Tuesday, 21 July 2009

“It’s like a crazy contest between an orange and a spaceship and a potted plant and a spoon - which one do you like better?”

Imagine, and it wont take much imagination, that you get a bunch of musos together in a room. Someone gives them too much coffee and some sandwiches on those bendy, tacky tinfoil platters and then ask them to pick their favourite 12 albums of 2008, from a selection of (very, very roughly) 30,000. Then, take the albums they choose and call them "Albums of the Year". Then get them to choose one, and call it the winner.

I would not for a second imply that this is a pointless exercise. I can't pretend to have heard all the nominated albums this year, but I'm sure that they are all stirling efforts and more than worth their nomination (actually I'm not, but its not up to me). However, I do have to question the task the judges put themselves up for. Regardless of genre, they decide one album is better than another, something that, at this level, clearly cant be judged on anything but a subjective level. As 2005 winner Anthony and the Johnsons (who?) wisely said “It’s like a crazy contest between an orange and a spaceship and a potted plant and a spoon - which one do you like better?” Now obviously we'd all choose the spaceship, but his point is clear. Its a hopeless exercise, but not a pointless cause.

It creates educated, balanced debate, highlights talent, encourages broad music tastes and makes you feel vindicated when surprise winners fade to nothingness while your champion is still charting. The Mercury Prize is flawed and wonderful as all music competitions are (except T4 unsigned), and thus I will put my educated, balanced debate out there:

Why the fuck are Kasabian nominated, and Doves not?

The other nominations are (with William Hills predictable odds on):

Florence and the Machine – Lungs 5/1
Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum 5/1
Bat for Lashes – Two Suns 6/1
La Roux – La Roux 6/1
Glasvegas – Glasvegas 6/1
Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy 8/1
Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires 8/1
The Horrors – Primary Colours 8/1
Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew 8/1
The Invisible – The Invisible 10/1
Led Bib – Sensible Shoes 10/1
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men 10/1

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Desert Island Discs

There seems to be a trend in declaring the death of mediums at the moment. Just yesterday I had a long, semi-concious and fully drunken chat with my bassists father who called me "niave" for thinking the media could survive the recession.

One such medium, that in my opinion would have already died a death if it weren't for car stereos, is Radio. Those god awful afternoon dramas, annoying DJs, terrible playlists, amatuer adverts and the fucking Archers aside, it is simply a medium that filled the gap between social cohesion and TV.

The fact is that everything Radio can do, TV can do better. With a few exceptions - one being Desert Island Discs. There is something so inherently sonic about the show that the idea of adding the visual seems completely destructive. Music is an Aural pleasure, and thus a TV or live version of it would leave one not knowing where to look. In fact I think most people would close their eyes and pretend it is a radio show.

I listened to Desert Island Discs for the first time in years today, because the hero that is David Mitchell was on. As a self confused non-muso he chose a wonderfully mixed bag including, amongst others, "Rainbow Connection" sung by Kermit the Frog, Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Major and Radiohead's "creep". He also chose "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, stating that is would be the perfect song to go mad to on a desert Island. To watch David Jiggle about to the Spanish Flea on TV would be too much to bear.

Listening to Radio still has its pleasures, ones I forgot until this morning. It makes you concentrate on the music (thus why Dizzy Rascal's "Bonkers" is so completely intolerable in this form....actually any form) and also listen to what it's speakers say, rather than gawp at how the camera adds ten pounds to David Mitchell (although less cameras must be on him recently). Radio still has it's place, it's just that that place has moved, and it needs to remember why it is different to TV not why TV is better than it.

Long live Desert Island Discs, and long live Radio.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Fern Cotton's feet are a little too small in my opinion.

Radio presenters are a classic English target. Awkward conversations about the weather are often followed by a scathing appraisal of the "idiots on the radio". Jo Whiley managed to escape this kind of criticism, but largely only because she managed to avoid public conciousness by being (feel free to stop talking about anti-seasonal precipitation and disagree) pretty inoffensive.

Caitlin Moran however, very much hates the woman, and in her own enviable style puts her down like an old dog: "her on-screen style that seems to inspire the main rage — a decades-long, squirming awkwardness that makes her look as if she’s about to corkscrew right off her chair and start drilling into the ground. This awkwardness extends into her conversational rhythm, which is angular — possibly free-jazz — in origin."

But Caitlin - you must be preparing your razor sharp tongue once again, because a much easier target has swaggered in front of the sniperscope. Fearne Cotton will now be doing the midmorning slot. As a young, attractive and slightly trashy sounding lady she is bound to be victim to some highbrow brow raising. I as a young, virile young man have no problem with her. Except she's shit.

How can she now present the Live Lounge when she dated a Fame Academy offshoot and the Lostprophet singer (the only man alive to exclusively sing through his nose). How can she take over the £250,000 a year salary off the back of a career on Top of the Pops and Red Nose Day?

Whiley, for all her sins, was a music lover, a recognisable voice, a live lounge co-creator and the voice of reason on T4 unsigned (if that exists). Fearne, they may not be massive shoes to fill but at the moment you look like you have very small feet.

So you want free music do you?

Despite the occasional cameo from Piratebay, it seems the ugly head of illegal downloading has gone back beneath the surface. That is not to say it is no longer an issue, but that the media has decided that something that isn't new...isn't news.

I would love to say that another reason is that people have found more legal ways to enjoy free music, but that would be niave. So here I am, a one man army saying that I am totally against illegal downloading, and even more against it now I have stopped doing it. That is because I have discovered Spotify.

Spotify, in its most basic form, is like a jukebox with almost every song in the world on it that you can access whenever you have an internet connection. For a small monthly fee you get advert free music on a scale never before thought possible. You can also pay one measily pound and get a day's worth of free music. Or even better, don't pay at all and every 20 minutes of so get a 30 second add.

Its all ad and link funded, so the conscience is left untainted, even if it gets a little nervous every time you find a really good album you'll never have to buy. I personally think it outshines the wonder that is Last.fm, which does offer the musical scope and media variation, but not the ease of use or simple playlist ability. Spotify also seems far more reliable for streaming, though this may be due to the numb er of listeners involved.

So for you thieves - start borrowing music instead. Its free, easy, legal, supportive of bands and a hell of a lot quicker at finding the tracks you want. It also has loads of kareoke tracks...I've checked - You've Lost That Loving Feeling is there.