Sparkadia – Mary

When Sparkadia released their 2008 album Postcards, they were a duo making punchy guitar music. Soon after the album release the band fell apart, but singer Alex Burnett decided to keep the name and (amazing quote from the press release) move to East London with wild ideas! Sound the Dalston klaxon.

Thankfully the music hasn’t gone day-glo but it’s certainly gone a little more pop, a little more musical theatre and has had the echo cranked up. ‘Mary’ is the first single from the new project and as PaulyG said, it’s almost on the verge of going into a ‘Muse-style wig-out’ at any moment as it builds from a grumpy wallow to a dramatic, unable to cope, facepalm via a rather good keychange. Released on Feb 14 via the new label from Hoxton clubnight Gold Dust, you can download ‘Mary’ free below.

p.s. Don’t be alarmed by the words Dalston or Hoxton. It’s more Welwyn Garden City.

Kanye reversioned by Cello

Kanye’s All of The Lights is going to take some beating in end of the year lists come December. Not only is it a brilliant pop song but the featured list reads like a Grammys megamix. I’ve just listened to it 6 times in a row trying to spot everyone but it amazingly features Rihanna, Fergie, Alicia Keys, John Legend, The-Dream, Fergie, Alicia Keys, Elton John, Elly Jackson, Charlie Wilson, Tony Williams, Kid Cudi and Ryan Leslie.

The video is due next week but in the meantime I’ve just watched this performance of the song by the Portland Cello Project. As you can see from their repertoire they’re an orchestra who don’t just play traditional classical music. There’s even some Bon Jovi and The Super Mario Bros Theme Song in there. This performance of ‘All of the Lights’ is awesome but I don’t think they quite nail it as much as the Vitamin String Quartet doing Rebellion (Lies).


Shot Yourself in the Foot Again

I’m not a huge fan of Example. I think he’s a little bit fake (is that really your accent?) and when I saw him at Wireless last year it was all a bit hooligan like (twin set and pearls!). There’s no denying though that Kickstarts is rather a large tune, and now he’s teamed up with Skream to get all dubstep. It’s a really charty ‘phat’ dubstep sound but at least it suits him so is less comedy than Britney’s.

This could be pretty big chart wise I reckon, but instead they’ve decided to release it as a free single via soundcloud, so grab away. The video is directed by Example himself and is great, until the last 10 seconds when it goes TOTALLY DIABOLICAL.


Universal and Sony enter 2011

In the age of music downloads, it’s long seemed old fashioned to have release dates for singles that happen 6 or 7 weeks after you’ve first heard the song on the radio. The reason labels do it is simple – it allows them to build a ‘plot’ for a record, gathering coverage and building hype; as well as having what has traditionally been thought of as the best shot at getting a #1. In the last 18 months or so, however, there’s been more of a move to records being released a couple of weeks early and then gradually climbing the chart.

Now Universal and Sony Music have decided climbing the charts is a fine thing to happen and announced that in order to ‘combat piracy’ they will now be releasing singles as soon as they hit radio. Whether this is based on a first play which sometimes happens 12 – 15 weeks before release (see Cheryl’s The Flood on Moyles in September?) or when it is added to a major radio group’s playlist remains to be seen.

It’s a huge deal though and will cause the biggest shake-up for the charts in recent history, combating claims that chart shows are pointless and out of date. Watching a record climb will be exciting. But there will also be lots of other impacts. Does the super fan who buys the single the moment it comes out so they have a copy, then feel compelled to buy it again the week it most looks like it might go to #1 to help it on its way? Will more records completely disappear as not everything that enters at #80 climbs? In terms of promo, labels will probably still have a 6 week off ‘impact date’ but how will radio and television playlists deal with this? How will this impact the other labels not working immediate releases? And how will this impact the A&R cycle of deciding when to drop acts based on their performance? Will the media really be able to get their heads round a record building and building rather than immediately labeling something as a flop?

It’s an exciting time, both as someone who consumes music and loves the chart, and from the other side as someone who works in promo for Sony Music. The use of Jessie J as an illustration about how this can work though is on slightly shaky ground. To your average music consumer it does indeed look like Jessie J has had a magnificent success story and she has done amazingly well entering at #25, dipping to #34 and now sitting at #2 in the official charts. As much as I despise her, that’s totally awesome and shows how given a long promotional campaign you can really build a hit. In reality though, ‘Do It Like A Dude’ has been treated by the Radio 1 playlist team unlike anything I can think of. Normally a record might get added up front somewhere between 6 and 4 weeks up front. It’ll enter on the INDWT or C list depending on the artist (some as big as Britney etc can go straight onto the B). Then depending on how the record is doing with the audience and how much it’s gaining momentum the track will gradually grow. In week of release however, Radio 1 have continually dropped records on that week’s playlist if they aren’t having much of a chart performance. It’s happened time and time again and is rubbish for the bands because it really doesn’t help them gather any momentum but good for the station because it keeps their music fresh. It does show a lack of faith in a record though – I think if you decide you’re supporting a new artist, then support them. Don’t drop them at the first sign of trouble. Give it a chance.

With Jessie J though, the 2nd week dip to #34 should have been enough to bounce it straight off the Radio 1 playlist. However there was no doubt that she was going to win the Sound of 2011 poll, so the record was given extraordinary treatment by Radio 1 as they pushed it further and further up the playlist to where it now sits on the A list, has maximum rotation and of course climbs the chart. Find me another record they’ve treated this well… With this new release method, it’s something they’re going to have to do more and more.