Sunday, August 31, 2008

Weekender : still waking in cold sweats

- It's when you're watching one of the schmindie music channels on Sky Digital and wincing at what we're presented as the hippest new things you all need to know that you realise how much people like us need to act as a proactive buffer for new music consumption. As White Lies' Editors B-sides follow Iglu & Hartley's MGMT-meets-Hard-Fi-played-by-men-without-tops follow Ida Maria's artless shouting follow that new Santogold single that sounds like Jane Wiedlin, it's refreshing to find a band that don't try too hard. Admittedly that actually is an accusation that's been directed towards Thomas Tantrum, and in particular singer Megan Thomas, whose singing voice, which she assures is much like her speaking voice, plots a path between Clare Grogan and Life Without Buildings' Sue Tompkins, more than one track even borrowing Tompkins' rhythmic word association for what passes for a chorus. Their self-titled debut album, released on their own Sindy Stroker label, produced by Richard McNamara off of, of all bands, Embrace and currently Myspace streamable in full, is the sort of record you can imagine having come out around the turn of the century and being feted by a select and cultured few to this day, exhibiting trace elements of post-punk but very much awkward, hook laden and of the indie pop milieu. It's the sort of adventure through youthful self-investigation of personal parameters joyfulness you only get in bands who haven't had the time to work out what they do yet, and it remains cherishable.

- If Fujiya & Miyagi are one trick ponies, it's a mightily impressive trick: motorik grooves, now driven by a real-life rhythm section, taken through a roundabout route that takes in not just Talking Heads but solo David Byrne, the Tom Tom Club and Jerry Harrison's keyboards for the Modern Lovers, while David Best breathily recites streams of consciousness. The Lightbulbs press release namechecks James Brown, the Human League, Serge Gainsbourg and Wire, but that's what press releases are for. It does its job, at least. Also believing in the Neu! is David Holmes, who returns from soundtrack curation and makes a well reverbed vocal debut on single I Heard Wonders. Also in the single racks are Slow Club, Charles and Rebecca inviting their friends round for the choral joyousness of Let's Fall Back In Love. Album any time soon? Attempting to make Johnny Flynn into a crossover star was always going to be a loss leader but the singles are still affecting things, Brown Trout Blues the latest.

MYSPACE INVADERS: There's not a lot of biographical detail we can tell you about Hajen. She's from Gothenburg, her Myspace has been up for about two months and has garnered 86 friends and 1617 views as of Thursday night, she's actually called Amanda, and she claims as influences Bob Dylan, Cat Power, Neil Young, Radiohead, 16 Horsepower and The Mars Volta. Ah, copy and paste. In fact Chan Marshall's last three albums would be a very good comparison to her spare, piano-based despair and soaring, heartfelt vocals, as would Stina Nordenstam and Regina Spektor. Only one other blog, and that Swedish music specific, has covered her as far as we can tell, but we certainly won't be the last.

VISUAL AID: He celebrated his fiftieth birthday on Friday with his status as an icon and a trailblazer for black people in his particular area of entertainment secure, even if he hasn't lived up to his 1980s heights in recent years. Here's his seminal video for Thriller.

* The Pipettes - you remember, they're like the 60s - are coming back with free gigs at The Fly in London over each of the next three days - try Tuesday, Restlesslist are supporting then - and a small scale tour in October. They'll be selling a remix CD at the latter dates, and as is now the way with such things they're inviting any passing herbert to put together their own mix for it, and as such are giving away the vocal parts to The Shoe That Fits as Myspace downloads. Yeah, that's an invitation to remix a song nobody outside the band has properly heard, and presumably thanks to the passage of time and members there won't be a lot of tracks from the first album being reworked for it either. Either common sense has taken its leave or there's some evil masterplan to all this. Anyway, best of British. In other news, our favourite music-as-magic comic Phonogram is heading towards its second series, The Singles Club. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have set this series in more contemporary times than the Britpop-centric Rue Britannia, which we discussed with Gillen two years ago, which means fewer Kenickie references but more like issue 1's club flyer inspired cover art on a Pip-theme. We're assured it will remain of a similarly high quality, current ETA being December. Would it be improper to round this bit off by linking to a new and interesting interview with the de-polka'd Rose Elinor Dougall? Yes, it probably would.

* It's three girl rhumbas all the way this week in this section, we tell you. ITV are currently running a series of online mini-documentaries entitled Web Lives, "a series of short documentaries following people whose lives are shaped by the Internet". The current subject in the Cyber Celebs section is some podcasters, and before them a comedian. And before him, the Duloks. Now, Mina, Mira and Mar are many things, but "web 2.0 superstars" isn't one of the first that springs to mind. Yet here they are advertised as an "unsigned trio (who) are slowly building up a Myspace fan base where they control everything without middle men getting in the way" - like most unsigned bands, then - and generally doing what they do in the gear they do it in and with the peculiar elan they exhibit while doing it. The editing must have been a nightmare.

* Nothing gladdens the heart and confounds the synapses like an indie queen on a kids' TV show. So, from Canada, Stars and Broken Social Scene's Amy Millan, plus country-jazz singer Christine Bougie and an excitable chef puppet.

* And a round-up of what else has caught our eye this week: the Wave Pictures' productivity rate has been covered on here before, but their turn on Bandstand Busking features an obscurity (2004's David's Evening On Wheels) and two brand new songs; our occasional series of blogs started by sometime major online music magazine players continues with Mike Diver, who we met three weeks ago and who left Drowned In Sound last week - are these events connected? We think we should be told - and who's for the time being marshalling From Sinking; meanwhile Marcello Carlin, who's been all round the place but (inevitably) mostly Stylus, goes for the album version of Tom Ewing's Popular number ones project (that one's in the sidebar) on Then Play Long, while Music Sounds Better With Two takes on the number two peaking singles from the chart's history. And here's Those Dancing Days covering Toxic.

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