As a self-professed anglophile and fiancee to one very cheeky Brit, I certainly appreciate the many aspects of our wry, Founding Fathers. From stodgy meals, statuesque cathedrals and sublime music, England is a nation enriched in all aspects: cuisine, culture and most importantly, creativity.
My most recent English example? Indie/blues/rock/soul/funk mash-up musicians known as The Heavy.
Hailing from Britain’s rain-sopped turf are The Heavy; four very talented lads who emerged onto the music scene circa early 2000s. Their most notable song, “How You Like Me Now?” has been featured in countless adverts, movies and video game trailers (and was the first tune that sparked my fan frenzy).
The Heavy reeks of rawness. They’re uncut and unparalleled artists who perform as well at gigs as they do on VEVO. I would know; I’ve frequented three of their concerts within the past two years, and have yet to be disappointed.
While The Heavy is relatively under-the-radar, their undeniable talent is worthy of high accolade. Take a peek at the ghoulish video for their new single, “Can’t Play Dead,” and let us know your take on this British, bass-heavy/bad-ass band.
While most kids ran around the park, scrapping elbows and playing Pirates, I sprawled out on my bed and copied the lyrics of my favorite Petula Clark song. My name is Melanie, and I am the oldest 25-year old that ever lived.
I was born with the heart of a 1960s hippie, twenty years too late. I blame my folks for this. My parents spent their youth as bell-bottomed teens with a penchant for the classics, particularly music birthed from Great Britain. In turn, they passed their “peace and love, man” ideals to yours truly. In middle school, I was the musically misplaced ‘oldies fanatic’ during ‘NSYNC mania. I hummed doo-wop songs before I even knew what ‘hip-hop’ was, and Justin Timberlake had nothing on a young Paul McCartney, bowl-cut and all. (To this day, I’m pretty sure I can belt out any Beatles tune if you ask nicely.)
What’s the point of this pretentious anecdote? To showcase the moment I nearly lost faith in contemporary music, upon stumbling across Justin Bieber’s “Baby” video on MTV. Once I had processed the mind-numbing chorus of: “Baby, baby, baby, oh // Like baby, baby, baby, no // Like baby, baby, baby, oh // I thought you’d always be mine, mine,” I could only sit on the sofa, absolutely dumbfounded. I felt as if I had just witnessed the decline of all human effort, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was the only person in the world who would actively campaign to get his songwriter fired.
To my relief, Bieber soon went bye-bye and a new video emerged like a musical Godsend. A solo artist named Gary Clark, Jr. swooped in to restore my optimism in the modern music industry. For the next five minutes, I was in guitar-riff heaven; captivated by this musician who shredded his way into my heart with a classic Gibson ES335.
Brazenly referred to as the modern-day Jimi Hendrix, Gary Clark, Jr. is the Texas-based crooner making waves with his commanding “cool cat” persona and fuzzy guitar rhythms. Though he has gained some notoriety on the indie-blues rock scene, Gary Clark, Jr. is relatively under wraps. For someone who has harnessed old-school influences to produce a modern blues vibe, this is one artist truly deserving of global recognition.
Listen to his first single, “Bright Lights,” a song chronicling his journey of self-exploration in the unforgiven metropolis of NYC. What’s your take on this up-and-coming artist? Is Gary Clark, Jr. the reincarnation of old-school rock?
For a country smaller than the state of Florida, England incessantly burgeons with musical talent. A modern “British Invasion” has emerged on this year’s music front, with radio charts offering an English mash-up of thumping bass and the thrum of banjos. From Alex Clare’s experimental drum-and-bass to Ellie Goulding’s indie pop melodies, the eclectic range of British influence has made an influential mark on the contemporary music scene.
Another innovative artist climbing the UK charts is twenty-two year old Delilah; a London-based songstress gaining notable praise with her debut album, “From the Roots Up.” The freshman LP skillfully combines ambient, electro-bass beats with sultry, R&B vocals; successfully achieving a bold range of genre-bending tracks.
Delilah’s first single “Go” samples lyrics from the 1983 Chaka Khan hit, “Ain’t Nobody,” while flawlessly incorporating her own edgy, carnal-driven undertones. The provocative track peaked at #21 on the UK Singles Chart, and amassed heavy radio rotation.
“From the Roots Up” is a candid showcase of Delilah’s lyrical versatility, offering realistic – at times haunting – accounts of love and lust. Physical expression is glorified throughout the album, highlighting her frank and unapologetic approach to sexuality.
Delilah is certainly an artist on the rise, presenting a fresh culmination of innovation and talent, but what’s your opinion? Take a peek at the creative video for her single, “Love You So,” and see if this English artist tickles your fancy….
Big words, to be sure, but hot damn, listen to the title track from Matt Lowell’s Swan Lake EP. It’s four notes, the same four notes, carried across several different chords, but in an interesting twist, the song is largely bass-free, with those four notes hitting at an unlikely spot. Musically, it travels this strange land between Joseph Arthur and Guided by Voices, but doesn’t really sound like either. Give it a listen, and see if you’re as enthralled as we are.
We’d just like to clear up something, if you don’t mind. Despite the fact that this column is called “Steal This Song,” rest assured that everything we post comes with the band’s permission. The title of the column is a reference to an Abbie Hoffman book from 1971, something that we’re guessing was lost on the nasty commenter who thought we were stealing from some poor little indie band. No one is actually stealing anything, all right? Now let’s move on.
A surefire way to get us to delete a press release is to use the word ‘gypsy.’ (Double negative score if the word ‘psych’ is used in conjunction with ‘gypsy.’) On the other hand, a surefire way to get us to beg for more is to compare your band to Elvis Costello, the Jam and the Police, and it’s a triple word score if you compare one band to all three.
It’s clear from the onset that the Five O’Clock Heroes are fans of the Jam, as their name comes from one of their song titles, but is the Jam an apt comparison? To be honest, not really. This is not to say that the band’s album Different Times isn’t good – just that it doesn’t really sound like the Jam. There is a strong Anglo-pop vibe to it, to be sure, and it’s reminiscent of the time in which the Jam were active (and most popular), but a better comparison might be a UK power pop artist like Bram Tchaikovsky or the Members. Now, that is a trend we wouldn’t mind seeing catch on.
There are few slopes that are as slippery as music that could fairly be described as precious. A wrong move in any direction, and that ‘c’ becomes a ‘tent’, if you know what we mean. It was therefore with great trepidation that we clicked Play on the song from Little Tybee, a group of Georgians whose press release was quick to mention Fleet Foxes. And don’t get us wrong, we like Fleet Foxes…but do we need a dozen of them?
As it turns out, “Nero,” the first song from the band’s upcoming album Humorous to Bees, is probably being done a disservice by being compared to anyone, but you know how press releases work – they need to mention a couple of successful bands to give the reader a reference point (and truthfully, that’s exactly how we like it). If anything, the song reminds us of a less amped version of the Noisettes’ song “Wild Young Hearts,” perhaps refitted for play in a jazz club. Trade out drum sticks for brushes, throw in some fiddle, and groove, man. Good stuff. The record drops in April. Hopefully this will tide you over until then.
Holy west coast pop, Batman. Now this is a sound that we wouldn’t mind seeing catch on and infiltrate the mainstream…again.
We’re on our first spin through Mirrors, the debut album U.S. Royalty, a band who is about as far removed as one can get from the west coast while still being in the States (they’re from Washington DC), and it has a vibe to it that is instantly familiar without sounding derivative. Big, soaring vocals with some nicely stacked harmonies, along with the occasional foray into feedback, these guys are definitely a band to watch. Fans of Fleetwood Mac are going to jump all over “Monte Carlo.” It’s like “Dreams” as a driving song. Get it now, so you can say you were there first.
It’s been kind of quiet here in ESD Land, and that’s intentional – everyone has stuff to do during the holidays, and we’re only happy to wind things down so we can get our shopping done. But here’s a little pre-Christmas treat for you all, courtesy of the people behind what my daughter calls the doggie video, OK Go.
Like most remixes these days, the majority of the original song didn’t survive, but there are a few lines from the song and a keyboard riff here and there. And hey, it’s free. Can’t beat free. Happy holidays, everyone. See you in 2011.
This is one of those moments where we cannot help but think that everything is connected. Earlier this year we got our hands on Selected, a compilation of songs from onetime Depeche Mode sonic architect Alan Wilder’s new band Recoil, and on it is a little tune called “Faith Healer,” featuring vocals from Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas McCarthy. It’s a great tune, and McCarthy turns in a rather impressive vocal performance for a guy who’s spent most of his career yelling. Even better, the release of this album allowed us to score an interview with Wilder (huge, huge thrill), where Wilder delivered perhaps the funniest, most understated comment about Nitzer Ebb that one could possibly dream up: “I guess Nitzer Ebb are lacking a lot of melodic content, you could say.”
Even stranger, when we spoke with Fratellis lead singer Jon Fratelli earlier in the year and asked him who he considered to be the most unheralded artist from his native Scotland, he nominated the Sensational Alex Harvey Band…the guy who wrote “Faith Healer.” Like we said, everything’s connected.
Anyway, Wilder mentioned that he had recently remixed a Nitzer Ebb track – one with melodic content, we’re assuming – and it hadn’t even occurred to us that the band hadn’t made a record in 15 years, so him mixing Nitzer Ebb was kind of a big deal. The record is now here (Industrial Complex, due out November 9), and the first song, “Promises,” will produce involuntary goosebumps in anyone who trolled the alt-rock clubs when That Total Age was first released. The keyboard track immediately brings “Murderous” to mind but, perhaps remembering how well the “Faith Healer” cover worked, McCarthy opts for actual singing instead of his trademark yelling, and in the process fixes the one thing that ultimately kept us from listening to the band for more than 10 minutes in a row. Oh man, is this a sweet surprise.
Sorry, disappeared for a while there. I took a week off after Lollapalooza – my first week off in two years, I might add – and I still haven’t caught up on email. I know, wah wah wah, you have too much music to listen to. Hey, I’m just sayin’, there are only so many hours in the day. My kids miss their daddy when I hole up in the music cave, and I miss them, too.
Mackintosh Braun – Could It Be
Man, if only the rest of the record could keep up with this song. In theory, I should love Mackintosh Braun. They make ELO-inspired synth pop, which is as close to my wheelhouse as things get. In reality, I merely like Mackintosh Braun. I think it was the processed vocals that did me in. They have ‘em on every track. The record overall is good, and I’m betting they can do better next time around, but if you’re going to take one song of theirs with you, this one, for now, is it.