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Archive for June, 2011

Appwatch: Sound Cells

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Sometimes the simplest notions are the best, and – while professional musicians looking for an app fix will undoubtedly want something meatier – the casuals among us will find Sound Cells a captivating little musical diversion. The layout consists of a matrix, comprised of individual cells. Highlight a cell and it makes a noise, which can then reverberate and rebound off adjacent cells to create the ambient, electronic soundscape of your choice. Be warned: Sound Cells is fiercely addictive and may well convince you that, rather than a bored bus passenger fiddling with your iPhone, you are infact Brian Eno or David Toop.*

*You are not Brian Eno or David Toop.

Watch Problema de 2 by Ana Tijoux on BAMM TV

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Regarded as one of the best rappers in the Spanish language, Ana Tijoux can count none other than Radiohead’s Thom Yorke as one of her most devoted fans. Chances are that – after watching this awesome, exclusive BAMM performance of ‘Problema de 2′ – you’ll be joining that fanbase too. Raw, honest, original, political and fiery, Tijoux could be labelled as the Chilean M.I.A. And while that would be a somewhat dismissive comparison – she’s very much her own artist – Tijoux deserves the same amount of globe-conquering success. Give her time, and she might just get it …

Oh, and if you’re in SF from August 12-14, you really should catch her live at the Outside Lands festival.

Watch Better Way by The Soft White Sixties on BAMM TV

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We’ve already treated you to a previous track from these cool-as-hell retro enthusiasts, and now we’re giving you the chance to enjoy even more vintage-themed rock from the Soft White Sixties. ‘Better Way’ – taken from BAMM’s SXSW showcases back in March – is a perfect laid-back summer rocker. So crack open a beer (assuming you’re not at work, driving, underage, or simply violently allergic to alcohol), kick back and embrace the swinging sixties.

Want more? You can catch these guys live at the High Sierra Music Festival this Thursday (June 30th).

BAMM UK: Pulped

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BAMM UK is a regular opinion piece from our London-based correspondent. This week: Pulped …

Last weekend in the UK harboured the annual Glastonbury festival. With it came the usual banter from the press: is the whole thing too commercialised blah blah blah, wasn’t the token hip-hop act well received blah blah blah, predictable and entirely inaccurate spiel about Coldplay being boring blah blah blah …

In the midst of all this, however, there was a genuine surprise: that the freshest, most engaging, wonderful, life-affirming Glasto set came from Pulp, the Sheffield-born misfits who have reunited following a nine-year hiatus. While reading a swathe of five-star reviews (from the kind of people who would have dismissed Pulp as ‘clapped-out’ a decade back) this writer couldn’t help but enjoy a smug realisation. The world has finally, finally caught up to the truth that a select few of us always held evident – that Pulp, along with Radiohead, are the greatest British band of the last twenty years.

Thanks to the massive hit ‘Common People’, Pulp are often unfairly linked in with the dreadful Britpop scene, a mid-90s phenomenon in which middle-class art school graduates like Damon Albarn pretended to be a cockney chimney sweep for a few years. A few bands – including Albarn’s own Blur – grew out of this, later becoming remarkably diverse artists in their own right. Pulp did so too … but in a hugely different way.

In 1997, they released ‘This Is Hardcore’, and effectively committed commercial suicide. ‘Hardcore’ was the post-Britpop hangover, a sneering and bitter riposte to the ridiculous ‘Cool Britannia’ ideology that was thankfully beginning to die out at the time. It was tortured, miserable, perverse, twisted and a total failure sales-wise. It’s also one of the best albums ever made, and is far, far, far from getting even a tenth of the recognition it deserves.

As is ‘We Love Life’, their 2001 follow-up, produced by Scott Walker. Also a commercial blow-out, it contains some of their finest, most mature work, and sees Jarvis Cocker finally emerging from his late 90s malaise. Not quite as incredible as ‘Hardcore’, but a solid entry in the ‘best of the decade’ stakes.

On a personal note, there’s an odd sense of irritation that Pulp are getting recognised as one of the great British bands. What took everyone else so long to get to the party? Where were you when no-one liked them anymore? And – as their resurgence in popularity continues, the question I’ll be asking the most – how many of the reappraisers actually ‘get’ Pulp, and how many just like them again because it’s suddenly cool to do so?

Anyway – because I’m sometimes a proponent of that whole ‘dancing about architecture’ cliche, the best way to remind you how remarkable Pulp are is to simply let you listen to them.

Take their great way with a pure pop tune, for example:

And their encapsulation of teenage angst:

And their ability to write classic love songs:

And to be genuinely hilarious at times:

And to make social commentary that isn’t cringeworthy:

And, of course, the greatest Barry-White-influenced duet with Neneh Cherry ever recorded:

Pretty good stuff, all in all.

Watch Nicki Bluhm And The Gramblers on BAMM TV

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Our SXSW showcases back in March were a total blast, and you can check out a free downloadable playlist of all our acts right here. This includes the smouldering alt-country soulful rock of Nicki Bluhm And The Gramblers, who wowed the audience with a live performance of the laid-back ‘Toby’s Song’. What could fit into the SXSW spirit of Texas more than this?

If you want to see more of these guys, then mark your calendar for June 30th (this Thursday) – they’ll be appearing at the High Sierra Music Festival, alongside a host of other prominent acts. Don’t miss out.

Watch Strings by The Brothers Comatose on BAMM TV

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Here’s a little something
from the archives. Cast your mind back, if you can to October 2010 – a world in which Charlie Sheen was still a much-loved sitcom star, the iPad 2 was but the thing of a madman’s dreams, and Facebook still wasn’t able to scan your face and tag you like some strange cyber-relative. It was roundabout that time that bluesgrass wizards The Brothers Comatose paid a visit to BAMM’s SF headquarters.

The Brothers were also the first band to ever feature in a live BAMM feed, way back in 2009. Why do we keep inviting them back? Because they’re awesome – and this great performance of ‘Strings’ (above) will show you why. If you can’t get enough of these guys, you can catch them live at the High Sierra Music Festival on June 30, along with other great acts such as My Morning Jacket and Neko Case.

The Friday List: 5 Best Hidden Tracks

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Time once again for BAMM’s regular Friday list of curiosities to keep you talking over the weekend. This week: the five best hidden tracks …

So the humble CD has seen better days, but let’s not forget that – while it ruled the physical-format roost – it was a good friend to us all. It had plenty of quirks and distinctions which were unique to the format – like those little spokes which made it impossible to get the damn thing out of the case, or the fact that they scratched incredibly easy and then skipped mercilessly, or their massive overpricing, or their limited 74-minute storage capacity, or …

Ahem. Let’s concentrate on one of the more nostalgic elements, shall we? Who remembers the phenomenon of the ‘hidden track’ – the cheeky musical additions to albums which went unlabelled or unheralded. Vinyl records could contain such hidden delights, true (via the technique of ‘double-grooving’), but CDs remained the dominant format for these sneaky add-ons. Let’s take a look at some of the best ones …

5. ‘Zero Is Also A Number’ – Nick Cave

A real oddity, this. In 1996, ‘Songs In The Key Of X’ was released – a compilation album of music influenced by (or featured in) seminal TV series ‘The X-Files’. Cave’s brilliant ‘Red Right Hand’ was a full-fledged album track, but the sleeve notes contained a cryptic message: “Nick Cave and the Dirty Three would like to remind you that zero is also a number.” By holding down the rewind button for a few minutes at the very start of the CD, listeners could discover a hauntingly beautiful secret track that actually surpassed the rest of the album. Mulder and Scully would have been proud.

4. ‘Running The World’ – Jarvis Cocker

Expectations were high for the ex-Pulp frontman’s 2006 debut album. As good as it turned out to be, it was the inclusion of ‘Running The World’ (hidden 30 minutes after the closing track) which made it an essential purchase. Jarvis’s finest moment, maybe? Warning: the lyrics are really, really NSFW.

3. ‘Poor Song’ – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

When viewed against their subsequent albums, the debut long-player from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (‘Fever To Tell’) can seem a little underwhelming. There are plenty of standout moments to be found, though: the exquisite ‘Maps’ goes without saying, but ‘Poor Song’ – a dark, raw number tacked onto the end of the album – stands up too.

2. ‘Train In Vain’ – The Clash

Originally intended as a giveaway promotional song for the NME, this was later added to the classic album ‘London Calling’ – after all the sleeves had been printed. Listeners who grabbed a first edition were surprised to find an extra song nestled at the end of an already-long album … and probably even more surprised to find it was the best track on there. And, like, one of the best songs of all time.

1. ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ – Eels

So Mark ‘E’ Everett decided this stone-cold classic didn’t suit the tone of his 1999 opus ‘Daisies Of The Galaxy’, and slapped it on the disc as a hidden bonus. The record company had other ideas, however, releasing it as a single and forcing poor E to take part in a promotional video (the song was included in the soundtrack of goofy 90’s comedy ‘Road Trip’). He has to joke around with the actors. Just look at his face.

Watch Just To Be You by Yung Mars on BAMM TV

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Here’s something to help you ease into the weekend with style. Yung Mars brews up a hip-hop cocktail of classic soul, modern beats and futuristic funk every time he hits the stage, and his recent performance of ‘Just To Be You’ at BAMM’s SF headquarters was no exception. If you want to hear more from this fast-rising Bay Area talent, head on over to his site, where you can download his mixtape album completely free.

Appwatch: iTunes Festival

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Who would have thought that July’s upcoming iTunes Festival – a month-long series of gigs in London which bears the unmistakable brand of the folks at Apple – would have its very own app? Erm … well, pretty much everyone, really. It’s the iTunes Festival. Duh.

However obvious the notion, that doesn’t make the iTunes Festival App any less impressive. It’s essentially a portable way of attending the festival itself – so if you like the idea of totally free, streaming and on-demand, high-def sets from the likes of Coldplay, Linkin Park, Foo Fighters, Adele, Paul Simon, and My Chemical Romance among others, this little beauty could be worth investigating.

Watch The Soft White Sixties on BAMM TV

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The Soft White Sixties – “Queen of the Press Club” from BAMM.tv on Vimeo.

With a name like The Soft White Sixties, there exists only two possibilties: they’re either a) a bunch of fragile suburban pensioners all pushing 70, or b) they’re paying homage to the musical revolutions of a great musical decade. Thankfully for us – and the world of music in general – The Soft White Sixties fall into the latter category. Their vintage, R&B-tinged rock takes the best, most recognisable elements of the 1960s soundscape and filters them through a fresh, modern perspective. The result? Great tunes like ‘Queen Of The Press Club’, as performed exclusively for BAMM at one of our recent SXSW showcases. If you’re able to, you really should catch these guys at the High Sierra Music Festival on the 30th June.