Even though I do post music of the indie-electro-pop sort on the Ziggy Popular facebook page or twitter quite frequently, I rarely feature this kind of music on the blog. Mostly because it’s not quite my thing, and I honestly wouldn’t have much to say… don’t worry, I’m not gonna attempt to this time either… but I still feel like sharing a track now and then, especially when it’s as good as this one, from an artist I frequently “Facebook-stalk” to see if she got anything new coming out (it doesn’t happen that often you see) . The reason I decided to do a blog post tonight (even though I just finished writing an essay, and just sat down to chill out with a beer when I saw this) is Mr Little Jeans. If anyone (and I doubt it) actually remembers the blogger page I made for myself in 2011, you might remember one of the first ever ‘Band of The Week’ features I did then, featuring Norwegian Ms. Monica Birkenes, as her real name is. As (I’d say) most people who are already familiar with this wonderful artist, I discovered her through her dauntingly beautiful cover of Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs - which now has more than 2m views on youtube – released earlier that year. Ever since then, I knew she’d only get bigger, and I am still certain a major breakthrough is coming any time now, if that’s what she wants. It’s taken a while, and she still keeps me waiting for the album, but two years and three singles later – boom! Number one on hypemachine today, with her gorgeous new tune (and video), Oh Sailor. Congratulations, and all the best. The video has 17 00 views in five days, and this from an artist I dare say no more than a handful of Norwegians have even heard of. From having grown up in Grimstad (near where I am from) in Norway, she moved to England on her own at age 16, having left college to chase singing leads gleaned from the “wanted” page of The NME. According to herself, she mostly spent an endless string of years as a terrible waitress, and after an exploratory trip to Los Angeles, a couple more years sofa-surfing, country-hopping, and racking up credit card debt as she wrote with different producers—Peter Moren (Peter Bjorn & John), John Hill (Santigold)— and shaped her sound into that of the inimitable Mr. Little Jeans we now know. Please do enjoy, here’s Oh Sailor.
What initially started out as a solo project for front man Nick Rayner on his return to Cambridge, for what he regarded as some “much needed time to be alone”, has since grown to something much greater.
Hunkered down in Cambridge, Rayner wrote, recorded, and mixed a series of stripped back songs that have come to form the basis of the ‘Health’ EP. He then travelled to Ireland, where, with assistant engineer Edan Ray, he recorded the stirring drums, whilst the soaring violins that characterise this EP were being recorded on the other side of the world, in Australia.
The resulting record is a collection of emotive songs that grow from sparse guitar picked melodies that recall early days Bon Iver, through to grand melodies and orchestral arrangements more reminiscent of Arcade Fire.
Support by Ottilia and my good friend and very talented musician, Osian Rhys.
” a delicate, silky and enchanting folk masterpiece that’s dense in passion, longing and beauty” – Alt Sounds.com
Highasakite inhabits their own rare musical landscape, a place of long dark shadows, sudden flashes of glittering light, brooding silences and unexpected explosions of fierce percussion. Ingrid Håvik’s surrealistic lyrics and ardent vocals float out of another time and place, drawing you down into the breathless maelstrom created by her band mates. Progressive rock, Norwegian folk music, jazzy tribal drumming, spaced out synthesizers, zither and autoharp come together to create a deep, mysterious resonance, echoing the sounds your hear in the midnight dreams that often seem more real than anything you experience during your waking hours. Imagine Phil Spector producing Cluster, with a dash of Radiohead on the side, and you’ll have the general idea, but Highasakite brings their own singular vision to the party. Read more: http://highasakite.no
‘In And Out Of Weeks‘ is their second EP and follow-up to their self titled 2012 release Highasakite. Having had their debut EP on repeat for months now, I am pleased to conclude that their second release is as excellent as the first one, and it really shows the true depth and tremendous potential from perhaps the most exciting new indie-pop band Norway has to offer at the moment. The band is playing two shows at SXSW tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, followed by string of shows in the US and Europe – check them out if you can! In And Out Of Weeks is out now, on PropellorRecordings. (I apologise for the messed up Spotify player, there seems to be a problem atm)
“Single Mothers broke up in 2009 – and have been playing shows ever since.”
The “might remind you of” section kind of says it all, in the best of ways. These guys just fucking rock! Great riffs, mixing the raw power of simplicity with excellent driving melodies, killer bass lines and bang on, furiously fast punk rock drumming! Not since I first heard The Bronx have I wanted to go see a band this much (London, UK, anytime soon guys??), they’re everything I want in a live band, and everything I’ve been missing since… the mid 80’s when punk took its last gasps for air, before drowning in cheesy metal and dance music. And speaking of The Bronx, like Bronx vocalist Matt Caughthran, Andrew Thomson and Single Mothers genuinely sound like they got something to say – or shout!! It sounds great. And it sounds great, not only because Thomson is a great vocalist, but also because the production is exactly how a punk production should be; raw and loud, pushing everything to the point where it sounds like your speakers are about to blow. Naturally it’s not easy to make out what they’re actually saying, but they make me believe it, and they sound like a band that make songs about everyday stuff, writing about what they know, rather than trying to string together a selection of pretentious “post-poetic” lines of bollocks. Palma Violets may make the kids mosh, but these guys will make grown men tear the venue apart. Their second EP “Self Titled” is out now. Have a listen.
From a planned series of 5 or so relatively noisy bands… More coming up tomorrow!
Genre: “SKITTN NOWAVE for skitne tøser og sprengkåte menn” (roughly translated: “Dirty new-wave for dirty sluts and blow-horny men”, or something like that…
Might remind you of: Sonic Youth, early PJ Harvey, The Pixies, Årabrot (and probaly lots of crazy bands that I wouldn’t know).
Current Release: Lesson #13 For Nanker Phelge/Fire, single, 2013
Deathcrush have – as The Fly elegantly put it – ‘been scaring the bejesus out of live audiences for what seems like an age’, but with the exception of Lesson #2 (For Cliff Burton) - featured on one of Fysisk Format’s hard hitting compilations, Bransjevelter 5- the trio has as far as I know not properly released anything (like… ever!) till their recently dropped debut single Lesson #13 For Nanker Phelge/Fire. It was most definitely worth the wait, just please don’t make me wait this long for single number two (or lesson #14?)! I might dare describing it as dirty, very sexy, groovy, new-wave, sludge- noise rock… Check it out, it’s one of the most exiting tracks I’ve heard so far this year! And make sure to have a look at: http://www.deathcrush.no
It’s that time of the year again.. everyone trying to predict the “hot new break-through acts.” I wouldn’t claim to be in a position where I can predict anything, and frankly I don’t care how “hot” or not these bands may or may not be in a years time. Well, hopefully hot of course because I like them, but you know… In my case it’s more an attempt of keeping up to date with what’s happening, and what bands to keep an eye on in 2013 – for my own enjoyment. But hopefully someone else will check out the list as well, and if I can introduce you to a new band that you really like, then there’s nothing better than that! The list is mostly from a UK perspective with British and American music, but I’ve also included a couple of bands I hope to see coming out of Norway in 2013. It is a mix of “my own discoveries” and bands I’ve been introduced to by other blogs and magazines; Record Of The Day, The Line Of Best Fit, The Guardian, Pitchfork, Mojo, NME, The Quietus, Indie London, TimeOut etc etc etc, I’ve been through most of them! Hope you like it! And please comment and come with suggestions, I will keep adding to the list throughout the year – so do subscribe! As with my taste in music, the list ranges from hardcore to hip hop, pop and EDM..
There’s been a lot of great press for Melinda Ortner’s debut EP lately. Here are a some of the lines worth noticing:
Rhyth and Booze, UK
“Strangers is an incredible debut by a stunning new talent, if we live in a just and ideal world you’re going to be hearing a great deal more from Melinda Ortner in the near future.” (9/10)
“…the first thing you notice when you play this EP is the diversity and range of the material, Melinda effortlessly moves between the dark, brooding (almost menace) of title track to the infectious Sweet Little Lies.”
“… it’s almost like Melinda is soundtracking the human condition and she’s doing it in such a heart rendering manner that you found yourself caught up in the moment. Finally there’s the voice, both strong and vulnerable, it aches, it pulsates and mostly it seduces.”
Music News, UK
“This EP underlines that ambition to succeed, with a statement of intent, ahead of her first album later this year.”
“With a sound close to the UK’s Jem or Little Boots, Ortner opens with the haunting strings of Strangers, where she seductively sings about ‘strangers’ in her bedroom and all her lovers singing along. “
“You can tell Ortner writes most of her material on piano and the delicate start to Sweet Little Lies has a softly understated keyboard refrain before another pounding and catchy chorus; “I need a better reason for your sweet little lies, your devil disguise”.
Music The Digital Fix, UK
- Singles of The Week, included releases by: First Aid Kit, The Cribs, No Doubt, Example, Karin Park.
“The opening two songs on this debut EP from Californian singer-songwriter Melinda Ortner, ‘Strangers’ and ‘Wait Another Day’, are mighty fine examples of glitchy lo-fi folk where maudlin arrangements combine with Ortner’s wonderfully crisp vocals to provide genuinely exciting listening.”
“If there’s one name you need to remember for the rest of this year then it’s Melinda Ortner. Why? Because her sparkly debut EP ‘Strangers’ is on its way, bringing with it a flame thrower of gorgeously heavy tracks that will have you feeling what she feels from the outset.”
New Classics, UK
“Strangers features a wide range of the material, from the brooding title track to the infectious Sweet Little Lies. The singer’s words have an almost naked honesty about them, as if she is soundtracking the human condition, and her soulful voice is both strong and vunerable as it aches, pulsates and often downright seduces.”
Band of Banjo Playing Badgers, UK
“This is what real pop should be like.(…) Melinda demonstrates everything that is good about traditional popular music and where it should be at, these days. Her Strangers EP contains thought-provoking, deep and expressive lyrics married with some melodies that pull you in so fast there is a risk of a little motion sickness. It is well worth it, believe me. There is style and there is substance in abundance.”
“This body of work is a perfect precursor to what should prove to be a sensational debut album. (…) Strong and vulnerable with just the right balance of dark and light.”
Get Ready To Rock, UK
“Melinda Ortner has already been picking up the plaudits and rightly so based on these four tunes.”
‘”Somethin’ Sorry’ is the stand out with a simple piano riff and swooping backing vocals. ‘Wait Another Day’ reminded me a little of Tori Amos without the fairy references! Go check her music out now before the rest of the crowd catches up.”
I’ve never thought of myself as a writer, and I most definitely never thought I’d actually be a blogger. The summer of 2010 – for the first time – I tried to be both. July 2010 was the month I left home and started what would be the craziest journey of my life. A 5–month backpacking trip through the Caribbean and Latin America, alone.
I gave up on the blog within a week or two, but I did keep a diary throughout the whole trip. I’ve wanted to get that typed for a long time, but I still got about half of it left. It does feel like it should be shared with someone though. There are a lot of good stories, thoughts and reflections that I never would have had if it wasn’t for this journey. I am constantly reminded of it, and some reminders bring back stronger memories and impressions than others. Some memories – such as this one – have actually made a bigger impression on me after I got back.
The reason for this blog post is my recent re-discovery of a Puerto Rican band called Calle 13. There are many things that bring be me back to those times on the road, but nothing more than music does. And this band and this song (La Perla) actually have a direct link to my stay in Puerto Rico.
It was my first day in Puerto Rico. The night before, I had slept in the grass outside the airport in St Kitts. The night before that, I slept on the floor inside the airport in Guadeloupe. I had spent that whole week traveling through the Caribbean (I even caught a ride with a one-armed crazy pirate-like guy with a speed boat and no legal papers – but that’s a whole other story). As you can imagine, I was smelly, filthy and looked like a proper hippie to any customs officer. It took me more than an hour to get through immigration in San Juan, and I was interrogated by at least three different officers at the airport before they would let me through. That someone would go to Puerto Rico simply for the fun of it, with no particular plans or agenda, seemed like a concept they had a hard time getting their heads around. I then – after a bit of fumbling, and some help from a lovely lady at an internet café – made my way to Rio Piedras, where I was meeting a local girl in a bar. It was the lovely Paola, who gave me shelter for several days and made my first few days in Puerto Rico some of the best. I am forever grateful to her, Carlos and Ivan for that.
It was that first night I went to La Perla, with Paola. I had never heard of the place, but it didn’t seem like the average tourist route to put it that way. But we got what we came for, and if anything, it I felt quite comfortable there…
I later got people saying I was lucky to be alive! I went to La Perla!? Me, a white, blonde guy (aka a gringo unless proven not to be)!?
Surely it can’t be that bad? Or at least that’s what I thought…
A few days later I came across an American middle aged man in Old San Juan. He was bleeding, and his face was bashed in pretty bad. He asked me for money for a cab to the hospital. Normally I would just ignore those kind of pleas, but this guy was not at all the type that would normally beg for money. And his face.. I asked what happened, and he told me; ‘we went down this street, through this tunnel walkway by the sea, and some guy came out and hit us with a shot gun!’… It sounds like you’ve been to La Perla!
I didn’t say this and I am being horribly cynical, but sorry mate, you had it coming! You don’t go into a place like that unless you’re with a local. Every signal light in your body should have been flashing red, if you have any common sense.
And exactly that has made me fascinated about La Perla. Along with what my friends told me when I was there. You’ve never heard of anything like it, I’m sure.
La Perla – The dark history
La Perla is a slum astride the northern historic city wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, stretching about 600 meters along the seaside.
It was established in the late 19th century. Initially, the area was the site of a slaughterhouse because the law required them and homes of former slaves and homeless non-white servants – as well as cemeteries – to be established away from the main community center; in this case, outside the city walls. Sometime after, some of the farmers and workers started living around the slaughterhouse and shortly established their houses there.
Because of its oceanfront, secluded location (it’s literally on the beach in-between the wall and the ocean), La Perla is known for its high rate of illegal activities. In recent years, a rebirth of crime in this neighbourhood has attracted international drug traders, arms dealers and narcotics distributers as a place to live (we’re most likely talking million-dollar industries here).
There are only three access points to La Perla. One goes through the “Santa Maria Magdalena Cemetery”, one on the east side and one is through a walkway right in the center of the northern wall. That’s the one-way street, tourists do not want to accidentally head down. With a few exceptions, the police don’t even go to La Perla – it’s guarded by gun-men, and considered a lawless area. In many ways, anarchy.
(Entrance to La Perla)
The Life Of La Perla
La Perla is without any doubt a place of gangs, drugs and violence, but that’s not all there is to it, far from. It’s often portrait this way to strangers of the city, but it really isn’t all dangerous and horrible. That’s not what I see, and that’s not how Calle 13 and the people of San Juan think of it. La Perla might be hostile towards ‘aliens’ – and more than anything, ‘gringos’ and the police – but it’s a very fascinating place, and the people living there seem to have an entire world of their own. A utopia, away from everyone else, where only their own rules apply.
In later years, La Perla is known for its local salsa and hip hop concerts, art shows, street art and an annual oceanfront community arts-and-crafts fair. It also has a ‘bowl’ for skateboarding, it’s the home of many of Puerto Rico’s surfers, and has a flourishing music scene.
I wouldn’t recommend people to go to La Perla – and if you do, leave your valuables at home – but I do think it’s one of those places that are not like anywhere else, and offers a kind of beauty that is not commonly found. I am glad to say I have been there. Even if it was only for a brief visit.
Here’s Calle 13 and Ruben Blades describing La Perla, the way they see it. Have a look: