Trouble by Iggy Azalea ft Jennifer Hudson (Review)

Review of Trouble by Iggy Azalea ft Jennifer Hudson

Trouble, the new one from Iggy Azalea is a fun rap/pop crossover.  The track utilises Iggy’s mainstream lyrical prowess linking with the powerful and quite distinctive voice of one time Destinys Child Jennifer Hudson.  The result is quite a distinctive sound with the two performers complementing each other.

Trouble by Iggy Azalea ft Jennifer Hudson

Review of Trouble the new track by Iggy Azalea ft Jennifer Hudson

The track is a light hearted story of a girl (Iggy Azalea) being caught up with the wrong bloke.  The accompanying video is a real tongue in cheek affair, showing how Iggy embraces her femininity and rescues her beau from incarceration.  Featuring some dubious attempts to look sexy and some even more dubious driving, Iggy Azalea is pursued by a female police officer (Jennifer Hudson) who seems to show a complete disregard for her uniform.

Trouble as I mentioned in the first paragraph is a piece of harmless fun.  Linking two good solo performers together with good effect.  The track lacks a real hook that means it is unlikely anybody will be singing this down the gym, but it is well produced with a decent pop beat and harmless music.

Trouble is a good track that deserves air play and it should sell a few units, nice effort from the ladies that has a sense of female empowerment.  The end of the video is a nice little touch as well.  Trouble is scheduled to be released on 20th April.

Sucker by Charli XCX (Album Review)

Review of Sucker by Charli XCX

Charli XCX aka Charlotte Aitchison is big news at the moment.  Whilst most artists accept they are part of the ever revolving music scene, like some raw fish on a conveyor belt at a dodgy sushi restaurant, Charli XCX has shown much more grit (not like the fish at a dodgy sushi restaurant). 

Sucker by Charli XCX

Sucker by Charli XCX

She first emerged on the scene in London as a 15 year old on the underground party scene in the capital.  Several false starts later and some letdowns by previous advisors – Charli now 22 is big news.  A regular on the red carpet both sides of the Atlantic Charli XCX is known as much for her look and style as she is her music.  Unlike some, Charli XCX appears to remain grounded.  The testing rise to fame she has experienced means she still has time for her music and is not overpowered by the noise that tinseltown and NYC brings.

Charlie XCX is as well known for all of the above and her own great music as she is her special talent for writing.  She has co-written with some big and some cool acts including the likes of Iggy Azalea and Icona Pop.  Charli XCX is also currently on tour supporting the huge Katy Perry on her European Tour.  Just keep Russell Brand away from her.

Sucker is the third album from London’s own Charli.  The collection of tracks is in-your-face.  Its as brash as it is confident, yet all along its very endearing.  The attitude of Charli XCX exudes the well produced synth-pop and demonstrates her vocal and writing ability to great effect.

The current single Doing It featuring, judge from BBC’s The Voice and some times singer, Rita Ora (only joking we love Rita) is a banger.  Definitely one of those tracks that gets you wanting to dust off the dancing shoes and put your arms in the air.  This is a great indication of the album as a whole and if you like Doing It, you won’t be disappointed by Sucker.

One track that did’t seem as strong was Breaking Up.  That will be a controversial thing to say as many critics have waxed-lyrical about this and its apparent homage to 90s group L7.  For me, it just sticks out a bit and not in a good way (maybe like a burger in that sushi restaurant – OK the metaphors stop now).

Overall, Sucker is a great album, particularly for fans of Charli XCX.

Non-Fiction by Ne-Yo (Album Review)

Review of Non-Fiction by Ne-Yo

So what can be said about Ne-Yo that hasn’t really been said before?  Dapper dresser, multi-grammy award winning RnB man Ne-Yo needs no introduction.  He is a bit of a critics favourite and his style and swagger added to his smooth vocal delivery doesn’t cause him any issues with the ladies either.  The charm laden vocals of his early material added to the appeal.

With all of this in mind, we are looking forward to his new album, right? Um, ermm…

Ne-Yo Non Fiction

Ne-Yo Non Fiction

So there is no doubting that Ne-Yo tries to avoid the lurid and smutty side of RnB as best he can.  He does possess good songwriting ability and although you can’t see it on recorded audio, does lead some of the best choreography of his genre.  But Non-Fiction has thrown Ne-Yo even further n to the commercialised sector or RnB where it has rendered a lot of his skills irrelevant.

Now this decline has been happening for a while, so it comes as no surprise.  However the production of lack of content on this album feels like Ne-Yo has given up and is playing purely to the dollar.  Whilst there are some good collaborations, not least Schoolboy Q’s appearance in album opener Run, there are also a fair amount of poor ones, notably David Guetta and Pitbull (even further evidence of selling out).

Non-Fiction also seems to like direction and in parts doesn’t feel true to Ne-Yo.  On She Knows Juicy J delivers “kill that pussy like my name Jack The Ripper”. Now I am assuming his is being slightly smutty and not condoning animal abuse, but either way, it doesn’t feel like a Ne-Yo Track.

Apparently Ne-Yo has promised that each track on Non-Fiction is based on a true story.  Now nobody doubts Ne-Yo has a number of stories to tell, but the question is, do any of us care?  The album seems more like a hotchpot of anecdotes or poor chat-up lines. However you describe it, Non-Fiction just doesn’t feel like an album.

Overall, I struggle to find a highlight, but its easy to find lows.  In all fairness, maybe I have been disappointed with Ne-Yo for some time and that directs my review.  Maybe its the fact that two acts I despise (David Guetta and Pitbull) feature.  Maybe, none of that is true and on balance the album is just pretty poor.  I think I will go with all three of those options.

My recommendation, poor album. Look it up on spotify and stick the ones you like on a playlist. I have added a grand total of none to mine.

NME Awards 2015 Winners

NME Awards 2015 Winners

So the NME has become a bit of an event on the music calendar and some say offer a bit of a nod to the Brit Award winners that are being announced the following week. So its no surprise the event  attracts a whole host of celebrity eye candy along the red carpet (and Jamie T – only kidding).  The papps loved their night claiming shots of Charli XCX, Alexa Chung and Clean Bandit’s Grace Chatto.

Charli XCX NME Awards

Charli XCX NME Awards

The awards, though, feel like the similarity with The Brits ends with the red carpet followers. The winners list is much more akin to what NME apparently stands for, even if the main publication has gone too commercial and lost its edge.

Big winners include Suede for the Godlike Genius Award aka Lifetime Achievement.  Kasabian and Foo Fighters won awards for best british and international bands respectively. 

Royal Blood however won two gongs (Best New Band and Best Live Band) while the brilliant Jamie T won three, two for his comeback track Zombie.  He won the third for Best Moment thanks to his comeback. 

Full winners below

Godlike Genius Award

Suede

Rock N Roll Soul Award

Jimmy Page

Best British Band

Kasabian

Best International Band

Foo Fighters

Contribution to Music<

Teenage Cancer Trust

Best Solo Artist

Jake Bugg

Best New Band

Royal Blood NME Award Winners

Royal Blood NME Award Winners

Royal Blood

Best Live Band

Royal Blood

Best Album

Kasabian43:13

Best Track

Jamie T NME Awards Winner

Jamie T NME Awards Winner

Jamie TZombie

Best Video

Jamie TZombie

Best Festival

Glastonbury

Dancefloor Filler

Iggy Azalea ft Charli XCXFancy

Worst Band

5 Seconds of Summer

Villain of the Year

Nigel Farage

Hero of the Year

Alex Turner

Music Moment of the Year

Jamie T comeback

Review of Where We Lie by Nico Cara

Debut Single Review – Nico Cara ‘Where We Lie’

 If you want to hear something fresh from a new singer then you wont go wrong listening to the debut single ‘Where We Lie‘ from Nico Cara.
Review of Where We Lie by Nico Cara

Review of Where We Lie by Nico Cara

 
The 19 year-old, hailing from North Yorkshire (with strong Sicilian roots) has been locked away working on his debut full-length project and looks set to join the likes of Ady Suleiman and JP Cooper in the new generation of singer/songwriters!
Where We Lie‘ is about romanticising teenagehood, and relationships you have during. The haze of feelings and confusion, diluted by intoxication. Rhys Williams (Director), however, took a different spin on the song’s sentiment and came up with quite a heartbreaking story of a momentary, unconventional relationship which plays on the lyrics’ hints of loneliness.
Check out the official video:
A nice storyline – but watch out for the twist at the end of the video!  Once you have watched this creative version also then watch Nico playing at
Here you see the artist without the storyline – and its just as good.
Someone to watch.  We are really looking forward to seeing more from Nico Cara.

Get Your Kit Out – Bowers & Wilkins A5

Get Your Kit Out – Bowers & Wilkins A5

We were looking enough to get our sticky paws on the beautiful looking A5 speaker system from Bowers & Wilkins.  Now, that statement probably sounds a bit indulgent or at best cheesy, but it honestly isn’t.  Bowers & Wilkins has always been known for great sound quality and an understanding of how acoustics work.

Design

The unit is effectively one speaker to the naked eye, but what a speaker it is.  Full chrome feel with a lovely rounded effect to the finish.  The look and feel just oozes quality and you can tell that some lovely creative people have spent a lot of time labouring over the look and its paid off.

Whilst B&W are known for their Zeppelin and the huge intimidating shadow it creates.  The A5 is far more subtle.  A great compact design and 5 speaker system, belies its capabilities as a first class music system.

Bowers and Wilkins A5

Bowers and Wilkins A5

The Sound

The unit is built for sound.  It is built for the discerning ear and consequently the main focus is on making sound quality a premium.  The quality performs at both a low and high level and regardless of the music type delivers as you would want it to.

The main standout for me is that the music handles bass very well.  So if you are in to your bass or beats then this will do your music justice.  Turn the volume up and there is little to no distortion.

The range is huge thanks to its five speaker system.  The sound is clear from even a long distance, proving the expert engineering put in to its creation.  The fact that the system uses Wi-Fi rather than bluetooth is also a plus for me, both in terms of sound quality, but also from a technical aspect.  WiFi is generally more, reliable, there is no deterioration of sound and it doesn’t half help the battery life of portable devices.

Set-up

One of the gripes for the system was that it wasn’t particularly easy to set-up beyond the standard installation.  Various issues around streaming music live and connecting your playing device to the speaker limit the initial enjoyment.  Downloading the app from the iStore was ridiculously easy though, however the info and help beyond that is limited.

In fact for a long period I couldn’t work out how to make the AirPlay system work and then it decided to work itself.

Teething issues

The device appears on the face of it simple and easy to use, but at the outset of usage there were teething problems.  Minor issues with connectivity could have been as much down to wi-fi connection slowing at peaks times as device related.  Difficulties getting airplay to work made me cry out for bluetooth, but that has been described above and could equally be down to user error.

In the first few usages the device seemed to bounce in terms of sound quality with regular drops in volume.  However, bizarrely like a friendship, my relationship with the B&W A5 improved and it was like it finally accepted me.  It all came together and now it loves me.  You know what, I am a little in love with it as well.

Summary

Initial problems from the Bowers & Wilkins A5 far outweighed by great sound quality. Great design means the device is an absolute enhancement to a room as opposed to an ugly speaker you hide away.

Rating 4/5 – A must have addition for any music lover.  

Visit Bowers & Wilkins Online Shop to get your own now

La Roux Gig at Koko, London (Review)

La Roux at Koko, London (Gig Review)

There was a time when La Roux was threatening to become a bit of a commercial music success story.  In For The Kill was an amazing hit.  The track stormed the charts and filled the floors in mainstream clubs as well as serious dance venues, courtesy of some great remixes.  Well that was way back in 2009.  Scary.

Review of La Roux gig at Koko, London

Review of La Roux gig at Koko, London

La Roux were as well known for the trademark hair sported by singer Elly Jackson with many assuming La Roux was Elly, as they were for there retro inspired synth-based pop tracks.  The tracks with nods to eighties greats such as Heaven 17 and the Eurythmics were all lifted by Elly’s stunning falsetto voice.  With a vocal weaker than Elly’s maybe the tracks wouldn’t have really stood out.

All of that was an age ago in music terms, a generation has passed.  The 80’s semi-revival has passed away and so in theory has La Roux’s place.  Or has it?  We went to Koko for the second time this week to find out if La Roux were stuck as a short-lived piece of pop memorabilia or if they can become musical chameleons and adapt their style.

Well, in short, La Roux still have hints to their synth/electro past, but they have attempted to evolve.  They now demonstrate leanings towards a bit more mainstream, but not resulted to changing their style to appear current.  You could argue this is to their credit, they want to stay true to what they are.  Which is great for them in musical terms but in my opinion could hamper any real commercial success (if that is their aim).

That being said, you could argue, what do you know?  La Roux are performing at the series of NME Awards shows in London, so one mainstream publication feels they are current.  Anyway, enough of this preamble, what about the gig.

Elly Jackson gave it all.  Dressed in a mature and sophisticated outfit and sporting the amazing trademark quiff that led to their name (how much wax or gum was used on that), Elly Jackson was on fire in terms of vocal ability.  She shows no signs of quivering or deterioration that can often happen to such great voices.  She was ably supported by her band (not meant to be derogatory).  They delivered a clean repertoire of electro pop with a bit of added funk.  So the style had slightly moved on, but still harked back to the good old days.

Sadly thought, the set felt a bit dated and removing the admiration for Elly’s vocal, felt a bit flat.  There were more misses than hits.  The cover of Shame, Shame, Shame didn’t really connect with the crowd, it only helped to showcase Elly’s talent.  Maybe the crowd were too old to cut the shapes on the dance floor?  Tropical Chancer and Kiss and Not Tell were also misses.

Sadly for La Roux, it was all about In For The Kill which sent the crowd in to relative hysterics.  It was a long time to wait for one track!

Introducing Karen Harding

Introducing Karen Harding and her single Say Something

I was browsing the net today looking for some new music to watch out for and I came across this track by artist Karen Harding. As soon as I heard it, it instantly took me back in time and reminded me of school dance classics like Sweet Female Attitude Flowers.

Review of Karen Harding Say Something

Review of Karen Harding Say Something

It has such a feel good vibe about it that I could imagine driving along in the summer, roof down with the wind in my hair. Its everything you want in a good old tune that you can put on and have it make you feel good. The back beat is bouncy and energetic and if this was to drop at a pool/beach party in 30+ degree heat you know the whole crowd would be on their feet.

I definitely think they’ve got it exactly right with the production and vocals on this one and no doubt it will be around throughout Summer 15. Karen’s vocals are on point and the tone is well suited to this track. I look forward to hearing more things from her in the future as I think she may be one to watch.

Review by Natalie Combey-Yildiz

Driving Me Wild by Bryan Ferry (Review)

Review of Driving Me Wild by Bryan Ferry

I had my Bryan Ferry / Roxy Music epiphany back in 2003. I’d always marked him / them down as just a bit too smooth, working too hard to appear that they weren’t working hard at all. The slick playboy persona grated with my punk rock ideals and the way that their edgy arty rock had mutated into slick white soul didn’t interest me.

Review of Driving Me Wild by Bryan Ferry

Review of Driving Me Wild by Bryan Ferry

In 2003 Sofia Coppola directed “Lost In Translation”, using the Roxy song ‘More Than This’ to score a key part of the movie. In an interview, Coppola mentioned that ‘Avalon’, their huge 1982 album, was the perfect 5am record, the best thing to put on when you’d come in, slightly merry from a long night, just as the sun was rising. Intrigued, I played it and she was right; it straddles that divide between the excesses of the night and the promise of the new dawn perfectly. I went back and revisited the Roxy Music catalogue and became a fan. I may not be a suave California man-about-LA, but listening to Ferry can make me feel like one, and that’s not a bad feeling at all.

Driving Me Wild’ is the second single from the current album, “Avonmore”, Ferry’s 15th solo album. I was intrigued at Ferry’s new material; his sleep-tinged cover of Robert Palmer’sJohnny and Mary” was a big favourite of mine on Todd Terje’s album last year, (also included on ‘Avonmore’) and I was curious as to whether it heralded a new direction.

The good news is that ‘Avonmore’ does what classic Roxy and Ferry did – it evokes a unique atmosphere, uptown and funky, classy. Ferry’s voice has changed, in a surprising manner. The mannered soul vocals have been superseded by an older, more aged sound; it’s a change, and it takes some getting used to, but overall it’s not negative.

Driving Me Wild’ begins with pops, wails, and the first use of scratching I’ve heard in a decade. It’s a message that if there was a kitchen sink to be found it would have been put to good use, because this track uses the whole battery of production and instrumentation. There’s an awful lot going on.  The bass and the keyboard resolve and a pulse starts, a driving beat, and as befits ferry collaborators Niles Rodgers and Johnny Marr, out comes the funk.

This is a dance record, pure and simple. If ‘Avalon’ is for 5am, ‘Driving Me Wild’ is for 1:30am when the drink’s kicking in, the lights are low and the object of your desire is pursing their lips at you just a foot away. You can’t not dance listening to it – family members are shimmying in and out of the room as I write this review.

The lyrics are pure frustration on Ferry’s part. He’s the unlucky lover, the undesirable, fretting over a departed amour. Whilst the lyrics are “You’re Driving Me Wild”, he’s not being driven wild with lust, but with anger. The love of his life has left him again, and the song is set at that exact point in a relationship breakdown where realisation is just beginning to set in that you’ll never see that person again.

Driving Me Wild’ really won me over. From the wistful keyboard, to the Rodgers patented wakkachakka guitar, to Ferry’s broken lover vocals, it’s assembled extraordinarily well, evoking classic Roxy Music and an emphatic new vocal direction for rock’s coolest geezer.

You can hear it at http://po.st/DMWYT.

Review by Steve Noble

Reviewer’s note: The sound mix at the Youtube link above is low quality and very murky. I’ve listened to the track on Spotify and it’s a little better but far from perfect. I’m guessing that the CD, LP or a FLAC file will yield best results. It seems a shame to squander such classy production values on an MP3, so treat yourself to physical media for this one.

Prince at Koko, London (Gig Review)

Review of Prince at Koko, London

Billed as Prince and 3rdEyeGirl playing at Koko, we were there for one man.  One of the genuine legends of modern music.  Whether you like him or not.  Whether you believe some of the urban myths including getting a rib removed to help him relieve stress. Prince has historically divided attention.  In his heyday to a similar level as other icons such as Michael Jackson or Madonna.  That is the scale of this man.

Prince Autism Rocks Koko Gig

Prince Autism Rocks Koko Gig

So the best thing to come out of Minneapolis since…um, err, um – snow?!  Never mind. Prince not known for his public avalanches of altruism, is without doubt a genius.  The mere fact that he is doing a series of shows for Autism Rocks sends a myriad of questions through the mind.  Does he feel sympathies for those on the autism spectrum, or could this be an opening to the fact our troubled genius features on the same spectrum himself?

None of that really matters.  His personal reasons for doing these shows is irrelevant.  He is a world icon doing shows to raise money for a great cause.  One that is often ignored or misunderstood, so hats off to you Mr Prince.

It may seem odd to some that Prince chose Koko to play this gig.  After all, he fills arenas all over the world and has played some of the worlds largest stadiums.  But Koko is like a spiritual home for Prince.  I remember seeing Prince in an alleged after party when Koko was better known as the Camden Palace.  (Thats me showing my age).

This display was well orchestrated, with art decorating the walls.  An auction for memorabilia in the lobby, a particular highlight was the signed shirt of Brazilian legend Pele (no, I didn’t win, which i am very sorry to say) and some fine champagne for the exclusive VIP section of the crowd.

Prince entered the stage with his usual extravagance.  Amazing colourful suit.  Ostentatious purple mic stand with his lovely symbol (still not sure about that). And heels that were taller than me.  Prince actually looked taller than a seven year old child.  All together it helped cement Prince’s stage presence in the physical sense as well as through the musical sense.

Prince often looks isolated and insular in his performances, with the extravagance appearing an act.  If thats true, who cares, the man has such an amazing presence.  Although we came for Prince and back up band, I left feeling a bit different.  3rdEyeGirl an all female trio were actually amazing.  Their performance not only backed Prince’s superbly, it was so good, it lifted the show overall.

The collection of performances was, in my opinion great.  Littered throughout, but particularly in the first half of the show were performances of hits such as Paloma Faith’s Only Love Can Hurt Like This.  The best performance of the night, ironically normally a show closer, was Purple Rain.  Prince still delivers that incredible guitar performance all these years on.  This performance is up there with the best in the world, which is a shame, because his showman image often shadows his undoubted music ability.  I also loved the cover of MJ’s hit Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.

I hadn’t actually seen Prince perform for quite some time live and in person.  In fact, the last time I saw him was his alleged last performance under the name Prince, before he turned in to a symbol.  To this day, that remains in my top 5 performances of all-time and potentially in number one.  At 56, Prince reminded me what I thought that day.  Prince, even transcends music. His presence, his performance, the entire package, makes him one of the all time geniuses of pop.

Prince is here. Prince is doing good for charity. Prince is doing good for my ear drums.  Even when he is allowed to collect his free bus pass, Prince will put on a better show than most of his modern contemporaries.  Long live Prince.