I’m Scared of Vinyl

It’s Michael Jackson time… Navi comes to Dublin

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on October 4, 2009

Now that poor old Jacko’s dead, everyone wants him more than ever. Navi, his arch-impersonator, will shortly be descending upon Dublin…

A quick trawl through the internet will give you a sense of just how big a following Navi has. Much like the M&S ads, Navi is not just any Michael Jackson tribute act, but appears to have been unanimously crowned with the title of “The World’s No.1 Michael Jackson Impersonator.” Navi is no lightweight; he takes his job seriously, even to the extent of having spent years having plastic surgery to keep up with the deceased superstar’s ever-mutating facial features. As a result, Navi bears an uncanny resemblance to the real Michael Jackson and was formerly employed to act as his decoy, which led to him being invited to Neverland, a privilege normally reserved for the under-12’s.

Many blogs speculate about the extent to which Michael Jackson used his decoys, and as with everything in Jackson’s life, the boundary between illusion and reality was blurred to a considerable extent. Navi’s remarkable physical similarity to Jackson has led to him repeatedly being mistaken for the real thing, such as the publicity stunt in Trafalgar Square, London, last year, when Navi attracted a full-scale mob during a promotional event to mark the re-release of Thriller. Navi and a team of dancers had been briefed to give an impromptu performance of “Thriller”, but the publicity stunt went ahead with difficulty due to the size of the crowd attempting to see “Michael Jackson”.

A favourite amongst the hard-core Jackson fans, Navi is one of the longest running tribute acts in the business, with a career spanning over two decades, and has been invited to perform in front of the man he mimics on several occasions, most notably as the opening act at Jackson’s birthday party in L.A. in 2003, when his performance was applauded by Michael Jackson himself. With a track record like this, it’s no wonder that Navi performs over 150 shows a year, and has played in 54 countries to date, and counting.

It’s easy to see why Navi has created such a lucrative business out of imitating one of pop’s most legendary icons: as well as looking remarkably like his hero, his vocal abilities combined with his choreography are near perfect, achieving an impressive resemblance to the real thing. Navi’s vocal’s are spot-on; it is surprisingly easy to mistake Navi’s version of a song for the real thing. His dancing is similarly accomplished, and even won praise from the real King of Pop, who called him an “amazing dancer” and asked him how often he practised.

Tribute acts are frequently undervalued, and it is all-too-tempting to dismiss them as merely living off the backs of better-known artists. Navi, however, showcases the potential of this art form, and has received worldwide acclaim for his prowess in providing a studied, accurate imitation of the groundbreaking work of a now-deceased legend. Consider Navi’s achievements in relation to the average musician – the number of tours, the elaborate performances, and the level of respect he has won in his respective field – on all these counts he has far outstripped many entertainers. Due to his status as an impersonator, Navi’s actual achievements tend to be overlooked because of the imitative nature of his work, but the degree to which Navi has pushed the art of the tribute act is extraordinary.

Perhaps Navi takes his job a little too seriously, as some parts of his online biography appear to be more of a testament to his extreme obsession with Michael Jackson rather than his success as an impersonator, such as the information that he was inside the courthouse during Jackson’s infamous trial back in 2005. Still, it all emphasises the curious role of the impersonator, whose real craft lies in their ability to imitate rather than innovate and whose personal success is wholly dependent on the career path of another. It’s hard to tell the effect that Michael Jackson’s death must have had on Navi, now that the man that he has religiously followed for two decades is no longer alive. One thing’s for sure: the demand for Navi’s performances is certainly higher than ever.

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Ed Banger Tour 2009

Posted in Gigs by Catriona on October 1, 2009

Ed Banger Records. The legendary record label that churns out the crème de la crème of French electro house music. If you have the slightest interest in dance music, chances are you’ll already be queuing to buy your ticket, and the only additional information you’ll require is which of their artists will be DJing. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, keep reading.

France has long been the home of electronic and house music since the emergence of Daft Punk, and Paris is a base for a significant proportion of the most prominent artists and DJs in this genre. The tight knit group of musicians who are signed to the prestigious Ed Banger Records are a pretty elite bunch, including artists such as Justice, SebastiAn, Mr Oizo, DJ Mehdi, Uffie, and of course, Busy P, aka Pedro Winter, label founder, DJ and all-round legend. The current status of Paris as the hub of new wave electro and house is partly thanks to Winter, who, as well as managing Daft Punk for twelve years, set up Ed Banger in 2002 as a division of Headbangers Entertainment. The label has represented some of the most memorable electro artists around, as can be seen from their compilation albums, which rival the Kitsuné Maison compilations for their exciting remixes and innovative sounds.

Heading up the tour is the Busy P himself, whose inspired remixes of the artists on his label along with his (admittedly limited) range of solo work always makes for a good set. In an interview with Pitchfork last year, Busy P said that his ambition was to make music that people wanted to party to. It certainly seems to be working – his appearance at last year’s Ed Banger night at Transmission had me dancing on the stage, it was that fantastic.

Joining Busy P is Feadz, who has recently released his latest EP, “P*N*M*B*” (People, Numbers, Money, Business), as a follow-up to last year’s “Happy Meal”. Feadz is a long-running fixture on the Parisian club scene, working with Mr Oizo on his debut album, Analog Worms Attack in 1999, and was also largely responsible for launching the career of labelmate and former girlfriend Uffie. He’s also done remixes for the likes of Modeselektor and Justice.

The next member of the Ed Banger line-up is So Me, who is an art director and graphic designer for the label as well as doing the odd bit of DJing. He’s a man of many talents, as well as DJing, he’s also the designer for the clothing line Revolver and he has directed several music videos for artists such as Justice and Kanye West. Have a look at Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.” video – So Me designed every one of the countless tshirts featured in the three minute video. As a label, Ed Banger is well-known for its distinctive visuals, and So Me has played a strong part in shaping that image.

Breakbot is the final name on the line-up and his style differs considerably from the other three, going for a far more classic disco vibe, remixing a variety of artists and traditional French pop to create a disco-tastic sound packed with slick synths that always manages to stay on the right side of cheesy. By day, Thibaut Berland makes the most of his love of animation, creating music videos and commercials, by night he creates electronic music, experimenting with beats, layers, keyboards, vocals and Daft Punk-esque bass lines.

The event that prompted the upcoming Ed Banger tour was a little odd – to promote the label’s collaboration, with, erm, the backpack manufacturers Eastpak (who, yes, made that dodgy looking schoolbag you had back in fourth class). Extensive research on the Eastpak website confirmed that although they are making a major effort to draw in the cool kids with their roll-call of carefully market-researched collaborations, their principal stock-in-trade is still schoolbags. Still, whatever the reason for a repeat invasion of the Ed Banger crew, make a note: keep Friday 16th October free, because, if last year’s tour was anything to go by, it should be epic.

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Fight Like Apes

Posted in Gigs by Catriona on September 25, 2009

If you didn’t catch Fight Like Apes’ set at this year’s Trinity Ball, then you’re in luck: they’re back to headline the Freshers’ Ball. All things considered, you have to hand it to Ents for managing to book them again, considering the spiralling popularity of a band which appears to be on the brink of mainstream success. Fight Like Apes certainly seem to be working hard: over the past year, the band have done a truly heroic amount of touring, supporting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Prodigy, the Ting Tings and Kasabian, amongst others, and earning themselves a reputation for their energetic live performances, which involve MayKay leaping about the stage like someone possessed and Pockets playing a keyboard with his head. As a band they seem to be charming everyone that they play with – in a recent interview that I did with the Von Bondies, Jason Stollsteimer spent at least ten minutes elaborating on just how great Fight Like Apes were, and cited them as his favourite Irish band. He also said that they were his favourite band to tour with (so much for Franz Ferdinand, The Kills and Kasabian who all supported the Von Bondies once upon a time) saying that “Fight Like Apes were the most fun to hang out with because they were like kids, like little monkeys on stage…it was great.”

Though hardly the most subtle of bands, Fight Like Apes are undoubtedly the most original Irish act of recent years, and stoically refuse to be put into a box: describing their sound as “karate rock” in order to irritate the NME after it attempted to pigeonhole the band along with two other female-fronted acts. It is their originality that makes Fight Like Apes such a striking act – unlike most bands in the early stages of their career it is extremely difficult to pinpoint their influences and their sound is truly their own. There’s no chance of mistaking a Fight Like Apes song, it smacks you right between the eyes, with MayKay’s distinctive vocals which alternately screech or croon, the heavy bass which more than makes up for the lack of guitar and the humorously explicit lyrics vying for attention with the crazy titles. Apparently specifically designed to piss off journalists, the album and EP titles are impressively long, and mostly inspired by dodgy B-movies, from their 2007 EP, “David Carradine is a Bounty Hunter whose Robotic Arm Hates Your Crotch” to their rather more recent EP which was aimed to appeal to a US audience: “You Filled His Head with Fluffy Clouds and Jolly Ranchers, What Did You Think Was Going to Happen?”.

Aside from their originality and mesmeric stage presence, they have also put out one of the best albums of last year, with Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion, which they have since re-released in a two-CD format. The band flew over to Seattle to record the album with producer John Goodmanson in early 2008 and their resulting debut went down well with all but the most conservative of critics. If you read through the album reviews, what is striking is that every reviewer differs in their opinion of which songs are the best – there seems to be no general consensus as to which are the “good” songs – each individual track competes for attention, which is surely the sign of a first-rate album. All of their singles, “Something Global”, “Lend Me Your Face”, “Jake Summers” and “Tie Me Up With Jackets” received considerable airplay and the band was nominated for an array of awards, including the Choice Music Prize and no fewer than five Meteor Music Awards.

If you’re one of the few people left in Ireland who has yet to see them live, then go to the Freshers’ Ball. I’ll be in the front row, probably singing along in an embarrassingly fervent manner. Call it shameless plugging, call it whatever you want, but believe me, if you don’t see them, you’ll be missing out.

Jenna Toro

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on September 18, 2009

I’ve somehow found myself editing the Ents Magazine for Trinity College Student’s Union, which basically involves writing numerous biographies of  bands composed entirely of information pulled from the internet. It’s always unpleasant having to write about bands in such a second-hand manner, because all personality really goes out the window, and you’re left with something that amounts to very little more that a jumped-up Wikipedia entry. Still, having said that, I’m still going to post them anyway…

So here you go, a piece on Jenna Toro, who’ll be coming to play at Trinity very shortly.

Judging from her performance at Oxegen, Jenna Toro is certainly one to watch. The 21 year old from Killiney has just written and recorded her debut album, which features her debut single Electric City. “My songs are autobiographical and writing them is like therapy for me,” Jenna explains. “I write to express myself and to sort out my own problems. It’s to benefit me, my life, and it’s for my own well-being. It’s how I deal with problems.”

Jenna has been writing music since her early teens, after her parents were advised by her school that they should get her involved in a social outlet to give her overactive mind a break. “I was reading all the time – I still go through three books a week – and I was too concentrated on my school work,” Jenna says. “Then I started doing piano lessons and the music developed from there.”

Jenna started learning the piano at the tender age of four, and by her teens she was working with the same producer as The Corrs. “This is all I’ve ever wanted to do” says Jenna. “When I was 13, I started recording demos. I used to get the Hot Press yearbook and write out envelopes to every person.” It’s not surprising that before long she was working with one of Ireland’s top managers and, and recording with legendary producer Billy Farrell.

Jenna’s lucky to have such strong support from her parents, who were so convinced of her commitment to music that they agreed to support her decision if she wanted to drop out of her degree. “I went to college for a few years and they said: “If you don’t want to go to college, don’t,” she explains. Although Jenna loved studying International Business and Languages in DIT – “I’m real kind of academic, I’m a bit of a loser,” she says with dry humour – she has taken two years out to focus on the launch of her debt album.

“Singing with the band really gives the songs a whole new life and I’m so looking forward to getting on stage,” she enthuses.

Oxegen was one of her first experiences playing live. Due to a lucky accident of timing and weather she found herself in front of a massive audience. “The Saw Doctors were finishing on the main stage,” Jenna remembers. “I went into the tent where I was playing and there were about 200 people there. The loads of people came in from The Saw Doctors and then it started to pour rain, so the place was packed, it was brilliant.”

Despite the fact that Jenna’s career is still at such a fledgling stage, she has already garnered glowing reviews from music critics for her sensitive songs as well as for her looks. Jenna believes taking a very personal approach to writing music. “It’s better if you are in it,” she says of her songwriting method. “If you are experiencing something and you go to write it, and you do something else and you don’t finished it that say, you have a problem. I’ve written before about things that are maybe painful to write about and then you have to go back and finish them and it’s very painful to go back.”

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Vivian Girls – Everything Goes Wrong

Posted in Albums by Catriona on September 12, 2009

Vivian Girls

Everything Goes Wrong

In the Red: 2009

It has only been a year since insanely cool indie trio the Vivian Girls released their debut on an eager audience. The self-titled album went on to be hugely successful with gems such as “Where Do You Run To” and “Tell The World” .The album was even included in Pitchfork’s “Top 100 albums of 2008” list. The Brooklyn trio cite The Shangri Las, Nirvana and The Wipers as influences to their shoegaze/punk style sound. Their newly released second album Everything Goes Wrong delivers much of the same of what we heard first time round. “When You’re Gone”, the first single of the album is an enjoyable enough mixture of hazy vocals and half played guitars mixed up with a dose of retro candy pop. The rest of Everything Goes Wrong follows in the same mould with few surprises or stand out tracks. I think I will be sticking to their debut.

Micachu & the Shapes

Posted in Videos by Catriona on September 11, 2009

The new video for “Turn Me Well”.

(500) Days of Summer soundtrack

Posted in News by Catriona on September 8, 2009

I went to see (500) Days of Summer the other day and while I liked the film, I was quite impressed with the soundtrack. Apart from the obvious emphasis on The Smiths (always a good thing), there was a good cover of The Pixies “Here Comes Your Man”, and the film also featured tracks from The Temper Trap, Black Lips and Regina Spektor. The most surprising thing, though, was that it prompted me to start listening to Carla Bruni, which was a bit of a surprise. “Quelqu’un M’a Dit” came on on mid-way through the film – I’d heard it before but didn’t know who wrote or performed it. After a bit of an internet search, I realised that it was from Carla Bruni’s first album. I’ve posted the YouTube link below so you can have a listen to it, if you fancy (I don’t upload music unless I have permission, sorry!).

The XX

Posted in Albums by Catriona on September 3, 2009

The xx

The xx

Young Turks: 2009

The xx are creating a serious stir with the release of their self-titled debut, and no wonder. For a first album, their songs are remarkably sophisticated and atmospheric, a collection of languid love-songs propelled into a dialogue by the male-female vocal duo of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft. The album invokes a sense of neatness and care in the composition, the measured floating vocals and instrumental precision heightened by the use of a drum machine. With no overtly apparent influences, the xx have appeared fully-fledged, with an unusually progressive sound for such a young band. The two singles that have been released so far, “Basic Space” and “Crystallised” are not stand out hits, but blend seamlessly with the rest of the tracks on this understated, lyrical album. The band are currently supporting Florence and the Machine as a preamble to their upcoming solo tour, and look set to become progressively more successful.

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Felix Da Housecat – He Was King

Posted in Albums by Catriona on August 30, 2009

Felix Da Housecat

He Was King

Nettwerk: 2009

Heavily inspired by Prince’s 80’s synth-pop, the album takes its cue from the La Roux school of electro that’s currently taking over the charts. He Was King is dominated by dreamy female vocals –  courtesy of guest singer Nesh –  and is evidently aiming for a Kittenz and Thee Glitz cross-over appeal instead of sticking to the rather more niche house audience. Unfortunately, it was presumably this desire that led to the creation of the two weakest tracks on the album “Do Not Try This at Home”, and “Turn Me on a Summer Smile”, which veer too far from Felix’s trademark electro and bellyflop into something else entirely. Don’t let this put you off – there’s some truly, truly brilliant tracks –  “Elvi$” and “LA Ravers” see Felix on top form for sheer electro-house, dancefloor craziness, while “Kickdrum” promises to be the sort of club favourite that you’ll be dancing to for months to come.

David Guetta – One Love

Posted in Albums by Catriona on August 28, 2009

David Guetta

One Love

Virgin: 2009

Whether you like it or not, it’s hugely likely that you’ve danced to at least one of David Guetta’s tracks already. One Love is David Guetta’s already successful fourth album. Famous for dance tracks like Pop Life’s 2007 hit “Love Is Gone” (ft Chris Willis), Guetta has been in the charts seen his debut in 2002. The king of popular dance anthems, Guetta is like a version of Mark Ronson and Timbaland but perhaps not as well known, even though he has always been present in club playlists. Collaborating with big names such as Kelly Rowland, Akon and Black Eyed Peas, his new album is packed with Top 40 material. Whilst One Love feels more like a load of winning singles thrown in together rather than a cohesive album, it’s hard to complain. There are many stand-out tracks, including the perfect pop hits “Sexy Bitch” and “When Love Takes Over” both which have graced the number one slot recently, as well as most recent single “Memories” ft Kid Cudi.

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