Wednesday 7 April 2010

Matthew's Thought Of The Day

I know I've been negligent. Please allow me to repent in part by sharing my thoughts.

When a band enters a studio for an indefinite period of time, how long is too long? When should we drag them kicking and screaming from the production desks and vocal booths to demand our unfinished album? Perfection is an indulgence which is endemic to our artistic community. I do not say this disparagingly, I say it with the sympathetic authority that only comes through experience. Years have been wasted whilst I toiled away on an analogue multi-tracker, polishing an album that, contrary to my delusional self-belief, was not going to change the world. The truth is, most musicians simply cannot refrain from re-writing, mixing and fine-tuning their creations. In so doing, they fall into that obvious trap: nit-picking. Nitpicking must be the most deadly ailment that a songwriter can be struck down with. It replaces natural inspiration with sterile mechanics. By tediously reworking our material, we cut out the heart of our music.

Never will we be able to completely rid ourselves of this tendency, which looms over us like a hungry spectre, devouring our musical brilliance. Perhaps however, in becoming aware of its continual presence, we can try to salvage some of the magic

Tuesday 16 February 2010

I Am Losing My Edge

I believe it was Montaigne who said that one should study more to understand that they know little. The same wisdom could be applied to music fans. Attempting to keep abreast of musical trends is utterly futile. The more diligently one dedicates them self to the scholarship of contemporary music, the more one feels woefully inadequate.

If you are presently embarking on this reckless quest for musical enlightenment, it is necessary to understand a few home-truths. Please permit me to highlight the most common foibles associated with pop fanaticism. Most of all, do not be duped into believing the hype!

Before you even begin to grasp the technicalities of the pop landscape there is a lexicon of specialised jargon with which to familiarise yourself. It is easy to become entangled in the various genre tags that musos employ with relish; from Disco Lento to Gamelan Salendro, from Afrobeat to Big Beat, one must master an alien dialect that makes Cantonese seem like Pig Latin. My advice is not to allow others to bamboozle you with such terminology. Ultimately, artists abhor being pigeon-holed as much as their fans resent being patronised with elitist vocabulary.

The next spectre to overcome is the music press. These playground bullies have terrorised budding music enthusiasts for too long. Enough is enough. Some higher authority should physically reprimand these thugs. Perusing Artrocker or any other fanzine – not to mention the blogosphere - is like being told that you are nothing more than a worthless ignoramus. Whatever insights you might harbour will be immediately shattered by the polemic monologues of small men with even smaller thingys. These petulant journalists pour scorn on acid-jazz, ridicule harmonica players, and openly laugh at fans of Phil Collins. They will always know more than you!

Of course, it wasn’t always like this. In days gone by, owning 200 cherished records was akin to housing the rock equivalent of the Great Library of Alexandria. Today, that figure would barely fill a 4gb Nano. The fact that the largest mass-produced mp3 player can now store over 2 months of continuous music is even more telling. Who, I ask you, has the time?

Moreover, it should be noted that over 8 million artists are currently signed up to myspace. To give this some kind of perspective, if I were to listen to fifty new bands everyday for a century I would not have visited even one quarter of these profiles.

Enjoy music. Enjoy researching music. But do not, for one moment, think you have grasped the essence of music. It is too vast, too various, and infinitely more valuable than we mortals can fathom.

Monday 25 January 2010

Jabberwocky Pops: Chapter 2

Beach House – Norway
This song is quicker and more instantly uplifting than the band’s previous efforts. If you haven’t already been seduced by their sun-drenched harmonies then take advantage of the free download on their official website.

Le Sherifs – Errors
I have not experienced the kind of cold emotion unleashed by ‘Errors’ since first hearing ‘Dummy’ by Portishead in 1994. Adam Le Sherif hails from Egypt but is already making an impression on the British Music Scene. Click on the link below to find out why.
Hot Chip – One Life Stand
Hot Chip’s third album of the same name is about to enjoy a meteoritic rise through our charts. The band have smugly claimed that there are at least 5 anthems in the vein of ‘Over and Over’ on the new album. If this track acts as a yardstick for the rest of the album then there may be some substance in Hot Chip’s cocksure assertions.
Monarchy – Gold In The Fire
Newly singed to hotter-than-thou label, Neon Gold, Monarchy are set to leap into the public consciousness. An underbelly of electro-pop is complimented by smooth vocal delivery. It would be lazy to tag them as the British Cut Copy but that is exactly what I’ve just done. Interested?
Emalkay – When I Look At You
Dub is a musical treat that I allow myself all too rarely. This is partially because, were I to perpetually delight in head-bending bass and relentless beats, I would go clinically insane. In moments of mischievious weakness I am presently sweating to this.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

All Hail the Year of Androgyny

2009 was the year of the female. It was impossible to glance at the centrefold of some indie publication without being blinded by the latest electro feline wearing iridescent leggings and lashings of lipstick. Florence, Metric, and La Roux – to name but a few – had every man in Britain, regardless of sexual orientation, scratching their thighs in restless agitation. The only thing more dangerous than a lip-syncing yet irresistible Sugarbabe is a babe with talent.

Thank goodness therefore that, whilst the likes of Ellie Goulding and Marina and the Diamonds will continue to ignite our carnal desires, 2010 promises to restore the sexual balance. In fact, we don’t even need to fear a monkey-rock backlash now that the Gallagher brothers have disbanded. I predict that the forthcoming year will be one of blurred sexual distinctions, of shameless he/she-ism, of androgyny.

Shrewd observers will have noted that the fashion world is already wise to the imminent perversion of traditional gender classifications. As I scanned the catwalks for this year’s trends, I was left thinking, “Is it a girl? Is it a boy? Oh dear, I’m not really sure what ‘it’ is but I like what I’m seeing!”

If you don’t believe me I recommend that you investigate ‘Hurts’. The name alone is so self-consciously pathetic that it is almost endearing. These Mark Almond look-alikes appear to have blended a Euro-Trash aesthetic with an effeminate sensibility. I say ‘appear’ because the Mancunian duo have been so secretive that garnering clues into their history makes the puzzle of a woman’s mind seem like child’s play. They may not exactly be David Bowie but 'Hurts' will certainly provide a suitable counterpoise to their female peers without resorting to the sort of cock-rock commonly associated with the Towers of London and other antediluvian sex-pests.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Matt's Musical Corner Part 2: Jaga Jazzist - Toccata

Mention the word 'jazz' and you will make most people flinch. Mention the words 'experimental jazz' and you are likely to be placed in the stocks and publicly reviled. Before you begin to take aim with rotten fruit and vegetables let me explain why I believe experimental jazz to be life-affirming. This music carves its way into one's soul and sits there in stately majesty. The subtle crescendos lead you unwittingly into the very heart of these enormous soundscapes.

A friend of mine once claimed that every artist signed to the Ninja Tune Label was a triumph. Although I wouldn't personally make such lofty assertions, the statement is certainly true of Jaga Jazzist. Like their label-mates, The Cinematic Orchestra, Jaga Jazzist manage to weave patchworks of 'nu-jazz' bliss.

You don't have to wear Harris Tweed and teach Classics to appreciate this music. You don't even have to admit to your friends and family that you harbour a latent passion for such high-brow nonsense. Just click on the link below and let Jaga Jazzist consume you. It has given me a migraine to locate this link; select the second edit from the top.

Monday 14 December 2009

Have Our Musicians Become Common Hussies?

It seems to me that band disloyalty has become gratuitously ubiquitous. Frankly, the levels of tolerated infidelity within most modern marriages are insignificant in comparison to the unclean urges which are dividing our musical community. No one so much as bats an eyelid when a vocalist and guitarist from rival groups suddenly commit the dirty deed together.

For those of you who fear that I may be on the cusp of an evangelical tirade, I am referring to that emerging habit which has infected many of our musicians: the side-project. Granted, side-projects have been an exciting idiosyncrasy of the music scene for decades but now they threaten to become so prevalent that the notion of a traditional band structure seems almost defunct.

Last month witnessed releases from two notable supergroups: ‘Monsters of Folk’ and ‘Them Crooked Vultures’. There is no denying that both of these albums are finely tuned gems but my question is this: Does the quality of the music justify placing a band on indefinite hiatus? Am I alone in impatiently lusting after some new material from 'Queens of the Stone Age' and 'My Morning Jacket'?

There is one man who, more than any other, shoulders responsibility for the fickle-minded attitude of today's rock aristocracy. Jack White has collaborated with more artists than Tiger Wood's has had mistresses. It is extraordinary how one gentlemen has managed to infiltrate our musical landscape with such authority. At a time when Meg White can finally attempt to fathom the complexities of percussion, Jack has been mercilessly upstaging her on the skins of his latest side-project, The Dead Weather.

Perhaps I should relent. Perhaps Jack White has discovered a happy equilibrium where musical differences may not necessarily preclude a band's downfall. In any case, we must concede that side-projects are no longer the novel exception, they are the rule. I, for one, am not yet convinced that this a healthy development.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Jabberwocky Pops: Chapter 1

Lindstrom & Christabelle - Baby Can't Stop
- Lindstrom is perhaps the king of the lengthy, ambient techno track. But this sounds like a retro tribute to Michael Jackson. Believe me, once you start shaking to this, you won't stop till you get enough!

Darwin Deez - Constellations
- Anyone feeling blue in the coming winter months should download this nugget of happiness immediately. Darwin Deez fuses a Julian Casablancas-esque delivery with some truly euphoric dance moves.

Wolf Gang - The King And All Of His Men
- Marina And The Diamonds' label-mate proves his salt on his latest single. Even if the song title seems to rip-off a Wild Beasts track with nearly the same name, there is no denying that Max McElligott has refined his song-writing craft.

Everything Everything - My Keys, Your Boyfriend
- I can only describe this single as Foals deciding to form a Barbershop Quartet. Interested? You should be!

Graham Coxon - Brave The Storm
- Britpop's favourite guitarist eschews his usual distorted riffing for some of the most beautiful figer-picking I have heard since Nick Drake decided he was depressed

Monday 30 November 2009


It is nearly the end of another Decade. I am not suggesting that there is anything innately special in this. Defining a period of ten years as an entity in itself is utterly meaningless and historically worthless. Decades are nothing more than man-made conveniences. None of us really expect to feel any differently when the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve. What we can expect from the lead up to January however, is a frenzy of what can loosely be described, 'listomania'. By this, I mean the tendency of music journalists to celebrate the conclusion of an era by compiling endless hierarchical lists.

Never before have I witnessed such mutinous discontent among the readerships of every music publication attempting a retrospective of the last decade. Such vitriol is usually reserved for the likes of James Blunt and Preston. I would gently like to ask these irate readers to make themselves a cup of nettle tea before mopping their brow with a cool flannel. I doubt that even the most bigoted writer would pretend that these lists have much validity. In essence, they are an inadequate means of assessing an album's importance, much like a decade is an inadequate device for analysing history.

The truth is that, despite collective cries of mock indignation, everybody secretly loves lists. They provide the ideal discussion point. For music fans, it is the closest we will get to experiencing that sense of machismo camaraderie which is ordinarily for self-righteous football hooligans alone. So, when you are next complaining about who has made the top ten, please be aware of how much you are enjoying the debate that has ensued.

I have selected some of the best lists for your perusal. Now go forth and proselytise! Observer Music Monthly:

Sunday 29 November 2009

Matt's Musical Corner Part 1: The Fall - Dr Buck's Letter

Be honest, who, apart from the most aloof muso, has actually listened to a complete record by The Fall? Allow me to be the first to make a confession; I haven’t and I do not think I am alone. Yes, I own a number of their albums and, yes, I have been guilty of citing Mark E. Smith as an inspiration. Yet all this is mere show and hyperbole. The albums have long been gathering dust and I regret to say that I find Mr Smith rather objectionable. The trouble is, by my estimation, the Fall have made close to 758 records. Any hopeful fan will find themselves lost in this catacomb of catalogue material that is bound leave the most robust enthusiast disorientated and bewildered. In order to make sense of the madness it is necessary to identify a keystone which can explain why The Fall’s converts include musical patriarchs, John Peel and Tony Wilson. Before you purchase their Best-of compilation – 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong – I recommend wrapping your ears around the aural delights of Dr.Buck’s Letter. As far as ‘the anoraks’ are concerned, it might not be classic Fall, but, for us newbies, it’s the perfect introduction into the sardonic and surreal dystopia of this legendary band.
Click Here:

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Schools For The Unnaturally Gifted

Before anyone gets overly excited, I am not referring to Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On the contrary, I am highlighting the regularity with which certain ‘muggle’ educational facilities seem to churn-out musical starlets.

I have trawled through the dusty alumni records of my old school and I have failed to locate one contemporary musician of note. This galls me. It is almost as if, because my dear parents sent me to an institution famed for producing clergyman and accountants, I was destined to fall on the creative scrapheap. For someone who spent many of his early adolescent years caressing Jim Morrison posters, this seems like a gross miscarriage of godly justice. Had I attended a so-called ‘rock school’ I might now be playing synthesisers one-handed whilst Agyness Deyn look-alikes hung flirtatiously from my free arm; doubtful admittedly, but still possible.

Let us begin by examining Elliott School in South London, which counts the XX among its most recent progeny. Usually, playground pastimes include exchanging soggy Marlboros or sniffing glue. However, for the pupils of Elliott School, break-time activities are of an altogether more refined nature. My wild imagination tempts me to picture the arrival of new teachers at Elliot School. Although perhaps initially puzzled to find Four Tet and Burial positioning microphones to record hopscotch contestants, they would soon be actively facilitating their protégés pursuit of the percussive ideal. Meanwhile, assembled before the Headmaster’s desk one might encounter, not uncontrite truants and bullies, but the future members of Hot Chip and the Maccabees facing suspension for guerrilla gigging. How can one school serve as the breeding ground for such an array of precocious, pimply talent? There must be something funny flowing through the communal water fountains at Elliott School.

Interestingly, such high concentrations of budding talent are not unheard of; Kings College School in Wimbledon spawned electro-kid triplets, Patrick Wolf, Tom Vek and Jeremy Walmsley. It might surprise many to learn that Phoenix and Daft Punk were school-yard chums. Ultimately, schools exist which promote an environment that is conducive to musical creativity. Forget the Brit School. Take my advice and enroll your unborn children into one of the 'real' rock academies.

Monday 23 November 2009

Welcome To The Looking Glass

Let's face it, this blog is arguably the biggest vanity-project since Keanu Reeves decided to turn his questionable acting talents to the bass guitar as part of the now mercifully defunct Dogstar.

I propose to establish a blog which is principally about modern music. It is no secret that I relish any opportunity to hungrily chew off the ears of wary bystanders who latterly wished that they had never tentatively inquired what was currently on my ipod. In truth, I pity the unwitting mugs who whisper the words 'Radiohead', 'C86', or 'Hacienda' within a 200 metre radius of my being, automatically triggering a frequency in my brain which leads me towards them like a dribbling zombie. Thus, I have finally contrived to contain my musical diatribes within a virtual forum that I have been wanky enough to entitle 'The Looking Glass'.

Not since since an ex-girlfriend who, upon noticing I had taken the trouble to festoon my lapel with a carnation, despaired that I had never brought her flowers, have I been guilty of such self-indulgence. In any case, the Internet is littered with the pointless thoughts of pseudo-wits and I understand entirely if, like my long-suffering friends, you wisely choose to ignore my ramblings. If you do not, I cordially invite you to share in some musical curiosities as we travel through The Looking Glass!