Worshipping CHVRCHES just now

A couple of weeks ago, CHVRCHES released a single from their forthcoming new album. Leave A Trace is its name, and I’m totally obsessing over it. Check it out here.

It’s such a catchy little ditty, with a wicked bassline that just makes me want to listen to it over and over again. The song will be part of the Glasgow band’s newest album Every Open Eye, which is to be released in late September – just before my birthday (hint hint).

I really enjoyed the first CHVRCHES album, The Bones Of What You Believe. I’ve got a feeling the newie is going to top that if this single is anything to go by. Bring it on.

And to finish things off, here’s a great little pick of a great little singer, Lauren Mayberry.

#Regram from @pitchfork ・・・ #P4kFest 📷: @mattliefanderson

A photo posted by CHVRCHES (@chvrches) on

Battles: The Art of Repetition

A great little mini-documentary has popped up on YouTube this week, with New York band Battles at the heart of it. It’s a great insight into the process of writing for the band, from concepts to recording to playing it live for the fans. Pretty sweet stuff, if you’re a music geek like me.

Here’ the YouTube blurb:

“Ableton visit Battles at their New York rehearsal space, onstage at Immergut Festival and in Rhode Island at Machines with Magnets studios for the recording of their new album “La Di Da Di”. Along the way, we get an intimate look inside the band’s set-up, their methods of composing, plus we get to know the three very different personalities that drive the band forward. Check out our article on Battles, including an interview with guitarist, keyboard and Push player Ian Williams.

And, here’s the clip!! Enjoy.

Korn blows Rihanna’s new cut to pieces

We thought Rihanna’s new track Bitch Better Have My Money was pretty decent in its original form, particularly when enjoyed over the mind-blowing visuals of its accompanying music video.

But you know, sometimes even the best things in life need a lift – even if they’re already nestled high above the clouds in musical heaven. Allow me to introduce the Korn remix of the track which is, quite frankly, absolutely awesome.

Just a tip – pay particular attention to the last 50 seconds or so. It’s all brain-meltingly good!!

How to win a girl’s heart – the hard way

The video for Hard Rock Sofa & Skidla’s toe-tapping marvel Arms Around Me demonstrates a couple of things. It’s not the easiest way to win a girl’s heart, but it’s probably one of the most impressive. I have nothing more to add, other than watch it, love it, but don’t try it at home!

Amy, I miss you …

I went out to see Amy last night. It was amazing; one of the best music documentaries I’ve seen. But afterwards, I felt so sad for everything that happened to her. I knew a lot of it, but when one of humanity’s brightest souls is taken, hollow is all you can feel.

Amy Winehouse was just 27 when she died. She was, by her own admission, messed up. But watching Asif Kapadia wonderful documentary, I wondered how different her remarkable life could have been. She was fiercely talented, vocally we know.. But her song-writing ability was so spectacular. She was a jazz singer at heart, but that heart was lost, diseased and ultimately stopped as a result of some terrible choices on her part. While many might sit back and say “she could have stopped, she could have cleaned up”, believe me, it’s not that easy. When you’re in certain frames of mind, the most logical course of action is often the scariest. Amy clearly felt that, and whether she’d been famous or not, one imagines she would always have had a difficult existence. Fame and fortune, and all the shit that comes with it, just magnified everything and ultimately expedited her downfall.

What we learn from Amy is that the world is a cruel place. It can stand you atop its highest peaks to be admired and beholden, and in the blink of an eye, it violently tugs you down and bury you deep in the pit of its core, burning you to within an inch of your life. In Amy’s case, it ate away at her will to live. Eventually, she gave in, and therein lies the tragedy. She should never have been taken that close to the edge.

Anybody that has suffered depression will empathise with Amy upon watching this film. She was like many of us as a youngster – full of humour, excitement, passion and a lust for life. She was affected by the extra-marital affairs of her father, which led to a broken home, and she was lured by alcohol and substance abuse’s power to dull the negativity that swirled around her mind.

The film is superbly put together, taking us from a home video of a 14th birthday party that depicts Amy just like any other kid in London, mucking about with her mates and having fun, to the sickening sight of her tiny, covered, dead body being carried into an ambulance on July 23, 2011. Kapadia details her passion for music, and helps to explain the difference between an artist and a celebrity. Amy was an artist. But forces she could not control meant she lived the life of a celebrity, one she neither wanted nor enjoyed.

Kapadia speaks to all the key players in Amy’s life – husband Blake Fielder, father Mitch, manager Raye Cosbert, first manager and good friend Nick Shymansky, childhood friends Juliette Ashby and Lauren Gilbert, Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def, and many others that tried to help Amy either for her own good or their own.

The most tragic part of this tale for me is the devil in the detail of the choices Amy made throughout her brief life. Her love for Fielder was bizarrely beautiful in its purity, but cruelly twisted by substance abuse to the point where it was completely self-destructive. They were almost too perfect for each other, both with problems they couldn’t solve alone, but so tight nobody could get between them. Her father seems almost too stupid to be real at times, denying she had problems with drugs, denying she had bulimia, despite all signs pointing to the contrary. He managed her money when it started to roll in, but never gave her a second thought as a child. Undoubtedly he played a key part in her state of mind, good or bad. If she were a roll of tape to be unravelled, he tore the first strips from her, assisted others to take more until she was too frail to survive. How guilty he must feel today I can only imagine. I feel sorry for him in a way, but he’s not somebody I would ever hope to meet. I might kill him for his ultimately fatal stupidity.

Sadder still is that Amy had some lovely people around her, all willing to help her get back to the girl she once was. Shymansky in particular is clearly an amazing individual. He launched Amy’s career, stuck by her through thick and thin, steered her in the right directions despite having limited experience in the music industry, but ultimately couldn’t control her when the record companies took hold. Likewise Ashby and Gilbert, both of whom Amy called regularly in the days before her death to apologise for straying so far off the road they once happily all shared.

There is no doubt in my mind Amy wanted to die. She may have said otherwise to therapists and doctors. But she was over it, sick of the inability to walk down the street without being blinded by paparazzi flashbulbs, sick of the musical inflexibility that her fame brought. That infamous incident in Serbia was the culmination of all that. She was forced to be there when she wanted to be doing something different, something creative that might have kept her sane.

Many laughed at Amy in the wake of this incident, among others. The comedians highlighted in the film are most certainly the villains of the piece. Graham Norton, Jay Leno and others can hang their heads in shame, Leno in particular, who boosted his own ratings by having Amy on his show at the peak of her powers, only to rip her to pieces years later for her reckless lifestyle, one which was completely out of her control, and one he could never hope to understand. What a complete arsehole.

I think those of us that understood Amy all wish we could have saved her. But that was a hopeless dream. Her life was a hopeless dream.

No matter your view of Amy Winehouse, I urge you to see this film. It might change your view of her, it might reinforce it. It might help you understand some demons of your own, or make you think about how you’ve dealt with the demons of others in your life. It can teach you a lot about life. It can help you understand a lot about depression, and what’s required to beat it down. Only the most cold-hearted among you will not feel sadness as the closing credits roll up to the wonderful music of Antonio Pinto.

I miss Amy. I miss her a lot. I empathise enormously with her. I know some of the dark places she visited. I’m just luckier than her for having amazing family and friends that can pull me through.

Amy had many luxuries, but the one she needed most was support. Without that, she was destined to fall from the great height she reached.

God bless you, Amy. Wherever you are … I hope you’re happier than you ever imagined you could be.

If you or someone your know shows signs of or suffers from depression, please seek help. Beyond Blue is an excellent organisation in Australia. In the UK, Mind is an excellent starting point. Other nations around the world also have great support networks. Chat to your local doctor or hospital for more details. Don’t ever be afraid to seek help. It will be the best thing you ever do.

You’d better have Rihanna’s money

If you owe Rihanna money, the likelihood is she’ll kill you if you don’t give it back. Her new video for Bitch Better Have My Money is full on, and leaves very little, if anything, to the imagination. A warning before you press play – it’s definitely NOT suitable for work.

The video, directed by Rihanna and Megaforce, stars her, of course, with cameos from the eternally creepy Eric Roberts and also Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen, as the accountant who appears to owe Rihanna money. Without giving anything away, things don’t end well for him.

While the video is hard to forget, let’s give a little shout out to the writer of the song, who is only 20 years old. Bibi Bourelly is likely to become a squillionaire off the back of this hit, which is good because she’s clearly got some talent, as this snippet from her Instagram shows.

#freestyle #stu #BIBI2015 #drunkaf @paperboyfabe

A video posted by Bibi Bourelly 🇺🇸🇩🇪🌹بدرية (@bibibourelly) on

You can read more about her in this awesome little interview on Noisey.

Taylor Swift needs to change her policy, too

Taylor Swift, 1989

Taylor Swift, 1989

In case you didn’t know, Taylor Swift called out Apple today with an open letter on her Tumblr account explaining why her album 1989 would not be going on the new Apple Music streaming service. Sher writes: “I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.”

The full post can be read here.

Good for you, Taylor. As a result, Apple executive Eddy Cue reversed the policy, announcing thus on Twitter.

Taylor was elated. Aww …

But if only Eddy had dug a bit deeper before caving. He would have seen his previously “evil” ways were nothing compared to what Swift herself doles out to fellow artists.

I won’t take credit for this little nugget of gold. Instead, I’ll allow photographer Jason Sheldon to call out Swift for her blind hypocrisy and for engaging in something arguably worse than what Apple Music had planned.

In his open response to Swift, he makes some very valid points.

Sheldon points in said letter out that in a contract that is provided to photographers in order to snap Swift under any circumstances, Swift is not very nice. In fact, she’s downright disrespectful.

“Now.. forgive me if I’m wrong, but if you take points 2 and 3 in that contract,” he writes, “it appears to be a complete rights grab, and demands that you are granted free and unlimited use of our work, worldwide, in perpetuity. You say in your letter to Apple that “Three months is a long time to go unpaid”. But you seem happy to restrict us to being paid once, and never being able to earn from our work ever again, while granting you the rights to exploit our work for your benefit for all eternity….

“How are you any different to Apple? If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great.. make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support. But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?

“Photographers need to earn a living as well. Like Apple, you can afford to pay for photographs so please stop forcing us to hand them over to you while you prevent us from publishing them more than once, ever.”

I urge you to read his quite brilliant post in the hope that Swift, too, might do what Apple did and reverse her equally ridiculous policy that openly steals from fellow artists.

UPDATE (via Channel V)

“Reps for Swift have responded this morning, making the point that the issue is a little more complicated than first thought – after all, concert photographers are trading off a celebrity’s fame to lend worth to their art:

“The standard photography agreement has been misrepresented,” said a spokesperson for Swift. “It clearly states that any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management’s approval.”

“Another distinct misrepresentation is the claim that the copyright of the photographs will be with anyone other than the photographer – this agreement does not transfer copyright away from the photographer.”

“Every artist has the right to, and should, protect the use of their name and likeness.”

A cover of ‘Stairway’ so good it made Robert Plant cry

I’m a bit late to this piece of musical mastery, but what the hell. Chances are if I haven’t seen it, some of you haven’t, too. So here’s the story.

A few years ago at the 2012 Kennedy Centre Honours, Led Zeppelin where honoured for a lifetime of achievement in music. In attendance were singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Paige and bassist John Paul Jones. Unbeknown to them, Ann and Nancy Wilson, who hold a somewhat legendary status of their own for their work in the band Heart, were also there an appeared on stage to perform a cover of Stairway To Heaven. Written by Paige and Plant in 1961, the song has become known as the greatest rock song ever written. And to say the Wilsons did it justice is a massive understatement. They smashed the thing out of the park. So much so, Plant was in tears. Watch it here.

As if all that wasn’t emotional enough, Jason Bonham, son of Led Zepp’s late drummer John, was also there to play. He too cries, as you will see, as he looks to the heavens where his father no doubt accompanies the angels for some gritty tunes on their days off.

Moments like this are rare, amazing, and worth sharing. I hope you enjoy it.

I’m back, and so is Ásgeir in Icelandic

Finally, I’m back from a big trip away. Sorry for the lack of posts, but hey, some of the places I went didn’t even have Internet. But more about that another time. Tonight I’m happy because magnificent Ásgeir has take it upon himself to upload the songs from his debut album, In The Silence, in the Icelandic language they were written. One of my favourites, Torrent, is here for your pleasure and, the best part, it’s a lyric video, so you can sing along.

I’m delighted that I can now say “raindrops flowing all around” in Icelandic. I’m sure it will come in handy next time I get over there. Oh, I can also say “torrent”, of course. “Nýfallið regn!!”