Rocking The Casbah in 2010

As I have been asked by Double Dance to put together my personal top picks from 2010, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share them on here. After all, I am right as it's totally my opinion - you're probably right about your top artists/albums too. But for now, here are my stars of 2010....

Arcade Fire, Suburbs. This band always do it for me, I've been a devoted fan since Funeral was released in 2004. I think Suburbs shows how they've evolved and really found a popular sound (well definitely in the UK anyway). Seeing this album live in December was perfect, they manage to turn a huge venues into intimate experiences. Everyone can relate to this album, it's about where you grew up, the fields and parks you'd play in and reminiscing about the feelings that are so hard to recreate as you you grow up and move away.

Foals, Total Life Forever. Another band that has really developed and honed their sound. This UK band used to be a 'singles band', I say that as they would have a couple of notable tracks that would be played to death in indie clubs around the country but Total Life Forever shows more of a story, a compelling journey - of which no tracks are skip worthy. Spanish Sahara took UK radio by storm this year, which is interesting to hear as it's such a moody, atmospheric track.

Tinie Tempah, Disc-overy. I think if you asked any British citizen who's name they've heard constantly throughout the last 12 months it would be this guy! Tinie is a hard grafter, he knows what it is to put in 100% and I highly doubt he has a day off - he was plugging his next single Invincible ft. Kelly Rowland via twitter on Christmas day! He's going to break America next year, I think if he doesn't then the American public are genuinely missing something.

Ellie Goulding, Bright Lights. She started 2010 by being named the 'Sound of 2010' by the BBC. An accolade that gives the singer-songwriter a sure fire glittery road to success not to mention endless bragging rights.

Not that she would, Ellie is so humble and would rather go for a run round Hyde Park then stand on a red carpet. Lights was re-released towards the back-end of 2010 as Bright Lights with some additional tracks, personal favourite 'Lights' just encompasses her feelings about stardom and escaping back home, where she feels content and at one with the world.

Tame Impala, Innerspeaker. This Psychedelic foursome from Perth, Australia have proven popular with the British public. Possibly because of their familiar 60's vibe that the UK pop scene delivered so well. Key single 'Solitiude is Bliss' is just romantic and dreamy in its delivery. The band is over in the UK next year supporting the Foo Fighters, and I can only imagine that they've been booked up for festival after festival - perfect summer band and driving through the country ammunition.


Passing Clouds with The Worm

On Saturday night I was lucky enough to shimmy on down to Passing Clouds, in an icy Dalston, London to watch spectacularly sunny band, The Worm. The event was in celebration of the band's latest album release 'Fine Girls', out now on Wormfood Records.

As soon as I entered the Marrakeshi-style venue my chills had wriggled right out and the West African vibes had me all in a toasty tingle. The four-piece have a unique sound to say the least, the instruments were a mix between big band blowers, classical strings, ethnic drums and something you'd find in your Great Uncle Bill's shed under a hundred layers of dust - all being laced together with some big tasty beats. The set-up was special and inspired, but then the vocals began, and this early bird was really having a juicy brekkie dangled in front of her face. It was a delight to see a band with not just one strong vocal, but three. Niccie Simpson brought smooth soulful delight to the picnic whilst Max and Andre brought clever solid vocal covered in lashings of rap reminding us that this genre is hard to recreate, especially live!

The carnival atmosphere I had found myself in with hundreds of happy, like minded folk, gave us all a taste of some fresh tracks including title track 'All You Fine Girls'. I dare you not to dance, it's impossible. The Worm know all too well about not wanting the party to end, and threw in previous release and favourite 'Don't Stop' to a rapture of applause. In between came some sumptuous and bouncy tunes, including an almost unrecognisable Blackstreet cover.

A true festival band, they are laid back and living for the moment. With previous appearances at Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party and Bestival and Saturday's more than successful album launch, I can only hope they keep pushing up at the earth and get the sediment shaking some more next year.


Hallelujah for Saint Saviour

With a musical CV comparable in length to the Old Testament, it would be a sin to think that Saint Saviour is making her mark anywhere but in the present.

The lady behind SS, Becky Jones was formally linked to (now laid to rest) electro outfit the RGBs and most recently held harmonies with Groove Armada (post 'Shaking That Ass). Lending her pitch perfect presence to such creditable tracks as 'Paper Romance'.

She has now decided to brave the rafters alone and rise again as Saint Saviour, bringing together soulful southern sounding electronica and blissful blues to create an empowering and wholly captivating sound otherwise described as "Phenomenal" by BBC Radio 1 DJ Edith Bowman.

I stumbled across SS last year as a huge Joy Division fan, she covered the brilliant but ridiculously overplayed 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'. And did she cover it alright, she wrapped it in a warm blanket, handed it a marshmallow and sat it next to a camp fire, completely melting my heart when I heard her rendition. I was joyed to discover that her portfolio was vast and original, whilst still paying homage to the powerful woman who have preceded her, such as Kate Bush and Tori Amos.

'Woman Scorned' is her uplifting official release, it's out now in the UK on Euphonios and available on iTunes. If you've ever been snubbed, or discouraged you can take something from the velvety yet venomous lyrics. Ladies everywhere, it's time to rip off your bra and throw it to the flames. Maybe not, but instead watch this beautiful video for Woman Scorned.

Saint Saviour is performing a handful of intimate gigs around the UK and no doubt will be a festival favourite in 2011, I urge you to witness her rising for yourselves.


Louellen Breakout for the Maldives

Find my original article on Double Dance here

In a sticky Islington, bright new stars Louellen prepare to weave their twinkly, indie magic over an intimate, well turned out crowd.

The night aimed to showcase exciting new UK talent at the O2 Academy, the reward for one lucky band is a place in the final to headline at a Moldavian gig and a single released in Asia - not too shabby by any means.

Our Southern lads were on second, and with a small amount of gigs under their proverbial belt, they were ready to prove that new doesn't mean inexperienced but instead, compellingly fresh and exciting.

After a few technical hitches (through no fault of their own) the boys picked up pace and treated us to some well-executed, enigmatic tracks. Looking around, fellow skinny jean wearing boys and girls tapped toes in time and seemed fully immersed in Louellen's sound. Often being taken by surprise with the sudden burst of energy that appeared to come like shots from the dark, then pulling back on the reigns to display their full musical spectrum. An obvious favourite, and one which I'm sure will stylishly adorn the radio in the not so distant future was 'Bright Paint on a White Wall', emphasising frontman Christian's delicately fierce vocal.

On the rise: Clare Maguire

My original post for Double Dance can be found here

Trying to find information on a lady who seems to be eagerly anticipated yet very much under-wraps is extremely hard.

A single eery track of just over 60 seconds in length greets you when you enter Clare Maguire into your address bar. The chilling Are You Ready? is clearly going to be the calm before the storm for this Brummy lass, before she is catapulted forward like her Universal Records counterpart Miss Winehouse. Are You Ready? is pumping up the anticipation meter and clearly asking the British, siren loving public to brace themselves for another great success story. This mysterious misses, doesn't even have any official photos, a mere ten or so live shots weave through Google Images. Maybe she wants her audience to appreciate the powerful presence of her music, or maybe it's cleverly enticing a host of blogger types to increase the aforementioned anticipation meter.

If you're as enticed as I was, a free download can be found, available through her website and I can only hope it's released officially. Strangest Thing is hauntingly deep, yet softly peaceful, like Bat For Lashes colliding with Annie Lennox, spiraling into Norah Jones giving the hair on the back of your neck a tingly treat. Her song matter seems far wiser beyond her years, at only 21 I hope she isn't over-sold and exhausted before having the chance to really enjoy the journey that she definitely deserves.

On the rise: Muchuu

Find the original article on Double Dance here

If, like me, a quirky band name increases your heart rhythm and your ears prick up in excitement then let me introduce you to the unusually named Muchuu.

Probably not the best band name to use in a game of Hangman but probably the cutest band to listen to this summer. Muchuu ('moo-chew') which is the direct translation of 'dream' in Japanese are a brother and sister glittery-pop outfit hailing from Hereford, UK. The two play their very separate parts; Milky is the twee-indie vocalist whilst brother George is the techy, music master. There is no doubting the oriental inspirations in the majority of the tracks on debut album 'Adventure We Go' is proof that these two are fully-fledged musical explorers starting to make their mark on the indie-electro pop world. Each song has bundles of character and grabs you with two arms for closer inspection of all the experimental elements it boasts. You'll love Muchuu if you adore being completely immersed in a daydreamy state and yearn for long summery drives through country fields--the two aren't advised to take together. I caught up with the pair to discuss afros, unusual sound bites, disturbing dreams and general Muchuu magic.

You're brother and sister outfit, please tell me that you have Jackson 5 esq routines?

George: Unfortunately, no. I'd like to have an afro though.
Milky: We used dance around in the lounge and put on plays when we were little, to entertain our parents...but that's as far as it goes with dance routines!

Seriously though, how do you not end up tearing each others hair out after spending so much time together?

Milky: Well we do annoy each other slightly sometimes, but only slightly. In general we get on pretty well. We have quite different personalities but when were making music and practicing and gigging we kind of forget about that and just have fun. George: Yeah, we've got past the arguing thing. Just about.

Your music is often created by using various objects that you come across, what's the oddest thing you've used?

Milky: A ladder. And a digital camera zoom.
George: We also slammed a door a good few times to get the right door slam sound. That was pretty weird.

The music you write is about dreams and escapism, what kind of dreams do you have for yourselves?

Milky: I usually have rather strange and disturbing dreams. They're often just so odd and confusing I can't explain them! Sometimes I feel odd for the rest of the day...but sometimes they're really cool, like a mini movie in my head. As for my dreams for my future, I'd love to visit Japan and other cool countries, spread Muchuu music all over place and for people to really enjoy our album, move into my own little house and buy a pet pug!
George: I can see the future in my dreams. In terms of aspirations, I'd like to keep making different music, away from the boring clich├ęd music that is around now about sex and money and meaningless stuff just to profit people. Wow, I wasn't expecting to produce such a political answer.

You're playing Bestival this year, will you be partaking in the fancy dress parade? The fantasy theme is perfect for Muchuu surely?

Milky: Yeah I heard about this, I need to get something sorted, sounds fun, I don't often get the chance for fancy dress! So many options...a mermaid might be cool or just a big ball of glittery magic and cover myself in sequins and stickers. Or something out of the Neverending Story. Or Chii from Chobits...
George: Really? I didn't know about the fancy dress parade. In that case I'll get my giant dragon costume out. It takes 300 people to operate it.

It's clear from the sound of the album, not to mention the title, that you've had a lots of escapades, how do you put these inspirations into song?

George: I guess I try and show the inspirations musically. Milky is the lyrical one though. I've contributed in the past with a couple of sentences. So proud of myself.
Milky: Well I just jot down things that pop into my head when I'm out and about, or just sitting and thinking. I scribble ideas and lyrics down in my notepad or on my phone, then merge them all together to fit a song. I also love to experiment with different sounds to suit the mood or subject of the song. It's such a good feeling when it all comes together and the music really shows how I was feeling or what I was writing about!

With the first album out, what's next for Milky and George?

Milky: We really hope people like the first album, and that lots of people get to hear it and we get to continue gigging all over the place, including gigs overseas. We're already writing songs for the second album, which I'm also excited about.
George: We'll just have faith and see where the music takes us. We can't help writing more songs, so that will probably continue forever.

The album 'Adventure We Go' will be available for digital download and in stores August 31st. My favourite tracks include 'Somebody Tell Me', 'Dancing With a Ghost' and 'Patchwork'.


Ellie Goulding & Tinie Tempah Review for MTV (Feb 2010)

I've been meaning to add this to AV for some weeks now, but haven't had the chance. I got the chance to see Miss Goulding and Tinie Tempah in a very packed Dingwalls, Camden back in February. The lovely people at MTV put up my review for all to see. If you haven't then it's below for ya'll.

Dingwalls in Camden was the backdrop for Thursday night's 10 For 10 gig courtesy of MTV, the aim was to fuse together the best new UK talent for 2010. What a beautiful blend they were; London's trooper Tinie Tempah and Herefordshire's golden girl of the moment Ellie Goulding.

Tinie Tempah brought together every type of music I lust after and wrapped it in a bow of exuberance. I've never before seen rock, electro, dub, hip hop, grime and soulful vocals fused together so effortlessly. His slight air of cockyness was just and his honesty profound, in one breath claiming “it's hard to make electro sound good live” and in the next praising himself entirely. Prominent track 'Pass Out' is a complete credit to his obvious hard work and determination, his performance was fresh and gutsy, with definite similarities to Dizzee and Whiley. He made a lot of fans on Thursday night, many of them, like me never thought they'd be so in tune with his swagger and pure stage presence. He broke down that invisible screen that so many artists place at the front of the stage, inviting his audience to get well and truly involved.

As for Ellie, where do I start? She encapsulated the whole audience, I was completely mesmerised by her stunning array of melodies. On the brief chance that I had to break my gaze and look around I could see that everyone was being sprinkled with Gouldust, feeling rich and inspired by this soft yet strong young lady. There's always a part of me that gets nervous when I see an artist live for the first time, will they live up to the hype? Will they hold those mind blowing notes? In essence will the song still give you that same special feeling it did when it first entered your life? Ellie proved her worth one hundred times over. Starting with her less known collection of tunes she held her own, her confidence was mature and Ellie's simple yet cleverly strung together words are wise beyond her years. She stated at one point, whilst cradling her guitar that she didn't know what she was doing with it but she knew how to play it. Almost like a friend you've become so comfortable with, you can't remember where you met but you know it's a perfect relationship and it will last for eternity. Ellie who is a champion of the cover song shared her beautiful and almost unrecognisable version of Midlake's 'Roscoe' with the gracious audience. Ellie's first official release 'Under The Sheets' couldn't come quick enough, the crowd lapping it up and beaming like one music savvy Cheshire cat. A personal favourite of mine, 'Starry Eyed' completed her astonishing set leaving the crowd yearning for more and fixed in place, surely the night wasn't over?

Both acts came across humble and truly blessed by the few hundred that had endured the rain to show their support for MTV's triumphant 10 For 10 gig at the ever so atmospheric Dingwalls. In my view, a complete collaborative success.