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?