Monday, 30 April 2012

Red Velvet - First Listen

There were more than a few disappointed Waissel Warriors last week, when it emerged that Katie's first proper public outing with her new band Red Velvet was over-18s only. But if there's one thing I've learned about Katie Waissel, it's that she genuinely really cares about her fans, so there was always bound to be a consolation for those who weren't old enough to attend the debut performance of Red Velvet at the Monto Water Rats Theatre on Tuesday, April 24th.

And they didn't have long to wait - in fact, most of Red Velvet's tracks currently on SoundCloud have been there since April 11th, just waiting to be discovered. This week, Waissel added NRG to the Red Velvet set on April 28th, and finally let her fans in on the secret via Twitter.

You can imagine the response - many of these supporters have been waiting for the first proper Waissel music to be released since The X Factor (and remember, the self-titled album 'Katie Waissel' had been recorded before she ever appeared on the show) so the twit-clamour has been raucous and the five-track Red Velvet set on SoundCloud has seen plenty of plays in the short time it's been available.

So, what's all the noise about? Are the Waissel Warriors just fangirling all over Twitter, or is there some real quality to these tracks? Let's take a look...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Devin - Masochist

Devin's new single Masochist is out today, and you can preview it below.

It's proper guitar music, fast-paced and noisy from the get-go, and ideal for shutting out the world around you on the commute to school or work.

As for the vocals, well, Devin has the kind of voice you might expect to hear snarling from the front of a 1960s-70s rock group, the lyrics tripping from his tongue as though it were second nature to him - and to be fair, it probably is.

Masochist is available from April 23rd, a week ahead of Devin's upcoming album, Romancing, which should hit stores on April 30th.

But why wait for the album? If you love Masochist, you can buy the video now at iTunes - just click the button below.
Masochist - Devin

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Futureheads live, RNCM, Manchester, April 13th 2012

If you're wandering round Manchester in the next few days and somebody shouts "MacIntyre!", it probably doesn't mean they've just spotted Donal filming his latest undercover series - they may just have been at the Royal Northern College of Music last night.

The Futureheads ended their ten-date a capella tour in style at the RNCM Theatre, supported by the brilliant Cornshed Sisters and further guests including the Northern Quarter Boys' Choir.

Events kicked off at 8pm with an accomplished 45 minutes from the Cornshed Sisters, adequately filling their role as warm-up act with a set that started slow and emotional, before building to a faster, more upbeat tempo. True to the spirit of the tour, they threw in some a capella music, along with tracks from their newly released album, Tell Tales.

As a four-piece, the girls work incredibly well - each with their own distinct style and voice, but with harmonies that soared to the ceiling of the RNCM Theatre, a venue the Cornsheds claimed to be 'too good for them', before delivering a performance that's likely to make many audience members disagree.

We were advised to get there in time to catch the support act, and I'm truly glad we did - the girls performed original music to an excellent standard, and fully served their purpose in setting the stage for the main event.

You can grab a three-track preview of Tell Tales using the widget above, or click below to visit the album page on iTunes for more previews and purchase links.
Tell Tales - The Cornshed Sisters

With the Cornshed Sisters out of the way, there was just time to grab a pint before the main event of the night - a two-hour set from The Futureheads that was at times hilarious, at times emotional, and occasionally involved the audience in true live-gig style.

Although the tour was ostensibly a capella, there was plenty of acoustic music too, with a whole rack of strings brought on to the stage at the start that ranged from ukuleles to cellos - and a few guitars, as you might imagine.

I was pretty pleased to see the set open with Richard Thompson's Beeswing, one of several cover versions to make it on to Rant, and one of my own favourite songs by Thompson. The Futureheads performed it as a group - as with much of their live music, there's no feeling of any one member really 'owning' the stage - and with plenty of flair.

The enduring sense from the first verse (and through until the end of their encore) was that a capella is not just a gimmick for the four-piece, and the academic surroundings of the RNCM helped to hammer home the impression that the genre is alive and well, and every bit as entertaining and relevant now as it has ever been.

An eclectic set list incorporated drinking songs, sea shanties, the Black Eyed Peas and a few Futureheads classics, including the moving News and Tributes, a particularly fitting choice for Manchester thanks to its historical references to the 1958 Munich air disaster.

With just two days off among their ten tour dates, the strain was beginning to show a little - not on the group, but on their instruments. A snapped guitar string and a broken strap reduced the number of instruments available, and forced a couple of the performances to be slightly more 'a capella' than intended. And an ill-timed fade-out of the lights led to minor disaster as Jaff smashed the resin for his cello bow. Oops.

Other than that, things went fairly smoothly, even when the audience were called in to help with claps, clicks, foot-stamps and cries of "MacIntyre!" (during the classic drinking song, When The Old Dun Cow Caught Fire), and a generally good time was had by all.

As befits the last night of a tour, the Cornshed Sisters returned to the stage for the last few songs, accompanied by the Northern Quarter Boys' Choir, and the singers stepped back from their microphones to fill the auditorium with what felt like genuinely unplugged vocals.

With at least 20 people on stage, and a good mix of male and female voices, those performances in particular brought the evening to a crescendo, and were among the most absorbing of the night for me. Soon enough, though, it was over, and The Futureheads rounded off the main gig with a final few minutes on their own, after thanking the departing Cornsheds and Boys' Choir.

An all-too-brief encore satisfied the rousing calls for more - the group joked that they hadn't stayed off the stage for long enough to build suspense, but there had been time for thunderous applause, foot-stamping, shouts for more and a slow handclap. There may have been a riot if they hadn't come back out as soon as they did.

Hounds of Love - in a capella, naturally - was the final song of the night, a perfect balance of humour and emotion that summed up not just the previous two hours, but the full three hours since the Cornshed Sisters had first stepped on to the stage.

As far as I could tell, the audience left in good spirits, with an open invitation from The Futureheads to make the short walk to the Deaf Institute to join them at a Prince night. Any gig where you're left with an invite to party with the band has got to be good...

The Cornshed Sisters have several further live appearances coming up, including London's Rough Trade West Instore today (do they not rest??) and the CornShed Festival in North Yorkshire on July 6th.

The Futureheads - Rant is out now, and you can read our full review here or click below to visit the album's page on iTunes.
Rant (Bonus Version) - The Futureheads

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Futureheads - Rant

Today sees The Futureheads' a capella album Rant go on sale, along with the double A-side of Meet Me Halfway/The No.1 Song in Heaven, and the start of the group's UK tour to promote the album. The tour kicks off in Brighton tonight, ending in Manchester on April 13th after ten performances and just two nights off. It's a hectic schedule, and it's probably no surprise to see 'Glee Club' listed as the venue for both Birmingham and Nottingham, given the furore surrounding the TV show Glee.

If you're expecting senselessly uplifting, pseudo-a-capella power ballads, though, Rant is not for you. It's proper a capella, and that means no backing track, just a symphony of voices providing everything from the vocals to the instrumentals. It's a celebration of the human voice, and of a broad range of tracks including The Futureheads favourites, a reinvented Black Eyed Peas tune and a folk-rock classic from Richard Thompson.

You might expect a fairly confused result, with such broad influences, but The Futureheads' distinctive vocals are understandably even more evident on Rant than on some of their previous works, and the outcome is actually a very consistent and impressive album.
Rant (Bonus Version) - The Futureheads