This year has seen a lot on the music front. New bands, reforming old bands, kind of new bands and unheard of bands that need to be heard. The ever-growing ‘cool’ aura surrounding the festival fields just keeps getting noisier and shows no signs to stopping in 2012 (apart from Glasto, but it’ll be back.) I think everyone’s starting to merge boundaries to discover good music that might not necessarily be their cuppa, which is always good. Artists are also doing this and it’s having a big impact on terms of influences on their work.
I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some great people this year and have been to some amazing shows, my personal highlight being Hurts at Somerset House and Example at Brixton Academy. Two very different scenarios, but you know when an artist is worthy when they can have the entire crowd in their clutches for the night.
Looking back over 2011, there’s been some defining records made this year from new artists, showing why they’ve been ‘hyped’ and simply just showing their talent. We’ve also had some albums from older artists, proving that their time is not over yet. For many of these second or third albums made, it’s been some of their best material.
2012 is set to be as exciting, lots of albums due and it will be interesting to see who actually makes the cut. So here’s my top tens…
Top 10 albums of 2011:
1. What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? – The Vaccines
2. Pala – Friendly Fires
3. James Blake – James Blake
4. Playing In The Shadows – Example
5. Hunger – Frankie and The Heartstrings
6. Mona – Mona
7. No.5 Collaborations Project – Ed Sheeran
8. Torches – Foster The People
9. Skying – The Horrors
10. Lateness of The Hour – Alex Clare
Top 10 tracks of 2011:
1. All In White – The Vaccines
2. Life Is Life – Noah and The Whale
3. Natural Disaster – Example & Laidback Luke
4. Wax – Theme Park
5. Everything Happens For A Reason – The King Blues
6. You Rascal You – Hanni El Khatib
7. Life On The Nickel – Foster The People
8. I Told You Once – Howler
9. Re-Wired – Kasabian
10. Night Air – Jamie Woon
Tips for 2012:
Happy New Year one and all x
Review: The Miserable Rich – Miss You In The Days over on Contact Music.
“I’m Messy but it’s ironic because I’m trying to clean up.”
London rapper Messy has had his sights set high for a while, coming from a musical background he knows the nature of the beast. Part of grime collective, South Soldiers, Messy’s toured with the likes of Jessie J as part of their anti-gun crime campaign before moving in to his own light, something that his friends were also doing including good friend, Tinie Tempah.
He released his first mixtape ‘Messinterpretation’ in 2008 and his recent offering, ‘Just A Mess About’ earlier this year. But, Messy is no ordinary rapper, he refreshingly entwines meaning and honesty over the beats and he’s now moving in to the writing field, having penned tracks for Loick Essien on his forthcoming album.
Messy’s got a hectic 2012 on the boil, including a new release. He plays me a couple of tracks and they sound incredibly success worthy. Trust me. Even the mere intro of one got me excited for the prospects. When I speak with Messy, it’s obvious he’s fearless when it comes to taking risks. This combined with his fierce determination to make his life path a music one, next year could very well be a Messy one.
When did you first realise that rap was the music you wanted to pursue?
I think it was when I was in school. At first it just became something that you just muck about, set up on the playground and things like that. It just so happened that I was quite good at it. I’ve always been quite musical and obviously I didn’t know which way I was gonna go. Rap just came, not by accident but it was just a fun thing that became serious because I excelled at it.
You’re dad’s a musician (80’s reggae icon, Tippa Irie), how much of an influence has he had on your rapping.
It was weird because obviously a lot of people kinda assume that it would be something but it wasn’t as much as people would think. It’s a lot more influence via friends and what you listen to and then you just pick it up as well. Obviously, I knew my dad did music and stuff but where we do different music all together, we took totally different roots. I think maybe the fact that I am musical had something to do with it.
Has he given you any tips about the industry?
Yeah, I think one thing is that you just have to work hard and be patient. Ultimately, you never know when you’re going to really get that hit that breaks you through completely. Don’t be afraid to try things, that pretty much more than anything just don’t be afraid to try things, work hard and be patient.
Your recent mixtape, ‘Just a Mess About’ features a lot of collaborations featuring the likes of Ghetts and Wretch 32. How did all these appearances come about?
Obviously because I’ve just been doing this for so long, along the way you just pick up people and start to do certain things with them. A lot of them I’ve known for years and where I wanted to do that first initial thing, it was just to bring a lot of different energies towards the mixtape and give it that added momentum. They’re all artists who I respect for what they do so I thought each of them would bring something to the table.
Who was your favourite to collaborate with?
Wow, that’s difficult. It changes every week to be honest. I liked Young Tef who was on it, I liked Wretch on it. There’s loads, it’s hard to even put it in to words because every song has its own energy. On the mixtape, it’s a good and a bad thing because I felt that a lot of them had their chance to give their own stamp on what they do. So, it’s hard to compare because they just do what they do and I just did what I done. I like Craiig, the way his choruses on there were quite powerful in ‘Losing All My Friends’ and ‘Fuck The Law.’ They stood out for a lot of people, so I’d say maybe those three.
As you said, ‘Losing All My Friends’ and ‘Fuck The law’ are sharp and reflective on society. What influences your lyricism?
I think it’s a cross between creativity and real life. You can be real, and obviously you have to be real in your music and try as much as you can for the music to be true to you. But the same time, I don’t think you should ever shy away from being creative. I think that’s the most important thing. Sometimes a lot of artists quote and quote ‘real’ but I don’t think their lyricism or creativity is that good. So I don’t see them as that good, even though their lyrics is true to them, that’s cool but I don’t appreciate it as much as people who are true to themselves but creative. I think that there’s almost in a way two types of artist. There are some artists that are extremely creative and sometimes they might not be true to themselves as a person but their persona just spans so wide, like Gaga. It’s so creative in what she does; I can’t believe that is her as a person because she would be insane. It’s difficult to relate to her and I think people are wowed by everything, the performance, the persona, the creativity, the innovative nature of her music and visuals. Then, there’s artist who are just completely real, like say 50 Cent in his early days that just really touch on where they come from. I think a lot of artists lose sight of that balance especially in rap music because there’s such an emphasis on whether you’re real or not. But I think that you should never stop being creative.
Your song, ‘Overnight Celebrity’ deals with the trials and tribulations of fame. What are your views on fame, especially know that some of your fellow artists and friends are making it in the industry?
It’s good thing in terms of the scene because it’s progressive with the seen moving forward; so it can only help artists like me who are still trying to elevate to the next, next level. But at the same time, obviously there’s a lot of things that come with it which are negative. Y’know I speak to a lot of people and they don’t get to see their parents, their life is completely upside down. Obviously there’s the deal with like groupies and that. It’s a good and a bad thing.
You’re known for your brilliant free styling ability, are any of your songs freestyled, what’s your writing process?
To be honest, I don’t write them down anymore really. Obviously I songwrite as well, so I write that down just because someone else has got to do it. But a lot of the time, I’ll just go into the studio or record it on my phone. I feel like in a way, it’s hard to explain sometimes, when I look at pages it feels like you’re kind of bound by the lines. The way I write is quite neat, so then when it overlaps lines it just feels a bit weird to me, it feels like I’m almost confined by the space of the lines. If I just do it by myself, off the top, there’s no boundaries. I tried to write something the other day and it was really difficult. I was writing it, but then I’d just stop and then just do it in my head.
How does recording as a solo artist compare to recording with South Soldiers?
There’s pros and cons with both. With South Soldiers chances are you’d only do one verse and a chorus or one verse because there’s a few artists. When we first started initially then there were seven and then where there was like eleven of us. So you can image 11 heads all trying to compile to one thing. Obviously as a solo artist you can do what you like. Though sometimes other people’s input is good as well, y’know sometimes they say that two heads are better than one or three or eleven. But overall I think I just prefer it as a solo artist because you can just do what you like.
Are you still in contact with the rest of the crew?
Yeah, pretty much. I talk to spokes; he’s like a close close friend of mine, probably my best friend. We went to school together and so we’ve been spitting since were about twelve, so we always keep in contact. I speak to Shaun White, MdotE; I speak to everyone, Desperado. We still speak, but everyone is just on their own individual journey now. But, you can see that some people are still doing their thing in their own way. If you look at Shaun White, he’s doing a lot of choruses and songs, he’s doing well. MdotE likewise is doing a lot of stuff and Desperado is doing stuff as well. We’re all progressing, which is the most important thing.
Where did the name ‘Messy’ come from?
I just think it’s me a person and just stuck from when I was young. Obviously I’m not the tidiest and I think back in the day, ‘messy’ was the cool word like, ‘you’re a messy lyricist.’ I try and use it as a little play on words, it’s like I’m Messy but it’s ironic because I’m trying to clean up.
You’ve recently penned tracks for other artists such as Loick Essien. Do you find it strange hearing them sing your songs when they’re of such a high calibre?
Yeah and No, because I’m not really a singer so even though I can hold a tone well enough for them to get it, but I’m not really a singer so, it doesn’t really affect me that much. I think it’s a little bit more strange when they’re saying my bars as a rapper. I’ve written some rapper songs as well and they don’t say it exactly the same sometimes. I think with singers they just do it over and over again, but a rapper, even though you write lyrics for them, they have their own way of saying things. Sometimes it’s a little bit cringing when they say it wrong.
Do you like writing for other people and is it something you want to do more of in the future?
Yeah, I think as I’m getting older and as an artist progressing I know that there’s certain things that I wouldn’t want to do going forward as an artist. I know what lane I want to go in, but then that doesn’t mean I can’t do other things. I think in a way it’s been like a burden in some aspects because I’m creative, so I can spin off in so many different directions. But, then you don’t really find yourself as an artist so it’s hard for people to relate to you and build up a fan base that are just diehard because you do so many things. I already know the lane I’m going in, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do something in another lane. I can just give it to someone else to do. It’s a good way of getting that side out of me without conflicting with where I want to go. I think it holds a lot of weight, when you look at Ne-Yo or Dream, Keri Hilson or even Lady Gaga; they all came out as writers. It was like oh okay, you’ve written for him, him and him, so you kinda think I want to hear what they’re gonna do because if they’ve written for them then they must be good.
How’s next year shaping up for you?
It’s shaping up well. Obviously with the writing thing, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff with Warner and Sony asked me a couple of things. I’ve just done lots of different projects, writing wise. Artist wise, I’ve got a few singes that are gonna be coming out, I’ve got the radio plug-in and PR, so there’s going to be a big campaign. I’m also going to be doing a mix CD with Benjamin AD and Little Dee. They’re two other artists, Benjamin is signed to Universal and Little Dee has got a big underground following, so it’s another good project. We all really respect each other as artists but we all bring something really different. There’s also going to be ‘Messinterpretation’ HD further down the line as well. So it’s going to be big year I think.
Have you got any plans to do any live shows?
Yeah definitely. There’s a lot of shows that will be coming up, but I wanted to wait until I’ve got a single coming out. There’s been people who have said that they want me to do certain shows, but I’ve held back just because I wanna have a campaign going. There’s been times like when I did I love live, it was good but it was a little bit far away from my mixtape, so then by the time my mix tape was coming out, I’d done ‘I Love Live’ two months prior, then I did the ‘G-Shock’ and it was the same thing. I just want to make sure it’s all in sync rather than it be sporadic. At the end of the day shows are just promotion, so if there’s no point doing a show when you don’t have nothing promote. That’s the way I see it anyway. So I would rather not really waste a show, do it, but do it once I’ve got something that I’m plugging out.
Check out Messy’s ‘Mainstream Money.’
New Zealanders Avalanche City release their chart-topping hit ‘Love Love Love’ over here in February…
My review of Porcelain Raft’s new album, ‘Strange Weekend’ out 24th January.
Review of Spector and Theme park’s London show at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club over on ‘Never Enough Notes.’
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from tonight’s show is how much Elliot Gleave AKA the mighty chart topping Example and his Electropop support Fenech Soler love a blinding light sequence, yes it adds to the ever-intense atmosphere. But, sometimes less is more and let’s just hope no one is epileptic.
Lighting aside, Brixton is rammed tonight in prep for Example. But everyone has to witness the electro goodness of Northampton’s Fenech-Soler, who many are surprised by. They do the job well, their frantic beats and good lyrics gets the crowd excited. Fenech-Soler have had a tough year, after vocalist Ben Duffy’s cancer battle but he’s beaten the killer and Fenech-Soler are rearing to go, with big prospects. The foursome include, ‘Lies’, ‘Golden Sun’ and ‘Demons.’ All getting a fantastic reception from the critical Brixton crowd.
‘We Came. We Saw. We Killed The Crowd’ are words repeated by Example from, ‘Hooligans’ during his pumping performance. And boy, are they true. The crowd bow to their singer/rapper hero as he destroys the room. Everyone is full of beans tonight, revelling in his orders of jumping as high as you can and getting ‘nasty’ with some mosh pits in the remarkably dark ‘Playing In The Shadows.’ Everyone here tonight are the ‘real’ Example fans, this show sold out long before the rest leapt on the chart bandwagon and brought tickets for his 02 show next year. He’s appreciates the crowd coming out tonight and fulfilling his dream of headlining this place, the London boy done good. He doesn’t forget his roots; he plays a few numbers from last years, ‘Won’t Go Quietly.’ ‘Watch The Sun Come Up’ reminds everyone of their beautiful Summers on this chilly December night, after getting everyone to scream ‘Hey Good morning.’ ‘Kickstarts’ ignites some serious sing-along’s and ‘See The Sea’ sees some serious arm waving (not expected at this gig) to the inspirational lines, ‘Freedom fighter, new horizons.’
The band star in this Example show. They bring the beats and bass, riffs and polished sequences to life. Example thanks them all, lets face it without them this show would be nothing. ‘Midnight Run’ and ‘Under The Influence’ gets the fingers up in the air, but nothing like how the flagging room responded to, ‘Changed The Way You Kissed Me.’ This tune put Example on the world map and it’s pretty amazing. I’ve never seen people jump so high as they relish in the moment and rap along with their man Example. Tonight has shown why Example has the fans, dedicated or new they all believe in him and loose their woes in the music. One thing would have made it even better though, if Ed Sheeran had joined him for a bit of ‘Nandos Skank’…
Toronto singer Saidah Baba Talibah released album, ‘(S)Cream’ a few months back, an elaborate fusion of Soul, Rock and Funk, it has bowed to a great response. The person who has influenced Talibah the most is her mother, singer/songwriter Salome Bey, obviously where Siadah has inherited her powerful vocal from. On this freezing afternoon in Shoreditch, Saidah rocks up to the venue in a casual jumper/jeans combo, a far cry from her fancy stage attire. We talk in a dishelmed basement after an unfulfilled hunt for the green room about idols, her new vid and some raunchy tales behind the songs. Saidah plays her first London show tonight, after touring Europe and you can feel her excitement. She’s been dreaming of this moment for a long time.
How’s the UK been treating you so far?
So far, so good. I had some Thai food last night and Indian food today. I live by little India, our food cuisine is pretty much the same here as it is in Toronto. It’s kind of like being home, but you guys have accents!
Are you looking forward to your first ever London show tonight?
Definitely! I’m foaming at the mouth.
Has this been a moment you’ve been waiting for, for a long time?
A very long time. I’ve always wanted to travel the world so it’s pretty exciting to plant feet here and be like I’m actually doing it.
Congratulations on the release of your album, ‘(S)Cream.’ How has the response been?
It’s been great, all over because there’s people all over the world listening. People in Turkey, people in France, people in England not just Canada, because you get stuck where you are and it’s exciting how it gets there so quickly.
You’ve got a very soulful voice and your sound is very varied. You’ve got everything from brass sections to edgy riffs, who influences you and where did this musical fusion come from?
I would say first and foremost my mother influenced me; she was a singer/songwriter herself, so I’ve got a lot of her traits. She was really raah and sexy but not quite as lewd as me. (laughs) I’m not that lewd, I’m just a little racier than her. But I was fortunate to have parents who had walls and walls of records and records that span from rock to funk to soul and blue and pop and folk. Just music, so I had the luxury of being able to listen to music as an expression and not just a genre. Just taking it in as per how I felt. So I would say my inspiration is my family, a lot of my family sings and acts and writes, we’re all creative people. Also just the people who I was just listening to like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Jimi Hendrix and Earth Wind and Fire. It’s just grown and grown, there was lots of musical theatre I was listening to, as I went to a school for the Arts. A lot of things were just moving around.
It’s good that you’re not stuck in one genre which is nice nowadays because there’s a lot of music out there that is just one genre.
And y’know, It’s funny that you should say that because so many people, I guess industry people are like, ‘I don’t know where to place you because you’re not one genre.’ But so many people are not one dimensional, we’re not one dimensional. I think it’s almost unfair to give people one dimensional music. People are definitely open, there are people who gravitate more towards the soul stuff or more towards the rock stuff. Some people don’t get why I put everything together, but most people do get it. You know, we have millions and billions of people in this world.
Some of your tracks like, ‘Revolution’ and ‘Bang It Back’ have some angst in there. Where did the ideas for these come from?
‘Revolution’ is not on the album, it just just just got released and it’s actually connected to a car commercial that that song got picked up for, the Chevrolet Volt, which is an electric car. So I guess it’s a big thing worldwide to have something that’s running green. I don’t think it’s being sold in the States yet, so Canada is being really forward. So that song is with the commercial and it was a co-write and it’s a revolution. Actually, I was talking to some of my band members about just being here in London and how much revolution has happened here. You guys are some serious fighters! In terms of music, art, being creative people and fighting. Being like ‘I’m not going to take any fucking bullshit that the government is trying to tell me’ which is really inspiring. ‘Bang It back’ is a sex song. Plain and simple. It’s a song about being with the guy or the girl in a bar and you look at them and you’re like I just want to eat you up right know. So that drink, just bang it back, so we can go. I don’t know if we’re gonna make it home but wherever we end up, we’re gonna do it!
Some of your other tracks like, ‘Good Morning Baby’ are a lot more stripped back and raw. Do you like performing like that?
Totally. I just love performing. ‘Good Morning Baby’ is another relationship song at a time when you’ve been in the relationship a while and maybe you’re married to that someone and you decide that you want to start a family. So you’re like we’ve been being careful all this time, so let’s just go!
When was the first moment that you realised that singing was your calling?
I guess when I started getting professional jobs singing, so that was a form of acceptance. Like people I look up and think yeah they can sing their asses off and then they turn to me and are like, ‘You can sing your ass of too!’ I’m like shit, really? When people in the audience are moved, that’s my job. I want to move people. When people tell me that they’ve been moved, that’s my calling.
Who would be your dream collaboration?
Here in London, Lewis Taylor, that would be my dream. Ever since I first heard him, I’ve always wanted to. I’ve been putting on his album for years and now I’m in his town. I don’t know, I’m still dreaming.
It could happen, you never know! You’re part of the ‘Music Matters’ campaign for the Japan Earthquake appeal, how did that come about and what was it like collaborating with everyone.
I went to Singapore and performed there for ‘Music Matters’ and they asked all the artists who were performing if they’d like to contribute to the ‘Fix You’ song for the Japan relief and of course I said yes. I mean if that’s the least I can do then I’ll sing the whole song! It felt amazing, I thought it was beautiful rendition, everyone involved was wonderful and the producers were great. They were very kind, gentle and loving and you could tell that not only heart and soul but their entire was really invested. Just to think that buying a song or listening to a song can just contribute to helping people. It just shows you how connected we are and if we come together, we can help all of us.
Let’s talk about your video for, ‘So Cool’ where did the blindfold concept come from?
That was the director actually, that was what inspired him when he heard the song. I think it’s cool because in the chorus it’s all about keeping my eyes closed because where we’re at this part in our relationship at this time it’s not cool. He understood that when I was saying that, I was shielding my soul and keeping my soul protected and they say that they eyes are the wonders to your soul.
Did you have any input in to the more raunchy ideas in the video?
I had the idea for the guy that we chose. (laughs) No, the director came up with everything, which was really awesome. When we read the treatment, I was like yeah I’m all over it. He was cool that he totally got it and how he wasn’t trying to make it anything other than what it was, yet he still made it edgy and raw and soft and vulnerable in certain spots. That song is about being in a relationship where I couldn’t be intimate with the person I loved without having to smoke a joint and that’s pretty fucked up. There’s a whole mix of emotions and you’re like I feel bad, but here you are and getting angry.
Your image is quite distinctive with all you stage costumes. Who are your fashion icons?
Chaka Khan, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, Labelle, Tankgirl (laughs), Betty Davis. Really ballsy woman.
What are you currently listening to at the moment?
Them Crooked Vultures, there on the top of my list right now. Someone just made me a mixtape with like 300 songs on it; of the songs that are on there I keep gravitating towards Black Sabbath. So I think I’m going to have to buy a bunch of Black Sabbath and really indulge in that.
Finally, what can we expect from you next year in 2012?
2012. I will be spending a lot more time in Europe, that’s definitely what I would like to expect. Also start working on a new album, I’m ready for that. I’ve got ideas. I’m excited, and I’m going to finally learn how to play harmonic. I might even pick up the tuba, I used to play that and have one in my band.
Check out Saidah Baba Talibah’s new video, ‘So Cool’
MORO’s debut ‘Slow River’ is a pretty rounded collection with its pop echoes coming to front along with a some motown influence, seen to peak at the end of, ‘Now & Then’ with a fine jazzy brass section. Some familiar tribal funk clatter, as pioneered by New Yorkers, Vampire Weekend comes in to play nicely from the Londoners. ‘Something I Can Feel’ is THE track of the album, encompassing all their cross genre madness in under three minutes.
Though, this band isn’t all about just pulling other influences in to the mix. Thankfully, they’ve got the distinctive voice of Steve Hughes to set them apart, in the differing pitches and enthusiasm, however it does feels a little strained at points. A few slowies, like the aptly named title track, ‘Slow River’ and ‘Love That Girl’ shape the record in to more than just a straight up one sound album. The four piece united after their past dabbles in the flourishing indie garden with the desire of creating something varied, it’s safe to say they’ve done this (for now.) I’m curious to see what’s next for MORO.
The infamous rise of the Dupstep culture has been slowly but surely taking over. But it’s really only the ‘cool’ kids getting hyped over a few drops and the thought of a mass rave so they’ve got an excuse to wear their new ‘creps’ and mingle with the preps. But, (good) electro music has been making more and more of a stand over the past few years with the likes of Jamie XX and James Blake putting their alternative efforts in to the charts.
The Post-Dubstep tag has been for a topic of conversation for the past year or so, as many continue to discover its true beauty. These artists such as Blake and Mount Kimbie have a whole lot more to give with their musical variations that haunt and intrigue the mind. Literally, at points this ‘genre’ can feel amazingly uncomfortable and it’s quite frankly a hard listen when you’re surrounded by others.
There’s a newbie in this state of play who I’m pretty sure is going to make an impression. Halls, AKA Sam Howard releases his second EP ‘Fragile’ in January on label, ‘The Sound of Sweet Nothing.’ Judging by lead track, ‘I Am Not Who You Want’ it’s going to be a blinder. The distant mumbles of the South London producer’s voice make the track as eerie as being alone in a dark forest and the atmospheric underlay loops into oblivion making you feel slightly uneasy about the situation. The video is equally mesmerising, organic-looking smoke uncovers the rose, like how Halls’ music exposes delicacy and dramatic tension.
Give this a listen and a watch, you’ll be flabbergasted. You too Dupstep lovers, on your own mind.
Pre-Order the EP here: http://thesoundsofsweetnothing.bandcamp.com/releases