Blur’s Olympia

At this year’s BRIT Awards Blur were awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music award. The band are supposedly recording new material, but a new album doesn’t seem to be coming together all that smoothly.
After completing Bobby Womack’s latest album as co-producer, and almost two years after their last release, Damon and his crew unveiled a new Blur track Under The Westway this month. The guys deliver a sad piano ballad, unlike any previous Albarn material. The man who gave us Parklife now celebrates an ugly West London motorway underpass. The track is one of two brand new songs the band recorded for the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony, the other being The Puritan, a song they performed at the poetry festival POEM2012 last month. The band will also headline a show at Hyde Park August 12th to celebrate the end of the Summer Olympics. Tonight, let the Games begin…

They’re back: Matchbox 20

Matchbox Twenty have been around for 15 years, but the adult rock group has only released three studio albums up to now. More Than You Think You Are, last of the three, released nearly a decade ago. Yourself or Someone Like You, the 1996 debut album, spawned hits like Push, 3 A.M. and The Real World. The sophomore album Mad Season (2000) and its follow-up (2002) included the smash hits Bent, If You’re Gone, Disease and Unwell. After featuring on Carlos Santana’s Smooth, Rob Thomas released two very successful solo albums …Something To Be in 2005 and Cradlesong in 2009. Along the way, Matchbox Twenty issued a collection of new songs, including How Far We’ve Come, and their greatest hits, entitled Exile on Mainstream.
At long last, Rob Thomas and co. return with a new album North, scheduled for a September 4th release. The band worked on their fourth in Nashville last summer. With many different songs to choose from, the guys pinned down 12 tracks and 2 bonus songs. The album’s first single She’s So Mean hit radio in June. She’s So Mean sounds as fresh as their first material and proves Matchbox 20 are to last. A welcome return!

D’Angelo @ Ghent Jazz

Last night D’Angelo got to close Ghent Jazz Festival. With only two albums to his name, Brown Sugar (1995) and Voodoo (2000), and everyone yearning for that third release James River (only a working title so far), expectations were none. Speaking for myself, that is. This may well be the best attitude to start a gig though. The crowd got pretty excited, waiting, as D turned up a fashionable thirty minutes late. D’Angelo and his band served a totally phunked-out party. The set, almost two hours long, had everyone mesmerized. The singer’s impressive vocal range and the band’s incredible sense of rhythm had everyone on their feet. Somewhere in the middle, a more acoustic set included his signature songs Brown Sugar and Untitled (How Does It Feel). In the encore the heat was turned up a few notches more. Best way to describe the performance: James Brown meets George Clinton, with a touch of Prince. Respect!  A pity Bobby Womack was forced to cancel. Still, a night to remember.

Dark Star rising

Minneapolis-based band Poliça (pronounced POE-LISA) only formed last year, but are well on their way to score an international Summer hit.
Poliça started out as a project, a musical collaboration between singer Channy Leaneagh and friend-colleague Ryan Olson. The two already worked together in 2010 when Leaneagh toured with Olson’s band Gayngs, after lending her vocal to their debut album Relayted. When her marriage failed, Leaneagh left her old band, Roma di Luna, of which her husband was also a member, and felt the need to escape to a different reality. Two drummers and a bassist/vocalist were recruited, as officially Olson is not a band member.
It took the band only a couple of recording sessions to put their debut album Give You the Ghost together. On the album’s lead single Dark Star singer Leaneagh’s dreamy vocals are set against a drum roll and Sax. Auto-Tune was heavily used throughout the entire album. The singer says she uses her voice as an instrument and Auto-Tune is a way to experiment with her vocal, something she also incorporates on stage.
The band have had little time to perfect their sound, as success is building fast. Along the way they garnered praise from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. According to Channy they already have a bunch of new tracks ready to record.

Survival of the Fittest

Adele -who recently announced she is pregnant- and Leona are said to duet at the Opening Ceremony, but this week British rock group Muse unveiled the official song of the 2012 London Olympic Games, Survival.
The choice of song is under discussion. It is being described as epic, inspirational and uplifting. Or, over-the-top and overblown madness. The song opens with a lengthy instrumental, before bringing in crunching guitar riffs and slamming drums, and a backing choir to top it all off.
Power Ballads such as One Moment In Time by Whitney Houston, featured in the 1988 Summer Olympics, are of a more subtle kind. Barcelona, the operatic duet by Queen front man Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé, which opened the 1992 Olympics, was a less obvious choice of song, but an indestructible favourite to many, including yours truly. At many a sporting event speakers will pump Queen’s anthem We Are the Champions.  If Queen were still around they would have been picked without a doubt.