Tuesday, 31 July 2012

SONG FOR TODAY: Gruff Rhys - Shark Ridden Waters

I (as well as many, many others) would love to hear a new album from the Super Furry Animals, whose last effort came in the form of 2009's 'Dark Days/Light Years'. Those three years that have passed have luckily produced a number of projects from members of the group, including the 'Hotel Shampoo' album from frontman Gruff Rhys. Here is the brilliant 'Shark Ridden Waters'... Gruffydd Maredudd Bowen Rhys was born in July 1970. As well as being fronting SFA, he also most recently formed the electro-pop outfit Neon Neon with Boom Bip. Their album 'Stainless Style' was nominated for the 2008 Nationwide Mercury Prize. He won the 2011 Welsh Music Prize for his album 'Hotel Shampoo'.

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Monday, 30 July 2012

SITE NEWS: 250,000 Page Views! Thank you's and best moments so far...

A few months ago I reported that this music blog had received over 100,000 page views since its birth in 2010. So now as the site becomes more popular, I am pleased to announce that this figure has increased to 250,000. That's quarter of a million. I do keep an eye on my visitor stats, not because I want myself to be well known, but because I want to achieve my aim of introducing as much good music to as many people as possible. Therefore the more the page views grow, the more the awareness of top quality music spreads. 

This site first appeared on March 13th 2010, when I hosted radio shows on various internet stations, launching a website with details of the music played on my shows. The posts were few and far between but gradually the frequency of new updates increased, leading to the relaunch of the site on November 19th 2010 as a general blog for music old and new. At first it was mainly based around album reviews and my personal music-related memories, but February 2011 saw the introduction of 'Song For Today', a daily feature including an essential track, the first being Gene's 'As Good As It Gets' on February 9th. Due to also having to work in a day job at a demanding company it meant that on some days I wouldn't have had time to update the site with the latest track, so in some cases i'd have to post two songs the next day. 

Soon I began to include more music news items on the site, most of these sourced from the NME, but some including stories that the still-popular music news site chose to ignore. A rare interview has occured every so often, subjects including Dodgy, Northern Uproar and Port Erin. Every now and again you'll see the odd gig review, along with galleries of my music photography, and maybe some (often badly filmed) gig videos. Now in August 2012 there's lots more to discover here, including album streams, '12 Of The Best' features, album previews, the occasional Random Musical Item, Spotify playlists, opinions, recommendations and lots more. 

So as the monthly page view count continues to increase, the all time number has reached the 250,000 milestone, surely a good reason to reflect on the last couple of years and to take a look at some of the best moments this site has been involved in. Here's some of my favourites moments/incidents that Mr Scott:Music has seen so far... 

Midge Ure doesn't take kindly to my review... 
After seeing Midge Ure playing an acoustic gig seven years ago, I was interested in hearing more Ultravox material other than the obvious big hits. After buying a number of their LPs, I gradually learned that the pre-Midge Ultravox led by John Foxx were much better, but was still pleased to hear that the "classic" 'Vienna' era line up were reforming and releasing a new album. Their first new material for 26 years appeared a few months ago in the form of the inaccurately titled 'Brilliant', an album that proved to be an underwhelming disappointment. Giving the album an honest overview, I made sure I mentioned the album's strengths as well as its obvious weaknesses, while commenting that "This album doesn't turn out to be a great comeback, but it isn't hopeless enough to be called a true disaster." But clearly the 5.2 out of 10 that I gave the album wasn't enough for Midge Ure, who after seeing the review, took to Twitter to send me a tweet that read simply "Twat". Cue a series of jokes on Facebook regarding Midge's dismissal of my words, the best being "he should have just ignored the criticism and said 'this means nothing to me'"... 

Stephen Jones reviews the singles... The criminally underrated genius that is Stephen Jones is not just the author of all those Babybird classics and a great writer, but also one of the most hilariously surreal people on Twitter. During another ill-fated outing for England's footballers during Euro 2012, Jones tweeted some of his own commentary on the match, including the priceless quote "I’ve never seen one ball look so awful since they found Hitler dead in his bunker". 

His opinions on the televised coverage of T In The Park was so entertaining that I (half jokingly) suggested that he should write some reviews for the site. Being a massive fan of this man's music, I was most pleased when he agreed to review a number of recent releases, of course in his own unique fashion. Describing ska-punks-turned-chavs The King Blues he commented "Don't people like this stumble across these reviews then vow to hunt you down and kill you?". He referred to a certain group as "Franz Turdinand" and imagined the prospect of "Vanilla Ice's crossover reggae funk fusion album, with Jedward on the steel drums, tied up and covered in honey and fire ants". But best of all were his thoughts on the contrived pompousity of Muse's 'Survival" and it's author: "I was in a cafe in North London a while back and Bellendamy and Kate Hudson came in with her kid and they seemed very nice and quiet. You half expect his Freddie Mercury pants to explode and for him to jump on the table and finger fuck his axe, but no. Quite disappointing..." A legend. 

I become Northern Uproar's biographer... Certain sections of the music press probably scoffed when Manchester combo Northern Uproar announced that they were reforming, but I certainly wasn't one to display such shallow and uninformed ignorance. In fact their 1997 hit 'Anyway You Look' was one of my favourite songs that soundtracked my youth, and I regard the group's first two albums are sorely overlooked Britpop gems. Talking to members of the band was pleasing enough, but being able to publish an exclusive interview with frontman Leon Meya was a real honour. The guys liked my interview so much that I was asked to write them an updated biography for their website and for use in press releases. Since then I have continued to show my support for this excellent band, although I wish they'd play a gig somewhere that isn't at least 200 miles away from where I live... 

Gaining various valued supporters... One band who have always offered encouragement to the site are UK psychobilly pioneers Frenzy, led by legendary bass devil Steve Whitehouse. My review of the band's superb 2010 album 'In The Blood' was one of the first in-depth write ups I had worked on in a long time, and thanking me for my glowing praise of the album, Steve was also impressed with the quality of my writing. This gave me the confidence to carry on with the blog and to make it grow into what it is today. 

Special thanks must also go to the guys from Doyle And The Fourfathers, who as well as releasing one of the finest debut albums in recent memory, became early supporters of the site and sang my praises on their Facebook page. Sadly this incredible band have recently split up, signalling the end of one of the very few modern groups whose music truly reflected the times. They will be missed and certainly they will never be forgotten in terms of this site's history. 

However, my proudest moment so far was probably winning the approval of Dodgy, a band who I have absolutely loved for many years now and whose music is certainly very close to my heart. Drummer Mathew Priest treated the site to one of the first interviews regarding the magnificent album 'Stand Upright In A Cool Place', their first album in 16 years, and the guys were even kind enough to post a message of congratulations when the blog passed 100,000 page views. 

Others I'd like to wish special thanks to in particular include the amazing Ultrasound, Stephen Jones, Mark Morriss, Northern Uproar, Queen Elvis, Port Erin, Thought Forms and every other band and artist who has ever helped out or shared the blog with their fans during the first couple of years. There's too many of you to mention! I'd also like to thank everyone at BBC 6Music, the good folks at Raves From The Grave, Geoff Barrow and all at Invada, Leah at Warp Records, Simon Adlington, everyone at the Too Pure Singles Club, Ollie at Top Button Digital and the countless other people who continue to alert me to the finest music around. Lastly but of course not least the biggest thank you goes to all of my loyal readers... I will continue to serve you well and deliver more of the very finest music there is. Unlike some sites/publications, I will not let you down... 

Some random facts... 

There is one particular item that has generated more page views than any other so far, also statistically meaning that the band who the piece was related to became the most popular band or artist on this site. Who do you think it was? Maybe a huge act like Coldplay or Muse with massive fanbases? Perhaps an act who have recently made various big announcements, such as Blur or the Stone Roses? Could it have been a news article relating to the death of one of the sadly missed artists we have lost over the last couple of years? Was it one of the subjects of the exclusive interviews that have featured here? None of those at all. The band who have so far attracted more readers to this site than any other are in fact folk rock legends the Levellers, who released their 9th album 'Static On The Airwaves' in June of this year. A preview of the album with information, videos and links was getting lots of visits and ended up scoring even more when I added my review of the album, only the second proper review of the record to appear anywhere. The page still continues to get plenty of views, proving that this fine British band still have a keen fanbase. 

The largest part of this site's audience are from the USA: 98,320 page views from the big land. In second place is the UK with 67,157, Germany with 11,512 , Denmark with 7262 and France with 6495 . Making up the rest of the audience are visitors from Canada, Italy, Australia, Brazil, Spain as well as lots of other great nation's... 

A graph of the site's visitor numbers is here...

SONG FOR TODAY: Damon Albarn - 'Apple Carts'

Of course this legendary figure's band Blur have been used as 'Song For Today' already, as have his other outfit Gorillaz. So today it's time to dip into this year's 'Dr Dee' album, a solo effort from the utter genius that is Mr Damon Albarn. If you skip past the operatic parts (which annoyingly disrupt the album's flow) 'Dr Dee' is in fact a wonderful piece of work, and 'Apple Carts' is an undoubted highlight... The 'Dr Dee' album is the accompanying soundtrack to 'Dr Dee: An English Opera', created by theatre director Rufus Norris and Albarn. The opera is based on the life of John Dee, medical and scientific advisor to Elizabeth I.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

REWIND: Percy Sledge - When A Man Loves A Woman

Just an essential and truly timeless track that won't ever be forgotten, probably as tender as anything you'll ever hear... I know nothing about Sledge other than this classic song, so I'll leave it down to Wikipedia to explain more... "Percy Sledge worked in a series of blue-collar jobs in the fields in Leighton, Alabama before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama. Through the mid 1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends, while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient and mutual friend of Sledge and record producer Quin Ivy introduced the two. An audition followed, and Sledge was signed to a recording contract. Sledge's soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene, which rock critic Dave Marsh called "emotional classics for romantics of all ages."

"When a Man Loves a Woman" was Sledge's first song recorded under the contract, and was released in March 1966. 

The song's inspiration came when Sledge's girlfriend left him for a modeling career after he was laid off from construction job in late 1965.Because bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright helped him with the song, he gave all the songwriting credits to them. It reached #1 in the U.S. and went on to become an international hit. "When A Man Loves A Woman" was a hit twice in the UK, reaching #6 in 1966 and, on reissue, peaked at #2 in 1987. The song was also the first gold record released by Atlantic Records."

Saturday, 28 July 2012

SONG FOR TODAY: Neu! - Hallogallo

So last night BBC Four repeated their excellent Krautrock documentary 'Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany', including the likes of Kraftwerk, Can, Faust and the excellent Neu! While the second Neu! album still baffles me every time I hear it, here is the opening track from their superb self-titled debut album, released in 1972. You can watch the brilliant BBC documentary by scrlling down this page and clicking on the video or by going HERE within the next six days...

"Neu! was a German band formed by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother after their split from Kraftwerk in the early 1970s. Though the band had minimal commercial success during its existence, Neu! are retrospectively considered one of the founding fathers of Krautrock and a significant influence on artists including David Bowie, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, PiL, Joy Division, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Simple Minds, Negativland, Stereolab, Boredoms, Radiohead, The Horrors, Electrelane, and much of the current electronic music scene."

"The debut album was recorded in December 1971 at Windrose-Dumont-Time Studios, Hamburg, Germany, mixed at Star-Musik Studio, Hamburg, Germany, and released in 1972 by Brain Records. It was reissued by Grönland on May 29, 2001 and then licenced to Astralwerks for US distribution. This was Rother & Dinger's first recording together after they left Kraftwerk in 1971. They continued to work with Conny Plank, who had been producing the Kraftwerk recording sessions..."

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MY OPINION: London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony

Arctic Monkeys, Paul McCartney and Two Door Cinema Club frontman Alex Trimble all performed at the climax of the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

Arctic Monkeys not only played their debut single 'I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor', but also covered The Beatles' 'Come Together', which is now available to purchase on iTunes, whilst winged cyclists made their way through the stadium. 

Though frontman Alex Turner was in his trademark leather jacket, drummer Matt Helders sported a Union Jack tracksuit and played on a set of drums emblazoned with Great Britain's national flag. NME editor Luke Lewis said that "The whole thing was far more 'indie' than anyone could have expected. Arctic Monkeys covering 'Come Together' (available now on iTunes)! Happy Mondays, Blur, Muse and New Order on the soundtrack!"

Paul McCartney closed the four hour long event with a version of The Beatles' 'Hey Jude'. After quoting a line from his and John Lennon's 1969 song 'The End' – "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make" – he started up on the piano, leading the Olympic Stadium in a mass singalong. At the beginning of his everlasting anthem, sound problems temporaily made a bit of a mess of things, as with the audio from the live performance mixed with the delayed broadcast version, causing an unfortunate overlay. After things were quickly fixed, Macca performed the song brilliantly, and even went up to the front of the stage and asked "the fellas" and then "the women, the girls" in the crowd to sing parts of the chorus separately. 

A surprise musical guest came in the shape of Two Door Cinema Club frontman Alex Trimble, who sang 'Caliban's Dream' - a song written specially for the ceremony by Underworld's Rick Smith. Of his appearance, Trimble said: "I'm really proud of the performance. I have so much respect for the team that put it all together. Danny [Boyle] always made time to sit with me one on one and go through things and see how everything was going and with Rick we worked one on one too. In the studio, on the phone, it just felt so personal. Not like something that's gone out worldwide! I'm sure it'll take a few months for the reality to fully sink in".

For me the most powerful moment of the night wasn't a live performance, but the moment when Pink Floyd's epic 'Eclipse' blasted round the stadium as the Olympic Cauldron was lit by young athletes and fireworks exploded all over the city, an absolutely beautiful sight and sound. You can watch this in the video embedded below (that's if it hasn't been taken down by those Olympic Committee people!)

Mike Oldfield and Emeli Sandé performed in the first half of the ceremony, whilst Frank Turner played a three song set at the Olympic Stadium as part of the event's 'prologue'. One less welcome appearance came from the awful Dizzee Rascal, whose unwanted noise disrupted the flow of the performances and probably tempted many right-thinking people to switch over. A good job we also got some proper musicians to make up for such a travesty.

The London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony setlist was:

The Who, 'Baba O'Riley'
Muse, 'Map Of The Problematique'
Fuck Buttons, 'Surf Solar'
Sex Pistols, 'God Save The Queen'
The Clash, 'London Calling'
Mike Oldfield, 'Tubular Bells'
OMD, 'Enola Gay'
The Jam, 'Going Underground'
The Rolling Stones, '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'
The Beatles, 'She Loves You'
Millie Small, 'My Boy Lollipop'
Led Zeppelin, 'Trampled Under Foot'
The Specials, 'A Message To You Rudy'
David Bowie, 'Starman'
Queen, 'Bohemian Rhapsody'
Eric Clapton, 'Wonderful Tonight'
Sex Pistols, 'Pretty Vacant'
New Order, 'Blue Monday'
Frankie Goes To Hollywood, 'Relax'
Soul II Soul, 'Back To Life'
Happy Mondays, Step On'
Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This'
The Prodigy, 'Firestarter'
Blur, 'Song 2'
Underworld, 'Born Slippy'
Dizzee Rascal, 'Bonkers'
Amy Winehouse, 'Valerie'
Muse, 'Uprising'
Tinie Tempah, 'Pass Out'
David Holmes, 'I Heard Wonders'
Arctic Monkeys, 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' 
The Beatles, 'Come Together' (covered by Arctic Monkeys)
Underworld/Alex Trimble, 'Caliban's Dream'
Pink Floyd, 'Eclipse'
The Beatles, 'The End'
The Beatles, 'Hey Jude'

The soundtrack to the opening ceremony is now available to buy, digitally. Titled 'Isles Of Wonder: Music For The Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games', the album was released at the end of the event. A physical release will follow on August 6.

(partly sourced from NME)

Friday, 27 July 2012

SONG FOR TODAY: Grasscut - Pieces

Today's SONG FOR TODAY is a track taken from Grasscut's rather good new album 'Unearth'. A collection of songs that take lyrical and musical journeys to various parts of the UK, there are some wonderful moments to discover. 'Pieces' was recently released as a single, and is available to download now from HERE“In 2010, we did a gig in a metal container on the fringes of the Olympic site,” explains Andrew Phillips, the composer, musician and chief driving force behind Grasscut. “This song is about the area being remixed, re-skinned, and repackaged, as well as about reinventing ourselves.” Epic and intimate, Pieces bashes hyperactive percussion up against r&b, folk and psychedelia to make something glossily modernistic yet strangely rooted, Phillips’ ear for melody at the very forefront of the tune.

The package is rounded out by the “M25” version of "Lights.” The album’s version of the tune is inspired by Margate’s mysterious shell grotto. This take is inspired, perhaps unsurprisingly, by the journey it took to get there. With Grasscut you’re always heading somewhere and the journey is never boring."

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Thursday, 26 July 2012

SONG FOR TODAY: Soccer96 - Call To Arms

Amazing tune that I first heard on Steve Lamacq's BBC 6Music show a few weeks back. Their self-titled album is pretty damn good too. This reminds me of something that John Peel would have played during the late 90's... Chaotic, catchy and the right measure of oddness... "Soccer96 are a stripped-down, amped-up analogue synth vs live drum assault. The 2-piece from Brighton/London formed in 2009 over a mutual love of SNES, meditation and warehouse raves They have been receiving a lot of early attention for their fresh take on the electronic synth/beat scene by playing everything completely live, with no laptops, sequencers or samples.

Their self-titled debut LP was released on the Demons Are Real label a few months ago in March, and was engineered by Joe Watson (Stereolab) and mastered by Kelly Hibbert (Flying Lotus)."


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PREVIEW: Bob Dylan - Tempest

Bob Dylan will release his 35th studio album 'Tempest' on September 11. Scroll down to hear the new tracks 'Duquesne Whistle' and 'Early Roman Kings'.

Produced by Dylan under his Jack Frost moniker, the new record will contain 10 tracks - his first batch of original material since 2009's Together Through Life.

Here's the tracklisting for Tempest.

Duquesne Whistle
Soon After Midnight
Narrow Way
Long and Wasted Years
Pay In Blood
Scarlet Town
Early Roman Kings
Tin Angel
Roll On John

Featuring ten new and original Bob Dylan songs, the release of Tempest coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the artist’s eponymous debut album, which was released by Columbia in 1962.

Tempest is available for pre-order now on iTunes and Amazon. The new album, produced by Jack Frost, is the 35thth studio set from Bob Dylan, and follows 2009’s worldwide best-seller, 'Together Through Life'.

Bob Dylan’s four previous studio albums have been universally hailed as among the best of his storied career, achieving new levels of commercial success and critical acclaim for the artist. The Platinum-selling 'Time Out Of Mind' from 1997 earned multiple Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year, while “Love and Theft” continued Dylan’s Platinum streak and earned several Grammy nominations and a statue for Best Contemporary Folk album.

'Modern Times', released in 2006, became one of the artist’s most popular albums, selling more than 2.5 million copies worldwide and earning Dylan two more Grammys. 'Together Through Life' became the artist’s first album to debut at #1 in both the U.S. and the UK, as well as in five other countries, on its way to surpassing sales of one million copies.

Those four releases fell within a 12-year creative span that also included the recording of an Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning composition, “Things Have Changed,” from the film Wonder Boys, in 2001; a worldwide best-selling memoir, Chronicles Vol. 1, which spent 19 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List, in 2004, and a Martin Scorsese-directed documentary, No Direction Home, in 2005. Bob Dylan also released his first collection of holiday standards, Christmas In The Heart, in 2009, with all of the artist’s royalties from that album being donated to hunger charities around the world.

This year, Bob Dylan was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. He was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” He was also the recipient of the French Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in 1990, Sweden’s Polar Music Award in 2000 and several Doctorates including the University of St. Andrews and Princeton University as well as numerous other honors.

Tempest is available for pre-order now on iTunes and Amazon.

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