A highly obvious list

2006 was a pretty fun year. I got to meet some fun pop stars, I got to warmup for the Scissor Sisters for the 2nd time, I got to write about music and showbiz for people, and  I got to play lots of music to people and expect them to dance.

Every year I claim I’m going to keep a text document with my favourite music in it, so when I come to the end of the year, it’s not HELL ON EARTH trying to figure out my end of year list. Of course I haven’t done this, but 2007 will be the year.

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The Top 3

Amy Winehouse – Back To Blackan instant classic. I never liked/paid any attention to La Winehouse and her current image didn’t make me warm to her either. But the moment I heard Back to Black (the song) I was hooked. She was great live at Koko in November and also takes home the Karinski award for television moment of the year.
Must-hear tracks: I’m No Good, Back To Black, Me & Mr Jones, Love is A Losing Game

Metric – Live it Out – Jesus Christ this band are AMAZING. There seems to be some dispute as to whether it came out in 2005 or 2006, but it’s the 2nd album from the Canadian indie kids who also form part of Broken Social Scene and stars. Brilliant live in Hammersmith in October, they’ll be supporting Bloc Party at The Astoria on 31 Jan and I’ll be doing everything I can to get a ticket.


Must-hear tracks
: Monster Hospital (ignore the hipsters and their MSTRKRAFT remix, just do the original), Poster of A Girl and Handshakes. Then find their first album and wet your pants at Dead Disco and Combat Baby.

The Knife – Silent Shout:
The Knife are Scandavian sibling weirdos. They make bleepy, glitchy
dance music that both disturbs and makes me want to go dancing mental
all at the same time. Kat made me go and see them live at The Scala back in March and the show was spectacular. I took James and Rik to see them a couple of months ago at The Forum and two new fans were born.
Must-hear tracks: Marble House, Silent Shout, Like A Pen

Best of the rest (in no particular order)

Jarvis – Jarvis – He came back and he conquered on record and live. Fat Children should be on your must-hear list for life.

Robbie Williams – Rudebox – Critics and long time fans might have wrinkled their noses up at it, but Rudebox gave us the first really interesting Robbie album sing I’ve Been Expecting You. Ignore the slightly hit and miss title track and move straight to Lovelight, possibly the most underrated single of the year.  Giggle at Lily Allen on Bongo Bong, robodance to Never Touch That Switch, and squee continually at She’s Madonna and We’re The Pet Shop Boys.

CSS – Cansei De Ser Sexy: Music is my bitch-house. Yes it is. If you’ve not heard of this band then you need to know that they are frightningly hip, but in a spectacularly accessible way. They were on Subpop but have just been signed to Warners who are making them a major priority for 2007. It’s poppy, glitchy, disco-indie fun (oh how many words can I use!).  They’ll be playing at Popstarz on Feb 2nd. How excited am I?

Boy Kill Boy – Civilian – I went through a phase of having a major crush on the lead singer of this band after going to see The Organ with Kim and him. Now I am over that, but I feel like I must have some loyalty to this album (even though I’ve not really listened to it very much). As far as massive indie hooks BKB are professionals. They’ve not done as well as I expected they might though despite Suzie and Civil Sin making me race to the dancefloor whenever I hear them.

Nelly Furtado – Loose : Er, hello? Where did the floaty, boring hippie go? Whatever Timberland put in her drinks made the lovely Nelly the pop artist of the year. Yes, Maneater was insanely brilliant at the time, but it’s All Good Things that makes me float into a state of bliss every time.

Lily Allen – Alright Still : Slag her off all you want. What? Now she’s successful she’s no longer cool? Bite me. Lily rocked 2006. Alright Still is the perfect album to sing along to word-perfect in practically any occasion. Plus she was rather ace at Notting Hill and Bestival.

Long Blondes – Somebody to Drive You Home : I wouldn’t have heard of the Long Blondes as early as I did if Shazam didn’t exist. In November 2005 we had Le Tigre’s JD Samson playing at Miss-Shapes and she played the fabulous Giddy Stratospheres. I in turn played it to lots of people from a record label who told me they thought it was shit. Losers. Anyway taking forever to get signed, finally Sheffield’s current best band released their debut album on Rough Trade. It’s bitchy and very sing-a-longy. See them at Popstarz on 9 Feb.

Gallant runners up would be The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes (which would probably be right up there if I hadn’t heard all the songs about a million times before the album came out) Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental, MorningwoodMorningwood (although god knows if that actually came out in 2006), Shiny Toy Guns – We Are Pilots (again 2006?), Teddybears – Cobrastyle, Frank – Devil’s Got Your Gold, Linda Sundblad – Oh My God and Beyonce – B’Day.

And I’m not saying that my list is better than albums from The Gossip, The Fratellis, Dangerous Muse, The Presets, Broken Social Scene, Bat For Lashes, Peter Bjorn and John, and  The Young Knives, as they are all CDs I’d like to hear but haven’t got round to yet. There is so much music to consume that I haven’t that just thinking about it makes me upset. Boo hoo.

REVIEW: Gwen Stefani – The Sweet Escape

GwenI really liked Love Angel Music Baby as soon as I heard it. What U Waitin’ For was a spectacular debut single, and the brilliant Bubble Pop Electric made me bounce round my room for weeks.

So, now, here comes The Sweet Escape, and I’m immediately put off it by her hair. Once again we see here the importance of proper popstar hair. I’m curious as to see how No Doubt fans will accept Gwen back. Hasn’t she just about lost all credibility?

The dreary ‘Orange County Girl’ send us reaching for the skip button as a whiny Gwen sings "I’m just an Orange County girl, living in an extraordinary world." Give us ‘Jenny from The Block’ anyday.

Read my review in full at Entertainment Wise .

Bargain Bin: I Made A Stupid Mistake

HAIRSTYLE #1

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I hated Gareth Gates when he was on Pop Idol. Like properly full out hated him. But this snivelling, stupid haired child from Bradford had captured the ££ signs in Simon Cowell’s eyes and swiftly became the nation’s sweetheart. Of course Gareth lost, but a record deal was merrily handed out. Boring covers  followed, but his 2nd single Anyone of Us, although now sounding quite outdated, has to be one of the most perfectly constructed pop songs of the last 5 years.

HAIRSTYLE #2

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Gareth went away for a couple of weeks and came back with some new songs and most importantly a really good new hairstyle. The importance of his hairstyle should not be underestimated. It was a proper popstar mop. It was hair that made popstar king of hair Dougie’s hair look like the hair of a dustman. But the album… well the album was interesting. For starters, who ever told Gareth that his 2nd album should be a double CD with one cd for ‘day’ and one for ‘night’. A double CD is pushing it even if you’re an established artist (see Back to Basics, Suit/Sweat), but when you’re a disposable pop artist – never attempt it.

Go Your Own Way’s first release used the trademarked Charity will get me a No.1 single approach, with a cover of Spirit In The Sky being released as the Official 2003 Comic Release song. Then came the rather wonderful Sunshine, cruelly dismissed by tabloids as a failure because it only reached no. 3.  Originally planned to be Lemar’s first single, it made Gareth sound like he’d grown up and even a little George Michael-y.  While the ‘Day’ album can unceremoniously be tossed into the bin and set alight,  ‘Night’ is full of grinding dancefloor could-be singles. I can’t seem to find my copy so am basing this on memories alone, but Absolutely was the highlight.

Then came the fall from grace. Jordan revealed Gareth had slept with her when she was 6 months pregnant. Gareth denied but later admitted the relationship. But it was too late, Jordan had already started using phrases like ‘poked the baby’s head’ and his label and fans had fallen out of love with him.

HAIRSTYLE #3
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Finding out that Gareth Gates did a intimate gig in late November has got me worried. I knew nothing about this until tonight having spent far too long over the past couple of weeks solely trying to figure out which Alesha single goes in my Top 10 of 06. Anyway, yes, he had a secret gig and there were screams all round in Paradise when an advert for a documentary called "Whatever Happened To Gareth Gates" aired after X Factor last week. This show will air on ITV1 this Saturday night at 7.30. The press release uses phrases such as sparked near riots … speaking fluently .. cautionary and brave. Brilliant.

Download Sunshine // Buy Go Your Own Way // Please send me Absolutely!

[n.b. this post is a bit over the top. He wasn’t that good, just Absolutely was amazing and anything that means I can write ‘poked the baby’ head’ y’know]

Who needs The Killers anymore?

This is Young Love – the brainchild of Dan Keyes and Island/Def Jam’s hot tip for 2007.  They make disco indie, and have been touring America supporting Lady Sov. Dan, originally a member of post-punkers Recover (who?), is the frontman and there doesn’t appear to be a lot of information about the other bandmembers, so I assume they are very much a "we play the instruments but we’re not allowed to talk" collective.

Discotech is the first (and so far only) track I’ve heard by the band. It’s immediate, and it makes me want to dance wildly round my room. It oozes New York, or at least what I expect fashionista indie New York sounds like when it’s oozing. It starts with a fast bassline and drums before another guitar layers in and the vocal hits. An amazing bridge and euphoric chorus gets me spinning round the room and it’s an example of potentially the best use of a vocoder since Victoria Beckham.

The Lindbergh Palace Remix (they did an ace remix of Mr Brightside that you might have heard me play) makes Discotech sound like something directly off Confessions on a Dancefloor. You can download that here and a pretty loyal cover of Standing In The Way Of Control here guilt free. The label have put them out there. Hooray.

Make sure you visit the bands myspace page to hear the superior original. The above video is the 2nd in a series of 3 spots advertising the album. I think it’s a great campaign, you can watch the first here .

REVIEW: Emma Bunton – Life In Mono

Bunton
I’m not sure where Emma Bunton comes in my list of favourite Spice Girls. Obviously the almighty Geri takes the top spot, but Emma, well, maybe third after Victoria. Anyway, dear mekonhead almost caused my ears to explode last week when I had to listen to her terrible new album. Emma darling, when will you realise you’re not living in an Austin Powers movie?

Pumping the BBC for all it’s worth with almost daily appearances on either Strictly Come Dancing or It Takes Two, you might have thought that the seemingly rush release of third album Life In Mono would be surrounded by masses of publicity. However, that probably wasn’t taking into account that on public votes Emma’s been the least favourite contentest for the last two weeks. As it is her lazy album charted at about 64. Well done.

"While she may be continuing "Free Me"s Sixties vibe ,
there’s nothing that even flirts with the beehive razzamatazz of
"Maybe". Tuneless opener "All I Need to Know" manages to make 4 minutes
feel like they last an hour, while the saccharine "He Loves Me Not" is
enough to make us vomit up the seven donuts we ate for lunch."

Read the rest of me being mean at BBC Music and avoid the album with care.

Shunt It

Londonbridge
Another site I write for is the ace London blog – Londonist. It’s a professional blog which is part of a worldwide chain covering cities such as Paris, Philadephia, and LA with the New York Branch being pretty massive over there.

Before I started writing for them, I read the site regularly and always heard about thing I’d never have known anything about otherwise. This still remains the same today prompting me into going to bizarre things I’d never heard of. My colleague Hazel writes about culture, events, arts and food – topics far more high brow that my music or entertainment nonsense.

A couple of weeks ago she wrote about the Shunt Lounge at London Bridge. I don’t really want to say too much about this, I just want you to trust me and go. It’s a bar in a very secret place and I guess it’s only through word of mouth that people are going as you couldn’t just find it. Going there makes you feel like you’ve discovered a secret bit of London and I love Hazel for telling me about it.  My old housemate Seldo saw a
production held in the same place a couple of years ago and urged us to
trust him and just go. We weren’t too keen not knowing what the hell it
was and sadly didn’t. How we regret this now.

The bar is open Wed, Thurs and Friday nights from 6pm until late and located on Joiner Street within London Bridge station. It’s free at the moment although membership from Jan – March for £25 for you and a friend is purchasable, otherwise expect to pay £5. What you need to do is come out of the tube station through the ticket hall and that puts you in Joiner Street (which is still part of the whole station complex – it’s got a pie shop on it.) Almost directly opposite the ticket hall is a door. Confidentally walk through that door and just keep going. Don’t let anything stop you.

I can’t find the damn Londonist post on it, but here is Hazel’s personal one. Resist reading it if you can – just go there. At the very least don’t tell whoever you take with you where you’re going, just let it be a surprise. James nearly wet himself at the excitement of it all. Perfect for anything, but particularly to show someone a cool bit of London or to create a very memorable date (you’ll at the very least almost certainly be forced to hold hands).

Oi deafo!

As you might know, I write music articles for various websites. One of my favourite sites to write for has a regularly used comments page on album reviews. Every so often I come across a really crap album and fans get mega cross and leave sometimes hilarious comments. I dread to think what the slagging I’ve given the Emma Bunton album will result in, but I like to look at them sometimes. Here are my latest favourites:

On Sugababes – Taller In More Ways: an album I called disappointing, annoying and dull (ahem)
"i fink sugababes r wiked n if u fink dey r
rubbish den ur rubish urself n u shudnt b aloud to rite on eya u shud
shut up n listen to it aleast dey can sing i bet u dnt like em cuz ur
jelous haha!! love yall.x.x.x.x.
"

"they are so cool but Kelly clarkon is better if u agree im me or els"
"
that is the worst reveiw ever and the guy should
be fired! the babes rock and they are 100000000 times better then the
catty girls 2loud! sugababes are pop queens and thats that.
"
"
this album is brilliant! i think tht the person who reviewed this don’t understand music!"
"
i like sheep n does any bod no hw 2 get da words
2 sugarbabes ugly ??? bi da way avent read this couldnt b bovered :)bi
the bi if u read this u r gay lol do u lov me ???? bibi XXX"
What does that last one even mean??

On Pink – I’m Not Dead,
"
Who is this person writing the review is she
deaf?
P!NK FOR LYF
"
"
I think P!NK is so great i’ve got her name tattooed on my body how about that for a fan"
"
ur just jealous that u dont have pinks success and brains"

LOVE IT! Bring it on Buntonites.