opting to pick up guitars. (A feat which is clearly audible through their debut self-titled LP being ladened with one-note riffs.) They later recruited former Elkland member Adam Kessler on second guitar and NYC-born Connor Hanwick on drums. They quickly developed a growing fanbase in New York's indie scene and their eagerly anticipated EP, Summertime!, was released in October 2009. This lead to the band being listed amongst 2010's 'Ones To Watch', by several major media companies, such as the BBC's Sound of 2010, MTV's 10 for 10 and Number One on NME's tips for the year. Their EP released on the Moshi Moshi label, brought the band to the mainstream audience through the debut single, Let's Go Surfing. At first glimpse, you would expect this to be a song about surfing, however the song was written on the day of Barack Obama's inauguration. Thus this inspires the whole record's feel-good factor, yet it is not solely a one-dimensional road, with the doo-woop ridden sadness of Down By The Water included, to give the band an overall differing sound. Their sound has been described as a mixture of surf pop and eighties post-punk, with the band listing their influences as The Smiths, Joy Division and Orange Juice. Frontman Pierce believes they are not a surf pop band, with "the beach thing only being attatched to us as our first song was called Let's Go Surfing." However with beach-like soundng riffs and a list of summer joyful lyrics, you would have to list them among the surf rock genre.

Another tipped as one of 2010's biggest stars, but without the mainstream sucess of The Drums, are West Palm Beach's Surfer Blood. The Floridians debut single Swim was released in 2009, to much critical acclaim and was named as Pitchfork's 37th best song of the year. The added reverb of the songs opening, gives off a echoing Brian Wilson harmonius effect, attatched to the Isaac Brock-esque, of Modest Mouse fame, yelling of singer John Paul Pitts. With a sound compared to Weezer and Pavement by Pitchfork, they are not your typical beach-pop band. Despite residing in the surf-haven of Florida, not one member surfs and their name was created by drummer TJ Schwarz, as they felt it gave them a look they were going for, of "impressionable youth and invulnerable sensitivity." Their debut LP Astro Coast was recorded in Pitts' college dorm room at the University of Florida. It was released to hugely positive reactions, particularly Pitchfork, who called it a "great guitar album." Pitts says their sound is based on their influences of Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth and "really classic 90s alternative stuff."

Like their contemporaries, Baltimore-based Beach House also decide to use a name hinting at the genre of their music. The duo consisting of French-born Victoria Legrand (vocals/organ) and Alex Scally (guitar/keyboards) formed in 2004, with their debut self-titled album released in 2006, with Pitchfork naming it their 16th best album of the year. Their second LP Devotion was released on February 26 2008, which received them greater acclaim and once again being named among Pitchfork's best of album list, this time coming in at 46. However it wasn't until the release of third album Teen Dream in January 2010, that propelled the band into commercial success. The single Norway was listed as one of iTunes's free singles of the week starting from January 12. The BBC called it a "bold evolution in sound" and "the new decade's first essential album." Their sound has been described as 'dream pop', a tag used on influencial-80s Scottish band Cocteau Twins, in recognition of Legrand's haunting lyrics and due to their atmospheric guitar sound.
Finally, Best Coast are the latest surf-rock revilatists to start to crack the mainstream. The Los Angeles trio consists of former child actress Bethany Consentino (vocals), multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno and newly appointed drummer Ali Koehler. Consentino and Bruno had met years before forming the band, as Bruno was her babysitter as a child. Their single Boyfriend was named as a "best new track" by Pitchfork in June 2010. While their debut album Crazy For You was released a month later on Witchita. The album received 8/10 from NME, who singled it out for it's "great songs and immense charm." Their legion of followers even includes Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Hollywood actor Bill Murray, who was spotted watching them at the South by South West festival in Austin, Texas in March. Consentino isn't afraid of their 'surf pop' tag, explaining that she is a keen listener of the genre. "I listen to a lot of '60s beach music. It sounds happy and innocent, but it was made during a time that wasn't happy or innocent at all."

Friday, 11 June 2010

Festival Guide>> Download

Dates: 11-13 June

Location: Donnington Park, Leicestershire

Price: £180 (Weekend)

Headliners: AC/DC (Friday), Rage Against The Machine (Saturday), Aerosmith (Sunday)

Other notable acts: Friday - Them Crooked Vultures, Killswitch Engage, Bullet For My Valentine, A Day To Remember, Saturday - Deftones, 30 Seconds To Mars, HIM, The Blackout, Sunday - Stone Temple Pilots, Motorhead, Billy Idol, Slash.

What They're Saying: "The full shabang. Spend five nights staying at rock music’s most famous camp site, sampling the world’s biggest bands along the way."

What others are saying: "Download Festival 2010 will be 110000 people descending on one of the most famous festival grounds in the country" Virtual Festivals

What we're saying: "Three ageing headliners suggest a lack of massive rock names are emerging."


Festival Guide>> Rock Ness

The first look into a series of Summer Festivals, starting with this weekend's Rock Ness festival.

Dates: June 11-13

Location: Loch Ness, near Inverness, Scotland.

Headliners: Fatboy Slim (Friday), Leftfield (Saturday), The Strokes (Sunday)

Other Notable Acts: Friday - Friendly Fires, Pendulum, Enter Shikari, Crystal Castles, Saturday - Ian Brown, Plan B, Aphex Twin, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobious Pip, Sunday - Vampire Weekend, Doves, Chase 'n' Status, Blondie, The Maccabees.

Price: £149 (Weekend)

What they're saying: "Bring sturdy shoes or boots, waterproofs, suncream and sunglasses so you are ready for all eventualities!"

What others are saying: "Wandering around RockNess, there are a few additional attractions of interest this year, as if there hadn’t already been enough on offer." Michael MacLennan, STV.

What we're saying: "An excellent line-up consisting of many different genres, to keep everyone entertained."


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Album News - Black Keys

The Black Keys have announced their new album entitled 'Brothers' will be released on May 18th.

The Akron, Ohio Blues-Rock Duo return, following a year as their 'Blackroc' project, a rap/rock combination involving hip-hop stars such as Mos Def and Q-Tip.

Their last Black Keys album 'Attack/Release' was released in 2008, produced by Danger Mouse, one half of 'Gnarls Barkley', who returns to produce 'Tighten Up' on the 15-song album.

Everlasting Light
Next Girl
Tighten Up
Howlin' for You
She's Long Gone
Black Mud
The Only One
Too Afraid to Love You
Ten Cent Pistol
Sinister Kid
The Go Getter
I'm Not the One
Unknown Brother
Never Gonna Give You Up
These Days