Getting ready for 2015 part 3: Laura Welsh

To my shame, I must have missed a couple of emails about Laura Welsh, because this sounds brilliant. Gorgeous, soft-electro-pop the sort to delight daytime radio and trendies alike, if there’s any justice.

Staffordshire-born but London based, Laura Welsh worked with a number of big names on her forthcoming debut album, Soft Control including (deep breath!): ODev Hynes, Robin Hannibal (from R&B minimalists Rhye, Jonathan Lipsey (Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse) on ‘Ghosts’, Greg Kurstin (The Shins, Beck, Lily Allen), Emile Haynie (Lana Del Ray, Kanye West), Scissor Sisters’ Babydaddy and Amanda Ghost. The album also includes awith John Legend, ‘Hardest Part’.

For fans of Florence and the Machine, Sia and Paloma Faith – but on the evidence of this, people might be saying for fans of Laura Welsh.

The album tracklisting for Soft Control, which is released on January 19, is as follows:

1. Soft Control
2. Ghosts (stream at the top of the page!)
3. Break The Fall
4. Unravel
5. God Keeps
6. Cold Front
7. Hardest Part
8. Still Life
9. Breathe Me In
10. Call To Arms
11. Hollow Drum

Three of these tracks can br streamed below:

Getting ready for 2015 part 2: Alasdair Roberts

Blimey, 2014’s not yet over, but already the signs are that 2015 is going to be another good year for music. January 26 will see Scotland’s Alasdair Roberts release his eighth solo album, through Drag City and this time it’s a self-titled effort. At the top of the page you can stream the first track to do the rounds ‘Artless One,’ as well as see the artwork.

The tracklisting for the record is as follows:

1. The Way Unfavoured
2. Honour Song
3. The Problem of Freedom
4. Artless One
5. Hurricane Brown
6. The Final Diviner
7. In Dispraise of Hunger
8. The Mossy Shrine
9. This Uneven Thing
10. Roomful of Relics

Getting ready for 2015 part 1: The Very Best

I’ve covered the fantastic The Very Best on 17 Seconds before. In 2009, their debut Warm Heart Of Africa and in 2012 their second album MTMTMK both earned ****1/2 on this very blog.

The band – who are Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and Swedish producer Johan Hugo – are set to return in Spring next year with their as-yet-untitled third album. The first track to be released is the chilled and hypnotic ‘Hear Me,’ the video for which was released yesterday and you can stream at the top of the page.

Whilst I am usually loath to simply copy and paste an entire press release – in this case, I believed it to be worth it.

“Of the track, Johan Hugo says: “We wrote this song in May 2014, just days before the Malawi general elections. It was also the 50th anniversary of Malawi independence from colonial rule. One day we where sitting outside the house listening to the radio and Joyce Banda (the president that day) was talking about something to do with the election and progress, or lack of progress for Malawi as a nation. We put an iPhone next to the radio and recorded her voice. Thats the voice you can hear at the beginning of the song. Esau really wanted to write a song about the corruption, poverty and struggle of Malawi, and how frustrated he was about the fact that very little has changed since independence. We recorded the whole song that day, and the next day we asked the local church choir to come in and record some choir vocals for it. As with most vocals and instrumentation on this record, we recorded them outdoors, on the beach, singing the bridge and last chorus with Esau. Back in London a month later Chris Baio from Vampire Weekend came in and played bass on the song.”

Of the video he adds: “The Hear Me video was shot in M’dala Chikowa village in south Malawi, on Lake Malawi. M’dala Chikowa was also the location for the writing and recording of the album. Between writing songs and recording we would climb the mountains above the lake and set the camera up to take time lapses. Any time we wanted a break we would bring the camera on a tripod to the shop or to someone’s house and always leave it taking time lapses. We would sit for hours in the dark while the camera clicked away, working on a song, tweaking melodies or words. Mosquitos everywhere. Sometimes we would leave the camera running and trek back to the house, hoping no one would find it.”

Interview – New Street Adventure

New Street Adventure

In which 17 Seconds catches up with a hungover Nick Corbin from New Street Adventure, and find out from the singer about redneck weddings in Stoke Newington and why they’re not a political band.

17 Seconds: First things first, how are you?

Nick: Hungover. There was an event on Carnaby Street last night sponsored by a fashion magazine and all the shops were giving out free drinks. You didn’t even have to feign interest in what they were selling!

17 Seconds: How did the band come together?

Nick: Very gradually. It’s no secret we’ve had a lot of line-up changes but we feel very settled with the current outfit. (For the record this also includes Ashley Hayden (bass, backing vocals); Jeremy Paul (drums), Charlie Myers (keys, backing vocals), and Billy Farr ( guitar, backing vocals)).

17 Seconds: No Hard Feelings is your debut album – do you read your press, or do you try not to pay too much attention?

Nick: Yeah we do read it. It’s interesting to see how people interpret what we’re doing and, on the whole, we’re delighted with the impact the album has had so far- people are saying some very flattering things!

17 Seconds: There’s quite a concern with the world [understandably!] given lyrically on your album. Do you think of yourselves as a political band? Would you get involved with any political organisations as a band or play particular benefits?

Nick: I wouldn’t call us a political band. The songs aren’t written to be political, they’re written from personal experience and people should interpret them as they see fit. I’d feel uncomfortable being involved with politics because I’d feel out of my depth; I don’t want to be a crusader for the over-educated and under-employed! If people can relate to my lyrics that’s enough for me.

17 Seconds: Who are the artists that most shaped your sound?

Nick: Alex Turner for lyrical style and retaining my Britishness! Musically Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions helped me understand soul music and how to structure a song. Bobby Womack for delivery and groove. Gil Scott-Heron made me realise you don’t have to always sing about the same thing. You can open an album with “The Revolution will not be televised” and still come in with something as beautifully simple as “When you are who you are”.

17 Seconds: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a gig?

Nick: We played at a weird little venue in Stoke Newington a couple of years ago and it was full of actors playing all sorts of weird characters. Charlie, our keyboard player ended up getting dragged into “marrying” this redneck woman in a wedding dress. We just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

17 Seconds: What new acts would you recommend that readers should check out?

Nick: Normanton Street from Brighton- brilliant jazz/hip-hop group. The Tapestry from Manchester- great indie-pop band we’ve played with a few times. Birdsworth from Woking- the singer, Jack, is a really good songwriter.

17 Seconds: What’s been the best part of the New Street Adventure, er adventure, so far?

Nick: For me it has to be releasing the album. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, shortly followed by our launch show at the 100 club, which was completely sold out!

17 Seconds: Who would be your dream collaborations?

Nick: Arctic Monkeys or Noel Gallagher for me. I can’t speak for the rest of the band though!

17 Seconds: Finally, what are your plans for the next 12 months as a band?

Nick: Touring our next single (which should be announced shortly) culminating in a headline gig at the Jazz Café on March 12th. Then we’ll see!

No Hard Feelings is out now on Acid Jazz.

Album Review – Wedding Present (re-issues)

The Wedding Present

The Wedding Present, Top of the Pops for ‘Brassneck’ 1990

“The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era. You may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong!” The late John Peel.

Blimey. This is how to do re-issues. For these eight discs – five albums, one mini-album and two compilations, Edsel have been staggeringly comprehensive. Not only do they contain the original albums – but they are all presented here in 3 CD plus DVD editions with attendant b-sides, radio sessions done for John Peel, Mark Goodier and Andy Kershaw amongst others, and all promotional videos. Additionally there’s TV performances, and entire gigs from the respective period. If there’s much else recorded or filmed by the Wedding Present between 1985 and 1997, and you’re still seeing gaps here then you’re presumably not so much a fan as an obsessive stalker.

Much like The Fall, The Wedding Present have only had one consistent member over the years, singer and guitarist David Gedge. Like the Fall, the band’s line-up changes are many, the dicography sprawling and they had many, many entires on John Peel’s Festive Fifty. The band rose from the ashes of Leeds band The Lost Pandas, which included David Gedge (vocals, guitar) and Jaz Rigby (drums). The Lost Pandas became The Wedding Present (or The Weddoes as they were often referred to) when Peter Solowka (guitar) and Shaun Charman (drums, backing vocals) joined the band for the first lineup. Their first single ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em Boy!’ was released in 1985 on their own Reception Records. The first four singles and selections from the Peel sessions are compiled on Tommy, which was originally released in 1988 (****). Not only does the album feature fantastic singles like the aforementioned ‘Go Out!’ and ‘My Favourite Dress’ (which remains one one of this scribe’s favourite Weddoes songs), it also features a Peel session’s take on Orange Juice’s ‘Felicity’ which shows their roots well.

The band’s first studio album was 1987’s George Best (****1/2). Named after the legendary footballer, who adorns the front cover, this album still sounds gloriously fresh nearly thirty years later. The band weren’t happy about being lumped in with the C86 crowd (despite the fact that they appeared on the original NME cassette from which the ‘movement’ took its name), but – and I don’t mean this as an insult – you can see why journalists at the time might have done so. Starting off with the wonderful ‘Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft’, herein lie 14 tales of love and frustration, worth it for the titles alone (though a few years later they’d got fed up of being mocked about this in the music press) – until you hear the tunes. It was so good to hear people singing in their own accents at this point in time. And amongst the extras on this package are the two singles that followed in 1988 -‘Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm’ and ‘Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?’

By late 1989, the band had signed to RCA. Their second studio album Bizarro (****) actually managed the feat of both sounding tougher – and also saw them get actual top 40 success. It’s typical of the album that a song like ‘Crushed’ sounds far more acerbic than much of the material that had been on independent releases. ‘Kennedy’ made the lower reaches of the top 40 and a re-recorded version of album opener ‘Brassneck’ would get them their first (albeit uncomfortable) Top Of The Pops performance. ‘No’ is an underrated gem which perhaps could have been a single. Oh, and one of the covers that appears on this package is their take on Tom Jones’ ‘It’s Not Unusual’ which as ever, they managed to make their own.

The Bizarro album lead into the next stage of their story, which saw them working with the legendary Steve Albini. Ahead of their third album, 1991’s Seamonsters, (****1/2) they worked with Albini on two EPs, one a reworking of ‘Brassneck’ (which can be found on the Bizarro package) and the other the 3 Songs EP. The latter’s lead track was a cover of Steve Harley’s ‘(Come Up And See Me) Make Me Smile’ which Harley loved, saying that of all the versions (and there’s about 120 covers of it in existence) the Weddoes were the only ones who had truly understood the venom in the song. Seamonsters isn’t a venomous album, exactly, but Albini helped them to deliver a suitably intense album of psychodramas, on songs like the single ‘Dalliance’ and the brilliant ‘Dare.’

1992 was a different story entirely. As has been well-documented, this was the year that the band released a 7″ single (then a format considered to be on the way out) on the first Monday of each month. Working with different producers, including Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and former Stones producer Jimmy Miller, the band equaled Elvis Presley by scoring 12 top thirty hits in a 12 month period. Collected together on Hit Parade (****1/2), each song was a gem and utterly varied from the angry ‘Sticky’ to the beautiful California’ and their first (and criminally, so far only) top ten hit, ‘Come Play With Me.’ The b-sides included their versions of songs as diverse as Isaac Hayes’ ‘Theme From Shaft’ Mud’s ‘Rocket’ and the Go-Betweens’ ‘Cattle And Cane.’ It was an unusual approach in 1992 – and it would see the band part ways with RCA in early 1993. No matter now – this is an artistic triumph.

Signing with Island for their next album, Watusi (***1/2), 1994 saw a rejuvenated Wedding Present making lo-fi ’60s-influenced pop. This has been described as being an atypical Wedding Present album, but to these ears -and looked at with the benefit of a couple of decades’ hindsight, it makes sense. You really shouldn’t deny yourself the joy of songs like ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’ or ‘Swimming Pools. Movie Stars.’ And ‘Click Click’ still evokes an earlier Weddoes sound. This may be one of the underrated albums in their entire catalogue. It was, however, the only album that they made with Island – and yet, given the sounds that Blur would be making a couple of years laer, or that Pavement were doing at the time, you wonder why it didn’t pick up more fans. No time like the present.

For their last two album releases in the first part of their story, the band were with Cooking Vinyl. David Gedge has joked that the 20th anniversary tour for the Mini album (***1/2), originally released in 1996, may be an early night for him, as the original album was only six songs long. And it was a pun of sorts. It’s a mini album, and therein lie six songs about cars and travel. Opening with ‘Drive’ this combines the 60s sound of Watusi with a sound reminiscent of the Reception-era stuff. The final studio album, Saturnalia, (****) which followed later in 1996 saw a new approach yet again. In the sleevenotes, Gedge says that there isn’t a distinctive sound to this album – which was their most experimental. Album opener ‘Venus’ hints that the sounds to follow may take you to unusal places, as it mixes indie-thrash with a more twee approach towards. ‘2, 3, Go’s outro sees the song fade out among feedback and an old advert they found lying around in the studio. And great as ‘Snake Eyes’ is, the album’s highpoint is ‘Montreal’ which has to rank up there with the band’s best songs of love gone wrong. Actually, it’s one of their best songs, period.

And then, in early 1997, the band went on hiatus. Gedge was feeling the need to work by himself for a while, which would result in the very different – but excellent Cinerama. The band would re-appear in 2004, and ten years later are still (thankfully) with us. In terms of stats alone they have done pretty well for the period covered by this review: all nine releases reached the top fifty of the album chart (with Seamonsters reaching no.13); eighteen singles making the UK top 40. They were long-championed by John Peel, who they recorded nine sessions for between 1986 and 1994, and scored 44 entries in his legendary Festive Fifty between 1985 and 1996. But this body of work is a most impressive thing, so make sure you treat yourself.

The re-issued versions of George Best, Tommy, Bizarro, Seamonsters, The Hit Parade, Watusi, Mini and Saturnalia are out now on Edsel.

From Bizarro ‘Kennedy.’

From The Hit Parade ‘Sticky.’

From Watusi ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah.’

New David Bowie single

David Bowie – Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) on MUZU.TV.

I wrote last month about the new David Bowie single ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’ which is released next week (Monday November 17), as a 10″ single and download and also appears on his latest greatest hits compilation, Nothing Has Changed, which is released the same day. The video has now been unveiled, which is suitably noirish (and no, I don’t just mean it’s black and white) and can be watched at the top of the page.

The b-side ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore’ is available to download via iTunes and can be watched below. It’s utterly different – some Bowie fans have suggested it could date from the Heathen sessions. It’s not on the Nothing Has Changed compilation, just for the record.

So: two VERY different Bowie songs and a continuation of an amazing fifty year career…

Album Review – 12″/80s

Various Artists -’12″/80s Chilled.’ (Commercial Marketing)
Various Artists -’12″/80s New Wave.’ (Commercial Marketing)

Originally finding favour on the disco and reggae scenes in the 1970s, by the 1980s 12″ singles were pretty ubiquitous for most releases. It gave rise to multi-formatting, which was seized upon by indie labels and majors alike as a way to sell as many copies of the same single to eager punters, rather than simply different picture sleeves or different coloured vinyl. [ By the mid-1990s meant that punters were often feeling like they had to have both CD singles, with a varying quality of extra tracks]. There was an art to the 12″ single, and the 12″/80s series has been running for the best part of a decade now, gathering together a wide variety of releases from the decade in an often long-unavailable mix for the public. These were for clubs and homes, being too long for radio play in most cases.

12 80s chilled

Of the two releases, …Chilled is perhaps the better of the two. ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s ‘Extended Souvenir’ is even better than the original, Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’ is rendered even better with added toasting and David Sylvian turns up twice, fronting Japan with their cover of ‘I Second That Emotion’ and collaborating with Ryuichi Sakamoto on ‘Forbidden Colours. There are examples of how 12″ mixes could overegg the pudding – the six minute version of Aha’s ‘Hunting High And Low’ messes around with the structure of the song, to the extent that it misplaces the drama of the original. What still astounds years later is the (mashup? medley?) of ‘Tainted Dub/Where Did Our Love Go?’ as Soft Cell combine not one but two classic soul numbers into a piece over nine minutes long. (****)

New Wave has it’s moments, too. I have found the original version of Classix Nouveaux’s ‘Is It A Dream’ to be horrifically shrill, and yet the 12″ version here reveals an underlying beauty. The eight minute version of UB40’s ‘The Earth Dies Screaming’ reminds us that UB40 were much better writing their own songs and had quite an edge, before they decided to spend the majority of their career turning out one limp cover version after another. Much as I admire Grace Jones, her take on Joy Divison’s ‘She’s Lost Control’ can really only have the redeeming feature that it probably provided royalties for Ian Curtis’ family. But then again, when The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘ the Beat’s Twist & Crawl’ appear here too, in glorious long-form, anything can be forgiven. (***1/2)

Given that most people will be familiar with songs in edited shorter format, it may be play with how you remember these songs. But these two compilations are well worth checking out.

12″/80s Chilled and 12″/80s New Wave are out now on Commercial Marketing

Album Review – Stanley Odd

Stanley Odd - A Thing Brand New - Cover

Stanley Odd -‘A Thing Brand New.’ (A Modern Way)

Over the course of several years and two great previous albums, Oddio and Reject, Edinburgh Hip-Hop collective Stanley Odd have been plying their own take on Hip-Hop, complete with Scottish accents, unforgettable hook lines and excellent live shows. And on this, their third album, Stanley Odd have delivered their most accomplished album yet.

If the rules of Hip-Hop include keeping it real, and telling it like it is then Stanley Odd most definitely stick to them. As the years have gone by, they – and others like them – have demonstrated that it’s not where you’re from (though they’re very definitely proud of their roots) but it’s where you’re at. So this record takes in the themes about being young and struggling and delivers them wrapped up in thoughtful tunes. There’s a number of highlights on this record – but amongst the highlights are ‘Draw Yir Own Conclusions’ and ‘Her Name Was Hip-Hop.’

The album closes with the earlier single ‘Son I Voted Yes’ which delivered their stance on the Scottish referendum. Whilst the result was a ‘no’ the strength of feeling amongst many north of the border is that this is an issue that won’t go away, and this is actually an upbeat tune about the referendum and hope.

There will be those who attempt to draw parallels with them and Young Fathers, with the latter having just won the Mercury Music Prize. Both fine acts, but they share a city and not much else. Stanley Odd have always stuck to their guns – and if there is any justice this will be the album that breaks them through to a wider audience.


A Thing Brand New is released by A Modern Way on November 10.

Presenting…Jana Josephina

According to her website, Jana Josephina is a singer, songwriter from Frankfurt via Mallorca, Paris, London, Zurich and New York. She’s just released a rather fantastic song called ‘Dreamdancer’ the video for which can be streamed at the top of this page. Not only is it an awesome example of her icy electro-pop, but it’s a video of her in London wearing nothing but a duvet which, not surprisingly, caused quite a reaction which she filmed it…

She has an album on the way called Contradictions which actually sounds like a wonderful statement of intent. And on the evidence of what’s on display for our eyes and ears mark her out as an artist to watch out for.

Here are a couple of earlier tracks:

(re) presenting CGIV

I’ve featured Clean George IV on this blog in the past, the work of Edinburgh’s George McFall. His last album God Save The Clean was fantastic and featured at no.25 in my list of best albums of the year

He’s now trading as CGIV. He’s working on a new album from which you can hear and see the utterly thrilling ‘Autumn’ at the top of the page. CGIV is basically George McFall and in his own words ‘whoever he can find to play drums at the time of recording.’ George is currently finishing an album which he would like to think will be ready for release by spring 2015.

‘Autumn’ is released via Tenement Records on November 24.

Earlier this year he released ‘Change’ which is utterly different and can be heard and seen below:

I was pretty impressed by the lyrics for ‘Autumn’ too; so here they are in their entirety:

“hoods up for the long haul
inordinate animal
it’s time to put the child to bed
tame yourself in time for death

last stretch before surrender
undeserving also-ran
time to put your prices up
change yourself in time for luck

activate the five year plan
on the wagon, in the can
a perfect day to overcome
obstacles like love and fun

the grip of fear the knee jerk hate
vibrating nerves in vacant lots
the abstract comfort of aroma
brickdust and bergamot

there is no stone as deep as sleep
at least not for the living
no more fantasies to keep
me from going where i’m going

autumn in paradise
prepare the sacrifice

your every right to lose control
your right to be unreasonable
your right to moulder and to rust
your right to misjudge and mistrust

an autumn hue in everything you see and hear and say and do
the abstract comfort of perfume
of yesterday and soon to come

autumn in paradise
prepare the sacrifice
germanic discipline
a shadow of your future self

there is no stone as deep as sleep
at least not for the living
no more fantasies to keep
me from going where i’m going
after the rain we’ll start again
we’ll start mapping out an ending
a perfect day to pave the way
a perfect day to give up thinking”