20 Jun 2015

Everyone Can Sing!

I've always maintained that everyone can sing.  I've never encountered anyone who was truly "tone deaf".

Ask somebody a question.  Say, "Would you like a cup of tea?"  Notice how the pitch of your voice changes? Perhaps it goes up on "tea"; perhaps for that more sympathetic tone it goes down at the end... 

The fact is, you're altering the pitch and tone of your voice at will.  Higher and lower; louder and softer; longer and shorter... Singing is exactly the same, though of course it's a little more regulated.  

So if you think you can't sing, try this:

• Make the highest sound you possibly can
• Make the lowest sound you possibly can
• Make a sound somewhere in the middle

Now you've made three notes of different pitches. 

See if you can make a sound in between the middle one and the low one.  That's four.  

Now a sound between the middle one and the high one.  That's five.

That's where we all start. With practice - and, of course, time - you learn how to divide these gaps into ever smaller "slices" and how to reproduce each sound at will.  

So sing often, sing without shame, listen to the sounds you're making, and enjoy the sounds you're making!  

And if you're somewere in the London area, maybe you might want to check this out - a choir for people who "can't" (for want of a better word) sing!  


Now go and make some noise! 

16 Jun 2015

Happy Birthday, Harry Nilsson!

Harry Nilsson Smoking A Fag
Harry Nilsson, 15th June 1941 - 15th January 1994

Nilsson is one of my biggest influences as a singer and songwriter.  When he was in his prime, his voice was just beyond compare; and his best songs wouldn't have disgraced Lennon & McCartney.  Even if you've not heard of him, you'll have heard him - "Can't live, if living is without you..."; "Everybody's talkin' at me.  I don't hear a word they're sayin..."; "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do..."; "You put de lime in de coconut you drink em both up..." and so on and on. 

For the uninitiated, I recommend you check out the albums Nilsson Schmilsson and Harry.  The former was the biggie that made him a star, beautifully produced by Richard Perry; the latter is a slightly earlier album that sounds like what music might have sounded like had Rock n Roll not come along - it's one of my 5 favourite records, and if you don't absolutely adore at least one track on there, you simply have no heart.

He was a flawed man, bent for whatever reason on sabotaging his own career, and could be a bit of a bastard when he wanted to be... but he was also capable of this.

1W1P - w/o 15th June 2015

Dreams - Beck
One of those artists I've always meant to investigate further... and this track is a cracker.  It's a bit like Fenech Soler or Friendly Fires, but a zillion times better than either of them.  Zillion's a proper number, right?  And that breakdown at the 3 minute mark is a brave move!

Sun Is Shining - Axwell
The Scandinavians produce some great music. This isn't great music. This is more tedious dancefloor fodder designed to get lots of people in the same place to spend money on beer.

Diamond - Izzy Bizu
She can sing and it's a canny song. Nothing that'll set the world on fire, though, and unless she pulls something really special out of the bag she'll soon be replaced by the next music college alumnus with a pretty face and a quirky name.

Can't Feel My Face - The Weeknd
Better than The Hills (reviewed at the beginning of this month)... and there there some cool ideas in between the Michael Jackson impressions.  This guy's either going to fade away to nothing or do something awesome.

Scud Books - Hudson Mohawke
I like it, but... er... 1W1P - w/o 8th June 2015

She's a Witch - Gengahr
And another North London band fronted by a bloke with a terrifyingly middle-class name crops up and does something completely forgettable. They'll do well.

Pages of Gold - Flo Morrissey
Sometimes she'll do something interesting with a melody, but it's just so unbearably self-satisfied it make me want to run away and listen to Joni instead.  I kind of wish I liked it, but I just... don't.  Mind you, there are better tracks than this on her debut album, Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful, so maybe I'll re-think in a few months.

Cry No More - Vaults
It's kind a cross between Lana Del Rey and Florence And The Machine, but with a much better singer. This doesn't do it for me, but there are enough intriguing ideas in it to send me investigating their other stuff... which so far sounds largely the same, which is a shame.

Real Joy - Fono
This sounds quaintly old-fashioned now!  Don't know why, but it reminds me a bit of The Creeps (Camille Jones and Fedde Le Grand)... which is a better track, now I think of it. Listen to that instead.

History of Touches (Krampfhaft Remix) Björk
She's always going to do something worth listening to, is Björk.  A wonderfully intelligent, imaginative and fearless artist, I don't think she'll ever top 1997's Homogenic, but this enchantingly personal, vulnerable and mundane track wouldn't have sounded out of place on that record.  The album version is also lovely - check it out!

Something Like Happiness - The Maccabees
It's almost not horrible, this one.  And then that crappy horn section comes in half way through and you just want it to end. You want it all to end.

Intoxicated - Martin Solveig, GTA
Well this week we started with a belter of a track, and we finish with more or less the exact opposite.  It's like something Calvin Harris sneezed. 

13 Jun 2015

1W1P - w/o 8th June 2015

One Week One Playlist
Peter Falconer, musician and idiot.

Dead Inside - Muse
Last week's playlist included the track Reapers from Muse's new album, Drones, which I rather liked. This sounds like My Chemical Romance doing a bad Muse impression.  I can't imagine even Muse fans will like this one.

Brown Sugar (Remastered) - The Rolling Stones
Bit of sacred cow slaying here, but I don't think the Stones were good enough musicians or songwriters to turn out consistently good material, but occasionally they struck gold. This excellent 1971 track has been ripped off more times than you can count - and speaking of being ripped off, you can now buy Sticky Fingers again in remastered form!

Scud Books - Hudson Mowhawke
Glaswegian Electronic artist Hudson Mowhawke's first album (Butter, 2009) was a fun mix of triumphant hands-in-the-air club tracks and clever silliness.  In a way, like a slightly less chart-friendly Basement Jaxx.  This is a bit more hip-hoppish (you can imagine Kanye West or someone similar ruining it with some moronic drivel over the top) but no less enjoyable.

Ain't Got No... - Tove Styrke
Styrke has been compared to Robyn and Annie in the past, but apart from being from Scandinavia, slightly electronic-ish and able to sing in tune, for me that's where the comparisons end. This just makes me want to listen to Robyn or Annie instead and turn this off.

Head Above The Water - Palace
The vocals aren't my thing at all, but the production and playing style are really quite nice. There's a real feel of early-mid 70's Island Records acts about it that I like.

Low Season - Ritual
Laid back indie-electronica... Even with the remarkably ordinary vocal performance, I do like this one. Not afraid to just wallow in its own atmosphere and let other noises drift in and out.  Very nice.

Fire Under My Feet - Leona Lewis
Poor Leona.  Easily the best singer ever to come out of the Popstars/Pop Idol/Fame Academy/X Factor/Britain Must Be Stopped reality show circus, she's been shunted from one hit-making producer/songwriter to another.  I'd love to hear her do something completely different for once, but instead she's yelling this Toby Gad track. Nothing at all wrong with wanting to pay the bills, but isn't she bored of this shit yet?

I Of The Storm - Of Monsters And Men
vi - IV - I - V.  It's the favourite chord sequence of the neo-folk scene.  And it has been for years.  Of Monsters And Men play with the formula here by omitting the final V, and can somebody please turn this crap off before I put my foot through the monitor and send Spotify the bill?  Dreary crap.

Never Let You Go - Rudimental feat. Foy Vance
Blimey, it's been a while since I've heard any Drum and Bass, if I'm honest!  Arrangement's pretty good, but I wish they'd either had a more interesting vocal line or just had the balls to leave the vocals out altogether.

Believer - DJ Fresh, Adam F
These DnB DJs are like buses, aren't they? Here come another two!  Rather old-fashioned, this one.  The closest I ever got to enjoying DnB and jungle when it was first popular was being slightly into Prodigy and - of course - the Bowie album Earthling.  This definitely reminds me of that era, anyway.  Maybe that's why I prefer it to the Rudimental track.  Either way, it sounds like a likeable curiosity from a bygone age, not anything that's going to set the world on fire now.

Powerful - Major Lazer, Tarrus Riley, Ellie Goulding
I liked the Major Lazer track from last week (Lean On) and I'm finding this one rather intriguing, too.  I just wish they'd used someone other than Ellie Goulding on it.  A great mishmash of styles both in terms of performance and production.  Wonder what they'll do next!

2 Jun 2015

1W1P - w/o 1st June 2015

One Week One Playlist

Caught - Florence + The Machine
Pleasant, rather old fashioned track featuring an unusually inoffensive vocal performance by Welch.

Hey - Slaves
No-nonsense thrashing about from this new modern British punk band, that also happens to be beautifully recorded.  Excellent!

Reapers - Muse
Clear homage to Rage Against The Machine in this one.  I never bought their tortured droning, so while I'm sure some Muse fans will bemoan Mutt Lange's production, I think it's a welcome change of tone!

Lean On - Major Lazer, MØ, DJ Snake
I liked this track on first hearing and I'm liking it more and more on second and third... This is what they should have done with the 90s production revival rather than just re-hashing the same old shit. Lovely.

Ready - Kodaline
Unremarkable Coldplay-alike.

Put Me Down - Aquilo
Reminds me of those 80s blue-eyed-soul bands like Hue & Cry.  Doesn't do it for me, but there are some pleasant noises.  And it's short.

The Hills - The Weeknd
Now, this one isn't very good, but I'll be very interested to hear the stuff this bloke comes out with when he grows up a bit.  Lot of potential...

Get Low - 50 Cent, Jeremiah, T.I., 2 Chainz
All Fiddy's promotion for the new album suggests this is a NEW sound, more mature than his previous work, and showing how much he's developed since 2003's Get Rich or Die Tryin'.  Now, I'm no expert on hip hop, but lyrically speaking, I can assure you this is just another massive $wag & Hoes cliché.

B a noBody - SOAK
Very nice song, with a production designed with Teen Drama placement firmly in mind. A bit like Birdy but much less awful.

Some Kind of Heaven - Hurts
Not very good at all.

Somebody - Natalie La Rose, Jeremih
Awful music for awful people.

Together - CAZZETTE, Newtimers
I guess there must be a market for this sort of crap, but much like the Kodaline and Natalie La Rose tracks it's a bit depressing that people still haven't moved on.  This could have appeared on any Hed Kandi compilation from the last 15 years.

29 May 2015

1W1P - w/o 25th May 2015

One Week One Playlist

Waiting For Love - Avicii
More ghastly pentatonic yelling from the Scandinavian wunderkind.

L$D - A$AP Rocky
Get past the adolescent lyric and there are some really interesting production ideas that caught me off guard.

Leon Bridges
Classic 60s soul voice - I'd love to hear him collaborating with Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. Drum pattern made my eye twitch, mind...

Pstereo - Emilie Nicholas
This song's about 2 years old now.  I wouldn't have liked it in 2013 either.

Love Me So - Stereo Kicks
Drop your prejudices: yes, they're a boyband; yes, they're X-Factor alumni; but get past that and just listen to the song.  No, it's still rubbish.

Ready For The Fight - Port Isla
Sounds like something Chris Martin wrote while he was on the toilet, then sent it to Avicii for a second draft.  Awful.

State of Mind - Ady Suleiman
Really not my thing at all, but if it is your your thing it's very good.

Carry Her Home - Saint Raymond
Like Ady Suleiman, Saint Raymond (Callum Burrows) is from Nottingham. Unlike Ady Suleiman, this track has absolutely nothing to recommend it. Oozes smugness from every cynical pore.

Like Acid Rain - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
The first track on this week's playlist to make me want to listen to more of that artist.  They're a bit Beatles-y, which is always good, and a bit Sly Stone-y, which is similarly ace.  Occasionally a bit too Jamiroquai-y for my liking... but I quite like this one. And it's only 2 minutes long!

21 - Hunter Hayes
There's some really great country music around. There's some bloody awful country music around. This is neither. Meh.

Yoga - Janelle Monáe & Jidenna
Does nothing for me, but it's refreshing to hear a female singer in this genre that isn't trying to sound like Beyoncé or Rihanna. Also gets bonus points for the line, "You can not police me, so get off my areola!"

Delilah - Florence + The Machine
I don't get it. Do you get it? Why's she always yelling at me? 

12 Mar 2015

1W1P - w/o 9th March 2015

One Week One Playlist

Lay Me Down - Sam Smith, John Legend

Believe - Mumford & Sons
Interesting departure from their usual sound.

2Shy - Shura
Luscious yet crystalline pop. Kind of like Donna Lewis if you remember her.

Medicine - Sunset Sons 
If you like Kings of Leon, you'll like this. If you don't, you won't.

Baby Love - Petite Meller
Absolutely horrid 90s vibe, but cracking vocal production.

Modern Love - Coasts
Yet another British University Indie band with an earnest delivery and changeable accent. Foals, Friendly Fires, Bastille, Mystery Jets... Yawn.

Forget - Marina and The Diamonds
Some nice ideas, let down by a sub-par chorus

Rebel Heart - Madonna
Manages to be dull and irritating at the same time. Distorted kick drum horror. But then I don't like Avicii so what do I know?

Pray to God - Calvin Harris, Haim
Good things: Calvin Harris isn't singing on it. I like Haim's vocal style.  This is a bit meh.

Fade Out Lines - The Avener & Phoebe Killdeer
Canny late-night deephouse. Eerie.

Vertigo - Mini Mansions, Alex Turner
Scissor Sisters, 80s Roxy Music, bit of Elbow in there... I like it!

Handsome - The Vaccines
Instantly forgettable; will no doubt be played to death on Radio 1 until people buy it.
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