Saturday, 5 November 2011

paul o'grady interview & walker art gallery exhibition

What’s it like seeing your old Lily Savage outfits here at the Walker?
I think they’ve done a flattering job. I like the mannequins- they look a bit like Lily after surgery!

Where are the rest of the costumes you wore over the years?
Mostly in storage in London now.

Any news on where Lily is at the moment?
Well, she was in a convent in Brittany but last I heard she’d escaped. Recently, someone said they’d seen her in Shanghai. It’s like Where’s Wally? but Where’s Lily?. She could be down pier end for all we know!

Can we expect to see Lily back any time soon?
Next year for a panto but that’s all I think. I don’t think we could do TV after the digital switch-over- Lily’s not made for HD, that’s for sure!

Have you and Lily got a lot in common, do you think?
Our mannerisms maybe but she’s quite an extreme character- that’s why I like playing her.

What was it that you loved about her the most?
Probably that she was a really down to earth character. She was a born and bred Scouser- I’d always said I’d never tone her down or change the accent.

On another note, what are you doing with your time at the moment?
I've got my hands full with my pets. I've got 10 sheep now. I have pigs, goats, cows and an owl called Minnie, too!

Paul signing autographs for eager fans & a selection of classic Lily Savage outfits.

The collection of Lily Savage outfits is being exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool from 4th until 19th November with free entry

Originally published on LSMedia

Saturday, 8 October 2011

emmy the great live review: stanley theatre, liverpool, 7/10/11

Originally published at LSMedia

Since my first listen some months ago, I’ve always known that Emmy the Great was a talented, young musician. With an already impressive repertoire of songs under her belt and an almost naïve charm about her music, she’s an artist truly unlike any other. With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to review her live at the Liverpool University Guild and walking into the Stanley Theatre, I was both excited and intrigued to discover what her live performances would entail.

Before long Emmy appears, sporting a baggy Iron Maiden top, channeling her inner rocker it would seem. She held such a casual tone with the audience, chatting in between her songs and demonstrating what a relaxed and natural born performer she is. Playing a selection of songs from both her debut and latest album, her haunting lyrics and effortless vocals filled the hall to the extent to which you could have heard a pin drop. I don’t think I’ve ever before been at a gig where the audience are so spellbound and engrossed in an artist like they were with Emmy the Great.

My favourite performance of the night was without a doubt the song MIA. She introduced the song by speaking of how she was, in her own words, ‘pissed off’ with British singer-songwriter M.I.A after she tweeted “I’m going down to the (London) riots to hand out tea and Mars bars”. This provoked Emmy to subsequently change the lyrics of the song to reflect her anger towards the artist. The song clearly communicates her sense of frustration with the lyrics: “how long do I stay in this place, who’s going to wash all the blood from my clothes”. This raw emotion wholly illustrates a level of lyrical maturity beyond her years and demonstrates her unique ability to craft simple yet poignant lyrics that both reach out to and touch her listeners.

Another highly enjoyable and memorable performance of the night was Emmy’s cover of Weezer’s Island in the Sun. She sings every word with such conviction and passion that you would be forgiven for believing it was a song of her own creation. Accompanied by a talented range of backing singers and musicians, the on-stage chemistry that the quintet clearly have, only adds to the relaxed and casual atmosphere of the performance.

The evening itself was one to be remembered. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I don’t think I’ve ever before been at a gig where the audience are so spellbound and engrossed in an artist like they were with Emmy the Great.

Friday, 7 October 2011

interview with emmy the great for liverpool student media

As I'm directed through the labyrinth of corridors beneath the Stanley Theatre at the Liverpool University Guild, I came suddenly to a dressing room with the words 'Emmy the Great' scribbled on the door with a biro. Ushered in by the stage manager, I see Emmy slumped on a sofa, sipping from a cup of tea and scrolling endlessly through her Twitter feed. "Do you mind if I go for a wee?" she says, as I find myself a seat amongst the pile of clothes strewn across the sofa.

Where did the name ‘Emmy the Great’ originally stem from?
When I was at school, this boy would call my Emmy because he knew I hated it. And when I went to university I lived with him and for some reason I gave it to myself. We used to play gigs at university and we’d play under stupid names and so I was Emmy the Great.

Being from Hong Kong and having been brought up in England, what kind of effect has this had on the music that you want to produce?
When I first moved here I wanted to be accepted and I was very middle England about it. But now, since making these albums I’ve been very accepted by Hong Kong audiences as well- it’s like, you can’t run away from where you came from. It made me very Radio 4 when I first moved here but now I’m expanding a bit and I’m like- okay, I am Asian, a bit.

How big a part has the internet played in your success, for example blogging and social networking?
It definitely takes up a lot of my time. I’m literally on Twitter all day, but I leave it running on the side while I do constructive things.

Would you say it’s played a big part in raising your profile?
I don’t know, it definitely helps me get rid of brain gremlins! You know, when I’m writing a song and I get too intensely into it. And then I check my Twitter and come back and know what the rhyme should be because you’ve taken your brain away for a bit.

A lot of your lyrics refer to other artists- you reference Leonard Cohen in ‘First Love’ and Elton John in ‘Two Steps Forward’. Is there anything you find particularly inspiring about these artists?
I reckon that was before Twitter and I couldn’t get them out of my brain. I reckon now I could just tweet something about Elton John and then go back and write a song. There’s always all this stuff in my head; my head is a compendium of today’s magazine articles, I’m just like a real magpie.

Besides other artists, what else influences and inspires your musical vision?
Themes, I think. For the last album I was really into myths and femininity, and then I wrote a bunch of songs. The next album, I’ve got different ones.

What kind of song writing process do you go through? Do you actually sit down with the intention of writing or do things come to you when you’re in the middle of something else?
At the moment, I’m writing on tour and I’ll be walking around. Well, actually I went to Japan in July on holiday but with other bands. So, when I was waiting around for them to sound-check I would write a bunch of ideas down, write a bunch of melodies down, and then I didn’t think about them until this tour. When I’m walking to sound-check I’ll be quickly trying to write a verse, and that’s how I’m doing it at the moment.

How’re you finding Liverpool? Have you had a chance to look around the city and see any of the sites?
We know it quite well because we’ve been here a few times. I’m really good friends with Eugene McGuinness and so we went to Bold Street which is in one of his songs.

In terms of albums and touring, is there anything in the pipeline?
Our Christmas album is out in December, and next year I’m going to record my new album.

Earlier this year you released your second album ‘Virtue’, how does it differ from your previous album?
It was a very instant process because I broke up with someone, finished writing it, recorded it in a very short space of time. And then toured it quite quickly.

How did you manage to focus yourself so quickly on making an album?
Because you have no choice. I had no choice because I need to tour, I need to make albums otherwise I can’t eat. Well, I can eat but I’d be eating other people’s food.

If you had three words to describe ‘Virtue’ what would they be?
FML. Fuck my life.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

you should take a little time, to readjust the fabrics of your mind

Originally published on Popped Culture.

Bromley based act Van Susans are relatively unheard of in the mainstream, this being the band’s first release to date. However, having recently filled London venues Indigo 2 and Clapham Grand, they’re oozing with enthusiasm, clear passion for music, and talent—lots of it.

At a first glance, one would be tempted to brand Van Susans as ‘just your average indie band’. And in some respects, they do very much adhere to this image with love as a predominant lyrical theme, married with the occasional Billie Joe Armstrong vocal twang imitation. But in another sense, they completely break the mould. Sat here, twiddling my thumbs, I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something inexplicably likeable about Van Susans.

The lyrics to the EP’s lead track Cha Cha Bang appear to attempt to challenge the decidedly soppy, poetic lines found in most modern songs. Instead, the chorus reads: “And I’m thinking maybe she might be the one, But this girl she’s crazy, it’s like dancing with a gun, And I can’t find the safety, my legs refuse to run”. The presence of the “bang” in the song’s title and the “gun” metaphor repeated throughout the song creates almost a semantic field of unconventional love, something which is definitely present through the EP as a whole.

The second and third songs on the EP, Bones and Get Up, Get Out, really demonstrate the vocal talent of lead singer Olly Andrews. His unmistakable British accent is both relatable and personable, filling me with warmth during my first listen. Not only this, but he has a certain quality to his voice—it’s indie, yes. But powerful, nonetheless.

Plans is my favourite and the penultimate track on the EP, the intro featuring a short solo from violinist Caroline Atkinson. This unconventional choice of instrument is yet another reason why I’m gradually falling in love with Van Susans’ music. To marry a violin—an instrument predominantly associated with the classical genre—with drums, a guitar and a bass, gives their music a whole other dynamic, proving that they’re not simply ‘just an indie-rock band’ but musicians, craftsmen and real artists. Furthermore, despite Andrews’ initial Kate Nash inspired talk-singing during the beginning of the song, he goes on to deliver yet another commendable vocal.

If I were to be particularly pernickety, I would say that some of the songs sound very similar and at times the distinction between one song and the next is somewhat blurred. It’s apparent, however, that the band are certainly settled in their specific niche and have a clear fan-base who appreciate and love their music.

Van Susans were a surprising listen for me. Picking up the CD case and looking at the front cover, I was expecting to listen to another 5-piece rock band pretending to be Green Day. Instead, I was met with a collection of songs with soul, musicians with talent and lyrics with passion—simple things, but rare to find in many artists today.

Friday, 26 August 2011

but if you never try you'll never know just what you're worth

I've managed to tear myself away from my busy schedule of doing nothing to write a new post- shocking.

It's not that often that I'm prepared to go out on a limb, but I'm going to say that this cover of Fix You is better than the original. There, I said it. I've never really been a fan of Coldplay anyway but this version that Gabrielle Aplin performed for her BBC Introducing Maida Vale session really caught my attention.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, her voice has an amazing quality to it. A smooth tone, gentle but still powerful, nonetheless. She doesn't try to replicate anybody else or recreate the original song, she merely performs it as she wants to.

And it's not overcomplicated. Just a simple piano arrangement, accompanied by an acoustic guitar towards the end of the song. Nothing fancy, just a few chords married perfectly with her voice.

Gabrielle also performed her own songs, demonstrating her unique talent and ability to craft intimate, mature and revealing poetry to portray her stories.

To watch the full session click here.

Monday, 8 August 2011

i wanna be the only one to make it to the light

Originally published on Popped Culture

Just Drive is the latest single from Alistair Griffin, taken from his forthcoming album entitled Albion Sky.

The 33-year-old Middlesbrough born singer-songwriter found initial fame in the second series of the BBC reality show Fame Academy, a competition in which he eventually finished second place.

The song itself has all the basic components one would expect of a decent pop song—a simple, repetitive guitar riff, lyrics bursting with inspirationally profound metaphors and a powerful chorus oozing with raw emotion. But I can’t help but feel disappointed. There was no eventual climax and I felt left slightly hanging, waiting for the final punch.

To top it all off, the single’s cover features a fashionably dishevelled Griffin pictured in, what appears to be, a seemingly irrelevant post-apocalyptic wasteland—lovely.

In some respects, I think that this ‘instant pop song recipe’ that Griffin has opted for has given the song a very wooden and regimented feel. It’s catchy—don’t get me wrong—but it doesn’t grab me. Griffin was given 2 minutes and 45 seconds in which to impress me, but I’m actually left with very little understanding of the song itself and what it’s about.

Five years ago, I have absolutely no doubt that this song would have gained greater chart success. But the music industry is constantly evolving and artists such as Alistair Griffin are now competing with the likes of Ed Sheeran and Adele—in my opinion, he needs to ‘up his game’ in order to remain relevant and appealing to modern listeners.

Just Drive is Griffin’s first charting single in 6 years, though stumbling in at No. 38 on the UK Singles Chart. Although achieving a good chart position is definitely not the be-all and end-all of a song’s success, it’s definitely a good indicator as to the artist’s presence in the music industry. Alistair Griffin no doubt has a large fan-base, having had a top-ten hit with his 2003 single Bring It On and further success with You and Me the following year.

To give him credit, it’s refreshing to find an artist who isn’t best friends with their auto-tune feature. His voice has soul, depth, and it’s easy to see that he’s a passionate musician.

Alistair Griffin is a good vocalist, however I think his talents are wasted on this mediocre song, his voice being worthy of far better material.

You can find Alistair Griffin on MySpace, his Twitter page and his website.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

she's elusive, i'm awake, you're finally real, there's nothing fake

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Since finishing exams, I have very quickly become a social recluse. Daily activities now include: not getting dressed, watching back-to-back Jeremy Kyle and, naturally, Friends box sets. In chronological order. Seriously.

With such a busy schedule, it's any wonder I have time to review anything anymore. I quickly googled this song last week when I came across it in an old episode of the Channel 4 series Goldplated from back in 2006. (You'll learn to realise that I find most music whilst watching TV).

I'm about five years late in discovering this song, so for future reference: expect all reviews to be written considerably after the song's release, as I am ridiculously slow!

So, I initially thought it was Damien Rice. In fact, it's a guy called Scott Matthews. He's pretty much unknown these days, but I love the anonymity of artists like him--he's judged entirely based on his music and not celebrity status, so to speak.

He's got a rough and almost rugged quality to his voice--the way it cracks in some of the higher notes just makes it all the more raw and honest. Vocally, it's far from perfect, but that's really what makes it perfect. (What a cliché).

Anyway, have a listen. You might hate it. Let me know.

You can find Scott Matthews on his website or perhaps MySpace.

(P.S. I'll very shortly begin writing for a new website called Popped Culture which I shall keep thee posted on).

Thursday, 23 June 2011

love won't be leaving, it won't be gone until i find a way

I normally have very particular tastes when it comes to music. I know what I like and I definitely know what I dislike—but I found myself slightly taken aback on my first listen of Anna Calvi.

It’s not what you’d expect from her at all. Her slight figure and almost naïve charm are both decidedly deceptive, and give no clues to both the maturity and depth that her voice carries.

She’s becoming well known among critics for her lyrics openly referring to death, but this frank and candid approach to song-writing gives her music a whole other dynamic. She clearly has a vision and isn't afraid to set herself aside from the rest by producing something innovative and different.

Earlier this year, she was shortlisted for the prestigious Sound of 2011 award and is gaining numerous favourable reviews among music critics and journalists alike.

Playing the guitar like I’ve never quite seen, she's managing to prove herself not only as a singer but as a capable musician too—something which is becoming increasingly uncommon among the artists of today.

Find Anna Calvi on her website, MySpace and on Twitter.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

when all of your flaws and all of my flaws are laid out one by one

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You know you’re an actual loser when your only source of new artists and fresh music is in the dramatic bits of Made in Chelsea. Note to self: get a life, act normal, watch less trash.

I’m such a tool when it comes to music. I treat every new song I find like it’s the thing that’s been missing from my life. Until it gets to the point where I’ve played it so much I can’t bear to listen to it any longer! This definitely needs to stop.

In all seriousness, however, I love the song. The vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Foals—probably due to the unmistakably English accent, if nothing else—and I’m a sucker for synths and beating-about-the-bush style, cryptic lyricism, so it’s a winner with me.

I also advise you to check out Kate McGill's acoustic cover of the song.

You can find Bastille on their website, Twitter and also on Facebook.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength

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Scrolling through the archives of my other blogs, I have come to realise that the vast majority of what I post is in fact complete and utter nonsense ~ which is entirely the opposite of what I had intended for this blog! So instead of posting a video or reviewing something, I shall give this post some substance.

I’m currently re-reading Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. I have always loved this book but until now I hadn’t actually realised its frightening relevance in our modern society. The fact that Orwell had predicted that 1984 would bring the rise of a totalitarian dictatorship resonates with such irony considering the current political strife, not just in the UK, but globally.

Granted, the novel oozes with hyperbole and over-exaggerates the state of affairs of the country ~ the infamous character of Big Brother evokes fear among the electorate and enforces a ludicrous set of rules and regulations, essentially restricting thousands - no, millions - of people from living their lives, and instead aims to control their every move.

But living in a world where politicians go back on their word as often as they have Sunday roasts means that we can certainly draw parallels between the 1949 novel and our modern day political system. Considering the promises that the likes of Nick Clegg and other Liberal Democrats made to students concerning University tuition fees, it seems that even the friendliest of faces and the most sincere professionals, can abandon their beliefs and transform into, fundamentally, power hungry, glorified Tories.

For the young voters of tomorrow, I feel that everything is becoming much more uncertain. In an almost post-modern sense, the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (so to speak) is becoming ever more blurred and in essence, neither one is the better alternative. But in my opinion, it’s not the voters that should be worried but the politicians and the parties themselves.

With people becoming more educated, well informed and genuinely interested in politics, people are better positioned to make a clear, sensible and nonpartisan judgement, voting for the party which offers the best solutions for society and disregarding those that appear to propose otherwise.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

make me understand your life-long master plan

He rose to critical acclaim in 2009 whilst competing in the T4 programme, Orange Unsigned Act. Now the newly renamed KLAUS is signed to regional record label Centurion Records, releasing EPs hither and thither and touring the length and breadth of the UK with his band in tow.

Personally, I always find that lesser known, up-and-coming artists are the ones that I get the most enjoyment from listening to. This song always manages to put a smile on my face and frankly, reminds me that there still is actually some honest, real music being produced and that it’s not all about commercial riff-raff.

I honestly don't know why this hasn’t got more views. It’s most definitely worth a listen!

Find KLAUS on MySpace and Twitter.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

we're too blind to see what's really here in front of our eyes

Gabrielle Aplin’s original song Reverse.

I’ve loved her music for absolutely ages and was amazed when this was featured on Made In Chelsea last week. It’s beautifully simplistic- accompanied merely by an acoustic guitar, Aplin’s voice resonates with a maturity far beyond her years. The song evokes a sense of naïveté and, for me, symbolises an almost child-like innocence behind those mature lyrics. As always, a pleasure to listen to!

You can find Gabrielle on her website, YouTube, MySpace and on Twitter

my three favourite artists of the week

1. LYKKE LI as she has such a distinctive voice. Such a cliché but true.

2. METRIC who genuinely leave me speechless listening to them.

3. HOLLY CONLAN whose songs are some of the best I’ve ever heard. Genius.

You can find Lykke Li, Metric and Holly Conlan on MySpace.

Friday, 3 June 2011

youtube cover of the week

Nick Gardner's imaginative cover of Coming Home by Diddy Dirty Money and Talking To The Moon by Bruno Mars. His covers, and voice, never cease to amaze me!

You can find Nick on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter

we're so close to something better left unknown

This is the one song I listen to that really triggers a memory for me; that feeling of being young, having no inhibitions and being completely free, with no constraints on what I can or can’t do. I must listen to this song probably at least twice a week. It reminds me I’m still young, I’m still alive, that I’ve got lots to look forward to in life, and that really nothing matters. Because nothing really matters.

The lyrics of the song are what really reaches out to me. Their depth and substance, but more so the endless interpretations one can take from them. There’s no one particular way to read this song, because to different people it will mean entirely different things.

The repetitively catchy guitar riffs and the pulsating rhythm of the drums makes this a truly memorable and catchy listen. Combine this with invigorating synth melodies and almost angelic harmonies, and you’re on to a winner. The infectious bass line continues throughout the entirety of the composition creating a, what one can only call, ‘dancey’ atmosphere.

From what I can see the song is sending out a clear and apparent message: don’t fret over mistakes made and don’t let anything hold you back, because something big is going to come along. After all “you’re gonna make mistakes, you’re young”.