Laneway Festival 2013, Singapore

A nice surprise just a couple of weeks after arriving in South-East Asia was the arrival of the Laneway Festival last weekend in Singapore. Since practically everybody I asked seemed to be going along, and since the lineup was pretty strong, it seemed rude not to join them. The audience was largely non-Singaporean and largely the kind of people who are a bit too cool for pop, but it made for a great day out in the heat of the almost equatorial January sun.

Frustratingly the slightly shambolic queue for ticket collection left me unable to catch most of the wonderful Kings of Convenience, although the strength of their closer I’d Rather Dance with You was still notable compared to some of the bands who would follow. Another definite highlight was seeing Erlend Øye turn up at the end of the night dancing like a maniac to Gotye, but I’d really have liked to be able to say more about how good their performance was.

Minnesota’s Polica followed with an excellent set of tracks which I’m only unable to recommend since I’d never heard any of them before. Their debut album is out already and definitely seemed worth checking out, with shades of Portishead or Goldfrapp.

The slightly strange order and selection of the lineup reared its ugly head very early on as Cloud Nothings turned up and were absolutely and inconceivably dreadful. The punk / metal band screamed their way through an awful 45 minutes or so, although it’s difficult to know whether they could actually tell, given how poor their drummer seems to be at keeping time.

This seemed a good time to go and investigate what else the festival had to offer, but sadly the merchandise stall was a pretty paltry offering, and the drinks were pricey. Most disappointing was the decision to only stock Fiji water at S$5 for a tiny bottle, complete with a rather insulting message on the label about how sustainable the water was. Because of course shipping tiny bottles of water seven hours across the ocean and selling them at exorbitant prices is much better for the environment than providing, say for argument, a tap.

Fortunately Divine Fits turned up to prevent the mid-afternoon heat from making things any worse. Pleasant enough, the three-piece indie supergroup (apparently, anyway – nobody I asked seemed to have heard of any of them) worked their way through the set before passing the baton over to the much better Of Monsters and Men. Typically Icelandic (I.e. slightly bonkers) and oddly named, they were a wonderful antidote to the sun and some of the dross and dullness which had preceded them.

Japandroids, on the other hand, were a bit of a disappointment. Someone asked me beforehand whether I thought they might sing in Japanese, but sadly they turned out to be neither Japanese nor as electro as their name appeared to suggest. So another set of dull “alternative rock” followed.

The day was growing late and it had already struck most people that the set order was odd in the extreme. Removing Cloud Nothings would have been a good start, but even the bands who were there should really have been reshuffled into a more sensible order. Kings of Convenience may have seemed a nice chilled out opener, but as the most accomplished act on the bill, they really should have had higher billing, and the headline act was, as we shall see, perhaps not the best choice.

The act who followed was a pleasant surprise. Nicholas Jaar turns out to be an excellent chillout dance act with some excellent moments in his set, although sadly by this stage the sunburn and the hours spent out in the sun were starting to get to me, so I ended up sleeping through a good chunk of Kimbra‘s set. What I did see was unfortunately pretty dull. Having turned up as Cinderella, she proceeded to play tracks that largely sounded like Gwen Stefani but rockier, and sadly that’s about all there was to say.

As the sun went down behind Marina Bay Sands, Real Estate turned up with a set that was generally strong but fairly forgettable. British media favourites Alt-J followed, good and consistently interesting, but also a little underwhelming. Having walked off after a couple of minutes due to sound problems, they finally returned to finish their set, but I wonder if perhaps the audience needed something a little stronger at this point.

Fortunately, we got it. The big surprise for me was Yeasayer, whom I think I’d managed not to come across previously, and who were truly exceptional. Catchy experimental hit followed hit, and you’ll be either pleased or disappointed to hear that I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on them from the safety of this blog in the future.

Bat for Lashes was up next, and followed in style with another excellent set, although much of the audience showed their colour by remaining seated for her and then crowding en masse to the stage for the subsequent act Tame Impala.

As an act who had clearly listened to rather more Status Quo in their time than is really healthy, they were, for the most part, fairly dull, but they clearly knew what they were doing for all of that. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards was a particular highlight.

Whether because of the late night shutdown of the city’s Metro system or because people thought they were a bit too cool for the decidedly mainstream headliner who followed, it was really disappointing to see large parts of the crowd exiting at this point, leaving Gotye with slightly post-apocalyptic fields of litter for much of his audience. Perhaps choosing a headliner who had more than one hit to his name outside of Belgium and Australia might have helped.

But Gotye was, of course, excellent. Rippling with humour, great videos, a plethora of different instruments, and a huge array of great songs, it was never going to be anything else. And having long since learnt the lesson of getting his tracks in the right order, Somebody That I Used to Know was among the last. All told, his set was definitely the best of the lot, and he was entirely justified as the headliner – it’s just a shame that the crowd didn’t agree.

To my amusement, what followed was an excellent piece of organised chaos, as the crowds surged out of the site to find that all the public transport had shut down. The entire shopping centre at the Marina was suddenly filled with slightly lost music fans entering from all directions, and none of them entirely sure where they were going. Alongside them, we pushed out into the streets of Singapore and gradually dispersed into the night.

All told, Laneway was an excellent little one-day festival. It was a long day, and a hot one, with generally a good variety of bands, even if they were in an odd order. The decision to charge such high prices for drinks in such a dangerously sunny environment was a shame, but so was the rather unnecessary confiscation of umbrellas at the entrance. But those are quibbles which can easily be fixed. The music was the main thing, and I’m happy to say I discovered some great bands there, even if I was characteristically late to the party with a couple of them…

After Singapore St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was already in Auckland on Monday, and continues around Australia over the next couple of weeks, visiting Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne this weekend, and then Adelaide and Perth the following week.

The BPI Awards 1987

The next year of the BRIT Awards that we’ll examine in detail is 1987. Let’s set the scene. It’s February 9th of that year, and Jonathan King is standing at the front of the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Whether or not you believe the tabloids, he may or may not have also been at the height of his more lurid period as well.

But we wouldn’t find out about that for a long time, and obnoxious as he may be, there didn’t seem to be a lot of truth in those accusations anyway. So anyway, without further ado, let’s open the ceremony…

Best British Album

Presented by Robert Plant and one of the most incredible hairdos I’ve ever seen! Nominees:

  • Peter Gabriel – So
  • The Housemartins – London 0 Hull 4
  • Simply Red – Picture Book
  • Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
  • Five Star – Silk and Steel

Video here.

Winner: Dire Straits.

Best British Producer

Nominees:

  • Pip Williams
  • Trevor Horn
  • Hugh Padgham
  • David A. Stewart
  • Stock Aitken Waterman

Video here, mainly consisting of George Martin banging on about recording studios.

Winner: Dave Stewart.

Best British Newcomer

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1, and presented by Mike Read.

Video here.

Winner: The Housemartins.

Best International Solo Artist

Presented by Deborah Harry. Nominees:

  • Madonna
  • Whitney Houston
  • Paul Simon
  • Anita Baker
  • Bruce Springsteen

Longer video here.

Winner: Paul Simon.

Best International Group

Presented by Luther Vandross. Nominees:

  • Bon Jovi
  • A-ha
  • The Bangles
  • Huey Lewis & The News
  • Cameo

Video here.

Winner: The Bangles.

Best Classical Recording

Presented by a moderately small Aled Jones. Nominees:

  • Maris Jansons – Symphony No 1
  • Julian Lloyd Webber – Cello Concerto – Elgar
  • Nigel Kennedy – 1944 Sonata for Solo Violin
  • Luciano Pavarotti – The Pavarotti Collection
  • André Previn – Symphony No 1 – Elgar

Video here.

Winner: Julian Lloyd Webber.

Best Soundtrack/Cast Recording

Nominees:

  • A Room with a View (Richard Robbins)
  • Absolute Beginners (various artists)
  • Out of Africa (John Barry)
  • Down and Out in Beverly Hills (Andy Summers / various artists)
  • Top Gun (various artists)

Video here.

Winner: Top Gun, accepted by Charles Dance on behalf of Kenny Loggins.

Best British Group

Nominees:

  • Eurythmics
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • Simply Red
  • Five Star
  • Dire Straits

I know what you’re thinking – “the only thing worse than Simply Red winning would be if it was Five Star.” I agree.

Longer video here, in which Jonathan King asks some very toothy and hairy eighties people what they thing should have won.

Winner: Five Star.

Best British Female Solo Artist

Presented by Ray Davis. Nominees:

  • Jaki Graham
  • Sade
  • Kim Wilde
  • Joan Armatrading
  • Kate Bush

Longer video here.

Winner: Kate Bush.

Best British Male Solo Artist

Presented by Kate Bush. Nominees:

  • Billy Ocean
  • Chris de Burgh
  • Robert Palmer
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Phil Collins

Longer video here.

Winner: Peter Gabriel.

Best British Single

Presented by Boy George. Nominees:

  • Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
  • The Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way
  • Simply Red – Holding Back The Years
  • Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
  • Chris de Burgh – Lady In Red

Longer video here.

Winner – Pet Shop Boys.

Best British Video

Winner: Peter Gabriel for Sledgehammer.

Outstanding Contribution

Presented by Rob Dickins.

Longer video here.

Winner: Eric Clapton.

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

The All Seeing I – Pickled Eggs & Sherbet

We all have music which we know we love, but somehow inexplicably we forget about and neglect for years on end. Pickled Eggs & Sherbet is probably the best example for me. When it originally came out back in 1999 I knew I loved Walk Like a Panther and 1st Man in Space, but somehow I didn’t buy it at the time. Intermittently in the intervening years I’ve

Pickled Eggs & Sherbet opens with top ten single Walk Like a Panther, with Tony Christie‘s brilliant vocal. Even the first line harks back to Christie’s Show Me the Way to Amarillo, with its references to the outcome of his relationship with Marie. The song is co-written by Jarvis Cocker out of The 1990s, and the outcome is truly wonderful.

Walk Like a Panther mixes into No Return which introduces one of the most enormous bass sounds on any song ever. Beat Goes On follows, the first commercial hit for the group, which just missed out on a top ten placing in early 1998. It’s a great cover version of Sonny and Cher‘s 1967 single, and was justifiably a significantly bigger hit in the UK too. Interestingly you’ll also find The All Seeing I‘s production of this song but with a slightly different vocal tucked away at the end of Britney Spears‘s debut album …Baby One More Time.

There are nominally thirteen tracks (plus a couple of sneaky extra ones hiding at the end too), and every one of them has a slightly grimy northern sound which works in their favour and makes them somewhat timeless. The more ‘pop’ tracks and singles are interspersed with fun instrumentals of varying lengths.

Finally the third full single 1st Man in Space turns up with its excellent vocal from Phil Oakey. Backed, unusually for Phil, by flanged guitars, and with the ingenious lyrics, there’s a very obvious sixties feel. As with most of the vocal-based tracks, this is another Jarvis Cocker lyric, making you dream of the day of the first Yorkshire astronaut (the first Yorkshireman in space wouldn’t be until Nicholas Patrick in 2006, although Piers Sellers was a University of Leeds graduate and had visited space ten years earlier).

It quickly becomes apparent that Sheffield has a massive influence on this album. The vast majority of contributors are from the steel city, from The Human League‘s Phil Oakey to Tony ChristiePulp‘s Jarvis Cocker, Babybird‘s Stephen Jones, the band themselves who would later evolve into I Monster, and I’m sure the list could go on.

Cocker finally turns up for his own vocal on the brilliant Drive Safely Darlin’, just before Tony Christie returns for what is, in my opinion, the best track on the entire album, the swing-inspired Stars on Sunday. You can hear a lot of early I Monster on this track, but once again it’s Christie’s vocal which makes it so wonderful.

This is a deceptive album, in a way. Somehow I suspect it would be easy to miss the better songs hiding on here and just take it all to be dull and samey. But it’s worth making the extra effort and working to find what you’re looking for on here, as there are plenty of great tracks.

Happy Birthday Nicola, the third outing for Tony Christie, is a great example, turning up as it does just before the end. There’s something rather sinister about it, as Tony sings “If we’d used some contraception / I wouldn’t be here, and you wouldn’t be you,” and maybe I should leave the rest of the lyrics for you to work out for yourself, but it’s a great song. I can’t help but feel slightly that Jarvis Cocker was raiding Christie’s back catalogue again for inspiration (he sang Happy Birthday Baby back in the 1970s).

Unpredictably and unnoticeably the song mixes into Babybird‘s vocal on Plastic Diamond, and I have no idea whether the segue is solely there for aural reasons or whether it’s somehow supposed to be part of the same story. But, secret hidden material aside, that finally brings the album to a close, and a quite fantastic album it is too.

Unfortunately Pickled Eggs & Sherbet is only currently available second hand, so I’ll leave you to work out whether you prefer to buy through Amazon, Discogs, eBay, Gemm, or wherever else.

Live – January 2013

Here are some highlights of the live gigs coming up in the next few weeks:

Kraftwerk

After stealing Sparks‘s idea and debuting their The Catalogue series of concerts in New York a couple of years ago, they’ve just done it in their native Düsseldorf, and in early February they will do it for the third time at the Tate Modern in London.

Long since sold out.

The Presets

Now touring their third album Pacifica across their native Australia.

List of dates at Songkick.

Hurts

Back with their second album and a full European tour, although it’s a little short on UK dates. Starts soon and runs through to April.

List of dates at Songkick.

John Shuttleworth

A long time favourite of mine, halfway through his Out of Our Sheds tour, mainly across Scotland and Northern England through till April.

List of dates at Shuttleworths.co.uk.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Another tour out of the eighties, all over the UK in April and May.

List of dates at Songkick.

 

If there are artists you want to see covered here, please comment below.

Chart for stowaways – 8 December 2012

Let’s pick up the charts back in December from where we left off. Here are the albums:

  1. The Presets – Pacifica
  2. The Presets – Apocalypso
  3. Delerium – Music Box Opera
  4. Various Artists – Electrospective
  5. Sasha + John Digweed – Northern Exposure: Expeditions
  6. Front Line Assembly – AirMech
  7. Vincent Did It – The SOPA Opera EP
  8. I Monster – Rare
  9. LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem
  10. Tiësto – Elements of Life

No change in the top four singles, meaning a trillionth week at the top this year for Pet Shop Boys.

The BRIT Awards 2009

Some acts are much more successful in the world of the BRIT Awards than they are in the real world; some are the other way round. Erasure, for instance, whatever you may think of them, scored five consecutive number 1 albums from 1988 to 1994, but only managed one BRIT (Best British Group in 1989) with just a couple of other nominations. Depeche Mode just have one Single award to their names. New Order just one Video award. There are plenty of other examples.

Pet Shop Boys, though, are definitely very highly regarded by The Industry:

  • 1987 – Won Best British Single for West End Girls, picked up by Neil
  • 1988 – Won Best British Group and performed What Have I Done to Deserve This?
  • 1989 – Nominated for Best British Group and Best British Album for Introspective
  • 1992 – Nominated for Best British Group
  • 1994 – Nominated for Best British Music Video for Go West and performed Go West on stage with two Welsh Male Voice choirs
  • 2009 – See below
  • 2010 – Nominated for Brits Hits 30 for Go West

I think it’s fair to say that 2009 was the year when they made the ceremony their own. It was February 15th, the venue was Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London, and Kylie MinogueJames Corden and Mathew Horne were presenting the show live on ITV1.

British Female Solo Artist

Presented by Simon Pegg. Nominees:

  • Adele
  • Beth Rowley
  • Duffy
  • Estelle
  • M.I.A.

Full video here.

Winner: Duffy.

International Female Solo Artist

Presented by Lionel Richie. Nominees:

  • Beyoncé
  • Gabriella Cilmi
  • Katy Perry
  • Pink
  • Santogold

Video here.

Winner: Katy Perry.

International Group

Presented by Natalie Imbruglia. Nominees:

  • AC/DC
  • Fleet Foxes
  • Kings of Leon
  • MGMT
  • The Killers

Full video here.

Winner: Kings of Leon.

British Male Solo Artist

Presented by Jamie Oliver and Jamie Cullum. Nominees:

  • Ian Brown
  • James Morrison
  • Paul Weller
  • The Streets (Mike Skinner)
  • Will Young

Full video here.

Winner: Paul Weller.

British Breakthrough Act

Presented by Alex James from Blur. Nominees:

  • Adele
  • Duffy
  • Scouting for Girls
  • The Last Shadow Puppets
  • The Ting Tings

Video here.

Winner: Duffy.

International Album

Presented by Joe Calzaghe. Nominees:

  • AC/DC – Black Ice
  • Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
  • Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
  • MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
  • The Killers – Day & Age

Full video here.

Winner: Kings of Leon.

British Live Act

Presented by Nick Frost. Nominees:

  • Coldplay
  • Elbow
  • Iron Maiden
  • Scouting for Girls
  • The Verve

Full video here.

Winner: Iron Maiden.

British Group

Presented by David Hasselhoff. Nominees:

  • Coldplay
  • Elbow
  • Girls Aloud
  • Radiohead
  • Take That

Video here.

Winner: Elbow.

Critics’ Choice

Nominees:

  • Florence + The Machine
  • Little Boots
  • White Lies

Video here.

Winner: Florence + The Machine.

International Male Solo Artist

Presented by Gok Wan. Nominees:

  • Beck
  • Jay-Z
  • Kanye West
  • Neil Diamond
  • Seasick Steve

Video here.

Winner: Kanye West.

British Single

Voted for by phone during the ceremony, and presented by Alan Carr. Nominees:

  • Adele – Chasing Pavements
  • Alexandra Burke – Hallelujah
  • Coldplay – Viva la Vida
  • Dizzee Rascal / Calvin Harris / Chrome – Dance wiv Me
  • Duffy – Mercy
  • Estelle feat. Kanye West – American Boy
  • Girls Aloud – The Promise
  • Leona Lewis – Better in Time
  • Scouting for Girls – Heartbeat
  • The X Factor Finalists – Hero

Full video here.

Winner: Girls Aloud.

Best Producer

Winner: Bernard Butler.

MasterCard British Album

Presented by Sir Tom Jones. Nominees:

  • Coldplay – Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
  • Duffy – Rockferry
  • Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
  • Radiohead – In Rainbows
  • The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing

Video here.

Winner: Duffy.

Outstanding Contribution

Presented by Brandon Flowers.

More video here.

Winner: Pet Shop Boys.

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing