Idina 'Defying Gravity' Again

Michael Stephen Hahn reviews Idina Menzel's powerful Edinburgh performance

Rating: 5/5On Tuesday 16th October, Broadway superstar Idina Menzel finished her UK tour with a night at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. Idina rose to fame by initiating the role of Maureen in Jonathan Larson’s RENT, and went on to also play this character in the film adaptation. However she is best-known for originating the role of green-skinned Elphaba in Wicked on both Broadway and The West End – and is featured in the only studio recording for the production. She more recently featured in two stints as Shelby Corcoran, Rachel Berry’s biological mother, on hit TV series Glee – largely due to her uncanny resemblance to Lea Michele who portrays Berry.Last year, Menzel finished her North American tour with a one night gig at London’s Royal Albert Hall, but this year decided to return to the UK for just over a week: four performances in London, one in Manchester, and one final show in Edinburgh. After spending a few hours in the pub across the road from the concert hall, my friend and I made our way, excitedly, into the one hundred year old stunning hall, eagerly anticipating the arrival of Menzel, as the orchestra warmed up with some verses from Wicked.The lights dimmed and the orchestra started playing the familiar melody as an off-stage Menzel started to softly sing the July Garland standard “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, eventually belting a few of the lines in her classic fashion. The curtains opened as Idina made her way to the front of the stage, welcomed with loud applause and cheering, as she made her way into “The Wizard Of I” – a fitting choice, giving that in Wicked it is Elphaba’s first song. What was to follow was amazing vocals, instrumental masterpieces and both hilarious and heart-felt anecdotes about Menzel’s pre-career wedding singing, as well as tributes to RENT writer Jonathan Larson, who died the night before the show’s dress rehearsal, and the recently deceased Marvin Hamlisch, who has accompanied Menzel on her tour last year as both conductor and pianist.

Whilst all songs were exceptional, the early standout was, for me, the cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” as well as unrecorded (hopefully not for long) song “God Save My Soul”. Menzel then sung her half of the duet “Take Me or Leave Me” before inviting various audience members to help her finish the duet, before going on to singing a very emotive version of “No Day But Today”, also from Rent. The audience was then silenced as Idina took her ear-pieces out, the orchestra put down their instruments and Menzel’s microphone was unplugged. She took centre-stage and sung an a-cappella and unplugged version of “For Good” – one of Wicked’s most famous songs. The audience were stunned as her voice, with no audio help, were able to reach every ear in the vast concert hall.My friend wept as Menzel’s vocals proved to be every bit as powerful and clear as the recorded version, with a new depth of emotion being reached. The audience seemed reluctant to stop their standing ovation after this number, until the orchestra started with Menzel’s most famous song “Defying Gravity”. A slightly less Broadway style version of the song, more similar to Menzel’s solo version or Lea Michele’s version featured on Glee, followed, as Idina’s vocals smoothly worked through the song culminating in her traditional belting of the high-E at the end of the ballad. The crowd were on their feet once more as she jokingly waved to go off stage before returning for her encore.An emotive version of Broadway composers Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s new song “Learn To Live Without” was followed by West Side Story’s “Somewhere”, which Menzel had covered in a duet with Lea Michele in Glee (Season 3, Episode 2). This felt like a good culmination of the night's events, as she combined emotive elements with extremely powerful notes, resulting in one final standing ovation.I had been looking forward to finally seeing Idina Menzel live since purchasing my tickets a few months ago, but the night far surpassed the already high expectations which I previously held. Her humour, the breadth of which I had previously not realised, was the glue which stuck her flawless performances and anecdotes together. Michael Stephen HahnImages by tempusfugate

Red - Taylor Swift

Ian Samson reviews Taylor Swift's latest release Red  Rating: 5/5Now, let us be honest for a minute. I am renowned for my articles of a satirical nature - lest we forget the hilarity of my review of Now! 81, my seminal exposé on 'the History of Music', or my contribution to the realm of 'Popstar Marriages that I am Bitter about'. Most academics of such distinction would retire, living comfortably off consultancy proceeds, royalties, and the occasional guest judge slot on Britain's Got Talent; but not I! No, for you see, dear readers - I am comfortably inebriated, and the music sub-editor of the St Andrews Tribe Magazine has requested that I write another article for this week's edition. And, by good fortune, the new Taylor Swift album is legitimately worthy of my raptures. I swear, genuinely, that this is not another sardonic masterpiece. Genuinely, Taylor Swift is the Bob Dylan of our era - except good, and well fit. Like, well fit.Taylor Swift is - and this is not even the alcohol talking - everything that is right with music nowadays. She is dedicated; her parents gave up a comfortable life as Bank of America financial advisors to support her career as a country music starlet in Nashville. She pursued a career in music, off her own impulsion, within the role of 'that girl what sings the national anthem at the start of baseball games', for years. I open a fresh can of Magner's Cider and lick the ejected foam off my laptop screen. Since her début, the undeniably country, enigmatically-named, album 'Taylor Swift', she has been nothing but sincere, unpretentious and pop-perfect. Every song has been true to her country-music heritage, and almost all have been well-crafted and catchy; see 'Picture to Burn', 'You Belong with Me', 'Love Story', and plentiful others. She even writes the majority of her own material; I would have married her by now, if females did not have a say in the matter.Taylor Swift's latest album opens with 'State of Grace', a song that is presumably quite good. Unfortunately it is 2 a.m., and I am picking pieces of tuna covered in chilli oil off of my torso because I felt like a midnight snack before getting down to the grizzly job of reviewing. So I ignore it. Luckily, I have heard the eponymous second track, 'Red', penned exclusively by Swift. It is, like most of Swift's catalogue, catchy and personal. The chorus is progressive and modern, despite the remainder of the song having a clear folk heritage. Skipping another track brings us to 'I Knew You Were Trouble'; in a bizarre but exciting twist, this unshakable tune practically leans on dubstep for its chorus - or, as it was known a few years ago, playing triplets on a keyboard. Most importantly, it works; as does track six, '22', perhaps the most catchy of all, excluding the inevitable and ineluctable single 'We Are Never Getting Back Together'.The compulsory, under-the-radar, slow-burner, hidden gem of every classic album comes in the form of 'Stay Stay Stay'; perhaps sticking closest to Taylor's country pedigree, it is both memorable and yet somehow original. A small qualm is that all her songs seem to be about her having problems with boyfriends. Who on earth would mess about when they had managed to bag the richest, sweetest, most beautiful of all the country-pop luminaries that The Tribe critiques? A complete prick, I assume. Take me, Taylor. Take me.

One of my absolute favourites is non-album bonus 'Girl At Home'; now, I don't want to compare this to such B-Side classics as Oasis's 'the Masterplan', but if Noel Gallagher had penned this back in 1995 he wouldn't have to constantly answer to the name of 'the Taylor Swift of 1990s BritPop'. Album closer, 'Begin Again', is one of the album's finest and most tender moments. But, frankly, you are probably still assuming that I'm being facetious. It's actually great though. There is also a song somewhere in there where Taylor Swift duets with Ed Sheeran, but I refuse to listen to it. You may question the principles of a reviewer that will give Taylor Swift five stars, but refuses to listen to Ed Sheeran. Don't bother though. Just assume that I'm right.So, does Taylor Swift's Red album correspond to our generation's version of the Beatles' White Album? Probably, yes. But hopefully she won't marry Yoko Ono and screw everything up; she will, instead, marry me, despite the fact that she is easily a foot taller than me in heels (by which I mean me in heels, her in flats). But seriously, listen to it. It is so much better than any of the Indie nonsense The Tribe will review in the next four years. So crack open a Magners, load 'Red' onto your iPod, get inebriated and write a review of it that you will probably regret come morning-time. Ian SamsonImage 1 by Eva RinaldiImage 2 by  avrilllllla

Gangnaff Style

 Alex Dry examines Gangnam Style and other one-hit wondersIn Gettysburg in 1863 Abraham Lincoln espoused the Declaration of Independence. The world took note. In 1940 Winston Churchill told the world that Great Britain would defend itself against the tyranny of the Nazi onslaught and would never surrender. The world took note. In 1963 Martin Luther King stood of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and told the world that he had a dream. The world again took note. In 2012 a fat Korean man said ‘Oppa Gangnam style…’ The world again took note.Sadly the world, or the moron sanctuary as I like to call it, was not without precedent in doing so. The overweight purveyor of ultimate Korean-based rap was just shrewdly cashing in on our love of one hit wonders. Ever since Toni Basil praised her pal Mickey’s mind-blowing capabilities in 1982 we have been hooked on bands that release one song and then go away again, either into obscurity or worse. The catchiness of such songs is undeniable, both because of musical and lyrical content. Indeed, the latter is often one of the most inexplicable elements of OHW as they will now be referred to. It is presumably because people have trouble discerning ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ (a difficult one we will all agree) that songs with fewer than ten different words appeal. See Carl Douglas’ seminal ‘Kung-Fu Fighting’ or Baha Men’s ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ for more details.Yet oddly it is frequently songs in a different language that we as a British audience love more than any others. There is something about this non-comprehension that appeals to the masses in this country. Ever since Nena decided to release her balloons in 1986 we have gone absolutely spare for utterly dreadful songs that come to us wrapped in the misleading package of words we don’t know the meaning of. Why is this you may ask? Scientists would tell us that all hope is lost for mankind if everyone is listening to ‘The Ketchup Song’ on repeat, and this is probably why they have never done any detailed research on the topic.Ultimately, tests conducted in my bedroom lead me to the conclusion that it is the ignorant bliss of simply enjoying a song’s melody without being troubled by the socio-economic ramifications of the words that appeals. No one cares for the travails of poor Chris Brown, with not enough women to beat up, or the Dickensian like woes of Adele, the 21st century’s very own Oliver Twist, if instead of one more bowl of gruel he had eaten the whole of London’s supply. This is why it makes no difference if a song is sung in modern English, Shakespearean verse, Klingon or Korean.It seems then that in the modern world people are happy just not to care. Happy not to care about the words in songs, the bits that mean something, because they don’t want to be troubled by their messages. How long is it before books with words are dispensed with, and people read manuscripts that just include pictures of ducks and Justin Bieber sucking off Mickey Mouse? However we only have ourselves to blame. We should have seen the signs almost twenty years ago when ‘The Macarena’ came out; a song stolen from a band who in turn stole it from a Spanish nursery rhyme about children working in bread mines. We are all horrible people. Alex DryImages by Korea.net

Lone Sharks - The Dopplegangaz

Andres Zambrano-Bravo reviews Lone Sharks by The Dopplegangaz

Recent claims that hip-hop is “dead” have been confirmed by its increasing lack of identity. In the modern age, hip-hop has become something of a false art in many respects, a medium distorted to fit the commercial expectations of many a listener and few an artist’s vision. It says something about how the medium has changed that, when you ask somebody at a party to play a hip-hop song, all you hear are the abrasive synths of Lil’ Wayne or - even worse - the weed-whiny, self-righteous rhymes of Wiz Khalifa. Blue Scholars’ claim that “hip hop is not dead / it’s just malnourished and underfed” surely can’t be right either, because nobody seems to be feeding the point of the medium in the first place. Hip-hop has become, to quote New York rapper J-Live, a medium that is exploited by many yet understood by few.

Behold The Doppelgangaz, a duo from the out-outskirts of New York - a little town called Peekskill - who realize this painful deterioration. A generation of rappers inspired by the raw, masked poetry of MF Doom, the duo (Matter ov Fact and EP) attempt to find the role of the poet - the storyteller - in hip-hop, and Lone Sharks, their second LP which was released in 2011, both acknowledges and heals the decay of the medium while returning to the organic realness that characterized the best of the golden age of 90’s hip-hop.

A haunting vocal sample over a nostalgic piano sequence opens Lone Sharks, repeating “although you are full of misery / you have to learn to show a happy face.” It’s a haunting interlude even the first time you listen to it, precisely because of the way it defines the whole album’s sinister yet nostalgic atmosphere. It is the next track on the album, “Nexium,” which demonstrates the duo’s poetic ferocity: “On hip hop and nexium for three months / And still sober as day but acid reflux free,” EP says over a warm, steady piano sample complimented by a fixed, rhythmic beat. EP’s honesty is real, and the awareness of the “acid-reflux” free rhyme and production is something the duo maintain throughout the album.

“He seems so placid / It’s cuz his diet is lacking in essential amino-acids,” rhymes EP on “Get Em,” a mournfully charged allegory about a kid who, malnourished and unable to eat, cannot even go to the hospital to “even pay the stitchin’ fee.” Looped around a lonely rising sax sample, the song’s chorus screams “Get EM!” In its allegory, the song recalls Common’s classic “I Used to Love H.E.R” yet in the yearning of its beat the song becomes something of a dirge for the near-death of hip-hop.

The duo’s lyrical mastery is subtle and their flows are never forced, rather smooth, but there is something about the selection of their words and images which carries weight. The production of the album - co-produced by both members, without a single track from any other external producer - also carries this biting, sinister atmosphere. It’s certainly not inaccessible; in fact, it’s inviting precisely because of its mysteriousness. Characterized by its organic piano, guitar, and keyboard samples and matched by deep bass and drum lines, and haunted by its eclectic vocal samples, the production is thick and authentic, but most importantly, it is consistent.

It’s the final track on the album, “Suppository,” which matches production and rhymes masterfully, confirming The Doppelgangaz as nothing if not poets: a sample of bats leads way to a vocal sample of a laugh out of a horror film, as an enigmatic, airy piano chord loops around a rising, thumping bass and a simple jazzy snare. “Society’s secrets / black cloak mystique needs sequence,” rhymes Matter ov Fact in a smoothly assured manner. “And yo it’s cloaks not capes,” he rhymes. It is clear here the notion of the artist: like the masked MF Doom, he needs to be cloaked, not exposed; he needs to be man, not machine; and most importantly, he is not one figure but many.

Andres Zambrano-Bravo

Greatest Musical Icons of the Last 60 Years...?

Alex Dry slams the results of the NME's recent poll as voted for by the publicThe New Musical Express has recently carried out a poll to determine the identity of the greatest musical icon of the past 60 years. In doing so they have affirmed a belief that I have always held close to my bosom; the belief that the general public are utter, irredeemable morons. If we examine the Oxford English Wikipedia definition of the word ‘icon’ (or cultural icon to be more exact) we will learn that it is a symbol, logo, picture, name, face, person, building or other image that is readily recognized and generally represents an object or concept with great cultural significance to a wide cultural group. It is therefore a reasonably loaded question that the NME has asked, ‘Who is the ultimate icon of the last 60 years?’, for the youth are not necessarily going to feel represented by the icons of the 1970s. Sense, it seems prevailed for the most part as John Lennon was the deserving winner. Yet the shortlist was not so fair. Here are the 5 biggest reasons why.

1)    Freddie Mercury came ludicrously low

The man that placed 55th was a singer often credited with being the greatest performer in the history of the planet. It is impossible for anyone who saw it to forget the Live Aid show where he held 72, 000 spectators at Wembley, and millions more worldwide, in the palm of his hand with nothing more than some guttural yelps that could be vocal warm ups. His lasting legacy includes changing the way people think about live music shows and the writing of some of the most enduring pop hits in the modern era. Yet he was so much more than this. He was an openly gay man in a time when being gay was only recently legalized, never mind accepted by society at large. He was a man that fought a debilitating illness that eventually claimed his life by carrying on making music. As a result of his tragic death from AIDS the Mercury Phoenix Trust was set up by the remaining members of Queen to fight for the spread of awareness of the disease. Although perhaps more than anything he was unique. He was totally unorthodox in everything he did. His yellow leather jacket and white skinny jeans are images that are etched onto the retinas of everyone that has seen him. He is the definition of an icon. Why then, did he come so preposterously low? I mean really, he was beaten by Lily Allen…

2)    Where are all the women?

In the top 60 list there are 11 women. Now this may seem like a reasonable proportion, however when one considers that in the top 20 there is only 1, the figure seems less palatable. Indeed, the list as a whole has some very notable omissions and some baffling inclusions, (see point 4). One of the most shocking of the former is the absence of Aretha Franklin. It is truly sad that Amy Winehouse, credited with bringing classic soul and R&B music into the 21st century can be number four on the list, when the woman who made soul music popular in the mainstream in the first place cannot get into the top sixty musical icons list. It is akin to suggesting that the person who invented low fat crisps deserves more plaudits that the person that invented crisps. She was a hugely significant figure in the Civil Rights Movement, one of the most important of the century, indeed one could say of the past thousand years. On several occasions she sang alongside Martin Luther King at rallies to further the cause. I defy anyone to suggest a person that is more worthy of icon status than her. Bjork? I don’t think so.

3)    Liam Gallagher came ridiculously high

It is impossible to think of Liam Gallagher as the second greatest musical icon ever because he is quite simply a poor imitation of the greatest. Oasis have made a career out of copying The Beatles songs and their style. Gallagher is the biggest plagiarist since Samsung decided to make app icons with slightly rounded edges (the swine!). The only feature of his persona that is not totally ripped off from John Lennon is his attitude, but that in turn makes him less of an icon and more of a notorious gimp. A testament to his status as possibly the most overrated musician of the modern era is the fact that his new band, Beady Eye, makes music that is as unlistenable to as someone farting the German national anthem through a walkie talkie.

4)    Where the f*ck is Mick Jagger?

The Rolling Stones were potentially the biggest band of the past sixty years. He is the original sex crazed rock and roller. A legend? Yes. Obviously. Then what on earth were people doing not voting him in. Let’s take a look at some of the others on the list. Courtney Love has made a career out of being married to the most inspirational figure of the 90s and making some ‘music’ of her own, or something. She is as much a musical icon as John Terry is a UN Peace Ambassador.

5)    Beth Ditto was actually in it

It has become very apparent to me that it is impossible to escape this American singer songwriter. Despite a reasonably consistent low standard of music, she refuses to go away, or more pertinently, the media refuses to drop her. She is everyone’s favourite leftfield figure whose inclusion is bound to get any publication some respect points for being edgy. I would like to point out that I am no dinosaur. The only thing about her that I have issue with is the fact that she fills no criteria to make her an icon. Firstly, she is not worthy of inclusion in terms of musical accomplishment. And while I am not asking her to be the next Beethoven, it seems to be no coincidence that the majority of the shortlist are at least reasonably good songwriters.  Secondly, at least the ones that had no clue were symbols of a particular movement or a feeling. Sid Vicious was as good at the guitar as Chris Brown is at not being the scum of the Earth. Yet he defined the anarchy in the UK period. He was punk music. Beth Ditto will eventually be remembered as the woman who sang the Skins music and was always naked on the cover of magazines. Alex Dry Freddie Mercury image by kentarotakizawaAretha Franklin image by bo mackisonLiam Gallagher image by ant217Mick Jagger & interviewer image by Ben LawsonBeth Ditto image by trash world

Tourette's: Shouldn't Really Entertain You

My first thought when Tourette's: Let Me Entertain You popped up on my TV screen was as immediate as it was inflammatory. “Huh. I don’t remember One Direction being so potty-mouthed, much less Harry Styles being a female STD-obsessed black R’n’b vocalist.” For the ten seconds that I wasn't sure what I was watching, I hurriedly jammed the information button. Tourette's: Let Me Entertain You. Let Me Entertain You? Has Robbie developed a trendy illness to promote his latest album? Oh wait, no, it’s one of those self-indulgent ‘inspirational journey’ documentaries except this time they swear and shout and stuff. Rudebox indeed. I gave in, settling back and resigning myself to watch a programme where a chance to overcome their setbacks – in this case, having Tourette's - allows six bright-faced young people to come together and learn a little something about themselves.“Wait a minute. Isn't this just the Breakfast Club, but with naughty words?” I hear you ask. That’s a fair assessment, although there are some changes. The main one being that the Breakfast Club didn't have bloody Reggie Yates self-importantly swanning around being all earnest and achingly sensitive towards a bunch of mediocre singers singing tepid pop ballads.The lone ranger stalks moodily through the park on a grim overcast day in London, as Trouble by Coldplay floats along in the background, emphasising his deep emotional grief. Seriously, haven’t we seen enough of this yet? Haven’t we all realised by now that we can do better that awkwardly shoving actual people’s lives into such narrow, stereotypical TV language that any dim-witted arse can pick up on how “deep” the show they’re watching is?Not to mention I bet at least three quarters of the viewers of this show watched it not because they're sensitive to the plight of the main stars, but because it's undeniably funny to see people swearing in public. And Reggie, please, give it up. Hosting this turgid care-athon might gain you some listeners on your poxy Radio 1 show, but that doesn’t mean you have absolutely anything remotely interesting or relevant to offer to this documentary, besides having a slightly recognisable voice and the "haven't I seen that guy somewhere before?" vibe that can only be emitted by D-list celebrities.I’m informed however that being ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ is the format that should be taken when approaching a review, so maybe I’ll try that here. Here goes. On one hand, it is a bit cheesy, but on the other hand it’s good to raise awareness about a serious condition which affects many peoples lives and still has a considerable social stigma attached. Fair and balanced. Well, it IS a clear attempt on the part of the host to align himself with snotty do-goodery on a frankly galactic scale, BUT there are only three episodes. It’s actually quite easy to be fair and balanced, because Reggie IS a w*nker, but at least the stars of the show keep reminding him.To be fair, Tourette's: Let Me Entertain You isn’t exactly like the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, in that rather than being a huge stretched out contest with an insanely large audience vote every single week, there are only three episodes, and there is no element of competition. They just sing some songs and go home. Fair play to them for not trying to make a career out of their illness, but nonetheless, their pockets are lined with cash derived from essentially shouting things that make no sense; a market that up until now had been dominated exclusively by Nicki Minaj.As a final thought, I’m going on a tangent, because I can. I suppose it’s easy to be cynical and critical of ‘talent shows’ where people who have practised hard make themselves vulnerable by clambering up on stage and exposing whatever talent they can muster, but the reason it’s easy is because they’re just so f*cking awful. This really shouldn't be how the music industry works. It shouldn't. I implore you, desperate would-be contestants, learn how to sing, how to play, how to write songs, whatever you can do, and keep doing it and join a band or do it yourself and play shows and play out in the streets and write and practice and play and people will start to pay attention. If you aren't awful, you gain a fan-base, you tour, you get more fans, you tour, you tour, you tour. Make music because you care about good music.There is so much you can do with a chord sequence and an array of musical instruments that doesn't have to sound like Take That, or Alexandra Burke, or Jessie J. This is the end of the article, I can’t be bothered rounding it off. You've come this far, you must have got the gist by now. Clear off. Michael ClarkImage by radio1interactive

Night Visions - Imagine Dragons

Michael Stephen Hahn reviews the debut album from Imagine DragonsAfter hearing a song I had never heard before on the summer promo for the new season of Glee, I was intrigued as to who originally sung this inspirational and up-beat tune. 20 minutes later, after having pressed 'repeat' on YouTube many, many times, It’s Time by Imagine Dragons was the newest song in my iTunes library. As with many other Glee covers, I just assumed that Imagine Dragons was a reasonably unheard of but old American band, and so I was very surprised when my friend announced that he had discovered a great new band called Imagine Dragons.Formed in 2008 in Las Vegas, the four-piece rock band released four EPs before finally signing a record deal with US Company Interscope Records. Their debut studio album Night Visions, which included previous singles It’s Time and Radioactive went straight into the US Billboard charts at number 2, an impressive feat for any album, but especially since it was the group’s debut.All 12 tracks are beautifully compiled, and make use of both the talent of the group and of producer Alex Da Kid, whose decisions make each track shine as individual songs – the mandolin hook in It’s Time, the debonair whistle in On Top of the World, and several other finishing touches transform the album from an ordinary rock collection to an anthology of inspiring songs which can make a listener’s daily life seem more important and part of something bigger. The band manage to emulate modern greats with an echo of Franz Ferdinand, Neutral Milk Hotel and, Las Vegas contemporaries, The Killers, with Hear Me even having an air of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Whilst, It’s Time still remains my favourite track, Tiptoe, Demons, and Bleeding Out are close runners-up.Producer Alex Da Kid has worked with many stars, such as Eminem, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj, and is particularly fond of duets between two artists of different genres – he was responsible for Eminem and Rihanna’s Love the Way You Lie, so we could see Imagine Dragons work alongside similarly big stars in the near future. A particularly interesting collaboration would be with Pussycat Dolls’ soloist and former Broadway star Nicole Scherzinger, who Alex Da Kid is working with later in the year.Whilst not quite matching up to The Killers 'Hot Fuss,' Kings of Leon’s 'Only By The Night' or other modern greats, 'Night Visions' is a fantastic debut album by an exciting new band. Imagine Dragons have not seen their new-found US popularity hit the same levels in the UK yet – but with their album soon to be released on UK iTunes, this is set to change. Although Glee gets a lot of bad press from the music industry about promoting highly edited music, it has certainly played an important role in promoting Imagine Dragons, and hopefully when Season Four airs in the UK in January 2013, it will have a similar effect. Michael Stephen HahnImage by Brian J. Bruemmer

Under Mountains - Rachel Sermanni

Michael Clark takes a look at Rachel Sermanni's debut album and accompanying shorts by Quintana Filmshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWaj2w4jwlgRating: 4/5Up-and-coming Glasgow-based film company Quintana Films has paired up with young Scottish folk act Rachel Sermanni to create a twelve-piece set of short films to accompany the release of her new debut album, Under Mountains, released on September 17th, 2012. Having recently played the ‘BBC Introducing…’ stage at Reading and having performed on the Vic Galloway show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, the singer-songwriter has stunned audiences time and time again with her multi-instrumental talents, smooth vocal delivery and understated yet emotive lyrics, cultivating a dedicated fanbase.Her new debut album Under Mountains, wonderfully produced by Ian Grimble of the organisation Communion, deserves no less than rapturous praise from the music press and - following prolonged interactions with Quintana Films, who have previously worked on music videos with popular Edinburgh dance trio Discopolis, Sermanni sought to represent each of the tracks from Under Mountains in innovative and creative ways. Quintana Films directors Lorn MacDonald and Caitlin Delves worked hard to accurately reflect the lyrical nuances of each song and the thematic links which bind the album so effectively in these twelve shorts, having previously created and produced the video to leading single from the album, Waltz, as seen above.Album opener Breathe Easy balances a mysterious instrumental atmosphere with a gentle vocal lullaby as Sermanni sings “We’ll swim/Knowing rain can’t touch us/We’ll swim/Knowing they can’t touch us.”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsAcmYn3kdMThe second track Bones follows in a different direction, a dark, building melody with soaring violin accompaniment. In this quite creepy short, Quintana Films seem to represent the lyrical contrast between the softness and personal beauty of the soul and the ravenous desire of the animal instinct, a distinction which permeates the lyric. “Don’t cheat, says the soul/It’s just meat on his bones.”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLZDQGSDh9Q&feature=g-uplEver Since the Chocolate sees Sermanni suggest a newfound sense of wonder and happiness through the simple but effective metaphor of munching down on a little bit o’ chocolate. Note the reversed guitar and vocal parts accompanied by the reversed video footage, and the careful understated instrumentation.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A5ltBml0P8The Fog shares a similarly dark edge to its infectious chorus as Sermanni conveys an impressive vocal range, once again managing to thoroughly unsettle you before you can even really put your finger on why.Hopefully this is just a taste of the talents that Rachel Sermanni has to offer. If her work with Quintana Films is anything to go by, Sermanni is sure to achieve nothing but success and expand her already devoted fanbase with the release of her first album, Under Mountains.            Michael Clark Keep an eye out as Quintana Films release additional shorts via Clash Music at www.clashmusic.comWatch more music videos and comedy skits from Quintana Films at - www.quintanafilms.comListen to more of Rachel Sermanni at www.rachelsermanni.netImage by The Queen's Hall.

The Vaccines Come of Age

Alex Dry reviews The Vaccines' second album

 Rating: 2/5Coming of age is an interesting concept. In literature it is called bildungsroman, and generally it has connotations of a transition from childhood to adulthood. A sort of spiritual and physical change that sees a person put away Kipling’s childish things and embrace the seriousness of real life. However, coming of age can literally also mean simply getting older and this has very different implications - for instance, becoming boring. Coming of age can mean taking to a life of driving around suburbia, driving a mini-van in beige slacks and essentially losing all that is unique about oneself. If you’ll allow me, I’d say that The Vaccines have released a middle aged second album. It has traces of what they intrinsically were as a band, but it is jaded, tired-sounding and above all - dull.Lead Vocalist Justin Young encapsulates the problem. While we can all appreciate and understand the effects of his recurring vocal cord problems I would still say that where in their debut album What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? Young was bursting with energy and his lyrics were admittedly nonsensical but enjoyable - now his sound is merely drawling and lazy. It sounds as though even he can’t be bothered to listen to the songs, never mind perform them. Indeed, even if the words were once nonsensical at least they were instantly recognizable. You could train a pair of shorts to sing the refrain to Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) whereas now, after several listens I could not even try and tell you what any of the tracks on this album are about.What’s more the album becomes a veritable dirge. Every song seems to start in roughly the same time signature. They all meander along, break for the seemingly obligatory guitar solo and finally peter out into nothingness. Aftershave Ocean is a case and point. It is actually painful to listen to Freddie Cowan’s noodling midway through. The final stuttering bar that serves as the ending to the song is so predictable a conclusion that it sounds like they may as well have just put the ‘Countdown’ clock on the track.I think easily the worst thing about the album is the obvious lack of joy. The Vaccines burst onto the Indie Rock scene, causing mayhem at festivals and in their live shows all around the country with their infectious tunes and personas. Sweaty teens everywhere revelled in pogoing around and shouting loudly and on the whole having a great time. Essentially, everyone was loving it. Yet now the party seems to be over. The difficult second album has been made to look very easy in recent years with the likes of Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys releasing instant classics after excellent debuts. However it seems that The Vaccines have had no such luck. I could not begin to guess what has gone wrong behind the scenes with Come of Age but all I can say is that somewhere, somehow, the fun has died. Now in its place, we have boring. Alex DryImage by UrbanicaMX.

Top 6 Popstar Marriages That I Am Bitter About

A heartbroken Ian Samson seethes over celebrities in committed relationshipsDearest readers, some of you might remember a long-lost epoch in musical history – a time before every song was about liberally pouring shots of absinthe through your retina with Lil’ Wayne. Even before the rapturous day when a modal jazz troupe in Harlem realised that ‘oh’ rhymed with ‘’ho’ and modern rap music was born. I am referring to the long-lost era of love songs, when young cassanovas like Elton John, George Michael and Boy George would melt the hearts of teen girls the world over with their genuine, heartfelt odes to heterosexual romance. And good riddance to that foul, saccharine era, I say.For you see, dear readers, I was once-upon-a-time betrothed to a lily-white virtuosa by the name of Rebecca Black;

...that is, before the licentious jaws of stardom snatched her ample bosom from mine. Ever since that dark day (I call it Black Tuesday, because of wit) I have been monitoring the romantic movements of every youthful pop starlet, and scowling at their repulsive happiness. And since compiling arbitrary lists of stuff now substitutes for well-constructed journalism, compile I did:

Rachel Stevens and Alex Bourne

Every man remembers his first sexual experience, which is without exception watching the TV series ‘Miami 7’ featuring all them lovely S Club girls. Who even is Alex Bourne? Presumably it’s my mandate as journalist to find out, but instead I spent half an hour ‘Google’-ing (to coin a phrase) pictures of Rachel Stevens circa 2001. Fab.

Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger

 

“Hey Hey / You you / I don’t like your boyfriend / No way No way / Because he’s that gimp from Nickelback” – Avril Lavigne c. 2007. How Avril Lavigne could spit in the face of her adoring public by so hypocritically going back on her words, sung in her 2007 hit ‘Boyfriend (Chad Kroeger is a Dick)’ is beyond belief. Nonetheless, I would be perfectly happy to go back on my word and start sending her unsolicited, insistent love letters again. Just as soon as they inevitably get divorced citing ‘irreconcilable differences with regards to Kroeger’s obnoxious facial hair’.

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth

Strictly speaking this is only an engagement; nonetheless, I felt obliged to include given the number of times I have copy-and-pasted Miley’s signature from her Wikipedia page onto a marriage certificate. Apparently this type of legal contract is unenforceable in court, due to ‘forgery’ and ‘rights’ and ‘this is the third time you’ve tried this week, Mr. Samson’.

Hilary Duff and Mike Comrie

Remember when Disney made life-affirming, hand drawn cartoons of classic tales? Well, they still do, just with real-life beautiful 16 year olds instead of tantalising pencil-and-paper versions. Whether this makes it more or less acceptable to watch them purely out of lust for the characters, I’m still diligently trying to decide. But for now, just look at this picture of possibly Disney’s most gorgeous creation since Wendy in Peter Pan, and contemplate how much you detest her NHL-playing husband.

Dido and Rohan Gavin

She had hair so intriguing that it genuinely has its own wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dido_flip). He has a first name as barmy as his second name, and also shares his first name with a realm in Middle Earth. How infuriating! Try not to think about it too much; instead, try to remember who Dido was. She did that duet with Eminem once? And had a song about her tea going cold? Maybe if she hadn’t spent so much time marrying guys with annoying names and instead kept on writing nondescript pop tunes, we’d still be listening to her music and praising how inoffensive and unchallenging it is.

Zooey Deschanel and Ben Gibbard

 

I thought that I should end on a hopeful, uplifting note; these two damned, beautiful starlets divorced in late 2011, making Zooey and her libidinous fringe fair game once more. Just as importantly, it means Ben’s band Death Cab for Cutie can get back to making heartbreakingly depressing indie-whine albums. Everyone wins. It just goes to show – sometimes love really does have a happy ending. Ian SamsonRachel Black photo by methodshop.com.Avril Lavigne photo by karina3094.Hilary Duff photo by david_shankbone.Zooey Deschanel photo by rocor.

Music: A Review

 Ian Samson reviews the history of 'Music'

Ian Samson

 Rating: 3/5We’ve all heard of ‘music’. We all bop our heads expressively when the hip bands of the day like ‘Katy Perry’ come on the ‘Music Television’. We find our gaze momentarily diverted from the perspiring redhead on the treadmill when the latest ‘Smiths’ hit pumps through the gymnasium speaker system. We forgive Mitt Romney’s obscene social agenda when he confesses to liking Mormon-rock troupe ‘the Killers’. For most of us, however, music is just something we are obliged to pretend to care about. Something that only concerns chumps and suckers with too much time on their hairy, chimp-like hands. Like Palestine,  or the recent passing of a cousin.But is music actually any good?  To save you trawling through the annals of popular song, I have read all the relevant sources on Wikipedia (simple English version), and listened to all the ‘Now! That’s What I Call Music’ volumes that are a multiple of seven. The conclusions that you are about to read are profound, startling, and wildly deficient.Music was essentially invented in 1986 with Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’. Various primitive forms of music preceded this, notably including Beethoven and ‘Now!!! That’s What I Call Music!!’ volumes 1-6. These earlier attempts are perhaps best compared chronologically and sequentially to the Neanderthals that preceded humans; indeed, several of these acts – chiefly Bonnie Tyler – were themselves Neanderthals.The following year saw the acrimonious break-up of the Smiths, demarcating the end of the ‘Music Era’ (1986-1987). The subsequent years mainly comprised the pathetic shadow of music’s ‘Glory Days’ (1986-1987), punctuated only by Jason Donovan’s 1991 rendition of ‘Any Dream Will Do’. This hit single was variously lauded by critics as “(a) nice try”, “it’s not exactly Peter (Gabriel), but I suppose we have to make do with what we have”, and “why do more bands not have lead singers that double as a flautist, such as Genesis’s Peter Gabriel? Jason Donovan is a talentless, fluteless nobody”. Such overwhelmingly large questions will have to be addressed another day.Peter Gabriel

When a combination of the Ecstasy-fuelled clubbing scene and Thatcherite policies killed off the majority of Britain’s population by the mid-Nineties, the nation’s collective memory was wiped and music was given a clean slate. At first, this resulted in no-one really remembering how to write music, [see George Michael – ‘Jesus to a Child’ (1996) or Billie Piper – ‘Honey to the Bee’ (1999)], but before long a juicy musical revolution rose out of the ashes, one that continues to shape music to this day (Monday 10th September 2012). In 2001, the ‘Indie Rock’ (short for Independent Rockabilly) landslide was catalysed by the most important album of the decade; Nickelback’s ‘Silver Side Up’ represented arguably the best non-Peter Gabriel release to date. Troubled child actor Macaulay Culkin said of lead single ‘How You Remind Me’, “music has found its saviour. Chad Kroeger’s husky ‘I’m-a-prick’ voice and his rough, untamed ‘I’m-a-prick’ beard make me feel positively gooey inside. A thoroughly well-deserved 2 million-plus copies sold and upcoming marriage to Avril Lavigne. Bring on the sleepovers.”

Music’s newfound goodness spawned innumerable acts shamelessly hopping on the ‘good music’ bandwagon. Eventually, circa 2008, a counter-culture formed, rebelling against this sickeningly persistent ‘goodness’ in music; a refreshing epoch of bland-rock, established bands stoïcally refusing to release good albums, and kids uncovering the concept of ironic trousers flip-turned music upside-down once again. Thanks to everyone realising that lithe, underdressed females are utterly wonderful, popular music became ever more sexualised:  Rihanna’s every erotic encounter and urge is now immortalised as a catchy single; "Tulisa" Contostavlos released her single ‘Young’ in promotion of her sex tape. And the rest, as they say, is omitted due to my strict word limit.Tulisa So there you have it. The rollercoaster ride that constitutes the never-ending saga of music, is as bumpy and confusing as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s face. Yet all this all leaves countless questions unanswered; and mainly the ones this article was specifically meant to answer. Is music even relevant to an apathetic, unemployed generation of overweight technology addicts? Can music ever rediscover the giddy heights of 1986-7? Will I ever write for the Tribe again? We all have our own ideas, and private investigations are ongoing. But one thing is undebatable: music is good value for a solid three stars out of five. Ian SamsonIan photo by Michael ClarkPeter Gabriel photo by Mattias E JohnsonTulisa photo by Beacon Radio

What Was the Last Album You Bought?

#1 Dear Science by TV on the Radio

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fl4Oms4qcoE"Admittedly it was over a year ago now, but I was already a fan of the band and had been looking forward to it coming out for ages. On one hand, you’ve got some funky, hard-hitting beatz. On the other, you’ve got your slow jams – easy on the ear, with thought provoking lyrics. What a quality album. And the sleeve is pretty too. Do you get album sleeves when you illegally download music? That’s the question. Yes. That's the answer. But ONLY if you can cope with the guilt, kids.”---Lorn MacDonald, actual star of Sky Movies’ hit production “Neverland."Listen to:  Halfway Home/Dancing Choose/Golden Age

#2 The Drums by The Drums

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T_arHUAJfc"How would I describe their sound? Teenage love, narcissism, the ocean. And that’s just the first song! I’m a big fan of Morrissey – he’s that singer guy with the wacky views on race – so when I found out he was into ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ a track off the album, that became my favourite song. Also, the NME approve. I’m so glad I know about this band now. I hope Morrissey likes their second album too!"---Ian Samson, music journalist, economist, predator.Listen to: Let’s Go Surfing/Forever and Ever, Amen/I Need Fun In My Life

#3 Blood Pressures by The Kills

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiLjuRG3hoE“ I already knew most of the album's music from general skulking on Youtube. It was on sale, a mere fiver, appealing to my miserly heart. I snatched it up, the music briefly touching my deeply cynical soul. Their achievement merited my pitiful charity to their cause that they can continue to make such melodies without the fear of finanical desitution. Which I saved them from. Me."---Alan Saywood, scholar, philanthropist, Uncle.Listen to: Future Starts Slow/Satellite/Baby Says

#4 Coral Fang by The Distillers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYmUtpy4evU“When I was a younger man, a fresh-faced little whippersnapper, hope in my eyes and dreams in my belly, my brother handed me a copy of the Distillers debut album and ever since that day I was hooked on their abrasive punk style. I stumbled across Coral Fang through Wikipedia, and knew I had to own a real copy to repay a little of what I owe the Distillers over the years. You deserve it, gang. Brody Dalle is a true frontwoman.”---Rupert Nelson, actor, writer, man.Listen to: Drain the Blood/Die on a Rope/Beat Your Heart Out

#5 Good Mourning by Uncle Daddy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UFk12pbsA8"I’m going to France, I don’t have time for this.”---Holly Tarbet, hag.Listen to: Rise Again/Long Time/Fade Away (feat. Sens Musiq)

The Olympic Effect

Michael Stephen Hahn analyses the choice of British musicians at the Olympics and the Games' impact on their careers

Emeli Sande

Evidently, performing at both of the ceremonies during the Olympics has been hugely influential on Emeli Sandé's popularity, with sales figures rising dramatically after performing at the opening and closing ceremonies. Sandé's song Read All About It (Pt. III) - a continuation of Professor Green's song which featured Emeli - originally placed at 49 in the charts reached number 3 upon re-release, after the Olympics. Abide With Me and My Kind Of Love have both also seen dramatic rises in sales also, and Sandé’s debut album Our Version of Events recently became the biggest selling album of 2012 overtaking Adele's 21 which itself spent 21 weeks at number 1. She even propelled Imagine by John Lennon, which she covered at the ceremonies, back into the charts at number 18.But was the representation of Britain through Olympic music choices fair or even? Whilst many iconic artists, such as The Beatles, Queen, and Oasis were paid tribute to or performed in some way, many others were not. Sirs Elton John and Tom Jones were two artists that featured prominently at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and yet were not showcased at all during the Olympics. Having sold over 250 million records and with six Grammy Awards and four Brit Awards amidst a host of other musical achievements, Elton John is surely one of the most appreciated British artists in history. Tom Jones is similarly recognised, commonly regarded as one of the most famous British singers of all time. One may have also wondered why Sting - winner of 16 Grammy awards - and Rod Stewart - who would have surely made the perfect Pink Floyd tribute act - were not included in the celebrations, to name but two examples.It is not just the Scottish star than has benefited from performing during the Olympic Games - newer additions to the music world such as Ed Sheeran, Jessie J and former X-Factor contestants One Direction benefited similarly to Sandé, seeing sales figures increase significantly following performances at the closing ceremony. In fact, as of Sunday 19 August, the Sunday after the Olympics ended, 57 of the top 200 albums and 66 of the top 200 singles belonged to artists who had performed during one of the ceremonies. Some of the more classic British musicians also benefited from participated in the ceremonies. Elbow's One Day Like This was released in 2008 and had previously peaked at number 35 in the charts, but two weeks following the closing ceremony reached a new high of number 4. Despite not actually performing live, Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, which was featured during a video montage during the closing ceremony, has also re-entered the charts at number 6, having originally been released in 1985. Another main benefactor of the Olympic ceremonies is George Michael who played arguably his most iconic song, Freedom! '90, but followed this by his relatively unknown new single White Light - the result of which is his new single entering the charts at number 15.So, if iconic British artists were excluded from the events, it is questionable as to whether newcomers such as Emeli Sandé deserved to feature so prominently in the ceremonies. The closing ceremony was entitled A Symphony of British Music - and so surely this should have encapsulated all of the greatest and most appreciated British artists of all time. The Olympic Games is an event which is supposed to entertain and enthral the entire world, not merely the host nation, and iconic stars such as Elton John or Sting, or even newer artists such as Adele or Coldplay, who are well known world-wide and would have catered to the diverse and international audience far better than relatively unknown singers.On the other hand, whilst they have been amazing additions to the music industry, iconic figures such as Tom Jones and Elton John already have financial success guaranteed with any new release due to their prolific status, whilst more modern artists such as Emeli Sandé are just starting out and so the benefits of performing at the Olympic Games could make a real impact on their careers. These younger singers, with the exception of Adele are not particularly well-known abroad, and the ceremonies provide a unique opportunity to be heard by and showcased to 750 million viewers throughout the world.Whilst these missing iconic stars of British music would have made nice additions to the event, priority must be given to those whose careers could genuinely be significantly changed by the opportunity. Breaking into the US music scene, as well as other foreign charts, is an extremely difficult task for young British artists nowadays, and so any opportunity and help they can be given is extremely useful and worthwhile. Michael Stephen HahnImage by NRK P3

Four - Bloc Party

Alex Dry reviews Bloc Party's fourth album http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxD1NhZBlEA Rating: 3.5/5I should firstly say that this review may be somewhat unreliable given that I am one of Bloc Party’s biggest fanboys. Yet perhaps this also means that I may be more critical than some because of my belief that they are capable of musical greatness. ‘Four’ however is unfortunately not going to bring the London four-piece recognition of any such thing.After a hiatus that was taken following the 2008 release of ‘Intimacy’, an album which by most accounts underwhelmed its listeners, Bloc Party has returned apparently with all of their itches scratched. Kele made the solo dance record that he so desired. Russell Lissack appeared on stage with Ash, his favourite band, as part of their live tour and the other two did…whatever it is they do. Yet having seemingly come back refreshed and with a clearer identity of who and what they are as a band it is slightly unbelievable that they have created their most confused album yet. 2005 debut ‘Silent Alarm’ was a decade defining record and one of the finest albums of the new era of guitar based alternative music. Make no mistake, it is better than ‘I am a bird now’ by Antony and the Johnsons which for some reason won the Mercury award that year. It perfectly soundtracked the formative years of a generation with its frenetic mix of sleepy and emotional love songs and frustrated thrashes. It epitomised what being a teenager was like in the 00s.Similarly ‘A Weekend in the City’ was a statement. It was an unmistakable lambasting of the world that only two years ago Kele et al. had been so excited about. It encapsulated the reaction of the average person to the levels of hate and fear in society. ‘Intimacy’ doesn’t have an overarching lyrical message in the same way, but was a clearly experimental offering - Bloc Party’s ‘Kid A’. But ‘Four’ is neither one thing nor the other.There is no theme and no obvious mission statement. Kele, usually responsible for such elegant turns of phrase that perfectly depict a moment or a feeling, is suddenly responsible for such clangers as ‘Po po don’t f*ck around’. Equally there are a couple of tracks that are musically just as jarring and misjudged. See ‘Coliseum’, a smoky and shuffling blues number that is easily the worst song the band has ever written. ‘We are Not Good People’ aims at a rocky Queens of the Stone Age style riff but the rest of the song falls very short of any such ambition.But sometimes, Four delivers. There are several songs that stand out and display exactly what it is that Bloc Party do well. Lead-off single ‘Octopus’ is arty and, to use the adjective most frequently employed in describing this band, angular, with the backing ‘Ooohs’ working excellently.  Similarly the likes of ‘Truth’ and ‘V.A.L.I.S’ are as hauntingly beautiful as ‘Blue Light’ and ‘Sunday’. Even some of the heavier songs do work, particularly ‘So He Begins To Lie’. It seems therefore that Bloc Party has only faltered because they have not measured up to their incredibly high yardstick. One gets the impression that if, for instance, The Hoosiers had released ‘Four’ the critics would have been singing from a different song sheet. It’s good, but we know you can do better. Alex Dry

Messfest 2.0 Gig Review

Michael Clark reviews Messfest 2.0Rating: 4/5There’s an elephant in the room. It’s galumphing around on the only three streets that you need to know to be street-smart. It’s watching an entire student body swamp Empire when the night is packing in at 2 a.m. And it would be in the Lizard if the Lizard wasn’t so damn cramped. Maybe we like to overlook it because of the assets of our town. This wholly unique institution replicated nowhere in Scotland. The tweed and wellies, the eccentric lecturers, the vast beauty of West Sands. And maybe when the Kate Kennedy Club/Fellowship/Magician’s Guild/Order of the Phoenix/Boys’ Brigade drama starts Bubbling over its all we can do to forget it. But sometimes, just sometimes, St Andrews is small.Don’t worry, the solution isn’t Dundee. Go to Edinburgh.It shouldn’t be an expectation that criticising St Andrews will receive a severe backlash. After all, it is hard to criticise the width of talent and musical prowess on show in our town. But sometimes it’s good to take a look outside, to see what else is out there, when one’s tastes have become perhaps a little too embedded in the culture of Scotland’s oldest university.On Friday 30 March 2012 in Scotland’s breezy capital, five unsigned bands graced the stage of the HMV Picture House, the largest rock venue in Edinburgh, to provide what any self-respecting punter in the surprisingly-warm-city-streets would agree to be a fine collage of performances for a measly £5. Not suffering from any technical or audio difficulties, the HMV Picturehouse instead perfectly catered for each band’s sound, even providing high-tech video cameras to project the action onto two huge screens high up the wall and on either side of the stage.First up for a relatively early 6:30pm start, Balerno rockstars Hold the Suspect jammed out an energetic half hour set with the chunky riffs of crowd favourites Are You Home Yet and Society gaining substantial attention and warming up the crowd. Despite being the first act on stage, Hold the Suspect outmatched the next two bands that followed, with a heavier sound that seemed somewhat lacking with People, Places, Maps and Six Storeys High. In particular it was Dreams from the more recent What Might Happen EP that truly showcased their musical development, the dance tune swimming with vocal harmonies that can’t help but conjure a sense of feel-good nostalgia; those visions of endless summers you can’t quite seperate and maybe never even had in the way you remember. New effort Time On Our Hands made considerable efforts to plant itself in your head and never leave, as did Fall Down, Recover which succeeded in doing so not without the help of a glorious key change in the chorus.

(I’m not being ironic. I challenge you to wake up in the morning, listen to a rock song which a key change and not immediately feel like your day will be great. And if you don’t feel that way, you’re wrong, because it will be.)Keen to follow, People, Places, Maps captivated an ever-growing crowd with their more indie-driven sound but no less energised set. Highlights included single Plans with its chirpy guitar melodies and melancholic lyrics. The energy and charisma of frontman Ryan McGlone was palpable even from near the back of the room and certainly worked in reeling in the crowd that had substantially increased in numbers and was starting to loosen up. Single Plans proved a highlight in their set, coming across like The Vaccines meets Idlewild meets Twin Atlantic. Okay, not as much the Twin Atlantic part, but it seems to be an unwritten rule of journalism at the minute that all Scottish bands are compared to Twin Atlantic.With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to Twin-Atlantic-hopefuls Six Storeys High, the next band up. Unfortunately something seemed missing from their set, perhaps a lack of energy on the part of the band, which somewhat undermined the excellent quality of their tunes on recording. With a good following the band has potential to branch out into more varied and riff-driven songs, an option that did not always reach fruition in their set. Ultimately however the band played well with songs like Ghosts showcasing their talents effectively. Check them out on Facebook or YouTube to hear more.Often in such battle-of-the-band style shows there is a band that entices the audience into really getting involved, and it was the rapidly ascending (not literally) Bwani Junction who had this honour, as they threatened to steal the night from Jakil with their riotous set. Their confidence after picking up 'Best Newcomer' at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards was obvious and infectious, with layered indie pop licks and fresh instrumentation that you might have heard before on Chris Moyles’ morning show or at T in the Park 2011. Check out their late-2011 album Fully Cocked, in particular My Body My Mind and Two Bridges – the video for which shows the band miraculously painting the Forth Rail Bridge blue in possibly the most bizzarely patriotic-yet-not action performed by a Scottish band since Jakil soundtracked a SNP Party Political Broadcast with their cover of “Let’s Work Together.”Speaking of Jakil, they were really good. Technically faultless as ever in their live performance, with crowd hits Break For The Border and Ok, I’m Ready lighting up the room. But it was the latter half of their set that really kicked it up a gear. If anyone from the band happens to read this article (alas, I flatter myself) I am genuinely sorry for not knowing what those songs were called, and hope this is because they were new. This array of two or three tunes showed the band in a different mode – tunes with a slightly darker and gloomier sound which still retained the Jakil stamp. There’s a reason why people rave about this band, and the quality of their brand of songs was only matched on the night by Bwani Junction. Keep up to date with Jakil's movements on Facebook because as they work away on new material and release cinematic music videos it seems a sure thing that they will soon have much larger acclaim across the UK. Michael ClarkImage 1 - Messfest.Image 2 - Hold the Suspect.Image 3 - Markus Thorsen.

Tupac Returns in Coachella Hologram Stunt

Philip McFadden discusses the implications of technological advances on the legacy of musicians

Last weekend, at Coachella music festival in California, Snoop Dogg was joined on stage by Tupac Shakur, one of the most famous rappers from the 1990s. Tupac, who has spent the last fifteen years dead, was able to ‘appear’ through the clever use of some technological trickery. The stunt was manufactured by AV Concepts (the same company responsible for the stunning aging effects in hit movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and took over four months to prepare for just two songs. The rapper performed Hail Mary and two of Amerikaz Most Wanted before disappearing in a bright flash of light.Regardless of how you feel about Tupac's music his recent reanimation is spectacularly morbid. Credit where it's due, the surprise performance was well received by the crowd and by fans online, and while it was undoubtedly a gimmick, it was definitely an entertaining gimmick.What does this bizarre zombie performance say about live music itself? Can a meticulously crafted pre-approved hologram really be considered "live" in any sense? Is Tupac's appearance at Coachella credible when it is comprised of nothing but a projection, a pre-recorded song and a convincing impressionist asking “What the f*ck is up Coachella?”. It worked for Gorillaz, performing with a mixture of live musicians and holograms, embracing the artificiality of a cartoon band, but can that work for every artist? You could argue that Top of the Pops did the same for decades, where artists on the show were given no option but to mime along to a backing track, but it's probably not the same when an artist is co-opting the popularity of a dead contemporary.It certainly isn't the first time we've seen the music industry capitalise on the potential for profit in exploiting the deceased. Hours after the death of Whitney Houston Sony music hiked the prices of the late singer's greatest hits (although when challenged Sony claimed the original pricing was an oversight). With that kind of philosophy there's no doubt this technology will be pursued if it becomes profitable.Dre insisted this was a one-off, but given both the financial success of the venture as well as the PR generated for the stunt, it's only a matter of time time until we see a host of musicians in high profile posthumous performances, unknowingly tarnishing their own legacies from beyond the grave. Perhaps this is just another step forward in technology that will eventually become the norm.  Similar technology was used to entertain Simon Cowell with a hologram of Frank Sinatra. Dre was involved in talks about  a potential Tupac tour, and expressed interest in the possibility of a holographic performance of Jimi Hendrix – an artist famous for his passionate live performances.Maybe it's time for Michael Jackson to finish his ‘This Is It’ tour. Philip McFaddenImage credit - AndreLucian.

Strolling Down The Highway - The Influence of Bert Jansch

Tessa Ewart on Bert Jansch and the forgotten voices of folk

 “He completely re-invented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequalled today...without Bert Jansch, rock music as it developed in the ‘60s and ‘70s would have been very different. You hear him in Nick Drake, Pete Townshend, Donovan, The Beatles, Jimmy Page and Neil Young. There are people playing guitar who don’t even realise they’ve been influenced by him one step removed”– Johnny MarrAlthough some decades apart, whenever I hear of our much name-dropped local Fence Collective, I am often reminded of another perhaps more exciting scene that emerged in the quiet bars and folk cafes of unassuming southern and central Scotland way back in the 1960s. It too was far away from swinging London and the Mersey beat, or whatever you would call the hipster modern equivalents. The idea of groups of low key musician social circles casually meeting and possibly starting off popular musical movements is a romantic and exciting notion, and gives hope yet for many a budding open-miker who despite performing alone may find a collective success through being part of ‘a scene’.Prime exponent of the Scottish 60s folk scene, Bert Jansch was to take on the mantle of archetype scruffy troubadour, leading (at least commercially and in poster-boy stakes) the Scottish folk revival scene. Drawing on older buddies such as Davy Graham and slightly less jarring than his eccentric friends The Incredible String Band, he would rise in parallel (though obviously much overshadowed by) Bob Dylan, and be out-popped by Donavan. Having been a fan of Bert Jansch’s music for a good few years now, despite his great influence since the British folk revival of the '60s/'70s, I feel many people these days will not have heard of him. One only needs to look to the words of iconic guitar legends Johnny Marr, Paul Simon or Jimmy Page to realise Jansch's influence not just on their style and success but modern music as a whole.Although born in Glasgow, Jansch grew up in Edinburgh, where he was introduced to the likes of Woody Guthrie and American blues singer Brownie McGhee, who remained a strong influence throughout his career. When he was only 17, he decided to become a full-time musician, and proceeded to quit his job as a gardener (good move) strung a guitar around his neck, and began playing in a variety of local folk-clubs and dodgy bars and in true freelance style, he hitch-hiked up and down the country to play these venues. During this time he became friends and shared a flat with fellow Scottish folk icon Robin Williamson, co-founder of The Incredible String Band, a psychedelic-folk ensemble of sitars, wailing violins, bongo drums - you get the idea… a spiritual frenzy of sound.In the mid-60s, Bert settled down in London to seek his fortune. His brilliant first self-titled album, released in 1965 really proves what he’s all about, and is still hailed as one of his best albums. His strong, intricate plucking style and unusual melodies, carrying strong hints of blues show his exceptional guitarist abilities. Be it the haunting Dreams of Love or the swinging Strolling Down the Highway his music is captivating and diverse - drawing on many influences, but quintessentially Bert. Some have even named him as the 'British Bob Dylan’ – I know what I think about that, but I’ll let you make your own mind up. Perhaps his most famous accolade is his version of the Davy Graham song Angie which has perhaps become the Stairway to Heaven of all young folk guitarists - often being the song everyone tries to master and impress others by.This type of folk music is based heavily on traditional melodies and lyrics, but musicians like Jansch and Williamson put their own unique stamp on it, whether it being blues, psychedelic or electric rock. These artists reached their peak of their popularity in the late 1960s or '70s, and only really lasted a short while at the top, but acquired a devoted and loyal fanbase whilst there.Ok, so I may be 50 years too late, and sadly Jansch passed away just last year, but I feel it’s important to get music like his more known, lest it be smothered in more flashy '60s pop nostalgia and buried beneath a big heap of Beatles and Stones (haw haw). Bert, in my mind, seems to be under-acknowledged - especially as a Scottish artist. The music industry has a lot to owe him and his fellow musicians from that '60s Scottish folk circuit and it’s about time their legacy is not just contained in some dusty old case at the back of your Dad’s CD collection. To save you fishing out such a dusty CD, check out his songs/versions of Angie (a must), Soho (with his pal John Renborn) and why not try Blues Run The Game. You can pretend that your massively uncool St Andrews bedroom is in fact a boho folky hang out! Or for you readers who like to try your hand at songwriting, maybe you can allow Bert's meticulous craft to inspire something new in yourself. It shouldn't be hard. When all is said and done, only the music remains, and with it, Bert's legacy truly will be with us forever. Tessa EwartImage credit - Greg Neate.

Port Of Morrow - The Shins

Alex Dry reviews the Shins' fourth LP

Rating: 3.5/5I would like to open this review with a brief observation. The Shins is a terrible band name. It epitomises an irksome trend in 20th Century music groups simply believing that choosing a noun and putting ‘the’ before it constitutes a good name. See The Rakes, The Cribs and The Antlers for further proof of this hypothesis. However, there is fortunately no correlation between the sloppy band-namesmanship and the song writing capabilities of such collectives. (The Rakes being a notable exception.)But I digress. The Shins' fourth studio album Port of Morrow came out eleven years after the band released their first entitled Oh Inverted World in 2001 and sixteen years after the group originally formed in Albuquerque New Mexico. Wikipedia tells us that they have accrued numerous different genre classifications over the years from Dream-Pop to Surf-Rock. The over-complications don’t stop there; in the review corresponding to this one that appeared in the NME several weeks ago the journo talked of ‘wafty folk-pop’ and ‘haze-pop’. Aside from being virtually meaningless these descriptions really are unnecessary, for Port of Morrow really isn’t that hard to describe. It is simply a bloody entertaining indie album. Opener The Rifle’s Spiral starts the album off with plenty of purpose and optimism. One of the few electronic tracks to make an appearance, it is eminently listenable due to the bustling bass line and the curious hum of the organ. This song really wouldn’t be out of place as a forgotten album track on any of the best LPs of the last decade.Yet perhaps this is where things all hit a snag. As far as ambition goes Port of Morrow is more of a Tim Henman than a Martin Luther King. Tracks like Bait and Switch inspire one to tap their toe but do little else. It is the same with September, a sleepy and wistful acoustic number in which singer James Mercer sings about ‘The shining face in a million reflections’ - an image that, while pleasant, is hardly passion personified. Suffice to say that if you put too much expectation into this album, you are going to be disappointed. It would be the equivalent of sitting down to watch Cool Runnings and expecting The Shawshank Redemption. Instead, if you listen to it with nothing more than an open mind, it will be worth your while.Leadoff single Simple Song is a great example of this. Vocally set somewhere between Queen and the Scissor Sisters and musically at around about Arcade Fire you can’t help but feeling uplifted by it. Equally, album best 40 Mark Strasse combines a juicy refrain with a soaring guitar that is just pure pop brilliance. What it all amounts to is good, even very good, but not great. Those looking for the salvation of guitar music are not going to find what they are looking for here, and hopefully their next release will include a little more passion and a little less filler, but for the time being Port of Morrow provides a very enjoyable selection of tracks. Alex DryImage credit - Nan Palmero.

Beyond The Audio

Lukasz Krol on the significance of the music video

 One day, future generations will look upon us in wonder and awe, as we tell them strange tales of our childhoods, tales of days in which MTV still had music-related content. What stood out for me personally, however, was how it was not just music, but along with it went a specific video as well. Music videos since then have come in all sorts of forms, and they are a fascinating phenomenon. It is almost as if we need to have senses other than our ears engaged when experiencing music. Some videos are quite clearly marketing ploys, hoping to bring in more royalties by exhibiting the music on TV as well. Others, however, are also subtle in an artistic manner, often scaring and confusing me. (MGMT, I’m looking at you.)The first question is whether or not we really need music videos. Part of me feels like only a hyperactive teenager with far too much caffeine in his blood needs to focus his attention on visual stimuli as well. Likewise, if I watch some videos, I get incredibly immersed in the video, so much so that I almost ignore the musical background. To be honest, this is probably a ploy by record labels to slip substandard music past me. At the same time, some music videos truly add value to the musical content, if you watch them several times and focus on both the music and the video. The music video for 'Bohemian Rhapsody', for example, is amazing when seen in a historical context. There appear to be four floating heads singing the song, and you are reminded that this was done before digital editing, with a series of complex lenses and by using analogue feedback as an artistic tool. Thus, it almost seems as if the video is an attempt to be elaborately complex and artistic, just like the song itself. The video is complicated, but in an artistic way, just like the song.Sometimes, a music video can be a story in itself. The video for Guns N’ Roses’ 'November Rain' is based on a rather pessimistic short story full of marriages and suicides that Axl Rose was quite fond of. Similarly, other videos tell the same story as the song, or attempt to do so at least. Many bands seem to have the stereotypical music video that tells a story, one that has an easily perceptible plot. Pink Floyd even filmed a feature film out of a music video to the Wall showing schoolkids throwing an effigy of a teacher onto a bonfire - an appropriately blatant message which matches the song itself perfectly. Finally, in some cases, the band just shows off the feel of their music or their bandculture.There are, for example, many music videos in which the band hangs out or plays live. Vampire Weekend’s video for A-Punk is a brilliant example of this. Reading interviews with the band gives them a certain feel, a feel that the video seems to mirror and reflect almost too accurately. It makes them seem fun, slightly unusual, and, on the surface, devoid of a lyrical message (you have to look deeper for that). Those qualities are almost those of a quintessential indie band, and I could not imagine seeing that video from any band but Vampire Weekend. 

Now imagine surfing scenes in a Kubrick-esque colourful universe, giant cats, far too many shots of the band members shirtless, dead bodies, bows and arrows, babies and a background that seems to perpetually flash red and green. Add some extremely psychedelic, repetitive imagery that seems to insinuate primeval lifestyles and you have the video for MGMT’s 'Time To Pretend'. I’m not going to lie. This makes no sense to me. Perhaps the song in itself is secretly an ode towards primeval lifestyles, which it contrasts with the wealth of the music business, but that seems unlikely. This is one of those music videos that I will never crack (just like MGMT’s 'Congratulations'), and it frustrates me.Is the point that it makes no sense? Is it nihilism set to music? Could it be a visual representation of the concept of Dadaism? I have no idea, and will probably never have, but perhaps this is what music videos are about. Maybe it is time to stop looking for the sense in it all, and sit back, enjoy and let the video relay some content to you. Perhaps it is time to trust the artists not to dumb me down or confuse me, but to show what they really meant to say through another compelling medium. Lukasz KrolImage 1 - Mickey Ratt.Image 2 - Rebekah Stanhope.