Penguin Prison (DJ Set)
Even if you never find out what a Penguin Prison is, there’s no denying Chris Glover aka Penguin Prison has made a brilliant record. If you’re a fan of New York disco, as accessible as it is angular, all burbling bass lines, resonant rhythms, shimmering synths and heavenly melodies, then you’ll love the new Penguin Prison album.
Imagine, if you will, Chic produced by James Murphy, or a collaboration between Prince and The Human League. It is some measure of Penguin Prison’s skills in the studio, on vocals and in terms of songwriting, that such illusory marvels have been achieved on this superb self-titled collection, that some critics have gone as far as to hail it a modern day Off The Wall masterpiece.
“It’s not a concept album about Michael,” says Prison, or maybe we should call him Penguin, of his all-time hero “But it’s definitely been influenced by him.”
To say he was an early starter would be an understatement. From the age of 10 he was singing in the local gospel choir. When he was 11, he got an agent and began recording jingles. By 12, he had learned to play guitar and was into punk rock, the American variety – bands such as Green Day, NOFX and Bad Religion. He even performed as a teen at the legendary CBGBs with his band The Museum.
Chris became Penguin Prison at the start of 2009. It wasn’t long before he earned a reputation as remixer du jour for the likes of Marina and the Diamonds, Goldfrapp and Passion Pit. He agrees that he conferred NY kudos especially on the British artists, and admits his favorite remix was for Jamiroquai, adding that the secret to a good remix is “to throw everything away from the original track and start from scratch”.
It was inevitable that Chris would then make music of his own, which he began in late 2009. You can hear the spectacular results on the debut Penguin Prison album, which sounds to all intents and purposes like a Greatest Hits collection, so chock-full it is of catchy hooks and classic pop choruses. There is Multi-Millionaire, which is about “being rich even if you’ve got no money” and one titled Don’t Fuck With My Money that features Jackson-style percussive gasps and a lyric that pushes the envelope. “I was worried it was too crazy – ‘Can I really say that?’ People said leave it in, so I did. “All my lyrics are sarcastic but serious as well,” he adds. “So I’m really saying ‘don’t fuck with my money’! Because if you try to, it’s not going to be good…”
Penguin Prison Is signed to Downtown Records.
Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt met on a Saturday night in February 2009. It was, Aino says quite reasonably, “the best thing that ever happened”.
So the day after the best thing that ever happened happened, these two girls from the Stockholm suburbs formed a electronic pop duo band, and on the Monday – when the hangovers had cleared and it still all seemed like the best thing that had ever happened – they booked their first gig – Icona Pop was born. This felt all very well, but then they realised they had four weeks until their gig, but no songs.
Autumn of 2011, Icona Pop moved from Stockholm to London, and with an album ready to go the tunes are in no short supply. Icona Pop says: “We like galloping drums, and synthesisers, but we still like the classical pop melodies. And that’s ‘what we are’. We don’t have to decide, because there’s no decision to be made. We just have to do exactly what we want.”
In the intervening years they’ve working with The Knocks (voted one of NME’s hottest production outfits of the hour), Patrik Berger (Robyn), Elof Loelv (Niki & The Dove), Fredrik Berger (The Good Natured) and Style of Eye, as well as sessions with UK producers like Starsmith (Kylie, Ellie Goulding) and Burns. Their Neon Gold-released double a-side single ‘Manners’ / ‘Top Rated’ prompted journals like NME and The Guardian say things along the lines of “effortlessly cool” and “all the makings of a 24-carat pop hit”, and the duo have perfected their live show, too – that first performance back in 2009 went rather well, all things considered, while their first London gig was impressive enough to bag them a management deal with Artist Company TEN, the team behind Niki & The Dove and Erik Hassle.
There’s plenty more of this evocative stuff right across Icona Pop’s as-yet-untitled debut album, due out in 2012. Effervescently romantic number ‘Sun Goes Down’ is a Knocks collaboration written on a trip to New York. “We both had a crush at home,” Caroline recalls, “and we were thinking about our lovely men on the other side of the ocean, singing, ‘I will be waiting for you until the sun goes down’.” The sound of it all is hard to pinpoint, but there are some unmistakeable Madonnaisms on spirited anthem ‘Beat The L’.
So that original plan for Caroline to give Aino her best night ever? Well, that night they met in 2009 has since been immortalised in song, on the vivid and joyous ‘Nights Like This’ Caroline explains, “everything that night was like magic, and the lyric ‘nights like this, you will never be alone’, is what Icona Pop is all about. It’s about being together and having fun, and inviting as many people as possible because the best nights out are the ones you want to share with everyone.”
As nights out go, Icona Pop’s first must of one of pop’s most vital, and it’s still in full effect three years later. In fact, it feels like it’s just getting going. “We’re having so much fun all the time,” Aino smiles. “It’s kind of scary.”
Toronto’s Born Ruffians feature Luke LaLonde (vocals/guitar), Mitch DeRosier (bass/vocals), and Steve Hamelin (drums). Formed in 2002, the indie rock trio creates a jaunty mix of shifty guitar riffs and hyper-chic vocals for a Pixies-esque shredded kind of sweetness. An appearance at the annual Pop Montreal festival and U.S. tour dates with Hot Chip and Shy Child coincided with the release of Born Ruffians’ self-titled debut EP for Warp Records in October 2006. The band’s first full-length, Red Yellow & Blue, arrived in spring 2008. They returned with 2010’s Say It, which the band recorded in two weeks with producer Rusty Santos.
"Free Energy is one of the best live bands in America. After Friday night’s show at Brooklyn Bowl, I’m ready to call them five of the best people in the world, hands down, and give them any accompanying awards (note to self – check if there is a Rock ‘N’ Roll Noble Prize, award to Free Energy if so), just based on the amount of joy the band brings into the world with its music. Not in a “joy to the world” way, either, but in a “Trans Am going 120 miles an hour while you’re out of your mind on whiskey and weed” way. If there is a heaven, Free Energy will be the house band."
Chad Valley are the personal outpourings of one Hugo Manuel, the balearic inclined vocalist of Oxford's Jonquil and founder member of the Blessing Force collective.
Taking a more electronic approach to sunset vibes, Hugo has made quite a splash this past summer. In his short 25 show career he's already played in Dublin, Paris, Budapest, Belgrade and Istanbul, been a big smash at In The City and supported the likes of Amiina, Mountain Goats and Foals. His music has been on every blog you can think of from Gorilla vs. Bear to Pitchfork's Forkcast, the latter of which has featured him three times in recent months and at one point in late October was the fourth most blogged about artist on the planet.
He's enjoyed a host of radio plays across the BBC and had his debut BBC session recorded for Huw Stephens' show in January 2011.
Chad Valley's debut EP is out on Service's US imprint Cascine (USA / UK / JP / Scan) and French label Maman (EU) and a follow up is slated for release this coming Spring in UK, US and Japan.
Upon releasing their six-song debut EP Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever online for free last fall, Los Angeles’ NO had the city abuzz. Now with a slew of much-talked about performances and local acclaim under their belts, NO will be releasing the EP on 12” vinyl on February 14 through Origami Vinyl. Limited to 500 copies, pre-orders are available now through the Origami Vinyl Online Shop. Local tastemaker Buzzbands LA exclaimed: “Judging from the gravitas in NO’s first single “Stay With Me”…. redemption is but a life-affirming anthem away.” Yvynyl declared: “Bradley Hanan Carter’s vocals seem to fill the bowels of Echo Park, Los Angeles. The deep timbre announces the romantic vision of yearning with conviction in the same fashion of baritone voiced Matt Berninger of The National.”
Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever is currently available as a free download via the band’s website and the lead single “Another Life” is available as an MP3 to post and share. NO will be touring the west coast in February in support of the album. In March they will return to their hometown LA for a month-long Monday night residency at The Echo before heading to Austin for the SXSW Music Festival. All shows are listed below.
The romanticism and desolation of Los Angeles breeds restlessness in its people. It’s a brooding temperament best captured by Echo Park’s NO – a band that feels it in their bones, with the kind of fevered anticipation for something more. Frontman Bradley Hanan Carter’s baritone vocals speak to the tension between the wanting and waiting, waiting for love or for some kind of order or sense to how it all works. Their track, “Stay With Me” is a ballad of calculated pleas one of slow, delicate movements. It’s being in love with someone, and hoping for some kind of stillness in the unpredictability of love. He asks, “Wasn’t there a place for me/inside your heart?” It’s all the words you’d ever want your lover to say, the fantastic notion of running away, the return to youth, when everything was uncomplicated and wonderful.
NO began as a response to the limiting idea behind the word – in an effort to reclaim it and reinterpret it as more than just an antithesis to possibility. These are sing-along songs, hymnal and anthematic; born out of a desire to connect with the greater collective of young people seeking their truth, adventure, love. There are remnants of odes to Bill Callahan, The National, and Arcade Fire—epic, atmospheric drums that pulsate, buttered bass tones, melodic choruses.
It’s not about naivety; it’s about not being calloused by a city of strangeness and strangers. Something the band knows quite well. The band itself is composed of near-veterans, all claiming a vast history with various bands, solo efforts, defunct projects, cities-travelled, loves made and lost. The core of NO first emerged mid 2010 when through a chance meeting at a local breakfast diner, Sean and Bradley started sharing songs they had both been working on. Shortly after Joseph started coming around too, and after many months of creating, and finding Reese and Mike, it seemed there would be no choice not to finish whatever it was they were starting.
NO marvels at the growing pains of a vibrant city, in all of it’s aching limbs and veins that run down dead ends. The interplay between hope and despair weaves itself throughout the collection of six songs in their debut EP Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever a sentiment that suggests that wherever “here” might be, it’s a good place to start.