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Who needs guitars anyway?

Best Bits
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ross Copperman

New James Blunt?
Monday, May 28, 2007

Mini Review: Maroon 5 - It Won't Be Soon Before Long

After so many years of waiting for a follow-up to Songs About Jane, I had lost all excitement about the second Maroon 5 album, so it came as quite a surprise when I found myself absolutely loving it! In fact, Sophie may have already been overtaken as my top pop CD of 2007 so far. I knew they were planning to focus more on their soulful side and less on the rock in this album, but they've ended up sounding more like Darin or Christian Walz than any proper urban music - they've gone totally pop and it's a brilliant transformation! The second album was bound to be difficult but for me they have succeeded by taking a different approach, a more light-hearted and very commercial one, which I think will provide them with as many hits as they want. My personal favourites are emotionally pounding Not Falling Apart and danceable Little of Your Time, while Won't Go Home Without You could be this album's She Will Be Loved.
Sunday, May 27, 2007

Reflections on American Idol 2007

I'm not saying that this year was the best ever, but for me it has been the most successful as my top 5 favourites were indeed the top 5 finalists, and my favourite boy and girl both made the final. Jordin is lovely and ace, so she definitely deserved to win and will make a great winner as she can do the typical Idol winner ballads but can also be moulded into an ace popstar for her next album. I was really pleased to see a final with two contestants who could make it in the real world, who were more than just a big voice and endearing personality. I can see myself buying Jordin's and definitely Blake's album, as I know he's a friend of Maroon 5 and fan of Jason Mraz, Gavin Degraw etc. In fact I've already picked out his first single, Don't Hate On Me by Vincent. He should also get Maroon 5 to write him something great, and cover Knockout by Triple 8 as a duet with Chris Richardson.
Saturday, May 26, 2007

New Swedish Dance-Pop On The Block

E-Type - True Believer (Live)
I truly believe (ha) that E-Type is one of the best dance acts around, and it's no coincidence that much of his work is written, produced or both by his pal and mine (well, one day maybe!), Max Martin. His music is bursting with euphoric energy and feel good vibes, with impossibly catchy choruses and girl singers who can totally belt them out. I can't wait to jump around to this in Swedish pop clubs later this year.
95% Poptastic!

Da Buzz - Take All My Love (Listen)
Another of the best dance acts in the world, here is the brilliant new single by Da Buzz. I love them because although it's definitely dance music with super-power-energy and great hooks, it still has a pop structure of verses and choruses, and lyrics that aren't too repetitive, and the singer isn't an emotionless robot like you find in a lot of the dance music popular in the UK.
93% Poptastic!

Danny - Play It For The Girls (Listen)
His songs are quite simple and unoriginal but they don't half grow on you. I thought his last single Tokyo was just OK, but it became one of my top singles of spring 2007, and this one gets better with each listen - the chorus reminds me of E-Type, and the backing is very September. With Danny, Magnus Carlsson and Måns Zelmerlöw, Sweden is doing great for jolly disco boy-pop at the moment - let's hope they've started a trend!
88% Poptastic!

Mini Review: Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Trip The Light Fantastic

I've always been a big fan of lovely Sophie and her ace pop music, and I was looking foward to hearing her new album, but I never expected to be heralding it the best album of 2007 so far... yet I am! I'd heard a few of the songs already and been listening to If You Go and Me And My Imagination on repeat for months, but it turns out they are just the tip of the iceberg. There are the two songs written by Dan from The Feeling, Only One and Love Is Here, which are both completely poptastic, then there are BWO-esque Supersonic, Distance Between Us and China Heart, the latter also being quite ABBA-ish, then there's the epic What Have We Started, New Flame, which sounds just like Under the Influence of Giants, and Can't Have It All, which puts into words a lot of feelings I've had lately. There's not a bad song on there and I recommend you get your copy right away!
Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Great Escape... Part 3!

The festival is finally over and I've now seen a total of 26 bands over 3 days - quite impressive! There were a few unpleasant experiences (We're Marching On, Foals) but overall I've been highly impressed by the bands I've seen and have a few new favourites as well. Here are my thoughts on the performances I saw last night:

Jamie Woon
A kind of anti-folk singer who used lots of special effects on his voice, which sounded very nice but his songs were quite samey and droned on a bit after a while.

The Metros
A bunch of laddish teenage boys in football shirts, this lot were definitely not for me but they did seem to get a good reaction from the crowd and pulled in plenty of punters considering it was early in the evening.

Polarkreis 18
I didn't see much of these and I have to say I found them quite boring, but I could at least say I saw a German band, as I don't know if I ever have before.

(We Are) Performance
I'd heard about these from #1 Hits on Another Planet, and they did have some good songs (and some adorable fans dancing at the front) but the singer was very weird! He looked very pained and kept biting his arm and acting generally scary.

The Sonic Hearts
These were playing inside a giant upside down purple cow, which was certainly a novelty! They were sweet and had some nice songs, but nothing Earth-shattering.

The Midway State
After turning up for Kate Nash to find a ginormous queue, and not having time to walk to Captain, I decided to head across the road to see this band, who I saw the end of yesterday. I worked out who they remind me of (Ben Folds) and Googling shows it's not just me who thinks so. I can imagine them being quite big in America but I'm not sure if the success will translate to the UK. Unaware and What You Need Is Love are great songs, anyway.

The WinterKids
I only found out on Saturday morning that these guys were playing, so I spent the whole day being super-excited. I'd been wondering for months why they weren't playing this festival and even sent them a MySpace message once suggesting it. They were different to how I expected as the singing was almost all done by the frontman, not shared between him and the girl, although this is cos they didn't do Somebody Else's Clothes or Who Am I Kidding. It was great to hear Tape It and 2 Nights 2 Days, which I've been listening to loads in the past few months, and they previewed their new single Wonderland, which I also really enjoyed. Apparently they've been supporting Mika so I reckon superstardom is not far away - they're the kind of band I just can't imagine not being a success.

Good Shoes
We caught the last half of Good Shoes and I was surprised to find I recognised 3 of the 5 or so songs we heard, and even have one (Small Town Girl, their first single from 2005) on my computer, downloaded long ago from FluxBlog, but had always thought they were American. They put on a good show musically even if they were quite boring to look at (they seem much prettier in photos - airbrushing obviously!) and the venue had a fun atmosphere. I was only left with one question unresolved... if they are Good Shoes, then who on Earth are Good Books?

The Answering Machine
A fairly jolly American band, but they didn't make a huge impression on me. I was there for Bonde Do Role, and waited an hour for them before an announcement that there were technical problems and they wouldn't be playing tonight! No-one seems to know what happened, but the boos began and we decided to head off to get food before any riots started!

So, that's it for Great Escape 2007! I had a great time and I'll definitely be coming back next year. I also can't wait to see which of this year's bands go on to be huge stars over the coming year, as I'm sure several will. I think Ghosts, WinterKids, Good Shoes and Pigeon Detectives have big things ahead of them, definitely.
Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Great Escape... Part 2!

Last night I saw 11 live bands in the space of 10 hours, at 6 different venues, each doing a half hour set! I was in the front row for 6 of them as well! I began at 6pm with the Undercut and ended at 4am with the Holloways. Here's a rundown of what I saw:

A boring Bristol band kicked off Friday night's precedings. Nothing much to say here really... I wouldn't recommend them at all.

Kharma 45
This lot, who I wrote about recently, were much better. Their style is indie-electro (a bit like Kasabian or Muse but actually good) and songs like Sweet Ecstacy and Political Soul sounded great live.

The Wallbirds
A mixture of folk, pop and indie, this lot gave us some ace jolly music, had a super-cool look and were great fun to watch. I don't think I'd listen to their CD, but I enjoyed their performance.

Ska-pop which was quite likeable, but a bit samey, so I only stayed half the set before heading to The Beach Club for Oh No Ono.

The Midway State
Having only allocated 15 mins changeover between bands, The Beach were unsurprisingly running pretty late, and this Canadian band were still on when Oh No Ono were supposed to start. I'd heard a couple of songs on MySpace and been unimpressed, but seeing them live I was totally converted - they have some lovely tracks and the singer has a good voice.

Oh No Ono
At last the acetastic Danes took to the stage, and it was hilarious to watch the reactions of the crowd as the lead singer began singing in his supremely high-pitched voice (or is it a vocoder? I need to know!). Their show was great fun and Practical Money Skills For Life sounded brilliant as their closing track. Best of all was their look which was just fabulous - they're definitely my new style icons, even if they're all male! My particular favourite was the guitarist (either Malthe or Aske, I can't work it out) who was super-jolly and wore a cross between a Russian fur hat and a bowler hat - it was amazing!

Pigeon Detectives
I was at the front for Oh No Ono so I stayed there for the next band. I knew they were quite popular on Radio 1 etc. but I could only remember the song Romantic Type. I felt a bit bad being at the front when I didn't even know what they looked like, and the room was choc-a-block with proper fans, but I did find the show surprisingly very enjoyable, and even found myself singing along to lots of songs (mainly possible cos they're quite repetitive) even though they were new to me. It was a slightly traumatic experience as I got quite squashed, drenched in water thrown by the lead singer, and frequently narrowly avoided being crowd-surfed on, but I was proud to say I survived it unharmed. I could make it as a pub-indie kid yet!

The Airbourne Toxic Event
Talk about a random name, I walked up to the bouncer and said "Where do we go to see Air... um... thing...?" Luckily he worked out what I meant and directed me into the upstairs of Komedia, which was taken over by Club NME for the night. The group had one great song, the others being of mixed quality, but I was impressed by all their instrument-swapping.

I didn't really pay any attention to these at all, so I can't comment on them. They weren't amazing anyway.

A bit too noisy for me, and I was exhausted by this point so just excited to find somewhere to sit down and spent most of the performance with my eyes closed to block out all the flashing lights!

The Holloways
These were quite good and I enjoyed their jolly single Generator, but I probably would have had more fun if it was getting on to 4 in the morning! Still, I can now say I've been to a gig so late at night that when I came out it was starting to get light...

Tonight is the final night and I have plans to see Ripchord, (We Are) Performance, Sonic Hearts, Tiny Dancers, Kate Nash or Captain (I can't pick!), The Wire, The Hours, Winterkids (a last minute addition to the bill which I am VERY excited about!), The Answering Machine and Bonde Do Role!
Friday, May 18, 2007

The Great Escape... Part 1

This weekend over 200 arists descend on the most fabulous English town of Brighton (where I happen to live) for the second annual Great Escape Festival. Focussing on new bands and international acts, it's a great way to discover new music and there's a huge variety to choose from. I bought a wristband for all 3 days, last night being the first, and so far I've seen 5 great acts and one terrible one! Here are my reviews of what I saw on Thursday, to be followed with my Friday and Saturday reports later:

Peter Von Poehl
Kicking off the festival was a cute French guy playing acoustically in a relaxed seafront bar atmosphere. Technical difficulties made his set half an hour late, and he filled gaps while problems were being sorted by telling us very slowly a story about stars dying, which was quite endearing. His music was very nice but I don't think world domination is in his path.

Four Day Hombre
I wrote about these a few days ago, so it was interesting to see them live. I enjoyed the songs I recognised and the singer was good, but as I said in my review it's all a bit Coldplay/Keane/Embrace-type music for my liking. Still they were a good band and they have some songs with potential to be very big hits.

Hello Saferide
This was the band I was most excited about seeing at this festival - an actual Swedish pop band in Brighton! How exciting! They played all the ace tracks like Long Lost Penpal and High School Stalker and a few I didn't know which were just as good. I was right at the front and got a great view of the band who are all very pretty, especially Annika. I was particularly excited to see that Maia Hirasawa, a Swedish indie-poppet in her own right, was still playing with them despite her new-found solo fame.

Hafdis Huld
I think the word 'cute' was invented for Hafdis Huld because she really is so cute and ace and fun and funny that you just want to be her best friend. All her songs are great too (with lyrics like "ice cream is nice, monsters are not" and "I hope you choke on your plastic halo") and seeing her live convinced me that I must buy her album - I was very annoyed to not have enough cash on me to buy it there and then. Her Icelandic accent has made me want to live in Iceland for a while so I can pick it up and speak like her - there is no acer accent in the world.

We're Marching On
I saw this Canadian rock band by accident, as they were an hour late, playing when Ghosts were supposed to be on, so we had to wait through them until Ghosts appeared. I have to say it was one of the worst bands I've ever seen live and I recommend you avoid them at all costs! I was particularly annoyed that I could have seen Nouvelle Vague or Ali Love while they were on, but I didn't find out Ghosts were late until I was inside and thinking "Ghosts definitely weren't Canadian last time I checked!"

The final band of the night are probably the only one most readers will have heard of, since they've actually had a hit in the UK, the super-lovely Stay The Night. There were yet more technical issues, but it turned out well as we were treated to I Wanna Be Like You from the Jungle Book and the Neighbours and Home and Away theme tunes! They did all the ace tracks from their MySpace, plus a few more from the forthcoming debut album, and a surprisingly lovely cover of Don't Cha by the Pussycat Dolls! They were a great finale to a very enjoyable night of new music, and I look forward to buying their CD when it's released.

Tonight I am planning to see Oh No Ono, Willy Mason, Les Breastfeeders, Pigeon Detectives, The Holloways, Foals and Undercut (only the 1st 3 through my own choice) so I'll report back and let you know if I've turned indie by the end of the night, or just grown to hate indie trendster wannabes even more than I do already...
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Next Big Thing?

Four Day Hombre
The singer sounds remarkably like Chris Martin, but there is something very likeable about this music nonetheless, particularly the songs Daylight Came and Rocket Pack. I doubt I'd ever buy their album myself, but I think a lot of people would - there's definitely a big market for this sort of thing, as the popularity of Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Keane etc. shows. They've been going since 2003 and their debut album has been out for a year already, released on their own label Alamo Music. A second album is in the works and they are making appearances at a few festivals this summer. They have a sound that could sell millions, but will their home-grownness limit their success?
Hit Potential: 70% Poptasticness: 60%

Kharma 45
Those of you who mourned the demise of short-lived electro-pop-rockers Protocol should take a listen to Ecstacy by Kharma 45. Alternatively, if you always thought they were in need of a 90s dance twist, Where's Your Spirit Man might be your new favourite. Kharma 45 mix a range of styles from indie to electro to dance to rock, and sound like a different band on each song. They never sound entirely original, but the variety in their music makes them an interesting act. The free download track Come On is quite danceable and Political Soul is definitely the most poptastic and cathiest of their songs - overall I'm very impressed.
Hit Potential: 45% Poptasticness: 70%

Laura Marling
How a girl from Reading manages to sound like a mix of Hello Saferide and Missy Higgins, but I don't care because I'm falling quite in love with Laura Marling. Her voice is so soothing and lovely, and her lyrics are sensitively witty and thought-provoking. If Kate Nash is the nicer Lily Allen, then Laura Marling is the nicer Kate Nash, so if you're wanting something kick-ass and futuristic you're in the wrong place, but if you're in need of something sweet and simple then Laura is definitely your girl. New Romantic and Failure are my favourite tracks at the moment.
Hit Potential: 60% Poptasticness: 75%
Friday, May 11, 2007

New Pop On The Block

Josh Groban - Don't Give Up (You Are Loved) (Video)
Along with the brilliant In The Clouds by Under The Influence of Giants, this is my current biggest tip for the top. Considering how much I detest You Raise Me Up, this must be a pretty amazing song for it to get my approval, and it certainly is. It's very wimpy and gran-oriented, but it's a really well written song and of course Josh is a great classical singer who works on pop ballads too. It's already been a hit in Sweden, which is how I first heard of it, and I'm pretty sure the UK is next. I can definitely see this being at number 1 for many weeks this summer, probably preventing In The Clouds from reaching the top spot.
92% Poptastic!

Kate Nash - Foundations (Video)
I knew that Kate had something special when I heard Birds, the b-side to her last single Caroline Is A Victim. I didn't like the single very much but the b-side was just lovely, very sensitive and quirky. She may be let down by being such a clear merger of Lily Allen and Regina Spektor (perhaps we should call her Lily Spektor) but this is another good song and the video is really cute so I am confident that she will gain a fair amount of success. If you find Lily a bit too annoying or Regina too indie, Kate is the girl for you.
83% Poptastic!

My Eurovision Semi-Final Thoughts

I tend to avoid complaining about Eastern block voting in Eurovision, because, as Lordi proved last year, it can be overcome with a good song and stand-out performance. However, I can't avoid at least commenting on the fact that every single one of the 10 entries which got through the semi-finals last night was from Eastern Europe, particularly former USSR countries. Some of them deserved to go through, such as Hungary (an excellent singer) and Latvia (grannies will love it - could even win, I think), but there were others for whom my notes said "What a racket!" (Bulgaria) and "Ugly boring poo" (Serbia... not my most articulate note-making moment perhaps!). I wasn't so much shocked by the ones that got through as by the ones who didn't, as they included some of the acts most highly tipped to succeed (Switzerland! Andorra!) and all of my top 5 favourites (Belgium, Austria, Norway, Cyprus and the Netherlands).

I don't want to say that this is political voting, because I don't think that's true. I think that people are voting for what they know and what they understand. If a song is popular with Latvians, it's probably going to be popular with Estonians and Lithuanians as well. They might even know the act already. I haven't personally visited any of these Baltic/Eastern countries (unless you count Poland, but that was very Westernised) so this may be lack of knowledge showing, but these countries all have similar heritage and traditions and tastes, so it makes sense that they'd all vote for each other, and since they now outnumber the Western countries (despite mostly being smaller countries in area and population) this voting pattern makes an impact.

Similarly, you will notice that all of my favourites in the semi-final were Western countries too, showing that we are just as likely to vote for our neighbours. There are effectively two contests going on here, and since the Eastern one has more competitors, they are going to win - it's just shocking that they have done so so completely, without a single Western country reaching the final, despite there being some really ace entries from the West this year. I'm not terribly upset because my two favourite entries (Sweden and France - more Westerners) are already in the final, but it doesn't give me much hope that they will even get a decent placing, despite their greatness, if the votes play out like they did last night.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Just so you know

I'm currently supporting France (fave song) and Sweden (fave band and country) in Eurovision, but this is subject to change. Well, I won't stop liking those two but I'm sure I'll grow fondness for some others - watch this space!
Monday, May 07, 2007

International Video Challenge

Representing Sweden: BWO - Save My Pride
My favourite band in the world are back with the first single from their third album, and it's typical BWO brilliance, of course! The video is slightly disturbing (humans with huge animal heads) but clever and fun, as their videos usually are, and it's at least watchable unlike the one for Sunshine In The Rain which I'm just a bit too squeamish to sit through. Martin looks as beautiful as ever, and the others look groovy too, but the video could do with a bit more variety to it perhaps. Still, great song and it's super-exciting to have a new BWO album on its way.

Representing the Netherlands: Tiesto ft. Christian Burns - In The Dark
If that name or face seems familiar to you, don't be surprised, because this track does in fact feature one member of BBMak! Quite a random place for him to turn up, especially since I'd heard nothing of him doing solo work until I saw this on a music channel. I've never been much impressed by Tiesto's music and this does nothing to change that. I'm a fan of Eurodance but Tiesto's songs are always really boring. I would like to see more ex-popstars appearing on random Europop singles though, so lets make it a trend please!

Representing Germany: Sasha - Lucky Day
In the late 90s I can remember hearing about but never actually hearing any music of a German singer called Sasha who was a huge star in his home country (the German Robbie, perhaps), and it turns out he's still going and has a current hit with Lucky Day. It's a very jolly acoustic-pop song and even has accordions! There's nothing ground-breaking or amazingly stand-out ace here but it's quite enjoyable anyway. The verses are a bit boring but the chorus is very catchy, especially the "SHOW me what you got" bit.
Sunday, May 06, 2007

Some interesting Europop discoveries

Did you know that René from Aqua had a solo career? His 2003 cover of Push It by Salt 'n' Pepa is strangely disturbing. Definitely no It's Your Duty.

Atomik Harmonik are tacky, sexually degrading and their song Turbo Polka (apparently a hit in central Europe) is ridiculously repetitive but I still find myself rather loving it and have been humming it ever since I first heard it earlier today.

Why does the Andorran Eurovision entry (a wannabe Busted type band called Anonymous) sound like a 'mockney' Londoner when he sings in English?
Saturday, May 05, 2007

Top of the Poptastic!

My fave songs during the month of April...

1. BWO - Chariots Of Fire
2. Rihanna - Umbrella
3. Marion Raven - Break You
4. Rufus Wainwright - Going To A Town
5. CSS – Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above
6. Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Me And My Imagination
7. Scissor Sisters - Kiss You Off
8. Ghosts – The World Is Outside
9. Sergey Lazarev - Shattered Dreams
10. Beyoncé & Shakira - Beautiful Liar (Freemasons Remix)
11. Amerie - Gotta Work
12. Mutya - Real Girl
13. Enrique Iglesias - Do You Know (Ping Pong Song)
14. Gym Class Heroes - Cupid's Chokehold
15. Booty Luv - Shine
16. The Fray - Over My Head (Cable Car)
17. Manic Street Preachers ft. Nina Persson - Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
18. Tori Amos - Big Wheel
19. Chungking - Love Is Here To Stay
20. Maximo Park - Books From Boxes
Tuesday, May 01, 2007

News & Links

Darren Hayes has posted another new track, Step Into The Light, on his MySpace. I like it more than Who Would Have Thought, but it’s still not as mindblowingly great as some of his previous releases. I’ll keep my hopes up for the album to be amazing anyway, because it will be, without question.

There's good news and bad news for Patrick Wolf fans. The good is that he's not retiring after all, but the bad is that his new material doesn't sound all that poptastic - he's working with someone from Atari Teenage Riot for starters!

Remember the acetastic indie-electro-pop band Delays? They haven't split up as once feared, but are working on a new 3rd album and releasing a concert DVD soon. Keep an eye on their MySpace for details of how to get a copy. Their gigs are amazing so it should be a good DVD.

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