Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Duffy - Rockferry.

It's been a while since a singer-songwriter has come along amid such a huge influx of hype surrounding them. Ok, so Adele has been über hyped too, but that's mainly come from Radio 1 and there's still that distant untrusting feeling within me that wonders if 'Air-Time bribery' still takes place.
Anyway, that's a whole 'nother post right there.

I first saw and heard Duffy on "Later with Jools Holland", last year sometime. I liked her voice, but wasn't that taken with the song, which was Rockferry, I think. So, nice voice, but not enough for me to be taken with her enough to seek out more info.
Then, a few months ago, the hype machine kicked in, resounding the imminent arrival of someone very special. Duffy. Rockferry had a fair bit of air-play, but Mercy was the track pounding out of every orifice at every opportune moment. It certainly fits in with the ever popular 'retro' sound and Mercy had a much more immediate hook in it, which resulted in it sitting at the top of the singles chart for a while.

If you've heard Rockferry. If you've heard Mercy. If that's your bag baby, then the album does not disappoint. It's crammed with more of the same.
The 'sound' of the album is very much retro, tipping it's hat very much so to the Motown and Phil Spector era. It's as close as I've ever heard, to get a 'wall of sound' feel to it using modern technology. There's very much a feeling of real instruments on the album and it's nice to imagine that they might have recorded some of them in a single takes, as a band.
And there's strings. Lots of strings.
Now, I like strings. Many's a time when I've been listening to something and nodded my head in agreement when the strings wash in and out of a song. Strings are great. They add depth and more emotion.
But, there's a line. A fine line between using strings to compliment songs and using them to fill in the gaps. On Duffy's album that line may well have been crossed. On first listen of the album, I really liked the strings sections, but then the next song had strings, and the next, and the next.... It was three quarters of the way through, when I found myself wishing for less strings. There's definitely a point to the "Less Is More" theory.
And it's a shame. For me anyway. Much as I love the lavishness of a string section in a song, this album is simply awash with too much, which essentially dilutes the sweetness, leaving me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

Her voice is without doubt the strongest selling point. She's got a cross between the voice of an angel and an aged female blues singer that's been on a diet of a bottle of Jack Daniels and forty fags a day. Earthy, gutsy, throaty, powerful and yet sensitive, sweet and pure. Her voice fits the genre of the these songs perfectly. With each listen, the tracks become much more enjoyable and it's almost enough for me to be able to mentally ignore all the strings. Almost.
The production is sweet. Bernard Butler, he of Suede fame and solo projects plays lots of instruments on the album and produces a fair whack of it too. It sounds very polished, but carries a clever disguise throughout, allowing oneself to be convinced it was recorded many decades ago.

Comparisons to Amy Winehouse are regular occurrences and not a million miles off either. It will be interesting to see if she gets past talking about the next album and actually puts it out. A point that many other 'next big thing' singer song-writer's never seem to get past.
Listening to this album has made me delve into some other albums that I haven't listened to for a while; Ani DiFranco, Regina Belle and Joss Stone. I bet Joss would sound brilliant doing stuff like this.

A good album. I like it.

Stepping Stone
I'm Scared
Syrup & Honey
Warwick Avenue

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

bedshaped swings his pants.

After doing this on my personal blog for some time, it made sense to move it here to a more fitting place.
So, here's the first of hopefully some regular postings, showcasing what's on heavy rotation on my MP3 player. There's no rules here and if there were, then I'd like to exercise my right to bending them a little. Sometimes it's newer stuff, sometimes it's older stuff, but wherever they're from the important thing to remember here is that they are all free to download.
So enjoy.

The Young Knives - "Up All Night"
This has stuck in my head since I caught it on the radio a few weeks back. I like the fast tempo, I like the jangly guitars and I particularly like the vocal arrangements. They're a kooky looking bunch judging from their videos, but I just think that adds to the charisma of the song. This is a much better example of where I'd like to see 'indie/pop' going, rather than in the direction of The Hoosiers, The Wombats or even Scouting For Girls. Although I must admit Scouting do have a knack of becoming something of an earworm. Running at 2.46, it's great to see short, sharp, punchy songs coming back to the fore.

Hercules & Love Affair - "Blind (Frankie Knuckles Remix)"
Here's a bold statement....This is my favourite song of the year so far. I can't pinpoint exactly what it is that digs into my head and oozes such a pleasurable listening experience, but it just sounds great. Vocals provided by the distinctively sounding Antony Hegarty sit just perfectly in this track. A sweeping disco beat, lush synths and a bassline that's more funky than Jack McFunk from FunksVille. Add in some catchy percussion and a little brass and you get a choone that's just makes me wanna Vogue™.

Estelle feat Kanye West - "American Boy"
Can't say I was particularly fussed with Estelle's previous stuff, but this song is a killer. Funky beats, a slappin' bass and a keyboard line that grows from annoyingly distracting into killer hook within minutes. She's got a nice breezy voice that tumbles along, but it's Kanye that gives the song that extra oomph that it needs. Can he do any wrong nowadays?

Sam Sparro - "Black and Gold"
I don't know much about this guy. I think he's a DJ of some sorts who travels about a lot. Hell, I'm not even sure if it's actually Sam who sings on this or if it's one of those guest vocal spots. What I do know is that it's a proper grower! A nice dreamy and atmospheric feel to it, spurned along by a pulsating beat. The part at 4.21 that sounds distinctly like a Messenger notification is a little odd though. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be there or if I just have a shitty copy. Or perhaps it's subliminal!

Elbow - "Grounds For Divorce"

I'm really looking forward to their new album. I must admit, it took me a couple of listens to get into this song, but with each one in turn, it just started to sound better and better. And what a brilliant opening line (ignoring the quietly mumbled intro), "I've been working on a cocktail called grounds for divorce". Loving the bit when the guitars get turned up too. Typical sounding Elbow, with added meatiness. Love it, love it, love it.

That's my swinging pants session over for the time being.
It's been groovy.