Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Jason Mraz at the O2 Arena, London - 01/12/12

I should begin this post by admitting that I am not a fan of Jason Mraz's latest album Love Is A Four Letter Word.  Aside from two or three tracks, this album just hasn't captured me in the way the previous three studio albums (which I still listen to regularly) have.  Though the huge commercial success of 'I'm Yours' gave Mraz much deserved recognition which was long overdue, it also appears to have shaped this album. It seems that with Love Is A Four Letter Word, Mraz has found a formula that works and stuck with it, as the easy listening influences of of 'I'm Yours' runs throughout the album.  I may be biased as I've never liked 'I'm Yours', but all the same I feel the quirky lyrics and varied genres that made the first three albums - particularly Waiting For My Rocket To Come and Mr. A-Z -  so unique are severely lacking on Love Is A Four Letter Word.

Despite not exactly loving the latest album, I was still excited to see Mraz in concert again.  The last time was 2008's Royal Albert Hall performance, and though he did return to the UK in 2009, I was in America at the time so unfortunately couldn't attend any of the shows.  In the four years since I had last seen him, Mraz's career has seen a big boost, largely due to the success of We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things and in particular 'I'm Yours'.  This show at the O2 - the one and only UK date on the Tour Is A Four Letter Word tour - marks the first arena Mraz has played over here, previous shows have always taken place in smaller capacity venues.

Mraz opened the performance with an incredible medley of 'Make It Mine', 'Live High' and 'Butterfly'.  The transition from 'Make It Mine' straight into the middle 8 horn section and final chorus of 'Live High' worked brilliantly, before a final progression into 'Butterfly topped off the trio of songs.  Having previously only seen Mraz in intimate venues, I was curious as to to how his music would convey in a venue like the O2.  However, these opening tracks, complete with full band sounded fantastic in the arena, especially when combined with Mraz's impressive vocals.  Though the opening medley was my favourite segment of the concert, I was left feeling slightly disappointed that so many of my favourites from We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things had been played so soon into the performance.
However, any concerns I may have felt soon disappeared as the evening went on.  A rendition of 'Fly Me To The Moon' not only complimented Mraz's vocals, but was a perfect lead-in to 'Lucky'.

The setlist was varied, with a wide range of material being played from all four studio albums.  'The Remedy (I Won't Worry)' followed by 'You And I Both' from Waiting For My Rocket To Come, were a welcome addition to the setlist and a highlight of the performance.  'Plane' was another key moment of the evening - such a beautiful, moving track and a fine pick from the Mr. A-Z album.  Of the newer material played, I very much enjoyed 'Frank D. Fixer'.  Though it is one of about the three tracks I like on Love Is A Four Letter Word, I felt it really came to life with the live band.  The most random (but fantastic) moment of the night came when sax player Sergio Flores emerged from the crowd and made his way on stage to join Mraz for a cover of 'Careless Whisper', all the while interacting with members of the audience.  The inevitable appearance of 'I'm Yours' came towards the end of the set, however the song became a whole lot more enjoyable for me when it evolved into 'Three Little Birds'.  As my one of my favourite  Bob Marley tracks, I was thrilled with this transition and found myself singing along with everyone else in the crowd.

Though I do love hearing live music in smaller venues - mainly due to the better sound quality and overall intimacy of such venues - this concert at the O2 proved that Mraz's music translates fantastically in both larger arenas, as well as the intimate settings that fans had been used to seeing him play up until now.  Mraz is a gifted musician, and accompanied by his dynamic live band, his powerful vocals shone effortlessly throughout this performance.

'Make It Mine' > 'Live High' > 'Butterfly'                          
'0% Interest'
'Only Human'
'Fly Me To The Moon'
'The World As I see It'
'Everything Is Sound'
'The Remedy (I Won't Worry)'
'You And I Both'
'The Woman I Love'
'Living In The Moment'
'Careless Whisper'
'Frank D. Fixer'
'You Fckn Did It'
'I'm Yours' > 'Three Little Birds'                        
'I'm Coming Over'

'Song For A Friend'
'93 Million Miles'
'I Won't Give Up'

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Killers at the O2 Arena, London - November 16 and 17, 2012

Though I was excited to be seeing one of my favourite band's play live, I attended The Killers' two gigs at London's O2 last Friday and Saturday with an open mind.
Just days before, the band were forced to cut short their show at Manchester's MEN Arena after four songs, following Brandon Flowers' complaint of a sore throat.  Consequently, Flowers' vocal problems resulted in the band having to cancel the following night's show.  Upon reading this news online last Wednesday - just a few days before the O2 gigs - I was disappointed at the number of comments criticising Flowers, many saying that a sore throat is not a good enough reason to finish a set early/cancel a show.  While I can see how a sore throat may sound like a minor problem, as a vocalist myself, I know that in some instances it can be a sign of major vocal problems, such as laryngitis or nodules.  Yes, these problems may not be as common as cold or flu, but sometimes it just isn't worth taking the risk, especially in the case of Flowers, who relies on his voice for his profession.  On a side note, a lot of the band's material, including many of the songs on their latest album Battle Born,  are vocally demanding, even more so for a male register, so it's understandable that Flowers would want to be cautious if suffering vocal difficulties.  In the many times I have seen The Killers over the years, I have only known them to put on a fantastic show, and I don't think it would have been an easy decision for the band to close their show early and cancel the next evening's performance, however I felt Flowers handled the situation in the best way he could.  If he had of continued with the show, he could have risked causing long term damage to his vocals, which would have affected future gigs.  Not to mention the possibility of concert goers leaving the gig disappointed that Flowers wasn't on top form.  Instead he acted professionally by apologising repeatedly to the crowd and explaining the problem, instead of just walking off stage like many other bands might have done if faced with the same issue.  I can understand why the crowd that night would have been disappointed.  However, both shows have been rescheduled for February next year, and ticket holders have the option of a refund.

Luckily, Flowers seemed to have recuperated in time for the O2 gigs as he took to the stage to deliver impressive performances with the the rest of The Killers on both nights.  He referenced his sore throat at both shows, explaining what had happened in Manchester and that he was now feeling OK.  I definitely got the feeling he was eager to make up for the lost gigs from earlier in the week and the quality of music and the generous sized setlists on both dates at the O2 reflected this.

Out of the actual performances, I though Friday's gig was the strongest of the two.  Opening with 'A Matter Of Time' from Battle Born, the band then launched straight into early classics 'Somebody Told Me' and 'Smile Like You Mean It'.
These much loved tracks appearing so soon into the setlist really got the crowd invested in the music and created an energy which remained present for the entire gig.  Flowers' vocals were clear and powerful throughout, only showing strain momentarily during 'The Way It Was'.  However, this didn't detract from what was a great live version of one of my favourite tracks from Battle Born.
Later in the set, a cover came in the form of Oasis' 'Don't Look Back In Anger', which Flowers claimed they were hoping to play in Manchester.  While tracks like 'Human' and 'Runaways' went down a storm with the crowd, key moments for me included 'Miss Atomic Bomb' and 'Read My Mind'.  A three track encore of 'Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine', 'When You Were Young' and 'Battle Born', complete with fireworks and confetti drew this impressive gig to a close.

Saturday's performance was more different than I expected, not in terms of song choices, but the order in which they were played, and the atmosphere that came as a result.  For example, the band opened with 'Mr. Brightside' with the house lights on for the duration of the song.  I had mixed feelings about whether playing this song first in a setlist would work, however it got the crowd going straight away, and I admired the unique approach the band took in deciding to play it so early on. Though having the house lights on in an arena like the O2 felt strange at first - I actually turned to my friend to ask if he thought there was a problem with the lighting - it gave the atmosphere in the arena a united, festival-like quality.
Saying that, I was glad when the lights dimmed and the band followed up with 'The Way It Was' and 'Smile Like You Mean It'.  Flowers' vocals were once again on fine form and shone throughout the gig, particularly on 'A Dustland Fairytale', which was a highlight of the evening.  This was followed by a cover of U2's 'With Or Without You'.  Once again, a three track encore closed the set, with 'All These Things That I've Done' replacing the the previous night's 'When You Were Young' as the penultimate song of the night.

Though the band delivered solid performances, I felt there was a lack of variation from Battle Born over the two gigs.  I was disappointed that 'The Rising Tide' and 'Deadlines And Commitments' were absent from both evenings setlists, and I find it odd that 'Flesh And Bone' was also nowhere to be seen.  However, I was impressed at the length of the setlists and the stamina of the band - the songs came thick and fast - much to the delight of fans watching.  Whether they are playing intimate nightclub venues, or arenas and stadiums, The Killers are a band that know how to put on a great show.

Friday November 16:
'A Matter Of Time'                                    
'Somebody Told Me'                      
'Smile Like You Mean It'                                
'The Way It Was'
'Heart Of A Girl'
'Bling (Confessions Of A
'Miss Atomic Bomb'
'Here With Me'
'For Reasons Unknown'
'From Here On Out'
'A Dustland Fairytale'
'Don't Look Back In Anger'
'Read My Mind'
'Mr. Brightside'
'All These Things That I've Done'

'Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine'
'When You Were Young'
'Battle Born'

Saturday November 17:
'Mr. Brightside'
'The Way It Was'
'Smile Like You Mean It'
'Bling (Confession Of A King)'
'Miss Atomic Bomb'
'Somebody Told Me'

'Here With Me'
'For Reasons Unknown'
'From Here On Out'
'A Dustland Fairytale'
'With or Without You'
'Read My Mind'
'When You Were Young'

'Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine'
'All These Things That I've Done'
'Battle Born'

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Track of the Day: You Make Loving Fun - Fleetwood Mac

'You Make Loving Fun'the fourth and final single to be released from 1977's Rumours - is not only a great pop song, but a fine representation of the musical era from which it came.  Aside from rich, melodic verses, it's the chorus that makes the track so joyous - Christine McVie's vocals glide effortlessly over a funky groove, perfectly timed against harmonic backing vocals.  The result is a glorious, uplifting sound, which is further enhanced by Lindsey Buckingham's impressive guitar work.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Josh Rouse: Late Night Conversations (October Edition)

Last night, I watched the fourth instalment of Josh Rouse's Late Night Conversations concert series, hosted by Stageit.  This edition has been my favourite of the series to date.  Not only was the setlist comprised almost entirely of early to mid Rouse material and rarities (aside from two brand new tracks), but a lot of my personal favourites were played, which I find pretty cool in a set list spanning a 30 minute show.  Not only that, but Josh finally played my song request of 'Sad Eyes'!  But more on that later...

Josh opened the set with 'Late Night Conversation' and 'Michigan', followed by 'The Whole Night Through'.  I felt this trio of songs were a perfect start to the show, appropriately setting the autumn theme for what is the October edition of this concert series.  Josh played harmonica throughout 'Late Night Conversation' which was a lovely touch.  I was especially thrilled to hear 'The Whole Night Through' - it's one of my favourites off Under Cold Blue Stars and a rarity to hear live. Throughout the show, Josh debuted two new songs - 'Good To Have You' and 'Julie, Come Out Of The Rain' - the latter of which I thought had a lovely melody and some interesting, atmospheric lyrics.  I hope this one appears on the new album, The Happiness Waltz.

For the remainder of the show, Josh took requests from fans via the live chat window, and after I requested 'Sad Eyes' a few times (ok, a lot of times) he played it, saying something along the lines of "Someone keeps requesting 'Sad Eyes'". Anyway, the wait was totally worth it and this was my favourite song of the evening.  Apart from the live music obviously, the live chat window is a big part of what makes the whole Stageit experience so enjoyable.  it's so much fun requesting songs and seeing what songs others want to hear, as well as interacting with Josh and the other fans throughout the duration of the concert.

'Late Night Conversation'
'The Whole Night Through'
'Good To Have You'
'Sad Eyes'
'Sunshine (Come On Lady)'
'Comeback (Light Therapy)'
'Julie, Come Out Of The Rain'

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Everything Everything - iTunes Festival: London 2010 - EP

I've been listening to this album a lot recently.  I was unaware of its existence until last month when I stumbled upon it whilst browsing iTunes.  As a big fan of Everything Everything, I knew this EP - featuring nine of the original eleven tracks from their debut Man Alive, played live at London's Roundhouse - was a must-have download.

The best way to describe this EP would be to say that it's a 'louder' version of Man Alive.  If that's possible.  Crazy hooks, clashing synths, falsetto vocals and totally random lyrics - pretty much all of the qualities that made Man Alive such a uniquely addictive debut - are all present here, just on an enhanced level.  From listening to the EP, it's clear that the band make for a great live act and though all the instrumentation is tight, the backing vocals are particularly impressive.

I think the most noteworthy track here is 'NASA Is On Your Side'.  Jonathan Higg's lead vocals work beautifully against the bass and keys.  Overall, the live instrumentation gives the song an intensity which is perhaps lacking on the studio version that appears on Man Alive.  'Photoshop Handsome' is another standout track, largely due to the fantastic middle 8 breakdown featuring multiple chants and call-and- response between the lead and backing vocals.  A stampeding instrumental of guitar and drums makes for a perfect climax leading into the final chorus.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Track of the Day: The Rising Tide - The Killers

If there is one song on The Killers' latest album Battle Born that indicates a return to their former sounds pre-Day & Age, then 'The Rising Tide' is surely it.  Opening with an impressive 40 second electro infused intro that wouldn't sound out of place on debut Hot Fuss, the track then evolves into a surge of rocking guitars, powerful vocals and atmospheric lyrics, reminiscent of the Springsteen influence that was ever so present on 2006's Sam's Town.  'The Rising Tide' has all the qualities of a future single, and is one of the standout tracks on what is admittedly a grower of an album.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Josh Rouse: Late Night Conversations (September Edition)

Last night, Josh Rouse delivered the third instalment of his Late Night Conversations concert series, hosted by Stageit.  Unlike the last two shows in which he was joined by Caio Bellveser on piano and bass, this September edition saw Josh perform the entire set solo.  However, much to the delight of fans watching, the format of the concert remained the same, with Josh playing a varied setlist comprised of new material, tracks from previous albums, song requests and rarities - all played live from his home in Valencia, Spain.

Josh opened the set with two new songs - 'Western Isle' and 'City People, City Things'.  Both tracks sounded good, but I particularly liked 'Western Isle'.  Though it's always difficult to give an opinion on new songs, not just because this is the first time I've heard them, but if these tracks do feature on the new album, they are bound to sound different if played with fuller instrumentation, compared to just an acoustic guitar - as in the instance of this concert.

For the remainder of the show, Josh took requests and played songs from his extensive back catalogue.  It was great to hear a selection of tracks from earlier albums and the likes of 'Feeling No Pain' and 'Under Cold Blue Stars' (from the album of the same name) were a welcome surprise and my favourite songs of the evening.  'Hey Porcupine' from Home was also a lovely addition to the setlist, and a fine example of Josh's earlier work.

In between songs, Josh discussed his upcoming album - The Happiness Waltz - 
explaining that he was currently finishing it at home and working on the artwork.
He said that he was going to Nashville soon to mix the album with Brad Jones and that the record was scheduled for release on March 19 next year.  What's just as exciting is that Josh also mentioned that he is hoping to tour soon.  This is great news for fans, but in the meantime I look forward to the next instalment of this brilliant online concert series, which is taking place on October 28.

'Western Isle'
'City People, City Things'
'Cotton Eye Joe'
'Under Cold Blue Stars'
'Lemon Tree'
'Quiet Town'
'Hey Porcupine'
'Feeling No Pain'


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Gig Archives: John Mayer at the Royal Albert Hall, 18/09/07

On this day five years ago, I saw John Mayer play at the Royal Albert Hall, his second of a two night stint at the venue.  At the time, it was my third time seeing him live, and even now after nineteen shows, this still remains as my favourite ever concert of his.

I had attended the first RAH show on the 17th, and though it was a great gig, I personally thought this performance on the 18th outshone the first by far.  Firstly, the atmosphere was miles better - the crowd seemed more invested in the gig, everyone was up on their feet singing along, and just generally more into the music than the first night.  I was lucky enough to be third row centre on the 18th, so being this close to the action would inevitably make for an amazing crowd atmosphere as well.

However, it was the setlist and overall musicianship of Mayer and his live band that made this such a unique performance.  As Continuum had been released the previous year, Mayer's tours around this time were based mainly around the album, and this show was no exception.  'Belief' and 'I'm Gonna Find Another You' were among my favourites to be heard from Continuum that evening, but as I listen back to the recording now, I realise what a fantastic version of 'I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)' he played.  Thanks to the sublime extended intros and addition of Bob Reynolds on sax, this track grew to become one of my favourites to hear live on the Continuum tours, and the version from this show is a fine example of this.

Despite this being a Continuum centric concert, Mayer did play a good mix of tracks from Room For Squares and Heavier Things.  At the time, his European setlists were not as adventurous as his American shows, which seemed to feature more album tracks and rare songs from earlier in his career.  I was pleasantly surprised with the inclusion of 'Your Body Is A Wonderland', which although a big hit, was (and still is!) hard to come by on a European setlist.

"This is a song about waking up feeling beautiful" Mayer said just before he played 'Clarity'.  As my all time favourite Mayer track, this was my highlight of the evening, and at only three songs into the performance, it set the scene for what was a truly memorable show.

'Waiting On The World To Change'
'I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)'
'Good Love Is On The Way'
'Why Georgia'
'The Heart Of Life'
'I Don't Need No Doctor'
'In Repair'
'Your Body Is A Wonderland'
'Bigger Than My Body'
'I'm Gonna Find Another You'

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Killers at Koko, 12/09/12

The Killers played three intimate shows in London this week, starting with the HMV Forum on Monday for a Radio 1 gig, followed by the iTunes festival at the Roundhouse on Tuesday and finally, an appearance at Koko on Wednesday, which was being recorded for Channel 4's London Live Series.  These gigs gave fans who were lucky enough to win tickets, the opportunity to see a band more used to selling out arenas, play in such small, intimate venues.  Though I was not successful in winning tickets for any of the shows, a fellow member of The Killers fanclub - The Victims - had a spare ticket to the Koko gig, which he very kindly gave to me.  Thank you, James!

As this show was being recorded for TV, the set was shorter than a standard gig - the band came on stage promptly at 8:00pm and were finished just before 9:00pm.  At almost an hour in length, the setlist inevitably consisted of the band's most well known singles (no previous album tracks here) along with four songs from Battle Born.

I had resisted from listening to any previews of the new songs until the album was released, so aside from 'Runaways', It was my first time hearing the new tracks in full, but great to experience them in a live setting.  Upon first listen of the new material, it sounds as though the band have made a clear departure from the sax driven sounds of Day & Age.  These new songs, in particular 'Miss Atomic Bomb', suggest the band have gone back to the basics of Hot Fuss, though 'Flesh And Bone' and 'Here With Me' bare traces of Brandon Flowers' solo project, Flamingo.  However, it is difficult to write a review based on just one listen, so I look forward to hearing the album in full when it's released on Monday.

The new material was well placed in a setlist featuring the band's most loved tracks.  Their signature synths were present throughout the show, but shone most on 'Smile Like You Mean It' and 'All These Things That I've Done' - my favourite tracks of the evening.  My one and only gripe is that there were moments when the sound was muddy, at times Flowers' vocals were unclear and occasionally lost in the music.  However, the overall sound improved as the gig progressed.
All in all, the band delivered a fantastic performance in an intimate venue bursting with energy and atmosphere.

'Smile Like You Mean It'
'Flesh And Bone'
'Here With Me'
'Miss Atomic Bomb'
'Mr. Brightside'
'When You Were Young'

'Somebody Told Me'
'All These Things That I've Done'

Monday, 16 July 2012

Guilfest 15/07/12 - Bryan Ferry

I went to Guilfest yesterday.  It was my first time at this festival (though I love going to gigs, I'm not much of a festival goer, unless there is a band/artist playing who I really like).  Since the headlining act was Bryan Ferry and the festival is local to me, I felt this was definitely a must see performance.  On arrival at the festival, I could not believe the amount of mud.  Yes, I know it has been raining here constantly for what seems like months so I should have expected it, but the mud was pretty hardcore.  In all my festival naivety, I turned up in my favourite pair of Converse (to think I almost wore ballet pumps).  Luckily, there was a stall selling wellies, so my friend Mike and I snapped some up.  Here is a picture of the hideous pair I bought.  Seriously though, these wellies saved us.

However, the music more than made up for the mud, and Ferry put on an amazing performance - his tour band really are fantastic, and on this occasion they were joined by Johnny Marr of The Smiths, who played guitar with the band for the entire set.  Marr previously played on Ferry's 1987 BĂȘte Noire album and is also working on Ferry's upcoming album.

Ferry opened the set with I Put A Spell On You, followed by Slave To Love and Don't Stop The Dance.  For the remainder of the show he played a good variety of songs, touching upon almost every Roxy Music album, along with tracks from his solo catalogue.  The setlist was very similar to that of the last time I saw him at Shepherd's Bush Empire in December of last year.  However, unlike that show, the Guilfest performance lacked material from Ferry's last album Olympia, with only one track from that album - Reason Or Rhyme - being played.  However, this is a festival crowed, made up of fans who have come to see a range of artists, not necessarily just Ferry, therefore the setlist would inevitably aim to reflect this.
Crowd pleasing hits such as Let's Stick Together and Love Is The Drug certainly got the audience moving.

My favourite songs of the evening were Oh Yeah, More Than This and Avalon.
More Than This in particular was a joy to hear - I have a few great live versions in my iTunes library, but it's not the same as actually hearing it live in person.  I also felt this track was perfectly placed in the setlist, leading effortlessly into Avalon.

I Put A Spell On You
Slave To Love
Don't Stop The Dance
Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues
If There Is Something
Oh Yeah
Reason Or Rhyme
Like A Hurricane
Chance Meeting
More Than This
My Only Love
Editions Of You
Let's Stick Together
Jealous Guy
Love Is The Drug
All Along The Watchtower
Hold On I'm Coming

Monday, 25 June 2012

'Late Night Conversations' Part Two: Josh Rouse Stageit Concert June 24

I watched the second instalment of Josh Rouse's Late Night Conversations concert series on Stageit last night.  Once again, Josh delivered a fantastically varied setlist in which he played a wide range of tracks from previous albums, debuted a new track and took requests from the audience.  This time round, the sound quality was again very clear, aside from a slight delay at the very beginning, which was resolved within the duration of the first song.

Accompanied by Caio Bellveser on piano, Josh opened the set with a beautiful rendition of Bluebird St. (Caio joined Josh on bass for the remainder of the show).  An equally impressive Streetlights followed, in which Josh played harmonica in the into and middle 8 sections.  This is one of my favourite Rouse songs to hear live, it works so well played both acoustically and with a full band, and on this occasion I felt the harmonica added a nice touch to the intro.  Next up, Josh played a new track - Our Love (recorded with Brad Jones) - a lovely song with a very melodic sounding chorus.  Like all the new material he has been playing, I look forward to hearing how this track will sound as a studio recording on the upcoming album.

The tracks I enjoyed most were Fine Fine, Slaveship, and Lemon Tree.  Though the playing was tight throughout the set, I thought the bass and vocal harmonies were particularly great on these songs.  On a sidenote, I loved hearing El Otro Lado.  I've never heard it played live before and thought it was the perfect closure to a great show.  

The live chat window once again proved to be a great interaction tool for fans to request songs and ask Josh questions, and much like the first concert, people were suggesting he play shows dedicated to one particular album.  I asked if he would consider playing a Nashville show in London, to which he replied that he was looking at possibly doing something like this for the album's ten year anniversary.  This is a very cool idea, and it would be incredible if something came of it.

I am looking forward to the next in the series of these concerts.  Though the setlists have offered good variation so far, I would personally love to hear Sad Eyes and maybe some more tracks off the Bedroom Classics Volumes - songs like City Blues and O, I Need All The Love would sound great in these shows.

Bluebird St.
Our Love
Dressed Up Like Nebraska
Comeback (Light Therapy)
Hollywood Bass Player
Fine Fine
Lemon Tree
El Otro Lado

Friday, 22 June 2012

Track of the Day: That's No Way To Get To Heaven - Guster

Taken from Guster's sixth studio album Easy Wonderful, That's No Way To Get To Heaven is, in terms of arrangement a simplistic, yet powerful song.  I like how the instrumentation is layered; the track starts with just guitar, but further elements are gradually introduced at key moments of the song's progression.
The appearance of piano and vocal harmonies in particular, add a lovely warmth to the overall production of the song, and with lines of "One half of me is still shaking / The other half is still waiting for a lover", the clarity and strength of Ryan Miller's lead vocal is evident throughout.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Killers - Official Trailer For Upcoming Album 'Battle Born'

The Killers have released a trailer for their upcoming album Battle Born.  The album, due for release in September, is the follow up to 2008's Day & Age.

I'm looking forward to hearing more previews of the album in the coming months and hopefully, the band will announce new tour dates soon!

It's been four years since Day & Age, so I'm very excited to hear new music from one of my favourite bands.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Hot Chip 'In Our Heads' - Online Stream

Hot Chip's new album In Our Heads is released on June 11.  However, the follow up to 2010's One Life Stand is currently streaming over at

The album can be heard in full here.

I've listened to the the entire album a few times now and so far my favourite track is Don't Deny Your Heart - I'm loving the 80's synths on this track.  The chorus is great too, fast paced and totally addictive.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

New Josh Rouse Stageit Show - Sunday June 24

Josh Rouse has just announced a new Stageit show for Sunday June 24.  He tweeted that he would be premiering new songs.  His previous show was awesome, so I am very much looking forward to this one.

It looks like these concerts, known as Late Night Conversations, are going to be a regular thing.  Great news for fans!

Tickets are once again being sold on a 'pay what you can' basis and can be purchased here.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Essential Albums: Continuum - John Mayer

John Mayer's 2006 album Continuum is generally regarded as being his finest work to date.  Though 2003's Heavier Things  is my personal favourite, Continuum is a fantastically produced album, full of well crafted songs which not only demonstrate Mayer's flair for song writing, but also his undeniable talent for playing a guitar.  Whereas Heavier Things touched upon blues in places (most notably on Come Back To Bed), the genre is present throughout on Continuum, backed up with elements of pop and soul.

The soul influence is evident on the politically driven Waiting On The World To Change, an upbeat song which made for a perfect lead single with it's catchy lyrics, complete with an even catchier middle 8 vocal breakdown and guitar solo.
The political theme is also present on Belief, one of the album's strongest tracks, which is powerful both instrumentally and lyrically.  Wonderfully melodic guitar hooks are complimented with lines of "Belief is a beautiful armour / But makes for the heaviest sword / Like punching underwater / You never can hit who you're trying for".

Continuum features two tracks - Gravity and Vultures - which appear on Mayer's 2005 live album Try!, recorded as part of the John Mayer Trio (with bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan, who also feature here).  The tracks were rerecorded for Continuum and both translate brilliantly as studio versions.
Gravity in particular is flawless - prior to hearing the final studio recording, I had heard lots of live versions of the song, many featuring amazing extended intros and guitar solos - and compared to how experimental and lengthy these versions often were, I honestly don't think he could have recorded a better studio version of Gravity than what appears on this album.  Lyrically, I think Mayer himself does a great job of explaining the themes behind the song in an interview which appears on the Live From Abbey Road TV series:  "Gravity is one of the most important song's I've ever written, and it's an experiment for me, in not explaining everything in a song.  And that keeps it open for me, so I can address whatever I'm thinking about, on any day that I'm playing Gravity and I can really sing to it because no matter what happens in your life, Gravity is kind of the tune, It's kind of a really universal theme about not falling from whatever rung of grace you're on at the the moment, not losing the happiness, not losing the success.
Temptation, the darkness, all that stuff, that's just the human struggle."

I think Vultures is interesting in the way that it addresses similar issues to that of Gravity.  It's a strong, defiant track which is very much reflected in it's instrumentation and lyrics - "Power is made, by power being taken / So I keep on running / To protect my situation".  In an interview which took place around the time of the album's release, Mayer said the track was "not about the record business, it's just about everyone but you".  However defiant Vultures is, there are lyrics throughout which portray the positive message of the song - "Then I'll come through / Like I do / When the world keeps / Testing me, testing me".

What is worth noting about Continuum, is that the lyrics and themes addressed aren't as optimistic as Heavier Things, or the 2001 debut Room For Squares.  
Damaged relationships and heartbreak are a running theme throughout many of the tracks, in particular Dreaming With A Broken Heart and I'm Gonna Find Another You.  The most obvious example of this however, is on the Clapton inspired Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, in which beautiful instrumentation compliment Mayer's haunting lyrics - "I'll make the most of all the sadness / You'll be a bitch because you can / You try to hit me just to hurt me / So you leave me feeling dirty / Because you can't understand".

"So scared of getting older / I'm only good at being young" sings Mayer on Stop This Train, an emotionally powerful track, in which he confronts the fear that time is moving forward with no option to stop or go back.  With lines of "Don't know how else to say it, don't want to see my parents go / One generation's length away / From fighting life out on my own", Mayer's lyrics are hard hitting and unsettling, though the thoughts and anxieties addressed in the song are shared by many of us.

I consider Continuum an essential album as it is consistent throughout.  The lyrics and production are solid on all the songs and I feel the track listing is suitably placed too, perfectly conveying the mood and atmosphere of the album as a whole.  However, the real beauty in Continuum is how well it works when played live.  I attended many of the shows in which Mayer toured with this album and each performance brought exciting live versions of the studio tracks.  He experimented with extended intros and guitar solos which always brought a fresh sound to the songs.  The setlists had variation too, so each show was always different (though Mayer has always been great with switching up the setlist and playing rare songs, it's still a great perk for hardcore fans who attend multiple shows.  It's also refreshing, compared to so many bands who have a standard setlist which they stick to religiously throughout the duration of a tour).

One of my favourite tracks to hear live is I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You).  I found the album version to be a grower of a tune, however this song really comes alive when played on tour.  On his 2008 tour for example, he had a horn based extended intro, which totally enhanced the seductiveness of the track.  Another live version of the track, from his 2007 Austin City Limits performance, features an extended guitar intro, which gradually evolves into the main body of the song.

These tracks have to be heard to be fully appreciated, so below I have included a selection of my favourite songs from Continuum.  Some of the tracks are the studio recordings from the album, the rest are live versions taken from various performances.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Josh Rouse Online Stageit Concert - Review

I watched Josh Rouse's online Stageit concert last night.  I had never watched a show through Stageit prior to this, but it was a fun experience.  The sound quality was great - really clear with very little distortion, and there was a live chat window, where fans could communicate with each other, as well as request songs for Josh to play.

Josh opened the set with two new tracks - A Lot Like Magic and Simple Pleasure.
I liked these songs, both had catchy, upbeat melodies, which I found myself tapping my foot and swaying along to.  For the remainder of the show, Josh played a variety of tracks from previous albums, in addition to taking requests.  I noticed that lots of people were requesting songs from Nashville, with some people even suggesting he should do a show where he plays Nashville in it's entirety (not only is Nashville my favourite, I like the idea of dedicating a show to a an entire album in general, especially for an artist like Josh, who has such a large back catalogue).  Highlights of the set for me, were I Will Live On Islands, Streetlights and Oh, Look What The Sun Did!

Between songs, Josh talked about working on his new album, in which he mentioned that Brad Jones (1972, Nashville, Subtitulo, El Turista) would be returning to produce the album with him.  He went on to say that the album would be a cheerful, pop record.  After the show had finished, Josh revealed on the live chat window that the new album would be titled The Happiness Waltz.

The concert was originally scheduled to run for 20 minutes, but Josh went on to play an encore for a further 20 minutes, so all in all, it was a decent length show.
During the concert, Josh also implied that that he would play future Stageit concerts, which is great news.  I am excited to see what songs (and possible new material) the next show brings!

A Lot Like Magic
Simple Pleasure
Diggin' In The Sand
Quiet Town
I Will Live On Islands
Comeback (Light Therapy)
Oh, Look What The Sun Did!
Flight Attendant

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Track of the Day: More Than This - Roxy Music

More Than This was the first single to be released from Roxy Music's final studio album, Avalon, in 1982.  Not only is it one of my favourite Roxy tracks, I also think it's the song which best represents the band's transition into the smooth and more polished sound which was so present in their later work.  Bryan Ferry's vocals blend effortlessly through verse and chorus, with lines which contribute to the atmospheric feel of the track - "Like a dream in the night / Who can say where we're going...Why the sea on the tide / Has no way of turning".  Just as impressive is the instrumental outro, which, led by lush synths and layers of guitar, more than makes up for the absence of vocals in the final few minutes of the song.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Track of the Day: Photoshop Handsome - Everything Everything

Photoshop Handsome was the third single released from Everything Everything's addictive 2010 debut, Man Alive.  Falsetto vocals deliver random lyrics which are, at times incoherent and for the most part, don't make a whole lot of sense.
However, this really doesn't matter as the music is so amazingly energetic and fast paced, there isn't much time to ponder over lyric meanings.  This, along with enthusiastic instrumentation, creates a track that is unique, adventurous and overall, a joy to listen to.

"I will gain an extra life..."

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Josh Rouse Online Concert - Sunday May 20

Today, I was excited to hear that Josh Rouse is teaming up with Stageit, to play an online concert on Sunday May 20.  The show is taking place in Valencia, and according to Rouse's website, he will be playing at least one new song, as well as older material.  He will also be taking live requests, which is very cool.
The concert is the first in a possible series, called Late Night Conversations.

I think this is such a great idea.  I'm looking forward to hearing new material as well as songs from previous albums.  It will be interesting to see which tracks get played as a result of the live requests too!

Tickets are available here, and are being sold on a 'pay what you can' basis.

Track of the Day: To Kingdom Come - Passion Pit

Hearing the new Passion Pit single yesterday, got me in the mood for listening to their debut Manners on the way into work this morning.  To Kingdom Come is my favourite track on the album.  I love this song.  I could have it playing on a loop, countless times and I wouldn't tire of it.  It's blissfully melodic, with sweeping synths throughout.

Monday, 7 May 2012

New Passion Pit Single - Take A Walk

Passion Pit's new single Take A Walk, the first release from their upcoming album Gossamer, is now streaming on the band's website.  I've had a few listens so far, and feel the track is a definite grower.  The song is upbeat and anthem-like, with marching choruses.  The band's signature synth hooks, which featured so heavily on their 2009 debut, Manners, are also present here.

Gossamer is released on July 23.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Enjoying the Smooth Sounds of Josh Rouse

Josh Rouse is a singer-songwriter who I feel is truly underrated.  I first discovered Rouse's music in 2006, when a friend sent me three albums of his - 1972, Nashville and Subtitulo.  Admittedly, it took me some time to appreciate how good his music is, but after gradually downloading his back catalogue (he has just released his ninth studio album), I realised how much I had grown to love his work.  His songs have a timeless, classic feel, with beautifully crafted lyrics.  I now consider Rouse to be one of my favourite, and most played musicians in my music collection.

What I admire most about Rouse, and what I feel sets him apart from the average singer-songwriter, is the way in which he experiments so freely with different genres in his music.  Each of his studio albums touch upon varying themes and concepts, meaning that no two of his albums could ever be accused of sounding the same.  This creates an interesting and exciting listening experience for fans.  

Rouse's exploration of different genres, has seen his music evolve through each new release.  His first two albums Dressed Up Like Nebraska and Home are more downbeat than later releases, with darker, but beautifully haunting lyrics.  Rouse made a departure from his alt-country roots on his fourth release, 1972, a concept album full of soulful, melodic pop songs.  In 2006, he moved to Spain, and his sixth album Subtitulo reflects this, with light, catchy tunes.  I feel this album is a suitable transition into Rouse's most recent offerings -  2010's El Turista and 2011's Josh Rouse and The Long Vacations, where the Spanish influence is more present than ever.

In addition to his studio albums, Rouse has also released a series of EPs on his Bedroom Classics label.  Furthermore, his website offers a Bedroom Classics Archive, where these EPs, along with other rarities compilations and also live recordings, can be purchased.

Below, are tracks which I think best show the diversity of Rouse's music.

                                      From Dressed Up Like Nebraska

                                                        From 1972

                                                     From Nashville
                                                    From El Turista

Monday, 30 April 2012

Track of the Day: Waiting In Vain - Bob Marley

"So don't treat me like a puppet on a string" sings Bob Marley, in what I feel to be one of his more underrated tracks (if you can even call it underrated, maybe less played would be more appropriate).  Waiting In Vain is a beautiful love song with simple, yet emotionally direct lyrics, that are complimented with reggae beats and a lingering guitar solo.

Friday, 27 April 2012

John Mayer - Shadow Days Music Video

The official music video for John Mayer's Shadow Days was released today.  I feel it is an honest reflection of the song - the images and overall direction of the video work well with the lyrics and instrumentation.  I have found some of Mayer's previous videos to be forced and unnatural in places, but he genuinely seems to be in his element in Shadow Days.  I like it almost as much as the Clarity video.

Counting down the days to Born and Raised!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Tommy Marth

I'm very sad to hear today that Tommy Marth, saxophone player with The Killers, has died aged 33.

Marth played on The Killers' 2006 album Sam's Town and it's 2008 follow-up Day & Age.  He also toured with the band in 2008 and 2009, and features in the live line-up on the Live from the Royal Albert Hall dvd, released in 2009.

The Killers have paid tribute to Marth, writing on Twitter: "Last night we lost our friend Thomas Marth. Our prayers are with his family.  There's a light missing in Las Vegas tonight.  Travel well, Tommy."

This is such devastating news.  Day & Age is my favourite Killers album, mainly because I love how much saxophone is featured on many of the tracks.
The songs on this album are great anyway, but the sax really enhances the production, and also marked a new sound for The Killers.  I was fortunate enough to see many of the live shows from the Day & Age era, and thought Marth was a fantastic addition to the live line-up.

Here is my favourite version of Joyride with Marth on sax, which features on the Live from the Royal Albert Hall dvd.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Track of the Day: Release Me - Jack's Mannequin

Release Me is my favourite track off Jack's Mannequin's latest album People & Things.  The track is fast paced from start to finish, with thudding keys and jolting guitar.  Structurally, the song is solid too - Andrew McMahon's lyrics of "My fuse is set, I'm pressing go / Your match is lit, but it's burning slow", create the perfect bridge, making way for a powerful chorus.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Music in the Digital Age

The way in which we obtain and listen to music has changed drastically over the past decade or so.  Thanks to digital music stores such as iTunes (as well as illegal file sharing sites), a fair majority of us are now downloading our music online.
Purchasing music digitally is very convenient, as we can have music in a matter of minutes and often at a cheaper price than buying it from high street music stores.
Purchasing digitally also means we can be more selective and precise by ordering one or two tracks instead of an entire album.  In addition to all of this, many music fans are discovering artists and bands online, either through recommendations based on their browsing and purchasing history, or through music reviews written by fellow music lovers.

However, the boom in digital music has of course led to a major drop in physical album sales, in turn resulting in the closure of many high street music retailers.
This is clearly a major drawback for the music industry, though it could be argued that digital stores such as iTunes, have saved the music industry from the affects of the mass of illegal file sharing sites.

I think another consequence of the rise in digital music is that the relevance of the physical cd and it's artwork is now often sadly overlooked.  Obviously, the quality of music is always the most important aspect of any album, but artwork is also an influential feature and is a reflection of the artist or band who created the album.
Below, I have included a selection of iconic album artwork, from some equally iconic musicians.



Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Track of the Day: Paris Is Burning - Ladyhawke

Influenced by 80's electro pop, Paris Is Burning is the standout track from Ladyhawke's self titled debut album.  Stomping beats and a heavy bass line are complimented by breathy vocals telling us that "Paris is screaming all night long".
Chanting vocals of "I've lost my way, it's hard to find it through / I see the night, but lost all sight of you", complete with raging guitars are a thrilling addition to an already infectious dance song.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Track of the Day: From My Windowsill - The Silver Seas

Featured on the Nashville band's third album Chateau Revenge, From My Windowsill is a wonderfully sublime track with lyrics to match.  "And the taxis are rolling by / And the girls dressed in the latest styles / From the station to the concrete sky / There's no sign of heartbreak for miles and miles" sings lead singer Daniel Tashian, accompanied by backing vocals so melodic, you'll find yourself singing them all day.  My favourite part of the song is the middle 8, in which strings effortlessly layer progressive drums, making way for a beautiful guitar solo.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Upcoming Release: Born and Raised - John Mayer

John Mayer's fifth studio album Born and Raised is to be released on 22 May.
The follow up to 2009's Battle Studies is largely based on a country genre, and this is very much reflected in the first single taken from the album - Shadow Days.
As a huge mayer fan, I have heard many of the tracks from live recordings and can't wait to hear what the final studio versions will sound like.  My favourite so far is Something Like Olivia, and I am beyond excited to hear the final recording of this track when the album is released.

Another point of discussion is the album artwork.  I was shocked when I first saw it, as it is so different from previous album covers.  However this is not a bad thing; Mayer is an artist who is evolving musically with each album, and this artwork is a strong indication of his musical growth.

Track of the Day: Comeback (Light Therapy) - Josh Rouse

Taken from Josh Rouse's fourth studio album 1972, Comeback (Light Therapy) has an irresistible drum beat that draws the listener in from the start.  Lyrically, he is at his best on this track; "The sun is gonna shine in June / The doctor says I'll feel better soon / Fills my vitamin D pills / He hands me the big bill" sings Rouse, accompanied by grooving horns which climax into an equally addictive chorus.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Love is a Four letter Word: Jason Mraz new album and world tour

I'm super excited for Jason Mraz's fourth studio album Love is a Four Letter Word, which is released in the UK on the 16th and in the US on the 17th April.
Other than the first single, I Won't Give Up and The Freedom Song (from the Life Is Good EP), I have avoided listening to any recordings or previews of the songs as I want to wait to hear the completed studio versions.  I really enjoyed the new tracks on the Life Is Good EP; if these songs are an indication of what's to come on Love is a Four Letter Word, fans should be excited.

Last week Mraz announced a world tour, which kicks off on 8 June in South Korea, and runs right through to 1 December, with a date at London's o2 arena.

Tickets go on sale this week.  Click here for the full list of dates!

A perfect live dvd/cd: The Killers Live from the Royal Albert Hall

I watched this dvd for the first time in ages on Saturday night.  It's one of my favourite music dvd's and a must have for any Killers fan.  The accompanying cd of live tracks is also a bonus (wish all bands would do this!)  Anyway, here is a review I wrote for this dvd, around the time of it's release in November 2009 - 

The Killers Live From The Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic live dvd and cd compiled from the Las Vegas band's two night stand at London's Royal Albert Hall on the 5th and 6th July 2009.  The dvd is largely based around their Day & Age album but also features a generous amount of material from their previous albums; Hot Fuss, Sam's Town and the rarities album Sawdust. 

I was lucky enough to be at this concert, so watching this dvd brought back memories from a truly spectacular night.  The band are on top form and Brandon Flowers appears to be in his element, delivering a charismatic performance, with great stage presence and impressive vocals throughout.  Some of the performance highlights for me include This Is Your Life, Joy Ride, Read My Mind and A Dustland Fairytale (during which Flowers strides into the crowd to join in with a fan sing-a-long).  Other highlights include a spine tingling acoustic rendition of Sam's Town, the anthem like All These Things That I've Done and the stunning I Can't Stay, in which Flowers' strong vocals are particularly evident.  Although the dvd centres mostly around the Day & Age album, the setlist provides a varied mixture of tracks from previous albums, including fan favourites Mr Brightside and Somebody Told Me.  My one and only gripe (if you can call it that) with the setlist is that I wish they had of played Neon Tiger as it is my favourite track from the Day & Age album, and it sounds brilliant played live.

On a side note, I love how the dvd is filmed and directed.  The camera following the band as they leave and return to the stage for the encore, complete with backstage shots gives the dvd a real documentary style feel, and makes the viewer feel like they are part of the action.

Dvd extras include performances from various festivals and a behind-the-scenes documentary with interviews from crew and fans.  Whilst the documentary makes for a fascinating watch, it would have been nice to have included an interview with the band themselves.

Overall, Live From The Royal Albert Hall is a thoroughly enjoyable watch from start to finish and is a must have for any fan.  The setlist is fantastic, the band show strong chemistry and musicianship and Flowers is a truly charismatic, talented frontman.  This is the first live dvd/cd from The Killers, hopefully we won't have to wait too long for the next one.