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.