Music


Music. I grew up with it. Memories cling to it. I surround myself with it. If I am not at work, or watching TV, I am probably listening to music. I physically can’t leave the house without my iPod and headphones. It is both the background and the foreground to my life. It was my first obsession and it will probably be my last. But what is it actually worth?

A friend fired this topic at me and I replied, “I don’t think you can put a price on the music you love, however, I think it should be cheap to buy.” When I looked back at what I had written it didn’t seem to tally somehow. How can music be both priceless and cheap at the same time? Music means the absolute world to me, it would have to be a life or death situation before I would even consider selling my vinyl or CD collections, and even then there would be certain albums I could never part with, despite the fact that I have them all uploaded to a hard drive and never use physical copies anymore. Everyone should be able to have that experience, music should be readily, easily and cheaply available to anyone that wants it (and forced upon those who think they don’t), whether that be to buy in the neatly packaged form of a CD or download, or just to have access to a radio or a musical instrument.

Then came the topic of file sharing. Personally, I would never illegally download music, but I say this as a reasonably well paid member of society with funds spare each month to spend on the things I love. Music companies like to bandy about terms like “Piracy is killing music.” To them I say, get an internet connection. I say that piracy, and I’m not talking the mass production of fake CDs and DVDs, I’m talking Joe Bloggs who sits at his computer and helps himself to a little free music from a download site, then in turn shares that with his friends, can actually help music.

Firstly, the artists themselves make very little money from selling their product in the form of a CD or download. The money from the sale of a CD is shared between a whole host of people and you can bet your life the biggest chunk is going to the record companies that are so busy scaremongering about the imminent death of music. Artists get their money from touring and all the lovely lucrative bonuses that come along with it.

Why do you think record companies are pushing for stronger controls on music piracy but no one gives two hoots about the touts ripping off fans by selling fake and/or exorbitantly priced gig tickets and the dodgy geezers selling fake merchandise that’s spelled incorrectly and falls apart after two washes? Yep, cos the record companies aren’t making any money off that stuff. Touring is the artists bread and butter.

Of course, artists need the record companies to produce their music in the first place, but it is becoming easier and easier to self produce and cut out those annoying middlemen, which would probably also be accused of killing music if the record companies were actually aware enough to realise it was happening.

Secondly, the majority of music played by commercial radio stations at the moment comes straight off the back of reality shows like X-Factor and American Idol (during the daytime when most people listen to the radio at least), and to be perfectly honest I don’t think either Simon Cowell or Louis Walsh needs any more money. Sometimes the only access people have to new, original music is discovering it through file sharing. Take the Arctic Monkeys for example, one of the biggest UK bands of the last few years. They got their start through the very thing record companies insist is killing music. File sharing. The band gave out free CDs at early gigs and fans shared them online and clamoured for more. Their first album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” (released in 2006) still holds the record the fastest selling debut album in the UK.

Thirdly, and finally, it is at least in part because of piracy and efforts to counter it, that music has become much more widely available and cheap to legally downland and that we have wonderful places like Spotify, where you can listen to music all day long for free, while the copyright holders still get their pound of flesh. I am, at this very moment, discovering some incredible Drum and Bass which I will more than likely pay good money for at a later date.

I put it to you that in actual fact, piracy is keeping music alive, it’s Simon Cowell that is killing music.

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I have loved White Lies since the first time I heard them back in 2009. One of those bands, like The Killers, where I was instantly in love. Their first album To Lose My Life was on my top played lists for an awful long time. After a year of completely amazing gigs (including 4 ventures out to see The Killers, a Blur and Wonderstuff come back gig amongst others) we headed to Leeds Academy to see this young band.

While they couldn’t hold their own against these other much more experienced bands, they certainly didn’t disappoint. Having had somewhat of a quick rise to fame that year, they appeared a little nervous and overwhelmed on stage with lead singer Harry McVeigh’s intense dark eyes darting around with the look of a startled rabbit caught in the headlights.

This time around, was so very, very different.

We arrived just before doors opening to a queue wrapped around the building despite the pouring rain and headed for the barrier, making second row, with a good little opening for a barrier spot with a little squeezing. Fortunately for me, as the band came on a couple of girls were pulled out of the front row giving me room to get a prime position at the barrier.

White Lies had brought along two support bands again. First up was Active Child, an electronic duo from Los Angeles. I could have really got into this band if it were not for the lead singer’s voice, which was quite gorgeous when he sang deep but grated like nails down a chalk board when he went for the high notes, which was sadly way too often. They certainly didn’t endear themselves to my husband when they covered New Order’s Ceremony (although I quite enjoyed this, it being way more upbeat than their previous offerings.)

You can check them out at www.myspace.com/activechild

Next up was Crocodiles, a San Diego band with their roots firmly in 80s indie music such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and Echo and the Bunnymen. The singer, sporting a leather jacket, shades (and, in my husband’s words, Arnold J Rimmer’s uncontrollable hair), bumped, grinded and gyrated along to their upbeat, guitar heavy tracks. I loved them, I can’t wait to see more of them and I’ve just gone an bought their latest album, Sleep Forever.

You can check them out at www.myspace.com/crocodilescrocodilescrocodiles.

Crocodiles got the crowd all warmed up, and the obligatory drunken late arrivals had pushed their way to the front so it was clearly time for the main event. The excitement built and White Lies proved they had come a long way since that first gig 18 months ago. Harry walked on stage with confidence in his still intense and darting eyes, interacting with the crowd, encouraging them with fist pumps and shouts of “Come on!”, he got us all going, clearly enjoying himself and the crowd.

The 90 minute set included a mix of tracks from both their albums, smattering their energetic hits between the slower, more atmospheric material from their new album. Their three song encore featured my favourite tracks from both albums, Unfinished Business and The Power and the Glory and they ended with their latest single, Bigger Than Us, coming to the front to wave their goodbyes before finally leaving the stage.

The gig was all that I was hoping for and more, a throughly exhausting, sweaty, exhilerating night, and a great set up for the first of what I hope will be many gigs this year. I’m covered in bruises and wearing every single one with pride. White Lies have set the standard and there’s going to have to be some tremendous performances to beat them this year.

It was great to see just how far they have come in this short period of time, I’m sure they’ll be taking the stadiums on soon.

For some time now I’ve been wanting to make a workout mix for the gym. I usually just stick my iPod on shuffle and go for it, but it can be annoying when a track comes on that doesn’t really fit with the exercise you are doing at the time. Music also triggers memories so if I do the same exercises to the same music all the time it helps me remember where I am in the workout so I can concentrate more on the exercise I’m doing and let the music tell me where I am.

So here is the playlist I came up with, it may need some tweaks, but it’s working for now.

To kick off with I do a 20 minute warm up on the bike. I don’t particularly enjoy the exercise bike, so I mixed a couple of some new favourites with some old favourites to get me through it, with a slower song at the end to remind me to slow down for the cool down.

Animal – Neon Trees
Losing Composure – Transfer
Atomic – Blondie
Echo Beach – Martha & The Muffins
Reward – The Teardrop Explodes
Lust For Life – Igyy Pop
Return To Innocence – Enigma

Next up is some stretches, which I find a little boring, so I’ve stuck quite a long track there to make sure I see them through to the end.

Angel – Massive Attack

For weight lifting I like something a little aggressive:

19-2000 – Gorillaz
The Way I Am – Eminem
Smack My Bitch Up – The Prodigy
Vox Populi – Thirty Seconds to Mars

Then it’s on to some high energy dance for the cross-trainer:

Time to Burn – Storm
Silence – Delirium
Sky Fits Heaven – Madonna

The final stage of workout is the treadmill which, call me crazy, but I love it, so to increase my enjoyment it’s mainly made up of my two favourite bands in the world, Depeche Mode and The Killers. I threw a couple of other bands in there though just for variety, with a cool down track at the end. Most of the tracks are either remixes or live versions, so they have a little extra energy and a little extra length to them than the originals.

Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
Read My Mind – The Killers
Nothing – Depeche Mode
Somebody Told Me – The Killers
Recover – The Automatic
Never Let Me Down Again – Depeche Mode
When You Were Young – The Killers
Barber: Adagio For Strings – William Orbit

Finally, cool down stretches:

Cafe Del Mar – Energy 52

And that’s me done.

Whilst browsing the internet for musical goodies yesterday, I came across a band called The Twilight Sad. The name immediately conjured up images of a large gathering of Twilight fans, a collection of Twihards if you will, and it amused me greatly. The only logical thing to do, was tweet my amusement to the world.

Of course, The Twilight Sad are on Twitter, they (or whoever runs their account) picked up on my tweet and re-tweeted it, much to the non-amusement of their fans it would appear. I woke up this morning to a torrent (well 4) of abuse (well, pointed suggestions that I should maybe listen to the music) from their avid following.

I have to say of all the possible repercussions of my tweet I could imagine (1) this was not it.

So, to appease their fans, I went off to listen to some of their music.

I’ll start with their name, which is what got me into trouble in the first place. Apart from conjuring up images of Twihards, which to be fair, not their fault, The Twilight Sad is a poignant, beautiful, dark and sad (in the correct sense of the word) name, it’s just unfortunate that Twilight will forever mean something else to a whole horde of tweeners and housewives; admittedly probably not the band’s target audience.

The Twilight Sad are on the dark side of indie, with dirty guitars, darkly melodic keyboards and a heavy-accented Scottish singer that puts me in mind of Glasvegas. Their music would fit nicely alongside the goth era of the late 70s/early 80s, bands such as Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Sisters of Mercy, early Cure and Fields of The Nephilim are surely influences. Very much in the vein of White Lies, but not quite as melodramatic and over produced and, unlike White Lies, they have not added anything new (other than the Scottish accent) to make the music unique to them.

Overall I did enjoy their music, but after a while it became rather samey, and kind of depressing, which is probably why, with the exception of The Cure, I could never listen to those other bands for more than a song or two at a time.

You can check them out for yourselves at www.myspace.com/thetwilightsad.

My main music taste is and always has been a great big lean towards the indie side of things. From the time that Indie meant music on an independent record label, through to it being a “brand” or “style” of music as it is now. The bands that are enduring and the ones that I hold close to my heart will, with few exceptions, fall into this category. I guess this comes a lot from the music that was played in the house when I was growing up, which was a whole load of punk, and I followed in my mother’s punk princess footsteps and still love that music today.

I have also always been a fan of electronic music and this was the first music that I discovered for myself. Growing up in the 80s, new wave bands grabbed my attention. Ultravox, early Spandau Ballet, Blancmange, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode, New Order, The Pet Shop Boys to name but a few. When, in the late eighties, dance music burst on to the scene I was a sucker for it, and I still am, for certain genres of it.

It never has, and never will be my first love, but the feeling of being lost in a booming bass beat, with a soaring symphony of keyboards will never be lost on me and will always make me want to head for the dance floor. It releases you to dance with abandon, to feel the music and the bass and nothing more and, in a real dance club, no one is watching, no one cares, everyone is lost in their own moment of bliss. It will never be meaningful, there will rarely be that one song that means the world to me, that I recite the lyrics of all too often on Twitter, but it will always be there in the background, and it will always make me wanna dance. So shoot me.

Many of my peers will mock, but to be fair, the girl who sported a mohican well into the late eighties, really never gave a fuck what her peers thought.

Seventeen and loving it

Hurts HappinessHurts burst onto the scene in early 2010 with their first single Better Than Love, but had much better success with their second single, Wonderful Life. It was this single which drew me in, despite my tendency to hum the Black song of the same title every time I hear it.

Their singer, Theo Hutchcraft, originates from the bowels of deepest, darkest North Yorkshire, where there is clearly little to do but listen to your mum’s old Spandau Ballet records while watching the sheep go by. Many bands of late, of note my own particular favourite, The Killers, have shown influences from the darker side of 80s pop such as The Cure, The Smiths and Depeche Mode; Hurts, however, have dug deep into the back pockets of Tears For Fears and the aforementioned Spandau Ballet, with a drop of Vince Clarke era Depeche Mode thrown in to bring us their own brand of sweeping, sometimes orchestral, synth based pop with just a splash of 90s boy band in the mix to ensnare their younger audience. This, combined with their sleek style and Bros-like good looks, have set the libido of teenage girls across the country racing.

Having really only heard Wonderful Life (it’s a wonderful, wonderful life – no wait, that’s Black again), I was curious to see what Hurts could produce, but reluctant to buy the album based on just one song. I was tipped over the edge, however, by the adoration shown by many people whose musical taste I share (for this read Victims aka Killers fans), and I made the purchase.

On first listen, I have to say the only songs that stood out for me were those first two singles, Better Than Love and Wonderful life, which are still my favourite tracks on the album, the rest of the album left me intrigued, but cold. Intrigued enough, however, to give it several more chances, and the album has grown on me, though it’s by no means a favourite. There’s promise there, but a feeling of disharmony, a divide or battle of wills between the influence of 80s synth pop and the boy band harmonies of the 90s, and it’s probably not an album that is going to stand the test of time. I think it shows potential though, and if they can find the right direction, I think they can become a solid band.

At the moment I am firmly astride the fence, I really want to like them, but my ears are against my will. I will most likely be going to see them live, and hopefully this will push me over the edge, one way or the other.

Hurts official website: www.informationhurts.com