Thursday, 15 December 2011

European Me

Never let it be said that the Velvet Owl blog is not value for money. Here's our third, best of 2011 list, this time courtesy of our French correspondent, Cedric Besnard. And all in time for those last-minute stocking filler ideas.

1  – Metronomy - The English Riviera
2  – Destroyer - Kaputt
3 -  Wild Beasts - Smother
4 -  Lykke Li - Wounder Rhymes
5  – Baxter Dury - Happy Soup
6  – Jonathan Wilson - Gentle Spirit
7  – Wilco - The Whole Love
8  – Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
9 – Cults - Cults
10 – Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls
11 – Conan Mockasin - Forever Dolphin Love
12 –The Horrors - Skying
13 – Still Corners - Creatures of an hour
14 -  Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital
15 – James Blake - James Blake
16 – Tennis - Cape Dory
17 – The Drums - Portamento
18 – My Morning Jacket - Circuital
19 – Ducktails - III : Arcade Dynamics
20 – Craft Spells - Idle Labor
21 – Smith Westerns - Dye it Blonde
22 – Yuck - Yuck
23 – Papercuts - Fading Parade
24 – The Black Keys - El Camino
25 – Miles Kane - Colour of the Trap

Velvet Owl Best Albums 2011

Having celebrated our 1st birthday, seen the launch of the Norwich Velvet Owl and sang, danced and stroked our beards at some fine gigs, it's now that time of year when I ask the Collective to list the five albums that have been regular bedfellows with their record player. From shoegaze revivalists to the return of Americana's prodigal son, 2011 has thrown out some cracking new records to help comfort us during these dark and foreboding economic times.

  1. Yuck – Yuck
  2. Metronomy – The English Riviera
  3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
  4. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
  5. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
  6. Ryan Adams – Ashes and Fire
  7. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
  8. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo
  9. Wild Beasts – Smother
  10. Other Lives – Tamer Animals
  11. The Antlers – Burst Apart
  12. Okkervil River – I am Very Far
  13. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
  14. Lykki Li – Wounded Rhymes
  15. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
  16. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
  17. King Creosote & John Hopkins – Diamond Mine
  18. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
  19. Young the Giant – Young the Giant
  20.  White Denim - D

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Album Festival - 2011

With the current trend for bands to perform live an album in its entirety and as this blog is about live music here is my fictitious album festival line-up for 2011. Hope you agree with some of it but hopefully disagree with more of it.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Yuck, Sheffield Leadmill

Unlike The Leisure Society or The Pastels for example, Yuck don't have the kind of band name that I would expect to appeal to the more discerning listener. The onomatopoeic band name would probably be best suited for American college bands who are influenced by underground noiseniks such as Fugazi or Jawbox, and not - as is the case - with a band lumped in with the shoegaze revival. Wearing their influences (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Swervedriver) on their sleeves, Yuck's self titled debut album ticked all the boxes for those of us still missing the fuzzy indie sounds of the nineties, and the number of 'older' heads in attendance tonight, suggests it was very much welcome. Album standout tracks 'The Wall' and 'Georgia' come far too early in the set for my liking, but this is a minor gripe as 'Get Away' and 'Rubber' that close the show sound incredible. Reports suggest the band have been below par on other legs of the tour, but tonight there was an energy and fizziness about Yuck, that even the two goons behind us chatting about the Great British Bake-Off final couldn't spoil.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dad Rocks! Olive's Coffee Shop, Norwich

In a bid to extend the Norwich Owl's range of gig venues, November's gig sees us treading the boards at one of the city's premier coffee houses.  Yes, you read that right, we are at the home of frothy macchiatos and cinnamon syrup. Not, you would imagine, a place where rock and roll dreams come true.  And if you think that, well, you'd be right...This is awful.
Arriving in a painfully quiet venue, with four quid bottles of ale freely available, the Owl are treated to the acoustic stylings of support act Shoes and Socks Off, who consist of a beanie-hatted Badly Drawn Boy lookalike playing the sort of acoustic meanderings that merely start and end, with little in the way of tune and melody to draw us in.  The theatre-like surroundings merely add to the "difficult" nature of the gig, with only a mid-set trip to the toilet from one of our number adding to the excitement levels, as the sound of piss hitting pan detracts from the dirge being served up stage-front. 
But we remain positive, and as the similarly dreadfully-monikered headliner takes to the stage, we await confirmation that all is not lost.  And, predictably, we are left disappointed by a set heavy on proficient strumming, but light on inspiration and anything in the way of a tune.  And throughout the whole thing, we are scared to breathe for fear of upsetting the six people ahead of us who are finding the event enlightening.  Guess there's no accounting for taste.
In short, coffee shops are not the place where the zeitgeist is to be found, and as the evening progressed, the chap to our right who snoozed on a sofa throughout the show, increasingly seemed to have the best seat in the house.  Avoid.


Friday, 11 November 2011

Gruff Rhys, The Cockpit, Leeds

With three albums and now the inaugural Welsh Music Prize under his belt, Super Furry Animal front man, Gruff Rhys, is starting to establish himself as a solo artist of some note. As he strides out onto the stage this evening - bedecked in a crumpled white suit - Rhys appears relaxed and eager to entertain. Backed by the cracking support band Y Niwl, Rhys' thick tones help whisk the audience away into a world of myths, legends, car journeys and soap operas. The use of projected images and comedy 'applause' placards add to Rhys' eccentricity, which is lapped up by the small but devoted crowd. Live, songs from the new album, Hotel Shampoo, such as Honey All Over and Shark Ridden Waters, are a little scruffy around the edges, but this adds to the DIY feel to the gig. However, it is the enthusiastically received finale of Candylion's Skylon - including a mid-song recap 'pilot foils the bomber, gets the girl' - that shows off Rhys' skill as a songwriter and performer. Tonight was not about the full-on, psychedelic, soundclash that we have come to expect from a SFA show, but a stripped back, sometime shambolic, but often mesmerising performance from Wales' new national treasure. 

Friday, 23 September 2011

The War on Drugs, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Following the demise of the The Duchess - an iconic live music venue in the heart of Leeds - the city struggled to attract the kind of bands just setting out on their journey to world domination (or at least the Manchester MEN).  Now the site of a Hugo Boss clothing emporium, The Duchess played host to a number of bands who went on to fill stadiums and become legends in the pantheon of popular music. Blur, Nirvana, The Manics, Radiohead, Pulp, Coldplay and Oasis all graced the tiny stage of The Duchess before it closed its doors for the last time in 2000. Even though the University, The Cockpit and the T&C (now the O2 Academy) continued to attract the bigger names, the gig-going masses of Leeds and the city's surrounding areas had to travel further afield to catch the current NME darlings or a band being championed by Lamacq or Peel.  And so for several years, Leeds dropped off the map for those bands setting out on the road in a cramped transit van powered only by the belief that they were 'The next big thing', and the live music scene in Leeds became a little stale.

However, the emergence of The Brudenell Social Club - based in the heart of the city's student land - as a reputable venue has changed the face of live music in Leeds. The caliber of bands the Brudenell is regularly attracting now puts Leeds on a par with London and Manchester as a 'non-negotiable' on any proposed tour itinerary. This year alone, the venue has played host to Joan as Policewoman, Noah and the Whale, Deerhunter, Wild Beasts, Tune-Yards, Wooden Shjips and tonight's headliners The War on Drugs, a band whose current album The Slave Ambient may well find itself in the higher echelons of 'Best of 2011' lists come the end of the year.  The booking policy, however, does not only concentrate on the new and the hip. This year The Primitives and The Charlatans have rocked up and played to a full house, while 60's underground legends The Birds and The Pretty Things have shown that the old guard can still kick out a decent tune.

When the main room is full, the intimate surroundings of the Brudenell makes for a cracking atmosphere and one not too dissimilar to The Duchess during its pomp. Tonight was the Velvet Owl's third visit in 12 months (see gig reviews on the blog), and considering that as a collective we're only attending one gig a month, this is testament to the intuitive and innovative music policy at the Brudenell that has music lovers from in and out of the city regularly worshipping at its alter. 

Check out what's coming up at the Brudenell here

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Velvet Owl Turn Ons - September 2011

Following our summer break the Velvet Owl Gig Collective return with ten songs that are currently on heavy rotation on the VO record player.

Sophia - Laura Marling A welcome return from Laura Marling whose special guest slot at this year's Green Man Festival was one of the weekend's highlights.

Islands in the Stream - My Morning Jacket/Neko Case We love a good cover version here at VO towers, and this one ticks every box. It is a live recording, so the camera and sound are a little wobbly, but the version does justice to Kenny and Dolly's original.

Steady as She Goes - James Yorkston We're new recruits to the James Yorkston fan club, and therefore have a lot of catching up to do. An early member of the Fence Collective, Yorkston has released five studio albums to date, with this particular track coming off 2006's The Year of the Leopard.

Come to the City - War on Drugs Next up for the VO Gig Collective are War on Drugs who will be visiting the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds in September to promote their new album The Slave Ambient.

Sutphin Boulevard - Blood Orange Dev Hynes (he of Test Icicles and Lightspeed Champion) reinvents himself once again with this futuristic slab of funk.

We Ask You to Ride - Wooden Shjips The experimental drone rockers return with a new album this autumn.  No better reason, therefore, to dig out this corker from their eponymously titled debut album.

Vomit - Girls The band's debut album releasd in 2009 still gets a regular airing at VO towers, and this lead track from their soon to be released follow-up leads us to believe Girls will be dominating the record player through until Christmas. 

Ain't Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo) - Black Roc We forgot how freakin' good this is. Velvet Owl faves The Black Keys going all urban on our asses. Expect a follow up before the end of the year.

We Own the Sky - M83 Another band with new material waiting in the wings and another example of how the French do electronica better than anyone else. 

Tell Me A Tale - Michael Kiwanuka The bastard son of Roy Ayers and Tracy Chapman. Contender for song of the year. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Agnostic Front, Norwich Arts Centre

Sitting in the pub pre-gig, gazing out of the window at the venue opposite, it's safe to say the Owl are feeling a little pensive.  As our metal correspondent has excitedly informed us, this is a hardcore gig.  And as Dewey Finn pointed out, you're not hardcore, unless you live hardcore. Clearly, the youths congregating outside the Arts Centre certainly look as if they abide by this rule religiously.  There are tattoos.  There are piercings.  There is leather and denim and Joey Barton hair cuts.  There is, in short, menace in the air.  And, seated around our table, the stories are doing the rounds.  Hardcore gigs are just an excuse to fight... A hardcore gig was recently abandoned after the fight spilled onto the stage...Anyone looking even remotely like an indie schmindie wallflower will be dealt with.  Severely... Ulp.
So it is with just a tinge of regret that we have to inform you that the gig was... OK.  There were circle pits, there was much jumping around and, from the Owl's position along the back wall, there was a fair deal of sweat and spittle in the air.  But what we got was a well-drilled band delivering rock n roll thrills amid the odd exhortation to "keep it real".  Well, we kept it real alright, and as the gig progressed, our thoughts turned to past events where life and limb were placed very much on the line...
  • T'Pau, Birmingham NEC.  As messrs Decker and Rodgers sang about cleaning up in the monkey house, one fan took his air-drumming to such frantic heights he almost blacked the Owl's eyes.  It gave us an early insight into the potential perils of the live arena.  To this day, the crazed fan still relives the gig in question, often breaking into an air-sax solo during "China In Your Hand" whilst sitting at traffic lights on the school run.
  • Oasis, Sheffield Arena.  At their first ever official big show, Liam Gallagher decides he's not happy at the number of people sitting up in the Gods, and invites fans to join him down the front, prompting many to ignore security and drop the fifteen feet from the seats down onto the floor.  Suffice to say, fewer people took him up on his offer when the Heathen Chemistry tour rolled into town.
  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Glastonbury.  Despite there being 20,000 people between us and him, the Australian beelzebub still oozes violence, as he attempts to dismantle the stage armed only with a microphone and a death stare aimed solely in our direction.  To add to the surreal air, we are accompanied by an American friend who is clutching great fistfuls of Somerset soil and telling all who will listen that she is, in fact, a tree.  The famous Glastonbury vibe was particularly strong that year...
  • Rocket From The Crypt, Leeds Duchess of York.  During their chart-bothering, "On A Rope" days, the Crypt played an incendiary show at the legendary Yorkshire venue, prompting a Lowenbrau-fuelled Owl to make a rare excursion down the front.  We got knocked down, we got back up again, we got knocked down.  We also got, as a result of much drunken hammering on the band's dressing room door after the gig, what appeared to be a shit-stained towel "signed" by the band.  Thanks Speedo.  The towel still hangs, framed, on a wall of Owl HQ, a reminder of a truly heady evening.  
It's a crazy world people.  let's be careful out there.


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Wonderstuff, Holmfirth Picturedrome

Hunt rocking the Vic Reeves look.
What the hell is wrong with Miles Hunt?

During their pomp (they did have a number one single, you know), a Wonderstuff gig or interview never went by without Hunt spitting out some vicious barbed attack on his contemporaries. Interviews with Hunt were always worth reading, as he couldn't help himself when offered an opportunity to comment on whoever was filling the pages of the NME/Melody Maker at the time, even though he always came across as a bit of a spoilt brat and an unlikeable sort of chap.  So it was very interesting to see Hunt bounce onto the stage this evening with a huge grin on his face and perform a greatest hits set to an up for it crowd as if he was having the time of his life.

With his partner, Erica Nockalls and original band member, Malcom Treece by his side, Hunt joyously belted out songs from the band's first three albums, and instead of firing off insults, he recounted the early days of the band, including a heartfelt tribute to the late, great Kirsty MaColl.  And while anyone turning up to hear that number one single may have been disappointed, the rest of us sang ourselves hoarse to the likes of Welcome to the Cheapseats, Size of a Cow and Golden Green. 

This definitely was a mellower, may I suggest, happier Miles Hunt to the one I saw on the Hup tour in 1989/90 (supported by the Sandkings - who went on to become?) and I felt songs such as A Wish Away and Unbearable were all the better for it. These are songs that should be sang out loud with glee and not shrouded in spite and vitriol. All in all a great night, made all the better by the band appearing to have as much fun playing the songs as we were hearing them again.

The answer to the Sandkings question? Babylon Zoo. A cup of tea and a hobnob to you if you answered correctly.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Velvet Owl Turn Ons - July 2011

The Velvet Owl are making their annual pilgrimage to the Green Man Festival in August, so to celebrate we have handed over the July turn ons selection to our favourite Frenchmen and fellow GM attendee, Cedric Besnard, who has picked out the acts we don't want to miss at the UK's greatest festival.

Having made a possible contender for album of the year, Destroyer's set at GM could be one of those 'get there early to avoid disappointment' affairs even though he is up against the mighty Fleet Foxes on the main stage. Eagle-eyed readers of the VO blog may have noticed that this is the second time the band have featured in our Turn Ons section.

Jack Tatum's Kate Bush covering one-man band should be another big draw at this year's festival. His debut album Gemini featured in Pitchfork's top 50 albums of 2010.

Another one who will no doubt pull in a huge crowd when he headlines the Far Out stage on Sunday evening. Rhys' gig at the Irish Centre in Leeds has also been chosen as the official Velvet Owl night for October so watch out for our review.

Quite possibly the set that will have the whole of Glanusk Park fruggin' like madmen. One not to be missed. 

The unofficial 'Daddy' of Green Man.  Make sure his set is circled in your GM programme.

One of the best kept secrets of the eighties. Morrissey at Glastonbury? Pah! This is the real deal.

The glorious harmonies of TfS will go down a treat whether the sun is shining or the rain is lashing down (like it did last year).

Velvet Owl favourites Y Niwl return to Glanusk Park once again. We're hoping to see the Mucca Mad Boys down the front shaking their tailfeather.  

Psychkrautrock ahoy!

Excellent lo-fi garage rockers from San Francisco should entice a large crowd to hear their Nuggets influenced sound.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Secret Sisters, Norwich Arts Centre

To state the bleedin' obvious, yes, these ladies can sing.  For non-musos like ourselves, the harmonies rang out, the guitar-playing was pitch perfect and the renditions of tunes old and new were incredibly faithful and on the money.  Did that make the gig exciting? An event?  In a word, no. 
If this is your thing, then there was much to savour.  But upon leaving the venue and hearing one attendee comment that "it was ok, but my legs are aching from all that standing up", it was clear that, for some, the Owl included, there was just something missing.  
But by means of a review, that's all you're getting, because the real action happened after the show, when the Norwich Owl members achieved something we thought may be beyond our wildest dreams, and threw down the gauntlet to our friends in the north. In short, we Drank With The Band.  See, while y'all may dream about it, and Nick Hornby may write fiction about it (loser), we actually made it happen as, after some drunken badgering and much promise of us getting a round in, the band (well, one of them.  And the support act) joined us over the road in The Ten Bells, Norwich's finest post-gig boozer, to talk tunes and influences.
At least, that's what happened in our heads, and we are fairly certain that Lydia (our new secret sister) was absolute charm personified, dissecting the night's gig, filling us in on future shows (Hop Farm! We were drinking with royalty!) and letting us in on the glamorous life on the road we always thought was just like  Motley Crue told us it was, only with maybe slightly less shagging. ( It isn't.  It involves Premier Inn.) No, the problem was, the Owl were absolutely twatted, and therefore probably didn't provide the kind of post-gig relaxation our esteemed guests were after.
So, Lydia, if you should read this, then we are sorry.  Sorry for calling you "secret sister", and not Lydia.  Sorry for telling you over and over again that you really should be listening to the new Wild Beasts album, and for insisting that you need to check out the great, wonderful, amazing (etc) Laura Marling.  Sorry for promising to buy you a drink and then having to pool all our change just to make it happen.  Sorry for shouting, ranting, gesticulating and pointing and being unable to maintain an upright posture for very long.  Sorry sorry sorry.
But we remember (we think) a hug as you left us, and a claim that you had enjoyed our company.  So we look forward to doing it again.  And next time?  We won't drink so much.  As long as you don't play "Homeward Bound".


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Spoilt Lincolnian Child & the best of the last 6 months

Funny thing music lists.  Usually end up looking a bit silly a few years down the line as most of these can verify. Either you get it totally wrong or the information is about as inspiring as a Reef reunion. 
My current art concerns the manipulation of banal band information (often discographies/gigographies) creating a new language that is mostly unreadable but still with enough data to make for an interactive spectacle for an audience. These lists are intended to reflect my own concerns with modern social networking and the seemingly impenetrable mush of unnecessary internet nostalgia. However, I am as immersed in internet culture as the rest of us, so until I find a way out I guess I'll continue to pour over missed gigs, Britpop trivia and the setlist of Leeds Festival 2002 and wish I had have chosen to watch Aphex Twin OR Ladytron OR the White Stripes OR ANYTHING ELSE other than Feeder that Friday night.
Who cares what your top ten Fall songs are anyway?

A Snowflake Arrangement of every Stone Roses Concert I Never went to 

Alas, like the beloved internet, too much has already been said so I will keep it brief.  In no more than 5 words (ish) here is a list of my top 10 albums of the year at the midpoint with handy little links:


Sounding ‘refreshingly’ like Loveless 2011

Mogwai: are Slint. . . Again. GREAT.”


“Is ‘gypsy-folk two words?”

Like a clinically depressed CAN” (Not me, Stewart Lee)

Pain. Pain. Never Again.” Lovely

love affair of the decade?

Sonic Mary Dinosaur Chain Youth

Norwich folk drone Fuzz Buttons

And if the list were longer (and in no more than two words) it would also include Echo Lake (Cocteau-Triplets), Esben & the Witch (glorious gloom), Metronomy (seaside bop), Explosions in the Sky (Softly LOUD), the Suede reissues (Britpop Nitrate) and if there has been another Fall album released that I may have missed.

Finally, in no more than one word the last 6 months has seen renewed interest/new found love for Spacemen3 Reccurring (COCK), Boo Radleys Everything’s Alright Forever  (PISS) and Pulp Different Class (PARTRIDGE).

So if I were you and weren’t me and had just over a hundred quid knocking about, I would go and buy the lot. Or at least make a list of every Oasis song that mentions the weather.  Then put it online for all to see. Forever.


An Arrangement of Everyone and Everything that appears on the cover of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

An Arrangement of Every Mogwai song recorded up to March 2011

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Velvet Owl Turn Ons - June 2011

Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know - New album due in September. Everything is alright with the world.

Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks - Despite its outrageously summer vibe, this song from LA's Foster the People hides a dark heart 'All the other kids with the pumped up kicks/You better run, better run faster than my bullet'.  The trenchcoat mafia may have a new anthem. Beats Marilyn Manson I suppose.

My Morning Jacket - Holding On To Black Metal - One of the most joyous uplifting songs of 2011. If the woah, woah, woahs don't send a shiver down your spine, then you're most probably clinically dead. 

Jonathan Jeremiah - Happiness - Not another fucking bearded troubadour I hear you scream. Yep. And the video has him moodily walking along a railway track. Cliched twat! Lovely song, mind. 

Destroyer - Kaputt - I love this video. I love this song. The soft rock revival starts right here, right now.

Tyler the Creator - Yonkers - Another great video for one of the darkest and dirtiest songs of the year. I would love to see the white middle-class ladies shake their booty to this at the local street dance fitness session. 

Explosions in the Sky - Last Known Surroundings - One for the lights off and headphones on. An incredible piece of music from Austin, Texas' post rock dreamweavers. 

Vetiver - Wonder Why - A quite lovely piece of blissed out acoustica from Andy Cabic's new album The Errant Charm. 

tUnE yArDs - Bizness - If Joss Stone had been making records like this, I reckon those two keystone kidnappers would have stayed the fuck away from her home due to the fact they would have thought her insane.

Sleigh Bells - Rill Rill - Despite the wintry name, this Spectoresque new single from NYC's Sleigh Bells is a perfect accompaniment to these balmy summer days we are enjoying.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Drever, McKusker, Woomble, Holmbridge Village Hall, Huddersfield

It's not often (never, in my experience) that a gig starts with an announcement regarding 'A spot of housekeeping'. But that is exactly how tonight's show gets underway: 'Lavs at the exit to the right...meat tray raffle at the interval'.  You could never imagine something like this at the MEN Arena prior to a Kings of Leon gig - 'There is no plan for a fire alarm test this evening, so if the alarm sounds, please make your way towards a fire exit....and now please welcome to the stage the stars of tonight's show... KINGS OF LEON!!!!!!'

The ramshackle, slightly amateur feel to tonight's proceedings actually add to the sense of occasion as we took our seats (does sitting down make it a concert rather than a gig?) in the draughty surroundings of Holmbridge Village Hall filled to the rafters with locals - some of whom look as if they have just stepped off the set of The Wicker Man - to catch three of Scotland's finest songwriters performing here as part of the Holmfirth Arts Festival.  Accompanied by Heidi Talbot, the group run through a number of tracks from their 2008 album 'Before The Ruin' and have the attentive and appreciative crowd on their side from the start. With Kris Drever and Idlewild front man Roddy Woomble sharing the vocal duties, songs such as 'Into the Blue' and 'Silver and Gold' sound incredible as they resonate through the hall, and with the accompaniment of multi-instrumentalist John McKusker and the honeyed tones of Talbot on backing vocals, the band's alluring sound made for a bewitching night.  In the presence of great musicians such as we were tonight, folk gigs can often be a little too reverential for my taste, but the atmosphere and rapport between the group and their audience felt natural and relaxed and suited the welcoming if somewhat ungig-like surroundings. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Kills, Metropolitan University, Leeds

Describing the time he first set eyes on Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton said:

"She was so extraordinarily beautiful that I nearly laughed out loud. She ... [was] famine, fire, destruction and plague ... the only true begetter. Her breasts were apocalyptic, they would topple empires before they withered ... her body was a miracle of construction ... She was unquestionably gorgeous. She was lavish. She was a dark, unyielding largesse. She was, in short, too bloody much ... Those huge violet blue eyes... had an odd glint... Aeons passed, civilizations came and went while these cosmic headlights examined my flawed personality. Every pockmark on my face became a crater of the moon."

I thought about what Burton had said, as I watched the interplay between former lovers Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart (off of The Kills) and wondered if anyone had written lyrics that captured the exhilarating rush of being in love as well as Burton. Following some serious consideration, here's the Velvet Owl top 10:

The Crystals - Then He Kissed Me: 'He kissed me in a way that I've never been kissed before, he kissed me in a way that I wanna be kissed for ever more'

The Beatles - I Want to Hold Your Hand: 'Oh yeah, I'll tell you something, I think you'll understand, when I say that something, I wanna hold your hand'

Elbow - One Day Like This: 'What made me behave this way, using words I never say? I can only think it must be love'

Elvis Presley - Burning Love: Lord almighty, I feel my temperature rising. Higher and higher it's burning through to my soul'

The Flaming Lips - Do You Realize: 'Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face?'

Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run: 'Together Wendy well live with the sadness, Ill love you with all the madness in my soul. Someday girl I don't know when we're gonna get to that place where we really want to go, and well walk in the sun, but till then tramps like us, baby we were born to run'

Etta James - At Last: 'At last, my love has come along, my lonely days are over, and life is like a song'

Lamb - Gorecki: If I should die this very moment, I wouldn't fear, for I have never known completeness like being here. Wrapped in the warmth of you, loving every breath of you'.

Nick Cave: The Ship Song: 'Come sail your ships around me and burn your bridges down. We make a little history baby every time you come around. Come loose your dogs upon me and let your hair hang down. You are a little mystery to me, every time you come around'

The Beach Boys - God Only Knows: I may not always love you, but as long as there are stars above you, you never need to doubt it, I'll make you so sure about it'


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Johnny Foreigner, Norwich Arts Centre

Performing before a backdrop of the recent film version of "Where The Wild Things Are" seems a little incongruous in tonight's setting - if the Owl wished to see a movie there is a perfectly good cinema five minutes up the road, and a wet Thursday night in Norwich is definitely not the place to find anything wild - but it is the dilemma facing Johnny Foreigner as they attempt to enthrall a somewhat meagre crowd.  It is, in fairness, an evening that deserves greater support, with six acts playing across the two rooms of the Arts Centre, all for the recession-busting fee of five quid, but the sparseness of the crowd does not appear to deter our nominal headliners.
Indeed, JF pull something of a fast one, with the boy/girl vocalists craftily placing themselves among the crowd as the drummer alone takes to the stage, before belting out the opening number unamplified whilst standing amongst the "throng".  It makes for something of a spectacle, albeit a low-key one.  I look forward to seeing them repeat the trick at the O2. 
Unfortunately, once back on stage and plugged in, the remainder of the set makes for quite lumpy fare, heavy on perspiration but light on the thrills we seek in a Jack n Meg free environment.  Regrettably, a detailed knowledge of the Pixies back catalogue does not automatically turn you into tunesmiths in the Black/Deal mould, and a few more surprises tonight would have helped divert our attention from the wild beasts performing over the band's shoulders.  


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Velvet Owl Turn Ons - May 2011

Please note: This blog posting does not include any music produced by or featuring Will.I.Am

Arctic Monkeys - Don't Sit Down Because I've Moved Your Chair The indie titans are back with a new album to be released in June. This is the first single to be taken from it, and Turner's lyrics have definitely moved on from catching taxis in Hillsborough.

Bon Iver - Calgary New material from Bon Iver is a joy to behold. And news that he has announced a UK tour for November has made us all giddy kippers at VO Towers. 

The Kills - Satellite Chosen via the process of a lucky dip, the Velvet Owl Gig Collective's official outing for May will be The Kills at Leeds Uni.  If you're interested, the other gigs in the lucky dip were Yuck, Drive by Truckers, Cults and Wild Beasts.

Friendly Fires - Live Those Days Tonight Hands up, who thinks this sounds like Living in a Box? Rumours that the new album features a cover of Matthew Wilder's Break My Stride are as yet unfounded.

The Leisure Society - This Phantom Life Ok, we appreciate it's only May, but The Leisure Society's new album Into the Murky Water is already shaping up to be one of this year's best. 

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You While we're happy The Leisure Society are playing this year's Green Man Festival, we nearly exploded with excitement when we found out these boys were rocking up too. If you don't own the best album of 2010 -from which this song is the title track- then shame on you!

Pete and the Pirates - Mr Understanding While it does sound like a secret track from I Should Coco, it doesn't stop us from plugging in our air guitars and pulling off some Townshend-esque windmilling here at VO Towers.

My Morning Jacket - Circuital To paraphrase that famous saying 'Tired of Jim James' voice, then you're tired of life' This is phenomenal!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Jim Jones Revue, Norwich Waterfront

Much as we here in the Norwich Owl nest are looking forward to Tom Vek's new direction and have been blown away by Radiohead's brave latest venture (actually that's not true.  Either make a proper record Thom and co., or go away), there is nothing we like more than a good bit of honest, kick-ass rock n roll.  And so it is that we have converged on the Waterfront to check out the Jim Jones revue, confident that the traditional use of strings and keys will bring plenty of saturday night thrills.  And so it proves as, in front of a healthy all-ages crowd, the 21st century's finest Little Richard tribute band sweat buckets for the cause.
On record, the Revue's all-out assault can sound a little one-dimensional, but here it makes perfect sense, and as the likes of "Dishonest John" and album title track "Burning Your House Down" pummel the ears of the good people of East Anglia, it is clear that the good time sought by tonight's audience is being delivered in spades.  A little change of pace on occasion wouldn't go amiss, but subtlety is not really the aim here, and 80 minutes of blistering noise later, all appetites appear sated.
Leaving the venue by ten o'clock (to make room for Norwich's premier indie night, at which the hard-working DJs spin the same tunes in the same order as they have done for the past thirty years), all Owls agree that the spirit of rock and roll lives on in the lean frame of Jim and his classically attired cronies. By all means music needs to evolve and push envelopes, but sometimes a quiff, a leather jacket and a celebration of rock's history will suffice. A top night out.


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Velvet Owl Turn Ons - April 2011

As a staunch royalist (ahem), this month's Velvet Owl Turn On list is dedicated to Wills and Kate and is offered as an alternative playlist to get Dave (in his morning suit) and the President of Swaziland up onto the dancefloor at the evening do.

Beastie Boys - Make Some Noise - What better way of getting the party started than three fifty year old Buddhists making music for fourteen year old boys.  This is wack!

Metronomy - The Look - Guaranteed to get even the more dancefloor-phobic guests cutting a rug, this is one of the standout tracks from Metronomy's third album The English Riviera. 

The Jim Jones Revue - Dishonest John - Not sure whether wedding DJ Pat Sharpe will have this in his record box, but he is bound to be asked for it, as we all know Prince Phillip loves a bit of dirty rock n roll. 

Wild Beasts - Albatross - Princess Anne's second favourite band. Fact!

TV on the Radio - Will Do - By the time Sharpey drops this one, Dave will have shed the morning suit coat and have his Bullingdon Club tie wrapped around his head and have been told to 'calm down, dear' by the Queen.

Keren Ann - My Name is Trouble - Disappointed that the Fun Factory host is refusing to play any Three Degrees or the 12" version of Let's All Chant, Charlie will skulk off to the lav and listen to this on his Ipod. 

Trembling Bells - Goathland - In case you were wondering, these are Princess Anne's favourite band.

Cats eyes - Love you Anyway - Fergie (not the one off of Black Eyed Peas) will be using the fact that the dancefloor will be full during this song to sweep up all the disposable cameras to sell to the highest Fleet Street bidder.

By the time the Gregg's buffet comes out, we expect the party to be in full swing, but as our invite has yet to arrive, we will have to make do with watching the whole shebang on TV. All we need to decide is whether we go with Bowman or Schofield.

Until next time..

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Metronomy, The Hop, Wakefield

There are two bands headlining at The Hop this evening. Upstairs, Metronomy. Joe Mount's band of electro-lites out to promote their latest album.  Downstairs, Styckleback. Originally called Katan and then Bite the Mango, Styckleback are 'guaranteed to get your feet tapping and dancing in the aisles'. Needless to say, we head straight upstairs.

It's not even May, but Velvet Owl are tipping Metronomy's third album The English Riviera to be riding high in a number of Best of 2011 lists come Christmas.  So watching them perform above a Wakefield boozer on a balmy April evening, could well be our last chance to see them in more intimate surroundings before the less cooler kids catch on and declare them to be the saviours of electro. 

Taking to the tiny stage, the four-piece kick off with 'We Broke Free' before switching on their chest-lights to play 'My Heart Rate Rapid' which gets the already up for it crowd hooting and howling in delight.  From here on in, the band lock into an irresistable groove with songs such as 'Heartbreaker' 'The Look' and 'She Wants' forcing even the most uptight audience members to nod their head along in appreciation.  It is, however, 'Corinne' from the new album, with its playful drum sound and New Order-esque keyboards that gives the impression that Metronomy are primed and ready for the next level. 

I'm not quite sure what Styckleback's next level would be, but as we leave, their version of The Automatic's 'Monster' has the good people of Wakefield 'tapping their feet and dancing in the aisles' of the Hop's main bar. And it is this tune, and not, say, 'The Look' that I find myself humming all the way home.

Damn you, Styckleback!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Record Store Day – the plaster for the severed artery…..

Well this Saturday sees the third Record Store Day an annual event designed to make us all head back into the record shops we have so shamelessly turned our backs on. As an industry that so famously reacts rather than plans I can’t help but think the horse has bolted boys?

So how are they tempting us back into their beloved outlets? By releasing God knows how many ultra-limited edition instant rarities available only in the shops on Saturday. Simple really can’t think why they never thought of it earlier. Like about 10 years earlier when the writing first appeared on the wall maybe.

The problem I have with all this is it really is just a total reaction to shops closing but it is not stopping them closing throughout the year. Perhaps if the record companies had looked after these shops when they were still a viable proposition things might have panned out differently. But no a Faustian pact was made with the supermarkets and there was I’m afraid to say no going back on that one. I remember when we had our shop it was actually cheaper for us to buy cd’s from Tesco than to stock them direct from EMI or BMG so frankly a 7” limited edition of Layla is too little too late. If they want to help shops give them exclusives all year round and give them fair deals.

Now whilst I appreciate it must be nice for the shops to be guaranteed at least one bumper day a year we all know that most of these releases are gonna end up on e-bay like the Blur 45 did last year within an hour of the shops opening. The queues are gonna be full of dealers and their little cohorts getting all giddy ‘cos they bagged one of the Seeds 10” and though they know nothing of what the Seeds actually sound like they do know that they sell well and are collectable. Why don’t they just go and collect stamps or phone cards not music that actually means something to people and take their Thatcherite principles of first come first served with them?

Ultimately Record Store Day is a bit like Mother’s Day it’s nice to buy her a card and let her know she’s appreciated but would she not prefer it if you told her all year round?