looks better than it sounds

a review of sunday girl (not the blondie song) i did for the fly:

Sunday Girl
The Garage, London
06/02/2011

Her namesake may be a first class pop song by Blondie but Sunday Girlhas picked synth over guitar and is more like Ladyhawke than Debbie Harry. Actually, she looks more like Mischa Barton from The OC doing a Chanel advert, but her music is supposed to be the focus tonight, so the details of her modelling/blogging/London Fashion Week DJing career can wait.

Taking the headline slot upstairs at The Garage on, funnily enough, a Sunday, she has a tough act to follow. The small crowd are still catching their breath after a hauntingly beautiful acoustic set by Emma’s Imagination, so when 22-year-old Jade Williams – Sunday Girl is a nickname from her days as a weekend assistant in a pet shop apparently – appears with a pair of unnaturally good-looking male guitarists wearing Italian suits, the crowd are caught off guard. The stage is decorated too, with a couple of carefully lit vintage display cases containing mounted butterflies, making the show look more like a Hugo Boss advert than a gig. But there is (a bit) more to it than just pretty faces. The band launch into a punchy guitar-backed synth feast and William’s soft, almost slurred, vocals lazily float above the music.

Opening track ’24 Hours’ is quickly followed by Sunday Girl’s Diplo-produced first single ‘Four Floors’, as the band charge through a short set with barely a moment for a “hello” or “thanks”. Her latest single – a cover of Laura Branigan‘s spooky 80s power ballad ‘Self Control’ – is quickly recognised by the crowd, but sadly falls rather flat being nowhere near as good as the original version. Sounding like a less-quirky Alison Goldfrapp means that Sunday Girl is not a bad musician and is actually quite pleasant to listen to live. But she blends in far too easily with the growing bunch of fashion-conscious female-lead pop acts doing the rounds right now. Her “scruffy Chanel” chic may have got her voted Company magazine’s ’19th coolest girl’ but for now she’s struggling to match that musically.

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i live among the creatures of the night

laura branigan: highly likely to make you go a bit ‘kate bush’ on the dancefloor. even if you don’t remember it precisely you probably enjoyed listening to the soothing tones of ‘self control’ on steve wright in the afternoon at an early age in the 1980s. if you were lucky enough to do so the song would have imprinted itself on the back of your head, remaining there to this day, lurking, ready to provoke swirling arm movements and dramatic singing should you hear the chorus played at a disco.

this 1984 synth soap opera is everything a good 80s pop video should be and more. LB also sang ‘gloria’ as featured in the wonderfilm that is flashdance, thus making her officially all sorts of cool.

so, the news is that ‘self control’ has been covered by sunday girl, rather well, actually. i’m going to her gig on friday 21 jan at the nest in d-d-d-dalston. i live among the creatures of the night…

sunday girl’s previous releases ‘stop hey’ and ‘four floors’ while not as good are equally as en trend (i.e. pure synth pop with a pretty face and an acceptably lo-fi posh voice) so i’m sure she will be famous soon, or at the very least won’t look out of place in e8.

ma ma ma telephone

i wrote this for the fly:

Lady Gaga
O2 Arena, London
16/12/2010

Lady Gaga‘s festive freakshow rolls into London’s O2 Arena for two days entertaining girls, geeks, gays and even a few family units. The singer hops from Karen O-style studded leather jackets to Madonna-inspired breast cones complete with live fireworks, taking just over two hours to perform eighteen songs.

Most popular music cynics make an exception for Gaga whose brand of surrealist-shock chic has both enamoured and bonded an army of odd-balls, using collective appreciation of wacky hats and haircuts, pork product dresses and gender obscurity but perhaps most importantly, the love of a truly great pop song. And Lady Gaga well and truly proves her pop credentials tonight by firing out crowd pleasing treats such as ‘Bad Romance’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Poker Face’, mobilising the assembled devotees at this opening night show. Despite carting her crazy array of costumes and charisma around the globe for more than 150 dates (The Monster Ball tour began way back in November 2009) the Lady displays no sign of weariness as she grabs the O2 by the balls and entertains.

With only one full length album released she necessarily deploys a hefty dose of chat to fill her arena slot but cleverly mixes pensive life stories with filthy monologues and queasy videos to create a theatrical grand gesture. This is no ordinary gig. There’s a touch of Tim Burton to the sets and the audience anticipate the next costume choice as much as they do the next hit to be played from Gaga’s ‘The Fame Monster’ LP. Revelling in her position as pied piper for the socially awkward she sports a succession of oversized capes, leopard print leotards and boxy dresses as she looks out at glammed-up O2 Arena audience who have ‘got their Gaga on’ by wearing all manner of wigs, weird sunglasses and OTT dresses. On the odd occasion when she’s not hiding behind masks, monsters and costumes, and relies solely on her voice to grab attention, she proves to be a delicate human being, just like everyone else. And it is this rare flash of reality that keeps Gaga close enough to the ground to make her relevant. Seated at a piano she gives a haunting performance of album track ‘Speechless’ giving a glimpse of the inner Gaga and proving that she can sing and play her instruments, too.

‘Alejandro’ gets the full performance package with boy dancers kissing, but it is the perfect pop of ‘Poker Face’ which commands the loudest roar of approval. For ‘Paparrazi’ she fights with a giant monster, getting floored before rising from the bowels of the stage with fireworks exploding from her cone-shaped breast plates. Lady Gaga has already inspired a generation and the endless energy and enthusiasm of her performance means that no one goes home feeling short-changed by their trip to the Monster Ball tonight. Despite the incredible sets, wild hairstyles and provocative fashion, underneath it all is a genuine musical talent and a girl with a very relevant story to tell.

 

tanlines in the middle of winter

latest exciting gig-related news is that tanlines are playing at xoyo on 4 december as part of a small uk tour. i will be there, along with a sizeable proportion of the local hoxton tosspottery, no doubt.

this is why i like them:

‘real life’ is the latest in a long line of fine synth pop efforts to have made it onto my itunes playlist and as per the band hail from brooklyn. oh, and they refer to themselves as a ‘production duo’, which is far cooler than the more conventional ‘band’. nice.

the original is pretty cool too, although memorytapes did them all sorts of favours with their wee remix.

lovers lovers lovers

given that i can count on the fingers of one hand the number of good all-lesbian bands (organ, le tigre…struggling already) i was ever so excited to stumble upon lovers. a pack of three (surely they must be) lesbians from portland, oregon.

lovers dark light album sleeve

(the sleeve of the new album is VERY misleading if i’m wrong about the lez-thing)

listen to ‘barnacles’, ‘peppermint’ and ‘figure 8’ from new album dark light and you will see why i think lovers are ACERS:

they seem nice, don’t they? joce played ‘barnacles’ at the last disco and is a little bit obsessed with it too. i hope they come to the uk now that synth is in fashion and their new album is likely to become all sorts of cool. very good. there’s a bit more stuff on their myspace.

lead singer carolyn berk is not quite as marc jacobs modelling-hot as katie sketch but she does a good plaid shirt and wears her jeans awfully well. and she comes with two lovely friends. whatsnottolike? hope they don’t fall out and hate each other before they have a chance to travel a bit further than the west coast of america.

dark light is lyrically well-lez – “you hold on dear like a barnacle on a ship of fears” – and synth-cally it’s a postal service-the xx crossbreed. i like it. and my only question now is, why, in the uk when packs of lesbians decide to make music do we get stuck with shite like voodoohussy and the likes of this:

axe girl

the seattle subsonic blog will tell you more about the loverly lovers should you wish to stalk them a bit.

i play synth, we all play synth

so last week i subconsciously found myself obsessively listening to two amazing songs that i wasn’t sure how i knew (much less where they came from). one is called ‘move it’ and the other ‘time’. i think i played them both at the last disco.

both are the sort of sleazy synth pop that sounds like it was recorded in a downtime warehouse of the sort that jennifer beals called home in flashdance (ie. like, well cool), where the synth bounces of the exposed brickwork and the air vent pipes add to the echo. needless to say said warehouse is located in brooklyn.

well, what do you know. it turns out both songs are courtesy of the same band – selebrities. they are: a bloke that is in a band with the drummer from the drums; a bird called maria; and another bloke. of course they are from met in brooklyn.

selebrities

i don’t know much else about them asides from the fact that they are rather predictably getting blogged about in all the right places, including the lush iso50 blog. beautiful t-shirts and fine synth.

selebrities are playing live shows with hercules and love affair and cfcf. in brooklyn, naturally. love. and there’s a wee interview with them on the addictmusic blog which told me all i know.

get their brilliantly named ‘ladies man effect’ wee ep here for free. love it. full-length album on the way soon, appaz.

museum of bellas artes

i first heard about these swedish goddesses about a years ago. almost a year to the day, in fact – just checked when i downloaded their mp3 ‘who do you love’.

this is a cover of a song by lesser-known 60s girl group the sapphires and is pure cool. echoes and a beat that sounds like a car door shutting, over and over. who do you love. yeah. pure cool. listen, please:

download it here. and be their 509th (at the time of writing) friend on myspace.

NOW they have a new song out called ‘watch the glow’ which is just as good without being too samey. love. listen:

the car door shutting beat has turned into a paper-shuffling beatbox with a few more advanced synth noises thrown in but the echoey voices are still there. this is the sort of super-hyped slick swedish electro-pop that’s probably making robyn’s ears turn a bit red. love, love, love…

this lot are like the sapphires locked in a casio-branded box with a turntable offering unlimited record scratching opportunities. and ‘cos they’re swedish they’re instantly ultra-fash. new age fun with a vintage feel, 60s girl band in a synth – what’s not to like?

wikipedia says of the sapphires: “their sound was comparable to much of the music released on motown in the 1960s”

the sapphires