Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sounds From Nowheresville by The Ting Tings

by George Neame

After debut successes with hit songs like That’s Not My Name, The Ting Tings seem to have slowly slipped off the radar in the UK, even though their first album attempt We Started Nothing reached the #1 spot in 2008. Sounds From Nowheresville is definitely a more mature album, with far fewer repetitive hooks with meaningless lyrics, though maybe this has been their downfall. Songs such as Silence and In Your Life feature beautiful echoes, violin sections and smart guitar melodies. They are sophisticated tunes that are catchy but exclude the downright silliness of earlier efforts. Despite this, it seems sometimes it is the bizarre, frustrating lyrics (‘I’m ticking those boxes and making off like Speedy Gonzales’), that really catch the public’s attention, and needless to say, even with a progression into a more highly developed sound, there is still no shortage of painfully repetitive choruses, shown for example on Hang it Up. Perhaps this is what makes Sounds From Nowheresville such an impressive album though. Either through inability, laziness or just plain genius, The Ting Tings have somehow incorporated a surprisingly remarkable mixture of chilling ballads and upbeat pop songs into an album that never fails to throw out surprises, even when you think you’ve heard it all.

Star Rating: ****

Next Week: Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Sweet Sour by Band of Skulls

by George Neame

Regardless of the actual music they produce, local Southampton-based trio Band of Skulls can instantly be commended for one thing; originality. It’s very infrequent in the consistently emerging age of pop idols to come across a band exploring such a variety of sounds and styles. Sweet Sourdelves deep into the expanding genre of ‘rock’ and the results are understandably diverse. It seems quite unfortunate that the times they are let down are attempts at stadium-rock guitar solos and instrumentals such as those in Wanderlust and the title track Sweet Sour, which appears to be tediously building up to something truly magnificent, before the band seem to give up in the last minute. Where Band of Skulls shine through though is when they take on their almost unique stance on blues-rock, the mixed and overlapping male and female vocals giving beautiful edge to some very carefully-crafted tunes. Similar to The Maccabees in style both musically and lyrically, songs like Close to Nowhere and Hometowns make an otherwise average album into something slightly more laid-back and innovative, something worth a listen to those who have become bored with the generic pop sound filling the music world today.

Star Rating: ***

Next week: Sounds from Nowheresville by The Ting Tings

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Sport: The Opiate of the People?

Is sport a religion? 

According to Ninian Smart, a religion is ‘a deliberate, highly ritualized regimen of wilful ignorance and stubborn adherence to speculation.’ Can this definition be applied to sport in general and the Olympics in particular? 

When a teenager takes an interest in the Olympics because their favourite swimmer or gymnast is taking part, is it because they believe that their hero has to win? Does their desperate desire to be right about their hero take over to the point at which they cannot ignore the Olympics, even become obsessed by the Olympics? 

When an athlete competes in the Olympics, it is, of course, about winning, but why do they take part in the first place? Surely it has some connection to the belief, or peculation, of their trainer, teammates, parents and fans that they will win. When someone becomes a religious believer or commits themselves to a religious order, Smart would say that they are showing the same tendencies as an Olympics fan—they want to see whether what they believe is right, feeling that it is better to take an interest and be part of it in order to be able to say ‘I was right’, when the time comes, than not. They are similar to the athlete because, he or she also responds to other people’s speculation that there must be something more to this world, that maybe we are the ‘Chosen People’ and will gain something from having this faith and taking part in this ritual. 

Obviously, religion and sport are completely different ideologically. Taking part in the Olympics does not require the belief that there is an all-powerful being who we will meet in the afterlife. Neither does a religious person have to be physically fit or committed to a healthy lifestyle. The types of people involved in religion are diverse, as they are in sport, but physicality does not come into it, just as spirituality is not a prerequisite of taking part in the Olympics. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Our Version of Events by Emeli Sandé

The first of George Neame's weekly album reviews. He begins with Emeli Sandé's début album, Our Version of Events.   

It is generally considered that début pop albums have a history of lacking any real substance and being filled with weak-sounding lyrics and repetitive hooks, but the first LP from Emeli Sandé shows her experience, having spent at least four years previously writing songs and performing with other artists including Chipmunk and Roll Deep. Our Version of Events is a mature album showcasing incredible vocals worthy of Beyoncé of Rihanna, songs such as the single Heaven and My Kind of Love featuring chilling gospel chants and echoes and others like Breaking the Law containing barely any instruments at all, a true testament to her incredible voice. Songs vary from ballads that make your hair stand on end to the up-tempo Daddy, to Mountains featuring a surprisingly satisfying combination of piano and acoustic guitar. With a chorus taken from her recent duet with Professor Green, Read All About It, Pt III would be expected to be just an attempt to cash-in on the success of part one, but is in fact an epic album-closer that sums up the whole album; decent instrumentals and lyrics, but vocals that send shivers down your spine and suggest Emeli Sandé is the new soul-pop princess to watch.

Star Rating: ****

                                                                                  Next week: Sweet Sour by Band of Skulls

Listen to the album for free below or on Spotify at:

Buy the Album:
On iTunes
on Amazon MP3

Emeli Sandé by Portsmouth Point on Grooveshark

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Leading By Example- From Dance to Dubstep

Despite having already come a long way since the ‘disco’ era of the seventies, dance music is a genre that is still constantly evolving, metamorphosing between pop scenes, urban rap, dubstep and various other sub- genres. These changes can be seen frequently in many artists, none more clearly, though, than 29-year old Elliot Gleave, better known to the UK’s music scene as Example, a name wittily derived from his initials, E.G. His latest hits, Changed the Way You Kiss Me and Stay Awake, both debuted at #1 in the UK and instantly topped the country’s summer festival playlist. Fresh from the release of his most recent studio album, Playing in the Shadows, Example is successfully filling the biggest arenas in the country for his November and April UK tours, from London’s O2 to Manchester’s MEN arena. But what is it that has given Example such a high status in a matter of months, when so many artists stay hidden in the shadows for so long?

Elliot Gleave- Example

Example by Portsmouth Point on GroovesharkThe answer lies with how his own sound has changed so dramatically since his last album, Won’t Go Quietly, still a lucrative creation but lacking that desired #1 status its successor achieved. In comparison to the two #1 singles Playing in the Shadows has produced so far, its most successful songs only reached #6 and #3, being the title track Won’t Go Quietly and the euphonious Kickstarts respectively. When comparing the two styles however, it’s noticeable that Won’t Go Quietly was dogged with radio-friendly songs about love and partying, whereas Example’s more recent effort has been filled with darker, uglier themes, songs like Under the Influence and Wrong in the Head, dealing with addiction and ‘stumbling home on my own with no charge on my phone in the East end of London’. The beats and backing tracks have also developed with Example’s lyrical taste, with harder, faster rhythms and club-style instrumentals, the bass lines and drum loops courtesy of renowned dubstep producers like Chase & Status and Nero. Every verse is now a rap and only the most energetic audiences can keep up with the intensity of his voice. Playing in the Shadows remains a dance album, but one that teeters on the edge of dubstep and rap, with just enough pop moments to keep Example’s older, loyal fans sane.

In fact, it seems that dance is slowly handing over to dubstep in the music industry, 2011 marking the first UK #1 spot for a dubstep song, DJ Fresh’s Louder. The introduction of dubstep into the mainstream has transformed music across the world and has forced many artists to change their style to keep up with the latest fashion. For the time being, though, dance remains a primary genre of its own, artists like David Guetta packing stadiums across the globe and Rihanna and Calvin Harris’ recent hit We Found Love topping the charts in no less than 10 countries.

By George Neame

How Britain Re-Invented The Olympics

Next Summer the Modern Olympic Games will return to Britain For the third time. All three British Olympic Games will have been based in London: The 1908 Games at the White City, Those of 1949 at the Empire Stadium, Wembley, and the latest in Stratford in East London.

Britain’s first two Olympics made significant contributions to the movement. The 1908 games saw its marathon race produce one of the great historic losers so beloved of the British sporting public. The Italian, Dorando Pietri, finished in first place but, entering the arena in considerable distress, had been helped over the line by officials, which resulted in his disqualification, the race being awarded to the American, Johnny Hayes. There was a public outcry at this; Queen Alexandra was so moved by the plucky Italian that she presented him with a silver gilt cup in commemoration of his efforts. This race also saw the distance now used for the marathon established. The first modern marathon in the 1896 Olympics in Athens had been 24.85 miles, the distance run by Pheidippides between the battlefield at Marathon and Athens in 490BC. In 1908, the race was fixed at 26.22 miles, a distance within sight of Queen Victoria’s statue by Windsor Castle at the start, avoiding Wormwood Scrubs and finishing, after one lap of the White City, in front of the Royal Box.

In 1948 Britain, at short notice, and with few resources, put together a games that enabled the Olympic tradition to be resumed after the abandonment of the events planned for Rome in 1940. These games saw the emergence of the first modern Olympic heroine, the Dutch “flying housewife”, Fanny Blankers
Koen. By winning four gold medals, she emulated the feats of Jesse Owens on the track of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Flying housewife”, Fanny Blankers Koen

Britain’s connexion with the Olympic Games, however, goes beyond these modern
Olympiads. Arguably, the Olympics have been a feature of English sporting life since the seventeenth century. Robert Dover, a lawyer, some time between 1601 and 1612,  organised games in Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire, which drew on the traditions of Pre-Reformation England and the sports associated with “church ales” on feast days. Dover, however, was able to legitimise his promotion of sport in Protestant England by claiming that his games drew on the example of the sports of the much- admired Ancient Greeks and stressing their role in promoting social harmony, reinforced with an element of military training. In a collection of poems published in 1636, the games are referred to as “Olympicks.” These games, held on the Thursday and Friday of Whitsun week, included running, jumping, horse-racing, hare-coursing, various forms of combat and dancing. Later on, shin-kicking was added to the repertoire. Approved of by James I, the games were stopped by the Civil War and banned under the Commonwealth, before resuming at the Restoration. However, they were abandoned again in 1852, when the land on which they had been held was enclosed. Their reputation by then had suffered considerably and they were regarded as a country festival characterised by drunkenness and disorderly behaviour. They were, however, revived in 1966 and, since then, have been held annually on the Friday after the Spring Bank Holiday.

Thales (C.624-546 BCE)

Julia Alsop begins her series on the thoughts and ideas of Philosophers through the ages with Thales, who is thought to be the founder of modern philosophy.

I thought it fitting to start by talking about Thales of Miletus, one of the most significant pre-Socratic thinkers in early philosophical history, he was famed for his theories concerning metaphysics.

Very little is known of the life of Thales- we know that he was born and lived in Miletus, which is now Turkey, and anecdotal evidence suggests that he was highly involved in business and politics. He had great importance as a key philosopher in history, Aristotle and Diogenes Laertius later wrote in great detail about him, Aristotle even proclaimed him to be the first philosopher in Greek tradition. Even more recent philosophers, such as Bertrand Russell recognize that "Western philosophy begins with Thales.

Thales was the first teacher of the Milesian School of philosophers; his pupil, Anaximander, who taught Anaximenes, who then, in turn, taught Pythagoras, later expanded his theories.

Unlike other philosophers at this time in history, Thales sought to explain natural phenomena, not through idiosyncratic theories of supernatural gods, but instead through rational explanation of the natural world around us - for example, he theorized that earthquakes are caused, because the earth is floating in water and earthquakes are waves in the water.