Tagged: brownswood

Tune Of The Day: Ghostpoet – MSI MUSMID

If you’ve ever read this blog before, you’ll know that I have a lot of time for Ghostpoet, and for Gilles Peterson.

So whilst I was rather disappointed to hear that Ghostpoet has left Peterson’s Brownswood record label, I was dead chuffed to hear that he has a new album coming out, with one track already out in the wild.

Needless to say his new track, MSI MUSMID, received its debut play on Gilles’ show, suggesting the split was entirely amicable – presumably in the same way that Jose James left, to find a label can take his career to the next levelBrownswood is turning into the musical equivalent of a tech incubator – finding and nurturing talent.

The track is Ghostpoet at his best; jarring melodies, spooky basslines and mumbled lyrics that blend philosophy and ramblings in equal measure. If you like it, and let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you, why not repost it on Soundcloud? As soon as 1,000 people do, it’ll become available as a free download – a nice little promotional trick if ever I heard one, rewarding sharing and advocacy.

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/78927599" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]


The Best New* Albums Of 2011

Well, that’s 2011 more or less wrapped up.

Where the bloody hell it went, I have no idea, but, as I do most years, I thought I’d finish it by wrapping up my favourite albums of the year. Now, I should probably add at this point that, because I’m no longer a teenager who buys NME every week, or even a 20-something buying a monthly music magazine, I don’t hear as much new music as I’d like. So, whilst many of these albums were released in 2011, some are actually older but were new to me in 2011.

Anyway, here we go, in no particular order:

  • Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part Two: I’ve never actually been a massive Beastie Boys fan, and have always liked the idea of them, more than the reality. But Hot Sauce Committee Part Two was an absolute belter from first to last, was utterly life affirming, probably because one of the Beasties was recovering from cancer during its recording, highlighted how small-minded the OFWGKTA clique are, and it’s promo film was ****ing genius.
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  • The Streets – Computers And Blues: The Streets, or Mike Skinner as he’s known to his friends, is, I think, a perfectly English genius. This was his last album under The Streets moniker, and is, I think, a very fitting obituary. It mixes his trademark engagingly everyman raps with some lovely beats, and includes much of the (slightly cod) philosophy from his (amazingly under-rated) last album. I’ll be sorry to see The Streets go, but his new outfit The D.O.T. sound like they might be quite good, if their first track is anything to go by. It’s called Trouble and features a young man called Ghostpoet.
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  • Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam: His taste for bad puns reminds me slightly of Carter USM, but don’t let that put you off. He’s signed to Gilles Peterson’s excellent Brownswood label, his album is a brilliantly captured time-capsule of Britain in 2011 and it’s a crime that he didn’t win the Mercury.
  • Lee Fields & The Expressions – My World: Released in 2009, but to be honest it doesn’t matter as it sounds like it was released in 1969, this is an amazing piece of pure R&B soul delivered by a true soul survivor, and one that I discovered through the marvelous Hunch FM. Honeydove is possibly my favourite track of the year.
  • DJ 2 Tone Jones – Shaolin Jazz: This is brilliant – a bunch of tracks by the Wu-Tang Clan, and is constituent members, with the backing tracks replaced with samples from classic jazz. Seriously. It’s what the wannabe hipsters would call amaze-balls. And his similar re-imagining of classic Gil Scott-Heron tracks is not to be missed either.
    [soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/25203610"]
  • Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues: Nothing particularly different from their first album, but when you have a début as beautiful as the Fleet Foxes did, why would you want to change that? Music to get lost in.
  • The National – High Violet: I know, this was released in 2010. But I’m getting old, I’m not as up to date as I was, and this is simply too amazing not to put in a Best of list. Also, there might be people who are like I was – ignorant of the splendour of The National: possibly better than Arcade Fire.
  • Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys: A couple of the tracks sounded like attempts to replicate One Day Like This, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a truly beautiful record. Build a rocket boys indeed.
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  • SBTRKT – SBTRKT: Soulful house music made by a man wearing a massive African tribal mask – what’s not to love? Listening to this today it occurred to me that it bears a lot of similarities to the all-time classic All Systems Gone by Presence which, if you don’t own, you really should.
  •  Gilles Peterson – Masterpiece: Part of  a series of mix albums released by Ministry of Sound, this 3 part epic shows why Radio 1 are fools to have let him go: like a 20th Century John Peel, he touches everything from techno to jazz and just about everything in between. Worth the price for just one of the three free extra mixes alone.
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So, there you go. Hopefully something for everyone and some things that will be new to you and should get you through the festive season and into 2012.
*New to me.
Photo of Ghostpoet performing at Whelan’s in Dublin in September 2011 by yours truly, with a little help from Instagram.

Ghostpoet – Us Against Whatever (Secret Session)

So, he didn’t win the Mercury, though I think he should have done.

But he is playing in Dublin next week (I’m going!) and he’s done this rather lovely accoustic version of the, excellent, Us Against Whatever Ever, from the equally excellent début Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam, for something called The Secret Sessions, which I’ve not heard of before, but which I like a lot.

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Why Ghostpoet Should Win The Mercury Prize

As I said the other day, and again since, I’ve been thoroughly disappointed by Watch The Throne, the album by the (supposed) hip hop dream team of Jay Z and Kanye West. It’s the sound of millionaires coasting, phoning in an album for lulz, recycling their best work and devaluing it in the process. It’s the Traveling Wilburys of rap.

So, in order to restore my faith in hip hop as a genre I’ve found myself returning, again and again, to the début album by Gilles Peterson’s signing Ghostpoet: Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam. And, as the 2011 Mercury Prize, which Ghostpoet is on the short-list for, will be announced the day after my birthday, I thought I’d jot down a few reasons the judges should make my day by giving him the prize.

  1. After the terrible events earlier this month, which were often blamed on rap, he shows that this is a genre of music which is as multi-faceted as any other. Ghostpoet blends the uncertainty & insecurity of Roots Manuva with the wit of Ty and early Dizzee Rascal.
  2. The music is a perfect snapshot of Britain in 2011: it mixes hip hop, dub-step, electro and even flourishes of good old fashioned rock. The beats are never obvious, the samples are cute, and the whole package is simply lovely.
  3. He’s really rather funny. And very British. My personal favourite? Survive It‘s chorus’ refrain of “Ain’t had no license since they took my 00″.
  4. Compared to the brainless posturing that passes for Watch The Throne (and much of the British hip hop that has done so well over the last few years), he stands out like a Nobel prize winner in a Tea Party convention.
  5. He’s all over this web malarkey.
  6. Winning it could do for Ghostpoet  what I think the Mercury Prize should do – bring great British music to a wider audience. Of the nominees likely to actually carry the day (Anna Calvi, Adele & , PJ Harvey, James Blake & Ghostpoet, Katy B) two have won it before, three don’t need it*, which leaves only James Blake & Anna Calvi as artists who have’t really tipped yet. And I just don’t think either deserves it as much as Ghostpoet.
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My only fear is that the judges will think back to Speech Debelle, who won to a general chorus of “Who?!”, only to see her album sink without a trace after a tiny bump in sales. But Ghostpoet is much, much better than Speech Debelle, and I hope the judges have the courage to recognise that.

*And I’m not sure Adele, Tine Tempah or Katy B’s albums are worthy of being named winner.

Ghostpoet by Steven Howard on flickr


Brassroots – Good Life (Inner City Cover)

It’s been a funny old week, as the saying almost goes. Last Friday I was visiting the UK, and spent a very enjoyable hour or two sipping ice cold lager in the roof garden of a pub in Wimbledon. 3 days later I was watching the city I called home for most of the last decade burning as hundreds of rioters decided that the only thing that would kill the boredom of an August weekend was to break into JD Sports and then set fire to Croydon.

There has been so much said on the riots that broke out in London and around England, much of it rubbish, much of it total sense, more eloquently put than I could ever hope to, that there seems little point me adding to it. After all, when a man who is meant to be helping British business has to come back from a holiday in Tuscany because mobs of disaffected youths are doing the sort of things that he used to do in the Bullingdon Club (but with added HD TVs), one can do little more than dig up and recycle Tom Lehrer’s quote about satire being obsolete (though at least no-one has given Cameron a Nobel Prize).

That said, there are some golden linings behind all of these clouds of smoke. There’s the wonderfully uplifting stories of how people, connected by the web, are giving something back to communities and individuals, including the story of the music fans who have mobilised to try to help the independent record labels who face ruin after three idiots set fire to Sony’s distribution warehouse. LabelLove is hoping to raise funds to allow labels that have had their entire physical stock destroyed to stay afloat. But whilst I won’t be able to make the gig they’re organising, I decided to do my bit by buying something from one of the labels affected; in my case, Brownswood, a label very close to my heart.

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One of the things I bought was Worldwide Family, a fantastic compilation which includes the amazing cover version that this post is, in theory, about. Whilst it may seem strange to write about a song entitled Good Life after a week like the week we’ve had, it’s actually beautifully apt.

  • It’ s a cover of a song by a band called Inner City.
  • It’s the sound of what’s best about modern urban life – real music fans reinterpreting a modern classic with traditional instruments
  • It’s a cover, and good cover versions always cheer me up
  • Is that not enough?

Seriously though, this was one of the weirdest weeks I can remember, and I wasn’t even in London, though I’m guessing that the new tenant in my flat could probably see the smoke from Croydon. But despite the fact that there was so much mindless (and I’m sorry, but it was mindless) violence and destruction, the sound of Brassroots covering Inner City’s Good Life, and the fact that buying it may have brought some respite to a record label built on love and devotion, makes me think that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it might not be an oncoming train.

And in case the Brassroots cover of Good Life is a bit too far from the original for you, how about I leave you with another amazing cover of the same track, this one by Kaori and a little bit closer to the original, but still wonderfully different, just like the people that make London the great city it (still) is.

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Image courtesy of (the excellent) Riot Cleanup


Ben Westbeech – Falling

I was listening to a random playlist this morning when the epic Get Closer by my one-time hope for the future, Ben Westbeech, popped up. I’d forgotten quite what a great track it is, with Die’s piano-led drum & bass and Ben’s vocals melding perfectly. I’d not heard much of Mr Westbeech since he contributed one of the stand-out vocals to Jazzanova’s (excellent) album Of All The Things and so thought it might be worth seeing if he’d done anything new recently.

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Well, one quick search on YouTube later and I found Falling, the video of which is above. It struck me as a very different vibe to his earlier stuff, and according to Wikipedia, that’s because he’s moved from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood to house label Strictly Rhythm: I’m not sure it’s such a great idea. Whilst it might be the case that Strictly can offer him more backing in terms of support and marketing (I know the guys at Brownswood have to do most things on a tight budget) I can’t help thinking the change of direction means he’ll find it even harder to stand out from the crowd.

His early work, such as So Good Today and Get Closer had a really unique feel: a great blend of soul, hip-hop, drum & bass & whatever. But a lot of the album fell somewhere in the middle and I think that Jamie Lidell rather stole Ben’s thunder, and probably did what he was trying to do better than he could himself.

Now James Blake is all set to be the next best thing, and Ben’s releasing rather middle of the road vocal house. I hope it does well for him, but it’s certainly not setting my world on fire like his first singles did.

Image by Neal Fowler on flickr


T-Shirt Tournament: Round 5

So, after Dan’s weather effort beat Nina, it’s time for round 5. And today Dan is actually sending in his effort – the t-shirt above is one he wore yesterday and put in ‘the bank’. I have to say that I rather like his Tapes t-shirt, which seems to be by a company called Royal T, but about whom I can find no mention on t’interwebz.

My entry today meanwhile, is Brownswood’s Death Jazz tee, produced to commemorate a review of tha rather marvellous Soil & “Pimp” Sessions using that unique phrase. It was produced by K Swiss and is, I think, rather fetching (the blurring comes from the photo – not the tee).

Votes in the comments please for Tapes or Death Jazz.


Nicola Conte feat. José James – The Nubian Queens

I just got pinged on Facebook by the José James page with the news that the first track from his latest album is now up on his MySpace page, and very nice Save Your Love For Me is; a very chilled slice of dinner jazz, but with a more modern, almost R&B style beat behind it. Choice, as Gilles would say.

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Anyway, whilst I was checking out Save Your Love For Me I noticed a couple of other tracks on the player, some of which I hadn’t heard of; collaborations that James has obviously done recently. One of these was, of course, the amazing Little Bird, but another was The Nubian Queens, which is an absolutely splendid slice of Latin madness.

It sounds like the sort of things that would have been bursting out of the clubs & bars of Miami & New York in the 70s and, as it’s actually a track on the album Rituals by Nicola Conte, I can only assume that the rest of the album would have the same vibe. Although the name Nicola Conte rings a bell, I can’t really remember ever hearing anything about him before (apart from anything else, I assumed that Nicola was a woman!) But it seems that he’s an Italian DJ & producer, and I look forward to getting to know his work better.

Nubian kings & queens image by scion cho on flickr


Jazzanova feat. José James – Little Bird

Anyone who has read this blog on more than one occasion is likely to have realised that I’m rather fond of Mr José James and just about everything that he does. I’m also, as all like-minded people are, rather partial to a bit of Jazzanova every now and then. So Little Bird, the collaboration between Jazzanova & José James from the new Jazzanova album Of All The Things, is just about the most perfect meeting of the musical minds that I can think of, and, what’s more, lives up to its potential.

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Many people will only be familiar with Jazzanova’s more lively, house based productions. But Little Bird, and indeed much of the album, is very different to their normal fare. This particular track is an absolutely stunning piece of modern jazz: it starts with little more than James’ amazing voice and a very simple piano line. As the song, and the intensity, builds so scatter-shot drums and some mournful strings come into play until the whole thing builds to an almost unbearable point, before winding back down again, all to the sound of James’ stunning vocals.

I’m honestly not sure that I’ll hear anything more beautiful than this all year and think it may be the best thing that James has done to date. The whole of Of All The Things is worth checking out (especially the collaboration with my other favourite Brownswood vocalist, Ben Westbeech) but this, its undoubted high-point, deserves to be an absolute smash-hit. Obviously it won’t be but in a way that only makes it even more special.

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Little birds image by kiwanja on flickr