Over Unda; PLUS: The Vaccines Vs Today

Last week, in an interview with the Guardian, generic teen-friendly snooze-rockers The Vaccines waggled a finger at blogs who provoke, “a hunger to have something new every day.”

Singer Justin Young blames ANBAD’s bigger, sexier, better-read cousin specifically: “Guardian New Band of the Day is the perfect example … blogs in particular are to blame for that. Every day they have to post a new band. Are they still listening to the band they posted three weeks ago?”

He has a point. The endless “churn” in new music culture is damaging, in some ways: bands are no longer allowed to ferment by an impatient public; nor are they nurtured, and bankrolled through the first couple of albums by a record label awash with cash. But that old, artist-friendly environment is deader than, indeed, disco.

Maybe Justin should engage the rock ‘n’ roll cogs in his rock ‘n’ roll brain a bit first. Are young musicians’ dreams and aspirations the same now? Do teenagers making glitch house on their MacBooks really long for years of touring fleapits, followed by grinding away in studios making new albums of the same stuff? Or do they just want to get their songs out there and leave it at that?

Justin: I get a ton of new artists emailing me every day. Very few of them even use a recognisable name, let alone provide a photo. Where’s my incentive to boost their career any further than featuring for one day – a process that alone elevates them above all their peers (for that one day) – if the bulk of them don’t even email back to say “thanks”?

And what does Justin want out of music blogs? Endless posts on Band X? That’s what a fanzine does in my eyes – but what do I know? I’m just a blogger, destroying artists’ dreams by finding more new bands than I have time to write about, and then writing about the ones I like the most.

If I kept on writing about, ooh, I dunno, that Vaccines’ song from three weeks ago, I might not have had space to write about Over Unda, who has cruelly been buried under 300 words of blah about a run-f-the-mill Indie band. Sorry Over Unda.

 

She Falls To The Floor dabbles in that fraught genre of Laptop Music With Vocals; an area of music that welcomes abject failure with open, loving arms more often than not. But Over Unda dodges the bullet, and creates a lop-sided, lo-grit, lofty, glassy and serene pop song, full of wistfulness, abrupt musical diversions and non-ponderous thoughtfulness.

Some well-known Indie rock bands are one-note, one-speed and one-dimensional. Here, in one bedroom-recorded pop song is the exact opposite. And musicians like this are doing it every day.

MOREsoundcloud.com/overunda

NB: I once wrote about the Vaccines, just before they decided to occupy the “anonymous Indie-band-by-numbers” slot that UK culture apparently hankers after every few years. I hope they are enjoying the ride, am pleased their careers have stretched to a second album, and wish them all the best.

Submix; The Brave Old World Vs The Brave New World

Anyone who has ever observed the music blog universe for more than 30 seconds will be under no illusions: music bloggers are the most narcissistic of all online keyboard-mashers, and the Music Blogosphere is their playground of self-absorption.

The Great Lingering Fear of all music bloggers is the lingering suspicion that all their efforts are not only pointless, but entirely mindless.

This is, of course, entirely true: writing about new music is the frivolity to obliterate all frivolities; and yet most music bloggers, ANBAD included, spend most of their time furiously treading water to appear relevant and plugged-in.

This is because the moment a music blogger’s finger is perceived to have wandered away from the pulse, it is assumed to be desperately flick-flacking through a pile of old, comfortable CDs: and at a stroke, the fickle readership will jump to another blog.

Thus, when the old-media behemoth that is the BBC teamed up with Hype Machine to produce a one-off semi-Zeitgeist, the blog world was all a-flutter: an opportunity for real world intrusion by the pasty and wan music bloggers to prove that their efforts are, indeed, worth it, yeah?

Well, the show was great, and does indeed demonstrate how much the ‘old media’ relies on the brave blogospheric world for direction – and yet: in many ways it took the old to justify the new. Curious.

And if those as ephemeral, paradigm-shifting and outré bloggers need the old-fashioned media to exhibit their strength, what of new bands, who exist in the hinterland between limitless online freedom and the music industry’s tremulous clutches?

Well, how about Submix as an example? Here’s a new artist, making music in Portugal, releasing his records on his own label, online, and away from the music biz. He could happily carve quite a niche for his bassy, minimal quirk-house if he wanted, without any real-world involvement. But would he really say “no” to a record or distribution deal?

 

I don’t know what Submix would do. But I know it would be hard to turn down any opportunity in the topsy-turvy world of new music. I do know people who have produced similarly impressive, focussed and careful dance music, similar to Breakpoint, who have been discovered and given deals.

Who knows how long their bridge between old and new will last? We are still in the midst of great change: Submix may as well rest easy, and keep whelping heavy, heady tunes for us all to enjoy.

MOREsoundcloud.com/submix

MIDWEEK MOUTHPIECE: New Music – Natural Selection Vs Intelligent Design

Matthew Young runs the excellent Song, By Toad blog, and a similarly-named, similarly excellent record label.

He loves new music, and talking about new music, preferably whilst sharing drinks with you, as I have discovered on many a queasy occasion.

Because of his garrulous and idiosyncratic nature, he gets asked to speak on panels, usually about the “Future of the Music Industry”, which is pretty much the title of every panel at ever music conference, ever.

At The Great Escape, he announced that “Last FM and Pandora are fucking pointless”, and a selection of music/tech people blew a collective gasket. (Matthew later addressed what he said in a more eloquent manner here.)

It doesn’t take too long in Matthew’s company to realise that hyperbole is part of his method of discussion, but such humour does not always translate to all and sundry.

I do agree with a lot of his provocative statement, although maybe in a different way: the non-human element of music discovery sites can be disconcerting or disappointing.

We have not, and (happily) never will, replace the wildly unexpected nature of say, John Peels’ radio show, with an algorithmically-curated creation yet.

Your view on whether this is a good thing will boil down to this choice: maybe you’d have discovered, say, the Swedish band Leanids via an online tool. Would you have preferred to have found them via a trusted human instead?


I don’t use Pandora, but there are elements of Last FM that I think are brilliantly useful: recording my music playing history and linking it to Spotify/This Is My Jam/etc will be useful for evermore, in whichever way music consumption evolves form hereon.

As a player of music, however, I’ve found Last FM only partially useful, and my experience do mirror Matthew’s somewhat: it doesn’t give me quite what I crave. I want wild variety, the unexpected, and weird stuff that tests my boundaries. I understand that the bulk of Last FM’s user base may not want this, however.

But this is why I run A New Band A Day, and why I spend hours trawling through zany PR emails and Soundcloud when I could be getting vitamin D outside in the sunshine.

The Last FM app in Spotify is very useful for the reason Matthew mentioned: “I can’t think of anything better to guide you through Spotify’s featureless wasteland of unlimited availability” – but I prefer Soundrop, the user-sourced ‘radio’ app: which brings us back to the matter of human intervention.

So what is the future? What is the best model to replace these unpredictable humans with something that can appear on a glossy screen instead of a fiddly FM radio?

Now, I do have a (minor) vested interest in Hype Machine, but I think their model is closest to what works for me. I can listen to a selection of songs that a (filtered) human system has put together; I enjoy some, skip some, and despair at others.

But I’m hearing new things all the time, and none of them (on the ‘Popular’ stream, for example) are ‘tailored’ to me beyond the idea that I will probably be at least interested in what’s being thrown up on the screen, because I trust the aggregated list of bloggers to at least screen out the obvious and the dross.

It’s also telling that one of Hype Machine’s main features is a monthly, human-curated radio show.

My art teacher always used to tell me “look for mistakes” when painting: the idea being that the natural leakage of gouache into an area of the painting that it was not intended to was not as undesirable as it might instinctively appear.

Humans make mistakes, have quirks. John Peel had a bewildering hankering for Happy Hardcore (*cough* as do I *cough*), and it’s easy to forget that each of his radio shows, now held aloft as the pinnacle of musical taste, curation and foresight, always – always – contained its fair share of clunkers amongst the gems.

And this exactly was why I, and others religiously listened.

NB: Part of this article was derived from a comment I wrote here.

Midweek Mouthpiece: Guitar Heroes, RIP?

A week or so ago, whilst feeling fruity, I posted this deliberately provocative statement on the ANBAD Twitter feed:

And in many ways, of course, I don’t believe this for a moment. For, as Dave Greenwald from the endlessly excellent Rawkblog noted almost immediately:

He’s possibly/probably right – but a part of me still wonders: if this really is so, why do so many de rigeur bands insist on drowning their guitars in so much reverb?

(OK – so it’s just a phase the bands are going through: but I recently spoke to a glum sound mixer, who, after years of learning how to tease the best sound possible from any band on stage in front of him, is now routinely asked to “just turn the reverb right up”.)

 

I mean, honestly, no-one would mind too much if the bulk of these new bands sounded jangly and fun, like – oh, I don’t know – early-80’s REM.

Style over substance will win over even the most cynical listener who is too scared to listen to anything but peer-approved flavour-of-the-month bands. And, as the brilliant Videotapes by Blouse proves, there is room for both the sound everyone desires and hit songs.

But Blouse, sadly, are in the minority – sometimes I feel overwhelmed by bands who sound agonisingly generic, but greased up with a slick of cool from a fashionable Pro Tools filter. That bands are choosing, en masse, to pick up guitars for reasons other than wanting to slog away and create the best pop songs they possibly can is curious.

Maybe it’s social. In the UK, one (in)famous, and  possibly un-scientific, statistic is often bandied about: that the majority of UK chart successes are now written by privately educated kids from privileged backgrounds. Bands like Keane, Coldplay, and Mumford and Sons do little to dispel the idea that the nice, wealthy white boy has taken over.

It’s hard to see, for instance, how Oasis could fit in now.

 

So have guitars become the uncool option? The choice of the wealthy playing at being rock stars?

I’m not sure, but put it this way: if you want to listen to the really exciting, really new and really, er, real sound of The Kids who struggle to get their voices heard, you won’t turn to a guitar band.

Instead, you’d listen to any of the genuinely thrilling bedroom-produced music made today: a creeping, flooding, ever-mutating, ever-innovating groundswell of head-spinningly innovative music whelped from hooky software on creaking laptops. If you want a vision of the future, imagine a MacBook Pro stamping on the human face, forever.

However, the point is still somewhat moot: for those who need guitars, who long for new guitar music, who must have that six-stringed shimmer in their lives, the pickings are slim – and they’ll still keep searching through the dregs, looking for one final hit. Should we feel sad?

Midweek Mouthpiece // Bedroom Artists

Oh look: the Midweek Mixtape has been rudely (and temporarily) shoved aside for a new semi-regular midweek column, the Midweek  Mouthpiece. Alex James/Crudely-Photoshopped Cheese Fans, fret not: the Midweek Mixtape will be back next week…

Of all the interesting points raised in this GQ article about – who else? – Skrillex, two in particular stand out.

Firstly, the surprise that Skrillex is still sporting the half-finished hairdo/NHS-glasses combo that has served him so well and yet spawned enough meta-hipster imitators to cause most people to reach for the electric razor and contact lenses; and secondly, the recognition that the Bedroom Artist has finally taken over.

 

Whether or not you consider a man who has previously been in a ‘real’ band and thus knows the industry inside out to be a true bedroom artist is almost a moot point – the rise of the bedroom producer has been quietly inexorable for a few years now.

It’s certainly been a point that ANBAD has been labouring for some time now (as a quick search for ‘bedroom’ reveals).

The beauty of modern bedroom-produced music, like both artists who have already featured on ANBAD this week, Mujuice and Mmoths, is that these are people making music that could never have been made even just a few years ago – and moreover, there has never been a place for these reticent, intelligent and deliberately withdrawn people in the macho gig-and-rehearsal-room world of rock ‘n’ roll.

 

The point is, perhaps, where next? If as the above GQ article suggests, the traditional cycle of write/record/album/gig/repeat is no longer even necessary, will we see the further fracturing of new music into an approximation of the glorious 1960’s reggae scene – where 12″ albums were non gratae, and the 7″ single the medium that best suited the genre?

This may or may not be useful. I’m all for artist-self-determination, and releasing an irregular series of one-off bombastic or beautiful songs is a hugely attractive and admirable work ethic, but is there a chance that the long-form collections are actually still desired by both producers and consumers?

 

Spin any of the big 90’s dance music albums – Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Orbital II, New Forms or even Dig Your Own Hole – and prepare to be wowed by the journey: the albums are collated or constructed to form a long, coherent bridge from start to climax.

That all these former ravers turned producers trod this route is telling: even bedroom amateurs/auteurs long for their own magnum opus.

The Big Skrillex Album is surely an inevitability: he’s too big (and on too watertight a deal, presumably) to deliberately shun the release of an album that will shift zillions to Middle American teens.

And I’m sure a pragmatic, intelligent man like Sonny Moore knows the financial and social value of a physical album. The music may be made in the bedroom, but any financial decisions will, as always, be made in the boardroom.

ANBAD Went To SXSW And All I Got Was This Lousy Sense Of Self-Worth

ANBAD is still recuperating from a few weeks of madness working at the brilliant Hype Hotel in Austin, Texas for SXSW.

Below is an article that was written in small nibbles in between the delirious hours of work and snatched morsels of sleep. The contents may not be true in the cold light of day, but it’s (almost) worth preserving for posterity (or a reminder of what happens when sleep becomes a disposable luxury).

ANBAD’s Guide to Recreating SXSW in the Comfort of Your Own Home

Whilst experiencing SXSW’s dubious and multifrious charms at the actually fabulous Hype Hotel, it became clear that not all experiences in town were as soul-nourishing as those found at my place of work.

Attending SXSW is both exhilarating and fun, but mainly, it’s expensive and arduous: if you can afford to get there, you probably can’t afford to sleep there, leaving your only real refuge in the heavily-branded bars that will give you a free beer in exchange for your email address/twitter name/another sliver of your soul.

Obviously, you don’t go to SXSW with the same expectations as when attending the V Festival, but still, the image sold – in the UK at least – of the World Capitol Of New Music is a little different to reality.

So, in the spirit of sharing and free-thinking – as enabled by the generous sponsorship of the world’s multi-national corporations at the world’s premier musical festival/schmooze-fest – here’s ANBAD’s guide to creating your very own SXSW on a fraction of the budget, in the comfort of your own home:

  • Your first job is to maximise the branding potential of each area of your home. Don’t worry about the relevance of the sponsor you attach – feel free to bolt a Castrol GTX logo onto your toilet (theme bar) and McDonalds’ golden arches above your TV (your audio-visual VJ arena). Hire people to who have no qualms in ‘pushing’ the merits of your brand’s ‘outreach programme’ to disinterested drunks who are feigning indifference just long enough to get free corn dogs or drink tokens.
  • Wristwear: you must of course wrap a bewildering array of too-tight plastic bands around both wrists, allowing you entry to the various ‘parties’ (rooms in your house). The truly committed party-goers can be identified by their distended purple digits, as circulation to the hands is slowly strangled by each additional band.
  • Make sure that when shopping for food, your add at least two painful ‘SXSW Dollars’ to the price, and hunker down in your nearest litter-strewn gutter to eat it. For added authenticity, encourage gap-toothed homeless people to noisily harangue you for leftovers before you’ve even taken your first bite.
  • Smugly book a series of marginally obscure, unsmiling bands whose mere existence allow you the opportunity to trick you and your guests into thinking they are new discoveries; when in fact they have watertight six-record deals and lawyers who provide 12-page contract riders demanding vegan hummous as a matter of course.
  • Make sure at least half of the bands dress like mentally deficient children who have spent their lifetime locked inside their grandparent’s wardrobe, and can see no reason for the sniggering that follows them around.
  • Take care to see that the bands have an understandable lack of enthusiasm: after all, their job is to write songs every now and again, play a few 25-minute sets and then soak up the  resulting undeserved adulation.
  • Hook their instruments up to a soundsystem staffed by overworked and cynical sound techs: people who, having spent years teasing a clear, professional sound from the stage, are instantly undermined by bands’ insistence that they drown all the instruments, drums and vocals with ‘as much reverb as possible’.
  • For the truest SXSW experience, arrange for 500 people to stand in a long, immobile line in front of your front door under the beating sun.  Allow your already-agonising progress to be halted by a drunken, indignant trustafarian at the head of the queue who insists he knows one of the bands and was promised he could totally come in without a wristband, yeah?
  • Finally, and most crucially, never refer to the festival as “South by South West”. It is “South By”. No exceptions. If you are writing an email, “SX” is always simpler and preferable to the long-winded “SXSW”.

Don’t say:

“This is like Glastonbury for self-interested hipsters like me!”

Do say:

“This is like Glastonbury (Sponsored by Mtn. Dew’s Green Label) for self-interested hipsters like me!”

ANBAD’s Predictions For 2012

As dictated by The Music Blogger’s Handbook (we’re all issued with one when we sign up to inflict our views on an indifferent world), there are three things that ANBAD must be doing right now.

Firstly, this post needs to be appearing after the mandatory Two Week Christmas Recovery Period, where all email is automatically deleted, and any mentions of a trudge through Soundcloud or Bandcamp is deflected with a nervous laugh and the tinkle of another gin and tonic being poured.

Secondly, the ‘site’ (no-one has a blog any more) is spruced up to be slightly cleaner, slightly more obtuse and slightly hinting at a desire to make it a success this year.

And thirdly, all bloggers must make some sort of predictions about what might happen, and who might become successful in the coming year. This thankless task is repeated each year, just in case one of us is right, and can then brag that we tipped Band X first, even before other bloggers liked them, which is a move of such post-hipster idiocy, I can hardly think about it.

So: here we go –  an almost month-by-month series of predictions for 2012.

January

In the euphoric haze that arose from being listed in so many End-Of-2011 lists as the Next Big Thing, bloggers’ favourite Lana del Rey decides to take her tedious obsession with death to the logical conclusion by declaring herself deceased. All her earnings are used by her label to plan for her second coming (see June).

February

US Postal Service announces that the mass of Justin Bieber‘s valentine cards is ‘significantly more ludicrous’ than in 2011.

April

Almost-mysterious band Wu Lyf announce that the follow up to their almost-smash-hit 27th Best Album of 2011 will channel the spirit of neo-mysticism, but will be played with guitars and stuff and sound a bit like U2 demos.

June

Lana del Rey‘s carefully stage managed resurrection on the road to Damascus is obscured from an audience of millions by a broken-down truck loaded with almonds.

September

Wu Lyf announce a new project that will be 75% more accessible in order to attract mainstream chart success, and it will be called Wu Lite.

November

The BBC Sounds of 2013 poll reveals that the panel of tastemakers voted for the songs they really liked that were plugged by PR people around the time of the poll being sent out.

December

Viva Brother announce that their forthcoming album is cancelled for the good of humanity, and swear they won’t ever make any music ever again. No-one notices. The NME immediately responds with an RIP Viva Brother Collector’s Edition.

ANBAD’s Best Bands Of 2011 // Number 1: Lissi Dancefloor Disaster

Well. This is awkward. Didn’t Lissi Dancefloor Disaster feature on ANBAD last year? What are they doing astride the top of the Best Of 2011 List? Have I lost my mind?

Well, in answer to the first question: yes, they were on ANBAD in 2010 – I saw them play a short, brilliant gig to an empty room underneath Oldham Street in Manchester and simply had to tell someone about it.

In answer to he second and most important question: they are #1 because, simply, LDD’Pop Musiiic wheedled its way into my brain from the instant I heard it in October, and I’ve been humming its insane keyboard break ever since.

And if you need a better reason than that, then it’s time to take life less seriously.

 

LDD totally disappeared after I saw them. Then they reappeared, a year later, with this song. Bands are here-today-gone-today nowadays, so their return counts for something.

How many bands are really, honestly determined to cast off the shackles of currently accepted cool, plough their own furrow, and create a flat-out pop song?

By which I don’t mean making a pop song with a nod-and-a-wink, but pop music that actively longs, positively urges us to revel in its hooks, a sing-song melody and manic keyboard noodles.

I’d happily, and dutifully, count all the ways this song fulfils all the Perfect Pop criteria: it’s two and a half minutes long, it milks a brilliant chorus dry, it celebrates pop itself, etc., but really who can be bothered in the face of such a kaleidoscopic onslaught of Scandinavian Pop Excellence?

How about this for hyperbole: in a time when the biggest selling pop stars are making million-selling, thunderously direct dance-pop songs just like this, would Rhianna sing Pop Musiiic?

I think: probably.

Maybe Lissi Dancefloor Disaster‘s presence on this list sort of breaks the rules. Well, fine. Consistency has never been a part of the plan, and I’m not going to let a song like this pass me by. But hey, these lists are also meaningless, right?

So celebrate the now: indulge your base passions in a fascinatingly creative band with all 20 fingers pressed clammily to Pop’s pulse; a band who are usual and unusual enough to raise even the hippest of eyebrows. Excellent.

ANBAD’s original post // Fascinating interview on Swedish pop with Johan from LDD // LDD’s blog

(And in answer to the latter question in the first paragraph: you really ought to know this by now.)

ANBAD’s Best Bands Of 2011 // Number 2: Trwbador

Nearly there now… don’t forget to check out the runners up (Parts One and Two), as well as the bands who are ranked from 10 to 6, and 5 to 3.

How did Trwbador sneak into the number two slot? They’re just so unassuming. Look at them. They wouldn’t even bruise a fly, let alone hurt one.

Well, bluntly, it’s because Sun In Winter has been buzzing around my brain like one of The Numskulls ever since I first marvelled at the breathtakingly clear-cut splicing of folk ‘n’ beatz that makes up this marvel of a song.

Now, I understand that mixing folk with snappy, cut-up samples and clicking drums sounds heinous. So it’s the fact that the resulting song is truly wonderful that has propelled Trwbador to such dizzy heights.

 

I’m hoping for – nay, expecting – much more brilliant songsmithery from them in 2012. And I rarely even begin to think things like that.

ANBAD said: Trwbador are not the first band to try to balance this dichotomy. They are one of few who have actually managed it – and how, creating a sound that is otherworldly, yet real; mechanical, yet tender.

This song is a remix of a remix of a song that never existed in the first place. We can imagine this song – it’s so close we can almost touch it – and yet it simply doesn’t exist. Beautiful, bright, brilliant.”

ANBAD’s Best Bands Of 2011 // Top Ten: 5-3

As we trundle imperceptibly closer to the frothing climax of ANBAD’s 2011 Top Ten, the bands are getting weirder, more coiling, and more devious in nature.

Just like capitalism, the closer you get to that top 5%, the more sly and crafty it’s inhibitors are.

ANBAD: you’ll come for the bands, but stay for the politics.

Don’t forget to check out the runners up (Parts One and, indeed, Two), as well as the bands who are ranked from 10-6.

#5 – Tech Coast/Tours: So many bands present themselves anonymously these days, that soon all bands will be faceless, and they’ll have to start changing their name every few weeks to keep us on our toes.

Tech Coast have already begun the trend, changing their name to the slightly more generic Tours. Oh well – it doesn’t matter. Tours make wonderful music.

 

ANBAD said:Eyes to the sky, wrists to the heavens: If a song was ever cloudy, then this is it. Vast, open and – once you crack past the rigidity of the form – softer and more unctuous than egg custard.

This, I suppose, makes Tech Coast‘s music the crème brûlée of dance. And I love crème brûlées. Excellent, excellent, excellent.”

#4 –  Baaneex: ANBAD has a fresh-dog-turd-soft spot for bands that are deliberately obtuse. Make of that what you will, but while Baaneex are indeed just that, they are also brilliantly – wait for it – groovy, and unafraid to smash songs to bits part-way through.

For all these nods to eccentricity, awkwardness and perversity, they’re a band who deserve to be heard, even before their great songs are taken into consideration.

 

 

ANBAD said: “This song is so terrifically obtuse and accessible all at once it will fool you into thinking it has no antecedents… you could just as easily get lost in the fabulous density of a song that has so many constituent parts that it should never, ever work – and yet emerges triumphant as the most complicatedly wonderful song to appear on ANBAD for ages.”

#3 – Tigercats are simply adorable. In the flesh, as, barefoot and shy, they clang at their instruments and sway along to their own melodies; or on record where you’ll want to do the same – they will snag your eyes and ears.

Here’s a band who are the equivalent of the beautiful teenage girl who doesn’t realise her own powerful attractiveness yet. Similarly, you’ll want to put a protective arm around them. For now, at least.

 

ANBAD said: “…the genuinely excellent 1985 is steely and brittle beneath its raggedy velveteen exterior.

Their songs betray no ulterior motives of forced cool, and are interested only in establishing their public image as an enthusiastic young band in love with making songs. Excellent, alive, and bright.”