Music I'm looking forward to in 2008


For my final post as guest blogger, I thought I’d share with you some musicians I love, all of whom have new albums on the way in 2008. I just noticed the majority are female singers… but at least there’s one guy!

Emiliana Torrini - She’s in the midst of writing and recording her new album - VERY exciting. Her voice is so unique, it just makes me happy. Her last album ‘Fisherman’s Woman’ is a favourite on my iPod. We became friends in 2007 and my most lovely memory of her is from Los Angeles in June when she came to our Temposhark show and gave me a white rose as a gift, making my night even more special!

Sam Sparro – My producer Sean McGhee told me about Sam but I don’t know too much about him yet. I like the original version of his song ‘Black and Gold’ which you can hear on his MySpace page. He sounds a bit like D’Angelo meeting electro-era Goldfrapp in a dark alley.

Julianna Barwick (photo with this blog) - Guy Sigsworth introduced me to the beautiful music of this equally beautiful New York based singer. Her mini album Sanguine is made up of zillions of loops where Julianna’s short vocal phrases become a one-woman choir. Her live performance in London last October was just SOOOOO good! Her influences range from Björk and boy choirs to Panda Bear and Thom Yorke. If you like Animal Collective, you'll surely like Julianna too. Download a free live session she did for the cool radio podcast Má Fama - it's the show dated 13th November 2007.

Kate Havnevik – Kate’s album ‘Melankton’ spent a lot of time on my stereo in 2007, so I’m really excited she’s currently recording her second album in Norway, Poland and London. I believe she is producing this next record herself but as always, she’s collaborating with some super talents. Catch her video blogging from her studio over at YouTube.

Like An Icon - If you, like me, are intrigued to hear the new hip hop influenced Madonna album, then I recommend reading a new book all about her music written by Lucy O'Brien. This book stands out from previous Madonna biogs because its main focus is on her actual music rather than delving too much into her personal life. It has insightful behind-the-scenes interviews with musicians, producers, dancers and directors including one I did for the book when I was in New York with M’s old stylist Maripol, who was responsible for Madonna's early image and rubber crosses. She told me lots of cool stories about late 70s/early 80s Manhattan working alongside Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Blondie. You can pick it up now at a bookshop near you or Amazon UK and USA.

Laura Marling – Laura is a young British singer (she's only 17 I think) who recently signed to Virgin records. She was on Later with Jools Holland and I fell in love her song ‘New Romantic’. Her first album 'Alas I Cannot Swim' is released on 4th Feb in a unique Song Box format containing the CD album, exclusive concert ticket and set of album mementos. Gotta be good!

Map The Music - an indie documentary film following musicians around the USA on tour including Imogen Heap, Rachael Yamagata, Kate Havnevik, and even Temposhark. I haven’t seen any of the footage yet but I know we all had a lot of fun filming it. An early preview trailer is up now, while Sam Hale and her team finish editing the film.

Mirah - I've been a fan of Mirah for years now and am always surprised by what she does next. Her remix album from last year 'Joyride' was amazing. She has 5 albums, on the awesome K Records label, all of which are worth getting. She's a true indie artist with an amazing voice and lyrics. Hear some of her albums at iTunes or find her CDs (and cool Tshirts) at the KRecs.   

Lastly, Zero 7 star Sia's new album is streaming at MySpace and she is about to tour in the USA. I like her new song with Beck called 'Academia', plus she's covered The Pretender's classic 'I Go To Sleep'. I also used to be mad about her song 'Fear' from her debut album 'Healing Is Difficult'.

Right that's it from me! A big thanks to Arjan for asking me to contribute, I’ve really enjoyed it… Happy new year, sending you much love for 2008.


Exclusive Review: Alanis Morissette's Bold New 'Flavors'


A few weeks ago I got a call from one of my producers Guy Sigsworth saying that he’d nearly finished the project he, and his colleague Andy Page, have been working on for the majority of 2007 - the brand new Alanis Morissette album ‘Flavors of Entanglement’. Guy asked if I would pop over to his studio to have an album playback and share my thoughts. I was really excited, partly because I didn’t really know what to expect.

When ‘Jagged Little Pill’ came out in 1995 I was 14, and it swiftly became one of the most important albums for me alongside Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ and Tori Amos’ ‘Little Earthquakes’. I loved their honesty, their melodies and their strength. Skip forward to Autumn 2006 and I was working with Guy on ‘Winter’s Coming’, the closing song for my debut Temposhark album. Alanis had just approached him to see if he’d be interested in collaborating.

One year on, I arrive at Guy’s studio in West London. He reminds me that by now they’ve produced and co-written well over twenty songs! In this one afternoon I hear 22 songs in total, and as each song went by, it was like falling in love with Alanis all over again.

Four highlights for me were ‘Citizen Of The Planet’ which starts off with intriguing lyrics that twist and turn around a captivating melody before hurtling into one of the best choruses of her career - it’s just MASSIVE and her voice cuts right through you... Another gem called ‘Madness’ is spell binding in its beauty, and actually a really long song at over six minutes if I remember correctly, but unusually it didn’t feel long at all! I could’ve listened to that one over and over again...

‘Straitjacket’ is another powerful track that has stuck in my head, with genius lyrics and great melodic hooks... whilst my favourite of all the songs is called ‘Torch’. It’s just the most touching, almost devastating, dedication to the end of a relationship and the things you miss most about your day-to-day life with a partner.

And it was on hearing ‘Torch’, that I remembered why Alanis is such an important voice. She is so good at channelling her subconscious, those true thoughts most people hide. She can take those deeply private emotions and translate them in a simple, easy-to-relate-to way; putting into words what so many of us feel. This new collection of songs takes you on a serious emotional journey, across many highs and lows, and is possibly her best song writing since ‘Jagged Little Pill’ and 'Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie'. It’s just so easy to connect with – the end of a relationship, the value of childhood friends, complicated family ties and all kinds of emotional ‘entanglements’.

Robert's review of Alanis continues after the jump!

Continue reading "Exclusive Review: Alanis Morissette's Bold New 'Flavors'" »

Listen to One Night Only "Start Over"


BBC Radio One's Zane Lowe calls One Night Only one of the hottest new bands in the world right now. The radio jock has been pushing the group's single "You And Me" that is now getting attention from both pop lovers and indie afficinados.

One Night Only are a fivesome from North Yorkshire who have been making music together since 2003. George, Mark, Sam, Dan and Jack like to describe their music as a combination of "rock, indie and electro" that blends "intricate guitars with synths, keyboards, pounding rhythms and melodic vocals."

The group recently got signed to Vertigo Records, home of the Killers in the U.K. and also the label for bands like Boy Kills Boy, The Noisettes, The Rapture and Johnny Flynn. One Night Only are managed by the big guys at Creative Artists Agency, which is impressive for such a young band.

"Start Over" is a good example of their sound that is best described as anthemic indie rock with its swirling synths, melodic lead guitars and crunchy production. Also, check out the song "Just For Tonight" on their MySpace page. Head over to 7Digital for a free download of an exclusive demo version of "Start Over." (Sorry folks, it is not an MP3. You will have to register for 7Digital to download the copyright protected WMA music file. But despite that nuisance, it is some good free music for you to grab if you use a PC.)

Introducing Esmee Denters


Simon Cowell once said that there aren't any talented singers in The Netherlands. Usually his judgment is spot on, but when it comes to Esmee Denters he might be in for a surprise. The 18 year-old Dutch singer was the first artist to sign to Justin Timberlake's shiny new record label Tennmann that he formally launched last week together as a joint venture with Interscope Records.

Nine months ago, Esmee started to upload videos of her singing covers to YouTube. It was not a terribly sophisticated production. It was just Esmee in her bedroom with her sister's webcam singing away. The response on YouTube was overwhelming. Her videos were watched nearly 21 million times and generated thousands of comments.

Record labels, managers and talent scouts received word about the singing Dutch YouTube phenomenon. Esmee was flown to Los Angeles and courted by all the major recording companies. She had meetings with Jason Flom, Antonio "L.A." Reid and Tommy Motolla. She even recorded demo tracks with Kelly Rowland and considered TV deals with Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Atlantic Records was also very anxious to get in touch with Esmee. The story goes that they contacted the local hotel in her small village of Oosterbeek and had the concierge call up every single Denters in the phone book until they got in touch with Esmee's surprised mother.

Justin Timberlake invited Esmee to come to London two months ago when he was recording with Madonna to hear what all the fuss was about. "Esmee is the real deal and I cannot wait for the world to hear her," he concluded in a press statement. He decided that Esmee would be the first artist to be launched on his own label.

Esmee is currently on tour with Justin Timberlake as his support act. If you have a moment, check out some of her past YouTube videos. Esmee is a remarkable vocalist. With the right songwriters and proper production, she could become a big star. Especially given Timberlake's endorsement and millions of YouTube fans already in her back pocket.

Watch Esmee "What Goes Around" (ft. Justin Timberlake)
Watch Esmee "Let Me Be The One" (Mario cover)
Watch Esmee Denters "Irreplacable" (Beyonce cover)

Madonna to Release Charity Single


Madonna fansite DrownedMadonna is reporting that the Queen of Pop will be releasing the song "Hey You" as a digital charity single in the next few weeks. The download will benefit Live Earth, a foundation that is organizing several high-profile concerts to raise awareness about climate change on July 7. The single was produced by Pharrell Williams and "is about making a difference, loving yourself and others."

Sound like an ideal way for Madonna to support a good cause and to test the waters with this new Pharrell concoction.