Time was, all the phrase “UK hip hop” brought to mind was the impossibly cool Slick Rick and the slightly less cool John Barnes. Ireland was in worse shape, almost apologetically claiming credit for New Yorkers House of Pain. Of course there were wonderful underground acts on both scenes, but they would always lack legitimacy in a genre still dominated by inner-city black Americans.
Times have changed immeasurably since: British rap acts have become a genuine force internationally, and being white and European is no longer the stumbling block it used to. Nevertheless, London-born, Wexford-raised Maverick Sabre had always struggled to define his own identity since leaving the city of his birth aged 4 to live in the land of his father, a nation where to be both Irish and English is often viewed as an oxymoron.
That struggle is one the 20-year-old teases out on his debut single, ‘Sometimes,’ and one of many fresh perspectives he offers to an already creatively thriving London scene. His style will most commonly be compared with Plan B’s – and indeed he’s already played support for his fellow Londoner – with acoustic guitar prominent in all his songs and reggae-tinged singing interspersed with his half-caste rapping voice.
Maverick Sabre – ‘Sometimes’:
Though this song has been floating around for the better part of 2 weeks now, here’s your friendly reminder to give it a listen if you haven’t yet been swallowed by its monstrous swell. Robert Smith, eccentric frontman of goth legends The Cure, teams up with glitched out troublemakers Crystal Castles for this enormous cover of Platinum Blonde’s 1984 hit ‘Not In Love’. Play it at a deafening volume and wait for that chorus to kick in.
They’re not doing anything we haven’t heard a million times before (particularly with the absurd amount of bands doing it right now) but where The Pains of Being Pure At Heart get off easy is that they capture a charm that few of their peers are able to tap into. Their debut record was playful and new-wave romantic in way that made you forget The Field Mice were doing this way back in the 80’s and their latest single “Heart In Your Heartbreak” shows us that nothing’s changed. Belong isn’t set for release until March next year but here’s your early litmus test (pro tip: don’t take it too seriously):
Were proof needed that ‘Fuck You’ is in fact the new ‘Crazy’/’Since U Been Gone’/’Poker Face,’ London singer-songwriter Eliza Doolittle is one of about a million artists (not an accurate estimate) to begin incorporating the song into live sets.
I shudder to think how many more artists would follow suit were there to be some sort of profanity-less version, but unfortunately that song simply does not exist.
Here’s Eliza’s cover recorded backstage with two awkward 14-year-olds she has charitably recruited to play in her band. Stripped down to just double bass and vocals, it’s got a nice laid-back jazzy feel, although it’s probably best not to actually watch the video because her actions and expressions are ill-fitting and really fucking annoying. I don’t think she’ll make it as an actress.
If you do watch the video, look out for the “oh shit she’s a gold digger…” line and the awkward expressions on the supporting cast’s faces as they struggle not to blurt out “nigga” at the end.
It’s no great secret that Amy Winehouse’s best music invariably comes about when she a) collaborates with otherwise nauseating super-producer Mark Ronson and b) channels the great female singers of the Spector-inspired Sixties.
With this in mind, it should come as no great surprised that Amy’s cover of Lesley Gore’s ‘It’s My Party,’ which features production from the still very nauseating Ronson, is what people who are prone to boorish sports metaphors might call a “home run” or perhaps even a “slam dunk.” Covering a genuine classic is always a risky business, but as with her cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid,’ it’s almost effortlessly brilliant.
‘It’s My Party’ is muted to appear on the upcoming Quincy Jones tribute, Q: Soul Bossa Nostra.
Electric Owls’ 2009 debut Ain’t Too Bright was one of the year’s overlooked gems – so overlooked, in fact, that we disgracefully forgot to ever get around to reviewing it (though I did save all of our souls by putting it on my year-end list).
No such mistakes this time. On November 9, the other band led by Comas frontman Andy Herod, will release an EP Cullowhee Songs and I will not let it go by without even a casual mention. So here is that casual mention.
Lead track ‘When I Was a Flood’ sets the tone, and that tone is a little more aggressive than we’re used to from the band. Ain’t Too Bright was, ironically, quite a bright record – expansive and ebullient with rich, summery chords and tight vocal harmonies offset with broody, fuzzy guitars.
‘When I Was a Flood’ sounds just as big, but the acoustic guitars have given way to sparse, plucked banjo; the vocal harmonies remain, but they’re stretched and disconnected, while Herod’s lead vocal is a bluesy wail rather than a twee holler; the guitar fuzz has been pushed right down the mix to bare background noise. There are lots of little changes that add up to a fairly different-sounding whole, yet it’s still unmistakeably Electric Owls.
Electric Owls – ‘When I Was A Flood’
It’s either that I get distracted way too easily by shiny things, or it’s the mofukin’ latest video clip for Daft Punk’s Derezzed that just so happens to double for a TRON: Legacy trailer that’s got me hot and bothered right now. Either way, I’m getting my electronic on.
After clearly signalling his intent with movies like Men In Black and Independence Day (and probably others – what was Bad Boys II about? Did anybody even see it?), there’s not a person on this earth who wasn’t fully aware that “Turncoat” Will Smith had managed to breed with them and it was only a matter of time before his alien offspring descended on this planet to finish us off.
Damn it all, we just didn’t expect it to be this soon.
9-year-old Willow Smith… honestly, it’s one thing a father naming his son after himself – it’s a long established tradition – but a father naming his daughter after himself is plain weird, “alien” even. Anyway, 9-year-old Willow Smith has unleashed her first I Am Legend-sized virus on the world in the form of ‘Whip My Hair,’ a Rihanna-inspired number that’s been around all of 5 minutes but is never, ever going to go away. So get used to it.
Seriously, she’s 9. Her neck hasn’t even fully developed yet. This song is dangerous.
Here’s the video – you’re not going to be able to avoid it so you might as well just get it over with now.
James Blake is unstoppable. It’s gone beyond the point where everything he touches turns to gold… the man invents new elements to turn things into in the first place. Including this: a cover of Feist’s The Limit To Your Love, set to be the first single of his upcoming EP (yes, another one) and hot off the heels of the dazzling Klavierwerke EP. By now, he’s so far from his roots in dubstep that’s it’s only just perceptible in the deep sub bass horizon that takes this song – vocals and all – to a level I didn’t even know existed.
Zola Jesus is Nika Roza Danilova, a classically trained vocalist and Julliard reject by the age of 10. With this re-recording of the massive “Sea Talk”, which features on the Valusia EP released just today, she continues her proclivity for creating huge, swelling pop songs with a gothic synth twist.
Halloween is coming up in a matter of weeks (one of only 11 Irish festivals, so enjoy it while you can!)
This year, Insane Clown Posse – Michigan’s scariest, most grotesque rap duo since Kid Rock and Joe C. – have decided to mark the occasion with a brand new song entitled ‘This Halloween is Crazy.’ Well it certainly is that.
You thought rainbows were insane? Just you wait for this Halloween – it’s crazy. Magnets… confusing? Wait until it starts raining pumpkins up in this bitch. Spooky, spooky! A witch smacks into a tree? BOOM! Welcome to Detroit, bitch.
Insane Clown Posse – ‘This Halloween Is Crazy’
There’s a sweet spot in my heart for this Sydney four piece – not only do they craft some of the best alt-pop tunes I know, but they do it with a lush grandeur that so few others ever have. On the back of their brilliant and shimmering Dark Strom EP, released yesterday, here’s Mace Spray the first single to be released:
The Jezabels – Mace Spray:
And just for kicks, and because it’s pretty, here’s the official video for Hurt Me from their second EP:
Remember the last time a couple of tracks rocked as hard as Broken Social Scene channeling Black Francis via Dinosaur Jr with a detour past the Japandroids? We do, and it was right about every time we spun the red hot singles from PS I Love You’s upcoming debut Meet Me At The MusterStation (Paper Bag), set to drop on Oct 5th. Fuzzy, fun and wild eye’d, here’s a taste of some Facelove with a hint of 2012 thrown in just for kicks:
PS I Love You – Facelove:
PS I Love You – 2012:
Remember when all that crazy news about Justin Vernon working with Kanye broke? Remember how we didn’t know what to think? Had Vernon sold out, or was Kanye collaborating with people who could really bring his vision to fruition? Well, Yeezy released “Monster”, which was the first taste anyone got of the Vernon/West collaborations, but it was a sort of after-thought verse tagged at the end of a bloated song. Nicki Minaj had already turned in the best verse of her short career, and Vernon’s slow-burning melodicism was perhaps too much of a contrast.
Now, “Lost in the World” has leaked, and it’s a true monster. The song begins innocuously sampling Vernon’s auto-tune experiment “Woods”, but quickly, it becomes a dark, twisted dancefloor jam that samples Gil-Scott Heron and hardly even features aside from some sing-a-long and a concise but consistent verse. “Lost in the World” is easily the best track to come from Kanye’s lengthy, prodigious leak campaign to promote his latest album (wait, what is it called again?).
I’d attribute the source of the leak, but I think you can figure it out from the most annoying tags since Beggars. Someone forgot a “w”.