Tag Archives: 2009

Emiliana Torrini

O2 Academy, Oxford
9th September 2009

Let me be clear – I’d turn up to see Emiliana Torrini sing the phonebook. But it doesn’t mean that I think everything she sings is perfect. I loved the dreamy electronica of 1999’s Love in the Time of Science, but found 2005’s Fisherman’s Woman achingly beautiful yet sad and difficult to listen to (fitting for a work borne out of several personal tragedies). And last year’s Me and Armini was a little on the odd side. For example, according to Emiliana tonight, that album’s title track is about a stalker whose spirit has entered her via whisky…

However, her performance tonight wins me over and makes me reappraise those two most recent albums. The focus is her voice, and her versatile five-piece backing band visit everything from table steel guitar to harmonium, glochenspiel and bowed cymbals to recreate her records’ varied instrumentation around it.

Her songs are unashamedly personal; she means them, rather than acts them, and takes her time to explain them to us.

It’s almost as if you have to see her singing to really appreciate it. Her voice can be both strong and vulnerable, melancholy and uplifting. Quirky like her fellow Icelander Bjork and at times reminiscent of the Sugarcubes (her drummer Siggi was a founding member), she’s not bothered about sticking to genres; Me and Armini visits reggae and Heard It All Before jazz and ska, yet she mostly sticks to the acoustic folk of songs like Heartstopper and Fireheads, occasionally veering towards the strangely prog in Gun and into the lush synths of To Be Free. Unemployed in Summertime was originally trip hoppy, but tonight it’s more like jazz and country – yet doesn’t lose any of its charm. And big European hit Jungle Drum is far less twee live.

Lovely is the best word for it, and I leave feeling all warm and fuzzy.


From Nightshift, October 2009

Rosalita and Off The Radar

The Jericho Tavern, Oxford
4th March 2009

Rosalita are an interesting proposition. Visually, there’s something of a shambolic swagger about them – and I’m not really sure about singer Kris’s white woollen overcoat, hat, grey jumper and the mockney voice he sings/talks/yelps in – but the music is far more tight. It has a punchy, melodic 80s bass-led and synth-augmented vibe, and there’s quite a bit of ska in there somewhere among the hooks.

Manga Girl is a nice slice of pop-punk punchiness – something The Faint might do if they lightened up a bit. What Would Your Mother Say (a cautionary tale of a youngster going off the rails) is also quite sparky and catchy, and Art Attack is – joyously – about Neil Buchanan’s Art Attack (“Not as good as Hart Beat… TV ain’t what it used to be”).

All more fun, I’m afraid, than Off the Radar.

On paper, they’ll probably sound great. But therein lies the problem – they come over as far less the sum of their parts. It’s a shame, because they’ve been together for ages and have obviously finely crafted their style and songwriting, but their particular blend of jangly rock n’ roll blues indie pub rock doesn’t work for me. The guitar parts are too frenetic and just meander around without really nailing anything, and the rest doesn’t get anywhere either.

There’s nothing really wrong with songs like Cut to the Chaser and The Man from Del Monte – they’re just not very memorable. On the plus side, the harmonies between guitarist Daz and bassist Tim sound rather charming.

The whole experience reminded me of watching a TV programme because it sounded great in the Radio Times, but then realising when it’s finished that you were quite happy to sit through it but weren’t engaged at all and can’t remember anything that happened. Like the second series of Heroes, really.


From Nightshift, April 2009


O2 Academy, Oxford
5th June 2009

The Dewaele brothers are busy people. Part of top Belgian pop/rock/electro combo Soulwax for the past 14-odd years, David and Stephen are also the remix/DJ duo 2manydjs, who emerged in the early 00s with some legendary bootleg sets. They used to have a show on Belgian radio, and tonight’s gig is part of a tour to celebrate the launch of Radio Soulwax as a web radio show (featuring Soulwax live, DJ sets and special guests, apparently).

This is a live production set – mixing and producing live rather than mixing just pre-prepared stuff, so no outing for Bootylicious/Smells Like Teen Spirit.

It’s a constantly changing amalgamation. I spot NY Lipps – a mashup of Funky Town and Soulwax’s NY Excuse – being mixed into their own remix of Soulwax’s E Talking – a live mix of their own remix of their own song!

The highlight is really the animated record covers. Dizzee Rascal’s eyes and eyebrows dance to Bonkers (which, predictably, drives the crowd crazy); MGMT bop on the cover of Oracular Spectacular; the mouth from Fischerspooner’s #1 album has an artistic case of record vomiting; and the assorted members of the (Human) League Unlimited Orchestra are looking lively (for their age) during Open Your Heart (Love and Dancing was arguably the first proper remix album, of course). The mainstream (Bodyrox’s Yeah Yeah) joins the more obscure (is Mr Oizo’s Cut Dick obscure?), the older (CLS’s Can You Feel It), the currently cool (Tiga’s Shoes, Justice’s Phantom Pt II) and rock (The Clash’s Rock the Casbah and AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap).

It’s much more interesting than a standard DJ set, and there’s some very clever technical wizardry going on. I guess they’re doing it with CDs, mixers/samplers, a laptop and crafty planning; I can’t work out how the synchronised cover art fits in, but I can see them beavering away twiddling knobs to some effect, so I’m satisfied. Mystery AND fun – bargain!


From Nightshift, July 2009