Xfm launches fourth annual New Music Award. Xfm, the station that brings you music that rocks, launches the search for the Best British Debut Album of the Year with its fourth consecutive Xfm New Music Award ‘ voted for by the public and a stellar panel of judges. From today, Xfm listeners will cast their votes for the award online at www.xfm.co.uk/nma from a selection of albums released in 2010. Possible contenders for the accolade include ‘The Boxer’ by Kele, ‘Tourist History’ by Two Door Cinema Club, ‘Acolyte’ by Delphic, and Carl Barat’s self-titled debut. The ten albums that receive the most votes in the poll are then shortlisted with the overall winner selected by a panel of industry experts ‘ including Elbow’s Craig Potter and Happy Mondays front-man Shaun Ryder. This year’s winner will be announced on the evening of Wednesday 9th February. On the same night the station presents an Xfm New Music Award gig at The Borderline in Central London. Hosted by Xfm Breakfast’s Dave Berry and a part of HMV’s Next Big Thing Festival, the intimate invite-only event will feature performances from Wolfgang, Romance, and Luna Belle ‘ acts hotly tipped as potential winners for next year’s award. Previous winners of the award are The Enemy with ‘We’ll Live and Die in These Towns’ (2007), Glasvegas with ‘Glasvegas’ (2008), and The xx with ‘XX’ (2009). The full judging panel for this year, chaired by Xfm’s Deputy Programme Director/Head of Music Mike Walsh, includes:
Andy Ashton (Xfm) Ben Cardew (Music Week)
Brett Anderson (Suede) Clint Boon (Xfm)
Craig Potter (Elbow) David Mogendorff (MTV)
Dom Howard (Muse) Dave Berry (Xfm)
David Mogendorff (MTV) Frank Turner
John Kennedy (Xfm) John Leckie (producer)
Peter Hook (Joy Division) Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays/Black Grape)
Tim Burgess (The Charlatans) Gary Warren (MD of Content and Talent at MAMA Group)
For more information and to vote, visit www.xfm.co.uk/nma
Voting closes at midday on Friday 28th January. The shortlist of the final ten will be announced on Xfm on Monday 31st January and the ultimate winner on Wednesday 9th February.
eHarmony’s Perfect Mixtape Challenge has identified Kings of Leon’s ‘Sex On Fire’ as Britain’s favourite love song. The online challenge, helping to breathe fresh life into the art of the ‘mixtape’, today reveals the ultimate mixtape collection based on user downloads. From love ballad classics to modern-day favourites, the ultimate mixtape is compiled from over 400 mixtapes created at perfectmixtape.co.uk. The final playlist begins with the Kings of Leon, but transitions quickly in to smoother grooves, with the top three love songs completed by ‘Let’s Get It On’ by Marvin Gaye and Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’. Created to launch eHarmony’s relationship service within the UK, the Perfect Continue reading →
First single from forthcoming LP “Quicken the Heart” released on CD/ 2 x 7″ vinyl/ digital download through Warp Records on May 4 By now you would, in all probability, have heard “Wraithlike”, the first tantalizing taster from Maximo Park’s imminent third album, “Quicken the Heart”. However, that is but one piece of the forthcoming Maximo Park puzzle. Just as the shiny new third album, produced by Nick Launay, is pretty much full to bursting with all manner of aural surprises and delights – and pushes the band to new levels not previously witnessed – so the first proper single is yet another delicious leftfield turn. For with “The Kids Are Sick Again”, Paul Smith and company have pulled off something wonderfully rare indeed: they’ve created an instantly immortal, poignantly timed, ridiculously addictive pop song.
At once powered by fury but laced with romance and optimism, “The Kids Are Sick Again” is an impassioned call to arms, an anthemic clarion call against societal complacency and small-town boredom, or as Smith himself says, “it’s a song about escape…about breaking free of your mental shackles and jumping into the unknown”. As such, it is a song which resolutely defies traditional structure and convention and uplifts and galvanizes in equal measure, finding a band operating at the very peak of their powers. This is a roof-raising, chest-swelling, triumphant single of the kind so rarely made anymore, and one that definitely ranks as one of the band’s absolute best.
Following on from the download-only teaser “Wraithlike”, this is a double whammy to sharpen anticipation for “Quicken the Heart” like no other. Indeed, so besotted with “Wraithlike” was Zane Lowe that upon him debuting the track on his radio show on March 9, he ended up playing it twice, back to back, followed swiftly by Jo Whiley the next day. An extremely rare honour indeed, but one certainly befitting the stellar return of Maximo Park – and we mean literally stellar. Just wait until you see the artwork…
More about Maximo Park
Just two vinyl-only singles in, and things are pulling very sharply into focus for Maximo Park. A year ago, their inchoate howls of frustration set to big choruses were still largely un-moulded and all-but unknown outside (even inside) their native Newcastle. But what a difference a debut makes. Now, copies of their first, red vinyl seven-inch pairing of “Graffiti” and “Going Missing” are ferociously fought over at an online marketplace near you, changing hands for upwards of 50 quid. Thankfully one of these rare artefacts found its way into the hands of Steve Beckett, Warp Records supremo. And the band who were to redefine the roster of the world’s leading electronic label were decidedly on their way.
Beckett saw in Maximo Park and their arresting frontman Paul Smith, something of the promise he had earlier identified in Pulp and Jarvis Cocker just as they were making their transition from bookish miserable-ism to sharply-honed, hilarious social commentary, set in a pop idiom. Both bands talk easily about the landscape of boring, sh-tty Britain, speaking with originality, accuracy, resigned wit, and more than a little fire in their bellies. Like Cocker, Paul seems often thwarted in his songs, waiting both literally and metaphorically as the “Position Closed” sign goes up.
“That song ['Signal & Sign'] is supposed to be about seizing new direction and a new dawn, a very simplistic call to arms: ‘Don’t waste your life, Just go outside!’,” says Smith. “But the chorus is just a confused person, and there are loads of different moods and other smaller stories within the song. I like balancing simple and complex elements and watching them battle it out with each other.”
Words mean everything to Smith and he confesses to delighting in trying to smuggle strange concepts and non-pop phrasing into his work. “Every single line on the record I’ve thought about individually to see if it stands up in isolation,” he says. “Often you only get one line on a record that really gets you, and I’m trying to go one better than that. Pop’s a transient form of culture and I’m trying to add something of resonance to it.”
Smith is undoubtedly a charismatic and serious young man, but he goes through some kind of metamorphosis when he approaches a stage. “There is a transformational aspect to performing,” he says. “I react to the music and filter it through my body. It’s different every night, a different place with a different atmosphere and different people. From my point of view, it’s a very basic thing that happens onstage. People say ‘That Paul Smith, he thinks he’s a bigger star than he is,’ but when I’m jumping around like an idiot I’ve got no time to think about being cool, or anything other than giving 100% commitment. I am a servant of the music and I’ve got no self-confidence outside of that. It comes out of you and if you can’t express it you shouldn’t be on stage; it is after all built on a higher level so people can see you.”
On stage and in the studio, Smith deals in tight wordplay, his tumult of syllables bombarding the listener and reflecting the singer’s state of personal confusion over another fine mess he’s gotten himself into. Somehow out of this maelstrom Maximo Park reliably manages to conjure a stone cold killer chorus, as in the epically pummelling “Once A Glimpse,” the deliciously baffling “The Coast Is Always Changing,” or the self-explanatory “Now I’m All Over The Shop.”
Throughout their short songs Smith chaffs gently at the boundaries of the pop lexicon, breathing real life into stifling lyrical situations, making them true, in his own language and own accent. So that, without ever seeming to try to be different, he manages to construct a believable environment of small town, narrowed horizons, from which a young man has no choice but to cut and run.
“People have a preconceived notion of what constitutes real music and soul music, but Soul Music is just another package. Real soul music is Joy Division and Cocteau Twins, as well as Aretha Franklin,” says Smith. “A Certain Trigger is an emotional record. I’m not sure that any new emotions have been invented in the last 20 million years. Things remain pretty basic and it’s those things that I’m trying to interpret; trying to be universal and individual at the same time.”
In this quest he is bolstered and driven ever forward by the inventive song structures of Duncan Lloyd (guitars), Lukas Wooller (keys), Archis Tiku (bass), and Tom English (drums). Musically there is something almost claustrophobically tight about Maximo Park that means you have to check yourself to make sure you remember to breathe.
Out of this ferment the band is writing some of the best and most memorable pop songs of their generation. Both sides of that classic debut, “Graffiti” and “Going Missing” sound like bona fide big, big hits of the near future. “Graffiti,” with its barnstorming rattle through a tale of hitting a personal wall, is bug-eyed intensity incarnate; its burning and complex guitars providing the perfect escape route from a town where nothing happens and where both hope and vision have long since been lost.
“It’s about the continual search for romance around every corner in everyday life,” says Smith. “‘I’ll do graffiti if you sing to me in French’ was a line left over from before I joined the band. And it reminded me of the allure of the Paris riots of 1968 and the New Wave and Situationism; a time when it seemed possible for anything to happen, but remembered in a relationship when nothing seems possible and you are looking for a moment of transcendence. ‘What are we doing here if romance isn’t dead?!’”
Anthemic and immense, “Going Missing” is if anything stronger still, the plangent, ringing guitars managing to recall both primetime Stone Roses and something great by Dinosaur Jr, like “Start Choppin’.” “I’m going missing for a while, I’ve got nothing left to lose” sings Smith with all the urgent passion of someone who’s just emerged from another bad situation and realized once again that life is just chockfull of possibilities.
And it doesn’t stop there. Closing the album, “Kiss You Better” contains perhaps the record’s most perfectly encapsulated moment when Smith demands, “You! Are you so scared that you’re just going to let it happen?!” And it sounds like a vital personal question to everyone listening; a rallying cry for anyone not dealing with their sh-t, when in truth it’s probably just Paul asking another girl why she’s copping off with someone else and not him…again.
Oh, yes, did I mention sexual frustration? Not all the frustration set out on A Certain Trigger is directed at the pen pushers of petty bureaucracy. A fair amount, in fact, most of Paul’s tension seems to stem from his singular inability to do as well as he’d like with the ladies. (i.e. “Night I Lost My Head,” “Apply Some Pressure,” “Postcard Of A Painting” and “Signal & Sign”). But that’s another story.
BLOC PARTY were forced to scrap an performance in Miami after Kele Okereke fell ill with a throat virus. The singer contracted viral pharyngitis – an inflammation of the throat as they were due to play at the Ultra Music Festival on Saturday. The group apologised for the cancellation and assured fans they will return to Miami to play in the near future. A statement on their website said: “Kele has contracted viral pharyngitis and is unable to perform today at the Ultra Music Festival in beautiful Miami, FL. “We send our heartfelt apologies to all our fans and the Ultra Music Festival organisers. We hope to return to Miami, FL, at our earliest opportunity.”
Equally inspired by Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Gang of Four, and the Cure, East London art punkers Bloc Party mix angular sonics with pop structures. Consisting of singer/guitarist Kele Okereke, guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist/singer Gordon Moakes, and drummer Matt Tong, the band was formerly known as Angel Range and Union before settling on Bloc Party. Okereke and Lissack met each other through mutual friends at the Reading Festival, and discovered that they had musical tastes as well as friends in common. Tong and Moakes soon joined their collaboration, and under the name Union, the quartet issued a demo in early 2003; later that year, they switched their name to Bloc Party.
The group’s demo and concerts began to attract attention from both the press and their peers; Okereke sent a copy of the demo to Franz Ferdinand, who invited them to play at the Domino tenth anniversary bash in fall 2003. Early the following year, the band released one of the demo’s tracks, “She’s Hearing Voices,” as a single on Trash Aesthetics. A few months later, Banquet/Staying Fat arrived on Moshi Moshi. That spring, Bloc Party signed to Wichita to release their full-length album in the U.K., and to Dim Mak for U.S. distribution. The band spent summer 2004 recording and touring. Late that summer, Bloc Party, which collected the band’s first two singles, arrived in the States. Their debut album, Silent Alarm, appeared early in 2005 and was released by Vice Records in the States to widespread acclaim. Later that year, Silent Alarm Remixed capitalized on the band’s burgeoning popularity, as did the 2006 EP Helicopter. A Weekend in the City, Bloc Party’s second proper album, followed in 2007. A Weekend in the City leaked onto the Internet months before the album’s street date, which inspired Bloc Party to issue their third album, Intimacy, online in late summer 2008; the album was released on compact disc that fall