Wednesday, December 8, 2010

BBC Sound of 2011

This blog tends not to deal with the latest in pop culture. It's a bit nerdy maybe, folk, post rock, lo-fi indie pop and the like, but I'm having a listen to the BBC Sound of 2011 longlist which was released a little while back. Last year I would have been all over this but I had a radio show and it made for an interesting bit, speculating and all that. But here we go, this years list:

Nero ain't my bag ...and I reckon the "womp" may eat itself in 2011 sounds to me like a tacky trance verse with a massive bass kick instead of the typically uplifting trance chorus. Grand but formulaic, and I reckon it'll sound very dated in time.

Clare Maguire sure sounds interesting. Epic alright but her debut single reminds me of Ray Of Light by Madonna a bit. She sure could be a superstar but although I love a bit of epic this fails where Florence And The Machine nailed it for me. Again, not bad, more power to her.

Manchester's Daley has already written a track with Damon Albarn, that sure is nifty, but his debut single has gone well over my head. Sure he'll probably be big, sultry 80's R n' B vocal, sweet like chocolate wet evening driving home montage moment music. Yeah, he's got it alright but I'm happy to avoid "it" on this occasion.

Esben And The Witch are delightful. If you like anything along the lines of Zola Jesus, Warpaint, Florence, Alpines or anything on the popppier side of Fever Ray you've nailed it with these guys. The signed to Matador a few months back and will release their debut album Violet Cries in February.

02 Skeleton Swoon by Esben and the Witch

The intro to Jai Paul's debut single was so promising ...then come the sharp electronic handclaps, dirty electro grooves and shooting lazers. Too much for me. I downed tools and ran for the hills. Interesting sure, but I don't ever want to see this guy live, and I don't see it lasting longer than a few months. Call me old fashioned but these musical tools add to the euphoria of dance music, you're sweating, caught in the moment, surrounded by the children of the night, these little tricks add to the experience. They do nothing for me as a slow pop song. I'm drinking tea on my couch. I'm not of a disposition to want to listen to club music sounds, without the club experience. Much like I don't want to listen to Leonard Cohen at a rave. If this guy takes off I'm half expecting Major Lazer to do a tribute to Jeff Buckley. Shudder.

So here I go, directly contradicting my last point. Club sounds and samples, perfect for a day's tea drinking and blogging on the couch. I'm grooving away here. Dammit, and I thought I'd make quite a good point last time. James Blake's sound is truly innovative and interesting. To compare James Blake and Jai Paul I would compare their sounds to interesting meals. While James Blake would be a genuinely interesting Heston Blumenthal creation of things that work and blend beautifully, however unlikely, Jai Paul, while unlikely is the taste of Bacon And Cabbage, fried and served in a breakfast bowl with milk. Of course, James also makes truly wonderful piano based songs he spares no space to experiment and add lovely noises. Top notch stuff.

James Blake - CMYK by jdillon89

Jamie Woon, a brand new listen for me ...and he's an absolute delight! Think Beardyman meets Seal. Lovely voice, great production, moody and beautiful.

Oh good lord. Jessie J. I'm 22, but I feel so old. I appreciate the sentiment of her debut single but the aggression genuinely scares me ...or it could be the terrifying scowl she has on in the video, or the use of autotune which still gives me the heebie jeebies. Either way, pointless nonsense to me, but I suppose better to listen to angry opinionated souls than Black Eyed Peas.

All I'm gonna say is Mona write songs inspired by Kings Of Leon's early production values, their later songwriting values and entire vocal style. I'm gonna avoid this one.

I'm not even going to try and avoid the Passion Pit comparisons, but I really do think (and genuinely hope) that New Zealand band The Naked And Famous are gonna do really well. While I have a big old music crush on Passion Pit, I think these guys go a step further in terms of making BIG music. And more power to them, I can't fault the songs and I hope to see them pack tents out on the festival circuit this summer. Their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You is out now.

Anna Calvi ...ah, I've fallen in love. One of the delights of living in Great Britain is listening to 6 Music a lot. I heard this track first on the Nemone show and for the first time in years I was glued to the radio to find out more details on this wonderful song and who sang it. I found it was a song made famous by Edith Piaf, but Calvi has certainly made it her own, haunting and dark, no surprise she's toured with Nick Cave's Grinderman then. Her songwriting then, it was a relief to find is flawless. Intense and unsettling, timeless too. She's a keeper.

Jezebel by Anna Calvi

I've written a fair bit about The Vaccines already, here and here, and with good reason. They're a good old guitar based rock n' roll band. top notch songs, great attitude and excellent live I hear. I have only one worry. The level of hype (this list being case in point) that surrounds them at the moment cannot be sustained and I only hope that the fallout leaves them with a healthy fanbase and an exciting future, rather than leaving them in the rock and roll graveyard that has swallowed so many young bands that themselves swallowed the hype.

Warpaint are hardly new. Poor form on the part of this list. Whatever about them having released an album, but they could easily have gone on last years list on the back of their debut E.P Exquisite Corpse. Top notch band though, with their debut, The Fool, set to top all sorts of polls for album of the year. I suppose picking a band that are already well known and liked is a surefire way to have people think you're on the ball. The Killers and Kasabian next year?

Moving along to Wretch 32. First listen for me. Now I've been out of the game for a few months. I haven't been quite on the ball with the current pop sounds but when I left I was pretty sure autotune had gone as far as it could and there would be a backlash. WRONG! While the US is lapping up watered down grime sounds from once respected UK artists, Wretch 32 has gone roundabout and taken US Rn'B autotune pop sounds to an absolute extreme. While I try to be fair in these articles and rants, and appreciate everyone's taste, this is complete and utter muck saying that this guy could, and probably will be absolutely massive.

Luckily, at the end, we have a treat, with the delightful Yuck. Ex members of Cajun Dance Party, male/female vocals, wonderful summery pop songs, lo-fi sounds and an acoustic side project called Yu(c)k. Nothing not to love. They probably won't make the shortlist but they've made a nice little space in my music world for themselves and I hope they continue to do so for many more people.

Georgia by Yuck

It is important to remember that while the list is generally a good indicator for what'll be big it is interesting to note that of last years list, Daisy Dares You, Devlin, Rox and Giggs are still awaiting stardom while The Drums album didn't live up to their E.P's excitement and they seem to be on their way to wherever the Kaiser Chiefs and Hard Fi are now.

Stornoway, Joy Orbison, Hurts, Everything Everything and Delphic are trucking away but I really don't see much in the latter three. Time will tell I suppose. I wish only the best for this first two but can't see them headlining stadia ...but I can't imagine they do either.

Owl City. Owl fucking City. 5 months of hearing that bloody song every hour and a half. Please don't every come back, awful sickly sweet, faux poetic nonsense. The O.C was canned, it's over.

Marina And The Diamonds, for me, were an absolute disappointment. Mowgli's Road was fantastic. I was eagerly awaiting the album but once that awful, self-referencing Hollywood hit the airwaves the bad taste had lodged in my mouth. Shampain and Oh No furthered my dislike, vacuous and uninteresing, catchy sure but then so is so much terrible music.

Finally, superstars and with all of the good reason in the world. Ellie Goulding and Two Door Cinema Club. I cannot fault them. As for comparing this years list to last years, I reckon The Naked And Famous are all set to make a big dent. Not that I think they're as good as Goulding or Two Door, but they tick all the boxes. As for the rest, as with last year, a lot of forgettable filler but in fairness it doesn't mean music has gotten any worse. Anyone remember Kubb, The Twang or The Ordinary Boys? It just means these lists are only judged on one year, and after that, only judged on the one or two who'd inevitably shine anyway.

...and now you know why I only speculate on pop culture occasionally ...because I'm a cantankerous old bastard who's suspicious of strange new sounds made by young people in hoodies. Ok, it's not, but the more I learn about long forgotten trends and genres, the more I've learned that it's easy to get caught up in a musical moment and consider it important music history. If you do, enjoy it, but beware of making grandiose statements and for fucks sake, don't get a tattoo. I'm sure there's some dipshit walking around with Hadouken! in neon inked onto his arse, just don't let it be you.

For more on the BBC Sound of 2011 longlist visit their website

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  1. Well written post dude. Agree with pretty much everything you said. Though I must say if this is the best of 2011 according to the BBC, we're either in for a boring year or they are just not on the ball... Either way, keep up the good work!

  2. All well said sham - some agreements to make for back-slapping, some disagreements to end in Chinese burns! All in all top class post.

    Very interesting the piece on Nero (though I do like the guy). 100% on the ball there: "and I reckon the "womp" may eat itself in 2011". I've been screaming that for months now! It's been quickly going that way too, and the criminal Skrillex mutinising the Beatport charts is enough proof of that. Watch for ten thousand daily uploads of "DUBSTEP REMIX!!!" on YouTube; the results of droves of kids going "womp" in the night. Can’t wait to hear a new pitched up Chipmunks mix of Drop It Like Its Hot…! The womp sound mirrors that trend of the new or extreme elements in anything moving to the forefront (from G4 accents to punks wearing safety pins), the same dastardly elements that exploded and imploded hardhouse! But it won’t be the death of dubstep says mo dhuine. It’s too varied a genre for an early exit. I’ll eat my beautiful bonnet the day I fail to find at least one dubstep tune to suit any particular person’s tastes. And it’ll only get reinvigorated when the extreme elements push it beyond the casual’s ears, and all the gatecrashing kids and fleeting producers decide to turn their attention to something else – maybe folktronica-hop! Then we'll be able to listen to Skream without getting distracted. One day doing a lot of musing on it, I somehow found a link between dubstep and nu-disco. Melody will come back in when rhythm goes out and the stripped-back sound of dubstep will pave the way for the nu-skool. Or so goes my new prophetic ranting – 2 year’s and we’ll all be bopping to nu-disco! Well, maybe only some of us…. by that stage everyone will be listening to rock again! And I blame that on Mike Posner.

  3. Isn't Jessie J just unashamedly ripping off Christina Aguilera? I still would though.

    The Vaccines sound like The Jam on a beach in California .... back to basics, I love it!!

  4. Anna Calvi 2011 ftw!!!
    And Marina is brill xD

  5. This is an very good post.