Thursday, 23 September 2010

Seal - Commitment

Seal's back! And whether you call this album by its proper name, Commitment, or by its nickname, Seal 6, you're in for a treat as his distinctive voice carries you away to distant lands - or just distant times. Sure, it's a bit 90s in places, but Seal was one of the high points of the decade that originality forgot. I'm still sporting the hairstyle I adopted in 1996, so I shouldn't really complain too much.

At the time of writing, there's still a good few days left until the US release date of September 28th, but the rest of the world's already got Commitment to wrap their listening gear around. I've always thought Seal's best suited to solo listening. And with the energetic opening that I'm about to discuss in the High Points section below, you might want to make sure there are no distractions around so you can properly enjoy one of our most recognisable and effortless vocal talents.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From A Young Man

A new Manic Street Preachers album is a bit of a trepidatious experience for me these days. I've been disappointed by them before, but I always want to love them. As a skinny, vaguely alternative kid in 1990s Cardiff, I grew up with the Manics. Gold Against the Soul was one of the first albums I ever bought, my first girlfriend was a rabid, feather-boa toting Manics fan, and as a result I think they are still the band I have seen live most often.

Postcards From A Young Man is probably the first Manic Street Preachers album release I've been excited about since Know Your Enemy, after the overly commercial missteps of Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth... that album promised a lot, but largely failed to deliver. Postcards though has been trailed by a great single, and promises to walk the line between the radio-friendly epic rock Of Everything Must Go, and the more outré personal/political stuff of Holy Bible. It's a high risk high-wire act, but if they pull it off...

The X Factor, Sunday September 19th

Guest judge Nicole Scherzinger returned for Sunday, September 19th's The X Factor - the last auditions show before next week's Boot Camp round of the competition. Here's our pick of the performances, with iTunes links to the original versions of the songs from last night's show.

Guest Judge:
Nicole Scherzinger

Dramatic Music:
O Verona - Craig Armstrong (from Romeo + Juliet Volume 2)
O Fortuna - Carl Orff

DVD & Blu-ray Round Up: Robin Hood

DVD release of the week has to be Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, despite being criticised for it's historical inaccuracies and Russell Crowe's wandering accent, this Extended Directors' Cut is surely the best two-hours of blockbusting fun you'll get on DVD this week.

The amount of derision that Robin Hood has received for daring not to be a historical documentary, about what is essentially a fairytale, has been really unfair. Quibbles about the chronology of the Magna Carta, or Eleanor of Aquitaine's role in the story are so far removed from film criticism as to be absurd. As for Crowe's accent, okay it can be disconcerting as a viewer, and there is definitely something a bit off about the mix of Barnsley/Brisbane/Ballymena, but does it really matter?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The X Factor audition clips, Saturday September 18th 2010

In case you need a reminder of Saturday night's X Factor auditions, here's our pick of the best and the links you need to grab your favourite tracks from iTunes.

Starting with Aiden Grimshaw, whose version of Kanye West's Gold Digger seems to have been making a few waves on Twitter. Or perhaps it's just his chiselled good looks that have caught people's attention. Either way, he's our bet to make it through to the live finals, so you'd better get used to him.

Rebecca Ferguson's emotional version of the Sam Cooke classic A Change Is Gonna Come was also a personal high point for me - it's one of my favourite songs and it was great to see justice done to it.

Click the 'Read more' link below for the videos and links.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The X Factor, Saturday September 18th

Liked a song on The X Factor but don't know what it was? Here's our round-up of the night's memorable tracks - from the auditionees, the background music, those 'moments' of high tension, and guest judge Nicole Scherzinger.

Guest Judge:
Nicole Scherzinger

Dramatic Music:
God Moving Over the Face of the Waters - Moby
O Verona - Craig Armstrong (from Romeo + Juliet Volume 2)
O Fortuna - Carl Orff

Weezer - Hurley

Hurley is the new album from Weezer, with a deluxe version also available for 'proper' fans. It's kinda nice to see the deluxe version hit the stands at more or less the same time as the 'normal' release, rather than a week before Christmas when you've already bought your brother the non-deluxe album.

Oh, and hey, there's a massive picture of Hurley from Lost on the front, which is fantastic. If you've been missing Lost since it went away, you get to stare at Jorge Garcia, aka Hugo Reyes, while listening to ten songs that have no apparent connection with either him, his character or the show. It's a bit odd, but it's still nice to see him. And the jewel case makes a very 21st-century photo frame, right? Anyways, if you're more interested in what's inside the case than who's on its cover, read on...

Interpol - Interpol

I have to say, I was never completely on the Interpol bandwagon. Even in that period after Turn On The Bright Lights was released, and they were briefly the coolest thing around, I wasn't really on board. They were an exciting proposition live, and their taut, edgy Joy Division impression was interesting, but it seemed to me it was just that, an impersonation.

Subsequent to their debut album, and the even more successful follow up Antics, I lost touch with Interpol, and completely missed their third album. But on hearing that their self-titled fourth record was to be a return to the sound of their early material, well apart from not knowing they'd ever departed from it, I thought I'd give them another chance to convince me.

Monday, 13 September 2010

DVD & Blu-ray Round Up: Lost - The Complete Sixth Season

When Lost was first imported to our shores by Channel Four back in 2005 it came with a blaze of hype and publicity. Not only was it the most expensive TV production ever (the feature-length series opener alone cost a reported $10m), but it had received rave reviews in the US where the first season had been a huge success.

6 million British viewers tuned in to find out what all the fuss was about on it's debut (which was scheduled next to another now defunct TV phenomenon). The series quickly attracted a dedicated fanbase returning each week to follow the story of the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 on the dark and duplicitous Island.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Big Brother's Big DVD The Best Bits: 2000-2010

It's over. It's all over. After a little more than ten years (and 11 summers), Big Brother has come to an end. Are you sad? Are you happy? Do you even care? Well, for those of you who aren't quite ready to let go, there's Big Brother's Big DVD The Best Bits: 2000-2010. The critics aren't exactly raving about this retrospective, but it's really not that bad - I think it's just one for the fans.

Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From A Young Man Out September 20th

The Manic Street Preachers return with their 10th studio album later this month, in the form of the rather wistful sounding Postcards From A Young Man. Described by Nicky Wire as "one last shot at mass communication" and an attempt to "infiltrate the mainstream", it sounds like they are pitching this one quite explicitly to attract a wide audience.

The lead single (It's Not War) Just The End Of Love has certainly been getting a fair amount of radio airtime, so it seems they may achieve that audience. End of Love has a kind of old time rock'n'roll vibe that harks back to their Generation Terrosists material, but with a definite radio-friendly sheen to it as well.

Postcards From A Young Man was recorded in Cardiff with long-term Manics producer Dave Eringa, and includes guest appearances by Ian McCulloch (Echo & the Bunnymen), John Cale and ex-Guns 'n' Roses bassist Duff McKagan.

Keep your eyes peeled for Popsiculture's verdict nearer release.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Eels - Tomorrow Morning

Eels reportedly (according to Wikipedia) were named so that their CDs would appear close by frontman Mark Everett's solo work, released under the name 'E'. That was 15 years ago and, whether you knew his voice before then or have only come to know it since, previous albums including Beautiful Freak and Daisies of the Galaxy have become celebrated, if excessively mellow, entries in many of our record collections.

This is Tomorrow Morning, the latest instalment in the Eels franchise - if that's the right word (it's not). There are similarities and differences between this and previous efforts, which probably goes without saying. It's good - which, with E, also really can be taken as a given. Personally, I think with Eels you just have to give it a go and see what you think. That being said, if you want to know what I think, do read on...

Various Artists - Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah / Philly Freedom

I can't claim much specialist knowledge on the world of 1970s US funk and disco, but then, that's what attracted me to these releases in the first place. When I saw the cool, retro styled covers of these Backbeats compilations they looked like a great way to educate and enlighten myself about various scenes of 1970s American pop culture that had hitherto passed me by.

I'm a bit of a collector too, and my record collection wouldn't feel complete without these niches covered; the fact that the packaging for each has been so lovingly designed as a tribute to the subject matter makes them a welcome addition too. Of course, as the designs allude to, the artwork should rightly be wrapped around a big, heavy chunk of black vinyl but you can't have everything, can you?

Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah the New York disco collection doesn't boast any names that jumped out at me at first glance so as I scanned the names of Eddie Holman, Lucy Hawkins, Loleatta Holloway I didn't know what I was going to get. I'd got this far on blind faith, and my theory that generally speaking you can judge an album by its cover. Turns out I was right.