Le Couleur: Proven Wrong, Proven Right

I’ve just written a guest article for the BBC about Scandinavian pop music and why those Scandinavians write such darn catchy tunes.

What I discovered was a little stunning (and will be revealed when the article is published – keep ’em peeled, folks), but it at least partially dispelled any fanciful ideas that our Northern Euro-cousins have a special Pop Hook gene.

But it’s so easy to make these generalisations, isn’t it? You know, like how French-language pop is oh-so suave, jaunty and sophisticated.

Well, here’s Le Couleur to – well, prove exactly that.


OK, L’Amour de Jour is so much more than vapid Franco-pop, but it certainly does have a certain sultry slink to it that you couldn’t imagine being present if the song was sung in, say, German.

If, unlike me, you can get past these vague sweeping pre-conceptions, there is a shiny nugget of a  pop song in L’Amour de Jour – one with verve, style and – hell – sophistication.

Maybe those stereotypes are as they are for a reason. Good stuff.

MORE: lecouleurmusic.bandcamp.com

Moscow Youth Cult; Poly-this, Poly-that, Poly-Want-A-Cracker?

I’d love to be a polyorchid. Wait – I mean polymath. A polyorchid is a totally different thing entirely, though perhaps both involve having a lot of balls.

Some bands are muso-polymathic, producing all sorts of sounds without, apparently, effort or complication. They zip hither and thither, tweaking this genre and that noise, producing something new, something old, and something in between. Think of these bands as the Anti-Oasis.

Moscow Youth Cult make all sorts of music –  here, a fun-to-the-max throwaway Mario Kart Koopa beach level-esque hula-pop, there a mentalist electro stomper – but inevitably, ANBAD will choose to focus on the most fun and stupid of them all: the Commodore 64 bleep-fest.

8-Bit City, like all 8-bit songs, plays it determinedly for laughs. Even if you have no recollection of 80’s video games, who could fail to smile at the ‘BLOOOOOOOOOO’ noises, the demented twittering and the crackly bass-substitute noises?

The inherent beauty of 8-Bit music is that it just doesn’t matter. By adhering to such rigid and daft boundaries, all emotional possibility except FUNNNN!!!!! are erased in a swathe of candy-floss-coloured glee.

Moscow Youth Cult knows this – hell, when it comes to musical styles, they know their onions – and they run with the frantic happiness induced by one too many listens to Lust For Life. Huzzah!


Rizzle Kicks, BRIT School Head Boys

Someone told me that Rizzle Kicks are students at the BRIT School of Performing Arts. This strikes me as extremely odd.

The BRIT School is an industry crud-factory that whelps out ‘new talent’, who then get record deals suspiciously quickly, suspiciously win carefully orchestrated ‘Next Big Thing‘ online polls and then suspiciously win BRIT Awards.

This approach  might sell records, but it also means we have to put up with the likes of muddy-voiced warbler Adele, the mind-shreddingly annoying Kate Nash and The Singer From The Kooks Who Thinks He’s Cool.

So what in the blue blazes are Rizzle Kicks doing there? Having a great time, I imagine, because they are making music that shows a dazzling depth of actual talent, wit, intelligence and fun. Accordingly, I fear for their future.

Sonically, How Charming?! channels the spirit of The Special‘s Ghost Town, and in attitude, retains a healthy dollop of its suburban alienation too. A multi-layered, multi-faceted, multi-styled extravaganza awaits:

Rizzle Kicks // How Charming?!

Wit and likeability are both rare and hard to fake, but How Charming?! has these qualities to spare. It suddenly struck me: Rizzle Kicks occasionally sound like a ‘cool’ Art Brut, complete with witticisms, irony and nerdiness.

And this is what I like. Rizzle Kicks are unusual. This is excellent news for us music fans, but less so for the BRIT School. Such is life.


Organ Morgan, False Memories and Summer All Year Long

The combination of getting older and being in possession of a mind that is hard-wired to remember even the most minor musical trivia forever has it’s flaws, I can tell you.

An example of the mysteries of the human mind: when an email about Organ Morgan* popped into my inbox, the band that pinged into my head was 1999 very-minor-sensation M. Organ, who (briefly) wrote Money Mark-esque ditties on his Hammond Organ, and then disappeared without trace.

When you can’t find someone on Google, you know that either a) times are hard for that artist, or b) your subconscious has made the memory up to make life that bit more complex. Both situations have their own worrying conclusions, and thus Organ Morgan*‘s E-Z Serv, soft-scoop, grab-bag pop is all the more welcome a distraction.

Organ Morgan – Broken Heart

If Broken Heart is a remix of the Spiritualized song of the same name, then he’s done a fine job of removing all of that version’s heroin-misery and replacing it with dreamy, orange-hued pleasure.

In a time when everyone with a laptop and a pirated copy of Fruity Loops is a producer, here’s a man who really knows what he’s doing, sculpting outrageously lovely songs with the finesse of someone who’s spent their whole life immersed in great songs.

Morgan Organ*‘s dreamy, skittering, summertime songs will inevitably draw comparisons with The Avalanches, but how can that be a bad thing? And apparently, he’s made a 26-track, alphabetically-themed album. This man might be my hero. A warm, golden delight. Expect big things.


*NB: Organ Morgan is now know as Channel Swimmer: www.channelswimmer.com

>Today’s New Band – Dutch Uncles PLUS! In The City Day 1!

Here are notes from yesterday’s ‘action’ at the In The City music conference, the UK’s premiere unsigned band shindig:

  1. Mark Ronson: silent, bored, ubiquitous skinny trousers ‘n’ scarf combo, giant quiff
  2. Steve Lamacq: patient, friendly and his voice is even more delightful in real life
  3. Huw Stephens: see Steve Lamacq
  4. Assorted PRs, A&R people and managers: busy, busy, busy, and ‘can you print my name more clearly on this AAA Pass please, people won’t be able to see who I am’
  5. No free bar/buffet: a travesty

I shamefully collared Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephens and stammered incoherently about how much in liked their radio shows whilst pressing my email address into their hands. They nodded good-naturedly before slowly backing away.

The bands there were a real, friendly delight – untainted by an industry which sometimes seems geared to grind any fun out of a job that ought to be pure fun. As I spoke to them, I sucked in as much of their enthusiasm as possible, and hoped they’d find what they were looking for in the murk of rock ‘n’ roll.

There are literally* a million bands at ITC, and like any music festival, you can only scratch the surface of what’s on show. But Today’s New Band emerged from the haze, and they’re a good ‘un: welcome, Dutch Uncles.

To be honest, I thought that their name was a euphemism for a scatological sexual perversion, though apparently it’s not. They told me that their name comes from the title of a play, and none of the band members have actual Dutch uncles. Such is life.

But their songs are great, quirky pop – hear Steadycam, soak up the megawatt-bright, chiming chorus and wonder where they’ve been all your life. Doppelganger is a curious, scratch ‘n’ sniff pop song; inventive, coiling and sweet.

Oh, and the band wear a range of truly heinous charity-shop clothing. Men after my own heart. Great. Watch them soar: listen here!

*kind of

Photography by Nina Kölle

>Today’s New Band – The Candle Thieves

There’s an inherent problem with the Tweecore musical genre, as spearheaded by tinkly Welsh poppers Los Campesinos. It’s that the word ‘Twee’ hasn’t often been used as a positively descriptive word very often.

Twee songs work for a while, and then become so sickly, so wholesome and so…. twee that you start to feel a bit uncomfortable, like when you’ve eaten too much chocolate on Christmas day. There’s not much room for variety when an artist is constrained by such narrow, wide-eyed and sugary parameters.

Today’s New Band, The Candle Thieves, couldn’t really be described as Tweecore, though they are overflowing with cute melodies, toy instrument sounds and a faux-naif outlook, which perhaps makes them distant Twee cousins.

The Sunshine Song is silvery bright, a slinky jangle punctuated with confused sax squawks, and plinking piano. Sharks and Bears, a small paean to uncomfortable dreams, is light, bright and sincere, even.

I spent a while wondering why I wasn’t connecting with these songs in quite the way I’d hoped. Then I realised: The Candle Thieves make children’s music, as intended for adults. This is a complex dichotomy, though one that probably shouldn’t be thought about too much, for fear of headaches.

Their songs are sweet, short and simple. Oh, and then sweet, again. Individually, their songs are a sugary treat. A whole album might be saccharine overload, but that’s what happens if you eat the whole bag of Haribo in one sitting. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Race Horses

>I spent a while last weekend watching horses mill around in a field. I like horses – they are less dumb than cows, yet still daft enough to trot over and enthusiastically munch handfuls of grass from me as if it was a rare treat, as opposed to exactly the same stuff they’d been eating straight from the ground all day.

One curious equine trait I noticed is that they will spend hours gnawing on grass that has previously been grazed to near-nothingness, while big, lush clumps of long grass wait, temptingly and un-chewed, just a few metres away. Perhaps, having found a patch of grass they like, they don’t really fancy change, in case it’s not as good.

This unwillingness to try something that might be different is what keeps Simon Cowell in a gold-plated mansion full of supermodels, stiff hair brushes and expensive, monochrome clothing. The only reason people keep buying the safe mawkish pop that Leona Lewis et al grind out is because they daren’t buy something a but more edgy like, ooh, Girls Aloud; who have more pop, sazz and fun than anything stroppy Simon has ever produced.

Today’s New Band won’t get signed by auditioning on a TV freakshow, but they make great power-pop records, and are called Race Horses, which ties everything together quite nicely.

Their single Cake is a great sliver of jangling teenage hormonal punky-pop, with a frankly ludicrous chorus of, “She wanted cake. Cake! She was the one who turned me on to it”. Whether it’s a cute teeny-pop ode to a girl who preferred pastries to fooling around, or a reference to some drug pseudonym that hasn’t leapt this far over the age gap yet, I don’t know, but I strongly hope it’s the former.

Cacen Mamgu is partly sung in the lovely Welsh language, but the shouty initial chorus sounded like “Chocolate fountain! Chocolate fountain!” to my untrained ear, which works for me. It’s another sweet buzzy sherbert-fuelled weirdo pop song.

Race Horses are a dead cert to leap out of the traps (I’ll stop now) and craft a sweet poppy future for themselves. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Frantic Clam

>A band’s name doesn’t really makes a huge difference to how you perceive them. This isn’t the same as liking a band’s name, which is an arbitrary personal choice – and in the case of heavy metal bands, whether you like the indiscriminate scattering of umlauts or not – but if you think about it, U2 would still be as will-sappingly dreadful even if they were called Bono’s Big-Top Dancing Monkey Troupe.

So: Today’s New Band. Their name is Frantic Clam. Some of you will like the name, some will think it stinks and most will hopefully be too busy listening to their great, driving, songs to care.

Fort Worthless hammers a steady beat – the kind where our human, subconscious need for steering-wheel-drumming bubbles to the surface – and the band carefully construct a web of choppy guitars, chipper lyrics and handclaps-a-plenty around it. It’s a pop song of sorts, subscribing to the age old pop values – use a good tune, a catchy chorus, and loads of hooks. It works, and it’s the kind of song that will make a difference to the band’s life.

Korean Beauty Queen is another chugging, sparse-then-noisy-then-sparse-again angular art-rock jab to the ribs, arriving quickly in a screech of its own importance and disappearing just as rapidly.

Frantic Clam say that they ‘sound like tinnitus’. I think any sufferers would be happy to swap that internal broken radio buzz for Frantic Clam‘s off-kilter swagger. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Disco Nasties

>At the end of the Pete and the Pirates gig I went to a few weeks ago, I was lingering on the dancefloor, looking for money dropped during the jumping around (old teenage habits die hard). A girl approached me who was either drunk, or high on life. She excitedly thrust a CD into my hand, told me that, “this band are amazing!” and stumbled away.

The band was called Disco Nasties, a name that is satisfying in a Bis kind of way, and they’d supported P&TP that night, though I’d missed them.

Inevitably, I lost the CD immediately, but my friend Mort found it again at his house the other day. I dutifully listened to it, liked it, and – guess what? – Disco Nasties are Today’s New Band.

Little Bit Sorry pings with jittering guitar, youthful exuberance, a cracked structure and a chorus that puts an arm tightly around you and pulls you into the mosh pit. Textual Deviance is even better, in turns falling apart and putting itself back together again – all the while jamming in as much choppy jangling as is reasonable. O2 Molecules grabs an ‘oh-oh-oh’ chant and won’t let it go, but will let you join in.

After looking at their Myspace page now, I think the drunk girl may have been the drummer, but I’m not sure. Either way: thank you, wandering drunkard. Disco Nasties are the zippy funsters you’d expect them to be, and more. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Everything Everything

>Last night, I saw Pete And The Pirates* at Moho Live in Manchester. Since I first saw them two years ago, and then again six months ago, they’ve steadily got better – more charming, more interesting, more likely to become the huge success they deserve to be. If their fabulous new songs are anything to go by, their next album will be a corker.

We took a decidedly old-school approach to the gig – blagging our way in for free (“But the band promised we’d be on the guest list”), and smuggling in a hip flask o’ booze for surreptitious topping-up of cola. As we persuasively nudged our way to the front of the crowd (sharp elbows), the difference between a support band and the headliners became a little clearer than before.

Where the support band that we saw (I forget their name, but imagine a swing and a miss at Stone Roses-style Über-confidence and you’re there) tried to fill every moment with noise, P&TP had the confidence to allow ebb and flow, quiet and loud. It lulls the audience in as opposed to battering them with a wall of fudgy noise.

Today’s New Band also have this skill – and it is a skill – so be thankful for Mancunians Everything Everything, whose songs are cute, sharp and unusual.

Suffragette Suffragette is a clicking, polyrhythmic example of their finely-honed approach to songwriting. It weaves and bobs, dashing from choral, harmonising vocal over-indulgence to pared-down calm – which serve to push their superb weirdness to the fore.

Single Photoshop Handsome grabs a wild chorus by the ears and rides it hopefully, wrestling it to fit into their idiosyncratically off-the-wall framework. It yelps, shouts and chirps – but not for the sake of it – and then slips confidently into a huge, pounding, synth finale.

Everything Everything are now getting the radio play they’ve deserved for a while, and this is purely because they’re punchy, innovative and crafty. Lovely. Listen here.

*My amigo Martin said that they sounded like the Strokes had collaborated with 90’s pop-nobodies Eternal, which wins my vote for most ludicrous description of any band, ever.