Tag: The XX

Ramblings: on blogging, The XX, IDLES and Secret Cinema (Moulin Rouge)

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There were four things I feared when I started Astralpenguins:

  1. I wouldn’t enjoy writing it
  2. People would react negatively to such a weird collection of music
  3. I’d run out of music that I liked and therefore end up plugging music I wasn’t that keen on
  4. I’d run out of time/energy to keep it updated.

Well the fourth of those concerns came about around the middle of March. Work, personal admin and commitments conspired to take my time away. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time to write the blog, it was that I didn’t have time to listen to music at all.

And yet, here I am. On the other side of a strange couple of weeks. I’ve had a blog post in my mind for a fortnight that I don’t really feel is worth writing in full anymore, but it revolved around two gigs I went to – with Gig buddy Matt – on consecutive nights.

The first was seeing The XX at one of their Brixton shows, absolutely smashing it. It was a total pleasure from start to finish watching that band – a band that I’ve loved since I first heard them on the radio around 7 years ago – stand triumphant in front of their hometown crowd.

I have to be honest, I was on such a high from The XX that I feared for the following night’s acts. I even considered not going. But boy am I glad I did. First, some history: one of the ways I check out new bands is from the email lists of various venues I like; they email out a list of acts who are playing soon and then I listen to the music of the bands I haven’t heard of before.

Back in the summer of 2015 I received an email from Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen advertising a band called IDLES. They had one EP on Spotify, and it was – from memory – pretty solid indie rock. Tickets were c. £5 and I thought ‘why not?’ – I even persuaded Gig Buddy Matt to come along. We were in for a surprise…

The band had somewhat changed their sound since that EP, eschewing indie sensibilities for a considerably more brutal punk sound. The audience was sparse – probably around 40 of us – and the band were intimidating. They looked like they’d be cobbled together in some sort of prison rehabilitation programme; all pent-up rage channelled – mostly – through their instruments. The lead singer jumped off the stage and paced around the audience, who visibly recoiled.

They were, in short, rather brilliant. The kind of band you need to see; full of eccentricities and chemistry, yet always bordering on an explosion. They were supported on that night by a 2 piece called John (which, they helpfully point out, is a terrible name for a band, as you can’t find them on Google). I’m delighted we spent the £5 – it’s one of those gigs we still talk about with joy and laughter.

And then late last year, something unexpected happened. Radio 1 started championing IDLES. They were getting radio play, invited in for live lounge performances … it gave them a level of exposure they’d previously lacked. And so they returned to London (Moth Club) a couple of weeks ago – once again supported by the once again excellent but totally un-google-able John) with a considerably bigger crowd.

What hadn’t changed is their spirit. The punk ethos, the chaotic live show, the humour… it was there. They were fantastic. If you haven’t seen them, don’t hesitate. This is a band who have worked incredibly hard to get themselves to this stage, and their live show is, right now, one of music’s most provocative experiences.

There is one other thing I wanted to mention from the past week. My favourite film in the world is Moulin Rouge (closely followed by Die Hard) and at the moment in London an organisation called Secret Cinema are hosting their version of screenings of the film. Essentially Secret Cinema try to recreate the magic and ethos of the film by bringing elements of it to life. My other half bought me tickets for one of their screenings (performances?) for Christmas, and we excitedly went along last Sunday.

I’m loathe to write anything resembling a review of the night, but the top line is that I thought the whole thing was atrocious. Lacking creative direction, artistic merit or a sense of how to add value to something that is already pretty much perfect, it is one of the worst cultural experiences I’ve had in London. I can only suggest – if you are thinking of going – that you avoid it. Better to sit at home and watch the film; it’s better than the second rate am-dram drivel you’ll experience at the Secret Cinema experience, and it’ll save you from shelling out for the ridiculously overpriced tickets, drinks, food and costume.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. Back soon – and I promise to stick to music from now on.

The Bonus List

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As a special Friday bonus here is the Bonus List – the extension of our weekly A List (posted every Sunday) and another chance to showcase some of the other songs we’re still really liking right now.

[If you’re particularly interested, I set out how it works in last week’s debut; if not, just read on and enjoy the music] 

There are some cracking songs on here; the first seven weeks – or so – of 2017 have been rather kind to music fans. So here we go, here are 11-20 in our current chart.

 

11. The XX – Dangerous (fourth week; up 2) 

A tremendous statement of intent to kick off new album I See You. Every time I hear the opening notes I can’t help but smile at the joys this track – and the album – provide.

12.  Mixhell, Joe Goddard – Crocodile Boots (Soulwax Remix) (third week; down nine) 

A five minute industrial revolution full of dancing percussion samples and snippets.

13. Magana – Pages (new entry)

Twinged with sadness, Pages is the end of a story which seems to have come to an abrupt and not entirely mutual ending.

14. The XX – Performance (third week; up two) 

A heart-dropping, mournful and gripping track that finds The XX back on familiar ground. Romy’s vocals are – as usual – emotional in a way so few other singers can manage.

15. POOLCLVB – Waiting for You (new entry)

Waiting for You sounds very much like the child of the nu-rave scene, with memories of Delphic and Klaxons coming flooding back.

16. Stage Van H – Orange Beach – Marko Melo Remix (fourth week; down four) 

Orange Beach has a top-line that constantly teases you; dangling melodies and noises but withdrawing then before you get too comfortable and drawing your ears and imagination back to its dynamic underbelly.

17. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Sleep Drifter (new entry)

Sleep Drifter is the musical equivalent of being awake for 48 hours; everything is there but you’re not sure you can piece it all together.

18. Father John Misty – Ballad of the Dying Man (new entry)

On the Ballad of the Dying Man, Father John Misty has found himself back at his mischievous best.

19. Tall Tall Trees – Freedays (third week; down four) 

Sounds like a product of vast and hazy country landscapes, and would comfortably sound at home alongside records by Fleet Foxes and Jonathan Wilson.

20. Tourists – Masquerade (new entry)

Synths, bass, guitars, drums and vocals come together like the five Power Rangers to create a grand and ambitious record that sounds both fresh and vintage.

The Bonus List: Monday 6th Feb

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Introducing the new weekly Bonus List – the extension of our weekly A List that is posted every Sunday – which is another chance to showcase some of the other songs we’re still really liking right now.

As with the A List, these tracks are listed in order of preference. It’s the closest blogging gets to the charts. As with the A List, there is a four week limit for the tracks, so if it has been on the A List for a couple of weeks then it can only stay here for two. Some songs will also come straight into the Bonus List, from either the This Week Playlist or from our Tracks of the Day selections.

These 10 tracks have all features previously on the site and are all – as far as we’re concerned – really very good.

11. Dan Croll – Away From Today

A slightly disorientating indie pop track that could easily have been take from Bombay Bicycle Club’s back catalogue. It plays with the senses a little, never quite settling.

12. Stage Van H – Orange Beach – Marko Melo Remix

Orange Beach has a top-line that constantly teases you; dangling melodies and noises but withdrawing then before you get too comfortable and drawing your ears and imagination back to its dynamic underbelly.

13. The XX – Dangerous 

A tremendous statement of intent to kick off new album I See You.

14. Jaakko Aukusti – What If All Else Fails? 

What if All Else Fails? has all the icy and bare elements of any great Northern European glacial landscape.

15. Tall Tall Trees – Freedays 

Sounds like a product of vast and hazy country landscapes, and would comfortably sound at home alongside records by Fleet Foxes and Jonathan Wilson.

16.The XX – Performance 

A heart-dropping, mournful and gripping track that finds The XX back on familiar ground. Romy’s vocals are – as usual – emotional in a way so few other singers can manage.

17. FREAK – Cake

Loud, thrashy and suitably angry, FREAK hails from Chelmsford,  has bags of talent and kicks off 2017 with a bang.

18. Harlea – You Don’t Get It 

There’s a confidence in Harlea’s emotions – no vulnerability here, it’s part sassy but absolutely certain (YOU don’t get it) – but also a confidence in the song-writing. Nothing is too complicated, nothing is messy; it’s exactly as it should be.

19. Skott – Glitter & Gloss 

Glitter & Gloss is a little bit like eating a chocolate bar that you’ve taken from a communal fridge; it’s sweet and satisfying, but there’s a lurking sense of guilt and troubles to come.

20. Allan Rayman, Jessie Reyez – Repeat  

His voice is extraordinary; it elevates what is a slightly off-kilter r’n’b meets indie pop track into something very compelling.

The A List: 29th January

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Here’s the A List for this week: my favourite 10 tracks at the moment.

Every Sunday I post a new A List,  an insight into what I’m loving right now. There’s a strong dance feel to the list at the moment, with four of the top five representing the genre’s different forms. There are three new entries this week, and one track is celebrating a third week on the A List.

Quite simply, there’s a lot of good music out there right now. It was tough to get it down to 10 tracks this week, so I’ll be posting the B-List tomorrow – the 10 songs just below the A-List – that I’ve christened the Bonus List. I’ll also be posting the This Week Playlist tomorrow, seven tracks that will tickle your ears. I warn you in advance: it’s a strong list this week.

So let’s get to it. Here is this week’s A List:

1. The Black Madonna – He is the Voice I Hear (Non-Mover; 2nd week)

A lot of people are dismissive of dance music. The world of EDM bangers and superstar DJ’s has – over the past few years – led to a perception of formulaic dance-by-numbers tracks. But then every now and then a dance song comes along that completely changes what dance music can be; He is the Voice I Hear is one of those tracks, a rollercoaster ride with strings, jazz piano and disco-influences. It’s a masterpiece, and it rightly stays at number one.

2.  Mixhell, Joe Goddard – Crocodile Boots (Soulwax Remix) (New Entry)

This is a five minute industrial revolution. Full of dancing percussion samples and snippets, the spoken word sections only add to these feeling like it has transported 1980’s electronica and transported it to the future. It’s a fine record, and one I’ve enjoyed every listen of.

3. LOYAL – Moving As One (Non-Mover; 2nd week)

LOYAL’s Moving As One has plenty of layers that span different genres and enough musical ability to bring it together seamlessly.

4. Esther Joy Lane – Ever Ever (Non-Mover; 2nd week)

Ever Ever starts off on familiar terrain for Grimes fans, which is certainly no bad thing. But it then takes a different path; meandering between synth pop, electronica and dance

5. Bonobo – No Reason (Down 3; 2nd week) 

George reviewed Bonobo’s album this week and rightly picked out No Reason as a highlight.  Mournful vocals are matched by elegant electronic touches; it’s a claustrophobic listen that leaves you wanting to curl up in a blanket and hide away from the world.

6. Army of Bones – Don’t Be Long (Down 1; 3rd week) 

I’m still loving this unexpected indie treat. Strong pulsing guitars and a polished melody makes this a fine January listen.

7. The XX – Dangerous (New Entry)

A tremendous statement of intent to kick off new album I See You. I struggle to think of another band who have so effectively stated a change in direction and a stepping-up of their sound as The XX have with Dangerous.

8. The XX – Performance (New Entry)

A heart-dropping, mournful and gripping track that finds The XX back on familiar ground. Romy’s vocals are – as usual – emotional in a way so few other singers can manage; elevated by the strings and stripped back guitar.

9. Dan Croll – Away From Today (Non-Mover; 2nd week)

A slightly disorientating indie pop track that could easily have been take from Bombay Bicycle Club’s back catalogue. It plays with the senses a little, never quite settling. But for the ridiculously abrupt ending, I rather like this.

10. Tall Tall Trees – Freedays (New Entry)

Our Track of the Day on Thursday, this is psychedelic-infused indie folk – with a banjo. It sounds like a product of vast and hazy country landscapes, and would comfortably sound at home alongside records by Fleet Foxes and Jonathan Wilson.

You can listen to all ten tracks here: