Friday, 30 November 2012

Review: Hopeless Jack & The Handsome Devil – Shallow Hearts - Shallow Graves

Hopeless Jack & The Handsome Devil – Shallow Hearts - Shallow Graves (Independent)
Hopeless Jack is, err, Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil is Smilin’ Pete. Jack sings and strums and Pete bashes and crashes. Together, the pair of them play the blues, and I’m sure when you’re presented with two musicians, a guitarist-singer and a drummer, indulging in that particular genre, certain monochrome names like White Stripes and Black Keys come most readily to mind. I’m sure Hopeless Jack and Smilin’ Pete wouldn’t object too strongly to the comparisons, but there’s something extra raw and swampy in what they do, and I’m more inclined to place them alongside other artists on the Fat Possum roster, artists like R.L. Burnside and the decidedly unpolished Paul ‘Wine’ Jones.

The invitingly titled “Shallow Hearts - Shallow Graves” hits the ground running. “Hopeless Love” boogies hard and fast, its relentless rhythmic shimmy would inspire even the most terminally undemonstrative to shake a leg or two. On “Say My Name” Jack shows what a good slide guitarist he is, and the fluidity of his style is matched by Pete’s unerring beat. They reach their pinnacle on the seven-plus minutes of “Ashley's Song”. Keyboards underpin their blues, a female backing singer wails like she’s just stepped out of a Pink Floyd “Dark Side…” session, and the duo build the tension through layers of unyielding guitar squall and walking rhythms. It’s an immense achievement, almost exhausting in its uncompromising stance. And when it ends, I generally play it again.
Tony S.

Hopeless Jack & the Handsome Devil: Shallow Hearts - Shallow Graves

Review: Yusuf Azak – Go Native

Yusuf Azak – Go Native (Song, by Toad Records)
Whilst earlier releases (EPs and 2010’s debut LP, “Turn On The Long Wire”) were heavily tiered with vocal loops and reversed guitar, Yusuf Azak’s sound has recently mellowed and become more melodic, brighter and altogether more accessible, though the music he makes still presses to fill the aural space. It’s provocative of the ‘70s, with double tracking and lo-fi, yet lush, layers. 

His surreal, nonsensical and fantastical lyrics are interwoven with intricate finger pickings, beautifully heart wrenching piano (“Swim”) and the Mellotron on “Immunity or Rescue” adds a churchy tone. The inimitable vocals – an undeniable signature - are edgily multi-tracked and sound like they came straight from Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge; the dialogue for “The Man From Another Place” was spoken and recorded backwards then reversed!

Azak’s passion for strangeness, his acid-folk leanings and elaborate wall of sound conjure images of a gathering of Lindisfarne, ELO, Davey Graham and Devendra Banhart, caught in the bubble of a distant memory.

Guardian First Book Award goes to Kevin Powers

Kevin Powers has been named the winner of the Guardian First Book Award at the 14th annual ceremony in London.

The "honoured" writer thanked the panel for including his novel The Yellow Birds "with such an extraordinary and diverse group of finalists".

The story of survival, set in the context of life after serving in the Iraq war, and based on the writer's experiences, scooped a £10,000 prize.

Judges called it "a triumphant, unforgettable first novel",

Chair of judges Lisa Allardice, editor of the Guardian Review, added: "The Yellow Birds is a powerful meditation on war and mortality. Its subject matter is ugly and harrowing, but its expression is beautiful and poetic."

The annual award - established in 1999 - is open to all first-time authors writing in English, or translated into English, across all genres.

Powers beat competition from two other shortlisted writers, Scottish writer Kerry Hudson, for Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, and American novelist Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding, a story about a baseball player on the cusp of greatness.

The judging panel included authors William Dalrymple, Ahdaf Soueif, Kate Summerscale and Jeanette Winterson, as well as Katherine Viner, deputy editor of the Guardian, and Waterstones' Stuart Broom.

Powers follows previous winners Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer and last year's winner Siddhartha Mukherjee, who won for his book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

Source: BBC

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Henry Moore sculpture sale faces Art Fund legal challenge

A final plea from Tower Hamlet's councillors to the mayor to refrain from the sale of a £20m Henry Moore sculpture has been rejected.

The council said the decision was made with "regret", because it must make savings of £100m in the next two years.

However, the sale could be delayed as solicitors on behalf of the Art Fund have written to the mayor with a legal challenge over who owns "Old Flo".

The work was bought by Greater London Council, which was abolished in 1986.

The charity claimed the ownership did not automatically transfer to Tower Hamlets Council in east London.

A statement said: "Our research suggests that works of public art were handled separately from land and buildings when both the London County Council and the Greater London Council were dissolved.

"For this reason our lawyers have been in touch with the Council to ask for more information, which they have so far failed to provide."

'PR stunt'

However, the Tower Hamlets borough council issued a statement on Thursday describing the Art Fund's move as a "desperate PR stunt".

It added the council, "should not have to choose between keeping a valuable cultural asset or funding local heritage projects, affordable housing and keeping its community safe".

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: "I have a duty to ensure residents do not suffer the brunt of the horrendous cuts."

The Art Fund has denied the claims and said the question of who owns the Draped Seated Woman is "the most fundamental issue to be addressed before any sale can take place."

Tate director Nicholas Serota and Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle are among critics who have spoken out opposing the sale of the sculpture, which was sold to the old London County Council in 1962 for £7,400.

So far, 2,500 people have signed a petition against the sale.

Intended by the late artist Moore, who died in 1986, to be displayed in an underprivileged area, it is currently on loan to Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield after it was vandalised with graffiti when situated in the Stifford Estate in Tower Hamlets.

Richard Calvocoressi, director of the Henry Moore Foundation, argued on the Today Programme on Radio 4 this week that "this work is part of London's history" and should be reinstated back in London.

Source: BBC

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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Review: Becky Lee and Drunkfoot - Hello Black Halo

Becky Lee and Drunkfoot  - Hello Black Halo (Voodoo Rhythm)
One man bands have always been a rare breed, with only contemporaries, Lewis Floyd Henry and Hawk and a Hacksaw (although performing as a duo these days) springing to mind - and one woman bands rarer still. Enter Arizona’s Becky Lee Walters aka Becky Lee and Drunkfoot, and you can’t help but be impressed.

Taking a lead from the death balladeers of the ‘50s and the girl groups of the early ‘60s, she sings of seeking love (often with the “wrong” man), murder (of mice and men!) and hedonistic relationships. Though she doesn’t want to give the impression that she’s easy, and that may be one of the reasons death seems never too far away. 

The grimy subjects are attacked with a raw and powerful stripped down blues, which sounds like an imagined PJ Harvey fronting the White Stripes or Golden Animals, and “Hips Kids” has more than a touch of Shangri-Las about it.

Review: The Candymakers – S/T

The Candymakers – S/T (Independent)
Leaning on the traditions of ‘60s Motown and Stax, together with the classic groove bands of the 1970s, The Candymakers make no secret of their desire to have some fun while making their music, and in turn, share as much of the joy as they can with their audience. I imagine live on stage, in front of an enthusiastic crowd, the Davenport, Iowa six-piece are damn near irresistible. It’s to their eternal credit that they’ve managed to transfer all that bustling energy into studio recordings, and their songs leap from the speakers like timeless productions by Frank Wilson and Steve Cropper.

At the moment the blues crowd have adopted them as their own, and they’re beginning to win awards in that category, though for me, it’s their soul side that marks them out from the crowd. Tracks like “Yet to Begin” and “No Music No Party” are bonafide floor fillers, and in Alan Sweet they’ve a singer with a voice which is powerful and utterly convincing. Which isn’t to dismiss their other attributes. When they err towards rock and blues, the remarkable “Mirror Don't Lie” is a prime example, they can be just as persuasive, and guitarist Bret Dale absolutely shines in this setting.
Tony S.

The Candymakers: The Candymakers

Review: Under The Psycamore – I

Under The Psycamore – I (7D Media)
Swedish duo Carl Blomqvist (lead vocals, guitars) and Jonathan Greiff (drums, bass, backing vocals) are Under The Psycamore, a forward thinking, progressive pairing with a willingness to take on their influences but not to fall back on nostalgia or retro wistfulness. “I” is very much a 21st century recording with a defined contemporary edge that overpowers any individual stimulus. They sound in turn, sharp and angular, and yielding and supple; throughout Blomqvist’s guitar combines metallic riffing with acid shimmer to exceptional effect, but what impresses most are the swathes of misty, permeable sound, within which the duo steep their songs.

Recorded organically and relatively quickly, there’s urgency at play, a need to be heard that propels the material, though “The Owls (A.N.W.T.S.)” provides the gentlest of all starts. It teeters and teases, whilst the equally clipped “Beyond The Fire I” threatens to combust and consume, though its bluster is tempered and the fireworks are held back for later. They finally begin to unleash those energies on “Beyond The Fire II”, and there’s an undeniable sense of release. “Celestial” possesses an unsettling Sting-like quality, offset by some quite wonderful strings and the eight-plus minutes of “Garmonbozia” cements their reputation as new age sonic soldier-explorers, dividing and conquering their musical palette with ruthless strokes.
Phil S.

Damien Hirst to design Brit Award

Controversial artist Damien Hirst is to design next year's Brit Award.

The artist, famous for his preserved animals and diamond-encrusted skull work, follows on from Sir Peter Blake and Dame Vivienne Westwood who have designed the statuette previously.

Brits chairman David Joseph said having Hirst design the statue would "make winning a 2013 Brit an even more special proposition".

The awards will be hosted again by James Corden on 20 February.

It will be the fourth time - and third consecutive year - that the Gavin and Stacey star has hosted the show.

Last year he prompted jeers from the audience when he was told by producers to cut short Adele's acceptance speech for best album.

Regarded by some as the enfant terrible of British art, Hirst was the subject of a hugely popular Tate Modern show this year.

It included a room full of live butterflies, feeding on sugar water and fruit, as well as his diamond-encrusted skull.

"We are delighted that Damien will become the third extraordinary creative Briton to re-imagine the Brit statue," Mr Joseph said.

"He is truly one of the most important British artists ever."

Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw will host the nominations announcement on 10 January.

Source: BBC

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The Black Keys settle Pizza Hut and Home Depot claim

The Black Keys have settled a legal claim against Pizza Hut and DIY chain Home Depot for copyright infringement.

The US rock duo sued both companies in June, saying their songs had been used in TV adverts without their permission.

The band had claimed their song Gold on the Ceiling was improperly used to sell pizza, while Lonely Boy had been in a commercial for power tools.

Both companies denied copying the songs and details of the settlement were not disclosed.

Original court filings by the band said the adverts were "a brazen and improper effort to capitalise on plaintiffs' hard-earned success".

Producer Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, also sued the companies.

Lawyers for the band told a federal judge in Los Angeles of the Pizza Hut settlement on Monday.

The settlement agreement with Home Depot was reached earlier this month.

Both songs appeared on the group's seventh album, El Camino, which was released last year and has sold more than a million copies.

Pizza Hut and Home Depot have not commented on the settlement.

Source: BBC

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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Amy Winehouse Denmark play cancelled

A play about the late singer Amy Winehouse set to debut in Denmark in January 2013 has been cancelled.

Amy, written by a group of 11 Danish playwrights, was due to open on 30 January in the 220-capacity Royal Theatre in central Copenhagen.

The singer's estate has blocked the use of her materials in the production, which had been given the green light by Danish copyright agency Koda.

Chris Goodman said the family never gave their permission to use her music.

At the time the production was announced, a spokesperson for the family confirmed they had nothing to do with the production.

Koda had previously granted permission for Denmark's Royal Theatre to perform the piece in the Red Room space.

Spokesman Nicolaj Hylten-Cavallius said: "We acted in good faith when we gave them the permission for the performance.

"We believed that the format, a theatre play, was okay. We were told by her father and the lawyers around him that we can forget all about the rights for the music, the photos, branding and everything."

Due to feature music from the singer's two studio albums Frank and the multi-Grammy-winning Back To Black, the company's production was based on interviews, acceptance speeches, concerts, Winehouse's letters and newspaper articles.

According to Koda, her father Mitch Winehouse gave no reasons for objecting to the use of any of her material.

Meanwhile, a painting of Amy Winehouse has joined images of Sir Winston Churchill and the Queen on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Amy-Blue by Marlene Dumas was painted shortly after Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning, at the age of 27, in July last year.

Source: BBC

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Review: Bayou Black – Strangled Up In Vines EP

Bayou Black – Strangled Up In Vines EP (Independent)
When it comes to convoluted histories, some bands put in a lot more effort than others. Bayou Black is one of those bands. Siblings Chris and Tony Kountoupis, and bass player Sevon Moore, all played together in Austin, Texas rock band Fauverdog. It was going well - they were gigging regularly, the Austin Chronicle gave them an award, but when the drummer departed, the band folded. The brothers formed a couple of other groups, played solo shows and generally kept themselves busy, until Moore came back on the scene in late 2007, and Bayou Black were formed. And now, to drag things ‘round full circle, Fauverdog drummer Jeff Brickley returned to Austin in 2010, and can be heard drumming here. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.

So, the four-track “Strangled Up In Vines” EP is their debut recording, and considering their collective past, it must have felt like a long time coming. The brothers provide the compositions, and they write melodic pop-rock songs with no shortage of hooks and plenty of heart. Here they open with “The Bet”, a mid-paced acoustic number, with a cool, Paul Westerberg-esque edge, and a barbed chorus that’ll have to be surgically removed. “Ain't the Same” burrows just as deep, and “Evil Deeds” is even better; the sort of song, had it been written in 1965, would have become a garage band staple. As it is, it wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Not Lame’s acclaimed power pop compilations.
Phil S.

Bayou Black: Strangled Up in Vines

The Who manager Chris Stamp dies at 70

Chris Stamp, one of the original managers of The Who, has died of cancer at the age of 70.

Band member Roger Daltrey paid tribute to him on stage in Detroit on Saturday.

He described Stamp as a man "without whom we wouldn't be the band we were", according to Billboard magazine.

Stamp co-founded the group's Track Records label. He co-managed The Who with Kit Lambert and also helped to launch the career of Jimi Hendrix.

Daltrey told the audience at Joe Louis arena that Stamp "flew into the universe on a pair of rainbow wings".

"Chris, we can never thank you enough - well, I can't, for what you brought to my life," he said.

Stamp died on Saturday at Mount Sinai hospital in New York.

Born in London, he started out as a film-maker at Shepperton Film Studios, where he met Lambert.

In 1963, they decided to make a film about the British rock scene, when they met The Who - then known as High Numbers.

Daltrey referred to Stamp and Lambert as "the fifth and sixth members of The Who".

Stamp worked on the production for The Who's 1968 album Magic Bus and is also credited as executive producer of Who's Next, Quadrophenia and the soundtrack for Tommy.

Lambert and Stamp parted ways with the band in 1975 and Lambert died of a brain haemorrhage in 1981.

Stamp later re-established his connection with The Who, appearing in documentaries about them.

He also sat on the board of the John Entwistle Foundation, started in memory of the late Who bass player.

In a statement on The Who's website, it said the loss was "hard to bear" and that tributes would follow shortly.

Source: BBC

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Elton John dedicates Beijing show to Ai Weiwei

Sir Elton John has stunned an audience in Beijing by dedicating his show to Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei.

At the concert on Sunday, the 65-year-old said the performance honoured Ai's "spirit and talent".

The noted sculptor, an outspoken critic of the Chinese government's stance on democracy, was detained for nearly three months without charge last year.

According to audience members, a murmur of shock rippled through the crowd at the tribute.

The Associated Press reported the reaction was in recognition that Ai remains a sensitive subject for the Chinese government, which exercises strict control over live performances.

Artists must submit detailed lists of songs, casts and crew members when seeking approval to stage concerts in the country.

Ai met Sir Elton ahead of the concert at the Wukesong Arena. He wrote on his Twitter feed, which has 180,000 followers despite being banned in China, "I super like him".

There was no mention of the singer's dedication to Ai in Chinese media reports, which are state-controlled.

Sir Elton performed in Shanghai on Friday and will do shows in South Korea and Kuala Lumpur later this week as part of a world tour.

In 2008, Icelandic singer Bjork caused controversy among fans in China by shouting "Tibet, Tibet" at the end of a concert in Shanghai.

It followed a performance of her song Declare Independence, which lead to even more scrutiny over government controls within the live music field.

Talk of Tibetan independence is considered taboo in China, which has ruled the territory since 1951.

Source: BBC

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