Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Emmy the Great - Mahal Kita | Acoustic live session in Paris



This is Emmy The Great performing an acoustic version of the title track from her current album, Mahal Kita. There are lots of good quality single song live clips of Emmy available online, and you can also watch a musical postcard from Emmy The Great online, in full. 

Emma Pollock - Old Ghosts (Live at Celtic Connections 2016)



This is Emma Pollock performing 'Old Ghosts' at Celtic Connections 2016. It wasn't her first visit to Celtic Connections and, while I've been unable to find a good enough quality full live set of Emma for you, I do recommend her cover of Billy Connelly's 'Everybody Knows That' from 2010's Celtic Connections festival. 

Monday, 24 July 2017

Fantasy Festival #3: The Modern Classics Festival - Lineup

Skating Polly: Skating Polly are a teenage sister duo from Oklahoma, comprised of the fantastically named Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse. They formed in 2009 and have been taken under the wing of  Babes In Toyland (who took Skating Polly on tour with them a couple of years back) and more recently Nina Gordon and Louise Post of Veruca Salt. They make visceral, sometimes angry, sometimes eerie and unsettling guitar driven punk rock in the grunge tradition.

Miya Folick: Miya Folick is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter who comes from an acting background and makes slightly otherworldly indie rock. She has the kind of voice that can quite literally stop you in your tracks, and you can read an interview with her in Vogue, of all places, from last year. 

Emma Pollock: Legend of the Glasgow music scene, co-founder of Chemikal Underground records, and a former Delgado, Emma Pollock is flying solo these days. Her music is experimental and pared down, making use of strings as much as guitars, understated and stylish. Her current album, In Search of Harperfield, was nominated for the Scottish Album of the Year award in June.

Emmy The Great: Musician and culture writer, Anglo-Chinese Emmy The Great grew up in East Grinstead, and has been making music since 2006. I hesitate to call her a bedroom folk artist, because I've never felt it to be much of a compliment, but I do see her as someone who creates amazing sonic landscapes largely independently much like Nancy Elizabeth. Her album, Mahal Kita, is out now.

Jesca Hoop: Former Mormon, former nanny to Tom Waits' children, and persuaded to decamp from the US to distinctly unsunny Manchester by a certain Guy Garvey. It was always going to be an intriguing backstory, even before Jesca Hoop started to release records. Memories Are Now, her fourth album, was released last year. She is electrifying live, almost Shamanic. She played Latitude on 16th July, and continues to tour and play festivals throughout the summer.

Laura Mvula: I really loved Laura Mvula's debut album, Sing To The Moon, and, while I couldn't get into the follow up, The Dreaming Room, I was still shocked to hear that Sony had dropped her (by email!) earlier this year. Even if The Dreaming Room wasn't my cup of tea, musically, I respected it as a record because it was experimental and new, and was a strong departure from the debut album, which had it's roots in jazz, blues, and soul. Laura is touring at the moment, and into Autumn, so there are plenty of chances to see her live.

Martha Wainwright: Martha Wainwright has been releasing records from 2005 onwards, and her music has taken a number of differing musical twists and turns along the way, from the bloody minded folky j'accuse of 'Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole' to the slinky soul groove of the more recent 'Take The Reins'. She is currently on the Canadian and US leg of her tour.

PJ Harvey: Polly Jean Harvey has been making music since the early 1990s and, as you would expect, her music has evolved and changed considerably in the past (nearly) thirty years, as has her singing voice. In recent years she has been reinventing the protest song and the radio ballad, and has diversified into poetry and broadcasting. One thing Harvey has never lost is her integrity, and her approach to music in recent years has reflected that.


Saturday, 22 July 2017

A positive story about the Glastonbury festival

Anyone who's been regularly reading my blog since the end of June will know that I've been posting a lot of stuff around the theme of women and festivals recently.

This all stemmed from a detailed report that the BBC did into festivals over the past ten years, which revealed a distinct lack of female headliners at festivals as well as that festival headliners were getting older and whiter. The report was released on the eve of this years Glastonbury Festival, which tends to be the sacrificial goat when it comes to festival criticism. I think the fact that Glastonbury is the biggest and most well established of the UK festivals, not to mention the most televised, might have something to do with this. Although the festival's radical, idealistic post hippie roots combined with its contemporary ticket prices are also part of the reason why it tends to get the most stick, rightly or wrongly.

My own response to the BBC report was critical of Glastonbury, in as much as I agreed with the NME that Florence + The Machine should have been offered a headline slot in their own right in 2015 rather than have got a headline slot by accident, but I did try not to single out Glastonbury for criticism specifically because I feel the issues raised in the BBC report are issues affecting festivals in general, not just Glastonbury.

As to why I, personally, can't ever envision myself attending Glastonbury this is a basic equation of: Cost of ticket, travel and camping equipment combined with not knowing in advance who you are going to see = Approximately £300 (probably more, if we include food) spend on festival with potentially very few, or no, bands playing I would like to see. I did spend something in the region of £300 attending British Summer Time last year (I'm including the London hotel bill there..) but I did that knowing who I was going to see, which made all the difference.

As an interesting sideline, it's food for thought that Jeremy Corbyn's appearance at Glastonbury this year gathered equal amount of interest/coverage to that of any of the musical headliners. Which in some ways is a positive thing, reflecting perhaps the youth surge in the 2017 General Election, but it's equally as much a sign of the times so far as changing attitudes of festival audiences are concerned. Not necessarily as much of a warning sign as the New York Times' decision  last year not to cover Coachella and Bonnaroo anymore, in that they felt that both festivals had become a poseurs paradise, the various bands playing effectively no more than decorative wallpaper to the punters gazing adoringly into their phones, but a definite change nonetheless.

With all this in mind, it was oddly heartwarming to read Lifeonlauralane's recent blog post about the fantastic, above and beyond, support she received as an attendee of this years Glastonbury Festival. Despite the traumatic circumstances that led her to contact the festival and ask for help, it's clear from her story that the event staff went above and beyond to ensure she felt safe attending the event. There are reasons why Glastonbury is the most popular and well attended of UK festivals and, hopefully, the attitude of its staff is one reason why people keep coming back.


Thursday, 20 July 2017

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Estelle "Conqueror" on Skyville Live



This is Estelle performing a particularly fine rendition of 'Conqueror' on Skyville Live. I haven't been able to find a full live set of Estelle online unfortunately, but I have been reacquainting myself with her collaboration with Ben Watt, 'Pop a Cap in Yo Ass', a particularly fine tune. She's also recently released 'Woman's World' in support of Planned Parenthood.

The Staves - No Me, No You, No More (Glastonbury, 2015)



This is the Staves performing 'No Me, No You, No More' at Glastonbury 2015. You can watch the full Glastonbury 2015 set online. 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Fantasy Festival #2: The Slightly Serious Festival - Lineup

Julia Jacklin: Julia Jacklin is an Australian singer/songwriter from the Blue Mountains, who has lived in Sydney for several years but is currently based in Barcelona. Her debut album, Don't Let The Kids Win, was released in October 2016. She makes catchy folk pop songs, and her voice is ever so slightly reminiscent of a young Kristen Hersh. She has just, in the past two days, played at Latitude, and is right in the middle of a load of European festival dates. 

Kelsey Lu: Kelsey Lu is a classically trained cellist who combines sparse highly atmospheric musical compositions with a real stop-'em-in-their-tracks voice. Her back story is an interesting one, and she seems to have been quickly taken under the wing of a number of supportive artists, which bodes well.   She has just played the Night + Day Festival in Iceland, and will be playing a series of US dates in the autumn.

The Staves: The Staves are a trio of folk rock singing sisters from London who have released two albums, 2012's Dead & Born & Grown and 2015's If I Was. Recent single 'Tired As Fuck' hinted at a more rock direction for the band, who are not currently touring, and are perhaps working on new material.

Estelle: Estelle, the London singer/songwriter whose musical output cannot clearly be tagged as purely soul when it also includes aspects of R&B, grime, hip hop and areas of dance music, has released four albums and has won several MOBO's plus one Grammy (for her Kanye West collaboration, 'American Boy') she is a musically versatile and commanding performer who performed a lot in 2016, but is not currently touring.

Regina Spektor: Regina Spektor is an American/Russian singer/songwriter who will be playing some UK dates in the next couple of weeks. Although best known for the song 'Samson', her musical output and style is more varied than that particular song would suggest, combining Russian folk elements on one hand and hip hop beats on the other.

Natacha Atlas: Natacha Atlas is an Egyptian-Belgium singer whose early work in the 1990s included collaborations with the global dance band Transglobal Underground. She combines Arabic music and western pop of a number of styles to create everything from atmospheric laments to global dance music. She will be playing two dates in France this year, one in August, one in October. 

Patti Smith: The legendary Patti Smith released her debut album, Horses, in 1975 and has been written of as the 'Godmother of punk', thanks to the cataclysmic effect Horses had on a number of artists on both sides of the Atlantic. Since punk, she has continued to be a musical touchstone and inspiration, meaning she has inspired artists as far apart as The Raincoats and Florence + The Machine. She played British Summer Time last year, second on the bill to Massive Attack. She is currently touring Europe.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The album of the summer is here!

Gothic Tropic's debut album, Fast or Feast, was released in May which, in these days of climate change, counts as the start of summer. I've developed a theory over the last couple of years that an album's release date in some way syncs to its overall seasonal feel and, as such, am ready to declare Fast or Feast to be the summer album of 2017.

'Your Soul' is a particularly glittering summer anthem, and it helps that the band are from LA and make sunshine drenched guitar indie rock.

At times Cecilia Della Peruti sounds almost Debbie Harry ish in her vocals (particularly on 'Teenage Behaviour' and parts of 'Your Soul'), but the intricate, almost post punk pop nature of the songs themselves remind me more of Adult Net, while at the same time sounding both fresh and timeless.

'How Life Works', 'Your Soul', 'Don't Give Me Up' and 'Stronger' are all blessed with great hooks and catchy choruses, but include a knowing quality and life smart lyrics that complicate the sunshine pop elements:

'They're not selling seats; they're selling fear' Peruti observes on 'Stronger'.

There's also the more experimental tracks, including 'Chemical Trail', 'If It Had A Body', and the almost lullabying 'Feed You To The Sharks', which is a subtly disquieting way to close an album.

Because it's so short (just over half an hour in length) you're left with a real desire for more and, as such, it's been on heavy rotation since I bought it a couple of weeks back.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Stevie Nicks - "Edge Of Seventeen" [Live In Chicago]



Stevie Nicks performing the epic 'Edge of Seventeen' live in Chicago. The album version of the song is over five minutes long but, in live performance, it's much, much longer.

This is the closest I get to classic rock territory, basically, and if you recognise the guitar riff that's because it was sampled by Destiny's Child for 'Bootylicious'.

There are many, many full live sets of Stevie Nicks both solo and as part of Fleetwood Mac available online. Most of the solo sets are from the 1980s, so I've picked out a concert from 1982 for you. It might be that more recent stuff becomes available in a few months or so online.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Gothic Tropic - Stronger - Live



A live version of the current single, 'Stronger', this clip captures GT on the road on a recent tour date.

The band's full set at The Satellite in LA is available to watch in it's entirety online.

Vagabon - Cleaning house



I wasn't able to track down a festival performance by Vagabon as she's simply too new and there's not a lot of footage out there. This is an intimate performance in a small venue, providing an insight into the quieter end of her sprawling indie rock sound. Her full Audiotree live session is available to watch in it's entirety online.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Fantasy Festival #1: The Epic Festival - Lineup

Vagabon: Vagabon, aka Laetitia Tamko, hails from New York and released her debut album, Infinite Worlds, earlier this year. You can read about her in W Magazine, and you will find her music over on Bandcamp. She makes sprawling, raw indie rock with authenticity and heart.

Gothic Tropic: Cecilia Della Peruti hails from Los Angeles, and there seems to be some dispute online as to whether Gothic Tropic is Peruti alone, or whether Gothic Tropic is a band. The debut album, Fast or Feast, was released in the UK back in May. I was charmed by the bands set at The Castle as part of the Manchester leg of Dot To Dot at the end of May, and the album is an indie pop classic, with a sheen of California post punk pop and the intricacies of Adult Net. You can read about Gothic Tropic on DIY Mag.

Laura Gibson: Laura Gibson is a quietly established singer/songwriter who, until fairly recently, was based in Portland, Oregon. Her current, and third, album, Empire Builder, was released in 2016 and reflects the stark and understated nature of her songwriting. She is playing some UK dates in August.

Lily & Madeleine: Lily & Madeleine are two sisters from Indiana who play sophisticated folky pop. Their current album, Keep It Together, was released last year to critical acclaim, and they are currently touring the US in support to John Mellencamp.

Neko Case: Coming on like the lovechild of Patsy Cline and Gene Vincent, Neko Case makes gorgeously evocative Americana. She is one third of Case/Lang/Veirs, and also plays with The New Pornographers. She has released so many solo albums now that I have actually lost count and is resident in Canada. Her most recent solo album is the very presciently titled The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You and she has just come back from a short tour with The New Pornographers.

Bat For Lashes: Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes, released her debut album, Fur and Gold, in 2006. Two Suns, which followed in 2009, included the haunting 'Daniel', and brooding 'Sleep Alone'. The Bride, which was released last year, is her fourth album. Her songs are both haunting and beautiful, always atmospheric and gorgeous.

Stevie Nicks: There is the Stevie Nicks who is a member of Fleetwood Mac, and then there is Stevie Nicks the solo artist. My friend, David Wilkinson, has a theory as to why so many hipsters like the McVie/McVie/Fleetwood/Nicks/Buckingham lineup of Fleetwood Mac: he puts it down to the success of Tango In The Night in the mid-late 1980s, when the hipsters were children, meaning Fleetwood Mac serve as a sort of musical comfort blanket for them. Solo Nicks tends to be more rock, a bit harder, a bit tougher, a bit more visceral. She is playing British Summer Time festival at Hyde Park on 9th July as the main support to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and will then be touring the US.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Return of fever

Following on from the BBC's report on the gender gap at music festivals, and related trends over the past ten years, I've found myself returning to the issue again.

Having had my own response to the report, and to the World Service's coverage of the report, published on The F-Word last week, I've been thinking of ways that I can promote some of the women I mentioned at the very end of my piece.

As I was coming to the end of the piece, I was starting to think about the kind of festival that I would pay to attend. Who would it be comprised of? I used Florence Welch's answer to the 'Which women would you like to see headlining Glastonbury?' question when she was asked it in 2016 as my starting point, as I liked her choices. I then started to think, seriously, about who I would want to see and how I would arrange the bills.

The upshot of this is that I have made lists of 7 possible festival bills that I would happily pay to go and see. These are small bills, 7 or 8 artists a time, for a fictional one day festival that I would call The Fever Festival. I've arranged the bills in terms of smaller, newer artists towards the bottom of the bill, emerging and semi established artists in the middle, and established artists headlining and taking the 2nd, 3rd and (in some cases) 4th place on the bill.

I've tried to mix it up musically, and in terms of age, ethnicity and sexuality. I didn't get very far with being disabled friendly though, and I think the invisibility of disabled artists within the music industry is something that needs tackling on a wider scale anyway, and at this stage, it would be hard to tackle it in any meaningful way by an exercise as frivolous as this.

Needless to say, all of the artists I've included on my fictional festival bills are artists I'd happily pay to see live.

Of the 7 actual headliners I've picked, only 1 of them (and regular readers will be able to guess straight away which one) has headlined a festival in the last 10 years. Given some of the choices I've made, this might surprise you as, in slight deference to the prevalence of what the BBC report describes as 'Heritage acts', I have included two headliners who would fall into that category. This was consciously done, not because I think festivals should be always headlined by artists in their sixties and older, but because I wanted to play the promoters at their own game and also would love to see the two artists in question headline festivals in their own right, having both been second on the bill to male acts over the past couple of years.

Of the other four headliners, I would say that one is very established artist who has been around for nearly thirty years and has played at many festivals, several times, without being offered a headline slot, one is a young singer who is very big in the pop world but not in the festival world, one created a big splash with her debut English language album last year and played some festivals, was not high up the bill, but would do justice to a headline slot, and the third one is an established but not best selling artist who has recently launched a solo career, has never made it to the main stage of a festival, but is an electrifying performer who would be more than up to the job of headlining a festival.

These are, of course, personal choices and readers will no doubt be able to create their own versions of their own fantasy festival bill, just as I have.

I'm going to post a series of live clips between now and the end of August of all the 53 performers I identified in my piece as being festival and/or headliner material. Ideally, I would be posting well filmed clips of the artists playing at festivals, as many of them have put the hours in at innumerable festivals. Unfortunately, this hasn't always been possible because, while many of them have played festivals, their performances either weren't filmed or were filmed badly and, as such, aren't useable. The way I've approached this problem is to use the following criteria;

1) Is there a clip of the artist performing at a festival and is it of useable quality?

2) If not, is there a clip of the artist playing a live gig to an audience, and is it useable?

3) If not, is there a clip of the artist playing a live session somewhere, ideally in almost gig conditions, and is it useable?

4) If not, is there a promo video available, ideally showing the artist simulating a live performance?

Of all the 53 artists I'm including, there was only one where I had to use option 4, and that was because the artist in question is so new that there's very little beyond promo videos available online.

Festival number 1 starts this Friday, and I will be posting a mock poster of the 'bill' later this week, along with an overview of my choices ahead of Friday. In terms of the videos I'll be posting, it would have been possible in a number of a cases to post full, good quality, festival sets in their entirety but I've chosen not to do so because it would widen the gap between my headliners and artists located further down the bill. Where I'm aware of a good quality full set being available online, I'll endeavour to signpost you to it in the blog posts that accompany each video.