Saturday, 28 February 2009

Marina & the Diamonds - Live Review

Date: 26th February 2009
Location: Southampton Venue: Hamptons

Marina and the Diamonds have been hotly tipped in the music meedja (Arena and Dazed &Confused coverage) as well as sparking off plenty of positive blog chatter, she also sparkled with enough promise to be placed in the coveted "Scratchy's Twelve Grooves of Christmas" back in December. read more here

This talented lady has now embarked on a short tour promotional the debut single, a double A side, called Obsessions/Mowgli's World which is now available on pre-order via Neon Gold Records with the official release day now on the 9th March 2009. She set off a bidding war from fourteen different labels and has now signed an album deal with 679 Recordings (part of the Warner label) The first stop on this tour was in Southampton, so on hearing this exciting news, I rounded up the usual suspects, Morris Chancer, Platterhorn and The Milky Bar Kid for an evening of dad dancing down at Hamptons.

Hamptons is a cracking little venue, which seems to attract a mellow crowd of asymmetrical haircut indie emo students, as well as a cross section of non mainstream music lovers. It was particularly pleasing to see that the management had eschewed the usual design by numbers 'sophisticated' pre club bar makeover, usually lifted off the pages of Wallpaper magazine, for a much more eye catching classic album cover montage, plastered over some of the walls. What can be be more satisfying than to stare at a wall, mentally ticking off each old school gem with a mumble of "got this, got that" whilst supping dodgy lager from a plastic glass? However, just to set the record straight (crappy pun intended) this little parlour game didn't extend to owning the Bruce Willis or Leo Sayer albums.

We only got to catch the tail end of the final support act Arthur due to an unforeseen overrunning hair appointment incident from Mrs Chancer delaying our arrival (I bet NME writers don't have to contend with such issues) but the spirited and spiky set from them, had warmed up the crowd enough for Marina to make her entrance to a keenly anticipating throng. On a side note, the stage is curiously located, effectively in the 'shop window' which must give the impression to passers by, of a window display of fashion dummies having a party after a hard day's standing around showing off haute couture.

No one could accuse Marina of giving a static performance as she launched into an opening number 'Seventeen' with the wild abandon of Cathy calling for Heathcliff through the window. Now eagle eyed readers will spot the Wuthering Heights connection, which segways neatly into all those Kate Bush comparisons that keep popping up in reference to Marina and the Diamonds. Now there certainly is a likeness here and Hazel O'Connor/Regina Spector are also apparent, but there's a unique quality to this lady's singing voice and song writing that defies pigeon holing and bodes well for the future.

The ska/rock inflexion of the second song ‘Girls Girls Girls’ got the crowd bouncing around and this was followed by 'I Am Not A Robot' with the lead singer's energetic theatricals complemented by the backing band settling down and slipping into the groove. The tempo slowed for a passionate performance of the signature tune 'Obsessions' which engaged the waverers in the audience.

Next up was a brave and very enjoyable cover version of Gwen Stefani's 'What You Waiting For' taken from the excellent Love Angel Music Baby album. At this point Marina sized up to the microphone with those cuckoo introductory hollers that opens up 'Mowgli's Road' and got Hamptons bouncing but before we knew it, the lights went up and it was all over.

A short but splendid set of songs from a promising performer, who has the charisma to exude on the stage as well as in the studio. This year, should see Marina and the Diamonds make major strides into the affections of music fans who like classy original indie pop. The one caveat is that I hope there's plenty of new material in the pipeline and that producer Liam Howe can dig out some more songs from Marina's mine of creativity, of the calibre of the half a dozen we heard tonight, they will be needed to take her potential to the next level..

Marina and the Diamonds - Mowgli's Road - BBC Sessions

Upcoming Live Gigs
28 Feb 2009 Stealth Nottingham
01 Mar 2009 Start the Bus Bristol
24 Mar 2009 Fashion Trip ! New York U.S.A
27 Mar 2009 Vassar College (Acoustic Set) Poughkeepsie, New York U.S.A
11 Apr 2009 Get It Loud @ Lancaster Library
24 Apr 2009 Camden Crawl Camden, London
25 Apr 2009 Camden Crawl Camden, London
01 May 2009 London Callin 'Paradiso' Amsterdam
02 May 2009 Live @ Leeds
03 May 2009 Sounds from the Other City Salford
21 May 2009Stag & Dagger (Bar Music Hall) London

Arthur -

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Ubyk - Matryoshka

The "My Comments" section in myspace is rarely fertile territory for uncovering promising new bands. Sometimes it's like the people posting their own musical efforts are being intrusive, like a precocious child in class wanting to be the centre of attention, even though it's not their turn at 'show and tell' Occasionally though, the bait being wiggled on the hook in front of me is potentially interesting enough to me to take a nibble. I'm glad that I did this time as I was intrigued enough by the promise of some stop motion animation, thus I sunk my teeth into a juicy big worm of a tune by an independent L.A. band called Ubyk.

The main protagonists of Ubyk (pronounced yoo-bik) are singer/songwriters Roman Bleum and Samantha Tobey who share vocal and multi-instrumental duties. This lineup is complemented to make a ”mostly” acoustic six-piece, when they perform live.

The name is derived from a story by legendary sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, who imagined a homogenized world run by a powerful and ambiguous organization that owns, creates, and markets everything in existence.

The music of Ubyk weaves together the sun kissed chilled out Sixties folk pop vibes of The Mamas and Papas on an L.A beach, with an all together more disturbing undercurrent of whimsical psychedelic paranoia a la early Pink Floyd or Arthur Lee's Love. Seeping into the mix, is the more traditional musical heritage of Bleum's Russian roots and some melancholy post rock explorations. It's a unsettling but captivating mix, as amply illustrated by the Matryoshka song and the accompanying video of the lonely doll's journey, in search of a place of belonging, to make her complete... She finds it and I'm glad I found Ubyk.

Ubyk- Matryoshka Directed by: Jamie Urman

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Do - On My Shoulders

The are Finnish/French duo, Olivia Bouyssou Merilahti and Dan Levy, who combine to bring together a quirky Scandinavian pop sensibility with a liberal sprinkling of Paris chic to their songwriting. They had a number one hit in France with 'On My Shoulders' taken from the 2008 debut album 'A Mouthful'. This is one of those songs that creeps up on you on the first few plays and surreptitiously gets under your skin, so that before you know it, you're humming the chorus and pressing repeat on the mp3 player. Olivia's precocious vocals are infectious, as they hook the listener in, with high maintenance mannerisms and Dan is not afraid to push the envelope with his jackdaw like eclectic musical style, but always keeping one eye on a decent melody. It's released in the U.K on Monday 09th February 2009 and is well worth checking out. Enjoy!

The - 'On My Shoulders' from 'A Mouthful'

Baskery - Live Review

Date: Thursday 05th February 09 Location: Southampton U.K Venue: Joiners Arms

Scratchy's resident folk expert Morris Chancer had put out the word that this was a show worth checking out. There was a a good turnout at the legendary earthy venue, considering the midweek slot and the intermittent sleet and rain outside. Those who made the effort, were rewarded with a thrilling set from these Swedish trio of sisters known as Baskery, who put in a thigh slapping, high energy burst of music described as 'killbilly' 'banjo punk' and 'mud-country' However you describe it, the effect warmed the chilly bones of the enthralled audience.

Greta Bondesson manages to play six-stringed banjo, tambourine, kick, snare, harmonica and sing some vocals sometimes all at once, it's an impressive feat of musicianship for sure. Sunniva attacks her acoustic guitar with intensity whilst holding the primary vocal duties and Stella grapples with the Double bass with aplomb and completes the vocal duties. Together, they served their musical apprenticeship in in a family band, forming The Slaptones in 1999, with their father on drumming duties. They signed to EMI, released two albums, 'Simplify' in 2003 and 'Amplify' in 2004, as well as touring the U.S.A.

In 2006 they streamlined the band to the three piece and acquired the Baskery moniker and have released a debut album called 'Fall Among Thieves' on the independent Veranda label. The sessions were guided by the expertise of Lasse Mårtén (Lykke Li, Pink, Peter Bjorn & John etc) at Decibel Studios in Stockholm. The focus was to recreate the energy of the live performances by capturing the songs "live" in the studio in a couple of takes without the need for overdubs, if possible. Baskery are essentially a living breathing live band, who function best in front of a crowd, that appreciate charged up traditional music.

These girls are, in truth, a bit of a marketing team dream, with a photogenic image combining with a confident stage manner built from ten years of gigging under their belts and a lifetime of sibling interaction to draw from. Their sound conjures up an image of Throwing Muses doing Johnny Cash songs with a chirp towards the Dixie Chicks. The three way harmonies brought to my mind, the sirens in the river scene from the film Oh Brother Where Art Thou, with Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris performing a sultry 'Didn't Leave Nobody but The Baby' but cranked up to top speed in a perky punk style. They head out to the States for a short tour. Just as The Rolling Stones took their influences from traditional American blues, back in the early 1960's, then sent back a souped up version to it's homeland, Baskery are set to do the same, this time though it's the Swedish invasion...

Last night's result: Swedes 3 - Turnips 1derful night
(with apologies to The Sun headline writers and Graham Taylor)

Baskery - Veranda Records - Promo Piece

Baskery - One Horse Down - from 'Fall among Thieves'

Tours Dates
Feb 16 2009 New York, USA Rodeo Bar
Feb 18-22 2009 Memphis, USA Folk Alliance Conference website
Feb 22 2009 Nashville, USA 3rd and Lindsley website
Mar 28 2009 Bonn, Germany Rockpalast-Crossroads
May 30 2009 Beverungen, Germany O.B.S. Festival
May 31 2009 Beverungen, Germany

Scratchy's Collecting Tips Number 09

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Ironville - Roses

Ironville are a seven piece Swedish band featuring Henrik Öhberg, who has crossed our radar before, via the Swedish micro record label Knoppar. Henrik has many of his talented sticky fingers in various musical pies with a solo project, that goes under the banner of Tvärvägen, as well as being half of a psychedelic hip hop duo called Amok.

Ironville, who formed in 2004, have an album called 'Welcome to Ironville' in the ironpipeline, which was recorded in the studio of Konie. They have just released a charming video to the song Roses (produced by Ironville and Markus Krunegård) that will beguile you with it's catchy and bouncy beat.

Roses announces it's arrival in in jaunty manner right from the violin intro, then lunges into an indie parlour tune that guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The vocal performance teeters on the edge of being strident, but Emelie Bååth's singing is actually rather lovely, like a homespun jumper that needs a bit of wearing in to bring out the furry soft patches and then soon becomes a wardrobe favourite.

The accompanying video is a visual prescription to lift the spirits. The illustrations and animation are by the boy wonder Henrik, who has animated snorkeling cats, bubble wrapped crabs and brassy beaked birds in a sweet naive style, what more could you ask for!

Ironville have a philosophy in that their band should have lots of lead singers and as many instruments on stage as possible. Well, it seems to be working and here's hoping their song writing continues to keep coming up roses...