Archive for March, 2012

Iv just got hayfever for the first time ever so here are ten songs helping me with being stuck inside this week while everyone else enjoys the sun.

1. The Cribs “Come On Be A No-One”

2. Wild Beasts “All The King’s Men”

3. Arctic Monkeys “R U Mine”

4. Art Brut “Bad Weekend”

5. Sound of Rum “Icarus”

6. Blood Red Shoes “Cold”

7. The Hair “Blood”

8. Public Enemy “Harder Than You Think”

9. Dead Social Club “Stockholm”

10. Immortal Technique “Hollywood Driveby”

 I have been a fan of Blood Red Shoes for a while now. The first two albums, “Box of Secrets” and “Fire Like This”, are great indie/punk albums but “In Time to Voices” is more like a pop/punk album. It is a more measured and mature album, but equally as good if not better than the previous two. Laura-Mary Carter’s voice seems to have matured also. During the course of this album she provides beautiful soothing vocals in “Night Light” and “Two Dead Minutes”, then powerful punk vocals in “Cold” and “Je Me Perds” reminiscent of Sonic Youth. In “In Time to Voices” she covers the full range of her vocal skills and Steven Ansell’s vocals compliment Carter’s perfectly in all tracks.

Having heard “Cold” so much on the radio recently, and finding myself constantly singing the chorus in my head, I was eager to see how the rest of the album would stand up to the quality of that track. Occasionally you buy an album on the basis of one song and you are completely let down but this is not the case with this album. On the first day I got it I only had time to listen to the first three tracks before I had to go out and I loved every one of them. These tracks are powerful and uplifting and I was excited to hear the remainder of the album. After these three comes a few slower songs which makes “Je Me Perds”, the heaviest track on the album, feel all the more anthemic when it kicks in.

The instrumentation and writing within this album impressed me. At times there is something almost ethereal about the slower tracks and the heavier ones feel like great punk songs with plenty of snare. There are a couple of tracks which start off slow then build perfectly; these tracks are impressive from both a performance and a production point of view.

The whole album is well worth buying but my stand-out tracks are “In Time to Voices”, “Lost Kids”, “Cold” and “Je Me Perds”.

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Posted: March 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

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This week I have conducted an interview with Ville Leppanen co-founder of The Animal Farm, which he runs alongside his brother Mat. The Animal Farm is a very interesting project as they are not just a label. They produce the records, manage the artists and run the label, as well as acting as a bookings agency and publishing company.  I was interested to find out more about this company, its history and its future plans.

Ville and Mat hail from Finland and were in the punk band Snowdogs. During their career in Snowdogs they were signed to Victory Records US and toured with Blink 182, Alkaline Trio, At The Drive-in, The Ataris and Less Than Jake amongst others.

After 20 years as musicians they began to tire of touring and the studio they had invested in was attracting interest from other musicians. The Leppanen brothers were also getting requests to produce and write music so they saw this as a natural starting point.

“This was around 2004-2005 when iTunes kicked off, broadband penetration happened, MySpace got popular. All of a sudden the way in which artists were discovered and developed changed,” Ville explains.

“No longer did labels have to sign a band, make a record and market it to find out if anyone liked it. They could just watch what was happening online. Neither were artists in a position where either they got a deal or they were fucked. It changed a lot of the dynamics that we’d grown up with as musicians.”

 They decided that if they were going to get involved with unknown bands they needed to be able to provide the whole range of services the band would need to get their career going. During their time in Snowdogs the brothers noticed that the relationship between the artists and the label needed to be more of a partnership rather than labels owning and exploiting the talent. They wanted to create parity and equality so that both sides were taking the risks and when it came good the profits were shared fairly.  

As their business grew they were able to offer more and more to the artists. The philosophy The Animal Farm adopts is simple but effective” if you work hard, work smart, write a great song and make a great record you will succeed just don’t ever give up.“

The name The Animal Farm came from the title of a Snowdogs album, inspired by Ville reading George Orwell’s book of the same name as a child. In the book the animals have chants about four legs being better than two. As the animal revolution changed so did the chants to fit the political angle the rulers were taking. This struck a chord with Ville and his views on the music industry.

“The music business is a lot like it in that people like to convince themselves about the merit of whatever they’re doing. Study the debates on giving away free music or not giving it away, how great Spotify is or how shit it is, and so on – all depending on who’s talking. I find it funny. The only thing worth thinking about is this: the music business is based on songs and records. If you have a great song and a great record you can enter the ring and be a contender. If you don’t, no matter what chant you bleat, you won’t get a career.”

In the very beginning the company was run by Ville and Mat who did everything between themselves, but now the company has grown they have a team behind them as well as international partners.

All the artists on their roster have approached The Animal Farm wanting to work with them, they do not use scouts. When they receive a demo they look for four main attributes in prospective artists- the ability to write good songs, the ability to perform them, commitment and a long-term attitude to their career and enthusiasm and drive.

In recent years the company/label has had a hand in the careers of acts such as Esteban, Everything Everything and The Dum Dums. Their current roster includes iremembertapes, The Manic Shine, Violet Bones, Athletes In Paris, Rocketeer, Your New Antique and Dead Social Club.

This label strikes me as being very artist friendly and not purely profit driven. I asked Ville if this was a fair assumption. “We’re very friendly guys and I think that comes across in what we do. Making money wasn’t high on the agenda in our childhood home. We were taught that there are more important things in life than chasing the dollar.” 

“When you run a business you have to make money. Artists sometimes think the music business operates as a charity designed to give them the opportunity to drink beer while people with connections make stuff happen. Or they think that it’s all evil and horrible and out to get them. The truth is perhaps somewhere in the middle.”

I consider The Animal Farm to be, in some ways, a modern day version of Factory Records (but with more business sense). There are definitely similarities in their attitude towards treatment of the artists and how it should be a partnership between both parties. When I asked Ville if they considered themselves to be similar to Factory Records he was incredibly humble, saying: “I’m chuffed that you should mention us in the same sentence as them. Honestly.”

During April iremembertapes will be touring and The Manic Shine and Violet Bones will be gigging in May and June. Your New Antique have an album launch on the 31st of March at the Parish in Huddersfield and the entire roster have albums and singles due out over the course of the year.  

So what plans do The Animal Farm have for the rest of 2012 and in the future?

“We’re expanding our publishing/sync side. Our booking agency has started doing well. We want to break a band nationally and take them to international markets. Here’s a goal: that when next we get mentioned in the same sentence with Factory, I won’t go red in the face.”

The Voice

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Music
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When I read the concept behind the new BBC show “The Voice” I had high hopes that this would be the anti-X Factor and would therefore be exactly what the music industry needs to get it back on track. So I tuned in on Saturday evening hoping that this would be a step in the right direction for reality T.V……….I shouldn’t have bothered.

The show allows acts to be judged on their voice alone. The BBC bills this aspect of the show as if it is something unique and a new way of thinking. Judging people on their talent alone is a really crazy and a new way of doing things…….oh no, wait….it’s what used to happen and what should have continued to happen all along!!!!

“The Voice” has so much potential. Of course artists should be judged on their talent alone and having mentors hone their talents and progress them is always a good idea. I also like the idea that if more than one judge wishes to mentor them then the artist is allowed to make the decision themselves as to who they go with (it is their career after all).

Sadly the potential of this programme has been wasted and turned into the X Factor but with some minor alterations.

I was disappointed by, Tom Jones, Jessie J and Danny from The Script as the choices for the programme’s mentors. No one can dispute that Tom Jones has had a fantastic career and had a great voice in the past but he hasn’t achieved much in the last 10 years at least. Danny from The Script is a man who possesses no talent, but yet he is judging a talent competition (that’s like a member of N-Dubz judging a talent competition……….oh).

Jessie J is by far the best of the lot. She writes her own stuff and is a very good singer, my only criticism would be that her career has only just started and has been very short so I’m not sure how much she can offer as a mentor.

Finally we come to (or as I like to call him). I’m not convinced he has any talent of his own and listening to him was so annoying that I would rather straddle a porcupine….naked…. than listen to him constantly boasting!

My main disappointment with “The Voice” was that the majority of the contestants picked to audition in front of the judges were contestants that would have been at home in the first few live shows of the X Factor. The first act was a young girl who had taken a Jessie J song and done her own acoustic version of it. This impressed me as she had shown some creativity but the contestants all went downhill from there.

The only positive I took from the show was the woman who suffered with alopecia selecting Jessie J as her mentor. This woman was clearly a very good singer and had this been the X Factor she wouldn’t have got anywhere on account of her condition and because she was older than 25.

Only 5 years ago I was regularly going record shopping in Leeds and Manchester. Each city has at least a couple of shops where the latest releases were easy to come by on vinyl and even HMV used to stock a small selection. I used to love going into vinyl shops grabbing as many records as I could, that I thought had a chance of appealing to me, and taking them over to the listening points. I could spend hours in each shop listening and then buying the ones I loved. Picking up a record which you had never heard of, and had no prior knowledge of the people involved in producing it, and listening to it and instantly loving it is an indescribably good feeling. Vinyl shops were friendly and exciting places to be, the staff were always really helpful and passionate about the music they stocked. I could walk into any vinyl shop in England and say to the staff behind the counter “have you got anything Paul Woolford, James Zabiela or Steve Lawler might play?” The vast majority of staff in these shops would know who these people were and know which tracks they were supporting. Their knowledge and help didn’t stop at that though, they would pass you records and say things like “this has just come in and it’s in a similar vein to what you’re looking for”. I have had some great records recommended to me by staff, records I would not have picked up for myself. One of my favourite house records of all time was recommended to me. I was in Crash Records in Leeds about 5 or 6 years ago and I was in the process of listening to the armful of records Darius Syrossian had recommended to me. Darius is a fantastic DJ and producer who is doing really well for himself. He was always really helpful and had a visible passion for the records he stocked. I took my headphones off to get the next record to listen to and I could hear that Darius was playing a track on the shop’s speaker system. I immediately stopped what I was doing and asked what that track was. He informed me it was “Flederlaus” by Stefan Tretau. I instantly loved it and asked to buy a copy but all the copies they had in were pre-orders. Darius then said they were getting more copies in four days so I could pre-order one. I lived a fair way away from Leeds and wouldn’t be coming back so soon. Darius then rang someone who had pre ordered it and asked if they would be collecting it in the next four days; they said they would be coming in a week for it so Darius let me buy one of the reserved copies. This level of customer service would never happen in HMV.

This level of customer service won’t happen anywhere anymore because the majority of vinyl shops have closed down or scaled down beyond recognition. I blame Beatport for this. When a label wanted to release something years ago they had to make CDs and press vinyl and commission artwork, this is a costly process so therefore you knew if, for example, Leftroom Records had gone to the trouble of releasing something on vinyl it was going to be good. Many labels still only release records they believe in but when you look on Beatport you can tell there are a lot of labels releasing any old rubbish in the hope of it making even the smallest amount of money. Because releasing something as a download doesn’t carry the cost that releasing something on a physical format does. Many DJs have stopped playing vinyl now and you can’t really blame them, it’s a lot more difficult to get hold of. You can still get it on the internet but you can only listen to a clip of it, not the whole thing before you buy, and that’s just not the same. There are still many DJs who play music that noone has heard before and see it as their job to educate the audience but they are being eclipsed by DJs who only play tracks people already know and make music that sounds just like everything else in the charts.

An example of this is David Guetta. You don’t have to go too far back in time to find David Guetta playing terraces in Ibiza playing records you may not have heard before and producing music that I actually like and think is credible. If you look at David Guetta now he is making music which to me all sounds the same and collaborating with just any old pop star. He is a millionaire but to get there he has had to sell out, in my opinion. This situation will only get worse when Simon Cowell and Will Smith start their DJ Idol competition. It will get harder and harder for talented and credible DJs to get a platform. Simon Cowell and Will Smith deciding whether or not someone is a good DJ to me is like Pete Burns and Anne Widdecombe judging a natural beauty competition.

Here are 15 songs that make me feel like life is maybe worth persisting with. Hopefully there will be some songs in here that you may not be aware of. I see it as my job to bring this light into people’s lives. I’m not comparing myself to Jesus though, mainly because he is not real and also because, I’m better.  So here it is, enjoy.

1. Chow Chow “Lost In The 3D’s”

I hate dancing but this song makes me want to dance around the room and jump up and down. The breakdown and chorus are fantastic. Really upbeat, Love it.

2. Baxendale “I Built This City (Michael Mayer Mix)”

A lovely little minimal house track. It builds from the start and there is only one chorus right at the end which the whole track builds towards. Very cleverly produced and a huge favourite of mine. The artwork on the vinyl is great too and is the background for the video below.

3. The Roots “The Seeds”

This song is so effortlessly cool and funky. A great combination of funk and rap and the lyrics are all innuendoes but complete filth, always a winner.

4. The Horrors “I Can See Through You”

The Horrors seem to get better with every album and this is easily my favourite song of theirs. Really uplifting and I can see people going mad for this in clubs.

5. M83 “Midnight City (Eric Prydz Private Remix)”

The original track is good but this remix is so much better. Typical Eric Prydz track but as good as you would expect it to be.

6. At The Drive-In “Enfilade”

“Relationships of Command” is one of those albums which I feel doesn’t get the credit it deserves and this is my favourite track from this album. It’s powerful and makes you want to mosh.

7. Bob Dylan “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”

Really upbeat and more like a story set to music than a song. The lyrics are really clever and Bob Dylan’s sense of humour comes through in them. Can only find this live version which isn’t as good as the recording but is still good.

8. The Black Keys “Little Black Submarines”

Beautiful to begin with then heavy and euphoric.

9. Miike Snow “Paddling Out”

This track just generally makes me happy and I find it impossible not to sing along with the chorus.

10. Grinderman “Palaces of Montezuma”

The lyrics are beautiful and romantic and the music is beautiful. Nick Cave is a genius.

11. Erick Morillo feat P Diddy “Dance I Said (Touche Vocal Mix)”

P Diddy on an electro house track shouldn’t work but it really does. His vocal combined with the female vocal works really well. This track seems to be building all the time and I really like how it is on three levels.

12. The Exhibition “Beginning & Ending”

An example of why they are such a good band and deserve more recognition.

13. Lil Kim “Lighters Up (Welcome to Brooklyn)”

I have been obsessed with this since it came out in 2007. Nice to rap along to if like me you have listened to it so much you know the words off by heart.

14. Lone Wolf “Keep Your Eyes On The Road”

A brilliantly clever, and beautiful, song with a very catchy chorus. The video is quite literally a work of art. The only criticism is that it has been cleaned up for this video. In the original the lyric is “wondering how I fucked this up” which I think is far better than “wondering how I messed this up”.

15. Led Zeppelin “When the Levee Breaks”

Last but by no means least an example of how truly talented Led Zeppelin were.

Before being asked to review this track by the band themselves I was unaware of Dead Social Club, although the name was familiar. Having listened to this track and some of their past work I am now a fan. “Stockholm” is a quality track which I liked from the first listen.

This song has a great structure to it. I love the way it builds leading up to each chorus. The breakdown in the middle builds so perfectly it creates a genuine excitement within me. I find myself willing the chorus to kick back in but also wishing to be teased for longer by the breakdown. The drums have a disco feel to them which works very well alongside the keys and funky bass. This is a very good indie track complimented with a compelling vocal performance; I particularly enjoy the way he sings the word “island”.

Dead Social Club are a six piece from London. They have already enjoyed a good start with radio plays on BBC6 Music and playing support for the likes of The Foals and Bloc Party. When listening to them I find some similarities to the Yorkshire band Alvarez Kings (, which I am a big fan of, but yet I find Dead Social Club to be pretty unique. I have been very impressed with what I have heard from them so far but don’t just take my word for it have a listen yourself (

They have upcoming shows in London and I hope they will soon embark on a UK tour so I can catch them live up in Yorkshire.