Archive for July, 2011

Appwatch: Bullseye by The Polyphonic Spree

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More and more artists seem to be harnessing the power of the mighty App to a) create interesting cross-media hijinks, and b) sell more records (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We recently reported on Icelandic pop pixie Bjork, and her plans to release her upcoming album alongside an individual app for each seperate track. While their plans aren’t quite as ambitious, Tim DeLaughter’s symphonic rock collective The Polyphonic Spree have launched their first single in four years as a shiny new iPhone/iPad app.

Here’s the official blurb:

Over the four years since the release of their most recent album, The Fragile Army, The Polyphonic Spree has been working on new music. “Bullseye” is the first single released from a collection of songs for the forthcoming label, Good Records Recordings. Moonbot Studios and The Polyphonic Spree together have created an interactive, character-based narrative music video. Play through an expansive and changing world as You-Me, a small creature striving to find his way in the world. Bring plants and creatures to life in a video where you see, hear, and touch the world around you.

It certainly sounds interesting, and is quite unlike anything that has ever been done before. Whether this will mark a new trend of combining mobile-gaming aesthetics with musical releases remains to be seen, although if the idea is successful, it seems likely that a good number of other artists/labels will be keen to hitch a ride on this bandwagon …

Watch They Killed The Radio by Who Cares on BAMM TV

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Reno’s favouriteup-and-coming hip-hop sons Who Cares stopped by BAMM TV headquarters a short while back, and proceeded to throw some Eurythmics and Joy Division snippets into the kaledeoscopic ‘They Killed The Radio’ live on stage (as well as making time for the all-important melodica too). If you want to see an eye-popping, fresh and funky act at the top of their game, you’ve come to the right place. And while this performance may be dedicated to the one and only ‘Mr. Belvedere’, we’re pretty sure that everyone else is invited to the party too …

Watch Original Sin by Geographer on BAMM TV

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Here’s a great – and needless to say, exclusive – performance taken from this year’s Noise Pop Festival, held at The Independent in San Francisco. Fans of New Order and electro-tinged rock in general had better listen up: you might well have just found your new favourite band. Geographer are a three-piece indie-electro band who combine awesome synth sounds with haunting melodies and raw, emotional power. ‘Original Sin’ is a particular highlight among their ever-expanding catalogue, and you can check it out in the video above.

BAMM Says: Who Will Win The 2011 Mercury Prize?

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The shortlist for the Mercury Prize has just been announced. Now, while this is pretty big musical news in it’s native UK, readers from other shores may be unaware of this particular accolade, so let’s allow the chaps behind the prize themselves to sum things up:

The Barclaycard Mercury Prize exists solely to champion music in the UK, mainly through the ‘Albums of the Year’ competition, which celebrates recorded music of all genres by British or Irish artists. The twelve Albums of the Year are announced each July with the overall winner decided on the night of the Awards Show in September. The music on the album is the only thing taken into account.

It’s something of a unique award: while it’s undeniably an example of self-congratulation by the industry, it’s also seen as having a ‘serious’ edge. Unlike, say, the Grammys or the Brits, the Mercury Prize is one which wholly reflects the tastes of the critical fraternity. Previous winners have included Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’, Pulp’s ‘Different Class’, Roni Size’s ‘New Forms’ and last year’s champion, ‘The xx’ by, erm, The xx.

So: who’s going to claim the gong this year? The shortlist runs as follows:

Adele – 21

Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi

Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys!

Everything Everything – Man Alive

Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam

Gwilym Simcock – Good Days at Schloss Elmau

James Blake – James Blake

Katy B – On a Mission

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

Metronomy – The English Riviera

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy

The winner will be announced on September 6th, but in the meantime, let’s dissect that list and see who we think is the most likely to claim victory.

First up, there’s the previous winners: Elbow and P J Harvey (rewarded for ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ in 2008 and ‘Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’ in 2001). And while P J Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’ is an absolute masterpiece, the Mercury panel has never been known to choose someone twice over. Therefore: neither of these two.

Then there’s the ‘pop’ contingent. While it’s admirable that the prize doesn’t eschew pop music in the way many ‘worthy’ critical awards would deem appropriate, it just doesn’t seem likely that Adele, Katy B or Tinie Tempah are going to capture the hearts of the panel amidst a roster of more ‘serious’ artists. Then again, the Mercury Prize does like to retain a wilfully surprising streak, so there’s a possible chance that Adele (the biggest pop star in Britain right now) could be awarded the gong, purely as an act of ‘didn’t-expect-that, did-you?’ contradiction.

There’s a few indie acts in there: Anna Calvi, Everything Everything, James Blake and Metronomy. But then indie darlings The xx won last year, so Mr Mercury won’t want to retread old ground. We’re betting, then, that none of these guys are going to come out on top.

Which leaves the ‘difficult’ contingent, those who work in more obscure genres. The Mercury panel always like to buck expectations and support the underdog (hence Roni Size’s low-key drum and bass effort beat Radiohead’s seminal ‘OK Computer’ back in 1997). This year we have pianist Gwilym Simcock, veteran singer-songwriter King Creosote and electronic producer Ghostpoet. Chances of any of these winning: we’ll say pretty good.

So – if any of you are the betting types, feel free to follow the advice outlined above. Just don’t try to chase us with knuckle-dusters and pool cues if you happen to lose your money …

Watch Out In The Woods by Birds And Batteries on BAMM TV

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We’ve sung the praises of Birds & Batteries before on this here blog, and it just so happens that we like their blend of prog-rock-electro-pop so much, we’re going to treat you to another exclusive BAMM performance video. Yes, we know, we’re too good to you all sometimes.

‘Out In The Woods’ is a winding, groove-fuelled stormer that will hopefully inject a bit of danceability into your mundane Monday … and if you like what you see, be sure to check out the band’s album Panorama, plus their upcoming tour dates. If they happen to be playing near you, you’d be a lunatic to miss out.

The Friday List: Five Weirdest Musical Instruments

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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 weirdest musical instruments …

Let’s say you’re last on the bill at a Battle Of The Bands. You know your songs are great, but what you really need to do is make an impression. You need certain elements of your stage performance to resonate with the audience; grasp their imagination like no-one else has. How? Well, by using the weirdest instrument you can find, of course. Here’s a quick rundown of five likely candidates that will have the crowd muttering ‘what the hell is that?’ in unison …

5. The Tesla Coil

Up until now you’re probably most familar with the Tesla Coil as the subject of a particularly boring science lesson. From this moment on, you’ll remember it as an incredibly awesome way of playing the ‘Ghostbusters’ theme with pure electricity.

4. Laser Harp

The best thing about a laser harp is that, even if you keel over and die halfway through your set, you’re still going to look cooler than all those angels strumming away on their crappy old string instruments. Those heavenly fools!

3. Pikasso Guitar

Four necks and forty-two strings. Why? Because YES, that’s why.

2. The Cymbalom

See those things attached to his fingers? They’re called ‘Bow Hammers’. That means you get to say: ‘roadie, fetch me my bow hammers’. Instant man points are awarded every time this is done.

1. The AK-47 Guitar

The Colombian musicians in this video make an AK-47 guitar in order to help spread a powerful, anti-weaponry political message. As a bonus, it looks pretty damn cool too.

Watch Puppy Cuddles by Matt Adams on BAMM TV

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We’ve already introduced you to low-fi SF tunesters The Blank Tapes – in a group capacity, that is, with their awesome version of the Velvet Underground classic ‘Waiting For The Man’. Heading up the quartet is chief songwriter Matt Adams, who flew solo for the above performance of the charmingly-titled ‘Puppy Cuddles’. Enjoy Matt’s expert way with angular indie riffs and singalong harmonies, and – once you’ve finished – why not give your own dog a cuddle? (Top tip: if you don’t have a dog, ask permission before cuddling the one that belongs to the shotgun-toting neighbor).

Appwatch: Facebook Vibes

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A slight deviation from the usual Appwatch style, then, as we delve into the realm of swirling internet rumor. Have you heard of this ‘Facebook’ thing? Google it if not, there’s a good chance it could really start to take off soon. If you are familiar with Facebook (i.e. if you’re from Earth) you’ll know that they’ve just launched a shiny new Video Chat feature, which observers (i.e. anyone from Earth) claim is the latest step in their ever-increasing market domination.

But … what’s next?

Well, all sorts of tittle-tattle is flying around, the general crux of which is that Facebook may soon be launching their very own music app. Web-coder-types have analysed the new video feature and found something very interesting in the code: a snippet that states ‘MusicDownloadDialog’, which links towards a hypothetical entity called ‘Facebook Vibes.’ Nothing is known of this as yet, but all the signs seem to point towards Facebook gearing up to dip their toes in the world of music distribution. And that, as they say, will be a pretty definite game-changer.

What do you guys think? Would you use a Facebook music app? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Watch If I Run by Voxhaul Broadcast on BAMM TV

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Drawing on influences as diverse as James Brown, Al Green, The Beatles and Donovan, Voxhaul Broadcast are a fast-rising L.A quartet who have already enjoyed massive critical acclaim and widespread radio exposure. For this exclusive BAMM performance they decided to strip things down a little, and lead singer/guitarist David Dennis delivered an impassioned acoustic version of ‘If I Run’. As part of the grand war on cliche, BAMM is generally against using terms like ‘achingly beautiful’, so we hope you’ll forgive us when we say this mellow heartfelt melody is, erm, achingly beautiful. And we hope you’ll agree too.

Watch The Love Chapter by Ron Coolidge on BAMM TV

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Open-air venues don’t get much more open-air than San Francisco’s Union Square, which is where today’s featured artist can often be found. Ron Coolidge injects a dose of laid-back musical style to the thriving tourist hub on a regular basis, interspersing his masterful trumpet-playing with heartfelt acoustic renditions. The combination makes for a distinct and unique experience, as you can see in this exclusive video of Ron performing ‘The Love Chapter’ (as ever, in his favourite Union Square location).