Choice Cuts: Wanda Jackson – Rockin’ with Wanda

Wanda Jackson, press photo, 1950s, Creative Commons (972x547)Is it possible to make old music sound sexy and essential in the space of a two-word header? Golden Oldies? Bygone Beats? Essential Echoes? Well, I’ll spare you anymore chocking examples of alliteration and get to the point.

Old music is fantastic. Whether it’s some forgotten hip hop mixtape from four years ago or an aging jazz LP from four decades ago, any music you haven’t heard is still new to you. So with this new series of posts, I intend to write about classic albums that I’ve been listening to, underappreciated artists whose music I’ve had on heavy rotation and perhaps even little-known relics you won’t find on Spotify.

So, my discerning reader, join me as we delve into crates and explore digital frontiers in search of audio gold.

To start with, an artist I learned of only last week, whose music has already hijacked many of my listening hours. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Django Django – First Light

Django Django - First Light, single artwork edit (905x509)Django Django are a band many folks missed in the packed Olympic year of 2012. Their self-titled debut album was a curious drift through quartet choruses fit for a sweltering summer in a beachside bar and wonky, electronic-rock evoking the chill of midnight deserts. The whole thing was a surreal, sonic safari. (Kind of like boarding a rocket and swinging around the Earth in low orbit, I imagine.) It also earned them a 2012 Mercury Prize nomination. Continue reading

Tunage: Pearls Negras – Nossa Gang

Pearls Negras, press photo, 2014 (724x408)Brazilian hip hop doesn’t get much of an airing outside of its Latin American homeland and diasporas. A real shame, because the rappers and beat-makers of the Rainbow Nation have plenty to offer.

Pearls Negras, originally from Rio’s Vidigal favella, are a proud example. This female trio, now based in London, is serving up attitude-filled, baile-funk (the dance music borne of Rio’s nightlife) for the party goers who arrive fashionably late and aren’t afraid to tell the host to “bow down”. Still in their teens, Alice Coelho, Jennifer ‘Jeni’ Loiola and Mariana ‘Mari’ Alves rap with a fiery confidence that comes from growing up fast in the often unforgiving slums of their hometown. The beats are punchy, bearing similar elements to soco or bashment (Rihanna comes to mind; though the trio’s own non-Brazilian influences include Beyoncé, Ciara and Nicki Minaj). Continue reading

Cover songs and why they spice up life

Busker Charlotte, London riverbank, Feb 22, 2014, by Nate Edwards (3840x2160)Sometimes a good cover version will bring out a side to a song – and the musician performing it – that you never knew was there. This week I’ve been reminded of that in three ways.

The first was Ella Eyre’s version of ‘Going On’ by Gnarls Barkley. This song falls into the category of ‘nearest-and-dearest-so-don’t-you-dare-mess-it-up’. Famed for featuring on Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’, Eyre is a stupendous singer, but I think there’s always going to be some trepidation when it comes to covers of songs that mean a lot to you. Continue reading

Music acts to watch in 2015

Sherika Sherard, Southbank Centre press 01 (1024x576)For the mainstream and specialist music press, the annual ones to watch lists are a bit like betting horses for the Grand National. And, of course, they are bets that come with a sneaky bit of insider knowledge as well as a healthy dose of experience and independent judgement.

Apart from avid and discerning music junkies, most people aren’t going to stray beyond the round-up on their preferred media outlet of choice (BBC Sound of, The Guardian, London in Stereo, DIY, Gigwise, Pitchfork, Stereogum, Bonafide, Mixmag, Time Out London, Fact, Loud and Quiet, Echoes, Wax Poetics, The Wire, The Quietus, Pigeons & Planes, Consequence of Sound, The Line of Best Fit, et al). See what I mean?

So expect to hear plenty more about already pipped acts, such as Deers, Shura, Years & Years (this year’s BBC Sound of winner), Aquilo, Raury, Låpsley, Soak, Girlpool, Tei Shi, Coasts, Genghar, Shamir Bailey, Tkay Maidza, Vaults, Sinead Harnett, Rae Morris and Layla.

But for those of you that still aren’t satisfied, here are eight recommendations for 2015 that will give you something else to enjoy alongside this year’s track favourites. Continue reading

2015 new music releases to look forward to

Tkay Maidza, press 01 600x338While the ‘what’ is important, it’s the ‘why’ that often interests me more – as you can see from my recent crop of 50 album of the year entries. But that being said, there’s a time and place for a humongous, no-explanations-needed list. Like before Record Store Day or, in this case, albums that I’m looking forward to this year. Continue reading

Why we need BBC4

BBC4 collage: Congo Calling, Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, The Joy of Disco, The Killing (1280x720)In the wake of the impending shutdown of BBC3 this autumn, the BBC has so far been vague when it comes to discussing the fate of BBC4. Rebranding seems certain if the station does survive. But there are many reasons why the BBC shouldn’t close BBC4. Continue reading

In Praise of Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers, profile photo by Roy Cox (2011)You might not know his name, but you’ll certainly have heard his music. In the wake of his contribution to Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, his profile has aptly been raised, but this musician, songwriter and producer has been unleashing trendsetting-hits for decades. A fact too few people appreciate to this day.

He is, of course, Nile Rodgers. One half of rhythm kings Chic, along with his late partner Bernard Edwards, Rodgers has masterminded hit, after hit, after hit, and then some. Continue reading