Expectations were sky high for Nicolas Jaar’s final gig of his ‘Don’t Break My Love’ tour, held at London’s iconic Roundhouse. At only 22, the Chilean-American musician has quickly established himself as one of the most ground-breaking electronica artists with his debut full-length ‘Space Is Only Noise’ topping many trend-setters best of 2011 lists, from Rough Trade to Mixmag magazine. The tour had already hit London exactly twelve months ago, when Jaar performed with a band to an amazed audience.
This time there was also a showcase of the talent Nico has being gathering around the world for his own audiovisual imprint, Clown & Sunset. Excellent sets by young Ethiopian multidisciplinary artist Soul Keita, playing for the first time in the UK, and German musician Acid Pauli helped building up a night of sonic excitement.
The audience was treated to a surprising show where Jaar once again managed to turn the minimal beats of his album into a crowd pleasing beast, flaunting and expanding his wide-range eclecticism from the intimate classic piano of the opening tracks to the anthemic, bass-heavy performance of the krautrock-infused title track. This time there was no full band, just his guitar player coming onstage in the middle part of the show. Other standout moments were his reworks of popular soul classics such as Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good’ or The Searchers ‘Love Potion No. 9’ , thrown into the set in between more recent pieces of work as it’s his recent collaboration with Bruce Willis’ daughter, Scout Larue, ‘And I Say’. All of it was complemented with mesmerising visuals linked through a simple, yet very effective mirror symmetry effect.
Legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was in London this week to promote his latest record ‘Old Ideas’, offering a full album playback for the press, followed by a conversation with Pulp’s front man Jarvis Cocker and a Q&A session.
During the session, Cohen flaunted great sense of humour; unpretentious manners and the eloquence of a master, kindly refusing to overintellectualize the meaning of his songs. The artist gave some fascinating insight about his writing process; the influence of classic poets such as Yeats and Lorca on his work and the way he phrases words and his experience living in London (Hampstead) at the time he was writing his first novel, among many other subjects. He also joked about how writing helped building up his reputation as a ladies man.
‘Old Ideas’ is his twelfth studio album. It puts an end to an eight years recording hiatus during which Cohen hit the road again on a rapturously received tour; his classic ‘Hallelujah’ was covered by X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, helping a new generation to discover his timeless work and, more recently, he was honoured in Spain with the much coveted Prince Of Asturias Literary Prize. On a first impression, ‘Old Ideas’ is easily his most inspired opus since his acclaimed classic from the 80′s, ‘I’m Your Man’. It deals with the same intimate and spiritual matters that have been a fixture through the Canadian’s career. Regular collaborator Patrick Leonard, of ‘Like A Virgin’’ fame, is once more on production duties.
A few songs from the record have already been unveiled, before Christmas it came ‘Show Me The Place’, followed by the bluesy “Darkness” and at the moment ‘Going Home’ can be streamed here.
‘Old Ideas’ is released via Columbia Records on January the 31st.
Making that difficult second album look easy, Bon Iver’s frontman Justin Vernon returned in 2011 with a sophomore work maintaining the intimate formula that earned him acclaim. Since the release of ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, Vernon’s personal brand of alt folk has been a major influence for musicians of all genres. From hip-hop stars such as Kanye West, who sampled one of the auto-tuned tracks on his follow-up EP ‘Blood Bank’; to electronica wizard James Blake, with whom he recently collaborated on the track, ‘Fall Creek Boys Choir.’
Bon Iver’s follow up may have lacked the heartache that inspired his classic debut. It also leaned on complex production with richer arrangements. But somehow Bon Iver’s self titled follow up managed to preserve that spirit of introspection his first album gained from recording in a secluded woodland cabin.
The anticipating single ‘Calgary’ was a good reminder of the qualities that gave the band an instant cult following. Released alongside a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s much praised ballad, ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’, it propelled the album to the top of the charts and helped sell out an international tour as soon it was announced. Even the Grammys fell under his spell by granting Bon Iver a bunch of nominations, included a belated one for Best New Artist.
In a year that is being referred to as the year of the female singer, British ones have fared particularly well. Whereas the record sales were dominated by Adele; there was also an almost unanimous critical consensus at choosing PJ Harvey’s eight studio album ‘Let England Shake’ as the best album of 2011. The Dorset songwriter has created an astonishing concept work about the devastating effects of war, immersed in history and poetry while also managed to expand her musical palette.
After twenty years of solid musical career, ‘Let England Shake’ meant another reinvention for an artist who’s never been happy resting on her laurels. Among the many accolades she gathered, PJ won the Mercury Music Prize, becoming the only act who has won the coveted award twice. Standout tracks were aplenty, but our favourite was second single ‘The Glorious Land’, where the singer samples both The Police’s ‘This Bed’s Too Big Without You’ and HM Irish Guards’ ‘Regimental March’ in a song that resonates as a powerful anti-war anthem.
Perhaps anticipating her end of the year’s critical momentum, PJ Harvey has just released a DVD compiling the short films that acclaimed photographer Seamus Murphy shot for each of the record’s twelve tracks.
Five piece combo Friends are one of the most recent discoveries from the hipster hotspot of Brooklyn. Still at the early stages of their career, an infectious second single, ‘I’m His Girl’, has already earned them raves across the planet.
The first thing you notice when listening to ‘I’m His Girl’ is female lead Samantha Urbani’s sweet vocals, singing lyrics that could have been taken out of a Phil Spector-produced girl band from the ’60′s. Then it’s the song’s impeccable mix of cool influences that catch you. Its beat recalling the stripped-down dance-punk of ESG, with a remarkably funky bass line bringing disco into the equation and an attitude that encapsulates the spirit of ’80’s hip-hop and urban acts such as Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam. This is also well reflected in the promo video with Urbani walking her ghetto blaster through the streets of the Big Apple.
Altogether, it offers one of the freshest clashes of musical sounds since Blondie met Grandmaster Flash in ‘Rapture’ and it reveals a band whose huge potential has not gone unnoticed, as proved by their inclusion in many ‘Sounds Of 2012’ polls; including the BBC, Q and our own.
Slowcore kings Low have enjoyed an excellent year; 2011 began with Robert Plant’s cover of their ‘Silver Rider’ getting a nomination for the Grammys, followed by the release of their ninth studio album ‘C’mon’. It was recorded in their local Duluth at the same former Catholic Church-turned-studio where they shaped up their seminal work ‘Trust’. Its sound was intended to get ‘closer to how they perform live; warmer; fuller and more introspective’ and for the task they had hired relatively unknown producer Matt Beckley. His CV including work for more mainstream acts as Leona Lewis or Avril Lavigne, managed to raise a few eyebrows among Low’s fans.
However, as soon as ‘C’mon’ arrived all fears evaporated. The particular acoustics of the church helped enhanced their gorgeous vocal harmonies; whereas the intimate, nearly spiritual quality of tracks like ‘Especially Me’, chosen as second single, perfectly showcased all the reasons why Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker occupy such a renowned place in contemporary music.
The band from Minnesota hit the road and came to London for an acclaimed one-off show at The Barbican, their biggest headlining gig in the UK to date; celebrating a career spawned over two decades that has never stopped delivering great songs.
Two of the most blogged about US female artists of the moment have joined forces for a three date mini UK tour that began at London’s Heaven last Wednesday.
South Dakota born Erika M. Anderson, better known as EMA, was formerly part of folk-rock band Gowns, but decided to go solo and explore a rawer guitar-rock side. She practically played in full her debut ‘Past Life Martyred Saint’, a strong contender to feature high in many best of 2011 lists, with confident manner that brought to mind the style of contemporary rock icons such as Karen O or girl-fronted grunge bands of the 90’s.The album’s standout track, ‘California’, was the encore in a set that more than satisfied all her fans in the English capital.
But it was Russian-American vocalist Nika Roza Danilova the one that seemed to have attracted a larger part of the audience and ultimately stole the show with her intense and atmospheric Goth-pop. Zola Jesus has been in the hipster’s radar for the last three years. Her recent third studio album, ‘Conatus’, has taken her career to new heights. Live, she surrounds herself by two synth players and an electric drummer, adding a noticeable 80’s touch to her atmospheric sounds and intensely emotional vocals. ‘Night’; ‘Vessel’ and ‘Collapse’, in the middle of which the singer descended from the stage and wandered among the public, were among the show’s highlights.
Alltogether, they offered two interesting and diverse musical propositions making an excellent night of live music.
One more year, London unrolls the red carpet to welcome a diverse representation of cinema’s brightest talent from all over the world. The 55th edition of the BFI London Film Festival takes place from October the 12th until the 27th with an eclectic mix of arthouse favorites; awards season contenders; experimental cinema and other festivals’ winners. A selection of restored classics and short films complete an excellent program that features over 200 movies.
In such a wide selection it’s easy to find something for everyone and music fans won’t be disappointed. Starting with Madonna, who will be launching the fruits of her new found filmmaking ambition in her second directorial effort, ‘W.E’, which portraits a woman’s obsession with the romance between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII, exploring the elements that her actual relationship has in common with the infamous couple’s. Her ex, double Oscar winner Sean Penn, will be also generating some headlines for borrowing the classic Robert Smith look. His impersonation of a retired rock star in search for the truth behind his family’s alleged Nazi past is the main attraction in Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘THIS MUST BE THE PLACE’. The film features a cameo by David Byrne, also in charge of the soundtrack alongside Will Oldham.
Lacking the same glamour but equally appealing to more specialist audiences are a number of high-profile documentaries. For further details read on… Read more…
Fresh from making history by becoming the only artist who has won the Mercury Prize twice, PJ Harvey‘s fans can celebrate the victory of her eighth studio album, ‘Let England Shake’, with an exclusive iTunes Sessions EP.
After twenty years of a solid musical career, Harvey has kept on going from strength to strength, reinventing her sound with every record. One of the best reviewed albums of 2011, in ‘Let England Shake’ the Dorset songwriter has created an astonishing concept album about a world in war, immersed in history and politics, while also expanding her musical palette.
This new digital release features seven recent live recordings. Among them, some of ‘Let England Shake’ most celebrated moments, including the singles ‘Written In The Forehead’; ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ and the title track. A few old favourites such as ‘Down By The Water’ and ‘Angelene’ and an interview complete the EP’s tracklist.
The ‘iTunes Sessions EP’ makes an excellent complement to PJ Harvey’s timeless latest album and is already available for purchase from here.
A few weeks ago Belgium born and Australian based singer-songwriter Gotye unveiled his latest single, ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, and it has become a huge smash in Australia. For over a decade the musician, also a member of indie band The Basics, enjoyed a successful solo career that has just peaked thanks to this collaboration with New Zealand singer Kimbra in a duet that goes through some soul baring lyrics, telling the aftermath of a broken relationship and packing an instant emotional punch with the listener.
The track got luckily endorsed by celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Lily Allen, both using their twitter accounts to recommend it to their millions of followers. The video became a word of mouth sensation hitting two million YouTube views in record time. Unsurprisingly, ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ has ended Adele’s seven week residency on top of the Aussie charts, hitting platinum status. It doesn’t stop there, after recently reaching the top spot on Hype’s Machine global chart, it now looks like a strong candidate for an international crossover.
‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ is the second single from Gotye’s third studio album ‘Making Mirrors’, which was released this week.