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Mercury Prize Shortlist 2011

 
By on Tuesday, 19th July 2011 at 2:16 pm
 

The shortlist for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2011 Albums of the Year were announced by 6music presenter Lauren Laverne this morning in a special ceremony at London’s Hospital Club. As usual, some of the nominees were expected to receive the prestigious industry nod, while some were definitely less than expected.

Not surprisingly, soul singer Adele‘s critically acclaimed and best-selling album on both sides of the Atlantic, ’21’, received a nom. There are plenty of new artists on this year’s shortlist, in exactly the same shoes Adele was in 3 years ago with ’19’. Sultry-looking and equally sultry-sounding Anna Calvi received a nomination for her eponymous debut; again, this is hardly surprising given she was shortlisted in late 2010 for the BBC Sound of 2011. James Blake, #2 on the Sound of 2011 list, also garnered a nod for his self-titled debut album bringing dubstep more to the mainstream. (Read Natalie’s review of the album here.) Electronic producer Ghostpoet is nominated for his debut album that sounds more like the title of a cookbook, ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’.

After winning the gong in 2008 with ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, Elbow will try their hand to win again this year with their newest, ‘build a rocket, boys!’ (Read John’s review of the album here.) A win for the Mancunians seems highly appropriate in light of the development of their own limited edition golden ale, named after their new album and true to their roots, to be made locally in Stockport and sold exclusively at Robinsons pubs in the UK.) Speaking of Manchester, the eclectic ‘Man Alive’ (my review here) from Manchester-based Everything Everything is also up for the award.

New urban music makes a good showing on this year’s shortlist. Katy B‘s ‘On a Mission’ received a nomination, as did Tinie Tempah‘s ‘Disc-Overy’. But legends also figure in the nominations. Influential singer/songwriter PJ Harvey has been recognised for ‘Let England Shake’, her first album in 4 years. The Domino-released collaboration between Scottish singer-songwriter King Creosote and electronica artist Jon Hopkins, ‘Diamond Mine’, that was a labour of love for 7 years is also nominated. Brighton dance band Metronomy‘s highly-anticipated third album released in April, ‘The English Riviera’, is also a contender. (Read Luke’s review of the album here.) And if we’ve learned anything from 2 decades of the Mercury Prize, there is always at least one album that comes out of left field. This year, that nomination goes to Welsh jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock and his ‘Good Days at Schloss Elmau’. (I Googled it: Schloss Elmau is a luxury hotel in the foothills of Bavaria. Maybe that’s a good place for the to-be-announced Mercury Prize winner to escape inevitable press and paps in mid-September?)

The winner of the 2011 Mercury Prize will be announced on Tuesday, 6 September.

 

James Blake / June 2011 UK Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 19th April 2011 at 3:30 pm
 

No doubt in response to the amazing reception of his self-titled debut album (review here), James Blake is heading out on the road this June, playing a string of dates in the UK. Tickets are available now.

Wednesday 1st June 2011 – Edinburgh Liquid Rooms
Thursday 2nd June 2011 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Friday 3rd June 2011 – Newcastle Academy 2
Sunday 5th June 2011 – Liverpool Stanley Theatre
Tuesday 7th June 2011 – Manchester Sankeys
Wednesday 8th June 2011 – Birmingham HMV Library
Monday 13th June 2011 – Brighton Komedia
Tuesday 14th June 2011 – London Koko
Thursday 16th June 2011 – Cardiff Globe

 

Live Review: HMV Next Big Thing Featuring James Blake at London Borderline – 4th February 2011

 
By on Tuesday, 15th February 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

In a dark, yet endearing Borderline situated between London’s Tottenham Court and Soho, HMV’s Next Big Thing’s most exclusive show is underway. “Next big thing?” asks James Blake. “No pressure then.” As he sits, off centre stage, Blake seems unfazed by the hype cloud that’s surrounding him in the coming weeks, and why would he be? He appears to be doing everything on his own terms, even selecting both of his opening acts. Cloud Boat melted the minds of those who turned up early enough whilst Catherine Okada’s blend of cute music and substance to her songs certainly warmed the crowd of under 300.

Now, with just a few days until the release of his debut album, James Blake is a man in demand. To find such an act in a small venue may seem quite out of place, but as he walks casually onto the stage, cup of tea in hand and jumper on, the man seems to be keeping his cool in intimate surroundings. You’d be hard-pressed to call Blake a commanding stage presence, but it’s his endearing qualities that shine more. Sat on the front of the stage, a few fans are all but entranced by album opener ‘Unluck’ and unavoidable, yet perfect ‘Limit to Your Love’.

Blake is joined on stage by a minimal two artists playing live and himself sits side of stage with his two keyboards and assorted technologies. At times tonight, people are shushed by fellow crowd members as the sound on stage is so beautifully calm. Nodding along, I find myself wrapped up in the world almost taken in by Blake’s music. This music just shouldn’t have such mass appeal, given its non-mainstream sound. Nor should it translate to be anything more than boring live, but as it happens, the music has ambition and honesty and forms an incomparable atmosphere.

Sipping his tea and sheepishly engaging in minimal conversation with those present, Blake is nothing of a frontman, but for some reason, it works. Blake’s transition to solo artist seems to have gone smoothly, and with ‘The Wilhelm Scream’, the seventh and final track of the night, his 50-minute set is over and everyone returns outside to Central London’s bustle. Next big thing? Perhaps, however where the shy man may struggle in the higher reaches, tonight has proved his credentials in intimate venues beyond doubt.

 

Album Review: James Blake – James Blake

 
By on Tuesday, 15th February 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Natalie Stas

With peculiar austerity, haunting patchworks of melancholy, and awkward bursts of electronic soul, the trajectory of James Blake‘s minimal sound in his highly anticipated eponymous debut album into the mainstream still remains a mystery to most. There is nothing superfluous to his earthy and raw electronicism. Blake might have major label sparkle behind him, but you can almost hear the bass bouncing from his university bedroom walls. His sound becomes a musical aesthetic, carving new space in popular music by stripping songs back to their elements, allowing tense silences to sit in the heart of every track. For many, it may seem unsettling to merely “let the song be”, but Blake makes this a trademark of his production.

Lead track ‘Unluck’ features jarring disjointed beats, swinging chords become gradually eroded by a swamping electronically treated vocal. This is not going to be everyone’s favourite track, but it wholly captures Blake as an artist – he doesn’t smooth out imperfections or rush to fill silence, fragments and the distortion become his essence. It is not instantly recognisable, or likeable for that matter, but it is evidence of Blake’s ability to ignore the constraints of commercialism.

‘I Never Learnt to Share’ adopts a similar non-format: vocals resonate in shadows, melodies start and stop and there is no room for listeners to get comfortable. The track gradually unfolds a riled sense of regret in the unnerving vocal repetition mixed with bland church organ chords and an uneasy arrangement of synths. Finally, we stop to notice the robotic drum beat before continuing to burst from the bleak as speakers blast with an unprecedented bass line, a cathartic release from Blake’s non-indulgent tendencies.

Perhaps the most commercially viable and recognisable of his tracks is the cover of Feist‘s ‘Limit to Your Love’, a brave move for a new boy to cover a song with such a cult indie following. I instantly wanted to hate it for that reason alone, but I couldn’t. Actually, it was brilliant. Blake manages to capture the fragility of Feist’s piano, draw out the emotive silences and laces it an honest, delicate vocal. Even with the window-shattering bass rumbles, it still remains a beautifully soulful track.

Blake’s triumphs in engineering dead-space is only matched by his ability to effortlessly capture a sound belonging completely to this moment. It is hard to say where his music will sit within the industry in 5 or 10 years, but right now he has brought originality to minimalism, and his electronic dub sits in the forefront of today’s changing face of commercial music.

7/10

James Blake’s self-titled debut album is available now from Polydor Group.

 

Video of the Moment #355: James Blake

 
By on Friday, 3rd December 2010 at 6:00 pm
 

The benefit of having made so many friends through music? Getting tips. A friend suggested I check out London producer James Blake, whose cover of (Leslie) Feist‘s ‘Limit to Your Love’ was one of Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record in the World in late September.

It’s a really interesting take to this song, originally with Feist’s fragile vocals, turned on its head with a soulful, r&b vibe. If you like what you hear, you can buy the single just released on Monday (29 November) on iTunes. The video, which you can watch below, is also pretty cool-looking. Check it out.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/15624524[/vimeo]

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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