Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dour Festival Memories: 2004 - chaos and rock'n roll

I'm quite surprised that I still have memories of Dour Festival 2004, it was an excessive year. Popbitch hosted a tent and we had great great fun. None more so than with 2 intoxicated skinny leather-clad Finns from New York who were having the time of their life: Dead Combo (no, not the Portuguese duo, but the Suicide worshippers) This story cannot be told but it involves a naked Nuutti (Who had lost all clothes, ticket planes, passport...) strong vodka, my beautiful friend Camilla and a DJ set by 2many DJs vs James Murphy on the main stage. It was rock'n roll, it was great fun! If any of you know what Harri and Nuutti are up to today, let me know! Dour starts in 2 days, 2 days!

Best Dour memories:1997 Happy birthday Carlo! Arkarna

so 1997 Catherine, Vero and I were celebrating Carlo, Mister Dour festival's birthday with a cake when suddenly this cute little pixie entered the kitchen and joined us for a piece of cake. I won't say any more of Catherine and I's adoration for the little pixie's rather poppish band (or his bassist for that matter)nor will I dilvuge any secrets from our driving them back to their hotel (no, really) This is very much in the guilty pleasure genre. hey it was 1997 ok? it's also the only review I ever did for Serge Coosemans that he appreciated "rubbish band, but i can finally see that you can do more than smile, not bad for a girl" love you too S!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dour Festival best memories: 1996 G Love & The Special Sauce

Lets go backward by 10 years: direction 1996 for very different genres

By then Dour festival was starting to attract some big big names like Iggy Pop or Coolio.
Now, even when you work backstage at a festival, toilets are always a test of nerves. At Dour there were 2 proper toilets and some portaloos.
I prefer proper toilets. So I headed there. No queue, just one person in the loo. hurrah! I wait. Then a young singer arrives. We wait. We wait some more. We look at each other thinking that we knew what that person was doing in there. We wait some more. We start laughing and joking about the state of the loo after the lengthy visit. Then the door opens. who else but Iggy pop steps out, happy as larry. I can therefore confirm that rock stars go for number 2 like everybody else.

Oh yeah the young funny singer who was waiting with me for Iggy to be done? A certain Brian Molko who still had hair...

Now another embarrassing moment in 2006 was meeting the guys from G Love and The Special Sauce. I was a big fan back then and found mister G Love rather tasty (especially shirtless playing football next to the tour bus)

The 2 other musicians probably thought I was nice as they invited me to visit their golden tour bus ( yeah I didn't fall for that one, don't worry) and I got a lovely pink T-shirt that I still own today.

During that time, the production team went to see G Love himself and asked him to sign a demo tape for me. The only "star" signature I ever got. And I was mortified...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dour Festival best memories: 2006 T-Raumschmiere

2006 one of my favourite year ever at Dour. The electronic bill was magnificent  and the cherry on the cake for me came in the shape of German electropunk maestro T.Raumschmiere.

I was my with good friend Mike who had received a backstage pass due to his shoulder being in pieces and after I finished work and a few drinks we wandered in the dark from stage to stage until we arrived in the middle of T.Raumschmiere' set. It was a proper WOOOOOOAAAAAAH moment- we both felt like we were very lucky to witness that and we were galvanised by the power and  strength of the German's music. His show was raw and brutal but very honest and energetic. he contortioned his body into odd shapes, like he was bringing his many tattoos alive. It was punk. It was electro. It was my best moment at Dour Festival.

(funny thing is that in my memory he has his full back tattooed as a spine - looks like I dreamt that one)

In 2006 I was working at the press desk and didn't have much time to see a lot of concerts but I managed to escape my duties to check the Californian folky duo Two Gallants.
I really liked their 2nd album What The Toll Tells ( on Saddle Creek) and their live show was perfect for a mid afternoon festival, full of odd and funny things, like a dummy...

The last big memory from 2006 was another American duo: Giant Drag. It was my favourite live band from that year having seen them at a raucous show at the Barfly. The transition to late morning Belgian festival wasn't a smooth one but once Annie got into the spirits of things, the end of the gig was fabulous and very much IN YOUR FACE. Proper festival appearance!

More info about Dour 2012: full line up, tickets etc... on their site of course

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dour Festival best memories: 1993 - Miranda Sex Garden

In 10 days The 24th Dour Festival will take place in that little coal mining village of Dour. To celebrate this massive event, I wanted to share with you my 10 favourite musical moments at Dour Festival throughout the years. My love story with DMF (shush Alex!) started at the first edition in 1989 but i was consumed in 1993 when I first started working with the team. My job was to welcome the bands and make sure they were ok during their stay. Cool, right?
1993 was also the year when foreign indie bands appeared on the bill a bet that has now become the festival signature.

Musically I was excited to see The God Machine live and to meet face to face with lead singer Robin Propper Shepard for the first time: he was tall, handsome, dressed in black and made furiously good music.

Since then Robin has moved on to creating Sophia and has spent a lot of time in Brussels, we've become mates but on that day the young me was mightily impressed and I enjoyed the show enormously !

The other big memory from 1993 was less musical but more linked to what happens backstage. One big name of the bill was Londoners Miranda Sex Garden. they were signed to Mute and had made a name for themselves marrying beautiful vocals with wall of sound type guitars. Think of The Corrs but indie and with plenty of drugs.

The show was heavy, chaotic and very noisy. Great! In the dressing rooms though it was a funnier affair. The band were out of it and started stripping to jump in the tiny fountain that was added in the backstage area to make it pretty.
This is one of my fondest memory of Dour, silly as it sounds...

More tomorrow


Saturday, June 2, 2012

En Francais avec Miossec

La FRRRRRANCE: country of wine, cheese, grumpy French Men, La Nouvelle Vague, le Cancan and some old musical heros.
I quickly stopped listening to music made in France, apart from Brel (a Begian), Brassens (family tradition), Gainsbourg (who doesn't?) and Noir Desir, the only French band deserving the rock title in my then young opinion.

Then in 1995, a new singer from Brittany caught my ear and finally reconciled me with songs en Francais. His name Christophe Miossec. The song: Non, Non, Non, Non

His first album Boire, showcased a very direct, even sometimes violent writing style using unashamedly tough words backed up by sparse but melodic music. He was compared to Gainsbourg by lazy people who had not enough references, but this comparison highlighted the great quality of this album and atypical singer.

The album closes with the great Que Devient Ton Poing

A few years later, in 1997,I was working for Miossec's label and had to take care of his press days. Back then he was a beast of excess, both charming and vulnerable yet defiant and self-destructive. When we worked on the promotion for his second album Baiser (which could be understood as kiss but is here meant as fuck - a great example of the man's cultural dichotomy) he used to like calling me 'salope' with a lot of affection... I keep great memories of these times despite this unfortunate nickname.

Baiser was crude but a stunning album. Like a harsh spotlight on the life of malfunctioning man, it explores themes like (in)fidelity and other couple issues without hiding behind modesty or images. A cock is a cock in Miossec's work

I've always enjoyed his use of the French Language, which he did in a more aggressive and less poetic way than a lot of his contemporaries. He is able to be both disarming and terribly macho in 3 minutes, like he does in Le Celibat. You don't know if you want to pity him or hit him hard in the face...

In 1998 came A Prendre, his biggest commercial success, which I never really connected with. It was followed 3 years later by Brule, an album that completely passed me by.
I became reacquainted with Miossec in 2004, when he released 1964. An album more mature and polished but that hinted more at the compositions of his early career. The first single was the stunningly sad Je M'En Vais

sorry, wiping those tears.

Mio doesn't just sing about relationships, he also enjoys depicting ordinary lives or celebrate his roots, like his hometown of Brest

L'Etreinte, Finisteriens and Chansons Ordinaires were released in 2006,2009 and 2011, but that will be for another time.

Bon week-end!

PS: thank you @waldorf_be for the inspiration

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Desert Island album II: Humbug by The Arctic Monkeys

So, last night I had a dream about Guns n Roses despite the fact that, like everyone else, I spent the whole day playing the Beastie Boys back catalogue. Why on eartah did I dream of them?
I woke up a bit worried that I would be humming the Guns all day, I mean I loved them back in the days and they were one of the first band I REALLY got into but, well, today their tunes are still fab at beer-filled parties but maybe not as the soundtrack to a rainy Sunday in May.

My rock genes HAD to do something and put a wrong right...I felt an urge to listen on The Arctic Monkey's third album Humbug to remember all that is not cliché about rock' n roll (and I do love a good cliché or two)
Humbug then, definitely an album I'd have to have on a desert Island, just because 3 years after its release and thousands of listens later, I still discover subtleties about this magnificent piece of art and I always get that rush of excitement and pleasure. 

Not much so than on the first track of the album, my favourite track of theirs My Propeller

Turner's voice is much deeper, more menacing, whispering than on previous records, a very seductive tone indeed; he controls its effects perfectly to fit the hypnotic rhythm section.
As always the lyrics are top notch and with that modulated delivery, the band reaches what sounds to me like a prefect rock song. It always takes me on a throbbing trip and I keep wanting more...

Track number 2 was the first single, Crying Lightning; it took me a while to take it in. Musically it's a bit louder and angrier (the album is part produced by Josh Homme after all) but I finally fell in love with the lyrics: "And my thought got rude as you talked and chewed on the last of your pick' n mix" 

Ok, I admit I adore singing the chorus out loud in my flat and it feels fucking great (maybe not for my neighbours), the way each word musically falls into the other one 'Your past time consisted of the strange and twisted and deranged and I hate that little game you had called Crying Lightning" and delivered in that Yorkshire accent makes it even more perfect.

Now, we arrive at Dangerous Animals, a syncopated little number that follows the same high tempo and quality as the first 2 songs. Here the fuzzy guitar riffs are the heroes, fusing with beating drums and a warm bass line.

That fast & furious rhythm is broken up by the intro of Secret Door a more melancholic tune, still held together by strong pounding by Matt Helders who must be one of the best rock drummers out there

Now that we have our breath back, it's time to dive back into the fast and furious Potion Approaching

Much more punk rock circa 1992 than the rest of the album it's an uppercut to the jaw that turn into a vicious repetition 'yours is the only ocean", threatening to turn into a Led Zeppling homage song.

Half way trough the album Fire and the Thud sees Turner at his most seducing, telling us dirty secrets in the ear enticing the listener in his world in a song that relies more on atmosphere than brute force to make its point.

The 2nd masterpiece of the album is Cornerstone, the sad and beautiful tale of a lovelorn guy seeing his ex girlfriend everywhere he goes. Turner does dreamy as well as he does sexy.

They did a few acoustic versions for radio shows

Again, the lyrics stand out, very clever use of the English language. He's at his most precise with his observations of our every day lives.
"I elongated my lift home, Yeah I left him go the long way home. I smelt your scent on the seatbelt and kept my shortcuts to myself" 

With Dance Little Liars, we're back into the throbbing yet menacing territories that inhabit the album as a whole, with fabulous rolling drums and a great guitar solo at the end.

Penultimate track, Pretty Visitors, starts like a Nick Cave song but quickly speeds up into the rockier and heavier track of the album. Here, Turner spits his lyrics and let them click and clack with a vigour in contrast with backing vocals during the chorus that sound like they're slowed down.

Finally, The Jeweller's Hands closes this great album with a stoner note. The album was partly recorded in the desert and this song reeks of psychedelic drugs and contemplation. The bass vrooms (it should be a verb, really) and warms up everything. When the guitars emerge at the end, together with another repetitive chorus, like a mantra, it makes you just long to start playing the whole album again...

So go on, download or buy this brilliant album if you don’t own it yet and play it loud, it is a seminal album that will be played by your kids and grandkids who will ask you "hey did you like them when you were young?" Would be silly to answer no, right?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's Friday, I'm in Love

Warning: this blogpost contains high levels of saccharine <3

It's officially spring and despite the constant rain, you can see a sparkle in people's eyes and a smile on a lot of faces. yes it's spring and tis the season to be in looooove.
Musically there are many more heartbreak songs than 'oh my god I'm so happy I'm going to explode' ones, a genre more reserved to autotuned radio pop or bands like Coplday but, even old rockers are allowed to revel in their own happiness as The Cure proved in 1992 with one of their most famous song: Friday I'm in Love

Talking of famous songs, we have the "most-covered-song-on-youtube-but-never-equalled" First Day of My Life from Bright Eyes' 2005 album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.
It's sweet, it's a tad naive, very hopeful and altogether brilliantly romantic!
Here's a live version

Obviously, for every occasion, there is a fitting PJ Harvey song. I usually prefer her pissed off but she does a great job at being in lust and in love. "I can't believe life is so complex when I just want to sit here and watch you undress" has got to be in the top 10 lyrics ever. This Is Love was released in 2000 in her most commercially acclaimed album Stories from the city, Stories From The Sea


Ok, I'm a bit greedy so here's my other PJ-In-Love favourite track: It's You from her following album Uh Huh Her in 2004.

If indie electronica is more your style, Ben Gibbard's The Postal Service have written a lovely song as B-side to single We Will Become Silhouette. Be Still My heart is all about the hopes of a bourgeoning relationship.

Another man who is consumed by love, is brit singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt on his first album Here Be Monsters in 2001. She Fell Into My Arms is a pretty song that will put a smile on your day.

Last but not least for today, my very favourite: Beth Orton's Central Reservation. 'I can still smell you on my fingers and taste you on my breath' how sexy is that? Very!

I realise there are actually quite a few happy-happy-joy-joy-i-have-a-stupid-smile-on-my-face tracks that are also musically good so give me your favourite falling in love songs and we'll do another post soon.

Enjoy Record Store Day, buy loads of music, be happy and go kiss that attractive stranger


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Death Grips wake up an old grumpy music lover

So there I was, lamenting my recent  lack of excitment for new music. Am I becoming too old? Too blase? Too 'yeah seen it before and got the T-Shirt'? All the music I've enjoyed recently has come from old bands most of whom I liked when I was 18 already.
The song I've obsessed about the most in 2012 is 1,5 year old, the SUPERB 'Spain' by Blonde Redhead, band formed in 93 in NYC, on their latest album Penny Sparkle

This song title is especially apt as I've been revisiting my old Spain albums, we're talking about Josh Haden's band now. They too are making a come back and will be playing Les Nuits Botaniques in May (yeah I have my ticket already, you bet!) Once again we're talking about 90s music, as Blue Moods of Spain was released in 1995.

Maybe it is because I have a fondness for slash-your-wrists-music (well I love a good rocking tune too you know) but I've been musically subdued lately and failed to get OHMYGODexcited in a while. That was it, I was just another old fart...

BUT then one day, I noticed a enthusiastic tweet from the taleted BBC reviewer and lovely bloke Mike Diver (@mikediver) he was reviewing a hip hop album by Sacramento-based trio Death Grips. He sounded so excited (and we've often had similar taste in music) that I fell compelled to hit youtube and discover what the hell he was all about. WOOOAW proper hip hop with such intensity, urgency,dissatifaction...and a sound that took a few listens to really digest.
Mike is better with words than me, so I'll let you read is review to get a sense of what that album "money store" is all about.
As for me, it feels like I've been punched in the face, the stomach and the ears and it got my heart pumping. Try it if you dare!

Single 'Guillotine' is quite astonishing and doesn't appear on Money Store, probably slightly easier to digest.

Sometimes, we need to get out of our comfort zone to get a kick in the ass and get going again. A few years ago it was Blakroc and These New Puritans who administrated said kick, today it's Death Grips and I F*cking thank them for that!

One last for the road, got your seatbelt on?  It's Blackjack

Death Grips are on Twitter and they will have a second album out later in 2012 - Money Store is in the shops now

Spain are playing the Cirque Royal on Saturday 12/05 and Josh haden is also on twitter

Monday, February 13, 2012

Desert Island Albums: Afghan Whigs "Gentlemen"

This is torture, choosing 10 albums to take on a desert island. But it forces us to look at the crème de la crème in our CD collections. Those albums without fillers that have accompanied us for a long time. Albums that we keep going back to over and over again, like our musical best friends. It's obviously unfair to the more recent music as we have not yet had the time to create a special relationship with those chords, choruses...they're not yet part of our history. But hell... that's life, right?

So the first album I'd take with me on that dreaded desert island is Gentlemen by The Afghan Whigs. As starters, I'd like to stare at pictures of Greg Dulli if I was stuck on an empty island. The Greg Dulli version 1992 more than the 2012 one, mind. No offense Greg, but you were mightily sexy back then.

So Gentlemen, Afghan Whigs's 4th album, released in 1993 after the succes of Congregation and it's anthemic "Miles Iz Dead"
I instantly fell in love with the artwork. I usually hate kids in films, ads, etc... but that picture...waaaw it says a thousand stories.

The still teenager Sophie loved the tortured lyrics from a bad boy with a little boy's heart inside who wants to love but still courts pleasure instead. Oh dear...
To this day this album has meant a lot to me and I like to blame it for my poor taste in men :-D
Yes Greg Dulli, it's all you fault, you hear me?

The album starts with "If I were Going" which sounds like a menu for the 10 tracks to follow, borrowing lyrics from other tracks on the album. it's a grand entrance that does whet the listener's appetite. Perfect opening then

Song number 2 is the title track, a grungy affair in which our hero wants to be understood and screams at the top of his lungs that he is not a bastard. oh no.

Then comes one of my highlights of the album "Be Sweet" - the rhythm slightly slower but with more pathos, the lyrics have time to ferment and reach their full meaning. 
The only video I've found is a live recording but well, the Dulli charm sure translates well that way too

"Ladies, let me tell you about myself
I got a dick for a brain
And my brain is gonna sell my ass to you.
Now I'm OK, but in time I'll find I'm stuck
'Cause she wants love, and still want to fuck"

Yeah proper romantic that, but girls will be girls and for some reason some of us find that appealing. Call the doctor please!

Onto track 4: another fabulous moment on the album "Debonair"
another live performance as I can't seem to find any proper recordings - and gosh the 90s haven't seem so far and outdated than today...

"Hear me now and don't forget
I'm not the man my actions would suggest
A Little Boy, I'm tied to you
I fell apart
That's what I always do..."

Can you feel the tortured soul, can you? Don't you want to take him in your arms? huh?

Mid album, comes the slow, that terribly saaaaad song with tears rolling on everybody's cheeks. The moment couples fall apart "When we Two parted" but damn they manage to still make it sound sexy (and sick). 

Track 6 et 7: "Fountain & Fairfax and What Jail Is Like" are two very fine poppy grunge tracks in the same vain as the rest of the album, with lyrics and a delivery that clack! in your ears and abdomen
Dulli stays a repentent macho, the guitars are syncopated and the bass vroooms warmly to keep us at arms reach, like a victim happy to stay with its jailor.

Then comes My Curse, one of my favourite piece of music EVER. This track is so f*cking sexy with lots of other emotions attached. I've had many different relationships with that song and its slightly provocative lyrics, its dramatic music and this little je-ne-sais quoi that has always touched me. 

Just close your eyes and listen to this little gem:

"And there's blood on my teeth
When I bite my tongue to speak
Zip me down, kiss me there
I can smile now
You won't find out...ever"

The last 3 tracks from the album always kinda pass me by, just like after great love making, you hear them, its good but what was before was so good and so intense that it never really registers. 

Since 1993 I must have listened to Gentlemen thousands of times, it's been a good friend giving me bad advice for nearly 20 years.
I saw the Whigs just before the release of the album, in 1992 when they played in a small venue in Leuven. I was a young music fan and after the show Dulli spontaneously came to shake my hand and said "thanks for coming to the show". I was in love. I bought a T-shirt and vowed that Afghan Whigs would be my favourite band forever.

This year they are starting to tour again and I bloody well hope to see them live, hopefully in a venue and if not at a festival.

The grunge sound has aged a bit and the lyrics don't touch me the same way today but I still love that band and that album for being my good friends all these years. So yes, I'll take them with me on a desert island.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jack White, on his own, without interruption

Today, Jack White has officially released his first solo single. Titled Love Interruption, its musical landscape borrows more from the Country and Americana tradition than to his usual energy-filled blues-rock. It's even, dare I say it, kinda middle age sounding.
The man is growing up I suppose, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's gracefully, right?
Make up your own mind:

You can download the track via iTunes, as of now.
The full album, Blunderbuss will hit the stores (digital or not) on April 24th, there is no word yet on a solo tour to support the release.

Time to have a look at some great tracks written by this retro loving king of rock:

The White Stripes:

Ok, I'd better go full exposure here: I LOVED the White Stripes and I don't think any other White-led project has ever captured my musical emotions quite like them.
I have found memories of travelling between London and Brussels with De Stijl or White blood Cells on my discman (yeah I didn't have a iPod in 2000/2001) in the Eurostar terminals and feeling like I was somewhere else with a tiny fire in my belly.

It is in the Brussels train terminal that I completely fell in love with The Union Forever, for some reason it hit the spot and reminded me of the power of the grunge of my teenage years.
"What Would I Like To Have Been? Everything You Hate" rhaaaa talk about teenage angst

Then in 2003, they released Elephant and it was the great Live period. Saw them many times and was always awed by the sheer energy two people can create on a stage. The boy's got charisma

I always think it's a shame 7 Nation Army got so popular in football stadia because it's a fantastic song but it's lost its appeal a bit. Over exposure does that to a song


The mix of voices between Brendan Benson and White was just great, and the whole cuckoo image of the band worked well. We still had the rootsy rock'n roll feel even if it was probably poppier than anything White had released before.

The Dead Weather

I never really go back to that album, but I love the video and rock clichés of the first single Treat Me Like Your Mother :)

Obviously, his production work has been a lot more mellow and this is why we should not be surprised to se White release a country tinted album in 2012.
His collaboration with Rome, the Danger Mouse & Daniele Lippi project:

Ok I have to stop here or we'll be listening to White music until next week. The guy's only 36 and he's been involved in so many projects, it a wonder he finds time to sleep.
I will leave you with the last conundrum: is White singing backing vocals on Electric 6's hit High Voltage or not?... answers in the comments ^^

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Whet my appetite, 2012

Ok, we're 4 days into 2012 and it already looks like it will a phenomenal musical year... I for one am quite excited.

None more so than a few days ago when I hear the new teaser track from Anja Plaschg, aka Soap & Skin. The moody Austrian songstress is ready to swallow us again into her dark waves of dramatic melancholic tunes, mixing piano and electronic noises. A recipe she will keep on using in Narrow, a new 30-minute mini album that will arrive in our lives on February 14th
Here's the teaser:

Then there is the old bat, Cat Power who's recording a 9th album that should be released later this year. For Xmas she gave us an extended version of The King Rides By, a track that was on her 1996 album What Would The Community Think (My favourite album of hers for its raw emotions)

Talking of bands that have a strong history of releasing excellent albums, step forward Tindersticks, the trio from Nottingham; led by the inimitable voice of Stuart Staples.
The Something Rain will be their 9th output since 1993 and it contains 9 beautifully crafted songs that will please the fans. Medecine is the lead single

A more recent, yet skilled and delicate singer-songwriter to release an album early 2012 is Perfume Genius. Behind this moniker is Seattle based Mike Hadreas. His first album Learnings got the attention of the press and many a music lover. He's ready to seduce us again on February 20th with a new album called Put Your Back N2 It
Check out this somptuous All Waters

Obviously, as I have mentioned it before I can't wait for Feb 6th as it means the great man himself Mark Lanegan will be back with a solo album that simply cannot be bad - what with a title such as Blues Funeral :-D
A track that's been doing the rounds lately is The Gravedigger's Song

Add the new Dirty Three and a new Last Shadow Puppets on top of that list and you understand why I CAAAAAANT WAIIIIIIIIT

What about you? any other album is tickling your fancy?