Results for British
This week's guests are The xx. The young British band released their self-titled debut last year, and it went on to make Greg's list of top albums of 2009 (Listen here). Since then their music has appeared in a number of major television shows and ads, and they're playing Lollapalooza. The group is known for their intimate, call and response sound–one that emerged more out of necessity than art. Bassist and vocalist Oliver Sim explains that neither he nor Romy Madley Croft were confident to sing on their own. But Romy assures us that there's nothing romantic about their intimacy. The two have been friends since they were small children.Go to episode 233
Gang of Four
When your musical heroes have their own musical heroes, you know it's worth checking out. And one name that always gets checked by everyone from Franz Ferdinand to REM is Gang of Four. The British band debuted in 1979 with Entertainment!, an album that showcased Andy Gill's unorthodox guitar style, Jon King's smart lyrics, and a whole lot of danceable groove. The band is still going strong on its latest release Content, and Jon and Andy sat down with Jim and Greg while they were on tour.Go to episode 274
When Jim and Greg Were Wrong
Music fans tell Jim and Greg they are wrong all the time, but the critics are not too big to admit it themselves. This week they come clean with some of their critical errors. Here are Greg's self-confessed mistakes:Go to episode 139
Corinne Bailey Rae The Love EP
Pop music is filled with great love songs, and Corinne Bailey Rae picks her favorites to cover on The Love EP. The British singer's last release, The Sea, was her first since the death of her husband. Jim empathizes with Rae, but just doesn't like her vocal performance. It lacks guts and soul. And he also questions her song choices. Jim gives The Love EP a Trash It. Greg finds this review a little harsh. He admits there's nothing dark or emotional about Corinne Bailey Rae, but he hears a new friskiness not on other releases. He loves her takes on songs by Prince, Belly and even Doris Day. Greg recommends listeners Burn It.
Electric Wizard Dopethrone
Electric Wizard, the self-proclaimed“heaviest band in the universe,”has a new album out called Black Masses. Over the past decade, the British stoner metal act has undergone a lot of lineup changes. They‘ve also picked up the pace a bit on their sludgy rhythms. There’s still a lot of heaviness and distortion, according to Greg, but the new album sounds more mainstream and less distinctive. There are a handful of classic Electric Wizard tracks, so he says Burn It. Jim agrees; if you only own one record by the band, and you should, go with Dopethrone. He gives Black Masses a Burn It rating.
Brian Eno Drums Between the Bells
And now it's time for everyone's favorite Sound Opinions drinking game: How many times can Jim name-drop Brian Eno? But let it be known that these mentions are entirely warranted. Jim's favorite“Super Genius”is out with a new record, Drums Between the Bells, a collaboration with the British poet Rick Holland. Eno has a been a major influence in the music world since the early seventies, first as a member of Roxy Music, then as a solo artist and ambient music innovator, and most recently as a producer for industry powerhouses like U2 and Coldplay. First to the plate to review Drums Between the Bells is Jim, who wants to set the record straight. He's no slavish Eno devotee, though he's championed the artist at his best. Unfortunately Eno's best isn‘t what Jim gets on“Drums.”The album is part ambient music - perfectly fine for what it is, but Jim misses the vocal gravitas that Eno himself might have brought to Holland’s poetry (instead, Eno has regular folks - non-actors and singers - speaking Holland's lines). Jim gives Drums a Burn it. Greg agrees, calling the album's vocals a little too dry. But he was intrigued enough by all the interesting rhythmic work on Drums to give the album a Burn it.
The xx I See You
When The xx were guests on the shows in 2010, Jim & Greg had no idea the British trio's blend of modern soul with minimalist '80s alternative sounds would prove so influential. Greg says that the band has subtly expanded its sound on its third album I See You, but hasnn‘t taken any big musical leaps. Because he feels the group hasn’t quite got there yet, Greg gives the album a Try It. Jim, however, loves the contrast between the album's celebratory sounds and its hints of darkness under the surface. Jim says The xx have grown and are pointing toward something exciting, proving they're a career band. For him, I See You is a Buy It.
Basement Jaxx Scars
Scars by British producers Basement Jaxx is the group's fifth album. The duo is known for their inventive dance collages and unique guest vocalists. This time around they are joined by Kelis, Santigold, and Yoko Ono. But despite the appearance of outsiders, the sound is distinctly their own, according to Jim. He describes the album as“relentlessly melodic”and gives it a Buy It. Greg loved their earlier album Kish Kash, but hears them trying to be songwriters rather than producers on this album. And when they abandon the party grooves for more nuanced efforts, they lose him. He gives it a Try It.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss won the top prize at last week's Grammy Awards. It was one of many awards handed to artists from independent labels. One such musician is British singer Adele, who took home the often dubious Best New Artist award. But, while this title doesn't often lead to career longevity, Jim and Greg believe Adele will go on to make more great music. They both recommend her album 19 as a Buy It.
The Fireman Electric Arguments
The Fireman is Paul McCartney's attempt at anonymity. But, when you are Paul McCartney, nothing is anonymous. In 1993, the Beatle teamed up with British electronica producer Youth as an artistic pet project. Now they are back with a more traditional album called Electric Arguments. Jim is a fan of the psychedelic soundscape tracks–McCartney practically invented the genre after all. And he appreciates the quick, punk rock approach to recording. But, as with most of his solo albums, Jim finds Electric Arguments wildly inconsistent. He gives it a Try It rating. Greg, on the other hand, really admires the songwriting on this album. The pairing of McCartney's trademark melodies with Youth's production is intriguing. And, McCartney has successfully removed much of the sentimentality that bogs down his other records. Greg gives Electric Arguments a Buy It.
This week British singer Adele bumps the big names off the Billboard chart. Her new album 21 is currently at #1. The former hairdresser impressed Jim and Greg with her debut 19, and now she's amped up the production with some big names including Beyoncé, Rick Rubin and Dan Wilson. But bigger isn't always better. Greg loves Adele's powerful voice, but the quality of the singing trumps the quality of the songs. He gives 21 a Burn It rating. Jim is even more disappointed. He thinks Adele should know better than to sing some of the“nonsense”on this record. She's gone Hollywood, so he's going with a Trash It.
PJ Harvey Let England Shake
Next up, Jim and Greg review the new album by PJ Harvey called Let England Shake. The British singer, who came out in the '90s with a series of critically acclaimed albums, never repeats herself. And on this record she uses autoharp and finds inspiration in war. But sometimes change doesn't do you good. Jim wishes Polly Jean Harvey sounded like herself. He can't stand her little girl singing voice and the pretentious sound. He gives Let England Shake a big Trash It rating. Greg is not as let down, but admits the album is a disappointment. He misses her first person perspective and says the music is not at all well-defined. Some parts are just plain annoying, but a few tracks stand up. So Greg says Burn It.
Bettye LaVette Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook
What happens when a veteran soul singer takes on classic British rock tunes? The answer is actually not as exciting as one might think. Both Jim and Greg were really looking forward to Bettye LaVette's Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook. The album came out of LaVette's Kennedy Center Honors performance of "Love Reign O'er Me," by The Who. She put her unique, alto rasp to use on subsequent covers of songs by Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. But, as Greg explains, the album's sleepy, slow-burn pace didn't do her voice or the songs justice. Jim agrees, and also wishes LaVette had chosen more original songs by these famous artists. They both regrettably give the record a Trash It rating.
Greg was inspired by a conversation he had at SXSW with a fan of The Roches, a sister group from New York City in the late '70s/early '80s. While British female-led post-punk bands like The Slits and The Raincoats are celebrated, their American counterparts like The Roches are often overlooked. Sisters Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy Roche began singing Christmas carols door-to-door, but were later recruited by Paul Simon to sing backup vocals. They had an artier, weirder strain than most others in the folk scene, with lyrics that could be very funny or extremely poignant. Robert Fripp of King Crimson became a huge fan and produced two of their records. Fripp's guitar line on "Losing True" combines with the sisters' rich vocals to create what Greg calls a celestial sound, landing it a spot in the Desert Island Jukebox.Go to episode 488
Thinking about Amy Winehouse, Jim is reminded of her roots. Clearly she was influenced by singers like Ronnie Spector in the '60s. But the link between that era and this one was British singer Mari Wilson. She revived retro and sported a beehive long before Amy. Partly jazz, partly pop and partly camp, Wilson had a string of hits in the U.K. in the '80s. Health problems have interfered with her success in recent years, but she did have a comeback album in 2005 called Dolled Up. Jim chooses a track from it called "Running On Sand" to add to the Desert Island Jukebox.Go to episode 297
Greg has had the British "folktronica" group The Beta Band on his mind ever since Sound Opinions screened the film High Fidelity at The Music Box Theatre in Chicago. In the film, the song "Dry the Rain" from The Three EPs, gets a big laugh. Greg's also a fan of that song, but he thinks the rest of the band's output has been unfairly ignored. The last track off the same album, "Needles in My Eyes," is another glorious anthem, and it's Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.Go to episode 415
Tame Impala's Kevin Parker wasn't afraid to declare his love for the admittedly un-hip Supertramp during this week's interview, and neither is Jim. Jim celebrates the British band's signature mix of prog and pop during this week's DIJ. He says "Take the Long Way Home" from 1979's Breakfast in America is characteristic of the band's simultaneously sunny and threatening take on orchestral pop.Go to episode 389
Jim riffs on tUnE-yArDs' love for African rhythms for his Desert Island Jukebox pick. It reminds us of yet another Western band to put African beats to its own creative use. This week, it's the British new wave group Bow Wow Wow. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood created the band in 1980, but were out a lead singer until they discovered 14-year-old Annabella Lwin working at a dry cleaner and singing along to Stevie Wonder. Jim's pick, "C·30 C·60 C·90 Go" makes ample use of the then-popular "Burundi Beat," a rhythm cribbed from a French anthropologist's recording of native Burundian percussionists. Tracked down years later, the original Burundian musicians singled out Bow Wow Wow for special props. Sure, they stole the beat, but they also gave it a new spin.Go to episode 294
Whenever Jim and Greg become the Rock Doctors a different challenge is presented. They've had to consult with couples, families and have even staged an intervention. Now they enter the business world. Cassie is a store owner in Chicago who reached out to the Rock Doctors earlier this year. Cassie's problem: What to play in the shop? She tends to return to the same well of old pop and funk over and over again, and her employees are ready to strike. She wants a dose of new music that will keep customers happy and won't cause any eyerolls from the staff.
Jim's prescription is The Budos Band III. The Budos Band is an instrumental band recording on the Daptone Records label, which is also home to Sharon Jones and Amy Winehouse's backing band The Dap-Kings. Jim is confident that Cassie will appreciate their sound, which fuses old-school soul with afro-beat.
Greg prescribes Jim by British singer Jamie Lidell. Greg praises Lidell's vocal style and live performances and thinks that this album will give Cassie the retro R&B she loves, while keeping it fresh.
After playing both albums in her store for a couple of weeks Cassie returns to the show for a follow-up appointment. She has nothing but good things to say about Jim by Jamie Lidell. It's upbeat, feel-good music that impressed her staff and got customers tapping their feet. She also really liked The Budos Band III, and fancied herself in a British spy film. But, Cassie admits it did get repetitive, so she'll be mixing it in a playlist rather than putting the record on beginning to end. All in all, a healthy, happy patient.Go to episode 259
It seems like just yesterday that the British first invaded rock and roll. But, many early recordings by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who are so old they were about to fall into public domain. However, the European Union just extended that copyright law from 50 years to 70 years, giving record companies another two decades to collect big revenues. It's being called Cliff's Law after pop singer Cliff Richard, but other artists don't think the law will benefit them. Here in the U.S., copyright law allows for artists to reclaim ownership of their work after 35 years. So, many American musicians who made recordings in the 1970s, including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Don Henley, are able to file claims. But the big four labels are heavily resisting, claiming that performers were mere employees doing“work for hire,”and thus have no rights.
In other news across the pond, U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has called on search engines, such as Google, to bar links to websites with pirated material. You expect these kind of restrictions in China, but not necessarily in England. Hunt has rejected suggestions that this is“an assault on the ‘freedom’ of the internet,”but for Google that's exactly what it is. They said they already work with copyright owners to remove infringing materials. So it looks like legislation is the next step.Go to episode 303
This week, the BBC and British monitoring service Musicmetric released the most in-depth study yet of global file-sharing habits. The report confirms some common knowledge, but as Jim and Greg point out, it also contains a few surprises. We already knew the U.S. led the world in BitTorrent downloads, but who knew Drake was our most pirated artist? (Canadians seem to be returning the compliment - their most pirated artist is Kanye). The BBC's city-by-city breakdown of the U.K.'s most-pirated artists is even more intriguing. We should've known teen pop juggernaut Justin Bieber would claim a few towns (Oxfordshire and Great Yarmouth) but who knew Isle of Wight residents loved Louis Armstrong so much?Go to episode 356
The first news story this week involves a deal made between the band Korn and the concert promoters formally known as Clear Channel-Live Nation. Korn, its label, and Live Nation, which runs about 70% of venues across the country, have agreed to share profits from record and ticket sales. This kind of synergy helps sell the Korn brand and maintain the idea of music acts as corporations. And, as Greg points out, deals like this could really revolutionize the music industry. Korn is not the first group to operate this way, however. British pop sensation Robbie Williams struck such a deal in 2002. Fellow Brits Radiohead, on the other hand, have chosen to go a completely different route. By not working with corporate promoters at all, they avoid the corporate concert machine entirely. As Radiohead fans in Chicago know, though, this is not an easy task.
Next up in the news is the bankruptcy announcement made by the largest chain of music stores, Musicland. While our hosts now prefer to support independent music stores, Jim (who was once a Musicland employee of sorts) remembers buying his first record, an album by King Crimson, at a similar chain store. For Jim and Greg, and many music fans who grew up shopping for music at the mall, the fall of Musicland is really the end of an era — or the death of a dinosaur.
Also making headlines this week is the always-controversial rapper Eminem. He and ex-wife Kimberly Mathers remarried. Like Sid and Nancy, and Kurt and Courtney before them, Marshall and Kim have a love story for the ages. Kim, both muse and mother, has managed to overlook some of the less kind words Eminem has said about her. Therefore, the romantics on the Sound Opinions staff wishes to congratulate those crazy kids. Mazel Tov, Em and Kim!
The Rolling Stones also make an appearance in the news. The latest all-stars to perform in the Superbowl Halftime Show, the Stones can hope to appeal to all generations of viewers. The Superbowl, however, seems a bit concerned. Despite the fact that the average age of a Stone is 65, halftime show producers initially tried to ban people over the age of 45 from coming up on stage to dance. The ban has since been removed, but sports fans shouldn't expect to see the Ashlee Simpson crowd getting down to "Start Me Up."
Finally, Jim and Greg remember soul great Wilson Pickett, who died Thursday. The singer, often called“Wicked Pickett,”was known for his wicked sound and behavior. Pickett, who grew up on a sharecropping farm in Alabama, fled to the north to make music. He later returned to the south to record some of his most famous songs, including "Mustang Sally," "In the Midnight Hour" and "Land of a 1000 Dances," which was embraced by punk rockers like Patti Smith. Pickett did covers as well. Listen to his version of "Hey Jude," which never ended up on a regular studio release, but can be heard on Pickett compilations.Go to episode 8
Unless you‘ve been hiding in a cave, it’s been impossible to escape "Hello," the new single from British singer Adele. It sold 1.11 million copies in its first week – only Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" has ever sold more in a single week span. Adele is basically a music industry unto herself. In recent years, only Taylor Swift has come close in terms of sales.“Hello,”a 5-minute piano ballad, features production by Greg Kurstin, who has also worked with big names like Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson. It remains to be seen if Adele's new album takes her into uncharted territory, or is just a continuation of her previous work.
Tragedy struck a nightclub in Bucharest, Romania on October 30 when the metal band Goodbye to Gravity's stage pyrotechnics started a fire. 32 people died and hundreds were injured. This launched an unprecedented wave of protests against the perceived lax enforcement of laws, culminating in the resignation of Romanian Prime Minster Vincent Porta. This kind of tragedy has happened too frequently, including the deadly 2003 fire at a Great White concert in Rhode Island. Jim is dumbfounded that any band would still use fireworks at an indoor concert.Go to episode 519
The numbers are in for 2011, and not surprisingly Adele has come out on top. Her album 21 sold over 5 million copies, as did her digital single "Rolling in the Deep." It's this combination of being able to push physical product and digital downloads that makes the British singer so desirable to the music industry. Number two of the year was kind of a surprise to our hosts: Michael Buble's Christmas. Over on the live music side, U2 is the touring winner with worldwide ticket sales totaling $231.9 million.
Move over Nina Totenberg, Jim and Greg have also become legal eagles. Increasingly, music trends are being affected by the courts, and according to Variety, there are a number of cases coming up in 2012 that will impact not just the record industry, but the habits of average fans. Here are a few to keep your eye on:Go to episode 319
It all comes back to music, doesn't it? Even the great mystery of Stonehenge might have a link to song. According to U.S. scientist Steven Waller, the Neolithic builders of the British stone arrangement were inspired by“auditory illusions.”He proposes that when two identical instruments, such as ancient flutes, were played at the same time, the effect was magical and otherworldly. Perhaps, similar to this?
Move over Bill, President Obama is proving to be the politician with the biggest“X Factor”(sorry Singing Senators). First he sang Al Green at the Apollo. Now he's performing with B.B. King and Mick Jagger-and according to our critics, pretty darn well. So what's next for the executive crooner? Greg votes for some Eurythmics, while Jim anticipates the post-office rendition of "My Way."Go to episode 326
It's been a busy week for the pop charts. For 45 years, Elvis dominated the Billboard Top 100 with 108 career hits. This week Lil' Wayne beat The King's record with his 109th hit - a cameo in The Game's "Celebration." And with 600,000 in first week sales British folkies Mumford & Sons had the biggest opening of 2012 with Babel. They also beat Spotify's streaming record, with 8 million listens in its first week. So much for the theory that streaming cannibalizes sales.
After upsetting fans at New York's Global Citizen Festival with the announcement that the band had no upcoming shows, Dave Grohl has finally put those Foo Fighter breakup fears to rest (or not?). In a letter on the band's website, Grohl says the band is simply on hiatus. Jim says he wouldn't mind if the hiatus were permanent.Go to episode 358
Chris Squire, a celebrated bassist and founding member of the British rock band Yes, died last Saturday in Phoenix at the age of 67. Squire announced earlier in the summer that he would not be joining the band for its summer and fall tour as he was receiving treatment for leukemia. Squire was the only member of Yes to play on each of the band's twenty-one albums and to participate in every tour over their four decade career. Squire sought to create a“cinematic trip for the mind”through his work with Yes, and Jim greatly admires this nuanced approach to making music. Greg and Jim remember Squire by playing "Heart of the Sunrise" from the band's hit 1972 album Fragile.Go to episode 501
Google has added music to its growing list of endeavors. The internet giants launched a new music service this week that will offer users a link to purchase records. Google won‘t be selling music directly, but they’ll be competing with iTunes in cooperation with other services like Lala, Rhapsody and Pandora. It's exciting news for artists who are concerned with getting their music out there. But after many years where a small group of labels controlled everything in the music industry, Jim and Greg wonder if this is simply a case of one corporate hierarchy replacing another.
Lady Gaga broke Billboard records this week by becoming the first pop artist to score 4 consecutive No. 1 hits from a debut album. The most recent chart-topping song is "Paparazzi." The singer will continue to make news this year after she embarks on a visually exciting theater tour next month. We‘ll be watching that. Other than an avant-garde look, Jim and Greg aren’t sure what separates her from any other female pop singer. But every generation needs its own Madonna. In other chart news, Michael Jackson's This Is It movie and album both did well in sales last week. The album debuted at No. 1, and the film earned $106.3 million worldwide.
Downloading continues to be a huge issue for the music industry. The big question is how it affects the market. Now a British study commissioned by think tank Demos has one answer. According to its findings, people who engage in file-sharing spend 75% more than people who don't. They are simply more excited about music. This news presents a counter-argument to those in favor of the UK government's plan to sever the internet connections of persistent downloaders. But it will be hard to sway the British recording trade association BPI, who estimates that illegal downloaders cost the industry $330 million in 2009.Go to episode 206
This week everyone is talking about music from across the pond. That'd be The Beatles, of course. But, another British artist is also making headlines. UK rapper Speech Debelle has just been named the winner of the prestigious Mercury Prize after only selling 3,000 copies in her home country. As Jim and Greg explain, this is quite a contrast from the highly commercial acts rewarded by The Grammys. Speech Debelle is certain to see a sales boost after winning this prize, however it's uncertain whether she'll follow suit of past winners like PJ Harvey and Franz Ferdinand, or less successful ones like Roni Size who amazingly beat Radiohead.Go to episode 198