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BBC Sound of 2013 – Yea or Nay?

 
By on Wednesday, 2nd January 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Editor’s note: The BBC Sound of 2013 longlist announcement garnered mixed reviews from our writers, which led me to commission this unusual interplay – between John, holed up on his home island of Guernsey, and Martin, holed up similarly at home in Gateshead – just about the merits – or lack of? – in this Sound of 2013 list. For an alternative list, check out the TGTF 10 for 2013 poll winners, as voted by our lovely readers. As I prep this post in WordPress New Year’s Day, Welsh electropoppers CHVRCHES and Laura Mvula have been announced as #5 and #4, respectively. Before we get ahead of ourselves, John and Martin get stuck in their discussion…

So what is the BBC Sound of 2013? Is it a jumped-up product placement list, or a true representation of the best innovation to come out of the UK in the next year? Can the tips from the 213 so-called ‘tastemakers’ truly gauge who is going to break boundaries and inspire us this coming calendar year, or is it just a script that each BBC Radio presenter needs to stick to? Martin Sharman and I will be discussing this over this transcript:

John: So Martin, the BBC Sound of 2013 list is out and I quite frankly, I am bored and uninterested in what they’ve thrown up, what do you think?

Martin: Well, John, it’s easy to be cynical about these things – people like you and me spend a lot of time seeking out and experiencing new music, and could well be able to come up with a list of our own that would be just as virtuous, and certainly more to our own tastes, as this one. But I think this list has a good stab at covering a lot of bases, and I’m sure a lot of the artists on the list are grateful for the increased exposure it will generate for them. Quite how and why the acts are chosen we will never know – I fantasise that a lot of PR puffery and not the odd glass of champagne have been involved in its genesis – but if one is prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure most people who look at the list will be able to find something that they like.

John: I will indulge that a lot of bases are covered here, you’ve got your British guitar bands (Palma Violets and Savages) so the tabloid media can pander their fantasy that institution of ‘the Great British Guitar Band’ lives on. You’ve got your ‘strong independent’ woman type in the form of Angel Haze who already stinks of Jessie J and even a Michael Kiwanuka 2.0 (this time a girl!) in Laura Mvula. It feels almost formulaic to me?

Martin: Formulaic? This is the BBC we’re talking about, of course it is! There have undoubtedly been umpteenth meetings, focus groups, and quotas developed to exactly proportion each aspect of this list: genre, gender, ethnicity, hair colour, shoe size. But that’s not the fault of the artists who ended up being picked. Indeed, if Angel Haze, oozing with street smarts from the wrong side of Detroit, who can properly rap like Azealia Banks leavened with Odd Future‘s blunt lyrical themes, was to know she was being compared with the over-privileged, under-talented, Brit school rent-a-common-denominator Jessie J, she’d just as likely head across the Atlantic and whup yo’ ass. And Laura Mvula’s ethereal vocal work, presumably influenced by her a capella background, appeals to me a lot more than Kiwanuka’s homely schtick, but that just reinforces the subjective nature of all of this. What does make me yawn is the aforementioned Palma Violets – if I see another archly lo-fi video again, I’ve seen too many. The Libertines happened: deal with it. Although they may make more sense live. But there must be something on the list that appeals, John?

John: As a BBC employee I better watch whose toes on which I tread, but formulaic probably is hitting the nail on the head there. RE: Palma Violets and another ‘archly lo-fi video’, you’re going to absolutely have kittens for the video for ‘Best of Friends’, which people for some bizarre reason are gushing over? Not me, nope, I’m not buying into this Vaccines-lite that they seem to be publicising themselves as. I can get at least get a bit giddy about Gary Barlow’s favourite Irish crooners, Kodaline. The music and video to ‘All I Want’ is tear-jerkingly beautiful, and with the backing of Mister Barlow, I just feel like they could do very well for themselves. [They’ve also gotten a shout for SXSW 2013. – Ed.] While if she’s finished whooping ma ass, I feel like Angel Haze could at least be something edgy, exciting and a little bit sexy. Which is what I feel this list is missing… Who stands out for you then, Martin?

Martin: I’m with you on Kodaline: a deceptively simple song is enhanced with a brilliant, and indeed rather moving, visual story. Little Green Cars have a similarly powerful marriage: the video is made with a photographer’s eye for composition, and the song adds a much-needed bitter twist to the usual romance narrative. AlunaGeorge deserve mention for their sultry, mature approach to the urban pop genre, and visuals which positively drip 2013 London cool. The jury’s out on Tom Odell: he’s certainly a talented chap, but it’s so early on in his career to say for sure whether he’s got genuine depth, or simply blessed with an approximation of Chris Martin’s voice and demeanour. Gary Barlow’s finely-coiffed head pops up again with his signing A*M*E, who I can’t decide whether is bringing a decent bit of synthpop back to the charts or is the most derivative thing I’ve heard for ages. Either way, her video is a jolly bit of pastel-coloured candyfloss to liven these dark nights. And of the highlights for me that just leaves Haim’s ’80s-revival New York soft-rock, and (#5 band on the 10 for 2013 poll) Peace’s very British widescreen guitar jollity, one of very few bands who can invoke Talking Heads – and that’s a very good thing. Both acts were doing fine before this nomination, but it’ll do their career no harm either. Just pondering the winner…

John: We can ponder and discuss all we want, but it just feels like the cards are already stacked in Mr. Odell’s favour, he’s been named Brits Critics’ Choice Winner 2013 and we all know what that means. The talent is there, undoubtedly so: the Chichester-born musician seems like exactly what the BBC will want from their winner. Someone who’ll look well-placed on Jools Holland, while also being able to make fangirls swoon at festivals in the summer. We’d obviously like it to be somebody like Fenech-Soler, or a TGTF backed band, but hey we can dream.

Martin: I suspect you may be right. If they go for a band, and with all the talk of bands being back in fashion they may decide to buck the Brits trend, then my money’s on Kodaline. Great connections, great hairdos, great cheekbones. And although it’s easy to get all snobby about their ability to generate crowd-pleasing ditties, pleasing the crowd is what it’s all about. My personal choice is AlunaGeorge, on the basis that they might just turn into the next big urban crossover – there’s hints of that Tricky / Martina Topley-Bird interplay that gets me all excited. Well, we’ll find out soon enough!

 

(10 for 2013!) Quickfire Questions #42: Ralph Pelleymounter of To Kill a King

 
By on Friday, 21st December 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

Yesterday we posted To Kill a King‘s leader Ralph Pelleymounter’s answers to some questions Braden posed to him. (If you recall, To Kill a King landed at #8 on our 10 for 2013 readers’ poll of bands to do well in 2013.) Today, we have for you his responses to the TGTF Quickfire Questions. Jeff Buckley makes yet another appearance, and never would have pegged him as Freddie Mercury fan but here goes…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
Something from The Snowman [film], ‘Walking in the Air’, probably.

What was your favourite song as a child?
Anything from Queen.

What song makes you laugh?
Queen – ‘Bicycle’

What song makes you cry?
College – ‘Real Hero’ (featuring Electric Youth).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DSVDcw6iW8[/youtube]

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Jeff Buckley – ‘Hallelujah’.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Damien Rice – ‘9 Crimes’

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?

Beatles – ‘Paperback Writer’.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Joseph Heller

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Counting all the many pounds I’ve collected in my big piggybank.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
Anthony and the Johnsons – ‘I am Bird’.

Thank you Ralph for your help answering these QQs. And thanks also to Nick for making this possible!

 

10 for 2013 Interview: Ralph Pelleymounter of To Kill a King

 
By on Thursday, 20th December 2012 at 3:30 pm
 

London-based To Kill a King placed eighth on our 10 for 2013 countdown as voted by you TGTF readers. Leader Ralph Pelleymounter kindly answered some questions our London writer Braden came up for him.

Earlier in the year, you released the ‘Word of Mouth’ EP. How did it come about and how does it reflect in comparison to music you’ve got in the works?

Well, ‘Word of Mouth’ is essentially a live EP, so the album that’s coming out in February has all the extra we can’t do live – strings/brass/extra vocals – but it is all in the same vein.

The series of videos filmed on Ralph’s Balcony (being sold now as a charity compilation – details here) proved to be quite popular. Why did you decide to do them and how was it working with your friends in the making of them?
It was an idea I had in January, it was so much fun, we really just organised things as we went along. Concluding in that grand finale which I still can’t believe we pulled off.

There’s been a lot of comparisons to a lot of modern acts thrown around. What contemporary acts would you say most influence you?
Oh lots and lots, Anthony and the Johnsons, Mystery Jets, Dirty Projectors, Villagers, Elbow, Eels, John Grant.

Do you feel that being a London band affects the way you sound or the way you are perceived at all, and would you say that if you’d formed elsewhere it may have affected these things?
Hmm, well three of us met at Leeds, which is my home town. Lyrically, I still think we are very much stationed there. Living in London, however, I think does mean that you get to see a lot of quality acts and musicians, which is always a good thing.

If To Kill a King were to write a book based around the narrative of any of your tracks, which song would it be and what would the book be like?
‘Wrecking crew’. It’d be a grim look at the cycle of alcoholism: think Shane Meadows in book form.

What does the forthcoming album hold for TKAK in terms of ambition and direction?
Well, we are very much in control, but we’ve got a lot of tours, headline show at scala, two singles to be released. We are very excited about next year.

In 10 words or less, if you could make 2013 anything, what would it be?
The year guitar music came back to the radio!

Many thanks to Ralph for answering our questions and Nick for sorting this out for us.

 

(10 for 2013!) Quickfire Questions #41: Oscar Manthorpe of Theme Park

 
By on Thursday, 20th December 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

On Monday we posted a q&a with Oscar Manthorpe of Theme Park, the band you voted to the #4 spot on the 10 for 2013 TGTF readers’ poll. Oscar also was so kind to answer the TGTF Quickfire Questions as well. What song does he raise a cup of tea to when he needs to calm his nerves? Keep reading…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
‘Stumblin’ In’ by Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman. My family used to dance to it around the table every Sunday morning.

What was your favourite song as a child?
I remember always loving ‘In My Arms’ by Nick Cave. Still do, in fact.

What song makes you laugh?
Frankie Valli, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. A guy did the single most bizarre rendition of it in the bar of an Indonesian hotel, and since then we’ve developed a little dance to remember the moment.

What song makes you cry?
Probably ‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley. Manly tears for Buckley.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Something like ‘Wake Up’ by Arcade Fire. Euphoric in a kind of adolescent way, but also fairly exhausting and a little bit ridiculous.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
‘The Lark Ascending’ by Vaughan Williams. That and a cup of tea is very calming.

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Across 110th Street’, Bobby Womack. It just doesn’t make sense – I don’t understand how you could write something that good.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Maybe Capote for books and Thom Yorke for music.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Probably trying to scrape together some kind of career in film.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
Neil Young, ‘After the Goldrush’. His voice might end up driving me insane, but wherever that record is feels like home.

Thank you Oscar for your help answering these questions. And thanks also to Adam for making this possible.

 

(10 for 2013!) Quickfire Questions #40: Dog is Dead

 
By on Wednesday, 19th December 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

Lawrence ‘Trev’ Cole, Daniel Harvey and Rob ‘Paul Roberts’ White of Dog is Dead – who came in at #3 on this year’s 10 for 2013 poll – kindly answered our Quickfire Questions and gave us some surprising answers. Maybe there are more behind those alpacas than we originally thought…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
Trev: Listening to my Mum’s ‘Shades of Soul’ CD in the car when I was 5. Aretha Franklin, Otis Reading, Sam and Dave, etc.

What was your favourite song as a child?
Trev: I was big into ‘Break Stuff’ by Limp Bizkit for a short time.

What song makes you laugh?
Paul: Anything by Flight of The Conchords.

What song makes you cry?
Trev: Ennio Morricone – ‘C’era una Volta’.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Trev: Jimi Hendrix – ‘Little Wing’.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
All: Gangnam Style.

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Harvey: Simon and Garfunkel – ‘Sound of Silence’.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Trev: Martin McDonagh.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Trev: Spanish translator for Playboy Magazine. [Trev speaks Spanish, as he grew up in Chile.]

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
Paul: It would have to be ‘Neon Bible’ by Arcade Fire, or ‘Becoming a Jackal’ by Villagers.

Many thanks to Trev, Harvey and Paul for helping us out and Harriet for sorting this q&a for us.

 

(10 for 2013!) Quickfire Questions #39: Richard Thomas of Brother and Bones

 
By on Tuesday, 18th December 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

Richard Thomas and his Brother and Bones nabbed the top spot on the TGTF readers’ 10 for 2013 poll, so it only seems fitting that we gave Richard our Quickfire Questions. He kindly answered them; if you were wondering what soundtrack Richards was obsessed with, wonder no more! Read on…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
Sitting around with all my family at Christmas with everyone passing the guitar, playing old country songs and the Eagles and the Beatles. Good times

What was your favourite song as a child?
Haha…when I was really young I remember being obsessed with The Lion King soundtrack and used to love how epic and powerful the orchestra was. I used to get really into it and pretend I was the conductor listening to it in the car.

What song makes you laugh?
Anything by Olly Murs.

What song makes you cry?
Tracy Chapman – ‘The Promise’. And Ray Lamontagne – ‘Burn’. Uncompromised, raw honesty. Incredible stuff.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
I think of the album ‘O’ by Damien Rice….suitably depressing. Maybe it’s the songwriter in me that’s drawn towards to melancholy side of ‘falling in love’…

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Anything by Rage Against the Machine. ‘Your anger is a gift’ right?!

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) – Bob Dylan. If you write something like that you know you’re in a different league and on a different planet.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Dylan. Or Leonard Cohen. Genius.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I’ve never even thought about it….No idea…erm…a magician? Love card tricks…

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
I’m pretty sure I’d be knocking on the wrong door….

Cheers Richard for answering our questions!

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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