Archive for the ‘Pop’ Category

My Top 5 for 2009

December 31st, 2009

After 42 shows in 50 weeks, heres my top 5:

#1 - Bobby McFerrin @ Royal Festival Hall
for his playfulness, outstanding performance, and inspirational interaction with the audience.

#2 - Max Richter @ Union Chapel
for his beautiful melancholic music, and perfectionin performance.

#3 - Alex Lloyd @ The Troubadour
for the heartfelt simplicity of his songwriting and performance.

#4 - Andrew Bird @ Union Chapel
for playfully weaving beautiful melodies with little else but himself.

#5 - Fever Ray @ The Forum
for their eye poppingly slick production and dark ambience.

In particular, Bobby and Andrew and a particular Buckley-ish flavour to their shows, with their energy on stage, and musical playfulness. A special mention goes out to Noah and the Whale @ Crisis Hidden Gig, Tori Amos @ The Savoy, Bob Brozman @ The Half Moon, and Massive Attack @ Brixton Academy.


Regina Spektor - Hammersmith Apollo, 4 December, 2009

December 21st, 2009

image by took to the stage with a drummer and string quartet for her second appearance in London this year. The previous gig at the Serpentine Sessions came across as a much smaller event from the back stalls we were sitting in, but realistically it was probably around the same amount of people. Naturally this time around she had sold out, as I imagine her latest album Far is getting some pretty good radio coverage.

As a song writer, Regina has fairly candid approach, both musically and lyrically, and this is probably why her fans connect with her so much; her style is similar to when we singing along with our favourite songs, and adding our own random flourishes and twists to. She’s just thought of them long before all of us, and put them into her songs.

Needless to say, she had a very enthusiastic audience, with many of the young people who couldnt attend the 18+ Serpentine Sessions. Everyone around me seemed to know the words, and I certainly dont know many other musicians who would have gotten such a positive reception to a 5 song encore as Regina did. Or for that matter, pulled off a string arrangement of Slash’s ‘November Rain’ solo…

So, overall it was an enjoyable gig - my gf is happy - just next time, I’ll have to get better seats…

some samples:

image by crazybobbles on flickr.

Tori Amos - Jazz Cafe, 2 December, 2009

December 21st, 2009

image by not every day you get the chance to see Tori in a tiny venue for free, so I jumped at the chance to queue for tickets early on the day of the gig. Tori was in fine form, in a slinky red dress, she performed almost completely new repertoire, including a few tracks from her seasonal ’solstice’ record ‘Midwinter Graces’. I never expected to hear Tori sing carols, or let alone enjoy them, but they are actually quite reasonable versions of lesser known carols.

Having stood in a queue since 6am, and then another 3 hours before Tori came on stage, I lacked the energy to pay due attention to the show, but having listened the to the recording, it was much better than I recall it to be. I’m bitterly disappointed to say tho, that my recording failed about halfway through, so I missed the climax and encore of the show, not to mention a few ‘Midwinter Graces’ tracks that may not be played again in a live context. As consolation, my gf did get to talk briefly to Tori’s husband, and even scored the tracklist for me! anyhow - heres a sample:


image by pagedooley on flickr.

Heather Nova - Union Chapel, 6 November, 2009

December 11th, 2009

image from a whim, after weeks of deliberation, my gf and I decided to try our luck at Heather Nova’s only London gig on this tour. Initially I was apprehensive - during the second track I had a thought - Is she a parody of herself? the performance for a moment seemed ingenuine. This quickly passed though, and her prowess as a songwriter became more and more apparent as the music poured out of her. Her voice - beautiful and pure - set the words well. I’m glad to have heard her angelic voice and sweet music in person.

I’d provide you with samples, but cleverly, Heather Nova has had the brainwave to release ALL her shows on this tour as MP3, and as such, I strongly suggest you go and have a buy them:

image from :

Mumford and Sons, Mr Hudson, Paloma Faith - HMV Forum, 24 October, 2009

November 29th, 2009

Mumford and Sons

Those strangely beautiful lads of Mumford and Sons opened the night with a scorching set, filled with their quirky mix of blue grass, folk, country and rock. Its a testament to their music that they’ve reached cult status with the under 21’s - a somewhat unexpected feat for a bluegrass/folk band. While it wasn’t long before they had a pleasant mosh pit happening, that it was just as quickly cut short by their short slot. Naturally the crowd was much aggrieved by this, with boo’s echoing out after shouts of ‘more’ fell on deaf ears. (I have to agree - Q Awards - the format was an epic fail… Next time only do 2 bands and give them decent set lengths!!) Mr Hudson came out and did well to turn a hostile crowd into an appreciative one, but that glamor pixie Paloma Faith came out and proved why we will likely be hearing alot more from her in the coming year, with her Amy-Winehose-without-the-fail, sexy style.

Any fans of Mumford or Paloma would do well to catch them live - check out some samples:



Tori Amos - Hammersmith Apollo, 11 September 2009

September 20th, 2009

Tori AmosTori, Tori, Tori - does she ever get tired? and do we ever get tired of her? its unlikely judging by the show Tori put on last night. Adorned in bright orange, spandex-like leggings and what was more like a long cape than a miniskirt, she looked like some intergalactic shamen with long bright orange hair to boot. Her show also puts many other artists to shame with fantastic lighting and a cohesive, contrasting sound in comparison. It clearly pays off to have a good ear for sound and a Sound Engineer as a husband!

She played alot more of her newer stuff, and at that, a strange collection of her more stadium oriented bits and pieces. I must confess of course, that I much prefer Cabaret Tori (like the Savoy show earlier this year) than Stadium Tori - give me Tori and a piano any day! She even said at the Savoy show that she would get to play alot of stuff she wouldn’t be attempting (ie her more acoustic repertoire) on her main tour. None the less, this made no difference to my appreciation of the night -Tori is always abit of a religious experience for me, like going on a pilgrimage to see old friends.

Having seen a pretty disturbing ‘one under’ on the tube over to see her, I was hoping Tori would play ‘Happy Phantom’ (which doesn’t feature much in her setlists these days) to put myself at ease with seeing Death up that close… So to whoever you where, I hope your life was full, and that you moved on quickly. You will be missed by those around you, and by one passing stranger too. rip.


Sarah Blasko - Borderline, 3 September, 2009

September 10th, 2009

Sarah BlaskoSarah Blasko is yet another impressive young singer songwriter with perhaps not as much coverage as like that which mainstream contemporaries like Missy Higgins enjoy. I cant say I was hugely familiar with her work, but her myspace, Triple J airplay, and well priced tickets encouraged me to give her show a punt.

Suprisingly, unlike the folk/pop on her current album, she took to stage with a jazz trio supporting. The reinterpretation of her songs was quite pleasing in this format and she mixed it up with a range of old and new. She has quite an interesting voice, reminding me abit of Angie Hart from Frente!, or Yael Naim at times.Check out her new album ‘As Day Follows Night’ - she’s worth the listen!



Noah and the Whale - First Days Of Spring

July 20th, 2009

Noah and the Whale - First Days Of Spring Album Cover

I’m sitting at work, listening to Noah and the Whales new album ‘The First Days of Spring’, and I’ve just had to down tools - its so darn good I had to write a quick review of it.

Melancholic, moody and totally Stupefying - its a marked departure from their first album which has always been seen as abit twee in parts. This is clearly a breakup album as most of the tracks revolve around that subject, but I’m glad this album wasn’t around last time I had a break up, or I’d have sat in my room with this on repeat for weeks, and never left the house!

Theres also a definate show of craftsmanship here - they’ve clearly shown their capabilities as musicians with stark melodies, to thoughtful use of instrumentation, including choirs, slide guitar, strings, brass, and even prepared piano.

If your hoping for an album like their debut that you can bounce around to, this album isnt for you. However, if your in an introverted mood, you should really dig it. Its out end of August, so do the right thing - support indie music, and go BUY it!! (I know I will be :)

Download the title track off their new album (FOR FREE!!) off their website (, so do yourself a favour and go have a listen!

Regina Spektor - Serpentine Sessions, 29 June 2009

July 13th, 2009

Regina SpektorHaving only discovered Regina Spektor’s new album ‘Far’ 5 days prior to her Serpentine Sessions show, i was looking forward to being suprised and hearing more of her earlier work. Fortunately she lived up to my expectations, and those of the couple of fans I went with. Her set was as varied and eclectic as her writing style, and seeing her in action certainly competes with other Songwriting diva’s such as Tori Amos.

Regina looked honestly suprised at the size and enthusiasm of the audience - surely she’s had audiences like this before? perhaps just not in europe?

Indeed, if your a Tori fan, I’d recommend giving her a listen. Heres a few samples from the night:

Tracy Chapman - Roundhouse, 25 June 2009

July 12th, 2009

photo by Pieter Morlion : the night Michael Jackson died, I was appropriately paying homage to another fine musician. No disrespect to the man as a musician - his music was world changing… 25 years ago… and then theres also the media’s (and the worlds) apparent loss of memory regarding his rather blatant indiscretions.

In stark contrast, Tracy Chapman, also a pop prodigy of the 80’s, is still producing great music, touring, and looking a picture of health in body and mind. Indeed, her most recent album ‘Our Bright Future’ and reason for touring, is as good as any of her prior albums.

Tracy’s set played out like an anthology of her work, and her fans were very enthusiastic in cheering her on. (Except for the 2 die hard fans behind us who managed to listen to themselves talk through every song save the 2 they knew)

It was a great gig, even if it was overshadowed by the MJ factor - having listened to Tracy many many times over the last 2 decades, it was fantastic to finally have caught her live.

Check out a few samples:

also, if your interested in cool websites, check out her (flash) coloring-in website -

photo by Pieter Morlion, check out his flickr here: