MPHO – Box & Locks

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDfLBY6PJrQ[/youtube]

MPHO first popped into the music world as the vocalist on 2003’s Booty La La by Bugz In The Attic. Since then she’s been operating round London town as MPHO Skeef, showing up as backing vocalists for various pop stars and has finally signed to a major label with her debut album due later this year.

‘Box N Locks’ is her first single and it’s an immediate assertion that this is an album full of in your face party pop. With lyrics about the assumption that just cos she’s a ‘brown girl’ she’ll be ‘making urban music’, we can’t help but shed a tiny tear for Remi Nicole (where is she?) Back to MPHO – the video manages to look very glossy and US friendly despite using just a few cheaply set up shots. I love, love the line about Leeds and of course the song is based around one of my all time favourite songs ‘Echo Beach’. I’m actually more familiar with the Dimestars version which I got off Anfunny’s site a few years ago and have banged out at Popstarz ever since. Now Box N Locks looks set to join it in my must play tunes and I can’t wait to hear the rest of her album ‘Pop Art’.

Download MPHO – Album Minimix
Download Dimestars – Echo Beach

Review: Black Eyed Peas – The E.N.D

Black Eyed Peas

Since the last Black Eyed Peas album four years ago, Fergie’s surprised us all by becoming one of the world’s most popular solo stars. Despite penning most of her album, Will.i.am had no such success with his own record, even if he managed to woo the UK by taking Queen Cheryl of Cole under his arm on Heartbreaker.

Now the pair are back with fellow BEP comrades Taboo and apl.de.ap for their fifth studio album. While Monkey Business was a fun party album, The E.N.D steps it up a gear and through the power of the mighty vocoder transforms the Peas into in your fave dancefloor creatures.

The dramatic Boom Boom Pow lays out the album’s intentions perfectly and with its “You’re so two thousand and LATE” snap gives us a brand new insult to throw out there. I Gotta Feeling practically screams it’s producer David Guetta from the off and fellow anthems Missing You and Rock That Body continue pummeling us with wild basslines and vocal snarling.

When it’s time to take a breath of fresh air from the all-night rave, Meet Me Halfway is there to show you what BEP doing a Coldplay song would sound like. Answer: very good. Fergie regains some of the softness she explored on Big Girls Don’t Cry on gorgeous love song Alive, but you’re advised to give her attempt at a Jamaican accent on the instantly skip-able Electric City a miss.

Daring and constantly innovative, the Black Eyed Peas have taken the techno/RnB door opened by Kanye West and flung it open wide.

Originally written for BBC Music

Review: Daniel Merriweather – Love And War

merriweather0609

With Robbie still out of action, and the charts being deluged by a wave of talented ladies, one thing we’re really missing is a great male singer.  James Morrison and Paulo Nutini might have had successes with their debut albums, but as their popularity falters Daniel Merriweather is ready to step in bringing his Aussie charm to our shores.

Originally introduced to us as the vocalist on Mark Ronson’s cover of Smiths classic ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’, Daniel teams up again with the ubiquitous Ronson for the whole of his debut album ‘Love and War’.  Perfectly designed for a long, hot summer, it’s a combination of the kind of classic old school soul we’d expect from anything Ronson lays his magical fingers on and contemporary blues featuring a variety of modern day stars such as Wale.

While debut single ‘Change’ might have wooed us all with it’s hypnotic piano riff, even more popular follow-up ‘Red’ is where Merriweather bares his soul telling of a heartbreak, with vocals that drip with anguish. With his impassioned pleas, it’s the perfect break-up song, if such a thing can exist, that belies his 26 years.

Heartbreak is a key theme here. Although ‘Cigarettes’ might sound jaunty on first listen, it’s all about missing the smell of his lady on his clothes. Similarly the blisteringly brilliant ‘Water And A Flame’, featuring fellow husky voiced Ronson alumni Adele, is a duet basted in pain with tales of empty houses, busy dial tones and the long, sad ache of desertion.

Perhaps then, not the happiest of albums, but if you’re missing a loved one, an absolutely essential listen.

Originally written for Orange Music

Popstarz Setlist 5/6/09

I was suffering from intense toothache while DJing on Friday (and must have drunk about a bottle and half of champagne, but more on that later) but it seems pain = a great DJ set. We’ve not played Scissor Sisters since leaving the Scala but hearing Comfortably Numb again was brilliant. Here’s what I played.

VV Brown – Crying Blood
Noisettes – Never Forget You
Dimestars – Echo Beach
The Knife – Heartbeats
La Roux – Bulletproof
Gossip – Heavy Cross

(more…)

ROBOT ROCK

robysopp

We’ve come to the conclusion recently that if you want to make a brilliant pop song it should somehow involve the word ‘robot’ in the title. Seriously, take a moment and have a think – is there one song involving shiny little mechanical men that doesn’t make you want to throw down your drink and pull shapes?

“I am sure there must be a bad song about robots,” ponders Torbjørn Brundtland when we confront him with our theory. “In 1982 when the average man on the street realised they could afford a vocoder there must have been hundreds of terrible songs called ‘Robotmuzik’ or something like that – but you know I just can’t think of one.” Tall, long haired and with a strange look in his eye, Torbjørn is half of unlikely pop duo Royksopp. Together for the last 10 years, they’ve recently released their latest and arguably best album ‘Junior’ after a four year hiatus spent “getting addicted to opium and showering together in the snow”.

It will come as no surprise then that their next single, heart-stoppingly entitled ‘The Girl and the Robot’ is their best yet. Pushing a spooky sounding cosmic choir together with agitating strings and an urgent throbbing bassline, it’s a tale of a obsessive and tragic girl which needed a killer vocal.  “We’d had a crush on her voice since we were teenagers and it’s been exciting to watch her grow and make some really interesting career choices.” Of course he’s talking about Robyn – Sweden’s fiercest pop musician and all round bittersweet pop siren. “Still I’m dying with every step I take” made us wail in ‘With Every Heartbeat’ and do not even get us started on her faltering scarf moment in ‘Be Mine’ or you’ll be here for hours listening to tales of woe about our one true love.

“I just love songs that make people dance but make them feel really sad while doing so,” squeaks Robyn excitedly when pressed on the traumatic issues. “Ultravox’s ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ sums it up perfectly!” Royksopp saw her love of all things melancholy and “hoped there was a slim chance she would come and work with two shabby guys from Norway”. Spending time at their studio in Bergen, Torbjørn can’t praise Robyn enough labelling her a ‘role model’ and a ‘down to earth lovely person.’  Together they captured the thoughts of depressive singletons or crazy obsessives everywhere with cheerful lyrics like ‘Fell asleep again in front of MTV’, ‘Rain starts falling & I just sit here by the phone’ and the full on panic of brilliant opening line ‘I go mental every time you go to work’. Weep.

Although ‘The Girl and the Robot’ is certainly ‘Junior’s most spectacular moment, ‘Tricky Tricky’ featuring Fever Ray / The Knife’s beaked lady Karin comes close. Appearing on stage with the band at their recent UK date at London’s Royal Festival Hall wearing an elaborate feathery headdress Grace Jones would kill for, her dark, gothic vocals are a world away from Robyn’s bursting emotions but just as staggering. Heavy album closer ‘It’s What I Want’ could pass quite happily as a Pet Shop Boys song while the euphoric ‘This Must Be It’ further strengthens the ‘Sopp’s regular collaborator Anneli Drecker as a voice not to be ignored. Long gone are the days when a Royksopp album could be thought of solely as the accompaniment to a middle class dinner party. While the retrospective sounding ‘Happy Up Here’ might trick you, Torbjørn emphasises that “Junior isn’t a full on dancefloor album but it’s certainly an invitation to party,” cheekily adding, “don’t listen to it every day though or you might go insane.”

Written for Attitude #180 but postponed till a later date which means this exact copy won’t ever really appear as it was written for the single release.

Hush Hush

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tL2c-7ovdqU[/youtube]

Do you think the Pussycat Dolls thought they’d lost touch with their gay audience?

(watch it ALL the way through)

Beware the 456

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUMipXqC6Wo[/youtube]

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the screening of the first episode of the next Torchwood series. Entitled ‘Children of Earth’ it’s a mini series that will be shown on BBC One at some undisclosed point this summer. As a massive fan of the modern day Whoniverse, it was exciting enough to see the show, never mind sit next to RTD in the orange juice and pastry lobby. I knew I was going to be interviewing lovely Welshman Gareth David Lloyd who plays Ianto the next day, but to make things even better we were taken into another room after the screening for roundtable sessions with John Barrowman, Gareth, Eve Myles and RTD himself. On a table with experience telly journalists all fighting to get their questions in it was quite an experience. Also watching a show with the cast and crew is a strange experience because they find random bits HILARIOUS.

My Torchwood piece (incidentally my first ever print TV article – exciting) will be on the shelves in Attitude out next week but here are some sneaky cuts that didn’t make it into the finished edition

* ‘I love his tongue in my mouth.’

* ‘He’s been my long time lover for years, that’s why we’ve given him more lines.’

* ‘I have to walk through the Tardis…’

* ‘It’s in John’s contract that we all look at him with doe-y eyes’

* ‘That person up there on the screen has changed my life.’

* ‘There are a couple more snogging scenes, but most of our time is spent saving the world’

Review: Escala – Escala

escala

After having been on our televisions now for many years, we’re surely all familiar with that certain glazed eye expression Simon Cowell gets when he sees the word ‘kerching’ appear. Before Susan Boyle trotted along, the most excited we’d seen him get on the oft cringe-worthy Britain’s Got Talent was when Escala, four pretty ladies playing a string quartet, powered their way through a classical adaptation of Wings classic ‘Live & Let Die’. While Simon and Piers might have been quick to over-enthusiastically declare the girls ‘totally original’, fans of near identical pretty-ladies-playing-a-string-quartet, Bond, were quick to shout up all this was done about eight years ago, even down to some of the song choices such as ‘Palladio’ and ‘KasHmir’.

Of course Bond weren’t riding the Cowell money-wagon, and when Escala want to record the Led Zep classic they have the added unexpected bonus of Slash rocking up with his guitar. Let’s make things clear – this is not a sweet classical album to sound track your middle class suburban dinner party. It’s a pacey, sometimes frantic trip through classical styles that lends itself to a fast, angry walk around the block or a particularly strenuous afternoon in with the Wii fit with only Ennio Morricone’s ‘Chi Mai’ and a toned down version of ‘Adagio For Strings’ leaving time for a breather.

Classical-o-phobe’s shouldn’t be scared away though. While the four members of the group might all be classically trained, Haydn and Mozart have been stored away for the future, with their debut concentrating on modern day composers such as Karl Jenkins and Craig Armstrong alongside pop songs like ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Clubbed to Death’ and amusingly Robert Miles’ ‘Children’. We might have heard it all before, but it still remains just as much refreshingly fun to listen to.

<i>Originally written for Orange Music</i>

Surrounded by Cilla

Cilla Black

Just thanks to flicking through catch up on Virgin last night I spotted that BBC Four had a whole night of awesome old light entertainment shows on last night surrounding the excellent Queens of British Pop series. The light entertainment variety show is something that doesn’t really exist anymore, or at least didn’t until the strangely awful Tonight’s The Night appeared last week.

Back in the 60s though it was all the rage, and the popular thing seemed to be to turn chart topping singers into TV personalities. ‘Cilla’ was one of those shows and ran impressively from 1968 – 76. In the episode shown last night, you’ll hear Cilla singing the McCartney written theme ‘Step Inside Love’, as well as performing with a bunch of dancing backing singers and duetting with Georgie Fame. Dusty sings a couple of solo tracks before Cilla joins her for a comedy duet and manages to crush her beehive into a hat. Dusty herself had a shorter 30 minute programme on the BBC in 1966. Watch it here and marvel at just how Jewish a young Tom Jones looks. I’m not sure there’s a better voice in the world out there.

Two other shows were broadcast which I’ve not yet watched. The Sandie Shaw Supplement features ‘Sandie Shaw performs music on the theme of transport and travel. She is filmed riding a horse on a Welsh beach, in a racing car, on a Marylebone station platform and in the studio, singing Route 66, Do you Know the Way to San Jose, Homeward Bound, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Girl Don’t Come, Got to Go, Planes and Boats and Planes, Day Tripper and Ticket to Ride.’ Skip forward then to 1979 for the strange concept of the Kate Bush Christmas Special. Recorded at Pebble Mill, Kate performs songs from her first two albums including a special guest starring from Peter Gabriel.

Watch them all here.