Eurovision – On The Third Day

When I was seventeen, I went on an international youth conference to Israel. I will always remember getting into the strangest of conversations with a small group of Israeli students on that October night. Of the many things we might have discussed in that Jerusalem campsite, we settled on one topic; The Eurovision Song Contest. 

As discussed in earlier blogs, I had a fair grounding in all things Eurovision but my knowledge paled into insignificance compared to these geeks. Bearing in mind that the contest had happened six months earlier, I found it a little unsettling that campfire companions knew the words and the melody to the UK entry that had spectacularly bombed back home. Even more disturbing was the fact that they were able to give me a note perfect rendition of that years entry from Belgium, something that the Belgium entrant on the night had been unable to do. 

I hadn’t stumbled into the Eurovision branch of Israeli Youth either. Such knowledge was widespread and expected amongst your typical teenager. Often on Easter Sundays since (seeing as the main action took place in that neck of the woods), whilst others are munching away at their chocolate eggs, I ponder the much more important questions of the day – do the youth of Israel still hold the Eurovision Song Contest in such high regard or has the subsequent emergence of Dana International dampened their collective enthusiam? 

 

 But I’m waffling again. Today is all about songs 19 to 27 in the 2014 Eurovision rundown. There are some classics here and appropriately we begin with:- 

 

19. Israel – Mei Finegold – Same Heart

Strangely, this does sound very similar to Heart, the 80’s ‘rock’ legends. I think Mei probably needs to book an appointment in with a medical practitioner pronto. Opening with ‘You fill me up with poisoned love’ (not healthy), she then tells us, with an air of disappointment that ‘we don’t beat from the same heart‘ (normal, quite healthy). File under poodle rock.

 

20. Iceland – Pollaponk – No Prejudice

Yes, yes, yes. Cartoon, bubblegum pop punk with a lyric that captures the naive spirit of Eurovision perfectly. Pollaponk instruct us that we should ‘do away with prejudice, cross this problem off our list’. It simply doesn’t matter to Pollaponk if ‘Perhaps you’re thinner, or one who likes your dinner‘. When the funky guitar kicks in after two minutes, I am a convert to their version of equalities. Bonkers and brilliant. Will probably get nil points.

 

21. Italy – Emma – La Mia Citta

We’re back into poodle rock territory. This opens with the guitar riff from Billy Idol’s White Wedding. I bet that Emma is draped over the back of a motorbike adorned in a studded leather jacket in the video to this one. Her long, permed black hair will be blowing in the wind machine. Probably chosen by the Mafia.

 

22. Lithuania – Vilija – Attention

This is a bit dancey, a bit rocky and a bit souly. It’s also a lot shit. Vilija demands for our ‘Attention – a little bit‘. I’m sorry, you are making impossible demands on me there. 

 

23. Latvia – Aarzemnieki – Cake To Bake

The Latvians have given us an earworm. Singalong folk music on an acoustic guitar that builds into a chorus of mates singing about the delights and difficulties of baking a cake. Aarzemnieki (tip – change your name to something simpler like Abba?) tells us that he’s a master of doing difficult things such as finding Atlantis, talking to a unicorn and moonwalking on a Milky Way (don’t try this at home – your chocolate will squash) yet he doesn’t know how to bake a cake. Enter his hippie friends who think it’s a ‘piece of cake‘ to build a cake. And we all got stoned together. Eurovision heaven.

 

24. Moldova – Cristina Scarlat – Wild Soul

Another one to file under poodle rock. I am sure that in real life Cristina is a lovely person but when she sings lines like ‘I have no feelings of mercy‘ and ‘What am I? Am I human‘, I think the wise thing to do is to pass on by in an orderly fashion. Best not to rubberneck as we do. 

 

25. Montenegro – Sergej – Moj Svijet

Bonus points for Sergej for singing in a language that I don’t understand. And not resorting to ‘poodle rock’. This is a classy ballad with some form of pipe-based instrument leading the way. It invokes images of Tolkien and faraway lands. I bet Sergej looks like a hobbit. 

 

26. Macedonia – Tijana – To The Sky

More soft dance rock here. ‘Where do we go now? To the stars?’ queries Tijana. Since you’re asking, I reckon getting the first flight back to Macedonia is a better bet.

 

27. Malta – Firelight – Coming Home

 Already we’re at the end of today’s offering and it’s time to open your Easter bag of Maltesers. I’m not sure what to make of this one. Acoustic guitars, harmonicas and a Europop beat. I think Firelight are trying to inhabit that unhappy space somewhere between Mumford and Sons and Ellie Goulding. It can only possibly end in tears. It does. 

 

Again today, the two videos pick themselves. Let’s all share Pollaponks vision with less enlightened friends whilst joining Aarzemnieki around the Aga in their stable? 

 

 

 

Eurovision – part deux

I am still alive but I might need a bodyguard. Yesterday’s Eurovision post was delivered at great risk to my own personal safety. Much maligned in the U.K., we can get away with pithy comments about the contest. Our collective arrogance swells because we’ve given the world the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin and One Direction! I will not be surprised if a price is already on my head from one of the former Soviet bloc countries that takes this a tad more seriously. 

Ruth Lorenzo is representing Spain in the contest. She once came fifth in the U.K’s X factor, largely because (as far as I could tell) men of a certain age and disposition were attracted to her Mediterranean charms and ample cleavage. Ruth is hoping to use that link to get ‘douze points from us’ in Copenhagen in May. She won’t be getting my vote though. Ruth once appeared at a Leicester City Football club fans village thing in advance of a friendly against Real Madrid. She mimed to a backing tape for one and a half songs before the local talent of Jersey Budd and The James Lewis Band blew her off the stage. One of her bodyguards knocked me over in her rush to get away. 

Do excuse my wittering. There are songs to review.

 

10. Estonia – Tanja – Amazing

This is far from amazing. In fact, all it is good for is a game of ‘count the clichéd lyric’. Tanja sings about how amazing it is to be weightless over the top of an Eurodisco pop track, produced in a bedroom. I bet Tanja is a bit chubby. 

 

11. Spain – Ruth Lorenzo – Dancing In The Rain

See above. It gets points in my book for being the first song I’ve reviewed so far to not be completely in English. The first Spanish verse sounds exotic and sexy but then the English begins and we learn that ‘life gets you every time’. Thanks for that Ruth. It’s pedestrian and procession like. Watch out for her bouncers.

 

12. Finland – Softengine – Something Better

In truth, I was hoping for Something Better. This is on the rock spectrum and sounds like it’s sung by somebody who makes a better living in a Frank Turner tribute band. The best that I can say about this is if I heard it a million times I still wouldn’t recognise it.

 

13. France – Twin Twin – Moustache

Can we go back to the piano ballads of yesterday please? This is French disco rap pap. The chorus bursts into English when Twin Twin tell us that they ‘wanna have a moustache‘. One that’ll do well in the gay Eurovision circles no doubt.

 

14. United Kingdom – Molly – Children Of The Universe

Yeah – we cheer collectively much like we do at the start of the football World Cup. We know that we have no chance of winning even though we buy our slot in the final. I’m sure that Molly Smitten-Downes (from Leicestershire) will give us 110% and she’ll sing her heart out.

 She’s supported Jake Bugg, Tinie Tempah and Basshunter so she’s learnt from the best. And Dean Jackson is her biggest fan. In truth, the song isn’t too bad. It begins very Lana Del Ray and I like the poetry of ‘I’ve been tired of this thinking, so I drowned it out by drinking‘. But, it quickly descends into lyrical nonsense as we learn that we’re ‘children of the universe, dancing on the edge of time.‘ Still, better than most though. 

PS – I realise the picture isn’t Molly!!

 

15. Georgia – The Shin And Mariko – Three Minutes To Earth

Sometimes Eurovision throws up something so bewildering and quirky that you can’t help but delight in it. Georgia’s entry is one of those. Beginning with a yodel that transforms into a vocal warble, this tune seems to be about a skydiving. It tries to be acoustic prog-folk over some classical guitar noodlings. Then, it calls on Bowie’s ‘Starman’ before the realisation hits that this parachute isn’t opening and we’re about to crash and die. Delightful.

 

16. Greece – Freaky Fortune Feat. Risky Kid – Rise Up

Risky Kid is a rapper. On the evidence of this offering, he should change his name to Safe Young Man. This dose of trumpet-led Euro pop swings along without really going anywhere. 

 

17. Hungary – Andras Kallay-Saunders – Running

This is horrible which probably means that it’s a favourite to win. More bland ’emotive’ Euro rock pop as Andras tells us all about a girl who is facing up to some pretty difficult times. ‘She keeps on running, running, running from this crazy life’, we’re told. And we weep at the magnitude of it all. 

 

18. Ireland – Can-Linn (feat Kasey Smith) – Heartbeat

What? No Jedward? It’s a travesty. In their place, we don’t even get that old soak, Johnny Logan. Instead Can-Linn do their best to sound like every other bland AOR track in this years Eurovision – except this has a bit of Celtic Fiddle to distinguish it from the rest. It won’t win. How many Eurovision songs have been called ‘Heartbeat’ in previous years I wonder? 

 

And, with that Day 2 of my Eurovision Easter egging draws to a close. Tomorrow will have some true highlights. Mum’s gone to Iceland and come back with a quirky punk gem whilst Latvia will be having a cake fight with Belarus. 

The two songs to highlight by video today again pick themselves. I have to support local girl, Molly… and The Shin and Mariko from Georgia is a madness that deserves extra prominence. 

Eurovision – Part one

I love the Eurovision Song Contest. I realise that such amour sets me apart from a bulk of my friends. But I can’t help myself. Bucks Fizz made my mind up on this and then Bardo pushed me one step further into what has been a lifelong appreciation of the quirks, the drama, the politics and the utter spectacle.

In recent years, I have hosted Eurovision food parties (complete with bags of Maltesers for the entry from Malta). I have insisted that birthday parties and camping trips have had a healthy gap in their schedules so that I can enjoy the contest. If this is hopeless and sad then I am guilty as charged. Diggi Loo Diggi Ley. 

Imagine my delighted squeal, when this week i was sent an advance copy of this year’s Eurovision double CD. This years contest is coming from Copenhagen. Across two semi finals and a final in May, 37 countries are taking part in the extravaganza. And over the next four days of this Easter break, I’m going to give you my views on their entries. Clearly, a considerable part of the Eurovision charm derives from the stage performances and I won’t be seeing this but each day I’ll post videos to two of the more extreme visions of Euro unity – just to whet appetites for next month. 

So, without further ado, “let’s get this show on the road… ”

 

1. Albania – Hersi – One Night’s Anger

A pleasant enough start to proceedings here. A folky start with a sweet female vocal from Hersi gives way to a faux rock climax. I can almost forgive the naff guitar solo plonked in the middle. ‘Keep calm and think twice‘, sings Hersi and I wonder if I might actually be a bit mad. 

 

2. Armenia – Aram – Not Alone

An excrutiatingly dull piano led ballad from the Armenians in which a little bird is encouraged not to cry. It almost goes into a dubstep rock thing towards the end. This isn’t a winner in my book – which probably means it stands a great chance.

 

3. Austria – Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix

This is epic, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good. It’s straight out of a Sean Connery era James Bond soundtrack. I’m not sure if Conchita is male or female based upon this vocal performance. Shirley Bassey will no doubt be envious she wasn’t born in Vienna.

 

4. Azerbaijan – Dilara Kazimova – Start A Fire

Four tunes in and already I’m losing the will to live. What is it with all of these piano led ballads? Where’s the quirkiness and the bizarre? This tune would struggle to even make an album of Coldplay B sides. Again, this probably gives it a chance of winning.

 

5. Belgium – Axel Hirsoux – Mother

More piano. Axel’s ‘coming home‘ because he’s ‘broken hearted’ and now he’s singing a frankly eerie love song to his Mum. Think Norman Bates humming a tune from The Phantom Of The Opera in a shower and you probably get the picture. Hilariously creepy.

 

6. Belarus – Teo – Cheesecake

Here we go. This is more like it. From an initial ‘Yeah Baby‘ through to mention of Patrick Swayze, this grooves along to a chorus that states, ‘I’m trying to be your sweet cheesecake‘. Pure nonsense. It also has an annoying duck like Kazoo sound. Fun but appalling.

 

7. Switzerland – Sebalter – Hunter Of Stars

Whistling over the top of banjo’s. Upbeat fiddles and handclaps. What we have here is a sub-standard Mumford & Sons – and I think Mumford & Sons are shit. ‘I am the hunter, you are the prey. Tonight I’m going to eat you up‘, sings Sebalter and I’m almost won over by the songs cannibalistic urges.

 

8. Germany – Elaiza – Is It Right? 

A poppy oompah tune. It is very much not right. But, it’s a completely inoffensive three minutes and thus will probably do quite well. Enough said. 

 

9. Denmark – Basim – Cliche Love Song

Clearly, Denmark aren’t keen to host the Eurovision again next year. Basim proceeds to spew cliches in an upbeat pop number that references ‘Katy Perry‘ and ‘putting your hands up‘. They’ll be dancing in the aisles of the sanitorium to this one.

 

 And already, we’re a quarter of the way there. Tomorrow, I’ll give my comments on Ruth Lorenzo’s Spanish entry and tell all about my brief meeting with her in a Leicester car park. And I’ll also be looking at the UK entry from Leicestershire based, Molly. People from Leicestershire always do well in Eurovision (just ask old Engelbert) so I’m expecting great things. 

The two videos for today very much pick themselves. Be astounded by the sinister entry from Belgium and giggle at Belarus’ cheesy cake. 

 

 

Oxford Drama – Asleep/Awake

It is night. I’m lying in the dark. Tired, wide awake and cursing that extra evening coffee, a tune quietly disturbs from my music player. “Half asleep and half awake, nothing replaces you“, sings a saintly voice over the top of a hymnal keyboard hum. I’m hooked and pick up my pad to find out more, just as a chilled, shuddering beat kicks in.

Somewhat surprisingly, Oxford Drama are not from Oxford but a duo from Wroclaw, Poland. This wonderful tune is the lead track on an EP that’s been added to soundcloud this week. As the song progresses, we learn more about what is keeping Malgorzata up. She’s got choices to make; she might be waiting for a lover to return from a night out; perhaps that lover is never coming back. 

Oxford Drama say that they’re heavily influenced by Madchester sounds. They quote Morrisey as an influence. But, I’m not getting The Smiths or The Stone Roses from this. No, this is the song that Morcheeba often threatened to write but never quite did. 

My eyes close and I drift into dreamland, calmed by something beautiful but ambiguous.

 

Movie. – Ads

Let’s play a google game? In this game, you have to come up with a band name that it’s nigh on impossible to find via an internet search. If Tom Verlaine hadn’t got in there first ‘Television’ would be a great candidate. Calling your band ‘The BBC’ might be similarly wilful. Perhaps you could call yourselves ‘porn’, ‘dating site’ or ‘classical? Would it be too arrogant to simply call your band ‘music’?

I find myself wondering if ‘Movie.’, a new band from London, were playing this very game when they came up with their name. And then decided to add to the search complexities by calling their first single, ‘Ads’. Just because they can.

Fortunately for Movie., they appear to be well connected. Friends in high places appear to have taken them under their wings and so this tune doesn’t look like it’s going to get lost amidst the IMDB. The first release on Skelly Records, an offshoot of the blog, Skeletory, this is no rotten tomato.

Indeed, Ads is one of those tunes that gets under your skin. It’s bouncy, happy, shiny pop that could make you look great on the dance floor. “If you really love me, why do I feel so lousy?” asks the singer in a studied concession to self-pity. Neon lights and mosquito bites simply compound his problems. This is disco glam pink punk with a Britpop shot that demands to be played at barbecues beneath billboards. 

 I have a winner in the ‘google game’. Tomorrow, I am forming a band called ‘Google’. Our first single ‘Yahoo’ is a surefire hit. 

Abandon Her

Tonight’s been another showcase night. 

A new venue for this blog but not a new venue for me because it was back to the shed. 

The shed is an earthy grunge of a venue. Every city should have one. 

 The shed is a legendary Leicester venue. It’s the venue where Kasabian developed their craft (apparently). It hosted the Arctic Monkeys the only time they’ve played in this city (to my knowledge). I walked in and was met by Kevin, the owner. He has always been a charming man. He still is. It was like I’ve never been away. 
 

Five bands on tonight but I’d like to feature Abandon Her. I’ve seen them before and even though that was more of an acoustic affair, the talent dripped through and I resolved to see them again. Abandon her are a band of hers and a drummer called Giles. You’re not going to get rock posturing from them but instead it’s polite, clever, AOR harmonies over guitar and piano pop. They have a tendency to slip a few too many covers into their set for my liking. On the evidence of tonight, they don’t need to for their own songwriting stands up to critique. It’s infectious, singalong pop which probably bypasses Radio 1 and heads straight for Radio 2 territory. This is no bad thing.

 

And that perhaps means it’s not for everyone. 

But, when the city is populated by boys with guitars singing in Sheffield snarls in an effort to impersonate Alex Turner, I say good on Abandon Her for ploughing a different field. 

 

Meadowlark – Family Tree

Male Western Meadowlarks have a complex, two-phrase “primary” song that begins with 1–6 pure whistles and descends to a series of 1–5 gurgling warbles.’ – Allaboutbirds.org

Outside, the birds are singing a beautiful song. But, I put my headphones on so that I can mute out their sound and listen to music by a band named after a bird.

Meadowlark have just announced that their first EP, ‘Three Six Five’, is going to have a release date in May and that it’s available for pre-release now. They’ve also just uploaded a new version of ‘Family Tree’, their track that went viral last year, to Soundcloud. 

Going viral is all well and good but I’d not heard of Meadowlark until last night. Hailing from Plymouth, this trio appear to have formed out of the remnants of singer, Kate McGill’s, previous Youtube career. She was able to generate much traffic by providing interesting cover versions of hits. If there was a television programme on Channel 5 listing the top 50 youtube artists you’ve never heard of based on clicks they’d had, Kate would be straight in at number 19. Josh Widdecombe would probably be the celebrity endorser. 

But I’m digressing. Kate McGill is no Sandi Thom (thankfully) and this release of ‘Family Tree’ isn’t half bad. I’d love to say that it begins with 1-6 pure whistles and descends to 1-5 gurgling warbles but in truth it’s better than that. Startling gently and with Kate’s voice to the fore, this song seems to be about getting stuff done and taking your chances in your twenties rather than having a mid-life crisis. It’s also about the chance,serendipity and complexities of family life. It’s Kate’s own version of ‘Sliding Doors’ told in song. As the song develops it gets busier and more cluttered. Strings come to the fore as ‘Family Tree’ builds to a climax. 

It’s a good, strong popular song. 

I notice that Meadowlark are playing a special one-off show this Friday in Leicester at the lovely Cookie Jar venue. I have to say that on the evidence of this song I’m keen to go to see what the warble is about, if only to ask how Kate got all of those Youtube hits. A longer flight follows in a May.

 

Huskies – Sober

Monday morning and another working week beckons. Very shortly, I’ll be jumping in my car and heading up the A46 to the Nottingham office. Summer’s definitely shown signs of joining us this past weekend. I need a sunny driving track for the car.. 

Enter Huskies. I might be heading north on a road trip but they’re already there. Their brand of summery, coastal pop suggests California (or at least Skegness) rather than the metropolitan sprawl of Nottingham though.

The very best pop gets inside your head so that you find yourself whistling the tune throughout the day. I suspect that ‘Sober’, the B side to the extremely well received single ‘Whatever together’ will do just that. This is a jaunty sea breeze rather than a coastal hurricane. It’s a stroll along the esplanade rather than a hike in the cliffs. It’s exactly what I want this morning. 

It’s only on a later listen that you’ll realise there’s also wisdom in the words. “I know that this ain’t the end, you’ll hit me once or twice again“, sings vocalist Antonio Panzera. He’s singing about the end of an abusive relationship where the hit will come not from another person but from alcohol. As somebody who’s been largely sober for a month now, I relate to the sentiment – especially when those summer songs and festival fields are just around the corner. 

And, as a B side is never complete without an A side..

Sean Grant & The WolfGang

Another showcase night at the Musician in Leicester tonight and seven bands took to the stage for twenty minute slots. Hard work for the compere (me) who earned his lime and sodas tonight. 

Sean Grant & The WolfGang made the short trip up the M1 from Northampton for this gig. They’re becoming regulars at the Musician (this is their third performance here in 2014 and Sean has played an acoustic set in addition). They’ve already been confirmed on the line up of Simon Says, Leicester’s local summer festival, with a line up pulled together by key venues. It’s fair to say that they’re getting noticed in these parts.

And it’s entirely right that they’re getting noticed. A cool image without tunes is worth nothing in my book but thankfully this is a band that has both. You suspect that they spend hours grooming their facial hair before a show but the rewards are fine and the moustaches sharp. Tattoos and designer Dr Marten boots with white laces complete the image. 

It’s energetic folk music channelled through a Britpop filter. Sean sings stories about prize fighters and working class heroes. He references the industry and drinking culture of Birmingham and Kilburn. There’s political and social history in these tunes, a dash of romance and a pint of pain. 

Sean announces tonight that an EP is coming out sometime in May. But, the exciting label on which it’s going to be released have yet to give him a date. Videos have been made to accompany each track on the EP and one of those has already seen the light of day. It showcases well the excitement that this band are generating. 

Elliot Moss – Slip

When you give it some real thought, you realise that the word ‘slip’ is one of the best in the English language. Many words mean more than one thing but a ‘slip’ could be a mistake, a piece of paper or a fall. If I was in danger I might abscond to a dock (or slip away to a slip). You don’t need to think about cricket fielding positions or female undergarments to know that this is a versatile word.

And on the evidence contained within this track, New Yorker, Elliot Moss, is a versatile musician. Last year, he released his album, Highspeeds, to a degree of critical acclaim. It’s this track, Slip, recently added to Soundcloud, that has grabbed my attention though.

A vocodered voice spills out of multiple lips. There’s a mighty contrast at play here. The idea that letting things slip can be both positive and negative never seems far from the surface of the song. In one simple verse, Elliot asks where the pain, hurt and light he once knew have gone. This is a tune that’s both dark and light, sinister and joyful, laidback and layered.

Elliot is just 20 years old. His press release suggests that his versatility derives from his upbringing.

“His mother, an artist, rearranged the living room furniture into an assembly line of sorts, blanketed in drying mosaic tiles and soldered-together trinkets. A young Elliot surveyed piles of abandoned gear entombed in the basement of his dad’s recording studio. He would rescue and repair lost treasures to put to use in his own music; among them his first guitar – a worn Silvertone 1448 which he still plays.”

This week slips away. The weekend begins. Born slippy.