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Song of the day: I’m wasting my young years

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Hello kids,

It’s monday morning – how was your weekend? I was at The XX Night + Day and it was fab, thanks for asking. The day started with a nice little surprise London Grammar. The cinematic, haunting pop trio has been dubbed as nicer version of The XX you can take home to meet the parents. I personally wouldn’t mind taking the XX home, but I get the idea. And I also get why the XX would have invited them to their event.

There are similarities in the feeling, but in no ways are the voices the same nor is there an existant of distinctive guitar/bass lines. This is a perfect soundtrack to a dramatic sad movie. Hannah Reid was superb live, and her voice is more soulful than intimate and leans more towards Portishead than that of Romy. Dan Rothman and Dot Major (am I the only one finding this name entertaining?) did a good job building some electro beats around her. Their EP Metal & Dust was released early this year.

The standout track is clearly Wasting My Years.


Song of the day: The XX XMas

Hello kids,

So you may think that I am obsessed with the XX and talk too much about them. You would be right, and to prove a point here’s another post about them.

But people, come on, is there anything this band can’t do superbly? Yesterday the recorded a Christmas tune in the BBC Radio 1 live lounge and made it sound like the hippest and newest tune. I mean I’m not even a fan of Christmas jingles. In fact I am an anti-fan but this is just a FANTASTIC cover.

Now I know what you are thinking – The XX + Christmas carol = really? Well don’t worry in true XX style they picked the most appropriate song they could Last Christmas – which is all about vulnerability and heartbreak. Now that sounds exactly like the XX. And then they put loads of heavy synthiser and whispery singing and BINGO. You get the XX sound.

It’s just so great hurry up and listen to it


Now if only the shops could be playing this instead of those horrendously happy-clappy-shoot-me-garbage.

Concert Review: The XX//Salle Metropole//Lausanne, Switzerland//1 December 2012

So it is no secret to anyone that I adore The XX. I have given them out several times as song of the day and I even wrote a special long review of their new album because I enjoyed it so much. I also reviewed their performance at Open’er Festival. However both times that I have seen them has been a festival (the other time was Primavera 3.5 years ago). So it was good to finally catch them at their own dedicated show.


The concert was held at Salle Metropole in Lausanne. It was my first time there and I was quite surprised that they had invited the XX. The venue is reserved for big shows (Cirque du Soleil) and classical concerts. I was expecting more a venue like Les Docks for this type of band. But I think that after the huge success of their first album, serious money was pumped into their second tour and they probably needed a venue with high technical offering to fully maximize all their equipment.

The venue foyer is beautiful, there are three levels and large circular holes in the middle of each of them with a massive light. It really gives a grand theatre Titanic-era glow to the place. It’s one of those venues with a standing floor and a seated upper level for concerts, just like Olympia (Paris). And to be fair although I struggle with the task of sitting during a concert, the XX is a type of concert some people may feel more comfortable sitting to enjoy.


The show started in a beautiful gloomy atmosphere with a thin black curtain covering them and a white visual being projected onto it. However a close claustrophobic faint situation unfortunately made me miss the first two songs so I cannot comment more.  Anyways two minutes to gulp some water, take in some fresh air and I’m back in to find a pretty vibing crowd for Switzerland standards. People are cheering the band and I’m impressed that we managed a semi enthusiastic crowd. The first song to really strike me is Our Song, the last one off their new album Co-exist.


That is a secret favourite of mine. It really accentuates how raw and vulnerable Romy and Oliver make themselves when they sing from the very bottom of their body. It also highlights just how much they are the masters of minimalism. I’m sure I’ve written this several times but this band really makes every single song so incredibly perfect, clear, and impactful. They are also the kings of control. Songs start generally slow, speed up, beat up, build up, crescendo but never quite get out of control or break loose. It may be this beautiful restraint that gives The XX their signature sound. That and the BOOMING base that they love to abuse so that the entire ceiling, lights and every bone in your body vibrates.


Just like in Open’er this show accentuates is just how much Jamie Smith (known as Jamie XX) has grown and how important his contribution is to the group has become. Not only did Jamie create the majority of the beats LIVE on the millions of machines and instruments he had layered out behind the two vocalists/guitarists, he also mixed and interlinked song to song in a completely original way. This made it possible to really feel we were living a unique experience as songs were tweaked; their tempo and accents mixed up and stitched into each other, keeping the audience on their toes.

On a few songs (Reunion, Swept Away) Jamie finally literally got the limelight he deserved when a huge spot lit up above him to bring clarity to his important contribution. I was hypnotized by his fingers moving all over some magic buttons during Hearts Skipped a Beat. However I was shocked he did not come centre stage at the end to partake in a proper bow.


Although Jamie received more attention than in the past, the star of the show was Oliver. His confidence has grown immensely from when I first saw him, just after the release of their first album. He struts backwards and forwards on the stage, throws his body in different angles, and continues to have his signature way of playing his bass guitar: in a very swinging flowing motion almost creating an eight as he strums the strings. His voice is as powerful yet clear as ever. However although Romy nailed every single guitar solo to the split second and mesmerized us all with the vulnerability in her voice, she hid in the shadows in this performance.

But the most amazing addition to the show was by far the LIGHTING. WOW. To begin with the XX’s music is naturally mystical, their look is dark and mysterious and even listening to them in my room takes me to another magical land. But boy did they maximize this with the lighting. At first very simple and gloomy: mainly black and white. The engineers know not to underestimate the power of shadows. They then added three very powerful ‘windmill’ type of lights cutting the stage horizontally and made us standing crowd feel like we were in a dark marsh. The light then turn vertically and created waves of light that Oliver danced through. Very effective. Slowly they introduced colours. First a sunset ray feel, then some very powerful green rays that broke on the singers head. It really felt like being on a different planet.


This came to a climax and the end of the first part when a curtain was lifted to reveal a huge X at the back of the stage. The crowd cheered like mad. Then the band disappeared off the stage as the huge X filled up with smoke. Surprisingly enough they came back up for an encore (something I have never seen them do) to the relief of the screaming crowd. The encore was long 5 maybe 6 songs and by the end of the show they must have played nearly every song on the two albums. Oliver continued to assure us in his calm, near depressed voice that they were very happy to be here with us. Although it’s hard to feel it in his spoken voice, we all heard it in their singing, in their instruments, in their presence and in the atmosphere created that they had generously and sincerely gave us a little part of their magical far away land.


Song of the day: The beauty of simplicity

Hello kids,

So its Monday after a long weekend, I know it’s tough. But something to get your through the week is on FRIDAY we have THE LIBERATION night. How freaking fantastic right? So we are sorry we have been away for so long, but we promise to bring you an amazing DJ set. And since we have a sort of talent scout for new opportunities and cooler parties coming to check it out we ask that YOU PLEASE come to the party so we can bring you many more great events. And bring 10 friends. All details here.

So now onto the music. So I know I have raved heavily about The XX from their debut album to my excitement about their performance at Open’er Festival and of course the wait around their new album. But I could not resist writing another post now that it is finally out.

We love The XX because they are so different, because in their calm way they excite and because they are minimalistic and yet so effective. And of course they embodied all of this with the build up to their album release.

The album will officially be released tomorrow (YIKES!) but over the last week they have offered free streaming through their site (and partner site). But not only were they avant-garde by offering free streaming of the entire album they partnered it with a world map that tracks how the album is being shared. Apparently at first only released to a single fan you can use the timeline to see how the album quickly took over world domination.  It aims at making you feel connected  and part of the community of The XX fans around the world which is a genius concept.
I can happily that the first South African share was from me – lets light up AFRICA!

Now about the album, obviously I have listened to it on repeat non-stop. So first thing I noticed is that the iconic minimalists have out done themselves. It is more simple, more hidden, the sounds seem more and more to be coming from space. This album is much more of a grower than the first listen love-struck effect of their debut album.

What I love The XX the most is that they are hugely popular and thus an album so slow but exciting, so simple but effective can teach people around the world that the beauty is in the detail. This album is rich, and every listen makes you appreciate each of their careful crafted sounds more and more. This is personal, this is intimate, this is their souls being opened. There is something so vulnerable about their Romy and Oliver’s duo confessions (that is such a contrast from their closed and protected appearance) and Jamie XX after all the attention he has gotten has grown several steps in his ability to produce and mix and merge sound in an unearthly way.

So after a few listens sound start to touch you in a really special way. For example your heart skips a beat (see what I did there) as the climax comes in on Reunion after a pause of silence, that’s when you really want to praise Jamie’s work (1:57) – the most upbeat song on the album that will make you want to move. The use of repetition in that song is also beautiful.

The silent pause is also done in Missing (1:20). Which is a much slower and heartbreaking song to start but steps up with power after the silent break and exposes Oliver’s pain and sorrow as he sings my heart is beating in a different way. I also love how the duo swap their background wailing from Romy to Oliver.

You will also look forward to the upbeat Sunset (that beautiful come in after Reunion) that drills the line
I always thought it was a shame, that we have to play these games.
Not to mention the guitar solos.

As you may remember I am obsessed when girl and guy duo sing together, and this is done very effectively to close the beautiful Try when they sing:
You know the way I, can’t resist you, say to myself I’m trying.

Strangely I am addicted to what possibly is the simplest lyrical song. I’m not a big fan of mushy cliché lyrics. And on face value that is what is sung in Our Song. But nothing coming from The XX with the sincerity of their voice can seem that way, neither is the beauty of the background mix done coming in from 0:46. And all I tend to repeat in my head is:
You know I know your heart, I want to mend your heart.

Now I invite you to give it a go. You can find it everywhere by now – including Spotify.

And remember – it just gets better.

I wish I could make a soundtrack to my life and breathe in the notes every day

Song of the day: Psycho killer teen dream action film

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Hello kids,

So yesterday I gave you the new tune in preview of the release of the XX’s highly exciting second album.
Today I do a similar thing for Bloc Party’s long anticipated 4th album called Four.

As I mentioned in my review, I heard a couple of snippets at Heineken Open’er in Poland earlier this month and I loved what I heard.

So I give you the first released single in wait for 20th of August when we get to hear the whole thing.

Here is Octopus

I wish I could make a soundtrack to my life and breathe in the notes every day

Song of the day: With words unspoken, a silent devotion

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Hello kids,

So as I mentioned I was privileged to hear snippets from the upcoming second album of the XX.
They have now released their official first single Angels.

This is not my favourite from the previews they gave us at Heineken Open’er Festival of the new work to come, but still a wonderful track.
Calm, simple yet enchanting this single is bound to continue to create a hype and fascination about this unique band.

So here it is. Hold your breath for the full album release Coexist on the 10th of September.


I wish I could make a soundtrack to my life and breathe in the notes every day

Festival Review: Heineken Open'er // Gdynia, Poland // 7 July 2012 // Day 4: Mumford & Sons, Bat for Lashes, The XX, SBTRKT

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So Day 4 all started with me trying out a Polish punk band Cool Kids of Death. Talk about embracing the culture. Rap in polish is a lil difficult to attach yourself too. However they were still fun for a good old jump around in a teenager dominated marsh pit. Unfortunately towards the end of the performance the heavens Opene’ered up and the rain started. What was a few drops quickly turned into a storm with thunder and lighting. Luckily after about 45 minutes of heavy rain it all stopped and the performances manage to continue with a short delay.

Mumford & Sons were up next. And although the opening song was a weak one (I think possibly a new one) they followed it up with their entire top hits one after another and the folk (let’s not say country – I hate country) frolicking was pleasant to say the least. What with the newly formed mud lakes we could all have been jamming in a pig farm.

But I cut that performance short as I had already seen them last year at Primavera and was keen to watch the whole of Bat for Lashes.

And what a good choice that was. Bat for Lashes was the most enchanting performance of the festival. As Natasha Khan came out clothed from head to toe in a heavy patterned long dress and matching headband she looked like a pagan princess. Her stage moves were also very impressive (although completely different to those of Alison) and enchanting. The tent this time transported us to entranced moonlight feel. Her voice is nothing short of perfection – she hit every single of her notes, while rocking back and forward with her arms out like an Egyptian queen. Occasionally shaking some Latino looking shaker. It all felt so natural and intimate that she was giving you a little part of herself without it being much of an effort.

Highlights for me were of course Precilla and Daniel as I am not as familiar with her new album (which of course I will now proceed to get to as the performance was incredible).

And then the grand ending on the main stage: The XX. And it’s really strange what this nothing short of bizarre band could do the crowd. I adore the XX. They were my musical food and fuel and obsession for a good 5 months after their debut album came out. And I can still listen to their album, loving every single song on the album (which is rare) and never getting tired of it.  So impatiently I waited right up close to the stage, surrounded with hard-core (and annoyingly pushy) fans. And as the trio took on the minimal misty stage (they are abusive users of smoke machines) the musical drug started and on it we stayed.

The XX are that weird middle ground. Drawn out sound with a definite beats, but too fast to be slow and too slow to be fast. You are just not quite sure what to do with yourself at their concert. And somehow we were all ok with that. The voices Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim are as clear and piercing in real life as it is on the CD. I am still amazed how hard-core and distant the punkie looking singers/guitarist look and how vulnerable and delicate their voices sound. Don’t judge a voice by its cover. And just like The XX the most breath taking moments are the ones when they sing together and let their voices intermingle.

I was again very pleased to hear some new singles off their much awaited second album. And I am delighted to report they also sound fantastic. So only great things ahead. They have a little more bass/slight electro/mixed feel but fantastic and still as originally sounding as the first album. You can see that Jamie Smith (also doing solo mixing work under the name Jamie XX) is adding a great deal of value to Romy and Oliver.

The crowd was obviously giving the band much love as Oliver repeated several time that he was blown away by the Polish crowd, so happy to be here and sorry it took them so long to come. However no matter how much we howled no encore. I guess it’s just too cliché for them.

As the main show finished we walked back to the tent one last time to catch the Africa meets Electro brilliant mix of SBTRKT. It was a really fun act to end the concert on. We gave our tired legs one more jam session.

And as we finally retreated to the Heineken Lounge and drank our final drafts of the festival and laughed at some memories that had been cemented in the mud and in our hearts we felt a bit surreal about all that had happened and how it was now over. The festival had drawn us into this new world and was necessarily ready to leave it.

But we weren’t the only ones with a bit of nostalgia. Walking back a crowd was forming around what a must of been very drunk guy (either on music or beer but you can figure out which is more likely) who decided to pitch his tent in the middle of the mud puddle in the camping area and angrily kicked around in the muddy water. Whatever floats your boat man.

Music performances of this level does it for me.

Oh and this.