Geeky ramblings on Les Miserables

Les Miserables is my favourite musical. I first saw it in Manchester in 1999 but didn’t quite get it until 2nd time round in London. There’s so many different plots going on plus the confusion between Fantine, Cosette and Eponine had me baffled. Still nothing could get in the way of the songs which make me feel like my chest is about to tear apart through the pain.

This year it celebrates its 25th anniversary since its debut performance at the Barbican in London in 1985 and celebrates by the touring cast returning to that theatre for 3 weeks. The big day of celebration comes on October 2 when it’s possible to see 3 productions of the show all in the same day – 10am at Barbican, 2pm at Queens and then 7pm at the O2. My kind of mental.

Last night I went to see the touring production at the Barbican which featured Gareth Gates demonstrating some exceptionally odd, flat hair in his role as Marius but unexpectedly some really great acting. Unfortunately there was no encore featuring a mash-up of Anyone of Us and Sunshine.

Tickets are in no way cheap at £65 but this production almost felt like the definitive one. It’s a much re-worked, totally new production which features lush orchestration and, much to the horror of traditionals, no revolving stage. Instead the sets were wonderfully accompanied by a projected backdrop that at points made you feel like you were in an episode of Knightmare (this is a good thing). In particular I love the use of the projector during Do You Hear The People Sing, the sewer scenes and the fascinating, baffling way they used it in Javert’s suicide.

When it comes to music, the West End always sounds like it’s a couple of casio keyboards that are being played off a tape. Here we had a real life orchestra making the songs sound even fuller and effective than normal. ‘Stars’ was given a whole new lease of life with the audience jumping to their feet and the delicate ‘Bring Him Home’ was even more effective. Although ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ was a bit pitchy, the mighty ‘On My Own’ was filled with more oomph and anger than normal as Rosalind James’ poured her guts into a faster rendition of the showstopped. My favourite song from the show is ‘A Heart Full of Love’ and Katie Hall and Gareth Gates played it perfectly with a mixture of shyness and excitement. Still, it’s Eponine that makes me sob like a sad panda.

Les Miserables at The Barbican until 2 October. If I ever spot a man wearing the t-shirt to the left I am immediately proposing.

Lauren Pritchard

Island Records seem to be having quite a tough time launching new artists over the last couple of years. They’ve managed to break Mumford & Sons and Florence & The Machine but they both sprung from a really natural indie scene growth. Their latest female popstar is 22 year old Tennessee born singer Lauren Pritchard. She’s cute, a former cast member of the original Spring Awakening line up on Broadway, has mastered the tortured soul routine and ticks many a box for the adult contemporary Radio 2 audience. The problem remains that though they seem totally different artists, the best moments of Lauren’s debut album ‘Wasted In Jackson’ just sound Amy-lite.

Four years (!!!) after its release “Back to Black” is still having a massive influence on the music scene in the UK. If you’re making indie music, no one cares. If you’re making electronic sounding r&b you’re doing great, but if you’re making anything with a slight tortured hint of retro or soul then it’s tough. Daniel Merriweather and Adele made it but great albums from the likes of Leon Jean Marie and The Rumble Strips (all involved Amy producer Mark Ronson) have made absolutely no impact and I think Lauren could be looking at the same outcome.

Her debut single (and most Amy) ‘Painkillers’ is a killer track that deserved to be huge but I think I’d prefer to hear it from Daniel Merriweather. Her new single ‘Not The Drinking’ is nice enough, but has a cute video which sees them make the most of the Broadway talent recessed in Lauren’s bones and go for the Feist 1234 effect.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8A9Ys0wh5I[/youtube]

More from her showcase from Mr Discopop.

Cheryl 2.0

Lots of Girls Aloud fun this week. Nadine’s team had their first proper meeting planning ahead on Tuesday and then various journalists like NOTW Dan have been played some tracks from the album. The Tesco situation is yet to be revealed to the public, but I’m intrigued to know if it means the songs will be thus excluded from iTunes. Anyway, as good as the music might be (which I think peeps will get to hear next week), will she be able to conquer the media & general public? To me, she’s totally unlikeable. If you’ve not seen it before then you must watch this absolutely priceless clip of Nadine’s first TV appearance on the original Irish Popstars. It’s jaw-dropping, peep through your fingers car crash tv.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJCiztHvXnI[/youtube]Possibly my favourite video on the internet…

And perfectly timed, there’s a new Cheryl single. I have no doubt that this will have vanished by the time anyone gets into work, but in the meantime check out Promise This (or Promises? Her accent makes it pretty hard to tell). French children’s song ‘Alouette’ is obviously the hot thing in songwriting world at the moment with MDMR banging on about it in Mark Ronson’s magnificent ‘Bang Bang Bang’ and now this clip begining with Cheryl singing it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqROBk2VJpg[/youtube]

‘Video clip no longer avaliable’

Katy B

katyb

20 year old Katy B is suddenly becoming an iconic British musician for the sound of 2010. It feels like she’s blown up onto the Radio 1 A-List from nowhere, but in fact she’s been a-toiling via a Brit school education for a few years and having teamed up with Rinse FM and their label, has been working with the likes of Zinc and Benga on her new tracks.

‘Katy on a Mission’ is her first single proper out August 20th, but I’m much more about in love with ‘Louder’. I like a popstar who can enunciate, and here her warm yet scratchy tones couple with wobbly dubstep basslines (which I think I’ll always find a bit amusing’) on this tale of an unwillingness to stop the party.

‘I’ve been awake for a day now, 24 hours, yet still I want it louder’

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1Ynf2ScKiA[/youtube]

Love her.

Also I mention DJ Zinc like I have an idea who he is. I don’t, but Ed just sent me this other production from him. Total party anthem.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKB3hJBvAZY[/youtube]

Maximum Balloon

I have very little idea who TV on the Radio are. I know they don’t make stonky electro-pop though, so it’s a bit of a woop woop to discover 1/3 of the band, David Sitek, has popped off to make just that with solo project Maximum Balloon.

The forthcoming album is 10 songs described as ‘thick, noisy and funky, with glam’ by Spin with each featuring vocals from different artists, including Little Dragon, Karen O and David Byrne.

Two tracks are out there so far: ‘Tiger’, whose funky afrobeat sound, you might have heard on the Daisy Lowe for Esquire pant moistening promo; and the Little Dragon featured ‘If You Return’ which combines a stuttering drumbeat with some chilly electronica. I’m really looking forward to the album, but for now here’s the pretty promo for ‘If You Return’. I’m assuming it’s a teaser rather than the whole thing?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5z85llbyN0[/youtube]

Rehab in Jamaica

There are certain songs I’ve heard so many times that I feel like I never need to hear again in my life. This might change when the burn has healed but Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ is certainly one of them. Or at least her version.

Now there’s a new version of the single being released in a few weeks by The Jolly Boys, a mento band from Jamaica who’ve been making music for over 60 years. Back in the 1940s they used to be quite the name on the Hollywood party circuit playing in particular for Errol Flynn after he bougth Port Antonio’s Navy Island and turned it into a party zone. His wife, Patrice, is the lady in the red hat in the video.

Just how much fun were they having making this video. there’s no way you can’t break into a grin watching the hugely charmismatic 72 year old lead singer Albert. He’s even the youngest member of the band. Brilliant.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqaadTlATqk[/youtube]

‘Rehab’ is out 20th September on Wall of Sound and they’re playing a couple of live dates in the UK next week.

Lana Del Ray

Homemade videos need to have that special something to make you filter them out from your everyday norm. Hurts had the eyebrow raising dancing lady on their first £20 video and now Lana Del Ray weaves together old movies, bottles of drink and herself wearing a movie star wig in black & white.

The movie star image is what Lana’s rocking. Her real name is plain old Lizzy Grant and according to her press release she’s been roaming the musical world for a little while. Who hasn’t though? Here’s an old interview with plain old Lizzy from a couple of years ago. Now though she’s in London and spending time songwriting with pop legend Biffco. There’s a slight hint of Paloma in her voice, but an altogether much darker, sometimes sulkier, sometimes realer sound. ‘Kinda Outta Luck’ sounds like it belongs straight on a Tarantino soundtrack and the sinister elements to her voice remind me a lot of The Pierces. This one could go anywhere from chilling, sexy acoustic to sultry pop. Exciting.

Download Lana Del Ray – Diet MTN Dew for free.

The Garden

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs certainly have their google technique nailed with that name. This is the video for their new, totally huge sounding, single ‘Garden’.

Louise of jaunty folksters Lulu & the Lampshades probably makes music I’d never listen to but sounds great here as the female vocalist. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is though just one man – the brilliantly named Orlando Higginbottom – who I’m told does ridiculously fantastic things live.

It totally rips of this though, no?