Sunday, 30 June 2013

Musical discovery of the year: Simon & Garfunkel

We've all got those musical interests that grab you by surprise. You know what I mean, those that creep up ever so subtlety. We've all got them. Yet before you know it - you're listening to their records on loop. And then, you wonder why on earth it took you so long to find this gem of an artist. For me, Simon & Garfunkel have become a foremost example of that.

It's especially funny, because if ever someone asked me was I a folk fan my response would be "not at all". In fact it's a genre of music that I'd consider one of my least favorites. And therein lies the beauty of Simon & Garfunkel. They had such beautiful harmonies and exceptional lyrics, that I don't need to be a folk fan to appreciate them. Excellent songwriting is excellent songwriting and it will transcend the confines of categorisation. In short - it's timeless music.

Perhaps rather unusually, I've listened to Paul Simon years before Simon & Garfunkel. Since about fourteen or fifteen. I've got to thank my father for that. He introduced me to his work, and I particularly loved Graceland. The African rhythms created quite a sound-scape for me. It practically transported me into another world. One that served as a complete contrast to my native Belfast.  Some further exploration followed suit and I came to really like Paul Simon's solo work. But Simon & Garfunkel? I wasn't so sure if they were for me. I mean - they're folk music. As I said earlier, I don't care much for folk music.

That view began to alter a few months ago. I was in the car with my parents: and Bridge Over Troubled Water came on. I know, overplayed but it is still a beautiful song. Besides, whilst I've always liked it I've never killed it with repeated listening. This time though, it hit me differently. It'd been a good few years since I last heard it, and I could appreciate more. All those little fine nuances lost on my younger ears. Like I could appreciate just how much of a beautiful voice Art Garfunkel had. And also, how his harmonising with Paul was equally as beautiful. Even the lyrics left more of an impression on me. "Hey, maybe I should think about checking them out!" was a thought that started to look quite appealing. After all - at an older age I could now appreciate the solo lyrics of Paul Simon better too. As we all know, Paul Simon was the songwriter of Simon & Garfunkel. Surely Simon & Garfunkel could offer me something then?

Amazingly, something rather remarkable happened. Maybe it was fate or destiny, I honestly don't know. Although it was quite a coincidence. Within days of hearing Bridge Over Troubled Water, my mum said she had a little something for me. It was a random surprise. It turned out, a family friend had been in and for whatever reason had bought mum a gift. What was it? Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. You couldn't make it up! Mum knew I wanted to investigate them, so she gave the album to me. Time to try them out properly...

I heard Mrs Robinson. Liked it. Wasn't blown away, but I wanted to keep listening. The next track was called For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her. It was also a live version of the track. Again, I liked it. Until I got to the ending. The last lines when Art Garfunkel sings "I love you girl, oh I love you" knocked me for six. Seriously - I knew he could sing already, but that.... totally unexpected and unlike anything I've ever heard before. Angelic vocals. And I mean every syllable of that. That was the song that demonstrated to me just how good they were. Following that, I started to see just what I'd been missing out on all these years.Then, I was hooked.

From then on, I've been completely converted. I heard all their albums and loved them all. Bookends; Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme and Bridge Over Troubled Water becoming particular favourites. I've already purchased The Columbia Studio Recordings boxset which has all of their albums. I've listened to them on a daily basis since becoming a fan. The last time I was this enamoured with a band was The Clash. And we all know how much I love The Clash and Joe Strummer, right? Honestly, I don't know why I took so long to listen to Simon & Garfunkel. They are just that good. The moral of this story? Always be prepared to challenge yourself musically and try new styles and artists. I did it with Simon & Garfunkel and I've never looked back.

New artist of the year: Jagwar Ma

It's probably no surprise that Jagwar Ma are my new artist of the year. I heard of them for the first time about two weeks ago. Ironically, the song I heard of theirs I wasn't sold on. It was pleasant, but not anything special to me. Although something made me decide I wanted to check their album. It was probably the fact many say it's got a very late 80s/early 90s Manchester sound. Of course, that intrigued me, an I figured surely the album could offer me something. I'm so glad I did because honestly this is the best debut I've heard in years. Since Hot Fuss by The Killers really. Most ironically, the day before I heard their album for the first time they actually played in Belfast, supporting The XX. What I love most about Jagwar Ma is their ability to combine different influences. I can hear Primal Scream, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Hacienda style club music all at different points on Howlin. Cruically though the album always sounds cohesive. The really scary thing though is that they're actually Australian even though they've got a very authentic Madchester type sound. I've rarely seen a style channeled so convincingly really. They played at Glastonbury yesterday and I'm itching to see a professional recording of their show - they are just superb. My guess is Jagwar Ma are going to go onto big things and honestly, I'd be surprised if an album tops Howlin for me this year.

Albums of the year (so far)

Well, June is now ending (scary) which means it's officially halfway through the year. This year I have absolutely loved for music so far. I think it's been one of the strongest years for music in a while actually. This year we've had great comebacks and great new talent. I've already found more albums I've loved this year than I did in the whole of 2012. The best part? Not only is there a half a year still to go - I haven't even heard all the albums already released that I want too! But - my albums of the year so far are:
  • Jagwar Ma - Howlin (best)
  • David Bowie - The Next Day
  • Fitz & The Tantrums - More Than Just A Dream
  • Disclosure - Settle
  • Depeche Mode - Delta Machine
  • Capital Cities - In A Tidal Wave Of Mystery
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito
  • Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of The City
  • Hurts - Exile
  • Little Boots - Nocturnes
At 10 albums, I've been left suitably impressed with this year. In fact, only three albums this year didn't make the list: Palma Violets, Phoenix and Daft Punk's latest offerings. And that's not counting the albums that have been released that I haven't heard yet: OMD, Johnny Marr and Primal Scream for instance. And there's still plenty of new albums to come this year that I can't wait for: Alunageorge, Pet Shop Boys, MIA, Foster The People, Goldfrapp and Nine Inch Nails. I'm still holding out hopes for Friendly Fires too. Not to mention other various musical releases like New Order's live album and Sound System boxset for The Clash. Cannot wait to see how the year progresses musically!

Sound of The Week: Jagwar Ma - Four.

First in a long line of posts to come today, you have been warned! Probably predictable but I've been seriously listening to this group non stop this week! Jagwar Ma's first album is just sublime. My album of the year so far easily. In fact I'd go so far as to say I've not heard a debut album this good since Hot Fuss by The Killers, seriously! I love every song on it too -  a true rarity for me. I've bought the album already and cannot wait until it gets here - which I think should be tomorrow. A brilliant album from one of my favourite new bands in the last year or so.

The highlight for me though is Four. . Four is definitely the house track on the album. It's right in the middle of a very varied album and for me it feels like the centerpiece along with The Throw. Much like Come Together/Loaded on Screamadelica really. It's one of the tracks on the album that hit me first time I heard it. To be expected though really - I love house music and Four has a rather 90s house style to it. It's as addictive a song as I've heard all year really. In fact, probably my favourite song of the year. I've got a feeling these guys are going to go on to big things!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Another Fleetwood Mac Documentary.

I had a day off from blogging yesterday, it's good to have days like that. I was meant to go into town and pick up two New Order albums: Movement and Lost Sirens but alias I decided not to. I'm going in this week instead. Also, last night I watched a Paul Simon Omnibus special. I have to say I really liked it - although I can't seem to locate it online to share with you.

What I can share with you however is what I've just finished watching. It's another Fleetwood Mac documentary. It's entitled Don't Stop and was broadcast on the BBC originally in 2009. This documentary I really liked, much more so than Behind The Music. Not least because it covered all their albums in more depth: including Mirage and Tango In The Night. It was especially interesting to see how in some ways the Buckingham/Nicks relationship was still rather tense even in 2009. The footage of them recording Tusk was also really interesting (I really need to watch their Tusk documentary). I highly recommend this documentary in all honesty!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Fleetwood Mac - Behind The Music

Another documentary that aired on Sky Arts about a week or so ago that I recorded. I've only just got round to watching it earlier. Even though I don't mention them on my blog nearly as often as I should, I love the Buckingham-Nicks version of Fleetwood Mac. So, I was looking forward to watching the Behind The Music special on them.

I have to admit - whilst it was decent - it felt very sparse. The version that I watched had obviously been updated from it's 1997 transmission. I think it was updated up until 2010 actually. Having said that - I often felt watching it that the documentary was pretty sparse. Perhaps understandable, there's a lot of history to cover to say the least. The biggest flaw for me was the way the documentary jumped straight from Tusk to Lindsey Buckingham leaving the group in 1987.  It pretty much ignored Mirage and Tango In The Night. The latter is probably my favourite Fleetwood Mac album. Needless to say, that was disappointing. Although to be honest I'm not sure if material had to be omitted so they could add the updated parts. That may well have been the case actually. In any case, I did enjoy the documentary. I just wish there was more of it (although I'm sure there's plenty of other documentaries).

One thing I did love though was it finally introduced me to some live footage from 1997's The Dance, which I've never watched before. The brief snippet was of Everywhere - and it sounded incredible. I watched the full song online straight after the documentary was over and I loved it. It's the video I've included in this post because I couldn't share a full recording of Behind The Music (though it's all on Youtube). I must admit - I've never actually realized how good of a guitarist Lindsey Buckingham is until I saw that. Definitely will need to watch The Dance soon! As for documentaries - I'm thinking either the Classic Albums edition of Rumors or their Tusk documentary will be next!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

New purchases.

A post I was in the midst of writing last night. Alias - I had a bit of a headache so I decided to turn the laptop off early. I did another Amazon order and they've all arrived now! I've actually done a second seperate order too, they should arrive sometime next week. Anyhow, back to this one. From left to right I got Electronic - Electronic (2013 remastered edition); The 101ers - Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited and David Bowie - Outside. I've got a few new albums that I need to get, but a special edition of Electronic's self titled debut (one of my favourite ever albums) was the most essential for me. I had really wanted Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited for a while because I do love the 101ers songs that I have heard. As for Outside, it's actually one of my favorite David Bowie albums that I've heard so far. Not least because it boasts one of my favourite Bowie songs: A Small Plot of Land.`Looking forward to finally listening to a physical copy of these!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

New Pet Shop Boys interview & song!

Yesterday there was an exciting post made on the Popjustice website - a lengthy interview with Neil Tennant and they unveiled a new track (in full) from Electric! This time, the track is Inside A Dream. I have to say I think the song is superb. It's got bells in it, which already makes it a much more interesting song than Vocal to my ears. An extra musical layer of depth, if you will (does that sound pretentious?). Vocal just sounded too generic for me, but Inside A Dream sounds more experimental. Sadly, there's only so much I can say about it listening to a fairly poor sound quality version of the track. I can't make out many of the lyrics at all because the quality of the recording is pretty poor really. I'm sure it will be more audible on Electric.

It's crazy to think we've now actually heard pretty much all of the Electric tracks! In fact, I'm fairly sure the only two that haven't been heard at all are Bolshy and Shouting In The Evening. Most of the other tracks have now been heard in a live capacity. And in the case of Vocal, Axis, Fluorescent (albeit in a teaser) and now Inside A Dream: their studio versions have been heard. I've been avoiding live footage though because I want to enjoy the album properly when I get it. So I've not actually heard Thursday, or Love Is A Bourgeois Construct at all. I have to say Electric is shaping up very nicely indeed though.

Although take the time to read the interview - it's utterly hilarious in places and very informative. Particularly concerning their reasons and logic behind releasing a new album so soon. The link is below (and Inside A Dream is on the same page as the interview). So click the link and enjoy!

Interview & Track are here!

First Impressions: Simon & Garfunkel Miami 1969 (bootleg)

The other new piece of music that I listened to today, it's a bootleg. It also can be found under the title Back To College. It's a recording of Simon & Garfunkel at the Miami University in 1969. It's just prior to the release of their final album, Bridge Over Troubled Water. I'd heard so many great things about this particular show - that it was one of the best concerts they ever did - so I was keen to find it. I actually found it along with another bootleg I've been long searching for: The Clash at Bond's Casino. Anyhow, I listened to the show in full earlier. It was incredible. Just so very good. They actually were playing with a band onstage, which was something I hadn't heard before. Not with one of their older shows at least. Best of all, some of the songs sounded even better live. A particular example of that being So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright. The show not only boasts truly exceptional sound quality (it sounds like an official release) but it's also a true treasure listening to an older show of Simon & Garfunkel. I honestly never thought I'd be able to hear something like this! Being able to hear their between songs chat with the audience and in particular Art's introduction of Bridge Over Troubled Water was fantastic. It's truly one of the best experiences I've ever had with bootleg and it's one of the few bootlegs I can truly say is an essential listening experience. Once I brush up on my Simon & Garfunkel I'll be sure to post a proper review of this bootleg. Although it comes highly, highly recommended!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

First impressions: Jagwar Ma - Howlin

I've listened to two new pieces of music today folks, both of which I'm going to share with you. First up, we have Howlin, the debut offering from Jagwar Ma. This album has really shocked me. I heard one of their singles last week. I liked it - but I wasn't sure if it justified the high praise the band seem to be getting. Also the band were praised as sounding very Madchester-era in sound. As you all know I love that sound so expectations were sky high. No wonder the single didn't fully grab me. Needless to say, I felt I still couldn't write them off completely without hearing Howlin. I'm so glad I did because it's a phenomenal album! Maybe just my album of the year thus far too! It's a brilliantly varied album that's very house styled in places and pyschedelic in other places. All the tracks are excellent though and a fair few songs on the album are amongst the best I've heard all year, too. In fact it's so good that I ordered it straight after listening along with another recent album that I've been busting to own: Jessie Ware's Devotion (the newly released special edition though). To fans of Manchester music of the late 80s and early 90s I particularly recommend Jagwar Ma, but they're someone I recommend you all to listen too! So good!

Documentary First Impressions: Madonna - I'm Going To Tell You A Secret

So, as you all know I've decided to withdraw watching the MDNA Epix broadcast so I can savior the blu-ray release fully at the end of August. In saying that, I did have a Madonna DVD I owned but hadn't watched yet - I'm Going To Tell You A Secret. It's a documentary which follows Madonna on her Reinvention Tour. If you recall, I got it at the record fair about two months ago. I gotta say, it was a really good documentary. It's done in a very similar style to the Blonde Ambition Tour documentation In Bed With Madonna: black and white behind the scenes footage interspersed with color performance footage. Sadly - a lot of the performance footage was incomplete. It was superbly edited though. I just wish a complete recording of the show was officially released. Thankfully - the full show is in circulation. What I loved about the documentary is you can clearly see how she's grown as a person since In Bed With Madonna. We see a lady in I'm Going To Tell You a Secret firmly in touch with spirituality. It makes for a documentary that really makes you think away from all the gloss of a tour. And Madonna comes across as such a warm person, especially with her kids. And she can be very funny. You can also see how dedicated she is to her work - and how motherly she is with her dancers. It's really very admirable indeed. Say what you like about her, but you cannot doubt her commitment to her art. A great documentary that is well worth watching!

Four years ago today....

It's hard to believe it's already been four years since Michael Jackson's untimely death. A very sad and shocking day in musical history. I come from a family of life-long MJ fans. Seriously - my family have pretty diverse musical tastes. Like really diverse. Yet we're all very big fans of Michael Jackson. I'd have to say he's my favourite male solo artist, and my favourite solo artist ever along with Madonna. In fact - only myself and one younger cousin have never witnessed Michael Jackson live. The rest of all my family all attended various dates of the Bad and Dangerous tours. And my house still has old VHS tapes of Moonwalker, Making Michael Jackson's Thriller etc. Completely battered of course due to age and sheer usage but that's part of the charm.The two tour programmes that we have in the house of the Bad & Dangerous tours are two of my most prized musical possessions even though I wasn't born until 1994. Honestly, his music has been such a constant in our family, since well before I was even born. And even in death that continues to be the case very much so. And it shall always remain that way. RIP <3

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Killers at Wembley: The Nine Year Fandom Reflection

Hello all, a brief post here for you. So, Saturday was a momentous day in the world of Killers fandom. They've played their first ever stadium date in Wembley stadium - arguably the pinnacle of their career thus far. To commemorate such an event they've created a new composition. Simply titled Wembley Song it's an ode to the great acts that have played her previously including Queen, Madonna and Fleetwood Mac. There's a host of others cited in the song too. It's a pleasant song, but the song isn't what matters here. Let's focus in on the fact that they've just played Wembley Stadium. Wembley. Stadium. At only four albums in - no mean feat. I've been a Killers fan for nine years: since 2004. At the young age of ten years old, they were impossibly cool. More importantly, they were my first in music. My first band, Brandon Flowers my first serious celebrity crush and Hot Fuss the first album I loved. They were the first band I obsessed over. They made me interested in the 80s, in retro music in general, and synthesizers. If I made a family tree style diagram charting my musical tastes over the years, The Killers would firmly be at the root of it all. They are simply the most important artist in my musical development. I've grown in so many ways in those nine years just as they have. I've seen them grow and improve as musicians. Seeing them grow so much they're now one of the biggest bands in the world... that makes me unbelievably happy. And their albums have been a constant sound-tracking to my own developments. Seeing them play Wembley has made me reflect - I'm fast approaching the six year anniversary of the first time I saw them live. Their first Northern Irish date. I can still remember that day so clearly - most of all the initial shock when the lights went down and I saw them standing there. It was them, really them. In front of me. After three years of being a fan, it was the peak of it all. And I know that some fans at Wembley will have just witnessed them live for the first time. I hope you all had the most magic of times and may you all continue to see them live again and again. It certainly looked like a special night. It's been an honor and a privilege seeing this band grow from humble beginnings to worldwide superstars, and I'm blessed to still be a part of the journey. Next year is a milestone year for me: 20 years of being alive and 10 years of Killers fandom. That means The Killers have been an integral part of half of my life. I wouldn't change that for anything. Brandon, Dave, Mark & Ronnie - I thank the four of you wholeheartedly for all you've done for me. May you continue to enrich our lives with brilliant music for many more years to come!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Great Clash documentary I watched earlier!

My last post for today folks, honestly. At the end of the last post I said I watched something delightful which I wanted to share with you, and now I've got today's dose of Dexter out of the way I can finally share the documentary! About seven days ago, Sky Arts 1 aired a documentary called The History of The Clash. The name didn't sound familiar so of course, I recorded it without hesitation. I finally got to watch today and I have to say - it's very good. Highly recommended. It's a one hour look at the history of The Clash. It's succinct yet informative. And it contains interviews with Mick Jones, Don Letts, Pat Gilbert amongst others. Of the assorted other interviewees, I was particularly interested to see Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers make a brief appearance. You know, given that I'm Northern Irish and all. The History of The Clash was also very well put together and just a really enjoyable watch all round. The most fascinating part for me quite easily was the fact that it actually dealt with Cut The Crap in some depth. Moreover, it actually featured Mick Jones talk about it. That's certainly something I've never seen/read Mick Jones discuss. This final era of the band usually gets little more than a few sentences devoted to it at best. It's even more common for the whole period to just get ignored from historical accounts of the band though. Even the main Clash documentary, Westway To The World totally ignored it and I do feel that's a hindrance. Regardless of what your opinions on the quality of the record is, it does technically remain one of their albums. To just pretend it never happened does feel like history is being rewritten. Sure, it doesn't deserve to be seen in the same light as the other five albums but you can't ignore that it happened. Needless to say, I'm pleased The History of The Clash actually covered the period. You could make a very good argument that The History of The Clash therefore possesses a level of objectivity even Westway To The World didn't have. Considering it's relatively short length it manages to cover a very complex history very well I think. I highly recommend all Clash fans watch this!

Sounds of The Week

Evening once again all, because it's Sunday (and today is flying in) it's time for my obligatory sound of the week post. I've got two sounds of the week, both very different and the only tie the two share is that they're both male solo artists. It also is the first time either of these artists have been featured on the blog

This sound of the week isn't a song new to my ears - more a rediscovery. Sometime last year - for whatever reason -  I wanted to listen to So by Peter Gabriel. If memory serves, the reason was simply because I'd read multiple times over that it's one of the best pop albums of the 80s. That's enough reason for me to try an album out. I really liked So, and in particular two songs: Don't Give Up (which featured Kate Bush), and Mercy Street. The latter is the lesser-known of the two. I played it a lot, and was meaning to check out Peter Gabriel's other albums. It never happened, until earlier this week and conversations with my friend made me renew my interest in his other albums. It also made me go back to So and remember how much I loved this song. So far - I've only heard his first album and various other assorted tracks from albums. I liked the first album I guess, as I was expecting it's certainly distinct. I think I might come to really like some of Peter Gabriel's material (I'm particularly loving Biko at the moment too). It'll take repeated plays though because his work does seem like it will be very varied. I do love that though, and his first album certainly has made me keen to explore more. I'll be interested to see what I make of the rest of his work!

The other track is from an album I've been wanting to listen to for some time, but I've only got round to it recently. The track? Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) from What's Going On by Marvin Gaye. I just heard this for the first time at the start of the week. It knocked me out! I've replayed it so many times already. It finally made me listen to What's Going On too. I really liked it, although I've got to re-listen to it again because soul music isn't what I usually listen to. But any song I've ever heard of Marvin Gaye's I've always liked, so I thought it'd be a good idea to try his work out more thoroughly. After all, taking risks is good - it's how I became a fan of Nirvana and Simon & Garfunkel. So far, What's Going On is the only album of his I've heard but I'm going to try and listen to more of his albums this week. I think Let's Get It On will be next. Inner City Blues is quite frankly sublime though, and it still sounds so fresh today. Timeless. If I enjoy more songs by Marvin Gaye as much as I enjoy Inner City Blues, he'll become a firm favourite of mine for sure!

So that's my sound of the week done and dusted. Next week I'll do another one of course, including my albums/songs of the year post as they stand at the moment. After all we're at the midway point of the year (already). I'm off now to watch two episodes of Dexter but I'll try my best and be back later so I can share with you all a delightful documentary I watched earlier. See you soon!

Madonna - I'm Addicted

I guess I'm having a Madonna revival at the moment. She's one of my favourite artists so she's never truely went away.  She's always been a heavy feature on my music listening. With the MDNA tour being premiered though I'm definitely going through a period of particularly more concentrated listening. Yesterday, I listened to MDNA in full for the first time in a few months. I think MDNA is better than critics and some fans have given it credit for really. I actually like (at the very least) pretty much all of the songs on it. One song in particular hit me definitely yesterday though. I had always liked I'm Addicted, but yesterday I grew to fully love it. Now - I might consider it one of her best songs in recent years, if not ever! I'm Addicted was produced by Benny Benassi. It was one of a set of demos Madonna recorded in London with Benassi, and these sessions, where Girls Gone Wild and Best Friend developing from these sessions. Lyrically, it's essentially pretty self explanatory - the narrator is addicted to love. and makes continual references to MDMA, or what most people refer to as ecstasy.  Some of the lyrics actually remind me a little bit of Like A Prayer too, and the act of prayer is referenced in the song too. With the repeated chants of MDMA at the end you'd be forgiven for referring to I'm Addicted as the sort of title track of MDNA. It's not the track on MDNA with the most depth, but it does have an addicting (ahem) arrangement. It's got quiet verses and a chorus that is quite frankly bananas - in the best possible way.  It's a bit like Calvin Harris meets Confessions On A Dancefloor, particularly in the instrumental breakdown. It's very loud, and sounds like it was just made for a dancefloor with the loudest set of speakers you could imagine! At first listen - I thought it was too crazy. Like, there's so much going on. And it just gets more berserk as it continues too. The song just builds and builds until it bows out with a thrilling climatic chant of "MDMA MDMA" which lasts for around the last minute or so. It's by far and away the brashest and most in your face moment of MDNA. So in your face in fact that it would have been a killer lead single. It's one of the songs on MDNA that is also about being loose, carefree and just having fun in love (it was made for the dancefloor after all). Crucially though, it sounds quintessentially Madonna in a way that Gimme All Your Luvin and Turn Up The Radio don't. It's one of the biggest missed singles opportunities in her career I think, along with Impressive Instant from Music. I'm just glad it was included on the MDNA tour though. An epic song that deserved an epic video!

Madonna MDNA on Epix.

Hello all, I hope wherever you are you're receiving more sun than Belfast currently is. Moving on - it's been a crazy few days for two of my favorite artists: Madonna & The Killers. The Killers because last night they headlined Wembley Stadium which surely has to be the high point of their career this far. Madonna because EPIX has premiered her MDNA tour yesterday. This post deals with the latter. EPIX is a premium US channel so as you could imagine, only a fraction of fans have saw the broadcast. I understand that torrents etc are doing the rounds, but so far the only thing I've found is one very poor quality stream. I'll post the link to it at the bottom of this post, but trust me - it's pretty bad quality. I'm just going to wait until August when the blu-ray comes out in all honesty. I didn't attend any of the MDNA shows and other than the Olympia mini-show in Paris,  fan footage of Express Yourself/Born This Way/She's Not Me  and the official Epix trailer I've not seen the tour at all really. So, I can't wait for the bluray especially. Based on the fan's opinions that I've been reading today, not only is the tour exceptional but the editing is also great. My expectations for it are sky-high, I just hope it lives up to them!

Low quality stream

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Collecting: Posters arrived!

Regular readers to the blog may recall I mentioned recently that a relative had purchased two posters of The Clash and Joy Division for me as a surprise gift. Well, they're here! I absolutely love them - they're both two of my favourite images of each band. They're also my first posters of each band. I'd been looking all over for some posters in Belfast. As you could guess, no luck. I'll be sure to get them up as soon as possible - I have to fix the posters on the two walls I designate as poster walls in my room. The Joy Division poster is really big and will probably have to go on the one that's not above my bed, but The Clash one should fit above my bed. It's great timing too - I'm taking a picture of my Joy Division collection tonight so I can blog about it in the coming days. It's not the only items I'm expecting either. A few days ago I ordered The 101ers Elgin Avenue Breakdown, David Bowie's Outside and the recently released special edition of Electronic's self titled debut. I'll post them on my blog when they get here!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Happy Mondays - Double Easy US Singles

Double Easy: The US Singles is a 1993 compilation, specific to Canada and US (who would have guessed?) of Happy Mondays. As you could guess, it collects tracks from the US releases of their singles. It also features tracks that aren't available on other compilations and rarer mixes. I have to say, I have both Double Easy: The US Singles and Greatest Hits but I think Double Easy is a better compilation in all honesty. I got Double Easy online through Amazon second hand. Having said that my copy came with a sticker that said HMV Import (although it did look old). HMV don't do imports anymore but even still, copies of it are in circulation in UK I'd imagine. It cost me about £2 to get mine second hand so it's not the rarest thing to find. Moving on though, here's the tracklisting:

"24 Hour Party People" – 4:37
"Wrote For Luck" – 3:43
"Lazyitis" – 2:46
"Mad Cyril" (Hello Girls Mix) – 3:52
"Hallelujah" (MacColl Mix) – 2:39
"Step On" (Stuff It In Mix) – 5:52
"Tokoloshe Man" – 4:18
"Kinky Afro" – 3:59
"Loose Fit" (12" Version) – 6:24
"Bob's Yer Uncle" (12" Version) – 6:52
"Judge Fudge" – 6:17
"Stinkin Thinkin" – 4:18
"Sunshine & Love" – 4:02
"Angel" – 4:06
"W.F.L." (Think About The Future Mix) – 7:11
"Hallelujah" (Club Mix) – 6:28

It's important to note that Bob's Yer Uncle is mistitled on this compilation. The version here is actually The Grid remix which was available on a US promo release. As far as I'm aware, there's no actual mix of Bob's Yer Uncle known as the 12" mix in existance.

That minor error aside, as you can see there's some rarer tracks here indeed. Of course, you've got to thank their release history in the US for that. For instance, the original versions of Step On and Loose Fit were never released in the US, only in alternate mixes. In saying that, both the Loose Fit and Step On mixes here sound like extended versions as opposed to actual remixes. The business of alternate mixes is a double edged sword though. It does mean Double Easy sometimes has tracks on it that are inferior to the original version. The biggest offender here for me is Mad Cyril. I hate the Hello Girls mix quite frankly. It butchers what I'd have to regard as one of my favourite Happy Mondays songs. Of the originals, the weakest track is Judge Fudge. Again - I'm not keen on that song at all. Although there's utter gems here. The biggest gem for me? The Grid remix of Bob's Yer Uncle. It's a masterpiece quite frankly, and it's just as good as the original (which again is one of my favourites). Double Easy is the only place this terrific remix has been made available on a Happy Mondays compilation, and as far as I remember the only place at all you'd get that mix here in the UK is on the Loose Fix 12".

Another thing that's great about Double Easy is that it's geared towards the Happy Mondays rave sensibilites. That's when they're at their best I think. The first Happy Mondays single in US was Wrote For Luck, so it omits any material from their first album, other than 24 Hour Party People. Frankly I'm glad because although I'm a huge fan of Happy Mondays, I feel that Squirrel & G-man is patchy at best. 24 Hour Party People being by far the best song that album has to offer. The abundance of extended versions here and concentration on their Bummed/Pills n Thrills & Bellyache albums (their two best for me) give the album a definite club-oriented feel. Much more so than Greatest Hits even, which feels more geared towards the casual fan.

So, as you've probably surmised by now, I really recommend this compilation. The best of the remixes here are absolutely brilliant and essential listening for Happy Mondays aficionados. Add that to the fact that the compilation shouldn't be overly difficult to find in the internet age and you have a compilation that's really recommended. I probably would say that for newcomers it's best to start with Greatest Hits, but if you've heard all the studio albums and want more then I really would consider Double Easy: The US Singles.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Surprising news of good and bad kinds.

Afternoon all, it's been twelve hours that have delivered two surprising bits of news for me. First of all - I'd like to start by saying I was very shocked to hear of the sudden death of James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano. I've never seen The Sopranos (yet), but I know plenty of people who have. And they've all commented on how brilliant the show was, and how good of a character Tony Soprano is. In fact, they've all recommended it so highly to me that only two nights ago I decided that it would be the show I'll watch next once I'm up to date with Dexter. I'm due to start it in about two weeks actually. I was (and still am) very much looking forward to watching it. Although obviously it'll be rather bittersweet viewing in light of his sad death. And as this is a music blog, I must admit that Woke Up This Morning by Alabama 3 is my all time favourite theme song to a tv show. I listen to that song so much, I was listening to it yesterday only. It's very sad and shocking indeed - 51 is no age to die. Needless to say, I'll be keeping his family, friends and colleagues in my thoughts today.

The second rather shocking piece of news is for Clash fans, particularly those in the UK. Even further still - for those disgruntled by the price of Sound System. Today - Amazon have dropped it price rather significantly from £111 to £77. If you pre-order it now and it goes back up in price again, you'll get charged £77. Their policy basically is that whatever the lowest price is between a pre-order being placed and the dispatch of the item is the amount you pay. I was going to wait for the boxset and see if my local record store got it in and compare prices nearer the time, but £77 is just so good. To be honest, I don't think it'll go any cheaper and certainly not in my local record store. So as of 30 minutes ago Sound System is on pre-order for me. I'm even more excited now than ever for it now that an actual purchase has taken place. I'd advise UK fans to take advantage of it if you wanted Sound System but weren't comfortable with the original price

I wasn't going to write a post until later as Thursday is my busy day, but these were two events I felt I needed to make an exception for. Hopefully, I'll be back later as I still need to share something I watched last week.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Depeche Mode Milestone

Today's a pretty big anniversary for a pivotal moment in Depeche Mode's history: it's 25 years today since their seminal sell out show at Pasadena's Rose Bowl. It was the final date of the band's Music For The Masses tour which was in support of the album of the same name. Music For The Masses is my favourite Depeche Mode album (probably in my top twenty ever), which I don't think is an all that common view. What is a much more common view though is that selling out the Rose Bowl is one of (if not the) crowning achievements of their career. The show was documented (partially) on the 101 DVD yet in full on the 101 live album. I must admit - the 101 show was instrumental in making me a fan as their performance is simply that good in it. Behind The Wheel especially which is one of my favourite singular performances from any concert, period. Honestly, this is one show I would love to have been able to see, along with Simon & Garfunkel's Central Park reunion concert. Sadly, I don't own either the DVD or CD of 101 but they're items I want sooner rather than later. Later on I think I'll listen to Music For The Masses though as means of a little celebration. In the meantime, happy 25th anniversary!

New music: New MIA song.

Afternoon all, I was writing this last night but I was distracted all day with news coverage. It's a strange few days here in Northern Ireland. The G8 Summit is being held in Fermanagh (about two hours from Belfast) meaning that President Obama is also visiting. All eyes have been on Obama really, not least because it's his first Northern Irish visit. The security operation here is mammoth because he did make a brief stop in Belfast yesterday prior to the G8 to make a speech in the Waterfront Hall. I must admit - I do like Obama. At least as a speaker and (from what I've seen of him) as a person. I'm not here to discuss politics and I won't even attempt it: I don't know enough about the subject for that. What I do feel strongly though is that it's certainly good for the image of Northern Ireland for us to stage such an important event. This sort of thing seemed like an inconcievable idea not all that long ago. Personally, I hope that it serves as a positive remainder of how far we've come whilst yet serving as strong motivation why it's vital we continue to pull together to make Northern Ireland a brighter and more peaceful place for all. It can be done.

So now that's out of the way we can move on to the actual point of this post. It's a new MIA song from her upcoming album Matangi. As far as I know, there's still been no release date announced although I hope it's out soon. The song itself is called Bring The Noize. I must admit, I do like MIA rather a lot, but this song I'm just not liking much at all. Maybe it's just because the first time I heard it I was exhausted and my mentally drained brain couldn't follow two episodes of American Dad let alone comprehend something like this. MIA can be challenging listening sometimes for me, even though I do like her a lot.  So, what's putting me off Bring The Noize? I know a signature trademark of her music is very much a wall of sound approach... but this seems to lack no discernible melody or even much in the way of structure. I do own Kala and really like it, and I really liked her last album; both of which do contain tracks that are harder to listen to for me. She has said Matangi sounds like "Paul Simon on acid" which sounds intriguing to say the least. Bring The Noize sounds nothing like Paul Simon though at all so I'll be interested to see how the album pans out.

That's my short and sweet post for the moment - I've still got drafting I want to do today and I need to get caught up on another post and publish it as soon as too. Until then, the final three episodes of Dexter await for me, hopefully I'll be back later!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sound of the week: Songs

Evening all and it's hard to believe that (yet again) it's the end of another week. Especially scary that we're now over halfway through 2013... what on earth. Anyhow, this week I've actually got two sounds of the week, so let's get cracking.

First of, we've got Keys To Your Heart by The 101ers. They're a group more than familiar to Clash fans - it was Joe Strummer's group before The Clash, back when he was known as Woody Mellor. This is the second version (and my favourite) of Keys To Your Heart. I love this song - and The 101ers - in general. They were a great pub rock outfit and probably could have gone on to big things... then a group called The Clash happened. Funny how things like that can occur in life. I'd have to regard Keys To Your Heart as the first great Strummer composition (even though he wasn't known as Strummer when he wrote it). I'd definitely recommend The 101ers if you have any inkling of an interest in The Clash. Especially so if you like pub rock style music. It's fascinating to hear how Joe always sang the way he did - it wasn't a singing style put on for the punk scene. I don't have Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited, although listening to this moreso this week has made me keen to get it. I think it's encouraged me to purchase it this week really!

The second track is Simon & Garfunkel (can you tell I'm loving them?). Again it's not something I heard for the first time this week, but it's a song that's particularly grown on me this week. It's from Bookends, I was listening to the album a few days ago because I purchased a boxset with all their albums and truthfully I think Bookends is now my second favorite Simon & Garfunkel record. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme is first and I've denoted Bridge Over Troubled Water to third place (for now). Anyhow - what I love about Old Friends is the gorgeous and serene atmosphere it has. Reflective and oh so peaceful. The lyrics make me really think about growing older too even though I'm still a rather young 19. I can't help but think of a certain friend when I hear this song who's also fond of Simon & Garfunkel. My longest friend actually - we've been best friends for 15 years. Since the age of four. It really does make me wonder what we will be like when he hit seventy (as the song describes) and how we'll have changed. By that point we'll have been friends for 66 (!) years. Scary thoughts really, but a gorgeous song.

Saturday night viewing (a day late)

Afternoon everyone and I hope all my UK readers are enjoying Father's Day. I've already given my Dad his gifts: a Tom Petty live collection as well as Paul Simon's Songbook. I must admit I'll definitely borrow his copy of Songbook so I can rip it to my hardrive.

Anyhow, last night I was feeling lazy and didn't bother my backside to share with you the two things I watched. First, we have the concert. Well concert implies it's of any great lenght, which frankly it's not. It's Simon & Garfunkel's brief set at the Kraft Music Hall, which aired in January 1968. They perform seven songs in a twenty minute set. This is actually the show that contains my favourite version of For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her. I also far prefer the version of Patterns here to the studio version. In general, this has to be Simon & Garfunkel at the peak of their powers. This performance is pretty much faultless, and I seldom use that word. Also, I've even seen some gorgeous colour footage of their performance of The Sounds Of Silence from this show. I've never seen any of the other performances in colour though but I'd love to. I don't think this has seen an official release actually, but I really hope it does in the future!

The documentary I watched was especially fascinating. Finally getting The Smiths Complete has made my interest in The Smiths and Morrissey resurge, and I finally watched my first documentary (shocking) on Morrissy last night. This is called The Importance of Being Morrissey and it aired in 2002 in the UK on Channel 4. It's fascinating not least because it contains interviews with Morrissey himself and even shows you inside his LA home. It also features J.K Rowling, Kathy Burke and Noel Gallagher (amongst others) being interviewed. The highlight for me was the incredible footage of him
 with David Bowie, but really the whole documentary is essential viewing for fans. Watching it, I actually felt he came across a lot better than I expected him too. Not to mention he's incredibly intelligent and just a very interesting man in general. Definitely something I really recommend people to watch!

So that's it for last night's viewing, and all being well I should be able to watch more stuff later. I'll be back later with my sound of the week post though!

New album I heard today: Capitial Cities debut

Evening all once again from Belfast. It's after midnight here so I'll be shutting my laptop down soon for the night so I can get stuck into Entourage (I've never seen it before). Then it's back to Heavier than Heaven for some reading. With a bit of self discipline I should be able to finish the Kurt Cobin biography this week because I've been so lazy with it. I've also watched a concert and documentary tonight too but they'll have to wait until tomorrow - I'm starting to get tired.

Another thing I've been very lazy this week with also is testing out new albums. You can blame Dexter for that - I've just started the third season but damn that second season was incredible. Remember that list of new releases I needed to check out? I'm still hopelessly behind with them. I'm only going to get more behind too most probably. That aside - I did manage to hear one new album today. That being In A Tidal Wave of Mystery. It's the debut album by indie/synthpop group Capital Cities. I heard of Capital Cities thanks to a good friend of mine, this was a few months ago. I heard their song Patience Gets Us Nowhere Fast and I was looking forward to their debut album. It's a really good album too, and I recommend it. They don't seem to be very big at all, although this album may just change that. A lot of the synthwork echoed Goldrapp's most recent album Head First for me, although the album is a lot quirkier than Head First. They also sound a good bit like Chromeo too. My favourite tracks are Farrah Fawcet Hair, Patience Gets Us Nowhere Fast and I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo. Like I said earlier, well worth checking out if you like that indietronica style!

So that's my short and sweet post done. As tomorrow is Sunday (well for me it technically already is), you can expect my usual Sound Of The Week post, plus what I watched today. I also have a post that I drafted earlier which I might post, and I have another two albums I want to start writing about. Until then and as we're now technically into Sunday (in UK) - happy Fathers Day!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Collection: The Clash

Now that Rock Art & The X-Ray Style and The Clash US have arrived, I can finally take a picture of all my Clash gear. At least, what I have up until now. This is absolutely everything I own of theirs. There's also a few CDs of related bands thrown in for good measure, hence why you'll be able to spot the three Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros albums along with a Big Audio Dynamite greatest hits. I've been a complete Clash nut since about November time of 2012, after beginning investigating them about a year ago. It'd be too long to list every item I have but in short: all their studio albums (including both versions of The Clash), both live albums, the two most essential compilations, The Singles boxset, all official DVDs including The Future Is Unwritten on Bluray and an unofficial DVD. Books wise I have two editions of The Clash (after a mistake in ordering), Redemption Song & Passion Is A Fashion. The black and green book to the left of the two magazines is the Q Book of Punk Legends which is from an old 90s edition of the magazine. The two magazines are the Uncut special and the Joe Strummer 60th birthday NME cover. Beside that are the postcards which are mostly from Strummerville, but the skull one was the first Clash related item I ever got. Believe it or not, this was all easy to find and none of it was dear. Even The Singles boxset was a good price but I don't know how much longer that will continue to be the case. Most of it came from online but I did get a fair chunk of it in town also, which is quite something considering we only have two record shops.

Of course, completist that I am I'm not done by a long shot. There's still 101ers - Elgin Avenue Breakdown on CD (I think I might order that this week), and The Future Is Unwritten soundtrack. There's also Earthquake Weather by Joe Strummer but that's going to be a lot harder to find. Not to mention that I have a poster due in the post as a suprise gift from a relative. There's also a few more books, T-shirts and badges that I want but they can wait, Sound System in September being released and all that. To be honest, 101'ers and The Future Unwritten soundtrack aside I'm not looking to buy any other Clash material for the time being so I can save for Sound System. I'm nowhere near finished though!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Amazon Order has arrived!

So finally, my much discussed Amazon parcel has arrived! Left to right starting top I got The Police (2CD compilation); The Clash US (different from the UK release of the album), The Smiths Complete (which is all their studio albums, a live album and three compilations); Simon & Garfunkel's The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings; and last but certainly not least Joe Strummer & The Mescalero's first album Rock Art and The X-Ray Style (the remastered edition of the album). It really wasn't as dear as you'd think to get all this but I'm still going to not buy CD's for a bit so I can save some money (primarily for The Clash boxset). I''ve gone from just owning a singular greatest hits compilation each for The Smiths and Simon Garfunkel to getting all their studio albums in one go. At least I haven't duplicated any albums though as I will with The Clash in September (much like I've done with Pet Shop Boys previously too). I've also now finally completed my collection of studio albums for Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros too, and The Police compilation is my first CD by them, they are a fantastic group though. Looking forward to listening to these over the coming days! (and Clash collection picture will be coming very soon).

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Updates & a documentary (yet again)

Hello everyone from a substantially cooler Belfast. It's a relief really because whilst the sunshine was lovely, when you suffer from bad psorasis (as I do) heat can become very uncomfortable indeed. I've got some lovely news today - I'm recieving posters of Joy Division and The Clash as a gift! I'm so pleased about that because they've been two notable absentees on my bedroom walls. I'll need to do some redecorating once they arrive (not sure when though, next week maybe) but when I do I'll be sure to post a picture! I actually took a picture of my old wall to share on my blog but its a bit pointless sharing it now that the walls are going to be changed. No sign of my Amazon order here yet either, I'm guessing its going to arrive tomorrow.

Anyhow - what I'm sharing with you today is a documentary I watched recently. It's Sound City, which was. Rather than focusing on any one particular band, Sound City instead focuses on a studio: Sound City itself, which is located in Los Angeles. I love learning about studios, record labels and all that sort of thing, its just as key as the music itself more often than not I feel. Dave Grohl directed the movie, which is his directorial debut. The studio - active from 1969 to 2011 - hosted some of the most famous artists in the world, including Slipknot, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Nine Inch Nails amongst others. Arguably the most iconic album to be recorded at the studios though was Nevermind by Nirvana (hence Dave Grohl making the movie), which pretty much saved the studio in financially difficult times. As such there's quite a bit of talk about Nirvana (Krist Novoselic is also interviewed) so I would heartily recommend the documentary to any fellow Nirvana fans. It's an excellent documentary, my only problem was that other than Fleetwood Mac and Nirvana a lot of the bands that recorded there weren't ones of interest to me. That is just a personal thing though, it's not a reflection on the quality of the documentary itself, it is excellently made. What was very interesting though is the way it makes you reflect on the changes in the music industry since CDs were introduced, and with the advent of Pro-Tools etc. I only wish Trent Reznor was shown more because he did provide a very interesting alternative viewpoint. It was also really interesting to see the studio: it was grotty as hell yet it was exceptional at recording drum sounds, hence why it managed to secure so many top quality artists and why Dave Grohl himself feels such an affinity with the studio. It's an excellent documentary, definitely worth it if you have an interest in any of the bands featured or you consider yourself a music geek!

Breaking news: Goldfrapp anounce details of new album!

Official album artwork.
Oddly enough, this was an upcoming album that I had been thinking about a few days ago; that surely it can't be too long before we hear details of Goldfrapp's sixth studio album. And now, details have finally been unveiled! The album is called Tales Of Us and it's been announced that it will be released on September 9th. I think I've jinxed myself actually because about a week ago I thought to myself that it's fortunate September will be a quiet month for me musically this year (last year it was hectic) as September 9th also sees The Clash release Sound System. Now in the week following that, Madonna's MDNA tour DVD/Bluray, Nine Inch Nails new album and now Goldfrapp's new offering are all coming in very close proximity to each other. I doubt I will be able to purchase Tales Of Us on release day because Sound System is that dear, but we shall see.  There's been no details of a single yet for Tales Of Us, but what has been released today is a trailer. I have to say the album sounds absolutely beautiful and it couldn't be more different from Head First. The total opposite end of the spectrum really. It's like their more folk/acoustic oriented material yet it also has a new sound. It's definitely not going to be an electronic album judging by the short track previews in the trailer though. Also, looking from the official track-listing that's been unveiled it does look like it might just be a concept album, or a loose one at least. All of the songs have single word titles and the vast majority of them appear to be names of people (albeit unusual one). It's a very literal reflection of the title it seems. It does sound like a very promising album however and I cannot wait to hear it!

Click here to view the trailer for Tales of Us!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Joe Strummer: Redemption Song

So, I got this as a present in Christmas 2012. My Clash investigations were in their infancy, and I knew I wanted to find out more about the life of their frontman Joe Strummer. After reading many reviews full of praise for this book I figured that this would be the place to start. The author - Chris Salewicz - was a good friend of Joe's and thus knew him very well.

Considering he was a personal friend, it would be very easy for him to just mythologize Joe. He could have very easily just emphasized his good characteristics and glossed over his negative ones. Of course - Joe had his faults (like any of us do), and Salewicz is the first to point these out. It makes his book all the better. A hagiography, this most certainly isn't. And because I knew so little about Joe before reading this book, it was an incredibly eye opening experience. Here his failings are made clear, although never in a way that feels merely like a disrespectful slamming of a dead man. You can clearly see how much love Salewicz had for Joe which makes the objectivity displayed all the more impressive. In reading it though, I came away feeling like I knew the man better, and the book is an incredibly worthwhile read for that. Salewicz's admiration for Joe jumps off every page but it never shrouds the objectivity of the book. Also - he treats the other members of The Clash in a similar light: never taking one side over the other when discussing their turbulent fallout. I actually came away from the book admiring all the members of the band more for one reason or another, whilst feeling like I had a better grasp of what happened.

Another thing I love about Redemption Song is that it highlights that, yes Joe was a great frontman: but he was also dogged by insecurities and even depression for rather lengthy periods of his life. We follow his journey from rebelling against his upbringing, to squatting in London whilst playing with The 101ers until one fateful night witnessing a Sex Pistols performance makes him realize that punk music is the way forward. An utterly human depiction. And as The Clash becomes more successful, Joe is wracked with doubts more and more about whether or not he's a sellout. The book paints The Clash in a very favorable light in that regard; as a group that cared about the image and messages they would give to fans, and as a group that never saw themselves above their fans.

Although don't think that just because The Clash ended doesn't mean the book becomes dull and uninteresting.  For me this is when Redemption Song becomes especially fascinating. He would spend the rest of the 80s and pretty much all of the 90s in relative obscurity, until his resurgence with The Mescaleros. After two great albums, he died so suddenly, If that sounds depressing though, I actually got the feeling that when he died he was the happiest he'd been in years, you can't really ask for more than that can you?

Overall though I can't recommend Redemption Song highly enough. Overall I came away feeling that I know who the real Joe Strummer was just that little bit more. And as for my opinions of him? At the risk of sounding cheesy, I liked him a lot before reading Redemption Song, but the book made me love him, despite of his imperfections. I'd have to say the book was actually pretty inspiring. It's not the sort of appraisal that will make you want to put Joe on a pedestal (its not supposed to be). It highlights his faults and shortcomings, but it also highlights that he was a good man who cared about the world around him. And it highlights the very real struggles he went through, and that he never saw himself as a high and mighty rockstar. It shows him as down to earth and utterly human (yet still likeable) and I love that. I came away from Redemption Song feeling that I was closer to knowing who the real Joe Strummer was, but I also felt more inspired by him and his messages than ever. I can't ask for more whilst reading a music biography quite honestly. Highly highly recommended.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Sound of the week: albums

Hello all from (yet again) a Belfast that spent most of the day spent drenched in glorious sunshine. I've actually knuckled down and listened to some new albums this week. There's not much point in doing a sound of the week song this week - it would just be another post on Nine Inch Nails new single Came Back Haunted and it basically would be a reiteration of all that I've said in my previous post on it (which would make for very dull reading). These aren't the only albums I'e listened to this week - just the new ones I've enjoyed the most

So - the first album I listened to this week was Settle, the hotly anticipated debut offering from Disclosure. Disclosure are receiving a lot of hype here in the UK. They were actually playing a club here in Belfast yesterday or the night before. I had only heard one song of theirs, but I had really liked it. Not to mention that they collaborate with two of my favourite current artists: Jessie Ware and Ed McFarlene (Friendly Fires). Not to mention that they also have collaborated with Alunageorge (who's debut album I'm eager to hear). I have to say I really like their style of soulful house! And at the risk of sounding controversial - I prefer it to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. I think its because Settle is more of what I was hoping Random Acess Memories would be like. Nevertheless, definitely an album I will be purchasing!

 So, another album I've (finally) heard that's newly released is Yeah Yeah Yeah's fourth album, Mosquitos which came out in April (on my birthday actually). I've tried to listen to this album about three times and every time I've made it roughly halfway through before being interrupted. This week, I finally listened to the whole thing! I have to say I really liked it, particularly Under The Earth, Subway, Buried Alive, Mosquito and Sacrilege. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a band I've been meaning to listen to for a while, and they've impressed me with Mosquito! I've definitely got an increased urge to listen to their previous three studio albums now, I just hope they match up to the quality of Mosquito!

Now a trip back in time for this one, I've started listening to the back catalogue of Nine Inch Nails. Only one place to start, with the debut album. So far this is the only album I've heard in full. I did start listening to Downward Spiral earlier on but I only got three or four tracks into it before having to do something - Sundays can be a bit of a busy day for me. Anyhow this was an album I really liked - sadly the opening tracks of Downward Spiral didn't hit me quite as much. I've got a feeling Nine Inch Nails will be a slow burner for me, but we shall see. Anyhow, I liked all the songs on this album, particularly Ringfinger. I'm still very much deciding whether to go or not to their upcoming Belfast show... as I know so little about their music at the moment it's very much undecided and could go either way to be perfectly honest.

So another week is over, time flies eh? I've no doubt this coming week is going to be another busy one on the blog: my new purchases are due anyday now (most likely Tuesday) and I've no shortage of music related material to discuss anyway, so thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Double Documentary Whammy

Afternoon all from what is (once again) a gloriously sunny Belfast. I can't remember the last time we had weather this consistently good in all honesty! It's certainly refreshing for the soul, that's for sure!

Anyhow, with this post I want to share with you all two most excellent documentaries that I've watched within within the past 24 hours. First up we have The Doors - Mr Mojo Risin: The Story of LA Woman. It's suprising I've never seen it before now I guess because this does get frequently aired on BBC4 (which was the channel I watched it on last night). I do wonder if this particular re-airing was a sort of tribute to Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek who of course sadly passed away very recently. This was especially interesting because whilst I really like The Doors music, my knowledge of their history and the band's timeline is non-existent. In fact - I'm fairly sure I've never even seen interviews with Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger. LA Woman is a great album though and this equally great documentary did it justice. My highlight? It would probably have to be Ray Manzarek playing the gorgeous keyboard line of Riders On The Storm completely unaccompanied. No, not because of his recent passing but rather because if I had to pick one Doors song as my definitive favourite, I'd probably pick Riders On The Storm. Speak of Ray's passing though, the very final line of the documentary does carry a certain degree of poignancy in the light of recent events, but I will leave that for you to discover for yourselves.

The other documentary I just finished watching an hour ago was The Future Is Unwritten - all about the life of a certain Joe Strummer (no prizes for guessing that). I know, it's quite surprising I've been a massive fan of Joe and The Clash properly for around eight months now and I hadn't seen it yet. It's one of those things I'd been planning to do for ages but something always seemed to come out. Alias, I've now finally watched it. It was a brilliant documentary and I enjoyed it a lot more than Westway To The World. I had high expectations for it too given that Julian Temple directed it - The Filth & The Fury documentary that he did on Sex Pistols was absolutely fantastic. I've read Redemption Song, which is the main biography on Joe but The Future Is Unwritten was also incredibly informative. Like said book, it also doesn't shy away from Joe's shortcomings but I came away from The Future Is Unwritten remembering just what makes me love him so much. What I loved about it also was the private home movies used - everything from Joe as a young boy to the first recording session of The Clash, which Julian Temple himself actually filmed. I cannot wait to have the full audio/video recordings of their early studio sessions as both are going to included on the upcoming Sound System boxset. I also loved the footage of Joe with his daughters. It was also amazing seeing the variety of people paying tribute to him in the documentary, Johnny Depp, Bono, Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers amongst others.

In other news - I did receive my postcards from Strummerville in the end and it turned out that the shirt was out of stock, not to worry I will order another one soon. I also ordered myself some bits and pieces (I've now got the entire discographies of The Smiths and Simon & Garfunkel on route and that's not everything). I assure you though, it was a lot cheaper than you'd think! They just got dispatched earlier today so I hope they're here either Tuesday or Wednesday, although it'll be certainly no later than Thursday. In the meantime I have more posts to be working on so stay tuned!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Suprise hit: Nine Inch Nails - Came Back Haunted

I love electronic music (if that wasn't already obvious), but I must admit that industrial style music wouldn't be a sub genre that I listen to at all. In saying that - Nine Inch Nails have been recommended to me before (in particular Downward Spiral and Pretty Hate Machine), so when the same person recommended I check out their new single which was just unveiled yesterday I was rather interested. I don't know many songs of Nine Inch Nails, and whilst I've quite liked the ones I do know I did have slight qualms that on the whole their style of music might be too heavy for me. In saying that when I listened to Came Back Haunted yesterday I was floored - so much so I've listened to it about ten times in two days and listened to it about five times on a loop! It's the first single from the upcoming Hesitation Marks album which is due to land on September 3rd. It's  definitely more electronic as opposed to the more heavy rock style I thought Nine Inch Nails were known for. Alias, it looks like I was wrong there. Already end of August/start of September is shaping up to be a busy month for me with Madonna's MDNA tour DVD, The Clash's Soundsystem boxset and now Nine Inch Nails. They're also playing Belfast's Belsonic festival at the end of August... if I like their albums enough when I check them out I won't rule out a ticket for them, but that's very much something that needs to be decided. In any case, Came Back Haunted is probably my favourite single of the year so far!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Soundsystem: New picture unveiled

And whilst I'm on the subject of upcoming releases, yesterday The Clash official Facebook page uploaded this rather exciting picture. It's the first glimpse inside the actual box, animated videos aside.  As you probably already know, I'm hugely excited for this release and this has just increased that excitement tenfold. I'm especially interested to see how the rest of the box is packaged: you can't see where the poster tube is stored for instance. It's been interesting reading the debate the boxset has caused fans over the past few weeks with regards to pricing, what it contains and what it omits etc. For me, the boxset contains enough to warrant its admittedly hefty price. Although my age is a big factor in that - I don't collect vinyl so I don't have a single Clash vinyl. My family don't have any either. The vinyl replica package is little more than a gimmick (probably) to most long term fans but it suits me. Ditto for the reprintals of the Armagideon Times - admittedly its nothing rare to a long term fan but for me the chances of me ever seeing these otherwise is next to nothing because they're rare now. Even the badges, stickers and stuff are things that are really not that common to find in Belfast - even more so for groups like The Clash. It's definitely a big price tag and the arguments about how ethical the price tag is given what The Clash stood for is one that carries a lot of credit... I just think this is going to be very much up to the individual fan with regards to what they buy. For me, the correct decision is to buy it. Its one of the rare opportunities I'll have to get excited about an upcoming Clash release, even if one certain Joe Strummer will always be missing. Nevertheless, I'm still organizing my money at the moment to purchase this on release!

Breaking news: MDNA Tour DVD/Bluray release date announced!!

This has been a release that's long been on the horizon, but now we finally have a release date! The MDNA DVD and Bluray will be getting released on August 27th for US, with a global release on August 26th. The much rumored date was September, so I was expecting it to come it around the time of The Clash's Sound System boxset. As it stands it comes out 14 days before. It'll certainly be an expensive period - I'm just grateful there'll almost certainly be none of my other favorite artists releasing new music during that time. Anyhow - that's all off topic. I don't own that many music DVDs in all honesty, but new Madonna tour DVDs I always get majorly excited for because she's my favorite female solo artist of all time, and also because I feel her modern tours are perhaps even better than her earlier tours (Blonde Ambition aside). I haven't even seen that much of 2012's MDNA Tour bar a poor quality video of the opening of the show and the infamous Express Yourself/Born This Way/She's Not Me mash-up. As you can tell I didn't attend a show in person unfortunately - the idea was discussed for attending the Dublin show but as any Madonna fan will tell you, her shows do not come cheap at the best of time and costs to see her for me are only increased because I have to travel substantially to make it to Dublin - she doesn't play in my home city of Belfast. I technically have to go into another country to see her actually (it's this reason why attending shows for me is a rarity in general). In any case - the reviews for the MDNA tour were incredibly positive and I expect nothing less than (yet another) stunning show from Madonna. As far as I'm aware, no live CD will accompany this release (like Sticky & Sweet and Confessions had) but I don't mind: its becoming increasingly more straightforward to convert DVD audio into .mp3 format. The official article doesn't mention any bonus features but I would expect there to be something at least, if not I'd have to say I'd be disappointed. In any case - I cannot wait for this!