Monday, 28 March 2011

Jennie Sawdon at The Sanctuary, Manchester, March 27th 2011

It's not often in life that two things you really love come together, so when I heard that Jennie Sawdon (she of the remarkable self-made album Fighting the Fairytale) would be playing Popsiculture's regular haunt, Didsbury's The Sanctuary, I decided there and then that I'd make it to see her no matter what.

What neither I nor Popsiculture co-conspirator Dan expected was a night that began with great live music and ended with great live music, but somewhere in the middle turned us into roadies and Sawdon family hangers-on. The impromptu after-party in neighbouring O'Neill's was the perfect way to round off what was really a great night for all involved.

Tape The Radio - Heartache & Fear - out April 18th

A quick album preview here for the upcoming April release of Heartache & Fear by Tape The Radio. This is the title track from the three-piece's debut album, and it sounds pretty good to me. It's moody, mellow rock with a decent nod to its title in the lyrics, which I always like to see.

Tape The Radio are on Hi-Tone Music and consist of vocalist-guitarist Malcolm Carson, the London singer-songwriter who heads up the trio. Bassist Ben Caruso hails from San Francisco, while Canadian drummer Bryan McLellan completes the line-up. It's a simple instrumental arrangement that throws the focus nicely on to the music itself. Heartache & Fear is due to be the opening track on the album, which should set the stage for a pretty good set of tracks to follow, I'd say. I'll be keeping an eye out for this one come mid-April.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Flo Rida ft. Akon - Who Dat Girl?: Singles Round Up

Flo Rida ft. Akon - Who Dat Girl?
Dan: Flo Rida and Akon revisit the plot of Weird Science for this video, while chillin' and playing a little Poker Stars these two inadvertently create themselves a supernaturally sexy hip-hop honey. Mr Rida is inspired by her beauty to sing the immortal lines "I imagine her topless / She might set off my rocket", which should give you an idea about the level of this song. Infantile, but not all bad.
» Flo Rida ft. Akon - Who Dat Girl? on iTunes

Friday, 25 March 2011

Doctor Who - The Impossible Astronaut Teaser

Looks like the BBC read our little Doctor Who-obsessed Popsiculture minds and put out a teaser for the new series just for us. OK, it wasn't quite just for us, but it's still more than welcome. If the prospect of two Ponds was overwhelming on Comic Relief night, you can draw some comfort from the fact that she's not in this preview. In fact, neither's The Doctor, so there's not much chance of it classing as a spoiler. You should probably just go ahead and watch it...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Friendly Fires - Live Those Days Tonight (From Pala out May 16th)

There's been a lot of very welcome Friendly Fires news coming out in the past 24 hours or so. First the St. Albans band revealed that their sophomore album would be called Pala (named for Aldous Huxley's utopian Island) and would be ready for release on May 16th. Then, for some of their lucky London-based fans, a show at intimate Shoreditch venue XOYO was announced for April 7th, where the band will be exclusively unveiling the new material.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Singles Round Up: Strokes - Under Cover Of Darkness

Strokes - Under Cover Of Darkness
Dan: After a five year hiatus, punctuated by the odd solo album, and a smattering of live appearances, this is the big return of the Strokes. Under Cover Of Darkness is the first release from the highly anticipated album Angles which is also out this week. So how is it? Well, pretty bloody good actually, the Strokes' trademark sound is there, and no-one does it better than them, it's a hugely assured, precision piece of garage rock.
» Strokes - Under Cover of Darkness on iTunes

Friday, 18 March 2011

Comic Relief - Red Nose Day 2011

Friday March 18th is Red Nose Day 2011 and we're watching it with you. We'll be live-blogging our way through the main Comic Relief show from 7pm, so leave your comments below or follow us on Twitter @POPSICULTURE and let us know what you think. We're with you till the end on this one...

Oh... and by the way... you can DONATE HERE (at the official Red Nose Day site)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Norman Palm - Shore to Shore (The Interview)

Norman Palm's album Shore to Shore was released on March 14th and has been lighting up Twitter in the past three days. Despite that fact, the man himself took time out to answer a few questions for POPSICULTURE - and we're very glad that he did.

Hit up iTunes via the button below for more about the new album, or click the Read More link for Norman Palm's own take on his latest creation...

Shore To Shore - Norman Palm

Thomas Tantrum - Sleep, out March 27th

A bit of a booty bag of Thomas Tantrum goodies here today, as the countdown to the release of their single Sleep hits the ten-day mark. Below you can check out the video to the single version, as well as the Band of Skulls remix that's making waves out there, which is available to download via SoundCloud.

If you like what you hear, it's worth also checking out the Thomas Tantrum website, where the EP Birdsong, recorded at the end of 2010, is still available for free download. What a generous bunch they are...

Thomas Tantrum on iTunes
Thomas Tantrum

The Video

The single version of Sleep is way cool - classy vocals and lots of character. It's at least as good as Florence + The Machine, and way better than Paloma Faith. Will it do as well as either of those? It could do, if enough fans throw their support behind it, but it's gonna take a lot of word-of-mouth...

The Remix

The Band of Skulls remix actually changes the song quite a lot - it's got a very different vibe to it, with a collision of rock and trancefloor influences. I think the remix is better if you already know the song, personally, but it's a pretty sweet way to spend nearly-three minutes of your life either way.

The Birdsong EP

For the free Birdsong EP, you'll need to sign up to the Thomas Tantrum mailing list at the band's official website - scroll to the bottom and enter your details, then sit back and wait for your inbox to refresh.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Dragon Age 2 (PC)

On first impressions BioWare's sequel to the massively successful Dragon Age: Origins is a big, fun all-action role-playing experience, but somewhat lacking in depth of gameplay compared to its predecessor. Dragon Age 2 has been streamlined say the developers, but a section of the franchise's dedicated fanbase claim it has been watered down.

That all depends what you expect and what you want from an RPG. Apart from a welcome aesthetic overhaul, which has simplified and improved the in-game heads up display, the streamlining process also means that some of the traditional, but perhaps more mundane aspects of the role-playing experience have been sidelined.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Bachelorette - Blanket (from Bachelorette, out May 16th)

Bachelorette is Annabel Alpers, best known to many from her stint with Hawaii Five-O but now going it alone with a self-titled album due out on May 16th. If that seems like a long way away... well, it is, but the two-month countdown is about to begin and the previews are already coming out.

The SoundCloud stream below is of the third track from the album, Blanket, and it gives a good idea of what to expect. For just the first few moments I was reminded of Chicory Tip's Son Of My Father, but it soon gives way to an atmospheric electronics-and-vocals combo that's almost Goldfrappian in nature. Disturbing yet somehow soothing both at the same time - and that's no mean feat. More on this closer to the release date...

Katie Waissel - Katie Waissel

Confusion set in among the Waissel Warriors last week with the news that a Katie Waissel album - entitled, simply, Katie Waissel - would be released in a matter of days. Katie has said a number of times that she's in no hurry to rush out an album post-X Factor, and is in the middle of touring with the live version of the show. So where had the album come from?

The answer is simple enough - this is the recording she had made for Chamberlain Records in the US, before ever auditioning for The X Factor. All of those stories in the press about being bought out of her record contract by Simon Cowell were not quite accurate. Rather than being bought out fully, it seems Cowell was only able to buy some time, so that the album would not be released while the series was still being filmed.

It's now three months since the final of The X Factor and we have the first album to bear Waissel's name - joining the EP Songs From Under the Covers, attributed to 'Katie V', on the list of Katie Waissel releases, but still not music that takes into account her time on The X Factor or the emotional journey that she went on, or that the Waissel Warriors became a part of.

Katie Waissel - Katie Waissel

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Charlatans Acoustic Gig - Deaf Institute Manchester, March 13th 2011

The Charlatans' release of the Warm Sounds EP on March 8th accompanies an acoustic tour by vocalist Tim Burgess and guitarist Mark Collins. I think the last time I saw Burgess live was back in 2003 as the support act for the Stereophonics' tour - he impressed me then, and he impressed me last night in Manchester when Popsiculture headed to the Deaf Institute.

It's probably the perfect venue for this kind of gig - full of character, inviting and open-armed, while Burgess and Collins occupied the space brilliantly, delivering acoustic tracks cherry-picked from The Charlatans' back-catalogue over the years and seemingly cherished as much by the performers as by the audience. A memorable experience and an evening of magic for those lucky enough to get tickets.

Warm Sounds - EP - The Charlatans

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Singles Round Up: Patrick Wolf - The City

After a bumper crop of singles last time round, this week looks a little thin by comparison. There are still one or two gems out there though.

Patrick Wolf - The City
Bobble: This song gets better every time I hear it. It's sweet and simple, with really strong music and vocals. I don't think it's just the title that makes me think of Iglu & Hartly's In This City - both are uplifting and anthemic, optimistic messages of hope and happiness that could apply to any one of us. This is a song to be used, either to keep you in a good mood or to banish a bad one - or just to belt out in the car on the drive to the beach. Bring on summer!
» Patrick Wolf - The City on iTunes

George Michael - True Faith

George Michael's version of True Faith is out today and deserves a bit of attention of its own. Based on our viewing figures over the past couple of weeks, this one song has been anticipated more hotly than the release of REM's Collapse Into Now. Perhaps that's because there wasn't much chance to preview True Faith prior to its release - the song only appeared on George Michael's official web site a few days ago.

However, now it's out and you can buy it for yourself (digital downloads today and physical CD format from tomorrow) - and you also get the peace of mind of knowing you're supporting a good cause, in the form of Comic Relief. Whether or not this coming Red Nose Day weekend will end with George at number one in the singles charts remains to be seen. Personally, I think True Faith will either do very well indeed, or not very well at all. I'm hoping for the former, but it's hard to gauge - needless to say, George has never really stuck to the middle ground during his career.


Monday, 7 March 2011

The Candle Thieves - Breathing (Just For You), out March 21st

The Candle Thieves are back this month with Breathing (Just For You), their new single on Carnival Town Records. It's a lead-in to the expected summer debut album and a follow-on from first single We're All Gonna Die (Have Fun) and EP Sunshine And Other Misfortunes.

I'm detecting traces of Eels (Mr. E's Beautiful Blues) influencing the backing music and a span-the-gap approach to 'proper' music with what can only be described as an 'infectious' pop sound. It's not quite mass-market, but it does more than just fill a niche.

You'll be glad to hear that you can make up your own mind on this one, as the video below gives you a pre-release sneak preview at the track - and thanks to it being on Sunshine And Other Misfortunes, iTunes customers can technically get their hands on the EP version of the track already...

Breathing (Just for You) - Sunshine and Other Misfortunes

REM - Collapse Into Now

REM's Collapse Into Now is out today in the UK and continues what has become a well-honed format for the group, whose success shows no signs of waning as the years go by. Under the stewardship of Michael Stipe, the REM sound machine has really carved its style in stone, with increasingly guitar-led compositions and lyrical points of inflexion that show why fans have stuck with the group for an impressive 15 studio albums.

With a couple of exceptions - lyrics that just repeat the song title, and the horrendous Mine Smell Like Honey (which consists in parts solely of its own title followed by tuneless "uh" sounds) - Collapse Into Now is what you'd expect from REM. Distinctive Stipe vocals, complex layered guitar accompaniment and a careful counterpointing of a fairly laid-back style with high-energy, fast-tempo tracks.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Singles Round Up: Tinie Tempah ft. Ellie Goulding - Wonderman

It's a bumper week for big-name pop singles this week, with Britney, Black Eyed Peas, McFly, Olly Murs and Tinie Tempah all putting forward releases for your consideration. We've picked through that lot, and a few of the smaller name releases to bring you some of the best, and inevitably, some of the worst new singles.

Tinie Tempah ft. Ellie Goulding - Wonderman
Bobble: This song does to Ellie Goulding what Madonna did to Bond themes - she's post-processed to the hilt and mashed up like Monday morning's bubble and squeak, but it works well. Tinie takes the lead with strong vocals but it's a well-balanced partnership and a catchy track. Good effort from both.
» Tinie Tempah ft. Ellie Goulding - Wonderman on iTunes

SpaceChem on Steam

SpaceChem has been out since the start of 2011, but just hit Steam, the iTunes-style game downloading community from Valve (who you may remember from such computer games as Half-Life...).

We took the chance to have a look at this futuristic logic puzzle and try to work out whether it's any good or not.

While any game has its good and bad points, SpaceChem manages to leave a pretty wide gulf between the two - it has excellent points, and terrible points. The gameplay itself, thankfully, is absorbing and intricate; it's mostly just the presentation that lets it down.

Weirdly, the above video does a far better job of outlining the principles of SpaceChem than any of the in-game literature. It's also a chance to hear the incredible soundtrack, composed by Evan Le Ny, which helps to keep the frustration at bay on the more challenging levels.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Jennifer Sawdon - Living the Fairytale

Following on from our review of Jennifer Sawdon's debut album Fighting the Fairytale (which you can read here), we caught up with Jennie to find out what it's like being a recording artist - and what it's like to be living the fairytale, rather than fighting it.

Jennie tells us the ideas behind some of her songs, the new inspirations in her life and why you should 'fight the fairytale' and do things your own way, instead of trying to live somebody else's dream.

Fighting The Fairytale - Jennifer Sawdon

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Flashguns - Passions Of A Different Kind

London four-piece Flashguns have been working hard over the past months, touring with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Mona and currently Dananananaykroyd to build a following ahead of the release of their forthcoming debut album. That as yet unnamed album is scheduled for release this summer, but if you can't wait that long it is preceded by this single.

Passions Of A Different Kind is a big sweeping anthem, impressive in its ambitions for a such a new, young band. The guitars have sort of Good News-era Modest Mouse jauntiness to them, but the track has more energy than something like Float On. And the chorus, which seems to take up most of the second half of the song, has been packed with more hooks than your average pirate convention.

Check out the video for Passions below, and keep your eyes peeled for Flashguns playing a venue near you soon.

George Michael - True Faith, out March 13th

Heads-up all you George Michael fans - the big guy's releasing a cover of New Order's True Faith in time for this year's Comic Relief appeal. All proceeds from the record - both George's own earnings and New Order's royalties for the use of the track - are due to go to the charity.

UPDATE: True Faith hit iTunes on March 13th as promised. Click the button below to buy it from iTunes, or you can use the Amazon link if you want the physical CD version, released on March 14th.


There's a sneak preview of George Michael's version of True Faith on - hit play below to listen now. If for any reason the player below doesn't work, you can still stream True Faith now - just click here to open George's official website in a new tab/window and the stream should be on the front page.

If you want the CD single version of True Faith, which is due to be released on March 14th, you can pre-order it now from Amazon here.

For any of you who don't remember the original, just hit play below for a reminder.

I'm not sure what angle George will take on this one, but it's bound to be good either way - whether he breaks the usual charity-song mould by keeping the fairly upbeat rhythm, or opts instead to push the sentiment of the lyrics, which could actually prove pretty haunting.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

Lykke Li might not be quite as idiosyncratic as fellow Scandinavian songstresses Bjork or Hanne Hukkelberg, but she sure know how to write brave, brilliant, and strikingly otherworldly music. Her new album Wounded Rhymes, the follow up to 2008's Youth Novels, was conceived, written and recorded in the desert hills of Los Angeles on what Li has referred to as a retreat, to escape the "cold and dark" winter of her native Sweden.

Despite the setting though she admits it is an album of dark themes, even "psychotic" at times when dealing with the break up of a recent relationship. Much like Youth Novels it is heartbreak and despair that seem to fuel this record, yet Li manages to turn those bleak emotions into the most beautiful compositions.

Wounded Rhymes - Lykke Li

Clare Maguire - Light After Dark

Sometimes there's just a buzz around an album - and it's hard to tell whether it's because it's been well promoted, or because people are genuinely excited about its release.

In the case of Clare Maguire's Light After Dark, I think it's probably both. Extracts from The Last Dance have been popping up all over the place recently, and if Jenny Frost's retweeting the news that your album's out, you must be doing something right.

Judging purely from The Last Dance, I was expecting a middle-of-the-road effort from Maguire. It's not that it sounds uninspiring - quite the opposite. The Last Dance is a laid back but energetic composition, if such a thing is possible. It's just not massively original - it has that sound you might expect from a final-hour dancefloor filler, but is not quite the last song of the night.