All posts by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

Festive 15 for ’15

Award winning music journalist, Dr Jonathan O’Shea, kindly agreed to share his top 15 tracks of 2015 with Kureen – let us know your thoughts in the comment section below the article. 

Chemical Brothers

The Festive Fifteen, my favourite tracks of the year, has become an accidental annual tradition (I think this is the seventh one) and was initially inspired by John Peel’s Festive 50. Like pointless paper crowns, turkey incineration and being derisive about sprouts, this is one seasonal routine which is set to continue ad infinitum.

Between Christmas and the New Year, I like to pore over the music that’s been pumped into the ether over the past twelve months and somehow make sense of it all by pointlessly ranking it. Then I present it to the world in classic chart countdown style: 15 to 1 (not to be confused with William G Stewart’s bad-ass 90s game show).

So here’s the Festive Fifteen ’15;

15. What Went Down – Foals

Pulsing, persistent beat and increasingly frenzied lyrics from the inappropriately-named indie rockers.

14. Leaving the City – Joanna Newsom

The planet’s most unique and oblique pop-harpist takes a leap into new, questing territory, with a less sparse, more densely developed sound than usual.

13. Mr Noah – Panda Bear

Some pretty weird-ass stuff here, about a dog being bitten on his leg…? Sounds like it was recorded on a demonically distorted hurdy-gurdy in 2048 and sent back in time through a subterranean vortex.

12. Go – Chemical Brothers ft. Q-Tip

Begins amid frantic bongos and slashing light-sabres (honestly); Q-Tip’s muscular rap provides the backbone for a Daft Punk-style synth-a-thon.

11. Go Out Blur

The kind of swaggering anthem Damon & co relentlessly pumped out in their prime.

10. Singularity – New Order

One of the darker tracks from Music Complete focuses on dissatisfaction with everyday inertia and mourns the loss of ex-bandmate Ian Curtis.

9. Tutti Frutti – New Order ft. Elly Jackson

Could easily be filed under ‘90s nostalgia, but a beguiling duet with La Roux’s Elly Jackson elevates this playful track to something more airily uplifting.

8. Detroit – Gaz Coombes

Probably the finest moment of the ex-Supergrass frontman’s solo career. A tale of longing for home while in a distant land: effortlessly melodic, with a soul-stirring arrangement.

7. City – Spring King

Breathless stomper; designed to thrash about in the dark to. Repeat: “Who am I? What does it matter?”

6. Strange Combinations Teleman

Gently insistent and mildly hypnotic stuff. Perhaps the strangest combination here is the electro beat and mild-mannered vocal style, but it works wonderfully.

5. Borders – M.I.A

Controversial subject matter – the refugee crisis and a ‘f*ck the system’ message – delivered in typically laconic style. Sure, it’s a little lyrically banal, but at least she seems to stand for something.

4. Bodies – Farao

Totally irresistible combination of plaintive Scandinavian vocalist and inexorable rhythms.

3. Swords (Matahdatah Scroll 01 “Broader Than A Border”) – M.I.A.

Opens with the rhythmic clashing of swords and a pulsing beat which underpins a culture-clash classic. Check out the genuinely awesome M.I.A-directed double video for this new track and 2013’s ‘Warriors’.

2. Dreams – Beck

Reminiscent of his upbeat ‘Guero’-era danceable demi-anthems, this track – devoted to the restorative power of dreams – is thickly layered with catchy aural confections…it’s surely the funksome highpoint of Beck’s meandering later career.

1. Don’t Breathe Out – Roots Manuva.

soul-stirring sample of portly baritone Barry White’s ‘Honey Please, Can’t Ya See’ forms the unlikely bedrock of this gloriously gospel-tinged track. The Walrus of Love’s slightly sickly love letter morphs into something altogether more mystical and compelling under the spell of Stockwell’s philosophical wordsmith.

Fin.

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

November Playlist: Music Reviews

Jonathan O’Shea continues his pursuit of musical perfection with November’s instalment of his ever expanding playlist – this one features Weezer, but there isn’t an inhaler in sight…

Don’t Breathe Out – Roots Manuva

A soul-stirring sample of portly baritone Barry White’s ‘Honey Please, Can’t Ya See’ forms the unlikely bedrock of this gloriously gospel-tinged track. The orchestral intro to the Walrus of Love’s slightly sickly love letter morphs into something altogether more mystical and compelling under the spell of Stockwell’s philosophical wordsmith, Roots Manuva.

The king of – as he says in the song’s opening throes – ‘twist and adapt’, Roots uses his undimmed gift for vivid imagery to full effect. From his self-proclaimed ‘pulpit’ he delivers a flowing sermon about holding onto a ‘golden breath’ and uplifting invocations of the ‘new black Jesus’. It’s a return to familiar (but fertile) ground for an artist more concerned with espousing his idiosyncratic version of spirituality than figuring out his current place in the UK hip-hop firmament. But Rodney Smith’s trademark humour isn’t entirely absent: with talk of ‘hide the salami’ and ‘flopping it out’ prompting an adolescent grin.

One of his most lyrically potent moments of recent years, ‘Don’t Breathe Out’ is the third single release from Roots Manuva’s sixth studio album, Bleeds, which saw the light of day just last week.

 –

Thank God for Girls – Weezer

Already this new Weezer track has been interpreted by some imaginative souls as a ‘feminist anthem’, which might be pushing it a bit seeing as the major female role in Rivers Cuomo’s latest verbose rock anthem is a cannoli-maker. Instead, it’s less Taylor Swift girl-power-pop, more middle-aged rock-band paean to women from a particularly male perspective.

God grinding up and microwaving Adam’s rib ‘on the popcorn setting’ is just one of many offbeat images from a song packed with reasons to bow before the fairer sex, while the middle verse focuses on the desperate protagonist’s longing for a deliciously distant femme from an underwear catalogue.

Some of the indie veterans’ more recent output has been bordering on the execrable, so the zippy, infectious ‘Thank God For Girls’ indicates a promising return to form, coming in the slipstream of last year’s ‘Everything Will Be Alright In The End’ LP. The single’s cover art, featuring Pope Francis sharing convivialities with adoring female fans, is an instant classic-in-the-making too.

 –

Persephone Dreams – NCZA Lines 

Undeniable under (and over) tones of south coast synth-stars Metronomy should come as no surprise on ‘Persephone Dreams’, given that NCZA Lines provided the support on their UK tour last year. Singer and lyricist Michael Lovett is also a self-declared fan of R&B royalty Aaliyah, Ciara and Bajan bottom-barer, Rihanna; though those influences are felt very distantly here.

His electro-pop stylings first caused a stir when an eponymous debut album arrived in 2012, full of silky falsettos and sophisticated sci-fi imagery. Since then, one-time indie band bassist Lovett has been joined by ex-Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley and Hot Chip collaborator Sarah Jones. Their influence has evidently brought about some subtle changes which can be heard on this new single. Intriguingly, the slinky six-minute semi-epic breaks into a sort of steel drums vs synths battle half way through, but carries such implausible sonic adventures off in rare style.

NCZA Lines will be on the bill at the Moshi Moshi label’s new By The Sea festival at Dreamland theme park in Margate, on Nov 13th. An eagerly awaited new album, ‘Infinite Summer’, follows on January 22.

– 

Also recommended this month


Breaker
– Deerhunter
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCVWrqxyt3Y

In My Eyes – Best Coast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhGwARswL_o

Machine – Euros Childs http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/records/n3cjm9

Like what you’ve heard? Infuriated by it? Just want to troll? Leave a comment below! Follow Jonathan O’Shea on Twitter by clicking here.

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

October Playlist: Music Reviews

Music; it’s not all One Direction and Fine Young Cannibals. Jonathan O’Shea shares his singles of the month, and there isn’t a Zayn Malik themed barbershop quartet in sight.

Window Shades – U.S. Girls

Skilfully structured around an irresistible deep disco beat ‘magpied’ (i.e. ‘nicked’) from Gloria Ann Taylor’s cult classic ‘Love is a Hurting Thing’, ‘Window Shades’ begins with a intriguingly haunting piano refrain and builds to a heart-rending tale of love lost. Accompanied by another bewitching (and self-directed) video, following the similarly mystical ‘Woman’s Work’ promo, this genre-defying single release confirms U.S. Girls as considerable new creative force.

Somehow this track seems just a smidgen under-cooked though; slightly running out of steam mid-way through. Still, it’s another stimulating taste of the idiosyncratic delicacies to expect from Toronto-based Meg Remy’s debut album ‘Half Free’, recently released on 4AD Records.

 

Kuma KitaDeerhoof

Deerhoof

Confuse and astound your neighbours as you jangle your flesh to the frantic, demi-demented electro-wibblings of the loveably strange Deerhoof. A malfunctioning futuristic story-bot tells a twisted tale of an encounter with a brown bear amid intermittently pulsing beats. It’s massively infectious, unreasonably joyous and can be found on the Post Tangent compilation, released in aid of Syrian refugees stranded in Calais.

Not convinced? OK, the lyrics:

Once upon a time/Kumanakumanakuma/Am I safe here?/Is that is that a bear?/Let’s play dead. Play dead!/That is that is a bear. Big and brown head!/Saying Gao Gao/Showing teeth and menacing bang bang bang/Cruel nature, eat or eaten/Everyone waltz.

Resist that.

Fever Elvis Presley & Michael Buble/
Bad Blood – Ryan Adams

Ever dug up your beloved pet rabbit – let’s call him Snowy – and sinisterly waggled his mangy, mangled remains around in the pretence that the once-lovely bundle of fluffy fun is still alive? No, neither have I. But Michael Buble has. Well, effectively.

This pseudo ‘duet’ between the super-syrupy auto-tuned crooner (AKA Micky Bubbles) and the greatest hip-swinger in rock history makes a sick mockery of the King’s considerable legacy. Presumably prompted more by desperation and greed than any desire to produce something enduringly special, this is the latest of innumerable covers of Little Willie John’s 1962 standard. In fact, Elvis obviously once recorded it himself – y’know, when he was alive and all – so why not just leave it at that?

Similarly, what can alt-crooner Ryan Adams’ motivation really be for recording – and actually releasing – an entire Taylor Swift album (‘1989’), so soon after it was initially a hit for the new queen of pop? Sure, he’s made a pleasant enough job of the universally adored Tay-Tay’s ‘Bad Blood’, but what’s the point? And she’s not even dead (yet)!

Coming soon: Harry Styles jives with the decomposing corpse of Ginger Rogers, while Miley Cyrus twerks malevolently in Marlon Brando’s rotting face…in the exclusive video for Bing Crosby and Peter Andre’s new festive EP, ‘Bing & Pete’s I’m Dreaming of an Insania Christmas’.

 

Also recommended this month

 

Paydirt – Horse Party

Singularity – New Order

A Change – Participant 

Let us know your tracks of the month and win a free iPod! Golf bag! Date with a pop-star! Old phone with nude photos of ex-gf that I can’t find a charger for! Sainsbury’s carrier bag worth 5p!

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

September Playlist: Music Reviews

Jonathan O’Shea serves up his monthly musical musings for Kureen readers to consume in the September playlist – make sure to let us know your opinions in the comment section below!

Sapokanikan – Joanna Newsom

Airfix-light, playfully plinking piano opens a wrought tale about the colonisation of a Native American settlement that preceded Manhattan. The accompanying video, evocatively directed by Hollywood hot-property Paul Thomas Anderson (‘There Will Be Blood’, ‘Boogie Nights’, ‘Magnolia’) follows Newsom as she strides purposefully across New York, a little like the rootless wanderer played by Greta Gerwig in ‘Frances Ha’; her long skirt billowing along to the parping brass flourishes.

Always charismatic and idiosyncratic in equal measure, the Californian harpist here showcases her imaginative take on events that have shaped NY’s Greenwich Village across the years. A distinctly (inevitable comparison alert!) Kate Bush-esque manic crescendo brings this typically unorthodox, but vivid ballad to its conclusion. Though it follows a familiar formula, the bouncy lightness and engaging lyricism of ‘Sapokanikan’ whets the appetite for Newsom’s upcoming new material.

‘Divers’– a double album – is her much-anticipated fourth LP, which follows in the autumn.

 

One Thing – Roots Manuva

As befitting a man named Rodney, Roots Manuva is unafraid to use prosaic and everyday imagery to illustrate his complex, thought-provoking rhymes.  Following his past declaration of affection for cheese on toast (‘Witness’); scrambled eggs and Walkers crisps are name-checked in this potent latest track.

Money is the ‘one thing’ on Roots’ mind here. A veteran of social commentary from his South London stronghold, he pointedly comments on the obscenity of the social welfare situation while paradoxically dreaming the consumer dream (of Lamborghinis and snakeskin bikinis). Dark, hypnotic production by Switch lends a sense of urgency to the message from the genre-defying instigator.

Fresh from the festival scene and supporting Blur at Hyde Park this summer, a re-energised Roots Manuva releases new album ‘Bleeds’ in October.

 

Snakeskin Deerhunter

Self-styled U.S. indie darling, Bradford Cox, has recently been dabbling in acting (‘Dallas Buyers Club’) and his ongoing solo project, Atlas Sound. But his most revered work comes as part of the fluid 4/5-piece band, Deerhunter. They return with new album ‘Fading Frontier’, concocted in the group’s hometown of Atlanta this year.

“I was born already nailed to the cross” is a killer opening line, if one which is hardly indicative of a sprightly clap-along tune such as this. The sinuously-delivered lyrics to ‘Snakeskin’ appear to be autobiographical – perhaps referencing the lead singer’s unusual adolescence (illness and isolation) and/or his recent unfortunate collision with a car. Funky, melodic and highly accessible; this track offers a good entry-point into Cox’s weird and wonderful world for those who are yet to experience its munificent pleasures.

Deerhunter will return to these shores in October/November; with gigs in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Brighton and London.

– 

Also recommended this month

 

Gratitude – Talib Kweli.
Hip-hop mastery; inciting us to ‘Fuck The Money’ (but not literally, that’d end messily).

Bodies – Farao.
Soaring and strident stuff from the “Scandi indie-folk goddess”.

Woman’s Work – U.S. Girls.
Like a demented Santigold. Sample YouTube comment: “This is some next level shit!”

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

July Playlist: Music Reviews

Jonathan O’Shea returns with a new monthly column reviewing the best music releases of the month. For July he’s selected a quartet of “must hear” tracks for Kureen subscribers to get their lug holes around.

Bodyline – Peaches

Ripe as ever, the pornographic priestess Peaches is back. Typically lascivious and with trademark urgency, ‘Bodyline’ is – somewhat disappointingly – not about the 1932/33 Ashes tour (ask your great-granddad). Instead, it’s more about her familiar themes of submitting to animalistic impulses and seeking personal freedom.

Implicit references to willies are fewer than usual, as the returning electro queen corrals the guitar skills of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner to augment her belligerent vocal style. Two-and-a-half minutes of insistent suggestiveness climaxes in wailing sirens on this interim single, released ahead of her forthcoming new album (released in September). As Peaches preaches: “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it”.

Go – The Chemical Brothers ft Q-Tip

Grand Old Dukes of electronica, The Chemical Brothers, are also back among the airwaves, re-uniting with rap royalty, Q-Tip (following up their impressive collaboration on 2008’s ‘Galvanize’). ‘Go’ begins amid frantic bongos and slashing light-sabres (honestly); and Q-Tip’s muscular rap provides the backbone for a familiar Daft Punk-style synth-a-thon.

This dancefloor-friendly slice is escorted by a characteristically oblique Michel Gondry video. Gondry, who has previously conjured magical moving images to accompany the sounds of (among others) the White Stripes, Metronomy and Paul McCartney, presents an alluring troupe of overgrown Oompa-Loompas practicing sailing drills/Morris dancing in a futuristic fortress. At least that’s my interpretation of it.

‘Cause I’m a Man – Tame Impala

Australia’s Tame Impala have received an avalanche of positive acclaim for their third album, ‘Currents’, which apparently expands their repertoire from psych-rock to electro, disco and new romanticism. This dreamy, 80s-flavoured Prince-esque letter of apology for being ‘typically male’ (i.e. acting before thinking) is a good indicator of the new direction.

The band’s musical mastermind, Kevin Parker, has stated his aim to hear their latest creations emanating from dancefloors – presumably rather than the bedroom windows of stoned students. This stylish slow groove could fulfil that wish in a last-song-of-the-night kind of way.

Dreams – Beck

Not another Fleetwood Mac cover, mercifully. But pop is constantly chewing on itself and, here, alt-veteran Beck serves up an MGMT-flecked melange: the song’s eclectic feel shamelessly recalls their ‘Electric Feel’. It works brilliantly; even threatening to infiltrate the ‘mainstream’ by featuring in TV ads and various musical montages of late.

Reminiscent of his upbeat ‘Guero’-era danceable demi-anthems, this track – devoted to the restorative power of dreams – is thickly layered with catchy aural confections. Never outstaying its welcome at five minutes, it’s surely the funksome highpoint of Beck’s meandering later career.

Also recommended this month

 

Kings Never Die – Eminem ft Gwen Stefani.

Comeback rant featuring boxing legend Riddick Bowe (in the lyrics, sadly not rapping.)

What Went Down – Foals.

Lung-bursting, stock-in-trade anthem by the ascendant kings of UK guitar music.

Them Changes – Thundercat.

Soul-stirring stuff from bass boss Stephen Bruner.

Tune in again next month to see which tracks J O’S selects as August’s top tunes. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

The Festive 15. Part 3: 5-1

2015 is upon us, and despite Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s claims to the contrary, we’re still not floating around on hover boards and there hasn’t been a peep yet about the production of Jaws 19

Something that can be relied upon is Jonathan O’Shea’s Festive 15. In the first editions we counted down from 15th  to 6th, now witness the top five singles of 2014 in all of their glory! 

5. Love Letters – Metronomy

Surely a day never goes by without this group seeing the word ‘retro’ written about them, but this is an authentic old-time hip-shaker of a tune. Video by Michel Gondry.

4. La Vérité – Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains

French is my second language of choice, so I can confidently decode at least 38% of this. But that matters not a jot, ‘cause it’s catchy as f*ck!

3. Sisters – Cate Le Bon

Perfectly demented. What an outro!

2. Rule Number One – Telegram

Swirling, controlled chaos. Sounds a little bit like a futuristic Status Quo fronted by Stephen Hawking’s voice box, but don’t let that put you off.

1. Europa Geht Durch Mich – Manic Street Preachers

Such a succinct, politically acute and inexorable blast of polemic. Killer cowbell too.

What do you think of Jonathan’s Festive 15? Not a whiff of Justin Bieber, Wand Erection or Union J! Let us know which tracks you would have selected in the comments section below, and, as always, please share the article and invite friends to ‘like’ the Kureen Facebook page!

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

The Festive 15. Part 2: 10-6

Guess who’s back, back again; Jon O’s back, tell a friend… Seriously – tell a friend and let’s get some new viewers for Kureen! In this second edition of the Festive 15 Jonathan O’Shea reveals the tracks that make up the first half of his top 10, narrowly missing out on a slot amongst the elite quintet.

10. Ghost Rider – Anna Calvi

Breathy vocals and discordant pangs of guitar knitted together by an insistent beat. The dark queen of alt-rock smothered this Suicide cover with characteristic high drama.

9. Would You Fight For My Love? – Jack White

It’s all laid out on the line by a mildly hysterical Jack White, beseeching his beloved to show him his/her balls (metaphorically speaking).

8. Luke Warm – Brockley Spears


Luke Warm – Brockley Spears on MUZU.TV.

You can never be sure exactly where this slinky, hypnotic track will wander next. A genre-spanning aural confection: try not dancing to it.

7. Blue Moon – Beck

Touches again on Beck’s classic ‘Sea Change’ era (as does the lovely recent ‘Say Goodbye’). Heartfelt and melancholic, yet strangely uplifting.

6. Verano – Linda Gulilala

Builds into something equally melodic and euphoric with a little early-Ash feel. Lyrics about a plasticine sea lion’s trip to the roller disco (I’m guessing, it’s all in Spanish innit.)

Tune in again tomorrow, when the make up of top five shall be removed from lock and key, and just who the heck will gain the coveted award for the best release of 2014 (a packet of lima beans and the charred remains of a 1989 UB40 goodie bag received from Going Live.)

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

The Festive 15. Part.1: 15-11

Jonathan O’Shea returns to share his top fifteen tracks of 2014 over the course of the next three days. In this inaugural instalment, the 2011 ‘Midlands rear of the year’ nominee counts down numbers 15 through 11.

Gruff Rhys

The Festive Fifteen, my favourite tracks of the year, is on the way to becoming an annual tradition (I think this the 6th one).

Each Christmas holiday, I like to review the great new music that’s been produced over the past twelve months and make sense of it all by pointlessly ranking some of it and then clumsily boxing it up like a scraggy bundle of deep-fried chicken. Then I present it to the world.

Here, in the first slice of a triple-header, I give name five of the past twelve months’ stand out releases that narrowly missed out on top ten honours.

15. Temporary Ground – Jack White

Straying across archetypal White Stripes slide-guitar territory, and lending brilliant use of Lillie Mae Rische’s ethereal vocals, this song even has a gleefully ghoulish whistling bit halfway through.

14. Talking Backwards – Real Estate

For anyone who’s endured the silent torture of time spent with a loved one who only ever hears their own version of events. A delightfully dreamy way of airing a universal frustration.

13. Government Trash – Death From Above 1979

Sonic assault on…well, everything (I think). Three minutes of relentless ass-kicking anti-authoritarianism. “Nothing is free/Call the police/They dress to kill/I dress to die!” You get the idea.

12. Liberty (Is Where We’ll Be) – Gruff Rhys

Builds from a shuffle into a strident, if typically wry, ode to freedom (and Welsh pioneers.) Glorious pedal-steel guitar too.

11. Archie, Marry Me –  Alvvays

Instant indie classic. Melancholic Camera Obscura-esque vocals, wonderfully witty wedding-related lyrics about floral arrangements and bread-makers, and lilting 90s guitars.

Remember to tune back in tomorrow to find out which tracks made the cut for positions 10-6. If you do we’ll save a puppy, if you don’t we’ll slump into rice milk addiction and over zealous bouts of tea bag folding.

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

Three Track Playlist: New Singles Reviews

After an extended sabbatical, Jonathan O’Shea returns with a trio of single reviews for your consumption. This time the spotlight shines upon Azealia Banks, Gruff Rhys and Laetitia Sadier.

Azealia Banks 2
Azealia Banks: Creative potty mouth.

‘Heavy Metal and Reflective’ – Azealia Banks

Queen of the c-word, f-bomber supreme, attention-seeking “slore” (combination of slut and whore, apparently) according to rival rapper Jim Jones – there are many monikers you could attach to potty-mouthed princess Azealia Banks. The Harlem-born rapper has garnered almost as much interest for her innumerable Twitter feuds as for her white-hot debut single ‘212’.

Since the release of the filthiest/funniest track of 2012 there has been little but a dribble of musical content from the controversial starlet; with her first LP, ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’ still stalled on the production line nearly three years later and a lucrative contract with Interscope now expired. As such, it’ll be a relief for Banks’ fans to hear this tune, which will be released on her own label.

On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be an immediately apparent correlation between heavy metal, as a genre, and reflection, but our Azealia seems to have spotted one. In the space of a prodigiously pounding two-and-a-half minutes, she almost certainly references the (thankfully) long-forgotten Japanese pseudo-pet, the Tamagotchi, amid frenzied Prodigy-esque beats and with her trademark intimidating delivery. Female rap is a crowded field these days, but this blistering new track again evidences that Miss Banks has something incendiary about her which burns brightly – and possibly briefly. 

 

Liberty (Is Where We’ll Be)’ – Gruff Rhys

Gruff Rhys

While not characteristically playful, Gruff Rhys’ new single is typically melodic – and a fair representation of what to expect from his fine fourth solo album ‘American Interior’, which also spawned a feature-film travelogue and an app. An accompanying tour commences (in Shetland!) early next month.

The whole multimedia project focuses on fellow Welshman John Evans’ trek across America in the late-18th century in search of a lost tribe of Welsh-speaking Native Americans. Coming from a man who once released a whole album inspired by the DeLorean car which featured in the ‘Back to the Future’ franchise, this unconventional subject matter should come as no surprise.

On ‘Liberty…’, soaring strings, glorious pedal steel guitar and longing lyrics about Evans’ voyage of discovery through America mark a new high in the erstwhile Super Furry Animal’s solo output. He manages to cram several too many syllables into one line mid-song, which elicits a wry grin, as much of the bearded maestro’s canon often does, but otherwise plays it straight. The urgent outro, with Rhys ‘doo-doo-do-do’-ing his way to a climax, caps a delightful summer-time ‘tune with a tale’. 

  

Then, I Will Love You Again’ – Laetitia Sadier

Laetitia Sadier

Similarly melodic and stirring, but with a pleasingly Gallic twist, is the ex-Stereolab singer’s elegy to the intrinsic difficulties of long-distance relationships. This single was initially made available exclusively to an apple-related musical monolith (aka eyeChoons) back in April, but now thankfully enjoys a wider audience with a full release.

Wistful strings, picked bass and restrained brass backing underscore the anxious nature of her regretful lyrics, delivered in her inimitable style. ‘Where to settle?’ she repeatedly pleas, as if hoping to find some answers to the unanswerable in the music. Thought-provoking, yet suitably catchy enough to secure more success for this surviving veteran of the early-1990s indie scene. 

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

Cate Le Bon: ‘Sisters’ (Single review)

Our chief music man, Jonathan O’Shea, has been busy taking in the new sounds recently. This time he turns his attention to folky Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon’s latest release ‘Sisters.’

12931103894_00e46e1d16_z

An ever-more sleek and sinuous stage presence, Welsh troubadour-ess Cate Le Bon returned from a recent US sojourn with a new look and refined sound; evidenced on her third album, ‘Mug Museum’, where the beguiling ‘Me Oh My’ ploughed fertile folksy terrain and ‘Cyrk’ took a tender step towards a new direction. Released on the Wichita label – this was a tighter, more coherent set.

‘Sisters’ is both recognisably inventive and comfortingly strange, but Le Bon’s signature sound has certainly matured and is more satisfyingly direct here. Her renowned vocals – often erroneously likened to those of the Velvet Underground’s Nico – are as sumptuously enunciated and dexterously delivered as ever, while H. Hawkline’s frantic, insistent keys drive the track through to a thrillingly demented climax.

‘I won’t die, I’m a sister; I won’t die!’ is the immortal resolution declared throughout, as Manics collaborator Le Bon laconically unfurls lines like: ‘She will set my hands on fire/ hands on fire over again/ her to me and me to them’.

That swirly, hooky keyboard input and a punchy, pulsing drumbeat underpins four minutes of delightfully off-kilter lyricism from the pencil of an underrated songwriter.

Stepping out of the shadows: Cate Le Bon is destined for big things.
Stepping out of the shadows: Cate Le Bon is destined for big things.

All the while, it’s impossible not to consider the influence of one-time tour-mate St Vincent on this ascendant ‘alternative’ star-in-the-making, as she journeys from her early career of melancholic folk meanderings to today’s peppy psych-pop gems.

‘Ah-ooh’-ing all over the crazily kaleidoscopic outro in typical fashion, Cate Le Bon presents a fully-formed potential hit, which could raise her profile far above and beyond her sterling work with the Manics and Welsh alt-doyen Gruff Rhys. It’s an attention-grabbing paean to sisterhood, which should insinuate itself into any self-respecting indie summer playlist.

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.