And here’s a bonus episode!
Send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below!
Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years. Rockin’ my peers and putting suckas in fear…what? I just happen to be a white boy who knows his rap.
Welcome back to the Mixtape Mouthoff, where after a brief hiatus the tape is being shoved back into the player with 3 awesome tracks for your audio pleasure.
The first band up today are Parachute Musical (www.parachutemusical.com). Formed in Maryland in 2003 by lead singer and pianist Josh Foster who teamed up with childhood friend, guitarist Tom Gilbert and Gilbert’s workmate and drummer Ben Jacoby (who was in The American Originals Fife and Drum Corps, which is something you must Google just to see the ridiculousness!)
The band moved to Music City in 2007 and started to gain momentum, releasing their 2nd album “Everything Is Working Out Fine In Some Time”, adding bassist Andrew Samples, touring for most of 2008 and 2009 and finally releasing an EP in 2010 called “No Comfort” which contains the song Drop Me A Line.
This song really encapsulates what I like about this band, it’s a piano driven indie rock song that is not only upbeat but just a really awesome tune which will rattle around your skull for days (in a good way). So without further ado, from the aforementioned EP No Comfort which is available from iTunes and the like. This is “Drop Me a Line”
Kevin Smith isn’t known for his musical tastes, more so comics and pot, but by backing Courage My Love he has definitely shown that he has good taste.
Courage My Love (www.ilovecouragemylove.com) are a young band from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada formed by twin sisters Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn joining forces with bassist David Blake-Dickson to create an fantastic pop punk band. At just 17 the ability of Phoenix on the drums and guitar skills of Mercedes are frighteningly good and highly depressing for this 19 year old who can barely play Smoke on the Water. There is an easy comparison to make with Paramore due to the female led vocals but CML are much better in my opinion.
They have an EP coming in October and have released this track for free on Soundcloud (http://soundcloud.com/couragemylove/barricade) to whet your appetite. This is “Barricade”.
The last track today is this sensational song from singer-songwriter Sean Hayes (www.seanhayesmusic.com). This is a song from the New Yorker that you get lost in, like all his music it is just a pleasure to listen to.
I can talk about him having over 20 years experience playing or talk about how his simplistic set up creates this incredible texture while it mixes with his voice that just creates an audio masterpiece but the music speaks for itself as only 20 seconds into the track you’ll see for yourself just how fantastic Sean Hayes is.
From his 2010 album Run Wolves Run this is “Garden”.
Thank you very for reading and as always if you want to get these tracks they are available via the Amazon link to your right and through iTunes and the like. If you have any comments on these tracks or have a suggestion for a future Mixtape then leave a comment down below.
Welcome to the Mixtape Mouthoff, where every week I guide you through the treacherous musical rainforest to show you three unknown and beautiful creatures. This weeks band accidentally all ended up being animal related, with bees, porcupines and leprechauns being on the Mixtape this week. It’s more like a zoo than a music article this week!
First band up this week is Porcupine (www.porcupineband.com), a collection of 3 veterans of the Midwest music scene headed by Casey Vrock (formerly of Space Bike), alongside bassist David Reinders, who had some minor success over here in the UK, getting to number 27 in the UK singles chart and receiving airplay by legendary DJ John Peel.
This may be an acquired taste, but if you like a track with a heavy bassline then this is for you. From their 2009 album “The Trouble With You”, available on iTunes and the like, this is Dead Mint Club.
Mulch-instrumentalists Jake and The Leprechauns (www.jakeandtheleprechauns.com) recently won the Independent Music Awards for best alternative country single, and this band from Sherbrook, Quebec, Canada certainly deserve that accolade. With an amazing blend of folk and indie pop, Jake and The Leprechauns have a fantastically relaxing sound, topped off with the great voice of Charles-Antonie Gosselin.
Off their 2010 album “At Midnight the Birdsong”, and available to download for free from the band’s bandcamp page, www.jakeandtheleprechauns.bandcamp.com, this is “Busy Bee”.
The last singer is Julie Ann Baenziger, a multi-instrumentalist who goes under the name ‘Sea of Beas’. A self taught musician and singer, the Sacramento native has a very simplistic sound, but through that simplicity comes a beautiful masterpiece both musically and lyrically which can very easily challenge the Adeles and Ellie Gouldings of this world.
This track is off her debut album “Songs For the Ravens” which is available for download from iTunes and the like now, this is “Wizbot”.
If you like what you heard, just click that little MP3 button on the right and pick up yourself one of these albums, you won’t be disappointed. As always if you want to get in contact to suggest a track there’s the comment section down below, you can e-mail email@example.com or even tweet @antonyheald.
This is the Mixtape Mouthoff, where every week I fish the deep waters of the musical world to dish up three delicacies for your listening pleasure. And I wanna know what you guys think, if you like one of bands leave a comment down below same if you don’t like any of the bands.
The first band up is NazcarNation (www.nazcarnation.com), formed by three coworkers from Los Angeles who, bored with their 9-5 jobs, came together to blend there musical tastes and create a unique mixture of genres, producing a dubstep-esque beat mixed together with a indie pop feel, all topped off with a ambient influence creates an unexpectedly brilliant tune.
This is off their 2010 EP Dynazty, which is available at all the major download sites. Additionally on their official site (linked above) they have given you the option to pay for the EP whatever you want. This track is called “Beeswax”.
Our next act is Ben Howard (www.myspace.com/benhoward), a 23 year old singer songwriter from South Devon. This guy is right up my alley, with his fantastic voice accompanied by some amazing guitar work to create a gentle melodic sound. Howard’s EP is being released by Communion, the label headed by Ben Mumford of Mumford and Son’s, and he really does fit in along side the BRIT winners with his natural sound.
This is the title track off his EP, “The Old Pine” which will be released on the 23rd of May. Howard however is producing a free live album to be released in the next couple of days (more information on his Myspace page) which I thoroughly reccomend checking out.
Indy rock band The Joy Formidable are a group from the green pastures of North Wales, spearheaded by Ritzy Bryan and Rhydian Dafydd. They’ve seemingly been able to merge two decades of rock, with strong grunge influences mixed with the anthemic rock of today to create a great sound. With a female lead singer obvious parallels to Paramore will be drawn, but not only will Paramore fans be shocked at what they’ll find but they’ll also find a new rock heroine in Ritzy Bryan.
They were introduced to me on the fantastic podcast The Pollyanna Cowgirl Records podcast, which is an absolute must listen if you are interested in new music (www.simplysyndicated.com), and is a great listen. Also whilst researching them, I found both Mark Hoppus and Dave Grohl have both given them as recommendations recently, need I say more?
This is a track off their 2011 album “The Big Roar”, avaliable now, this is “Whirring”.
Three awesome tracks and two free EPS, I’m the gift that keeps on giving this week! If you want to get in touch to suggest an artist you can either leave a comment down below, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or even hit me up on Twitter @antonyheald.
Underground music has changed a lot in recent years. Like, a lot. Hip-hop music used to be underground by its very nature, rather than the absurdly bloated cash cow it is now, when rap slang has become the language de jour for advertising copy and management appraisals. Poor old hip-hop. The advent of the internet and the ability to make music being made available to more people than ever, has meant that for unsigned hype you no longer need to read columns or traipse around Chicago (too cold) or Bow Street, London (too stabby) to pick up the latest white label dance craze, House or Grime respectively in above examples. You can now do it from the comfort of your own Multimediamouth themed mansion like I do (He’s the only one who gets one too! Darn small print in the contract- Chris). Giving music away free is the new selling it, get with it!
This evening I’ll be on a date with Chiptune, or Chip Music. The basic idea of which is to make cool, exciting electronica using only the internal workings of games consoles and computer systems from the 80’s and early 90’s. Confused? Don’t be. Back in the old days, before games came on shiny DVDs, they used to arrive on magical devices such as Cartridges. These were 6-8 feet in length, featuring beautiful game artwork scratched like cave paintings into them. They were a religious item, and only worked by following the sacred ritual of insert, remove, insert, remove, blow, insert, play. This ritual is what we had instead of sex, it works in a similar way but less sweaty. These stone tablets would be placed reverently inside a games console that produced all it’s cool noises, not from playing a CD, but from chips inside the console that mimicked sounds and could be programmed to make the in-game music you know and love.
Skip forward a decade and a bit and we now have programs like Little Sound DJ that has been written by, well, nerds and you can pop it into your game boy and use it to transfer your Mario-machine into a musical instrument. You make your crazy rave noise from old computer sound-chips, dance your little socks off, then share it with the world. Kittenrock.co.uk is the online home of some of Europe’s leading Chiptune artists.
What do you wear for such an event? Well, I’ve figured on a little throwback fashion, with my Soundwave T-shirt and jeans with Doc Marten boots. Based on the cover artwork I’ve previously seen, and the last Chip artist I met, I’m going with a hot pink thong with a ladies manicured hand on the front and no cologne at all. Don’t ask.
Part of the beauty of chip music is its accessibility, so a venue isn’t important. In keeping with the ease and convenience with which kittenrock offers its music to us, I’ve invited them all to my house for home cooked food and a little wine. The first thing that you’ll notice about the rabble filling my living room is that they are not GQ models. I’m lucky in this respect because my music dates do not all have to be glitz and shine, but musically this is not the most accessible thing you’ve ever heard. It is however, catchy.
The website itself is sparse and businesslike, letting the albums on display do the talking. As I serve the soup I check out the attractive retro banner below which begins the list of recent releases on the website. A quick click into the releases button reveals…oh good grief Dot.AY has spilled his soup all over his lap. He reassures me it’s not a problem as he’s a palaeontologist. Erm..good. I think.
The album artwork is intriguing, from the deranged and amateurish to the original and downright clever, as a gamer of a certain age I found myself doing double takes as I scrolled down the listings.
One part of the date I find admittedly awkward is that I’m not sure if I’m dealing with deadpan humour, wry wit and off key jibes or a bunch of raving nutters. The chaps at kittenrock do enjoy their adjectives, and I never previously could have envisioned wanting to hear something described as “dystopian Gameboy techno.” There’s a very self-aware feeling of fun at kittenrock, but perhaps it’s a character flaw in myself (IMPOSSIBLE! – Chris) that I am a little concerned that some of the chaps may take it all a bit too seriously and….what? Josstintimberlake has done WHAT in my mashed potato?! Good grief.
Some of the Kittenrock tribe stand out more than others, and it’s probably a personal choice as to which of them you spend the most time with. KOOL SKULL seems to be shouting all the time and Jellica has an unhealthy interest in my pet cat. The whole troupe could be perhaps accused of having a funny attitude towards women, but until you’ve grooved your booty away to the Pornochip compilation you haven’t lived.
It’s difficult, because off-key high tempo deranged gameboy music with crunchy distorted drums wouldn’t be my cup of tea, generally speaking, or perhaps on paper anyone’s, but the more I listen to the more I begin to see the beauty and work that’s put into it. Even in the Locust-esque wall of sound compilations there’s a certain rhythm and melody that makes it hard to put down, you do want to see what’s next.
Having said that, the desert involves too much whipped cream, and you certainly do NOT want to see what happened next with that – Multimediamouth is a family site! After collecting a lot of new music, and doing some admittedly silly dancing, I finally get all the chaps out of my house and flop down exhausted and sweaty.
Just because this date was at home, doesn’t mean we can’t meet elsewhere. Chiptune has as much as a vibrant live following as any other underground dance music. You’ve possibly never seen anything like a room full of dancing people with a DJ at the front of the room rocking out, and on the table in front of him: no decks, no mixer but an old brick-style Gameboy, a Commodore 64 and an Amiga 500. And a mass of cables. On a man-to-man basis, you have to admire anyone who owns that many cables. Definitely up for a second date with the crazy kids from kittenrock.co.uk, and why wouldn’t you, it’s rewarding, it’s danceable and it’s a cheap date!
You can visit Kittenrock here.
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Plato once said “music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul”, so if that’s the case then open up space for this is The Mixtape Mouthoff, where every week I take my pickaxe and plunge the deepest caves of music to find great small artists to wax lyrical about and to bring to your attention.
The first singer is Maverick Sabre (www.mavericksabre.com), who has risen to to the cusp of fame by blending folk and RnB in an incredible fashion. The 20 year old Irishman is perhaps better known for his work with Professor Green and Chase and Status but he turned a lot of heads when he performed live on St Patrick’s Day for the Chris Moyles’ record breaking longest Radio 1 show.
Being born in South London and raised in Ireland has given Sabre this unique texture to his voice which really works well with the sombre lyrics of the following track. If you’re a fan of Plan B then Maverick Sabre will be right up your alley
This is “Look What I’ve Done” which is off his awesome EP “The Lost Words”, which is available for download now via iTunes and Amazon.
I was tipped off about this band (albeit not personally) by Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 fame, and if that doesn’t give you an indication of how awesome they are then I don’t know what will! Wavves (www.wavves.net) are a 3 piece band from San Diego, California who were best known for producing lo-fi punk, but after the addition of Billy Hayes and Stephen Pope (former bandmates of Jay Reatard) the band’s third album “King of The Beach” provided a much cleaner sound and has managed to create some kickass summer anthems. If you like your pop-punk then Wavves will certainly satisfy your craving after the new Blink 182 album release was postponed to next year. This is the title track “King of The Beach” which is available for download now, as always via iTunes and all other major outlets.
Our last singer this week is Josh Ritter (www.joshritter.com). The multi-talented singer, songwriter and author has been dubbed the “next Bob Dylan” and is certainly talented enough for that title. The 39 year old from Moscow, Idaho has received modest success in Ireland, gaining the backing of Glen Hansard (singer of The Frames and star of the hit independent film, Once) in the process. With some stunning lyrics and masterful guitar playing Ritter will slip into your iPod rotation quickly. If, like me you use music for relaxation then you’ll find Ritter’s guitar play and melodic tones really make for great listening. Particularly notable is Ritter’s ability to make even the most harsh of topics beautiful, such as the following track about the atomic bomb! This is off his 2006 album “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter” and is an absolute masterpiece, “The Temptation of Adam”.
If you want to buy the songs, why not just click the Amazon button to the right and treat yourself to these awesome tracks, and if you want to give your opinion or suggest a track you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page or send a email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In one of the most refreshing,well balanced and pioneering concerts of 2011 so far, Steve Reich’s Tehillim displayed the raw joyfulness that makes it still sound contemporary twenty years after its composition. The ethereal ringings of chattering female voices and the tireless canons of the scaled-down London Sinfonietta made for a huge, rapturous conclusion to a work that somehow manages to feel complete and open-ended.
Its Old Testament text draws from The Book of Genesis but it is not, Reich claims, an overly religious piece despite using psalms as its text.
The eerily childlike dancing of the Synergy Vocals quartet gave the work a spiritual quality that intensified with a coda based entirely on ‘Hallelujah’. Their strength, precision and technical accomplishment shone through. The piece seemed to end on the dominant – was this a ‘harmonic conclusion’ as Reich’s own programme note claims, or deliberate, tantalising ambiguity pointing the way towards spiritual and musical eternity? Whatever stance one takes, the ending was true to the character of the whole work; suffused with a combination of consciousness of life’s precariousness and heartfelt thanks for living. The delivery of the performers and Thomas Ades conducting made it absorbing and eminently satisfying to listen to despite the fragmentary nature of the vocal score. This is among Reich’s best works and it was brought out by top-notch string playing and fantastically energetic percussion.
Commissioned jointly by the Southbank Centre and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Thomas Ades and Tal Rosner’s In Seven Days was with no doubt the stand-out piece of the evening. Its driving minimalism, symphonic proportions and hypnotic metamorphosis give this an anxiety which reflects the eternity and precariousness of the life-force itself. The London Sinfonietta rose to the magnificent scale of the work brilliantly and held the audience’s rapt attention.
An interesting question posed by this work is whether the two outstanding feats of modern art presented can exist as one coherent interdisciplinary piece without detracting from the individuality and impact of each component. There are two outstanding works of two different genres here. Rosner’s accompanying filmic piece (rather like a visual narrator) was so absorbing that at times the music seemed to reflect its progress rather than the other way around. Fortunately Ades’ minimalism posesses a permeating rhythmic urgency and a spectrum of timbre colours which afford it dominating personality and quality. The London Sinfonietta, on form and bolstered by impressive percussion playing, were masterfully directed through In Seven Days’ sonic sequences by Ades himself at the helm, exact and all raw emotion at the same time. The fullness of emotion was there in ebullient string playing, as was the clarity and resonance required to make French Horns sing in their most poignant tones.
Mimicking the art of creation itself, Tal Rosner took water, life’s most fundamental compound, and made of it myriad beautiful things. As it morphed from juxtaposed blocks of film and block colour to
kaleidoscopic visions mimicking infinitesimal nature, this masterful exploration of the world through graphic art was hypnotic but never seemed repetitive. Drawn across six blocks, his was a vision of wonder
and which seemed to imply, yet not to exhaust, the infinite visual properties of life in its eternal cycles.
With this collaboration Ades seemed to have reimagined not only, as Tom Service succinctly put it, ‘the stuff of music’ but the stuff of the performance itself. This concert highlighted, yet again, the but it also highlighted the ever-greater thirst of the modern audience for work that stimulates every sense at once like never before. As the Antonioni Project – the multimedia piece the Barbican defined as a Stage Show – combined film with theatre, In Seven Days combined music with film. But unlike the dance-led Rite of Spring reimagining Rites, which will feature 3-D glasses (one wonders what Stravinsky would have made of it all) in the same venue on Saturday 23 April this year, its performance created not so much a musical show as an all-enveloping musical experience. Done properly by the best of them at the Royal Festival Hall, this experience was nothing short of mesmerising, pioneering brilliance.
Developing this interdisciplinary style without sacrificing the integrity and standard of composition presents a challenge that the generation of composers – who, fortunately, have Reich and Ades for inspiration –must live up to bearing in mind that today’s audience surely expect more innovation from artists and composers than ever before.
A note in brief: Welcome to the first MMM exclusive My First Date review, where in the guise of a first date I will take a look at some very popular and some not so popular corners of pop culture and see if I can develop some kind of understanding or rapport with them to pass on to you via my MMM handler. Please try to think handler in terms of secret agent information-passing rather than keeping me in a cage and feeding me tidbits. Although Chris does wonderfully at both.
A note on briefs: I will endeavour to describe exactly what manly underwear I will be wearing on every single date, but receive no freebies or product fees. If you feel the need to send me some new, unworn (I can’t stress this enough!) underwear for later plugging, please do so via the website.
GETTING READY: I was introduced to Rhianna’s Loud through a work colleague. They’d been out partying together a few times and the work colleague suggested I take the CD out on a date. I dated her older sister Rated R for a short time, but we never really hit it off in the long term, just a short fling based upon the odd fun track.
Looking at her, she looks very sexy, all pouty and the like, but also very hip-hop and urban (Hate that phrase, she looks nothing like a car park.) so perhaps it’s time to unleash my inner rapper on the world. Tonight I’m going for a liberal dousing of Jay-Z’s brand fragrance, some baggy jeans (Not scruffy ones though!) and a t-shirt with a great big logo on the front as big as my face. Boxers have to be my Calvin Kleins, but pulled up so high she can see the waistband logo above the neckline of my over-sized t-shirt. I’m ready to hit the town!
THE DATE: I picked a nightclub in Cambridge for our night out, but in deference to the hip-hop culture I know and love I actually sprung for the VIP section. The Soul Tree plays R&B, hip-hop and a bit of dancehall, so I figured with my fly attire it was the way to go. Also, by arranging to meet later I didn’t have to pick a dinner venue, and could arrive already tipsy. By shelling out for VIP tickets, (from the MMM expenses account, naturally!) we got a bottle of bubbly and meant that tucked away in the upstairs back corner we could talk and enjoy the music without it being too ear-bleedingly loud. This kept the added bonus that if she pointed out what a loser I was, I could pretend not to hear her.
First impressions were great!
“It’s so great that we’re into the same things, I mean that opening track, the beat is just like the Outhere brothers! Do you remember Boom Boom Boom?” Oh heavens, she might think that’s sex slang or something, I’m coming on too strong. “That is, Don’t Stop, Wiggle Wiggle?” No, that’s actually worse, on reflection. I’m definitely losing her at this point. Or perhaps I’m not, because not 5 minutes into the date she’s telling me all about how she finds whips and chains a turn on. A little relieved, frankly a little intimidated.
“What I really mean is, it’s cool that we like the same music. I mean I thought Lil’ Wayne’s album was dope, and you liked it so much you actually made a clone of him to go on your second track, amazing. Oh? It’s not him, really? I do apologise.” Sounds just like him, I wonder if rappers sometimes go incognito on albums just for the love of it, like Stephen King did as Richard Bachman. Probably harder when you’ve got all that jewellery and those tattoos with your name on them.
Just when we were getting on so well, dancing away, she says she wants me to love her, like she’s a hot pie. This is one of those awkward cultural differences. I mean I can kind of see where she’s coming from, being American and all, where Pies are all a bit more narrow and full of warm fruit and berries, and served with whipped cream or ice cream, I mean that’s the kind of thing that could be at least a little sexy, but I’m English. She’s waiting for me to speak, but now all I can think about is a balti-flavoured pukka pie. She wants me to love her like she’s a squidgy bottomed pastry surrounded by chips and mushy peas, I feel really hungry and a little confused, I mean, Balti isn’t even a flavour, it’s a kind of oven. Can’t help but feel like I’m getting the wrong end of the stick with this one. Thankfully she breaks the awkward silence and destroys my pie-reverie by unleashing her most alluring feature. Sometimes she forgets about being an R&B diva type and becomes a bit more Caribbean.
This has good things and bad things to it. The mixture of rap with dancehall means that Loud has a bit of a soft spot for guns, which is kinda unattractive, because it’s not cartoony enough like hip-hop does it. Definite highlight of the night for me though is the very tune where her gun bo-bos the most. Man Down is catchy and exciting, and provides a simple enough metaphor to be pop fodder, but it also has a flavour to it that makes it stand out from the crowd. The date is going swimmingly at this point, I just hope one of us doesn’t say something really weird.
Oh no, it was me! I said something really weird. She came out with the pretty simple, but pleasantly powerful “I want you to make me feel, like I’m the only girl in the world!” and I immediately made a joke about I am Legend. I couldn’t help it, I just immediately thought of the cover artwork, all pouty lipped wandering a post-nuclear wasteland as literally the only girl in the world, running from mutants and men who want to make the first baby in a generation, cold sweat running down her bright red fringe as she squats in the ruins of an office block, barely sustaining herself by chewing the mutilated thigh of a raw irradiated sheep. She must think I have the weirdest issues.
I also kind of get the impression that Loud kind of has issues too. The darker melodies on tracks like California kingsize, which seems to be mourning a lost love, (Don’t talk about your ex so much on a date!) or the ballad of a frankly abusive relationship and loving the way they’re bad for each other with chart-topper Eminem’s help don’t actually provide the angst she thinks they do. She’s certainly been upset in the past, and this kind of thing could be related to her mum’s stormy relationship with Chris Brown, but it doesn’t come across as healthy at all. She just sounds a bit clichéd, and rather than making me want to date her more, it made me wish she’d left her baggage in the coat room.
SECOND DATE: I’d definitely go out and party with Loud again, not a shadow of a doubt. There’s even something more to the album that raises it slightly above the rank of guilty pleasure, but probably not one I’d take home to meet my parents. In fact definitely not one I’d take home to meet my parents, I couldn’t trust her to dress decently, my poor old Nan’s eyes would be out on stalks! Also, maybe I’m a prude but I don’t remember pop music being THIS overtly sexual when I was a pup. I mean sexy, yes, but is this not a wee bit too far? With Rhianna’s exciting whips and chains, Lady Gaga bragging how she likes it rough, from a disco stick, no less, when most women prefer firm at best, and Ciara marketing it so good men love the way she rides it, are we not getting a teensy bit closer to sounding like actual prostitutes? With this in mind, I am offering my ghost-writing services to any aspiring lady pop signers out there, I’ve called this one “Intercourse? Of course!”
“SEX! And sexing!
I like it lots and lots,
Sometimes for money, in alleys and parking lots,
Getting lots of willy, I’m always on the hunt
People give me tenners,
And I get out my… (That’s quite enough of that! – Chris)”
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Cadogan Hall, Sunday 19th December
Suits, ties and ‘badda-ba’s; the most dapper six men in close harmony arrived in Cadogan Hall with their usual touch of class. 150 recordings in, this most British of American-style a cappella groups were unlikely to fail to draw mass appeal.
Straying from regimented carolling to more jazzy fare is surely necessary to make the ever-swelling number of Carol Services and Messiah performances more tolerable. Oddly though, the chirpy delivery could easily have grated had the performance endured longer than an hour and forty-five minutes. In this time the Singers still managed to pack in eighteen numbers, pitched to balance ‘Trad, arr.’ with entertainment. The UK’s favourites such as Stille Nacht sat alongside American Traditional Little Drummer Boy and Geoffrey Keating’s pricelessly funny Twelve Days of Christmas. The group’s deadpan delivery of Keating’s arrangement, which narrates a maiden’s series of letters to her lover on receipt of his increasingly inappropriate gifts, brought tears of laughter to most eyes in the auditorium. Novelties like this were just the ticket, easily pleasing the astonishingly dedicated fan base that the King’s Singers have built up.
How much Bob Chilcott one can bear is a matter of opinion, but one thing was for certain; everything was comfortably in tune, tightly synchronised and rapturously received. No standing ovation. However perhaps Christmas is not the time for standing ovations; the audience expect familiar, well-sung carols, nothing less; and that is exactly what they got. This was barbershop by the book. No records were broken in terms of original performance but no reputations were either. The group achieve an exceptionally well-balanced sound (two countertenori, two tenori, to bassi) and clearly feel comfortable with each other despite a metamorphosis of personnel in recent years.
If one criticism could be made it would be of the seemingly random inclusion of readings throughout. There were not enough to make it the secular equivalent of a ‘Service of Nine Lessons and Carols’ but too many to call the evening a purely musical event. Three narrative poems and two readings were professionally read but felt rather like ‘token numbers’ slotted in to fill up time. In future the Singers might be better working with a supporting artists if they were seeking to rest their admittedly acrobatic vocal chords at intervals.
Hindsight reveals how uneventful it really was. Nothing was wrong as such but one expects fireworks on another level. Carol Concerts, like Messiahs, are very, very hard to get right. The Kings Singers have not lost any of their musicality, exceptional skill as arrangers and performers or flair for publicity. But new kids are appearing on the a cappella block and the Singers would do well to raise their game a notch in 2011 if they are to continue to expand upon their reputation as its golden boys.