Listen: The 1975 – Chocolate

‘Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record on the Planet’. Ok, you have my attention.

The 1975 have cracked the case again with another jangly-come-stadium filler. ‘Chocolate’, the lead single off their 3rd EP; Music for Cars, which is the final EP in a trilogy of releases prior to their hotly anticipated album.

‘Chocolate’ encompasses The 1975’s sound. It highlights the bands sharp pop swagger and pounding beats that just get you nodding your head instantly. They’re proving to be the hottest property in the UK at the minute and with songs like this it’s hard to disagree.

Their final EP is released on the 3rd March this year on Dirty Hit records. I don’t need to tell you to buy it because I know you will.

Where Credit is Due: The Genius of Quentin Tarantino

When selecting the perfect song for a scene, Quentin Tarantino describes the importance of the process as follows.

“…is about as cinematic a thing as you can do. It works in this visceral, emotional, cinematic way that is special.”

Garrulous dialogue, violence and badass tunes are the key components to any Tarantino film. Whether one is a fan of his movies or not, there is no denying that Tarantino, similarly to Martin Scorsese, knows how to compile a mix-tape of great pop music to coincide and furthermore enhance scenes to make them simply unforgettable. Two personal favourites are both in Pulp Fiction when Vincent Vega is doped on heroin cruising around in his car listening to The Centurians – “Bullwinkle, Part II” and the scene at the restaurant Jack Rabbit Slim’s in which Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace danced to Chuck Berry – “You Never Can Tell” for the contest’s prize. Absolute genius!

With the release of his new movie “Django Unchained”, fans who have eagerly awaited the film have also equally waited for what the soundtrack has to offer and in true Tarantino style, he never fails to surprise. For the first time, Tarantino has allowed songs on his soundtrack that were composed with the film in mind. In the past, he has blatantly refused to work with other composers stating that the idea of giving another person that much power in his movies is much to his dislike. One cannot argue that his source of inspiration, his extensive vinyl record collection, has not proved successful as Tarantino soundtracks have sold millions worldwide.

“Django Unchained” is out in cinemas now and the soundtrack is also out now.

Here are some of Tarantino’s finest music moments.

From Pulp Fiction: Vincent Vega’s heroin trip

From Pulp Fiction: Jack Rabbit Slim’s dance scene with Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega

From Inglourious Basterds: Shoshanna getting ready to avenge her family and Jewish heritage

Watch: Marika Hackman – “Mountain Spine”

The second in her series of acoustic videos, the first one being ‘Bath Is Black’, ‘Mountain Spine’ is filmed in a tunnel in the northeast somewhere. The extra reverb brought in from the tunnel environment compliments Marika’s intense and incredible vocals. The loud bangs at the start of the video adds an extra intensity to the melancholy feel of Marika and the video. It’s not cheery, chirpy folk but it’s beautifully executed with that forever-catchy soulful/folk vibe.

The series is in support from her forthcoming mini-album ‘That Iron Taste’ produced by Charlie Andrew (Alt-J) due for release on 25th February via Dirty Hit

Marika has her own Headline UK tour coming up:

28th Feb – Brighton – Komedia
1st March – Bristol – Louisiana
2nd march – Manchester – The Castle
3rd March – Edinburgh – Electric Circus
4th March – Newcastle – Think Tank
6th March – London – Sebright Arms

Favourite Rock Tracks of 2012

Many say that rock and roll is a dying breed… I say they’re wrong. Here is a list, in no particular order, of some of my favourite rock tracks from 2012.

Jack White – Sixteen Saltines
From the album “Blunderbuss”

One thing I have realised when it comes to Jack White is that the minute I hear of any musical project of his taking place, I get pretty excited for it. Before actually attending his gig in Edinburgh, it was the extent of my conversation for weeks prior to it. His second solo single “Sixteen Saltines” packs a guitar edged punch with a catchy hook and along with the entire album “Blunderbuss”, is arguably some of his best material to date. He recently revealed that the song’s lyrical content was inspired by his young daughter who asked him for “16 saltine crackers” to which Jack replied with a firm no. Like much of the White Stripes material, Jack White has adopted the musical philosophy that less is more as despite the simple riff throughout, it is very powerful and it boasts excellent musicianship.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtxG3Z810OU 

Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
From the album “Lonerism”

Tame Impala’s critically acclaimed second studio album “Lonerism” was crowned “Album of the Year” by NME and has received unanimous praise worldwide from fans and critics. What I loved about the record is the fact that there are no bad or mediocre songs; the album consistently delivers which in my opinion makes Kevin Parker one of the most talented and most important songwriters of this generation. There are very few albums nowadays which are consistently good throughout.

Arguably, my favourite track from the record is “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”. The track caught my full attention when I saw Tame Impala perform at the O2 ABC Academy as they delivered it with such intense emotion and a powerful stage presence. The track along with most of Tame Impala’s catalogue compares to the musicianship of John Lennon during his Magical Mystery Tour and Sergeant Pepper days, and Syd Barrett.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wycjnCCgUes

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Panic in Babylon
From the album “Aufbehen”

No list of mine is complete without the Brian Jonestown Massacre. “Aufbehen” delivers their signature psychedelic vibe, colliding both eastern and western influences through the use of smoky sitars and clever musical arrangements. The album’s opening track “Panic in Babylon” is somewhat of a “in your face” opener. The instrumental track conveys psychedelia at its finest and the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s musical philosophy which they have remained true to since their 1993 debut album “Spacegirl & Other Favorites”. The track transcends the listener with its mixture of instruments delivering something dream like and intoxicating which flows with in and out of the consistent unrelenting beat; the Brian Jonestown Massacre at their finest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FR3H8TY3iGg

The Black Keys – Little Black Submarines
From the album “El Camino”

Taken from the critically acclaimed album 2011 “El Camino”, “Little Black Submarines” was released as the fourth single from the album in October 2012. Many fans and critics instantly compared the track to the sound of Led Zeppelin but favoured the track highly. Beginning with a quiet acoustic like prayer, the tracks later explodes with a simple yet thunderous chord progression played sweetly on an electric guitar; rock and roll at it’s finest. The track I believe is certainly more ambitious in comparison to the rest of the album and according to Dan Auerbach, it gives an idea to the listener what a Black Keys live show is really like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F20zZKWeXyg

The Shins – Simple Song
From the album “Port of Morrow”

Prior to the release of “Simple Song”, The Shins had not released any material since 2007. Many fans were excited yet arguably nervous as they anticipated the new release from The Shins.  One thing is for sure though; the release of the “Simple Song” proved to fans and critics alike that James Mercer and his fellow band mates can still successfully deliver a perfect indie pop heart felt song or two.

“My life in an upturned boat,
Marooned on a cliff.
You brought me a great big flood,
And gave me a lift.”

Mercer delivers his signature brand of poetic lyrics throughout the track and refers to it as a much more personal effort in comparison to previous works. “Port of Morrow” was a triumphant return to say the least for The Shins.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyAJ4V06izg

Alabama Shakes – Hang Loose
From the album “Boys & Girls”

Alabama Shakes were arguably the most highly anticipated bands of 2012 and their critically acclaimed debut “Boys & Girls” soared into music charts worldwide. Fronted by Brittany Howard, a wildly soulful Janis Joplin like vocalist, Alabama Shakes has delivered an album which oozes with Southern rock and gospel influences and has earned them a considerably large and rapidly increasing following. Having caught the attention of musical legends including Robert Plant and Jack White, it is safe to say that Alabama Shakes will be around for a long time delivering more soulful music.

“Hang Loose” is a soulful and uplifting salute to living carefree which offers a classic rock melody which sounds beautifully timeless.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sSl11GMkMI

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Walk Like A Giant
From the album “Psychedelic Pill”

Last but certainly not least is Mr. Neil Young & Crazy Horse who released the critically acclaimed album “Psychedelic Pill” this year. Like Brian Jonestown Massacre, no list is complete for me without Neil Young. “Psychedelic Pill” I consider to be one of Neil Young’s finest works as it beholds some brilliant musical moments; personal favourites being “Walk Like A Giant” and “Twisted Road”. These brilliant moments as such are typical of Young as the record furthermore, delivers a similar vibe and feeling to that of “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”.

The epic “Walk Like A Giant” speaks of how his generation were unable to change the world. I get the impression that the album is a somewhat reminiscence of Neil’s colourful life as he recalls on the track “Twisted Road” his joy of listening to Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead on the radio.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bemz-7fofcs

Terraplane Sun

From Venice Beach, California. Terraplane Sun have nurtured the influences of the surrounding area and past Californian sounds. To blend a perfect mix of blues and rock. With some very soulful vocals. The band are, Ben Rothbard (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica), Cecil (Bass, Vocals), Johnny Zambetti (Lead Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals), Lyle Riddle (Drums) and Gabe Feenberg (Keys, Lap Steel Guitar, Accordian, Trombone). This very packed line-up however do not produce a mashed up, over bearing, or even big sound. Which you may expect. ‘Ya Never Know’ is a stunning example of their talents.

Their ‘Friends EP’ is out now. // iTunes

http://www.terraplanesun.com
http://www.facebook.com/terraplanesun

Where Credit is Due: Johnny Cash

One way or another, you’ll have heard of Johnny Cash. He could possibly be named one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Best known for writing classic country/rockabilly/rock & roll tunes that have lasted through the ages and even to this day are played with youthful enthusiasm and in many cases recreated and performed live, he also took a swing at gospel and folk music. Now I’ll lay my cards on the table, I don’t know an awful lot about these genres of music and I’ll blame the generation I live in, what with the mass music conveyor belt that the industry relies on nowadays however if one thing stands to reason; Johnny Cash’s music made its way to my ears and I find it hard to not listen.

I’m not going to walk you through his life, if you want to learn more about him I suggest you watch ‘Walk The Line’ or keep an eye out for biographies which are usually very extensive and in-depth, I’m here purely for the music. Who hasn’t been at their Grans 70th birthday and been dragged onto the dance floor by your less than attractive aunt when ‘Ring of Fire’ comes on, his music has lasted through decades and that stands for something.

Johnny Cash obtained 19 no. 1’s in his career, and this was a far harder feat back then than it is nowadays, but how can you question it what with songs like; ‘I Walk the Line’, ‘A Boy Named Sue’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. Also to add to his credentials of living legend, he used to play free gigs within prison walls. Imagine One Direction attempting that.

There’s something seriously cool about Johnny Cash and his whole demeanor. There’s also something truly intoxicating about his bass-baritone voice that makes you continue to listen, they don’t make musicians like Cash anymore which is unfortunate because all we’re left with is computerized voices and beats, thankfully we do have the long-lasting memory of Johnny Cash and by long-lasting, I mean another 100 years.  And just for the record, my favourite Johnny Cash song is a cover he done entitled ‘Hurt’, originally by Nine Inch Nails. Johnny done it better.

Here’s a Johnny Cash Facebook that’s full of old photos and miscellaneous things: http://www.facebook.com/johnnycash

His official website: http://www.johnnycash.com/

His video for ‘Hurt’: 

Olympic Swimmers – Band of the Week.

I stumbled across this on its release date and i have not stopped listening yet. If i were a movie this would be my soundtrack. The opening track ‘Father Said’ is MASSIVE.

Jamie Savage from the band was extra kind enough to do a little track by track from his point of view!

Father Said

This is the oldest song we have that we regularly play. It’s probably about 5 years old! When I joined the band the song had only started teething. Our bassist Graeme wrote what is now my guitar part. The first demo of this is just Graeme on acoustic and Susie singing a simpler version of the current vocal melody. It was actually a real toe tapper before the band slowed it right down. The structure is a weird one. Not your typical repeated verse, bridge, chorus type of thing. The song is essentially three different sections that don’t repeat. We had to make each one feel a bit different to keep it interesting. So we have the sweet pitter pattery butteryfly wings stroking your eyelids bit, then stark spacious ghostly odd guy, followed by the gradual build up to guitar apocalypse. The weird wobbly ghostly instrument in the background of the middle section is the wind organ Susie used to play. We no longer use it because it’s a pain in the arse!

Knots

The song was almost done in it’s entirety in one rehearsal. We were feeling frustrated with how miserable all our tunes were so we decided to “write a fleeing poppy tune. NOW!”. We thought we would rip of Krautrock bands like Can and Neu by making the drums very driving. Pretty much just by having the kick drum hit every other beat where the snare isn’t. It started off with me playing some fast finger pickery stuff and very quickly everyone else had a part. We then needed a chorus. So I quickly churned out the chorus and everyone else followed suit. I then wrote my “guitar solo” which is actually just me playing on my tod. This was all done so fast. It’s probably the fastest thing I’ve ever done. It’s pretty shocking, as I’m actually a very… very slow person. Graeme sometimes calls me “The Tornado”. I should point out that Jonnys drum part in the chorus is ridiculous; it’s like one big snare fill. Susies chorus vocal melody reminds me of old sexy Jazz tunes.

Where It Snows

This song was never really a song until it emerged fully formed in the studio. I think Si recorded his parts onto pro tools first. I added a wee organ and Graeme his bass. Jonny added drum programming and a thick layer of sweet “oohs”. When it got to the studio I don’t think it was in any stable arrangement. I think our producer Iain Cook sunk his teeth in and finalised the arrangement and we replaced some parts. Then the vocals were finally written. Cook wrote a stellar beacking vocal melody at the end. We luckily had Susie also singing the melody on a guide vocal track, so at the mix stage we used it as I was adamant it had to become a big hook at the end with everyone singing it. It’s one of my favourite bits on the album. I didn’t hear Susies vocal parts until they were recorded. I was totally blown away.

Apples And Pears

Here’s a wee oldie which we’ve actually previously recorded for an EP. It’s a song which we always struggled with as it’s hard to make the sections develop since there’s very little going on with the chords. The verse is just two chords and the bridge and chorus are actually the exact same two chords. It could easily be very, very boring! Eventually we settled on a new arrangement just before recording it for the album. Thankfully, Cook came to the rescue with a great wee guitar hook in the second verse which I had been struggling with. I know this song sounds very upbeat and happy, but in reality it’s probably one of our most brutal songs due to Susie’s lyrics.

The Bricks Of Our Building

This probably contains the one of the very few parts on the album that doesn’t have any reverb or delays on it. It’s an acoustic guitar, which isn’t really featured anywhere else as prominent as this. This helps give the song a sense of depth as the acoustic is so up close and everything else feels quite distant. Graeme recorded his piano part with his headphones off. We found that the piano sounded too blocky and sweet when he played on the beat. So the take we used was actually him playing random notes at random times. Susie brought quite a strong folk vibe to this which was quite unexpected. I suspect she must be a closet folkie; like me.

Game Of The Century

This one hurts our guitarist Simons hands because he has to play barr chords all the way through. He’s usually in tears at the end; so at gigs we usually play this track JUST ONCE. I see this as one of our mature new ones; it has a graceful dose of piano and dulcimer. The dulcimer is an instrument which looks like a little table with strings across it. You hit hit with little wooden hammers but for the second verse I played it with my fingers which makes it sound a bit like a harp. In the choruses I play it with this rhythm that makes me think of riding horses. I could bang on about how I love everyone’s parts in all of these songs; but I don’t think that would be particularly insightful. If you can’t say something insulting, don’t say nothing at all.

In This House

Our drummer Jonny came up with most of the guitar parts for this. He gave the parts to me and Simon and then we built the song around it. Cook helped steer the chorus in a new direction by poppifying Graemes chorus bass line as well as coming up with a wee hook for Simons guitar. After that it felt like the song was taking a more interesting direction and I reworked some of my parts. For some time this song had a nasty straight up rock feel to it which was making us squirm, so it was great to get Cooks input. After all the hard work, the song almost never made it on the album. But after sending the tracks to several people, this one had popped out as a favourite for some. These people probably hate the rest of the album.

Fallen Trees

I wanted my keys to sound like Donna Summers ‘I Feel Love’. Unfortunately that was never pulled off. Nevertheless I think we managed to make a good pop song.

Rung Down The Curtain

Simon came into rehearsal with a few lovely guitar parts. I was so enthused and certain about how they should be arranged that he let me mess around with them. By the time we got to the studio we had a form of the song which was just the guitar with drums and bass. It used to be very fast. The rhythm section had more of a groove to it with kick, snare, ride etc. We did a few takes but it wasn’t feeling that great. Cook thankfully made the suggestion that Jonny strip right back to just his floor tom and slow the tempo right down. I remember looking at Cook like he was nuts every time he asked us to try it slower. It got to the point where there was an eternity between my notes. Thus I couldn’t play on the beat and voila! We had something! After some expert editing we had a great instrumental tune which had a lot more depth and melancholy than before. From there, Simon added his shiny atmospherics and Graeme added some weight with piano. I really hoped that Susie would come up with something for it as I thought it was sounding really strong. It didn’t become our best song (in my opinion) until she recorded her vocals. I was so chuffed.

Mt Noah

Here’s another one which I think sounds very mature. Graeme did a great job on this. He wrote the chord structure, the piano part, and the strings in the last chorus and outro. In the choruses I wanted a Yann Tiersen feel. He tends to use instruments in a clever way where each instrument has it’s own rhythm which is distinct from the other rhythms around it. You end up with this clockwork feel where the instruments feel like they’re all individual little mechanisms which work together to create this great sense of movement. It reminds me of…. riding trains. When Jonny added his syncopated drums it added to that feel. The other ‘mechanisms’ are bass, guitar, marimba, clarinet, dulcimer, harpsichord. The clarinet and strings were played by our good friends Kev Brollie, Jenny Reeve, and Ruth Campbell. I had lost the hammers for the dulcimer, but luckily there was a byro and a pencil at hand. Pure A-Team. Graeme had a lovely “cluster chord” on midi strings which we added at the end. A cluster chord sounds a bit like when you caress a piano with your blindfolded face. It was fun to mix. We made sure we could get the cluster chord as loud as it could go without it being ridiculous. I love how intense it sounds when it gradually fades in. It seemed a fitting end to the album.