Wahey! Goldfrapp have announced details of new album, ‘Tales of Us’.

Goldfrapp announce new album details… at last!

After what seems like an eternity of Alison Goldfrapp tweeting about spending all of her time living in the woods, leaving us to stew, it seems she’s finally made her way back into civilisation and got on with it, so to speak. All of those mentions of trees and nature did give the impression that the duo would be going back to their previous, more pastoral sound of albums Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree, which Alison confirmed shortly before the album announcement with a brief, and seemingly self-doubting message of “If albums F.M & S.T are your sort of thing, i think you might like our new album?! Xxxx”. She then hinted that something would be going on at 9am the next day, clearly an announcement.

Just a note here: One day’s warning is the perfect amount of time for you to give an album announcement announcement; none of this  several-months-in-advance–will-tweet-album-title in-August nonsense (Lady Gaga… though I’m still waiting for that too…)

The album is called Tales Of Us and is going to be released on September 9th 2013 and below is the artwork.

Alison does the walk of shame

Alison does the walk of shame

 

As album covers go, it is an attractive piece of artwork, in keeping with the band’s artistic, Alison-centric image, but I can’t help wondering what on earth is going on in that picture. Alison seems to be walking through the woods with a haunting look on her face, wearing a rather short skirt and looking like she should know better. It’s a foggy night and there are numerous cars forming a circle around her in the wood, shining their lights onto her. Now, if that is not a dogging scene, I do not know what is. I’ve mocked up a deluxe edition cover for the album if they need one:

"I don't like it when people watch"

“I don’t like it when people watch”

The track listing, if you happen to be a fan of seeing names of songs you won’t be hearing for a while, and thus have no idea what they will sound like, is this:

1. Jo

2. Annabel

3. Drew

4. Ulla

5. Alvar

6. Thea

7. Simone

8. Stranger

9. Laurel

10. Clay

Ten tracks is still a bit short, but I’ll take it, as long as one of them isn’t an instrumental track like last time. The track names don’t really give as many clues as Bowie did by having a song called ‘Dancing Out In Space’ on his last album, and I don’t know who any of these people are, but it’s good news if your name is Ulla and you’ve felt under-represented all this time.

You can now hear a small clip of Annabel in a teaser video, along with clips of other songs, but it’s anyone’s guess which ones they will be.  Incidentally, if you want to book gig tickets in the fan pre-sale, the password ‘annabel’ has to be used for several of them, which the detective in me reckons is a hint that Annabel will be the first single from the album.

What else? The album will be available to buy on all the usual formats. Good news for vinyl fans, bad news again for mini-disk fans. You can also get a “VERY special limited edition that contains the CD, vinyl, an exclusive disc of bonus material plus the full album in 5.1 on DVD. It also contains a 12″ print (first 500 copies signed by us) and a 40-page hardback book which we’ve compiled” but you can’t exactly listen to a book can you. But still, if you’re made of money, why not indulge? It’s better than spending £100,000 fixing up failed pop stars in a newspaper sting.

So now it’s just a matter of waiting for any real clues as to the nature of the album. Alison has tweeted what looks like lyrics to some of the songs, which is a small insight, but, apart from that and the clips from the video, we’re entering this deafly.

New lyrics? I'm not keen on the last couple though.

New lyrics? I’m not keen on the last couple though.

If the songs could sound anything like the following ten, that would be absolutely great, Alison, and one of them is a Patrick Wolf Wind-In-The-Wires-esque collaboration, even better:

Lovely Head
Pilots
Forever
Utopia
Little Bird
Happiness
A&E
Eat Yourself
Number One
Monster Love

 

That’s that then. Let’s just have another listen to good old Pilots. Another great Bond theme that never was.

Band biography review – Council Tax Band

Press release analysis – A comparative study

 

The point of a new, unsigned artist sending out press releases, biographies and promo CDs is to pique someone’s interest and make them want to listen to your hastily cobbled together tunes, rather than just chucking your life’s work into a pile of similarly shoddy efforts. You could make their ears prick up by giving a hefty list of unbelievably diverse artists who influenced your music, a list that makes you seem wise and cultured beyond your years. You could also use lots of big flashy adjectives and buzz words to describe the sheer quality of your music so that the reader of your biography will be salivating all over their lap before they’ve even had the time to insert your Sharpie-tagged disk into their computer so they can actually hear this music seemingly created by the gods themselves.

Before I move onto the actually biography in question that’s prompted me to write this, let’s look one done by a proper label person for a proper new artist: such as this one about up-and-coming-for-many-months-now Tom Odell. He was awarded the Critics’ Choice Award at the BRIT Awards, and despite a series of high-profile TV performances and being Taylor Swift’s supposed Shag Of The Day in the Daily Mail (Disclaimer: Term not used in actual article), Tom hasn’t quite taken off yet. Although he has had a little bit of publicity, he is still being wheeled on at the end of shows as a closing act and not actually having the chance to actually talk.

This is Tom’s performance of ‘Can’t Pretend’ on Jonathan Ross earlier this year. I’m sure you will agree it was quite tuneful and at times very loud and mashy. It might sound very good in a studio recording. But would you listen to that performance and turn to you dear lady wife, sitting in her dressing gown with a hot water bottle shoved up her top, and say “Sharon, wasn’t that beguiling?”, or “I don’t know about you, but that music was so magnificently formed that, when coupled with his personality, it becomes somewhat incendiary”. It’s all very fancy sounding. I steer away from that kind of vocabulary because my AS-level Media Studies education does not fill me with the confidence to use such flamboyant lexicon, hence why I describe music as ‘loud’, ‘mashy’ and ‘tuneful’, unlike those  who write these biographies and probably wasted 3 years doing a full-on degree in Media Studies, or those who write for the Guardian, where you can read a 5000-word album review and still not have a bloody clue what the album will sound like, with any clues about actual content hidden behind the writer’s pompous references to early Twentieth Century aristocrats and Evelyn Waugh novels.

The Tom Odell track is pretty good. It would sound good on an advert and I would be keen to hear more from him. But I wonder if any of his influences have been mentioned in his biography? You’ll be pleased to hear that they have, and not only that, but his musical taste includes ‘such diverse pleasures’ as “’Hunky Dory’ era Bowie” (a good era, and cooler than the ‘mainstream’ Ziggy era) and various other  artist, of all genders and sexualities, including “pre-‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ Elton John” (as if ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’, ‘I’m Still Standing’, and Blue single ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ aren’t worthy of his time). That’s our Tom for you he has unconventional tastes, he breaks the mould, he doesn’t care that Princess Diana died for our sins.

His biography goes on and tracks his life, how he has only ever being interested in music, how his songs “emerge in torrents”, and how he ‘fervently’ shops in Rough Trade, not in HMV like the plebs.  Overall it’s a bit of a turn-off but that’s not Tom’s fault, someone else, who was paid to do so, wrote it for him and he probably finds it all a bit embarrassing, yet overall it’s a pretty effective biography.

Compare and contrast with the promotional information I received in the post last week from ‘Council Tax Band’.

Council Tax Band – ‘Three Songs EP’

Image

Council Tax Band have emerged from the ashes of the so far better ‘Das Wanderlust’ like a crippled, vulgar phoenix, probably so they could start afresh with a hilarious new name. There’s a dual-meaning of the word band! Well done. Sadly, until recently they were unaware that a Sussex-based group of groovy’ local councillors  with names like Nigel and Mary started  up a band with the same name in 2007, in order to reach out to young people and encourage them to vote, with their forceful and imaginatively-titled song ‘Vote!’. That’ll do the trick. Maybe get rough ex-Youth Police and Crime Commissioner Paris Brown in the studio too, to bring in the listeners?

The press release by the new Council Tax Band is one of the more depressing and self-deprecating biographies you may have the pleasure of reading this year. They tell us how they write “songs about boredom, disappointment, and failure; as such they’re sure to be a money-spinner with the lucrative pre-teen demographic”.  They haven’t got an interesting back story and couldn’t be bothered to think one up, they have “unremarkable haircuts”, and their “ultimate goal” is to eventually sell out and have their music on cardigan adverts.

They recorded the three songs on their wackily-titled ‘THREE SONGS’ EP in a room full of crap using “a combination of borrowed gear, and gear they bought themselves by slogging their guts out in a variety of shit jobs” and apparently it’s the first thing they’ve churned out which they “consider fit for public consumption”.  Additionally, the cover ‘artwork’ for this EP is a low-resolution snap of the four band members awkwardly looking at the camera and holding mugs of beverages (one can assume tea) in their room full of crap.  Their unremarkable haircuts are in view.

There is a “No bullshit version” of the biography too: “Two guitars/synth/drums. And shouting”, which sums it up completely accurately.

It’s a refreshing take on the necessary but tedious task of mailing out biographies to people who don’t care, but maybe they’re just being modest and ‘funny’ with their lack of effort? Maybe this is actually the greatest EP of its generation? Perhaps the handwritten note saying ‘Please find enclosed three unpleasant songs for your esteemed consideration’ was a red herring and the songs would actually be stunning recordings, or even beguiling pleasures?

The responses to those questions are all no.  If this is the first output suitable for public consumption, you can’t help wondering how sonically unpleasant the first drafts were.

They probably did have fun making it though and it’s obvious they can’t imagine a real career in music, but I reckon you could get into their gigs in Bedford for a quid and have a completely adequate evening out.  I went to a Das Wanderlust gig several years ago and got hit when a bit of a guitar fell off, so that might happen again if you’re lucky.

Track one is called ‘A Salty Grave’. The lyrics are repetitive and quite hard to understand. It goes on a bit.

Track two is called ‘Mentioning No Names’. It is a rare beauty on the EP in that there is actually a little bit of singing. From what I can gather, the song is about a left-wing politician. “He’s let the left down/he’s let us all down/but worst of all he’s let himself down”.  I best not speculate as to who it might be about, since the song’s name is anonymous, but we are told that “he’s not a racist, he’s just an arsehole” and there is quite liberal chanting of the C word during the chorus, which, we can all agree, is fairly rude.

Surprisingly track three is even better than track two, which in turn was better than track one, so we’re making slight progress here, well done. ‘Happy New Year’ has words you can actually make out and appears to be taking the piss out of people who make New Year’s resolutions and expect things to actually change. From the standard “You’ll give up the fags… you’ll hit the gym”, to the slightly less common “For every toilet roll you’ll plant a dozen trees” and something about cooking Lebanese (?)Then there’s a little keyboard breakdown which is not completely awful and a final verse about what I can only assume is the make-believe world where New Year’s Resolvers live, where there is no longer any war and the rivers are made of chocolate. I reckon that’s what it’s about but who knows… Either way, there is a droning chorus of HAAAPPY NEW YEEEAR HAAAAAAAAPPY NEW YEEEEAR, which is fairly horrible.

Nobody is going to gain anything by me pretending this EP is going to take the world by storm. If those brief song descriptions sound pleasant to you, you can download the songs for whatever you can afford at their Bandcamp page, which I’m sure they’ll appreciate. I probably could have just gone on a bit about Kafka or Smiths B-sides and ignored the actual content of the CD and people would have been more inclined to go and listen to it, but if you can’t be honest on an anonymous blog that nobody will read about a poor-quality band that nobody has heard of, then when you can be honest, eh?

 It’s all a bit of a racket though, which is a shame. Das Wanderlust, the ashes of which should preferably be scooped up and reconstituted into something that resembles the old band, had many more enjoyable tunes, all with good names too: ‘Sherlock Holmes is Better Than You’, ‘I Wish I Was a Robot’ and the shout-along lost classic ‘Humbug’, but we’ll let Council Tax Band off as it’s early days yet.  They still have time to come up with lyrics as gut-wrenchingly emotional as “After we’ve watched shit TV, we decide what we want for tea. We go to the orange shop and we buy some bits and bobs”, but you can’t just force out that kind of gold 24/7, it has to come to you naturally, in a dream or ethereal vision, and it’s quite clear that Council Tax Band won’t make the effort to hurry that vision along.

They say that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, but I think it’s best to be brutal and hopefully the victim can make a few changes and progress from that point. A gig review recently described the band as ‘ungooglable’ which, in fairness, is possibly the best comment you  can make without being rude or lying, and you’ll probably see that word on a label across the cover of their next EP.

 

 

HOW TO SAVE HMV & THE HIGH STREET

Mourning the Great British high street and
An open letter to HMV with an idea on how to save the sinking ship

 

tumbleweed wasteland

As another week passes, another shop on my high street closes, falling victim to that bargain-offering behemoth in the sky, the internet. Maybe I’m just bitter with regards to these huge invisible corporations because Amazon interviewed me for a job once and all I got out of it was a day out in Slough, a branded pen and a sheet of Amazon logo stickers, that’s probably true, but it’s not just that.

Recently I went into my local branch of Millets, only to see that it will have disappeared by next week. The problem, of course, is that anything you buy from Millets, whether it’s a tent, sleeping bag, or bag of sausage casserole that magically heats up and turns into food, you can get it cheaper online, as with everything that has ever appeared on the high street. I didn’t stand in the road chucking paint at the walls and screaming THE INTERNET IS THE DEVIL, because I’m far too idle to ever physically protest about anything, but I wanted to help out somewhat, so I went inside and bought a handy waterproof coat, or a ‘Kag in a Bag’ for £5, since I am poor and it rains a lot. When I was at the checkout, I overheard the staff talking to a woman who was openly mourning the loss of her local outdoors shop, dressed in black, with a handkerchief held to her eye, and they told her that Millets had been kicked out of the store to make way for a Sue Ryder charity shop.

Every British high street

Every British high street

 While I can’t vouch for the veracity of the ‘kicking out’, I did let out a little sigh and audibly mumble “For god’s sake…”, as  another charity shop is the last thing this particular high street needed.  On that small Suffolk stretch of road there were already PDSA, Barnardo’s, Cancer Research, and British Heart Foundation charity shops. I can’t pretend I don’t love a charity shop; they are my first point of call when I want a board game I will only play a handful of times (Monopoly Europe printed in German, a language I can’t read; Lenny Henry: The Game) or if I want to add to my growing collection of 80s vinyl albums which I CAN play, but don’t often do so,  yet nobody is going to visit a town whose shopping street is made up entirely of charity shops flogging crusty clothes and heinous ornaments. I understand charities need money, I’m not stupid, and I’m willing to give it to them, if I can get a good CD or something out of it, but it’s hardly going to save the high street, is it? People weren’t staying away from the town because the choice of charity shops was too limited, ready to head to their nearest bus stop and hop on a bus as soon as the long-awaited Sue Ryder shop opens (that is, if their local bus route hasn’t been cut to save money, like mine was). They stayed away because the town had absolutely nothing to offer (But at least the car park is free, which I do appreciate).

An all too familiar sight

An all too familiar sight

 

Despite living in such an isolated part of the country, I am fortunate to live between three small towns (I like to think of this as the Boremuda Triangle), so I have a choice of which rubbish run-down town I want to go to.  The biggest of these three towns, despite losing every other entertainment shop in the last ten years, still has an HMV despite the recent closures, which brings me on to my main point. Anyone who has stepped into an HMV in recent years will be well aware that they have tried to stay afloat by no longer specialising in music and entertainment, but instead by flogging shoddy merchandise, in the vain hope that somebody will stumble into the shop looking for a new CD release (that hasn’t been stocked) and end up making an impulse purchase of a ‘TEAM EDWARD’ T-shirt, or Justin Bieber – The Sticker Book, the latter which I was nearly tricked into buying because of the low price and short-term Christmas ‘lols’ this would provide, before deciding not to, since I hate planning anything that far in advance. The good people at Popjustice have addressed this topic far better than I can, due to their large amount of photographic evidence in this article where they investigate the various pieces of JLS merchandise sold in their local HMV.

morrisons ant and dec

So onto my main  point…

Recently, I read in the news that supermarket to the stars, Morrisons, has bought out six branches of HMV, in order to turn them into mini high street supermarkets, which will then sit alongside the Tesco Metro, Sainsbury’s Local, and the five Co-ops already on the road, giving more choice when getting a pint of milk on the way home. But this gave me an idea and it is an idea that I believe will rejuvenate everyone’s favourite (only?) high street music store, and potentially even stop it from being completely wiped out in the next year. In my student days, I used to do my weekly shop in Morrisons, since it was within walking distance and you could often get 10 bakery items for under a pound at closing time, so I thought to myself, what are the best features of Morrisons, and one of the answers is, of course, the fresh pizza counter, where the huge pizzas are prepared in store. I then wondered how this feature could be applied for the high street music store, and this is my answer.

1)      Instead of a pizza base you have a blank CD.

2)      Instead of picking a variety of toppings to go on it, you pick a selection of SONGS.

3)      The good people at HMV make up your mix CD for a fair price, while you wait.

 For this to work, it would need to be made a fairly prominent feature in store, the same way the CD singles chart used to be in the old days. You could clear out of all the shelves in the middle of the story that only contain Family Guy DVDs and Owen Wilson films covered in ‘SALE £3’ stickers. Nobody buys them so nobody is going to lose out on profits there.

chart MOCK UP 

Once you’ve got a space you need to put up a massive garish digital display, basically a big flashy, neon lights version of the chart on the Official Charts Company website. This should feature all of the songs in the Top 40 Chart, or Top 100 even, plus all of this week’s new releases.  Each song listed should feature the following information:         

– POSITION               – CHART MOVEMENT                       – Track name
(Big arrow                  – Last week’s placement                    – Artist
symbol etc.)               – Weeks on chart                                – Song length, – Label

Chart example

Using Justin Timberlake’s seemingly hour-long track Mirrors as an example, this is one way in which this information could be displayed. This would reignite people’s interest in chart statistics; just imagine how good all of this would look on a huge wall. There was a time when people would know what the number one single was, and more importantly, care. My mum, being the anorak she is, used to sit at her typewriter as a child and type out the week’s chart. Although I struggle to see the benefit of doing this, it shows an interest in the chart that is rarely shared by anybody today. Before digital music became the norm, you could go into Woolworth’s and look at the CD singles chart, where all of the songs would we lined up in order and it was exciting to see where your favourite artists were placing and who was flopping. The closest you get to that now is the variably trustworthy iTunes chart, or the Radio 1 midweek ‘Chart Update’ on a Wednesday, but there is no real visual aspect to this.

Being a bit of a nerd, I miss this visual aspect of album and single artwork, which is slowly disappearing for good. Artists and record labels are getting lazy when it comes to producing artwork for a single, but why should you spend money on creating an image that will only show up a little icon on someone’s iPod, which they won’t even be looking at. Artists would produce an image that would be eye-catching, and draw your attention to the song on this vast list of anorak-pleasing stats. Basically you would avoid single artwork like this:

1/10

1/10

 Below this big board you would need scraps of paper on which people could note down their song choices, with available writing implements to help them with this. It would basically be Argos’s little blue pen scheme, before they did away with those and replaced them with the less exciting blue pencil. Even if people only came into store to pinch a small pen, this would increase traffic in stores and fill them out a bit, if only briefly, plus there’s a small chance these petty thieves might actually buy something (a set of One Direction coasters?).  This form could look like this, for example (look HMV, I’m doing all the work for you here):

HMV MIXTAPE FORM 

Pricing:

Pricing would have to be pitched so that you would get a good deal by buying a large number of songs. A song on iTunes used to cost you 69p before a few songs started being sold in a ‘Plus’ format for 99p, before this was rolled out to all chart songs. Amazon MP3 prices songs at 89p and 7 Digital prices songs at 99p. I think this is still a bit high for today’s music business. Of course in the olden days you would buy a CD single for a few pounds but  you used to get a case, a disc, artwork and b-sides for that, whereas for a single MP3, you’re just getting a little bit of ‘space’, invisible data, some virtual information. To ask HMV to sell MP3 singles at less than this is obviously silly but imagine, just imagine, if you could put ten tracks onto a mix CD for five or six (5 or 6) pounds (£), making each track cost 50/60p. That’s not too much lower than the 69p of iTunes past and a far better deal. For many other things you get a deal when you buy in bulk, so why should it be different for MP3s?  I admit this bit is hopeful.

Artwork:

With this being a CD of MP3 tracks, it will come in a case and that case will need artwork. For the sake of an example, let me pick ten of the more enjoyable tracks from this week’s  Top 100 singles chart courtesy of the Official Charts Company.

Justin Timberlake – Mirrors,
Bastille – Pompeii,
Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble,
Adele – Skyfall,
Rihanna – Diamonds,

James Arthur – Impossible,
Olly Murs – Troublemaker,
David Guetta/Sia – Titanium,
Arlissa – Sticks and Stones,
Calvin Harris/ Florence – Sweet Nothing

You could have two options for the cover of your mix tape: the first being a patchwork design featuring all of the single artwork from your select tracks, as below.

Lovely

Lovely

The second option would be to ignore all of this artwork, into which has gone so much effort (ha!) and replace the cover with a stock greetings card-style cover from a selection featuring favourites such as Happy Birthday, Get Well Soon, I Love You etc. etc. This would not only see the resurgence of the mix tape and the singles chart, but also in the greetings card. Get Clinton’s Cards involved if you need do, all chip in together to try and save the high street! If you stuck a ‘Happy Birthday’ cover on it, it would be the perfect cheap gift for a pal, assuming you know their music tastes well, they’ll know that a little bit of effort has gone into choosing it, and that you didn’t be a full-on cheapskate and make something, you’ve at least spent a fiver on it. Or even better: you could get a fun celebrity cover to bung on the front, with a suitable lyric splashed on it, such as the one below. Of course there would probably be some imaging rights and copywriting nonsense that this would get caught up in, but maybe the artists who already have too much money would take a quick snap and sign it over to HMV for free for sole use on their mix tape/greetings card covers, after all we are saving the high street here and you can’t really put a price on that, can you? And who wouldn’t like a Le Bon Anniversaire birthday card? I think someone made one for me once, and I appreciated it.

MIXTAPE COVERS

Process:

So you pick your songs on your little card with your little HMV pen, you go to the counter and hand this over paying your five or six pounds, and the staff member says ‘good choices!’ or more likely makes a sarcastic comment about your music taste, ‘The Saturdays… interesting’ and they then tell you that your CD will be ready in 5 minutes. While you go and busy yourself by having a coffee in the coffee bar that has by this point been installed in each store in order to boost profits, or sit in a listening booth which has been reinstalled to boost interest in HMV, the staff member burns your tracks onto a CD and prints off your cover then assembles it all for you.

Perhaps if you’re easily pleased and can find ten songs in the chart that actually appeal to you, you might go through this process a number of times per year. Each of these mix CDs, if you are making them for yourself, will serve as a little time capsule of sorts, remind you what you were listening to at a particular time, making them a fun thing to look back on and laugh at your poor taste. Kind of like a Now That’s What I Call Music CD, but for a fraction of the price and without an extra disc of crap that you don’t want.

There are so many advantages to this:

  • Increased interest in the top 40 and chart stats.
  • Cheaper singles.
  • More singles sold.
  • Non-regular buyers buying singles.
  • More effort put into artwork by artists.
  • Nice gift idea.
  • Rebirth of the physical mix tape.
  • Increased traffic in HMV stores thanks to free pens.
  • A fun atmosphere in HMV.
  • A reason to actually go into HMV.

 

So, HMV, if you are reading this, this is my idea. There are probably a few downsides to this idea; I expect there’s a lot of complicated legal stuff that will need to be manoeuvred, you’ll need to install all of the necessary machinery and refurnish a large section of each of your stores, and you’ll have to get every single record label on board, but that’s all possible, right? You’re making a small initial investment that could possibly see huge returns in the long run.  You can’t make enough money to keep the company afloat by just selling Mrs Brown’s Boys DVD box sets and the occasional Emeli Sandé album. Get rid of all the DVDs in store. Few of them are any good, and you can get them all cheaper online anyway. Focus on music again. Focus on making music interesting and accessible and a price that people will be willing to pay, and then you will see customers return. Diversification and innovation is the key to longevity.

I would buy this product, and I haven’t bought a single for about seven years.

Have a little think about it, at least, then call me, before every branch turns into another bloody charity shop.

 

Most anticipated albums of 2013 PT 5 – Little Boots

Most anticipated albums of 2013

Number 1 : 

Little Boots – As yet untitled second album


Release date: March, rumoured or more likely whenever she gets around to it.
I’m probably risking any credibility I may have (none?) by saying Little Boots’ new album is my most anticipated of the year, as I am in an incredible tiny minority. For most people, Little Boots is one of those artists who is only ever brought up in conversation when she is used as an example of how far off the BBC’s Sound of… polls can be. People scoff that she came in at number one on the Sound of 2009 poll, in a list that included, in hindsight, far more successful names such as Lady Gaga, Mumford and Sons, Florence + the Machine and La Roux.
With Little Boots, the potential was definitely there. Her buzz single, Stuck on Repeat, was a Kylie-stylie, glitchy, Hot Chip for girls, electro-pop banger. The song was released for free as a Single of the Week on iTunes. She appeared on Jools Holland playing her nerdy, Japanese Tenori-on gadget. She topped the Sound Of ‘09 poll. All was looking very promising. Then, for some reason her label, 679, who also messed up Marina and the Diamonds’ album campaigns, decided to release New In Town as the first proper single, which was a bit different to what everyone had been expecting, a more pop and less dance-oriented song, with fairly simplistic lyrics (“I’m gonna take you out tonight, I’m gonna make you feel alright”) . The song charted at number 13, the album, Hands, charted at 5 and went gold.
It wasn’t until Remedy came out that Little Boots had a proper hit on her hands, and a bloody good one it was too. A massive pop tune, a huge chorus and a video featuring Boots playing on her little Tenori-on just like the good old days. She said herself that this video was far more ‘her’ than that of the past single. It had kaleidoscope effects. It had a bit that went OH-oh-OH-oh-OH.  It was great and accepted far more readily by the public and the club scene. Next single Earthquake floundered and that was it, Little Boots was regarded as a one hit wonder. Nobody remembers New in Town, naturally.
The last album was patchy. There were some great songs, such as all of those above and Meddle, a few songs that were alright, like Mathematics, and some that were crap, such as the title track (why would you name your album after the worst song on your album?). Some of the songs sounded like early Britney Spears rejects, unsuitable for a lass from Blackpool in her mid-twenties. It’s one of those albums where you add a few tracks to your playlists, then forget about the rest, which in this case is pretty fair, I would say.
What will the new album sound like?
After that big balls-up, why would I be looking forward to Little Boots’ new album? She’s taken a massive break, four years, to come up with the goods for album two, which is enough time to cut out all the filler to avoid the same situation again. Also handily, unlike Lady Gaga and Goldfrapp, Little Boots has released a few songs in the past two years which indicate what the new album will sound like. And that sound is quite exciting.
In her time away, Boots has been releasing countless unnecessary mixtapes and touring clubs as a DJ act for some reason and all this dance music she has been hearing seems to have had a nice effect on the sounds she is now making. The first of these new singles is Shake (at top of page), a six-minute-something electro-dance-house track with a thwomp-thwomp bass bit. Descriptive. You can tell she is all authentic and cool now because there is a record player in the video and only cool people have vinyl. Shake has a good robot voice that says SHAKE every so often, which is a plus point for me, again it sounds like Hot Chip done by girls. There are drum machines, synths, a bloopy-bloop noise throughout that I cannot identify and a La-la-la-la-la-laaah bit in the chorus. Everybody SHAKE ‘til your heart breaks indeed. It does make me want to shake actually. Not in a spasmodic or convulsive fashion, but rather I want to bust some of my white-man moves and grind my hips like only Shakira knows how. Thumbs up, Botitas.
The second single, Every Night I Say a Prayer, is another step up and it actually has a proper video. Granted, it’s not a very good video, but Victoria herself features doing her awkward-in-front-of-the-camera moves. That’s part of the appeal of Little Boots for me; her music sounds like she is desperate to make it big and be a star, but then she always looks very uncomfortable in front of the camera. I like reluctance. Her awkward shuffles remind me of my own early appearances on dance floors, like at my first and only school disco, where I just stood by the Haribo bar and snacked on dolphin-shaped sweets rather than doing the Macarena in a tracksuit with the popular kids. Every Night I Say a Prayer is pretty catchy, another more dancey song that previous work, with a mashing of piano keys in the chorus and a hook of I HAVE SEEN INTO THE FUTURE, like a foxy, one-woman Busted. No talk of triple-breasted women, though. In the video, aside from the very pouty and limber gentlemen who throw serious shapes around her, lyrics pop up on the screen, but at random moments and sometimes in the wrong places, like two fingers up to the recent, pointless trend of lyric videos. Every Night I Say A Prayer is available as a free download on Boot’s Soundcloud page, along with several remixes as well, if you fancy it.
Third single, Headphones, is a bit of a return to that more obviously pop sound exhibited in Boots’ first album singles, but it’s still good and it features another video of Victoria looking a bit awkward in front of the camera, but the video plays on this fact, with a sleazy back alley club where punters can listen to some Little Boots tunes on the supplied headphones and lose themselves in the music, having hallucinations of themselves as the confident figure they dream of being,. Little Boots herself goes from looking like a Countryfile presenter to a rather more confident B-list popstar, as do various other characters, some of whom are more frightening and transvestite than others. The song itself is more of the British Kylie Little Boots with another chorus consisting of LA-LA-LALALA LALA-LALA-LALALA, LA-LA-LALALA LALA-LALA-LALALA, which looks more annoying and repetitive than it really is when written down. I don’t think anyone else really wears their headphones at the disco because they don’t like the music, but it could perhaps speak to those who go to silent discos (Do those only exist in Freshers’ Week?) and find themselves singing out loud for everyone to hear. Finally that awkward moment expressed in song. This single is perhaps the weakest and least exciting of the bunch, but also the catchiest and the most easily accessible for a radio audience and it has some excellent remixes, most of which are available for free download on the Soundcloud page again. The best of all is the Dimitri From Paris remix, which has been eighties-Madonnified and sounds all the better for it. That was also free to download from Dimitri’s page at one point but that might all have changed and I can’t be bothered to check.
So there we have it, three bloody good songs which in theory should be appearing on the new album. Then again, Marina released Radioactive as a pre-album single and then ended up only including it as a bonus track on the deluxe version of the album. If these songs don’t feature, I’ll be fairly miffed. Some might argue that there’s no need to have previously available songs on the album when you can have new material, but that new material might be crap, so I’d rather have a more consistent album. Or you could just chuck it all on there and make a 20-track album that you pick your favourite bits from, but that is a bit lazy.
What about the artwork?
Boots’ imagery was pretty good last time, with all her triangles and kaleidoscopic bits and bobs (which were then stolen by everyone and used to more popular effect), but the single covers so far have been black and white photos of her with her hands in a headphone position and a saying-a-prayer position. I suppose artwork is the least of her concerns at the moment, as she is probably more worried about releasing an album and trying to claw back any relevance she may have had at one point in order to prove the doubters wrong.
What is the worst she could do at this point?
Releasing a patchy album would be inexcusable after a four year absence, I’m expecting heavier dance beats this time round and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get them. It would also be a bit of faux pas to prevent people from buying your music, which she hasn’t realised, releasing a vinyl-only 12-inch double single last week under the pseudonym LB. It’s almost as if she doesn’t want people to hear it, but one of her team uploaded the full version of side 1, Superstitious Heart on Youtube. Does it count as leaking? Is any leaking accidental anymore? Who knows or cares? The song is by far the weakest of all those that have appeared so far and not very danceable. If she could just pull a Remedy-sized pop single out from under her headphones to entice the public once more,  she would be alright, but we’ll have to wait and see what promotion 679 get her nearer the time. Probably nothing. Or releasing a non-album track as a single.  Or going for first-week sales and then abandoning the whole campaign.
How good does this album need to be?
It remains to be seen whether anyone will really take any notice so it doesn’t matter how good the album is, really, but I’d like all the tracks on the album to be at least on the level of Shake, an 8/10.

Don’t let me down, Hesketh.

Part 1: Janelle Monae
Part 2: David Bowie
Part 3: Lady Gaga
Part 4: Goldfrapp
Part 5: Little Boots

Most anticipated albums of 2013 PT 4 – Goldfrapp

Most anticipated albums of 2013

2. Goldfrapp – As yet untitled new album

Release date: Unknown
2013 should see the arrival of a new album from Goldfrapp, one of my favourite bands with one of the most diverse back catalogues from the past decade.  In fact, the only reason this album is at number two in my list of most anticipated albums of 2013 is because I don’t know which way it is going. Whereas 2003’s Black Cherry, most successful album, 2005’s Supernature and last album, 2010’s Head First were all more dance and glam rock orientated albums, debut album, 2000’s Felt Mountain sounded like a slightly creepy/folky  James Bond soundtrack and fourth album, 2008’s Seventh Tree was a pastoral, mellow, almost acoustic folk affair that sounded like it had been recorded in the woods. With Goldfrapp producing two very distinct sounds, it is uncertain which way the new album is heading.
When Seventh Tree was released, after the success of Supernature, Goldfrapp could have easily regurgitated the album for its follow-up but instead came out with a sex-free album with Alison dressed as a clown and caressing a giant owl. First single A&E was a top ten hit but the album was not as popular as its predecessor, despite being beautiful and very listenable indeed.
When their last album, Head First, was released, it was a return to a more upbeat pop sound but many of the songs felt a little bit hollow and the album was short, with a running time of under 40 minutes, with only 9 tracks (of which one was an instrumental). When the video for Alive came out, it was described by some as the kind of video a band makes when they realise nobody is going to see it, so they can do whatever they want. It is an album that I rarely go back to, apart from a few songs, and the public didn’t take to it. Fortunately, the whole album campaign did bring about the best non-music thing to happen concerning Goldfrapp: when they appeared on TV and were forced to mime but Alison missed her cue and pissed off the Italian hostess, who angrily asked ‘WHAT ‘APPEN? YOU AVE THE PROBLEM WITH THE BALLOONZA?’ [see below]. Beautiful. Soon afterwards, Goldfrapp parted ways with their record label, but not before a forced end-of-deal singles compilation was churned out.
 
What can we expect the album to sound like?
Nothing official has emerged yet, no videos of Alison rapping about cake, so a little digging and social media exploration has to be done, but according to Alison’s Twitter account, in messages posted in January, the album is still not finished and she is writing her socks off. She has, however, posted pictures that she took in the woods and also talked about a new music video. If the music video is indeed set in a forest, then it may end up looking like the video for A&E and so could hint at a more folky album, which I would very much enjoy. Whatever happens, a return to the overly-poppy, shallow sound of Head First seems unlikely, as Alison herself has said that she didn’t actually like the album, which, while being refreshingly honest, does seem to be shooting oneself in the foot somewhat. That album was, as she says in this interview, a bit rushed due to the record label’s demands, so hopefully this lack of pressure, coupled with unfortunate personal losses in Alison’s family life should lead to a more mellow, natural and less forced album. A mix of Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree would suit me. Songs like A&E, Black Cherry, Eat Yourself, Happiness, Little Bird, Monster Love, Number One, Pilots, & Utopia would make for the perfect sound for Goldfrapp in 2013.
What about the artwork?
Goldfrapp’s image has always pretty important for the band, or at least for Alison, while Will hides at the back. It would be a good move if the pink jumpsuits worn during the Head First campaign were never to return and if these were replaced by the imagery we saw from Seventh Tree: floaty cloaks and large paper animals. Let’s just appreciate that owl photo once more.

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Bloody lovely.
What’s the worst that Goldfrapp could do now?
I think I’ve made this pretty clear. Trying to chase success by making the music they think people want to hear will end up in a poor album, so as long as they don’t rush things, they should be ok. A featured rapper would be worse though. Or a music video like Starships, with Alison sticking her bum up in the air and grinding in a bikini with a silly green wig on.
How good does this album need to be?
Even a 6/10 by the band’s standards will be good enough but as it’s Goldfrapp you can almost guarantee the album will be worth the wait. The love I feel for Goldfrapp is quite hard to express properly in words and I’ve felt this way for eight years, ever since I accidentally received Supernature as a birthday present (I think I was swayed by the big fold-out poster of Alison wearing a peacock’s tail). With the recent chart success of acts like Lana Del Rey, demonstrating a laid-back but chart-conquering sound, in a perfect world the new, gentle Goldfrapp album would receive the recognition that the band so obviously deserves. But then again, apparently guitars are making a comeback, so Goldfrapp might get Brian ‘Name your price’ May to axe all over the album, if he’s done with Dappy and pretending to be an astronomer. Finally, now Adele has got hers out of the way and Amy has passed on, the theme for the next Bond film should be Goldfrapp’s for the taking, someone just needs to post a copy of Felt Mountain through Barbara Broccoli’s letterbox.
One last video to appreciate, which is surely a good case for the argument of reinstating Simon Amstell on music television:
 

Part 1: Janelle Monae
Part 2: David Bowie
Part 3: Lady Gaga
Part 4: Goldfrapp
Part 5: Little Boots

Most anticipated albums of 2013 PT 3 – Lady Gaga

Most anticipated albums of 2013

3. Lady Gaga – ARTPOP

Release date: Rumours of March, but Gags is far more likely to tease her fans by revealing the release date 8 months in advance to get them all worked up and frothing at the mouths.
I am a fan of Lady Gaga, not as much as I used to be, but I still like her and believe her to be rather talented and clever. I am by no means what could be described as one of her ‘Little Monsters’ and if I ever do anything to lead you to believe otherwise, you can shoot me down with a machine gun bra. Back in 2009, Gaga was at the top of her game. She had come back from a massive-selling debut album, The Fame, which despite being very patchy, had an excellent run of singles in the UK: Just Dance, Poker Face, Love Game, Paparazzi. When her label was going to re-release The Fame with some bonus tracks tacked on, Lady Gaga put in more effort than your average pop puppet and came out with a 10/10 standalone second album.
The story was a bit different by the time 2011’s Born This Way came out. By this point in her career, Gaga had become a bit of a cult leader for dysfunctional teens and obsessive Twitter users, so the more casual user, like myself, tried to distance himself from the madness. The more Gaga exclaimed ‘we’re all freaks, let’s unite and heal the world!’, I just put my hands up and said ‘I’m just here for the big tunes actually…’. The album that followed was obviously an album for her obsessive fans and again left casual fans feeling excluded.  It also had too much Jesus.
The set up and execution of the album campaign was fairly shambolic. Lady Gaga came out with big hyperbolic statements saying things like ‘this will be the record of a generation’, then leaked (revealed) the lyrics for Born This Way, which were rubbish (You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient!). When the song came out, there was the whole Madonna rip-off furore, which I couldn’t hear at all, but apparently I was in the minority. To cut a long story short, everyone thought the album cover was one of Gaga’s hilarious jokes, but it was real (Head Photoshopped onto motorbike); she released a song that sounded quite like Bad Romance, about being in love with Judas, well-timed with Easter, to rile the Christians a little bit; there was a rumoured video about Gaga being a mermaid, for her emotional single The Edge of Glory, which was about her grandfather’s death, but instead the video featured Gags in her pants sitting on a fire escape and the featured saxophonist Clarence Clemons died a month after the single’s release, possibly from embarrassment (MERE SPECULATION).
The album had some massive tunes on it, Marry The Night, Government Hooker, & Scheiße (Release a song called ‘shit’ and people will still buy it) but also some absolute tosh, mainly the ‘be yourself’ mumbo jumbo with its awful lyrics: ‘Sometimes I want some raccoon or red highlights, just because I want my friends to think I’m dynamite’ – Hair, where Gaga sings about her emotional state through various hair-based metaphors;  ‘We can be strong, we can be strong, follow that unicorn on the road to love’ – what more can you expect from a song called Highway Unicorn (Road to Love); and ‘I’m a nerd, I chew come and smoke in your face, I’m absurd’ – from Bad Kids, all of which undo all of the good pop music work she had done in the few years prior to this release. Since then she’s done a massive tour making loads of money in the process, which features a BUS FOR COUNSELLING and she’s performed a very shouty version of Gimme Shelter with the Rolling Stones.
With all that behind her what can we expect now?
The album is called ARTPOP, which has to be capitalised, just to wind people up and is supposedly going to be arty, which is something we can all look forward to. There are rumours of one or two collaborations with the music scene’s least reliable newcomer, Azealia Banks, so we’ll see if that ever comes into fruition (it probably won’t) but the only new music to appear so far is a song called ‘Cake’ (or Cake Like Lady Gaga). Most people seem to have assumed it is a joke, but knowing Gaga’s tendencies, it is probably a deadly serious foray into rap, featuring lyrics even Nadia Oh would be proud of such as ‘Donatella on your hoes/Donatella got them clothes/Donatella that’s fo’ sho’’ and ‘Burqa Swag like Lady Gaga’.
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What about the artwork?
With one album artwork already guaranteeing its place for eternity on all Worst Album Covers lists, I would like Gaga to try and outdo herself here. Obviously having recently witnessed the closing down of HMV and Blockbuster, to which she surely shed a crystal tear, she is well aware that the future (and the present) lies in digital, so artwork is no longer a necessity, and more of a chance to take the piss a bit (albeit with slightly more effort than Hard-Fi’s effort. Who still remembers Hard-Fi?)   To be honest, I’ll be disappointed if the album cover doesn’t feature at the very least Gaga’s head pasted onto a Segway, or her tiny frame dissected and preserved in formaldehyde.
What is the worst she could do now?
I don’t think we can expect all of ARTPOP (ARTPOP!!!) to sound like Cake,  or any of it for that matter, as it will most likely be a mish-mash of excellent pop songs and inspirational drivel. Whatever happens, it will surely sell millions thanks to the unbelievably loyal fan base she has built up over the last few years, regardless of the quality of the music within. Critically, I think it is make or break for Lady Gaga. Everyone is over her wacky dressing now and for a while she has come across as more style than substance, so she really needs to whip out the big guns now (not literally like in the overblown Alejandro video). That reminds me, she needs to go back to making music videos that are the same length as the song; no long old dialogues about suicide attempts or wacky Tarantino side plots, just a normal length video where she sings, dances and wears a novelty hat. If she doesn’t cut the crap, the inspirational messages, the forced controversy, the ‘Mother Monster’ rubbish and the unnecessary pretension, she may well have sealed her fate with the masses. I want more Bad Romance and less Black Jesus + Amen Fashion.

How good does this need to be?
The album could be a big, fat 0/10 and still sell ridiculously well, especially if Amazon sell it for $1 like they did with the last one, to forcefully inflate the sales statistics, not caring about making a loss, (so virtuous), but I think she would need a safe 8/10 to regain my trust and/or keep me interested.
The disco ball’s in your court, Germanotta.

Part 1: Janelle Monae
Part 2: David Bowie
Part 3: Lady Gaga
Part 4: Goldfrapp
Part 5: Little Boots

Most anticipated albums of 2013 PT 2 – David Bowie

4. David Bowie – The Next Day

Release date: 8th March

 This is one we didn’t expect to be expecting two weeks ago. In a modern media world where an artist can’t usually record an album without somebody leaking all of their demos (insert GIF of Marina Diamandis running about screaming ‘WHO’S LEAKING MY TRACKS?!?’) the world’s most important living pop icon, Lord David Bowie, somehow managed to write, orchestrate and record his first album in ten years without anybody knowing, then spring it on the world as a little surprise last week on his 66th birthday. Many people had wanted Bowie to write something new since 2003’s Reality, but nobody expected it. The closest the media got to guessing was when Bowie was seen in public last year, but that was put down to him buying a sandwich. You can’t help thinking now that perhaps he was doing more than buying a sandwich, we all told off the media for overreacting but perhaps they were right after all?!. After that little event, and the world’s overblown sandwich reaction, I wrote a piece  about how I was pleased David Bowie had not come out of retirement and ruined his legacy like all of his peers, so I was in two minds about Bowie’s comeback, but this is the first time I’ve been artistically conscious enough to anticipate new Bowie music.  

What can we expect?

First single ‘Where Are We Now?’ is not exactly a disco classic. It’s a down-tempo, fairly dreary track with far too many German words than I appreciate in one song and, as much as I truly love David Bowie, I don’t think I would be interested in it if it were by anyone else. Bowie’s voice sounds quite frail, but he himself looks far from it, thankfully. However, we need not worry that the whole album will be about walking the dead and sitting in the dschungel, as we have been assured by one of Bowie’s team, all of whom were asked to sign confidentiality agreements so as not to spoil the surprise before the big reveal, that there will be more rocky tracks on the album than the first single, so all is not lost.  Track titles for the album include ‘Dirty Boys’ and ‘Dancing Out In Space’, which both sound like they would be far from ballad territory and maybe see the return of Major Tom? That’s mere speculation but who knows? Dave loves singing about space though, I wonder why he hasn’t signed up to one of Richard Branson’s voyages or jumped out of a big Red Bull balloon? Because he’s too dignified, that’s why! He doesn’t even want to tour anymore and he doesn’t need to, he probably wears diamond encrusted slippers and decorates his food with more gold leaf than everyone in the Great British Bake Off combines.
What about the artwork?
It’s the cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” album with a white square bunged on top of it and the title written on in a horrible font. Apparently it took ages to come up with the concept, and seemingly one minute for an eight year old to create the image on Microsoft Paint. The less said about it, the better really. I assumed it was a joke image at first, like when Lady Gaga released the artwork for Born This Way, everyone hoped she was having a laugh. Bowie’s people say the cover is supposed to represent ‘forgetting the past’ but I think a far more powerful image would be a 66 year old Bowie facing the camera in the same pose as the Aladdin Sane cover, but with the lightning bolt rubbed off his face, paint smeared across his cheek. That would be far more powerful.

What The Next Day should sound like.
What is the worst thing David could do now?
As much as I don’t want the album to be a disc of dreary ballads, without meaning to sound hypocritical here, Bowie does need to act his age. If he released a dubstep album featuring Nicki Minaj guest raps, about being a boy gone wild and wanting to romp and mutually swap genes with a younger generation, I would be tempted to say goodbye to him forever. I think there’s more chance of the whole album being Ziggy Stardust played backwards than that though. Artists need to realise they have gotten old, Madonna hasn’t realised this yet, but David has. Of course, an older artist can release songs that are more suitable to their age group without being as dull as Where Are We Now?, such as when Johnny Cash released his cover of Hurt at the age of 71.I would be happy if the songs were more in the vein of Absolute Beginners and Heroes, with the occasional guitar solo chucked in, rather than the industrial drum machine racket Little Wonder or Jump They Say. The best thing Bowie could do now is a Glastonbury headline set though.
How good does this album need to be?
The Next Day needs to be at LEAST a 9 to make Bowie’s comeback worthwhile, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have bothered doing all of this with a dud album.

Part 1: Janelle Monae   
Part 2: David Bowie
Part 3: Lady Gaga
Part 4: Goldfrapp
Part 5: Little Boots