Tuesday, 28 March 2017

New Music: Introducing - Kwaye

Here are 5 reasons why newcomer Kwaye could be a pop star in the making.

1. The guy is clearly a dude. I mean look at him. There’s not many people than get away with a pose like that, whilst wearing red, dancing amongst the concrete tower blocks of London and still look cool. 

2. Talking of cool, his ‘debut’ tune is called Cool Kids. Which is the sort of title Saint Etienne would come up with, and Saint Etienne know their pop. (Ok, yes I realise that Bob, Pete and Sarah have more or less used that title with their song Cool Kids Of Death – so no need to tweet me about it, thanks). Oh, and it has this lyric: “We don’t need to sit at the back of the bus, if we decide what’s cool,” which he sings in a slightly echoing vocal tone that reminds me of 80’s synth pop star Howard Jones (go ask your dad kids - he's the dude who made a song called What Is Love? that's better than the Haddaway one). 

3. Quite often a pop star in the making has already done a lot of the 'making' bit before they become a pop star, and since Kwaye first appeared on a bunch of blogs 2 years ago with a version of this song (not this one though, it’s not cool enough) the suggestion has to be that since that time there’s been a lot more ‘making’ and now he’s ready to deliver, or ‘impact’ or whatever it is the music industry calls it these days.

4. He’s got a fun back storey. Every pop star needs one of those. Apparently he got signed to LA’s Mind of Genius (Gallant, Zhu) after he got chatting to a taxi driver who asked him to play one of his songs. Then subsequently the driver introduced him to the founder of Mind of Genius who gave him the opportunity to release his music through his label. Although I am slightly confused that the reference to not sitting at the back of the bus in the song actually means don't use buses at all - use a taxi. But irrespective of this, it shows you what can happen if you talk to strangers rather than just staring at your phone all day.

5. Then there’s the music itself. That’s important as well, right? OK. Well, Cool Kids has an appealing soft-pop funkiness. File under soul, boogie and groove. It's a fine start.

Kwaye - Cool Kids (Video)

Friday, 24 March 2017

New Music: Introducing - Jesse Elvis

Sometimes in pop music it’s easy to forget that if the basics are good then your music will find an audience. I’d be very surprised if London’s Jesse Elvis doesn’t find that audience. 

First take his voice; warm, soulful and with some range. Then there’s the song. After putting out a number of mash ups and covers on You Tube, this debut proper is impeccable. Paint The Picture has the blues, the groove and a sense of smooth calm that gets under the skin. 

Then there’s the video. I must have watched it fifty times today. The concept is so simple, but it works. A one take, slow motion, reversed piece set in an old industrial yard with fireworks, coloured smoke and paint, it’s bewitching in its simplicity.

Signed to Radio 1/1Xtra DJ, Charlie Sloth’s label, Grimey Limey, Jesse has been making music from a young age, sucking up influences such as Little Richard, Elvis, Notorious B.I.G, DMX and Aaliyah and is also influenced by jungle, grime and garage. 

This is pretty special. Time to take notice of Jesse Elvis.

Jesse Elvis - Paint The Picture (Video)

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

New Music: Introducing - Semi-Attractive Boy

Here we go again.

It’s another potential pop star in the bath. I don’t know about you, but they’re actually starting to make me angry. Do these people really think they’re being original and quirky? Have they not seen how many other pop stars are doing it? Or is it something that to join the musicians’ union you have to do to get your card? Can someone please explain? (Note: I have actually found someone who can explain, but I'm keeping that for another day. Soon.)

OK…breathe deeply…..count to 10…..

At least this guy has taken a different slant on the bath thing. He’s posing with a half-eaten burger and his is full of sweets. He’s almost beaten Mariah Carey to the award of most bonkers bath promo shot ever. Not quite, he’s a runner up, but that’s pretty good for someone just out of the box.

And….here’s the important bit. His debut single Her Heart Isn’t Beating For Me is an odd masterpiece of a pop song which when I hear it makes me think of Mika, Ben Folds Five, bright rainbows painted by a child, too many shots in a bar, Andy Warhol, lost romances and the idea that music can be so much more than your standard Spotify playlist by numbers tune written by committee. 

Yes, Her Heart Isn’t Beating For Me is a trashily deranged piece of pop brilliance. His name's good as well. Semi-Attractive Boy. It's half arrogant, half bashful. I like that.

He is also known as Baker Wallis. He's from Los Angeles. Apparently, he was diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of nine, which got him thrown out of church. That’s probably the fact that every blog that writes about him will tell you. Most of them will ignore the bath pic though, maybe because every musician is doing it.

Semi-Attractive Boy - Her Heart Isn't Beating For Me

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition 2017 Longlist Announced

Once again Glastonbury Festival asked me to act as one of the judges for the first round of their Emerging Talent Competition as I have done every year since 2011. The judging panel consists of music writers from across the UK and their job is to whittle the thousands of entries down to a manageable long list of artists who are put forward to a further round of judging which is carried out by a different panel, including the festival organisers. 

The long list always throws up a lot of good quality and today that list has been announced. You can find the artists the judges have selected by clicking through to the website here

8 of these acts will make it onto the shortlist and will be asked to compete in a live final in April, the winning artist or band getting a slot on a main stage at the festival and £5,000 from PRS to help develop their music and take it to the next level. Two runners-up will also each be awarded a £2,500 PRS Foundation Talent Development prize. For the last few years all 8 finalists have been invited to play a slot at the festival. 

Previous finalists have included Izzy Bizu, Declan McKenna, Stornoway, The Subways and the 2016 winners She Drew The Gun. Looking at previous longlists acts like Marika Hackman, Circa Waves, Slaves and Fickle Friends have all made the final 120 whilst unsigned, even though they didn’t get to the last 8. 

The three acts I chose for the longlist this year were Cardiff based brassy and funky hip-hop collective Afro Cluster (who actually made the longlist in 2013 and have already played the BBC Introducing Stage at the Festival, but they’re so good that it would be a crime not to give them another chance based on their entry submission this year), the idiosyncratic Irish pop duo Æ MAK and Manchester indie band AFFAIRS. Take a listen to all three below. I'm also really pleased to see quite a few unsigned acts that I've written about on the blog make their way through to the longlist including acts local to me such as Temples of Youth and Minque as well as ones further afield such as Bokito, Paradisia and Joy Crookes.

Afro Cluster


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