It’s the most respected music honour in Britain which divides everyone from fans to critics to bands. No, we’re not talking about Popjustice’s Twenty Quid Music Prize, but the Mercury Prize. Every year a select group of judges sits down and argues out which are the best British albums of the year. Getting on the shortlist is considered to be an impressive achievement in itself. Winning the award can launch a career. The beauty of the Mercury Prize is its ability to combine some of the best known names in British music with bands who have struggled to reach a wider audience into one list where they get to fight it out equally. So, in order of their current William Hill odds to win it, who got the nomination nod this year?
Damon Albarn – ‘Everyday Robots’ 4/1
Blur were nominated twice for the award for ‘Parklife’ and ‘13’ but lost out to M People and Talvin Singh respectively. It would be unfair to suggest that notoriety alone is the reason for Albarn’s nomination. His first solo album show a musical maturity that have characterised his later projects. Albarn’s versatility is evidence of his worth of an award such as this. ‘Everyday Robots’ showcases his ability to use sounds and samples, taken from other musical traditions, and bring them together to great effect. This is nowhere more apparent than on the albums opener which is built around a hypnotic violin sample. Another highlight includes Albarn’s collaboration with Natasha Khan (a.k.a Bat for Lashes) on ‘The Selfish Giant’.
Royal Blood – ‘Royal Blood’ 4/1
Considered by William Hill, along with Damon Albarn, to be the most likely to win it, Royal Blood are the most boring group to be considered for the award. The two man band are a kind of The Black Keys/Arctic Monkeys amalgamation who have captured the hearts and minds of Jake Bugg fans probably. A win would be thoroughly undeserved given that the album is entirely forgettable and not even remotely enjoyable.
Kate Tempest – ‘Everybody Down’ 6/1
South Londoner Kate Tempest has been taking the world of poetry slam by storm for quite a while. Easily bridging the gap between rap and poetry, ‘Everybody Down’ is the realest piece of social critique you will hear this year, set in the story of a relationship between two people. The beats are background noise as Tempest’s lyrics are what take centre stage and bring the album alive. It’s easily comparable to the previously Mercury nominated ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’ by The Streets.
Kate Tempest plays the o2 Academy, Oxford on 7th November
Bombay Bicycle Club – ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ 6/1
The fourth effort from the boys of Bombay Bicycle Club is one of the more obvious entries on the list. The band have slowly risen to the forefront of British indie music, developing their sound from the obvious guitar/drums combination on their debut ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose’. Singles like ‘Luna’ have shown this to great effect, combining natural song writing ability with a more holistic sound, whilst ‘Eyes Like You’ proves that they do heartbreaking better than anyone else at the moment. Not to mention that ‘Feel’ allows one to come up with any number of dance routines.
You can read our review of the Bombay Bicycle Club album here
Nick Mulvey – ‘First Mind’ 7/1
Nick Mulvey’s guitar playing is akin to something you’d expect to hear at a classical concert, such is the complex talent displayed on ‘First Mind’. Having been previously part of the Portico Quartet, Mulvey is no stranger to the Mercury, as that group were nominated in 2008. Despite this, ‘First Mind’ fails to really take root on initial listens. In many ways, it feels like Mulvey’s talents in musicianship lay more in instrumentation than songwriting.
Nick Mulvey plays the o2 Academy, Oxford on 12th October
FKA Twigs – ‘LP1’ 7/1
It’s a good job the Mercury Prize doesn’t judge based on album titles because FKA Twigs wouldn’t be getting any marks for originality. Although, neither would Royal Blood or Jungle for that matter. ‘LP1’ is the overtly R n B album on the shortlist but it encompasses so much more than that, blending elements of hip hop and jazz, whilst showcasing ethereal vocals. ‘Two Weeks’ is the best example of this, with the pulsing bass beat giving it the feel of understated pop. Not to mention her recent Radio 1 Live Lounge cover of Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’ completely turned the song on its head. Incredible really, because according to the internet she should be best known for being rumoured as dating Robert Pattinson.
Jungle – ‘Jungle’ 8/1
Jungle are the third band on the Mercury shortlist who were also shortlisted for the BBC Sound of 2014 award (along with FKA Twigs and Royal Blood). Originally hiding behind a veil of anonymity as ‘J’ and ‘T’ respectively, the two founders of the band Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland create a brand of soul music which is rarely heard in British music. The whirrs of sirens and squeal of tyres that feature in their songs capture an urban city feel whilst their sporadic use of chords add a psychedelic vibe to the music.
East India Youth – ‘Total Strife Forever’ 8/1
You won’t be able to do justice to listening to East India Youth on any speakers or headphones you own. To truly appreciate East India Youth, it is necessary to go and see William Doyle live and feel the bass vibrate through every inch of your body. It is a spell binding experience. Specialising in electronica, he is at his most entrancing with his instrumentals as the beats layer over each other. Tracks like ‘HEAVEN, HOW LONG’ are more initially accessible but Doyle’s voice feels weak in comparison to his backing. The allusion to Foals’ second album ‘Total Life Forever’ is also amusing.
Young Fathers – ‘DEAD’ 8/1
Young Fathers describe themselves as a ‘psychedelic hip hop boy band’ which is probably the best description of any band ever. The Edinburgh trio enthusiastically capitalised their song titles on ‘DEAD’, just like East India Youth did. Capitalisation was clearly the key to nomination this year. The album is a versatile combination of quick bits of rap and catchy choruses which use electronica and pop hooks to great effect. Plus, you can ever so occasionally hear the hint of a Scottish accent which is quite entertaining.
Polar Bear – ‘In Each and Every One’ 10/1
‘In Each and Every One’ is the most outwardly jazz based album on the list, although Anna Calvi can definitely make a claim on that. The instrumental album is insistent at times with howling brass and pounding drums whilst calmer at others with ‘Two Storms’ just starting quietly with layered scales. Polar Bear were nominated before back in 2005 but they were quite an outside shot and will be again this year. As one of the albums you’re unlikely to have heard prior to the release of the shortlist, this one is worth a listen.
Anna Calvi – ‘One Breath’ 10/1
She’s recently announced she’ll be touring in support of Morrissey in the next couple of months whilst she used to babysit Tom Waits’ kids. Anna Calvi knows how to mix with rock music’s success stories, and she sorely deserves to be one herself. ‘One Breath’ is her second release after her very impressive eponymous debut. A strong, operatic vocal style, Calvi gives a jazz twist to many of her songs, although she’s not to be pigeonholed. Recent single ‘Piece by Piece’ starts with the sound of orchestra tuning up before launching into a pop beat. Anna Calvi is not a woman to be underestimated. ‘One Breath’ takes you on a twisting and turning journey which makes the album very hard to pin down.
GoGo Penguin – ‘v2.0’ 10/1
The final shortlisted act are a piano trio from Manchester. Whist this might not sound like the most captivating group on paper, the fast playing is hugely impressive. A subtle drum beat that runs through most of their music gives the songs an impetus that piano music can sometimes lack. The chords used are beautiful and convey more feeling than the majority of lyricists are able to. This is likely to be on my revision playlist for quite a while.
So there you have it. All 12 shortlisted acts in order of who according to the bookies is most likely to win. Who would you like to see win? Who do you think was snubbed from the list? Let us know! The winner of the Mercury Prize will be announced on 29th October.
Six-piece American group Phox returned to the UK in August, following the release of their self-titled debut album at the start of this month. The charming record has gained the sextet coverage from a whole host of publications, including the New York Times, as their coverage and fan-base starts to grow. We had a chat with Matt Holmen, who, along with Monica Martin, Jason Krunnfusz, Zach Johnston, Matteo Roberts and Davey Roberts, makes up one sixth of Phox, for a chat about the new album, his musical journey and being a small-town band.
Although mention of Phox may return a few blank stares, the band have found themselves growing in popularity in the UK. They’re touring here later in the year, but stopped by in a whisk of European festival dates to play a couple of venues. Their gig at St Pancras Old Church, in London, sold out completely and iTunes recently chose ‘Kingfisher’, a soulful folk song from the album, as a free-single of the week.
Due to their downrightly unique sound, it can be somewhat difficult to translate the music into words. The instruments themselves are bright and light, with Monica Martin’s lead vocals melodically tying the instruments together with ease. With such a gifted singer and individual musicians, its no wonder that Phox are gaining success without mainstream music. “We’re a melody first band.” Matt said, pausing a little when asked how to pin Phox down. “We use a lot of different musical idioms but I think at the root of it it’s folk music. I know that’s hard to define these days. People sometimes say we’re techno or chamber folk too.”
Despite creating this wonderful blend of folk, the band members themselves are not so heavily involved with the genre. “Everyone [in the band] has very different tastes – from rap to choral music to soul to indie-rock and some hardcore even. There’s a whole variety.” This versatility has allowed Phox to play festivals and gigs alongside a wide spectrum of artists. Most notably, the group supported Laura Mvula when she popped to the States, as well as The Lumineers last year. “It was Laura’s first time in the US – I think she was coming for Coachella – but we caught her on the East Coast.” explained Matt, “We played in some really nice, attentive rooms. People were definitely there to listen which was so nice! Over here, we got the iTunes Festival slot with The Lumineers last fall. I think that was the biggest show we’ve ever played. It was at a really amazing venue too, the Roundhouse in London!”
Playing to crowds across the pond was never on the Wisconsin band’s radar. High school friends who went their separate ways following graduation, they all found themselves return to their town of Barbaroo, where Phox was born. “We’re all from the same small town,” Matt put it simply, “so it’s really challenging to not make music. We all played in different groups for a while, but really we all just ended up in the same place at the same time. Music was a thing we could do together, as it was for the majority of our friend group, so it was just a way to hang out. Then we had other friends in Madison [Wisconsin, where Phox settled] who encouraged us to play more shows and get out and do more.” The band actually got a house together too, as they were starting to pick up the pace with their music. But, how does living in such close proximity affect the group? “It just connects everything else, I guess.” mused Matt, “We had an idea of how to work together in other ways. There’s a shorthand when communicating about music because there’s a lot of crossover in how we communicate with each other about personal things, like doing the dishes.”
Be that as it may, Phox found themselves emerging onto an already competitive music scene as artists from music hotspots – Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New York – were regularly catapulted to the tops of their fields. Barbaroo and Madison are not quite known for the same amount of music artists, but Matt feels their origins only worked to their advantage. “I think it’s easier. We’re more directly in touch with the fanbase, being from a smaller town means you have a quicker route to understanding your demographic and being able to feel something for it. It’s actually so much less competition – there were just a couple of our friends’ bands in the same genre as us. I mean, in Madison we have the whole reggae and punk scene which we’re not really a part of…at all a part of. Being from a small town was a benefit for us. It allowed us to grow quickly and develop our music ourselves.”
For Matt, Wisconsin always held the possibility of musical stardom. “The first time I conceptualised being in a band was with Zach when I was ten. I think we sang into a shampoo bottle…wait, no. That’s too stereotypical. It must have been a ball-point pen,” he corrected, “and we were singing into a mirror to Reel Big Fish, Zach was playing guitar and I was singing into the mirror. He was like ‘Hey Matt, the crowd’s over here.’ So I turned around and faced the other direction”.
Although the musical dream began a good time before, the members of Phox have found that in the two and a half years since the band’s formation the group has changed musically. “We’ve taken away some of the excess elements. We, for a long time, improvised a lot and played over each other to see which ideas were sticking. We’ve learned how to collaborate without just shouting over each other. The music and the genre and the instrumentation is primarily just the same but the way we’re playing it is different.”
Phox’s debut hit British shops at the very start of September. “These are all the best songs we’ve written as a band. Some of them are two years old, some are only a few months old. We’ve been adjusting them and playing them in different settings – some of the songs have been played in coffee shops in Madison, as well as at iTunes Festival in London – and through the playing of those songs we’ve found arrangements of them that we felt was appropriate. It took a while to get through all the ideas, so after pulling all that stuff we wanted to put out a group of songs which we thought were our strongest over the last couple of years.” The fact that almost every song, including Matt’s personal favourite 1936, was recorded in a day or two pays tribute to the band’s professionalism. The album was released in the USA earlier this summer, to some great reviews. “The reception has been incredible,” Matt gushed, “We toured the US for about two months and it was really surprising in places that we’d never been to before, where people knew the songs.”
The next few months are certainly busy for Phox. With a US tour followed almost immediately by European tour dates, including some in the UK, and then more festival slots, the group will surely take a well-deserved holiday rest.
Phox’s self-titled debut was released by Partisan Records on September 1st.
Laura Welsh is definitely one to watch. Following her successful stint on Gorgon City’s summer dance track, ‘Here for You’ and putting the finishing touches to her debut album, Laura’s certainly on the path to success. In light of the release of her latest single, ‘Break the Fall’, we caught up with the songstress to talk song writing and collaborations.
Although only releasing a couple of tracks as singles, Laura is certainly no stranger to putting her own music out there. “It’s been good to put music online and get things out organically. I’ve been putting music online for the last year, so I just wanna keep putting music out there.” The use of popular music sharing site SoundCloud to release her own songs has certainly been successful – Laura’s profile now boasts an impressive 11,000 followers with some of her most popular tracks gaining well over 100,000 plays. “I’m really happy with the response,” Laura admitted to me, “Some people on online blogs and stuff have been amazing to me. I think it’s really good when you get that response. I just wanted to let the music go out and speak for itself, so having a good reaction to it has been amazing.” Tumblr also helped Laura spread her musical wings and upped her popularity, so much so that she already has a dedicated fan base, something she’s not quite used to yet. “When you play a gig and you see people singing back your lyrics to you it’s really strange, but also very cool!” she laughed.
It certainly hasn’t been an easy journey to musical success for Laura. “I’ve always loved to sing, I loved music from an early age,” a factor that determined the course of her education. “I studied music in Birmingham for a couple of years, then moved to London for my final year.” It was this transition that allowed Laura to find her footing in the music scene. “That’s when I started meeting musicians. I was in a band for a period of time. We did a lot of gigs and it gave me that experience to start really writing songs but, to be honest, that all fell apart. We all went our separate ways and I was at a cross-roads thinking about where I was going to go next. I took a year back and steped away from everything and in that time I started writing. I found a couple of people to work with and I started doing demos with them.” The unfortunate dissolution of this band turned out to be a lucky break for Laura. “I wrote a couple of key songs for the album then. I didn’t have any expectations for it really, and that freedom that arises when things fall apart, it had to happen for me to have the time to write those songs. ‘Ghosts’ went online and the response was amazing, then I was signed and started making the album. I had a real sense of what I wanted to do musically at that point.”
Laura already has a top ten hit under her belt. Her collaboration with Gorgon City on ‘Here For You’ quickly became one of the songs for the summer, and nabbed Laura performances at Glastonbury, Ibiza Rocks and Reading/Leeds festivals. Laura’s certainly aware of how fortunate she was to get on board with the team. “I went into the studio in December, and it was to write. I’d listened to a couple of things the guys had done, so it was just a case of going in, meeting them and hanging out. When we got in the studio we clicked really well and we wrote and laid that one song down in one day. I left the studio and didn’t think anything else of it, until a few months later when they said it’d be their next single. Musically, it’s a different world for me to step into.” Having had such success experimenting with genre, it’s no wonder that stripped-down and raw Laura would be up for that again. “For me, it’s whether I like what someone does. I’m always up for collab, getting in a studio and seeing if you click, but I think its important to do what you love. If it was a song where I fell in love, regardless of genre, and I clicked while writing, then I’d do it.”
During the process of writing and recording her album, Laura’s had the chance to work with some big names in the music industry. “I’ve co-written a lot on the album,” she confessed, “It’s been an amazing experience working with people I love anyway.” Robin Hannibal, Dev Hynes and Jonathan Lipsey are all credited on the album. “They’re all people I massively respect, so to just go into a studio with them and get into the production side of the record has been great for me,” Laura gushed, “With Robin I went over to LA and hung out. You become friends, so it feels natural to sit down and start making music together.” Even when writing with someone else, Laura’s songwriting maintains its highly personal and honest appeal. “It comes from personal experiences,” she explained, “I can only write about what I’m going through. I’ve always been a certain way and it’s in my nature to find it easier to write about how I’m truly feeling as opposed to having conversations about it. When I’m writing it just comes out and there’s no filter there for all those built-up emotions.”
Fans need to get excited – the album is finished, and Laura hopes it’ll be out early next year. In the meantime, another single looks to be on the cards. “I’m starting to get ideas for the next single, so I’m hoping to release another track later this year.”
It’s been two years since the release of Changing Tune, the third studio album from Watford-based four-piece Lower Than Atlantis. The group, who are newly signed to Sony, are set to release their new self-titled album on September 29th, following an intimate tour and limited festival dates. I caught up with main man Mike Duce to talk about the band’s latest album, Japanese dates and record labels.
When we spoke, Mike was fresh from headlining the second day of Radio One Rocks, playing alongside friends Mallory Knox and Marmozets.
His tweets earlier that day bemoaned a rather sore head. “It was a rough night. We’d just got back from Japan, and the day we got back we played a corporate gig, then the next day was the breakfast show and Radio One Rocks thing.”
The band finally got a chance to relax after what has obviously been a heavy few days, as Mike explained. “Woke up this morning and there were bodies strewn everywhere! It was good, a good celebration and to say thanks to all our crew for doing such a good job…I’m feeling haggard now like.”
Considering the band haven’t played the UK in a while, it seems somewhat odd that Lower Than Atlantis are visiting Japan to debut new tracks. “We were there for a week, had three massive gigs then chilled out in Tokyo at the end of it, ate some food, visited some temples, had a little holiday with our crew.” Ahead of their July dates, Lower Than Atlantis took the opportunity given to them by their friend Adam Graham, now a guitarist for the Japanese rock band Fact. “My friend Adam is in a band – he worked for a label, and he learned Japanese in like an intensive course for a year. We got there, and no one could understand him! It was like he didn’t know anything and the accent was wrong and everything. He used to tour manage, but now he’s in the band and [in Japan they’re all fans of [Fact]. They were like ‘We’re going to tour in Japan, would you like to come with us because we’re massive in Japan’, and we were like ‘Yep!’ So, we just went out and did that. It was good to try out new songs as well when we were out there,” Mike shared. It was the first trip to Japan for Lower Than Atlantis, yet Mike revealed that it won’t be the last: “I think we’re going back again soon, ‘cause it went that well!”
The trip to Japan is certainly something that the band never envisioned for themselves. “Everyone has a bucket list in life,” Mike explained, “As a band it starts off tame – I wanna play this venue, I wanna do this, I wanna get signed. Things like that. Then, going to the USA was massive – it was a huge thing for us to tour America, then for us Western dudes to go somewhere that far away and play there…We never thought we’d do something like that, and we’re just honoured and humbled that we got to do it.”
The band have also seen an incredibly positive reception to their new material at home. Breaking the top ten rock chart on the day of release, and showing no signs of leaving it a few weeks later, single ‘Here We Go’ has been making waves. “It’s been way more than we expected, it’s strange,” Mike tried to verbalise. “We’ve had more response from this one track than we’ve had from our whole last album.”
The song has become a mainstream radio favourite already. “Yesterday, for example, I was on Radio One Breakfast show with Grimmy, then we headlined Radio One Rocks playing on Radio One. We had like 11 plays on Radio One yesterday! We got played on every single show. It’s crazy, weird. I’m blown away.” Fans are also incredibly receptive to the band’s new track, with a handful of tickets remaining nationwide for the July tour dates. Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Norwich and London have completely sold out. “We normally play bigger venues,” Mike humbly explained, “but because the first thing back we’re doing is a club tour, to take it back to when it was really fun – just a few dudes, a sweatbox, people going nuts, that’s the idea. With smaller crowds you get to see everyone’s reactions to the new songs we’re gonna play, that’s the idea.” It certainly seems like Mike’s as excited as the fans. “It’s definitely been too long! We’ve been away for ages! It just felt like I didn’t have a purpose in life, my mates were going to work every day, contributing to society – I was just sitting in a studio. But yeah, we’re back with a fucking vengeance! We’ve got something to prove again.”
Lower Than Atlantis boasts 12 tracks of various moods – anthemic track ‘English Kids in America’ lets the title do the talking, documenting the band’s recent venture into the States, whilst ‘Words Don’t Come So Easily’ follows a more emotional path. Lead single ‘Here We Go’ accurately captures the band’s desire to get back on track with their music, and provides what looks to be the atmospheric foundation for the intimate tour. “It still sounds like Lower Than Atlantis, but it sounds like a more mature Lower Than Atlantis,” Mike mused. “I know it sounds cliché, but, yeah, we have matured since our last album ‘cause we’ve got older, so I don’t know…It sounds more grown up compared to what we were doing before.” With this maturity has also come musical experimentation, as evidenced by the slight electronic element to some of the new album. “There’s only so much you can do when it’s just a couple of blokes playing instruments, so we had to spice it up a bit. We used the studio as an instrument,” Mike said, adopting a nasally tone before laughing. “As wankers say.”
Moving the conversation to more serious tones, we discussed the lyrics of the new record. Lower Than Atlantis are a band that pride themselves on the stories they are able to tell through their songs – ‘Another Sad Song’, ‘Wars With Words’ and ‘Scared of the Dark’ from 2012’s Changing Tune being prime examples of this. With Lower Than Atlantis the band have appeared to mix it up. “Lyrically on this album we decided to go for something different than before. [Changing Tune] was very reflective and it was very personal to me, but with this album it’s more about the music as opposed to the lyrical content. First listen, you hear what I’m saying, you kinda know what it’s about but you take what you will from it, and that’s the idea with this album. It was a nice change for me.”
Consequently, it appears that there’s less emotional ties to specific songs. “It was such a selection of tracks – there was a hell of a lot more tracks and we really whittled it down. There were fifth and sixth drafts of songs – we spent a lot of time getting them to the way they are now. I like so many different songs for different reasons – I couldn’t pick one! I love the album as a body of work, it’s my favourite Lower Than Atlantis album by far!” Mike proudly stated.
It has certainly been a turbulent year or two for Lower Than Atlantis, leaving their Island Records deal and self-recording their new album in their own studio. “Basically, we were signed to Island Records before – it got to a point where they were they’d already picked up the option for the next album, and already signed the next album and got the advance. Then, they called us in and were like ‘Look – we’re legally obliged to release your next album, but we don’t really want to. So, you can do it with us and we’ll do a half-arsed job (essentially), or you can take the money and run’. So we were like ‘Fuck you, see you later’, built a recording studio, wrote and recorded this album, spent ages on it, then signed to Sony a few weeks ago.” Things certainly seem to be looking up on the label front – “Our manager, who’s been a friend of mine and Ben’s [Samson, guitarist] for about ten years now, he now works for the label as well, which is like nuts! Our project manager, he’s been a fan for years and he’s about out our age [mid-20s], loves all the same music as us! We just go up his and talk about music and stuff, it’s great, I couldn’t ask for a better label!” Mike quickly brings himself back to reality with a somewhat interesting metaphor, “I say that now, but we always get shafted, so we’re gonna stay lubed up just in case.”
Following their intimate tour dates, Lower Than Atlantis are set to play just a couple of festivals – Leeds and Reading, as well as one which Mike revealed accidently. “Hang on, that hasn’t been announced yet! I didn’t say that!” he quickly retracted. Back to Reading/Leeds, however, and Mike’s as excited as ever to play. “The first time we played was the Festival Republic Stage – we just couldn’t believe we were playing Reading/Leeds! That was on the bucket list as well. It was great, everything was great. Last year we played Main Stage”, Mike continued, yet not as enthusiastically. “I don’t know…it’s just so exposed. The only time it rained was during our bloody set, typical. The wind was blowing about everywhere, but this year we’re inside a tent again and it’s just great to be inside that sweaty gig atmosphere in the dark, you know. People are more relaxed and it’s easier to get away with being yourself in the dark.” Festivals, in general, appear not to be Mike’s favourite thing. “You have 15 minutes to get on and have everything perfect. A lot of people are just walking past and might not be that into it – it’s quite scary, quite intimidating. I’m not too fond of festivals.”
Some condolence this year appears to be found in two Reading/Leeds bands in particular. “BOMBAY! BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB!” Mike raved, “They’re one of the favourite bands! I saw them a couple of years ago and they were great, I really wanna see how the new record translates live!” Although the line-up means that Lower Than Atlantis are unable to see Blink-182, Mike states that Blink “is the reason I play guitar, and the reason I’m in a band.” Having toured with the Americans two years ago after sneaking backstage at a gig and giving Mark Hoppus a copy of their album, Lower Than Atlantis found themselves playing to thousands of people after being asked to tour with Blink.
This year, however, plans are not so set in stone. July’s tour, August’s festivals and September’s album release look to be littered with single releases, but none confirmed. “The plan is constantly changing”, Mike admitted, “I have no idea what exactly is happening.”
Fans can catch LTA on tour from July 15th- 31st before Lower Than Atlantis drops September 29th.
It’s been a busy day for George Watsky. The American poet-rapper not only announced the release date of his third album All You Can Do (12th August), but also dropped the first single, and accompanying music video, from that album. The presale for the album was released to iTunes on Tuesday – within ten minutes, it was ranked at 11 on the American iTunes Hip-Hop chart. At the time of writing, it was ninth. The music video to ‘Woah Woah Woah’ was released exclusively to Billboard’s website on Tuesday afternoon, and All You Can Do’s lead track is certainly something special. Drawing on the unique blend of rap verse and anthemic choruses that Watsky is particularly skilled at producing, ‘Woah Woah Woah’ not only lets Watsky’s rap abilities shine – surprisingly comprehensible very fast rapping especially–, but allows the song to slow, and adopt a more serious and haunting tone. I’m a huge fan of anthemic chorus – when used right, it enables a song to become instantaneously unifying (“What do you take us for?”) and memorable. Watsky certainly manages to do both of these, with the video itself providing a nice platform for the unification of the young-adult rebel in all of us. Lyrically, the origins in slam poetry are obvious – contemporary cult references are somewhat risqué without being offensive (especially regarding a certain Ms Miley Cyrus!), as well as grappling with the idea of fame through some interesting religious lexis. The emotion in Watsky’s voice as he speaks is obvious, even when the lyrics don’t quite manage to embed themselves into your mind after just one listen, propelled by the foregrounded focus on voice and simple rhythm.
The single’s video also provides some entertaining watching – not only is it well shot, it is also mesmerising, bringing out the pyromaniac in all of us. The final image of flames as the anthemic questioning of what we’re waiting for fades out definitely keeps ‘Woah Woah Woah’ echoing, even after the video ends. Luckily, fans can hear this in person later on in the year – Watsky also announced that UK tour dates are to be released next week. Expectations will now be high for the 12th of August, and the subsequent tour – and rightly so.
Music and fashion have a long history of influencing each other. When one thinks back on the defining fashions of a decade, they are more often than not tied to the music which was being listened to. From punk to mods, grunge to New Romantics, what you listen to and what you wear are intrinsically linked expressions of your personality. But it’s not just the style of music which influences how we dress, it’s the people who produce that music. These icons go beyond musical fame, and become symbols of a lifestyle that we strive to emulate. Here, members of the OxStu fashion and music teams as well as other Oxford students tell us about the performaers who have had both a musical and sartorial effect on their lives.
“For me, Stephen Malkmus, the frontman of Pavement, has this effortlessly cool look. He may not be what people call ‘chic’, and in fact he at first appears fairly standard; uninteresting even. Good shirts, jeans, and converses what you’ll normally see him in. But part of this is the ironic air which the band gives off in their music. It’s very understated. I also like Thom Yorke of Radiohead’s style, especially with the new ponytail! If anyone can rock longer hair, it’s him.” – James Aldred
“My musical style icon would have to be Madonna – specifically, 80s Madonna. For me, 80s Madonna’s style was so iconic because it presented a whole new idea of young women’s fashion – her style incorporated an unapologetic sense of sexuality and freedom whilst embracing youthful femininity. Her experimentation with colour, texture and shape, and attention to detail, sums up the 80s for me – bright, bold, unique and unconcerned with the conventions of popular taste. I always try to incorporate a little bit of this ethos into my everyday fashion!” – Hazel Harrow
“Without question, David Bowie has had the most influence on my style. I’ve always considered myself not to fit in with typically ‘masculine’ ways of dressing, and he showed me that one doesn’t have to dress in a strictly male or female way with his androgynous looks. In a similar vein, Adam Ant got me really into playing around with makeup, and I still sport the odd bit of guy-liner on a night out. I also went through a phase of wanting to dress like a dandy highwayman all the time… fortunately it didn’t last!” – Peter Lock
“Well, this is somewhat embarrassing to admit but I can only really say Rachel Stevens. As a die-hard S Club 7 fan, I was very into the whole baggy trousers with a vest-top and trainers look (give me a break – these were the dark days of the early 00s). Rachel was always my favourite though. I was even given a Rachel Stevens doll for my 6th birthday, complete with S Club 7 logo-emblazoned flare trousers. Although this was all way back in the day, I do have a particular embellished purple top which I always think has an air of Ms Stevens about it, and has me humming ‘Bring It All Back’ as I’m getting ready to go out.” – Alys Key
“My music style icon is Florence Welch. I lover her 70′s inspired style and her trademark long lace dresses. From graphic prints to loud colours, the variety in her outfits never fail to amaze me. She also couples her look with a strong and mysterious attitude, making every girl envy her confidence.” – Laetitia Nappert-Rosales
“Mika is my icon in everything. He wears the best suits, has the best hair, sings the best songs and is just all-round the greatest person on the planet. I’m just hopelessly in love with him”. – Freya Judd
House music has increased in popularity in recent years and is particularly big among university students across the country. It differs to other music in the sense that a whole night, in a certain club, will be deemed a ‘house night’, specifically catering for the tastes of the group of people in attendance. In this way it sets itself apart from other genres of music. In most clubs other types of music are all jumbled together; a mix of pop and RnB, for instance, would feature on one playlist. House, on the other hand, demands a night all to itself.
In accordance with this distinction, the clothes people wear to ‘House Nights’ also set them apart. It would be quite acceptable to go to most club nights wearing a pretty dress, shorts and a sparkly top or a cute playsuit; except of course for a house night. House music has a uniform. There is no doubt that if you want to be considered one of the ‘house’ crowd you have got to stick to this uniform exactly. A floral dress is literally house suicide.
This means that the majority of people step into a whole new sphere of fashion when they attend a house night. For some, this will be their style but there are many who simply wear this ‘uniform’ for the night and would never consider putting it on for any other occasion.
So what is the house uniform?
For boys: oversized faux 90s voluminous sport’s-wear, tie-dye t-shirts and patterned shirts.
The boy’s uniform is not so strict.
For girls: disco pants, metallic leggings, crop tops, beanies and hi tops.
You won’t spend ages doing your hair and makeup, giving off the vibe that you have thrown the look together in a few minutes.
Dressing in this style means every single girl will look practically identical but if you chose not to stick to the uniform, you might well find yourself permanently locked out of the house.
Josh Brown: Conchita Wurst
‘Rise Like a Phoenix’
The ‘hotbed of sodomy’, as declared by Russian state TV, is this year’s unquestionable standout. Conchita Wurst is the drag alter-ego of ex-boyband member Thomas Neuwirth, although, as Eurovision approaches, Wurst has acquired the nickname ‘The Bearded Lady’.
Austria’s Conchita has inspired comical reactions from Europe’s more conservative elements, with Belarus planning to edit her out of the broadcast completely.he ‘hotbed of sodomy’, as declared by Russian state TV, is this year’s unquestionable standout. Conchita Wurst is the drag alter-ego of ex-boyband member Thomas Neuwirth, although, as Eurovision approaches, Wurst has acquired the nickname ‘The Bearded Lady’.
But while Eurovision politics is as entertaining as usual, it’s at risk of overshadowing what is a genuinely great song. ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ is a bond theme that never was, with the orchestral swagger characteristic of all the best Bassey songs.
The lyrics also toy with Neuwirth’s controversial gender playing: ‘Peering from the mirror / No, that isn’t me / Stranger getting nearer/ Who can this person be?’ The pun being that ‘Conchita’ is a stereotypically female name, but ‘Wurst’, of course. means sausage.
At the time of writing we don’t know if Conchita will win, so we can only urge Europe to do the right thing, and vote for the Wurst act.
Sachin Croker: Lordi
‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’
Eurovision for most people wouldn’t involve monster masks and heavy metal, but for Finnish rockers Lordi that’s exactly what they brought in 2006.
For those of us tired of tuning in each year to hear abysmal Abba impressions followed by brutal Boyzone imitations followed by novelty polka acts, Lordi were the ultimate breath of fresh air. Their classic, ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’, was an unashamed love song to pure hard rock magic. Playing in their full costumes showed that not only did Lordi have their music taste in order (unlike basically every other Eurovision entry), they also had a great sense of fun. This can often be the difference between naff rubbish and genuinely enjoyable music (see: Tenacious D).urovision for most people wouldn’t involve monster masks and heavy metal, but for Finnish rockers Lordi that’s exactly what they brought in 2006.
Unsurprisingly Lordi stormed to victory, winning the (at that point) most amount of points ever. Futhermore, once it was then released to the Finnish public it stormed to number one, with Britian proudly charting it at 25.
If there’s one thing that Eurovision needs more of, it’s overblown pyrotechnics and a facetious attitude to anything that isn’t hard rock.
Jake Downs: Buranovskiye Babushki
‘Party for Everybody’
The OUSU building shakes as the Music and Features teams yell out those earth-shattering lines: “Party for everybody! Come on and dance!”.
We all remember our favourite Russian grannies of 2012. Their incredible track, ‘Party for Everybody’, lost out on the Eurovision crown by just 113 points (*cough*). However, for us at OxStu, they were the true winners. Their half-spoken, half-shrieked Slavic-disco anthem is catchy, cultured and catastrophic.he OUSU building shakes as the Music and Features teams yell out those earth-shattering lines: “Party for everybody! Come on and dance!”.
The Udmurtian octet, dressed in what appeared to be “traditional clothing”, were joined onstage by a rotating oven. The lyrics reflect this aesthetic decision: the “grandmothers” sing (in Udmurt) of lighting ovens, baking bread and spreading cloths. Wow.
Hats off to Olga Tuktaryova, the group’s artistic director. You rocked it. No – you killed it, baby.