Rowdy Superstar is a force of nature. Most artists when asked to perform a live session grab their band, rather than assembling Eska and a small choir to perform an acappella version of their single. In a week. I love this version of "Breathe", one of the real stand out tracks from Rowdy's debut album "Battery". The layers of voices punctuate the underlying emotion the original production doesn't make so immediately obvious, Rowdy sounds heartfelt and passionate yet plaintive, and the body percussion really drives the intensity of the situation home. Beautiful.
Yes, Kimchi, as in the delicious Korean fermented cabbage dish. No one can accuse Tanya Auclair of a lack of songwriting originality. This beautiful piece is actually a new song she brought out specially for the glorious day that was In The Woods Festival 2012. I am reliably informed that Tanya is writing her debut album and working with a very exciting producer, so this little video nugget is the closest we'll get to hearing it for a while. This video is probably also the closest we will ever get to a video of Tanya featuring booty shots - oh yes camera man I see you.
L.A. Salami has written an upbeat anthem that perfectly describes the incredibly depressing financial situation though culturally very rich times much of my generation live in. If you're not a lyrics person this song could sound rather throwaway, but I maintain that L.A. Salami is a talented poet with Bob Dylan tendencies (yep, he plays harmonica and writes about depressing shit, in a good way). I would love to know how he got such fabulous dance performances out of his fellow dancers in this video. They look like 9 year olds high on Haribo - truly the finest kind of dancing there is.
It's been almost a year since I first mentioned Kwabena Adjepong, and from what I hear (still relatively little) he is in the process of writing and recording some original material. I can only imagine having to be objective when confronted with such an obscenely beautiful voice - he could quite literally sing the phone book and move me to tears. The song above is the most recent of a couple now up on his Youtube channel, and it certainly sounds as though he's aiming himself firmly at beautiful.
It's hard not to anticipate the almost inevitable part-compliment, part- music journo withering insult "throwback soul" being thrown in Kwabs' direction (unless Disclosure produce him, which would be depressing, have you heard Sam Smith singing "Latch" accompanied by strings and piano?? At least 20,000 of those views were me, legs crossed à la Urban Hang Suite. ).
The exciting thing is that this slightly snide description seems to have done very little harm to Lianne La Havas and Michael Kiwanuka, and there is an ever growing interest in (let's face it), black singer songwriters with that rich, stirring and yes, soulful tone to their voices that was so deeply uncool for so many years in this country. I have high hopes that frustrating argument *it's ok for Adele and Amy but not [insert person with significantly more melanin here]* may be peacefully laid to rest by the end of 2013 - for how long, who knows.
Another burgeoning singer songwriter with a beautiful, soulful tone I've been listening to of late is Jacob Banks. It's perhaps a little unfair to combine his music in the same post as Kwabs because it may lead to comparison, when really the point is how spoiled we are to have voices like these emerging in the UK and being heard. Banks has just released "The Monologue" EP on Soundcloud, and I get the impression that much like Laura Mvula, his music will be more resonant live than recorded. This cover is genuinely lovely, especially considering the sea of slightly desperate, almost mandatory "quirky cover" Youtube fodder my inbox is drowning in presently.
I wasn't sure whether to post this video initially since I was heavily involved in its production and commission (disclaimer), but I love the video, song and artist or I wouldn't have been involved in the first place. Skip it if you don't believe me (but have I ever lied to you?? Huh?).
"Breathe" is one of my (many) favourite songs from Rowdy Superstar's debut album "Battery", produced by experimental behemoth Matthew Herbert with artistic input and backing vocals from PMOI favourite for life Eska. In terms of production this is Matthew's most conspicuously pop album since Roisin Murphy's incredible solo debut "Ruby Blue", it sounds totally different but retains the same breadth of influences and sounds that give it a richness and feeling of intense quality.
What I love most about Rowdy's music is his relentless positivity - there's only so much I can listen to miserable men whinging on about taking drugs and ruining everything. Fun times. "Battery" is great walking music, full of whistles, megaphones, marching drums, bass, hand claps, and the vocal equivalent of power punches. Very much falling in to the "vocalist" camp alongside MIA and Santigold (none of them are exactly mellifluous, but at least they're original), it's musical marmite of the highest order, and I wouldn't recommend this album if you're a cynical beard stroker. If you are someone who appreciates pop music that doesn't sound like it was made by Primark, has regular solo bedroom dance offs and a tolerance for music that's not about misery, drugs and sex (or miserable sex on drugs, or sexy miserable drugs etc), this might be the album for you.
Buy Rowdy Superstar "Battery" on iTunes