thu 18/12/2014

New Music reviews, news & interviews

Album of the Year: Swans – To Be Kind

Guy Oddy

We have been told for years by the media, the record industry and “taste-makers” everywhere that popular music is resolutely a young person’s game. Carefree youth is what it’s all about and any sign of ageing, maturity or artistry and most musicians will be shown the door and put out to pasture unless they are revisiting past glories. In 2014, Swans put paid to this myth by releasing To Be Kind, the most impressive album of their 32 year (on-off) existence under the direction of Michael Gira –...

CD: Nicki Minaj - The Pinkprint

Thomas H Green

The year 2014 has been dominated by this woman's arse. The furore surrounding the video for Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" put the rest of the bewigged New York hip hop superstar's career in the shade. Her steamy twerk-fest and rejig of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1991 mega-hit "Baby's Got Back" ("I like big butts and I cannot lie...") opened up internet-breaking levels of debate. Did she represent modern womankind, strong and in charge of her sexuality, pushing the boundaries for the Afro-American body-shape...

theartsdesk on Vinyl

Thomas H Green

Have you been to a record shop lately? Now that our honeymoon with virtual music is revealed as completely lacking romance, record shops are thriving...

Album Of The Year: D'Angelo and The Vanguard...

Joe Muggs

Pity everyone who's already published their albums of the year lists. Like Beyonce in 2013, D'Angelo has just thrown the most humungous spanner in...

Album of the Year: Nick Mulvey - First Mind

Thomas H Green

2014 has been a juicy year for albums which places Nick Mulvey’s solo debut on an especially high pedestal. A straightforward review can be found...

The Human League, Brighton Centre

Thomas H Green

Retro-futurist nostalgia proves a festive treat with the Human League

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Czars

Kieron Tyler

John Grant’s past catches up with him

CD: Nils Landgren – Christmas With My Friends IV

Matthew Wright

An open Swedish mind and well-tuned ear creates a Christmas soundtrack of sumptuous eclecticism

CD: The Albion Christmas Band - One for the Road

Thomas H Green

Jolly festive folk concert from Fairport Convention's annually recurring spin-off

CD: Earth, Wind & Fire - Holiday

Barney Harsent

What does Christmas with the funk legends sound like? Any other day…

Boys on Film: Duran Duran's '84 tour

Matthew Wright

Exclusive images from the Sing Blue Silver tour 30 years ago

CD: Bastille – VS (Other People's Heartache pt. III)

Matthew Wright

Synth-rockers' concept mixtape offers more heartburn than heartache

CD: Lucas Santtana - Sobre Noites e Dias

Mark Kidel

Boundary-breaking Brazilian artist with a thoroughly contemporary twist

Reissue CDs Weekly: 2014 Revisited

Kieron Tyler

Essential Christmas gifts and the best of the year

CD: Etienne de Crecy - Super Discount 3

Caspar Gomez

Parisian dance music don returns with his groundbreaking brand

Jon Hopkins, Brighton Dome

Thomas H Green

Coldplay and Brian Eno associate musters a feast of plush techno and electronica

Preview: John Coltrane's A Love Supreme

Matthew Wright

Unique fusion of spiritual and musical inspiration "re-envisioned" for 50th anniversary performance

DVD: The Possibilities are Endless

Kieron Tyler

Arty and emotive chronicle of musician Edwyn Collins’ recovery after a massive stroke

Ian McLagan, 1945-2014

Kieron Tyler

Former Small Faces and Faces keyboard player, and Rolling Stones associate, dies at 69

CD: The Melvins - Hold It In

Guy Oddy

Proto-grungers welcome Butthole Surfers on board for a psychedelic rock-out

CD: Craig Bratley - Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Barney Harsent

Can the producer's vaulting ambition match the bar of expectation for his debut album?

CD: McBusted - McBusted

Joe Muggs

Watch what happens when two pop-punk boybands collapse into one

Marianne Faithfull, Royal Festival Hall

Heidi Goldsmith

Rock diva and recovered heroin addict makes a therapist out of her anniversary tour audience

Jaga Jazzist, Union Chapel

Thomas Rees

Hindered by lacklustre sound, the Norwegian experimentalists are a way off their best

CD: Dale Cooper Quartet & the Dictaphones + (((witxes))) – Split

Kieron Tyler

Gallic improv merchants get heavy with each other’s compositions

Reissue CDs Weekly: Native North America

Kieron Tyler

Thrilling collection reveals how America’s aboriginal peoples took popular music on

Sci-Fi Week: Space Rock

Kieron Tyler

Rock and pop’s fascination with realms beyond the Earth’s atmosphere

CD: AC/DC – Rock or Bust

Adam Sweeting

Ancient Australian combo defy the odds and turn it up to 11

Lily Allen, Brighton Centre

Thomas H Green

The pithy princess of femme-pop on affable rather than thrilling form

Footnote: a brief history of new music in Britain

New music has swung fruitfully between US and UK influences for half a century. The British charts began in 1952, initially populated by crooners and light jazz. American rock'n'roll livened things up, followed by British imitators such as Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard. However, it wasn't until The Beatles combined rock'n'roll's energy with folk melodies and Motown sweetness that British pop found a modern identity outside light entertainment. The Rolling Stones, amping up US blues, weren't far behind, with The Who and The Kinks also adding a unique Englishness. In the mid-Sixties the drugs hit - LSD sent pop looking for meaning. Pastoral psychedelia bloomed. Such utopianism couldn't last and prog rock alongside Led Zeppelin's steroid riffing defined the early Seventies. Those who wanted it less blokey turned to glam, from T Rex to androgynous alien David Bowie.

sex_pistolsA sea change arrived with punk and its totemic band, The Sex Pistols, a reaction to pop's blandness and much else. Punk encouraged inventiveness and imagination on the cheap but, while reggae made inroads, the most notable beneficiary was synth pop, The Human League et al. This, when combined with glam styling, produced the New Romantic scene and bands such as Duran Duran sold multi-millions and conquered the US.

By the mid-Eighties, despite U2's rise, the British charts were sterile until acid house/ rave culture kicked the doors down for electronica, launching acts such as the Chemical Brothers. The media, however, latched onto indie bands with big tunes and bigger mouths, notably Oasis and Blur – Britpop was born.

By the millennium, both scenes had fizzled, replaced by level-headed pop-rockers who abhorred ostentation in favour of homogenous emotionality. Coldplay were the biggest. Big news, however, lurked in underground UK hip hop where artists adapted styles such as grime, dubstep and drum & bass into new pop forms, creating breakout stars Dizzee Rascal and, more recently, Tinie Tempah. The Arts Desk's wide-ranging new music critics bring you overnight reviews of every kind of music, from pop to unusual world sounds, daily reviews of new releases and downloads, and unique in-depth interviews with celebrated musicians and DJs, plus the quickest ticket booking links. Our writers include Peter Culshaw, Joe Muggs, Howard Male, Thomas H Green, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, David Cheal & Peter Quinn

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