Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Helen's Happy Christmas

We've decided to go against the grain a little over here at Helen Of Troy... and not post anything resembling a round-up of the year or indeed ones to watch in 2009. When we say go against the grain, what we really mean to say is that we don't have the time - what with one of us jetting off to New York imminently and the other being slightly addicted to their new Wii console – and so we're closing down for the holidays in preparation for coming back even bigger and badder in the new year.

Thanks to everyone for reading and making this blog a joy to write. Thanks to everyone who's contributed pieces, and to the likes of Greg, Adem and Thom for their amazing kind words and fantastic promotion; we adore you all.

Merry Christmas everyone and a very Happy New Year too.

Lots of love Marie-Claire and Lyndsey. See you in 2009!


Thursday, 11 December 2008

Helen Of Troy Does Countertop Dancing Gets A Makeover

As some of you might know, tomorrow night’s Helen Of Troy Does Countertop Dancing will be our last event for a while. Fear not though dear friends, we’ll be back in the new year and it’s going to be a bigger and better affair; a bit like a Dr Who regeneration, but with more oestrogen!

Though the plans for the reincarnation are far from complete, we can reveal that it will tale place every couple of months and will feature bands, guest DJs and some very special surprises. So watch this space!

We’ve had an awesome time over the past eight months and would like to thank everyone who’s shimmied, vogued or fallen in love on our dancefloor. Also, thanks to those who have supported and helped us out, we know it hasn't been easy.

If you’re worried that a month without Helen... will leave you lacking in lovely lady music, be calm. Helen Of Troy Does Countertop Writings will still be on hand with a bi-weekly dose of music news and comment as well as updates on the future of your favourite feminist clubnight. So if you haven't bookmarked us already, make sure you do!

So it's goodbye from her, and it's goodbye from her...

for now...


Helen Of Troy Does Countertop Dancing
Friday 12th December at Charlies (Harter Street, off Princess Street)
10pm to 4am, £4, £3 w/flyer or NUS.
See you there!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Album Review: Britney Spears - Circus

The excessive airbrushing on the cover of Britney's latest offering, Circus, is sadly indicative of the album's content, which utilises all kinds of digital trickery to gloss over any of the Louisiana pop princesses interesting quirks. All but one or two of the sixteen tracks on the album see Britter's voice vocoded to fuck, which worked on Blackout, as we knew she was probably too wasted to complete a vocal, but now she's meant to be clean, we expected a little more. Lyrically, there are moments of real openness, but more often than not, they're completely cancelled out by a corny cliché or an unnecessary effect.

Though the quality of the album is patchy at best, there are some stone-cold pop classics on Circus, including opening track Womanizer, which has now hypnotised Helen Of Troy..., crushing any early reservations we might have
had. Equally fabulous is second track and second single Circus, which we think is as good, if not better, than anything in the Britney back catalogue. When she sings 'I'm like a ring-leader I call the shots', you very nearly believe her. Unfortunately, after the excellence of Circus, we're confronted by one of the blandest ballads we've ever heard, Out From Under, which, given a few lyrical tweaks, wouldn't have sounded out of place on Britney's début album from 10 years ago. Out From Under is followed by two so-so electro tracks, Kill The Lights and Shattered Glass, which though far from bad, are still nothing to get too excited about.

After the bit of bland comes If You Seek Amy, which, if listened to correctly, has the refrain 'All of the boys and all of the girls are dying to F-U-C-K-Me'. Helen Of Troy... loves a good pun, so this song is right up our street. We also love the maniacal laughter and unusual allusions to la Wino. Strangely brilliant.
Ms Spears slows the pace for the next song, the gorgeous Unusual You, which proves that Britney doesn't have to choose between high-energy pop classic or bland saccharine ballad. It's a real highlight, and sounds like the kind of material a 27-year-old Britney should be making.

From there on in, the album's either uncomfortably weird or just plain dull. Much has been made of the strangeness of Mmm Papi, which features some of the worst pop lyrics of the of the past 10 years 'Now see, I'm mommy and that makes you papi, and that makes us lovey'. WTF? Another unbelievably awful track is Phonography, which made Helen Of Troy... want to throw the CD out of the window. It really is that bad. The rest of the tracks on the album fall into one of two camps; faceless electro-pop or sickening ballads. Neither of which float Helen Of Troy...'s boat.

Circus pretty much sums up Britter's entire career: when she's good, she's very fucking good, but when she's bad, she's horrid.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Which Pop Princess Will Usurp The Queen?

Magic Madge, the Queen of pop, has spent the last few decades at the top of the popular music tree. But as the clocks wind on, the years fade by and leotard manufacturers become increasingly reticent to clothe Ms Ciccone, the question ascends. As Madonna becomes the Queen Mother of pop, who will become Queen?

If you'd asked that question to early noughties pop fans, they would have probably rattled off a list of potential candidates, including Britney, Christina and P!nk. But in the intervening years the madness, plagiarism, madness, fake tan, madness and generally being shit have all gotten in the way a little. These days it seems like Sarah Palin might be a better candidate!

The thing is that Madonna hasn't simply been musically significant (which she certainly has), but also culturally, sartorially and inspirationally. Like her or not, it's difficult to argue against the fact that she has pushed boundaries artistically, commercially (Pepsi wanted their money back!), and sexually (the D.H. Lawrence picture book). Are there any contemporary Fempops who can hold a candle to her?

Maybe there's Beyonce? Getting the obvious stuff out of the way; she's been phenomenally successful, both in Destiny's Child and as a solo artist. Her music has pretty wide appeal and few could argue with the brilliance of Bills, Bills, Bills and Crazy In Love. At the moment, though, she seems to be playing it extremely safe. The concept for I Am... Sacha Fierce is clever, but the songs are lacking in sass. Did the independent woman up and leave as soon as Jay-Z put a ring on her finger?

What about Gwen then? Stefani's first album was a hoot and the lead track, What You Waiting For? is indescribably brilliant. She also has a successful band career and lots of support from some pretty cool peers. Although the last album wasn't quite up to snuff, she has retained the bleeding edge of cool and is definitely a unique force in music (would anyone else have been absurd enough to try Wind It Up?). All this could be for nought, though, as she saddles up with the No Doubt boys once again.

And what of Britney? She may well have collected the fragile pieces of her mind up off the bathroom floor but her music is now verging on the criminally insane (if I was dating a girl who said the word Womanizer anywhere near as much, I'm sure I'd have put cyanide on her cheesy chips some time ago). Has Britney consistently produced the classic tracks that we need from a pop Queen? Baby One More Time or Toxic are pretty good I guess, but she's yet to blow us all away.

It could be anyone of these artists, or none. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place and it'll be a Lily Allen, an M.I.A. or a Cheryl Cole. Or maybe it's just that the age of the superstar is over. With music available by the track in a hundred different formats, we don't all have to buy the same vinyl or watch the same TOTP any more. If and when the right time and artist comes along, I'm pretty sure Queen Madge will still be in the ring to put the newbie through her paces.

Jordan Stead

Currently listening to...

Alphabeat - Alphabeat

Natalie Imbruglia - White Lilies Island

Cibo Matto - Viva La Woman

Sunday, 30 November 2008

New Music: Florence And The Machine

The time has come for critics across the land to start unveiling their hot tips for 2009. One of the most popular choices, and rightly so, is loveable London-based quirky collective, Florence And The Machine.

Florence Welch - the integral cog in the utterly compelling and slightly cockamamie musical machine - is like a younger Kate Bush and a much less annoying Kate Nash, replete with a big voice, and a devilishly dotty mindset.

Kiss With A Fist, a firm favourite of Helen Of Troy..., is a brazen anthemic diatribe exploring the hard-hitting truth of destructive relationships, set to a punchy lo-fi indie-pop sound.

Latest single, Dog Days Are Over, is a stunning climatic delight. Featuring an intricate acoustic intro accompanied by Welch's haunting vocals, it steadily builds into a stunning Northern Soul-ish crescendo. If you're yet to hear it, we posted the awesome video here last week.

Let's hope FATM's dog days are over, and next year sees them turn into a well-oiled machine, churning out hit after hit after hit.

Friday, 28 November 2008

No Doubt Are (Holla)Back

When Gwen
Stefani released her epic slice of pop perfection What You Waiting For? back in 2004, it seemed that No Doubt might become a mere footnote in pop history. Granted, ND had their own moments of glory, but nothing compared to the magnificent madness of Gwennie Gwen Gwen and her Harajuku Girls.

While No Doubt never officially split, Helen Of Troy... was still a little surprised when we heard last week that Ms
Stefani will re-join her bandmates for a world tour in 2009. It has since been announced that the band's first live date in five years will happen in New York in May, and will feature a mix of new material and old classics. While Gwen's loyalty is commendable, Helen Of Troy... would choose solo Stefani over ND any day. Away from the ska-lite constraints of No Doubt, she's blossomed into one of the most delightfully bonkers, culturally important popstars of the noughties, so we don't really understand why she's going back.

bandmates had better pull something pretty special out of the hat if they don't want this tour to seem like a pity party!

We're not sure if we're being a little harsh on the old No Doubt boys, so we'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Is this tour a step backwards or can both brand Gwen and No Doubt co-exist in
poifect harmony?

Monday, 24 November 2008

Helen Of Troy... Does Audience Participation: Part Trois

Well dear audience, it's time for the rock instalment of our ahem... much-debated 'top three favourite...' series. This has been the trickiest selection so far with so many fabulous artists and bands to choose from. Remember we wanna hear who your top three are, so get your proverbial thinking caps on and let us know who makes your list.

Without further ado, here are our top three favourite female rock acts of all time...

1. Patti Smith
Affectionately referred to as the Godmother of punk-rock, without who the acts listed below may never have existed. Need we say more?!

2. PJ Harvey
We heart Polly Jean over here at Helen Of Troy... and consequently believe the wondrous woman can do no wrong – not even by ditching her glorious guitar to produce a piano-based album full of bewitching ballads. She's proved herself an immense and unique talent over the years; transcending genres and stereotypes to become one of the most consistently interesting artists of all time.

3. Hole

Third place was a close call, but we finally decided it should go to Courtney and friends for the sheer impact they had upon the rock world back in the early 90s. They may not be the most prolific of bands, but what they lack in albums they more than made up for in attitude and accolades.

Time to let us know who your top three are. Comment away!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Music Round-up 20th November to 4th December

Monday 24th November - Ladytron

Liverpool-formed electro-pop lovelies Ladytron have been plying their stark, stylish, synth-led sound for ten years now. Their fourth studio album Velocifero, released earlier this year, is a gorgeous exercise in industrial indie-dance. Live, the quartet creates a mesmerizing, multilayered sound that more than makes up for their at-times impenetrable detached cool.

Details: Academy 2, UMSU, Oxford Road, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £12.50 (excluding fees)

Wednesday 26th November - Little Boots

When we saw Little Boots supporting Ladyhawk
e back at the beginning of October, we were well impressed by the delightful disco-pop this little lady created with her sugary-sweet vocals and weird and wonderful instruments (The Helen Of Troy… Needs A Tenori-On Fund is still on the go btw!). Since then, Ms Boots played a storming set on Jools Holland and looks set for world domination in 2009. Catch her now before she gets too big for her Little Boots (sorry, we couldn't resist).

Details: The Deaf Institute, Grosvenor Street, Central Manchester

10pm, £5 (excluding fees)

Thursday 27th November - Lykke Li

While Little Boots looks set to be one of the big success stories of 2009, Lykke Li was undoubtedly one of the best finds of 2008. Her d
ébut album, Youth Novels, is a superb collection of electro classics that gets better with every listen. When we saw the Swedish singer at the beginning of the year, we were blown away by the difference between her polished studio sound and her raw-like-sushi live performance. Though we were impressed by the former, the fierceness of the latter made us fall in love all over again. We can't wait to find out where she's at now.
Details: Academy 3, UMSU,
Oxford Road, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £11 (excluding fees)

Friday 28th November - Róisín Murphy

Since Róisín Murphy left Moloko back in 2003, she's been producing some of the most consistently excellent, genre-pushing electro-pop around. By rights, she should be playing arenas by now instead of Manchester Academy (again). While her inability to break through to the mainstream proper might seem unfair, at least it means fans of the Irish songstress get to see her in relatively close quarters and get to stand up and dance when she plays stone-cold classics like Ramalama, Ruby Blue, Overpowered and You Know Me Better. Ooh, and she's supported by the fucking fantastic Bishi, who creates 21st-Century torch songs that ooze drama and combine traditional Asian instruments with electro-pop beats.

Details: Academy 1, Oxford Road, Central Manchester

7.30pm, £16.50 (excluding fees)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Florence & The Machine - Dog Days Are Over

We'll be posting a new music piece on this fantastic new(ish) talent over the next couple of weeks. Until then, check out the new single and video below - it's fricking awesome!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Bye Bye Bonkers Britney

It's ten years since doe-eyed trailer-trash fox BJ Spears unleashed brand Britney with her poptastic debut ...Baby One More Time and saucy schoolgirl shtick. Within a decade, Britters has gone from teen dream to half-dressed mess in one of the most spectacular falls from grace in the history of pop. We've spent the last five years mesmerized by Britney's tantrums, tiaras and baby dramas, but from now on, if reports are to be believed, we're only going to get the cleaned-up version of the pop princess. While we're happy that the Louisiana lovely is downing vitamins instead of Vicodin, we can't help but lament the passing of the mad-as-a-box-of-frogs superstar; especially upon hearing super sanitized new single, Womanizer.

Had we not adored the magnificent Blackout, released at the height of bad-Britney mania, Helen Of Troy... probably wouldn't give two figs about the future of the former Disney darling, but her fifth studio album was such an awesome schizophrenic electro-pop joy, we fell for the fucked-up sweetheart harder than we could have thought possible. The sneery cry of 'It's Britney Bitch' still excites us more than a year on.

With this in mind, we were well excited when we heard we were going to get a fitter, happier, healthier Britney. Unfortunately, even after a few listens, we're still not feeling new single Womanizer, which got us to thinking... Is Britters only worth listening to when she's clearly clinically insane? and... Is it wrong to only be interested in an artist when they're in meltdown?

Spears is by no means the first artist to burn out brilliantly. From Billie Holiday to Amy Winehouse, people have always been interested by suffering stars, but is it the scuzzy soap opera that excites us, or is the music of the unstable just plain better?

We're yet to hear Britney's new album Circus, but we're rather worried by rumours that it includes a ballad. Helen Of Troy... hates all ballads - fact, but Britney ballads are a particular bugbear of ours; Sometimes and I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman still make us want to do a sick!

While we don't want Britney to fuck up forever, we also don't want her to return to the airbrushed airhead of yore. Here's hoping Blackout wasn't a one-off and Ms Spears can find her fiery bad-ass inner-bitch while maintaining some kind of balance.

Currently listening to...
Girls Aloud - Out Of Control
The Long Blondes - Couples
Ebony Bones - Don't Fart On My Heart, We Know All About You (singles)

Monday, 10 November 2008

New Music: Hearts Revolution

Fuck Crystal Castles. Alternative bleep-tastic boy-girl duo Hearts Revolution offer a more accessible and richer DIY-digital sound than their rather more famous and recently NME Cool List-crowned Canadian counterparts. Using Lo's (the girl one) ice cream van to promote and sell the pair's music around various hotspots in LA and New York proved a shrewd move, and resulted in a glow-in-the-dark split 7" with CC early last year, placing them firmly on the scenester's map.

The NYC-based couple, who are big fans of early-90s riot grrrl act Huggy Bear, have previously referred to themselves as boy/grrrl revolutionaries and even remixed the Bear's infamous Her Jazz, which should be etched on the brain of anyone over 25 thanks to their seminal 1993 The Word performance.

Their MySpace page hosts a selection of 8-bit hardcore offerings such as C.Y.O.A. (Create Your Own Adventure) - a scuzzy synth-heavy delectation (and a personal favourite of ours), Switchblade - a frenetic, yet at times, melodic electroclash hit, and Her Jazz - the aforementioned Huggy Bear remix.

Watch out for these kids, they're gonna cause a meltdown!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Album Review: Girls Aloud - Out Of Control

Girls Aloud have always excelled at producing frothy, fun-as-fuck pop, but with Out Of Control, our favourite five-piece have managed to mature without leaning towards being boring or worthy. Not only have the Girls' and their excellent
Xenomania producers honed their infectious, eclectic pop sound, they've managed to add real soul to their songs with a selection of bloody beautiful lyrics. As Adem With An E pointed out in his excellent review, it doesn't get much better than Untouchable's 'without any meaning, we’re just skin and bone, like beautiful robots dancing alone'.

Anybody who's heard lead single The Promise knows it's pop perfection. It gets better with every listen and has Helen Of Troy... grinning like a loon and feeling like a film star as we sing 'here I am, walking in primrose' while making our way through the sometimes less-than-glamorous streets of Manchester.
It may be perfect, but when Helen Of Troy... first heard The Promise, we were a little worried that the mighty GA were going to jump on the 1960s girl-pop bandwagon and produce an album of Ronson-alike sweet soul songs. Happily, Out Of Control is a completely mixed bag, lurching from high-energy electro tracks like We Wanna Party to the skiffle-icious Love Is The Key.

Though all tracks on the album are excellent, real stand-out moments include the Pet Shop Boys-penned The Loving Kind, which oozes the kind of heart-breaking yet detached emotion that makes Tennant and Lowe's back catalogue so consistently brilliant and the shake-your-ass-tastic Revolution In The Head, which manages to be cool-as-fuck in spite of Nadine Coyle's ill-judged Alesha Dixon-alike 'gimme the ting' rap.

Where as GA's previous offering Tangled Up really only became excellent around the track seven stage, Out Of Control is fierce from start to finish. We never fell out of love with Girls Aloud, but it's all too easy to just remember their singles. OOC reminds us that a great Girls Aloud album is more than just four singles surrounded by fillers. A great GA album is an eclectic joy from start to finish, which is more than can be said about the majority of albums by 'serious' artists.


Released: 03/11/08 Label: Polydor

Monday, 3 November 2008

Music Round-Up (Nov 3 to Nov 16)

The next two weeks are incredibly busy in Manchester lady-music-wise, so this round-up is gonna be a little longer than usual. Bear with us though, as there are some right musical treats coming to our fair city in the next fortnight. Here we go...

Wednesday 5th Nov - Howling Bells
About two years ago, Helen Of Troy... travelled to Liverpool to watch this antipodean quartet and it really was worth the journey. Their swirling combination of country, shoegazing and grunge made their eponymous début album a real treat, with lead singer Juanita Stein's sugary vocals providing the perfect foil for her band-mates' beautifully constructed noisescapes. New single Into The Chaos, released on November 17, might not be as immediate as previous releases Low Happening and Wishing Stone, but it's still great to have them back. The Bells' are supporting the wonderful Mercury Rev, so get down early if you want to catch them.

Details: Academy 1, Oxford Road, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £16 (excluding fees)

Friday 7th to Sunday 9th November - Ladyfest

We've already blogged about the brilliant Ladyfest Manchester, but that was before we knew they'd secured the services of the mighty Slits (Sun). We're not shy of self promotion here at Helen Of Troy..., so it should come as no surprise that we wanted to let you know that we're DJing on Friday night after the fabulous Zombina And The Skeletones. Make sure you come along and say hello! Other highlights of the weekend include a discussion about women i
n the arts featuring Miranda Sawyer and music from Manda Rin (Sat). All this, plus a load of lady-made films, discussions and workshops. Hoorah.
Details: Zion Arts Centre,
Stretford Road, Hulme, Manchester
Times and prices vary

Friday 7th November - Florence And The Machine

Anybody who's got their groove on at Helen Of Troy... over the last four months will know we're big fans of Florence And The Machine's stomping single Kiss With A Fist. Florence and pals are appearing at The Warehouse Project-housed Bestival R
eunion Tour, alongside hip-hop pioneers De La Soul and Bestival head honcho Rob Da Bank - the man who tipped us off to the magnificent Bonde Do Role.
Details: The Warehouse Project,
Store Street -
Beneath Piccadilly Train Station, Manchester
to 6am, £17.50 (excluding fees)

Saturday 8th November - Laura Marling
Laura Marling was born in 1990. This makes us feel incredibly old. Happily, the Hampshire-born singer-songwriter's haunting nu-folk melodies, as heard on Mercury Prize-nominated d
ébut album Alas I Cannot Swim, are ageless and sung with real soul and authority. She's supported on this date by Brighton-born duo Peggy Sue And The Pirates who proffer a delightfully stripped-down blend of folk, rockabilly and blues.
Details: Club Academy, UMSU, Oxford Road, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £12 (excluding fees)

Sunday 9th November - Emmy The Great

London-based singer-songwriter Emma Lee Moss is another proponent of delightful lady-led nu-folk. New single We Almost Had A Baby, released on November 10, is a wistful kitchen-sink tale of a contraception malfunction replete with 1960s girl-group backing vocals. She appears at The Deaf
Institute with a full band who will hopefully add power and edge to the singer-songwriter's sometimes saccharine sound.
The Deaf Institute, Grosvenor Street, Central Manchester,
8pm, £7 (excluding fees)

Sunday November 9 - Yo! Majesty

If you've had enough nu-folk niceness you should try raising your energy levels with riotous rap duo Yo! Majesty, who we first blogged about back in August. This lesbian two-piece provide the perfect antidote to misogynistic, homophobic hip-hop with their good-time rhymes, down-and-dirty electro beats and awesome live shows. We love 'em, we're sure you will too.

Details: The Ruby Lounge,
High Street, Central Manchester
7pm (supporting Neon Neon, so g
et down early), sold out, returns only

Friday November 14 - Helen Of Troy Does Countertop Dancing

After the multi-venue madness of the preceeding week, it must be good to know that Helen Of Troy... is a one-stop-shop for all your lady-music needs. We'll be dishing up the usual selection of fantastic tunes by fierce females in what looks like being our busiest event yet. It's always a joy to see your lovely faces, so please come out and play.

Details: Charlies, Harter Street, Central Manchester
10am to 4pm, £4, £3 w/flyer or NUS

It's times like this we're to proud to live in Manchester. If only we had unlimited funds and some sort of teleport device we'd be in heaven. As it is, we'll have to make do with squeezing in as much as our wallets and legs will allow while still making time to listen to the new Girls Aloud album. Who'd have thunk Autumn could be so exciting?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

New Music: The Joy Formidable

We've been meaning to do something on this up-and-coming Wales/Devon three piece for a while now, but for whatever reason the the timing has never been quite right. Anyhoo, excuses aside, the London-based radio-friendly collective proffer a powerful mix of dreamlike epic indie-pop.

Début single, Austere, is a melodic bare-bones climatic rock gem. At just under three minutes long, it manages to pack in a chaotic mass of buzzing guitars and intricate harmony-laden vocals. Influences, including The Breeders and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, are clearly evident in this particular offering, but copyists they aint.

It’s not exactly dance-you-ass-off material, but tracks such as Whirring and Cradle have such a franctic, almost desperate, energy about them, it’s hard not to get swept along.

They’re a joy to listen to, and soon enough they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Blog Recommendations

Following the Manchester Blog Awards, which we attended last Wednesday, we thought it was high time we did our bit for the blogosphere and revealed our favourite blogs of the moment. We wanna point out that the following aren’t listed in any kind of order, oh except alphabetical!

First off is A Boy Like Thom , which has fast become one of our firm favourites. Here you’ll find a selection of Thom’s musical musings as well as ‘opinions and shit’ on a host of other fascinating topics.

Next up is our favourite dedicated music blog Adem With An E , which is your one-stop shop for all things pop and rock. Adem is probably one of the most hard-working and passionate bloggers we’ve come across to date. Definitely one to bookmark.

For those of you who don’t know, Mancubist is a wonderful site dedicated to everything Manchester. Run by the rather lovely Chris Horkan - who we met on Wednesday and is a thoroughly nice chap - there’s no better place to keep abreast of Manchester’s cultural news and events.

Last but by no means least we have Manhattanchester , the home of Gregling’s ‘stories, thoughts, adventures from the pretty, gritty city’. We stumbled across Greg’s blog around the start of the year, and have been avid readers ever since!

So there you have it dear readers, our top tips for what’s happening in the blogosphere at the moment. If anyone would like to direct us to their blog, leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

(So) Long Blondes

Helen Of Troy... wants to take a little time out of its busy schedule to bid a fond farewell to our favourite Sheffield indie-popsters, The Long Blondes. The future of the delightfully kitsch quintet has been hanging in the balance since guitarist Dorian Cox's stroke in the summer, so it was saddening, but not surprising when the band announced their split on Monday.

Happily, Cox has been making a slow but steady recovery, as lead singer Katie Jackson (who's currently working on solo material) explained during a 6 Music interview. 'When it first happened, Dorian couldn't move his leg or his arm at all and we weren't sure how his speech, memory, or intelligence were going to be affected. Thankfully, those things are completely unaffected. He's still the same Dorian, just lovely and hilariously funny. We haven't lost him at all, it's just the arm now that they're working on.'

As that statement indicates, the band are all still incredibly close, so future projects can not be ruled out.

For now, though, we'll have to be content with wearing berets and bright red lipstick while singing along to Someone To Drive You Home and the awesome Couples on repeat. We're also going to get our hands on new compilation, Singles, released on Monday, which we'll be reviewing here over the next couple of weeks.

We'll be spinning a selection of terrific tunes by the mighty
Blondes at our next clubnight, (Friday 14th November), so if you have any favourites you want to bust some teary-eyed commemorative moves to, just let us know and we'll make sure we play them.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Helen Of Troy... Does Audience Participation: Part Deux

As you've probably figured out by now our 'top three favourite...' series is simply a not-so-subtle ploy to get you lovely lot involved with the blog. We wanna hear more of what you've got to say, even if it's to tell us we’re wrong, deaf or illiterate even! This is very much an open forum and your comments are always welcome.

Anyway, on with the show. A couple of weeks ago we announced our top three favourite pop acts of all time, and this week we're moving onto our highly-coveted (ahem) electro section.

So after a little rumination we've decided on the following as our top three favourite electro artists of all time…

1. Bjork
The extraordinary elfin-like songstress is more than worthy of our top spot, not least for being such an intriguing and fantastic visionary. She's released six studio albums to date, each one different, each one groundbreaking and each one absolutely amazing. Her music might not always be easy to listen to, but she's almost always light years ahead of her contemporaries. Bjork, we salute you.

2. M.I.A.
She may have only released two albums to date, but the forward-thinking electro-clash political grime princess has made quite an impact over the past few years. Cherry-picking elements from various genres and cultures, she produces intelligent socially provocative songs that remain opinionated whilst never bordering on preachy. All this is then offset by a host of cruder, fun-as-fuck offerings – just the way we like it!

3. Peaches
A former elementary school teacher who makes mucky rock'n'roll-tinged electro-punk, exploring issues of sexual identity and gender roles. What’s not to love there? Live, she's a-fucking-mazing, performing with the kind of attitude most artists could only ever dream of. All together now... shake your dicks, shake your tits!

Now it’s over to you. Who are your top three?

Friday, 17 October 2008

Music Round-Up (17th October to 31st October)

Monday 20th October - Jenny Lewis
Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis brings her delightful country stylings to Manchester to promote her second solo album, Acid Tongue. The actress turned singer-songwriter - who once appeared in an episode of the Golden Girls, FACT - will be playing her beautiful brand of heartfelt, harmony-laden Americana, which sounds like a magnificent mix of downbeat Dolly Parton and seminal 1960s singer Laura Nyro.
Details: Academy 3, Oxford Rd, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £12 adv (excluding fees).

Who'd have thunk that Manchester on a Wednesday night in October was the place to be. I think we all know that's not normally the case, so make the most of October the 22nd, when not one, not two, but three noteworthy events are taking place across the city.

Wednesday 22nd October - Those Dancing Days
We may have been a little disappointed by their début album (see below), but that doesn't mean we don't still love this sprightly Stockholm five-piece. They were frikkin funtastic when we saw them back in June at Night & Day, with just the right blend of youthful naivety and technical ability. They have been touring tirelessly since summer, so it will be interesting to see whether that teenage exuberance is still as infectious, or whether it's been lost on the road in a too-much too-young style. They're supported by up-and-coming London-based indie-rock trio, The Joy Formidable.
Details: The Deaf Institute, Grosvenor St, Central Manchester
10pm to 2am, £5 adv (excluding fees)

Wednesday 22nd October - Tilly And The Wall
Moshi Moshi Records' 10th Birthday Tour is taking place just up the road (we think a bit of gig-hopping might be possible). Headlining the Manchester leg of their anniversary celebrations are the marvellous Tilly And The Wall. Much has been made of the fact that this Omaha quintet have a tap dancer instead of a drummer, but TATW are more than just a novelty act. Their latest eponymous album (also known as O) is a clever, joyous affair, filled with polished, danceable indie-pop gems.
Details Club Academy, Oxford Rd, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £10 adv (exluding fees)

Wednesday 22nd October - Manchester Blog Awards
OK, so it's not strictly a music event, but we still think the Manchester Blog Awards, taking place as part of the Manchester Literature Festival, are worth a mention. Categories include Best New Blog, Best Writing On A Blog, Best Arts And Culture Blog, Best Personal Blog and Best Neighbourhood Blog. Amidst the award-giving and back-slapping will be a number of readings from the likes of Single Mother On The Verge blogger Maria Roberts, plus tunes from music blogger Yer Mam!. The Manchester blogging scene is, and has for some years been, really rather healthy, so these awards offer the perfect opportunity to celebrate the variety and commitment of Mancunian bloggers and put a few faces to some well-known names.
Details: Matt And Phreds, Tib Street, Central Manchester
7pm, £3, £2 adv (excluding fees)

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Album Review: Those Dancing Days – In Our Space Hero Suits

When you come across a group of young, gutsy, charismatic women, who are living your life-long dream, are roughly ten years your junior, and possess the kind of attitude and energy you either never had or know you’ll never have again, it can be quite difficult to warm to them. Our green-eyed monsters stir further when we think about lead singer Linnea’s rather magnificent hair. Helen Of Troy… would be housebound were it not for the creation of ceramic straighteners and the tremendous power they yield over our ungainly frizzy locks, yet the mere sight of Linnea’s frizz-tastic barnet makes us want to weep with flat-haired envy.

Fortunately, Those Dancing Days are responsible for some of this year’s finest Northern-Soul-inspired indie-pop, so we can't, try as we may, hate them. In fact, we were incredibly excited when we heard they were finally releasing their début album; the cutely titled In Our Space Hero Suits.

Our excitment soon turned to mild dissapointment, however, when we first listened to the début offering from the lovable Scandinavian five-piece, which is a fine first effort, but ultimately lacking in the kind of party-pop-punch we were expecting. Tracks like I Know Where You Live and Duet Under Waters are almost featureless, making little, if any impact.

The contrast between this long player and their previously-released self-titled EP, is stark to say the least. Dischoe and 1000 Words - inexplicably ditched tracks from the EP - are utterly dazzling, and infinitely better than anything new they’ve produced for this album.

Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, In Our Space Hero Suits isn’t exactly an arduous journey, but things do get repetitive around the three-track mark. It’s not until you reach Hitten and Those Dancing Days - both of which featured on the magnificent aformentioned EP – that you realise just how lacklustre the whole affair is by comparison. Not all the new material is without merit however. Stand-out tracks Home Sweet Home and Falling In Fall are both multilayered, harmonious delights.

This isn’t a bad album, in fact it’s rather pleasant in parts, we just rather hoped it would be out of this world.


Released: 13/10/2008 Label: Wichita

Monday, 13 October 2008

New Music: Brazilian Girls

Helen Of Troy… reserves the right to call Brazilian Girls new, even if they’re on their third album, because we’ve only just heard of them. The New York trio may have been gigging and releasing Stateside for some time now, but to our knowledge, they’ve not yet broken over here, which is a crying shame as they’re frikkin’ awesome.

If you’re looking for a dose of delightfully spritely electro-pop, you need look no further. Current single Good Time is an infectious, smile-inducing shouty joy, replete with dumb-as-fuck lyrics, a Breeders-esque bassline and playschool synth accompaniment. Helen Of Troy… currently spends more time than is healthy trying to copy their ace accents.

Sabina Sciubba, Didi Gutman and Aaron Johnston are more than just one-track electro ponies, however. Tracks like Berlin, which has a delightfully sleazy Weimar cabaret feel, show the myriad diverse influences of the achingly cool trio, who blend decadent European eclecticism and scuzzy New York chic.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Album Review: Ani DiFranco - Red Letter Year

Given Ms DiFranco’s impressive back catalogue (twenty studio albums in eighteen years), it would be easy to dismiss her latest release, Red Letter Year, as a self-indulgent attempt to simply keep the rock rolling. However, the evident dedication has paid off and resulted in yet another fresh-and-inspired-sounding record.

The songs themselves utilise a structure much favoured by the Buffalo-born chanteuse; metaphor-heavy melodic poetry, set to intriguing off-beat musical riffs. Lyrically, themes chop and change and interweave at each bar, combining informed political opinion with colourful life experiences and delicate observations. Recent motherhood and a happy love life has evidently provided a kind of serenity, demonstrated in Present/Infant and Smiling Underneath, which entice the listener into sharing her good mood, whilst the title track expresses her bitterness at the American government.

With this latest offering we find that DiFranco’s style has matured and settled, resulting in an overall fuller and tighter-produced sound. There are some tracks which allow hardcore fans to reminisce over old-school Ani chord structures and melodies - the subtle, Star Matter, and the cosy, Way Tight, provide soft-interludes to the predominately band-driven melodies, showing off her signature acoustic guitar style in all its glory. The ability to stretch her unique genre to further horizons is also demonstrated, adding a host of new styles to her already brimming repertoire. The funkadelic, Emancipated Minor, is a prime example of this, featuring the use of an upbeat backing track set to relatively dark lyrics.

Hectic touring schedules combined with passionate activism promotions and a new family, make you wonder how she finds the time to write, record, and produce a record every year, whilst still making them pertinent and influential for millions of fans around the globe. Who knows? But from the sounds of this one, she’s got plenty more left in her.


Laura Adlington

Release Date: 29/09/08 Label ADA

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Gig Review: Ladyhawke, The Roadhouse, Sunday 5th October

After watching Ladyhawke support act Little Boots, Helen Of Troy… knows what it wants for Christmas. The Blackpool-born electro-pop star-in-the-making creates her perfectly-polished sound with a Tenori-On (pictured below).

We’ve had a quick look round, and think they cost about £700. Helen Of Troy… is rich in many ways; spirit, knowledge and experience, but we’re not that rich money-wise, so we’ve set up the Helen Of Troy… Needs A Tenori-On Fund, details of which will follow later.

OK, enough with our begging and on with the gig review. First off is Little Boots, who quite frankly, is impossible not to like. She’s funny, in-control and cute - we fucking hate saying that, but she really, really is. Her electro-pop lite, which is reminiscent of Kylie at her very best, may lack substance, but as fun, danceable pop, it’s hard not to love.

On to the main event, 1980s-loving pop star Pip Brown. Even after a particularly busy and traumatic weekend, we were still well excited about this gig. As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve ever read this blog before, we’re quite big fans. Unfortunately, we left a little deflated. First of all, and this is not Pip’s fault, the sound was atrocious. For the first three songs, Professional Suicide, Manipulating Woman and Better Than Sunday (if our memory serves us correctly), her vocals were almost completely inaudible and without them, her music was rendered a little redundant. As the vocal volume increased gradually (though it was never consistently good) the gig got loads better, and singles Dusk Till Dawn, Back Of The Van and Paris Is Burning were very nearly delivered with the power and passion they deserve.

Secondly, the New Zealand pop star seemed so uncomfortable onstage, you almost felt guilty for asking her to play. It seemed like Pip would rather hide under a rock than rock out. We’ve seen plenty of shy pop stars before and not been bothered by their reticence, but this lack of confidence, combined with the poor sound, meant the gig was more of an apologetic whisper than the proud statement of arrival it should have been.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Music Round-Up (4th Of Oct to 16th Oct)

Saturday 4th October – Underachievers All-Day Festival
If you’re looking to do something this weekend that will inform your musical landscape and won’t break the bank in the process (see how we think of you during these times of credit crunch madness), check out this eclectic all-dayer. Featuring live music from the likes of Molly Macleod, Extinguish Her and Vile Vile Creatures, plus guest DJ sets from the guys from Underachievers Please Try Harder, Ladyfest, and yep you guessed it… us.
Details: Rampant Lion, Anson Rd, Manchester
3pm, £4 entry on the door, £3 after 11pm.

Sunday 5th October – Ladyhawke
We’ve said all there is to say on this magnificently-modish popstrel, and now the time has come to don your Patti Smith t-shirts and your Daz-white jeans and watch the lady herself in action. If you need yet another reason to leave the house on a Sunday night (weirdos), how about the fact that hotly-tipped disco queen Little Boots is supporting.
Details: Roadhouse, Newton St, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £7.50 adv (excluding fees).

Friday 10th October – CSS
Last year we broke some kind of unofficial record as the people to have seen CSS the most in one year (not including festivals), but this year has been a somewhat different story - mainly due to the release of their slightly-underwhelming second album. Given the fact that the Bawdy Brazilians haven’t been seen in these parts for some time, it may be worth battling your way down the litter-filled Oxford Road and entering the jam-packed Students’ Union in the hope of a sneaky peak of Lovefoxxx’s newest catsuit!
Details: Academy 2, Oxford Rd, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £12.50 adv (excluding fees).

Friday 10th October -

Helen Of Troy Does Countertop Dancing
Once again we’ll be taking to the decks and spinning a stomping selection of girlie tunes for your very own pleasure. Also this month, we welcome special guest DJ Ben East, who has a freakishly encyclopedic knowledge of music, lady-led and otherwise. Expect to hear the likes of Ladyhawke, M.I.A., CSS, PJ Harvey, Santogold, The Long Blondes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Ting Tings,
Le Tigre and others.
Details: Charlies, Harter St (off Princess St), Central Manchester
10pm, £4, £3 w/flyer or valid NUS.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Helen Of Troy Does Audience Participation

After a recent conversation with fellow blogging chum Adem – check out
Adem With An E - about the greatest female pop acts of all time, we thought it only right that we pose the pertinent question to you lovely people and ask for your insightful thoughts on the matter, while starting a wee debate in the process… hopefully! Over the next few weeks we’ll be releasing our top three favourite female rock, hip hop, punk, electro and leftfield acts, and in return we’d like to know yours.

Anyhoo, after a few conversations with our friends and a little time for mulling over our choices, we both came to the conclusion that our top three female pop acts of all time are:

1. Madonna – needs no explanation.

2. Girls Aloud – we get a lot of stick for liking the might GA, but Biology is, quite simply, one of the best pop songs of all time. They’re the hardest-working girl group of the last decade; releasing five albums in as many years, not to mention the countless Arena tours and side projects, and have put out consistently good singles for longer than we can remember. They’re also extremely likeable, which is more than can be said for the super-surly Sugababes.

3. Janet Jackson – she may not be everyone’s cup of tea, what with the Nipplegate fiasco and her sometimes-sickly singing style, but songs such as Rhythm Nation, Nasty, What Have You Done For Me Lately and Black Cat, amongst others, are undeniably worthy of a listen to this very day.

So ladies and gentlemen, it's over to you...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Ladyfest Manchester

Manchester has arguably become England’s second city in recent years, thanks to its growing cosmopolitan feel and worthy international reputation. Birmingham may still officially hold the title due to its size (big whoop), but when it comes to music, art, theatre… in fact culture in general, Manchester is way ahead.

Why then, in a city as culturally evolved as Manchester – forgetting the tired resurgences of the Madchester/Hacienda days - is there still the need for a festival dedicated to celebrating women in the arts? Is the city failing to recognise, nurture and represent female talent? The answer to this, as far as we’re concerned, is yes.
Ladyfest Manchester is an attempt to redress the balance, if only for a few days. Essentially, the festival is 'a not-for-profit, volunteer-led arts and music festival, which aims to create a space for female artists and musicians to be seen and heard in an environment which is inclusive, individual and fun. Ladyfest as a concept is unique amongst festivals but Ladyfests have in fact been happening all over the world for eight years now.'

The programming offers a diverse selection of events, some of which include: art exhibitions by young emerging female visual and performance artists; film screenings, documentaries and shorts by female directors, and music showcases featuring Manda Rin (Ex-Bis), Zombina and the Skeletones, The Lovely Eggs, Vile Vile Creatures (pictured above), Penny Broadhurst, GeEkGirl, Hooker and others. Plus workshops, and a panel discussion on women in cultural industries, with speakers Miranda Sawyer, Professor Sheila Rowbotham and Dr. Marion Leonard in attendance.

Ideally these kinds of events wouldn't need to exist in the 21st century, however, they do, and there's still much work to be done.

Details: Friday 7th to Sunday 9th November, at the Zion Arts Centre, Hulme.
Advance Tickets: Weekend - £25; Friday Night - £7; Saturday - £12; Sunday - £12, concessions are available, as are tickets on the door. Go
here to buy tickets.

Currently listening to…
Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
PJ Harvey – Dry
CSS – Donkey
Tori Amos – American Doll Posse

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Album Review: Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke

Helen Of Troy… has been loving Ladyhawke since we first heard her gloriously retro 1980s electro-pop back in spring. It's understandable, if a little embarrassing, then, that when we got our grubby little mitts on Pip Brown's eponymous début album, we were filled with the kind of giddy excitement usually reserved for 13-year-old girls.

Perhaps the reason for this regression is that Ladyhawke, Ladyhawke could have easily been released when we were young snood and cycling short-wearing whippersnappers. The album pays homage to so many great bands and artists of the 1980s that sometimes it's difficult to know where Pip's record collection ends and the New Zealand singer-songwriter starts. Opening track Magic sounds like Depeche Mode fronted by Cyndi Lauper and Another Runaway is incredibly reminiscent of The Buggles' Video Killed The Radio Star. The Pet Shop Boys, Hall & Oates and Stevie Nicks also show up at this 1980s soft-rock/electro-pop party.

Happily, although Ladyhawke wears her influences like a battered Bananarama badge, this album is much more than tired pastiche. Singles Paris Is Burning, Back Of the Van and Dusk Till Dawn are still utterly brilliant and there are a few hidden gems that grow with each listen. Oh My is delightfully multilayered and Professional Suicide is a dirty-beated treat. Ladyhawke might not have blown our pop socks off with her début effort, but this is an album filled with real promise. She's playing at The Roadhouse in October, and we can't wait to see how these songs sound stripped of the almost slavish 1980s production. We have a feeling it might be brilliant enough to bring our waning teenage giddiness back.


Released on: 22/09/08 Label: Modular

Friday, 19 September 2008

Music Round-up (19th September to 3rd October)

Thursday 2nd October – Kaki King
To give you an idea of just how formidable this Georgia-born guitar virtuoso is, Rolling Stone bestowed her the title of ‘Guitar God’ back in 2006 - making her the first ever female to make the list in the history of the publication! A must see for all guitar-loving geeks!
Details: Night & Day, Oldham St, Central Manchester
8pm, £10 adv (excluding fees)

Thursday 2nd & 3rd October – The Ting Tings
Dig out your whistles, aviators and neon legwarmers, because the former Salford-based twosome are returning to Mancland for this highly-charged two-date extravaganza. The electro-pop poppets will be performing tracks from their number one début album, We Started Nothing which, although far from perfect, contains three of the years best singles. Ker-fucking-ching.
Details: Academy 1, Oxford Road, Central Manchester
7.30pm, £13.50 adv (excluding fees)

Album Releases:
Rilo Kiley vocalist, Jenny Lewis, releases her second solo album Acid Tongue on Monday 22nd September.

Tori Amos releases a live retrospective of her early career days in the form of Live At Montreux 1991-1992, which is also out on Monday 22nd September.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Album Review: Uh Huh Her - Common Reaction

There’s something a little desperate about naming your band after a PJ Harvey B-Side from an identically-titled album, regardless of the reasons. Perhaps even stranger is the fact that the chosen B-Side is from Peej’s least-critically acclaimed album to date. Not only that, it’s impossible to say Uh Huh Her without sounding like a twat.

The Los Angeles-based electro-pop duo features singer-cum-producer Camila Grey, a former member of lo-fi rock band Mellowdrone, who has worked with the likes of Dr Dre, Busta Rhymes and Kelly Osbourne. Even more notable, however, is musician and actress Leisha Hailey of The L Word and The Murmers fame. A chance meeting back in 2006 led to the decision for the two to join forces to start a band. Since then, they’ve sold out a number of shows across America and London, put out an EP titled I See Red, and, more recently, released their first full-length offering Common Reaction.

On first listen, this eleven-track début is an agreeable collection of synth-composed reminiscent pop songs. On closer inspection, Common Reaction becomes a considerably muted and transient affair. Tracks such as Everyone and Away From Here, are overwhelmingly derivative. The more you listen, the more you hear strains of Alanis Morissette's second release Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, and Shakespeare’s Sister’s phenominal rock ballad, Stay. In fact, it becomes impossible to listen without trying to identify futher unashamed imitations. Musical influences serve to provide references points for both the artist(s) and listener. After a while, this lack of clear original thought becomes irritating.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to comprehend why anyone would go to the trouble of writing, rehearsing, recording and (barely) promoting an album that, essentially, is completely unexciting in every way. In the words of the late Peggy Lee and Polly Jean herself, is that all there is?


Release Date: 18/08/08 Label RCA