The second Jon Bon Jovi’s gravelly voice declares “We Weren’t Born To Follow” on the New Jersey stadium rockers’ eleventh studio album The Circle it is clear that you know what to expect. Having rarely changed the formula over their epic quarter of a century career, they have little reason to now. Fans of the super group know what they like and Bon Jovi know how to deliver. The Circle is therefore packed full of sing-along stadium rock chants that their adoring public will lap up. The distinct gravelly vocal of Jon Bon Jovi echoes earlier glories, with The Circle a distinct continuation of 2000’s massive Crush album. Bon Jovi are by no means chugging along, they are just aware that their fan base dictates a certain sound and unlike some of their contemporaries, they would rather play for the masses than battle for artistic integrity. And who can blame them?
New label Bit-Phalanx invites us to get to know their artists with a 13 track compilation album featuring their roster of electronica acts. Each gives us a taste of their unique sounds with varied results. With 13 acts represented on one album, it seems only fair to cover them one-by-one.
It would be easy to fall into mistakenly believing that Danish quintet Oh No Ono have simply jumped on the psychedelic bandwagon for their latest release Eggs, given that from the opening bars of “Eleanor Speaks” you are immediately transported into the realms Empire Of The Sun and MGMT. The album artwork could even be mistakenly sourced back to those who have worked with the aforementioned duos. However, though as yet unknown on British shores, they have been a force to be reckoned with on the Danish music scene since their 2005 EP Now You Know Oh No Ono. Having furthered their notoriety with debut album Yes, the group lost keyboardist Kristian Olsen in 2008, for him to be swiftly replaced by the equally talented Nicolai Koch. Keen not to lose their momentum, the new line-up spent nine months recording the reputedly difficult second album in a variety of churches and studios throughout Denmark. Ever keen to explore unusual instrumentations, the quintet also used forests, beaches, abandoned factories etc. to build their own effects using contact microphones. However, with the ambient psychedelic music scene already oversaturated, will Oh No Ono manage to find their footing?
Bit-Phalanx’s veteran acid-jazz and drill & bass Lithuanian has compiled six of his favourite unreleased tracks from 2005 – 2009 for Verbal Dance to demonstrate his harsher, mentalist tendencies. Clark, Squarepusher and Venetian Snares are underlying influcences on an enjoyable first artist release from the net label suggesting exciting times ahead as more names on its roster emerge over the year..
Amaury Vassili is above all a voice, the voice of a genuine 19-year-old tenor who, on his first album Vincero, unleashes great power and mastery as well as finesse. He’s a handsome guy who also cultivates a certain eclecticism: although he has appropriated the lyric repertoire with great natural class, he by no means snubs the large family of popular musical styles. On this CD there are indeed some new versions of great classical melodies (Edward Elgar’s famous March No. 1, Op. 39/1, Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata), but also some original, contemporary pieces composed by Davide Esposito and Stanislas Renoult.
Thea Gilmore loves Christmas. She doesn’t care about the commercial edge, her icy heart melts like mulled wine the moment Christmas is mentioned. However, she isn’t a fan of the stereotypically insincere and cheesy Christmas song. She is aware that many artists cash in with their schmaltzy seasonal releases. Yet, the past few years have seen some heartfelt tributes to the festival, most notably from Low and the McGarrigle Sisters. Upon hearing their releases, Gilmore realised that the Christmas album genre was changing and perhaps she should do her best to nudge it all along. Thus, she releases Strange Communion, a ten track tribute featuring eight new compositions and two covers of her seasonal favourites.
Having firmly settled into her new nest, Caleb’s debut album Carry Me Home is a fitting tribute to the jazz musician’s who inspired her. Effortless renditions of classics including “Every Time We Say Goodbye” and “My Funny Valetine” sit easily amongst new compositions by both Caleb and her husband Jo. Lead single “The Wind” is a tear-inducingly elegant tribute from Jo to Elisa. Elegantly capturing the essence of his heartfelt outpouring, the pair make an unbreakable musical team. A breathy reworking of “Swing Low” could divide opinions, with many favouring the original.
Simian Mobile Disco can pull in the crowds for their electro DJ sets and have been darlings of the scene since the release of debut Attack Sustain Decay Release in 2007. Along with Digitalism and Justice, their tracks helped the emergence of electro into popular rave culture, especially the bristling “Hustler” and tongue-in-cheek “Tits & Acid”. Taken from a first album which showed promise for their future productions, it is with much anticipation that their follow-up was awaited. Sadly a glut of guest vocalists are on board, but their talents are wasted on a serious of one dimensional tunes going nowhere.
Super-tough UK techno is given a breath of fresh, pulsating air thanks to newcomer Dare & Haste, aka Martin J. Radcliffe. The Birmingham producer has taken in the sounds of the city’s esteemed techno history, home to legendary underground nights Atomic Jam and House of God, and taken four years to polish off these hard as nails tunes that will rip dancefloors apart.
Jonathan Vandenbroeck (a.k.a Milow) first came to public attention when he came fourth in Belgium’s prestigious Humo’s Rock Rally. Failing to make the top three saw attention wane, but not disheartened, so Milow set about producing his own album The Bigger Picture with Unbelievable Truth’s Nigel Powell. His perseverance paid off and the album spawned the hit “One Of It”. 2008 saw a relaxed cover of the 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland collaboration “Ayo Technology” saw Belgian’s finest launched to the worldwide market when everyone from Kanye West to Perez Hilton posted his raunchy video on their blogs. Given his new found status the name on everyone’s tongues, Milow has taken the decision to release self-titled Milow internationally as a demonstration of the gems from from his back catalogue. Will the material stand up to the test, or will Milow go down as the man who did a good cover?
The problem with a style of music becoming popular, is that the market gets saturated by hundreds of aspiring musicians fitting the mould. The indie/Britpop scene has since the 90s grown in popularity, to the point that British bands seem to be unable to do anything knew. Occasionally an act like the Arctic Monkeys will arrive on the scene to shake it all up a bit, but then everything returns to normal. Hailing from Dronfield (near Sheffield), cast: for peru are hoping that they fall into the same brackets as their city-mates. Offering a mix of prog, post-rock and independent pop on debut album Attack Of The Pitching Machine, they position themselves precariously in an already saturated market.
Jamie Lloyd’s debut Trouble Within drew comparisons with electronic music innovators Matthew Herbert and Jamie Lidell. The critical acclaim lauded on the Australian helped him follow that up with a remix album aimed at the dancefloor which saw his versions of tunes by Quarion, Brennan Green and Zwicker find their way into the record bags of DJs such as Steve Bug, Laurent Garnier and Ame. Back with his second artist album, Lloyd combines the approaches of both for Beware of the Light, kicking off with tracks showcasing his singer/songwriter talents for easy listening and moving on to bass stompers more at home in clubs.
The premise of Music For Dreams collection Folk But Not Folk! 2 is to collate a selection of songs from different genres and binding them together under the as ever commercially unpopular heading ‘folk’. Referred to as the ‘f-word’, Music For Dreams appear determined to prove that there is more the folk music scene than possibly meets the eye. Folk But Not Folk! 2 is nothing if not diverse, boasting everything from 70s krautrock to Simon & Garfunkel inspired cover versions. Inevitably Mercury nominees Fionn Regan and Scott Matthews are present as well as singer-songwriter Josh Rouse, but also in the mix are avant-garde cellist Arthur Russell and the sunshine pop of Pajaro Sunrise. Having set-out to redefine a genre, have Music For Dreams been able to give the un-credible an edge? Can folk really be ‘cool’?
For those that are Piney Gir virigins like myself, you might be interested to know that Piney Gir (pronounced girl) is actually the stage alias of Kansas born, London based Angela Penhaligon. Having gained a music degree, Penhaligon debunked to the UK in 1998 to further her music studies at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design. Having been a member of the duo Vic 20, Penhaligon moved into solo territory with electronic album Peakahokahoo in 2004. The album was produced by A Scholar And A Physician and featured backing vocals from Erasure, alongside a duet with Simple Kid. Steering clear of original material, Penhaligon focussed on reworking classics. It was whilst touring the album that Penhaligion decided to play country versions of her material, which culminated in the release of 2006’s Hold Yer Horses.
Brooklyn beatmasters DJ/rupture and Matt Shadetek collaborate for their first extended project Solar Life Raft and have produced a streetwise mix encapsulating all that is good from dubtep, reggae and big beat. With an eclectic selection of tracks and the words of poets Caroline Bergvall and Elizabeth Alexander, who spoke at Obama’s inauguration, this is a fresh selection of American dance music on the cutting edge of bass-led sounds.
If this album were to be released by a winner of one of television’s many television talent show winners, it would easily be written off and soon enough find itself a new home at the bottom of a bargain basement bin. Soulbook is not the bog standard, sub-standard talent show winner release, it is in fact the latest release from blue-eyed soul singer Rod Stewart. Having worn out the Great American Songbook, his latest collection of covers territory far closer to his heart. Having recently declared his passion for soul singers Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, it is little surprise that the man James Brown described as ‘the best white soul singer’ has had a go at remaking some of the classics.
And God created Marie-France to be a muse for French artists. Indeed, Marie-France has inspired the Pantheon of the French scene, like the singer Serge Gainsbourg, director Andre Techine, photographers Jean-Baptiste Mondino or Pierre et Gilles, and even the French Minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand. About her, famous writer and director Marguerite Duras said: “It is not possible not to be troubled by her. Everyone. Women and men alike.”
Lewis’ second album Echo sees the light of day two years after her debut. The pressure is now on, no longer just a reality TV competition winner, Lewis has to deliver to a global market. The question is, will she Echo her previous triumph or will her career follow the paths of all the other ex-talent show winners to the bargain bin?
As boybands go, Westlife can’t complain. The shelf life of the pop factory four or five piece tends to peak at five years, so with eleven years already under their belt Westlife are doing well. Formed by Louis Walsh to follow-up Boyzone, the former five piece may have battled on without Brian McFadden since 2004, but they have finally decided it is time to leave behind the key changing stand up off the pedestal moments behind them. Now technically a man-band, Westlife have tried redefining themselves with the statemented album titling Where We Are.
Finland’s super DJ and remixer Jori Hulkkonen rarely fails to impress. Now onto his 10th studio album Man From Earth, it is hard to believe that the electro King has not run low on batteries yet. In the past 14 years, Hulkkonen has established himself as an original, boundary breaking artist — a reputation that is hard to keep up with. By titling his album pessimistically Man From Earth, Hulkkonen appears to be setting himself up for a fall. Could electro’s Superman really be losing his powers?
I was only nine-years-old when Kurt Cobain last graced a British stage. That appearance was on August 30th 1992 at the Reading Festival. Though aware of whom Nirvana were, my nine-year-old self had little knowledge of their musical importance, nor of the speculation about Cobain’s ill health and drug addiction in the lead up to their headline set. Having been ranked number one in Kerrang! Magazine’s “100 Gigs That Shook The World” and voted as “Nirvana’s Number One Greatest Moment” by fans in an NME poll, Live At Reading entered the DVD player with much anticipation and high expectations.
2001 saw the release of Nerina Pallot’s critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful debut Dear Frustrated Superstar. At the time, London-born, Jersey raise Pallot was signed to Polydor. Launched quietly, Pallot’s debut failed set the world alight. After her Polydor deal was ended, Pallot entered the music business wilderness, briefly seeing the light of day again when she guested on Delerium’s Chimera. Frustrated but not distracted, Pallot set about establishing her own label, Idaho and tried to set the world alight with her follow-up Fires. Though the album sold 100,000 copies, Pallot’s singles; the political “Everybody’s Gone To War” and the sublime “Sophia” didn’t storm up the charts. 2009, Pallot is back. Having attempted co-writing her material with big names including Linda Perry, Rob Davis and Rick Nowels, Pallot decided to brave it alone. Her third release, the aptly titled The Graduate contains eight self-penned, self-produced songs (two collaborations with new husband Andy Chatterley — “I Don’t Want To Go Out” and “The Right Side” — passed the test).
Composer and producer Jay Haze brings Fuckpony back to BPitch Control with a second album of slick house with leanings to pop. Haze has crafted these tunes without the oft-used samples of dance music so the horns, drums and piano all flow into each other thanks to his playing skills rather that of a computer. It is this personal connection with the music which helps Let the Love Flow win over your heart.
David Walters first came to public attention with his 2006 debut Awa, which in West Indian Creole means both ‘No’ and ‘Hello’. Having received much critical acclaim for his debut, Walters decided not to rush a follow-up. However, far from struggling with material for his second album Home, Walters decided to reflect upon his new lifestyle. Success has meant hitting the road and Home now has many connotations — his Home being the stage, the hotels and his family next in the West Indies.
When Pascal Arbez-Nicolas, AKA Vitalic, released electro masterpiece OK Cowboy in 2005, he did so on the back of a wave of anticipation among those who had heard his first four tracks as Poney EP on DJ Hell’s International DeeJay Gigolo Records. “La Rock 01” was already a massive club hit dropped in sets of all genres and the album also featured both parts of “Poney”, two other sure-fire floor-fillers together with the driving “My Friend Dario” and more chilled out moments such as “The Past”. It’s taken four years to produce follow-up Flashmob via V Live, a pulsating live performance featuring tracks old and new recorded in 2007, but it was well worth the wait.