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Video of the Moment #1371: David Bowie

 
By on Sunday, 3rd November 2013 at 10:00 am
 

Ever the vanguard, David Bowie filmed his latest promo video for ‘Love is Lost’ entirely by himself and only for the cost of the USB flash drive purchased to download the video onto to, $12.99. If people feel the need to clap when Bowie’s washing his hands in a sink, the music biz is going down a slippery slope. Watch the video below.

Bowie’s surprise 2013 album ‘The Next Day’ was nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize, but he lost Wednesday night to James Blake.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOy7vPwEtCw[/youtube]

 

Mercury Prize Shortlist 2013: Is It Even Relevant Anymore?

 
By on Thursday, 12th September 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. That time of year has crept up on us again. Yesterday evening, the nominees for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2013 Albums of the Year were revealed in London. Maybe this is the direction the Mercury Prize nominations will be going in from here on out, but it’s rather startling how mainstream this year’s shortlist is. In past years, there was always one or two curveballs thrown in the mix of straight-forward, famous artists and well thought of indie. Not so much in 2013…which leaves me wondering if this competition is even worth my time anymore in the years going forward.

Let’s examine the biggest names first. The now Josh Homme-influenced Arctic Monkeys just got in under the wire, with their new album ‘AM’ literally just made it to store shelves this past Monday. They don’t need any help selling records. (Technically, they also fall under the next category I will examine, but for the sake of argument, it’s this album people are focusing on, not one 7 years ago…which won the gong that year.) Neither does legendary artist David Bowie; his March 2013 surprise release ‘The Next Day’ also makes an appearance on the shortlist.

Then there are the repeat ‘offenders’. Dubstep wonder boy James Blake, whose self-titled debut album in 2011 garnered a Mercury nod back then, is yet another safe and predictable choice. Given their headline slot at Latitude Festival this year and continually rising star, Foals‘ nomination for ‘Holy Fire’ (review here) is not such a shock. But they were nominated for and lost in 2010 for ‘Total Life Forever’. I’m a great fan of Conor J. O’Brien’s songwriting, but this year’s ‘{Awayland}’ pales in comparison to its predecessor, Villagers‘ 2010 opus ‘Becoming a Jackal’.

While he was 1/2 of the nominated collaboration with King Creosote in 2011’s ‘Diamond Mine’, Jon Hopkins makes another appearance, this time by himself for ‘Immunity’. There is also no escaping the fact that the selection of Laura Marling‘s ‘Once I Was an Eagle’ (review here) comes across as particularly lazy: the woman’s been nominated two times already prior to this. I’m all for equality when it comes to music awards and it’s great that this year there are two female singer/songwriters on the shortlist, but surely there has got to be another woman – and in the folk genre, certainly – whose album would have been up to snuff to the Mercury voters instead of giving Marling another nomination.

Next, let’s look at the acts that are toeing the line between their indie background and their big chance at the mainstream. Having enjoyed a successful 2012 with sold out shows and his debut album selling very well, Noel Gallagher‘s sneery young protege Jake Bugg makes a not so surprising appearance on the shortlist. Popular Brum soul singer and #4 on the BBC Sound of 2013 list Laura Mvula also receives a Mercury nod this year for ‘Sing to the Moon’. Helps quite a bit that both of them are on majors (Mercury and RCA, respectively) and therefore had major label muscle to help along the promotion of their debut albums.

If there is one saving grace of this year’s shortlist, it was that instead of a truly oddball experimental jazz album getting a nomination, dance is for once decently represented with not one but two good albums: Disclosure‘s delicious brand of house in the form of ‘Settle’ and Rudimental‘s drum and bass-rich ‘Home’. But wait a minute. They’re on majors too, Island and Warner. Hmm… The one oddball nominee, if they can be called that, are post-punk girl group Savages. They might not be a household name – yet – and they’re on an indie label (Beggar Group’s Matador) but they were already firmly in our brains from their BBC Sound of 2013 longlist nomination. Yawn.

This all begs the question, just how relevant is the Mercury Prize in 2013? Also, was it ever relevant? And when did it stop being so? While it has never been a dirty little secret but rather an obvious known fact that major label backing helps with funding, which leads to promotion and visibility opportunities and therefore record sales, this is probably the year more than any other in the past in which the expensive fee to enter the Mercury competition comes through loud and clear as the reason why this year’s list is sadly predictable. In a piece by the Guardian’s Michael Hann, Kerrang! editor James McMahon said the egregious lack of metal on the shortlist year after year is a major oversight: “The thing is, within the rock music industry there’s a bit of debate about how bothered people are with an award like the Mercury. The other year we were pushing the idea of Bring Me the Horizon being nominated as an innovative, exciting British rock band who want to be seen out in the world – but they didn’t enter. If the rock industry doesn’t have any belief in its relevance, what can the Mercuries do? But if it were genuinely the 12 best records of the year, it would be blinkered to ignore metal.”

Hann’s article goes on to point out that Leeds buzz band Hookworms chose not to enter either, their frontman MJ explaining, “The nondescript thousands in marketing fees and physical product is even more shameful [than the entry fee]”. Even ubiquitous rock journalist Pete Paphides took to social media yesterday to bemoan the situation: “It’d be good to have a music prize where part of the sponsorship meant bands not having to pay hundreds of £s to be eligible for contention.” Quite right. There is no one obvious solution to “fixing” the Mercury Prize because let’s face it, like all award shows, it’s a business, and businesses exist to make money. But it’s a shame that what the Mercury Prize used to be known for – bringing attention to lesser known acts that otherwise might not get their time in the limelight – seems to have been all but been entirely forgotten.

 

Video of the Moment #1265: David Bowie

 
By on Sunday, 21st July 2013 at 10:00 am
 

For the video for a song titled ‘Valentine’s Day’, you’d expect romantic overtures aplenty, yeah? Well, you should probably expect the unexpected from David Bowie, which is what you get from his promo for his song of that name. Also, there seems to be something freakishly wrong with his eyeballs and he looks more axe murderer than musician in this video. I got the creeps just watching it once. Or maybe it’s just me. Watch it below.


 

Video of the Moment #1143: David Bowie

 
By on Saturday, 2nd March 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

David Bowie has revealed the video for ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’, the second single from his forthcoming album ‘The Next Day’. It follows first single ‘Where Are We Now’, which was released in January. Watch the video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH7dMBcg-gE[/youtube]

 

Single Review: David Bowie – Where Are We Now?

 
By on Tuesday, 15th January 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

After a 10-year hiatus, the very release of new David Bowie material is an event in itself, spreading tendrils of anticipation across disparate media, almost regardless of the qualities of the song which heralds such keenly-felt anticipation. But what of ‘Where Are We Now’, in and of itself? What does it tell us about Bowie in 2013, and more to the point, is it any good?

It’s too tempting not to poke some gentle, if sacreligious, fun. The world-weary vocal performance, the deadpan video, and the confused song title bring to mind a favourite uncle or grandfather, suddenly waking in a temporary confusion from the back seat, perhaps when the car stops at Watford Gap services to take on Ginsters pasties and sticky sweets. This is not Bowie at his most assertive – the tempo is glacial, the instrumentation bland, the voice cracked and mournful. Indeed, one could go as far as to use the word dull. But the song does have its subtle beauty. It’s not clear what key it’s in – the chorus starts on the root note and ends on the root note, it’s just that those two notes happen to be different; chord changes are obscure yet work beautifully, and even though the voice is morose, it still carries all the distinctive hallmarks of that which has enchanted popular music for decades. Welcome back, David.

Lyrically, the theme is death and Berlin. Until the last minute, when things pick up, and it’s almost about love. And Berlin. The video shamelessly misspells some of the German capital’s name-checked landmarks and inexplicably casts Bowie as a double-headed soft toy, but hey, it’s all in the name of art. The most fascinating detail is the weary blow of the lips at 3:26 – the universal sign for “I’ve had enough now”. And perhaps he has – after years ensconced in New York domestic bliss, now it’s time for the carefully-choreographed comeback (together with an exhibition at the V&A and accompanying stratospherically-priced limited-edition catalogue, for goodness’ sake!).

But what if he just can’t be bothered? Why not just leave the legacy and be done with it? Time will tell, but I have my doubts whether Bowie’s heart is really in it. Compare his mood here with the activity of his contemporaries – Neil Young is still trashing guitars in squalls of feedback at age 67, and his old playmate Lou Reed is trading riffs with Metallica aged 70. The hope is high that the full album will treat a wider gamut of Bowie’s talents: at least he might do a little dance.

This is a deeply schizophrenic track. Superficially dull, but with exciting details. Plenty of talk of death, but with an uplifting finish. Daft-as-a-brush video that hints at Bowie’s fascinating and still relevant Berlin-period backstory. I don’t want to listen to it anymore, but still can’t wait for the new material. So, then: a dismal, error-laden piece of work from a recalcitrant, overrated pensioner, or a blinding opening salvo for the next chapter in the career of one of the most important practitioners of popular music of the last five decades? In fact, in keeping with the theme: it’s both. And it really makes me want to visit Berlin again.

Somewhere between a 6 and a 9/10

David Bowie’s long-awaited new single ‘Where Are We Now?’ is out now on Columbia.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWtsV50_-p4[/youtube]

 

Preview: Record Store Day 2012

 
By on Thursday, 19th April 2012 at 11:00 am
 

With exclusive releases from literally hundreds of artists, Record Store Day is back with a bang this week and here’s the TGTF guide to what to pick up on the day from some of the best labels and acts. Our top tip? Check the website to see if the release you want is limited or on mass production. This will really help with panic on the day. See you Saturday!

Ben Howard – ‘Black Flies’
A standout track from his gorgeous debut album, Black Flies is limited to just 500 copies on the day. With Brixton sold out in November, it doesn’t look like Howard’s going anywhere for a while and with new material almost ready, this looks to be the swansong of ‘Every Kingdom’. (Along with the Cure, Florence and the Machine and many other artists, this is part of the Secret 7″ campaign to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.) Watch the live video of Howard playing this song at SXSW 2012 below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-aeyvHPjxk[/youtube]

Dry the River – ‘New Ceremony’
Limited to just 1000 copies, the newest folk/pop/indie heroes’ single will be something to snap up when doors open at your local store.

Arctic Monkeys – ‘R U Mine’ (purple)
Queens of the Stone Age-y rock music from the Sheffield lads. Previously unreleased, a needed momento for any Arctics fans.

Arcade Fire – ‘Sprawl II’ (Remix)
Complete with a live version of Ready to Start on the b-side,  it gives you an excuse to play Arcade Fire at a party and not be judged too heavily, which is always a plus.

Childish Gambino – ‘Heartbeat’
With Glover’s stock rising, it’s no surprise that this, his latest single is up for RSD release. Whilst not hugely limited, it’ll be in high demand, and a worthy demand also.

David Bowie – ‘Starman’ (picture vinyl)
What more could you want from RSD than a David Bowie picture vinyl? It’s a brilliant collectors item and even more, it’ll sound even more beautiful than the originals.

That’s just a tiny selection of what’s on offer. For Cure fans there’s a huge selection [for more, check out this great UK vs. US Record Store Day releases list compiled by Slicing Up Eyeballs – Ed.], but there really is something for everyone in the hundreds on sale. See you Saturday!

 
 
 

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