Squeeze’s Pop Up Shop CDs let you relive their gig

Ever longed to experience the live set from your favourite gig once again?

Well, now you can. At least if you’re a fan of Squeeze anyway.

On every date of their current tour, Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook and co.’s performance will be recorded and made available immediately as part of a three CD set, which also includes their Packet Of 4 EP.

Some of the more cynical among us might see this as a desperate attempt to boost merchandise sales; a gimmick for punters to buy into. However, I think it’s a nifty idea.

Most of us would love to relive our favourite performances. More often than not, a desperate attempt to see if anyone has captured the moment and uploaded it to YouTube only leads to disappointment. Bootlegs are rare and typically the quality of such a recording leaves a lot to be desired – whereas these CDs will be mixed via the sound desk throughout the gig.

In a similar vein to rockers 3 Doors Down, who produced USB wristbands with MP3s of live tracks at their shows earlier this year, it’s another example of bands trying to keep up with the technology era. Truly making the most of the digital age by creating unique releases night after night.

The thing that makes Squeeze’s Pop Up Shop CDs stand out from previous attempts to meet the desires of the keen gig-goer, is the form of the product. The effort to physically publish these sets, track by track, at the scene of the event cannot go unnoticed. Fans who can’t make the shows can even pre-order a copy from the night of their choice, leaving the tracklist to chance.

Here’s a taster of what to expect:

So if you had the opportunity to get your hands on a CD copy of your favourite gig, which would it be?

Highlights from Bestival 2012

Oh dear, readers. It would seem I’ve been neglecting you for the past couple of weeks. That’s what happens when you leave the creation of an elaborate bird costume to the last minute! Excuses aside, this weekend’s wildlife themed Bestival was a scorching success, and not just because of the glorious sunshine.

Situated deep in the Isle of Wight countryside, Bestival has been running since 2004 as an offshoot of DJ and record producer Rob da Bank’s Sunday Best record label and club night. Always a colourful and exotic affair, it has a different fancy dress theme each year to allow festival goers to get their creative juices flowing and dress as outlandish as they please. This year wildlife was the motif, which lead the way for a stampede of spots, stripes, feathers and even shells.

However, it’s not all about the attire, of course, and Bestival 2012 boasted a very impressive and eclectic line-up. So who came top of the festival food chain this weekend? Here’s a list of highlights for you lovely people.

Adam Ant & The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse

As a girl brought up listening to Adam Ant‘s back catalogue, I was excited yet apprehensive about the dandy highwayman’s set on Friday. From the chat around the campsites it was clear that I was not alone. Would he be performing his hits? Would he be kitted up in military clothing like his glory days? And would he be able to hold his own on the main stage, potentially performing to thousands of onlookers? I’m very happy to say he did not disappoint. Every bit the showman, he commanded the audience’s attention with minimal effort, dancing around the stage, dressed up to the nines. Great vocals and obvious spirit has left me keen to hear his upcoming new studio album, the first to be released in 17 years.

Stevie Wonder

After a spellbinding performance at Glastonbury 2010, the living musical legend that is Stevie Wonder graced the UK festival scene once again, headlining the last night of Bestival. The astonishing two hour set was packed with recognisable hits and encapsulated the joyous atmosphere of the entire weekend. Alongside timeless classics such as ‘Superstition’, ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ and ‘For Once In My Life’, the Motown star covered tracks by Michael Jackson, John Lennon and The Beatles. Full of life, full of soul — Stevie Wonder was a majestic climax to the festival.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

Orlando Higginbottom aka TEED is a young lad from Oxford who, after dabbling in the classical music realm, is becoming an increasingly prominent figure on the UK electronic scene. His debut album Trouble garnered positive reviews across the board upon its release in June and it’s no surprise that this great collection of tracks translates well to a live setting. Every beat was perfectly timed, as were the backing dancers who were appropiately dressed as animals. Being restricted to his decks didn’t stop TEED putting on a phenomenally fun festival show.

Michael Kiwanuka

After winning the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll back in January, Michael Kiwanuka lived up to the reputation that preceded him by delivering the ideal soundtrack to the last day of Bestival. The British soul singer was consistantly on-key and his laidback rhythms went down as smooth as a chilled fruit cocktail in the sunshine. A quick glance around the Big Top tent revealed that the crowd were having a constant head-nodding session with transfixed smiles. It was a real treat to hear a Jimi Hendrix cover inbetween a collections of songs taken from his Mercury Prize nominated album, Home Again.

First Aid Kit

Swedish duo First Aid Kit are clearly influenced by the likes of Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash. It’s so clear in fact that, upon watching their set on Friday, it was almost like being transported back in time to the heyday of contempory folk music. They showcased truly beautiful, seemingly classic songs with soaring vocals and a hint of youthful inncence. Whilst one sister stood boldy and stoicly behind a microphone and guitar, the other danced, relatively childlike, behind a keyboard. Their album The Lion’s Roar, produced by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis, is one of this year’s best releases, go and give it a listen.

Honorable mentions go to Justice, Two Door Cinema Club and Alabama Shakes who were also fantastic this weekend. A nod also goes to comedian Eric Lampaert who, whilst dressed as a lizard, made a baby called Albert do stand up.

Beck’s sheet music album is a wake-up call

It’s been revealed this week that slacker-turned-seminal musician Beck will be releasing a brand new album this December. Great news you’re thinking? Well it is, but mainly for those with the ability to read sheet music.

Song Reader, the name of this new release, will comprise of 20 booklets, one for each individual song. These will include lyrics and music notations for a variety of instruments, all of which will be handily presented in a hard-cover carrying case detailed with designs from over a dozen artists.

Beck claims that Song Reader is a way of delving into ‘what an album can be at the end of 2012’. Renditions interpreted by fans and select musicians of these previously unreleased and, more importantly, unrecorded tracks will be featured online via publisher McSweeney’s website.

Now this kind of thing could be easily perceived as hipster nonsense, harping back to the gramophone era in the middle of the digital takeover. Certainly I think there may well be an element of profiting from false nostalgia, releasing an entirely new project in a retro format, albeit incidental or otherwise. However, there’s more to this venture than that.

At face value it’s a musical experiment, and a lavish one at that. Moreover, it’s also a pretty bold statement – a two-fingered salute to illegal downloads, intentional leaks and the dominance of online music sales compared to physical purchases. Song Reader is an intervention for those that have fallen into the habit of passively adding releases to their collection at the click of a finger. It calls for enthusiasm, participation and the realisation that although YouTube and iTunes clearly have their uses, there is more to music than an MP3.

What Beck has created is a wake-up call. Music is a craft not just a commodity.

Who will provide the winning soundtrack to London 2012?

This Friday sees the grand opening of the 2012 Olympic Games hosted by the city of London. Alongside the official ceremony curated by none other than Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, the London Live Celebration concert on the 27th will act as a  musical buffer and alternative to any torch action. In an attempt to showcase the best of British, BT have lined up acts which they feel represent different corners of the UK; such as Stereophonics (Wales), Duran Duran (England) and Paolo Nutini (Scotland). A nice albeit simple idea, regardless of whether you’re a fan of these musicians or not.

But that’s not where the music ends for London 2012.

The main anthem from the Rock the Games playlist is ‘Survival’ by rock wizards Muse. Sir Elton John and Australian dance duo Pnau, Dizzee Rascal, The Chemical Brothers and Delphic have also created official tracks especially for this summer’s extended sports day and will resound at all Olympic venues.

So of these five efforts, who takes home the gold?

Bronze Medal

When I first saw the list of five bands asked to contribute music the Games, I was slightly taken aback when scanning Delphic‘s name. This is not to say that their past work isn’t any good, merely that in comparison to the other household names in the line up their presence was fairly unexpected. Nevertheless, they have certainly delivered. It’s a great track in its own right and has bundles of energy which is an ideal tone to set for London 2012. Any athlete hearing this track would feel pumped, let’s just hope they don’t dance too much during the archery…

Silver Medal

I’ve always had a soft spot for Pnau. Their self-titled album released in 2007  was a deliciously spiky affair with plenty of electronic cheer, so it’s fantastic to see them working with living pop legend Sir Elton John. ‘Good Morning To The Night’ is an undeniably toe-tapping hybrid of two very different genres that complement each other wonderfully. This is possibly the most renowned track linked to the Oympic Games as a result of  being taken from the collaborative album of the same name, which reached number one in the UK album chart this week. Certainly a crowd-pleaser and set to keep spectator spirits high over the summer.

Gold Medal

The Chemical Brothers simply have to take away the gold medal with their London 2012 soundtrack effort. It may not win any awards for depth or variety, but it truly commits itself to the Olympic Games. ‘Theme For Velodrome’ seems to be one part bicycle, two parts Tron. It’s impossible to listen this without picturing hordes of cyclists powering round the track with focused faces and legs pedaling so fast that everything’s become a blur. Admittedly this is not the best stand-alone release, but there’s no mistaking how perfect it is for the job at hand, bringing the Olympics to life through music.

Top five music tips for: Truck Festival

Apparently summer has hit the UK and festival frenzy is sweeping the nation. With so many opportunities out there to lose a weekend to live music, rolling fields and questionable takeaway food, how do you know which festival is right for you? Well there’s something for everyone out there and I’m here to give you my top five music tips for upcoming events, starting with this weekend’s Truck Festival.

You’ve bought your ticket and now you’re struggling with the overwhelming array of acts to choose from. Don’t worry, here’s a helping hand to point you in the direction of your pop priorities.

About Truck Festival

Set up in 1998, Truck Festival is the brainchild of Robin and Joe Bennett, former members of the band Goldrush. After finding festivals such as Glastonbury too mainstream and commercial, its birth was an act of rebellion and its initial success spawned the Truck Records label based in Oxfordshire. Now under the management of Y Not Festival, it’s set to be a cracking weekend.

So who should you be listening to during the Friday and Saturday festivities?

1. Man Like Me

Insanely energetic London outfit Man Like Me are a treat for the eyes and ears. If their set at The Great Escape Festival was anything to go by, you best be wearing your dancing shoes (or wellies) when they take to the stage. Known for their highly infectious pop tracks and a cameo in the advert for a very popular Scandinavian store, Man Like Me are a must-see at this year’s Truck Festival. The Camden duo are signed to Mike Skinner’s record label, The Beats, and their latest single ‘Squeeze’ is a summer anthem if ever there was one. Vibrant, synthesized and with bravado by the bucket load, you need to get involved.

2. Villagers

Following the critical success of their 2010 album debut Becoming A Jackal, Villagers have spent the past few months in the studio rustling up their next offering. Now ready to unleash themselves unto the world once more, the band, who hail from Dublin, are sure to sooth the soul. Front man Conor J. O’Brien offers delicate yet powerful vocals, particularly haunting during live renditions of ‘Memoirs’; a track he originally penned for Charlotte Gainsbourg who released it as a limited edition single for Record Store Day 2011. It’s a rare yet spectacular band that can deliver songs which leave you feeling raw and exposed, cushioned in-between bouts of quick Irish wit. Villagers are not to be missed.

3. Lucy Rose

Fresh from touring with Bombay Bicycle Club and Noah and The Whale over in the US, Lucy Rose is now descending upon Truck Festival. Steadily infiltrating the popular consciousness, her latest single ‘Lines’ has received plenty of airplay and praise. All of which stands her in good stead for her debut album which is due to drop in September. If soaring melodies and folk influences are your cup of tea (an ironic turn of phrase as Rose created her own blend named ‘Builder Grey’), then make time to catch her set this weekend.

4. Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit offer indie rock with Celtic charm. It’s been nearly a decade since the band first formed and their A Frightened Rabbit EP released in 2011 exudes growth. The guys are currently working on another EP, speculated to be made available in September, and their fourth studio album, due out next year. Take this opportunity to get lost in their toe-tapping rhythms and elegant poetic lyricism. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

5. King Charles

Charles Costa aka King Charles is a natural showman. He counts Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling as pals, the former of which can be heard on Costa’s current single, ‘The Brightest Lights’, currently doing the rounds on BBC 6 Music. Loveblood, his debut album, was released back in May on Island Records and demonstrates a catchy blend of dreamy surf rock and addictive pop. His back catalogue is full of songs assured to get your earworms wriggling and to put a smile on your face.

My gripe with Grimes

A few months ago my Twitter feed went crazy. Everyone was talking about Grimes. Now at the time I had no idea who or what that was, I just knew that I had to check it out. The first I saw and heard of Grimes aka Claire Boucher was a video to ‘Vanessa’, taken from Darkbloom; a collaborative album with fellow Canadian musician d’Eon. A fairly ethereal track strung over black and white moving images of women playing with make-up and dancing backwards, filmed by Grimes herself. The first thought that popped into my head, and remained, throughout the 5:48 minute clip was ‘how pretentious’.

As someone who prides herself on an eclectic music taste and open mind, I gave Grimes the benefit of the doubt. It’s not her fault, I thought, average artists blow up all the time and it’s difficult to live up to the hype. When this hype continued, I figured I had best give her another shot.

This time I listened intently to ‘Oblivion’, a track from her latest album release Visions, now inescapable to avid listeners of BBC 6 Music and the like. It had potential. It was ‘boppy’, a fun beat that the hipster kids could bounce around to without messing up their hair. But I still didn’t understand. Even when word spread at The Great Escape Festival of her jam-packed set at Brighton’s Digital and the appearance of two male backing dancers, I didn’t understand. She’s not the first musician to infuse live music and dance routines, even if you did think it was ‘totes amazing’.

By all means there’s a lot worse out there and there are many artists I also lump in this same category (The XX). It all seems like a lot of effort with little reward. A bit too much style over substance, which in some circumstances can be pulled off well but I find Miss Boucher lacking. She appears to me as a slightly disturbed Cyndi Lauper for the digital age, just a lot less ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ and a lot more ‘Girls Just Want To Look Like Me’.

Maybe one day it’ll click, maybe it won’t. Perhaps one evening you’ll find me front row and centre at a local Grimes gig, perhaps (and more likely) you won’t. I haven’t written her off completely, but as it stands, right here, right now, I don’t get Grimes. And I don’t feel I am missing out because of this.