Tuesday, 26 June 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Plant Plants EP2 Review

Find the original review HERE

Thankfully, the sounds that the awkwardly named Plant Plants make are more creative than their titling skills, as they follow up their debut EP, the unimaginatively titled “EP,” with the equally, functionally christened “EP2.”

As their parallel namesake suggests, Plant Plants are a dual musical act, comprised of Hackney-based friends Stuart Francis and Howard Whatley, who came to work together in 2010 in the sad circumstances of the loss of a few mutual friends and making music the vehicle to release their energies. Naturally, the result is a subdued one, but with a distinctive level of intricacy to Plant Plants’ warped melodies on this four track EP.
The pairs’ fondness for 90s hip hop pronounces itself in their deployment of heavy beats yet it’s an influence they skew with unusual guitar tunings, effects and loops that glaze each track with a spaced-out electro drone. The multiple dreamy layers and the wandering vocals that blend into the atmospherics of tracks like 'One To Adore' and 'Repeaters' sees this shoegazing duo constructing spacious soundscapes.
This EP as a whole benefits from production coming courtesy of Simian Mobile Disco's Jas Shaw and the copious amount of samples Plant Plants incorporate; all of which are the products of live instrumental recordings, rather than digital laptop creations. It’s this organic approach to their craft that separates Plant Plants from unfeeling, robotic electonica and gives their music a hazy wash of warmth.

Words: Kate Allen

Written for IDOL

Monday, 25 June 2012

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

I Like... Doing things well / "This shit is so cold, it belong in Alaska"

So after three years of studying, three years of university fees and approximately eight mental meltdowns, I have finished and passed my English Literature degree at the University of Reading.

What a fanfare and what bliss I experienced yesterday as my academic achievement and commitment was recognised and presented to me in the form of a blank envelope and a single sheet of paper. There are only two words on it that matter, so an A4 sheet actually seems quite wasteful.


The last thing I need to work on before I totally check out of Reading is my smile for my graduation photo. Wish me luck.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

I Like... Twinkling Trees / Inside Neverland



This footage inside Neverland is amazing.

It was shot in a camera reherasal during the set-up for the Oprah Winfrey Interview in 1993.

It's so sad this property no longer exists in this form.

Me waving my arms with sheer joy and delight just at being near some Neverland stuff

Thursday, 14 June 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Two Wounded Birds Album Review

Find the original review HERE

Debut albums are an exercise in marking one’s territory and making your intentions clear. Both objectives are unequivocally achieved by the Margate foursome Two Wounded Birds on their self-titled premier LP. This is a record with the singular and admirable mission of resurrecting the pure 1950s/60s vision of rock n roll, and it’s brought to you by a band that attack said mission with guts and gusto.

Exemplary of this band’s voracious energy and their healthy appetite for classic rock n roll is opening track ‘Together Forever’. It is two minutes of unceasing vitality laden with insatiable guitar and lyrical hooks, and made all the more enticing by the youthful, chaste yearnings being extolled by front man Johnny Danger. As this song comes to its crisp end I defy you, firstly, not to instantly listen to it again, and then be ravenous for the rest of this album.

The flipside to the skiffle high jinks of tracks like ‘Together Forever,’ ‘To Be Young’ and ‘It’s Not Up To You’ is the band’s brooding surf jams. Although The Beach Boys are a clear and chief influence on this band, the surf sounds that Two Wounded Birds brandish are of a distinctly overcast temperament. The ominous tones of ‘Night Patrol’ and ‘My Lonesome’ are a world away from the happy-go-lucky associations the surf genre generally carries, and allows the band to luxuriate in a reincarnation of surf music that is markedly their own. Their modern melancholia is similar in sentiment to that of The Drums, who, incidentally, were early supporters of the band as The Drums helped the band release their first EP in 2010 and took them on tour. However, the masterful and gorgeous misery of ‘If Only We Remain’ and ‘No Goodbyes’ are plain indicators that Two Wounded Birds have surpassed their patrons, and it feels like Johnny Danger is wasting his talents and time moonlighting as a guitarist for The Drums as he is arguably made for front man fame.

Two Wounded Birds are more than another new guitar band on the block; they are anachronistic rock n roll purists free of pretension or gimmicks, whose short, sharp compositions (which rarely venture past the three and a half minute mark) vary between being infectious and haunting through the simple but vital virtue of out-and-out great melodies and hooks. And although their obvious USP is their retro nod to surf pop, we would not dream of tarnishing them with the “summer band” label. And just as a dog is for life, not just for Christmas, good surf music is for life, not just for summer.

-Kate Allen

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / IDOL TOP 5: TRACKS OF THE WEEK


Find the original blog post HERE

Blood Orange – I’m Sorry We Lied
The ever-creative Dev Hynes releases yet another brooding new-wave number from his seemingly indefatigable Costal Grooves LP, and with the surf dashed I’m Sorry We Lied comes a neon-lit short film featuring motorbikes and murder.


Two Wounded Birds – If Only We Remain
Another down-beat surf track you need to hear this week comes from Two Wounded Birds who too have produced some lusciously dark visuals to accompany this subdued lead single from their debut album, which, I’m saying it, is the best album release of the year so far.


Beach House – Lazuli
Sticking to their trademark hushed electronica, Beach House’s latest release is yet another piece of ethereal escapism from their highly acclaimed fourth album Bloom.


MS MR – Hurricane
Taking early PR tips from Summer Camp, New York twosome MS MR are keeping their identity cards close to their chests. And when it comes to the video for their debut single, they are markedly following the DIY lead Lana Del Rey brought to the mainstream. Their on-edge, dark pop sound, however, is all their own and you can pick up a free download of Hurricane from the band’s official site.


Bobby Womack feat. Lana Del Rey – Dayglo Reflection
Speaking of Lana Del Rey, take a listen to her elegant vocals on this Bobby Womack track Dayglo Reflection, which is dominated by wandering piano lines and dictating drums, but also borrows the cinematic strings so beloved of Ms Del Rey which her voice glides over with ease.


Words by Kate Allen

Written for IDOL

Sunday, 10 June 2012

I Like... Iconic / Annie are you okay?

Iconic is the best Michael Jackson fanzine around. FACT.


The latest issue is out now and looks at the running theme of the "gangster" in Michael's music and videos. Interesting stuff. (Please note the use of Michael Jackson's own handwriting on the cover - so cool.)

Order a copy HERE and find out what other amazing stuff is in the mag.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

I Like... School being out / The Mushpit Issue #3

The latest issue of the The Mushpit is avaliable now.


Order a copy HERE - which you so should as it contains vital career advice, school days nostalgia and my new column "Girl Talk" which sees cool girls in cool bands talking about cool, girl stuff.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Interview with I Am A Camera

Find the original interview HERE


Already courting comparisons with their avant-garde forerunners Goldfrapp, the electro pop duo I Am A Camera (made up of Mancunian Francesca Ross and Northern Irish Ian Watt) discuss their cultural influences with IDOL.

How are you both doing today? What have you been up to?

Francesca: We’re good, thank you. We’ve been doing interviews and we had a photo shoot this morning in the baking sun, which was fabulous. We’ve had a great day.

Can you tell us about the source of inspiration for the band name?

F: Well it’s taken from a quote [“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking” - Christopher Isherwood, “Goodbye to Berlin”]. It’s all about being passive and watching, and that’s what we do a lot with our song writing. We sit back and look at things, and look into things a bit deeper. It can be like a woman we see on the tube, or we really like “60 Minute Makeover” and, like, there can be a bitchy friend in that that you can tell is thinking, “That should have been my house!” So we think about people and what actually goes on inside the mind and behind closed curtains. That’s where a lot of the subjects and things that we think about when writing songs are about, like mundane things and how they can be transformed. So there’s that element of it and then the book itself is fabulous. It’s about Berlin at that time [1930s] and everything that was going on, with all the parties, but then on the other side, the Nazis coming through as well. We feel like it’s quite relevant now as well because no one can do anything these days without being recorded, whether it’s on Facebook or CCTV, we are all being watched all the time, in one way or another.

So how did the two of you come together as a band? Ian, we heard that you saw Francesca working as part of another band and decided you wanted to work with her.

Ian: Yeah, that’s right. I had been writing and producing with a few people, and I had actually been asked to go and see Francesca’s band and to work with them. The band were great, I had heard of them for about six months beforehand, but when I was watching I was thinking, “I really want to work with her.” It was Francesca’s voice, the tone and the way she sings. I just had a really good gut feeling about her. But obviously I didn’t get the job! But that was fine because Francesca contacted me a few weeks after.

F: I felt the same thing about Ian when we met that night because of all things that we have in common. It was a mutual thing – that’s why I contacted him; mutual appreciation.

I: So Francesca started travelling to London three days a week and crashing at mine and we built like a home studio. So we worked on a track called “Without You” and we just had a really good feeling about it and it was like, “I think we’re onto something.”

What kind of music were you playing in your previous band, Francesca? Was it different to I Am A Camera’s sound?

F: It was different, I mean, it was still electronic music but it was very much around that time of New Rave, and it was a bit less structured, shall we say.

I: Shambolic! It was a bit more punk.

F: We were just friends in our late teens and we wrote everything whilst we were drunk. It was still synth based but apart from that, this is much different.

Now that you two have joined forces, what is your creative process like?

I: We have a little studio and it’s covered in things like cult movie posters, things that we rip out of magazines and just things for inspiration. And when we start writing it’s just me and Francesca in the room and we just battle it out. We tend to have a strong idea of what each of us wants, and generally there’s a really good middle ground between the two, so it’s just finding that. We also both are visually aware of how we want the band to look, so we want to keep on shooting all our videos and keeping them all our own ideas. We work on our videos in the same way that we work on the music because it’s just such a huge part of it. It means that we get to push ourselves that little bit harder. It’s quite challenging but to do it and then finish it we get to feel like, “Yeah, we rocked that.”

You seem to be a band that draws inspiration from really defined sources, like your forthcoming single “Factory Boys.” Can you tell us about the story behind this song?

F: It’s the story of these twins, these two guys from New York. They were two country boys who were waiters, for Martha Stewart actually, and they ended up going to Studio 54 and because they were so charming and really beautiful boys they dabbled their way right into the centre of the whole Andy Warhol and Halston circle. It was such an amazing scene and the crowd that was there, and they ended up being the centre of all that. Warhol was giving them screen prints and all kinds of other amazing stories that happened to them. And we just heard the story and were fascinated by it. It was a great subject for a song. Everything that was going in New York at that time with Warhol’s Pop Art is what we’ve taken away for the video as well.

You filmed that video on your iPhones – do you embrace working in such a DIY fashion?

F: Yes. I think that because of the song and the story behind it and everything that goes along with it, for us to then hand it over to someone else to come up with a concept for the video and give their ideas on it, I think we became control freaks about the whole thing. It was just an extension to do the video ourselves. That’s the way that we will always want it to be.

What plans do you have coming up? You’re playing Lovebox in June – are you playing at any other festivals?

F: Well, we have a few gigs coming up in and around London, and Lovebox and then another festival in Spain.

I: Which I’m sure will be a very sober affair!

F: I think next year will be our big festival year. We just want to focus on getting the album done and finished. So we’ll concentrate on the album and then have a fabulous summer of festivals next year. We’ll still go to them this year, but to enjoy them.

You did a remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die.” Any more remix work coming up?

I: No, the whole Lana thing came up because we had met her before “Video Games” came out. She came down to a gig we were playing at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen, and she loved it, which was great for us and her manager just asked us directly. We don’t have anything else like that lined up but we are totally open to it. But we’re not going to do a Steps remix or a Westlife reinvention, or anything like that! I mean, with the Lana thing, it’s a fantastic song so we didn’t want to do a dance remix but we wanted to do something that was different to what was there. I was just thinking of her vocal and nothing else.

Finally, who are your idols?

I: My idol is Prince. I have quite a few idols though; I’m quite obsessive about people. I also like John Carpenter who made a lot of movies in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. He wrote all the soundtracks, and wrote them and directed them and all that; a lot of dark sci-fi movies.

F: My idol, not in the sense of trying to be like them or look like them, but I would say Joey Ramone just because and love him and his vibe. And also, just because Ian got to say two, I will say Karen O as well – I love her. I’ll stop at two, but I could go on!

Interview: Kate Allen

 Written for IDOL

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

I Like... Unexpected cover versions / The Thrills "Billie Jean"

I am, of course, a huge Michael Jackson fan and am/was (I never know the correct tense when referring to fandom of a no longer operating band) a big fan of The Thrills, yet this cover version of Billie Jean has only just made itself known to me.

The lyrics are played fast and loose with, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

Friday, 1 June 2012

I Like... How fascinating this is / Crazy for you



This letter from Michael Jackson to Lisa Marie Presley is so fascinating.

What was in the "smell here" box?

Why doesn't he write on the lines?

Are you as intrigued as I am by the sweet sign off of "IM' [sic] CRAZY FOR YOU" to such a pained letter?

Why is his pen name "Turd"?

Michael Jackson's child-like penmanship, non-standard use of captilisation, incorrect spellings and grammer mistakes are intriguing enough in their own right.

Any MJ fans out there willing to put together a book of Michael Jackson letters and notes? It would be an amazing project.