A-Z of Spotify: Playlist

•April 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

PopBlog has fallen in love. The object of its affections? Spotify. Free music, huge databases, extensive back catalogues, and the chance to discover new artists as well as forcing your music tastes upon everyone you know.

To celebrate this crush, PopBlog will be compiling a Spotify playlist every week, starting with A and finishing with Z.

To listen to this week’s playlist, click here.


Review: Daniel (Bat For Lashes)

•March 23, 2009 • 2 Comments

Photo courtesy of Flickr and DG Jones

Photo courtesy of Flickr and DG Jones

Boy, have we missed Bat for Lashes. It’s been nearly three years since her brilliantly bizarre and beautiful debut album Fur and Gold arrived to fill a Kate Bush shaped hole in our lives; three years in which the dull self-destruction of Amy Winehouse and tabloid tomfoolery of Lily Allen have made us yearn for her special mix of lush melody and fantastical lyrics about mystic horses and trophies.

Thankfully, the wait is over with ‘Daniel’, the lead single from her new album Two Suns, which sees the real-life Natasha Khan conjure a genuinely fantastic pop song without compromising the original eccentricity which initially made her so enrapturing.  “I dream of home”, she breathily sings over maddeningly catchy and ethereal synthesisers and booming steel drums, before the whole thing culminates in a fantastic sing-along chorus which is guaranteed to rattle around your brain for days. It’s been a long three years.

Live Review: Glasvegas, Notting Hill Arts Club. Wednesday 25 February

•March 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Photo courtesy of Flickr and J Kent

Photo courtesy of Flickr and J Kent

The crowd of 150 fans squeezed into the dark, dingy Notting Hill Arts Club waiting for Glasvegas seem better suited to the unruly terraces of a football stadium than the basement of a small, alternative music club. A chant started by a pack of frenzied and shirtless men, their bodies crushed against the tiny stage, starts to rumble in the air: “HERE WE, HERE WE, HERE WE FUCKING GO! HERE WE, HERE WE, HERE WE FUCKING GO!”

It’s not a sign of impatience or hostility; it’s merely the chorus from the band’s latest single ‘Go, Square, Go’, and the audience’s way of showcasing their devotion to the Scottish indie-gloom rockers who have made the leap from critically revered cult-darlings to mainstream mainstays since the release of their eponymous debut album six months ago. Their recent headline slot on the NME Awards Tour may have ensured that venues such as this—where the paint peels from the walls and the beer bottles don’t have any labels—are consigned to the past, but tonight’s show is a return-to-roots celebration of the recent meteoric success which they have been striving for since founding in 2003.

If tonight’s performance was supposed to be packed with carnival spirit, though, no-one told Glasvegas. They stride noiselessly onto the stage at 12:30am, all four members clad in black from head-to-toe, and without so much as acknowledging the crowd launch into ‘Geraldine’, their heartfelt ode to a fictional social worker complete with thundering drums and a wall of dark, shimmering guitars. For the next 45 minutes the band will silently jostle for space, with crowd interaction limited to lead singer James Allan’s brisk enquiry of “Are ye alright?” in his rough Scottish brogue, but the passion and intensity are tangible. Allan half croons, half drawls his way through the sharp social observations of ‘Flowers and Football Tops’ and the bruised melancholia of ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’ as his band mates back him with a poignant slab of dark, brooding rock that energises the audience throughout the set—ex-Libertine Carl Barat can even be spotted crowd-surfing above the swarm of heaving bodies by the end of the night.

By the time Glasvegas strike up their last song, the rueful ‘Daddy’s Gone’, their unique appeal is fully evident. Not many bands could turn a song into domestic turmoil into a sing-a-long, but as Allan kneels on the stage, eyes closed, and conducts the crowd in their roar of “He’s gone, he’s hone, he’s gone”, a powerful blend of pathos and euphoria fill the air. Their departure is as understated as their entrance—there’s no parting words or encore—but rather than being curmudgeonly, it feels like a fitting ending. Glasvegas are surely destined for larger venues and grander occasions; recapturing the magic of tonight’s fiercely triumphant atmosphere will be a much tougher challenge.

French Democracy

•March 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Photo courtesy of Flickr and Pupkin

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Pupkin

MGMT. They’re fun guys, right? Happy-go-lucky and unlikely to be bothered by much? Apparently not. The psychedelic pop duo are suing Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party for using one of their songs, ‘Kids’, without their permission.

According to the Guardian, the song was used repeatedly at rallies and political broadcasts, as well as allegedly appearing in videos on the UMP website.

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Juampe Lopez

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Juampe Lopez

The story also took on a fresh twist due to the UMP’s anti file-sharing stance. The party have been one of the leading exponents of imposing stricter laws against those who infringe on musican’s copyright.

“It seems that those who led the charge against internet users are not the most respectful of copyright,” the band’s lawyer, Isabelle Wekstein, told Le Monde.

MGMT decided to sue after the UMP offered a paltry one euro as a symbolic damages payment, which was described as”insulting” by Wekstein.

Inspired by Sarkozy’s blunder (note to Nicolas: if you have a famous singer as a wife, use one of her songs. She won’t sue you and, more importantly, people won’t care what she’s singing–they’ll be too busy gawping at her), PopBlog takes a look at three other political party vs pop star disputes.

1) Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA–used by Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Boss was reportedly furious that Reagan used his anti-Vietnam blast for his1984 re-election campaign. Bruce requested that the Republican President stopped using told the song, and told Rolling Stone magazine that he felt Reagan and his party had “manipulated and exploited” its original meaning.

2) Tom Petty, I Won’t Back Down–used by George W. Bush in 2000. Everyone’s favourite President started to use Petty’s 1989 single at campaign events, but was served with a cease-and-desist letter from Petty’s lawyer ensured Bush stopped using the song. According to TIME magazine, Petty then went on to kick Bush while he was down by performing the song in a private concert at the home of his rival Al Gore.

3)Foo Fighers, My Hero–used by John McCain in 2008. Continuing the trend of musician v Republican battles, the Foo Fighters were enraged by John McCain’s use of ‘My Hero’ in his campaign. Although lead singer Dave Grohl’s description of the song as a “celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential” may suggest it would be the perfect song for Joe the Plumber to have on the radio while he fixes sinks, the band saw things differently, claiming that “to have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song.”

Review: Tonight (Franz Ferdinand)

•February 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Photo courtesy of Flickr and dq.

Photo courtesy of Flickr and dq.

It’s a very different indie-pop universe now to the one Franz Ferdinand triumphantly conquered in 2004 with the release of their eponymous debut album. Then, their unique mixture of infectious dance-rock and subtle wit captured hearts in discos up and down the country, but now it’s no longer such a novelty. Rather than trailblazers, Franz are lost in a sea of Kooks, Macabees and other pretty boys with guitars trying to lure girls onto the dance floor. Considering the muted response to their 2006 follow-up You Could Have It So Much Better, the pressure is on for their latest release. Do they really have what it takes to stay fresh amongst the young pretenders?

Seemingly, the initial answer is yes. Tonight is seeping with disco-hooks, jangling guitars and, most of all, swaggering confidence. Opening track and lead single ‘Ulysses’ kicks things off with a confident swagger, a dark-glam monster with nasty synthesisers, rhythmic handclaps and a fantastic sing-along chorus of ‘La, la la la la”. Other stomping highlights include ‘Turn It On’, which channels the collective spirit of XTC, Television and Blondie and unleashes it on 21st century Britain, and the nagging jagged guitar lines of ‘Bite Hard’.

But eventually, it all becomes too much. The unrelenting pace and one-dimensional tone of Tonight becomes fatiguing rather than exhilarating. Devoid of variety and depth, it may make you tap your toes but it won’t get inside your head. Only the lovely bittersweet tenderness of ‘Katherine Kiss Me’ offers any respite, but by then it’s too late. Highly-polished and stylised, Tonight is a fine collection of meticulous guitar-pop, but in a market saturated with competitors, it ultimately lacks the guile or edge to have any true longevity.

Even Pop Stars Can’t Escape the Credit Crunch…

•February 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

One minute you’re strutting around on stage as your band headline stadium tours. The crowd are singing along to your every word and girls are screaming their name and launching their pants at you. It’s a dream come true.

But in the blink of an eye your career is over, even your own friends don’t want to know you and you’ve been reduced to sleeping in the back of your old battered car. What a nightmare.

It’s not a scenario many of us are familiar with, but unfortunately it’s the fate of JD Fortune, who was fired as lead singer of the legendary INXS in 2008.

The ironically-named Fortune became the band’s singer in 2005 after winning the reality show Rock Star: INXS in 2005, but is now living out of his car, which he refers to as ‘Chateaux JD Fortune’.

“I don’t know where I’m going, from sofa to sofa, from night to night. I’m trying to get through my life”, the singer said.

While it does make you wonder why he didn’t save any money for the three years he was in the band, it’s still a sad and cautionary tale which proves that none of us are safe from the recession–not even reality show winners and pop stars.

Fists on Fire

•February 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Photo courtesy of Quique Lopez

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Quique Lopez

The boys from the Kings of Leon were involved in a massive back stage ruck at the BRIT Awards, according to music website The Quietus.

In an incident which surely would have been more entertaining than the ceremony itself, the band “apparently started thumping each other” after claiming two awards–although nobody knows the exact reasons why.

Some accounts suggest bassist Jared Followill caused the brawl by making his girlfriend jealous after he flirted with a member of Alesha Dixon’s entourage, but other sources claim guitarist Matthew Followill started a fight with lead-singer Caleb because of the lack of attention he was receiving from women in comparison to his bandmates.

Brothers in bands fighting each other? It’s like Oasis circa 1996 all over again.